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”Oh. Hey,” said Skye, unsure.

Coulson looked up and froze. The man next to him didn’t—he’d never started moving in the first place. He was standing in the dark, just on the edge of the one lamp Coulson had turned on. It wasn’t Hunter. It couldn’t be Mack or Fitz.

His face was hidden in the shadows, but Skye could feel him looking at her.

“Hey,” Coulson finally said. “Trouble sleeping?”

His tone was casual and his expression as bland as ever, but Skye knew him well enough by now. She could tell he wished she hadn’t seen the man in the shadows.

“Sorta,” she said. In truth, the vibration under her skin wouldn’t let her sleep. “So, do you want me to go, or…?”

Coulson sighed, then pressed his eyelids shut for a second. “No, it’s okay. He’s just—” He stopped himself. “Just a friend who came by to give me a hand.”

“Didn’t think you had many friends left,” Skye said. “Not outside of SHIELD, anyway.”

She stepped into the shadows as well, and her eyes immediately adjusted to the difference. She couldn’t help gaping a little. “Holy shit. You’re—”

“Clint,” said Hawkeye.

His lips were twisted into a half-smile. “It’s all off the record. Like Phil said.” He was watching her with strange intensity, as though spying her reaction to something which hadn’t yet happened. “Just helping out.”

She was a little floored—it was Clint fucking Barton, for fuck’s sake. She had never been so close to an Avenger before. It was about the last thing she expected, and she glanced at Coulson. “Helping out with what?”

He winced. She could tell, sometimes, he still wanted to protect her as though blood had not yet stained her. “Bakshi.” The admission seemed to loosen something in him, and he started talking a bit more freely. “We aren’t getting anywhere with him. We have to make sure we’re not giving Talbot more than he can chew.” His lips quivered. “And he can’t chew much.”

Skye looked back towards Hawkeye. He hadn’t moved at all, and she suddenly realized how unnaturally he was holding himself, how dark they’d kept the room and how low they’d been talking. Coulson’s words sank in and she understood exactly why Hawkeye was here.

“Oh,” she said.

“Yeah,” said Hawkeye, who uncrossed his arms and straightened up. “I’ll get going, Coulson. See you in the morning.”

He left the room, swift and silent, and it was as if he’d never been there. Coulson’s lips were a thin straight line. Skye came hesitantly closer.

“What the hell was that about?”

“Nothing I’d rather expand on.”

Skye raised an eyebrow. “I saw Bobbi at work already.” And I worked over Ward myself, she didn’t say.

Coulson looked her in the eyes. “Bobbi only used words,” he said gently. “We thought a Hydra operative would be trained to resist—physical incentive.” He crossed his arms. “But the way Bakshi reacted to Hunter’s threats…”

Skye blinked. “So, what, you—you called in Hawkeye to—” She swallowed. She wasn’t a child. She knew what they were doing here. She’d grown enough to accept it as part of her world, even though she’d once believed nothing could ever justify torture.

She’d been young.

“Why not Bobbi again,” she finally said. “Or—or May.”

Coulson shrugged. “Barton is the best,” he said mildly, and those four little words sent a chill down Skye’s spine.

She just looked at him. Coulson sighed, then straightened up. “Come on,” he said, “let’s go get a cup of something.”




As he went down to the darkened basement, Clint could feel himself settle into the very specific headspace he needed. It wasn’t one he visited all that often, but that inscrutable corner of his soul was always glad to welcome him back.

It was easy, to reach down into himself, because SHIELD only ever used him against the scum of this Earth. Whatever he did tonight would not amount to a fraction of the harm Sunil Bakshi had caused—and might still cause, unless someone made him spill. Clint was good at making people spill, never mind that he dirtied himself in the process. Someone had to do it; might as well be someone whose core was already rotten.

He thought of what he was going to do and how much he was going to enjoy it.

No one was truly good at this unless they enjoyed it. He’d come to terms with it. Using the bad parts of himself for good. Besides, he’d get Bakshi to enjoy it, as well. Making them enjoy it was half the work done.

It was all about cooperation.

Clint got to the end of the stairs and found himself in complete darkness. He grabbed the remote control and pressed the first button. The invisible barrier screen became translucent, allowing him to see inside the cell.

Bakshi was asleep, slightly frowning even with his eyes closed, sleeping on his back and wearing only white medical scrubs. Clint detailed his dark hair and surprisingly delicate features, the curve of his mouth, the strength of his arms. He felt his blood begin to sing, a soft whispering murmur in his veins. Oh, yes, this was a good one. Clint wondered how his voice would sound and how fast his skin would mark.

He stepped forward and flicked the invisible screen, sending a shockwave across it. Bakshi’s eyes opened.

He looked to the side and stopped breathing when he realized he wasn’t alone. He propped himself up on one elbow, slowly, staring at Clint. He was tired, obviously, on edge; but he didn’t have that air of worn-down exhaustion Clint expected from people in his situation. Coulson had always been too damn soft.

“Hi,” Clint said. “Guess we don’t need introductions.”

Bakshi definitely knew who he was, but looked a little perplexed as Clint deactivated the screen. Clint wasn’t surprised; he was known for his sniper skills. The other thing, Fury had always kept under wraps.

It was easy to hide, what with Natasha and her history to deflect attention from him. Nat was good at this twisted game, too—had to be—but she didn’t like it the way Clint did. He was always happy to step in for her, spare her the trouble. His ledger wasn’t red; it was charcoal black and crimson at the edges.

He let the screen reform itself behind him. Bakshi was sitting up in his bed, one hand clenched around the sheet, as if he wanted to pull it up, cover himself. It was almost cute.

Clint grinned at him. “Guess we don’t need explanations, either.”

Bakshi did his best to twist his lips into a disdainful smile. “Coulson has tried this kind of thing already.”

Clint kinda loved his accent, because it was so artificial—Bakshi put obviously so much effort into keeping up his carefully crafted persona. He wanted it smooth and elegant and deadly, in true Hydra leader fashion. Maybe an inferiority complex, internalized racism—in any case a lot of self-hatred. Clint worked very well with self-hatred. It did wonders at turning people inside out.

“Maybe,” Clint said. “But I didn’t. We’re gonna give it a go, yeah?”

Bakshi got up rather hurriedly—he didn’t want Clint to drag him out of bed. Or maybe he wanted to be able to fight. Or maybe he just wanted to stand. Either way, he’d just fall down harder.

“You have no tools,” Bakshi sneered, carefully keeping his distances as Clint discarded his jacket and rolled his shoulders, sinking further down into the hot dark depths of his own mind. “Nothing to work with. I won’t cave in so easily.” His hands twitched. “I’ve been trained.”

Not very well, evidently—he talked too much, filling in the silence. Hydra operatives always talked to much, and it always sounded like they were trying to reassure themselves. Bakshi was definitely trying.

“No worries,” Clint said, shooting him another grin, “you’ll be the one doing all the work.”

He stepped towards him, and Bakshi made a visible effort not to step back. He had courage; Clint liked that.

“Feels like you want me to. The way you’re looking at me. Wanna prove how tough you are. But,” he reached out and ran a finger down Bakshi’s jawline, slow and deliberate, “I think you’re not so good with pain.”

Bakshi couldn’t help shivering under his touch, or maybe because of his words. His dark eyes were boring into Clint’s. Oh, yes, this one would be good.

Clint grabbed the front of his paper shirt and shoved him roughly into the wall; he took a second to enjoy the flash of fear in Bakshi’s eyes, and then he kissed him.

People—SHIELD—thought torture was all about impersonality. Clint had been on both ends of the stick and knew it was bullshit. It was all about getting under someone’s skin and Clint knew to always follow his instinct for that. Clint knew to kiss Bakshi, because Bakshi didn’t expect anything sexual, didn’t expect humiliation either—expected clean-cut pain and an opportunity to throw grand one-liners.

Also, Clint really wanted to kiss him, because the man was drop-dead gorgeous and Clint wanted a taste. Oh, he was going to enjoy himself, and Bakshi would know it, feel it.

Bakshi’s lips were cracked and dry; he let out a muffled sound of surprise and protest. Never kissed a guy before, Clint registered. When Bakshi shoved him back, Clint let himself step away, licking his lips and scanning his expression.

“You vile fucking faggot,” Bakshi shrieked, wiping his mouth. “How dare you!”

Never kissed a guy before—and always tried to convince himself he didn’t want to, Clint completed. That kind of over-the-top indignation sprang from deep internalized shame rather than simple homophobia. Clint allowed himself a little grin.

“Life hasn’t been easy, huh, Sunil,” Clint said. “Wonder how alone you’ve been to seek those guys out.”

Bakshi flinched, eyes widening a little; Clint stepped back into his space again and grabbed him at the collar once more. “Doesn’t matter,” he said, “I’m not here to talk.” And he crashed their mouths together again.

Bakshi fought him harder, this time—jerked and tried to push him back again; but Clint didn’t allow it this time round and crushed him into the wall, shoving a thigh between his legs. Bakshi flailed, snarled, tried to claw at his face; rather than trying to immobilize him, Clint grabbed one wrist and twisted it, sharp—just on the verge of breaking, and Bakshi mewled in pain and panic against his mouth.

“Open, Sunil,” Clint said against his lips, twisting his wrist. When Bakshi’s lips parted—only really because he was gasping for breath—Clint murmured, “There’s a good boy,” and slipped his tongue inside. Bakshi twisted his wrist in his grip, gasping into Clint’s mouth, trying not to grind against his thigh. He wasn’t hard yet, but he was very obviously struggling not to be.

Clint pulled back with another grin. Bakshi was easy. But Clint better be thorough all the same—he had all night to work him over. Bakshi had a nice voice, slightly husky, and Clint really wanted to hear that stilted accent break into splinters.

“No underwear, huh?” he said, rubbing his thigh against Bakshi’s crotch through the paper pants. “Bold move.”

“Don’t,” Bakshi tried to growl, but it came out sounding more like a squeak. Clint shoved his knee up, ramming it into his balls, and held Bakshi up when he tried to double over—all the man could do was mash his face into Clint’s shoulder.

“Hmm,” Clint said, rolling Bakshi’s crushed balls under his knee, making him shake and choke in pain, pressing a little more into Clint with each spasm. “Got enough to work with.”

He stepped back and let Bakshi fall to his knees, retching.

“Don’t fucking throw up,” Clint said.

Bakshi gasped once, twice, but managed not to puke, cradling his wrist to his chest. He looked up at Clint with a murderous gaze, but he could barely hide the sheer terror behind it. He couldn’t deny anymore what the night would mean for him.

“Just in case you’re confused,” Clint said. “Tonight’s the demonstration. In the morning, you spill. Otherwise, tomorrow evening: repeat performance.” He got his handcuffs out from his back pocket, then crouched in front of him. “Give me your wrists, Sunil.”

“You have,” gasped Bakshi, “no right.”

Clint raised an eyebrow at him, then said, “Wrists.”

“No right to use that name,” Bakshi panted, wiping the drool from his mouth.

“Only for your close ones?” Clint asked. “By the end of the night, we will have gotten very close. I think you know that. Now give me your wrists.”


Clint punched him across the face, hard. Bakshi wavered, dazed; Clint shoved him to his side, then straddled him, forcing him to scramble all the way onto his stomach to avoid broken ribs. Once Bakshi was lying flat under him, Clint grabbed his shoulders. “Let’s see.”

He let his thumbs dig into the hard muscle. Unsurprisingly, it was stiff as wood—Bakshi had reasons to be tense these days. Clint rubbed circles between his shoulder blades, looking for the precise spot.

Bakshi jerked like he’d been shocked, and Clint grinned. “Right here?” He dug his thumbs even further. Pressure points were a bitch, but this one right there—bitch twice over. “Right here, are you really sure?”

Bakshi couldn’t even breathe through his pain. He tried to articulate words, then settled for screaming when Clint all but stabbed him there, driving his thumbs into the knot of bad blood. “Please—God, please!”

Clint relented, leaving Bakshi to breathe shakily under him. He realized he was being nice; that was just his style. Take a breath after every step. Declaration of intent, check. Begging, check—and in record time, too. Bakshi was trembling, snarling silently with anger and pain.

“I don’t have tools,” Clint said into his ear. “Cause I don’t need ‘em.”

He straightened up, then walked around him and crouched in front of him again. “Give me your wrists, Sunil.”

Still shaking, Bakshi sat up and presented his wrists. Clint smiled at him while the handcuffs clicked. “Wasn’t so hard. Order comes from pain, right?”

Bakshi scowled at him. Clint dragged him close and kissed him again, making it filthier than before.

Bakshi obviously had no idea how to react to it; it wasn’t something he expected now that the actual torture had begun. Prisoners don’t get kissed; they get beaten and fucked and killed, but not kissed. It was throwing him off-balance. Clint could literally feel Bakshi hesitating to bite his tongue, deciding against it, opening up instead—and getting desperately confused about it. If he wasn’t fighting back, he couldn’t help giving in. Explained a lot of things about him, actually.

Clint hadn’t lied when he’d said they’d get close—torture stripped people true, enforcers and victims alike.

Clint brutally broke the kiss. “Face the wall.”

Bakshi did, paper clothes rustling as the turned. Clint stepped back and opened his jeans; he’d been at half-mast for a while just drawing noises out of him, but the flinch he got when Bakshi heard him unbuckle his belt make his cock jolt at full attention. Clint licked his lips again. Not just yet.

“You can brace against it.”

Bakshi obviously expected a rough groping and couldn’t help yelping at the first strike of the belt—right under the meat of his ass.

“Spread your legs a little,” Clint said, “you’re gonna lose your balance.”

Bakshi obeyed, and Clint caught another flicker of confusion on his face—part of the procedure; getting the victim to cooperate in small ways to pave the way towards full compliance. Bakshi didn’t get the opportunity to linger on it; the belt caught him again across the back of his thighs, making him tense jerkily—he didn’t cry out this time, but it was a close thing.

Clint worked him over patiently; he knew the strap of leather was crueler than it looked, especially on the lower back and inner thighs. Bakshi was leaning against the wall, ducking his head, sweat gathering at his hairline. The next strike had him screaming, and the next one suddenly silencing him when the paper of his pants ripped.

Clint kept laying his blows on naked skin. Bakshi’s tan thighs were reddening fast, quivering under the blows. He was mewling, little whines he couldn’t control, and Clint didn’t miss the slight jerk of his hips. He stepped forward, lowering the belt for a second, and slid a hand between Bakshi’s thighs from behind, cupping him through the shreds of paper. He wasn’t fully hard, what with pain and fear and tension, but he definitely wasn’t limp either.

“Thought so,” Clint said.

That brought a bit of fire back, but Bakshi was past articulate sentences—he just buckled under Clint’s touch, teeth clenching, and planted his feet onto the ground. Decision to endure, check.

Clint started over with the belt, shredding Bakshi’s paper clothes and quickly chipping away at his resolve. It was more difficult than Hollywood made it look, to stay stoic and impassive while someone whipped your clothing off. Each ripping sound made Bakshi’s shoulders flinch; he had freckles there which Clint found oddly endearing. He lay a few blows onto his shoulders just for the pleasure to see the starry dots stand out against reddening skin.

Bakshi was obviously not a field agent, but he was well-built, with whipcord muscle which flinched beautifully under the lash. He’d started moaning again, and Clint took it as a hint to strike with full force—he wasn’t disappointed by the gorgeous scream he got in return, throaty and loud. He hit hard enough to get another one with each blow, until Bakshi couldn’t catch his breath between each scream and started sobbing.

“Please,” he managed between gasps, “please please—”

“Stay up,” Clint ordered with a firmer strike when Bakshi’s knees threatened to give out.

Bakshi stayed up, trembling in his shredded paper clothes, skin marred with dozens of angry red lashes, a lot of them bruising already. Clint got to work again on his inner thighs, torturing the tender skin there with lash after stinging lash. Bakshi screamed and gasped for breath whenever he could, and jerked bodily every time the edge of the belt caught his balls.

After a final blow, Clint tucked his belt under his arm, stepped close and massaged Bakshi’s shoulders, gentler than before—aware that Bakshi was waiting for the piercing pain of the pressure points again.

“You’re doing great,” he said.

Bakshi let out a sob.

Clint kept rubbing circles into his skin, then dropped his hands to his inner thighs and rubbed there, too, rubbing the pain into the flesh, digging his fingers in. Bakshi was squirming and shuddering, legs trembling, desperate to get down on his knees, to rest.

Clint slapped his ass hard. “A few more.”

“No,” Bakshi blurted. “I—no.”

“It’s okay,” Clint said. “Just count ‘em. Alright?”

Bakshi couldn’t answer before the first blow fell. “One,” he managed pitifully. “Two. Three—” Clint saw the exact moment when Bakshi realized he hadn’t been given an end number; his tears of despair and rage kept him from calling out the fourth strike.

“Didn’t catch that,” Clint said, striking him with all his strength, and Bakshi screamed “Four!” and started crying in earnest.

Clint was right—he sounded great when he was in pain, all the sounds ripped from his throat ringing clear and true. “Eleven,” he was saying through clenched teeth, repressing shaky sobs, “twelve—thirteen—”

“Okay, let’s take a break,” Clint said, mainly just to hear his moan of relief. Bakshi’s backside was a mess of red marks and ripped paper.

Clint pressed close again, gripped Bakshi’s hair and turned his head into another forceful kiss. He tasted of tears and snot, but he kissed back almost eagerly, trying to distract Clint from picking up the belt again, no doubt. There was a beauty to this moment, when the survival instincts started kicking in; Bakshi was fighting for his life, self-hatred be damned for now. He didn’t even flinch when Clint cupped his crotch and rubbed him to full hardness again.

“Good,” Clint murmured. “Like that.” Bakshi’s reflexive sigh of pleasure made him add, “Grind down, work for it.”

Bakshi obeyed without thinking—and bit his lip hard enough to draw blood, staring at the wall with dark, wet eyes, furious and desperate.

“This is all you,” Clint said into his ear. He grabbed his ass next, dug his fingers into the round muscle; he felt Bakshi tense all over again, not that he’d ever really relaxed.

Clint tore the shreds of paper over his ass, and Bakshi’s cuffed hands turned into fists against the cement wall. He stared at them, lips pressed tight, shaking like mad and looking like he might throw up.

“I know you’re scared,” Clint said, briefly ruffling his hair—it was surprisingly soft, even after so long without a proper shower. Bakshi was breathing fast and hard, unable to look away from the wall.

Clint had brought exactly three things Bakshi would have named “tools” with him. The first one was the handcuffs; the second one was his belt; and the third one was a small bottle of lube which he uncapped one-handed.

Bakshi had been tested since the beginning of his detainment, and Clint knew he was clean; Bakshi didn’t know the same of Clint—but didn’t have to. He flinched when Clint grabbed his ass again, then tried to fight back when two slick fingers started to press in.

“God,” he hissed through clenched teeth, “no, no no no, please—” he swallowed down the rest and scowled when Clint breached him.

“Try to relax,” Clint said. “I don’t think you can, but it’s worth a shot.”

Bakshi jerked under him; Clint slammed him into the wall and pushed his fingers deeper in. Bakshi let out a desperate whine. His breaths were so quick and so shallow Clint wondered if any oxygen was making it through. When he twisted his fingers inside him, Bakshi scrambled for purchase against the wall, handcuffs jingling.

“I can’t,” he started babbling feverishly, “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, please, stop, please, God—”

“It’s okay. Just take a deep breath.” Clint started pumping his fingers in and out, slowly, dragging them against his rim. Bakshi actually sucked in a sharper breath and squared his shoulders, willing himself to get through this, although he was still blinking tears out of his eyes. Decision to endure, part two; check.

Clint nudged his legs further open and freed himself from his underwear. He was aching a little after such a build-up. Bakshi’s resolve crumbled all at once when he felt Clint nudge his way in.

“No,” he started sobbing, “no, no,” he gasped and pressed his forehead to the wall, clenching his jaw and screwing his eyes shut, hot tears running down his cheeks, “fuck,” when Clint forced his way in.

Anal sex was always better with a bit of active resistance, even if it meant working for it. Bakshi was very much trying to resist; Clint made him take inch after inch, unhurried but firm. Bakshi’s body was tan and gleaming with sweat beneath the shredded paper, all his muscles bunching and cording under the skin. Clint could have eaten him alive if he hadn’t been already at it.

“There,” Clint said, pressing further in. Bakshi was scowling, breathing harsh and shaky, tears rolling down. “Shh,” Clint said, fully seating himself in with a final thrust. “Hey, calm down. It’s not the end of the world.”

He licked the sweat dampening Bakshi’s neck, appreciating the salty taste, nibbling a little at his throat then sucking a hickey there, a big purple bruise for him to remember. Then he grabbed Bakshi’s cock and stroked, lubed hand gliding easily over the skin. “You first,” he said into his ear.

Bakshi jerked at that. “Go,” he said, squirming and gasping, “go fuck yours—” and there went the fancy accent.

Clint grinned. “Sound better like this, Sunil.”

Bakshi caught himself and looked even more mortified; he’d let his guard down and cried out when Clint gave a hard thrust. Clint wasn’t sure he’d found the prostate, but Bakshi was riled up enough that it didn’t matter. He was desperately enjoying this, and sure, it wasn’t the best way to lose one’s anal virginity, but those were the cards he’d been drawn.

“Like it?” Clint said. “Having such a big hard cock up your ass.” The porn talk worked wonders on the newbies; Bakshi was no different, shuddering and absolutely clueless as to how to react. “Gonna remember me in the morning.”

He started stroking him again, rubbing precome around the slit, and briefly daydreamed about urinary sounds—he actually had tools, when he had the time and when he wasn’t doing Coulson a favor between two missions. Bakshi was a wonder to work with, and Clint really wanted to know how he’d react to vibration, to electricity, to the sharpness of a blade. Another time, maybe.

“You’re doing great,” Clint repeated, and that got to Bakshi more than the obscene whispers. He buckled, swallowing fresh tears, then clenched his jaw again. He might be hurt and distressed, but he was also full of hot searing rage, outraged that Clint dared to put him through this indignity, to strip him in all possible ways, to take him like this.

“Come on,” Clint said, “Sunil,” and started stroking him in earnest. He soon found that Bakshi liked it hard and fast; not two minutes later, Bakshi buckled again and sobbed as he came, shaking with it from neck to toes, clenching convulsively around Clint’s length.

He was still panting with it when Clint grabbed his hips. “See? That was easy,” he said, rubbing his sweaty back—most of the paper clothes had fallen off by now. And he started fucking into him hard, enjoying it all the more with Bakshi’s little cries of oversensitivity. He took pleasure in making it last—he was practiced enough by now. He managed to draw it out for fifteen minutes; Bakshi was sobbing by the end of it, bracing against the wall not to fall and begging him to get it over with. When Clint came, he gave a few hard thrusts to get himself fully over the edge, then pulled out; Bakshi immediately collapsed to his knees, just in time for Clint to ejaculate all over his freckled shoulders.

“Shh,” Clint said, kneeling with him. “It’s done.” He smeared come over his shaking shoulders, then rubbed it under his nose, then pushed his fingers into his mouth. “You’re doing great,” he said again, feeding him more of his come. “Shh.”

He let Bakshi cry for a few minutes. Then he gripped his hair again, hard enough to make him hiss.

“Now,” he said, “I’m going to start with the belt again. No, hey, shh,” he said in answer to Bakshi’s loud whine, “I need to. Otherwise you’ll be all pig-headed tomorrow morning, back to playing it tough.”

He got up. “Let’s say thirty blows and call it a day. Okay? You can stay on your knees.”

Bakshi had no walls left to build up. When the belt fell over his abused back, all he could do was whine and cry. When Clint was done, Bakshi was a mess, hiccupping with sobs and flinching at the slightest breeze, completely naked now.

Clint uncuffed him then helped him up, made him cross the room and put him to bed. Bakshi curled around himself, arms wrapping around his own chest.

“Actually, you know what?” Clint said, and waited for the glint of terror in his eye to say, “We’re gonna do the questions now.”

“Please,” whispered Bakshi, exhausted, “please, I…”

“Just talking. It’s okay.” Clint sat on the bed and ran his fingers through Bakshi’s dark hair. “First of all, who knew about Insight?”

It only took twenty minutes to tear it all from him—his tells were obvious when he was shaking so hard. He tried to lie once or twice; Clint praised him for it—Bakshi was such a wreck it was a wonder he even bothered to try—then started again on his pressure points until he had him on the brink of shattering. He stuck his thumb inside him for the rest of the questioning, working his nail around the rim as he went on with the interrogation. Bakshi trembled and swallowed convulsively, thighs jerking every time Clint pressed further in. He answered all his questions.

When it was finally done, Clint leaned down and kissed his forehead. “Get some rest. You’re gonna need it.”

He left the room just as he’d come, turning the screen opaque again on his way out.




Coulson was waiting for him, drooping over his coffee; he raised his head.


“Can’t talk, Coulson,” Clint said dryly.

His dark place was still gaping open in his head. It made his lips want to curl up in a permanent sneer. If Coulson challenged him, something darker still might come out.

It would be a while before the dark pit closed, a whole day of mundane things, of leaving SHIELD, taking a plane, joining Nat and Fury in Europe, giving Cap a hand for the whole Barnes thing. Slipping on the skin of the good guy again.

“Okay,” said Coulson, very low. “Okay. Did he—?”

“Watch the footage,” Clint said. “He cracks towards the end.”

He really didn’t like to talk when he was coming down—or rather coming back up—from this; but he also wanted Coulson to see—wanted him to face what he asked others to do, once in a while. Coulson was wise enough not to protest, even though he blanched a little and nodded a bit too curtly.

“I owe you one,” he said, in a neutral tone.

“I’ll cash in right now,” Clint said. “Don’t turn him in.”

Coulson blinked. “What? You can’t be serious. Talbot—”

“The US government is either going to kill him, or kill him slowly. And he’s been brainwashed.”

“No,” Coulson said, “there were no traces of—”

“The old-fashioned way, Coulson,” Clint said, rolling his eyes.

He had no evidence to support this, save for the twist of Bakshi’s mouth when he heard his own name, or the way his whole body had jerked when Clint had first kissed him; no evidence, save for the fact that Bakshi wasn’t straight and wasn’t white and had still managed to find himself the right hand of a neo-Nazi organization.

Clint wondered how his childhood had been, who had taken him in, who had told him he could make up for his otherwise worthless self by serving a great cause.

Coulson’s face was a perfect mask of blandness. “You can’t empathize with Hydra, Barton.”

Clint grinned at him, showing all his teeth. “Right now, Coulson, I can.”

Coulson just stared, without a word. Clint thought maybe he’d managed to unsettle him. Coulson had already seen him like that once or twice and never knew how to react. It rejoiced Clint, the same way Bakshi’s wails and pleas had rejoiced him.

“This is what you asked for,” Clint reminded him. “And this is what you owe me. Don’t turn him in.”

It was an odd bit of self-indulgence, he knew. He wasn’t even sure why he was pitying Bakshi. He might simply be getting territorial; for some bullshit alpha dog reason, he didn’t take kindly to people laying their hands on someone he’d worked over.

But there was something else, something he wouldn’t tell Coulson—the fact that he’d spent the better part of the night torturing and raping Sunil Bakshi, and for the life of him, the only thing that stuck with him was that Bakshi had freckles on his shoulders.

He turned away. He had a plane to catch.

“Also,” he said, two steps from the door. “Skye, right?”

Coulson stiffened all at once. “What about her?”

Clint glanced at him, briefly, one last time.

“Don’t show her the video.”