Letting his backpack drop to the floor in front of him, Steve sits with an exhale on the edge of the bed. It's early afternoon and the diffuse light of the cloudy day outside sifts through the large windows on the other side of the room. The road back to New York has been interspersed with light bouts of rain and small droplets still hang on the tips of his hair. He runs a hand through it before moving to open the pack.
It's been almost four months since the Chitauri battle and he's told Fury he'd be unavailable for the next six. Now he's back at Stark Tower, taking Tony up on his offer for free lodging until he can find a place of his own.
His plan had been to ride through to the other side of the continent, but after a few weeks on the highways, he'd taken the back roads, stopping in a quaint little town with a shabby little diner right off main street. The owner, Lucille, had reminded him of his own mother, her sandy blond hair curling around her face, framing soft laugh lines around her eyes. He'd stayed, then, helping her and her daughter with odd jobs around the place. Anne, bright and sharp, had been there for the summer before returning to college.
Steve smiles as he unpacks the game DVD she'd gifted him when they'd parted a few days prior. He's pretty sure Anne had recognized him almost immediately, even though she hadn't said a word. Instead, it had seemed like she'd taken it into her own hands to educate him on the ways of the youth, and Steve'd let her. It's been the best couple of months for him ever since waking up in this strange new life. Well, now he knows what not to google, and he snorts at himself. It turns into a laughter when he opens the DVD case and a note falls out.
'Redeem this for a blowjob.'
He places the piece of paper back in the case and drops it onto the nightstand before pulling out his phone to message Anne. 'Ain't good with a hair dryer, miss.'
'Oh you fucker,' comes back almost immediately and Steve grins widely.
Teaching Steve the naughty lingo, as she'd put it, had been Anne's favorite thing. She'd find more and more convoluted scenarios to narrate, trying to see what would make him blush. Steve shakes his head at how red he'd gotten when he'd looked over her shoulder to peek at her laptop. That had been the first lesson: never do that. It hadn't been the lack of knowledge, but the bluntness of the language, the easiness with which words he'd grown to know should be whispered were now spoken aloud. No shame in love, Anne had said, and Steve agrees.
She'd deemed him terribly desensitized the moment she'd explained the intricacies of a well performed rimming in front of a convenience store clerk two towns over and all he'd done had been to ask for more explanations. They'd laughed their asses off at the greenish hue on the young man ringing up their purchases.
'Got there ok?' he sends back.
'Still couple hours out. Taking break to stretch my legs' she returns.
'Take care, let me know if you need anything,' Steve types on the keyboard with his too big fingers. Boy, had than been a gruesome skill to master. He receives a complicated smiley in return that makes him roll his eyes.
Knowing Anne's exuberance and spending long hour chatting with Lucille about the shortness of life, had made Steve thrum beneath his skin to get back to New York. There's this new want inside of him, to connect with others, share bits of time. The loneliness and the disconnection from his lost life cannot be cured with anything but constructing a new foundation, finding people to lean on and holding them up in his turn.
So he's back before his half a year is up, but it's good. He's found what he'd set out to search for, a long sought drive to start over.
"They're like the perfect... twins!" Clint hisses into the phone and he doesn't need to see Natasha's face to know she's rolling her eyes.
"You need to get out, get laid," she mutters.
"Clint," and they've had this conversation before, so he interrupts.
"SHIELD's gonna be all up their asses, whoever I find, even if I end up paying for it," he grumbles. "Besides, the moment I step out there, they keep tailing me like I'm not fucking one of them."
"Clint," she tries again, "locking yourself up in Stark's tower is not a solution."
"At least here they can't hack the video feeds."
A hum comes back over the line and Clint imagines her half nod of acquiescence. There's a soft sigh before she speaks again. "Fine, tell me about them."
Clint grins, even though that's not the end of it. He knows he's going to have to brave the world soon, but he's still bitter about being taken off active duty and kept under surveillance, even after passing all of SHIELD's psych evals. Maybe it's time he retires completely, somewhere on a farm.
"When I look at them," he says with childish glee, "it's like I've found my soulmate. Or soulmates, 'cos there's two of them. And they're perfect, finely muscled, can't even tell them apart..."
Steve rubs his gym towel over his face as he turns the corner into the locker room. He stops short of entering when he hears Clint's voice. He seems to be on the phone and Steve ponders whether to disturb him or not.
"I've found my soulmate. Or soulmates, 'cos there's two of them. And they're perfect, finely muscled, can't even tell them apart. I could stare at them for hours without being bored," Steve hears, slightly muffled, and there's a pause before Clint speaks again. "Their names are John and Mickey." Another pause and Clint laughs. "Come on, it is!"
It sounds like Clint's dating two guys at once and Steve's eyebrows go so fast up his forehead, it's almost painful. He carefully steps away from the door, it's none of his business who Clint fancies. Though he does wonder briefly about John and Mickey. Are they good guys? Are they good to Clint?
He's been back at the tower for three weeks now, and the top floors, where the residential rooms are, have been empty save for him and Clint. A short conversation with Tony, which has managed to irritate him nevertheless, has revealed that Thor hadn't returned from Asgard, Natasha had been off at SHIELD's headquarters in Washington, dr. Banner somewhere in the Amazonian forest, and Pepper had Tony whisked away for some duo time, "insert eyebrow wiggle here". Steve hasn't wanted to know the exact meaning of that euphemism, thank you very much. The only thing that's come out of that badly worded metaphor and its consequent explanation has been that apparently Tony thinks Steve's either a prude, or a virgin. He wonders how long he can torment young Stark before he catches on. A bittersweet pang runs through him at the resurfacing memory of fondue-ing, and he shakes his head again. When he'd told that particular story to Anne, she'd laughed at him for two days straight.
The soft sound of footsteps pulls him out of his musings, and Steve sees Clint approach. Ah, the archer, Hawkeye, the man pulled out of his head, toyed with like a puppet. He can't help but admire Clint for his resilience. Steve had read Clint's file, all of their files actually, the day after the battle, when everyone at SHIELD had been too busy dealing with the aftermath of devastation to look closely at what he'd been accessing in the archives.
They keep crossing paths going through their days. In the morning Clint's unable to speak until he burns his tongue with coffee, but he makes better eggs while half asleep. He can take Steve down in thirty seconds when they spar, despite Steve's enhanced strength, so Clint's been teaching Steve how to fight stealthily and efficiently. Some days Clint looks more tired than others, and that's when Steve coaxes him up onto the top floor terrace to see how many napkin spitballs they can stick on Stark's window before JARVIS' sensors catch onto them. Clint has a peculiar taste in movies, but he always manages to make Steve sit through them, bribing him with popcorn.
It's him and Clint in the tower and Steve feels like he's making a friend.
"Fucking mother of..." Clint whines, "he's not wearing a t-shirt in the morning, Nat. All that chest, and those nipples, like twin--"
"No. Do not."
"Clint. Do not name his nipples. It's bad enough already to know you have names for Rogers' asscheeks, for fuck's sake," and Natasha sounds frazzled. He knows she's not, but playing along with his insane fantasies.
"John and Mickey," Clint sighs dreamily.
"...and Mickey," Steve hears just as he pushes open the kitchen door and steps through.
Clint is on the phone again and Steve catches a glimpse of the hazy look of a man in love on his face before Clint straightens up and ends the call with a hurried bye. He looks a little embarrassed and Steve doesn't think he should. No shame in love, right? But maybe it's not socially acceptable, it hadn't crossed his mind to research this.
'Is it normal for someone to date two guys at the same time?' he sends Anne while Clint shuffles through the take out menus.
'Don't be a cheating asshole!' is what comes next and Steve stifles a laugh.
'Not me. I think my friend is dating twins.'
'Ooooh, hohhoh.' Steve can imagine her snickering into her palm. Yep, she's visualizing it. He clears his throat while fidgeting with his phone. How would Clint look between two... well. He's saved by a new message chime. 'Is called polyamory,' Anne sends and Steve thanks her before googling the word.
It's informative, the website he lands on, and he ends up reading about more than all things poly, making a mental note to return to it later.
"Hey, it's fine," he says over their lunch after it arrives.
"Hm?" Clint hums questioningly.
"That you've got two fellas," Steve chews and receives a raised eyebrow.
Right, that's not what they call them. "Two guys, boyfriends?" Steve waves with his fork and Clint freezes, eyes wide. "It's fine, nothing to be ashamed of," Steve stresses.
"I don't have two boyfriends," Clint squeaks.
"No, I overheard you, sorry about that," he counters, "John and Mickey. They treating you right?"
Clint's lips are now pressed tightly together in a thin white line and he drops the fork with a clatter before pressing both his hands over his mouth as well. His shoulders are shaking slightly, Steve notices, and he hurries to reassure Clint.
"Nobody's judging here," he extends a hand to squeeze on Clint's upper arm.
It doesn't have the intended effect, though, as Clint bolts from the room, leaving the door ajar behind him. Steve listens to his footfalls down the corridor as he breaks into a run, and mutters a curse. Clint's looked like this is a secret nobody should know. Well, Steve can show him how open minded he is. He also needs to know that it's not John and Mickey who are making Clint keep it hidden.
Clint pushes closed the door of his bedroom and barely manages to dive into a pillow before howling with laughter. He pushes his face in the soft case, trying to minimize the amount of noise he's making. His eyes are leaking, and his entire body is shaking almost violently at the earnest expression on Steve's face. Clint gets it, that Steve means well, but the whole thing is too surreal. He can't help the laughter that coils through him, and it unwinds his body in a way Clint had never thought possible. It burns hot through him, this sudden flood of endorphins.
Once he's able to speak, he calls Natasha. "Steve thinks I'm dating two guys called John and Mickey," he says without preamble.
It's met with silence, but little gasps and wheezes betray her own copious laughter. Clint waits patiently for her, not bothering stopping the chuckles that still fill his throat.
"And? Grossed out? Appalled?" she asks.
"Not even a bit. He wants to know if they're treating me right," Clint rolls over on his back.
Nat hums at him over the line and Clint already knows what she's going to say. "Ask him out already."
"Clint..." and he knows that long suffering sigh all too well by now.
Steve had been back at the tower for over a month now, and the first time Clint had stumbled onto him in the gym, he'd blamed the sudden attraction on his lack of more intimate activities. But it hadn't stopped there. Steve's actually a pretty forward guy, with a wicked sense of humor, something that Clint dearly appreciates. He's not a saint, nor does he take things for granted, not even the little things, like Clint's too burnt omelettes or his too sweet coffee.
It doesn't help that his ass looks perfect, stretching the thin fabric of his sweatpants to the limit when they spar. Heh, that had been Clint's first mistake, to offer one-on-one sparring lessons to Steve. He's pretty sure Steve's not doing it on purpose, but a guy can only take so many close encounters with ripped pecs and abs and nipples without taking a bite. Because of course, Steve would walk around shirtless. Son of a...
"Why not? Give me one good reason," Natasha says and Clint turns his attention back to the conversation.
Clint blows out a long breath and rubs his temple. "He just looks like one of those people who don't do casual."
"And you just want casual." Yep, she's caught on to him, but damn it if he's going to admit it. Heartbreak lies that way. He can't lie to her, not to Nat, so all he's got left is silence. "Right. Got it. Tell you what," her tone is now short and clipped, anger shimmering through her voice and Clint winces. If he can hear that, she's really pissed. "I'm giving you until I come back in three weeks. If you don't either ask him out or get over it, I'll do it for you."
She's dead serious, Clint can tell. So he swallows past the lump in his throat.
"He's gonna say no, Tash," he whispers, a little too wobbly for his taste.
"Then cut off any interaction right now, get him out of your system." It's the logical thing to do, really, but Clint's brain is, well, his brain after all.
"But I li--" He sucks in a sharp breath, stopping the words.
"There you go," she says, half smugly, half affectionately. "Ask him out."
Clint rubs at his temple again. She has a point, as usual.
"If he declines the offer," Natasha adds, "we'll go somewhere when I get back. You, me and a couple automatics."
"Yeah?" Clint feels like a kid being plied with cupcakes.
"You and me, asshole," and there's a smirk in there somewhere, even if Clint can't see her face.
She's convincing, oh so very convincing. "Fine," he breathes, "I'll try." There's a small huff of satisfaction over the line before Clint remembers his newest predicament. "Wait! How do I tell him about John and Mickey?"
"I'm going back to the Met today," Steve says over his last bite of toast a couple days later, "didn't see it all last time."
"Uhum," Clint hums.
"Wanna keep me company?" comes back next.
"Uhum," he hums again, counting the drips from the coffee maker, because one cup is never enough.
"Great, it's a date," Clint hears followed by the scrape of Steve's chair on the floor.
It takes a moment for the words to register and Clint's eyes snap up to see a big grin on Steve's face as he turns to walk out of the kitchen. "Wait, what?"
"Maybe John and Mickey can join us," Steve calls over his shoulder before the door swings shut behind him.
Clint facepalms himself so hard, the sound reverberates off the walls.
'Why won't he let me meet them?' Steve complains with sharp jabs to the phone.
'Meet who?' pops up after a few seconds. Anne must be on break.
'Clint's fellas. They won't come.'
'They only need come for him, you perv.' It would have been hilarious, but Steve's been trying to find out about these John and Mickey guys for too long without success to manage a laugh now.
'Not funny, Anne.' Jab, jab, poke, Steve wonders briefly how sturdy these phones are, but he's interrupted by an incoming call.
"What happened?" Anne asks as soon as the call connects.
"I've tried everything!" Steve starts, and he's already at the verge of hyperventilation, which is impossible, given his enhanced body, but it feels like such nonetheless.
"Everything what? I know we haven't touched base for a couple weeks now, but--"
"All I could think of!" Steve stresses. He tries taking a deep breath, but it only makes his frustration worse. "All I could find in New York, but John and Mickey never came with us!"
"Wait, wait, slow down. All you could find, like what?" she asks.
Steve lets out a rushed exhale. "Like all the places that had things to do so that the fellas can join us."
"Liiiike...?" Anne nudges Steve further.
"The Met - lots of new art, saw a game once - good seats, at the cinema - but the popcorn is crap, the rides--"
"Oh my god," Anne whispers, but Steve pushes on.
"--on Coney - who says no to that, animal shelter - Clint loves dogs, pizza - they skipped pizza!, rode all lines on the subway one day--"
"Oh my god," comes again, louder this time.
"--and they couldn't join us for one stop, one!"
"Oh my god!"
"What!" Steve matches Anne's shout, breathing hard into the phone.
"Do you have a crush on Clint?" she asks, more sedately now.
It stops Steve in his tracks. No, it can't. He doesn't. What.
"Steve?" he hears Anne over the line, he must have been silent longer than it's seemed.
"Yeah," he breathes and why is his voice scratchy.
"You ok there, buddy?"
"He has two fellas, two..." It's impossible, but yet, here he is. Steve Rogers, the guys who falls for unattainable people. Fuck his life.
"Are these guys even real?" There must have been something in his voice if she's trying to comfort him with nonsense. "I mean, did you even see them or talk to them?"
"No," Steve returns with a whisper, "never."
"Can you follow Clint next time he meets with them?" she asks after a beat.
Steve's heart rate spikes with realization. "He only goes out with me," the words trail off, and how could he have been so blind? But in the world of spies, not everything is out in the open. "Can't be sure of anything right now," he manages to mumble.
"Then find out," Anne encourages, "go talk to him."
"Yeah, yeah, I'll do that," and he's already distracted by re-arranging the past weeks and all conversations with Clint on the subject of his boyfriends.
"Ok, text me if you need me, I'll be in class," Anne says before the call disconnects.
Steve lowers the device from his ear, trying to make sense of all these feelings he's suddenly aware of, all these possibilities that are throwing reality askew. A cracking sound pulls him out of his thoughts and Steve stares at the broken phone in his palm for a long moment.
"Uh... not so sturdy."
"I think we're dating," Clint tells Natasha over the phone.
"Good for you," comes back.
"I don't think he knows we are."
There's a small pause and, yep, there it is, the long suffering sigh that's reserved only for Clint and Clint alone.
Clint takes a deep breath. "We've been to museums, movies, pizza places, Coney fucking Island," he waves his hand in emphasis, though she can't see him. "This is where I threw up that one time, Clint, are John and Mickey meeting us today? This is where I got beat up, Clint, but where are your guys? This is where I ran from the cops, Clint..."
"Wait, you've actually been outside?" and she sounds pleased.
"Yeah," Clint snickers into his hand, "we've been playing hide and seek with the watchdogs around New York. Been showing him to how ditch a tail."
"Lovely," she deadpans. "Can I tell him about how you named his ass? Hey, Steve!"
Nat shouts as if Steve's in the next room and, too engrossed in daydreaming, Clint jumps, his hands fumbling as the phone slips from his fingers. It lands on the floor with a sharp sound, the screen going dark under the web of cracks radiating from the point of impact.
"Aw, phone," he mutters.
Scratching his head in defeat, Clint fishes a burner from the depths of his closet to send Nat a text. 'Broke phone. You owe me new one.' He turns off the device and replaces it before returning to the room to change. The burner is one of their emergency ones, not meant for daily use, so he needs to brace the world to get a new one. Maybe Steve wants to join him.
There's a knock on Steve's door before he has a chance to even put down the broken phone, never mind to calm his frantic thoughts.
"Can I come in," Clint's voice drifts through the wood and Steve automatically answers in the affirmative. "Hey, was wondering if you wanna go with me to buy a new phone? Mine's toast," he says walking in, and wiggles the dead device in demonstration.
A sound that's closer to a bark than a laughter makes its way out of Steve's throat and he raises his hand to show Clint his own mishap.
"Aw, not you too," Clint turns a pout toward the item and Steve takes a deep breath, trying to shake off the jumble in his head. "You have Hot Target Gold Edition!" Clint exclaims suddenly and beelines for the DVD on Steve's nightstand. "I've been trying to find this for ages. Can I borrow it?"
There's so much hopeful glee on Clint's face, his eyes alight above his smiling lips, that Steve's ribcage tries to expand and contract at the same time, aching pleasantly. He can't fathom how he could have not noticed this affection sooner.
"It's all yours," he offers and watches Clint tear the case open a little too quickly, only to halt, wide eyed. Crap, Anne's note.
Clint's silent and Steve shifts where he's standing, trying not to fidget. There's nothing he can say now.
"Even this?" Clint eventually asks, lifting the small paper square.
"Yes." It comes out of Steve's mouth before he can stop it. For a second, they're both staring at each other, frozen in place. But Steve won't take it back, so he squares his shoulders, bracing himself for whatever follows.
Clint's speechless, the words in front of him swirling around his mind. 'Redeem this for a blowjob.' Is Steve really offering? It could be a joke, or something left behind by a former lover, Clint reckons, with the last shreds of coherent thought he can muster. He really has to know, if only to escape Nat's wrath later.
"Even this?" Clint picks up the piece of paper from the case.
"Yes," Steve says without pause, and it's so resolute, so confident. It's not a joke, his brain supplies, and Clint is inclined to agree. But there's this other thing that's not a joke anymore.
"John and Mickey are your asscheeks," he blurts before having time to try and phrase it comprehensibly.
"What," comes back with a squeal.
"Really, ever since you came back, I can't stop thinking about you. I wanna bend you over every flat surface in the tower..." Clint tries to salvage it by making even worse, of course.
"I mean," he backtracks, "not just your body, you're fucking amazing--"
Clint smacks both hands on his face, trying to cover his flaming cheeks and manages to hit himself in the forehead with the DVD case and poke his eyelid with the piece of paper.
"Ow, dammit, this is the worst love confession of all time!"
Oops. Clint dares look up and finds Steve much closer than before, a hand extended in front of him, gaping.
"No John and Mickey?" Steve finally asks.
Clint shakes his head slowly.
The small smile that blooms on Steve's lips slowly curls upwards, showing teeth, and then shifts into a smirk that counters the warmth in his eyes.
"Love confession, you say."
Clint hurries to wave a hand in front of him, backing up a step. "Look--"
Steve's face falls a little. "Don't take it back."
"I wasn't going to," Clint returns, "just going to say I don't do one night stands."
Relief and delight are back on Steve's face before he sits down on the edge of the bed. Clint joins him when he pats the mattress.
"So what now," Steve asks as he takes Clint's hand in his.
"Hmm," Clint spares a second to ponder, enjoying the warmth of Steve's palm. "How about I redeem this," he waves the note in the air, making it flutter with his free hand.
Steve just raises an eyebrow.
"After a proper date tonight," Clint winks.
It's a surprise that shouldn't be, really, when Steve's lips press over his, dry and chapped, but neither too forceful, nor too gentle. Much like Steve, his compassion and penchant for trouble, the rule breaker with a deep understanding of suffering. Clint likes this guy.
"Where did you learn to do that?" Clint rasps, breathing hard.
"Nowhere," Steve returns as he shuffles up to stretch next to Clint, "that's the first dick that's ever been in my mouth."
Clint's eyebrows raise inquisitively.
"Lack of experience doesn't equate lack of knowledge," Steve quotes Anne.
It pulls a snort out of Clint. He squirms around until he manages to find his new phone and taps at it. A couple of seconds later, Steve's chimes.
'Redeem this for a blowjob' is written under Clint's name.
Steve can't stop the grin that's pulling at his lips, and he leans closer to whisper in Clint's ear. "Can you please suck my dick?"
There's a shudder and Clint actually whimpers before he pushes Steve on his back. He straddles Steve's hips, pinning his wrists lightly to the mattress.
"Well, since you so shamelessly said please," he smirks and Steve shivers in anticipation.
"So. My ass is your soulmate."
"Ugh. Not before coffee..."