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"You know," Loki says, as casual as if he's having tea in his favourite chair and not avoiding all of Clint's arrows with an infuriating ease. "Of all the Midgardians I've ever had, you are my favourite."

He's not avoiding the arrows, technically. All of Clint's projectiles are finding the centre of Loki's left pupil without error, except that all these left eyes are part of those stupid projections. Fuck, they wisp into nothingness just before contact and the arrows shoot right through. In the distance, Clint hears Steve yelling something about keeping Loki busy while they whack all the monster moles back down the tunnels gaping in the middle of the street. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Clint's on this, kind of.

"You never had me," Clint says, and notches five arrows at once, letting them fly in diverging paths from his bow. Five Lokis disappear and he whirls around, slinging out his bow. It flattens out with the force of his swing, locking into itself to become a sort of baton that slams into the face of yet another Loki. Clint jerks back his arm, and the bow disengages from its baton-shape, and he's back to firing arrows, fast and sure and not one of them is hitting the real mark. It's pissing Clint off on so many levels.

"Hawkeye," Loki murmurs from his left; the memory of a little blue sliver deep inside Clint's mind shimmers in response. "It says so much more than Clint, and the bearer is yet incomplete to fit the name."

"Hawkeye." Coulson's voice filters from the tiny comm in his right ear, and Clint tilts his head in that direction. "I'll be there in thirteen seconds."

Loki laughs. It is a bright sound, very lovely, and Clint hates him for sounding so familiar. "I'll grant you a gift, freely given and freely received, yes?"

"No," Clint spits out, lunging forwards into a roll, but something cool slams into his back and his roll becomes uncontrolled; he tumbles right to the edge of the building and falls off. His tongue is heavy in his head and his spine seems to be trying to twist out of position. He can't command his arms to reach out and grab a ledge and he can't brace for slamming into the pavement below. He can't even fire a grappling arrow in an attempt to stop his freefall.

This is going to hurt so bad.

Someone grabs his wrist and his shoulder jerks painfully in its socket as he's hauled back upwards.

"Oh, hello." Loki's voice is a low jab at whoever is hauling Clint through the air. He hears the harsh grumble of pocket-rocket boosters (which aren't pocket sized at all, more like handbag-sized, but they all like to humour Stark). "I thought you died at my hand some time ago." It's not a question.

"I get that a lot," Coulson says from above Clint, before he drops him back to the roof; the fall isn't far, but Clint shakes in pain as he crumples on the hot surface. A loud weapon roars heat and sound above Clint, because Coulson doesn't like to waste time in chit-chat, bless his efficient soul. Loki shouts, screeching out curses that might actually manifest into Very Bad Things if they aren't out of range in, say, five seconds or so. Clint is picked up again, cradled in Coulson's arms and they're flying away.

The pocket-rocket boosters sound strained; their flight-pattern isn't quite in a forward direction. They weave and dip in a rather worrisome downwards manner, spinning like a leaf caught in the wind.

"Anyone airborne, I need assistance," Coulson calls out, and he sounds strained too. His arms tremble as he carries Clint, and there's a lot of fluffy crap surrounding them. Clint tries to stop being such a dead weight, but his body has stubbornly taken an unapproved leave of absence, and Clint tells it to stop being a baby.

Clint's body currently does not care.

They jerk to a stop and big arms clutch at them both. Coulson shifts, switching off the boosters with a jab of his elbow. The Hulk says, in a surprisingly quiet rumble, "Hulk catch birdy."

"Thanks," Coulson says, and he's breathing hard. Clint wonders, vaguely, if his handler's hair is messy; he can't even picture something like that. "Get us on the ground, please."

The Hulk grunts and this is the point where Clint has officially used up all his quota of wild falling for the entire month. They touch ground with a gentleness that belies the speed at which they had descended.

"Clint," Coulson says, and he's kneeling on the hard pavement, Clint's head resting against the tops of his thighs. All of Clint's senses feel oversharp and overworked; against the back of his neck, he can feel the vibrating warmth of Coulson's skin through the material of his trousers. Clint hears explosions carrying on around them, knows the the bright colours of their shockwaves, and the Hulk is roaring at something which dared get close to their position; he can smell the jade-green of rage. Rough fingertips swipe at his brow and he feels the paths of worry they groove into his skin. He makes a sound in the back of his throat, tries to press his face into that hand, which cups his sweaty cheek, thumb stroking his ear.

Nice. So nice, but a needle of pleasure in the monstrous haystack of pain.

"Clint. Agent Barton, stay with me," Coulson says, his voice so cool that it is like a balm to Clint's senses. "Medical has an ETA of three minutes. Stay awake."

Clint tries to open his eyes, but his eyelids have anchors attached to them. There are a lot of alarms going off in his body and it's hard to concentrate on all of them at once, especially since they're mostly made up of massive red arrows blinking furiously at his shoulder-blades.

"Sorry, sir," he mumbles, low and garbled. Those are not actual words that are coming out of his mouth, but he still tries: "I'm gonna. Go now," and blacks out completely.

.:.

Clint wakes up on what feels like the nicest bed he has ever lain in. Seriously, S.H.I.E.L.D.'s been investing in some pretty awesome mattresses for Medical, because Clint has never felt so comfy. He keeps his eyes closed, doing a quick inventory of any aches or signs of broken bones. All body-parts report an A-Okay, except for his back, which is dubious but tentatively in agreement with the rest, and his head, which is on the verge of a mutiny. There's two heavy lines of not-quite-pain on his back, but this comfy bed is going a long way with helping out.

He shifts one shoulder, and the bed moves. It ripples underneath him and he sits up fast, pain exploding like fireworks in his head. He fights down the nausea, pressing a palm against his stomach, not looking to the side when someone says, very gently, "Hey, Barton."

Clint exhales, slowly, so that his head knows he comes in peace. "Hey yourself, Dr. Banner," he answers and convinces his eyelids to part. Bruce's face swims into view; he's sitting in a chair next to the foot of Clint's bed, leaning forward as if he's on the verge of getting up. His gaze flickers across Clint's face, as soft as butterfly wings. Clint tries to smile at him. "How long have I been out?" he asks.

"Eighteen hours. How do you feel?" he asks, and Clint offers him a grimace of a smile.

"Been worse, Doc," he says, and then something dark shifts in the corner of his eye. Very carefully, he turns his head a bit more.

He stares.

Apparently, there is a huge-ass wing cascading out of the left side of his upper back. It is very large, with dark brown, lush feathers shushing secrets as they shift against each other. Just for balance, he checks the other side. Yep; there's a wing there, too. He lets out a long, slow exhale, and feels the warm weight of feathers flutter against his back.

Illustration 1: Clint discovers wings

"So, hey." His voice is a croak and he clears his throat, tries again. "Yeah. What the fuck."

He twists around as quick as he can manage, ignoring the pain in his head as he reaches over his left shoulder, trying to feel where the wings are attached. His fingers encounter puckered flesh where the bony part of the wing delves into his back. Unbidden, hysteria begins to build up and he controls his breathing, trying to keep calm. He's really wondering what else did that fucker do to me, because he has history with Loki, he and Loki go back a ways.

A warm hand touches his right shoulder. Clint flinches back around, his eyes feeling impossibly wide in his face. Bruce gives him a small smile.

"It's just the wings," he says in his low, calm voice. "We ran tests. Just the wings," he repeats as the door slides open a few steps away, and a group of people step in. Clint ignores them for a minute, just keeps his gaze trained on Bruce's dark eyes.

"You're sure?" Clint asks, hating how pinched his voice sounds. S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Medical Division might be a pain in the ass most times, but they handle their shit once they have all the pieces of the puzzle. Add in Dr. Banner's contemplative, brilliant mind (and Stark, sometimes, but no-one has to tell him he's brilliant; Stark's got that covered all by himself), and they have the lockdown on nearly anything that gets thrown at the team. Clint's just worried that they don't have all the pieces now. With Loki, one never knows.

"They're sure, Clint," says one of the people who just entered, and Clint closes his eyes, head almost swimming with relief. There's something about Phil that makes everything okay, even if everything is patently shot to shit in actuality.

He turns away from Bruce's comforting gaze and falls into Phil's competent one.

"Phil, I got me some wings," he says, feeling helpless. He spreads his arms out, indicating the increased totality of himself. "I am not okay with this."

Phil nods. Out in the field, they're Agent and Specialist or Agent and Agent, (used to be Agent and Asset, and at one point it was Agent versus Target, those had been super-fun times, hadn't they?), but recently, when they're not in the field, it's Phil and Clint. Clint's not really sure when that happened. Probably around that time they'd been driving to New Mexico and he'd found out certain salient facts, like the Cellist in Portland (for some reason, Clint's mind gave this mystery person a capital letter assignation, solely based on the small, soft smile that played around the corners of Phil's mouth when he refused to divulge any more information, even though Clint used almost every non-threatening tactic in the book); Phil's roaring sweet tooth and the annoying way he hummed along with this music mix that Clint had made for him (and played it for, like, the entire drive. If Clint had known he'd be subjected to such unmitigated torment, he would have thought twice before downloading that stuff, arranging them in an interesting order and making a nice cover for the CD).

"It's unfortunate," Phil agrees, and his shoulders move in an almost imperceptible twitch. "How's the head?"

"Aching." Clint sighs, pressing fingers just under his left temple. "Been worse than this before."

Phil nods, one single dip of his head. He looks so patient and proficient, and Clint gives him a smile. "Thanks for the catch, boss."

That gets him a quirk of Phil's mouth. "No problem. Any time," he adds, something flickering in the back of his dark regard, before he turns his head to address the medical team. "May Agent Barton be cleared for release now?"

The doctor, a new one as far as Clint is concerned, is wearing a doubtful expression under a mop of frenzied brown curls, dark gaze wary. Clint is gearing himself up to argue that, apart from the whole head thing and, oh yes, the wings, he feels fine. Especially since he doesn't have any of Loki lurking inside his head.

The doctor purses his lips, wrinkles his nose and says, slowly, "Maybe we should keep him for a few more days for observation."

Phil nods, as if he's agreeing with the doctor's assessment. Clint wants to yell at them both, but he keeps quiet. Phil knows him best, and acts in his best interest. Every time. He exchanges a quick glance with Bruce, who is wearing an amused and anticipatory expression.

"Dr. Siham, you're new to Headquarters, right?" Phil asks and he sounds perfectly off-hand. "You were stationed at the Philadelphia office."

The doctor blinks, appearing slightly nonplussed. "I was. What does that--"

"So that means you weren't here for the Sedative Incident," Phil cuts in and the doctor blinks again, more rapidly. "Although I'm sure you've heard of it. The memo for the Med-Bay Procedure 1818 was sent out four months ago to all sub-offices."

"The Sedative Incident," the unsuspecting Dr. Siham breathes. "Dr. Marshall said it was the worst day of his life."

"It had been a fairly interesting set of events." Phil looks around and gives Clint a very pointed look. Clint tries on a chastened expression and it probably fails extravagantly, since he wants to just get out of here. Medical places freak the hell out of him.

Phil turns back to face the doctor, but he inclines his head in Clint's direction, a quick, sharp movement. "He started it when he felt he was being held here without good reason." There's a small grin in Phil's voice, although Clint is pretty sure that his face is expressionless. "Agent Barton is Procedure 1818."

To his credit Dr. Siham doesn't back up against the wall, even though his eyes widen. The medical-aides, who know better, had all retreated to the corridor as soon as they'd come in and realized it was Clint sitting on the bed.

Dr. Siham says, from between stiff lips, "Get him out of my Med-Bay. Right. Now."

.:.

Debriefing is considerably less uncomfortable, Clint finds. After being discharged from the Med-Bay (thrown out is a closer approximation), he has to follow Phil down HQ's almost endless corridors to the wide rooms used for debriefing. He's wearing a standard-issue t-shirt, but the back of it is cut out so his wings can fit through. Getting the garment on was a pain in the ass. Luckily, most S.H.I.E.L.D. employees are used to crazy-shit, so only a third of them gawk at him and his new appendages, the feathery ends trailing on the blue carpet. The gawkers are newbies, obviously, and they scurry off when Phil gives each of them a don't-you-have-somewhere-else-to-be kind of look without seeming to focus on anyone in particular. It's the ninja in him. Clint is oddly pleased by this, even though Phil has always been his buffer.

Phil stops by Room 008, and jerks his chin at the door.

"I'll be in soon," he says, looking at Clint and nodding reassuringly. "It's just the rest of the team in there. Minus Thor."

"Off again after Loki?" Clint hazards, but it's not even a guess. Thor is drawn to his brother after every battle, chasing him through realms and layers of worlds.

"I need to have another chat with him about that," Phil says, words sliding out on a slow exhale. His lips quirk at Clint, who nods in return. They stand there, looking at each other in what seems to be a rather thoughtful fashion until Phil says, "Seriously, get in there," and turns away quickly, marching down the corridor in the direction of Central Command...Director Fury's offices.

"Okay, boss," Clint murmurs under his breath, but he doesn't go in until Phil turns a corner, when Clint can't see the purposefulness of his stride or the restrained strength of his body anymore. He puts a hand on the electronic doorknob, which recognizes the prints on his fingers and disengages the master locks.

Inside, Steve and Natasha are having an intense discussion over a very large book, while Stark and Banner speak in what seems to be English at the first listen, but includes words he is sure didn't exist ten minutes ago. They all look towards the door as he closes it behind him, and everyone but Banner has some kind of shock cross their face, at different levels of intensity: Nat's left eyebrow crinkles just a little, and then her face smooths back into impassivity. Steve's eyes are very wide, and after blinking rapidly at him, Stark leans back and taps his chin, contemplatively; he's dressed in one of his flashy suits as if he'd just come out of a business meeting. They're all in their civvies, actually.

"Well," Stark says, twisting from side to side in his swivel chair. "Well, well, well."

Clint takes in the detail of their presence with some surprise. They'd assembled to debrief with him. Considering the situation, they would have had to do it, but now that he's the one they're assembling for, it's...kind of nice. Natasha gets up first, dressed in a plain white shirt and jeans; she seems like a college student, with her hair pulled back into a messy braid. She looks nothing like the blurry glimpses of the Black Widow on the nightly news, and when she hugs him, it's very gentle and sweet.

"Hi," she says, and holds him at arm's length. "Look at you."

"You like?" Clint asks with a smile hanging lopsided on his face. "Got them as a special. Two for one." He flicks a warning glance at the rest of them, still sitting. "No bird jokes. None."

"Wouldn't dream of it, flyboy," Steve says, very mildly and for a few beats, everyone's expression is blank. Clint feels an incredulous smile pull at his lips, and the rest of them let out laughter that sounds as if they'd been holding their breath. Clint ducks his head, a real smile on his face, and rubs the back of his neck with one hand.

These assholes. Fucking pricks, he thinks, but there is a fondness there that has a terrifyingly attractive familiarity.

Stark says, "Cap, you are totally stealing my thunder nowadays. I'm going to make a memo about you doing that. Don't do it," and he points at Steve accusingly and smiles at Bruce, who is invariably sitting beside him. Bruce and Stark always sit side-by-side, Science Against the World, and they're like the Dynamic Duo of crazy ideas. Sometimes Clint just looks at them, bickering over their code and arguing without really arguing and all up in each other's space. He looks at them and misses his brother a little.

Steve's eyebrows are a sardonic arch in his forehead. "Steal your thunder, Stark? Maybe if it was worth stealing, I would."

"Ooooh," Bruce exhales in the universal childish expression of damn, son. Stark gives him an extremely indulgent glance, and then scowls at Steve. There are days where Clint really isn't sure who's fucking who, but at least Stark is usually in a good mood around these two, and it's always advisable to keep him that way.

Clint heads for the nearest chair and collapses into it, the way he always does; the wings flutter up a little so that they can drape over the back of the seat. Steve straightens up more, if that was even possible, and gives him a long, contemplative stare.

"Do they work?" he asks, and lifts his chin in the direction of Clint's huge-ass wings.

"No!" The two members of the Resident Science Genius Club (S.H.I.E.L.D. Chapter) chorus loudly. They exchange a quick, delighted glance and Bruce makes a go on gesture with one hand. Stark actually inclines his head politely; these two are ridiculous.

"You'd need a chest about twice the size of Thor's to power those shoulder-pirates," Stark says, leaning back with his arms across his own chest. It's the way he sits a lot, protecting his chest even though he's among team-mates. Protecting his heart.

"You'd need lighter bones. Hollow," Bruce chimes in, "and those wings really aren't big enough to provide lift."

Clint sighs. "Basically, I'm an ostrich or a penguin. All flash, no substance."

"Hey," Stark says, shrugging. "You could do worse."

"We'll figure it out," Nat says, and atop the brown gleaming surface of the table, her pale hands clench tightly together. Clint gives her a small smile.

They talk for a few moments about weirdly mundane things, and Clint half-expects Stark to stroll out to invent one thing or the other; but he sits there with everyone else, throwing out his opinions on Thor's hot dogs or Natalie's pet canaries, and Clint figures that he owes him, all of them, some form of hug.

Phil pushes open the door after about half-an-hour, and at the pinched skin around his eyes, Clint slumps into his chair with a low, defeated sigh.

"Director Fury's put Hawkeye on official, indefinite leave," he says in his calm manner as he sits down and everyone but Clint and Bruce explode into incredulous complaints.

"Guys, chill," Clint calls loudly, his gaze fixed on how Bruce flinches. "Just, calm the fuck down, chill."

"Everyone, quiet." Steve takes up the refrain and there is a thick layer of quiet that descends over the group, even though annoyance swims very close to the surface. Clint glances at Nat, who blinks at him like a cat, and then he returns his attention to Bruce.

Bruce smiles wanly. "The Other Guy is pissed, too. Sorry, Clint."

"It's okay," Clint says, touched for not the last time. "It's fine," he says, even though it isn't.

"What the fuck are we supposed to do without Eyes Up High?" Tony spits, and actually does a small wriggle in his seat, looking very much like a small boy who didn't get the dessert he wanted. "I mean, I could do it, but I can't do everything all the time, are you picking up what I'm laying down here?"

"Yes," Bruce says, and he's frowning, which is usually a bad sign, but his skin isn't tinged green so that's a good thing. "Definitely picking it up. We're a team." He seems taken aback at everyone's fond gazes. "What?"

"We need him out there," Steve says, earnest and urgent. "I need all of them, and he's not incapacitated. Those wings won't get in the way, will they?" Here, he stares at Clint using those baby-blues like spears and Clint wants to tell him no, Captain, but he's not even sure himself. These are wings given to him by Loki. God of fucking Mischief.

"Fury sees them as a liability," Phil says.

"So do I," Clint mutters and Phil sighs, staring at Clint's wings with a fixed expression.

"They may have some ulterior motive," he says with a twist to his mouth.

"They're wings!" Stark says, throwing up his hands and then folding them back over his chest just as quickly. "What are they going to do, dander us to death?"

"They're wings from Loki," Nat says, basically plucking the words which had been plastered in the front of Clint's mind. Her face is impassive, but there is a slow fire banked in the back of her eyes. "He's tied himself to you again." She says something harsh under her breath, and Clint wonders what she would do if Loki was in the room with them.

When he looks at Phil, Clint finds the entire weight of his attention resting on his face.

"Okay," Clint says, and lowers his head for a few beats. "Okay. Official, indefinite leave." This was going to kill him. "Got it, boss."

"I tried, Clint," Phil says and Clint smiles in the direction of his shoes.

"I know, sir."

"Let's go home, then," Steve says after a few moments in which Clint wallows in a serious case of fuck-why-me. "Everybody," he says, and he's looking at Clint with that horrifyingly intense expression. Who stares at people like that? As if they were worth keeping eyes on?

"I could do with some tacos," Stark says, stretching luxuriously before getting to his feet. "Barton, how do you feel about tacos," and it's not really a question, more of a you're coming with us and you're having fucking tacos at home, buddy, whether you like it or not.

"Tacos sound okay," Clint says faintly, wearily. "I just want to go home."

"I'll drive you," both Phil and Nat say and spend about four seconds staring each other down; they both know that Clint dislikes driving cars, but he's never seen them in disagreement over whose turn it was to ferry him about the city. Clint raises his eyebrows. Finally, Nat sniffs and lifts one shoulder delicately, her nose held in the air as she turns away from Coulson's wall of blandness.

"I get to snuggle with him later, anyway," she concedes and then rolls her eyes at Stark's guffaws. "You're just jealous, Stark."

"I suppose we all are," Phil says, a small, dry smile curving his mouth. "Those wings look comfy."

Clint is surprised into a smile. "They are, boss. They really are."

.:.

"Is this something you're doing on purpose?" Phil asks as they stroll towards his car in the lower levels of HQ. "Not that I mind. It's just a bit weird, I must say."

"What?" Clint glances around, feeling disconnected from everything; not exactly a good frame of mind to be, but he's with Phil, and Phil has his back. The other Avengers have gone on ahead, Nat on the back of Steve's bike, grinning in the delighted fashion of a speed-demon, and the Science Conglomerate had gone off in one of Stark's bazillion snazzy cars. Clint wondered how Bruce fared with Stark's driving, until one day it really hit him that Bruce trusted Stark so much that he was willing to sit calmly in the passenger seat with the world's biggest ego behind the wheel.

"What are you--" Clint breaks off as he looks to his left, the side Phil walks since he found out that Clint's amazing depth-perception didn't span as far around on the left as it did on the right. The left wing was arched up and around Phil's back, a protective curve of feathers around the other man's suit-clad body.

"No. Not on purpose, sorry." Clint reins it in with a little difficulty at first, and then folds it back to its resting position on his back. It doesn't feel unnatural to control the wings, actually. There is a pull in his back-muscles when they shift, but nothing his body can't handle.

"No need for apologies." Phil's voice is very soft. They stand on opposite sides of Phil's car, which recognised their presence from twenty feet away, all Stark technology, and has already started itself, adjusting the seats to their preset preferences, and firing up a playlist of Phil and Clint's favourite songs. Clint will have to drop the back of the seat to accommodate his wings, and the car (named Phyllis...Stark's idea of a joke), will probably pout all the way to the Tower.

Clint looks at him over the expanse of Phyllis's black, shining top, at his face, that face as familiar as the one he sees in the mirror and far more beloved. He takes a quick inhale at the sweet sensation of that word against the inner skin of his mind, beloved, beloved, and watches as Phil's expression goes from openness to one of concern. His wings rustle behind him, shift up as if they want to go to Phil, to wrap around him.

These are wings from Loki, the same being who had thrust a spear through Phil's back and left him there to die, while Clint was busy destroying many things which had become part of his whole world. How can they feel so...affectionate?

"Clint, are you--"

"I'm fine." He smiles at Phil, just smiles, and Phil smiles back.

Phyllis's horn toots twice, impatiently. This is a Stark lady, through and through, and she barely allows them to adjust Clint's seat and buckle up before she reverses out of the space, and makes her way determinedly to the exit, and out onto the main street. Phil allows her two whole minutes of happy trundling before he reclaims control, gently, firmly.

Out of the corner of his eye, Clint watches his fingers curl around the arch of the wheel. He is aware, as he has been for some time now, of Phil's cologne: something understated and horribly expensive. He should know; he had bought it for Phil a few months ago after he had finally found out Phil's birthday. One of the best kept secrets in S.H.I.E.L.D., apparently, since Phil didn't really like surprises of that nature and no sane person really wanted to test his hair-trigger. It had been Tony, of course, idly skimming classified material to stumble upon it, gleefully sending an email to every Avenger (Natasha's response: Birthday Ambush Plans. That had been...disastrous). Clint had bought the cologne after getting a whiff of it from one of those sample strips in one of Thor's many fashion magazines, leaving it in one of Phil's office drawers a day before the birthday. Phil hadn't said anything, but he'd offered a crooked smirk to Clint as they'd passed each other in the corridors a few days after, the smell of the cologne an elegant presence around his well-dressed body. Even Hill had blurted out, "Coulson. You smell nice," and there had been about four awkward seconds on the upper deck.

That had been a hilarious day. Clint and Nat had snickered in a corner every time someone commented on how great Phil's cologne smelled; when Fury had narrowed his eye in a considering manner at Phil, they had escaped into a nearby meeting room, laughing until their sides burned.

"Glad to know I am a source of mirth to you two," Phil had commented loudly as he'd strolled past the room.

"Sir," Clint had strangled out, leaning out the doorway. "Sir. You smell--"

"Nice," Nat had finished, and they'd collapsed into each other's arms, cackling. Even though his back was to them as he made his way down the corridor, Clint knew Phil's mouth had been quirked into a slight smile. He still wears the cologne, but only on very special occasions, like meeting with the Premier of a country or one of Clint's termination assignments.

Beloved, Clint tries out now in his mind, and his wings wriggle restlessly. Beloved. Beloved. Not a word that spies and killers think of often, but it's there.

"You're thinking very hard." Phil's low voice breaks through Clint's mini-epiphany with the same kind of focus he displays when breaking down doors. Clint really likes watching him break down doors. The controlled violence in his motions is like a poet at work, crisp truncation of movements. If he is totally honest, Clint likes watching Phil do a lot of things, like threaten Tony or give orders out on the field or simply fill in paperwork. Contrary to what most people have heard, Phil hates doing paperwork, almost as much as Clint does, and that is saying quite a lot. However, intense dislike of a task never stopped Agent Coulson from doing it as best as he could. That's the great thing about him, Clint concludes, not for the first time. One of the many great things, in fact.

Clint is so fucked he can't even deal, and the wings aren't helping. They twitch restlessly on his back, trying to shift towards Phil, and Clint struggles to keep them where they are. They obey, but there is an air of recalcitrance to them.

Clint shrugs, knowing that Phil requires some sort of response. "Just. You know."

Phil hums, a noise barely audible even though Phyllis's engine is very quiet. Of course he knows; they've been working together for so long that Clint can just rattle off combinations of letters and numbers, or Nat can hold a knife a certain way, and Phil would probably translate any obscure message with fair ease.

"I'll practice shooting with them," Clint says, and rolls his shoulders. "Don't know how long I'll have them, anyway. They're not really in the way, but they might affect my draw a bit."

"Good plan," Phil says, all satisfied approval. Clint glances at him, at the side of his face, just noting the small things like the shape of his nose and the crinkles at the corners of his eyes, the pillow of his lips.

Beloved, the feathers whisper. Beloved.

.:.

"Hello there, little bird." Nat jumps from out of nowhere and kicks at his stomach. Clint's left wing snaps around and down the front of his body, sweeping her foot away from him. She spins away, and flips out of the range of his punches. The small smile on her face has a surprised curl to it. Clint feels surprised himself as he races after her, and his wings join the fray, defending against Nat's rapid and tightly controlled attacks. She's incredible. He barely keeps up with her on his best days, and even when he'd dragged her into S.H.I.E.L.D., it had been mostly her just being ready to be dragged.

Today, the wings give him the slightest edge, and when he helps her up from the mats, she's actually grinning outright. He grins back, gasping through his teeth at the line of pain which marches up the ladder of his ribs, placed there by her evil little fingers.

"That was good," Nat says, her tone flat but her eyes bright. He can actually see the gears working in her brain, absorbing the information about his wings in combat. The next time they fight, she'll use that information against him. It's what makes Nat Nat, and he thanks his stars, not for the last time, that she's on his side now.

"They almost felt armoured when I tried to punch through," Nat says, flexing her fingers as they stroll down the corridors towards the big kitchen. "Did you notice that they were like a shield? They blocked me from getting to your vital spots." She wrinkles her nose, and Clint rolls his eyes a little, affectionate. "That's useful. Can you make them do that all the time?"

"I don't know," Clint admits. "I'm not sure if I want to learn how. I don't know if Loki will call them back at any time."

"Point," Nat says and they both spin around at the officious little whirr from behind them. A small robot, a foot-high version of Dummy or Butterfingers, is trundling behind them, plucking discarded feathers from the ground and tucking them into a canvas bag which it is dragging on the floor behind itself.

Illustration 2: ICARUS-1

"He didn't," Clint breathes out, but when Tony Stark threatens that he's tired of seeing feathers all over the damned tower and he's going to make a cleaner-bot to follow Clint around, then one should take him seriously. The little bot trundles up to Clint's foot, taps his foot with its articulated arm, and snags another feather when Clint lifts his leg. It whirrs and beeps at him, and its camera spins as it gazes up at him expectantly.

"I guess it's waiting for you to drop more feathers," Nat says after a few beats. "Right now, you're probably the center of its world. The only reason it exists, poor thing."

"That's sad, lil buddy," Clint tells it. Feather-bot beeps in agreement and drives around him, peering left and right. "I mean, it's nice to be the center of something's world, but I'm not such a good example."

"I wouldn't agree with that statement," someone says from the end of the corridor, and Feather-bot chirps defensively. Clint turns around and Phil is standing in front of the door of the office next to the big kitchen, in his very own at-ease position: legs slightly apart, hands clasped in front. There's the slightest hint of warmth on the tops of his cheekbones and Clint has to blink a little. That looks like a blush, and Phil only ever blushes around Steve.

"Why would you say that, sir?" Nat says beside him, her voice delicate in her very deliberate way, and Clint watches how Phil's gaze cuts towards her, quick and warning, before it returns to Clint. Clint can feel a wave of incredulous amusement coming from Nat, and it's a little funny except for the part where Clint is finding himself hoping.

"I meant that anyone would be lucky to have you as the center of their world," Phil says, very matter-of-factly. He doesn't blush any more than he already is, but his tone is very warm. It feels lovely on Clint's ears. His wings shift on his back, and they want to extend and stretch, to show off before Phil's appreciative eyes.

He stifles a groan. The wings want to posture for Phil. Great. His life is officially ridiculous.

Feather-bot lets out an excited little squeal and pounces on a few feathers that have drifted down. It stuffs them into its little bag and actually does a giddy little dance, holding open the mouth of the bag for Clint's inspection.

"Great work, buddy," Clint tells it, glad for the opportunity not to look at Phil's face. "There's more where those came from." He arches over one wing and sniffs at the feathers, making a face at the musty smell. "I think I need to wash these."

"Wow, look at the time," Nat says, not even hiding the fact that she's trying to make a break for it. She's actually skulking down the corridor, intent on her escape. "I forgot I had things to do. Like get a root canal. Or talk to Tony."

"Come on, Nat," Clint pleads, but she slips into the kitchen like a shadow. He sighs; the last time she helped him, one of the wings had slapped her across the face, leaving her with a soapy, disgruntled expression. He shrugs and the wings whisper guilty apologies. "These things are a fucking pain to wash."

"I could help, if you need the assistance," Phil offers, face now angled slightly away, as if he's looking at the surface of the wall beside Clint, but his gaze is still fixed on Clint's face. It gives him a slightly bashful air, the way he's holding his head. It's endearing, because Clint has seen this guy talk to guerrillas in South Thailand, and his eerie calm is super-effective.

"If you have the time," Clint hears himself say, voice low and intent. "If you like, I mean."

Phil's mouth moves into a smile, and Clint feels his mouth go dry. "I'd like, Clint."

"Well--"

"Agent Coulson," Steve says, stomping in from the kitchen. Clint loves Steve, he really does, admires the hell out of the guy but right now he wants to reach out, take him by those impossible shoulders and just shake him. "I really need to talk to you."

"Of course," Phil says, all business and no soft, open expressions thrown towards Clint. There is something so very wrong with that, especially because Clint has gotten used to those particular expressions so quickly. He is greedy for them, addicted to something he had no idea would have so much power over him. "Talk to me, Captain."

Steve points at Clint, a jabbing sharp motion in which his finger trembles from how tightly he's clenched his fist.

"I need him," he states in a very deadly tone. A lot of people have heard this tone from Steve. Only a few of them have survived. Phil's expression remains one of polite interest. "I'm serious, Agent Coulson."

"I know you are," Phil answers, but even though he sounds as if he's commiserating, there's a resigned implacability looming behind his words. Steve looks as if he wants to punch a wall.

"Tony tries," he says in a low tone. "He really does. It's just that, his attention is better spent elsewhere, and it is usually everywhere else, trust me on this one...and he just can't relay the information the way I need to hear it. He's moving too fast, and things change. I need my eyes, Phil. Give Clint back to me."

Clint tries not to feel too smug about the whole thing, because his team is having a hard time out there. Battles are being fought, and won, but by a margin that Steve finds completely unacceptable, and he's right. He wipes the small smile off his face when he finds Phil giving him a very intent stare. Phil lets out a slow breath and returns his attention back to Steve.

"Captain, the wings--"

"Haven't eaten anyone as yet. Not even Tony," Steve finishes, and actually presses his palms together in supplication. On someone so big it should have seemed a little stupid, but the plea is serious and clear. "Help me out here, Phil. Get Fury on my side for once. Get Clint back on high, for me."

Oh man, Steve must know what kind of effect he has on Phil. Clint grins, ignoring the warning look Phil throws at him, but something cold curls in the middle of his chest, something possessive and demanding, and he looks at the wall, the carpet, anything, because Steve is his friend, his team-mate, and it wouldn't do to glare at him because he's pulling out the full earnest power of those baby-blues and using them on Phil. Steve might be the All-American Boy, but he's got this manipulative streak in him at times. It's not...well, Clint knows it's not on purpose, Steve isn't that devious, but when he's got his mind set on something and he wants it done yesterday, he'll do his best to get it done. Clint feels the muscles in his back tense.

Phil closes his eyes briefly and then opens them again. When he does so, his gaze shifts up to a point above Clint's head, and his eyebrows create vaguely questioning arches.

Clint blinks at him. "What?"

"Maybe you shouldn't mention that to Fury," Steve says to Phil, and his own gaze is trained on the same area as Phil's. "I mean, they're not really doing anything. I guess not, anyway."

Baffled, Clint tilts back his head and stares. The wings loom over him, bony edges pointing like knives in Steve's direction, and for the first time in the week since he has them, they look dangerous. Not even in his sparring sessions with Nat have they given off such a threatening air. He had almost forgotten that these were from Loki, and he exhales around the recollection.

"Clint," Phil says and lets it go right there. At the sound of his voice, the wings relax, sinking back down to fold meekly at Clint's back. Steve stares at Clint's shoulders, then directly into his eyes. Clint stares back, hoping his expression is as neutral as he needs it to be.

"Alright," Steve says, and takes a step back before turning on his heel and heading back to the kitchen. "I still need my eyes, Phil."

"I'll try my best, Steve," Phil answers, but he's looking at Clint, his eyes dark and contemplative. "Why do you think they do that," he asks, but he's not really asking a question; his tone is flat, but not particularly threatening or forceful. He's leaving wide-open spaces for the shape of Clint's response to fit into.

"I don't know," Clint answers, rather untruthfully; however, even though there are a lot of feelings confronting him right now, he knows enough of himself to understand he's not quite ready to sort them right at this moment. When he is, and it'll be soon, he'll do so with both arms; fuck, he'll even get the wings to help carry everything around.

He hopes Phil will help him carry them, too. The very-real possibility that he won't, or can't, is...kind of terrifying, actually.

It's just that Phil is like...Phil is deep, and he's managed to tuck himself somewhere inside the cage of Clint's ribs. To get him out will require an excision of damaging proportions. How he did that without Clint getting a heads-up is worrying on one level and comforting on the other, because Phil is one of the best agents and handlers that S.H.I.E.L.D. has, and if he can't get into some fortified location without detection, then everyone's wasting their damned money and time.

"Okay," Phil says, and looks down at Feather-bot for a few beats before nodding seemingly at nothing, and raising his head again. "How about washing those wings, now?"

"After dinner," Clint says; usually, he takes a shower between sparring with Nat and dinner, but right now he needs a little time to fortify his mind against the very real possibility of Phil's proximity and Phil's touch. "That okay?"

"That's fine." Phil steps away, one foot treading on a wayward feather, and it crackles slightly under his heel. Feather-bot charges at him, chittering in annoyance as it grips the crushed feather and sticks it into the little bag. "You're a cranky little thing, aren't you?" Phil asks Feather-bot, and gets a disdainful whirr of armature in response.

Clint holds his breath a little at that indulgent smile on Phil's face, and the weight at his back barely reminds him to breathe.

.:.

"His name's not Feather-bot, what the hell," Tony complains as they eat dinner around the smaller dining-table, because as anti-social as Tony claims to be, he has this thing where he likes eating with everyone, revelling in their annoyed attention. "Didn't he tell you? Didn't you tell them your name?" he directs at Feather-bot, planted at a spot between Phil and Clint's chairs, a few feet back. Feather-bot's camera clicks nervously. "Come on, tell them. I gave you voice-protocols for a reason, kiddo."

"Sir," Jarvis says, "he's actually quite shy."

"No bot of mine is ever shy," Tony claims, jabbing a finger at the ceiling. "Have you met me?"

"I have, sir," Jarvis says, patient and long-suffering.

"If he doesn't want to tell me his name, that's fine," Clint says, poking at his salad. "He's Feather-bot, and that's enough for me."

"He works really hard," Steve says, cutting through a massive slab of steak. "No more feathers all over the place," and he laughs a little at Clint's half-hearted glare. "I found feathers in the toaster, Clint, seriously. The small ones."

"Of course he works hard." Tony sniffs dismissively and then sits up, glaring over the top of the table at Feather-bot. "Hey," he demands, and Feather-bot's armature tilts up. "Name and rank, buddy."

Clint gazes back at the miniature robot, which seems to square itself under his regard.

"Icarus-One," it says in a very scratchy voice, sounding like a very young version of Jarvis. Clint feels inordinately proud of the little thing. It's too cute for its own good. "Hello, I am Icarus-One," he says, brightly. "Icarus-One!"

"Icarus." Bruce nibbles on his corn. "Surprisingly imaginative."

"I really do aim to please," Tony says, grinning, and Icarus crows his name again in his tiny, fervent voice. "Okay, that's enough."

"Icarus-One," Icarus mutters, whirls in a tight circle and then remains still.

"He'll come down to the workshop on his own to charge," Tony says, and makes grabby hands for the mashed potatoes. Nat stares at him flatly, but hands it over anyway. "Thanks. You like him, right?" He sounds offhand, but when Clint spares him a quick glance, Tony is gazing down at his plate, pushing around his food and appearing as if he couldn't care less what Clint's answer might be.

"What, you need my stamp of approval?" Clint asks, amused and incredulous until he recalls that Stark actually installed a new, bigger shower into his bathroom to create more sprays of water for the wings (even though it's still a huge hassle to get them clean). Stark did that without asking Clint... and it's a great help.

"Icarus is fantastic," Clint says now without a trace of sarcasm, and Icarus-One beeps in muted delight. "Yeah, buddy, you are."

"Good to hear." Tony rocks his head from side-to-side, couldn't-care-less and all, wriggles a little in his seat and then says, "Hey, Natasha, if you want a little bot-buddy for yourself--"

"I'll make do," Nat says, sharp even though there's a reluctant little smile shading the sides of her mouth.

"Okay." Clint gets up, taking up the plates of those obviously finished (or who didn't really eat but spent most of the time on their phones, RE: Stark), bringing them over to the sink. He lifts his shoulders, wings shuffling quietly, and Icarus-One chases happily around his feet. "Time to get these clean," he says out loud.

"Where are you going?" he hears Stark ask, because Stark. The rest of them have gone oddly silent, and Clint knows that Phil has gotten to his feet as well, probably brushing down the front of his suit with quick fastidiousness. Clint turns around to face them, and everyone is looking between the two of them with great interest.

"I've assigned myself to wing-cleaning duty," Phil says. "Or does anyone else want to volunteer for today's task?"

There is a chorus of mostly intense negation, Nat the loudest, and then Bruce in the middle of it all, going, "I mean, Phil, if you really need the help--"

Nat and Clint say, quickly and at the same time, "He doesn't."

Bruce purses his lips, but his eyes are bright.

After a few heavy beats, Phil says, "Apparently, I don't. Good to know. Clint?" He strolls out of the kitchen with those quiet steps of his, head held in a resolute fashion, gaze fixed mildly into the middle-distance. Clint tries to look nonchalant as he follows, giving them all a single careless nod as he exits, but there are too many wide eyes and raised eyebrows (and a kind of wide-eyed faux innocence from Nat, which is simultaneously endearing and annoying). Avengers might be extremely good at smashing evil objects into very small pieces, but they're also extremely smart people, and hardly miss things. Icarus-One follows behind him, and then carefully pulls the door shut on their fixed expression, before speeding after him.

"You're such a good boy," Clint tells him.

"Standard accepted," Icarus-One agrees in a low but fervent little voice. "Parameters widened: Icarus-One is the best." It tilts its armature at him in a kind of jaunty farewell, and speeds off to the elevator, presumably to charge in Stark's labs.

Clint rolls his eyes; the bot is just like Phyllis, all efficient flash and ego overlaid with a thick slab of general cute; quite like Stark, if Clint is really going to go there.

He isn't, though. He's following Phil to his own room, the tips of his wings dragging along the carpeted floor. Now and again, they flutter up in what seems to be some sort of irrepressible anticipation, especially when he notes the skin at the back of Phil's neck, or the way the tips of Phil's ears have gone pink as they reach Clint's door. Clint reaches around him, stroking his finger over the access-pad. He doesn't mean to do it in any sensual way, he's just opening his door, but Phil inhales sharply and Clint feels a little dizzy. If it had been anyone else, and they did that little quick intake of breath at the sight of Clint's fingers moving over those tiny lit buttons, Clint would have been pulling out every erotic stop he had, and he knows quite a lot: murmuring how hot the person is, putting his hand in the small of their back, guiding them into his room.

But this is Phil, and Clint can't think of any suave thing to say. His mind is completely blank. It's like he's a teenager again, faced with the bright smile of his first crush. Clint can't be suave now to save his life; if a mission comes up now, and Clint has to be suave to complete the mission, they'd be in some serious trouble, because all he can do is follow Phil inside when the door slides open, switch on the lights and look around as if he's never seen this space that's become a part of his understanding of home.

"So," Phil says, turning around, hands clasped calmly in front of himself. "Where do we begin?"

His gaze is steady, but expectantly warm. Clint clears his throat, swallows and rubs the back of his neck with one hand.

"I think we should begin with making sure you don't get that suit wet," he says, and his own voice sounds rough to his ears. Phil blinks slowly, once. So many innuendos, so little time and Clint can't even voice one right now. "I'll lend you a pair of my sweatpants."

"Sounds good." Phil's voice is so very soft, and Clint feels heat flush up his neck and his face. He turns into his room before he can combust, and pulls open the second drawer from the top, pulling out one of the neatly folded sweatpants. When he goes back out into the really nice living-area, Phil has already removed his jacket and tie, folding them neatly and placing them the back of an armchair. He's unbuttoning his shirt and, when their eyes meet, he smiles, a fleeting lift of his lips.

Clint smiles back, looking right in his face. He can't look down now. If he gets a glimpse of Phil's chest, sees him without the armour of his suit, he's not going to be accountable for his actions.

"I'll be in the bathroom. Come when you're ready," he says, and basically flees.

He strips in the bathroom, to his boxers, his wings getting in the way as he struggles with his shirt, and he turns around and around, aware where all the washing things are stored and not knowing which one he should get first. He sets out the liquid soap and the long-handled brush just in time for Phil's quick knock.

"Yeah, ready," he says, and sits on the edge of the tub. It's a wide thing, made to look like something antique with the claw-feet; it's also positioned away from the wall, so someone can stand on the other side if they're helping him. He looks up as Phil stands beside him, bending over to run the water and get a tolerable temperature.

Clint knew that Phil would have removed his shirt, but this knowledge is simply not enough to arm him for the reality of Phil's bare chest, the solid masculinity of his arms and shoulders. He looks his fill; that is totally a play on words, and Clint is unashamed to own it right now.

Phil glances down at him. His eyes seem darker than usual, more intent as they fix on Clint's face. Clint can't catch a breath for a moment, and he feels an odd mixture of disappointment and relief when Phil glances away to a point over his head. Clint looks up too, not surprised to see the wings arched up, angled almost hesitantly towards Phil. Clint doesn't stop them from stroking over Phil's chest, delicately trailing over his arms, tickling through the spattering of grey and black hair on his chest. Clint can feel his muscles through the wings, the warm texture of his skin. Phil reaches up, runs his hands through the dark feathers and Clint barely restrains a full-body shiver.

"Let's--" Phil's voice sounds hoarse, and he clears his throat. "Let's get these clean."

"Sure," Clint whispers, staring down at the cool tiles as Phil walks around to the other side of the tub. He straightens from his hunched-over position when he hears the rattling sound of the showerhead being pulled out, and the muted thumps of Phil moving the soap and brush closer to himself.

Phil is so careful. Natasha had been, too, but there had been a brisk efficiency to her movements, at least until she'd managed to touch some nerve and one of Clint's wings had snapped back quicker than she could have reacted, smacking her across the face. It had been kind of funny until she'd put him into a headlock.

Right now, though, Phil is shifting up each feather with acute gentleness, letting soapy water course over them. Every layer is getting all of his focus, it's flowing over Clint as easily as the water over his wings, and he has never felt so comfortable in his life. A finger trails down the valley of his spine and Clint arches his back, lips parted in a soundless moan of pleasure, because the wings are anchored near there and that location is ridiculously sensitive.

Illustration 3: Wing washing

Phil goes back to cleaning Clint's wings, focusing on the outer feathers, the ones near the edges. Those are the ones that tend to fall out. Clint shrugs in a quick stretch and Phil touches him again, resting a big warm hand on Clint's shoulder before sliding it up to briefly cup the side of his neck.

"Good so far?" Phil murmurs and Clint nods. "How about if I..."

His lips press against Clint's neck, on the other side from his fingers and that fragile wall that's been holding back everything in Clint just breaks into small pieces, an explosion of rubble. He's turned around so fast that he's not quite sure how he's done it, and he's managed to do it without clocking Phil with one of the wet wings. Phil's face is a study in that infuriating control that Clint admires so much, but there's heat in his eyes and his lips are parted as he reaches out and cups Clint's face, pulling him close.

Clint sighs when their lips meet. Sighs, like he's taking his first sip of cool water after days and nights of a sand-bound mission. He grabs Phil's bare shoulders, they're warm and solid under his palms, and they're tumbling and turning, the wings a thick layer around them; they end up with Phil underneath him in the tub, skin and sweatpants wet. Clint can feel the hot line of Phil's cock pressing against his thigh, and he can't help but rock his hips down, and nibble the lobe of Phil's ear.

"As amazing as this is," Phil murmured and made a funny sound when Clint did that little roll with his hips again. "I didn't think the first time I had sex with you would be in your bathtub."

Clint goes completely still for a few beats, Phil's soft tone sinking into his heated brain. He finally manages to pull back, looking down at Phil's face, blinking.

"You've thought about having sex with me?" he asks, and he doesn't care how he sounds, his voice spiralling up at the end of his sentence in surprised pleasure.

There is a small smile twitching at the corner of Phil's mouth, even though the rest of his expression looks as if he's torn between disbelief at the words coming out of Clint's mouth, and an overwhelming urge to put Clint in his pocket and take him everywhere. "Of course," he says, and he sounds so matter-of-fact, even though his mouth is kiss-swollen. "Of course I have, Clint. More than is probably healthy, I would say."

Seriously, Clint wants to keep him forever.

"Let me finish this bath and get these wings dry," he says, and touches the side of Phil's face, feeling the faint rise of stubble underneath the pads of his fingers. "And then you can choose if we continue this here, or in my bed."

Not his smoothest line, and that's evidenced by the way Phil laughs up at him, his eyes sparkling.

"As nice as this bathtub is," Phil says, sitting up and pecking Clint quickly on his mouth. "The bed sounds more attractive."

"You got it, boss." Clint gets up off him, and clambers out of the tub, trying his best not to drip water all over the place. It's a failed mission, and the cleaning bots zoom out of their slots in the lower parts of the wall, hurriedly mopping up the water before trundling back to their resting places.

"Thanks, guys," Clint says as he heads towards the shower tucked into the corner. "Hey, Phil, you want to--" He turns around, and blinks at Phil standing right behind him, in a rather naked way.

"Share the shower?" His lips crook into the smile that Clint had fallen in love with the first time he saw it, and had made sure to see it again and again; Phil smiles a lot more easily than people think.

Clint murmurs, "I'm sure Stark could spare the cash if we showered separately."

Phil's smile grows a little more. "But there's no harm in helping out, right?"

Clint kisses him, not letting their lips part even as he pulls off his own loose sweatpants and then entwining himself around Phil's solid frame, revelling in the heat and warm musk, the press of their pricks together. The shower is mostly laughing and trying to push the wings out of the way, for they insist on being on Phil's body, stroking tenderly over the years of scars and muscle, a single tattoo on his upper right bicep, a few burns; they hesitate over the stretch of ruined flesh in the middle of Phil's back.

"It's okay," Phil murmurs against the side of his neck. He has his back to the cascading water, and his hair is wet under Clint's searching fingers, while the wings mourn over the immutable destruction on the beautiful landscape of Phil's skin. "It's fine, Clint."

"It wasn't." Clint shudders at the memory of shock and pain when Fury reported that Phil had died, and a kind of muted joy when the one-eyed manipulative bastard had casually added that untested Tesseract technology had revived and sustained Phil's body, helping it repair itself. Between the city-cleanup, the psych-evals and the mistrustful stares from nearly everyone except other Avengers, his refuge had been beside Phil's bed.

"It's fine now," Phil says, and his hands slip down Clint's back, grabbing handfuls of ass and squeezing, pulling the cheeks apart slightly. "Isn't it?"

Clint can feel Phil's eyelashes brushing against his neck and he says, "It's so fine right now."

It's hard to untangle himself from Phil's body, and stop kissing Phil for a moment so he can dry the wings; the wings themselves reach back for Phil when Clint heads towards the enclosed balcony, all needy and feathery, and Phil laughs a little. The balcony wraps around both the bathroom and bedroom, and Clint has access from both areas. He hits a button, and a reinforced glass panel slides open, the sound of the servos mixing with the excited chittering of the cleaning-bots, chasing the droplets of water from Clint's wings. Clint hopes that the bots don't gossip with each other; he feels that Icarus is a jealous kind of AI.

He steps out onto the balcony, with its large panels of textured glass, and hits another button on the outside panel. The roof of the balcony slides open, letting in the air and noise of the city. Clint flaps his wings over and over, and not for the first time fights against the feeling of lift that comes with that action. The wings strain to go faster, but Clint reins in that alien and yet familiar instinct to just go up.

"All good?" Phil is standing at the door to the bedroom, staring at Clint's drying operations with bright-eyed interest. "They're so beautiful."

"They're from him," Clint says, but it doesn't come out as the curt warning he'd intended. He can't be curt to Phil, especially when he's closing in on him with great intent, gaze roaming over the strong, capable body.

"They're on you," is all Phil has to say, allowing himself to be backed up towards Clint's bed and pushed into it. He spreads his legs and Clint settles in between them, rubbing against him with all the demanding suppleness of a cat. The noises Phil makes are so gratifying and such a turn-on, Clint isn't sure what he wants to experience first.

"What--" Clint swallows so hard that he hears his throat click. "What do you want, baby?"

Phil sighs at the endearment that falls so easily from Clint and rocks his hips up. "Whatever you want."

"You're giving me a lot of leeway here, sir," Clint says, ducking down to lick one brown nipple, feeling it tighten even more in his mouth. He makes his way down Phil's body, which is making these little twitches as if it wants to jerk out of control at Clint's kisses, and Phil is exerting an iron fist over the entire operation. Clint finally gets to his hard dick, and licks a wet stripe up the side of it, warm-soft and yet hard on his tongue. He glances up and finds Phil up on his elbows, gaze locked on him, lips parted. Clint's wings, those damned wings, are arched up and touching Phil's shoulders and arms and wrists and stomach with loving delicacy. Clint would have been extremely annoyed and irrationally jealous if they hadn't been transmitting the sensation of Phil's body directly to the pleasure-centres of his brain, and he forgives them a little. A lot.

Phil doesn't moan when Clint swallows him down abruptly, but he trembles and the fingers of one hand card through Clint's short hair; not forcing his head down but just there, a warm weight on Clint's head. Clint goes to town on him, nipping at the sweaty skin at the crease of leg and groin, suckling his balls and generally enjoying himself immensely. He loves doing this, and giving head to Phil is just the pinnacle of all Head Giving right now, because with every lick and muffled groan of delight that Clint lets out, layers of Phil's composure strip away, until he's writhing under Clint, and his hand is fisting in Clint's hair.

"Yes," Phil says, and his voice says. "Clint, fuck, yes," and it's the tone of voice that causes Clint to shiver, not the cursing in particular (because he's heard Phil curse over comms before, along the lines of wait til I get back to HQ and have one or two fucking words with Intel about this clusterfuck). It's low and willingly lost, as if Clint has him trapped somewhere he's glad to be. Clint is ready for him, warned by the way his body goes still and tense, silent because that's how he's trained, and Clint swallows down the rush of his come.

Phil lies there, eyes closed and breathing hard as Clint comes back up and hovers over him. Clint kisses the corner of his mouth, smiling as Phil turns his face towards Clint's lips demandingly.

"My turn," Phil says and turns them over with rapid ease. Clint's wings snap out to either side so that he doesn't land on them, and as soon as Phil kisses his stomach, the feathers are greedily touching his body again. Clint says all kind of foolishness, mainly of Phil's name and his amazing body and how amazing he is, in general, and it's going so well until Phil stops.

"Can I help you?" Phil asks and Clint raises his head and blinks at Icarus-One, who has his camera extended so he can see over the top of the bed.

"Hello, Clint Barton codename Hawkeye," Icarus-One says, twirling one damp feather in his claw-arm delicately. "Hello Phil Coulson codename Agent," and Clint can't decide whether to smile or scowl. "Is Phil Coulson assisting Icarus-One with Clint Barton's discarded feathers?"

"Yes," Clint says, just as Phil answers, "No."

"Evaluating responses," Icarus-One says and Clint is so hard he might pull a muscle. Phil is breathing on him, gentle and infuriating puffs of air. Icarus-One's camera clicks. "Accessing mainframe. Initiating comparative analysis with known data. Clint Barton, it seems as if you are being fellated by Phil Coulson. Confirm?"

"I am indeed being fellated," Clint answers from between clenched teeth. Icarus-One's camera tilts questioningly. "And I'd really love it if Phil Coulson completes this task."

Phil stifles a laugh against Clint's hip.

"Is the completion of this task necessary for optimum execution of Clint Barton's system commands?"

"Very," Clint chokes out and then says, "Can you go back to charging, Icarus? I'll call you when, uh, when we're finished."

"Icarus-One is fully charged," the little bot insists.

"Icarus-One, please stand down unto this task is complete," Phil says. There's a hint of amused command in his tone. "This task is done in private, and will keep Clint Barton codename Hawkeye happy. Do you understand the concept of happy?"

"No," Icarus-One answers, but his camera is descending and he's wheeling away, determined. "I will ask Jarvis."

"I'd love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation," Phil says as the bedroom door closes behind the little robot. Clint twitches imperiously, waggling his eyebrows as Phil peers up at him. Phil licks his lips and ducks his head back down.

Clint wants to close his eyes, lean back his head and just enjoy Phil's mouth on him, but he struggles up to his elbows, touching Phil's lips spread over his cock. His wings, his heart in feathered form, settle on Phil's shoulders, fluttering up briefly as he comes.

.:.

Breakfast isn't a complete disaster because Thor's finally come home to the Tower. As it is, Clint has to endure a wave of smug from both Nat and Stark (who is always smug by default, so this is probably a double-dose), and contemplative stares from Steve and Bruce.

"Icarus-One has been pretty curious about a few things," Stark says, eyes glittering in amusement over the top of his oversized coffee-cup. "Poor Jarvis had an attack of the vapours."

"I certainly did not, sir," Jarvis says. "I was simply unprepared for Icarus-One's line of questioning."

Stark says, "Weren't we all," and laughs in a soft way that predicts lots of friendly blackmail in the near future. Clint looks at him, thoughtfully. Stark doesn't laugh like this in public, he realises, and that's a nice enough thought.

Phil, who is dressed in a new pair of Clint's sweatpants and a t-shirt that proclaims that AGENTS DO IT SECRETLY, carries with him that shield of unflappability as he rustles up two plates of breakfast and sets one in front of Clint.

"At least I can report to Director Fury that Clint’s wings do not pose any harm to the team," Phil says, quite casually as he pours coffee. "At least, not to me."

Clint hasn't blushed in years. He's not about to start now, but he does duck his head and feels his cheeks get slightly warm. The wings wriggle on his back, shushing quietly.

"Right," Stark drawls, and slurps his coffee.

Thor blows into the room like a screaming nor'easter, hair going in every direction.

"Good morning!" he bellows, even though he seems a bit more subdued than the usual. "I hope everyone has broken their fast satisfactorily!" His gaze lands on Clint, and becomes wary, as if he expects Clint to be angry, or distant. "Hello, Friend Clint. My brother has given you an interesting... gift."

"Yeah, he did," Clint says easily, and offers a small smile. "Anyway, welcome back. We missed you, man."

Thor blinks, and then a responding smile dawns on his face, as sweet as the morning.

"I missed you too," Phil says, and Thor has the good grace to appear chagrined. "I missed you on the team, and I certainly missed your report concerning your most recent chase after your brother."

Thor adopts his Storytelling Stance. It's quite a stance, and everyone focuses on him, because he isn't bad on the telling-stories thing, not bad at all; additionally, he fills out his reports the same way he tells stories, which is all kinds of hilarious because it makes Phil sigh with aggravated affection.

"I chased my brother Loki through glen and meadow, through shade and shadow," he murmurs, and Clint feels the air grow cool. Thor is that good, seriously. "I kept at his heels through stars and the spaces between them. And yet--" he shrugs, a quick movement of those massive shoulders. "He would not tell me the secret of removing those wings, as fine as they are, from Hawkeye. I am sorry," he says, directly to Clint, and Clint blinks at him.

"You were on his case for me?"

"Yes," Thor answers, and visibly brightens as Bruce slips a massive plate of food in front of him. "Many thanks!" he cries and dives in. Clint just looks at him, and then glances at Phil, who twitches his eyebrows and goes back to a discussion he'd been having with Nat.

"Well," Clint says, dragging his way through the word, "Thor, it's... thanks, I guess. I'm getting used to the wings, in any case."

"And other things." There's a big laugh lurking beneath the calm surface of Thor's words and he glances from Clint to Phil. "I am glad," he says, quite simply, and Clint has to remind himself that as big and happy-go-lucky Thor is, he's not blind, and he can't miss the way Phil is sitting close to him, dressed in clothing Clint owns. Nor can he (or anyone else) miss how the wing nearest to Phil is draped across his back, comfortably yet alert, as if shielding him from any attack that might happen while they're all here at the table.

Clint makes no effort to move the wing. Phil glances at him out of the corner of his eye, and there's a brief flash of sly sensuality that's here and gone in a bare second. Clint presses the wing a little into his back, and the side of Phil's mouth twitches, briefly.

"It's not like they work, anyway," Clint says, reluctantly dragging his attention away from Phil. "So, in the grand scheme of things: not a big deal."

"Why would you think the wings do not work?" Thor asks, so curious that he's forgotten about the massive forkful of pancakes he was about to put in his mouth.

"Because, physics," Stark says, and both he and Bruce open their mouth to let explanations flow through like a massive waterfall of science. Thor holds up one hand and makes a chopping movement in the air. Shockingly, the waterfall of science dries up.

"I have heard of Midgardian physics from my Jane," Thor says, and his tone is long-suffering and dry. "But these wings are from Loki," and he stares at Clint intently. "They are a gift from a god. Why would they not work?"

Clint looks at the Science Conglomerate, which manages to look doubtful and intrigued at the same time. Thor has that expression on his face that means he's thinking: Tiny Midgardians and their science. So very adorable.

"Suit up, Tony," Steve says, grinning a little. "Flyboy has some wings to test, here."

.:.

"So, you'll catch me if these don't work," Clint calls down to Stark, who is hovering in the middle of the massive Atrium, repulsors flaring brightly at his feet. "I'll jump, try to fly, and if they fail, you catch me."

"That's the plan," Stark answers, voice bored through the comms. "You give it a shot, and if you fall like a rock, I'll catch you. If I miss, and I won't, but anyway Thor's the backup."

The Atrium is massive; it's an internal core in the Stark Tower that spans nearly the entire height of structure, starting from the ground floor and going up to right below the penthouses. It's wide and airy thanks to screened air-vents between the main external supports. It's lunch-time; Clint is all suited up in gear designed to accommodate the wings, something Stark had worked on in his 'spare time' (whenever that is), and he really appreciates how it fastens around where the wings connect to his back without leaving any of his skin exposed or catching on the joint.

At the ground floor, Clint can see Thor, Steve, Nat, Bruce and Phil staring up at him; Stark had asked the building security to close off the ground floor to all public movement for an hour or so. The building security, obviously used to Stark's weird requests, had simply responded with, "Sure thing, Mr. Stark," and now it's just the Avengers and this weird experiment. Clint's standing at the inner balcony of one of Stark's offices, his gaze noting important details such as hey, he's really high and while he isn't afraid of heights, he has a healthy fear of what happens at the end of such a long drop. However, he's got his team watching his back. They wouldn't let him fall, and he knows that very well.

"Okay," he says quietly to himself, although he knows everyone can hear him. He'd endured a rapid lecture from Stark and Bruce about how hinged wings are different from the fixed nature of machines like the Quinjet, and then there'd been a rapid discussion between them discussing just how different Clint's body was from that of a bird and all the ways this shouldn't even work, until Thor had laughed them into contemplative muttering. Thor's idly twirling his hammer as if he fully expects not to use it, and it's easy for Clint to see his excited grin.

"Okay," Clint repeats and then doesn't give himself a chance to second-guess. He launches himself, trying to aim for the middle of the Atrium. There's a series of confusing, terrifying beats where Clint has no idea where up is and, more importantly, where the ground is, and the wings are struggling too much, quivering and beating uselessly. I won't make it, he tells himself and then he... relaxes. It's okay. Thor or Stark will catch him, and if they miss (and they won't), then Steve or Bruce will get him. Even Nat and Phil will do something, and it's okay. They've got him.

He's in the middle of this refreshing set of thoughts when he realises that he's gliding, and the wings beat mightily, once, twice and he's going up. He can barely register Thor's triumphant whooping and Bruce's soft, "Huh. They work," and Stark's joyous cursing, because he's trying to explain to his own brain that he's flying, it's exhilarating and scary and it's like falling in love, as corny as that is.

He's flying. There's made wind in his face and tears being torn away from his eyes as he swoops and dives. The walls of the Atrium are a blur of blue glass and silver metal, but his brain and eyes are making rapid adjustments, and he itches to try shooting at targets while he's flying. He knows he can do it.

He descends in graceful spirals, wings held at a taut angle. He lands, a bit more heavily than he would have liked but hey, stuff like that takes practice. He's grinning and breathless and there are muscles in his back that are very confused right now but not overly concerned; Phil's arms are around him, squeezing him close and Nat's as well. She's shouting in Russian, something she only ever does when drugged, upset or excited and she's talking so fast that he catches one word out of ten. That one word is beautiful.

Steve pats him on the back when Phil and Nat finally release him, and there's a pride in his eyes that makes Clint stand up a little straighter, the wings shaking out once, then folding neatly at his back.

"Got my eyes back, and better than ever," Steve says, and he sounds so relieved as Stark lands beside him, face-plate sliding back to reveal that shit-eating grin. "I'm real glad."

Clint glances around his team, and he's laughing a little, Phil's hand in his.

"Yeah," he says. "So am I."

.:.

Action-figures are always cool, no matter how Nat and Bruce sneer at them. A whole new line comes out with the winged Hawkeye as part of the set, and the wings are fully articulated. Nat keeps a few in her room, for laughs, and even Phil has a Hawkeye in the bottom drawer of his desk at S.H.I.E.L.D.'s HQ. People are used to Thor and Doombots and alien monsters nowadays, so the sight of Hawkeye soaring over the city is not that much of a big deal. Undercover missions are not for him anymore, and somehow Clint is okay with that. He's less okay with the fact that he's more recognizable than ever, more distinct, and he gets irritated at that sometimes. Additionally, adults think they can just touch his wings on the tiresome meet-and-greets, yank on the feathers, and Clint hates that.

From the way they react, fluttering up menacingly, the wings hate that too. Children are far more circumspect, and for that reason, Clint will hold out a wing at the meet-and-greets and their little fingers hover over the thick blanket of feathers, barely touching. Their eyes are always wide and the wings are always calm, quiet; sweet, even.

When Phil spends the night, the wings are almost too sappy for Clint to take. They enfold Phil, they gather his sleeping body close enough for Clint to touch with his own hands. Once, Phil complained that all the feathers against his skin made him hot, and one wing spent about fifteen minutes gently flapping, moving cool air over Phil's body. It was ridiculous, seriously, and Clint could hardly believe himself.

Icarus-One continues to be the most talented cock-blocker ever built by Tony Stark. He's also incredibly bossy for such a small bot, and is often the source of great mischief in Tony's labs using Clint's feathers...mainly because Phil knows how to word very specific commands. The other bots have bigger claws, and they can't get out the feathers from the crevices where Icarus-One stuffs them. Stark spends two weeks fitting them with narrower appendages, and Icarus-One starts putting the feathers in Steve's clothing. Even Fury thinks it’s hilarious when black feathers drift out of the pockets of Steve's leather jacket during one hasty meeting. It's a fair repayment for all those cupid jokes, in Clint's humble opinion.

Loki, of course, comes back.

.:.

There was a time when Loki's movements were a source of intense frustration for the Intel division, because Loki is so unpredictable. Now, Intel has Clint, because...well, here's the thing, and Clint doesn't like it one bit but that's how life goes: Clint can feel when Loki is in this plane. It isn't something overt, like a voice giving commands in his head, but he gets a very specific tingling sensation under his skin; now, with the wings, he also feels it in the feathers, a fine tremor that can actually point in the general direction of Loki's ingress. Intel is ecstatic over this new talent, but sometimes Loki just pops into this plane to sightsee, and then he's gone again within moments.

This generally drives the Intel division up the wall.

This time around, Loki isn't here for a random jaunt; he's brought along a creature that's about forty stories tall, with slimy purple tentacles and seven sharp beaks. Loki says it's his Special Friend. Clint would love to vocalise his opinions of Loki's choice of acquaintances, but he's busy flying from one vantage point to the next, calling out patterns to Cap, and trying not to let the slime get on his wings. Thor and Hulk are right in the middle of the tentacles, ripping them off and attacking the ones that grow to take their place. Stark and Nat are planting bombs, but the creature keeps finding them and muffling the explosions with its many arms, slapping down on the concrete pavements with a thick, meaty sound.

Clint lands right next to Phil for a quick beat, pulling back the tinted flight-goggles he now wears. He just needs five seconds to catch his breath and get an eyeful of Phil to bolster himself for the rest of the fight, and because his luck is so extreme (either very good or very bad), a murder of Lokis shimmers around them, the same knife-edge of a smile on every narrow face.

"Let me see if I can get it right this time," one of the Lokis says, and the idle tone echoes all around this corner Phil is using as mission control. The sceptre is heading towards Phil's back again. Clint can't see it, but he knows, oh he knows, and he's not going to let it happen again.

His left wing strikes out, completely out of instinct and he feels the cool shaft of the staff against the feathers, knocking it away from its trajectory towards Phil's back. Loki says something in a crisp language that Clint is sure isn't of this planet, but he's not focusing on that now. Clint hustles backwards and the wing sweeps Phil back as well, cradling him against the nearest concrete wall.

"Hawkeye!" Phil shouts, and there's a blast of energy from yet another Loki. Clint's remaining wing curls up in front of his own face, the feathers splayed wide. The bright-blue crackling ball strikes and... dissipates.

"Hmm." Loki sounds casually contemplative. "That really shouldn't happen."

Phil frees his arm from the weight of Clint's feathers, cocks a harmless-looking revolver and fires a series of tiny red fireworks; it's probably Asgardian technology, for the fireworks cause about half of the Loki-clones to pop out of existence. Clint leaps towards the Lokis and tries a close-range move he's developed with Nat's help during their sparring sessions: a spin that includes the wings held out stiffly, and they're as dangerous as machete-blades. More of the Lokis fade out of sight, and Clint zeroes in on the real one, actually getting him in the face with a reverse heel kick before falling back, and grabbing onto Phil.

Loki recovers from his stagger after Clint's surprising strike. He is, quite understandably, incensed. His face contorts and the pale skin darkens around his eyes. His hand is outstretched, the sceptre an extension of his will and power. The ball is glowing and Clint presses his mouth to Phil's cheek and says, "Sir. Phil, I--" before the wings wrap around them both.

In a rather distant fashion, he feels a baleful cascade of energy around him, and the wings respond, solidifying like a wall. Phil is pressed against him, and Clint pulls him even closer.

After a few moments, he doesn't feel anything through the wings. The feathers soften and he folds his wings back, cautiously. Loki is standing there, just a few feet at them, shaking his sceptre as if its battery is running low or something.

Illustration 4: Loki's Return

"I tried to call them back, you know," he says, and gives the sceptre a threatening jiggle. "They refused. Freely given, freely received and all that."

"Wh--what?" Clint croaks. Loki has this way of making everything feel surreal. Loki pouts at him, almost playfully and the off-kilter sensation deepens. Beside him, Phil is a cool oasis of calm.

"The wings, Hawkeye. Try to keep up." Loki glances around, and glares in the direction of his Special Friend, which is finally collapsing under the effect of more bombs than it can handle, and repulsor blasts. "I suppose this is what Midgardians call a draw. When my own magic doesn't obey me, it's best to call it a night, I would say."

"Loki," Phil says beside Clint, very calmly, and Loki's cool gaze cuts to him briefly. There's something in the very back of those dark eyes, a flicker of what seems to be grudging admiration. Loki smiles, a show of all teeth and little else.

Softly, he says "Keep your little hawk close, Agent."

"I will," Phil says, a promise and a threat all in one, and the back of his hand brushes against Clint's. Clint spots their shadows on the pavement, created by the blaze of a nearby fire. He can see the shape of his wings, upraised and threatening: one is curved around Phil's body, not quite touching (he'd feel the material of Phil's suit) and the other is held out at a stiff angle, ready to strike out in their defence. Clint meets Loki's gaze directly, and Loki inclines his head, a bare mocking nod.

"Be very good, my dears," Loki says, and laughs as he fades out of sight like the Cheshire cat, from the feet up, grin going last. "Until we meet once more."

He's gone, like a bad dream, and his Special Friend fades away as well, leaving behind a city-wide swath of silent devastation as only Loki can. Clint pulls his wings in, folds them at his back and feels the feathers shiver.

"Hawkeye, you were about to say something before your wings protected us," Phil says, checking his fire-arm and doing whatever it is he has to do to reload those effective tiny fireworks. He looks at Clint when he's finished. His face is dirty, his tie askew and there's a deep scratch at the back of one hand. Yet, his gaze is clear and assessing, and he's the loveliest thing Clint has ever laid eyes on. "What was it?"

"I'll tell you later, sir. But I think you already know," Clint says. He dives in for a quick kiss and takes off before Phil can reprimand him for his horrible lack of protocol. After a short run, the wings beat once, twice and then he's in the air, buildings fall away around him: the taste of Phil on his lips, wings held wide.

fin