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Be Gentle With Me

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“Okay, fine,” Clint said. “I want to try it. Let’s try it now.”

Phil looked up from his desk and blinked. Clint called upon a lifetime’s experience in how to keep the fuck still to stop himself from fidgeting, and managed — almost. He realized a second later that he was twisting the fingers of his right hand together and quickly hid them behind his back. Phil’s gaze didn’t flicker, but Clint still knew he’d seen.


Phil didn’t do anything, though, except watch him. He was sitting behind his desk at Headquarters. There was a pile of paperwork in front of him and he looked tired, but he was wearing the tie Clint had gotten for him years ago, the first thing he’d ever spent gainful money on — the dark silk one with the tiny chevrons on it.

Clint waited. A second later, Phil put down his pen. “Now?” he asked.

“Yeah, now,” Clint said, tightening his calf muscles to keep himself from shifting. He maintained his slouch against Phil’s office door through willpower alone. “Or, you know,” he said, gesturing at the pile of papers, “whenever you’re done. I’ll like, shower or something.” He itched under the collar of his uniform, but didn’t scratch — his fingernails were still coated in grit and sand.

A shower might be a good idea.

But, “No, now is fine,” Phil said, standing and stepping away from his desk. “This is all busywork, anyway. I wanted to be here when you got back.”

Clint snorted. “It was an easy mission, no complications, just — ”

“Long,” Phil finished for him.

“Long,” Clint agreed. He gave into the urge to move now that Phil was on his feet, balancing for a moment on his toes before falling back onto his heels. He thought about saying something else, something about how if they were going to go, they should go now because he needed to move, but he held himself back. He was afraid that Phil would suggest they put… this… off for another day and that Clint should stay here and shoot arrows or something, and Clint was worried he’d be too tempted to say yes.

Clint had been the one who’d been waiting, who’d made the decision to come to Phil now. Yes, it scared him, and yes, he’d almost rather do the normal stuff he did after a mission to burn off the excess energy, but only almost.

Because he was ready. At least it felt like he was. He’d actually been thinking about heading to the gym as he’d stepped off the transport, maybe finding Nat and asking her to spar, or doing back-flips for an hour, or washing up and telling Jasper he’d be up for that Dance-Dance-Revolution rematch he’d been bugging Clint about, but no, he’d come to Phil’s office. He’d come here.

To be fair, Clint always checked in with Phil after a mission, even the easy ones, even before they’d started… whatever this was. Dating. Phil said they could call it dating.

The word still tasted funny in his mouth. Clint hadn’t ever dated before, not properly. Usually he met someone he liked and they didn’t try to kill him (or they did, his life was interesting that way), and at some point they sort of fell into bed together. With Phil it was different — with Phil everything was different.

In more ways than he’d thought.

Oh, it’d started the same. Clint had finally given into his urge to just lean over Phil’s desk and kiss him, and Phil had — for some reason Clint still didn’t quite understand — kissed him back instead of punching him. Phil had kissed him back hard, too, pushing him down onto the desk and just holding him there, with one hand, while undoing his pants with the other and then just destroying him, like, utterly.

It’d been awesome.

But after that, things had gotten weird. Phil had, of all things, apologized, and then taken him out for mid-afternoon pancakes and explained, with lots of pauses and hesitations, about his kinks, his fears, and his desires.

After that, it’d been Clint who’d hesitated. He didn’t think he… he couldn’t ever see himself truly…

“I understand,” Phil had said, kindly, and so damn sorry, but not, like, angry or anything, which had made Clint so fucking grateful. “We don’t have to — ”

“But we can do other stuff, right?” Clint had interrupted. “Like, normal stuff?”

Phil’s face had gone pinched for a second, and it was clear that he’d been thinking about saying no, and Clint hadn’t wanted that, so he’d gone full-out puppy dog eyes on him, which Natasha said was his most pathetic and yet endearingly attractive look. Phil had caved, and Clint had fist-pumped, because he still got to have sex with Phil Coulson. Life was good!

Except that it wasn’t. Oh, the actual dating part had been great, but the sex they’d been having had mostly been, like, okay. It definitely hadn’t been as mind-blowingly awesome as that first time. Clint told himself it was to be expected, how many times did he sleep with the same person twice, after all? Maybe it was always like this. But, no — Phil kept holding back, and being hesitant, and second-guessing himself.

Clint hated that.

“Your confidence is your second most sexy feature,” Clint had explained, badly, when they’d finally gotten around to talking about it.

Phil had fish-mouthed. “‘Second most?’” he’d finally asked.

“Mm, yeah, you have these eyes,” Clint had said, going a little wistful, “and your hands, and your ass, and, okay, so the list is ever-changing, but your confidence is up there.”

Phil’s expression had finally settled on a smile. “I thought you appreciated it,” he’d said. “It was one of the reasons I thought, maybe…” He’d trailed off.

Clint had gone pink, and then looked away, and then — despite himself — had been curious enough to ask. “What were the other reasons?”

Phil had tried to explain. Right around the point Phil had started going on about being ‘looked after,’ and ‘cherished,’ Clint had started squirming, though, and soon enough he’d shut Phil up with a distracting blowjob.

They’d only talked about it one more time. In the morning, Phil had looked him in the eye and said, “If you ever want to try it, one day — completely non-sexual, just to see — let me know,” and then he’d left a file on Clint’s counter before letting himself out.

Clint had picked up the file, put it down, skimmed it, lost it behind his couch, found it, read it again, and finally memorized that folder from front to back. In it, Phil had outlined everything he liked to do, including the things he’d fantasized about doing to Clint a number of times. He’d written it down in an organized list, including an always-yes, sometimes-yes, no, and always-no section, in a much more structured fashion than when he’d tried to explain it with words. Clint liked that he knew about that now, about how there was a difference between ‘Phil’ and ‘Agent Coulson.’ ‘Phil’ was worse with words than ‘Agent Coulson.’ ‘Phil’ sometimes said things wrong.

It’d been a month since then, a month of shared coffee and going out to restaurants and eating pizza together on Clint’s couch. If this was ‘dating,’ then Clint didn’t mind it too much. It was still Phil, and Clint was still totally gone on him.

The sex could have been better, though, and the file with its outlined bullet points was always on some part of Clint’s mind. It’d come to the forefront during this latest mission, which had been mostly lying under a shaded rock in stupid-hot sand waiting for their mark to walk into his line of fire. He’d had to use a bow because R&D hadn’t been able to figure out how to plant a tracker on a bullet without making it also kill people, and while Clint loved his bow and argued whenever he was told that it couldn’t come along, this time he’d held it, fully strung, for just-this-side-of-too-long in the sun.

On the transport back to S.H.I.E.L.D. he’d started feeling the itch to move snaking under his skin, along with the irritation of stretched muscles and a slight headache, and he’d thought about Tasha, and Jasper, and all the things he could have done — usually did do — to burn off the excess energy and redirect the pain, but then he’d thought of the folder, and the section under ‘always-yes’ where Phil had written, I’ve often thought about bringing you down post-mission, when you’re hyped up on energy and the need to please.

He’d gone on to outline a number of the particulars in bullet points, and Clint hadn’t been able to get the majority of them out of his head. When the transport had touched down, Clint had found his feet turning instead to Phil’s office.

“Do you know what you want?” Phil asked him now, as they walked down the hallways of Headquarters. They were going to the parking garage, Clint realized with a combination of arousal, fear, nervousness, and determination. Phil was taking him home.

“I — yeah,” Clint said, because ‘clearly outlined wants and fears,’ were part of the ‘always-yes’ section. He cleared his throat. “I was thinking maybe section one, paragraph four, bullet point eight.”

Phil blinked twice. Clint knew that tell — a double-blink meant Phil was recalling something with that near-perfect memory he had, not eidetic but damn close. He relaxed. He’d been afraid he’d have to spell it out.

“Okay. That, uh — ” Phil cut himself off and nodded. “That sounds good.”

Clint shot him a look, but Phil didn’t return it, keeping his gaze straight ahead. His steps sped up a little though, and Clint grinned as he hurried to keep up. They made it to the parking garage in good time. Phil turned right towards the private section instead of left towards the motor pool, and Clint had to hop on one foot to hurry after him. “Sir?”

Phil shrugged and took out a set of keys. “Special occasion,” he said, and pressed the button that unlocked his car.

Clint couldn’t keep his mouth from falling open. “Lola? But I’m — ” He looked down at himself, still covered in sand and grit. “I’ll get her all dirty, sir.”

“A lady doesn’t mind a little dirt, Barton,” Phil said, walking around to the passenger side of the cherry red convertible and opening the door for Clint. “Besides, it’ll wash.”

Clint bit his lip. “But, sir — ”

“Clint,” Phil said, and oh, his tone had changed, going low and deep and commanding. “Get in the car.”

“Yes, sir,” Clint said, already moving. He flushed when he realized how quickly he’d responded. Maybe Phil really did have a point about the whole ‘eager to please,’ thing.

Lola was always beautiful, but her seats seemed especially butter-soft today. Clint stroked them once before getting in, and then glanced guiltily up at Phil.

He just chuckled and got into his side of the car. “Like I said, I don’t think she minds.” He slid his keys into the ignition and put Lola into reverse, glancing back to meet Clint’s eyes and yes. There it was — that poise, that confidence that Clint had first fallen for. Phil’s shoulders were straight under his crisp suit and there was a slight crinkle around his eyes that said he was happy, and knew what he was doing, and was exactly where he wanted to be. Clint loved that look, maybe because he felt it so rarely himself. “She likes you.”

“Yeah, well, I like her too,” Clint said, his nerves flaring. They were going to do this. He found his fingers twisting together again, and distracted himself by pulling on his seatbelt, but then couldn’t figure out what to do with his hands.

Phil glanced at him as they moved smoothly through the parking garage towards the surface. “Section one, paragraph four, bullet point eight, you said,” he said, clarifying. Clint nodded, and Phil went on. “Might I suggest we add section one, paragraph four, bullet point two, as well?”

It took Clint a second to think about it, because — no, that was section three. Section one, paragraph four, bullet point two was — He blinked. Oh. “I… yeah,” he said. “I guess so.”

Phil glanced at him, still loose and confident and so damn sexy Clint could hardly believe he was with him. “Only if you’re sure.”

“Yes,” Clint said. If he was going to do this, he was going to do this. “I’d like that. Let’s try it.”

Phil nodded. “Clint,” he said, and oh god, there was that tone again. Maybe this wasn’t going to be bad. Maybe this was going to be good. “I want you to put your hands on your thighs, your feet on the floor, and I want you to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Concentrate on the sound of my voice. Focus on that, and only that, do you understand?”

“Yes,” Clint said, because he did. Section one, paragraph four, bullet point two stated that Clint would do everything Phil said, when he said it, without arguing. Clint had made a face at that the first time he’d skimmed the folder, but he’d asked for section one, paragraph four, bullet point eight, and that meant he wanted Phil to take him home and bring him down. Clint had to admit that following orders — orders he trusted — sometimes did help him relax. Part of the problem post-mission was that the orders were done, and Clint was alone again, left to fumble in the world as best he could.

He was self-aware enough to know that he was shit at that. Being alone, that was. And yet he was post-mission and Phil was here and he was going to take care of him, and…

“In through your nose,” Phil said gently, but confidently, “one — two — three, and out through your mouth, one — two — three — four. Good, Clint. Now do it again.”

Clint followed orders. The busy traffic outside the car faded away. He focused on Phil, and only on Phil, and the tension in his thighs and the thrum in his shoulders slowly began to settle.

In one — two — three, out one — two — three — four. In one — two — three, out one — two — three — four.

Some indeterminate time later, they arrived. Clint refocused on the world around them to see the bright afternoon sun disappear as Phil drove Lola into another underground parking garage. Phil turned off the car and got out of his seat. Walking around to Clint’s side of the car, he opened the door, and Clint shivered when he looked up at him. Phil was watching him with that same crinkle in his eye, paired with a soft, warm smile. He looked… happy. Possessive without being demanding, like he did when he sat with his cards — happy and satisfied, with just the slightest touch of awe.

“Phil,” Clint croaked.

Phil held out a hand. “Come with me.”

Clint swallowed. He lifted his hands from where they’d been resting on his thighs and stood, a little shakily, his muscles having gone stiff as they drove. Phil waited patiently, and didn’t say anything as they walked up to his apartment. He kept a hand on Clint’s lower back, though, and rubbed circles into his hip while they took their turns going through the security system.

Clint had been in Phil’s apartment before, but mostly pre-dating. They’d spent most of the past month at Clint’s place. Clint knew that had probably been to make him feel more comfortable.

It’d worked, because Phil’s apartment was nice. He’d been in it for a few years now, ever since he’d become a senior agent, and he’d taken the time to purchase some quality stuff. It wasn’t super homey or anything — the paintings were pretty hotel-ish — but there was a signed Cap poster under special glass and a seriously up-to-date TV system with quality speakers. A shelf along the back wall held mementos and knick knacks. Clint could see the ‘World’s Greatest Boss’ mug he’d picked up during that Washington D.C. mission, the model of Lola that Jasper had gotten for Phil a few Christmases ago, and the first bottle of vodka Nat had ever purchased in the States, emptied with Phil during a vigil by Clint’s bedside, after the bullet in Berlin.

The real difference between their places, though, were the little things. Phil’s place was clean, a place for everything and everything in its place, and there was a closet with real coats hanging inside it. He even had a boot rack next to his front door. A rack! Just for boots! Clint may have freaked out the first time he’d seen it, because for some reason it’d emphasized to him the differences in their backgrounds times a million.

He still wasn’t sure why Phil had kissed him back instead of punching him that day in his office.

“One foot,” Phil said now, going to his knees. He tapped Clint’s left boot.

Clint bit his lower lip and lifted his leg. Phil tugged the boot off and then stripped off Clint's sock, which was dirty and probably smelled disgusting. Clint tried to protest, but Phil shot him a look, so he shut up.

“Other foot,” Phil said, and Clint lifted his right leg while Phil took everything off that one, too. Then he stood and took Clint’s hand as he him through the apartment to the bathroom. “I would like you to recall the initial introductory paragraph, and I remind you that at all times you are allowed — and encouraged — to speak up, shake your head, or say ‘no.’ Please do absolutely anything you need to do to communicate to me that you are uncomfortable and wish to stop.” He took Clint’s hands and held them together between his palms, looking deep into Clint’s eyes. “This is important to me. Please tell me you understand.”

Clint nodded, then licked his lips and croaked, “I understand.”

“Good,” Phil said, and lifted Clint’s knuckles to his lips to kiss them before turning and tugging him the rest of the way to the bathroom. Clint felt his knees go weak, but he managed to follow, hobbling the last couple of steps.

Another huge difference between their apartments was the bathroom. Clint had a shower with a ripped plastic curtain that he’d fallen through a number of times. Phil had a large soaker tub with gleaming chrome features. The entire bathroom was so white it sparkled. Phil squeezed Clint’s hands once before leaving him in the middle of the bathroom and turning on the tap, then crossed to the cabinets and started pulling out fancy glass bottles. Clint stared curiously at them. They seemed to be filled with a strange variety of brightly-coloured bath stuff, like salts, and gels, and soaps.

“Here,” Phil said, standing and tapping Clint’s hands to get him to raise them. He started peeling off Clint’s outerwear. The tac-suit he’d left at Headquarters along with his bow, but he still had his desert-camo overshirt on, the one with the UV protection, and then the tight-fitting undershirt beneath it. Phil managed to get both off without straining Clint’s shoulders, moving carefully, and mindful of the smallest injury.

He tut-tutted at a scrape as he looked Clint over. “What happened here?”

Clint glanced at the cut along his forearm and had to think. “Caught it on a rock ledge,” he finally said, remembering the rough scrape of rock, an after-thought as soon as it’d occurred. “Not mission critical.”

Phil shook his head. “And your headache?”

Clint winced. “Just minor?”

Phil shot him a look, but turned to the tap and poured him a tall glass of water, retrieving a bottle of Tylenol and shaking two white pills into his hands. “Here.”

Clint took them with a smile. “Do you remember Madripoor?”

“Of course.”

“I made you take me to the store to buy a new bottle of painkillers and I wouldn’t even let you open it, I had to do it myself. I think I spilled half the bottle before I got a dose in me.”

Phil smiled and turned on the tap. He wet a washcloth and then ran it over Clint’s arms, cleaning off the worst of the dust and sweat while the tub filled. “I don’t blame you. It was the first time you got hurt on a mission, after all.”

Clint didn’t exactly blame his younger self, either — he’d had no way of knowing that Phil had been just as good a guy as he’d seemed. “I still wish it hadn’t taken me as long as it did to trust you.”

“I don’t blame you for that, either,” Phil said quietly.

Something flickered behind his eyes, and Clint remembered what Nat had said, back during her first year with S.H.I.E.L.D. “You know he’s in love with you,” she’d stated, like it was fact, when they’d been taking a break during sparring practice.

“I — what?” Clint had said. “Who?”

“Your Agent Coulson,” she’d said, flicking sweaty hair away from her face.

“He’s not mine,” Clint had protested, and then — “Wait. He isn’t in love with me.”

Nat had rolled her eyes. “You took off your shirt and he got a look at your scar, and he looked as though he wanted to go into your past and destroy everyone who’d ever hurt you.”

Clint had blinked and looked over his shoulder at the old, partially-faded cigarette burn. “I was a bratty kid,” he’d said, because sure, his dad had been an asshole, but when you messed up, you got beat, right? He’d never hurt a kid like that, but Clint knew he’d been, well, a difficult child.

“What would you do if someone did that to me?” Natasha had asked.

“Kill them,” Clint had said, without a second’s hesitation.

Natasha had smirked. “Da. And your Agent Coulson, he looks at your scars the same way.”

Clint had shrugged uncomfortably. “He’d kill anyone who tried to do that to you, too. Coulson’s just that kind of guy.”

Natasha had looked pensive. “You may be right.”

He had been, but it’d taken her a while more to believe it, and then to begin trusting Phil herself. Clint had in fact killed several people who’d tried to torture Natasha, and Phil, too, and they’d done the same for him. It had taken him a while longer to realize that messing up didn’t always mean you got beat, even at S.H.I.E.L.D. He’d fully expected to be black-bagged for that stunt with Natasha, after all, and all Phil had done was lock Clint out of his office for a month.

That said, being locked out had hurt. Clint had thought he’d have liked a beating better.

He bit his lip now to remember it. Phil noticed, of course.

“What is it?” he asked.

Clint shrugged, but it was bugging him, so he finally said, “When I mess up — I mean, when I do something stupid, or push, or, I don’t know. When I mess up…” He trailed off. “What’ll happen?”

Phil was down on his knees cleaning Clint’s calves, but at Clint’s question he sat back on his heels. “Not at S.H.I.E.L.D, you’re asking, because we’ve had that discussion before, but you mean here, like this, with us?”

Clint nodded.

Phil met his eyes. “What usually happens in a relationship when one person,” he stressed the words, as if he might be the one who made a mistake, which Clint didn’t think was likely, “does something that bothers the other person, or makes them uncomfortable — they talk about it. The people involved in the relationship sit down and go over what happened, and why it hurt, and how to help it not happen again.”

Clint thought about that for a moment. Phil went back to wiping down his legs.

“Like an after action report?” he finally asked.

“Yes, very much like that,” Phil said, and then snorted a laugh. He quickly looked up and caught Clint’s eye, smiling so he would know Phil wasn’t laughing at him. “I’m sorry, I’m just remembering a past relationship in which I tried to do exactly that. It didn’t go well, suffice it to say.”

Clint smiled, but he felt a twist in his chest. “Was that Alice?”

“Yes,” Phil said, and then stood. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have mentioned past relationships. I know my history makes you uncomfortable.”

Clint shifted guiltily. “It shouldn’t. You know I’ve… well, not dated, but been with people before.”

“Yes,” Phil agreed, “but I could see them and be happy for you, and know that I’d never have a chance to be with you myself.”

Clint chuckled. “Pretty much the opposite, boss. You could have had me any time you liked.”

Phil shook his head. “You know that’s not true. I had to earn your trust, and then, well,” he blushed. “This was always in the background for me, something I knew I’d want to try, and I could never be entirely sure it was something you’d want to try, too.”

“I don’t… if I can’t, though,” Clint said, “that won’t mean — ”

“Of course not,” Phil soothed. “This isn’t an interview, Clint. I won’t kick you out if you don’t like this, or don’t want it. I admit I was concerned, at first, about being in a relationship and not having this be an element of it, because that hasn’t worked out for me well in the past, but I’ve liked what we’ve been doing this past month.” He hesitated. “Have you?”

“Yes,” Clint said instantly. “Absolutely. It’s just… ” He trailed off, but Phil had said they had to talk about stuff, and ‘honesty’ was in the introductory paragraph, right next to ‘clearly outlined wants and fears,’ so he screwed up his courage and admitted, “the sex could have been better, though.”

Phil looked crestfallen. “I’m sorry, Clint. I’ve been trying not to push.”

“I know,” Clint hurried to assure him. “You wanted me to be comfortable, and I get that, but… confidence.” He shrugged. “It’s sexy, like I said.”

Phil smiled. “It can be.” He ran the washcloth up Clint’s leg again. “Vulnerability can be sexy, too.”

Clint shivered. “I guess so.” He didn’t see how, himself.

“But it involves a lot of trust,” Phil went on. He stood, dropped the cloth in the sink, and took Clint’s hands. “What we’re doing isn’t just about following orders and being handcuffed and getting off, it’s about being vulnerable with someone. Trusting them. I trust you and you trust me, and we’re both trusting each other, do you see? The confidence comes from doing something I know you’ll like.” He squeezed Clint’s wrists. “This is something I’ve always wanted to share with you. Let me?”

Clint took a shaky breath. “Yeah,” he said. “Okay.” A thought came to him. “‘Always,’ though? The first time you met me was after the Milan mission. I bet you wanted to put me in handcuffs then.

“Actually,” Phil confessed, “the first time I saw you, I wanted to take you home and give you a bubble bath.” He gestured, and Clint could see that the bath had indeed been filled with bubbles.

Clint blinked. “Really? But I was such a mess.” He'd stood in front of Fury’s desk and gotten yelled at for half the morning that day. “You walked in looking like a paper pusher. I couldn’t believe the Director when he’d said you’d be my new handler.”

Phil smiled. “I believe his exact words were ‘Do something with this waste of talent before I have to kick his ass to the curb.’ It should have been extremely satisfying to hear, since I’d told him not to partner you with Henderson, but all I could think was that you looked like a ferocious, downtrodden, half-drowned puppy, and I wanted to pet your hair and run you a bath and wrap you in a fluffy towel and keep you safe.”

Clint laughed. “Instead you made me shower and meet you in the gym and then spent ten minutes telling me everything I’d done wrong on the mission, and over an hour telling me all the things I’d done right.”

“It only took an hour because you kept arguing with me,” Phil said with a grin. He let go of Clint’s hands and bent over the tub, turning off the tap and checking the bubbles. “There, it’s ready now. Get in.”

Clint eyed the tub dubiously. It smelled lovely, but there were a lot of bubbles. He’d never actually had a bubble bath before.

“Clint,” Phil said, and there was a note of quiet, confident command in his voice now. “Get in.

Clint swallowed. “Yes, sir,” he said, and stepped forward.

Phil beamed and offered a hand for Clint to balance on as he stepped in. Clint scoffed at it, but at the first touch of warm, sweet-scented water, his muscles quivered. He grabbed Phil’s hand.

“The tub’s slippery,” he defended.

“Mm hm,” Phil murmured, noncommittally.

Clint opened his mouth to respond, but the water felt so amazing, he lost his train of thought. “Oh,” he said, sinking down into the water. It felt good, hot but not too hot, and the bubbles tickled his nose. “Oh my god.

Phil smiled like a satisfied cat. “Lovely, isn’t it?”

“Mmmm,” Clint agreed. The tub was huge — his toes just brushed the other side. The water came all the way up to his chin and he could literally feel his shoulders unknotting, tension releasing one muscle at a time. “I’m never getting out again.”

Phil chuckled. “You will eventually,” he said, and fetched a small stool so he could sit beside the tub while Clint lounged, “but not for a while.”

Clint smiled and drifted in the warm, scented water. His eyelids fell closed after a little while, but it was okay, because Phil was here and they were somewhere safe. Phil had taken him through the apartment and shown him every security measure the first time he’d visited. Clint knew the location of the safe hadn’t changed, and he remembered the password, and he could get from the bath to the exit in less than ten seconds. The secondary exit would take twenty.

“I’m here,” Phil said from his stool. “I’m not going anywhere. You’re safe.”

And the thing was, Clint believed him. Maybe Phil was right, maybe it’d taken this long because it’d just taken this long, maybe Clint wouldn’t have been ready any sooner. But now he was able to close his eyes for real, and drift, because Phil was here and it was okay.

It was better than okay.

A few minutes later, or maybe an hour, Phil shifted on his stool. Clint cracked an eye open to see that Phil had undone his tie and taken off his jacket, and that the sleeves of his shirt had been rolled up to the elbows. It was a sight worth looking at, but then Phil shifted and put a hand over Clint’s eyes. Clint lifted an eyebrow in question, but then warm bath water cascaded over his head. It felt good, sluicing away the last of the sand and grit. Phil did it again, still being careful to shield his eyes, and Clint smiled at the concern.

“Mm,” Clint said. “Do I — ” He stopped as Phil spread something lovely and purple on his hands and started threading them through Clint’s hair. “Oh,” Clint groaned. “Oh my god.” Forget it, this might be better than sex.

Phil chuckled as he massaged Clint’s scalp, suds rising from his hands. “Good?”

“Nuuuugh,” Clint mumbled. His eyes drifted closed again as Phil started circling his temples with his thumbs.

“Good boy,” Phil murmured, and scratched blunt nails across Clint’s scalp when he shivered. “There. Now keep your eyes closed.” The warm water was back. Phil poured it over Clint’s head a few more times, chasing away the last of the suds, and then there was a click of a different bottle opening. His glorious hands returned, massaging something Clint assumed was conditioner into his hair.

Clint felt the last of his tension melting away.

Once the conditioner had been washed out, Phil let Clint relax a little longer, and then dipped a hand in the water. “Another few minutes and then you’ll get out. The water will be cold soon.”

Clint frowned. “Don’t wanna.” He felt just fine where he was.

Phil laughed. “I know,” he said, “but you’ll get out soon. Don’t worry, though, there’s more.”

Clint cracked one eye open. “More?” He thought about it. “Blowjobs?”

Phil pinched his leg under the water. “I said non-sexual.”

“Yeah, but,” Clint spread his legs a little, disappointed that his dick was hidden by the mostly-deflated bubbles. “I might be able to convince you.”

Phil smiled. “I don’t think so.” He stood and got a towel ready. “Come on out, now.”

Clint eyed him, but the towel did look fluffy, and it’d been hanging over the radiator, so it was probably warm. With a groan, he eased himself out of the tub, and shivered only for a moment in the comparatively cool air of the bathroom before Phil wrapped the towel around his shoulders.

“Mm,” Clint said, and moved to help dry himself, but Phil shushed him.

“Let me do it,” he said quietly, and started rubbing Clint’s arms through the soft, fluffy fabric.

Clint eyed him. “What do you get out of all of this? This whole — ” he waved a hand, “thing. What we’re doing.”

Phil didn’t seem to have to think about it. “I like seeing you well looked after,” he said, and when Clint snorted, his gaze went sharp. “I do. It’s like… it’s like you’re mine,” he said, in a slightly embarrassed tone. “Like you're a thing that I own, a very important thing. I like to take care of you, as I take care of all my things. I want to keep you happy, and satisfied, and warm and,” his tongue darted out and touched his lips, “and when I’m in the mood, I want to play with you. Make you writhe and scream and call out my name.”

Clint felt himself flush. “I….” That sounded pretty awesome, actually.

Phil ducked his head. “I know you’re not really mine,” he admitted, chasing the last few stray drops of water down Clint’s thighs, “but I — ”

“I am, though,” Clint interrupted. He blushed when Phil looked up at him. “I mean, I — I am yours, I’ve been yours since the day Fury gave me to you. I’m your asset.” He shivered, but not in a bad way. He was happy and turned on and terrified. “You hold my life in your hands. I trust you.”

Phil stood quickly and pulled him forward, kissing him, putting one hand on the back of Clint’s head and just plundering him. Clint heard a noise and realized it was him. He sucked in a breath and felt his knees go weak, reaching to paw at Phil’s shoulders and just hang on because — fuck. Fuck.

“Naughty boy,” Phil said, an eon later, pulling back just far enough to nip Clint’s lips. “Trying to lure me into sex.”

Clint’s entire body tingled. “Well, you know me,” he said, his voice gone scratchy.

“Yes, I do,” Phil agreed. He gave Clint’s lips one last peck, and then let go, picking up the towel where it had fallen to the floor and using it to wipe the last of the water from Clint’s skin. “It’s a good thing, too, because I know what I’m getting into.”

Clint swallowed. “You really don’t,” he tried, but Phil pinched him and he yelped.

“Be good to yourself, or I’ll implement a no-talking rule,” Phil warned. “If you can’t adhere to that, I’ll gag you, and it’ll be hand signals for back-off or stop.”

Clint opened his mouth, shut it, thought about being gagged, and couldn’t decide whether he’d want to try that or not. “Huh.”

Phil chuckled. “Another time, maybe. For now, no talking bad about yourself. Now come on,” he dragged a fresh, warm towel over Clint’s shoulders and took his hand, leading him to the bedroom. “This way.”

“Mm, I like where this is going,” Clint said, even though for some reason his nerves were back.

“I hope so,” Phil said, looking over his shoulder at him, but with a glint in his eye that said Clint was a long way from convincing him to have sex tonight.

When they reached Phil’s room, he took the towel from Clint’s shoulders and spread it on the bed. Phil’s room was dark and rich-looking, with white satin sheets and a black comforter. There were two lurid purple throw pillows, though, and a blanket Clint knew well. “Really, sir?”

Phil shrugged. “It’s warm. It’s good to have around in the winter. Besides,” he shot Clint a look, “you bought it for me. That makes it precious.”

Clint had to blink around the sudden lump in his throat. Phil sounded serious. “You slept with it before we got together, didn’t you?” he asked, trying to turn the heaviness into a joke.

“I can neither confirm nor deny,” Phil replied in lofty tones. It made Clint laugh, and then Phil got him moving by flicking a finger at his naked thighs. “On the towel, you.”

Clint swaggered forward, doing his best to arch his ass as he climbed onto the bed. He shot Phil a look from under his lashes. “Where do you want me, sir?”

Phil pinched him again, harder this time, making Clint yelp. “On your stomach.” He turned to the side table and the selection of bottles there. Clint laid down and did his best to listen for clues, but could hear only the pop of a cap coming off, and the sound of Phil rubbing his hands together.

“Is it lube?” Clint couldn’t help asking. He wiggled his butt. “I hope it’s — ohhh.

It wasn’t lube, it was oil — hot, scented massage oil, and Phil was rubbing it across his back and into the hollow between his shoulder blades.

“Okay,” Clint moaned, letting himself go boneless. “This is good, too.”

Phil chuckled and slid his hands higher, dragging the oil across Clint’s shoulders and then back down his spine. When he had Clint covered to his satisfaction, he started kneading him hard; wonderful, powerful digs that found points of tension and beat them into release.

“Nuuuugh,” Clint groaned. Phil was no professional, but he wasn’t a slouch, either — Clint had been on the receiving end of his massages a number of times. Usually it was halfway through a mission, though, when Clint was sore and tired and refusing pills, so while it was always good, he’d never been naked, warm, and in Phil’s bed before.

“There you go,” Phil murmured, making his way down the back of Clint’s thighs. He hadn’t even paused at Clint’s ass, but Clint didn’t care about that right now — it was good. “That’s my boy.”

Yes, Clint thought, but couldn’t find the words. He just tightened and then relaxed, blushing, and Phil dug his thumbs into Clint’s spine and didn’t say anything for a long time.

Eventually, when Clint was a puddle of barely sentient goo, Phil stopped. He covered Clint with another warm towel, and turned and went back to the bathroom. Clint could hear him washing his hands. He thought about moving, but decided it sounded like too much work, and dozed instead.

A few minutes later, Phil came back. He perched on the bed beside Clint and ran his fingers through his hair. Clint didn’t bother to stifle his groan — Phil must have rinsed off the massage oil and grabbed a handful of hair gel, or something. It felt amazing. He rubbed circles into Clint’s temples and scraped the blunt edge of his nails over Clint's scalp. He kept going long after Clint had started legitimately falling asleep.

“This doesn’t seem so much about the BDSM,” Clint murmured finally, on the edge of sleep. “It seems more about the ‘spoil Clint rotten until he begs for this in spades.’”

Phil chuckled. “I won't say I’m opposed to the idea of you begging, but that’s not what this is about.” He scratched Clint’s scalp some more. “You were away,” he said finally. “You were away on a mission without me, and that bothers me, even though I know it shouldn’t. I want to get my hands on you, prove to myself that you’re okay, that you’re safe, that you’re mine again. I also want to help you relax, and wash off the stress of the mission. With this, I can do both of those things at once.”

Clint smiled into the pillow. “It’s all about efficiency, I see.”

Phil tugged gently on his earlobe. “I like being efficient,” he said. He was quiet for a few minutes, and then added softly, “I like looking after you, too.”

“You looked after me good,” Clint said. “Seriously, this — ” he hitched a shoulder to indicate the room, the bathroom, Phil’s apartment. “This was good. Really good. I don’t know what I was waiting for.”

“I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it,” Phil told him seriously, “because this is the kind of thing I want. This is the kind of BDSM I believe in — it isn’t really about the whips and chains.”

“But there are those, too.”

“There are, for some.”

“And you?”

Phil hesitated. “This, what we’ve done here, is a a very big part of what I want. There are other things I enjoy, and I listed them in the folder I left you, but they aren’t themselves what I feel is important. What’s important is this — ” He scratched Clint’s head again, and Clint groaned, his eyes falling shut. “You, here, trusting me. That’s what I want.”

“Oh,” Clint said. “I do, you know. Trust you.”

Phil leaned forward and kissed the back of his neck. “I know you do. Thank you.”

His hands kept moving, until Clint actually must have fallen asleep, because he woke up an indeterminate amount of time later to find himself warm and still naked under the towel, but now under the blankets, too. Phil was passed out beside him.

Clint looked at him. He’d changed at some point out of his suit and into a pair of pajama pants, and he looked soft, and relaxed, and comfortable lying there, in bed.

“This was really good,” Clint told him, quietly, so he wouldn’t wake him up. “I think, next time, I’m ready for more. You definitely didn’t scare me off.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Phil said sleepily, dragging an arm over Clint and turning to kiss his hair. “Now go back to sleep.”

Clint smiled against Phil’s shoulder. “Yes, sir.”

And he did.


~ The End