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I swear I'll drive all night just to buy you some shoes

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The road is smooth beneath his tires, the whoosh of the white lines whizzing past a rhythm that goes nicely with the radio stuck on a Classic Rock station. Phil's not necessarily sentimental as a rule, but even he can't suppress the smile that takes over when Bruce Springsteen's Drive All Night comes on, smooth, mellow, just the right mood for, yes, driving through the night so he can get to where he's going. Two months, two long, torturous months of nothing but Clint's disembodied voice through the receiver pressed to his ear; two months of missing Clint like an ache that won't dissipate no matter how many times they talk, or text, or email.

Two months also of a constant low hum in the back of his mind, a litany of 'please, god, don't let Clint decide he has so many better options than waiting for his stuffy boyfriend to get his MBA an eight hours' drive away'. He knows it's stupid; knows it isn't fair to Clint, or to himself, but he's spent too many years believing he isn't anything special to break the habit just like that, despite what Clint keeps telling him.

Then again, he thinks with a fond, slightly disbelieving huff of laughter, apparently he isn't the only one. The phone call from the small hours of last Sunday morning is yet another reason why Phil is sitting behind the wheel tonight, his battered truck eating up the miles between Minneapolis and Bloomington, the clock ticking over to four a.m. just as he turns onto the I-39 S. Clint's voice had been soft, a little raw with a few late-night beers, plenty tired as he'd spoken, lonely, heartsick words that amounted to a plea for Phil to not forget him, or at least to let him down gently when he found someone better than Clint, someone smarter, with whom he had more in common. Phil hadn't even known what to say -- he has no experience being the one to reassure his partners about his commitment to the relationship. So he'd told Clint he was hanging up, and he'd call him tomorrow; the 'I love you' had slipped out without thought, without prompting, second nature. Clint's quiet "God, I love you too, so much," had warmed him all the way through.

So here he is now, making his second Grand Romantic Gesture this year, driving through the night just to spend a couple of days with Clint, just to reassure himself that nothing's changed, that they still work. That Clint isn't growing dissatisfied with the whole thing. And if he's honest, just to see Clint's face, touch his skin, because the need is like a bruise that never fades.

Bruce croons in the dark of the truck; the road is almost empty around him, headlights illuminating a small circle of space just in front. It feels hushed, isolated, safe. Expectant, too; Phil can't wait to get there, can't wait to punch in the new code that Tony gave him when he'd called yesterday afternoon, make his way up the stairs, push open Clint's door and see his happy (he hopes) face at last.

For now, the anticipation is enough. All the things he wants to tell Clint are clamouring in his head, making him almost giddy, making his adrenaline spike and his mouth strain to stay closed. No one to see him, though; certainly no one to judge.

"I swear I'll drive all night again just to buy you some shoes," he sings, badly, although not as badly as Tony, that's a given. He'll drive a lot longer than that, if that's what it takes.


He arrives just before eight in the morning, eyes sore from staring out into the dark for most of the night, but without a hint of regret. Their favourite cafe is just opening up for the day; Phil pulls over, orders the blueberry pancakes and two bucket-sized coffees to go, swings back behind the wheel and drives over to the parking lot of Stark Hall, entirely deserted but for a couple of trucks that rival his for decrepitude, what with it being Thanksgiving weekend. His folks live another two hours down the road; it would be easy to just keep on driving down -- but, well, Clint. It's another reason why Phil's been saving up since he saw him last, because leaving Clint to spend Thanksgiving alone, now that he has someone to spend it with, is nothing short of unforgivable.

The code Tony had called out while he'd been on the phone with Steve proves accurate (not that Tony would give him anything but the latest information), and Phil pushes the door open with his shoulder, balancing the food in one hand and the coffee in the other. The foyer smells familiar, almost makes him nostalgic for the years spent running after wayward students. As expected, the hallways are empty, so Phil makes his way down the corridor to a familiar door -- what used to be his room, in fact. Clint is an RA himself this year, and he'd insisted on moving into Phil's old room. Phil suspects Clint isn't nearly as pragmatic as he pretends to be; doesn't fight the rush of warmth at the thought.

The door isn't locked; Clint's door rarely is. Most people think it's because Clint is just too trusting, but Phil knows it's because Clint doesn't think he has anything worth stealing that needs to be protected under lock and key. Phil opens it as quietly as he can, stops arrested in the doorway at the sight that greets him. Clint is sprawled on his stomach over the mattress, the sheet nudged off until it's covering nothing above his waist, arms tucked under his pillow, face mashed into it. Sunlight comes through the blinds that Clint must have forgotten to close; it paints golden stripes over his broad shoulders, the small of his back, until his skin gleams like burnished metal. He is so beautiful that Phil can barely draw breath; he's so tired from lessons and studying and driving and pushing through his need for Clint day after day that his eyes sting embarrassingly, and he's helpless to stop the relieved sigh that feels like it's drawn all the way from his toes.

Clint doesn't stir, so Phil comes all the way inside, closing the door silently behind him, walks to the desk and leaves the food and coffee on the side, right by the sketchbook. It's open to the latest page, and Phil is stunned to realise that it's filled edge to edge with his own face, his eyes, his hands that he has learned to recognise when Clint draws them -- for which Clint has a peculiar predilection. It's one of the myriad curious factoids that make up Clint Barton, and that Phil has long stored away for future revisiting. All the sketches are careful, shaded just so, clearly showing a lot of care in their execution. Phil can't help the leap of his heart at this solid evidence that he, too, has been on Clint's mind a lot in the intervening time.

He closes the distance to the bed, perches on the edge, careful not to jostle Clint's sleeping form. It's early still, and Clint isn't expecting him at all; his lungs try to seize, thinking of Clint's unchecked reaction when he wakes up and sees him, hoping it will be a pleased one. In the meantime, he has to sit on his hands to keep from sliding them over all that delicious, warm skin, to see if the feel of it is what he remembers. Finding Clint asleep is a rare chance to see him still, serene in a way he never is when he's awake, all coiled energy and bouncing cheerfulness. Like this, though, he looks oddly vulnerable, something Phil wants to roll into his arms to protect.

He feels a bit stupid, sitting there watching his boyfriend sleep; it's way closer to stalker behaviour than he's comfortable with. He checks his watch -- it's almost eight thirty by that point, so he doesn't feel too guilty when he lets himself reach forward at last, stroke careful fingertips over Clint's shoulder just firmly enough not to tickle. He follows the toned lines of Clint's body, rests his hand on the small of Clint's back, thumb tracing the shape of a freckle just over the dimple to the left of his spine.

Clint stirs, leaning into the touch like a languid kitten; Phil is gripped by a split-second flare of irrational jealousy at the thought of what might be making Clint this pliant to the touch when Phil hasn't seen him for so long, before Clint sighs.

"Mmmphil," he murmurs, slow and languid and still half-asleep, the corner of his mouth curling in the hint of a smile. Phil thinks his smile back is pretty crazy; he gives in to the irresistible temptation that is Clint's bare skin, leans in, presses his mouth to the back of Clint's shoulder, sleep-warm and smelling faintly of sandalwood from the soap he stole from Phil before Phil left to drive north to Minneapolis. Clint sighs again; then he tenses all over, lifts himself up on his forearms and twists around sharply, squinting against the glare of the sun. Phil watches his eyes widen, watches Clint blink rapidly like he can't believe what he's seeing.

"Hi," Phil tries, still grinning far too widely. Clint's sleepy face breaks into the most breathtakingly happy smile.

"Phil," he crows, shocked, delighted, "what are you doing here, you lunatic?"

Phil tries to answer, he really does, only he has suddenly acquired a lap-full of Clint Barton, who is wrapping his arms around him and squeezing so hard that Phil's having trouble breathing (it's not the only reason he's having trouble breathing, but that's a different matter).

"I brought breakfast," he says stupidly, and Clint laughs, a little hysterical, pulls back and just looks at him for a long moment, eyes tracing his face like they're cataloguing all the tiny changes the time apart had wrought. Then, in the next breath he's surging forward, taking Phil's mouth, desperate and needful and so, so necessary for Phil's continual state of existence. He tastes just like Phil remembers, morning breath and all; his lips are soft, his mouth is warm, and his hands tangle in Phil's hair, tilt his head to the side so he can be kissed harder. Phil's arms tighten around Clint's waist, plaster him to his chest so he can feel each flutter of Clint's muscles, the way he strains to get closer, the way his own arms hold Phil like he'd die without him.

Everything's a blur for a while after that; Clint drags him down amidst the tangled sheets and they kiss, frantically at first, then slowing until they're just holding each other and breathing into each other's mouths, eyes closed, hands never stilling in their path to re-learn each other's bodies. Phil pushes Clint onto his back until he can get at his neck, his collarbone, the fine dusting of hair over his chest; he follows the path with his mouth, nuzzles Clint with his nose, his cheeks, his chin. He can't get enough. Clint lets him, tiny whimpers falling from his throat on every exhale, lower lip caught between his teeth as his half-lidded eyes follow Phil's every move.

When Phil tucks his face in the crook between Clint's neck and shoulder and sucks gently, Clint lets out something very close to a sob. "Please don't let this be a dream," he whispers, hands closing on Phil's shoulders, the back of his neck. "That would just be cruel."

Phil lays another kiss right there, where Clint's scent is warm and strong; hides his smile when he reaches for Clint's hand and tugs it lower, to the front of his pants. "It's not a dream," he whispers back. "I'm here, look, see?" The jeans Phil's wearing are new, freshly laundered, not something Clint would know to imagine -- he'd bought them a few days ago at a sale, because Clint's always telling him his ass looks fantastic in denim, and because the shade was darker than he'd seen before, something inky with a hint of petrol-green. The sales assistant hadn't been able to take her eyes off him, at any rate, which Phil supposes is a good enough indication that he looks pretty damn fine.

Clint trails his hand over the fabric, squeezes lightly; Phil muffles his keen into his neck. "Oh, man, I've missed this," Clint groans, his other hand migrating to Phil's ass to palm it. Phil draws in a shocked breath, cock swelling to full hardness in Clint's grip. Clint himself is thick and solid against his hip, the feel dulled by the material of the jeans. Phil suddenly wants them off with a viciousness that punches him in the gut.

Clint helps; he strips off Phil's hoodie, his t-shirt, hands sliding over his skin greedily, fingers digging in. Phil arches into it, pressing their groins together; they both groan, heartfelt, and Clint starts laughing a little, something close to pure relief. Phil kisses him again, because he has to; because the way Clint sighs in his mouth makes something slot into place that has been missing for far, far too long.

They both kick Phil's jeans off his legs, still laughing with excitement, like a pair of teenagers that got the place to themselves to make out at last. And then it's just Clint's boxers, clinging stubbornly to his hips despite Phil's wondering hands. Enough's enough, he thinks, hooks his fingers under the waistband and tugs them off, over Clint's weeping cock and down his thickly muscled thighs. He mouths his way over Clint's hipbones, inching closer and closer to his target, when a curl of ink on the edge of one hip draws him up short. Well. That definitely wasn't there the last time Phil saw him.

Clint's entire body flushes in the space of an instant, skin dusted with pink all over. Phil stares, makes Clint's suddenly stiff body turn a little to the side so he can see properly. The design smacks of Clint's work -- something sharp yet beautiful, the silhouette of a bird of prey, wings spread, breathtaking in its simplicity. It's vaguely familiar, like something Phil ought to know, to recognise, but he's damned if he can think of what it is.

Clint's voice is so quiet, Phil almost misses it. "It reminds me of you," he says, biting at his lower lip, like Phil would somehow mind. And that's when Phil gets it; the bird, it's meant to be a peregrine falcon in flight, obvious when he knows what to look for. Months ago, not long after the horrible fight that had almost broken them for good, they'd lain in this very bed in the dark, sharing breath, and talked about the silliest, most inconsequential things they could think of, just so they could feel close to one another, know that they were still together, despite everything. "What's your favourite bird?" Clint had asked, and Phil had huffed a laugh, told him it was the peregrine falcon, because there was something so ethereally beautiful about watching one hover high above, as if by magic.

And now here it was, Clint's own design, etched into his skin forever. Phil can barely breathe; he can't believe Clint would do this, has done this, inked himself with Phil's favourite bird; can't even believe Clint remembers that conversation, let alone the details. But here it is, incontrovertible proof that not only does Clint remember, he has gone to the trouble of doing something so--so--

No one has ever done anything so romantic for him in his life. He never thought, never dared to hope he might one day find someone who cared for him so much.

He actually can't speak at all, can only stare down at the gorgeous drawing in wonder.

"Is it--" Clint starts tentatively, stops, huffs. "Do you like it?"

Since Phil is still speechless, he resorts to the only way he can think of to make Clint understand what the sight of it does to him. He climbs back up Clint's body and braces himself over him, dips his head down and kisses him, deep and a little dirty, licks inside his mouth and sinks down on top of him, shivering as the head of his cock rubs over the tattoo.

"When?" he rasps, mouthing along the stubble on Clint's jaw.

"Nnnhhha month after you left," Clint says breathlessly, letting his head fall back so Phil has better access. "I couldn't stop thinking--I just needed something--I needed to know that, I don't know, it was all real."

"It is real," Phil says; he doesn't recognise his own voice, something dark and possessive that should make him cringe but instead draws a helpless moan from Clint, whose arms sneak around his body and pull him in, until there's barely a wisp of air between them.

He loses some time, then; everything devolves to snapshots of moments -- his wet fingers breaching Clint, who arches into it with a desperate groan; Clint's legs around his waist as he drives himself inside the welcoming warmth, Clint's mouth on his ear, whispering "Please, please," and "I missed you," and "Fuck, love you so much." He doesn't remember the moment he comes, only that it's violent, blinding, wrenches out of him and leaves him shaking, the only thing anchoring him to reality the feel of Clint's body under him, of their hands clasped together, of the flutter of Clint's eyelashes against the damp skin of his shoulder. He's exhausted, suddenly, so, so tired that it's all he can do to pull out and slide a little to the side so he isn't crushing Clint. Clint doesn't let him go far, gathers him close with his arms around his shoulders, slides the condom off him and throws it in the bin by the door (Clint never misses. It's a perk), and then presses a kiss to his forehead, to the tender skin under his eyes.

"Sleep," he murmurs, settling Phil so he's got one leg between Clint's, face tucked into Clint's neck.

"Breakfast's getting cold," Phil protests -- admittedly, not very hard. He's already half-asleep when Clint threads a hand through his hair, brushes it back.

"I can live with that," Clint says -- but by that time Phil is already under.


Later (much later, because once Phil fell asleep all his exhaustion caught up to him with a vengeance, dragging him under until the early afternoon), they pull on t-shirts and sweatpants and inhale the cold pancakes and coffee, sitting cross-legged on the bed, while Clint fills Phil in on the insanity he's been dealing with so far this semester. Clint makes a great RA, friendly, always happy to help, even if he isn't too strict about some of the rules. The students, naturally, adore him.

"Who's your RD this year? Now that Fury's gone, too, it ought to be a little easier to have meetings less than three hours long."

Clint smirks. "You'd be surprised. RD this year is Natasha Romanoff."

"Oooh," Phil says, grinning. "She's a tough nut. Bet she rides your ass on your timekeeping."

"The toughest. I've already had the 'Don't do what Phil Coulson did last year' lecture in re: students. Told her I was still sleeping with my RA, so she needn't worry."

Phil makes a face. If there's one thing he wishes were different about last year, it was that he'd lived up to exactly the cliche RAs are always warned about -- don't get involved with the students. Not that he'd necessarily want to change that -- because, no -- but still.

He hasn't said anything, but Clint winces sympathetically all the same, because he's always been able to read Phil far too well (except for that little issue where Phil had been head-over-heels for him for months while Clint'd had no idea).

"She wasn't mean about it," Clint says soothingly. "Yeah, okay, so there was that hard edge to her voice, but I think she knew that you and I, we're--well, for lack of a better word, the real thing."

Phil is pretty sure that his grin has a goofy streak a mile wide that he ought to be embarrassed about, but, well. "You're pretty sure we're the real thing," he teases, knows they're way past the point where Clint would take it for a real question.

Clint grins back, eyes hooded, drawing his tongue over his lower lip seductively. "You telling me we aren't, Phil?"

Phil laughs. "No. No, I'm pretty sure you're my real thing, all right. Then again, it's been a few hours. I should probably check on the solidity of that fact, just to make sure, you understand."

"Only you, Phil Coulson, would flirt using scientific terms," Clint says, so warm and affectionate that Phil's pretty sure his poor heart will melt in his chest any moment now.

"I don't see you complaining. Now, how about you let me test that theory?"


They don't actually leave the room until late Friday afternoon, when the need for a meal that isn't Chinese takeaway gets too strong. There's bound to be a few restaurants open in the city, so the two of them jump in Phil's truck and drive there, bickering playfully on the way about Phil's choice in music and the state of the truck's floor, which is littered with empty bottles of water that Phil hasn't gotten around to clearing out yet, what with actually working and studying and shit.

"Who knew?" Clint mocks, grinning like an idiot. "You were just pretending last year with the neat freak impersonation, I see that now. And you get on my case about tidying my room."

"Your room's a mess," Phil bats back, even though it isn't, really. That would involve having enough possessions to leave lying around. Phil's got one or two plans in that department. "And I have been busy getting a future, thanks."

"Uh huh."

"Seriously, this is what you ride my ass about? You could just be pleased that your boyfriend is drinking enough water and taking care of himself, you know."

Clint lets his eyes run down his body in a way that makes Phil's entire body flush. "Oh, I'm pleased all right," he drawls. Phil licks his lips, trying to concentrate on the road. "And that's not me riding your ass. When I ride your ass, you'll know it."

Yeah, that concentration thing? Not working so well.

"Jesus, Clint," Phil breathes, lower abdomen contracting sharply around a curl of heat. Clint just grins at him, filthy and teasing and god, the look in his eyes, it's only been a few hours but Phil wants him again, desperately. He bites his lip, hoping the spike of pain will clear his head. It only fogs it further.

Clint watches him for a moment, gaze shifting from the way Phil's hands are gripping the steering wheel for dear life to the way he's shifting in his seat, trying to adjust himself in his pants without actually touching, and leans closer.

"When we get back," he murmurs. "I promise."

"Not helping," Phil bites out, squeezing his eyes shut for a second before fixing them on the road again. He can't go for a fucking stroll around town with a hard-on the size of Paris.

Clint relents after that, sits demurely in his seat (hah! Phil knows what he's thinking behind those innocent blue eyes of his), watches the houses parade past his window as they enter Bloomington. Phil's managed to get himself under control (mostly) by the time he finds a place to park, and they stroll the nearly deserted streets, enjoying the sharp hints of winter in the air and the lazy caress of the sun on their faces. As they pass the music shop where Clint tends to spend what little disposable income he has, Clint bumps his hand into Phil's, catches it, tangles their fingers together. Phil squeezes a little; yeah, all right, so he can be a bit of a stuffed shirt at times, he knows that, but even he can't complain about PDAs when there's so few people around and about, mostly other students that are staying behind. Phil watches Clint nod at almost every person they pass, and wonders with a sharp jolt whether they're orphans, too, people that Clint would have seen time and time again on campus when everyone else had gone home for some holiday or other.

Their favourite Italian place is open -- the owners are actually the real thing, Italian immigrants moved here from New York in search of opportunity, and they're always open on major American holidays. He and Clint share a pizza, some bruschetta, freshly baked, toasted bread, delicious tomatoes, pesto, mozzarella. Phil's never been to Italy (although he intends to take Clint as soon as they both land steady jobs), but he imagines the scent of extra virgin olive oil mingling with the pesto might be what summer smells like over there.

They walk some more afterwards, enjoying the last rays of the sun, watching it turn the world to pink gold, paint the sky a pretty dusky purple. It's getting cold by then, and they're walking close together, shoulders bumping with every step. Everyone else is already inside; it's just the two of them making their way to the truck when Clint's hand slips around his waist, tucks itself in the back pocket of Phil's still-crisp jeans. It doesn't do a thing, just stays there, warm and solid and reassuring. Phil experiences the slightly dizzying sensation of being exactly where he wants to be, in this small instant of time. When Clint presses him back against the side of the truck and kisses him, Phil lets him, opens his mouth and draws Clint inside, sighs with contentment at the press of solid muscle against his front, at the heat Clint's body gives out. It's slow, lazy, kissing just for the sake of it, because they want to and they can. Phil slides his hands to Clint's hips, rubbing his thumb over that spot on the left where he knows that if he just lifted Clint's hoodie up, he'd find the tip of a jet-black wing.

The idea comes out of nowhere--well. No. That's a lie. The idea's been sitting there in his mind ever since he got his bearings back after the second time, when he'd spent long minutes mapping the tattoo with lips and tongue and fingers. But it's now that it builds inside him, until he can't keep it back any longer.

"I'd like to get it, too," he whispers against Clint's lips, waiting to see his reaction.

Clint draws back, looks at him a little dazed. "You would?"

Phil nods, checks his face for clues to what he's thinking. "Would you mind?"

Clint barks out a laugh that sounds like it's torn out of him. "Mind? No. Not so much." His eyes look a little wild, almost like he can't believe what he's hearing, that Phil could be serious.

Phil lifts his eyebrows. "What, you didn't think it was a 'forever' kind of thing for me, too?" he says, dry, trying not to sound like an utter sap and probably failing. "Besides. I'll have something of yours on my skin, and it'll be gorgeous. The dudes would dig it."

Clint doesn't rise to the bait. He stares at him, eyes huge in his face, vulnerable in a way that Phil hates to see because it reminds him of the time when he almost lost everything because of his own pigheaded stupidity.

"Okay," he croaks, sounding like the breath was knocked out of him. "Yeah, okay, that would. That would be great. You're sure?"

Phil just looks at him.

"All right," Clint says; he's blushing, the tops of his cheeks tinted pink.

"Where did you get it done?" Phil asks, to get him out of his daze.

"This guy, he has a shop here. He teaches a class at the Art School, graphics and 3D perspective. He's really good, and we get discounts. I can... call him up, if you like? Check if he won't mind doing it tomorrow? He's local."

"Yeah," Phil says. "Yeah, please. I'd like that."

Clint nods, then just stares at him some more before shaking his head and crowding him against the truck again, kissing him deeply. Phil lets him, tastes basil on his tongue and lets himself imagine what it might be like to take a holiday away, just the two of them, no one else to mind, no place to be but together.

By the time they climb in the car it's almost dark, the blue hour claiming Bloomington and the road that leads West, to Hamilton. They drive in comfortable silence; it doesn't take long, nine miles are hardly any distance, but it's still a chance to stay close, in the narrow cab of the truck. Clint sprawls in the seat, eyes closed; he's not sleeping, but he's relaxed, loose, utterly trusting. Phil smiles at absolutely nothing, and drives on.

Clint calls Tylor the tattoo artist as they're walking back inside Stark Hall, and Phil takes the chance to dig out his own cell phone, knowing he's probably in for a scolding. Truth is, the fact that yesterday was Thanksgiving had completely slipped his mind, even though he'd spent almost three weeks in anticipation of it. In the small, safe space of Clint's room, the entire world outside had disappeared. Conversely, that also meant no phone call home last night, which means his mom is about to ream his ass. He presses 'call' and braces himself.

"Hey, Ma, it's Phil."

"I'm sorry, who? Phil? Would that happen to be my son Phil, because if it is, he is in so much trouble."

Phil winces. "That's the one," he says sheepishly. "I swear I can explain."

"Uh huh," his mom says, though he can hear the amusement in her voice. She knows him too well, knows that whatever his reason for not calling, it'll be a good one -- Phil loves his parents so much that sometimes it's like an ache inside, missing them. He never misses a single birthday or holiday, even if it has to be just a phone call. "Well? Go on, then. Let's hear it."

Phil has mentioned Clint before, of course he has, but it was always contained to 'I'm seeing someone, his name's Clint', rather than all the personal details he knows his mom is just itching for a chance to dig out of him. Now that it's gotten--serious, he supposes--between them, well. Phil actually wants to tell them so much that it's a struggle not to spew it all out.

"You know how I told you about Clint?" he starts. His mom hums.

"You mean that boy you're completely smitten with? You know you can't put me off forever, right? You're going to tell me everything about him one of these days."

Phil wonders, as he always does at times like these, why he even bothers trying to hide something from his mother. "Yeah, well. I drove down to see him, and I kind of passed out when I got here. I slept through most of yesterday. Sorry."

His mom sighs; it's a little weary, and he knows it's because she worries he's spreading himself too thin, trying to get through his MBA and keep a part-time job at the same time -- but Carlton Business School isn't cheap, even on almost a full scholarship as well as a loan, and he wouldn't even dream of asking his parents for help.

"Leah is here," she says at last. "She brought little Lucas to stay with us."

Phil brightens. "Yeah? How's the little scamper?"

"He's good. He's walking on his own now, grabbing everything in sight. Your father had to build a special security box for all the remotes, he's drawn to them like they're candy."

Phil smiles to himself. He hasn't seen his nephew in almost six months, and he was a loud little thing even then. "I'll bet. He'll be a techie, just like his Grandpa. What about him, how's he doing?"

"Ask him yourself; I gotta go take the potatoes off the boil. John! Phil's on the phone!"

"Oh? I have a son?"

"Dad, come on," Phil grouses when his father comes on the line. "I'm sorry already. Happy Thanksgiving."

"And to you, boyo. Are you in the Twin Cities?"

"Nah, I'm at Hamilton for the weekend."

"Ah, visiting that boy of yours. When are you going to bring him over so we can meet him?"

By this time Clint's hung up the phone, and is watching Phil curiously as they make their way upstairs to Clint's room. Phil flashes him a smile and says, "Soon, I hope."

His father rumbles his approval, and they chat for a while, about how work is, and his friend Rusty and his bad hip, and his aunt Mabel that his mom is refusing to talk to until she takes back what she said about his other aunt Sybil, and all the little bits and pieces that make up an all-American family like theirs.

Then Leah steals the phone from their dad, over his protests that he wasn't done yet, and proceeds to talk his ear off about everything she hasn't been able to tell him in the time they haven't spoken.

"Leah, breathe," he teases, carefully not asking about her good-for-nothing husband whom she hasn't mentioned once. He talks to her all-too-rarely as it is, and he's going to see her for Christmas anyway, he hopes, if everything goes to plan. He can bring it up then, if there's still need.

"Oh, shut up," she says, and he can almost hear her eye-roll. "Are you having fun with your boyfriend?"

"I am, thanks."

"You are bringing him over for Christmas, right? That is where this is going, yeah?"

"Maybe," Phil says, avoiding Clint's eye. He still hasn't asked, although he plans to, and soon.

"Pffffft maybe shmaybe. You're such a goner for this one."

"All right, bye now, Leah! Put Ma back on, will ya?"

His sister grumbles, but passes the phone over.

"When are you driving back?" his mom wants to know.

"Sunday afternoon. Should be back in Minneapolis by midnight, I got classes at eight Monday morning."

His mom sighs. "All right, well, drive carefully, won't you? There's gonna be a lot of traffic on the road going back."

"Yes, Ma," Phil says, long-suffering but fond.

"Don't you take that tone with me, Phillip Coulson. I can still assign you double housework when you get here."

Phil grins. "I'll be careful. You be careful, too. You know you're not a robot, right? That you need rest?"

"Yes, thank you. Don't forget who taught you half of your Physics syllabus."

"I love you, Ma. I'll try to call again soon."

"I love you too, baby," she says, voice just a touch choked-up. It's not easy on them, this across-the-country parent/offspring thing, but Phil's got high hopes for the future, just as soon as he pushes his studies out of the way.

He hangs up and throws his phone on Clint's bed, where Clint's sitting with his back pressed to the headboard.

"How are they?" Clint asks him, smiling, an odd softness in his eyes.

"They're good," Phil says, smiling back, shrugging a little. They're always good, even when they're on the verge of losing everything. Just two more years, guys.

He drops on the bed, too, shifts to place his head in Clint's lap. Clint's fingers tangle in his hair immediately, stroking along his scalp. Phil sighs happily and closes his eyes.

He doesn't mean to fall asleep, honestly he doesn't, but he's just so comfortable where he is, and the next thing he knows he's blinking awake to the faint sound of pencil on paper by his ear. There's still a hand resting on his head, which he discovers when he tries to turn and it slides off to land on his shoulder. He draws in a deep breath, trying to force the fog of drowsiness off his mind.

"You shouldn't have let me sleep," he mutters, shifting to curl against Clint's legs more comfortably.

"Shut up," he's told fondly. "If you were tired enough to fall asleep in the first place, then yeah, I absolutely should have."

Phil hums, still waking up. The scratching, which hadn't paused, does so now. Clint lays the sketchbook back on the side table, where it had been when they came in, and shifts down the bed. Phil rolls off him to make it easier, then rolls right back, tucking his face in Clint's neck and sighing contentedly. Clint's arms close around him, and Clint lets out a long breath, relaxing. Phil throws a leg between Clint's, pressing closer. He's half-hard, he realises when it puts delicious pressure on his cock; Clint hums, shifts his thigh to give him more of the same. Phil lets his mouth fall open, licks the warm skin under his ear, sucks lightly, presses a kiss to it.

"You promised me something earlier," he murmurs, one hand sliding over Clint's chest so his thumb catches on a nipple; Clint jerks a little under him, and Phil feels pressure grow against his own thigh.

"I did, didn't I?" Clint says, voice gone low and husky in that way that never fails to make Phil even harder. "Well then, I'd best deliver."

Phil tries to hold his shiver in, but it's pretty much a lost cause. And anyway, he knows Clint likes it when he lets himself go, shows Clint exactly how he's making him feel. Clint nudges his head up with his chin, until Phil's looking down at him; then he lifts his head, trails his lips over Phil's, not exactly kissing, just rubbing the soft pad of his lower lip against Phil's mouth until Phil can't take it anymore, surges forward with a moan and kisses him properly, opens up for him until Clint's tongue is stroking his, mapping his mouth. He presses closer, plasters his body against Clint's side, can't help the small hitches of his hips rubbing his cock against Clint's leg. Clint groans and moves his hands down Phil's sides, up and over his ass, palms the muscles until Phil's panting in his mouth.

"How d'you want to do this?" Clint asks, voice rough. Phil doesn't really care, as long as it's soon, now.

"I'll ride you," he gasps. He wants to say something about getting his ass ridden like Clint had said, because fuck that would be so hot, but he wants to see Clint's face more, while he still can.

Clint seems to like the idea; his mouth is open, eyes heavy-lidded and intent, almost black. "Okay," he says, kisses Phil again as he draws his hands up, under Phil's sweatshirt, pushing at it until it's gathered under his arms, baring his back. "Never seen you go without a shirt this long before," he half-teases while he takes it off Phil entirely.

"Easier to keep warm," Phil mutters, absent-minded. It was either this trip or a new coat, and the choice had been clear.

Clint doesn't say anything; Phil's pretty sure he's drawn the same conclusion. He kisses Phil instead, insistent, like he's trying to climb inside him. Phil kisses back, his hands burrowing under Clint's own hoodie until he can get at the soft skin it hides. Clothes are quickly dispensed with, until all Phil can feel is Clint's skin against his own, silk-smooth, muscles bunching underneath. It's one of the most arousing things Phil has ever felt -- but then again, the list is long where Clint's concerned.

After what seems like years of kissing and touching and rubbing against each other, Phil decides he's waited enough and throws a leg over Clint's hips, sits up in his lap until Clint's thick, heavy cock is touching his. Clint bites his lip, looking up through his lashes as he lifts a hand, trails his fingers over the two heads, picking up drops of pre-come and slicking them around the two shafts. Phil exhales sharply, grits his teeth. He knows what he wants right now, and amazing as the touch feels, this isn't it.

The stretch to find the tube of slick is torturous pleasure, dragging his cock against Clint's, making them both hiss. Phil straightens, tube clutched in his hands, opens it and slicks his fingers. He feels a little wild, can't wait even a minute longer for what he needs; he slides two fingers inside himself from the get-go, grunts at the stretch, goes back for more. Clint's always telling him he's a pushy bottom, but fuck, he has Clint Barton stretched out under him, all golden skin and broad shoulders and trim waist and muscles, and he dares anyone not to want all of that, right the hell now.

Clint grips his hips, steadies him, one hand going back to pull his cheeks apart, help with the prep as much as he's allowed. It does make the slide easier, and Phil pushes a third finger inside, unnecessary but, well, he likes to be thorough, and Clint usually insists. He can only stand it for a full minute or so; the burn is fantastic, makes him desperate to be filled, for Clint's cock to open him up and take him. He lifts his hips, lets his fingers slip out; his other hand is already fumbling the cap open again.

Clint's been quiet all this time, staring up at him like he's the only thing keeping him sane, but when Phil reaches for his bare cock to slick him up, he chokes out a "Hey, hang on, what about--"

Phil takes his cock in his hand anyway, rubs the lube into the soft skin. "You're clean, right?"

"Yeah," Clint stutters on a gasp, "yeah, I got the full check-up last month."

"I got tested, too," Phil says. He doesn't tell Clint that he'd sat there in the booth where they took the blood samples, trying to breathe through the thought of doing exactly this when the results came out. Trying not to get desperately hard with a needle jabbed in his arm, because that was weird enough as it was. "They gave me the all-clear. So. Still want to stop?"

"Fuck, no," Clint groans, hands back at Phil's hips, coaxing him closer, not that Phil needs it. He shuffles his knees against the bed, lines Clint up and sinks down slowly, letting a soft keen slip out when the flared head breaches him. Clint's eyes are locked on the point of entry; he's flushed again, all the way down his chest, and his breathing is choppy, irregular. He looks like he's holding himself still through force of will alone.

Phil straightens, widens his thighs, cants his hips and sinks lower, eyes rolling back into his head at the stretch, the slow, insidious burn that spreads from his ass out through his entire body, making him shake a little. "Oh, god," he gasps, because fuck but he's missed this. He loves this feeling, loves being filled, like a piece that's always missing slotting into place just right. Loves Clint for wanting that, too, for making it okay for Phil to ask for this, to need it without feeling somehow lesser for it.

He pauses when Clint's all the way in, sits over his hipbones and just basks in the feel of it, in his body giving, adjusting to take Clint's width.

"God, Phil," Clint says tightly, fingers painting bruises over his hips that make him shudder all the more. "You should see yourself. Never seen anything like it."

"No one else will, either," Phil says, low and languid and yes, pretty sappy, but hey, if he can't say it now, when can he?

Clint's hips jerk at that; he bites his lip, hard enough for it to go white. "Jesus," he grunts. "You'll be the death of me."

Phil stops playing then, because as gorgeous as this feels, it's nowhere near enough. He starts an easy rhythm, and Clint lifts into it, follows his lead, rolls his hips until the familiar spike of bliss makes Phil see stars, spread his legs wider and basically start fucking himself on Clint's cock. It's frantic, fast, messy, almost no finesse, and so fucking good he could scream until he's hoarse. Clint seems to concur; the noises he's making drive the need inside Phil even higher.

"Phil, god, Phil, I can't--" he gasps, fingers clenching, and Phil jerks, moaning loudly. Clint's close, he can tell, so he wraps the still-slick palm of his hand around himself, starts stroking in a broken approximation of rhythm, and fuck, fuck, this is just, he can't--

The orgasm slams into him with the force of a ten-ton truck, obliterating his thought processes completely. He's dimly aware of clenching, hard, around Clint's cock inside him; of Clint yelling and shuddering, jerking so violently he's almost toppled over. When things go still and quiet again he slumps, catches himself barely before he breaks Clint's nose with his forehead, pushes off and to the side where he lies panting and trying to work out if he's still alive. He doesn't understand how this is possible; the mechanics are all wrong, this couldn't possibly be getting more intense every time they do it, but somehow it is, somehow Phil can't wrap his mind around it at all, although he tries.

Could have something to do with the fact that this is the state he's usually in when he tries to make sense of it, which ought to explain the lack of progress. Oh, well. Further testing needed, clearly.

"Why does this keep happening," he mutters muzzily, sounding even to himself like a petulant child, which is ridiculous considering how very well-fucked he is right this minute. "I don't get it."

Clint doesn't even attempt to answer; he's lying spread-eagled on his back, staring at the ceiling and panting like he's just come off the treadmill. His hand flops around, finds Phil's after a moment, wraps itself around it.

Phil lets it be.


Tylor had said two p.m. when Clint had spoken with him the day before, so that's when Phil pulls up in front of an old townhouse in a little side street. It's not particularly big, but there are signs on the lower floor that proclaim Tattoo Parlor in big, gothic-style letters.

"This is the place, then," Phil says, just to make conversation.

"Yep," Clint replies cheerfully. "Having second thoughts?"

"No," Phil says easily. He really isn't.

Clint nods, jumping out of the truck and grabbing his sketchbook that holds the original design. The big double doors are open when they reach them, and a deep, insistent beat can be heard from within.

"He's here," Clint says, leading the way inside and to the right, inside one of the two enormous rooms on the lower floor. All the walls have been knocked down to make an open-plan space that spans the length of the house. It's full of the usual tattoo paraphernalia -- leather daybeds, chairs, simple desks that hold row after row of bottles of ink in every color imaginable, several sets of plastic storage boxes, tattooing machines. There's a short man in the center of the room, hair a halo of light brown around his head, bobbing in time to the beat. He's wearing a pair of battered blue jeans and a plain white shirt, sleeves rolled up to his elbows to reveal toned forearms completely covered in intricate, beautifully coloured tattoos. Both arms sport what are clearly different designs, but something about them looks cohesive, like parts of a whole.

The man turns and grins; he looks utterly unassuming, nice green eyes, a light goatee around his mouth and over his chin, very pale skin, black-framed glasses. It's only when you look down that you see how not-at-all-ordinary he is.

"Hey, guys," he says, smiling amicably. His voice is a light tenor that Phil catalogues as instantly soothing. Must be handy for a tattoo artist. Phil wonders if it comes naturally, or if Tylor had to practice to get it right. "You must be Phil," he says now, giving him a quick once-over. "I think I see what the fuss is about. Nice to be able to put a face to the name."

Phil smiles and offers his hand. "Hi. You did a great job on Clint's tattoo."

"Yeah, came out nicely, didn't it? Mind you, the design was gorgeous to start with."

Clint fidgets under both their admiring gazes, like he's uncomfortable with the praise, which is all too feasible. Phil thinks he should really work on that. Maybe it's just a question of exposure?

"Where do you want it?" Tylor asks, breaking into his thoughts. Phil flushes a little himself when he realises he's been caught staring.

"On the back of my shoulder, here," he says, turning around and placing his hand on the left, just above his heart.

"Mmm," Tylor hums, looking considering. "Yes, that's a nice spot. I could put it at a bit of an angle, like I did Clint's?"

"Sounds good," Phil tells him. Really, from this point on it's all Tylor and what he thinks would work best. As long as the design stays the same, Phil's pretty much set.

He strips off his sweatshirt and button-down, mindful of the fact that buttons are a good idea when it comes to dressing easily after he's done. Clint smirks, but says nothing. It's just practical, okay, has nothing to do with the fact that Phil's missed wearing shirts and having Clint's fingers worm their way between the buttons. Tylor tells him to straddle a chair with his back to the room, swabs Phil's shoulder, then sticks the design on, the same one he says he used on Clint. He peels the outer layer carefully and stands back, tilting his head to the side.

"I think that's okay. Clint?"

"Yeah, looks--looks good."

Clint sounds a little strangled, so Phil turns around to look at him -- does he hate it? Is he having second thoughts? But Clint isn't frowning, isn't doing anything, really, although there are spots of high color dancing over his cheeks. Phil knows those spots, intimately. Clint is turned on. Well. That's good, then.

He's grinning when he turns back to Tylor. "Do it."

"Don't you want to see?" Tylor says, surprised.

Phil shrugs, feeling the drying outline pull slightly. "Nah. I trust you guys."

Clint swallows. Phil holds his eyes before turning again, to face the back of the room.

"All right, then. Here we go," Tylor says; and then, for the next hour or so, all Phil hears is the buzz of the machine as he looks around curiously, keeping his eyes busy so the pain won't be what he's thinking about all the time.

It stings, sure; burns a little, but it's bearable. Once he stops fighting it and starts breathing through it, around it, letting it sink in and flow inside him, it retreats to a dull hum of sensation in the back of his mind. The longer it goes on, the easier it gets to let it happen, accept it. He's always had a pretty high pain threshold, so he's able to take it easily until Tylor starts the second layer of the fill. Then it does get harder to manage, the burn of the same spot inked over and over again. His breathing gets a little more laboured--

--Then, suddenly, Clint is crouching in front of him, blue eyes open and reassuring.

"You're almost done," he says in a low, calming voice, just loud enough for Phil to hear him. "You're doing so good, Phil, so good. Just a little bit more."

Phil latches onto that voice, lets it take the restlessness that had been building, until there's nothing but blankness in his mind again. He sinks into it, breathes deep, and he's not sure how it happens, but the pain starts turning into pleasure. Not enough to get him hard, not quite, but certainly an insistent rush under his skin, something that slides through his veins and pools in his lower belly.

Tylor, probably feeling his body relax under his needle, hums. "Ah, I see you're getting the endorphin high at last. Should tide you over until I'm done. Not long to go now, like Clint said. I'm just filling in the edges. I'd say... ten minutes, max."

Phil nods, tries not to move too much, to make it as easy on the artist as possible. Clint stays with him the whole time, eyes never leaving Phil's. There's something in them that arrests him, makes it hard to look away. The arousal from earlier is still making his pupils widen, but there's also a hint of--possessiveness?

As soon as Phil thinks that, he knows that's what it is. It's like Clint is accepting, finally, that Phil is his; that this is Phil's way of making him a promise, you and me, together. Phil smiles, raises his eyebrows, silently teasing, do you get it now? Clint flushes some more, bites his lip, nods. The grin that spreads over his face in the wake of that is truly something to behold.

Tylor's true to his word, and ten minutes later he's putting up the gun and swiping Phil's skin for the last time.

"Done," he declares. "Wanna go take a look?"

Phil pushes off the chair eagerly, giving himself a second to stretch before he walks to the full-length mirror that takes up half the far wall. He turns to look, and it's just as beautiful as he expected, almost the same as Clint's except he's added shadows around the wing tips, and it looks like the bird really is hovering in mid-air.

"It's great," he says, watching Clint's eyes stare unblinkingly at the reflection in the mirror. "Thanks, Tylor, fantastic job."

"Glad you like it," Tylor says, flashing him a grin before he carries on stripping his gun.

Phil pays him what he and Clint had settled on yesterday (another expense he can't really afford, but man, so worth it), and after Tylor's wrapped him up and patted him on the other shoulder, he throws his button-down back on and Clint helps him put on his sweatshirt over the top so the raw skin doesn't get jostled more than necessary. He listens carefully as Tylor tells him how to take care of it, when to wash and what to put over it so it heals within a couple of weeks.

"I've got some of the lotion left over from mine, I'll let you have it," Clint tells him as they're walking to the truck. The rush has faded a little now that the actual process is over, leaving behind an insistent ache that Phil supposes will stick around for a while. Good thing he mostly sleeps on his stomach, when Clint isn't around. The thought is sharp, with ragged edges that grate on him. He's got just over twenty-four hours left before he needs to get back in that truck and drive away again, mile after mile taking him away from the one thing that makes all the sleepless nights, all the strain of keeping a job as well as working on his MBA full-time, all of the perpetual exhaustion worth it.

He's quiet on the drive back, and so is Clint; Phil isn't fool enough to imagine Clint isn't thinking along the same lines. If it all goes to plan, they'll see each other again in a month's time, and they'll have a few more days together than this long weekend; and after that, there's always the possibility of another long weekend together in the spring, maybe meeting in Madison so Phil doesn't have to make the drive all the way down again.

The comfortable silence lasts for the rest of the evening; he really needs to get some work done for Monday's classes, and Clint's got a project he's working on, too, so they share space just like they did most of last year, Phil at the desk and Clint on the bed, leaning against the headboard with his sketchbook on his lap. It's nothing out of the ordinary, but Phil feels settled like he hasn't in months; there's the marked absence of something in the back of his head, and it takes him most of the evening to work out that it's the voice that wonders, every minute of every day, what Clint's doing right now, where he is, if he misses Phil as much as Phil misses him. He basks, while he still has that luxury, listens to the quiet scratch of pencil on paper, makes notes as he goes through his reading, breathes in the smell of Clint's room that makes something inside him unclench, curl up and purr in his chest.

He tries really hard not to pass out again, but after he's taken the patch off the tattoo and washed it, Clint makes him lie on his stomach on the bed, straddles his waist and rubs the lotion into the reddened skin over the ink, then swipes his hands over Phil's shoulders, down his back, pressing just so, aided by the slide of lotion left over on his fingers. Phil sighs deeply, feels every muscle in his body relax with the exhale. Clint just knows him too well; within minutes of said treatment, he's asleep again.


When he opens his eyes, the room's still dark but there's a hint of blue in the sky outside the blinds. He feels wide awake, though, which is to be expected considering what time it was when Clint pushed him down onto the bed. Sneaky. It's Clint's way of making sure he rests if he needs it, and even though Phil's wise to his ways by now, he still takes him by surprise at times.

He turns his head, seeks out the man in question. Clint's curled up on his side next to him, leaving Phil to take up the rest of the bed with his sprawl. Something in his chest tightens at the sight; he lies there, watching Clint's thick lashes spreading over his cheeks, the slow rise and fall of his chest, until the room gets lighter, tinged a dusky blue. Eventually he turns on his side, curls an arm over Clint's waist and tugs him closer, until their chests are pressed together and he can feel Clint's light exhales against his throat. He curls a leg over Clint's, leans his cheek against the top of Clint's head.

Clint sighs in his sleep, worms closer. His lashes flutter when he tucks his nose in Phil's neck; he presses his lips against the skin, leaves a kiss, another.

"Morning," Phil says, trailing a hand over the small of his back.

"Hey, Sleeping Beauty," Clint murmurs, voice still sleep-rough. "You were out like a light as soon as you smelled the pillow. You need to sleep more when you're back in Minneapolis. You can't just wait until I'm there to make you."

Phil sighs, biting his lip. God, he hates this, hates that he has to leave again in less than eight and a half hours' time. "Maybe I don't like sleeping when you're not there," he grumbles, pulls Clint even closer until there's no space left between them. He can feel the downturned curve of Clint's mouth pressed against his collarbone.

"Don't leave, then," Clint whispers, and Phil knows he doesn't mean it, knows that Clint knows that neither of them has a choice in this.

"You know I have to."

More kisses tracing his collarbone, the top of his chest. "Doesn't mean I have to like it."

Phil closes his eyes. "Baby, please."

He doesn't add anything else; he doesn't say 'you know why I'm doing this,' or 'it's all for you, for us, all of it,' or 'it's just six more months before you finish college and you can move up to Minneapolis with me.' It's nothing that hasn't been said before, nothing they haven't re-hashed time and time again when Phil had left the first time, and it aches like a stab wound in his gut every time he thinks about it, for all it's the best course they could take. Despite all the logic he tries to apply, the fact of the matter is that he doesn't want to leave. Ever.

Clint lifts his head, nudges his nose over his stubble in apology. He knows, too, how hard this is for Phil. Phil kisses him, then, morning breath and all, because he can't stand to be a single more second without it, without Clint's lips on his and his tongue in his mouth, Clint's hands gripping him for dear life.

Clint tugs at him insistently until Phil rolls them over, settles on top. Clint's hard, toned body stretched under his will always be one of the few things Phil can't live without. Clint's legs open, wind around his waist, cling. He's soft against Phil, but that changes quickly, with every swipe of his tongue in Phil's mouth, every twist of Phil's lips against his.

"Fuck me," Clint begs, like Phil would, could ever say no. Clint strips Phil's pants off first, then gets rid of his shorts while Phil goes for the tube of slick. He groans when Phil settles on top of him again, legs going back around his hips.

"Wait," Phil gasps when Clint lifts into it, tries to impale himself on Phil's cock. "Wait, you're hardly--"

"I want it like this," Clint whispers, hand sliding to Phil's ass and gripping hard enough to bruise. Phil's going to cherish that mark every second until it fades. "Just slick yourself up and take me."

Phil shudders, bites his lip to stop the moan trying to climb out. He does as he's told, uses far more lube than he usually does, but if Clint isn't going to let him prep him, it's the least he can do. Clint lifts himself by the hold he's got on Phil's hips, shoves down until the head of Phil's cock slips inside, stretching him wide. Phil freezes, lets Clint direct this, hard as it is when he's the one on top and all he wants to do is shove inside that warmth. He'll hold out, though, for Clint, and so he only moves when Clint tugs at him impatiently, slow, so slow that Clint grunts in frustration and tells him to 'get in me already.'

He goes, then, braces himself on one elbow and pushes in, muscles giving sweetly around him. His free hand finds Clint's, grips tight as he bottoms out and holds himself there, just for a while, just to imprint this feeling onto his very bones.

"God, I hate this," Clint whispers, and Phil knows he's not talking about this, here, between them; he's talking about what has to come after.

"I hate it, too," Phil confesses. Then he swallows, and he says it, because he's never said this part out loud, always assumed Clint knew; but maybe Clint needs to hear this, needs it vocalised to understand just what Phil's trying to do here. "It's for you, baby. All of it, every minute. It's for you, because in ten, twenty, fifty years I want you to have everything you have ever wanted. I want you to have a house you love; I want you to never have to worry about whether or not we can make the mortgage payments at the end of the month; I want us to be able to do what we both love, and I want us to, if you want, one day have a family of our own."

Clint shudders under him, hard, clenches down and bites his lip and keens. "Phil," he moans, close to a sob, as he shakes in his arms. "Phil, I can't." His legs tighten around him, tugging him even deeper inside; he throws his head back, bites his lips. Phil holds as still as he can, a little startled by how violently Clint's reacting to his words, a little worried, if he's honest, that he's said something wrong, but Clint is so obviously into this that he knows that's not it.

"God," Clint says after a long moment, sinking back onto the bed, breathing hard. "God, Phil, you can't say stuff like that."

"Why the hell not?" Phil demands.

Clint stares at him, lost for words. He swallows, hard, whines softly when Phil starts moving, thrusting gently. "No one has ever," he says, breaking off on a moan, "ever said anything like that to me before. God, Phil, do you even realise..." He trails off again when Phil shifts his angle and drags the head of his cock over his gland, letting out a sound of pure need. He's shaking again, clutching at Phil like he'd fly apart without it. Phil's never seen anything like it, not in all the times they've fucked, before the readjustment of their relationship and after. It's like Clint's close to coming from his words alone; he speeds up, wanting to give him what he needs, wanting to help tip him over, because it's clear that Clint's teetering on the edge.

Clint lets out a broken sound when he comes, whispers Phil's name, one hand fisting in Phil's hair and the other drawing half-moon circles of reddish purple on the back of Phil's hand from how hard he's gripping it. It goes on for a long time, like a live wire running through his body; Phil's too bemused to be anywhere near close to coming himself, but he fucks Clint through it until Clint calms, sinks into the bed panting like he's just run hell for leather around the campus.

"You okay?" he needs to ask, a little lost. He's still hard inside Clint, but it's almost an afterthought, a need that isn't immediate, only buzzing in the background.

Clint nods slowly, then shakes his head, then nods again. "I think so," he says, sounding lost.

"Was it... what I said?" Phil probes, wanting to know if he should be doing damage control or something. He starts pulling out, only to be stopped by Clint's arm suddenly like a steel band around him.

"No, don't move," Clint says, fast, like he has to stop something terrible from happening. "I want to feel you like this, filling me. I feel empty without you."

"Okay," Phil says, resettles himself carefully over Clint's chest.

Clint doesn't say anything for a while, just breathes a little ragged, a little broken. "I've never had a future before," he says softly, turning his head to find Phil's eyes. "You're giving me a future, Phil. You. Us. A life together. A family. Do you--can you even understand what that means to me?"

Phil holds his gaze, wanting nothing more than to memorise the quiet happiness in Clint's eyes forever. "I love you," he says, because there's nothing else he wants to say in that moment.

Clint sighs, moves his free hand to the back of Phil's neck, draws him down into a kiss while his thumb strokes over the back of Phil's hand. "I love you," he whispers against his lips, before kissing him again, slow, warm, delicious.

Phil feels his cock twitch inside Clint, starts to give it a stern talking-to in his head when Clint moves into the shift, languid, seductive, so fucking beautiful.

"Look what I found," he says teasingly, muscles gripping Phil hard enough to bow his spine.

"Fuck," he gasps, because he hasn't forgotten about Clint coming around him a few minutes ago, not at all.

"Mmmm," Clint hums, doing that thing with his hips again that should be illegal.

"Nghstop," Phil manages, closing his eyes and biting his lip. "I can wait for you."

"What if I don't want you to wait?" Clint says, god, he is evil when he has an advantage.

"Clint," Phil moans, begs, probably, although what he's begging for he's not quite clear on.

"Right here," Clint tells him, moving gracefully, muscles flexing in a way that is thoroughly distracting, lifting up to bite at Phil's lower lip before drawing it into his mouth.

There's no controlling it after that; Phil gives in, takes what Clint's offering, fucks into him until his rhythm's shot to hell and he's panting helplessly into Clint's mouth.

Then Clint's fingers move from his ass, up his back to ghost a touch over the hypersensitive skin of his new tattoo.

The orgasm whites out his vision, sends him bucking helplessly into Clint's body, which takes him without a whimper of protest. He collapses, after, half-off Clint, sobbing for breath.

"Jesus Christ," he rasps.

"You can say that again," Clint drawls.

He doesn't know how much time passes before he's aware of things again, but the room is bathed in sunlight when he lifts himself off Clint at last, wincing at the mess. Clint laughs at him quietly, tackling him so he's lying on his side, nose to nose with him.

"So," Clint says, "you like that tattoo then."

Phil grins. "Looks that way."

His grin fades when he sees the clock. It's just after nine; he's got less than seven hours before he needs to get back in the car and drive away, and he's got something he needs to ask Clint first.

"So I was wondering," he says, stroking a hand over Clint's side to fight the sudden bout of nerves that flutters in his gut. "My family lives in Wadesville, Indiana, it's about a two-hour drive from here. I'm driving home for Christmas, and I was hoping--will you come with me? I know it might be a bit early for the 'meet the parents' song and dance, and they're a bit of a handful, but--"

Clint stops his babbling with a hand on his mouth, laughing breathlessly, curling his other arm around Phil's neck and drawing him in, kissing him messily. "You dumb fuck," he gasps when he comes up for air, grinning stupidly. "Yes, I'll go home with you. I'll go anywhere you want me to go, don't you know that by now?"

Phil kisses him this time, which is hard to do when he's grinning like an idiot, too, but they manage somehow, even if they're just laughing into each other's mouths by the time they're done. "Okay," he says.

"Okay," Clint confirms. Then his face falls. "Oh, god, what if they don't like me?"

It's Phil's turn to look at him like he's mad. "And you call me a dumb fuck," he says dryly. Clint actually flushes.

"Shut up, it's a viable concern."

"A viable concern," Phil mouths back. "What have you been reading?"

Clint smacks him in the chest; it's nowhere near hard enough to hurt, but Phil gasps anyway, just because he can milk it for an apology kiss -- which he gets right on schedule.

It's hard, so hard to drag themselves out of bed, but they manage eventually. The showers at Stark Hall have always been on the small side, especially for two grown men to fit inside comfortably, but they don't let that stop them. Phil can't keep his hands off Clint's body, his chest, his shoulders, his sides. The slide of wet skin against his palms is a tactile heaven, a memory he's going to cherish through the long days and nights ahead.

Clint's arms close around him at one point, and they just stand there, water beating down on them, lost in each other, the steam curling overhead cocooning them from the world. They don't speak. There's nothing left to say that they don't already know.

Phil insists they go for breakfast afterwards, the same cafe that supplied the blueberry pancakes what feels like an hour ago, not a few (too short) days. Clint asks for the pancakes again, while Phil gets eggs, lots of coffee. He's packed up the few clothes he brought with him, and if somehow a worn t-shirt with a faded Davenport Valley Archers logo has also happened to find its way into his bag, well, he's admitting nothing (especially since he knows for a fact that one of his own t-shirts is missing. He hasn't looked for it too hard). All that's left is for him to drive Clint back to campus before he heads back north.

They put off the inevitable for as long as they can. It's a nice sunny day, cold but not freezing, and the streets are looking much livelier than they did the other day. People have come out in force after the holiday, and students are starting to crawl back to campus, too. In no time the place will be teeming again. It's still relatively calm when the two of them go strolling, and no one pays them any mind.

Bryant Park is just a few blocks away from where they are, and it's a natural progression to find them ambling down the lanes until they reach a small hill with a massive oak tree spreading its branches over the grass. It's too cold to sit, but not too cold for Clint to brace his back on the tree's bark and tug Phil close against him, leaning on his warm chest. Clint's lips aren't cold for long; he wraps his arms around Phil's back while Phil braces his arms on the tree, boxing him in.

"Just another month, right?" Clint asks plaintively when they break apart. He's pouting, and it's not as playful as he's trying to make it.

"Just another month, baby," Phil confirms, pressing another kiss to Clint's lips while he has the chance. "And then you'll have the chance to run screaming when you meet my family."

Clint laughs, tucking his hands in the back pockets of Phil's jeans. "I'd better start planning escape routes, then."

"You assume I'm going to let you go anywhere. If I have to suffer through the Spanish inquisition, so do you."

"What, share the pain?"

"Hey, I'm sharing everything else, it comes with the deal."

Clint bites his lip nervously. "Seriously, what if they don't like me?"

Phil nudges their foreheads together. "They'll love you because I love you. And they'll like you well enough once they get to know you properly. That I can guarantee."

"You might want to let me run away by the end of it."

"Idiot," Phil says fondly. "Haven't you got the message yet? You're stuck with me."

Clint beams up at him. Phil still has trouble believing anyone would be happy about this state of affairs, but as in many other things in his life, Clint Barton appears to be the exception to the rule.

Yes, the goodbye is going to be horrible. And yes, he'll want to die when he drives away, watching Clint's forlorn figure getting smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror. And yes, his heart is going to go back into hibernation for the next month, only jolted out of sleep by an email here and there, a text message when he least expects it, because that's what Clint does -- he makes things better without even trying.

The important thing is this: all this will come to an end, eventually. And in six months, they'll be leaving this place for the last time, Clint's few possessions loaded into the back of Phil's truck, hands held tightly over the gear shift. Because this thing between them, it will go the distance, no matter where in the world they happen to be.