Clint gets the status quo ok?
He knows that he doesn't really fit.
What he wants... it's not normal, isn't fair to ask for - he had that lesson beaten into him a long time ago.
But it's not like he doesn't try ok – he has tried. He knows that only good submissives get rewards, that they have to be earned, so he does his best to deserve them. He works hard, puts everything he's got into his job, is the very best at his chosen discipline, but when you're an unclaimed sub who has to resort to scrounging for one night stands or paying professionals to take you down, most of that doesn't matter.
He's Level Four now, he can't exactly tell anyone what he does.
He has to play by civilian rules, and therein lies the problem.
He lives in a world where the normative is... not his thing. Dominants today, they like the hard stuff, play that's too much like work for comfort; intense, sadistic, painful and humiliating. Clint understands that – to each their own after all – and he can... well, he can handle it, but it's not exactly fun. Pain is something he deals with, something he suffers through because it means completing the mission, achieving his goals, and maybe, if he's lucky, it means getting a little of the aftercare he wants so badly.
If it's not pain it's bondage, and that's nearly the same. He's had more of that than he cares to remember, both before and after joining SHIELD. Ropes and handcuffs, gags and blindfolds, getting slapped around – it's all the same. It's being caught, being trapped, not knowing what's coming next and he hates it, whether it's a Dom tying him down or a terrorist.
But that's how it works and he understands the rules. If he wants the rewards, the pets and the cuddles and the praise then he has to earn them, and that means being a good sub - taking what he's given, doing what he's told, being there to serve or be used in whatever way his Dominant wishes.
It sucks, and after everything he's been through...
Let's just say there's a reason he isn't in a committed relationship.
They just... don't work for him, no matter how hard he tries, how many concessions he's willing to make. For a while he thinks it'll be ok, thinks he can tolerate whatever his partners throw at him, but that feeling builds and builds in his chest, the discomfort, the fear, the waiting for it to go too far, and then suddenly he can't handle it anymore and he bolts.
So yeah, it's been a few years (more than a few) since he's held a contract with a Dom.
The rumor around headquarters is that Clint's just picky and hard to please, a mouthy, uppity sub who refuses to settle down and enjoys leaving a trail of frustration and broken hearts behind him.
Well they're not entirely wrong, and Clint's happy enough to let those rumors run.
It's a better reputation to have than any the truth might earn him; selfish, wimpy sub who wants to be pampered and catered to, showered with as many rewards as he can get without having to work for any of them. With an image like that, paying a professional Dom to take him down would be the only option he has left, and even then he'd be lucky to get a session.
No Dominant was interested in a sub like that, and why should they be?
Doms aren't supposed to be the ones doing all the work, giving and giving and giving to their sub without getting anything they want in return.
Clint's not bitter though.
It's his issue, not anyone else's.
He's the one with the anxiety and the triggers, the needs and the desires that just aren't normal. People aren't that far off the mark when they say Clint's picky – that much they've gotten right - mostly they've just got it the wrong way round.
He's made his peace with it though, learned to live with it.
He's been at SHIELD three, four years now, and he's found his place, earned his position as a Specialist, as a member of some of the most elite strike teams in the organization, and after all this time he's mostly found his balance. He's learned how to keep himself level, created a system to check his own needs and impulses. He might not have a Dom but he's been taking care of himself for as long as he can remember. There's no one who knows him better, no one he trusts more.
At least that's what he keeps telling himself every time his traitorous heart starts kicking up a fuss over a certain handler of his.
Stupid to even think it really.
Coulson's the most confidant man he's ever met, a Dom through and through, competent in everything he does. He takes control so smoothly and easily you almost miss it, often do until it's too late. Clint's seen him pull a victory out of the most epic clusterfuck, all without a wrinkle in his four-figure suit, and it's not fair because in the day-to-day, he's quite possibly the best person Clint has ever known.
He listens, treats Clint well, has never assumed or dismissed or looked down on him.
He's perfect, and for the first time in his life Clint wishes with his whole heart that he was a different person, that he could like all those things that, as a submissive, he's supposed to like.
That he could be the kind of sub a man like Phil Coulson wanted.
The kind of sub a man like Phil Coulson deserves.
But he's not and he can't change that - he knows because he's tried.
He is who he is, and he's learned how to live with himself.
He has rules.
He has punishments.
He even has rewards.
Nothing big of course, not even close to what he really wants, but he's only got so much to work with.
Hugging yourself isn't nearly what it's cracked up to be.
Still – he makes it work.
Easy enough to come up with little things; a long, hot shower if he does well instead of a quick, cool scrub-down, dessert or his favorite mac-n-cheese from the mess instead of the bland, vitamin-enhanced meals balanced out by SHIELD nutritionists... They come few and far between, but most rewards do.
Far more often he ends up with punishments - verbal repetition of all the things he did wrong, corner time if he really fucked up - and that sucks too because there's no one there when it's over to forgive him, to tell him that he took it well and that it's done.
But punishments are supposed to suck - that's the point right?
Anyway, the important thing is that Clint's got it figured out, no matter what Psych thinks. He's stable, under control, functioning just fine, thank you very much. He knows what he needs, knows the signs of subdrop, and he's ok.
He's not great, but he's ok.
Or at least he is, until a two-day milk run goes completely tits up and takes his carefully constructed world with it.
It's sort of a superpower of his.
As a man he's remarkable only in his unremarkability; a soft-spoken middle-aged male with thinning hair and a forgettable face. As a Dom he's nothing extraordinary either; he's not huge and hulking, not demanding or intimidating or loud the way some are. He's a bit too calm, a bit too even-keeled for that, presents more like a neutral than anything else.
But that's all on the outside.
The real Phil Coulson is anything but average.
Hand-picked from the Army Rangers, Phil was chosen by Nick Fury to be his right hand man and good eye, one of SHIELD's upper echelon privy to more secrets than nearly anyone else in the world. He's one of the best handlers in the organization, keen of mind and an excellent field agent, competent in the use of countless weapons and methods of combat.
To quote one of his favorite specialists – he's a ninja.
All well and good, especially given the job he does, the professional life he leads.
As for the other, not so much.
If his appearance and manner of conducting himself makes submissives hesitant to explore a relationship with him, actually engaging in a play session usually decides it. There's a bit of an expectation set in this day and age, an unspoken understanding of what Dominants and submissives want from each other. Hardcore sadism and masochism, intensive impact play, predicament bondage and mummification are all the rage, the most basic aspects assumed to be part and parcel of even a temporary contract.
Now Phil knows how to crack a whip, and he can probably tie more knots than an Eagle Scout. He's well versed in how to make something hurt, can leave marks or not as he chooses. When he presented as a Dominant he took all the courses, and awful as it is to say, his career has contributed more than he'd care to think to his personal life. It's taught him how to take control, subtly or not, helped him cultivate a persona that engenders trust and submission, but it feels manipulative, the bad kind of wrong.
It feels like a lie, because it is one.
See, Phil's what's called an 'atypical' Dominant. Nice label right? It's one he doesn't repeat, one he's spent significant time and energy avoiding since high school, when his sex ed teacher fumbled awkwardly through an explanation he'd had to thumb up from an ancient encyclopedia. As much of a disaster as that little lesson had been, Phil had still gotten the message.
What he wanted, what he liked, it wasn't normal.
Hell, it was so far south of average he'd had to resort to reading pamphlets from the forties when he was a teenager just to figure out what the hell he was about.
Needless to say the literature hasn't been much help, but he eventually got himself sorted, no thanks to anyone else. He's had relationships – not many overall and even fewer that lasted any significant length of time – but he's played enough to know what he likes.
Even more, he knows what he doesn't like.
Pain, well, that's something he gets enough of at work. He takes it, doles it out, watches it delivered down upon good agents; men and women, subs and Doms alike. He works with people he's smart enough to view objectively - people his trusts to look out for themselves and thier country above their friends, people who are trained to do whatever it takes. He lives in a world of strength and secrets, where weakness and vulnerability can get you killed so you learn not to show it.
Not exactly conducive to the type of relationship he dreams of in quiet moments, the kind that involves complete transparency, trust that is built on a foundation of utter honesty and open communication. The kind that revolves around a sweeter form of intimacy, a gentler style of handling, body worship and domestic service, falling asleep together after a scene and waking up side by side the next morning. His sister teases him, says that he doesn't want a sub, he wants a wife, and perhaps she has it right.
Thus far, no sub has been satisfied with the kind of scene Phil prefers to indulge in, and honestly, he's hesitant to go looking for one. It would hardly be fair to them, for a lot of reasons, least of all the fact that he's uninterested in the type of play that's expected from a Dom. He's devoted first and foremost to his job, which means a lot of his time and energy are already spoken for, and he can be out of the country for months at a time, dragged away at a moment's notice. SHIELD is a distraction from his personal life – he refuses to admit that it's really the other way around – and if he's being truthful it's not the only one.
No, an inappropriately large part of his mental faculties are also preoccupied with a certain archer.
All fantasy of course, idle day dreams, but even with his legendary self control he can't seem to help himself. He spends far too much time imagining it, wondering what it would be like to be allowed to take care of Clint the way he wants to.
No one else does, and god knows the man deserves it.
Phil's almost slipped a few times.
Almost touched him, almost praised him, almost carded his hands through the man's hair the way he would if Clint really were his sub.
He just... he tries so hard, does do well and doesn't seem to know it, and he's hardly the same angry young man who came into SHIELD so many years ago. He's been so good for Phil, always respectful, nothing like he was under all his other handlers, scrabbling for any scrap of respect tossed his way. He does everything Phil asks him to, learns from his minimal mistakes and makes every shot Phil needs from him. He's perfect, and because he's perfect he deserves far more, far better than the minimalist play Phil's comfortable with.
It's the only reason he doesn't say anything when Clint's file comes across his desk again and again marked Single, Uncollared, why he keeps quiet whenever he sees Clint acting a little off. Once, one time early on he'd expressed his concern, but Clint had laughed it off, grinned, shrugged, and made a flippant comment about visiting a professional, and hearing that one time was bad enough. It had cut so badly, so unexpectedly that he had never asked again.
It was Clint's business how he handled himself, and none of Phil's.
At least until a two-day milk run goes FUBAR.
Then suddenly, with great certainty, he decides it is very much his business.
First time writing something like this and I can tell, because as hard as I'm working to actually write a sexy BDSM AU, it keeps going all comfort and fluff on me.
Warning for off-screen verbal abuse. And angst. So much angst.
As his primary handler, Phil is responsible for signing off on all of Clint's paperwork, so he's aware that the sniper has been called out as backup on one of Agent Marco Tandy's missions. He knows that but for Tandy and Clint himself, the team is made up entirely of junior agents, and he knows that the two don't get along. He knows that Tandy is aggressive in his manner and a little slapdash in the way he runs his ops, and while he hasn't been able to confirm it, he suspects that the man is guilty of addressing submissive agents inappropriately.
Knowing all these things, Phil is certain that his asset won't be in the best of moods when he returns. He's prepared for that, prepared for the attitude and the irritability, the defensiveness and the disappearing acts.
What he actually gets, he's not prepared for at all.
The op goes wrong early and it goes wrong hard, and Phil spends the full two days camped out in his office hacked into mission control. He waits helplessly as the reports come in, transcripts from the team's comms scrolling across his monitor in real time. His stomach rolls every time Tandy makes a bad call, warring with pride every time Clint disobeys and makes a better one, but it's the reprimands that make his fingers itch for his gun.
Tandy very nearly goes off the deep end, chewing Clint out in a manic rage even as the sniper is hauling ass over rooftops dodging bullets. Every move Clint makes results in more anger, more shouting, vile epithets and threats of punishment, and Phil feels his blood pressure rising with every word. The senior agent's behavior is more than enough to permanently remove him from a supervisory role, but his behavior toward Clint specifically is enough in Phil's mind to have him removed entirely.
He analyses and transcribes the mission as the reports roll in, his heart thundering against his rib cage and his palms sweating with anxiety, and by the time all seven agents are loaded safely onto a quinjet (to Phil's immense relief), he has an official complaint printed and ready to file. Fury's been notified as to the full extent of the clusterfuck and the Director is fully prepared to deal with Tandy as soon as the jet docks, but they're still three hours out and there's nothing left for Phil to do but listen with growing dread and horror as Clint is abused and berated, dogged for being a sub and cut down for being a bad one. He would kill to shut Tandy up now that he has access to the radio frequency they're using through the plane – still might – but the team is out of danger and technically protocol prohibits him from engaging.
He has to bite his tongue bloody and sit on his hands to stop himself, but he won't risk the chance that Tandy might get away with it if he interferes.
Instead he tries to think of a way he can ask Clint if he's all right without sending the man leaping into the nearest vent. The archer is going to be pissed and he has every right to be, but pointing that sort of thing out has never gotten either of them very far, so he taps his foot and he makes a list and he plans for every possible reaction Clint might throw at him.
Apparently not every one.
He's waiting on the flight deck when the quinjet docks, and as soon as the door rolls down Phil knows things are far worse than he ever could have imagined possible. Junior agents come spilling from the tail of the plane, pale-faced, bruised, bloody, and frightened, casting looks back over their shoulders like there's a fire-breathing dragon behind them, and when Clint comes storming down the gangway Phil can practically see the smoke. The juniors scatter as the archer stalks across the floor, murder written in all the lines of his body, and then suddenly Tandy comes marching down after him, snatching at Clint's arm like to tear it off, his face black with rage.
Phil starts forward with an anger to match rushing into his chest but Clint neatly ducks the lunge, turns to face his superior and squares up, hands fisted at his sides.
"No, fuck you!" he snarls, his voice echoing around the massive hangar, loud enough for everyone to hear. "You're not my handler and you're not my Dom! You want me punished then file a fucking report, but if you put your hands on me again I'll..."
"What exactly is going on here agents?" Phil barks, interrupting with the full force of his Dominant tone before Clint can make his first and only mistake of the mission.
Tandy startles but Clint just freezes, his chest heaving, muscles tense as he stares down the man he has every right in the world to strangle. It must be hard, painfully so, but he turns away, and then suddenly he's doing something Phil's only ever dreamed about.
Closing the last few yards between them, Clint steps right up into his space and drops elegantly to his knees, folding into perfect form at Phil's feet; wrists crossed behind his back, head bowed, eyes carefully downcast.
The hangar goes dead silent.
Phil's breath catches in his throat and for a minute his brain goes offline – he's never seen Clint kneel for anyone, but he's just as gorgeous down there as he's always fantasized.
And god that's wrong, it's so sickeningly wrong, because there's nothing ok about any of this and he's awful for enjoying even a bit of it.
Summoning every ounce of control he has, Phil swallows down his reaction and turns his gaze on Agent Tandy, an icy cold stare that's been known to make even the most senior agents shiver.
"Agent Tandy," he says calmly, ignoring the way Clint squeezes his eyes shut and clenches his jaw. "An explanation, if you please."
"This little shit nearly blew our entire op!" Tandy shouted, his pent-up anger bursting out of him like steam from a tea kettle, shrieking whistle and all. "Fucking sub, wouldn't follow an order if it bit him in the ass!"
Red-faced, snarling, Tandy threw up an arm in a wide, aggressive arc and at Phil's feet, Clint flinched. It was minute, nearly imperceptible, but he was so violently attuned to Clint's every breath there was no way he could miss it. Without looking, without addressing him at all, Phil reached out a careful hand and placed it on the blonde's shoulder, hoped to convey some reassurance, but instead he felt a shudder roll through the man's body.
"He blew our cover and nearly got Agent Jessup shot," Tandy continued, more quietly now as he narrowed his eyes and stared at the back of Clint's head with a hatred born of embarrassment and wounded pride burning bright in his eyes. "Son of a bitch needs to be strapped down and taught his god damned..."
"That will be quite enough Agent."
Later, Phil would reflect on the fact that in that moment he didn't recognize his own voice. It was deadlier, more venomous than he'd ever heard out of his own mouth, viciously cool and calm. Tandy paled and his eyes bulged, his mouth opening and closing once, twice, before he recovered enough to attempt a retort.
"That sub deserves a hiding and you know it Coulson," he declared, but this time his voice wobbled, not so certain now in the face of someone who could and would fight back. "I warned him I would..."
"It is not your place as a Dominant to punish any sub you haven't collared," Phil intoned, dipping back into the deepest, most commanding voice he possessed. "Nor is it your role as Missions Leader to reprimand any agent that is not under your direct supervision. After your performance on this op, I wouldn't count on becoming either again any time soon. Now, Director Fury is waiting for you in his office; I don't suggest you keep him waiting."
Tandy stared and Phil could see anger warring with good sense in his head, his rage stoked by shame of Clint showing him up on the op and the embarrassment of Phil's calling him out on the floor, but it's tempered by sudden caution. For a moment he wasn't sure what the other agent would do but eventually intelligence (what little he had) won out over emotion and he stalked away, glaring at Clint one last time before slamming through the doors and out of the hangar. Silence reins until one of the flight crew clears his throat, snaps at his team in French, and then suddenly the deck is bustling again as the Quinjet is stripped down and prepared for maintenance.
Phil just stands there, mind abruptly blank while Clint kneels silently at his feet, and if it weren't for the junior agents he's not sure what he would've done next.
"It's not true sir," one of them blurts, a thin brunette with curly hair and the bearing of a soldier, a submissive. "What Agent Tandy said, it's not true. Agent Barton is the only reason I'm still alive – it wasn't his fault my cover got blown."
Phil knows that. Anyone even halfway competent would know that. The archer is the only reason that any of the five juniors made it back alive. Still, he understands what it costs the young woman in front of him to speak up, to speak out against her Missions Supervisor after what he's said, the bile he's spewed about submissives these past two days.
"Thank you Agent Jessup," he says with painfully blunt sincerity. "I admire your honesty. I would appreciate it if you were just as forthcoming with Deputy Director Hill – she will be conducting your debrief and collecting your after-action reports tonight once you and your fellow agents have been cleared by medical."
Agent Jessup bites her lip, nods, but her gaze flickers towards Clint and Phil can see the concern on her face.
He admires her for that too.
"On your way now, Agent Jessup," he says gently, meeting her eyes when she looks at him nervously. "Deputy Director Hill is waiting, and I'll deal with Agent Barton. Rest assured, I intend to see that he gets exactly what he deserves."
Clever girl, her shoulders relax even as Clint's go tense and tight, and she offers him a stiff, formal dip of her chin before directing the other four juniors down the hall towards medical. Phil watches her go, makes a note to put her in for a commendation, potential leadership training. She would do well, what with her sense of honesty, of right and wrong.
He can't stall forever though - he has another agent to worry about - and despite all his preparations, he wasn't prepared for this.
He doesn't know this Clint, the one that's still and silent at his feet, holding perfect position.
He doesn't know what he'll do, and subsequently, he doesn't know what to say.
He thinks he might know where to start though.
"Agent Barton, with me."
Turning on his heel he makes a beeline for his office, Clint rising fluidly to his feet and following in perfect lockstep just a pace behind and to his left. It throws him that even now with Tandy out of sight and the other agents scrambling out of their way the archer's still in submissive mode, not a twitch out of line. He can feel a rage of his own growing in his chest, huge and icy cold, putting pressure on his lungs that makes it hard to breathe, and what with the way Sitwell goes startled and wide-eyed as they pass, Phil is aware that it shows on his face.
Clenching his jaw, he takes a breath, reminds himself that Tandy is in with Fury right now, being taken care of.
It's Clint's turn, and he needs to get that look under control before he turns around.
Unlocking his office he gestures Clint inside, keeps his gaze averted as the archer passes him, steps across the threshold and secures the door again. He won't have anyone walking in on this, and a few taps on his phone shut down the security cameras, turn all of his alerts to silent before he tucks it into his pocket again.
He's not ready when he turns around and finds Clint back on his knees, in the middle of the delicately woven Persian rug situated in front of his desk. Head down, wrists crossed - this time Phil has a moment to look, really look, and this time he can see the signs of a sub in distress as plain as day. The man is shaking, a subtle, all-over tremble as his adrenaline crashes, and there's a strain in his shoulders so tight it looks painful. He can see his chest rising and falling just a little too hard as he loses count of his breathing, imagines his pulse is hammering, and he knows that if Clint lifts his head, meets his eyes, he will find the man's pupils blown wide, gaze unfocused.
He's going into subdrop.
It makes sense. Clint has spent the last two days being forced to make decision after decision, to disobey a Dom who was attempting to assert control over him while still keeping himself and the other junior agents alive. Worse than that, he's spent the last two days being punished, and if Phil didn't already know Tandy was an idiot this would seal it for him. Clint didn't need a whipping – the threats and the insults being shot at him so viciously by the supervising agent were more than enough to break him down.
It was probably the worst thing Tandy could have done.
Hell, Clint probably would've weathered a beating better than he was taking this.
Phil feels like he's going to be sick.
"Clint," he says once he's swallowed down his rolling stomach, "Look at me."
The archer drags in a sharp breath, blows it out harshly through his nose before lifting his chin, meeting Phil's eyes defiantly. There's anger there, rebellion, but there's also defensiveness and resignation and fear. It's that last one that puts a knife in his gut, even if Clint's pupils are dilated, evidence of his body's uncontrollable physical reactions.
"Are you injured?" he asks, careful in how he words the question so that there's no room for judgment, for wiggling around utter honesty.
Phil bites down hard on a gasp – Clint's addressed him that way before, often, but it's never sounded like this.
He's certain the man has never used the honorific quite that way.
"Did Agent Tandy put his hands on you?"
Clint scoffs, turns his head slightly, his cheeks going pink and his eyes far away.
"Grabbed my tac vest," he says, detached, remembering. "Tried to throw me down on the bench of the quin jet."
Phil's hands start to fist at his sides, but then Clint laughs, cold and unamused.
"Fucker couldn't do it," he says smugly. "Needs to start hitting the gym instead of whatever random sub doesn't kneel for him fast enough."
Blinking several times, he seems to realize that he's broken eye contact without permission and he quickly drops his head, falls back into resting position. A heavy shudder rolls over him, shaking his entire frame, and Phil sees him fall just a little deeper into subdrop, sees that much more of his awareness slip away.
"Clint, I want you to give me the name of the Dom you're going to see tonight," he hears himself say, and it's wrong, he's knows it's wrong, so utterly inappropriate, but he can't and he won't take it back. He needs his agent safe, needs Clint safe. "We both know you can't tell them what's happened today, but I'd like to try to brief them before you go."
"Dom?" Clint mumbles, clearly taken aback, frowning and shaking his head. "Don't have a Dom. Nobody..."
"I know you don't have a Dom," Phil says gently, suddenly horribly aware of how bad this conversation could go, how upsetting it could be for the sub on his knees before him. "But Clint, you're going into subdrop. You've had a tough time of it and you need to be taken down, so I want to speak with the professional you use before you leave."
Clint shakes his head again, blinks again as his eyes suddenly start gleaming with unshed tears.
"Don't have a Dom," he repeats. "Don't go to see anybody. Nobody wants me for a sub. 'S why I came to you – I told... I told Tandy he couldn't punish me. If I was bad I... has to be you. You're my handler, not him. Has to be you. Right? Right Sir?"
Phil goes dead still.
He feels like he's been doused in ice water, is both shocked and heartsick by what he's just heard. He thought for sure that Clint has been using a service, having a professional Dom take him down regularly – now he looks at the man trembling in front of him and realizes that he's been more alone than Phil could have possibly imagined. The forlorn disappointment, the miserable regret in those statements choke him up, for lots of reasons, but there's also an incredible sense of responsibility suddenly sitting on his shoulders, and that grounds him.
He understands it now, the way Clint had turned in the hangar, walked away from Tandy and come to Phil, gone to his knees for him right there on the docking bay in front of everyone.
Told for two days how bad he's been, all the things he's done wrong, he's come to Phil for his punishment.
As horrifying as that is, it also speaks to immense and insurmountable trust from a man who has every right not to trust a soul, and Phil feels like he's free falling.
This is something he's wanted for years, wanted more than anything but not like this, and he doesn't know how to handle it.
But this isn't about him, it's about taking care of Clint, and by god, he can do that.
"That's right," he says finally, "That's exactly right. I'm your handler Clint, not Agent Tandy. He had no right to try to punish you. You did just right coming to me."
The archer makes a high-pitched sound of distress and Phil can't stop himself from reaching out and carding his fingers through Clint's hair, pulling him forward until his forehead rests against Phil's hip. He can feel him shaking, can feel him waiting and it breaks his heart because he knows the kinds of things Clint has been through, the kinds of punishments he's suffered.
"You're still dropping," he says carefully, cradling the back of his skull, keeping that point of contact. "How long has it been since someone took you down?"
Clint shivers against him, doesn't answer.
"Clint," he warns, squeezing the nape of his neck. "How long?"
"Couple years," he whispers after a long pause. "Dunno, haven't really kept track. I... I tried but I can't... I can't kneel for somebody I don't trust."
Phil closes his eyes, his heart slamming against the inside of his chest.
He knew, yes, he knew that. Knew that Clint trusted him, trusted him with his life, as the voice in his ear, but...
But this is different, a different kind of trust, and it...
Hell, it means the fucking world to him, and he'll be damned before he betrays it.
"I'm not comfortable leaving you alone tonight Clint," he says, voice hoarse with honesty. "Is there anyone you're willing to..."
When Phil hesitates Clint pulls back, still teary-eyed and shaky, clearly confused, maybe even hurt.
"What?" he chokes, and then he starts shaking his head again and Phil can see him start to panic. "No! No, you said... you said I was right! You said..."
He's practically babbling now and Phil reaches out again but Clint flinches back from him, nearly topples over onto his ass.
"You said I was right! You said you were my handler!" he accuses with a flash of anger, and it dawns on Phil with terrifying, dumbstruck clarity that perhaps, in Clint's mind, handler and Dom have become synonymous.
"Please," the man chokes, a hoarse whisper, "Please. I know I was bad but don't... Sir, please, don't let anyone else..."
"Easy, hush now," Phil shushes gently, shocked that his voice doesn't crack. Taking a step forward he pulls Clint back in, stroking his hair and the nape of his neck when the archer sobs and surges forward, wrapping his arms around Phil's waist and burying his face in the fabric of his shirt. He can feel hot tears soaking through and honestly, he's not sure which one of them is shaking anymore, but he hunches over and hugs Clint as best he can, pressing his cheek to the top of the man's head and holding him round the shoulders.
"You're all right," he murmurs, again and again until the sobs abate a little. "You're all right Clint. I did say that, I did. I am you're handler, you're right. No one is going to punish you. No one is going to hurt you, I promise."
Eventually Clint seems to run out of tears but Phil doesn't expect the reprieve to last – he's falling deep now and Phil suspects this is going to be one nasty bout of subdrop. Understandable, but now that he's come to the realization that Clint won't accept punishment from anyone else, he's already thinking ahead to the best ways to get him through it, to make this as easy and painless as possible, and he can't do that in his office.
"Stand up Clint," he says firmly, once the blonde has fallen silent and turned his energy back to shaking uncontrollably.
Roused, Clint slowly pulls back, seems surprised to find himself where he is. Blinking, he lets go of Phil reluctantly, climbs wobbly to his feet and falls into parade rest, but it's jerky, awkward, even though he's clearly doing the best he can.
"I want you to sit on the couch and wait for me while I shut down here," he says. "Then we'll go."
Clint frowns, tries to contain another flinch, and oh hell, this man's going to be the death of him one way or another, broken hearts all around.
"We can't just do it here?" he whispers hoarsely before biting his lip, clearly uncertain if he's allowed to speak.
"No Clint. We can't do it here." Taking Clint's arm, a light touch just above the elbow, Phil guides him over to the couch and sits him down. "I want you to sit and wait, just five minutes, and then I'm going to take you home."
It takes a moment, another awful, fearful look, but eventually, Clint nods.
Phil keeps his word and has his station shut down and his office locked up in four and a half minutes flat. He files his analyses of Clint's mission, the complaint against Tandy, and then, on his own authority, logs the both of them out for no less than thirty-six hours of Level Blue post-op recovery time. They won't be contacted by SHIELD for anything short of the apocalypse, and even then Phil suspects that Fury would attempt to make do without them.
Clint sits quietly on the couch while he works but it's an uneasy silence. He holds himself stiffly on the edge of the cushions, spine ramrod straight, hands on his knees, and his knuckles are so white Phil is sure that it's only his vicious grip that is keeping his boots from tapping. Grabbing his jacket and his keys, he contemplates swinging by Clint's bunk or the locker rooms but decides against it – Clint can always borrow something of his to wear and now that he's made his decision he wants to get the archer off base as quickly as possible. He might not be in a rapid-fire panic anymore, but the way he stares blankly and dully follows Phil's command to get up and head for the motor pool isn't exactly a vast improvement.
"I want you to close your eyes," he says when he pulls open the passenger door of one of SHIELD's big, black SUV's and gestures Clint inside. "Focus on your breathing. Five counts in, seven counts out until I tell you to stop. Do you understand?"
"Yes Sir," Clint mumbles, but he has the sense to buckle himself in first before settling back against the seat. His eyelids flutter shut and Phil can almost hear him counting inside his head as his breathing evens out, slow and deep.
He does as he's told, doesn't open his eyes or speak as Phil drives them through early evening traffic to his apartment. The silence gives him time to think, to plan, and he needs it because if he's honest with himself he's terrified. This is going to be bad, he knows it. What Clint has been through is enough to send any sub toppling into one hell of a nasty drop, but with his history of abuse and neglect, the poor self-esteem he hides behind cocky, smart-mouthed swagger, it's going to be particularly hard for him. Phil needs to find the most effective way to mitigate the side effects, but the entire process is horribly complicated by the fact that Phil is not Clint's Dom.
It's a fact that eats away at the lining of his stomach the entire trip and he has to clench his fingers around the steering wheel to keep them from tapping, from giving it away. If their conversation in his office had proven anything it was that Clint didn't need uncertainty right now – he had come to Phil because there was a firm foundation between them, because Clint knew what to expect out of him and trusted him because of it. He needed confidence, surety, and normally that wouldn't be a problem, but together they were about to cross a line that Phil had kept carefully drawn in the sand for years and without having detailed the parameter changes, he couldn't be nearly as certain of himself or his actions as he normally was.
By the time he's pulled into his place in the parking structure he's got himself locked down, all his anxieties and uncertainties and miserable unhappiness tucked away in a box that he shelves for a later date. It's been a long time, so once he sets aside everything that's wrong with what he's about to do it actually feels pretty good to dip into his Dominant headspace, to let himself settle into the construction of a scene. He knows better of course, knows that this won't be anything like real play, that he'll hate himself for enjoying any part of it, but when he gets Clint out of the car and leads him to the elevator, sees the way that he follows after Phil like a lost boy, druggy and frightened and horribly trusting, he knows that he can do it.
It won't be hard to set aside his own desires to focus on Clint, to put all his energies into getting him through this as safely and comfortably as possible. Later, later he'll think back on it and he'll regret that it wasn't what he's wanted, what he's foolishly hoped for for so long. He'll scold himself, he'll hurt, probably experience a little top drop of his own, but for now, for now he'll do what he has to, happy that he's allowed this much, honored that Clint trusts him this much.
His true state is made blatantly obvious when he steps into Phil's apartment and doesn't do anything but stand there, waiting quietly for an order. He's never been here before and any other time he'd be scouting each room, cheerful curiosity warring with his wiser nature as he checks for sightlines and security measures, locates the exits and marks the problem areas, like the one in the living room where the layout of the apartment can easily lock you into one of the corners. Instead he keeps his eyes on the floor, refuses to lift his gaze. Phil frowns, then goes about taking off his shoes, putting his jacket and his briefcase away in the coat closet, his badge and his handgun stored in the drawer of the runner table that's been fitted with a biometric lock.
Clint just waits.
Phil looks him over one more time, allows himself just one more moment of doubt before slipping into the voice he so very rarely allows himself to use.
He heads for the guest bath off the living room, doesn't check to make sure Clint's behind him because he knows that in this moment it is truly impossible for the archer to disobey. Pulling back the shower curtain, he starts the water, testing it on his wrist until it's pleasantly warm. He's known for a while now that Clint showers quick and cold (not that he's been staring in the locker rooms...) but he'd always thought it was personal preference, strange but innocuous. Now that he knows how long it's been since Clint had a Dom take care of him, this and other incidents have suddenly taken on new meaning, one he doesn't care for at all.
"I want you to take a shower Clint," he says. "You may take as long as you like, and when you're done I want you to come find me in the kitchen."
"Yes Sir," he replies, still a quiet, uncertain mumble, but his hands go to the buckles on his tac vest and he starts stripping out of his filthy uniform without hesitation.
"Good boy," Phil praises, and he hadn't meant to go there, hadn't meant to bring pet names into this, but Clint's hands stutter as he moves to peel the vest off and it's all the reassurance he needs to know that despite the lines it crosses, the familiar affection and blatant praise were going to help more than anything. "I'll leave you something to put on when you're done."
He's proud that he manages to leave that bathroom at a sedate pace. He even manages to catch his breath on his way to the master bedroom. By the time he's standing in front of his dresser, staring at himself in the mirror above it, he's nearly resigned to the unfairness of it all, the fact that he's being given a chance at everything he wants in the worst possible way.
It's not important.
Pulling on a pair of sweats and a worn cotton t-shirt, soft fabrics, nothing sharp or harsh to catch on a sub's sensitive skin, he considers the implications of all the things he's learned tonight. That Clint hasn't been taken down or even played with a Dom in years, not even a professional one. That Phil is the only person he trusts to punish him, and that admittedly or not, he still fears that prospect. That at least a part of him believes what Tandy's said, that he actually deserves to be punished for what happened on the mission. That all the things Phil has seen over the years – Clint shivering under a cold spray, snapping the thick rubber band he sometimes wore around his wrist, choking down protein smoothies in the caf in place of a hot meal – it's all been Clint punishing himself for unknown transgressions.
He's got his work cut out for him tonight.
He picks out a pair of dark blue boxer-briefs, contemplates pajama bottoms or a shirt, but the more skin-to-skin contact Clint can get tonight the better he'll feel in the morning. He's pleased when he finds the air hot and humid inside the small bathroom, when he sees Clint's shadow behind the shower curtain lathering up his hair. He leaves the shorts on the sink and heads to the kitchen, thankful for the SHIELD-cleared maid service that keeps his counters wiped down and his cupboards stocked. It means a decent grocery selection when he pulls open the fridge – he doesn't know when Clint last ate, but he suspects it's been longer than he'll find acceptable.
Phil sighs as he puts a small pan on the stove to heat, remembers one of the more vivid fantasies he's forced himself to abandon. He's asked Clint over for dinner, sits him up on the counter while he prepares one of his grandmother's favorite recipes, and together they share an intimate meal sitting side-by-side at the table. Later Clint kneels on a pillow at his feet while they watch one of the submissive's favorite movies, Phil hand-feeding him popcorn and bites of chocolate. It's a quiet evening, close and cozy, an opportunity to pamper the man he cares so much for with small touches and treats.
Simple, small, but still far too much for tonight.
Instead he draws on the B.R.A.T. diet - bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast – all things that are gentle on an upset stomach, and something Clint will be familiar with from his many stays in medical. A few twists result in peanut butter and banana sandwiches toasted golden brown, protein for energy and enough natural sugars to help balance out the archer's blood levels. He's just finished cutting it into quarters and pouring half a glass of milk when Clint appears from the hallway, hair a fluffy mess and skin still damp and pink from the shower. Phil's mouth goes dry and he has to swallow down his thundering heart before he can speak.
"Come sit at the table. I know you're not hungry, but I want you to try to finish this for me."
It's all he's said, for what feels like hours, and every time it means something different, something new. Clint crosses the floor and sits down at the little dining table tucked into the breakfast alcove, all sleek muscles shifting under golden skin, and he might be going to hell for it but Phil can't help but stare. He brings over the sandwich and the glass, makes one for himself as he surreptitiously watches to make sure Clint at least tries to eat. No doubt his stomach is twisted up in knots but he really does need the fuel, and the order should have helped to make it easier.
To be fair Phil doesn't taste his own sandwich but Clint still eats mechanically, movements stiff and stilted as he nibbles unenthusiastically at the centers. He leaves the crusts behind, licks a milk mustache from his upper lip, and it's all so sweetly childish that Phil would've smiled if it weren't so melancholy. When it's clear that he can't finish what's on his plate Phil whisks it away before he can start to panic about it, then comes back and takes him by the elbow, pulls him to his feet. Guiding him into the living room, he snatches a pillow from the couch, sits himself on the edge of his easy chair and drops it to the floor between his feet.
It doesn't take a word, doesn't take anything for Clint to fall to his knees one more time, further evidence that he's waiting for what he's come for. Phil can't help reaching out, taking his face between his hands, thumbs stroking over the hinge of his jaw, and Clint's eyes flutter shut as he huffs a shaky breath.
"I know you're dropping," he murmurs softly. "And I know you're not really in a place to talk contracts. So I need you to tell me now Clint – as best you can. Do you trust me to take care of you tonight?"
He expects Clint to respond immediately, to blurt out pat confirmation, but to his relief the archer blinks a few times, frowns as he attempts to concentrate, considers his answer.
"Just you..." he says slowly, and Phil can hear the question in his voice.
"Yes Clint, just me. Just you and me, until this is over. Do you trust me to do that?"
Clint frowns, nods hesitantly, then again more firmly, more assuredly.
"Just you," he repeats, and this time it's a declaration, one that Phil understands.
How could he not, when Clint's said it before in his office, when he's proved it by rebelling against every other handler he's had, refusing punishment by anyone but Phil?
"Good," he says, "That's good Clint. I'm glad you trusted me enough to come to me. That's good."
For a few moments he waits for that to sink in, waits for Clint to relax again – or at least as much as he can.
"We won't be using safewords tonight," he states firmly, and naturally that has him tensing right back up again, but Phil stays calm and explains himself clearly. "Not when I'm not sure you'll remember. Tonight, if you want to stop, you say stop. If you want to slow down, you say slow down. If you don't like something, or if you're uncomfortable, you tell me. Do you understand?"
Clint breathes out, nods, shaky but relieved.
"Good. I won't be upset or punish you for wanting to stop Clint, but I will be disappointed if you stay quiet. I need you to be honest with me tonight, so that I can make sure you get what you need. I'll be very proud of you if you can do that for me."
"I..." Clint hesitates, and his gaze flickers left to right, unseeing. "I can do that Sir."
Clint shivers and Phil cards his hand through his hair, wants more than anything to kiss him, to press his lips to Clint's forehead and just hold him, but he's promised himself that he'll do his best to refrain from anything that could be misconstrued as sexual, both to avoid any possible triggers Clint might have and to avoid any misunderstandings tomorrow. This isn't about him and what he wants, but about Clint and what he needs, and the last thing he needs right now is for Phil to treat him like a lover, to trap him into something he hasn't agreed to when he doesn't have the faculties to refuse.
"One more thing, and then we'll start," he says, and that promise seems to settle the submissive more than anything else. "I need you to tell me your hard limits Clint."
He's not expecting the way Clint reacts, the violent flinch, the look of utter dismay that crosses his face. He doesn't know what that means, doesn't understand, even though he knows for a fact that Clint has had his limits ignored in the past, used against him. Surely he doesn't think that Phil would ever do such a thing, not when he...
But that wasn't fair.
Clint was halfway down, caught in a place where he couldn't think coherently, was reliant on the hands of another to see him safely through the fog, and all his knowledge and all his memories and all his experience warned him against that, warned him that being vulnerable would only get him hurt.
"I don't..." he stutters, the edge of panic returning as he leans back on his heels, away from Phil's touch, "It's not..."
A broken, hysterical little laugh escapes him, nearly a sob, and he shakes his head, looks away. His eyes close and a single tear rolls down his cheek.
"Stupid," he whispers, and it's not difficult to realize that he's speaking to himself, thinking aloud. "It's punishment, it's supposed to hurt."
Phil's heart cracks and he knows without a doubt that it's time to end this, to begin.
"Oh Clint," he says gently, leaning forward and reaching out to take Clint's face in his hands again, to force the archer to meet his gaze. "No. You misunderstood sweet boy. I didn't bring you here to punish you."
A full beat of silence passes in which Clint stares at him dumbfounded, his mouth agape, the endearment hanging heavy in the air between them, and then there's a flash of indignation and petulance in his eyes so familiar Phil nearly laughs with relief.
Oh thank Christ, there's his agent.
"But you said... you're supposed to..." Clint argues, and this time he can't help a chuckle.
"At ease Barton," he says affectionately, and maybe it's a joke and maybe it should be less familiar than calling him 'Clint' but it's so routine, so unceremonious that it's comforting to both of them.
"Think," he urges. "I never said I was going to punish you. I said that I was going to take care of you, and that I was going to give you exactly what you deserve."
He pauses, strokes Clint's cheek with his thumb, brushes away the tear. "I've never lied to you Barton," he says, quiet and serious. "I don't intend to start now. Agent Tandy was wrong to try to punish you because it wasn't his place, that's true, but he was also wrong to do it because you did not do anything to deserve a punishment."
Clint frowns, starts to shake his head again but Phil takes his chin in a firm grip, holds him tight.
"You did nothing wrong Clint," he insists, looking him full in the eyes and holding his gaze, something he typically avoids at all costs, lest the perceptive Hawkeye see the truth in them.
Now he hopes for just the opposite.
"I know that's hard for you to believe right now, after what's happened," he continues, slowly and clearly, his words carefully chosen and sharply enunciated. "That's why we're going to go through it, debrief, just you and me. I'm your handler Clint, and you are my Specialist. So we're going to go through it together, a full after-action report, and you're going to be completely honest with me about what happened, do you understand?"
It takes a moment and Phil knows he's struggling, can see it on his face. The agent part of him knows that what Phil's said is true, knows that he doesn't really deserve a punishment and is righteously pissed about it. Tomorrow, maybe the day after he'll be back to his old self, take his own revenge on Tandy with practical jokes leaning more toward wicked and nasty than fun and friendly, but for now the submissive side of him is winning out. Try as he might he can't hold on to the anger and indignation – his very nature is overriding him, maintaining that he must be just as bad as he's been told these past two days.
Eventually though, eventually, Phil's standing in Clint's mind must overcome Tandy's and he nods his assent.
Good, because Phil is more than ready to trample out that bastard's voice in Clint's ears.
"Up," he commands, and Clint flows to his feet with ease and grace, steps back and stands at parade rest until Phil has risen and gestures for him to follow. He falls back into lockstep, just as he had at HQ, one pace back and to the left, and Phil wonders suddenly if this isn't Clint being good, maybe showing off just a little. If perhaps this is what Clint was like with his other Doms - a thought that puts a flush of anger in his belly, but also a terrible, insistent curiosity. He wonders at Clint's other habits, how he might behave or react, what kinds of things it would take to make him gasp and tremble and stumble out of this perfect submissive-soldier act.
The thought makes both his pants and his throat tighten and he has to push them all away, swallow hard and control his own breathing as he leads Clint into his bedroom. The king-sized bed is less imposing than it could be – not a four poster but bracketed by simple, sturdy head and footboards carved from pale, silvery Elm and sanded smooth. There are probably more pillows up there than Phil would be willing to confess to, and a thick, fluffy duvet in navy blue, but he's admitted to himself at least that when he's home, when he's in his bedroom, he prefers a softer approach, whether alone or with a partner.
He's glad of it now, and doubly glad of SHIELD's maid service, because the sheets are clean and smell lightly of fabric softener when he drags the coverlet down, despite the fact that he's been gone for the better part of the month. Tossing aside the blanket and most of the pillows, he pats the center of the mattress invitingly, smiling his reassurance when Clint hesitates and looks at him uncertainly. Moving slowly, he passes Phil closely enough to brush against his side, and that tells him nearly all he needs to know. He's dropping again, falling back into a more pliant headspace, and is subconsciously seeking out the skin-to-skin contact that will settle him.
He can work with that.
"Stretch out on your belly and get comfortable," he says, gently but with the firm edge of a command that will take away any need for Clint to worry about making a decision. "That's good. Now I want you to stay here and relax for a bit. I'm going to step into the bathroom, that door there, but I'll be right back. Three minutes Clint, and if you need me you can call me. Will you be alright if I leave you here?"
"Yes Sir," he sighs, settling down on the bed and going lax as he lifts his arms to wrap them around his pillow.
For the second time that night Phil's mouth goes dry as he watches Clint's biceps bulge, the muscles in his back shift and roll, and he wonders if perhaps he hasn't gotten this all wrong.
Maybe instead of being miserable because this wasn't the way he'd hoped to have Clint, he should be grateful that he was lucky enough to have him at all.
"Good boy," he murmurs, stroking his hand down Clint's spine.
The sub shudders beneath his touch, no doubt still fighting his instincts that demand he be chastised for Tandy's imagined transgressions, but he squeezes his eyes shut and clenches his jaw, holds himself together.
"I'll be right back."
Clint seems to settle before he steps away, but Phil leaves the bathroom door open none the less. Something in his gut warns him that Clint is teetering on a knife's edge, even if he doesn't look it, and he knows he'll never forgive himself for allowing the submissive to go into any further distress. He takes a moment to wash his hands, splashes his face with cool water and avoids the mirror above the sink because he knows what he'll see there; the calm, even set of his face, the light in his eyes. As heady as a scene can be for a submissive, it's no different for a Dominant – at least when things are going the way they should. It's been a long time, but Phil can already feel himself slipping into his own headspace and even if he doesn't want to see it, he doesn't do anything to stop it either.
Feeling it will do nothing but heighten his instincts, sharpen his senses, make him that much more attuned to Clint's body and his reactions so that he can give the sub exactly what he needs.
There's no fumbling, no drawn-out searching when he opens the linen closet beside the shower – as silly as it is he keeps a little kit up there on the top shelf, out of sight but never out of mind. He may not have a sub of his own, might rarely have the pleasure of indulging in a scene, but it's worth it now knowing exactly where to find what he's looking for. Taking down a bottle of expensive massage oil, he grabs a clean towel and steps back out into the bedroom, only to be brought to a sharp, sudden stop.
Lit only by one of the small table lamps, the room was suffused in a soft, warm glow, falling over the bed and the submissive lying in it. Clint was one long line of bare skin against his dark sheets, golden and burnished copper where the lamp picked out highlights of muscle and glinted in his soft hair, and Phil's breath caught in his chest at the sight. He was gorgeous there, moreso than Phil had ever been able to imagine for himself, and desperate want squeezed at the heart pounding in his chest.
Phil blinks, finds Clint with his face buried in the pillow, fists clenched in the sheets.
"Didn't move," he insists nervously, his back and shoulders rippling as he tenses. "Sir, I didn't..."
"Shh," Phil hushes, mentally chastising himself to get his ass in gear. "You're all right. I know you didn't move; you did very well Clint."
Stepping up to the side of the bed, Phil puts the towel and the bottle down on the table and sits beside Clint's hip, smoothes his palm down the man's spine, firm but gentle. He's a mess of knots and kinks but when he curls his hand around the nape of the archer's neck he exhales hard and freezes, goes a still as he possibly can.
"Good boy," he murmurs, and he hears Clint's breath hitch, feels him shudder. Then he sucks in a breath, his rib cage expanding under Phil's hand, and blows it back out before forcibly settling back down against the mattress.
It's as good as he's going to get for now, but that's alright.
Phil's planned for that, after all.
"We're going to start now Clint," he says, calm and careful, watching, listening, feeling for the submissive's reaction. "Do you remember your safewords?"
"Stop to stop. Slow down to slow down," he says, and he slurs just a bit, words going soft around the edges. "Be... be honest."
"Very good," Phil praises, running his fingers gently through the archer's hair. He didn't miss the hesitation, recognized what was going to be the difficult part for the younger agent. "That's exactly right Clint. I want you to be completely honest with me tonight, and in return I am going to be completely honest with you. Does that sound fair?"
Clint stays quiet and Phil can practically see him chewing nervously on his lower lip, even though he's still got his face buried in the pillow, and he knows he shouldn’t ask a question like that, one so nearly rhetorical, but he needs a bit of his own reassurance now.
Phil manages to keep back a sigh of relief, instead gets to his feet and picks up the bottle of oil and the towel.
"All right then," he says, and in one smooth, confident movement, climbs back onto the bed, swinging one leg over Clint's body and coming to kneel on either side of his hips. He's standing into it, not resting back on his heels, so there's not that much physical contact between them, but he can still feel Clint tense up where his calves lie alongside the other man's thighs. It's enough - the sudden, horrible certainty that sex has been used as a punishment in Clint's past is more than enough to prevent an awkward situation in his own pants and he's left with an odd, nauseating mixture of disgust, pity, and relief twisting up his stomach.
The sight of Clint's hands, white knuckled where he's fisted the sheets, helps him focus.
"Easy," he murmurs, running his fingers through his hair one more time. "I'm right here Clint. Come on, look at me."
It takes him a minute, and Phil can hear his breath rasping harshly as it saws in and out of him, but eventually Clint manages to turn his head, to open his eyes even though he only stares off at the wall.
"You're all right," Phil promises, placing his hand lightly on the nape of Clint's neck and sweeping his thumb back and forth. "This is just a debrief Clint, that's all. I'm here to take care of you, nothing more. But if this doesn't feel right, if you're ever uncomfortable, then we stop. I won't be angry, I promise."
Swallowing, Clint bites down on his lip and eventually nods.
"Good. Now, do you want me to move?"
He doesn't respond immediately, actually wiggles a bit and tests his limbs, no doubt calculating his ability to throw Phil off if he has to. Phil's not offended – he's rather proud actually. It's good that Clint's taking this seriously, actually considering how he feels. It goes a long way to settle Phil's own nerves.
"No Sir," he says at last, a little hoarse but still decisive. "I'm ok."
"All right then."
Reaching back, Phil grabs the bottle of massage oil and opens the cap, frowning when Clint flinches at the clicking sound but forgoing a comment. They'll never get anywhere if he stops to check in at every little shuffle-and-shy. He needs to believe in Clint's trust and live up to that, to show the sub that he's going to do exactly what he said and nothing more, show him that he could no more easily hurt him than cut off his own arm.
Besides, a massage will serve dual purposes; Clint will get some comforting skin-on-skin contact and Phil will be able to work some of the painful tension out of the incredible shoulders that have taunted him for so many years.
Letting out a silent sigh of his own, he poured a small pool of oil into the palm of his hand and let it warm before smoothing it over the archer's broad, toned back. Clint's breath catches again but he thinks it's surprise this time, and he can't help the smile that tips at the corners of his mouth as he continues to spread the thick, luxurious oil over the expanse of golden skin laid out before him. Slowly, very slowly, Clint began to relax to the light scent of peppermint, to sag against the mattress beneath him and Phil takes that as his cue to continue, digging his thumbs into the muscle at the nape of his neck and summoning up every massage trick he's ever been taught at SHIELD.
"Start at the beginning," he says quietly, keeping his voice firm but gentle. "When you arrived in Malta."
Breathing deep, Clint lets out an uneven sigh and begins.
It's awful, just hearing what Clint's been through. Phil can't imagine what it must have been like for the sub to actually experience it. In the beginning he relays what happened in a flat, emotionless tone, dead and detached as he details exactly what happened moment by moment, but by the time they're even halfway through, by the time he's worked out both of Clint's arms from shoulder to fingertip and started on his back, his voice is shaking with all the pain and hurt that's been heaped on him with every threat and insult Tandy threw. Phil walks him through it a step at a time, asks short, simple questions and waits for Clint's answer, tamping down the urge to strangle the senior agent that's caused all this and focusing instead on keeping his touch gentle, his voice warm.
"So you couldn't cover the junior agents from your nest because of the satellite tower," he says, nodding along even though Clint's eyes are squeezed shut. "What happened next?"
"Jumped down to the roof," Clint chokes, and Phil can hear how tight his throat has gotten. "He said no, but I jumped anyway."
"That was right Clint," Phil says, taking more oil into his hands and running the heels of his palms up either side of Clint's spine. "That was just right. There was nothing you could do from your old nest, and when you moved you had a clear shot to cover the juniors. That was very good."
This is the important part, but it's also the tricky part. Luckily, Phil has a good memory, and he had gone through the missions reports line for line before bringing Clint home. If there was any chance that Clint had made a mistake or a bad call this tactic could backfire spectacularly, but Phil was confident that the archer had made the right decision at every turn, and was able to praise him for every move he'd made.
As Clint gasps and whimpers and flinches his way through the story, relaying each and every vile and vicious word that Tandy had spewed with horribly accurate recall, the sub drop fully sets in, the emotions crashing down on him like an avalanche. He begins to choke on his own words, fighting the tears, shoulders hitching every time Phil praises him for the tactical moves he made and it nearly rips his heart in two but he keeps going, determined to write over and blot out every snarl and sneer and threat of punishment that's been heaped on the sub's head for the last two days.
He's made it all the way down to Clint's lower back, worked out every knot he could find and forcibly massaged away the tension in his body, but the blonde's traded being tense for trembling now, his body shaking with the sobs he's biting back. Leaning forward, Phil slides his palms up to Clint's shoulders and then down his arms, wraps his fingers tightly around the man's wrists to ground him, but Clint sucks in a sharp breath and shrinks in on himself like he's been hit. Phil immediately lets go, files the reaction away in the back of his mind even as he slips his hands beneath the archer's own instead and threads their fingers together.
"You did so well Clint," he murmurs, ducking down to press their cheeks together. "You were perfect. So good. Every decision you made, every single thing you did, you did it just right. You did exactly what I would have done, and I am so proud of you."
Well, that seems to do it because Clint's façade finally cracks, the last of his resistance and control crumbling in the face of Phil's words and he sobs, fucking sobs, a great, shuddering wail that feels like a knife in his chest. The tears start streaming down his face and all Phil can do is let him cry, let him get all that pain out like choking up shattered glass.
Shifting, he moves to draw back so that he can better see the man's face but Clint scrabbles at him, clutches at his hands and whimpers like something small and frightened and wounded. Thankful that he's fit enough to hold a plank for a good long while, especially for a man his age, Phil slides his feet down the bed and holds his weight on his toes and forearms, presses the full length of his body down Clint's as he shakes against the mattress, keeping him anchored to the bed and giving him as much physical contact as he can.
"You did so well Clint," he murmurs, nuzzling the submissive's temple even as he continues to sob. "So good. Such a good boy."
"But... he... said..." Clint chokes, gasping for breath to make the words that must cut at him like knives.
"Who is your handler Clint?" Phil asks, cutting him off and putting just a little bit of his dominant tone into his voice, a little bit colder, a little bit sterner.
"You... are... Sir."
"Say my name," he demanded.
"Ph,Ph,Phil C,C,Coulson," Clint hiccoughed.
"That's right," he soothes, tugging his fingers free to brush back Clint's hair and viciously batting away the feelings coming at him like dodgeballs, fast and hard and painful. "I'm your handler Clint. Me. I know you, and I know my ops. I have never lied to you."
Phil paused, continued petting the archer as he struggled to catch his breath, quieter now but chest still heaving raggedly.
"You did nothing wrong," he says insistently when he's sure that Clint can hear him over the pounding of his own heart. "You didn't lie to me did you Clint?"
"Wha... no!" the submissive yelps, flinching, but Phil shushes him, strokes his cheek.
"I know. I know, I believe you," he murmurs sincerely. "You told me everything that happened, and I believe that you did nothing wrong. You did exactly as you should – you salvaged your mission and you brought all the baby agents back to me. You know how much I hate to lose one of those."
"Too... much paperwork," Clint manages, and it's the attempt at humor, shuddering and pale as it is, that sets Phil at ease.
"That's right," he chuckles softly, his fingers starting their caresses again without a thought. "Tandy was wrong to do what he did. Everything he said to you Clint, it was all wrong. Who's your handler?"
"You are Sir."
"Yes, and you're my asset. You did so well for me Clint, such a good job for me. I am very, very proud of you."
Clint shakes, sucks in a painful breath before letting it out long and slow and suddenly melting into the mattress, like all his strings have been cut.
"Thank you Sir."
He says it on a breath and Phil can't even be sure he's heard it but he won't ask the man to repeat whatever he's said. There are tear tracks on his cheeks and he's still shivering, but his breathing is starting to even out and Phil can feel the very last of the fight go out of him. The physical and emotional gamut he's run has wrecked him and he has absolutely nothing left to give. Phil told himself he wouldn't but he's just so damned impressed, so damned proud of what Clint has managed to survive, to pull himself through that he can't stop himself.
Leaning down, he presses a long, lingering kiss to the man's temple.
"Good boy," he murmurs, and beneath him Clint hums, stretches long and slow as he settles against the sheets, a smile curling the edges of his mouth. He's not in subspace, just exhausted and deep in drop, in that place where things get hazy and a sub can protect themselves, insulate themselves from what's going on around them. It's not ideal but it's enough, and while Phil isn't sure they won't have to go through all of this again tomorrow, for now, it's enough.
"I want you to go to sleep now Clint," he says, keeping hold of the submissive's hand as he slowly climbs off of him and shifts onto the far side of the bed. "I'm going to be right here watching. You go to sleep, and I'll be here when you wake up."
Clint sighs, mumbles something unintelligible, and Phil can't help but give him one more stroke.
"My good boy," he murmurs, and then Clint's fingers go slack as he finally slips away into unconsciousness.
For his part, Phil very nearly breaks down.
It's relatively mild compared to what Clint just went through, and he certainly can't claim to have experienced the same distress, but it hasn't exactly been fun for him either. In a way this has been a punishment, or maybe just a penance. Not many agree but Phil's of a mind that Doms need to be checked just as much as subs, and he hopes that on some level Clint has understood that. That this, this entire scene, has been Phil taking on responsibility for Tandy's transgressions, balancing the scales and righting the other man's wrongs.
The emotion sweeps in on him like the ocean and hell if it doesn't feel like he's just taken a punishment of his own.
"It's ok," he murmurs in the silence, half to himself and half to Clint as he hugs his knees to his chest. "You did so well. We're ok."
And they were.
For the moment at least, they were both ok.
Phil has done his job, given Clint all the praise and reassurance he needs as a sub and the logic he needs as an Agent and for now he's sleeping as comfortably as possible. This isn't the end of it of course – he has no idea how much Clint's actually retained through the heady fog of subdrop – but he'll reassure the man until he's blue in the face and choking on platitudes if he has to.
When he's got himself together, sniffled a bit and scrubbed his own eyes dry and run through a few breathing exercises to calm his own racing heart he glances at the alarm clock and notes the time before slipping carefully from the bed. It's late and he won't risk leaving the room or even changing up the lights, but there's a cabinet beneath the flat screen that conceals a biometric safe and mini-fridge. From there he fetches a bottle of water and Gatorade each, carrying them to his bedside table along with his tablet and stylus.
Clint doesn't stir as he moves quietly about the room, something Phil knows from years' experience isn't normal, but his breathing is slow and deep and even and he's not frowning the way he does when he has a nightmare. Resisting the urge to reach out and touch him, to reaffirm for himself what's just happened, Phil steps up to the side of the bed and pulls the coverlet over his sleeping form. He can't help tucking him in, can't help the instinct to keep him warm and wrapped up tight, safe to hand - he can only deny his own nature so much after all, and what good will he be to Clint if he goes into top drop himself?
Unfortunately there's little more he can do than that, at least until Clint wakes up, so he takes the opportunity to tidy things up a bit; uses the towel to wipe the last of the massage oil from his hands, collects a few scattered articles of clothing from the floor to deposit in the hamper, then grabs his reading glasses off the bureau and climbs back into bed. Settling against the headboard he spends the next fifteen minutes silently walking through some mindfulness exercises he's been taught by SHIELD that are remarkably effective and sipping the bottle of water till it's gone. In the dim light, with Clint in bed beside him and his own energy flagging after two days and two restless nights spent in his office, the adrenaline crash of working through a boat load of Clint's worst fears and not knowing if it's been enough should be more than adequate to drag him down into sleep, but instead he feels energized and fidgety, ready for a round or two in the sparring ring.
He can't decide if he's grateful for the boost or not.
Wary of any report that might trigger a blast of righteous anger, Phil avoids his paperwork and instead chooses a novel from his Kindle app, a volume from The Lord of the Rings. It distracts him enough that he can settle but not so much that he doesn't still have an eye and an ear out for any change in Clint's sleep, any suggestion of distress. He's a bit surprised when the submissive starts to stir so soon, less than thirty minutes after he's dozed off – he would have expected him to sleep at least an hour – but almost immediately he realizes that this won't be a calm, easy return to consciousness.
Not that he'd expected that either.
Any other time he'd think it suicidal to touch Clint as he's waking up like this – he'd made that mistake once early on in their professional partnership and then never made it again – but here, now, Clint is not an agent. This is a submissive in bed beside him, one that's been horribly used and abused, and in a split second Phil determines to act accordingly. Reaching out, he wraps his hand around the nape of Clint's neck, difficult because the archer is still on his stomach and Phil's facing the other way, but he manages the job and gets firm hold of him. Clint jerks, sucks in a sharp breath so fast he chokes on it before getting his hands underneath him and pushing up off the bed, already fighting his way out of the covers.
"Down!" Phil says sharply, tightening his grip and holding the archer by the nape like a scruffed kitten. Clint whimpers and flops back down on his belly like he's ducking a hit but there's nothing for it – Phil can't have him panicking and hurting himself, or worse, running. Holding on until he's certain that the archer's not going to come back up swinging, he gentles his grip, softens his voice.
"Easy," he murmurs and Clint shudders, blinking rapidly as his eyes adjust to the light and begin to dart back and forth, searching for a threat. "You're safe Barton. You're in my apartment, and it's just you and I here. You're all right."
The sound of Phil's calm, clear, handler's tone, of his own surname must be familiar and comforting to Clint because he sags back onto the bed with a thready, broken sort of sound, but it's already hard for Phil to go back to it after the use of other, more intimate endearments. It's a huge red flag but he pushes it away, setting aside his tablet and turning all his focus to the sub who's struggling to breathe evenly beside him.
"Hush now," he murmurs, still calm and cool and confident. "There. That's a good boy."
Clint heaves a shuddery sigh and buries his face in the pillow, hugging it tight and making his gleaming muscles bulge, and Phil has to take a breath of his own before letting go. It's ok, this is ok, no crying, no shouting, no... no anger. He's ashamed to say that a small part of him is waiting for that bit, so when Clint yelps as soon as Phil breaks physical contact and surges forward so that he's sprawled across Phil's lap, he's more than a bit surprised to say the least.
He shouldn't be, not really. Clint's always been tactile with the people he trusts, and Phil knows for a fact that he's touch-starved. Always has been most likely, and he's blatantly desperate for positive reinforcement if you knew how to see it, both as an agent and a submissive. Now he's here, clinging and needy and hanging on so hard Phil can feel the protest in his bones where Clint's got his arms wrapped around him like bands of steel, and all he can do is shift so that he gets his knee out of Clint's ribs and can position the man more comfortably between his thighs.
"I'm right here Clint," he says, drawing his knees up to bracket Clint's torso and block him in, crowd him, make him feel Phil's presence. "I'm right here. I won't leave, I promise. I'm right here."
It takes another ten minutes for Clint to work through this next bout of tears. He's only half awake, only half aware, shaky and fearful and emotional, and no matter what Phil says he refuses to let go, his arms locked around Phil's waist as he cries into the cotton of his t-shirt. Eventually though his body can't keep it up anymore and he comes to a breathy, hiccoughing halt, twisting in Phil's lap and scrubbing his face with his knuckles.
"Sorry Sir," he mumbles, quiet, gruff, and hoarse, his eyes downcast, and Phil feels something twist in his chest, unsure if Clint is apologizing for his tears or for what had happened on the op.
"Nothing to be sorry for," he assures, choking back the 'sweetheart' that wants to slip out there at the end.
The Clint in his lap now is pink cheeked and scowling just a little bit now, listing back and forth between distressed submissive and competent agent, and the change is so abrupt and unstable it leaves him a little wrong-footed. It's natural, understandable, fair, but far more difficult to address, so Phil decides to try and take him back down, just enough for him to settle before sleeping it off.
"You're good," he says, careful with his words, careful not to push him too hard too fast. It's not quite praise, not the 'good boy' he'd lavished on him earlier but still close, not the casual 'well done' he'd toss out to his asset either. "You're good."
Shifting subtly, he reached out and put a hand on Clint's bare shoulder near the curve of his throat, firm and safe, but he sees the archer's eyes glaze a bit and his face soften, his eyes going a little distant, a little hazy.
"There you go," he murmurs as Clint starts to slide, both mentally and physically as he slips back down off his elbows and into Phil's lap again. "Stand down Barton. Take it easy. That's it."
Risking a more intimate touch, Phil wraps Clint up in the best hug he can get from this angle, which really just means laying his arm across the man's chest and holding on. Clint whimpers and reaches up with both hands, wraps them around his wrist and his forearm and squeezes tight, and Phil's almost sure that he'll have bruises tomorrow, a thought that makes his mouth go dry. This has the benefit of reminding him of the bottle of Gatorade on the table, and he reaches out with his free hand to crack the lid and bring it to Clint's lips.
"I want you to drink this for me Clint," he says gently in the man's ear, arching his neck so he can see. "Nice and slow."
Clint doesn't nod or reply, just sips the blue liquid obediently when Phil tips the bottle, and he manages half of it before he turns away.
Clint manages a wobbly sigh, his fingers kneading at Phil's forearm like he's trying to reassure himself of what he's hanging on to. With his free hand he puts the bottle aside and strokes the archer's blonde hair, fluffy from the shower and lopsided from sleep. He's more attuned to tactile sensation than he normally is, his own senses heightened as the silky strands tickle his palm, the sound of Clint's heartbeat like a bass drum in his ears. He would stay like this forever if he could, just holding on to this man, but there's a kink in his back that will leave him unable to move tomorrow if he doesn't move now and they both need some sleep if they can manage it. Giving Clint one last squeeze, he rolls upright and urges him over onto the mattress.
"Don't," he whimpers, clutching at Phil as he gets to his feet, stands beside the bed. "Sir please..."
His tone is half pitiful pleading and half insistent demanding and Phil doesn't know if it's the agent or the sub speaking to him now.
"Don't what?" he asks calmly, looking for a clue as to how he should respond. "Tell me what you need Clint."
The man flushes, drops his eyes, but it's not submission so much as embarrassment. He shrinks in on himself a bit, suddenly takes up less space, and the way he ducks his head and mumbles is so very Clint it hurts. Phil half expects him to raise his hand and rub the back of his neck, look up at him from beneath his lashes with a flirtatious smirk, but it's uncertainty, hesitance in his face.
"Clint. Don't what?" he asks again, more firmly this time.
It's a choked whisper, one Phil barely hears, but he can feel the pain and fear in the request. He doesn't need words to know that there's a reason behind them, to know that everyone else has left Clint high and dry, bloody, broken, down on his luck and down in drop.
"Never," he murmurs, leaning over the bed to cup Clint's cheek in his palm, to turn up his face and meet his frightened, wounded eyes. "Never Clint. No matter what, no matter how. I will always come for you."
It's a familiar phrase, a promise Phil has made before, and one he'll continue to make until Clint learns to believe it. He's never used it like this before, never meant it in this context even if he'd wanted to, but it's no hardship to widen his parameters. As long as he thinks of it that way, as his responsibility as Clint's handler, not his Dom, he thinks he can even keep it without breaking his own heart. He's already crossed a line tonight by calling Clint his good boy...
He needs to be more careful.
Straightening up, he rounds the bed to Clint's side, one hand trailing along the covers, keeping contact the entire way. He knows the sub is watching when he fluffs the pillow back into shape, pulls down the tangled coverlet and flicks out the knots.
"It's late," he says, smoothing the sheets. "You've had a long day. We both need some sleep."
Phil had been sure he'd phrased that innocently enough, but the way Clint flinches and cowers says otherwise. Hurt flickers across his face before he hides it, and Phil only has a moment to be impressed by his control in this half-drop state before horror and disgust take over. Without so much as a protest, a sound of disappointment, Clint slithers off the mattress onto the floor and begins to crawl to the foot of the bed on his hands and knees, his shoulders hunched and his head down. Even in profile, his face barely visible, Phil can tell that he's gone small and quiet and miserable, and he jumps forward so fast he startles the archer, but he knows his own limits and there's no way he can tolerate seeing Clint curl up on the carpet like a dog without someone dying tomorrow.
He's half crouched, bent down to get his hands on the submissive at his feet, and Clint looks shocked but rises anyway when Phil tugs him up, goes quietly when Phil steps in and presses himself against the slightly larger man as close as he can get. He hesitates, stiffens just a little bit but it doesn't last – as soon as Phil wraps an arm around his waist, tugs his head down onto his shoulder Clint goes loose and pliant, tucks himself in under Phil's chin and fists his hands in his t-shirt like he's never going to let go. It's warmth and nearness and his senses are overwhelmed by the bare flesh under his fingers and the scent of his own soap on Clint's skin and he wants to taste, to prove something or to satisfy it he isn't sure.
Doesn't matter, it's too much either way, and he has to step back before his fingers start trailing up and down Clint's spine, before their hips can touch and certain things get taken the wrong way.
"Come on sweetheart," he murmurs, his hand on the small of Clint's back. "Into bed."
"No buts," Phil says gently, pushing and prodding until he's gotten the man in between the sheets. "Good boys sleep in bed."
There's confusion and nervousness in Clint's face as Phil tucks him in under the covers but he lets it happen, and Phil figures that's the best he can hope for. It gets worse when he steps away, when he rounds the bed, but Clint's relief when he climbs back in is palpable. He sits back against the headboard again, determined to watch over the submissive until he falls asleep, and by the time he gets the comforter up over his lap Clint's rolled onto his side and pillowed his head on Phil's hip, cuddled up as close as he can get.
"Close your eyes," he commands gently, dropping his left hand into Clint's hair and reaching for his tablet with the other.
"Don't want to."
Phil blinks, surprised by the whispered refusal, especially when a quick glance shows him that Clint is just staring off into space. It makes sense though – Clint's eyes are his best feature, in more ways than one. He relies on his sense of sight more than anyone Phil has ever met. Without that he's vulnerable, moreso than he already is, in a way he can feel, and while he'd been compliant with the order earlier in the evening, he'd been in a better place at the time.
"Close your eyes," he insists, waking up his Kindle app and finding his place again. "We're in my apartment Clint; I can't exactly sneak out as soon as you fall asleep."
The archer chokes a startled laugh, edged in exhausted hysteria - Phil knew he'd gotten that one right – but Clint still does as he's told this time. His hand spasms where it's curled around Phil's knee, the same way he'd clutched as his forearm earlier, a self-soothing gesture, and Phil smiles. Perhaps if Clint can touch him, hear him it will be easier...
Reaching down, Phil covers Clint's hand with his own, squeezes tight before letting go and threading his fingers back into his hair.
"Hold on," he murmurs, stroking his fingers along Clint's temple, "And go to sleep."
Raising his knee, Phil props up his tablet and adjusts the brightness, begins to read in the smooth, calm voice that he knows Clint loves, the voice he'd once waxed poetic about when high on pain medications.
"'It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,' he used to say. 'You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.' "
Phil wakes up at six the next morning, his internal alarms far too set to take a day off. He feels a little stiff, a little cramped, and he's a bit confused as to why his body has bunched itself up against the headboard, but then he blinks his eyes open and is confronted by a faceful of fluffy blonde hair, a warm, well-muscled body curled up tight and tucked in against his chest and he remembers.
For a minute, just a minute before he'd fully woken up he'd thought it had all been a dream.
The soft light, the heat, the golden gleam of Clint's body beneath his hands, the endearments and the caresses and the holding on tight...
Suffice it to say that he's more than a little surprised to find Clint still beside him, his fingers curled in the hem of Phil's t-shirt, one bare ankle tucked between his own as he unconsciously presses in close. More awake now, more alert, he can even admit to the miserable, bitter expectation he'd held the night before that Clint would be gone in the morning, that he'd have pulled his trademark disappearing act and snuck out without so much as a note or a word goodbye.
Him being here, like this, face soft in peaceful sleep is a balm that Phil hadn't known he needed.
For a while he stays where he is, allows himself the chance to enjoy this. It's been a long time since he's slept next to anyone, in any capacity, but he hasn't forgotten what it feels like. The closeness, the intimacy, the silence of a quiet room, two heartbeats, two people breathing light and easy. Two bodies together, curled close, soft clothes and soft coverlets trapping their heat together.
It's soothing, at least as long as he allows it to be.
Far too soon his brain starts to kick up, worry sets in and he frets about what had happened the night before, what will happen today. He recalls every word, every action, every detail, turns them over and over in his mind. Did he cross a line, did he go too far, did he not go far enough...
Luckily Clint starts to stir beside him, knocking him out of his own spiraling thoughts. He blinks slowly, eyes blue and grey and green and so much clearer than they were last night, but Phil can still feel him tensing up, no doubt a little unsure about where he is and what he's done. He can't blame the man for that – he'd had his own reservations on waking himself – but he doesn't want Clint panicking or scrambling either. Remembering the way he'd reacted to having his wrists gripped the night before, Phil finds Clint's hand beneath the covers and squeezes his fingers gently, laces them together.
"It's still early," he murmurs, brushing his thumb back and forth over Clint's knuckles. "Go back to sleep."
He doesn't of course, but he tries, and that's the most Phil can ask. It tells him quite a bit of what he wants to know as well. If Clint were free and clear of his drop he would've scoffed, made a bad joke and gone looking for his clothes, gotten the hell out of dodge, face plastered with a cocky grin in a poor attempt to mask his panic. If he was still as deep as he'd been last night it would be different too. He'd shake, tremble, cling or roll away, desperately seek comfort and contact or collapse fearfully in on himself. Instead he sighs, settles back down and lets his eyes fall shut, holds Phil's hand tightly but doesn't squirm any closer.
It's... it's nice, like this. Just a quiet, early morning, the sun slowly beginning to fade in through the blinds. Lazy, cozy, horribly perfect. Phil lies still, absorbs this moment with every sense he has, wishes it could go on forever. It can't, he knows that – Clint clearly still needs his attention – but for now, for an hour or so, he can afford to indulge, to bask in the scent of Clint's hair and the firm heat of his body and the simplicity of a shared moment.
Unfortunately all too soon, biology makes itself known. He needs to pee, his stomach's about three minutes from eating itself, and well, it is the morning and there's a gorgeous, sleepy, pliant submissive in his bed. More specifically, there's a gorgeous, sleepy, pliant Clint in his bed.
The world truly is cruel sometimes.
Sitting up with a quiet groan, Phil twists and stretches a bit, feels his spine pop as a yawn stretches his jaw. Clint's watching him silently now, warily, and it only serves to reinforce Phil's belief that he's still halfway down. It's too easy, too natural to reach out and stroke his hand through Clint's hair to resist.
"You hungry?" he asks, voice still thick with sleep, and Clint bites his lip, considering. He's probably not but Phil's going to feed him anyway – his body needs it whether it knows it or not – but he's curious to see how Clint will respond, to gauge how he's going to react.
"I don't..." he begins, frowning, and Phil believes him. He probably doesn't know, the multitude of sensations and emotions being processed by his body and his brain a complicated and confusing jumble.
"That's ok," he says easily, reluctantly pushing himself up and out of the bed. "I'll make some breakfast, and then we'll see hmm?"
Rounding the bed, he heads toward the bathroom, gesturing for Clint to follow.
"Come on, agent. On your feet."
It's light, a soft command, one directed at a more solid, stable Clint. It's another test, and Phil knows it's not fair, but with the way the archer had tumbled erratically back and forth on a slanted spectrum last night, staggered between indignant, self-assured agent of SHIELD and uncertain, broken-down sub, he can't think of any other way to assess how he should be approaching this. He's not even sure what answer he's earned when Clint crawls out from under the covers, follows him docilely into the bathroom.
He stands next to the sink with more silent uncertainty, a little too out of it for the soldier's lock-step from before, but now his head is ducked, his eyes down, more a submissive's stance. It makes Phil's heart twinge in his chest; melancholy, regret, eagerness and affection. He never would have wished Clint to go through something like this, but he's glad that at the very least the man had had the sense to come to him, no matter how misguided the notion was. At least now he has a chance to care for him, however brief, to make sure he's gotten through this as undamaged as possible.
Finding a washcloth in the linen closet, Phil runs it under the faucet, wrings out the warm water before gently cupping Clint's jaw in his hand. He startles him, he knows he does, but he uses that still moment of shock to his advantage before Clint can realize what he's doing and jerk away in protest. Softly, carefully, he washes the tear tracks from the man's face, goes so far as to do his ears, the back of his neck and his throat as well. Clint's gaze had only met his for a second, all confusion and surprise and uncertainty before dropping again, but by the time Phil's done he's trembling again and his hands are fisted at his sides.
"Are you cold?" he asks, hanging the washcloth over the towel rack.
Clint's shoulders tense and his arms shift, like he's only just realized he's nearly naked and means to cover himself before he checks the impulse.
"A little," he mumbles. "Sir."
This time it's Phil's turn to be startled – he'd expected the honorific lasts night when Clint was so distressed, so far down, but he seems calmer this morning, a little more himself. He wouldn't think...
"I'll leave some clothes on the bed," he says, ignoring the knot in his throat. "Take your time in here, then come find me in the kitchen again."
Clint blinks, looks at little lost but maybe it's the déjà vu. Eventually he nods and Phil can't help sliding his hand down the length of Clint's bare arm before excusing himself, pulling the door nearly closed but leaving it about an inch ajar. Disappearing into the closet, he takes a minute to change himself, pulls on old, soft, faded jeans that he actually rather loves and a long-sleeved t-shirt with SHIELD's log on the breast pocket. There's a clean pair of sweats and some socks that will fit Clint in his bottom drawer, and it's wrong, he knows it's wrong, but he pulls out his Rangers hoodie too. It's old, worn a little thin, and it has his last name printed across the shoulders – it's his most favorite article of clothing he possesses, even over his suits and his Captain America cufflinks and he's had it for so many years that he'll soon have to replace it. It's his, means certain things to him, reminds him of his Army days and easy days, days at home where he can be less than the always on-point Agent Coulson, days spent out at his parents' place in Colorado, chill fall nights surrounded by family gathered around a bonfire.
He shouldn't put it on Clint, he knows that. He's got other sweaters, other hoodies, ones that are just clothes not personal possessions, but...
But he wants to see Clint wear it.
It's not a collar, not a claim, but it's something, just a little bit of reassurance while the submissive's here, under his care.
He knows he's lying to himself as he quickly makes the bed and sets the clothes out on top of the covers, trots down to the guest bath to take care of his own needs. He's had playdates, spent weekends with subs before and never felt this desire, this need to mark them, to keep them the way he wants to with Clint. He's never wanted to keep someone so badly, to live up to what they deserve so much.
He's got his head in the fridge when footsteps behind him give away Clint's arrival. Normally he'd offer the man a cup of coffee but he's not sure if the caffeine will sit well this morning, so he pours a small glass of organic apple juice instead.
"Come here," he says gently, reaching out a hand to the man who look nervous and unsure and terribly, terribly young standing across the room, fiddling with the cuffs of his sweatshirt.
He flicks a glance up at Phil before doing as he's told, coming to him and letting himself be guided onto a barstool at the island. The way he presses into Phil's touch, leans into the caress when he runs his hand over Clint's hair, squeezes the back of his neck says he still needs the contact, the reassurance, and it's easy to give. Too easy probably, because when he sees his own name stretched across Clint's broad shoulders all he wants to do is step up behind him and wrap his arms around his waist, bury his face in the curve of his throat and hold him.
Instead he breaks away, goes to the cabinets and takes down the ingredients for Belgian waffles. There's a waffle iron sitting out on his counter, Nick's housewarming gift from when he'd finally moved back to New York, and the thing's seen a lot of use since. It's quick to heat up, the batter quick to come together, and he knows the process well enough that he can focus on the sub across from him. He's hunched inside his sweater and Phil can't tell if he's shaking anymore but he hopes that's not the case, for any reason. He sips a little at his juice but spends more time toying with the glass, running his fingers around the rim while he watches Phil's hands intently.
Five minutes later he'd turning a fluffy, golden waffle onto a plate, adds butter and a squeeze of syrup before sliding it across the island alongside a knife and fork. Clint stares as he loads more batter into the iron, breathes in the delicious aroma, but he doesn't move to touch anything. Phil frowns – Clint's extremely tactile in any given situation, and has a habit of twirling eating utensils between his fingers, especially the knives. Granted he had told Phil he wasn't sure if he was hungry or not, and might not be, but by the time Phil's fixed his own plate the archer is biting his lip again and his stomach is growling audibly.
Blushing, Clint looks away when Phil cocks an amused eyebrow, something dark flashing in his eyes, and oh, Phil prays to god that Clint's never been tortured or trained like this, teased with food he's not allowed to eat. He finds the idea of food restriction abhorrent, but he remembers how malnourished Clint had been when he'd come in, remembers the two or three times he's caught Clint in the caf, staring dully at a tray full of untouched plates.
"Feeling a little more hungry now?" he asks hopefully as he sits down, when Clint's belly gives another aggressive rumble.
"Yes Sir," he mumbles, but he's still looking away, still not reaching for his fork.
"Going to make me feed you?"
It's gentle, cautious, maybe a little too casual because fuck, there's nothing he'd like more right now. He wants that, he'd love that, but Clint though, Clint jerks, flinches so hard he knocks his knees against the island and sets his glass to sloshing.
"No Sir," he says quickly, ducking his head, the words cold and hard, and Phil feels his heart sink.
No, of course not.
Something like that, it would probably be humiliating for someone like Clint; independent, competent, capable...
Phil's cheeks get warm and he drops his own gaze, tries not to let his knife screech against the porcelain as he cuts into his own breakfast.
"Eat up then."
The next twenty minutes are an exercise in silent awkwardness as Phil tries to ignore the way Clint's eating - quickly, mechanically, so close to the way he used to eat when he first came in to SHIELD, afraid anything he'd been given would be taken away again that it breaks Phil's heart. He doesn't finish and that's not surprising – the spirit might be willing but the body's still out of whack, and he'd rather have to feed him again in a few hours than have him make himself sick. He waits until Phil's finished before he speaks, fingers tapping nervously at the edge of his plate.
"Sir, should I..." he begins before trailing off, and it feels like the most he's said, the most initiative he's taken since this all started. It's only half a question but Phil understands just fine – Clint's eye are flickering around the kitchen, lingering on their empty plates, the small pile of dishes starting to accumulate in Phil's tiny kitchen sink.
The state he's in, Phil would never ask or require a household chore out of Clint, but he's asked and it makes sense that he has. If he's feeling at odds the order will settle him, give him something to do with his hands, directions to follow, and Phil can give him that, as well as a little praise.
"Be a good boy for me and load the dishwasher," he says, immeasurably pleased when Clint's cheeks pink and he rolls his lips, biting back a smile.
Getting to his feet, he returns the juice, butter, and syrup to the fridge while the sub happily collects their plates, so he misses the way his next words make Clint freeze up.
"When you're done we'll sit down and talk for a bit."
By the time he turns back around there doesn't seem to be anything amiss; Clint's got the dishwasher open and is carefully stacking plates inside so the ceramic doesn't click. Phil puts away the last of foodstuffs away, wipes out the waffle iron with a paper towel, and rinses the batter bowl before handing it off to Clint, smiling when he does. The blonde doesn't react beyond ducking his head, closing the door on the washer and stepping back so Phil can punch in the settings. When he's done, he turns and steps in close to Clint's side, gives him a one-armed hug and lets go to run his hand through his hair, down to the nape of his neck.
Shit, that's going to be a hard one to break back in HQ isn't it?
Twenty-one days, his fit white ass - it hasn't even been twenty one hours and already it's a habit.
"Good job," he encourages, and this time Clint really does grin.
Unfortunately it's short-lived; as Phil guides Clint into the living room with a gentle hand at the small of his back, he's surprised by how much pressure it takes to get him moving. By the time they've made it to the couch he's practically pushing the archer along, watching him shuffle his feet like a recalcitrant child. He's not sure what that's about, where it's coming from, but that's why he wants to talk – he'd like to hear how Clint's feeling, where he's at as best as the man can tell him. He's expecting him to be a little reluctant, a little close-mouthed – this is Clint after all – but once again he's surprised by what he gets.
Clint doesn't pout, doesn't whine, doesn't go sullenly silent or defiantly flippant.
Instead, he crashes to his knees at Phil's feet and grabs the backs of his ankles, the archer's forehead nearly touching the floor as he hangs on to him tight.
"Sir, I'm sorry!"
Phil doesn't react.
Hard to really, when a dozen different responses, a dozen different emotions go sweeping through him; surprise, shock, horror, disappointment, resignation, even, oddly enough, fond exasperation.
He'd known to expect this, realized that it was very likely he would have to walk Clint through the whole process of reframing and reassurance again at some point, but he hadn't thought it would be this bad, this sudden, this sharp. A part of him wants to pull Clint up and shake him a little, the way he does when the agent is about to pass out from blood loss or a concussion even though he knows he has to stay awake. The archer is an intelligent, reasonable man as much as he likes to play otherwise, and deep down Phil knows that he understands he hasn't done anything wrong, that Tandy is just an ass who cracked under the embarrassment of having submissive show him up in front of a whole team of junior agents.
Because that is the case, he thinks his own reaction is understandable. He's not perfect, not the emotionless android many accuse him of being. Really, he supposes, he's just a halfway decent man who is intelligent enough and reasonable enough in his own right to put those feelings away for later (when Clint will actually appreciate them) and deal with the situation at hand.
That's always been his secret after all.
Taking a breath he centers himself, settles halfway back against the couch cushions and reaches down to touch the back of Clint's head. It's soft, light, but Clint flinches, ducks down even further like Phil's pressed his face to the floor, fingers tightening where he's still got Phil's ankles in a deathlock.
"Easy," he chastises, almost scolding this time. There's no reason for the sub to be prostrating himself like this and Phil doesn't like it, never has. It's crude and uncomfortable, the shivering placations of a slave, not the freely and happily given submission of another human being, an equal no matter their secondary gender. If Clint weren't in drop right now he'd make his opinion on the matter very clear, but then, if Clint weren't in drop, he wouldn't be here at all.
"Clint tell me what you're sorry for," he says, fighting to keep the emotion out of his voice, finding it difficult when Clint whimpers.
"I don't... I just..." he stumbles, then, throwing caution to hell, finishing it all in one quick, hot blast. "Anything, everything, whatever I did! I'm sorry, I know I was bad, I, I tried to... Whatever I did, I'll fix it, I'll be better! Sir, I'm sorry!"
He's sobbing now, muttering apologies between ragged breaths and tears and Phil doesn't understand, because things were fine a few minutes ago and he didn't know what had changed except that they'd moved to the couch, Clint's reluctance growing with every step closer they'd got. He wasn't sure how the furniture could be a trigger for him, but there was something more going on and god how he wishes that he and Clint could have just talked before all this, discussed limits and likes and safewords and expectations, just...
Something Clint loves and hates in equal turns, more than most anything. He can rattle and ramble and chatter with the best of them, but when it comes down to the real stuff, the serious stuff, he knows how to shut up tighter than a clam. Sure, he's better at it after years of Phil browbeating him into verbal debriefs and even the occasional therapy session, but...
But everybody knows what it means when somebody says 'we need to talk...'
Grabbing the fabric pulled tight around Clint's biceps, so much bigger than Phil's, he tugs him up from the floor until he's in a standing kneel, pulls him close and wraps his arms around him in a gentle hug. Clint goes without a fight, holds on to Phil's waist and buries his face in his chest, hiccoughing his hurt in great, shuddering breaths and christ this man really is going to kill him.
"You're ok," he murmurs, holding Clint close around the shoulders and stroking his hair with one hand, petting him. His cheek is pressed to Clint's temple where his head is tucked under Phil's chin, almost like a child curled up against his chest, and this right here is what he loves, the cuddling and the coddling and the praising and the touch, and it's awful because he never wanted it this way. It will tie him up in knots if he lets it - and he will, later, when Clint's finally pulled out of this and slunk on home like nothing happened - but for now he'll accept that he's got his own fears and wants and emotion wrapped up in this, accept that that's only natural and fair, and he'll work past it.
That's what this is after all, what a scene is supposed to be. Communication, compromise, caring. Any Dom who wouldn't put their own needs aside to help a sub in real distress shouldn't be scening at all.
"You're ok Clint," he continued, still stroking the back of the archer's head and shoulders. "You didn't do anything wrong. I'm not mad at you. You've been so good for me Clint, such a good boy."
It's easy to say, easy to keep up a running commentary of similar praises because it's so true. Clint's put himself fully in Phil's hands, without negotiation and expecting punishment, and done everything he's asked. Eventually the tears and the shaking run out and he hopes this will be the last of it, the last breakdown because he's starting to feel the heavy drag of it himself. Once Clint's caught his breath he decides to broach the dreaded 'talk' again, hopes it will go better this time.
"I'm not mad Clint. You've been very, very good for me," he says, pulling back and taking the archer's chin in his fingers, tipping his face up to meet his eyes. Watery, red-rimmed, he's still the most beautiful man Phil's ever seen. "I know you don't like to talk, not about things like this. But this is something that's important to me. Do you understand?"
"Mission parameters," Clint mumbles, sitting back on his heels and sniffling, tugging his sleeve down over his fist and scrubbing at his cheeks.
A smile turns the corners of his mouth – yes, he can work with that.
"Close enough," he agrees, then, quietly... "I don't like seeing you like this."
" 'M sorry, S..."
"Don't," Phil warns, his fingers tightening. "Don't you dare apologize to me. None of this is your fault Clint."
Sighing, Phil sits back and watches Clint blush, turn his head.
"We are going to talk about this," he repeats, "But you are not in trouble, and I am not upset with you. I'm going to give you a choice Clint. You may pick whichever one you'd like, and I'll be happy with either. We're going to talk, and it's the same rules as last night – you be honest with me and I'll be honest with you. So. Would you like to sit up here on the couch, or would you like to kneel for me?"
Clint's eyes go wide and for a minute he looks like he's swallowed his tongue but he breathes through it, his chest heaving until he swallows, licks his lips and gives Phil a formal bow of his head.
"Sir, this boy would like to kneel for you," he whispers hoarsely, and Phil feels his stomach turn.
He hates that too, the impersonalized third-person, the form of address so commonly used to dehumanize a submissive and reinforce their place beneath a Dom's heel. It makes his skin feel too tight but Clint's waiting, and he's not shivering or shaking or crying anymore, so maybe it means something different, something more important to him than Phil understands.
"Go get the pillow then," he manages, and Clint crawls the two paces to the left that it takes him to reach out and grab the cushion Phil had dropped in front of his chair the night before. He places it between Phil's socked feet carefully before settling in, wiggling his hips as he adjusts his weight, hands resting lightly on his thighs, and Phil's breath catches in his throat.
Whatever'd been going on in Clint's head looks like it's been swept away as he rests at Phil's feet, face clear and peaceful and even pleased. It's the easiest he's been since he's come here, more free of the subdrop than he'd been upon falling asleep last night, like something in his heart has quieted. It's beautiful and incredible and freeing to see, loosening the knot in Phil's own chest enough that he can reach out and cup Clint's cheek in his palm, brush his thumb over his cheek without even a flicker of guilt or trepidation.
In this moment, this sudden, unexpected moment he feels good.
This is what it's supposed to be, this easy exchange, submission willingly and gladly given, just as gladly taken and held in reverent hands.
Phil's eyes prickle as Clint's flutter shut and he hums somewhere deep in his chest, turns and presses into the caress.
A smile turns Clint's mouth, small, secret but still there, and suddenly all of this has been worth it, worth it in a way that Phil can feel, like the sun coming up in his chest.
"Keep your eyes closed for me," he says, because already he's beginning to see that in the right headspace blindfolding, even just verbal blindfolding, is an incredibly effective tool to keep Clint calm and take him down. Sliding his feet in so that his shins press along Clint's sides, Phil waits until he complies. "There, that's a good boy."
Under his words Clint appears to preen a bit, his shoulders shifting back a touch to subconsciously show off his chest, happiness flitting across his face again.
Oh yes, praise is something this man craves like air.
"Tell me what happened on the op Clint."
The archer twitches, his smile turning pouty, and Phil has to bite back a laugh. Wasn't expecting that was he? But he needs to know that Clint understands this, that he'll be able to walk back into HQ tomorrow with his head held high and fire right back at anyone who accuses him of anything less than saving that mission, those junior agents.
Seconds pass that feel like hours and Clint doesn't answer, clearly puzzling over what Phil wants from him, and it's probably not fair to leave him hanging like this, not even give him a hint, but he needs this, needs to know that Clint can figure it out, can come up with it himself and really, truly believe what Phil's hoping he'll say.
"Mission went wrong," he says finally, and Phil nods even though Clint can't see it. "Had to go to Plan B. My Plan B. T..." Clint bites his lip, heaves a hard sigh. "Tandy didn't have one."
"Broke protocol," he continues, his voice strong this time, not like last night, so much closer to the cocky agent Phil loves that he can't help a feeling of immense relief. "Went against orders."
"You've done that before," Phil reminds him. "When do you do that Clint?"
"W... When I have to Sir."
"Yes. When you have to. Everyone breaks protocol when they have to. Even me. You remember Somalia?"
Clint huffs - of course he does, because how could he have forgotten?
"I had a good reason then," Phil continues. "Did you have a good reason Clint?"
It's indignant, insistent, loud, and Phil's grinning, wide and bright when Clint sneaks a peek to gauge his reaction. The sub colors, drops his head again, closes his eyes.
"Yes Sir. I... I thought of you. What you'd say. What you'd want me to do. You wouldn't have left the juniors there, you wouldn't have risked losing them to play it safe."
"No," Phil says after a moment of silence, his throat tight. "No, I wouldn't have done that. What else wouldn't I do Clint?"
This time the silence is longer, thicker, and he can see Clint holding his breath, can see the muscles in his shoulders tensing up.
"Talk to me Barton," he murmurs, and it's a quiet reminder, half of the answer he's looking for.
"You wouldn't yell," Clint finally squeaks, his voice high and tight and wobbly. "You wouldn't... you wouldn't yell or push me or tell me I was... you wouldn’t blame me for being a s..."
Surging forward, Clint pulls another ambush hug, a move that's beginning to look signature on him. Phil lets him hold on, hugs him right back and breaths, let the scent of Clint and his own fabric softener fill his lungs.
"No. I wouldn't blame you for being a sub, and I wouldn't push you, and I wouldn't yell," he says insistently. "You are an amazing archer, an incredible agent and a remarkable man Clint Barton. You did absolutely nothing wrong on that mission – you completed your objective and you brought your fellow agents home, in the face of some pretty terrible feedback and in spite of one horrific ass of a missions leader. You'll be getting something back for that, believe me. It wasn't fair what he did Clint, it was wrong. None of the things he said are true. I know that, but Clint, I need to know that you know that too."
Phil pulls back, takes Clint's face between his hands, looks him in the eye.
"You're a good boy Clint. Say it for me."
Clint pales, his eyes wide and young and fearful and he can't hold Phil's gaze. He tries to pull away, to sit back on his heels again but Phil holds on, keeps his face tipped up and waits him out until his finally brings his eyes up again.
"You're a good boy. Come on sweetheart, I want to hear you say it."
"I... I'm a good boy."
It's a mumble, barely audible but he says it, and Phil can't help but lean forward and press a long, tender kiss to Clint's forehead.
"Again," he commands gently, and Clint pinks, the color flooding back into his face. So responsive, so unable to mask his emotions like this...
"I'm a good boy."
This time Phil presses a kiss to his cheek, louder, more dramatic this time, and then he pulls back, smiling.
"One more time."
"I'm a good boy."
This earns him a loud, smacking kiss on the other cheek, makes the blonde smile and duck shyly. Phil grips his arms, tugs, gets him onto his feet before turning sideways on the couch, pulling Clint down between his thighs.
"You really really are Clint," he says as he gets the submissive settled against his chest, practically lying on top of him with his head pillowed over Phil's heart. "I know this has been hard for you, but I am so proud of the way you handled this. I..."
He stops, unsure if he should tell him what it means that he came to Phil in the hangar, went to his knees the way he did.
"I'm proud of you."
"Thank you Sir," Clint hums, snuggling into his chest, suddenly a lot heavier than he had been a moment ago.
"You tired sweetheart?"
Phil grins stupidly at his ceiling, one hand behind his head and the other resting on Clint's waist.
"Rest then. You don't have to sleep, but I'll stop pestering you for a bit. When you wake up we'll see how you feel, ok?"
Clint doesn't answer, already slipping into an easy doze. Phil sinks into a pleasant headspace of his own, warm and fuzzy and anchored to the earth by Clint's body, muscled and heavy and still. It's been so long since he's had this, since he's had the privilege of having a sub to look after that it's almost easy to go too far. It's just so nice, so calm and easy, so reminiscent of the lazy afternoons he's dreamed of that it's difficult to bring himself back out of it an hour or so later.
Yawning, stretching, he rubs his eyes and hums, feels Clint start to stir.
"Back with me?"
It's hoarse and low and as good a read on where Clint's head is at as Phil could ask for. The younger man groans as he levers himself up, avoids Phil's eyes as he untangles their legs. Eventually they get themselves righted, tugging shirts down where they've ridden up, running fingers through unruly hair. Phil turns sideways, leans back against the arm of the couch and watches Clint squirm, until the archer huffs an irritated sigh and pulls his legs up, sitting cross-legged on the cushions.
"How do you feel?"
It should be an innocent place to start, a question Clint can hopefully answer by now, and it will give Phil an idea of where they need to go from here. Still, it takes him a minute to answer, a bit of uncomfortable shifting and picking at his nails.
"Better," he says finally, before clearing his throat and trying again. "Not great... Lot better though."
"Good," Phil says gently. "I'm glad to hear that Clint."
Another minute of quiet passes.
"Don’t really feel..."
"Like yourself yet?"
Clint looks up at him, eyes clear but still a little wary.
"You had a hard drop Clint," Phil says kindly, carefully. "It makes sense that you're not all the way back up yet."
"I don't have anything more important to do than taking care of you right now," Phil interrupts. "We're not expected back at work until tomorrow."
Getting to his feet, he walks around behind the couch, runs his hands through Clint's hair, feels him melt into the caress and that tells him plenty too.
"I'm going to step into the kitchen, get us something to drink. When I come back, you'll tell me what you need to feel better, and that's what we'll do."
It's not a 'Yes Sir,' so Phil feels he's justified in his surprise when he comes back a minute later, water bottles in hand, and Clint makes his request.
"Can I just..." he starts hesitantly before squaring his shoulders. "Can I just kneel for a little bit? We don't have to do anything, just..."
"Whatever you want Clint," he promises, and god it's so much more of a promise than the archer could possibly know it hurts.
Whatever he wants, and it turns out Clint doesn't want much, just an afternoon spent at someone's feet, someone he trusts. Phil gets him to settle in a relaxed kneeling position on the pillow between his feet, gets him to finish the water and to eventually lean sideways against Phil's leg while he finds a marathon of MonsterQuest for them to watch. It's so little, so simple, and yet the way he asks for it makes Phil certain that Clint doesn't believe he deserves this either, so every once in a while he pets Clint's hair, nudges his shoulder with his knee when he chuckles at a badly filmed reenactment of a werewolf encounter.
Two episodes in, Clint's stomach rumbles and Phil gets up to go after a snack. He counts it as a good sign that Clint doesn't cling or panic when he goes, more comfortable being alone than he's been since the start. It's a good thing too that he actually shows an appetite, digging in with enthusiasm when Phil brings back a hummus tray filled with veg, pita, and cubes of grilled chicken. He drags the coffee table in close and sits beside Clint on the floor to eat, and their hands bump when they both go for the sticks of red and yellow pepper, and it's easier and familiar in a different way, a more familiar way. Phil can feel their day coming to an end, and the emotional assault that comes with that realization is more than he cares to think about.
"I'm going to go put this up," he says suddenly, collecting the dishes and napkins they've used. "And while I'm gone, I want you to think of a reward you'd like Clint."
Said archer startles, jolts, looks at him with shocked eyes.
"But you..." he protests, and Phil thanks god he doesn't finish because he knows by now what the man is about to say.
"Last night was about getting you safely through your drop Clint," he explains patiently. "Today was about making sure you came back up, and making sure that you really undestand what happened on that op. SHIELD is going to compensate you for that, believe me; a pay raise, a promotion at the very least. You showed good judgment and conducted yourself as an agent should – as a Level Five you'll get your choice of a handler and the option to decline a mission. This isn't about that."
Reaching down with his free hand, Phil puts his fingertips under the edge of Clint's jaw, tips his chin up and searches his face.
"This isn't about your mission or Tandy or SHIELD. This is about last night, about today. You came to me, you trusted me, gave me everything I asked of you. You've been very good for me, and I... I'm proud of you for that too. I'm honored that you trusted me with that, and it had been a privilege... to have your submission Clint Barton."
It's too much, he knows it, knows his heart is in his throat and in his eyes, but he can't seem to stop the words and really, he's not certain that he wants to.
"Think of something you want," he says quietly, when he can't bear the silence or Clint's intense gaze a moment longer. "A reward, just from me. You deserve one Clint."
It's takes him... a while to get himself under control. He shakes a little against the cabinets, leans his elbows on the countertop and drops his face into his hands, tries to breath when he wants to sob. He's not normally like this, but hell, it's been months, more than a year, and this has been like a dream in the middle of a nightmare. He's going to be messed up once Clint goes home, but it's nothing he can't handle, nothing he isn't... nothing he isn’t used to.
He's learned the hard way how to get himself through a case of top drop after a sub walks out on him mid-negotiation, even mid-scene.
Knowing Clint's ok, that he did a good job taking care of him and that this is different than all those times, that's going to make a world of difference.
It's that knowledge, that reassurance that enables him to stand back up, to school his expression, and go back to the man that's waiting for him. He has no idea what he expects Clint to ask for – an IOU for lunch outside of the caf, a get out of paperwork free card maybe – but once more the man surprises him beyond anything he could have possibly imagined.
"I want a kiss!" he blurts, like he's trying to get the words out before he can change his mind, and Phil stalls halfway across the living room, shocked to a halt.
Clint blushes and this time it's a painful, embarrassed red, not the sweeter pink flush from before. He ducks his chin then firms his jaw, picks his head up again and glares at Phil almost defiantly, but he can see the fear behind the challenge, hear it in his rushed and frantic words. "Just... just tell me it doesn't have to mean anything. That nothing will change tomorrow, that... that we'll still be us..."
Phil's heart aches in his chest and he... he doesn't know if that hurts or not. Both, probably, for different reasons, but Clint sounds hurt and anxious and demanding and desperate and who is he to deny him his request? He'd offered after all, promised...
He doesn't remember crossing the floor but the next thing he knows he's standing in front of his asset, so close he can feel the heat coming off him, can see the flecks of green and gold in his eyes.
"Is that what you want Clint?" he asks quietly, watches as the man's tongue flicks out over his full lower lip.
Because fuck, I'd give you everything if you asked. All of me if you wanted it...
What he wants, what he feels has got to be written all over his face, but Clint is staring at his mouth and there's want all over his face too, and Phil's never been able to deny this man.
Well, he asked for it.
Taking Clint's face between his hands, Phil guides him in and does the one thing he's wanted to do from the very stupid first, seals their lips together and kisses him for all he's worth. He puts everything he's got into it, not just because he wants this, not just because Clint asked and he deserves it, but because if there is any chance, any at all that this one kiss might convince Clint to give him a shot then you can be damn sure he's going to take it. It's perfect and wonderful and soft, everything he's ever imagined this time, and he's kissing Clint and Clint is kissing him and the archer is gripping him tight around the hips and it's heat and tongue and sparks in the pit of his belly and he'd live here forever if he could.
Unfortunately, he and Clint have both accustomed themselves to the pesky habit of breathing and eventually they both have to pull back. There's only inches between them and Clint is staring and they're both breathing hard, and Phil's heart is pounding in his chest. Clint licks his lips and swallows even as Phil's thumb traces a path down the line of his jaw to the corner of his pink, swollen mouth, and all he can think is please, just... just please.
Clint blinks, takes a step back and Phil's hands fall to his sides.
He tells himself he's ready for this, that he knew this was what was waiting for him at the end, but it's still hell to hear, Clint's voice hesitant but determined.
Thank you everyone for your reads, your kudos, and your lovely reviews! Keep 'em coming - they're my favorite thing!
Next up - Clint's POV!
Clint leaves after that.
Runs, from the best kiss and the best headspace and the best man that he's ever had the good fortune to experience.
He's not especially horrified at himself for doing this, except that he really is. It's his modus operandi after all. He goes back to HQ the next morning feeling better than he's felt in ages, all loose and warm and stable, righteously pissed, and it's enough that he can ignore the niggling doubt, the worry and the humiliation and the melancholy in the pit of his belly that he ruthlessly pushes away.
For three days he studiously avoids all the places around SHIELD that he used to haunt, all the places that Coulson can be found. He sticks around base and manages to accomplish the task out of sheer luck – rumor is Coulson hadn't even come in that first morning, the morning after...
The morning after all that.
Anyway, point is he stays away; stays away from the man's office, stays away from the third floor break room that has the best coffee, stays away from the hallway leading down to HR that has the best-stocked vending machine, and doesn't run across the senior agent once. He's got plenty to occupy him in the meantime, what with catching up at the range, avoiding Jessup and the rest of the team of juniors who – he's been told – are out to throw him some sort of weird thanks-for-saving-our-lives week of fantastical fun. He even takes to the vents for a bit to scout the SHIELD rumor mill.
Officially he hasn't heard anything about the clusterfuck that had been his last mission, but he hasn't seen Tandy around base and Maria Hill keeps looking at him weird. Kinda makes him want to cover his balls, worse than with Fury even, but she never says anything. Thank god on the fourth day he gets drafted for another milk run, this one with two other Level Fours he's cool with and Agent Hand on the comms. It's a simple sweep-and-clear in Marrakech, over almost before he has the time to enjoy it, and going off without a hitch.
Day seven rolls around (fuck you, he's not counting) and he's holed up in his hotel room, flat out on the bed waiting for the call to move out for extraction and his brain won't shut the hell up.
Stupid really, since he can't actually remember all that much.
Most of those two days with Tandy, and then later with Phil, they're... they're fuzzy. He doesn't remember the words anymore, the threats and the curses and the slurs because he's not letting himself remember them. He's good at compartmentalization. Hell that's the only reason he made it through that op at all, that and Phil's voice in his ear, the absolute security of knowing exactly what his handler would have had him do were he there with him.
What happened in the hangar, that might be one of the clearest bits.
That security, that certainty had been what pushed him to go to Coulson, to go to his knees right there in front of god and everybody. He'd fully expected a punishment for what he'd done, or at least what he'd thought he'd done at the time, and that expectation had only been reinforced when the man had ignored his gesture of submission and looked to Tandy for an explanation instead. Still he'd stayed, because while Coulson had certainly never coddled a subordinate who'd fucked up a mission, he was neither cruel nor vicious either. He'd certainly never put an agent's mistake down to their power orientation.
Knowing that, trusting the man implicitly the way he did, subconscious or not, it had been almost easy for Clint to stay on his knees, to hold perfect form while Coulson argued quietly above him. Words were traded, more that he can't remember, but the feeling of finally being safe was one that still nearly overwhelmed him, even here in this shitty little rented room waiting for Hand's gruff, sharp voice to call him.
It wouldn't register that he'd gone home with Coulson until he woke up the next morning. Oh, he remembers bits and pieces, remembers falling into a deep, dark hole he can intellectually recognize as subdrop, but that had, at the time, felt like the end of the world. He could remember feeling frightened and ashamed, supremely sorry, then confused when Coulson had refused to punish him. He remembered the strange juxtaposition of the massage – the pain of coughing up all his shameful mistakes and the uncertainty of having that shame corrected, twisted by the ecstasy of Coulson's hands on his body, gently easing him through the shakes and smoothing out the tension of his muscles.
God if that wasn't an experience he'd love to repeat.
It makes him a little sick now, nauseas thinking that he hadn't been able to really enjoy it. That he'd been given nearly everything he's ever wanted, all the secret fantasies he'd never thought he'd have, and he can barely recall the half of it. That by some sick and twisted turn of fate, his wildest fucking dreams had come true, and he'd been too much of a broken mess to bask in it.
That thought only makes it worse, the shame and the lurch of his stomach, when he thinks that Coulson's seen him like that. Sobbing and slobbering and snotty, weeping like a child, incoherent and nearly inconsolable. Coulson, who's a stone-cold competent badass who's emotions never get the better of him, and who Clint's been half in love with from the start. It's painful, demeaning, even if he knows the man would never hold it against him in a million years.
That almost makes it twice as bad.
Now he can look back and say that yeah, Coulson was right – that Clint hadn't done anything wrong and that Tandy had gone off the damned deep end, that his status as a sub had had nothing to do with his performance on the mission and even if it had, he'd pulled dit off successfully when all the cards were against him. At the time though, it had been hard, harder than he now felt it should've been. It had been confusing and hurtful and anxiety inducing to be praised for his decisions, his disobedience, more so because Clint wasn't used to being praised at all. Even before, when he had sought out professional Doms, his not-so-secret kink hadn't really been indulged.
Hell if a day and a half with Coulson hadn't more than made up for it.
The man was prolific with it, constantly petting Clint and telling him how good he was, how right he had been. The fingers in his hair – that was another thing he remembered vividly, one of the things that were going to fuel his late-night musings and idle day-dreams for a long time to come. All the more reason to regret the fact that he'd been so hazy over the course of their time together, so unable to hold on to what was happening. By the time he'd woken up the next morning he'd been a little more alert, but he'd faded in and out throughout the course of the day, and if it were up to him he would've cherished every moment.
Still does, as best as he possibly can.
He remembers tenderness.
Coulson gently washing his face, giving him simple tasks to complete, short, easy orders that Clint's happy to follow.
He remembers kneeling, both in fear and in resplendent submission.
He remembers being told he's good, being made to say it until he almost believes it and snuggling on the couch.
He remembers wonderful, gentle things, no physical pain at all which, even with Phil, he hadn't expected.
He remembers the kiss.
Holy hell, does he remember that kiss.
Stupid to ask for it.
He hadn't meant to, tried to convince himself not to say it, but the words had come barreling out of his mouth before he could swallow them down. He remembers the look of shock on Coulson's face, the sinking feeling in his belly when he'd asked, demanding out of sheer panic that it wouldn't change anything. He couldn't take the request back but he could make his position clear – he doesn't want to lose what he already has. He doesn't want his relationship with the man ruined by awkwardness or avoidance, exactly the thing he's been fostering since he split.
It had almost been worth it.
That had quite possibly been the most thorough, fond, incredible kiss Clint had ever been given.
Possibly, jeez, definitely.
Absolutely, one hundred percent, ten/ten would beg for again...
Except he'd run.
Clint and the team get picked up and flown back to HQ, and he finds his tac suit cleaned and repaired and hung neatly in his locker. Coulson must finally be back on base then – he doesn't remember exactly where he left the uniform but he knows how to add and he can put two and two together. He doesn't remember getting naked but he remembers a lot of bare skin, unfortunately all his own, and he remembers the hoodie the next day.
Oh yeah, he remembers that hoodie.
He'd turned tail and fled Coulson's apartment so fast he hadn't even bothered to change out of it, and now the damned thing is stuffed in a drawer in his bunk, taunting him.
By the time he's gone through his debrief with Hand, he's feeling itchy and off-balance and makes his retreat. A shower doesn't do much to settle him and neither does pacing, the room too small to afford a satisfactory stride. His mind is moving too fast, trotting around in circles as he puzzles at the whole experience, fights the emotions that won't leave him the hell alone.
Flopping down on the narrow twin bed, Clint throws an arm over his eyes and lets them come.
God, he could just cry with how amazing those few short hours had been. Kinda messed up when you think about it, given the state of his head, but if he hadn't been messed up it would have been perfect. Soft, quiet, dominance and submission without the bondage or the discipline, the sadism or the masochism. Going to his knees for a man he trusts implicitly, a man he's given his all. Gorging on pets and praises and pretty words.
It makes him feel horrifically guilty and more than a little angry with himself.
Phil's words – an honor and a privilege – echo in his ears, but for all his talk of honesty Clint knows the man would have done whatever was necessary to get his asset safely through a drop, any asset.
How could the man have possibly gotten any real enjoyment out of their time together, anything even close to the incredible afternoon Clint had had, when he hadn't done anything for the Dom at all?
Oh sure, he'd followed a few simple commands, answered questions that were asked of him, run a load of dishes, but really what was that in the grand scheme of things?
This was the crux of his issue right here; his sad, desperate need for praise and reassurance and being doted on in the face of his absolute hatred for pain. Typically he only has to deal with anger and bitterness because he can't get exactly that – now that he finally has he's suddenly dealing with a whole new set of problems. He feels ashamed, guilty, like he's left Coulson hanging, and he kind of has, hasn't he?
The man plants the kiss of a lifetime on him and what does Clint do?
He pulls a disappearing act.
Hell, he hasn't even been able to return the man's sweatshirt, obviously well-loved from the way it's worn thin and thready around the cuffs, letters cracked with age, the Dom's scent woven into the fabric.
Clint whimpers and suddenly the thing is in his hands, dresser drawer hanging open as he wrestles the hoodie down over a pillow like some sort of weird scarecrow. He's on his side in the fetal position, curled around it like a teddy bear and clinging tight, and the first, deep breath of sandalwood and cool spice settles something inside of him that had been clawing frantically for freedom just moments before.
He falls asleep like that and he's got the good sense to be embarrassed about it when he wakes up in the morning. Not enough to combat the cowardice that's preventing him from returning it, but it's the sentiment that counts right?
Anyway, kinda works for him because over the course of the next three days it's the only thing that's keeping him level. None of his old tricks are working and he's becoming more and more irritable, twitchy and snappish and aggressive. He spends hours in the gym driving his fellow agents across the mats until finally there's no one left who's stupid enough to challenge him, then heads to the basement to work through every individual weapon the rangemaster will let him check out. He runs himself to exhaustion but the jitters just keep getting worse, so much that he actually considers checking into medical voluntarily.
He's saved that particular indignity by the short reprieve granted him each night by a few hour's dead sleep curled up around that stupid sweatered pillow like a lovelorn teenage cheerleader with her quarterback boyfriend's football jersey.
What, he's from Iowa, shut up.
The high from the beginning of the week is gone, replaced by one helluva nasty mood, and when Friday dawns he finds himself back in the gym one more time, trying to goad a group of roid'ed-up probie agents into a round of three-on-one sparring. They're getting angry and Clint's grin has gone feral when suddenly Fury comes storming in in all of his swirling-leather glory, grabs Clint up by the collar of his shirt and forcibly drags him off the mats.
"I've had just about all I can take of this shit," he declares, almost to himself as he hauls Clint along behind him, hissing and clawing and twisting like a pissed-off cat. "Honestly, you two stupid, stubborn motherfuckers deserve each other."
Clint freezes, stumbles as the words finally register, the direction they're taking as Fury drags him out of the gym and down the hall.
Oh hell no.
Panic sets in and Clint redoubles his efforts to free himself, but people tend to forget that Fury's more than a fearsome figurehead, more than a deskman. He gets Clint in a half-nelson easy as you please and continues to frog march him up the hallway without apparent notice of the attention they're drawing, maintaining running commentary of Clint's most irritating features all the while.
Just as he's weighing the consequences of mule-kicking the Director of SHIELD in the balls and making his escape (like, seriously, for Antarctica), they arrived at a familiar door that's promptly kicked open itself. It makes a terrific bang which serves to scatter the agents who've lined the hallway, watching with unhealthy curiosity. Coulson's sitting behind his desk, looks up blandly like he wasn't startled or surprised at all, and Clint feels his stomach turn as he fights the urge to go completely boneless, to slither out of Fury's grasp until he's puddled on the floor where he belongs.
"Director," Coulson says blandly, his eyes trailing slowly over Clint's stretched form, lingering on his throat where Fury's arm holds him aloft, the strip of skin at his belly where his shirt's ridden up. Clint can feel his gaze, hot but detached, and he has no idea how to read that, how to respond. "How can I help you?"
"You can do your damn job and handle your asset," Fury barks, giving Clint a shake before tossing him toward Phil's desk. He manages to catch his balance but it's a near thing – as quick as he'd go to his knees for Coulson he's not doing it in front of Fury, not here, in his capacity as an agent.
"He's been terrorizing my entire base," Fury snarls, and Clint flinches like he's been struck.
Quietly, unobtrusively, he steps off to the side and falls into parade rest; feet shoulder-width apart, hands clasped behind his back, eyes on the floor.
He'd known he'd been doing it, he had.
Kind of anyway.
He just... hadn't realized how bad it had gotten.
Scowling, Clint listens to Coulson's mild response, doesn't really hear the words. It's just that tone, so cool, so unaffected, the one he hasn't heard since his first two weeks under the senior agent's supervision that cuts. He supposes it's not fair that he's angry – why should Coulson know or care that he's falling apart over here? Sure, he'd stepped in in an emergency but Clint's gotten himself into this, refusing to bow to the desires of a Dominant or kneel for a professional he doesn't know. What the hell has he got to offer Phil – he hadn't even thanked him for his care, for the sacrifice of his time and his attentions in service of seeing Clint safely through his drop! It's clear that Clint's not right for him, not enough for him.
Memories flicker through his mind; Phil's hands gripping his wrists before letting go and taking his hands instead, Phil stiffening when Clint does his best to ask permission to kneel properly and politely, Phil's voice suggesting handfeeding, so flat and flippant when Clint had been ready to go to his knees and plead for it if that was what he wanted...
But of course he hadn't.
"Take a god damn risk for once in your life and fix this," Fury demands, startling him out of his miserable reverie. "You're both on suspension until you get your shit sorted. Show your face in here before then and you're fired. I don't employ fools, chickens, or chumps!"
The door slams behind him before Clint can even blink in confusion, the voice-activated locks clicking without instruction, and then suddenly the walls are caving in on him, too tight and too close and too claustrophobic.
In front of him Phil sits silently, eyeing him speculatively until he sighs and looks away, a frown on his face as he taps a stack of paperwork into order on the edge of his desk.
"Well Agent Barton," he says smoothly, looking over at his computer and clicking on something with a little more force than Clint feels is necessary. "I hear you've been keeping med bay in sufficient supply of patients."
"Oh bullshit!" Clint snaps, folding his arms over his chest and resisting the urge to stamp his foot as irritability flares hot and fast in his belly. "Nobody went to medical. It's your fault anyway!"
Phil freezes and Clint goes dead still, wonders if he's finally pushed the man to his limits and if that's been his intention all along.
Because what they'd done, what he'd been given over those two days?
Hell, it might be worth it.
Might be worth gritting his teeth and suffering through a flogging for.
Really there's only one way to find out.
"I beg your pardon?" Phil says, in that cold, calm voice that makes bad guys shiver, and when had it stopped being Coulson and started being Phil? "Pray tell, exactly, how this is my fault."
And well, he wants to know.
Not like Clint can keep it bottled up much longer anyway.
"I was fine before this!" he explodes, his hands balling up into fists as the emotions come flooding out. "Before you. Hadn't gone down for a Dom in years, and I was doing just fine! I had a system, I had rules, I knew what I deserved. Then you come along and blow it all to hell with the petting and the praising and the kiss..."
Chest heaving, Clint realizes that he's actually been shouting and he forces himself to relax, to rock back on his heels, to calm his breathing and unclench his hands. Coulson's been silent through his tirade, listening patiently like he always does, but there's something hot in the way he's staring and it makes Clint want to squirm, makes him want to apologize not as an agent who's crossed the line but as a submissive who's blatantly ignored it.
Clint licks his lips, cheeks hot, breathes until his heart stops pounding.
"You promised," he finally says sulkily, looking down at his boots and scuffing his toe across the floor. "You promised nothing would be different, that we'd still..."
Only it's not Coulson's fault, it's Clint's.
It's always Clint's.
He's the one that ran away, that was too scared of a little pain and disappointment to maybe take a chance.
Jesus, he jumps off buildings and gets shot on the regular and he won't buckle down and take a whipping every once in a while for a chance with the man he's been stupid in love with forever?
Now he's standing here making heated accusations that he knows aren't true of the guy who's just given him the best twenty-four hours of his life, all without so much as a thank you.
"Agent Barton I'm going to ask you a very important question and I want you to answer me to the best of your ability," Phil says in that calm, collected voice before Clint can go crawl into a hole and die of shame. "I'm fairly certain I already know the answer but I need to be sure, and I need you to be the one to tell me."
Clint's head jerks up and he frowns at his handler, no idea where this is going, but he firms his jaw and squares his shoulders anyway, lands his gaze on a spot just beyond the man's shoulder.
Phil pauses and from his peripheral vision Clint sees him put on a frown of his own before sighing, leaning back in his chair and touching his fingertips together.
"Then answer me this Agent Barton," he says carefully. "Is this you, the agent, needing something from me as your handler? Or is this you, the submissive, asking something of me as a Dom?"
Clint's heart skips a beat and his entire body goes cold, his muscles locking up like he's been tased.
Shit, that's not what he... well, kind of but... he hadn't really meant to...
"You don't..." he begins, but Coulson cuts him off with a sharp snap.
"That's not an answer Clint!"
Coulson never calls him Clint, never uses his first name, not here, not in his office, never...
Never, except last week, when he'd called him Clint and sweetheart and good boy...
Clint feels a whimper well up in his throat and he's thankful, not for the first time, that senior agent offices are soundproofed.
"I..." He stammers when Phil continues to wait him out. "I'm not... right. Feel off. I don't... 's just been so long, I didn't..."
A moment passes and he can't look up, can't make any more sense of the emotions tumbling around inside of him than that.
"Clint. I'd like to take you home with me and take you down. Is that something you'd like?"
Clint's pretty sure his eyes go the size of dinner plates and he can't believe what he's hearing, cause there's no way this is happening right now. Not to him. Not when Coulson's voice has gone gentle and low and coaxing, like he thinks he needs to pour honey in Clint's ear to convince him to follow anywhere Phil leads.
He can't want that, can't be asking that. Clint doesn't get to have nice things, doesn't get second chances, and anyway, why would...
Phil looks surprised by the question, as surprised as Clint feels, and he manages to clear his throat and actually speak instead of just croaking when he tries to explain.
"Just, last time you didn't... why would you..."
"You think you're the only one who's felt off since what happened last week?"
It's wry, almost amused, and it gives Clint the courage to look up, to really see the man in front of him. He's got a self-deprecating little half smirk on his face but now that Clint's really looking he seems... wrong. He looks pale and clammy, like his hands would shake if he had to hold anything heavier than a pen, dark, heavy circles bruising the tender skin beneath his eyes. He looks sick, not like Coulson, and that...
That scares him.
Coulson's eyes darken because he hears the difference in the honorific this time, of course he does.
Getting to his feet, Coulson slowly rounds the desk, prowls over to him and stops just inches away, well inside Clint's personal space and more than welcome there. The closeness, his mere physical presence soothes something that's been raging in Clint's breast for days and he lets out a shaky sigh, his eyes fluttering closed.
"Clint. If you need something from me as your handler ask me for it now."
Clint licks his lips nervously and risks a peek, because Coulson's just so close and so calm and sounds so ever-loving-sure of himself that he has to. His eyes are dark and deep and they're cutting him to the quick, but hell if it doesn't look like Coulson actually wants this. Warning bells in the back of his mind say maybe he just wants a chance to finally punish Clint after all these years of dealing with his sass and his silliness, these last few days of acting out, but the rest of him fiercely silences them.
New approach: Fuck It, so what if he does?
"Ask me now Clint," Coulson says again, and this time it's a warning. "Because this is your last chance. Ask me for a mission, or more range time, or turn around and walk out that door. I'll give you whatever you want, but if it's none of those things, if this is you needing something else..."
The pause is so long that Clint opens his eyes again, just in time to see Coulson swallow hard, flick his eyes across the hollow of Clint's throat. He sees Clint watching and meets his gaze, holds it hard, and he feels like the man is actually looking inside of him, all the way to his heart, his most base self.
"If it's none of those things then I am going to take you home," he finally finishes. "And we're going to do this right. Full disclosure, full consent, full choice."
"And it is your choice Clint," he adds, taking a single, determined step back. "But god help me, I'm only a man. So you need to make it now."
His choice to make, to reach out and grab for it or not.
Only seems right. He may not like it, but it seems right. Coulson's the careful one, the one with plans on plans on plans, with backups and contingencies and every scrap of information he can find before he makes a move. Clint, he's the gamble, the risk taker, the one who wings it, jumps and hopes for the best, tries not to let fear (or too much common sense) hold him back.
So really what else can he do but brace himself, make his decision, and slide slowly to his knees?
Hello my darlings! If you're enjoying this go check out the new story it's spawned - "Gettin' Lucky" - a happy fluffy puppy-play fic! Plus, you know, review and stuff ;) Love you all <3<3
"All right then."
It should have happened in a flurry after that.
Felt like it should've anyway.
If things had been just a little different Phil would've pounced on Clint the moment he slid to the floor, knelt so prettily for him in silent declaration of his choice.
His chest was nearly full to bursting with emotion, his furiously pounding heart, but he forced himself to take a staying breath, to step back and collect himself. There's anxiety there, uncertainty about exactly what Clint thinks this is, but more than anything there's a terrible, fearful joy in him, an excitement that's unparalleled to anything he can ever remember feeling.
It's a stark contrast to the drag of top drop that he's been experiencing these last ten days, harder and longer and more intense than he'd been expected. When Clint had bolted out of his apartment after the kiss... it hadn't been good. He'd ended up crawling into bed less than an hour later and staying there for a good long while, curled up in a nest of pillows that did a poor job of mimicking another human form, shivering and shaking and breathing hard. He hadn't even been able to drag himself in to SHIELD the next day, and things had only gotten worse when he finally realized Clint was avoiding him.
Hadn't stopped him from looking for the archer, from jumping every time there was a knock at his door.
He'd been three minutes from logging out and going home when Fury had come charging in, Clint hooked neatly under one arm like some sort of angry, animate suitcase.
He knows Fury's pissed with him. He's been moping all week, his work unaffected but his attitude unbearable as he fights the chills and the nausea, the physical repercussions of his drop. The mental and emotional tangle is even worse, uncertainty constantly plaguing him as his nature forces him to go over and over each and every detail, to find where he went wrong. It's exhausting, but there's nothing he can do except work through it until it fades, no matter what Nick threatens him with.
He just... didn't expect him to change his tactics and come bearing gifts.
As soon as his eyes light on Clint relief goes sweeping through him, clearing all the awful rest away. It's calming, painfully reassuring just to see him, to see that he's here and he's ok, and then suddenly it's a spark of anger and irritation and get your fucking hands off him because Fury's got an arm against Clint's throat, got him bowed backward like he's about to force him to his knees.
The Director must have seen the flash of heat that Phil had felt course through his body, because the bastard had look unbearably smug as he'd tossed Clint toward Phil's desk. He'd hardly heard the words Nick had spoken because it was the challenge, the ultimatum that he'd thrown down that mattered.
For fuck's sake, get your shit together Coulson.
He's heard it before over the years when Fury's gotten fed up with his pining over a certain asset. The man's been poking at him with sharper and sharper sticks to just open his mouth and speak, but he's never played his hand so baldly before.
Seems Phil will have to find a way to thank him.
Although, he could very well be getting ahead of himself.
Reaching out, he runs a tentative hand through Clint's hair, unsure of his welcome now when things are different. Yes, Clint's been a little hellion these last few days, but Phil doesn't think it's drop. Just reacting, lashing out maybe, and that's fair. The man said it himself – he's been fine, working on his own system until Tandy and later Phil came in and turned that all upside down. It wouldn't be fair to expect him to know how to deal with the aftermath alone, to expect him to go right back to how he was before.
It eases a tension he hadn't even realized he was carrying when Clint whines and leans into the touch. Phil cups his cheek for a moment, lets him nuzzle subconsciously against his palm before stepping back again.
Clint rises smoothly to his feet, blinking back the haze in his eyes. It's good to see that he hasn't gone down, that he's still alert and aware. That's something Phil will take great pleasure in changing later, if all goes well, but for now he needs Clint up, independent, and capable, the amazing man he is.
"I want you to go to your bunk and pack a bag Clint," he says, watching carefully for any sign of distress resulting from the order, from the prospect of separation, now matter how short. "Pack whatever you'd like for the weekend, then meet me back here. Twenty minutes Clint. Then we'll go."
Clint licks his lips, nervous as he looks at him through long, dark eyelashes, but then he offers up a shy, tentative half-smile and a nod, shooting for the door at what for him is practically a skip.
Phil just appreciates a moment to catch his breath.
His heart is pounding furiously, excitement and eagerness hot in his blood, pulse thumping in his wrists and he is getting ahead of himself, he knows it. Clint's obviously had a rough week; he may very well be looking for a quick, simple scene to help level him out, and nothing more. Phil's the one who so desperately wants more, a relationship, one that goes beyond Domming and subbing or his ability to provide Clint with an outlet.
Part of it is his drop talking, he knows that. It will be something he needs to keep in check this weekend, something he'll need to stay aware of. He won't risk this chance by scaring Clint off, moving too fast. First date's not exactly the best time to pop the question, and a first scene, a first real scene, isn't the time or the place for offering a collar, for dropping the "L" word.
So. Far. Ahead.
Taking a deep breath, Phil checks his watch and shuts down his station, getting everything cleared out for the weekend. He leaves his paperwork half complete – Fury's put him on suspension, he can deal with the aftermath. Phil's mind is in too much of a tangle to get any more work done anyway.
Clint comes back at twenty minutes on the dot with his jump bag slung over his shoulder and he's looking so nervously proud of himself for it that Phil can't but run his palm down the length of the man's forearm, guide him out of the office by touching the tips of his fingers to the small of Clint's back. They'll have to talk about that eventually, the separation of work and play, of Dom and handler, because Clint's already blurring the lines, but that's all coming, and besides, Clint could use a little positive reinforcement where punctuality is concerned.
Oh, this afternoon is going to be a fight isn't it?
Especially since he's really hoping Clint can stay up while they have this discussion, when they finally go over all the little things that aren't so little, all the things they didn't have the chance to go over before.
If this is going to work though, if Phil's going to be comfortable and Clint's going to be safe, if they're going to determine their potential compatibility once and for all it cannot be avoided.
So many things, so many things he needs to know and have confirmed, and yet the only things he can think of on the drive back to Phil's apartment are the things he wants to do; things he wants to do to Clint and with Clint and for Clint.
It puts a tight knot of eagerness and anticipation in the pit of his belly, and he hopes that's what Clint is feeling too.
He can't quite judge it from the way the sniper's knee is bouncing, if it's excitement or anxiety.
Halfway home, Phil swings into a little Chinese place he likes to get his take out from and sits Clint down for lunch, orders cartons of beef lo mein, egg drop soup, and crispy spring rolls. They both eat with gusto, finish everything on the table, and even though they don't talk much it's not an uncomfortable silence. Phil cracks his fortune cookie on the way out the door, hands Clint the wafer while he reads his lucky numbers. On the other side of the tiny slip a message is printed in pink ink, and Phil very nearly barks a laugh.
New ventures will bring prosperity in the future.
Well, it's as good a blessing as he can hope for he supposes.
By the time they get to the apartment the tension has ratcheted back up between them until it's almost unbearable, and Clint's fingers are trilling along the strap of his duffel anxiously as he steps inside. He toes his boots off dutifully and tucks them into the coat closet beside Phil's army of neatly shined shoes before following him into the living room. He looks around a bit when Phil takes the bag, and that's at least a little better than the last time he was here, more reassuring than the drop-dead stare he'd sported a week or so ago. Clint circles the room slowly while Phil tucks his bag away under one of the side tables, taking in the sightlines and the angles, stopping and frowning when he reaches the trap corner.
"I know," Phil chuckles, straightening up and shedding his suit jacket, dropping it onto the arm of the couch. His tie follows and the first two buttons of his shirt, and Clint's eyes are following his movements, his tongue flicking out over his lower lip when Phil starts to roll up his sleeves. He's not immune to a look like that so he takes his time, tugging the tails of his shirt free before slowly unbuckling his belt and sliding it from the loops. He'd only meant to get a little more comfortable, to dress down a bit before they really got into this, but, like flipping a switch, Clint goes suddenly and abruptly pale, his eyes going to the floor.
"Are you going to hit me?" he mumbles, and it's small and fearful and horribly, horribly determined, and Phil has to bite his tongue and clench his fists to keep from rushing to him, from gathering him in close.
"Why would I hit you Clint?" he asks carefully, rolling the belt up into a neat coil and placing it on the couch with the rest before walking down to the other end.
"Because I was bad. Back at base."
"Ah," Phil says, sitting down in the corner of the couch and getting comfortable, one arm stretched out easily along the back as he watches the submissive in front of him.
He's ducking his head, showing deference, but it's different this time than the last, not so hurt, not so frightened. There's more of his agent in there, more of Hawkeye than had been missing last time – this is Clint resigned to a fate he sees coming and steeling himself against it. It still makes Phil feel a bit sick to his stomach – this is the look Clint wears when he's been kidnapped and tied to a chair and the first ham-fisted goon steps in to toy with him. The look that says ok, yeah, time to buckle down now.
Atypical be damned – that's the first thing he's going to address.
"Well, you weren't so very bad," he says gently, with a little humor thrown in. "After all, nobody went to medical."
Clint looks up at him sharply, narrows his eyes.
"But that doesn't matter Clint," he continues, now that he's finally got the man meeting his gaze. "I'm not going to hit you. Not with a belt, not because you were bad. Not ever."
Clint's face does something complicated, something that Phil can't read, and he bites back a sigh.
"That's why you're going to come sit down and we’re going to talk," he says, relieved in spite of his good sense when the sub immediately scowls, shows his teeth in a sneer. "About my limits, about what I am and am not willing to give you. What I can't give you. We'll talk about what I like and what I don't like, what I'm willing to compromise on, and then it will be your turn. Do you remember your rules Clint?"
"Safeword if I need to," he huffs, folding his arms and looking away petulantly. "Stop to stop, slow down to slow down."
Phil waits, to see if he remembers the other, if he has the courage to speak it.
Fuck it's heartfelt, heatedly so, and Clint's gaze snaps back to his, cautiously receptive to the praise. Oh that's going to be a kink for him, for Clint too apparently, those two little words with so much power. That's fine – he can use that. Positive reinforcement has always been so much more effective where Clint is concerned than punishment, than pain, operant conditioning at its finest.
His says it sternly, sharply, though he doesn't bark it. It's his shut up and listen tone, just biting enough to catch a chatty, flirtatious sniper's serious attention, and catch some attention it does. Clint's jaw snaps shut so hard his teeth click and he drops his eyes, falls into formal, passive standing pose.
Pretty, just like his formal kneel, but Phil isn't so easily distracted.
"This is important," he says intently. "I want you to do this for me. I can make it an order if that will make it easier Clint, but we are going to talk about this. So. What's it going to be? Will making it an order make it easier?"
Clint scoffs, shakes his head a little sadly.
"Shouldn't," he mumbles. "Don't want it to. But..."
Finally Clint looks up, tilts his head and takes in Phil's deliberately relaxed pose.
"This is really that important to you?"
"Yes it is Clint. Very important to me."
Clint licks his lips nervously and nods.
"Then tell me what you want. Sir."
"All right then. I know this kind of thing is hard for you – it's hard for me too. But this is not a punishment Clint. So I'm going to ask you again, would you like to sit up here with me, or would you like to kneel?"
"Kneel please Sir."
He doesn't even take a moment to think about it, doesn't use the third person that makes Phil so uncomfortable, and both of these things are reassuring.
Phil fights a smile as he slowly lets out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding.
"Go get the kneeling pillow then," he instructs.
He's tucked it under the armchair and the smallest gesture sends Clint after it, going to his knees to pull it out. It's thick and soft and plush, a dark, jewel purple and the submissive grins as he crawls back across the floor to place it at Phil's feet.
"Been doing some shopping Sir?"
"Maybe," Phil admits, letting the smile through this time. That tends to be another unfortunate side-effect of his top drop; spending too much time on the internet with his credit card in hand. It's how he's ended up with so much stuff stockpiled away and no sub to lavish it on. "Maybe I was just hoping."
"Hoping for what Sir?"
Well, it's as good an opening as any.
"That maybe I might be able to lure a certain sub back with presents and petting and praise."
Clint looks up from where he's bowed his head, eyes flashing as he recognizes a mimic of his own harsh words.
"I like you Clint," Phil says in a rush, forcing himself to say it while he's got this chance. "I have, for a long time."
Clint stares like he can't believe what he's hearing and then he's shaking his head, and Phil feels his heart start to sink.
"You don't even know me," he says, and those words are like a knife in his chest but Clint keeps going. "You don't... all that stuff, my limits and the stuff I can't do... you don't know any of that."
Frowning, his own heartbreak abruptly forgotten in the face of Clint's sudden distress, Phil leans forward and takes his chin between his fingers.
"Clint. I said I like you," he stresses. "That means the you I do know, the you I've spent years working with, the you who's my friend. The man whose favorite color is any variation of the color purple, who will eat absolutely anything if there's enough cheese on top, the man who cares about the junior agents on his team and who can hit a moving target at five hundred yards without even trying. The man who taught Android Agent Coulson how to laugh over the comms..."
Clint's breathing has slowed and he's staring at Phil with the damned world in his eyes, but Phil himself can hardly breath at all. His heart is thundering in his chest like a thousand runaway horses as he chokes up all his best-and-worst kept secrets, biting back the one word he really wants to say.
"I like you," he repeats carefully, letting go of Clint and leaning back again. "You're right, I don't know you as a submissive yet. But I want to. That's why we're here, that's why we're talking. So that we can both decide, together, if this is something we want."
Phil can feel every muscle in his body holding tense, waiting, but Clint's just kneeling there, staring up at him with those gorgeous kaleidoscope eyes of his and Phil wonders if maybe this wasn't a mistake, if maybe never knowing would be easier than this, rejection or a gentle letdown.
"Fuck Sir," Clint breathes, and aw hell, here it comes. "I... I like you too."
"Never known anyone like you," Clint admits shyly, and Phil can't do a damn thing but sit there in stunned, stupid shock with his heart in his throat. "Never trusted anyone the way I trust you. Hell it's been so long since I've gone to my knees for somebody like that I..."
Clint drags in a breath, visibly steadies himself, before looking up at Phil and holding himself so open it hurts.
"I'm sorry Sir," he says seriously. "I should have thanked you last time. You didn't have to take care of me like that but... it meant a lot. I like you, I've always liked you, I just never thought...
Sighing, he straightens his shoulders.
"Anyway. Should have said it then, saying it now. Thank you Sir."
"Giving up already Barton?" Phil asks, swallowing thickly.
That's what it sounds like, and would be just his luck. His brain is still struggling hard with the simple truth that yes, Clint does like him back, and maybe that's not the same as what Phil feels, but it's already more than he could've hoped for. That had gone... better than he'd expected – he's not sure how he'll fare if Clint takes it back now.
"No Sir," he says, somewhat forlornly, hanging his head. "Just... not sure you won't."
Phil frowns, because he's pretty damn sure there isn't much out there to make him change his mind. Hell, even if Clint's a serious masochist, there's still a chance that they can make this work right?
In his heart he knows he's lying to himself – he's tried that before and he's fairly certain he won't even be able to make the attempt with Clint. Hurting the man at his feet is the last thing he wants to do. He... he thinks he might try though, if only because it would be too hard to let him go without trying.
He's certainly not foolish enough to think that he could somehow share Clint, have a relationship of any sort that involved sending him off to some other Dom for the harder play he needs that Phil can't provide.
"I don't like pain," he blurts out, surprising himself with the sudden outburst. "I don't like hurting my sub. I don't own a whip or a cane or a cat, never owned a flogger or studded cuffs."
Clint's staring at him with something like fearful hesitancy on his face and Phil can't stop himself from leaning forward, taking his face in his hands.
"I won't belt or beat you Clint," he says strongly, shaking his head and stroking his thumbs over the blond's cheekbones. "I don't want to hurt you. It's not something I've ever enjoyed, and it's certainly not something I'd enjoy doing to you. But..."
Phil takes a breath, bites his lip.
"But if it's something you need, or something you like, if it's just a little... I can try ok? We can talk about it and I can..."
It comes out like a yelp and Phil's heart jumps into his throat, but he's grounded by the way Clint latches onto his wrists, grips him hard and holds on.
"No. Why would you say that, why would you..."
Phil misinterprets the frantic mumbles, feels his heart plummet again.
"Clint," he says firmly, waiting until the man settles before going on. "A relationship is about compromise. It's about two people, and what they both want. I don't like pain play or impact play, but if it's something you like then..."
It's flatter, firmer, calmer this time, and Phil sighs, wonders if it's finally over before it's begun.
"I don't... I don't like it either."
Clint's whispering this time, hoarse and disbelieving, and Phil knows how he feels, because in all his years he's never come across a submissive who's claimed a dislike for pain. He'd given up a long time ago on finding someone compatible with his own preferred play style, and yet here at his feet is Clint Barton, a man he's already in love with (yes, love), telling him he doesn't like it either. It's hard to hear the words he's forcing out, to focus, when all he can think about is drawing him in and kissing him senseless, but he'd promised a talk, insisted on it, so he pushes away his great, surging hope and tries to listen.
"...being hurt, and I just... never liked it. Feels like work, 's not any fun, and I freak out and it's just..."
Clint's babbling now, trying to explain himself, and Phil feels a warm, fond chuckle well up in his chest.
"I don't want to hurt you Clint," he reassures, and Clint's words dry up, no doubt because it sounds like a promise.
Leaning forward, he presses their foreheads together, closes his eyes and feels Clint settle beneath him. This moment, so quiet, so perfect, so much more than he ever thought it could be encourages the words up and out of his chest where they live, hot and heartfelt.
"Wanted this for a long time," he murmurs. "I've watched you for years, thought about you going to those professional Doms, someone who doesn't know you the way I do... Wanted more than anything to bring you home, treat you the way you deserve."
"I don't know what I deserve," he whispers miserably, and when Phil pulls back he sees hot tears rolling down Clint's cheeks from behind closed eyes. "I... I've always been bad, they've always... everybody hits, everybody likes to hurt and I... I hate it. Seems like no matter how hard I try..."
"You're a lot of things Clint," he says, cradling the man's face between his hands. "But bad's not one of them. If pain is something you don't like, no Dom should want it from you. No Dom should expect it from you, and certainly no Dom should take it from you."
Silence passes and Clint opens his eyes, lifts his gaze and stares with awestruck, hopeful fear.
"This isn't real," he breathes, and yeah, Phil knows that feeling. "No one... no one's this perfect."
Phil laughs, full and happy and reaches out to run his hand over Clint's hair, smiling.
"I'm far from perfect Clint, as a man or as a Dom. But it seems that perhaps we're more compatible than I had hoped we would be. So what do you think sweetheart?" he asks, reaching down and swiping the tears from Clint's cheeks. "Willing to give this a chance?"
Clint doesn't answer him, at least not with words. Instead he launches himself up from his knees into Phil's lap, straddling his thighs and kissing him hard and determined and insistent, his fingers curled around Phil's neck and gripping hard. It puts a little thrill through him – he doesn't really like taking pain any more than he likes giving it, but the bruises Clint had left on his forearm during his subdrop had long since faded, and Phil finds himself wanting more.
He returns the hold and pushes back, up into the kiss, lets Clint lick and bite at his mouth with desperate fervor. He needs this and so does Phil, the physical press and weight of each other's bodies, knowing that the other is really there. It's a kiss that's nearly as good as the last, fiery and even more desperate, and Clint whines when he finally pulls back, but he doesn't get far because Phil's got a tight grip on his hips.
"I'll take that as a yes then."
"Take it as a fuck yes Sir," Clint says breathlessly, a grin splitting his face before he leans in and murmurs in his ear. "Or a fuck me."
Phil's mouth goes dry as Clint purrs, rolls his hips beneath his hands. It answers a few questions at least – Clint's clearly looking for more than a quick go-down – but he sees through the ruse as well.
"Trying to distract me sweetheart?" he asks, tamping down on a shiver as Clint's lips trail along his jaw toward his throat.
"Depends, is it working Sir?"
Phil smiles, hums, then pecks him quick and chaste on the mouth.
"Not quite. Come on, off."
It takes a minute and a few more happy kisses but he gets them situated on the couch, nearly lying down with Phil underneath and Clint once again lying against his chest. It's incredibly soothing for Phil after the top drop he's experienced these last few days and he's tempted to fall into it, but they still have some things they need to get through.
Eager to model a little give and take, a little open communication, Phil starts.
"I don't like pain play," he says again, his hands stroking long and slow down Clint's sides. "I have soft limits on some forms of impact play, so we can talk about that if you want."
He can feel Clint plucking at his shirt where it's loose around his waist, can feel him considering the statement.
"What kinda stuff..."
Phil smiles, squeezes Clint's hips.
"You've got a great ass Clint. Wouldn't mind smacking it a little, just for fun, if that's something you'd like too. Not as punishment, not to hurt you, more just to get my hands on it."
Clint's quiet but Phil can practically hear him grinning shyly.
"Thought about my ass a lot Sir?"
"A lot more than I should," he admits. "No canes. No paddles, no whips, no flogging. Absolutely no blood play, or knife play, or scat play. I don't know anything about electrolysis and CBT makes me cringe."
"Ugh, me too," Clint grumbles, shuddering dramatically. "No crushing my nuts or whipping my dick."
"Agreed," Phil chuckles. "What about you Clint? What's an absolute no?"
"All that stuff," Clint replies, and Phil was expecting that. It's the easy answer, but he's hoping Clint will add to the list, so he waits him out. "I mean, there's nothing I can't take, you know that. I just... don't like being hurt."
Phil sighs, wraps him in a hug and pulls him closer, nuzzles his hair with his cheek.
"I do. know that Clint," he murmurs. "You're one of the strongest and most resilient men I've ever met. But this isn't torture or interrogation training. I don't want you biting your lip and taking it. I want this to be fun, to feel good for both of us. Do you understand?"
"Yes Sir. It's just..."
"Just what Clint?"
"It's just different," he huffs sharply, and Phil can feel him tensing up all along his body. "Never done this with someone I trust before. I hate kneeling for the jerks at SHIELD who think I should but I like kneeling for you. Love kneeling for you. So how do I know? All that stuff, the bondage and the gags and the blindfolds... I hate all that stuff. It's always freaked me out. Then last weekend happened, with you, and you... everything's all messed up in my head and I don’t even know what I like anymore and how stupid is that..."
"Hey, hey, easy," Phil soothes, surprised by how suddenly Clint's mood had turned, how quickly he'd become frustrated and anxious. He thinks he knows what the true cause is, where Clint's confusion and fear are stemming from, but for now it's more important to reassure him.
"Easy," he murmurs, stroking his hand down Clint's spine rhythmically, feeling the warm, firm muscle through his t-shirt. "You're all right. You're doing so well for me Clint. There are no rules that say you have to have this all figured out right now. Kinks change, what we like changes depending on who we're with and where we are and how we feel. You're ok."
Clint hiccoughs a bit, catches his breath, then slowly relaxes, breathing through the impending panic.
"Sorry Sir," he mutters, burying his face in Phil's shirt, but he shakes his head, squeezes his bicep.
"No need to be sorry. You're doing fine Clint. Let's talk about something that's got you confused ok? We'll pick one thing, and we'll talk it out. Yes?"
No answer, just a hesitant nod of the head.
"Ok. Do you have something in mind, or should I pick?"
"Y... You pick Sir."
"Alright. Tell me how you feel about blindfolding Clint."
All the muscles in the sub's body lock up again and his breathing catches, speeds up, and Phil amends the question.
"How did you feel about it before? In the past, with other Doms?"
"Was with anybody," he says quickly, "Doesn't matter when, or where. I'm Hawkeye, you know how I am. If I can't see then who am I? What can I..."
"So before it would have been a hard limit, if you'd had your way."
"So last week, when I asked you to close your eyes, how did you feel?"
Clint breathes hard through his nose, moves to find Phil's hand and latches on tight when he offers it.
"Was different, different times, but... mostly ok. If I could..."
"Feel me," Phil concludes. "If you knew that I was still there."
"Yeah. Know you wouldn't... let anything happen. Know that. 'S just..."
Phil understands that – it's a difficult thing to train in or out of any agent, let alone the Amazing Hawkeye. His eyesight is part of his legacy, his legend. Giving it up is not only making himself vulnerable - in Clint's mind, it's making himself less.
"How did having your eyes closed make you feel Clint?"
"Scared," he responds automatically, "But... good too. I don't know, it was like I could focus better, didn't have to worry about as much..."
"So verbal blindfolding was ok when you knew I was still there."
"We won't dive into anything," Phil promises, "But I want you to think about it a little bit for a while. Decide if it's something you'd like to explore. A soft limit. Does that sound all right?"
"Yeah. Um, yes, Sir. That... sounds ok."
Clint trails off and Phil glances down, sees him chewing his lip.
"Clint, you can always ask me questions ok? In fact, let's make that another rule, right now. Always safeword when you need to, be honest, ask questions. Understand?"
"Yeah sure," Clint mumbles, turning his head so that he can't catch Phil's eyes. "Just... Sir, what do you like?"
Phil sighs and hums happily, his eyes closed and a smile on his face as he wiggles down deeper into the couch cushions, taking Clint with him.
"I like sensation play," he says dreamily, mind immediately flooding with a dozen ideas, a dozen desires. "I like body worship. I like touching and tasting and teasing, until I know my sub upside down and inside out, until they don't just want to cum for me, they need to cum."
"Edging," Clint supplies, and Phil grins at the way the sub's hips twitch.
"Sometimes. I like a little bondage, more Shibari than Western style. Ropes and silk to make you look pretty, not confine you. I like dirty talk and domestic service..."
Phil pauses because now Clint's shifting in a totally different way, going just a little stiff and stilted.
"That's something you don't like?" he ventures, posing the question carefully. It surprises him a little – Clint's got the mouth of the Army sniper he is, and he likes to run it.
"Just... I don't like humiliation," he blurts, and Phil feels his stomach drop, even though he's lying down. "I hate... being told I'm bad, or a slut, or worthless, or... or all those things that Tandy..."
"Oh Clint, no," Phil interrupts, pushing against the cushions and sitting them up, taking Clint's face in his hands. "Nothing like that, ever. I promise."
Clint's eyes fill with tears and his lower lip wobbles, and wow, Phil's going to have to watch out for that look because it makes him want to promise him the world.
"I'm gonna be bad," he whispers hoarsely. "I wanna be good, I try to be good, but..."
"Everybody makes mistakes sweetheart," Phil says, brushing back his hair. "Everybody messes up. Even me sometimes. There are going to be a few bumps in this road, just like in any relationship, but we'll deal with them together, when they come."
"But they already did," Clint sobs, his face falling, and now it makes more sense.
"You mean what happened back at base?" he asks, and Clint nods forlornly. "Clint, do you think you need to be punished for that?"
"Do... Do you Sir?"
No, he doesn't, but Clint clearly does, and a part of being a submissive is a biological demand for balancing the scales, serving penance for wrongs done. This is a trap, whether Clint intends it to be or not, worse, a test. Something in his system is telling him that he does deserve a punishment for his behavior, and he won't be able to move past that until it's been addressed.
"I don't think you deserve a punishment for having an attitude, or sparring too hard, or being a pain in Fury's ass," he says. "If you did, I'd address it as your handler, when you stood in front of my desk as an agent. I won't punish you for that as your Dom. But Clint, you didn't come to me when you needed help. You didn't ask."
Phil takes a breath, collects his thoughts.
"I know that's hard for you," he says. "I know it's not something you're use to. We didn't have a contract at the time, but I was the one who'd taken you down, and I was the one responsible for you. You should have come to me Clint. So this is what we're going to do. Your punishment, starting now and until I tell you otherwise, is that you ask me. Anything and everything you want Clint, anything and everything you need, you're going to come and ask me for. You understand?"
Clint's staring at him like he's grown another head, like this isn't a real punishment, but Phil suspects it's going to be a lot harder for him than he thinks. The rest of it is surprise, difficulty understanding, and that's understandable given the ways he's likely been punished in the past.
"In any case it ought to improve our communication don't you think?" he chuckles, and it actually pulls a small grin from the archer.
"You're a good boy," he says, leaning forward and pressing a kiss to Clint's forehead, pleased when he pinks up and ducks his head, delighted with the man's bashful response to praise. "You did very well for me Clint. I know that was tough, and we'll have more to talk about later, but for now you did very well."
Clint smiles dopily, and his body sags a little as he sinks into the couch. He's tired, showing it now that the talk and the punishment are technically over and done, dished out. It's only mid-afternoon but Phil absolutely understands – he's exhausted and emotionally drained, and he's practically shaking with the need to hold Clint close, to cuddle the submissive and reassure himself that he's there, present, safe and content. It's the drop, he knows that, the near-desperate need to touch, the same need for skin-on-skin contact Clint had shown.
"So good for me," he murmurs. "Go put on some sweats and then come back. We've got the rest of the day off and I'm thinking that some bad TV and a nap sound... really, really good right now. I'll even let you pick the show, since you've been so good."
This gets a full, excited smile and Clint's off the couch like a shot, grabbing his bag and dashing for the bathroom. Phil grins and rises at a more sedate pace, slips into his bedroom to change then back to the kitchen for drinks. There's milk and Hershey's syrup in the fridge because he knows chocolate milk is Clint's favorite and he'd been trying anything he could think of to ease his own drop there at the end, so he stirs together two glasses and heads for the couch.
Clint's already there, back on his kneeling pillow, his fingers tracing the corner near his knee, and when he looks up at Phil's entrance there's still astonished disbelief in his eyes. It will take some time, he thinks, to get rid of that look, to really make Clint understand that he wants this, that he meant what he said and that they can work, but he's willing to chip away at it until he does. He hands the glass down with a smile of fondness and Clint takes it in both hands, thanks him sweetly before taking a long sip.
Phil chuckles when Clint surfaces with a milk mustache, decides to tease him a little just because he finally can. Reaching down, he wipes the milk away and lifts it to his own lips, sucking the sweetness from the pad of his thumb. Clint's eyes darken and dilate and he licks his lips unconsciously, stares at Phil's mouth and Phil wants to kiss him badly, but even more he wants Clint to ask for it.
He is being punished after all.
For a second he thinks Clint will do it, even if it will be more of a cocky, Agent Barton demand than a quietly submissive request, but in the end he just lowers his head to hide a bashful smile, and that's almost as good. Setting his own glass on the table beside the armchair, he settles back into the corner of the couch and waves Clint up off his pillow.
"Come here," he says quietly, and Clint goes happily, snuggles in on top of Phil's chest in what he's quickly coming to feel will be their signature snuggle position.
He heaves a sigh when Clint's weight finally settles on top of him, his arms slipping around the submissive's waist. Leaning down, he takes a deep breath of Clint's shampoo, lets the scent and the sight and the solidity of the man quell the banked anxiety still simmering in the pit of his stomach. This is better, this is right, this is what he's been looking for, needing ever since Clint walked out on him, and it soothes his Dominant nature in a way that none of his other techniques had.
"Better get comfortable sweetheart," he warns, handing Clint the remote. "I'm not letting you go any time soon."
He can tell the minute the reality of his punishment really starts to set in for Clint. The submissive's been terribly good for him, quiet and still, watching Dog Cops and letting Phil hold him close. He's practically asleep, holding Clint close against his chest, basking in the man's presence and soothing his own irritated psyche when he starts to get restless, fidgeting.
Phil suppresses a smirk – he's been expecting this. It had to happen eventually; Clint had finished off his chocolate milk and they've been on the couch for nearly two and a half hours now. To tell the truth he's starting to get a bit uncomfortable himself, but he's been holding out, waiting for Clint to understand.
The archer starts to squirm and when that doesn't work tries to push up off Phil's chest but he just tightens his grip on the man, holding him close and humming under his breath.
"What is it sweetheart?"
He can practically feel Clint's blush it's so hot, sees him bite his lip before answering hesitantly.
"I uh, I gotta go."
Clint pauses, an almost comical double-take as if he's wondering whether Phil is being mean or really didn't get the reference.
"No, I mean... go," he tries again.
Phil hums affirmatively but doesn't let up. Clint pulls away, tests his hold, then huffs grumpily and scowls.
"Come on Coulson, I gotta take a piss," he snaps.
Ah, so that was how it was going to be. He's not surprised, he was sure Clint would act out against any form of punishment in some way – it was his nature to brat after all. Still, forcibly pulling himself up out of low-level subspace just to get defensive wasn't healthy, and really, it was just a little bit rude.
"Oh it's far too late for that sweetheart," he purrs with a wicked grin, his eyes still shut. "I gave you the chance to make your choice remember?"
Clint wilts a bit in his arms and Phil's not trying to shame him, so he sits them up a bit and angles them against the arm of the couch, looking down and running a hand through Clint's hair.
"You're being punished because you didn't ask for help Clint," he says gently, determined to be firm and follow through, both for Clint and himself this first time. "Because you didn't come to me when you needed something. I want you to ask me Clint."
Clint's cheeks flare red and he turns away, refuses to meet Phil's' eyes.
"I... Sir, I told you I don't..."
His voice is small, frightened, and it breaks Phil's heart because he knows this skirts Clint's limit, the only one he really set and it's not fair but he needs Clint to understand this.
"This isn't about humiliating you Clint," he says quietly. "That's not something I will ever want to do. You are an amazing archer, an incredible agent and a remarkable man."
It's a direct quote, an exact repetition of the words he'd used before, and Clint seems to recognize them, even as Phil is struck again by his self-promise to repeat them as often as it takes to make Clint believe them.
"What have I got to hold against you?" he murmurs, his fingertips tracing Clint's brow, the crest of his cheekbone. "Smart, strong, beautiful... so very good for me. This isn't about making you feel guilty or ashamed, it's about teaching you something. Helping you to understand. Promoting a behavior that will please me very much."
Clint's staring at him now with wide, hot eyes, with the look he gets when he's assessing a target.
"I know this isn't something you're used to," Phil says. "I know it's not something you trust yet. That's fair, that's ok, but I want you to try for me Clint. I heard your limit, I promise, so if you need to safeword we'll find something else, but I will be so proud of you if you can do this for me sweetheart."
By the time he's done he's near whispering, his forehead pressed to Clint's as he cups the man's face in his hands, thumbs brushing away the tears that have come up on his cheeks. He knows this is hard, knew that when he set the punishment, but he hopes, believes that he can do this.
"So smart," he murmurs, Clint's whimper echoing in his ears. "So strong."
"Please what sweetheart?"
"Can I... Sir please may I go?"
It's close enough and so much more than Phil thought he'd get from him the first time he had to ask for anything, but the rush of relief that sweeps through the both of them is palpable.
"Oh good boy," he breathes, and then he's pulling Clint into a kiss that's long and sweet and insistent, and he's smiling into it even though Clint's face is still hot under his hands. Letting go, he presses quick, playful smooches to his lips before wrapping him up in a hard, tight hug.
"You never stop amazing me Clint Barton," he says in the archer's ear. "Every time I think I've seen the very best of you, you prove me wrong."
Clint buries his face in Phil's chest, his fingers clutching at Phil's shirt.
"Go," he urges, sitting them both up and untangling them. "Are you hungry?"
Clint blinks a little, tilts his head, looks down at his stomach like it will tell him the answer and Phil smiles.
"Just a little," he decides, then, more hesitantly, "I could cook, if you want Sir."
"Not tonight," Phil says, pressing a kiss to his hairline and getting to his feet, stretching to pop his spine. "I'm not all that hungry either. Maybe just a snack hmm? Then bed."
Clint blinks again, flicks a glance at the clock, then nods and scoots off for the bathroom without another word. Phil knows what he's thinking – it's early, barely six, and he's wondering exactly what's going to happen in that bed. There was wonder and eagerness on his face but there was hesitancy and caution too, and Phil can't help but feel the same. He's always wondered, what it would be like, taking Clint to bed. Wondered if his brash cockiness and smug confidence would hold true, if it would override his submissive orientation, if he'd push back when he was pushed resulting in a teasing, testing romp through the sheets without any power exchange at all to muddy it up.
If the situation going on in his pants says anything, it's that Phil would have no problem with that at all.
Still, he has other plans for that first game, that first sexual touch. Not what he'd originally hoped for, but these are quickly becoming an attractive alternative, simple changes rapidly coming together to really drive home the point of this punishment, of making sure Clint understands what he wants and is rewarded for his efforts.
But not tonight.
Slipping into his bathroom to take care of his own needs, Phil meets Clint in the hall on his way back out. He doesn't speak, just reaches out and takes the man's hand, tangles their fingers together and smiles when Clint blushes sweetly.
God he'll never get over that, how unexpectedly open and honest the man can be like this. If he'd had to guess Phil would have thought him to be the silent, buttoned-down type, clinging to whatever dignity or control he could hold on to, but here with him he had been all bashfulness and soft, pink-cheeked smiles, and it makes Phil want to kiss him and never stop.
Instead he takes him to the kitchen and sits him down at the island, pokes around the fridge while he asks Clint something about a recent change in his training routine. The archer sounds surprised but picks up the thread of the conversation easily and Phil is glad for it. He's never been interested in 24/7 play and Clint is so much more than just a submissive. He wants more from him, more of him than simply that.
The conversation goes for more than an hour as they sit together sharing fruit and cheese sticks and the bowl of popcorn Phil's microwaved. It's easier than he'd expected it to be, nothing strange or uncomfortable about it, no different than a hundred other meals they've shared despite the more intimate nature of Phil's apartment over the SHIELD caf. They talk about all the usual things – the antics of the junior agents, Sitwell's quest to find the best food within walking distance of HQ, some of the other snipers' attempts to meet Clint's perfect scores on the range – and it's pleasant and simple and slow, just... perfect.
When they're done Phil sends Clint to brush his teeth and follows after once he's stacked their dishes in the washer, resting his hip against the door jam and watching him in the mirror. The blonde blushes and tries to spit as cleanly as he can, even though Phil's seen him make a slobbery mess of himself a hundred times before, safehouse bathrooms cramped and too few to pre-empt the necessity of sharing. When he's done he comes to stand in front of him, waits to see if he'll move out of the doorway but Phil doesn't budge, testing.
"Sir, can I... may I please stay with you tonight?"
It's not any of the questions he was anticipating but Clint's asked and that's enough. It makes his heart swell in his chest, and he can't help pressing a kiss to his cheek, even though he hasn't brushed himself yet.
"Good boy," he murmurs. "Love hearing you ask. Love knowing that you trust me with what you need."
He feels Clint shift a bit, like he's just realizing all the things that a simple question can convey, but he doesn't respond.
"You are always welcome in my bed Clint," he continues. "No matter what, no matter when. As long as you want to be there, there's a place for you. Good boys sleep in bed and you've been a very good boy for me Clint."
Clint whimpers and lifts his arms a little, hesitates, but Phil drags him in for a hug anyway.
"Can I have a kiss?" he asks quietly after a minute, and it's still careful, still unsure, but he's already doing better and Phil couldn't be more proud.
"As many as you want," he promises, pulling back and tugging Clint down the hallway into his bedroom. "Let me brush first and I'll give you a real one."
Giving Clint a little push toward the bed, he walks backward toward the bathroom with a smile.
"Climb in and wait for me good boy," he purrs, and Clint's eyes go dark and hot as his pupils widen.
Maybe it's not fair to tease, to wind him up like this when he has no intention of following through tonight, but he can and hell if that doesn't feel like a good enough reason. Clint's here, in his bed, under his care, and he fucking loves it.
It only takes a few minutes to hurry through his nightly routine and hit the lights, to come back out into the room. Just like the last time his feet stutter to a stop, refuse to carry him any farther than the doorway before he stops and looks his fill. Clint's turned on the bedside lamp and pulled the coverlet down to the bottom of the bed, laid himself out on the middle of the mattress like an offering. Stripped down to his boxers he's a feast of long, sharp, clean lines and gleaming, bronzed skin, beautiful and deadly and it's the juxtaposition of the strength of his body and the submission in his soul that Phil knows he'll cherish most about these moments he's been blessed with, no matter how long they last.
"Scoot over," he says softly as he approaches the bed, reaches down to grab the duvet and haul it up after him. "No hogging the covers."
Clint cracks an eye and watches him warily, scootches over to give Phil room to climb in beside him. He knows what conversation is coming, knows that it's his turn to blush and stammer through a talk, and maybe it's cheating but he clicks off the lamp anyways, pulls the blanket up over them and rolls closer, until he's pressed all down Clint's side, his arm slung over the man's waist and his head pillowed on his shoulder, one leg hitched over Clint's knee.
Reaching up in the dark, he touches his fingertips to Clint's cheek, tips his face down and gives him the long, slow, deep kiss he's asked for.
It's something else he'll never get used to, something that keeps getting better every time, and he doesn't think the magic will ever wear off.
He breaks the kiss off before either of them can get too worked up, shifts his hips away and settles them both back down, snuggles against Clint's side and sighs happily.
"Go to sleep," he murmurs, then, ten minutes later when he can still feel Clint's mind working, "That's thinking, not sleeping."
"I just," Clint hesitates, his hand coming up to trace the bones in Phil's wrist. "Thought we'd... do more."
In the dark, Phil smiles.
"Oh we will, I promise," he hums. "Don’t you worry about that. I have plans for you sweetheart."
Breathing out, he turns his hand, catches Clint's fingers in his own.
"But Clint, I wasn't lying back in my office. You aren't the only one who's had a tough time since you dropped."
Beside him, Clint tenses up, goes still and small.
"I dropped, yes," he admits quietly. "Harder than I thought I would. Hoped I'd be alright, knowing you were good, but..."
"But it was bad."
It's a confession, one he doesn't want to make because he can feel how it's affecting Clint and it's the last thing he wants.
"I'm not telling you to make you feel guilty," he insists, "Or because I blame you. I'm telling you because I think that it's only fair to do so. You deserve to know, to understand how much this means to me. I did drop after you left. I spend a lot of time right here, with all those stupid pillows my sister buys me, and I spend a lot of time on the computer buying things like purple kneelers. It wasn't not a miracle cure - nothing really is - but I survived it."
Easing up onto his elbow, he looks down at Clint in the low light, hovers over him.
"Look where I am now," he murmurs. "It was worth it knowing I'd gotten you through that drop, but this? This is far more than worth it."
"Sir is... is there anything I can do to help?"
Phil growls as electricity flashes through him, grabs Clint's bicep hard and crushes their lips together, pulls him into a sharp, biting kiss that leaves them both hot and panting.
"You already are," Phil assures him once he's gotten his breath back, pressing his forehead to Clint's. "Fucking perfect boy. You're here, being so good for me, letting me hold you. And I'm proud that you're asking, doing just as you've been told. That makes me very, very happy Clint. Any other night I'd show you just how much it pleases me, but tonight this is all I want. Just this. Just you."
"You've got me Sir."
It's awed and hopeful and terribly, terribly content, and it leaves Phil feeling warm and grounded and shiny inside. It only takes another twenty minutes of snuggling together, of stillness and darkness and quiet breathing, the gentle thump of matched, easy heartbeats and smooth skin on skin before they drift off to sleep, holding each other close. When Phil startles awake in the night, mind anxious and uneasy, worried that it's all been a dream, Clint is there to curl up against his chest, to tuck his head beneath Phil's chin and poke him until he gets with the program and wraps him up tight in his arms. Slowly his breathing eases off, his panic draining away, and Clint's still there, big and warm and solid in his embrace, murmuring sleepy reassurances against his skin.
"You've got me Sir. Not letting me go."
Phil wakes up the next morning warm and rested and feeling happily content, like he wakes up spooning a sleepy sub in his arms every day. He's got one arm slung around Clint's waist, their ankles tangled together, and his nose is buried in the silky blond hair at the nape of his neck, breathing him in.
He's also woken up pleasantly hard, Clint's rather spectacular ass tucked snugly into the cradle of Phil's hips.
He only means to let himself enjoy it for a moment, the warmth and the touch and the bare skin. They haven't talked that far ahead yet, about consent or what Clint's willing to wake up to, whether or not it's ok for Phil to get started without him so to speak, so he has no intention of taking things any further. He just means to lie there, to hold him, to enjoy the way they've curled together in their sleep but before he can roll away, as he's smiling against the skin between Clint's shoulder blades, the man sighs and stretches long and slow, arching his back and rolling his hips sinfully.
Well good morning to you too.
He thinks Clint's still asleep for all of two seconds but then he hums and pulls the same move, hips rocking until he's got Phil... uh, right where he wants him.
It's not exactly a bad place to be.
Given that he's a little distracted, he thinks that he can be forgiven for how far he lets it go. Clint keeps right on rocking that incredible ass back against Phil's hard-on, catches his hand and drags it down his bare chest. His breaths start coming shorter and faster the lower Phil's fingers travel, and as Phil eases up on one elbow he can just see him bite down on his lower lip, trying in vain to choke down a whimper. He wants this - Christ he wants this - but it feels a little too soon, a little too fast, and more important than anything, Clint hasn't asked for this.
Skin yields to fabric as Phil's fingers hit the hem of Clint's tented boxer-briefs and it helps snap Phil out of the moment, just enough for him to latch on to his self-control. Because they're on the far side of the bed, because he can, he grabs Clint by the arm and rolls, taking them over and over again until they end up against the other side. He lands on top with Clint underneath, staring up at him with an incredibly light-hearted grin on his face and that's almost better, almost more intimate than anything that had happened thus far.
"Hi," Phil smiles, stupidly happy, but Clint grins right back.
"Mmm, hey there boss," he purrs cheekily, tucking his hands under his head so that his biceps flex and bulge.
Phil looks, of course he looks, and the brat knows exactly what he's doing.
Clint's arms are...
Just as nice as his ass really, and Phil isn't ashamed to say that he wants to get his hands on them. Maybe wrap those muscles up in silk or leather, mark them with bruises from his hands or his teeth.
But they haven't talked about that either.
There's a lot they still need to talk about, even if Phil would much rather touch.
Good thing he's always been an excellent multi-tasker.
"Was there something you wanted to ask me for Agent Barton?" he asks, sitting back so that Clint's hips take his weight and their positions are reversed.
It's half serious, half playful, and he's taking his cues from Clint's earlier address, but that's just one more thing on the list. Clint had been nearly halfway down to subspace practically all of the day before, but seemed to be up this morning. Phil's fine with that – he wants a relationship beyond Dom and sub – but he's comfortable with a little power exchange either way. He wants to keep his punishment going no matter where Clint's head is at, wants to make him ask for all the things he needs, but he doesn't know if that is something Clint is ok with.
This is a test, an attempt to determine where he's allowed to take this before moving forward.
Clint's eyes flicker and he opens his mouth, closes it again so he can bite down on his lower lip. His hands are resting lightly on Phil's hips, hesitant, and he can feel the younger man's muscles quivering with the effort of holding still, the good boy. He knows how hard it must be (pun fully intended), wants to roll his own hips, but he holds out, stays silent, waits, and is eventually rewarded for his efforts.
"Breakfast?" Clint asks, raising his eyebrows hopefully, and Phil barks a surprised laugh.
Not what he was expecting, but he can work with that.
"Sure," he replies with a grin, swinging himself off of Clint and sitting down cross-legged beside him, watching as he curls himself upright and pointedly ignores both of their erections.
Phil tilts his head, looks at him questioningly.
"Can I take a shower first?"
Phil's mouth curves in a soft smile – Clint still isn't calling him Sir so this isn't quite a scene, but he's being good and rolling with the hints Phil's dropping for him, asking like he's been told he should. Leaning over, he cups Clint's jaw in his hand and presses a kiss to his cheek.
"Yes, you may," he says, brushing his thumb along the curve of Clint's cheek and leaning even closer to murmur in his ear. "Thank you for asking. You don't know what it does to me Clint, to hear you ask."
It melts him.
Lights him up.
Makes his heart purr in his chest like Lola's engine.
Amongst other things anyway.
"Think I've got some idea," Clint mutters silkily, his hands slipping down Phil's rib cage back towards his hips, but Phil grabs his wrists before he reaches his objective, pecks him on the lips and hops out of bed.
"Go, shower," he orders lightly. "You can use mine if you like, or the guest bath. Not sure what's in there for soap though. I'll start the coffee."
Clint grumbles, huffs, kicks the coverlet down the bed and crosses his arms over his chest. He's pouting, blatantly, but it's cute and technically they're not playing within their Dominant and submissive roles so Phil doesn't say anything. Instead he bends over when he leans down to grab a t-shirt from his drawer, hears the man suck in a sharp breath and allows himself a smug smile as he tugs it on. He's wearing loose sweats that don't really do all that much for his ass (and even less to hide his morning wood) and he can't wait to tease Clint with a pair of jeans. He's never seen him in denim when he's up and Phil isn't sure he really got to appreciate the sight the last time.
He's not vain, he's not, but he knows what he looks like. His hair might be thinning a bit, and he certainly doesn't have the archer's upper body, but he's got a damned fine one of his own and he's not above using it - to give or take pleasure.
He's pretty sure he's still got a pair of leather pants somewhere – he wonders what that'll do for Clint...
By the time he blinks away that thought and turns around, Clint is out of bed and standing halfway to the bathroom, his gaze decidedly lower than Phil's face and his body decidedly still interested in the proceedings.
It takes a moment to remind himself that he's waiting, to remind himself why, because damn he doesn't want to wait. He promised himself though, told himself he would until Clint asked for it, until Phil could be sure it was what he wanted, until he could be sure he was reading the archer correctly.
That didn't mean he couldn't give him a clue though right?
Leaning back against the dresser, he tucked his hands into his pockets and made sure he was leading with his hips, his eyes moving slowly between Clint's body and the bathroom door.
"Was there something else you wanted to ask me for Clint?"
Clint swallows hard, whines and fists his hands at his sides.
"Anything you want Barton," he purrs, a little looser with his promises because damn if that isn't what he wants to give the man. "And all you have to do is ask."
For half a second he thinks he will. He opens his mouth, closes it again, stares at him with those kaleidoscope eyes like he can see right through him, and Phil's mouth goes dry.
Jesus what this man does to him.
He doesn't ask though.
He goes nervous, skittish, shakes his head and bolts for the bathroom, but instead of being disappointed or worried that he's ruined something, Phil finds himself amused. Chuckling, biting the inside of his cheek against a smile, he heads for the kitchen to make breakfast.
Twenty minutes later he's turning fluffy scrambled eggs out onto two plates, complete with orange segments, toast, and the aforementioned bacon. He's no gourmet cook – that's actually Clint's hidden talent – but breakfast he can do. Good timing too, because when he turns back around to drop the pan into the sink, Clint emerges pink and damp and dressed, and just as sexy as he'd been in his boxers.
It's not fair.
Phil's seen the man in nearly every stage and style of dress he can imagine and he's just as hot in a pair of pale, worn blue jeans and a black SHIELD t-shirt as he is in a tuxedo or swimming trunks.
With pink cheeks and spiky hair, he looks young and light-hearted and happy, and Phil thinks that maybe that's the best look on him of all.
"Feeling better?" he asks, walking two brimming mugs of coffee over to the table.
To his surprise, Clint blushes and ducks his head, rubs the back of his neck in that adorable way he does.
"I didn't..." he says, hesitating, "You know..." and for a minute Phil doesn't get it until his blush darkens and he says it again. "I didn't."
Rumbling deep in his chest, Phil thunks the mugs down and grabs Clint hard by the back of the neck, drags him in for a rough, biting kiss. He ends up backing the larger man against the wall, thrusting his thigh between his legs and nearly shoving him up off his feet. Clint whimpers into his mouth and lets Phil take, yields to his tongue and his teeth and grips his hips just to have something more to anchor him while Phil's fingers hold him tight by the nape and one hard, bulging bicep.
"So fucking good for me," he growls, thrusting his hips as his Dominant nature comes surging to the fore, hard so fast he goes dizzy from it.
Clint whines, rolls his own hips, riding Phil's thigh.
"Didn't know... if I was 'llowed..." he pants, struggling to get the words out. "Wanna be good..."
"You are, you are good," Phil snarls vehemently.
Pressing his palm flat against Clint's ribs, he drags it down, hard and slow, catching against his t-shirt until it's resting over his zipper, palming the impressive length of steel beneath the denim.
"I won't say no," he says roughly, voice low and hoarse as Clint gasps and rocks up into his hand. "It's your body Clint. But I'd rather share your orgasms than have you jerk off alone in a shower. Rather watch. Can't wait to see you come..."
Clint's whining and squirming, his head thrown back and his eyes squeezed tight shut, and Phil's mesmerized by the long, thick column of his bare throat.
"You don't quit soon Boss and you won't have to," he warns, but he sounds just as wrecked as Phil feels.
Sucking in a long breath, Phil gathers his self control and slowly stills, lowering Clint back down off his tiptoes. He doesn't go far – he much prefers keeping himself close, pressed down the length of the man's body – and Clint seems to appreciate it, curling against him like a cat looking for warmth. Slowly their breathing returns to normal, hips twitching occasionally, and Phil grins against Clint's collar bone.
"Breakfast is getting cold anyway," he says and Clint growls.
"Well can I have another kiss first?" he asks, half petulant, half demanding, and all Clint Barton.
"As many as you want," Phil replies.
It's coming easier; the promise he keeps repeating, the requests Clint is getting more and more comfortable with, the myriad of kisses he presses to the other man's lips.
They're all incredible.
"You are really good at that," Clint breathes as Phil pulls back, his eyes fluttering shut again.
"So are you," Phil murmurs, dragging his thumb over Clint's plush lower lip. "Everything I've asked for, and you keep getting better. Come on, coffee. I've got a few errands to finish today, and then we've got some more talking to do."
"Ugh, talking," Clint grumbles, sitting down when Phil pulls out his chair. "You're no fun."
"Oh I can be lots of fun," he purrs, walking his fingers across Clint's broad shoulders and nearly causing him to fumble his mug. "Behave and I'll make it worth your while."
"Fuck, you're killing me here Coulson," Clint mutters under his breath, taking a gulp of his coffee and jerking his plate closer to his chest in a pout.
Phil grins, takes his own seat.
"Like I said."
"You love it."
"Always have boss."
They both freeze, the click of forks falling silent for all of seven seconds – far too long for two well-trained agents, for Phil, who's been hiding how he feels for years. They don't look at each other, don't acknowledge the implication of their words or the awkward moment that followed, but Phil's heart is pounding in his chest, in a totally different way.
Did Clint just say he...
He hadn't meant...
Phil blinks and blows out a breath, stuffs a huge forkful of eggs into his mouth because otherwise he'll say something he'll regret, something that it's too soon to say.
Something he's still not sure Clint's ready to hear, or that he's ready to say out loud.
He'll have to work on that.
Breakfast concludes on a more somber note than it began, than the meal they had shared the evening before. It's not bad, not even awkward really, just quiet, and when Clint finishes and stands to carry his plate to the sink, he hesitates behind Phil's chair.
"Would you like more coffee Sir?"
Phil feels his spine straighten, feel something hot and electric zing through his blood.
He'd mentioned yesterday that he had a thing for domestic service, and Clint had brought him coffee a hundred times in the last few years. He could hear the capital letter in the honorific, could hear the subtle change in Clint's tone, and knew what he was being asked, even if Clint had balked at the idea. It was fine – they needed to discuss it anyway – which made for a good segue into what he hoped to work on for the rest of the morning.
"Yes, please," he said, pushing back from the table and getting to his feet. "Load the washer for me, then come into the living room."
Clint nodded even as he ducked his head, blushed a little bit, and Phil sighed internally.
So many tests.
As Clint collected up Phil's plate and fork he turned and went to the small office he kept off dining area, went to a locked filing cabinet and withdrew three Manila envelopes from the back of the top drawer. These he carried out to the living room and placed neatly on the coffee table, taking up his seat in the corner of the couch. A moment later Clint appeared, carefully handing over a fresh mug and settling on the other end.
Not kneeling then – he'd caught sight of the envelopes and was expecting something, likely work.
"Thank you Clint," he murmured, taking a long sip of the rich, black brew, and the archer blushed a second time, looked inordinately pleased.
"Paperwork though boss?" he asks cheekily, cocking an eyebrow. "Really?"
"Really really," Phil replies, setting his mug aside and leaning over to grab the first envelope. "I told you I have some errands to run – this should keep you busy while I do that."
"Aw homework, no."
Phil smiles – god he loves that phrase, just one of a dozen little idiosyncrasies that made Clint who he was.
"Think of it as extra credit," he corrects. "I told you I'd make it worth your while."
"Hope you've got the goods to back up all this big talk," Clint mutters, shifting on the couch and adjusting his jeans.
"Haven't disappointed you yet have I?" he asks with a chuckle and Clint stills, looks at him so openly and honestly that Phil's breath catches in his chest.
"No," he says quietly. "Never."
"I'm glad," Phil hears himself say. "That's important to me Clint."
For a minute they just stare at each other, one of those romantic movie moments, then Clint puffs up his cheeks and blows out a noisy breath and they both laugh, shake the moment off.
All right already, that's enough of that for now.
He's not sure he won't crack under another moment like that.
"Ok," he says, turning to face Clint on the couch and holding out the first envelope, keeping it tight in his fingers even as Clint tries to tug it away. "You've seen a kink list before?"
"Good. This one's mine. I know we talked a little about limits yesterday, the kinds of things I like. This is my master list, all of it, but Clint, there's nothing here that we can't talk about ok? I want you spend some time this morning reading through it, marking anything you have questions or comments about."
Clint's eyes flicker but he nods and Phil lets him take the envelope, reaching for the second one.
"This is a blank. Before you read my list, I want you to go through and fill out one of your own. Do you have one already?"
"No Sir. No one... well, no one's ever really asked..."
Phil bites back a snarl and instead leans forward to cup Clint's jaw in his fingers.
"Not this time," he promises, and he hopes, god he hopes Clint understands that.
"Fill out yours," he continues, "Then read mine. Questions, comments, and then when you're finished we'll go over it all. Sound good?"
"Rather have you go over me," Clint mutters. "But yeah. Yes. I can do that Sir."
He'll be interested to see how Clint marks praise, because damn he loves the way those two words light this man up, make him go shy and quietly delighted.
It's a beautiful sight.
"What's that one?" he asks, jerking his chin toward the last envelope.
Phil swallows, pushes away his sudden nerves as he picks it up, turns it in his hands, traces the edges of the heavy packet.
"This is a blank contract," he says, his throat dry. "It's been... a long time since I've held one with a submissive. I won't ask you to answer me today – that's not fair to either of us, but I'd like you to think about it Clint. You said you wanted this, and I don't share, don't... don't do casual."
Plucking up his courage, he raises his head, meets Clint's eyes and finds enough hope in them to drown a man.
"This is something I want, with you Clint," he explains. "A relationship, a contract."
"You," Clint stutters, eyes going wide. "You want to collar me?"
"I want to keep you," Phil says, his heart leaping in his chest, because yes, yes, YES – that's exactly what he wants. "I won't rush you or force you into a collaring – that's not fair to either of us. But a six month trial before is traditional, so if you want..."
Clint's looking at him nervously now, licks his lips.
"Six months," he says hoarsely, "That's... that's a long time to make a man wait Coulson."
Yes he knows that.
He's waited years, but a lot of things can happen in six months, and he's suddenly reluctant to leave that much up to fate.
"You and I have known each other for a long time," he begins cautiously. "Know each other well. If you're comfortable with a shorter trail, three months..."
"Yes," Clint agrees, quickly and insistently. "I mean, yeah that... that's good."
He's holding back, clamping down on his emotions, trying not to get his hopes up. Phil can read it all over his face, can see him begging silently for this to be true, to be real.
He can make that happen.
"Can we..." Clint asks, "Sir, if it's alright with you, can we have Sitwell witness?"
"I'll ask him on Monday," Phil nods, biting down on a shout of elated joy. "We'll iron out the details, fill in a temp contract tomorrow."
"Tomorrow," Clint nods, squirming in his seat. "And errands this morning. That still leaves us with tonight Sir."
"It does," Phil nods, giddy happiness swelling up in his chest bigger and bigger until it feels like he'll burst as he reaches out to grab Clint's face and pull him in for a dozen ecstatic kisses. "And I have plans for you sweetheart, so you'd better get to work."
Phil leaves Clint alone in his apartment around noon. They'd done a few chores together – dried and stacked the dishes and cycled the sheets through the wash – but as he'd said he still had errands to run. He'd blushed when he told Clint he had some shopping he needed to do, something about forgetting practicality in the face of extravagance, but he promised it wouldn't take more than two hours. He gave Clint the option of going back to his barracks room back at headquarters but had seemed just as comfortable leaving him in the brownstone, so Clint had declined and elected to stay.
All the more time for them to spend together when he got back right?
Only Clint's not so sure he won't be in a little trouble when Phil comes home.
It's not that he's not trying with the task Phil's laid out for him, he is. The man had set him up in the living room with a drink and a snack and even put a classic rock record on low in the background before he'd left, so Clint's comfortable and focused and ready to go, but he's stuck almost before he begins.
The blank contract is still in its envelope sitting on the corner of the coffee table, teasing him, and Clint's as giddy as a kid at Christmas.
He still can't believe that a man like Phillip J Coulson, senior agent of SHIELD, wants someone like him. A man like him, a sub like him. He can't believe that they're actually compatible.
That's... that's never happened before.
He's still kind of stunned to be honest. Seems too good to be true – that the man he's already ninety percent in love with actually ticks every box in that last, unknown ten as well. He's never known a Dom that hasn't wanted to hurt him somehow, but here's Phil, who hasn't hit him, promised never to hit him, hadn't even hit him as punishment for the way he's acted back at base.
And that, that's been... hard.
But it's been... good, too.
He got nervous, that first time when Phil'd wanted him to ask permission just to take a piss. It had definitely made him blush, given him that not-so-good flash of heat in his belly that makes him want to crawl into a hole and hide, but then Phil had explained, told him what it meant, why he'd set the punishment in the first place and turned Clint's point of view upside down.
It got easier then.
It's been something new and interesting and exciting to ask Phil for things – the sexy things anyway.
Asking him for kisses... well that's kind of the best.
It makes him feel warm and happy and the good kind of subby, and yeah, a little hot-n-bothered.
And he's done great so far, being good for Phil, even if he does say so himself. Like this morning in the shower – they hadn't had a contract, hadn't had rules, but he'd still kept his hands above his waist and the water just this side of cold. Phil's response let him know for sure that he'd made the right decision, and damn hadn't that been hot. It had been the first real taste Clint had gotten of Phil's dominant side and he wants more.
All he has to do is keep this up for three months, just ninety days. If he can just not fuck up for that long...
Clint puffs up his cheeks, blows out a long, steadying breath.
He can do that, he can... he can do that.
Scrubbing his hand through his hair, he twirls his pencil and pulls the blank kink list toward him, feels a little bit of dread settle cold and heavy in the pit of his belly. It's pages, yeah, pages plural of all these things that he's tried and hasn't tried and hated and loved and fears and hopes for in equal measures and it's fucking terrifying because it's Phil. He almost cheats, almost sneaks a peak at the Dom's list first just so he doesn't mark off anything that will end up a deal-breaker, but then he remembers what Phil said and takes another deep breath.
Phil doesn't like pain.
There's nothing here that's non-negotiable.
It's just a stupid kink list.
Grabbing Phil's envelope, Clint turns it sideways and uses it to cover his own, goes down the list one line at a time and that makes it a hell of a lot easier. It's not nearly so overwhelming as looking at the whole thing, but he still agonizes over nearly every item he's made to check off. It's hard, and confusing, and that's the bit that he hates.
Before this, before Phil, he knew what he liked.
Now he's not so sure.
Glancing at the clock on the DVD player, Clint realizes an hour has already passed and he switches his tactics. Instead of going down one by one, he runs through and puts a check mark next to every item he knows for certain he does like.
Aftercare - yes. Cuddling - yes. Kneeling - yes.
Kissing – yes, yes, yes!
Then come the no's, and that's a little easier, because Clint knows his hard limits, knows what he absolutely cannot do, even for Phil.
No blood play.
No electrolysis, no CBT, no mummification.
All that shit gets a thick, heavy X in black ink.
To each their own, but he can't do it.
The rest of it, a horrifying half of the list, he leaves blank.
He just hopes Phil won't be too disappointed.
They've talked about some of this, a lot really. He's explained to Phil that there are things that scare him that he never would have done before, things he thinks maybe he could do with someone he trusts. The kneeling is a huge example of that – it's his one real concession to what he is, his submissive orientation. He's fought tooth and nail against going to his knees for anyone at SHIELD, in front of anyone at SHIELD. He doesn't want to be defined by his nature, his bone-deep desire to give everything up to someone he trusts.
He fucking loves kneeling for Phil.
It's the safest he thinks he's ever felt in his life.
And then the man goes and does something stupidly amazing and buys that ridiculous purple kneeling pillow and at this point Clint's just trying not to cry.
Sniffing, he pulls himself together and shakes his head. He's being silly, and he needs to get this done before Phil gets home.
He kind of maybe wants to meet him at the door.
There isn't anything too terribly surprising on Phil's list – nothing he's not really prepared for anyway. Phil's been open and honest with him thus far, given him the bare bones of what he's into, so his kink list really just helps flesh that out for Clint. He's surprised by the sense of calm he experiences reading the list over, even though Phil's mentioned and marked several things that would normally make him nervous. He's talked about soft limits with impact play, talked about having kinks for domestic service and sensory deprivation...
Any other time he would have said no, unequivocally, all the way around, but the thought of Phil smacking his ass around a little, the way Clint had felt bringing him coffee, the tingly anxiety-anticipation of maybe-kinda-possibly trying out a blindfold...
Well they kinda get him hard where he sits, and if that's not telling he doesn't know what it.
Clint's phone chimes and he blinks, suddenly sharply aware of his own body's reactions, but it's just Phil sending him a text him a text to let him know that he's five minutes from home. That's good, he can do five minutes. He can get himself settled and calmed down and presentable in five minutes.
Except he maybe overestimates his abilities.
Going to his knees in the entryway, waiting for Sir to come home... well it might start taking him down but it doesn't really do anything to ease the tension in his pants.
It's silly, that kind of oversight, but not the end of the world.
He leaves Clint alone in his apartment with his kink lists and his 'homework,' confident that the man will be alright once he's gotten him settled. His first stop is a corner grocer for his favorite fabric softener and several nibbles he only buys on special occasions – scents and sweets for familiarity and comfort. He picks up a few cases of Gatorade and bottled water, adds dark chocolate and smoked almonds and sweet red grapes to his basket, tries to focus around all the thoughts and fantasies of Clint lying loose and sweaty and sated in his bed being handfed small, sugary treats to re-energize for the next round.
Not exactly safe thoughts to be indulging in in public.
Next up is his preferred sex store; clean, discrete, and not designed to cater to any particular kind of power play. Once again he finds himself blushing as he navigates the aisles – he's a man know for his strategic planning, his thoroughness, yet while he's stocked up on kneeling pillows and quibbled over braided leather wrist cuffs (the engagement ring to a fully contracted collar), he's neglected to pick up simpler things like lube and condoms.
Ridiculous, but embarrassingly true.
He grabs two boxes of condoms in his size and tries not to hope too hard that Clint will be agreeable to topping every once in a while. It's something few submissives are comfortable with, but a Dom can dream. It's easier shopping now that he's got clear plans and objectives in mind, isn't just pretending that this is something that could happen. He knows what he's got on hand at home and knows what he still needs – ends up juggling a pack of heavy duty batteries, a roll of bondage tape, and three different bottles of lube over to the counter. Everything's rung up in a neat blue bag and he's out the door, one last stop to make.
Toys R Us is a bit of a gamble, too commercial for his tastes and full of unruly, sticky, screaming children. Really he could have saved himself the trouble and jumped on Amazon, should have several days ago, but he's been distracted and now it's a little too late. Clint's deposition is scheduled for first thing Monday morning when they get back in to SHIELD, and while he and Tandy won't be placed in the same room it's still going to be difficult. It's a gamble whether or not Clint will behave himself and they haven't talked about the crisscrossing of lines between professional and personal, private time and play time, but Phil hopes that all will go well and believes he'll have every reason to reward Clint when it's over.
He's going to find a way to do that, not matter the outcome.
SHIELD is prepared to provide Clint with both a raise and a promotion, as well as the opportunity to speak to the punishment Tandy will receive, but there's more to the story than that.
This is about him and Clint, as handler and asset, as friends.
He's not sure there's anything he can do to make Clint understand what it meant to him that the archer trusted him enough to go to his knees in that hangar, to come to him for something he both hates and fears.
Collar him maybe, and that's something he'd loved to do, but it's all too much too soon, so this will have to do instead.
Transaction completed as quickly and neatly as possible, Phil makes his escape from the store and hails another cab, stows his purchases in the trunk and slides into the back seat. He's preoccupied, thinking happy thoughts, and he's nearly home before he thinks he should let Clint know. He certainly won't be upset if he's still working his way through the kink list – he knows the task will be a battle for the submissive – but he doesn't want Clint to panic either. He expects to find him where he left him, ensconced in the corner of the couch working diligently away, so he thinks he can be forgiven for being unprepared.
For being stunned, when he opens his front door and steps inside his apartment to find Clint kneeling in perfect form in his entryway, waiting for him to come home.
It takes his breath away.
"Oh," he sighs, closing the door behind him and slowly leaning down to deposit his bags on the floor before he drops them. "Look at you."
Clint doesn't speak but Phil hears his breathing hitch, sees his shoulders ease at the sound of his voice. He looks perfect down there, not just because his positioning is exact, but because it's Clint and it's painfully obvious that he's reveling in this. Phil's eyes trace over the lines of his body, his knees shoulder-width apart, palms resting lightly on his thighs, spine straight and head ducked, and remembers the way Clint had asked to kneel before, his use of the third person and the way he'd touched his forehead to the floor between Phil's feet. It makes him wonder how much this act means to Clint, if this is the most important part of who and what he is, the ultimate expression of his submissive nature that's been kept from him for years.
Stepping in close to Clint, Phil reaches out with reverent hands, strokes his fingers through silky blonde hair before trailing them down to cup Clint's jaw and tip his face up to meet his gaze. His gorgeous eyes are just a bit unfocused, bright and beautiful and just gone hazy around the edges as a smile slowly spreads across his face, and Phil can't help himself. The kiss is long and slow and simple, gentle and perfect, and Clint's grin has gone a little dopey when Phil pulls back.
"Welcome home Sir," he murmurs, and a warmth fills Phil up from head to toe.
"And what a welcome," he replies, drawing his thumb across Clint's lower lip. "Beautiful sub waiting for me... Thought about coming home to you like this."
"Yeah?" Clint asks, voice suddenly full of hope and want and insecurity.
"Yeah," Phil answers, and it's so easy, so honest that it seems to bring Clint right back up.
He's looking little smug and his shoulders have tipped back just a little to show off his chest. Phil hadn't missed the fact that his jeans were looking a little tight down there on the floor, and that situation certainly hasn't subsided in the least. He's not sure if Clint notices the direction of his gaze but as he eases back on his heels he sneaks in a sinuous little roll of his hips and Phil laughs.
"Very pretty Barton," he admits and Clint's grin turns wolfish, but he rolls easily to his feet, ducking in against his chest for a lightning-quick cuddle before planting a kiss on the edge of his jaw and darting away again. Phil thinks he might have purred if he could.
"What'dja bring me?" he asks, dancing between the multitude of bags on the floor, trying to peek inside.
Phil doesn't answer, just winks at him and sweeps the bags up before he gets too curious and starts poking around.
"Go wait for me on the couch," he says, trading Clint back a kiss on the cheek. "I'll be right back ok?"
Clint nods and bounces off, seems happy and eager and calm, waltzes backward to watch him as he heads back into the living room. Phil watches him go, feels hunger stir in his belly. He likes Clint on his knees, submissive and floaty and quiet, but he loves him like this, the confident, happy-go-lucky agent-archer he knows so well.
It only takes him a few minutes to put away his purchases; everything from the boutique tucked into the storage trunk at the back of his closet and the two large bags from the toy store tucked up on the shelf where they won't be accidentally stumbled across. He had both boxes gift-wrapped and placed in unmarked holiday bags so he's not worried Clint got a peek, but he'd like to keep it that way. Back in the kitchen groceries go in the fridge and in the cabinets, and then he can finally turn his attention back to Clint and their common kinks and maybe some of the fun he has planned for this evening.
He finds Clint on the floor in front of the couch, sitting cross-legged on his kneeling pillow, and when Phil steps into the room he looks up, chewing on his bottom lip.
"This ok?" he asks, and Phil comes over to sit on the couch beside him, sweeps his hand over his hair.
"That's fine Clint – however you're most comfortable. Why don't you show me how you did."
Clint frowns, reaches toward the coffee table and pulls the two kink lists toward him. He shuffles them around a little, taps his fingers against the edges in an uncharacteristic display of nervousness before he hands them up over his shoulder. Phil accepts them with sudden trepidation, pressing his shin against the man's arm in a gesture of comfort, but a quick glance over the lists tells him there's nothing too concerning going on. In light of that it may be best to just ask him directly what's going on in his head.
"What's worrying you?"
"Couldn't fill it all out," Clint mumbles, and Phil can just see the edge of a blush on his cheekbones. "I tried, but..."
"But it's new, and different," Phil finishes for him. "And you're not sure."
Well, he has some ideas on how to address that.
Sliding off the couch, Phil sits down beside Clint on the floor, lays the kink lists back out on the table. He's surprised, Phil can feel it, so he bumps his shoulder, gives him an easy grin.
"Well let's work on that hmm?"
I know these last few days have been hard here in the US. I've always felt that the fanfiction community has been an inclusive, safe, supportive space. If anyone needs to talk, needs to vent, just needs someone to send them a virtual hug or to tell them that they matter, please let me know. I am here for you. Despite this country's decision, there are hundreds, thousands of people here for you. Reach out, take care, stay safe. Enjoy the chapter and entertain thoughts of the next one, which *will* contain sexy times even if it kills me.
So they work on it, and it's not nearly as tough as Clint thinks it will be. Phil sits beside him on the floor, their arms pressed together and their knees knocking occasionally, and it's almost like any other debrief they've ever had. They start by redefining hard and soft limits, just so there's no confusion. It's mostly for Clint's benefit of course, but he's insistent that it goes both ways and that Phil's preferences are given just as much weight as his own. The way Phil smiles at him says he's being humored, but he can see that he's pleased too, so he doesn't mind all that much.
They label a hard limit as something that neither Clint nor Phil are interested in, something that they can't or don't want to handle or deal with, even for the other. Everything that Clint's marked down on his kink list with an X is filed under this heading, and all in all they match up very well with Phil's. He's a little less adamant on some of the items, but there's nothing Clint crossed off that he'd particularly interested in. They also talk about triggers within that list of things; acts, words, memories, or sensations with the potential to send either of them into a very bad place. Phil has some issues with fire so candles won’t make an appearance in the bedroom, and Clint's reactive to certain words, won't respond well to being called a slut or a bitch or a whore. Phil snuggles him when he finally manages to admit to that, and doesn't have to reassure him, because they both know he would never use those words, not to refer to Clint or anyone else.
Next up are soft limits, and they decide that that's the label they'll use to refer to things that Clint isn't sure about, things he hasn't particularly enjoyed before but might like to explore with Phil. Clint's left them all blank on the list and they've at least touched on most of them, but now Phil pushes him to try to identify exactly what it is that makes him nervous about various activities.
"Same old issues," he finally says, trying for flat but coming up bitter. "Never liked bondage because it was about being trapped. Can't move, can't get away... 's hard with a Dom you don't trust. Same with the blindfolds. 'M Hawkeye – not being able to see, giving that up... it's a lot."
"Hey, we've got lots of time right?" Phil murmurs, bumping him gently and taking his hand, folding their fingers together. "I meant what I said Clint. None of this is a deal-breaker, and all of it's negotiable. Any of it. That's what a soft limit is for us. If you decide you want to explore one of them then we'll talk about it, go over it, discuss it before we try it and we'll take it slow. I won't spring anything on you."
Phil pauses, frowns, opens his mouth a few times to speak and Clint arcs an eyebrow, surprised by his sudden loss of words. Shaking his head, he lets go of Clint's hand, turns a bit to face him.
"I should apologize," he says quietly, staring at Clint's chest, not meeting his eyes. "For this morning."
For a moment Clint doesn't understand but then Phil's hand is curling warmly around his bicep, thumb brushing over the faint marks that are quickly darkening just under the edge of his sleeve. He'd seen them that afternoon when he was stretching in frustration over the coffee table and he'd been hit with a hot wave of want so hard he'd had to take a few deep breaths before continuing on, but they haven't talked about it yet.
He shouldn't be surprised Phil noticed.
"I should have asked how you felt about marks," he hears Phil say, can feel the honest remorse in his voice. "Know you don't like pain..."
" 'M not a wuss Coulson," he says dismissively, offering Phil half a grin when he looks up sharply, then continues in a softer, more serious tone. "Nothing I didn't like about this morning. That was... that was good. Better than."
Blushing, he drops his eyes, bites his lip.
"I like a little man-handling, a little rough sex. Not gonna cry foul if you rake your fingernails down my back when we're fucking."
Clint's fingers reach out of their own accord, trace the edges of Phil's contract on the coffee table.
"And I know you like marking."
"Nothing permanent," Phil rushes to explain, wrapping his fingers around Clint's bare wrist. "Not with whips or needles or knives. No scars. Just... my hands, sometimes. My mouth."
The older man surprises him then, his face reddening in a blush of his own as he ducks his head a little, rubs the back of his neck in a gesture that's more like Clint than like him.
"I like knowing you're mine," he mumbles. "I know you're not... I mean, you're you. You're Hawkeye. You're incredible Clint – you're not property. But... I like knowing you're mine to take care of. Mine to hold."
Lifting his head, he meets Clint's gaze head-on, firms up his voice.
"You should know this now Clint – I'm a possessive type of bastard. I don't share, and I probably won't tolerate all the flirting and the come-on's very well; at least not at first. Knowing that you're mine to kiss, and to fuck, and to bite and to bruise and to put as far down into subspace as I can take you... it's a part of who I am."
His blush deepens and he looks away, swallows before continuing.
"I think... maybe it's like kneeling for you. A part of... expressing who you are, for your partner, for your Dom. And maybe for yourself. About having something real to touch and see and feel. Not about proving something, or showing you off like a pet or a prize. Even if no one ever knows, never sees it, I'd know. You'd know."
"Hey," Clint murmurs reaching out to take Phil's face between his hands. Obviously he's not the only one who's going to be vehement about some things, passionate and insistent, but Phil's speech is suddenly leaning toward ashamed and defensive, and it really doesn't need to. "Slow down Boss. I think I like it too."
Phil blinks, almost pulls back he's so surprised and Clint chuckles, leans in to press a quick kiss to his slack mouth.
"You were so damn hot this morning," he murmurs, leaning in to nuzzle Phil's jaw as he whispers in his ear. "So strong, getting me up against the wall like that. Loved the way it felt, being held there, having you all up against me. Almost came in my pants like a teenager."
Phil makes a low, growly sound and Clint laughs, goes willingly when he pulls the archer into his lap. Clint ends up with his back pressed to Phil's chest, one arm wrapped tight around his ribs, Phil's face pressed against his neck and his free hand holding his bicep where fingertip shaped bruises are just taking shape.
"Don't wanna hurt you," he rasps in Clint's ear, and Clint sobers quickly, warmth filling up his chest.
"Think that's maybe the point," he said, then trying his best to explain when Phil makes an enquiring sound. "I can tolerate a lotta hurt, we both know that. Before, with the whips and the canes and the other Doms... well it's about doing it on purpose right? They're trying to hurt, just to hurt, or to punish, or to put a sub in their place and... I think maybe for me it hurts more because of that. Because I know they're trying to crack me or..."
"Or humiliate you."
"Yeah," Clint sighs. " 'S just... pain for the sake of pain... or... making me feel bad..."
"But if it's small, incidental..."
"Liked having your hands on me. Didn't hurt. Was actually... kinda hot."
Behind him Phil chuckles, and it's quiet and soft but he knows from the way it sounds and the way it feels, deep from his chest, that it's bright and honest and real, and he thinks maybe doing this for his Dom, making him happy, is the greatest damn thing in the world.
"Besides, I think this might work for us," he says, and Phil settles a bit behind him, waits for an explanation. "Just... I don't know if I want a cuff, when we sign the contract."
It's hard to say, feels like he's rejecting Phil and his claim on Clint, but he knows himself and he knows what he can handle. A wrist cuff, that promise of a collar; if he were to accept that and then something went wrong, something changed in those three long months...
"If you don’t want to wear a cuff you don't have to Clint," Phil says, but his words are suddenly too tight and too careful and too calculated. "And if you don't want a collar either that's..."
"No!" Clint yelps, twisting in Phil's lap and knocking his knee against the edge of the table. "I mean, no, Sir, if you... if you offered... if I was good enough..."
This time it's Phil's turn to shush him, to kiss him and cuddle him and stroke him into some semblance of calm. Clint can feel his heart thundering in his chest, worries he's made a mistake, but Phil's still holding him and pressing kisses to the top of his head and after a bit he managed to get himself back under control as the sudden panic ebbs.
"I'm happy to mark you Clint, if that's what you want," he says, squeezing him tight. "I've wanted you for a long time, to make you mine. In three months, if we're both still happy with our contract, I'm going to offer you my collar – that's a promise. Whether you chose to wear it, or wear a cuff, or if you'd rather just wear my Rangers hoodie until that happens is up to you."
Clint feels his cheeks burn – of course Phil's seen right through him, knows exactly what the real problem is. His head knows that Phil would never tease him with the promise of a collar and then snatch it away again, but he can't help the anxiety in his heart.
"Of course you're good enough," Phil murmurs, and Clint feels a fresh wave of shame sweep through him. It’s not like he means to have shitty self-confidence, not like he likes it, and he certainly doesn't mean for Phil to have to deal with it, over and over again.
"I like it," he says, barely audible, because he's pretty sure he does and because he knows Phil does, because it's right there in black and white in front of him and because he knows he can try. "Like being yours. Know I should've brought your hoodie back but I kept holding on to it and..."
"Keep it," Phil says, easy and without hesitation. "Loved seeing you in my clothes. Even if they're not a great fit."
"Calling me fat?" Clint demands, because this has gotten too heavy and he wants to get back to the light, comfortable conversation they'd had before, senses Phil smile behind him.
"Fat is one of the last words I'd use to describe you," he says, running his hands slowly down Clint's sides before pushing him off his lap. "Can I ask you something?"
"Course," Clint says, straightening up. "Isn't that one of the rules?"
"Mmm, very good," Phil purrs, leaning in to press a long, slow kiss to Clint's lips.
God he loves kissing this man.
"When you were here, before," Phil says, obviously choosing his words with care, "You used the third person."
Clint feels his chest tighten a little.
That doesn't sound good.
"That's heavy Clint," Phil continues. "That's usually something people do when they play 24/7, or when they go beyond Dom and sub and play at Master and Slave. Is that something you want? Something you need?"
"No," he says vehemently, mind immediately bucking against the idea, the terms. "God no. Even if I did, I don't think I could. I mean, with SHIELD and everything..."
Clint tilts his head, sees the way Phil's looking at him and feels the tightness get a little bit worse.
"You don't like it."
Phil frowns, takes in a deep breath and lets it out.
"Can you tell me why you use it? What it means to you?"
"Don't really do it all that often," Clint shrugs. "Don't think I mean it the way I'm supposed to. Just, sometimes, when I wanna go deep, or if I already am... when I feel like I need to try really, really hard... just comes out that way."
For a moment Phil's quiet, taking in what he said, no doubt turning it round and round in his mind before he nods.
"I can understand that," he determines, "And if that's what it is for you, what it means, then I don't mind. As long as you know you don't have to use it, that I'm not trying to take away a part of you..."
"I know that," Clint rushes to agree. "Probably doesn't always seem like it, but... I do know that Phil."
Relief makes the other man's shoulders sag and he lets go of another breath.
"Good," he insists. "Because you're more than just a sub Clint. More than that to me. I don't know how you want to handle work yet but... I do want you to know..."
Turning, once more he faces Clint, looks him straight in the eye, serious and certain.
"I want all of you. I want the you I know, the incredible agent-archer, the you I cared about long before this. I want you at my side Clint, as well as at my feet."
Clint's throat is tight, his eyes hot, and he feels like if he stands up he'd wobble.
"You mean you wanna date me too?" he asks, once again going for casual and off-the-cuff and missing (for the first time in his life) by a mile.
"Yeah," Phil nods. "I wanna date you. And I want to contract with you, and I want to collar you, and I want to keep working with you and keep laughing with you and... and just keep you."
Clint's hands are shaking when he reaches out for his handler, his Dom, but he ignores them, just grabs Phil by the shirt and drags him in close, kisses him hard.
"Sounds like your best plan yet Boss."
That went well.
Incredibly well actually.
Better than Phil had hoped for.
He and Clint had actually gotten through a lot during their talk, a lot more than just the kink lists, and all without too much panic or pain on either side. He was incredibly proud of Clint for that, and even a bit proud of himself, because there werer certainly moments when he'd wanted to react, had had to bite back harsh words and the need to bundle Clint up and wisk him away from the world.
He managed to control those urges, and in the end he thinks it was all the better for it. Clint's not made of glass and as a man he is strong and independent and cocky. He doesn't want to take that from him, doesn't want to treat him like spun glass, and even if it had taken a while, even if his voice had been low and hoarse at times, soft and hesitant at others, he had said what he needed to say and had set his own limits, had told Phil what he couldn't and wouldn't do and where his limits were.
Beyond the fact that he's proud of Clint for standing up for himself, he's also both relieved and excited about the results. The two of them are far more compatible than Phil could have ever hoped for, and with every soft limit Clint sets more and more ideas begin to emerge about what he wants to do with the submissive, what he wants to introduce him to and share with him. He's promised Clint that they won't rush and they won't, but he thinks he may have a few ideas of how to help Clint determine what he'd like to try.
He's certainly got plenty of kinks that the man does like to be getting on with, not matter how anxious Clint is about the large number of items on the list he'd left blank.
He's looking forward to working through them, one by one.
But they've done enough hard work for the afternoon. Clint's been incredibly good, answering a lot of lingering questions Phil'd had, and with an explanation of why Clint had gone so far as to use the third person Phil is feeling a lot more confident himself. Now that he knows what Clint means when he depersonalizes his speech, what he wants, he's far more comfortable with it, even moreso knowing that Clint understands why he was hesitant at first. It was good for him, to hear that Clint did trust him, did know that there are things he knows Phil will never do even though his past hasn't exactly instilled that belief in him.
Not wanting a cuff... that had hurt at first, but the way Clint had reacted toward the offer of a collar...
He thinks he knows what that's all about.
As much as he fights it, Clint still does have trust issues, rightly so. This is one last defense against being hurt, being broken. A cuff would be a promise made tangible, but far less secure than a collar. He could still lose that, and he knows Clint well enough to realize that the man doesn't think he could survive this one last betrayal.
For Phil it's easy – he knows he would never do that to Clint, that nothing short of death will keep him from offering that collar in three months, but he also knows how hard this must be for the archer.
He'll leave him his coping mechanisms, until their trial period ends, and than he'll present Clint with his suit and ask him to accept his collar and maybe, finally, he'll understand.
It's heady, and it's a lot, and they've been cooped up in the apartment for quite a while now sitting in front of the coffee table talking about things that are heavy and hard, so he orders take-away from a local burger joint and he and Clint walk up the street to fetch it. It's only a few blocks away but it's late spring and still light out, warm and balmy, and the air is almost clean from a recent rain. Their shoulders bump as they trail up the street, taking their time, people watching and detouring briefly though a little sidewalk flea market. It's nice and it's easy and it's simple, like any other time they've done something together outside of SHIELD, downtime they've spent together waiting for extraction.
It's more than that though.
There's a heated tingle in the pit of his belly, a warmth and pure, steady happiness he hasn't felt in a long time. He suspects Clint's feeling it too, because he keeps sneaking quick looks at him from beneath his ridiculous eyelashes, his cheeks pink as he ducks his head bashfully and bites his lip against a secret smile. They pop in and out of the restaurant in half a minute, carry back warm paper bags spotted with grease, and he almost doesn't notice when the archer's pinky starts to brush against his own, when he hesitantly hooks them together.
He doesn't laugh, doesn't look over, just lets himself smile and shakes his finger free to grab hold the man's hand proper.
They make it back to his apartment as dusk slowly begins to fall, sit at the table to eat hot, pepper-crusted burgers and fries off real plates, have a cold pale ale each. Clint scarfs his food down like a man on a mission, a man who's known hunger and terrible food and finally found indulgence for his appetite. He finishes his own and sneaks the last of Phil's sweet potato fries before he can be smacked away, chuckling as he dances up from the table and clears away the plates and bottles without being asked. Phil doesn't know if he realizes what he's doing, if it's just habit at this point or if he's oblivious to what it does for him, seeing his sub perform a simple little task around the house.
It makes him feel taken care of as a Dom, that his sub is willing to so some small thing to make his life easier.
Grinning sappily to himself, he gets up from his place and slips in behind Clint where he's bent over the dishwasher, puts his hands lightly on his hips and slides them around his waist to hug him close as he straightens up.
"Good boy," he hums in Clint's ear, infinitely pleased when he hears the man suck in a sharp breath between his teeth, feels his muscles tense up.
His hands take on a life of their own, roam freely over Clint's t-shirt, the cotton soft and warm to the touch, body firm and defined underneath. He mouths at the hinge of Clint's jaw, nibbles at the shell of his ear, holds his hips tight when the man whines and shifts restlessly. His fingers slip beneath the hem of his shirt, find smooth, blazing hot skin underneath, trace the cut lines of Clint's abdominals and tease at the edge of his jeans until he's panting and rocking his ass back against Phil's hips.
"Please," he gasps, and Phil grins against the curve of his shoulder, nips him sharply because that's exactly what he's looking for.
"Please what?" he asks, and Clint actually surprises him with his answer.
"Please kiss me."
He can work with that.
Taking Clint carefully by the wrist, wary of his reaction to previous attempts, he tugs him through to the living room and down onto the couch, where he manages to get the larger man stretched out on top of him. They're pressed together from top to bottom and he can feel Clint rubbing his toes playfully along his ankles, among other things, and he squirms around a bit until he's settled between Phil's legs, his own arms free to reach up and cup Clint's face between his hands, drag him down for a kiss. He keeps it slow, keeps it shallow, long, smooth kisses just this side of chaste until Clint's grumbling and wiggling and trying to get an elbow down on the couch cushions for more leverage.
He can't help a smile, a chuckle as he tries to get himself up over Phil, tries to coax him into a deeper kiss before he finally huffs and gives it up, looking down at him with a pout.
"Something you want Agent Barton?" he asks, arching an eyebrow, because Clint hasn't started to go down despite Phil's opening foray calling him 'good boy,' and really he doesn't mind.
"Yes," he says sharply, very nearly petulant, and that's fine too because the lesson he's trying to teach here is one that he hopes will carry over, into their personal lives and their professional lives.
"And what do we do when we want something Clint?" he asks pointedly, trying not to sound too smarmy and undercutting any defensiveness the man might feel he needs to employ by rolling his hips. "When we need something?"
He sees the exact moment the lightbulb goes off above Clint's head, the moment his gaze sharpens and his eyes narrow. A hot jolt of anticipation zips through him and he wonders if maybe he shouldn't be more careful, if he's creating a monster, because a moment later Clint's gone all silky-soft and sensuous against him, his body fluid and warm and his voice burning like smooth, perfect scotch in Phil's ear.
"We ask for it Sir," he purrs heatedly, lips moving against the underside of his jaw, and suddenly the situation in Phil's pants feels much more insistent. "Kiss me? Please?"
"I am kissing you," Phil counters, trying to grab hold of his train of thought even as his palms slide up the planes of Clint's sides having worked their way back beneath his shirt.
"Kiss me better?"
Phil barks a laugh, happy that Clint's comfortable enough, brave enough not to censor himself, to still be the same snarky, sarcastic archer with a terrible sense of humor that he loves. The man's blushing, looks like he's about to rephrase, but really, Phil hadn't been putting in all that much effort, so Clint's asked for it just fine.
Better he can do.
It's nice, just making out on the couch like this. It's been a long time, but he dives right back in, kissing Clint for all he's worth. The submissive's murmuring little requests the whole time, asking for more, harder, deeper Sir, please, and slow and steady quickly becomes hot and heavy as languid pleasure turns to more blatant hunger. Phil's holding Clint's face between his hands, fingers threaded into his hair, just kissing, ready to combust from all the feelings burning up inside his chest, but Clint's hands are roaming all over the place, copping as much of a feel as he can. They're up and over his shoulders, down across his chest, palming his pectorals and tracing the planes of his stomach through his shirt before trying to get around underneath him to grab his ass.
He doesn't quite manage – they're settled too deep into the couch cushions – but it's the thought that counts right? They're both hard at this point, hips hitching just a little, and fuck it feels good just taking their time, just enjoying the way each other's bodies feel, the way they feel moving together. He's loving it, falling into it, slipping just a little bit into his own headspace, but Clint's starting to get impatient, groaning and squirming, trying to get Phil's thigh back between his legs. He'd be more than happy to progress them forward of course, but he's waiting for something and he has to bite back a laugh thinking of the way Clint will surely kick himself when he realizes what he's doing not quite right.
He doesn't have to wait long.
"Come on Sir, please," he whines, forehead pressed against Phil's collarbone as he ruts his hips forward. "I want it. Want you. Been so fucking long, I..."
Clint goes stock still above him and Phil snickers a little, can't do anything to stop it. Clint lifts his head just far enough to glare at him, huffing indignantly.
"Shut up," he mutters, and then he's sitting back, wriggling away so Phil can follow him up. Leaning in, he presses a quick, firm kiss to his mouth, sits back, leans in a second time. Phil smiles when Clint kisses him again, long and slow, infinitely pleased that he's taking a little initiative, sliding his tongue along Phil's lower lip as his hands come up to curl around the back of his neck and pull him into it. It's deep, hot, lingering, and he's panting when Clint finally pulls back, breathes in his ear.
"Take me to bed? Touch me?"
Phil takes Clint's chin between his fingers, smiles against his mouth.
"Thought you'd never ask."
It's been a few days and things are still hard. Still scary. It's been difficult, finding and maintaining safe spaces, but I've found support here in the fanfiction community and would like to continue to offer it right back. I'm here to talk to, to vent to, to reassure you as best I can. Enjoy the chapter, spread love, promote tolerance. Reach out, take care, stay safe, and if you need a little something to make you feel better, look forward to some more Phlint sexy times.
Clint's heart is slamming against the inside of his chest as he and Phil stumble down the hallway together, bouncing off the walls left and right because they can't be bothered to let go of each other long enough to make it to the bedroom. Clint's got his fingers tangled in Phil's shirt just above his hips and he's holding on tight, his mind a blank of pleasure and can't-believe-this-is-happening. It's real though, has to be real by the way Phil's got his face between his hands and is kissing him, kissing him, kissing him.
He never wants it to stop.
"Won't fuck you tonight," Phil breathes against his lips, fingers tightening on the back of Clint's neck when he whines and makes to pull away. "Don't think either of us are ready for that, and I want you to be ready Clint. I want all of you, and if that means the first time we sleep together there's no power exchange at all, that it's just you and me, Clint and Phil not sub and Dom, then I'm going to enjoy every minute having sex just the two of us."
The man's nearly babbling as he nips at the line of Clint's jaw, his teeth sharp yet careful, mouth hot against his throat as his lips travel lower.
"Any way you want it Clint," he promises, and this time he whimpers, high and thready as his hips jerk forward, looking for any kind of contact. "Anything else tonight, anything else, you ask for it and it's yours."
Later he's going to appreciate that, the fact that Phil's giving him so much say over their first time together. Later it will matter, quite a lot in fact. For now, for tonight, it's just one thing, one small thing that's off limits and all the rest is his to take.
"Take me to bed," he whispers, his eyes closed as he takes more kisses for himself, presses his mouth greedily to his Dom's again and again, quick and light and incessant. "Touch me."
He feels more than sees Phil's mouth curl in a grin, and then suddenly he's being shoved hard, two hands on his shoulders pushing him down and he's landing on the bed with a laugh, grinning as he bounces once or twice before his body is being weighted down by Phil's. Straddling his hips, the man kneels over him and leans down, still cradling his face like he's something precious while kissing him like he's something wicked to be ravished. The man's heavy and hot, strong and lean and hard in all the right places and it's good good good, better than anything Clint can remember. There's a little bit of bite in Phil's grip, tight on his jaw and the nape of his neck and it's incredible, one more small taste of his Dominant nature and Clint wants more, wants to be pressed to the bed and held.
"Ask me," Phil mutters, his lips fluttering against Clint's skin, even as his hands roam restlessly over the older man's chest, stroking from shoulder to waist. "Clint. Ask me."
Clint hesitates, bites his lip, stares at the ceiling over Phil's shoulder as the man bends lower, mouths at the hinge of his jaw and the curve of his throat. He's been made to beg before, to crawl, and he still carries those feelings around with him, the resentment and the anger heavy inside his chest, but this is different, this is Phil above him, pleading with him. He's not demanding Clint denegrate himself, ask and ask and ask for something he knows he won't be given. No, if Clint asks it's because he's trusting Phil with what he needs. He's been asking all weekend, and he's always been given what he's asked for, every single time, never made to feel weak or pathetic in the process.
This is different though, asking for caresses, asking for sex.
He's tried a few times already, almost asked Phil into the shower with him that morning before embarrassment and uncertainty stuck the words in his throat.
He doesn't know why it's so much harder than asking to wash or to dress or to eat - it shouldn't be.
He thinks it's probably because it feels like asking for treats, for praise or rewards that he maybe doesn't deserve, hasn't earned.
But... but he would be earning it right?
He'd be asking, doing what his Dom has told him to do, has asked him to do, making that show of trust and coming to Phil with what he wants, just like his Dom likes him to do. He'd be following the new rule, fulfilling his punishment, and so if Sir felt inclined to reward him for that who was Clint to argue?
Phil runs his hand through Clint's hair, a slow, soothing stroke and Clint blinks, suddenly back in the moment realizing that he's been lying there, still and silent for too long. Phil's smiling gently down at him but he can see the concern in the other man's eyes, feel it in his hands where he's got one threaded into his hair, one resting lightly over his heart.
"Hey," he murmurs, watching Clint's face. "There you are. Too fast?"
Clint licks his lips, clears his throat.
"No," he says hoarsely before trying again. "No. Just... thinking too much. Stupid."
"Never stupid," Phil argues, shaking his head.
"Silly then," Clint shrugs with a smile of his own, a comfortable calm settling over him. "I know what I want."
"Mmm, and would you like to share with the class Agent Barton?" Phil hums, leaning down and licking a stripe from the hollow of Clint's throat all the way up to the back of his ear, making him gasp and squirm.
No, not Agent Barton, not with the class.
It's cute and it's playful and he likes Phil like that, but here, now, in his Sir's bed for the first real time, that's not what he wants.
Clint takes a breath, considers what he knows about Phil's feelings regarding the third person, but he'd explained himself, what it meant to him and thinks the man understands.
"Sir," he gasps as Phil takes another nip at his jaw, scrapes his teeth against Clint's stubble. "This boy would really like you to take your shirt off. Please?"
The pause is minute, barely there but Clint sees it, and it's oddly reassuring that Phil hesitates. He's checking in, with Clint and with himself, making sure that this is good, that this is right, that he's understood, and then suddenly he's sitting back on Clint's hips with a grin and dragging his shirt over his head, tossing it to the floor. Clint's breath catches in his throat – he's seen Phil before, of course he has; injuries, decontamination showers, the gym, but this is different. For the first time he's allowed to look, to stare, and damn he's enjoying the view.
"Fuck," he breathes, and above him Phil chuckles.
"Is that a request?" he asks, one eyebrow cocked.
Clint shakes his head, still staring, lifts his hands.
"Can I... Sir can I touch?"
Phil doesn't reply, just takes Clint's hand and draws it slowly forward, presses it to the bare skin above his hip. He's hot and smooth and strong beneath Clint's fingers and when he lets go Clint's hand stays, the other coming up to mirror its path as he slides them slowly over Phil's ribs, exploring the flesh beneath them. He traces scars, the rough place on Phil's left side where he lost some skin to road rash, follows thick straps of muscle to his chest. Clint loves Phil's chest, the strength of it, the breadth of his shoulders hidden beneath his suits to everyone but him, who sees things better than most. He's got freckles on his collar bones that Clint wants to count with his lips and his tongue, thick, dark chest hair that he's wanted to run his fingers through since the very first time he'd gotten a glimpse of it, when Phil had taken a dive into a swimming pool to stop a small bomb going off.
It takes him a minute to realize that now he can.
Phil's been sitting perfectly still above him, staring down with something warm and dark in his eyes, but Clint's fingers threaded into his chest hair, whirling, tugging seems to spark him back to life and he surges forward, grabbing Clint's wrists and pinning them back against the mattress, kissing him for all that he's worth. His teeth worry Clint's lower lip, tongue sweeping out to soothe the bite as his hips roll and Clint whines, high and sharp and wanting.
"Sorry, sorry," Phil mutters, his fingers loosening around Clints wrists, stroking the sensitive skin over his pulse points. "I didn't..."
"No, it's good, it's good," he huffs, panting as his hips jerk. His feelings on bondage are mixed and he's marked it as a soft limit, but here, now, with Phil's weight on top of him and his hands keeping him down... it feels good.
He's already starting to slip.
"Please what?" Phil murmurs against his lips, hands stroking down Clint's arms, down his sides, sure and certain even though he's staying away from Clint's wrists, staying light, moving constantly. "Tell me sweetheart. Ask me. I want to give it to you, wanna give you everything."
"Touch me," Clint whines, "Sir please, touch me."
"I am touching you," Phil murmurs and Clint giggles, everything on repeat, a feedback loop of asking and answering and feeling so good.
"Touch me better," he grins and the world slides.
His eyelids flutter shut and he breathes out a long, slow sigh, sinks into the mattress beneath him as warmth sweeps through his body and things go blurry at the edges. He hears himself babbling, making demands under the guise of asking, of pleading, and feels Phil's hands roaming over his body. His clothes go, first his shirt and then his pants, his boxers tented long before they get that far. If he weren't already halfway down he'd be burning with embarrassment asking for Phil's touch, for his hands and for his mouth as he lies there, not doing any of the work. It's everything he's wanted and everything he's hated himself for, taking all the best things and not giving any in return, but he can't seem to shut his mouth, not when Phil's kissing him again and again, praising him and rewarding him and thanking him for every word he breathes into the air between them.
"Such a good boy," he exults, nibbling a line down Clint's chest, stroking Clint's thighs where he's kneeling between them and inching the hem of his boxers down over his hips. "Fuck I love your mouth. Always loved your mouth, even from the start. They warned me about you, when they assigned you to me. I was dreading you. And then there you were, too confident and too cocky and too pretty, and it was so easy to see there was so much more to you. Took me months to break through all that, to get to the smarts and the cleverness and the humor underneath..."
"Wanted to be good for you," Clint gasps, Phil's fingertips skating over his nipples. The man's kept everything light and fleeting so far, never lingering in one place for too long, and Clint's arousal is slowly cranking up, tighter and tighter and the man hasn't even touched his aching cock yet. "You were the only one who looked at me and saw more than... than the mouthy, fucked up sub..."
Above him Phil goes still and Clint opens his eyes, finds him staring down with a look of unbearable fondness that just makes him melt.
"You were always more than that," he vows, and then Phil's hand wraps around him and Clint's world concentrates to a tightly curled ball of pleasure.
He tells himself that a dozen times before he falls asleep, a dozen more when he wakes up the next morning.
It feels like more.
It feels like... fuck, it feels like falling in love.
He'd be more alarmed if he didn't already know that. He's been falling in love with Clint Barton for years – this doesn't exactly change anything except that it does. It's hardly a scene, barely more than making out, and yet it was... it was everything. He hadn't even gotten his pants off and yet it was probably the best sex, the best intimate moment he's experienced in his life.
Clint had been so good for him after that first opening foray, dipping back into the use of the third person, letting Phil know he was looking to go down, to be a sub beneath his Dom. It hadn't taken long for him to start floating, to collapse back against the bed and just feel, exactly what Phil had been hoping for. He'd touched him, traced his fingers over Phil's chest with a look of awed wonder, asked for everything he'd wanted even after his coherency had started to falter, and it was gratifying as hell to know he was trying so hard, to know that Phil could have that effect on him.
The archer had whimpered and whined his way toward an orgasm, thrusting up into the loose circle of Phil's fingers begging for more, and he found it a lot sooner than either of them expected. It's the emotion, the heat and the heart of it, the want and the please and the finally, and when he thinks about it later it's not surprising. It was too much all at once after not enough for so long, and even though Phil's still aching and hard in his jeans there's a sense of release in all of it that nearly topples him. He's lucky he's sitting back on his heels, not holding himself up over Clint because he suspects his arms might've collapsed, struggles to catch his own breath as Clint gasps and pants against the sheets, his arms still thrown up above his head and his stomach painted white.
Watching his eyes flutter shut, watching him fall apart like that had been beautiful, hearing him plead for everything he wanted, and Phil's heart had squeezed inside his chest at the sight of the picture laid out before him. He'd seen plenty of Clint over the years of course, seen him use his gorgeous body to every advantage while sparring or seducing marks or fighting to keep himself and his fellow agents alive, all thick, bulging muscle and golden skin. This he hasn't seen, this lax, spent looseness all sprawled out in a sweaty, lewd display, hasn't been able to take his time and linger over. It's a promise made good on, a wish come true, and Phil's fingers had run idly through the mess on Clint's belly as his slowly brought his breathing back under control.
Clint had kept a tight grip on him after, fingers chasing him as he leaned over the side of the bed to grab his discarded t-shirt and clean the man up to a reasonable degree. He mumbled under his breath, a mish-mash of praise and thanks and silly words, and Phil couldn't help but chuckle quietly, amused by the puddle of half-sentient goo the submissive had melted into. He'd grumbled a little when Phil got too far away, reached for his fly, but Phil didn't want him dragging himself up from the soft, quiet headspace he'd found just to try to get Phil off. He could wait, they had plenty of time, and that thought, knowing that they suddenly had a future stretching out in front of them that saw them together was everything he needed to settle down at Clint's side and fall asleep with a smile on his face.
Sunday dawns and Phil wakes to find the sleeping sub curled up on top of his chest, breathing into the chest hair that had so fascinated him the night before. He's warm and heavy and real weighing him down, and it hits him again how lucky he's gotten, how a little hard work and a few confessions have changed everything, been more than worth it. Jasper's going to give him that look tomorrow when he asks the man to witness his and Clint's temporary contract, and Fury's going to out and out laugh at him, but they'll care and they'll be happy and more than a little relieved that all the pining's finally over.
It'll be worth it.
In a few minutes he'll wake Clint up, drag him out on a short, three mile run, get him fed and showered and ready to face the coming work week. They'll spend some time putting their contract together and maybe he'll have the submissive kneel for him while he types it up. They won't have sex but he'll make sure that Clint knows his punishment has been lifted and that Phil is immensely pleased with how well he's taken it, that he's still good, always good. Eventually he'll kiss him goodbye and send him out the door, give them both a few hours to get their heads on straight, work out any last worries before they have to face SHIELD and the inquest into Clint's disastrous mission with Tandy.
In a few minutes.
For now he's going to enjoy what he's got.
Clint's strutting when he walks into headquarters Monday morning.
He's not wearing a collar, not even wearing a mark, but he can still feel his Dom's hands burning against his skin, hot and strong and sure, and he walks with his shoulders thrown back carrying the pride of a sub who's found a place at someone's feet and proved they deserved it.
He'd woken up on Sunday wrapped in Phil's arms, warm and content and safe, and it was such a bone-deep feeling he'd been a little stunned by it, overwhelmed. He'd snapped out of it fast when Phil smiled against the nape of his neck, rolled him over and pressed a kiss to his lips. They'd spent a lazy morning making out in his bed, nothing more than necking and some light petting before Phil had dragged him into the kitchen for a late breakfast.
That was mostly it for sexy times.
Part of him was disappointed about that; another part didn't mind.
Sure he'd hoped to return the 'favor' Phil had done him the night before, but there had been something so quiet and intimate about that night he almost didn't want to touch it. The asking and the murmurs, the desperate pleas and praise, the want and the arousal that had built higher and higher until the knot of tension in his belly had unravelled... it was all the best of everything he'd never had.
To anyone else it might've seemed fast, casual, sloppy even, not even a full-fledged scene, but to Clint it had been the world.
He'd flown under Phil's hands, slipped so smoothly and so easily off that edge. He hadn't toppled, hadn't gone all the way down, but damn he had been close and it was the easiest slide he'd ever experienced.
He actually felt good waking up the next day, not in pain, not heavy or achey or down on himself.
After breakfast the day had stretched out long and slow before them, despite the fact that they had actually done some work. Phil had started with a conversation, sat him down and officially lifted his punishment, lavishing Clint with praise for how well he'd done and reiterating the reasoning behind it. Clint had blushed and preened throughout, filled with bright, warm pride for pleasing his Dom and wallowing in the fact that his hard work was actually being acknowledged.
That part had been good too.
He'd made sure to tell Phil that later.
First though the man had dragged him out on a run around the neighborhood, forced him through a short workout and then into a sadly solitary shower. Given his druthers Clint was a lazy bastard, much preferred lying about on a Sunday, but it had been for the best in the end. Once he'd gone through it all, emerged clean and alert and energized, he was in an entirely different headspace, capable of sitting across from Phil in the living room and helping him take detailed notes for their contract. Like anything Phil did it was comprehensive and thorough, pages long, and covered every damn thing Clint could possibly think of.
It was a lot at once, almost too much, and he'd been horribly relieved and grateful when Phil offered him the option to kneel at his feet while he typed it up. Clint had carried his new purple kneeling pillow into the study and sunk to his knees at Phil's side, leaning against the side of his chair and allowing himself to be lulled by the steady click of keys. Afterward Phil had printed several copies, one of which he and Clint read over together, and slipped them into another Manila envelope before sending Clint out the door with one last kiss goodbye.
Once again, he'd been torn between being disappointed and being... perfectly ok with how things went.
A night at home in his own barracks had made it easier to get into the right mindset for work, to prepare him.
Now Monday's here and he's got a deposition to get to, and he's ready.
There's no fear, there's no hesitancy, nothing but righteous anger and confidence and a steady determination.
He's in the right, he knows he is, and beyond that, he knows he has Hill and Fury in his corner.
Maybe it shouldn't work that way, maybe it's not right, but fuck you, he's worth three times what Tandy is to SHIELD.
Outside of drop, away from two days of threats and abuse he can stand up and say that with confidence and smug-ass smirk on his face.
Hawkeye is a god-damn feather in Fury's cap – he's not going anywhere – and all that disregarding the fact that he didn't actually do anything wrong.
Clean-shaven, dressed in full uniform all neatly pressed and tucked, Clint heads for the debriefing room he's been told to report to, not a shred of nervousness in his step.
A quiet chime from his phone reminds him to silence it before he's entered the room, and puts a smile on his face.
BEHAVE AND DO WELL FOR ME.
They've talked about this a little, the blurring of the lines between work and home, professional and play. Clint had confessed that sometimes he's wished for a Dom's influence, access to that help when he needs it while still at work. At the same time he'd expressed a flat-out refusal to engage in any kind of submissive act in front of other people. Phil had understood that without any explanation and had reassured him that he felt no need or desire to demonstrate his power over Clint in any kind of display.
This though, this is exactly what he'd hoped for.
Simple commands, quiet words, easy dominance and submission.
Do well for me.
He can do that.
In the end it goes pretty well. In accordance with SHIELD procedure, Clint and Tandy are both present for the deposition, made to sit on opposite sides of the conference table. Hill and Fury sit at either end, stacks of untouched paperwork in front of them and transcripts of the op projected onto the wall. They give what amounts to an opening statement, explain with great irritation why they're all present – namely Tandy's outrageous behavior and treatment of his team after the op was completed.
It's a long, slow process, everything gone over in excruciating detail, Phil's notes a particularly damning piece of evidence. Tandy is sullen and silent for much of the proceedings, generally speaking only when spoken to. The man can obviously tell he's in deep shit, that he's made a fatal mistake. The hate is seething not far beneath the surface, plain for anyone to see, and the way he glares at Clint would've made him shiver back on that mission, but now he sneers right back. One by one the rest of the team are trotted through to give their version of events, every one of them providing honest, straightforward answers in Clint's favor, Jessup in particular championing him as the only reason any of them made it out alive. She goes a little fangirl for a minute but manages to rein it in, and Clint thinks maybe he should let the juniors take him out for a drink some time.
For his part he does what his Dom has told him to do and behaves himself.
He's not exuberant or smug or teasing, just sits loosely in his chair and provides his statement, answers questions as they're asked fully and simply without embellishment. Fury seems a bit surprised but rather relieved by his calm and professional demeanor, and when it's over gives him a single nod that Clint chooses to interpret as approval.
It's the next bit he hates, the waiting; where he and Tandy are sent into opposite rooms to await the verdict. It's all a bit silly really, the whole process, just a double check of all the information, the individual debriefs the team has already given. Clint absolutely believes that Fury and Hill have already made their judgments and their decisions, long before he'd stepped into the conference room that morning, but he's more than willing to play ball. He's eager to know the outcome, for more than one reason.
He wants this over, to put it behind him so that he can really move forward with his new relationship with Phil.
As he waits he thinks he may know just how he'd like to do that.
Ten minutes alone and he's called back in, sat down across from Tandy once again and given the panel's decision. There's shouting and arguments and protests and the whole time Clint stays put, quiet and polite and nothing like his normal self but Phil's command is sitting quietly in the back of his mind throughout. Finally, what seems like a lifetime later it's all over, and Clint's dismissed back to his bunk.
Yeah, like that's where he's gonna go now.
He slips into Phil's office without a sound, the open door signaling an open invitation to any Agent passing by, and he's immensely relieved to see that the man is alone behind his desk, not looking particularly occupied with anything. In fact, once Clint has closed and locked the door behind him and turned around to face his Dom, he's pretty sure the man's been doing nothing much of anything except waiting for him.
"Well?" he asks, his fingertips pressed together as he rests his elbows on the edge of his desk.
Clint can't stop the grin that spreads across his face any longer, doesn't even try to.
"He got shit-canned!" he crows, finally allowing himself a little dance of victory. "Fury said history of behavior showed poor performance in response to stress and further investigation found unacceptable treatment of submissives and neutrals while off-base."
"He's done it before?" Phil asks, surprised sneaking into his tone.
"Apparently," Clint shrugs, sobering up a bit. "Nothing like with me, but I guess other agents he's worked with had significant complaints when Fury rounded them up and asked."
"Explains why Fury's fired him instead of sending him straight to the Siberian base," Phil comments, looking thoughtful.
When an agent was deemed unsuitable for further SHIELD work, when they were let go with prejudice, they didn't have many options left to them. Fury himself removed the offending individual to their new life, a similar concept to witness protection. Deemed untrustworthy and unfit, the agent is given a new civilian identity and left to live the rest of their lives under strict surveillance.
It's well known that the Director takes particular enjoyment from creating the most dull, drab existences possible for his disgraced ex-agents.
Tandy's being set-up for an exciting future in food service as they speak.
"Fury's running him through orientation-sensitivity courses and making him go to therapy twice a week," Clint says, flopping down on Phil's couch in a way that will absolutely wrinkle his uniform and drive his handler mad. "And making sure that his new manager knows to watch out for issues."
"We should have been watching for our own," Phil says sourly. "If he's done this before we should have caught it. This should never have happened Clint, not to you or any other agent."
"Hey, I told you it wasn't anything like this time," Clint protests with a frown. He really hadn't wanted to put Phil in a bad mood coming off his win in SHIELD court. "Hill's already looking into ways to improve the checks and balances, make it easier to report discrimination, especially for juniors who need to report a superior. Oh! And speaking of superior..."
Lifting his butt up off the cushions, Clint digs around in his back pocket a minute, perfectly damn aware of how Phil's eyes are tracking his hips. Eventually he comes up with his shiny new access badge, shows it off with a flourish.
"Check it out!" he grins, "Level Five! And I got a ten percent pay increase. Fury called it hazard pay, slick bastard. Says it was coming anyway in a few years but why the hell not now. Something about making sure I didn't sue..."
"Yes, the Director's sense of humor sometimes escapes us all. Even me."
"Speaking of humor, you could cheer the hell up a little bit," Clint grumps, folding his arms over his chest and pouting. Phil's still frowning, looking entirely too serious, and that only seems to sharpen with Clint's scoldings. "I mean, everything came out right, didn't it? And I was good! I behaved the whole time, just like you said."
For a moment silence ensues but Clint can't seem to lift his eyes off the floor, not when he's suddenly feeling like he's done something wrong, like the win's being contested because he broke a rule somewhere along the way.
Then Phil's voice breaks the silence and his heart slams against the walls of his chest.
It's quiet, soft, smoothly spoken with very little demand, but Clint's on his knees in an instant, slithering off the couch and crawling around the side of Phil's desk to settle at his feet where he's pulled out his chair, no doubt ruining the knees of his good slacks. Phil's hand goes immediately to his hair, stroking it gently away from his forehead and he can't help a sigh, can't help tipping his head back to instinctively show off the long line of his throat.
"I am so proud of you," Phil murmurs, and from somewhere far away Clint hears himself whine. "You did so well for me; not only on the mission and with the juniors and with Tandy but today. You could have been an ass Clint, could have very rightly caused a fuss, made a scene. But you didn't, did you? You did just as I asked – you were respectful and dignified and you got through something that was hard for you without falling apart."
Leaning forward, Phil pressed a kiss to his forehead, made him hum and melt just a little as the pounding of his heart turned to a slow, steady, contented thump.
"So strong," he praised, his thumb brushing over the point of Clint's chin where he's cradling it in his fingers. "Such a good boy. And I think good boys deserve a reward, yes?"
" 'Nother kiss?" Clint asks hopefully.
Above him Phil chuckles and he opens his eyes just in time to see him roll back his chair and reach for something behind him.
"That too, if you'd like, but I thought maybe you might like these instead."
Clint blinks, stunned, as Phil turns back around and hands him two square packages, wrapped in plain purple paper. He manages to take them without fumbling but he's looking back and forth between them and Phil's face with what must be comic confusion.
"But, you didn't know..." he stumbles, and Phil smiles softly.
"Of course I did," he argues gently. "I knew you'd do well today. Knew you'd be good for me. I came prepared."
"Boy scout," Clint accuses teasingly before turning back to the packages in his lap. "Can I...?"
With a boyish grin Clint tears into the two boxes with glee, only to stare at his Dom and handler a second later with absolute joyous disbelief.
"No way! Seriously?"
"There's a group of juniors going through situational awareness training on the fifth floor," Phil chuckles as Clint wrestles the two Nerf guns from their boxes. "Agent Hand tells me this batch is unacceptably cocky. Why don't you go see if you can thin the herd a little?"
"Let me get this straight," Clint hedges, hefting the two guns and aiming them across the room at the wall. They're styled similarly to a sawed-off shotgun and hold eight foam darts apiece, more than enough to create some real havoc. "You're giving me permission to go hunt the junior agents from the vents with Nerf guns?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Phil says flippantly, turning back to his paperwork. "I'm sure you went straight back to your barracks after deposition and stayed there all afternoon Agent Barton. No, I am not giving you permission to hunt the junior agents, I'm merely turning a blind eye to any and all activities which may result forthwith."
Time stops and for a second Clint just stares, astonished by how stupidly perfect this man is with his deadpan humor and his quiet kindness and his knowing exactly what you need whether you’re his asset or his friend or his sub.
Surging to his feet he plants a long, hard, playful smooch to the man's lips, thinks he actually manages to surprise him because he hasn't even pulled it together enough to start responding before Clint's pulling away again with a huge, heartfelt grin on his face.
"You're the best Sir."
He's on his feet and headed for the door before Phil can reply, calling over his shoulder that he'll be back in a few hours when Jasper is scheduled to meet them and witness their official contract.
Punctuality may not be his strong suit, but he's not going to miss that for anything.
Clint's new Nerf guns...
It takes Phil a full five minutes to get himself together after Clint goes dancing out the door. The archer's stunned him, shocked him silly, and he knows his mouth is hanging open as he stares blankly across his office, his heart near to bursting with happiness inside his chest. The kiss he didn't mind, wasn't that surprised by – Clint had a habit of ambushing him with hugs after all – but the rest, what he'd said...
He hadn't been expecting that.
You're the best sir.
It might've seemed flippant as off the cuff as it was, but Phil knows Clint better than that and knows that it was honesty, genuine sincerity behind the sentiment. He'd really, truly meant what he'd said with a kiss and a grin, and that...
Phil hasn't had anyone say that to him, think that about him in a very long time.
Very suddenly it makes him feel like a man again, like a real Dom, and it's pride and it's smugness and it's sheer, unadulterated joy, and it puts him in a mindset that is far from conducive to work. Instead it makes him hard in his suit-pants beneath the desk and sends a dozen memories tripping through his mind, lonely nights spent with his own cock in his hand, fantasizing about all the scenes he'd never get to play out, about the archer he couldn't have.
Now everything's different and an entire world has opened up to him, and it hits him all at once how overwhelming that is.
It's bliss and it's eagerness and it's anticipation, and it's scary.
It both amazes and delights him that, now they're mostly past all the talking and the uncertainty, Clint's taking to things like a duck to water, giving him everything he's asked for as happily and as naturally as if he's always done it. The submissive is off hunting junior agents without a care in the world and Phil is sitting here like an idiot who's only just realize the true worth of the gift he's been given, everything he's ever wanted for years now, all wrapped up in a pretty, muscled blonde package.
Abruptly, Phil laughs.
It's an honest sound, a happy sound, and it leaves him grinning as he pulls out a small, moleskin notebook from the hidden compartment of his desk. For the next hour he jots down notes and ideas, sketches out the bare bones of a few play sessions he'd like to have with Clint. He certainly doesn't need them to remember – really, how could he forget – but it helps getting the thoughts down on paper, getting them out of his head. Clears up a little space for rational thinking.
Locking the notebook away again, Phil goes swaggering down to the cafeteria with a spring in his step, whistling as he passes one of the lounges just to set the rumor mill abuzz, just because he can.
And yes, maybe because he's currently walking on air.
Tandy's been taken care of – relegated to a closely monitored future in fast food, Clint has been promoted and acknowledged for all his hard work – both personally and professionally, and Phil?
Phil is excited about something for the first time in a very long time.
While he typically takes his food back to his office for a working lunch, he decides to snag a table in a strategic position between a group of Level Threes and another of Level Ones. As he sips his coffee and nibbles his way around a Thai salad, the whispers and mutterings float his way; some amused, more defensive and irritated.
Seems his agent is doing his job well.
Hiding his grin, Phil busses his tray and gets back to work.
Given the nature of the message he'd sent Jasper that morning requesting his presence in his office, he has no doubt the man will present himself sooner rather than later. With that on his mind and with his hidden notebook taking up an inordinate amount of his attention, he still somehow manages to get in a good two hours worth of work before a tap on his door is followed by his friend and fellow agent's appearance.
"Coulson," Sitwell nods as he closes the door behind him, engaging the locks before taking one of the guest chairs in front of his desk.
The man's eyebrows climb toward his non-existent hairline, surprised by Phil's address. The use of his first name signifies a personal conversation, something that rarely occurs in either of their offices after a semi-formal summons. They may be friends, good friends, but on ground or in headquarters, they're professionals, colleagues. Personal conversations happen in transport, at the bar, inside shitty diners and fancy dives over the city's best burgers or pancakes.
"Ok, what's going on with you Coulson?" he demands, sitting back in his chair and crossing his arms. "Whistling in the hallways, grinning in the caf, the email?"
"I had a good weekend," Phil shrugs, deciding to play the bastard for just a bit.
"Good weekend," Jasper snorts, but when Phil just levels a dry stare at him, he goes still and quiet and wide-eyed before breaking into a huge cat-ate-the-canary grin.
"You son of a bitch, you got laid!" he cheers.
Phil rolls his eyes, but he can't help but crack a little bit of a grin himself.
"Not exactly," he argues, tapping his fingers against his thighs in an uncharacteristic wave of nervousness. "But... better."
"Better?" Jasper asks, looking him up and down, reading his obvious tells with ease. "What... Coulson what the hell?"
"Barton will be back at four."
Jasper scowls, but whether at the abrupt change in conversation or at the chosen topic Phil isn't sure.
"Uh-huh," he sniffs, eyeing him narrowly, his face a mask of suspicion. "And let me guess, you have nothing to do with that mess, right? He's hunting them Coulson, popping in and out of the vents... I ran into Hand an hour ago – she's already gotten three resignations and had to send two more down to psych!"
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Phil says blithely.
"You're a dirty liar Phil," Jasper accuses, shaking his head, but there's fondness there. "But I know how you are about him."
"Actually that's why I asked you here."
He says it quickly, casually, reaching into his desk for the contract he's brought along, secure in its sealed envelope. He knows he's shocked the man, knows he's got to be dying of curiosity now, even in those few short seconds it takes for him to hand the packet over and for Jasper to tear it open.
"I was hoping you'd take a look at this, before he gets back."
He sits back, watches, waits for the reality of what he's holding in his hands to sink in to Jasper's head, and when it happens the man's reaction is everything Phil could have hoped for. After a moment of sheer, dumbstruck shock, he surges to his feet, drops the contract onto his chair, and rounds Phil's desk to grab him up in a jubilant hug. It's laughing and smiling and getting pounded on the back, and that too drives the happiness home for Phil, his friend's utter happiness for him.
"This is fantastic Phil, congratulations!" he grins, shaking Phil's hand vigorously now that he's released him from a deadly bear hug. "Didn't think it would ever happen."
"Neither did I," he exhales, a little shaky but still smiling. "Really ought to send Tandy a fruit basket."
"Nah, fuck that," Jasper growls, heading back to his chair to pick up the contract and begin leafing through it. "Bastard got what he deserved. Lucky Barton didn't put an arrow in his gut."
"He wasn't in any state to do that at the time."
Jasper's head snapped up, understanding dawning in his eyes.
"That how all this came around?"
"Yes. And before you panic, it wasn't a decision made in the heat of the moment. This has been building for a while..."
"A damn long while," Jasper snorts, and Phil glares.
"Not what I meant. I took him down, after Tandy, got him through his drop, but after that..."
"After that you finally nutted up and told him how you feel?"
Phil frowns, feels his face heat, but his voice is strong when he answers.
"I told him I like him. A lot. That I have for a 'damn long while.' Thought it was a little soon to tell him..."
"That you're ass-over-teakettle, stalker-level-creepy in love with him?"
There's a glint in Jasper's eye that Phil is entirely unamused by, but the man waves him off, his grin gentling.
"Probably for the best," he says, "Barton's always been damn twitchy for a sniper. Best not to scare him off before you have him locked in – I approve."
"I'm not trying to lock him in."
"You totally are," Jasper chuckles, waving the contract at him where he's got the first two pages folded over, speed-reading. "Three months Phil?"
"His idea. We both decided we've waited long enough."
"Ain't that the fucking truth."
"Damn it Barton!" he barks, and Clint just grins at him from behind his aviators, cocky and smug because he knows what he looks like.
He's wearing camo cargoes tucked into his combat boots, a black wife-beater that's two sizes too small, and a thin strip of fabric tied around his forehead Rambo-style. He'd streaked his face with grease paint and rigged up a sling for his new toys, a nerf gun hanging from either shoulder holster, his pockets stuffed full of extra darts. He looks like a cliché, a cartoon, but he also looks like an unmitigated badass, and if Jasper is shooting him the stink-eye, Phil is giving him a nice, slow eye-fuck.
Damn if he doesn't mind.
"Sir," he purrs, slinking forward and leading with his hips. Sitwell rolls his eyes but Clint can see he's got their contract in his hands so he's not worried about it. He had told Phil he wouldn't submit in public, at work, but Jasper is a friend to both of them and offering Phil something is different than having it demanded of him. Besides, their proposed relationship is all right there, laid out in black and white. "Hand was down seven juniors when I left. All entirely unsuitable for field work."
"Well done Agent Barton," Phil acknowledges with a dip of his head, but Clint can hear the roughness in his voice and bites back a grin.
"Hmm, yes, but did you have to break them?" Jasper hums, his eyes back on the papers in his hand.
"Hey," Clint shrugs, "If I can crack it, they can't hack it."
"Ugh, rhyming?" Sitwell gags. "Is this how you two are when you're in lurv?"
Clint pales, feels his body go cold, because he's never said that, never told anyone that. It's true, sure, but it should be for him to say, not anyone else, and he's not... he's not sure he's ready for that. But Coulson's ears are only a little pink and he's brushing it off as teasing and Clint can breathe again, the nervousness and the fear and the indignation banished in the face of happiness, of the reason why they're all there.
"Come on, sit the hell down so we can get this signed and I can get out of here," Sitwell says gruffly, but when Clint sits down beside him the man puts a warm hand on his shoulder and squeezes, long and firm and affectionate.
Aside from Coulson he'd been the only handler willing to look beyond Clint's history in the beginning, willing to give him a chance, and it had earned the neutral both Clint's respect and his loyalty in the end.
"Wanna get out of here before you two start making heart eyes at each other."
Doesn't mean he couldn't still be an ass sometimes.
Regardless, he takes his role as witness very seriously and spends the next half hour going over the entire contract with each of them, taking particular note of both Clint and Phil's personal additions to the document and ensuring they're both aware and accepting of the changes. He even banishes Coulson from his own office, sending him out after coffee while he asks Clint if he's entering into the contract of his own free will, without coercion either in a submissive capacity or a subordinate's. Clint assures him that he is, knows that Jasper already knows this, but is glad he asks all the same. It's good to know that someone else cares about him, is looking out for him, and that Jasper is taking this seriously, not just assuming it's a joke or an attempt to sweep the betting pools.
It's a poorly kept secret among mid-level agents, and the snipers especially, that Clint Barton is completely gone on his handler.
Jasper's hugging him and offering him genuine congratulations when Phil steps back in, and together they all put their names to paper, three signatures inked in black that swallow up all the old hurts in Clint's heart and open his whole future up ahead of him. It's... stunning, overwhelming, and Clint's fingers are tracing the lines of his own penmanship with reverence when Jasper decides to take his leave, offering him one more pat on the back and Phil one more handshake before snagging his coffee mug and heading out, locking the door behind him.
"How does it feel?" Phil murmurs in his ear, slipping in close behind him and running his fingers down Clint's arm, circling his wrist loosely in his fingers where he's leaning against the desk.
It's subconscious, Clint knows, the next best thing his Dom can get to buckling a leather contracting-cuff around his wrist, and he finds that in that moment he really doesn't mind. It's binding in a really good way, and he doesn't feel even the slightest urge to pull away, to shake himself free.
"Good," he murmurs, his breath catching in his throat when Phil hums happily and tucks his face into the curve of his shoulder, nuzzling at the hinge of his jaw as his free arm wraps low around Clint's waist, pulling him back flush against his front. "Really good. I'm..."
Swallowing hard, he squirms, turns in Phil's grip and virtually reversing there positions, holding him low around the waist and curling up against his chest, pressing his lips to his Dom's throat.
"I'm happy Phil," he says, careful to use his handler's name, to really make him understand what he means. "I haven't felt like this in a long time."
"Me either," the man admits, and his voice is deep and throaty and puts a nice little shiver down Clint's spine.
Pulling back, he presses a quick smooch to Phil's lips before grinning at him, laughing when Coulson rolls his eyes and steps back. Shaking his head fondly, the man collects the newly-signed contract and slides it back into its envelope, disappearing it into the secret drawer he thinks Clint doesn't know about. They still have to update their personnel files – Clint's will finally, finally read Partnered, Uncollared, and if he's lucky he'll get to update it again in three months – and Phil will very likely inform Fury, but that contract, that little packet of paper is as good as a promise in Clint's mind, and Phil Coulson keeps his promises.
"So hey, um..." he begins, rubbing the back of his neck, flushing when Phil looks up at him with eyes that are bright and full of emotion. "I was thinking, about what you said the other night."
"I said a lot of things the other night," Phil replies silkily, slinking around the desk toward him and woah, ok, Clint likes sexy, seductive Phil, even if he'd caught him off guard. "So did you, if I remember correctly."
Swallowing hard, he wets his lips, tries to gather his suddenly scattered thoughts as his Dom approaches him at a stalk.
"Well I was kinda thinking about one thing?"
"Hmm, and what would that be?"
Clint shudders as Phil's fingertips land on his hips, slide slowly up his rib cage as the man steps in close to his body.
"Well, um, I was wondering if... Y,you have Friday night off right?"
Phil's hands pause and Clint opens his eyes again just in time to see him blink, tilt his head.
"I think I can arrange something," he says, clearly curious but ever-willing to accommodate him.
"You know how you said..."
Now it's Clint's turn to pause, to worry his lower lip as the nerves flicker back to life again, small and not so fierce, fleeting, there and gone because this was Phil Coulson, who kept his promises and meant what he said and had just signed a contract with high-functioning-disaster Clint Barton.
"You know how you said the first time it could just be us?" he says in a rush, before he changes his mind and chickens out. "Just you and me, Clint and Phil?"
Clint blushes, drops his eyes.
"I think I'd really like that."
Phil's hand finds his chin, slides up to cup his jaw and lift his face to meet his eyes.
"I'd really like that too," he smiles, and then he leans in to press a long, lingering kiss to his lips. "I can be out of here by six – meet at mine?"
"What kind of boy do you think I am?" Clint asks pertly, because it is Clint and Phil, not Sir and his boy, and because Clint's always been a smartass, always pushed for more.
"A good boy," Phil grins, making Clint's heart skip merrily. "If you wanted to be wined and dined Agent Barton, all you had to do was ask. Pick you up at seven?"
"Yeah," Clint agrees, nodding dumbly since his throat has gone tight and he's not sure he can actually get the words out around the rock of happiness in his chest. "Yeah, seven's good."
Phil picks him up on Friday promptly at seven, which is a good thing because Clint probably would've panicked a little if he were late. Frankly he's panicked enough already that night, making sure he's showered and shaved and nicely dressed, changing clothes three or four times before settling on an outfit – a feat given how few articles of clothing he actually owns. Eventually he'd chosen a pair of black jeans, a white button-down and a charcoal colored vest – an outfit he'd been provided once on an undercover op. Phil had never seen it but Clint had attracted plenty of attention that night, and Agent Quint down in tailoring had assured him it was perfectly suited to a wide array of nice locales.
Really it's the overnight bag that makes him the most nervous. It seems presumptuous somehow, but he packs one anyway. Stupid to be so twitchy over it, but he doesn't want to jinx anything. He's not even superstitious, and yet there he is, dithering over whether or not it'll look bad if he brings one along, even though he and Phil both know damn good and well where this evening's headed. His handler won't care if he brings a pair of pajamas and his own toothbrush along – it's not like he's trying to move in or anything.
Except... maybe he'd kinda like that, now that they're contracted, and maybe that's why he's freaking out over it so much.
It's an easy worry to push aside though when he trots down to the garage under HQ and finds Phil waiting for him, leaning against his prized Corvette like the gorgeous badass he doesn't really know he is.
"I get to ride in Lola?" he asks with surprise, unable to keep the excitement out of his voice.
Coulson doesn't let anyone even touch Lola, except for Javier, the tiny Puerto Rican mechanic down in the SHIELD garages that – rumor had it – Phil had recruited out of a cartel at the age of fifteen about seven years ago.
"Of course," Phil agrees, easy as anything as he pushes off the side of the car, stepping forward to kiss Clint on the cheek. "You're mine now, just like her."
"I probably shouldn't like being compared to a car," Clint chuckles as he crowds a little closer, his hand on Phil's hip, "But I know how much she means to you."
"I care about the things that I make my own," he says quietly, his fingers lingering on Clint's wrist – a subconscious habit he's picked up ever since they'd signed their contract at the beginning of the week. "I take care of the things that I make my own."
"Gonna take care of me tonight boss?" Clint asks with a wicked grin, nudging his hips forward just a tiny bit, and Phil laughs.
"Come on brat," he teases, turning and opening Lola's passenger door. "You may look good enough to eat, but we've got reservations elsewhere."
"Thanks. You're looking pretty incredible yourself Coulson," Clint purrs as he climbs in, and maybe he slides his hand down the front of Phil's thigh as he does it, but it's out of sight of the security cameras so nobody will ever be able to prove it.
He'd kind of expected a suit but Phil always wore suits. No great loss, because Clint absolutely adores the sight of him in jeans. They're new and neat, dark-dyed navy, not the pale, worn out pair he'd donned in his apartment, but they fit his ass and his thighs like a glove.
A sexy, sexy glove.
Paired with the muted green button-up and the black blazer in a sharp, clean cut, he looks...
Well, really, really hot, and that's like, the PG-13 version of what Clint really thinks.
"You planning on staying a while?" Phil asks quietly as he slips into the driver's seat beside him, watching as he maneuvers his bag into the well beneath his feet.
The warmth in his voice makes it easy for Clint to respond.
"If you don't mind?"
Phil glances over at him with a quietly elated smile as he starts the car, Lola's low rumble powerful and just as sexy as her driver.
"I'll clear out a drawer for you."
And that's it.
It's that easy.
There's surprise and disbelief and ecstatic happiness, but it's just that simple with Phil.
He takes Clint to a really nice tapas restaurant, nothing geared specifically to power orientation which is nice, just good wine and good food and good atmosphere. He parks himself of course, waving off the valet, and opens every door they encounter, ushering Clint through with a warm, steady hand on the small of his back. It's both gentlemanly and possessive and it puts a little thrill in Clint's belly every time, especially when Phil pulls out his chair himself at the table and slides it in behind him.
It always amazes Clint that, after all these years, after knowing Phil better than he thinks he knows anyone else and vice versa, they can still find things to talk about. For two people who've only just started a romantic relationship they're incredibly intimate. Phil knows things about him that very few people know, understands him in ways no one else does, has saved his life literally and metaphorically too many times to count, and he's still learning things about the man.
Over a dozen different small plates and a glass of red wine apiece, Phil tells him stories about his sister Beth, his childhood dog Captain, and his attempts to pick up the trumpet in middle school. In turn Clint regales him with tales of his own, stories about Bruno the aged circus tiger, about his very first solo act, and about the time he'd gotten to free-climb the Eiffel Tower on a job in Paris. They laugh together, ask each other questions and add in little anecdotes, and it's as comfortable as it's ever been before. There's no stilted awkwardness, no nerves, just pure enjoyment of each other's company.
They end up lingering over coffee, splitting a slice of warm chocolate tart served with raspberry coulis, and Clint makes sure to be as lascivious as possible when licking his spoon clean. It's one of the best meals he's ever eaten and if he weren't so preoccupied by the thought of licking the sweet, red sauce off his Dom's bare stomach he'd wonder if Jasper hadn't recommended it. Phil's blushing though, something Clint finds fascinating given who he is, and that's far more interesting than anything else. Phil catches the waiter, pays the check with a proud little look when Clint only puts up a token protest, and gets them back on the road again with a smoothness he finds to be as impressive as it is attractive.
He expects that of Phil - that suave competency, the clear ease he feels inside his own skin - and he's even beginning to expect the little demonstrations of Dominance that the man's started letting slip – the way he touches Clint's wrist across the table, the way he calmly insists on picking up the bill...
What he doesn't expect, what nearly has him jumping out of the car if not for his seatbelt, is the way Coulson's hand slips confidently off the gear shaft and lands in Clint's lap.
Clint sucks in a sharp breath and promptly bites down on his lip to keep from yelping as Phil's fingers scratch lightly up the inside of his thigh from knee to zipper. They're at a stoplight and the top is down, and it's a warm, pleasant night. There's not a car around them that doesn't have it's windows open, but Coulson doesn't seem concerned, subtly massaging Clint's fly with the heel of his palm and squeezing him gently through the denim. By the time the light changes and Coulson takes his hand back without a word, he's panting and half-hard, trying not to jerk his hips against the seatbelt.
"You're a tease Coulson," he growls as they turn onto the little side street where Phil's brownstone is located.
"Don't dish it out if you can't take it Barton," Phil says, and the bastard's smirking even though he's looking straight ahead, fiddling with a little hidden nob on the radio that has his garage door opening up to allow them inside.
"I like this side of you."
Putting Lola into park, Phil blinks and looks over at him, a little stunned, a little surprised, and no doubt thinking it over.
Has he really not noticed?
"You're a smooth son of a bitch boss," Clint explains, "But ever since we signed that contract... damn! You've been... confident and intense and like, really casually toppy... It's awesome."
For a second Phil just stares at him, then suddenly he's surging across the seat and grabbing him by the nape of the neck, hauling him in and giving him another one of those devastatingly incredible kisses. Clint melts into it without a fuss, just lets it take him under, wash over him in a wave of warm, perfect happiness. He's not passive by a long shot, sliding his tongue along the edge of Phil's lower lip, nipping at his mouth until he opens up and things get ten times better. Before he knows it they're two grown men making out in the back of a red Corvette like teenagers, complete with heavy petting and awkward maneuvers around the gear stick, and it might be the best sexual experience he's had in his entire life.
"Wanna come up?" Phil asks against his ear, and Clint laughs.
"See?" he points out, pulling back to grin at him. "Smooth."
They separate reluctantly and climb out their respective sides of the car, and Clint gives Lola a caress in apology. Seems a bit rude in hindsight – she is a lady after all – but Phil is unlocking the door to the house and beckoning him inside and there are more important things to be focusing on. He practically chases the man into the apartment at a trot, and it's silly and it's lighthearted and it's fun, and Phil is grinning back at him as he shucks his jacket and tosses it over the back of the couch, trailing backward down the hallway toward the bedroom.
Clint's heart is beating a mile a minute – happiness and excitement and arousal, and the good kind of nerves that he likes – and he follows Coulson at a slow, predatory stalk, stripping off his vest and his belt as he goes. By the time he steps into the bedroom, softly lit by the bedside lamp Phil has clicked on, he's done messing around and tackles his partner – fuck, partner – onto the bed.
"Fuck, you're hot," he rumbles deep in his chest as he wrestles Phil over onto his back and straddles his hips, runs his hands down the man's chest. "Thought so the very first time I saw you, chasing me in Mozambique."
"Didn't know you... saw me in Mozambique," Phil pants as Clint licks a stripe up his throat, scrapes his teeth against the thick tendons in his neck. "Doesn't surprise me. Mozambique was a... shit, Clint..."
"Mmm," Clint hums agreeably, pleased with the gasp he elicits by nipping sharply at Phil's collarbone, just barely accessible underneath his open collar. He can see the vulnerable hollow of the man's throat, smooth skin, a tiny bit of chest hair – and really it's just indecent, buttoned-up Agent Coulson waltzing around without a tie...
Yeah, he wants some more of that.
"You were incredible," he purrs as his fingers dance down the line of Phil's shirt, slipping buttons loose as he goes. He has to stop and collect himself when Phil rolls his hips, untucking his shirttails and making him whimper in one easy movement. "And then the night you recruited me..."
"I shot you the night I recruited you," Phil argues breathily, occupying himself with Clint's shirt as he continues to arch his hips beneath him.
Clint just nods, bites his lip as Phil finally gets his hands against his bare skin, slides them up nice and slow until he reaches his shoulders and can help drag him out of his sleeves.
"No one else even came close," he murmurs, and then he's lost in the memory, a rainy evening in the chill fall of London, his first face-to-face encounter with one Phillip J. Coulson, Agent of SHIELD. Competent, sure, too cool for school and obviously a Dom, Clint had expected to be ordered to his knees on that rooftop. Instead he'd been winged in the thigh by a nine millimeter Heckler and Koch and carted off to a medical base, not to speak to the man again for nearly eight months while he recovered and got put through basic training evals. All in all he'd been left with the impression of someone who always knew what he was about; a kind, judicious Dominant without the overtly sadistic streak that was so common in the men Clint knew. He'd wanted, even from that very first night, and it had scared him.
"Always knew you'd come back to me somehow," Phil growls, and Clint opens his eyes to find that the man's sat up beneath him so that he's essentially sitting in his lap. "Soon as I pulled that trigger. Waiting felt like it nearly killed me..."
"Wasted a lot of time didn't we?" Clint asks as Phil's hands slide up to cup his jaw and pull him in for a strangely gentle kiss. "I don't wanna waste anymore."
Phil pulls back, stares at him with impossible blue eyes, and traces his thumb over Clint's lips.
"No time I've ever spent on you has been a waste."
Everything slows down after that.
Clint remembers it all in a warm, golden haze, soft and warm and tender, remembers the agonizing reverence of Phil's hands on his body. He doesn't remember who gets naked first, or who does most of the work, just remembers the shared touches, the constant kissing, the whispered murmurs of pleas and praise. He remembers the tightness in his chest, of feeling so full of happiness and pride and love that he has to choke the words back down along with the beating of his heart, because really is there a worse time for declarations like that? He'll tell him, he wants to tell him, but not yet.
Phil opens him up as slowly and tenderly as he's done everything else, taking pains to make sure that Clint doesn't feel any. It's been a long time so he appreciates the prep work, especially with Phil's tongue pressing kitten licks to his balls and his inner thighs, but at the same time it seems to drag on forever. It's Clint's own fault – when Phil had offered him the bottle of Gun Oil from the bedside table he'd pressed it back into his hand, rolled over and dragged him down on top of him. He feels like he's waited his entire adult life to have Phil Coulson on top of him, moving inside of him, and he's not going to pass up on the opportunity.
He's not surprised that the foreplay is just as good as the main event. Phil seems to make it his mission to draw as many gasps and moans from Clint as he possibly can, and damn if the man isn't just as good at that as he is at everything. His mouth is amazing and everywhere at once; sucking a love bite low on the side of Clint's throat, biting down over his nipple hard enough that he can feel it deep in the thick muscle, tonguing the head of his cock until Clint's actually crying, and then suddenly he's tearing open a condom with his teeth and rolling it on and sinking into him with one long, smooth stroke.
"Ffffuck," Clint moans, squeezing his eyes shut and clutching at Phil's forearms, holding on tight enough to leave bruises.
"Gimme a minute," Phil chokes, and Clint actually barks a laugh, the both of them shivering as the sound ripples between their bodies.
Reaching up, Clint grabs him and drags him down, peppers his face with kisses until Phil's stopped panting quite so hard and gotten his knees underneath him. God he loves this man, this wonderful, silly, beautiful man who makes terrible jokes in the driest tone with the very best of timing. If he'd been nervous at all, about his performance or his technique or his ability to live up to the gossip-mill hype that is Hawkeye's famous ass he's not anymore, and then Phil starts to move in slow, shallow thrusts and thinking isn't really a thing that still happens.
"Perfect," Phil huffs against his neck where he's leaning over him, tucking his face into the curve of Clint's throat. "So... damn... perfect Clint."
"For you," he pants, his hands stroking down Phil's sides and over his ass, clutching at the flexing muscles. Phil's riding smoothly across that happy place deep inside him, a more attentive lover than he's ever had, and coupled with the fact that he's been wound up all night, that it's Phil Coulson staring down at him like he's the most precious thing in the world, he's not going to last very long. "Only ever for you. Christ Phil, you're the only man I ever..."
He doesn't finish.
Well, he does, just... not his sentence.
What, orgasms make him loopy ok?
Especially hard, hot, perfect orgasms with the man he's head over heels for, the man who's following him right over the edge. Breath catching in his chest, Clint throws his arms around Phil's shoulders and hugs him tight, like he's never going to let go, until they've both ridden through the aftershocks and the man goes loose and limp above him, sagging onto Clint's body like so much dead weight. He's warm and heavy and there's all kinds of sweat and stickiness between them and it's absolutely wonderful, and in that moment Clint thinks maybe he agrees with Phil – that even though it's taken years for them to get here, he wouldn't change a minute of it.
"Mmm, good?" Phil mumbles against his ear, pressing a kiss to his shoulder.
"Better than," Clint sighs happily, tightening his grip on the man for just a minute. "Good?"
"Yeah. Yes, Clint. Really... really good."
Grinning like a dope, Clint makes to snuggle down into the mattress but ends up squirming when Phil rolls off of him and gets up to toss the condom, snagging somebody's boxers from the floor to give them each a cursory wipedown.
"Come back," he grumbles, watching him move about the room and making grabby hands.
Phil chuckles and moves back to the bedside, cups his cheek in his hand and just stares at him for a really long time. He's brushing his thumb back and forth across Clint's cheekbone when he reaches up and circles the older man's wrist with his fingers, turns and presses a kiss to his palm. Phil smiles softly, clicks off the light, and a few seconds later he's climbing into bed beside him, curling up close against his side and wrapping his arm around Clint's waist.
"Nap first, then shower," he mumbles, already sounding as sleepy as Clint feels.
"Then round two?" he asks, cheeky and teasing and hopeful, and Phil chuckles.
"Then round two," he promises, pressing a kiss to Clint's shoulder.
Settling down, they curl up even closer, warm and sated and content, and less than five minutes later they're both breathing deeply and dozing off. Clint reaches down and laces his fingers together with Phil's where they rest on his belly, and just before sleep takes him he thinks he hears the three words that have been lodged in his heart for so long, but he's not exactly sure who says them.
I'm a hot mess you guys. I mean, this update schedule? I'm dying here. I do this to myself. I love you all. Also, this is basically my first sex scene. I'm blushing. I'm ridiculous. Nevermind me...
All in all, it's the best date and the best sex that Clint's ever had.
The nap is short and the shower sleepy, and maybe they don't get in that suggested second round but falling asleep with his arm slung across Phil's waist is really just as good. He doesn't feel the familiar anxious need to get up and get dressed and get out the next morning, nor does he feel obligated to wake his Dom with a slow, lazy blowjob but he totally does. Phil hums and stretches happily in the warm sheets, sun streaming through the windows as he threads his fingers gently into Clint's hair and tugs, and damn but it's just perfect.
A guy could get used to that.
It's a bit of a scary thought but Clint's a greedy bastard at heart, so he's going to take what he can and run with it. For a moment there, when he's licking the taste of come off his lips and Phil's chest is still heaving, his head thrown back on the pillows, all the insecurity comes flooding back and he wishes he'd taken the contracting cuff when he'd had the chance, but then Phil's dragging him up for a sharp, biting, possessive kiss and his fingers are wrapped so tight around Clint's wrist that it doesn't really matter anymore.
They go to breakfast once Phil's recovered. Clint isn't in too much of a yank to attend to his own morning wood, and there's something strangely intimate about lying quietly in bed together, his head resting on Phil's hip while everything calms and settles. Maybe they still aren't playing at Dom and sub yet but it puts Clint in a wonderfully relaxed state of mind even if it takes his body a few minutes more to get there. Phil kisses him on the corner of the mouth when they finally drag themselves up out of the bed, and then it's pancakes and coffee and playing footsie under the formica diner booth table and a feeling in his chest like things have finally, finally started to go his way.
Still, he heads back to his barracks for the rest of the afternoon. A part of him really just does have a few errands to finish, some laundry and a few overdue after-action reports, but the rest thinks that maybe he should get out from underfoot for just a bit, give them both some time to pull back and reflect. The way Phil smirks at him says he knows exactly what Clint's doing, but he seems entirely confidant in how things have gone and his belief that Clint will come back this time.
Of course, he does make a very clear point of stealing Clint's go-bag back from him when he picks it up, slipping the strap over his own shoulder and refusing to relinquish it. Apparently he was serious when he'd made the offer to clear out a drawer, so much so that Clint's going to have to replace a few things from SHIELD commissary when he gets back to headquarters.
The day passes much as any of Clint's Saturday's do, with the notable new addition of constant texting with his handler cum Dominant. Sure, he'd had Phil's cell number before, and he hadn't exactly been judicious about using it, but now it's just ridiculous, constant and silly and completely personal, a new intensity to the flirtation that's always been there. Before it had been a form of self-torture; now it feels like an indulgence and it's one he basks in thoroughly as he goes about his afternoon.
By the time evening rolls around he's run out of chores to distract himself with, so he spreads out on his bunk with his phone close to hand and finally lets himself replay the whole thing in his mind, grinning like a dope at his foam-board ceiling panels.
It was good, so good.
All of it, every part.
He really hadn't been as sure as he'd first thought he was about a date without any power exchange. It should've made him feel safer, and it did a bit, but it had also put him at a disadvantage because it wasn't something he had ever really done before. But Phil had... Phil had taken care of him, and he had gotten to take care of Phil right back and maybe it hadn't really been all that different after all. Maybe that's what it was supposed to be, that easy give and take; maybe that's what it could be when you found someone you were actually compatible with...
There's a contented warmth taking up residence in his chest when his phone rings, and he nearly fumbles the thing as he leaps to answer it, a painfully sharp smile on his face.
"Heya boss," he chirps cheekily by way of greeting. "Miss me?"
"Yes," Phil replies, and the simple honesty, the good old-fashioned fondness in that one word makes Clint's breath catch in his throat. "I very much enjoyed our date Clint."
"Yeah," he says hoarsely before clearing his throat. "Yeah, I... I really did too. Thanks, for... taking me."
"You're welcome. We should do it again sometime."
This surprises a bark of laughter out of him and he thinks he can hear Phil chuckling across the line as well, that gentle laughter that's so rare around base and that Clint covets as dearly as anything. It's sweet and it's soft and it's vulnerable and just nice, and then the man goes wicked and sharp-edged and dangerous and the intensity between them gets turned on its head.
"For now I've got different ideas."
Clint's mouth instantly goes dry and he licks his lips, swallows with nervous anticipation.
"You promised to do some homework for me, didn't you Clint?"
Oh yeah, he had.
They'd talked about this – the 'homework.' Phil had proposed it as a way of slowly beginning to explore his soft limits, to decide what all he wanted to bring into their play. Clint's heart immediately begins to pound in his chest, thoughts of blindfolds and darkness rushing in on him even though his bedside lamp is burning brightly, but Phil's an observant son of a bitch and catches on to the change in his breathing patterns, even over the phone line.
"Talk to me Barton."
And well that takes all the nerves right out of him.
How many times has he heard that phrase, the voice of a savior in his ear? Never once has he heard that quiet command and been disappointed, never once has he responded and been ignored. The sound that escapes him is half sigh, half languid moan, and he hears the man chuckle quietly.
" 'M good sir," he mumbles, body going lax against the sheets.
Well, most of his body anyway.
The rest of him has taken a keen interest in developing plans and is standing at strict attention.
"That's good Clint," Phil purrs, and it's dark and wicked like Clint hasn't quite heard out of him before, sends a crackle of electric excitement across his nerves. "What are you wearing?"
It's a line, a cliché one but cute somehow coming from the ever-professional Phil Coulson and Clint huffs, biting down hard on his lip to keep from laughing. Glancing down the long, somewhat interrupted line of his own body, he switches the phone to speaker and puts it on the pillow beside his head.
"Nothing too fancy sir," he admits, considering his SHIELD-issued boxer-briefs and ratty t-shirt. "But maybe some other time I can find something special to wear for you."
It's meant to be a saucy sort of tease, meant to take back just a bit of control for himself to level out the spike of anxiety he'd just hurdled, but the way Phil's breath hitches down the line sets off all kinds of happy light bulbs in his head.
"Like that sir?" he asks with affected innocence, his hands beginning to wander. "Like for me to pick out something nice, just for you? Something pretty to put on under the tac suit?"
"I'd like for you to get naked," Phil growls in his ear, but oh, Clint's got his number – he's not fooling anyone.
Doesn't mean he's any slower about obeying his Dom's orders – he bounces upright and strips out of his clothes in record time, lands his shirt and his shorts in the hamper without even looking.
"Are you hard?"
Fuck, what does he think, of course he's hard.
"Yeah," Clint pants, flopping back on the bed beside the phone. "Yeah, I'm..."
Phil's voice is sharp, like that crack of a whip, but not angry. It's strong, commanding, and oh god it feels good, rushing across his skin like physical caress. He's not a hundred percent sure what Phil's looking for but he has a couple of ideas, and decides to go with both just to be safe.
"Yes, I'm hard Sir. Fuck, I was hard as soon as the phone rang."
"Mm, that's very good."
Phil's voice is low and dark and rumbly, thick like molasses, and Clint does a mental fist pump at having gotten it right. It shouldn't feel like a quiz he's trying to ace but it's still early in their relationship so he thinks he can be forgiven for wanting to please. Calling him Sir, well, that had been the easy bit – Clint feels like he's always been Sir, and giving that to him, that sign of respect and submission is something he's been wanting to do for years. The rest of it is a little harder, because despite the fact that he had survived his weekend of unusual punishment and been handsomely rewarded with the world's best handjob, it's still hard for him to ask for things, to give any kind of voice to sexual desires.
He knows how fond Phil is of dirty talk and is slowly starting to better understand what shape that takes, but the hot, heavy feeling in the pit of his belly says he's about to get another lesson.
"You're going to touch yourself for me tonight," Phil says silkily, and Clint whines, his hands slipping down his belly toward the impressive hard-on he's already sporting. "I want to hear you come."
"What... what's the catch?" he asks breathily, sucking in a gasp as he skims the rough pads of his fingers up the length of his cock. "Sir."
"There is no catch. I meant what I said Clint – I want to hear you come."
There's too much honesty in his voice now, too much intensity, and Clint recognizes the sound of his Dom pulling back because he remembers his hander doing the same thing many, many years ago. It's hesitancy, taking care to tread lightly round Clint's numerous triggers, and no, no, he doesn't want that...
"Don't believe you Sir," he says smartly, giving himself a few good strokes and making sure to moan extra loud for the man's benefit. "No work in that homework, me just lying here getting off for you."
"Perhaps you shouldn't be complaining."
Clint grins, because oh yeah, that's better.
"Tell me what you wanna hear then Sir."
There's a pause then, silence but for the quiet brush of skin on skin before Phil apparently makes up his mind. It lasts just long enough for Clint to wonder if maybe he shouldn't be provoking the man, but not quite long enough to make him regret it.
"You said years."
The hesitancy's back, a tender vulnerability, and Clint goes still and quiet, reciprocal words welling up big and bright in his chest.
"I meant it," he replies, and he swears he can hear Phil's relief before he pushes it away and comes back with the deeper, more seductive voice that warns of things to come.
"That's a long time Clint," he purrs, and it's a good kind of teasing that makes him shiver and sigh. "You must have fantasies."
"Yes Sir," he gulps, suddenly sure of where this is going. "A few."
"You just want me to pick one, or..."
"Which one is your favorite?"
Not one he's going to share now, that's for sure.
Not one that's barely got anything to do with sex at all, not one that basically starts when the sex is finished.
Sated, sweaty, on his knees and curled up at his Dom's feet, safe and quiet and right where he thinks he belongs...
Not that one.
Some other time maybe, for some other game, but not now.
"Like the ones where you put me on my knees," he says, swallowing hard and licking his lips as his hand slowly takes its rhythm back up. "At home, or in your office, or even on the range, one time."
Clint's stomach tightens as his eyes flutter shut, calling up the images he's lingered over in bed and in the shower time and again. There's an element of nerves doing this because it's revealing secrets, exposing desires that he's kept close to the vest for a long time, and he doesn't doubt that that's half Phil's purpose right there. Still, this bit, this fantasy he's not ashamed of and it's certainly no secret that he's got something of an oral fixation.
"Like the ones where you make me suck your cock."
There's a sharp huff of breath across the phone line and Clint's hips jerk, incredibly aroused knowing that his words are beginning to have an effect on his Dom. It's nice and its encouraging, and seems to loosen his tongue even as his fingers tighten around his cock.
"This morning," he says hoarsely, remembering the thick weight of Phil's dick in his mouth, "This morning was really good. Love the way you taste."
"You did seem to be enjoying yourself," the man rumbles, sounding deeply pleased. "Told you I loved your mouth. Always loved your mouth. Used to think about it, when you were bitching during debriefs or complaining over the comms. Used to think about doing just that – putting you on your knees and giving you something better to do."
Clint whines, fucking up into his fist as Phil's voice hums in his ears, fueling the memory of the fantasy like matches to gasoline, hot and bright beneath his skin.
"Want that so much," he pants, rolling his balls gently in his free hand, hips restless against the sheets. "Want your hands on my shoulders holding me down, want you fingers in my hair. Want your cock down my throat, aw, fuck, Sir, so good. You're so... thick..."
"Is that what you want Clint?" Phil growls, sounding just slightly breathless, and that more than anything brings him right up to the edge, knowing, hoping that his Dom is getting off on this too, that he's doing a good job. "Want me to order you down and tease you with my cock, just the tip of it on your tongue?"
Whimpering, teasing the head of his own cock with his fingertips, Clint feels his balls draw up high and tight, his body flushing hot, too hot.
"Want all of it," he argues, jerking himself hard and fast, muscles locking up and voice strained. "Want it deep, wanna choke on it, oh fuck..."
"That what you really want Clint?" Phil demands, a dark snarl, and he sounds far less collected now above the pounding in Clint's ears. "Want me to make you take it, want me to fuck that smart, gorgeous mouth of yours?"
"Oh god, Sir please!" Clint gasps, not even sure what he's asking for as his blood goes molten and his arousal twists impossibly tight, a coiled wire of need. "I'll be so good for you; please, please..."
"Come for me."
And well, Clint's never ignored an order from Phil Coulson in his life has he?
He's certainly not about to start now.
He comes harder than he has since he was a teenager, Phil's strong voice in his ear calling up all kinds of dirty and wonderful things and he cries and shakes his way through it. He thinks he actually whites out a little because he when he comes back to his senses Phil is calmly talking him through the last of the aftershocks and Stevens is banging on the wall they share from next door, suggesting that maybe he got a little bit loud there at the end. He's panting, fingers sticky, and oh god, now he's gonna be walking around with a tent pole in his briefs until he actually gets the chance to suck his Dom off for real, he just knows it.
"So beautiful," Phil murmurs, his voice rough around the edges, and Clint heaves a satisfied huff, grinning stupidly at the ceiling. "God the sounds you make. Such a good boy for me Clint."
"Can I... Sir please..."
"Please what Clint?"
Blushing painfully, his fingers still drawing lines across his belly, Clint takes a breath and er... spits it out.
"Sir can I taste?"
The sound his Dom makes is absolutely feral and Clint's cock gives a painful twitch, making a valiant attempt to rise again. Receiving a seductively dark affirmative, he immediately sucks two finger into his mouth, moaning appreciatively even if he wishes he were sucking on something else.
"Be so good for you," he mumbles, body suddenly heavy against the sheets and his eyes impossible to keep open. "Gonna be the best you ever had."
"You are the best sub I've ever had," Phil says softly.
"Silly," Clint accuses sleepily, snuggling into the pillow. "Gonna be the best lay you ever had."
"Best anything I ever had."
He really had too, beyond Phil's wildest hopes, and oddly enough that's more than a little scary. There's never been so much depth in any of the Dom/sub relationships he's had, and there's added vulnerability to the whole thing given that it's Clint, given that he loves the man so damn much.
When he'd first picked up the phone it had only been to check in, to satisfy his own desire to reconnect after only a few hours apart. It had turned on him so quickly he hardly had the time to organize his thoughts, to decide where he wanted the little session to go. He had no particular aversion to phone sex and he hadn't lied – he loves the sounds Clint makes and he had wanted to hear him come – so really it had all worked out, regardless of the spontaneous nature of the thing.
It had been reassuring, knowing that this had worked. When Phil had brought up the concept of 'homework' Clint had been dubious and rightly so, as Phil hadn't quite ironed out all the kinks at the time. His initial thought was that having little sessions over the phone would be a good way for Clint to explore his limits – for example Phil could have him spend some time fantasizing about a blindfold – and would allow him to do it in his own space, where he was safe and in control. They hadn't gone that far tonight but it had gone well, and now they had a foundation to build on that Phil could use to slowly introduce more elements to their play.
As a safe, controlled way for Clint to figure out how he feels about doing certain things with Phil as his Dom, it seems to be a pretty damn good method. He's already accustomed to having Phil's voice in his ear, has told him how much that means to him, how much he trusts that, so really it couldn't be more perfect.
Not to mention it had been fun.
Well, fun probably wasn't the right word.
Hot, sexy, gorgeous, any of the above.
Shit, Phil had almost come in his suit pants like a teenager three different times.
Clint offering to buy something pretty to wear underneath his Kevlar and leather, Clint describing a dirty fantasy in which Phil grabs on to his hair and fucks his face, Clint asking permission to lick up his own release and then moaning down the phone line like he might've died without something, anything in his mouth...
Taking a deep breath Phil presses the heel of his palm to the bulge in his slacks, willing his heart to slow its thunderous pace. He could've gotten himself off right alongside Clint – no one could've condemned him for that – but in the moment his own arousal had seemed almost unimportant. Strange, how their positions had so reversed from this morning, when Clint had woken him with a long, lazy blowjob that proved exactly how much he enjoyed giving head and then lay quietly beside him as Phil panted his way back to baseline, his fingers stroking the archer's neck and shoulders mindlessly as he recovered himself. Their dynamic was so beautiful already, that easy give without any demanding take, and it makes his throat tight to consider just how much better things could get.
Their little phone call had certainly given Phil more than a few ideas.
Not like fulfilling Clint's little fantasy will be a chore.
He's got a fantastic mouth and, as evidenced this morning, an incredible work ethic.
Phil's actually surprised how hard he is given how well he'd been attended to that morning. He's not as young as he used to be but apparently his new sub really, uh... brings it out of him.
New sub, hell.
He's in love, and in lust, and in tender, warm, affectionate fondness and just completely gone on Clint Barton.
He wants to give him everything, all his fantasies and the moon on a chain, and now he thinks he knows where he wants to start. He'd had ideas before, of course, still does. He knows all the things he's thought about doing with Clint, has thought about how he would like to introduce bondage and blindfolding if it's ever something the other man would like to do, but this first scene....
He wants it to be perfect.
Where he normally spends his Saturdays catching up on any chores he's missed during the week, today had been consumed by attempting to plan his and Clint's first real scene. He'd brought out the notes he'd taken in his office, added and rewrote and sketched out more plans with a meticulous attention to detail. It's a little intimidating if he's honest, for more than one reason, but mostly because their date had gone so well. Beyond the sex, the really incredible sex, it had simply been a perfect evening, all the same ease and compatibility he and Clint had always shared, but with the added heat of open affection and well, how can he really top that?
He's sure as hell going to try.
They have a week and a half's worth of missions ahead of the until their next two days off. Now labeled as partnered in the SHEILD system, they're far more likley to share down time than they had been before, nearly guaranteed it now. It's rare that they aren't put on the same missions anyway, so Phil is fairly confident that an upcoming Tuesday will serve his purposes well. It gives him time to plan, more than enough time to prepare, and all the time in the world to savor the building anticipation that crackles in his belly even now.
He'll see Clint again on Monday, and things will be as they've always been, Hawkeye and Agent Coulson working together as seamlessly as they ever have, while behind closed doors he'll be stealing as many kisses as he can. They'll find a new rhythm, learn how to balance their power dynamic at home and at work, and in the in-between he'll find a way to show Clint exactly what he means to him.
For the first time he finds he's looking forward to that.
The next two weeks pass and they're comfortably familiar and normal. Clint sleeps in his little bunk room at SHIELD and does his workouts, practices his hand to hand and spends a few hours on the range every morning. He gets shipped out on a three day mission that ends up being little more than a milk-run, one that's really far beneath his and Phil's talents, but that's good too. It gives them a chance to... acclimate, to ease back in to being Handler and Specialist and prove to themselves and each other that they can still do this, that nothing's really changed.
It hasn’t either.
They work together seamlessly; Clint flirts outrageously over the comms and Phil answers him back in that flat, deadpan way of his that makes him a legend at SHIELD. Clint trusts him completely to be there with every little thing he needs and Phil holds up his end, coaching Clint though some nearly-uninterpretable Haitian-Creole, directing him to the clearest escape routes... they're everything they've always been to each other at work – Hawkeye and Agent Coulson – and nothing's changed.
Well, nothing except for the part where after the debrief Phil drags him into a supply closet, shoves him back against the door, and kisses him senseless.
It's quite possibly the hottest thing Clint's ever experienced (something he's been saying more and more often lately), especially when Phil pulls back, straightens his tie, and waltzes out of the closet like nothing happened – the smug, smooth bastard. It takes Clint another ten minutes to get himself fully under control and presentable enough to leave.
Nights are good too. Phil calls him every evening to give him more homework, and Clint's damn near got a Pavlovian response to his text alerts now. He's had to change the chime so he doesn't get a stiffie any time his phone goes off. Nights though, nights it's always Phil, and Clint's half hard in his sweats before he even gets the first message open. Outside of AAR's, Coulson's version of homework is basically permission to fantasize, a guided jerk-off that results in an amazing orgasm.
Phil's voice in his ear whispering dirty things - he's never looked forward to homework so much in his life.
If he couldn't hear the hitch in Phil's breathing down the line, couldn't hear him getting himself off on the other end Clint might suspect he's stealing ideas, taking notes. Not that he would mind of course - the idea the Phil cares enough to do that, wants to fulfill all the fantasies he's held close to his chest for so long makes him feel pink and warm all over.
It's... it's perfect.
Would you like to try something for me tonight sweet boy?
And well fuck, how can he say no to something like that?
So two weeks pass, and during the day they stay Clint and Phil, Hawkeye and Agent Coulson, kicking ass and taking names and maintaining their reputations as top BAMFs of SHIELD despite the fact that Clint went to his knees in front of like, thirty agents in the hangar. They do the boyfriend thing too, grabbing coffee and dinner whenever they can, texting and grinning like idiots, and Phil even manages to sneak him away for a short walk through Central Park the one time.
At night though, at night it's Sir and his boy, his sweet boy, and Phil spends those nights slowly coaxing half a dozen dirty fantasies out of him. It makes him a little nervous after that first time (performance anxiety ya' know?), and he wants to make Phil feel as good, make him as happy as he makes Clint. If the way the man smiles at him, mornings after, soft and fond and intensely lustful all at the same time is any judge he's doing just fine. But there's a date marked on his calendar, circled in red that he's looking forward to, counting down to...
It's their first SHIELD-scheduled day off together since they updated their personnel files, and Phil's asked him, sweetly and politely and formally, if he would like to do a scene with him, a real scene.
Clint's reply was an immediate and enthusiastic yes.
They talk about it one night, after Clint's cleaned up and is basking in the afterglow, listening to Phil murmur in the phone about what a good boy he is. Stevens is going to give him the stink-eye tomorrow – the looks have been getting progressively darker as time goes on – but it's been worth it, so, so worth it, and this, this is the best bit, all the things Clint never thought he would be given.
"I'm excited," he hums suddenly, cutting Phil off with a heavy, satisfied sigh. "About Saturday."
"I'm nervous," Phil replies, and Clint blinks, surprised by the statement and the bold, open honesty in his tone.
"Yes, of course. It's a lot to live up to Clint. You deserve the world sweet boy."
"You'll give it to me," he insists quietly, unforgiveably reassured by the fact that Phil is nervous too, that it's not one hundred percent clean-and-easy for him the way he maybe kind-of thought it was. "You've always given me everything I needed. You... you take care of me, you make me safe. Fuck Phil, you're... you're gonna make me fly Sir."
Phil's very quiet, for a very long time after that. Clint knows he's still there, knows he must be processing those words both as his boyfriend who cares about him and as his Dom, who must be experiencing a rush of power-heavy pride. It's nice, knowing he can affect Phil just as much as Phil affects him.
"Jesus Clint, you are perfect."
Clint blushes warm and prickly, squirms atop the bedspread flush with praise.
"Thank you Sir."
Phil makes that low, grumbly sound low in his chest that makes him feel so pleased, so proud of himself.
"I do have plans though," the man purrs, all the confidence and all the Dominance back in his voice, making Clint shiver. "A few ideas. I want to take you down, so far you're floating. You trust me sweet boy?"
"Yeah," Clint breathes, his eyes falling closed. "Yeah, I really do."
Nothing's ever... felt so important before, nothing as big and bright and shiny in his life as Clint is.
He's planned everything out meticulously, considered everything that might go wrong, developed back-up plans for his back-up plans just in case something doesn't work for them...
In the end he has to remind himself that this is supposed to be fun, but he gets obsessive about that too. Starts repeating it, starts pacing, starts scolding himself for it, but then there's a knock at the door of his apartment and all that fades.
Very suddenly it's just him and Clint, who he knows so well and who knows him, and what is he really worried about anyway? They've been through hell and back the two of them, seen the very best and worst of each other, and well Phil knows himself too doesn't he?
Nothing in this world would keep him from cherishing this man, from doing everything in his earthly power to keep him safe.
And he wants.
Oh does he want.
When he opens the door he finds Clint standing on the other side looking bashful and as beautiful as ever – really it's not fair. He's wearing SHIELD issue tac pants and a grey t-shirt under a linen jacket, his shaggy hair finger-combed, all in all the picture of 'hot but not trying too hard.' His cheeks are pink and he's biting his lower lip, his eyes flicking back and forth the way they do when he's nervous, but it's anticipatory hunger on his face, not fear.
When Phil reaches out and grabs the side of his jacket in his fist, pulls him across the threshold he comes easily, and the kiss he presses to the archer's lips is long and warm and lingering. Phil hums, infinitely pleased when Clint presses back, takes some initiative and slides his tongue along Phil's lower lip as his hand comes up to curl around the back of his neck, drag him even further into it. He lets it go on for some time, slow and sweet, but that's not the game they're playing, not today. Not even if Phil wants to, wound so tight from holding out all those evenings he's talked Clint through a breathy, pleading orgasm that he'd be happy just rubbing off on him right here in the entryway.
He has bigger things in store.
Reaching around the man, Phil tosses the door shut and backs him roughly up against it, grinning against his mouth when Clint's back hits the frame with a jolt and he whines sharply between his teeth.
"Would you like to play with me sweet boy?" he purrs darkly, dragging his nose along the archer's jaw and down the curve of his throat, breathing in the clean, talc-and-Irish-Spring scent of him.
They've talked about this. About consent and what's planned out ahead of time, what's left for surprises. About transitional activities and safewords and... and oh just everything, but it's important and it's a part of it, and he's decided together with Clint that this question, this easy yes or no question is enough. That either one can ask it and that either answer will always be acceptable, that it will delineate between the start of a scene and their roles within their relationship since both were adamant that a 24/7 contract was not for them.
"Yes please Sir," Clint whimpers, and Phil grins, nips sharply at the thick cord of muscle joining his neck and shoulder.
Eager then, ready to start. He'd wondered if he shouldn't ease into this, maybe offer him a drink and talk with him a little, but he knows how much Clint hates talking and well, they've both waited long enough for this. It's been months, years since Clint's gone down by his own admission and nearly as long for Phil, and that thought, the way Clint's hips surge forward to find his that banishes all the worry, all the racing, nagging thoughts.
All that's left is the two of them together and the prospect of what's to come, and he's ready to play, ready to enjoy every moment of this.
"Then go to my room," he murmurs in Clint's ear before taking a reluctant step back. "I want you waiting for me when I get there."
And then he's gone, scampering off down the hallway too excited to put a seductive sway in his hips.
He gives Clint five minutes; two to get in position, two to settle, and one to let the anticipation build before he enters the room and his breath catches in his throat. They've talked about this too, about form and expectations and what really matters to a scene - and Clint's form is perfect – but it's the first time that Phil's really seen Clint in this kind of resplendent submission.
He doesn't think he'll ever tire of such a sight.
The archer is naked, vulnerable this way though far from helpless, body as strong and tanned and beautiful as it ever is. He's kneeling at the foot of Phil's bed on the thin, padded yoga mat he'd placed there earlier that day, all coiled muscle held in steady check as he breathes deeply and evenly, his chin held high but his eyes sweetly downcast. It knocks Phil back to that very first time he'd seen Clint kneel, at his feet on the floor of the jet hangar, and it's just as earth-rocking now as it was then, this strong, intelligent, talented man giving up his everything to Phil on a silver platter, trusting him with the innermost heart of himself.
It's quite possibly the most gorgeous thing he's ever seen.
"Look at you," he breathes, stepping softly into the room and closing the door behind him. "Never seen anything so beautiful."
Pink flushes across the archer's cheekbones and Phil crosses the floor slowly, cards his fingers gently through the man's hair.
"You have an incredible body Clint, but you are so much more than that," he continues, because he knows the archer will misinterpret his words and he intends to be clear. "You like to hide how smart you are, make like you're just a grunt, just a guy with good aim, but I've always known better. You see things, yes, but if it were nothing more than that you wouldn't be able to put all those pieces together."
It's amazing really, the effect his words have on the man at his feet. Phil's planned all this to emphasize the power shift of course, by putting Clint on his knees, by dressing for the part. Where Clint is rendered completely bare Phil has dressed in black, cliched but oh so darkly powerful, comfortable jeans and a snug t-shirt and bare feet. So different from his everyday suits, his SHIELD uniforms or his downtime sweats, it's an outfit and a mindset that he hasn't donned in far too long, and it's putting him in a nice, toppy frame of mind the same way the praise is slowly starting to drag Clint down.
"Clever boy," he murmurs, tugging the archer's blonde locks lightly. "So strong. I consider myself a lucky man Clint, to watch you work. Especially on the range, yes. You have no idea what it does to me to come down and watch you shoot, to see you take out a target with a shot no one else in the world could make."
Clint whines, his hands flexing on his bare thighs as though feeling the string and the fletching beneath his fingers and he trembles, a shudder running through him hard. Phil's heart is thumping in his chest and he feels that same shudder roll down his own spine, pulls until Clint is leaning slightly forward, his forehead resting against Phil's hip.
"Ruins the line of my suit, if I stay down there watching you too long," he admits with a smile, pleased when the teasing lightens the mood just a bit, when the blonde chuffs a choked sort of laugh. "And now here you are. It was a dream for so long, something I never thought I would get to see. You already give me so much as your handler – that you would give me this as your Dom..."
"All of me," Clint hums, his voice soft and low. "All of me Sir, everything I have. Trust you to give it back."
"I will give it back Clint," he insists quietly, gripping the nape of the man's neck. "You are far too remarkable an agent, far too remarkable a man to keep locked away on your knees, no matter how lovely you look down there. So I will always give it back, but Clint?"
Crouching down, Phil tightens his grip and drags the man's head up, forces him to meet his gaze with pupils blown dark and wide.
"I'm gonna take you down first."
The kiss Phil plants on him this time is different, hard and biting and hungry as he swallows Clint's needy gasp, teeth and tongue nipping and thrusting and taking, and by the time they break his chest is heaving as his body reminds him that he needs more than just this amazing man's submission to survive. Clint's eyes have fluttered closed again and he's got the most peaceful look on his face that Phil has seen him wear, already slipping.
"Stand up," he rumbles, his voice low and deep and dark without any effort to make it so. "I want to look at you."
The submissive rises smoothly to his feet without help, a casual display of balance and grace as natural to him as breathing. His stance leans more toward a soldier's than anything, one more small thing that Phil finds he loves about this man. Slowly he begins to circle around him, fingers reaching out to brush lightly against his skin until he sees the last thread of tension leave Clint's shoulders.
"There you go," he murmurs, pausing behind the blonde to slide his palms firmly down the sweeping curve of his back to his hips, then back up again. "You've been fighting this so long, haven't you sweet boy?"
Clint whimpers, and without looking Phil knows that he's pulled his lower lip between his teeth.
"So long since you've had anyone to please," he continues, his thumbs massaging the nape of the man's neck, "So long since you've had anyone to trust like this. Since you've had anyone to take care of you, tell you what a good boy you are."
The single word is cracked, broken, and Clint suddenly trembles as though he's trying not to sob. Slipping his arms around the archer's waist, Phil tugs him gently back so they're pressed together all the way down to their ankles, hugging him behind. Clint's hands come up to cover his own and he grips tight, holding on as though Phil is all that's keeping him upright and he understands, he does. Praise kink has all but died out these days – subs would rather be told what bad girls and dirty sluts they are than praised for doing well, for trying so hard. It's not difficult to believe that Clint's never been given the affection he craves, from Doms or even from his parents.
Stepping back, Phil takes Clint's hand and tugs, leads him to the side of the bed. Sitting down on the edge, he plants his feet wide and isn't surprised when the sub immediately goes back to his knees without prompting, settling himself between Phil's spread thighs.
"Give me your hands Clint."
He offers them up immediately – knuckles down, palms open, wrists pressed together – and Phil is momentarily stunned by the unhesitating response. They've talked about this too, of course, about how bondage is one of Clint's soft limits. He knows that most of all the archer dislikes the feeling of being trapped, unable to get away, and suspects that what he wants the most is a feeling of belonging. He himself knows the difference between bonds that restrict and bonds that hold, between the metal cuffs and biting zip ties of work and the soft silk ropes of play. He's seen how the smallest suggestion of constraint or deprivation, such as the verbal command to close his eyes or threading their fingers together can start to take Clint down. This is a risk, starting off this way so soon, but he's calculated all the angles and he truly believes it will work the way he hopes it will.
If not, well, he's adaptable, and they both have their safewords.
Taking the roll of bondage tape from the supplies he'd set out on the bedside table, Phil lifts one of Clint's hands, kisses his palm, and starts to wrap a cuff around his wrist.
"Do you like the color?" he asks quietly as he works, winding the dark purple tape snugly around the archer's wrist. "It made me think of you."
Clint huffs a breath before nodding slowly, blinking almost sleepily as he keeps his gaze trained on Phil's fingers, watching him work. He takes the opportunity to look the man over, seek out any signs of distress but he can't find any, instead sees a man whose shoulders are slumped and rounded with relief, whose nipples are stiff and peaked and whose pupils are huge and dark with arousal.
Swallowing down his own reaction, Phil finishes his task and lifts Clint's other hand, his left hand. This is the wrist that would have worn his cuff, and Phil isn't ashamed to say that that is a part of this. He wishes he could've put that mark on Clint, made him that promise even if he understands why the man had declined. He doesn't blame him, isn't upset, but he can do nothing but admit that he's still reacting the way any other Dom might in such circumstances. He knows he touches Clint there, knows he wraps his fingers around his wrist and squeezes gently whenever he gets the chance. He's not doing it on purpose but he's still doing it.
Now he lifts Clint's wrist to his mouth, kisses it, scrapes his teeth lightly across the thin, delicate skin there and drinks in the throaty gasp it earns. On a whim he indulges his nature, his desire to put his claim on this submissive as a Dominant and sucks a mark over his pulse point, brings the blood to the surface before laving his tongue over the bruise. Clint whines, panting when Phil finally lets go, his sharp, beautiful eyes locked on the mark that's formed, and Phil gives him a minute to admire it before applying another length of stretchy, flexible tape to his skin.
Taking both wrists in his hands, grip firm, he leans in close, nips at Clint's earlobe before growling in his ear.
It's a marvelous thing to see.
Phil lets him kneel for some time, the sub curled forward and leaning against his shin, warm and heavy. He isn't sure just how much of his surroundings Clint is taking in but he never stops touching him, stroking his shoulders, sweeping his thumb over the hinge of his jaw, carding his fingers through his hair. Clint breathes deep and slow, hums when Phil tips his face up for a kiss, a dopey, contented little smile threatening at corners of his mouth everytime Phil says something sweet to him.
He goes pliantly onto the bed when Phil commands him up, lying flat on his back with his legs spread wide enough that he can kneel between them. The tape wrapped around his wrists isn't tight, just a gentle, steady pressure, a reminder more than anything, and when Phil puts his hands up above his head and threads their fingers together, presses his hands down against the mattress he sighs like everything's gone right for once and all the weight is off his shoulders.
Phil feels himself flush with an instinctive Dominant pride, feels it surge in on him and knows exactly how he feels.
That more than anything demands and answer to his next question, even if it's phrased as a command.
"Tell me your color Clint."
A shiver ripples down his body like the flicker of a colt and Clint's head lolls back and forth on the pillow, eyes rolling up in his head.
"Mmm, green Sir, 's green," he hums, and Phil chuckles, leaning in to press a kiss to his slack mouth.
Time goes a little syrupy after that. Phil spends what feels like hours exploring Clint's body the way he's always wanted to, with lips and tongue and teeth, with looks and touches that linger and last in ways he never been allowed. He tests the thick cords of muscle in Clint's neck with gentle bites, leans his weight against the hard, full roundness of his biceps, sucks at his nipples until he gasps and arches up off the bed. The whole time he keeps up a steady commentary of babble; reverent, whispered mutterings about how much he enjoys each part of the archer's body, his appreciation for what it can do, how it bends and moves. The man whimpers and whines, breathes thanks to his Sir, more receptive to praise than Phil has ever seen him and it's beautiful.
He keeps his hands fisted in the sheets above his head, flexes his fingers, sucks air deep into his chest whenever Phil tugs on the flexible tape cuffs. He's hard and he arches against Phil's touch as he traces the deep lines of muscle across his abdomen, follows the v-cut of his Orion's belt down toward his cock, but he's not insistent about it, doesn't beg. That's something Phil is very much looking forward to challenging some night, but for now this quiet gentleness, this gasping, heartfelt relief is perfect.
He does suck him off. That... almost sounds too crass for what it is; a long, slow, sweet exploration of his cock and his balls, the taste of him on Phil's tongue. It's not about reciprocation for the other day, doesn't even really feel like it's about sex, but the way Clint comes almost silently, melts into the bed beneath him as he lets go of the last of the threads tethering him to this moment and just floats... it's incredible.
Phil ends up kneeling next to him for a long time, just watching him fly. He feels better than he's ever felt after a scene, than he can ever remember ever feeling. It hadn't gone exactly to plan, but that was good, he was glad. It proved that he could do this, that they could do this, that they could go off-script and still be safe, still enjoy themselves. It soothes his nerves, calms the thumping of his heart, makes him feel stupid-happy, and he thinks maybe a small, young, slightly scuffed up part of him is starting to heal.
Clint's done that.
He always has.
Unff, I'm dead.
Clint comes to as if from a deeply satisfying sleep, his entire body a puddle of loose, warm muscle. He's flat out on his back on sheets that are far too soft to be his, but he recognizes the room, the ceiling and the headboard above him and he's calm. This is a good spot, a good place to be – Phil's bed. Nice things happened here, even if he doesn't quite remember all of them clearly. He's naked which doesn't bother him, his arms thrown up above his head and... and...
And there are tape cuffs wrapped securely around his wrists, deep purple and Phil's, put there by his Dom.
His Dom, who is sitting cross-legged at the bottom of the bed, Clint's feet in his lap, fingers tucked beneath the tape wrapped around his ankles and holding tight.
He doesn't remember those either.
Feels good though, feels safe, so he doesn't try too hard to figure it out. He feels... floaty and light, like he could drift away and the tape keeps him down, Phil's grip keeping him anchored to the now, and he's very much enjoying the now thank you very much.
"You're a squirmer, did you know that?"
Clint blinks, his brain running thick and slow like honey, but he registers the fond, teasing tone in his Dom's voice.
"Am I Sir?"
Phil hums, lifts the foot in his hand and presses a kiss to the arch of Clint's foot. Something at the edge of his vision catches his attention and Clint lifts his head, only just realizing what the man is doing down there with Clint's feet in his lap.
There's dark purple polish on all his toes.
"You're wriggly," Phil confirms, moving on to his other foot, grabbing onto the tape to hold it still and running the tips of his fingers across his sole, making him gasp and flex his toes. "It's cute."
"Less cute if I accidentally kick you in the face," Clint whimpers as Phil tickles the ball of his foot a second time. "Sir..."
He tries to pull his foot away but Phil keeps his grip on the ankle cuff, keeps his foot anchored tight against his thigh and Clint does exactly what Phil's accused him of, wriggles and squirms atop the bed. It feels strangely wonderful, this small struggle, playing at trying to get away, and then Phil's free hand is sliding up the back of his leg, pausing at the crook of his knee and the top of his thigh just below his ass, rough fingertips teasing over the delicate skin until he's leaning over him, leaning down to bite at his mouth, suck at his lower lip.
Clint makes an embarrassing, squeaking sort of sound before moaning deep in his chest, his hands coming down to wrap hesitantly around Phil's forearms. He doesn't know if this is allowed but Phil just kisses him harder, plunges his tongue into his mouth so that's... that's good.
"I did think of that," Phil purrs darkly, slinking back down his body. His mouth skims over Clint's skin the whole way; hot, wet tongue curling around his nipple, teeth scraping against his hip, lips pressing kisses down the inside of his thigh until he settles back at the foot of the bed, tugging the tape around Clint's ankle. "One thing easily remedied. And I do love seeing you in cuffs pretty boy."
Clint hums, relaxing back against the bed when Phil props his heel up on his knee and retrieves the bottle of polish that had nearly been lost amongst the sheets. He knew that, knows that, how could he not? He's seen the way Phil instinctively reaches for his wrist, has felt his fingers curl around it many, many times, and he likes the way that feels. He likes knowing how much Phil wants to put that mark on him, and if that makes him a bad person, given he'd refused the man's cuff in the first place, well, he'll just have to live with that.
Right now, it's not exactly hard to do.
"Thank you Sir," he murmurs softly, watching his Dom from beneath his lashes as his heart grows too big for his chest, too full of happiness and pride.
"For what love?" Phil asks, head bowed as he applies more polish to his nails with all the careful attention he gives to anything he does.
As though he hasn't just rocked Clint's world, as though he hasn't just called him 'love' and taken all the air from the room.
As though it was the easiest, most natural thing to say, an inevitable outcome of all this.
As though he means it.
"For all of it," he finally chokes hoarsely, his mouth gone dry. "For this, for you. For... for the cuffs."
Phil tilts his head, watching him now, and gently sets his foot aside, caps the nail polish and stands from the bed. Trading the little bottle out for another, larger one of chilled water from the bedside table, he cracks the cap and hands it over, no doubt having caught the rasp in Clint's voice. He stands casually beside him as he downs half of it in three long, thirsty gulps, trickles running down his chin and dripping onto his chest, and oh yeah, his Dom is interested in that.
Clint tries not to grin too smugly, pushing the surge of emotion and the memory of that word on Phil's lips to the back of his mind, focusing instead on the arousal building up high and hot in his belly. He makes to put the bottle back on the table but Phil catches his wrist, removes the bottle from his hand and turns it palm up to trace the edges of the bondage tape, to press firmly against the hidden hickey he'd pulled up underneath.
"Do you really like them?" he asks, his tone dark and insistent, demanding an answer and Clint shivers, fascinated by the way his Dom is staring at the cuff on his left wrist, like he can't look away.
It's an honest question, valid on the face of it – this is Phil checking in that he's ok, that this is ok, but Clint knows him too, is starting to understand a little of what he likes, so instead of just answering him back, instead of giving him a yes or a green, he maybe plays to the man's kinks a little.
Can't blame him – why shouldn't he try to please his Dom?
"Yes Sir," he hummed, turning and slipping to his feet, crowded between Phil and the bed, pressed all down his front, and yup, definitely interested. "Very much. More than I thought I would."
"Cause they feel good," he answers immediately, pleased that Phil's left him the opening for an attempt at the dirty talk he likes so much. "Snug, safe. Can let go wearing these, let myself fall."
Left hand still caught in Phil's grip, he lets the other find his Dom's hip, slip beneath the edge of his t-shirt.
"Like 'em cause they're yours," he murmurs, leaning in to speak the words directly into Phil's ear, to nuzzle at the hinge of his jaw and press quick, light kisses to the underside of his chin. "Like 'em cause you put 'em on me."
Phil moans deep in his chest and Clint grins, hides his face in the curve of the man's neck, flicks his tongue out to taste the salt at the hollow of his throat. He's surprised by his own boldness, truth be told, the honesty in the words he's spouting. Bondage has always been hit or miss with him, hit and miss, with plenty of squicky memories attached, but this was Phil and that made the whole thing so different than before. He trusts this man with his life in the field and is finding it just as easy to trust him with his submission now – that's a Big Deal for Clint.
That he hadn't tied him down to the bed, hadn't anchored the cuffs with anything but his own hands...
It makes Clint feel held instead of trapped, owned/cherished instead of owned/property.
"Mmm, feels good," he mumbles, pushing against Phil's body like a cat as the floaty feeling starts to creep back in on the edges. Skating his palm up Phil's flat, toned stomach, he cuddles close, making sure his thigh is tucked up snug between his Dom's. "And you like 'em, don't you Sir? Like wearing 'em for you. Like the color, like that you picked it for me."
"It's a good color on you," Phil rumbles, and he sounds a little choked himself, his hips making an aborted twitch as he finds Clint's wandering hand and pulls it out from beneath his shirt, holding both of them flat against his chest. "Deep, intense... it's perfect against your skin. Used to kill me, the way you'd somehow find the time to lay out in the sun whenever we were on a mission somewhere nice. I remember that time in Istanbul, at the Agha's pool..."
Clint remembers too.
He'd been so angry then, so bitter after finally acknowledging his crush on his stupidly perfect handler, who of course wouldn't be interested in him. It had turned him into a little shit for a while and he'd done his best to torment Phil with a sultry picture of defined muscle and tanned skin by laying out beside the military captain's extravagant mansion-side pool. Sun-kissed skin, nothing but a pair of dark Ray-Bans and a jewel-purple Speedo...
"Could feel you watching me," he admits, sliding his hands down and curling them around Phil's hips. "Wanted you to watch. Wanted you to know what you were missing, if you couldn't... want me back."
"Always wanted you," the man insists darkly, tilting his head to nip sharply at Clint's earlobe. "Not nice Clint, playing me like that."
A sharp, hot bolt of arousal shoots through Clint's belly and he hums, rolls his hips against Phil's. He remembers cumming, remembers Phil's mouth on him in a hazy, out-of-body kind of way and doubts he'll be able to get it up again so soon – he's not seventeen anymore after all – but it still feels good, especially since Phil is rock hard in his jeans. His black, worn-soft jeans that feel like cotton beneath his fingertips and fit perfectly across the man's hips and thighs.
"Maybe I should make it up to you then," Clint purrs, and then he's sliding to his knees at Phil's feet, dragging his hands all the way down to the man's knees before pushing them back up his thighs again, stroking the thick muscles beneath the denim. Biting his lower lip to make it swell, he looks up at his Dom from beneath his lashes, pouting sweetly.
"Think you've earned that?" Phil growls, deep in his chest, but Clint just grins, sharp and bright, because he can feel Phil's dick twitch beneath his palm.
That's a challenge if he's ever heard one – smirking, he licks his lips hungrily.
"Fuck yes I have Sir."
He loves how easy it is with Phil.
He loves that when he pushes the man moves, till his shoulders are pressed back against the wall and his feet are spread wide, his stance solid. He loves that he can curse and smirk and be a smart ass – be himself, basically – and not worry about being slapped for it or tied down and caned like that was what he'd been aiming for all along.
He loves the way that Phil's arms hang loose at his sides, the way he stares down at him with wide, dark, hungry eyes and lets him just... do whatever he wants.
It's awesome that he's not threatened or intimidated by that, that it doesn't freak him out or turn him off. Not a lot of Doms tolerate initiative very well – most of them that Clint's been with, the professionals, they don't want you doing a damn thing you haven't been commanded or given explicit permission to do. Phil just stands there and watches Clint nuzzle his fly like he wants to eat him alive.
Yeah, this is gonna be fun.
He starts slow. The tease is the thing with blow jobs, and it's quite possibly the thing Clint's best at. He'd always liked sucking a Dom off, but here with Phil, being on his knees for a man who's earned it from him he realizes just how much he loves doing this, how much he's missed it. He pops the snap on Phil's jeans and lowers the zipper carefully before dragging them down his legs, leaving them bunched around his knees. He could take them off but there's something about keeping the man here like this, maybe a little tangled up, maybe a little hard to get away that turns Clint on, and he knows Phil marked bondage high on his list of kinks.
Could be it goes both ways?
The man's thighs are incredible, thick and strong and muscled, so much power hidden underneath his dapper suits and Clint loves the way the coarse hair tickles at his palms. He keeps his hands curled lightly around them as he leans in close, breathes in the musky scent of his Dom and traces his nose along his thick length. Above him he can hear Phil's throat click as he swallows and he grins against his boxers, opens his mouth to lip gently at him through the cotton. He takes his time, kissing at him, pausing to wrap his lips around the head of his cock and breathe a long, heated sigh through the weave of the fabric. When the man heaves a shaky breath of his own and flexes his fingers at his sides, he takes that as his cue to kick things up a notch.
Clint has of course seen Phil's dick before by now, up close and personal and everything, but it's incredibly different like this. The angle's different, the view is different, the power dynamic is different and he loves every one of those things. His Dom is a damned attractive man and it's probably weird that Clint's down here thinking about how pretty his cock is, but shut up, it totally is. Nice and thick, not unmanageably large, perfect for getting his mouth on...
Clint whines without realizing that he's pouting this time, his hands having slid up to curl loosely around Phil's hipbones but his Dom pulls him gently out of it, reaches down and tucks his fingers under Clint's chin, thumbs at his lower lip.
"You are a picture down there pretty boy," he marvels quietly, his chest rising and falling rapidly and his cock flushed and heavy, pressed up against his stomach. "Gonna show me what that gorgeous mouth can do?"
"Yes please Sir."
It's automatic and instinctive and heartfelt as hell, and there's no other answer he could have made. He doesn't even really register Phil's nod on a cognitive level, doesn't recognize the permission before he's leaning in and trailing the very tip of his tongue along the length of Phil's hard-on. The man gasps and shudders, flattening his hands against the wall, and oh yes, Clint does love this so. It's not power – no, that's all for his Dom – but the sense of service, that's the thing. Being entirely focused on the task at hand, no thought spared for his own arousal, everything given up to please the man he kneels for...
If he'd started teetering on that sharp, knife-bright edge before he's tumbling over now.
He doesn't fall all the way, not like last time. Just far enough that things go soft and hazy, that he sinks into the safe place he's only gotten to a few times before. His focus narrows, sensations deepen, nothing but the touch and the taste and the sight and sound of his Dom above him, over him. He employs every trick he knows to make it the best he's ever given, uses his lips and his tongue and even his teeth, nibbles at his inner thighs so very very carefully to pull moans and gasps of pleasure from him. By the time he's got Phil halfway down his throat, suckling softly, the man's hips are starting to hitch; his head tipped back against the wall, his eyes shut, the filthiest words of praise dripping from his lips.
It's so close, so close to what he wants so badly that Clint is very suddenly determined to earn himself exactly that.
Sliding off of Phil's cock nice and slow, humming as he goes, Clint makes sure to rub his tongue against that special spot beneath the head that makes the man whine, feels his knees go a little rubbery beneath his hands. Resting his forehead against Phil's bare hip, he takes a second to catch his breath, to rest his jaw.
"Please," he mumbles, lips brushing skin, fingers clutching helplessly. "Please, pretty please Sir, aren't I good?"
"You're good," Phil huffs, sounding as choked and out of breath as Clint does. "God Clint, you're so good, such a good boy for me."
"Then gimme," he slurs, too deep to check the impulse, to guard his words. "You know what I want Sir, please. Told you I wanna take all of you, wanna take you down my throat. Don't you want that Sir, don't you wanna fuck my mouth? I'll take it, I'll take whatever you give me, I'll..."
He isn't expecting it, Phil's fingers in his hair, twisting tight and pulling his head back with a sharp little jerk. It hurts just a little but it doesn't hurt, and Clint almost laughs aloud at the sensation. Even floating here like he is Phil's attention to detail comes shining through, the pressure he exerts on Clint's hair so perfectly calculated; snatching his attention, punching through the haze but not even edging in close on the pain he hates so much.
"Hush," the Dom rumbles, his voice deep and low with warning, with command, and Clint shudders, gasping when Phil leans down and licks a stripe up his bared throat, nips at his adam's apple. "I'll give you what you want sweet boy – you don’t need to beg. Not this time."
And well doesn't that just smack of delicious promise?
Phil leans back against the wall, shifts a bit to get his feet under him, his fingers giving himself a few long, slow tugs as he stares down at Clint and very suddenly an image flashes through his mind of himself on his knees, head tipped back, eyes closed and mouth open as Phil's cum streaks across his face.
He's never wanted that before. He's suffered through it with a few of the professionals he's seen but there's always been a bit of disgust behind the act, a bit of prissiness, like it's too unsanitary for him who's been hip-deep in some of the grossest and most volatile shit known to man. The way arousal pools hot and tight in his belly – that's not something he's ever associated with cum play.
But then he's got his hands behind his back doesn't he, had put them there in an easy, kneeling parade rest when Phil had jerked his head back, and his fingers are pressing insistently at the bruise Phil had sucked onto his wrist, hidden by the purple cuffs.
So maybe it's like Phil says.
Maybe, with him, with a Dom he truly knows and trusts his kinks have shifted, simple and understandable as that.
Maybe being marked really is a go for him, really does get his motor revving, as long as it's...
Well jesus, it makes sense, he does love the man.
No reason to freak out.
"Look at me Clint."
It's gentle, coaxing, but still a command, so it reassures him and calms him without knocking him out of the nice, floaty headspace he's rocking. Blinking, he looks up at his Dom who's got that adorable little crinkle in his brow that he gets when he's concerned and suddenly all the weight is off his chest and he smiles, big and bright and open. God this guy is great. Like, seriously, check him out. He's caught the way Clint has started drifting, caught the tiny bit of... not unease, but maybe uncertainty? And he actually cares enough to check in so hey, he'll say it again, great guy.
"Give me a color Clint."
"Green Sir," he sighs with a grin, fighting off the sudden urge to giggles very likely a side effect of having finally gone down again after so many years. "Just... realized I might have a new kink. Tell you later, promise."
Phil hums with consideration, cards his fingers through Clint's hair.
"Then I look forward to hearing all about it," he says, rumbling deep in his chest. "Another time. Right now I want your attention on me sweet boy. Show me that famous Hawkeye focus."
Clint shudders at the subtle Dominance so thick in his voice, whines.
Yeah, yes please, he can do that.
"Give me your hands Clint."
He offers them immediately, trembles eagerly when Phil wraps his fingers around the tape cuffs and squeezes. Lifting his hands, he kisses the inside of each wrist before moving his hands and pressing his palms flat to the wall on either side of his own hips.
"You remember what we talked about?" he askes seriously, and Clint nods an affirmative.
Safe words. Traffic lights. Check-ins and verbal responses and how he'll never be punished for knowing his own limits, only for intentionally ignoring them. Clint's word is Beetlejuice, Phil's is Caracas – which makes his heart hurt just a little because he remembers Caracas too – and they stop everything then and there when something triggers somebody. Red, yellow, and green are for checking in and for slowing things down, which is good cause it means they don't always have to stop cold. Phil of course has also made sure that he knows words like stop and wait and don't will be taken just as seriously, but it's still good, having special ones, having protocols.
"Gonna give you what you want sweet boy, so this is how it's gonna work," Phil rumbles, holding his wrists tight. "You need to safe word, you need to yellow light, you just need to take a breath, you move your hands. Otherwise they stay right here on the wall, where I put them. Understand?"
Oh he's so fucking perfect.
It's a deep, dark growl, hungry as full of want as Clint's ever heard from Phil, and it sets him to trembling even as Phil traces his thumb over his mouth, curls his hand around the hinge of his jaw.
"Please," he murmurs because he knows Phil sees it. "Please Sir, gimme, gimme, gimme, I want it..."
"Then stop talking," Phil snarls, and down Clint goes like a ton of bricks.
For all his bark and tight grip, his Dom starts off slow. Clint practically purrs when he takes his jaw between his hands, cradles his face as he pushes his cock into his mouth. He seems to like as much variety in his blow jobs as Clint likes to provide, angling his hips so that the head of his dick rubs firmly against the velvet inside of Clint's cheek. It's nice like this, giving up all the control, not having to think about all those little tricks and trying so hard to impress. All he has to do is keep his hands on the wall and his teeth covered, and let his Dom use him as he will.
It should touch on his aversion to humiliation, just like the other, but it doesn't even once come close. How could it, with Phil gasping and panting above him, staring down at him with pupils blow, eyes adoring, praise tumbling out of him like he can't stop it? It's service, doing something for his Dom, making him feel good, and oh is he making Phil feel good. It's so beautifully easy to see; his chest starting to hitch and his hips starting to move, really move, and the next thing he knows his Dom is whispering a dark, dirty command to hold on and he's getting taken for the ride of his life.
Phil fucks his mouth like a champ, deep and hard just like Clint's wanted, and still so careful it makes his chest ache. It's rough and it's possessive and Clint's whining around the thick length of him, using his tongue wherever he can to get a taste, and all the while there's rhythm to it. He gets his Dom's cock thrust down his throat like he's needed so badly, chokes on it but he can still breathe, isn't suffocated to the point his vision goes spotty. His jaw and his throat get sore but he doesn't feel battered or bruised. He's used but not objectified, used but not shamed. It's all the good parts and none of the bad, and it's all because of Phil, who's curled over him protectively even as his hips piston forward, giving him everything he's asked for and more that he didn't know he needed.
By the time he cums down Clint's throat, flooding his mouth with the perfect, bitter taste of him, Clint feels like he's just orgasmed himself, a hot burst of ecstasy and submissive pride rushing through him as Phil pulls out of his mouth and slumps over him, leaning heavily against the wall and curving down at the waist to hug him.
"Oh good boy," he pants against Clint's ear, their cheeks pressed together and his arms wrapped around Clint's head, fingers petting his sweaty hair. "Feel so good, did such a good job for me."
Clint whines, not ready to speak just yet, both because of the minor ache in his throat and the state of his head. Finally taking his hands off the wall, he places them hesitantly on Phil's thighs, suddenly feeling very subby and very clingy and not quite sure why. He almost whimpers when Phil lets go and straightens up, chuckling as he tucks himself back into his pants and does up his fly.
"Demanding little shit aren't you?" he asks with a half-smirk, and his tone is light and unbearably fond but his words are like a bucket of ice-water on Clint's overheated skin. He has just enough time to panic, just enough time for his heart to skip a beat before Phil is hooking his fingers beneath the tape around his wrists and helping him to his feet, taking care to steady him as his knees creak. "Come on, bed."
Clint blinks, stutters a little, feels stupidly stunned.
Phil cocks an eyebrow, runs his eyes over him from head to toe, clearly cataloguing signs of distress even though his own post-orgasm haze is obviously creeping in on him. His response is immediate and perfect, cuts through the rising panic like a knife; stepping in close, he wraps his arms around Clint in a warm, intimate hug, guides Clint's head down onto his shoulder.
"It's been a few years since I've done anything like this," he murmurs, stroking Clint from the crown of his head to the base of his spine in one long, soothing stroke. "And that was probably the best scene of my life. Best blow job too, so I'm guessing I've got about ten minutes before I pass out and I'm gonna cuddle the shit out of you first."
This time Clint does whimper, his hands clutching at the fabric of Phil's t-shirt as he holds on, tries to squirm even closer and buries his face in the curve of his Dom's shoulder.
Yes, that, please, that's all he's ever...
"Come on sweet boy," Phil murmurs, stepping back and pulling down the quilt, using his hand on the small of Clint's back to guide him beneath the covers and crawling in after him. "You remember the rules. Good boys sleep in bed, hmm?
Clint doesn't reply, just snugs himself up against Phil's side and does his best impression of an octopus; one leg slung over Phil's knee, head on his chest, arm tight around his ribs.
"Mmm, such a good boy," Phil hums sleepily, his body going slack against the sheets as Clint presses impossibly closer, his hand still stroking through Clint's hair. "Little brat. Knew you would be."
And well doesn't that just have him tensing up all over again, body coming off the endorphin high and brain too deep to parse out the meaning behind his Dom's words. The older man is already drifting though, ten minutes far too generous, and maybe later Clint will feel proud of that but right now he just feels uncertain.
"Knew you would be perfect," Phil sighs, his eyes fluttering shut and his heartbeat strong and steady beneath Clint's ear. "Knew nothing would be different. Love you so much Clint."
Doesn't that just clear everything right up?
Phil wakes up warm and sleepy and sated about ten minutes later only to find Clint lying nearly on top of him, clutching at his t-shirt with his face buried in his chest. For a minute he doesn't realize anything is wrong, just smiles and hums, stretches underneath him and strokes his spine, cuddles him close.
"Mmm, how you feeling sweet boy?" he mumbles with a smile, rubbing his cheek against the top of the archer's head, but Clint doesn't answer, alerting Phil quickly and sharply to the fact that something isn't quite right. "Clint? Come on sweetheart, give me a color."
Somehow Clint manages to shake his head without lifting it off of Phil's chest, his fingers tightening in the fabric over his ribs and Phil's heart slammed against the wall of his chest, panic spiking. Had he been too rough, was it something he did, or...
Swallowing hard, Phil reminds himself of his role as the Dominant in the relationship, his responsibility to his submissive and this serves to settle him remarkably well, to solidify his resolve.
"You're ok love," he murmurs, tightening his arms around Clint's ribs and holding him close, kissing the crown of his head. "You're here with me, you're safe. I'm right here, I've got you."
A few minutes pass and Clint is still silent, his muscles tight and trembly but Phil gentles him through it, murmuring praise and petting him, holding on to one of his cuffs and telling him what a good boy he is. He's freaking out a little bit himself, he can't deny that, but it's background noise for the time being, Clint's need for reassurance far outweighing his own. The skin-on-skin contact and the soft words seem to help because eventually he sighs quietly and goes slack, nuzzles into Phil's chest and relaxes his grip.
"I'm ok," he chokes, and his voice is hoarse and wobbly and it nearly breaks Phil's heart. "I'm..."
"You're ok," Phil agrees, because yes, something is clearly upsetting the submissive, but he is safe, he is here with Phil, who will take care of him and make sure it's truth. "Can you tell me how you feel?"
"That's ok," he soothes before Clint can work himself up again. "That's all right baby; we'll figure it out. I need you to try to tell me what you need though ok? Just tell me what you want, right now."
"Hold me. Please?"
"That I can do," he promises, wriggling deeper into the mattress and rolling, so that Clint ends up on his back with Phil half on top of him this time, their positions reversed. Pulling the quilt up high around them, he tucks them into a little nest and gets Clint's face back into the curve of his shoulder, keeps him close.
Long moments pass, maybe even an hour, and he isn't expecting Clint to speak but he manages not to startle when he does.
"I'm ok," he mumbles, his lips barely brushing against Phil's skin. "That was... fffuck."
It's a breathy huff, an aroused shiver that ripples down the length of Clint's body, so he thinks at least that part is ok, all still on the up-and-up.
"That was amazing Phil."
He can't help the sigh that escapes him, the crushing wave of relief that sings across his nerves like a rush of cool, cleansing water.
"I'm very happy to hear that sweet boy," he says quietly. "Very happy you enjoyed it. Can you... do you know what happened, after?"
"Not really. I think... I don't know. After, I just got... I felt like I was drifting. Like I needed you to hang on to me. But you hugged me, and we cuddled, and... and that was good."
Phil breathes, thinks back on each and every move he'd made in the last hour, his mind searching out the clues in Clint's reactions and responses. He'd seemed so happy, so calm, so floaty halfway down as Phil had done everything he could think of to fulfill the fantasy they'd toyed with for the two previous weeks. He'd been exactly himself, snarky and cocky and... and demanding.
And Phil had pointed that out, had chuckled and called him a little shit the way he would've outside of a scene, said it with all the fondness he'd ever felt for the man but...
But then Clint had gone a bit subby and a bit shy and a bit clingy, and maybe it had all been too much.
"Was it something I said?" he prods gently, because he knows it was and he feels his heart sink even further when Clint doesn't answer, just tightens up all over again.
"Talk to me love," he murmurs, hiding his own face in Clint's throat, willing himself to stay loose, to not let the emotion take over and shake him so badly that he can't take care of Clint first.
"That," Clint whispers, like he doesn't want Phil to hear, and for a minute he doesn't understand until the archer explains. "You keep saying that. You said it, before..."
"That you luh..."
Phil's muscles lock and he feels his body go cold as ice, and before he knows what he's doing he's rolled upright and slung the blankets off, turned away to sit on the edge of the bed with his back to his sub, to his archer, his heart hammering and his stomach twisted up in knots.
"It makes sense," he defends, his shoulders high and his voice thick and quietly frightened. "I thought... I mean that's the way this was going right?"
He thought it was. A collaring isn't a marriage, doesn't have to be about love, but it usually means something; monogamy, affection...
"If that's going to be a deal breaker..."
He actually flinches when Clint's fingertips land on his back, when his palm settles between his shoulderblades, warm and heavy through the cotton of his shirt and he feels worse about that than anything. It's not fair - he can't expect that of Clint, can't demand it of him. It's not a thing you take, not a thing you can...
"Phil do you love me?"
No denying it now was there?
No matter how scared he is.
"Yes, Clint, I love you," he whispers, hoarse and broken and painfully, painfully resigned, his shoulders slumping and his head hanging. "I've always..."
To say he's not prepared for Clint's reaction is an understatement. He's readying himself for rejection, for a careful, awkward let-down, for getting through this and making sure Clint's ok while his hidden heart is quietly shattering. Instead he's nearly knocked off the bed onto the floor when Clint lunges forward and collides with his back, wraps himself around him as close as he can get. His legs are wrapped around his hips, his arms around his waist, his face pressed tight against Phil's shoulder like some kind of human-koala bear, and he's squeezing so hard Phil's bones creak.
"I love you so much," he gasps, clutching at Phil like he's afraid someone will take him away. "Since Boca, since Frisco, fuck, since I caught you tailing me in Mozambique. Never thought you could..."
As the words slowly sink in through the wall of self-protection he's rapidly constructing between his heart and the damage of rejection, Phil feels a hot burst of hope and dumbfoundment swell inside his chest. Turning in Clint's arms is a struggle and he doesn't know how he manages it but the next thing he knows they're kneeling face to face on the bed, staring at each other like nothing else exists, and he's got Clint's face between his hands, hot tears welling up in his gorgeous, kaleidoscope eyes.
"Truth?" he asks, and he knows he's begging, but fuck if Clint wants him begging on his knees he'll go happily and never stop. "You don't have to..."
"Shut up," Clint huffs, leaning forward and crushing their lips together in a short, sharp, biting kiss. "I'm an ass, but I'm not that kind of ass."
"You have a great ass," Phil mutters, kissing him right back, and then very suddenly they're both devolving into a burst of scatter-shot, punchy giggling, toppling back onto the sheets and rolling around in a playful tussle, dropping kisses everywhere they can reach, laughing and crying and just generally falling apart.
It's a mess and it's beautiful and it's the best, most wonderful moment of Phil's life.
"We're a disaster aren't we?" Clint asks, landing on his back with a whump and curling in close when Phil flops down beside him. "God Phil, you know how long I've been pining over you?"
"No," he mumbles, his mouth pressed against Clint's forehead and his fingers tangled with the archer's. "Knew you respected me as your boss, knew you liked me as your friend. Loved you for so long but I never thought you could feel the same way."
"Same. Guess maybe we both have some things to work on huh?"
"Yeah. You know I've been trying to keep it qiuet for so long... I didn't want to pressure you, didn't want to be another man that..."
"Never," Clint sighs, squeezing his hands. "Always knew that much."
Phil stares down at him, stunned, overwhelmed, by this turn that he hadn't dared to hope for no matter how much he'd wanted it. Clint's lying with his eyes closed, a serene little smile on his face, looking happier than he's ever been, relaxed and content and pleased, and he's beautiful, and for the first time he feels completely and wholly Phil's, no cuff or collar needed.
"I love you."
He hadn't meant to say it, hadn't planned to say it, but it's natural and smooth like he hasn't spent years choking down those words, and Clint's smile brightens like the sun.
"Love you back."
Phil shivers, bites his lip, abruptly wants to cry and maybe part of it is just a little bit of Dom drop after an intense scene and some even more intense drama, but mostly he's just happy.
"Never gonna stop loving those words," he murmurs, lifting his hand to trace Clint's mouth with his thumb when the blonde cracks an eye and lifts a brow in question.
"Good cause I'm gonna keep saying them," he hums, settling down again. "I'm in this Phil, kay? I've been trying for like, six years to fall outta love with you. 'S not gonna happen."
"Same," Phil whispers, mimicking Clint's word back at him and making him smile. "And I'm gonna keep saying it back. I think maybe we both need to hear it."
Phil chuckles lightly, feels the way Clint sighs against him as things shift from pleasure back to business.
"Come on pretty boy, talk to me. You knew we were going to debrief this thing."
"You're harshing my mellow," the man complains with a whine, poking Phil's hip because he can't pinch his ass in this position. "Can I at least put some pants on first?"
"Spoil my fun," Phil pouts, because it lightens the mood back up and because he's riding high on the endorphins, the sheer joy of it all. "Fine."
Clint just laughs, winks as he climbs out of the bed and shakes his ass as he crosses the floor to the chaise lounge in the corner where he'd placed his carefully folded clothes earlier that afternoon before their scene. Once he's got his briefs back on – purple because of course purple – he comes stalking back to the bed, crawling up the sheets like the golden, sun-kissed predator he is and Phil feels his jeans tighten just a little.
"Trying to distract me?" he purrs as Clint comes to a stop above him, slowly lowers himself down over Phil's body with a dark, possessive rumble.
"Perfect. Want me to start?"
"Alright. Think it's safe to assume everything went pretty well right up till the end, yes?"
Clint frowns, tenses up just a little and nods silently, and Phil's starting to see a pattern in his shyness, thinks he's starting to understand the man's nervous reaction to making protests. It's something they'll absolutely have to work on, because while Phil does trust Clint to use his safewords, this is something that goes far deeper, touches on far more than simply that.
"I'm not mad," he promises, cuddling close. "I'm not disappointed. Are you?"
"No!" Clint insists, rearing up to look down at him, a frown on his face. "God no. That was... that was fucking perfect Phil. I just... I got kinda nervy, at the end, and I shouldn't have and it wasn't..."
"Woah, hey, slow down," he says, careful to keep any real Dominance out of the command. Not the time. "Just walk me through it Clint, like a debrief."
He looks dubious, but he eventually nods and settles back down.
"Loved what we did," he murmurs, snuggling up again. "Loved our scene, all of it. The cuffs, the kneeling, the nail polish. It was good, great. Best I've ever... anyway. The blowjob was incredible; thanks very much for that."
"Feel like I should be thanking you."
"Nah, was my fantasy. Your turn, next time. Took me down real nice, was feeling real good."
Clint huffs, an obviously frustrated sigh.
"I dunno," he complains, turning his head but holding Phil's hand tight. "When it was done I just... I guess maybe I freaked a little. Know you wouldn't... kick me out or anything, but I don't usually get..."
"You don't usually get any aftercare," Phil says sadly. "Not like you want."
"No. Doms don't like to cuddle."
"This Dom does."
"Yeah," he grins, turning to press a kiss to the point of Phil's chin. "Yeah, I guess he does."
"So you were feeling a little nervous?" Phil asks, just to clarify.
"Real subby," Clint nods, "Real... real clingy. You said..."
"What'd I say Clint?"
"You said I was demanding. I didn't know..."
"I shouldn't have said that," Phil sighs, pressing his cheek to the top of Clint's head. "I'm sorry I did."
"It's not all your fault," Clint protests quietly. "I know I am, I just..."
"Don't do that," Phil scolds gently. "Listen. Just so we're clear. I do think that. I do think you're a demanding little shit, and I think you're cocky and smart-mouthed and obnoxious, and far too pretty for your own good. And Clint? I love every damned cocky, smart-mouthed, obnoxious, demanding inch of you."
Clint's lying still on top of him, not saying anything, but Phil can feel his attention, all that coiled energy and focus zeroed in on him, on his words, and they come spilling out of him like gold coins off his tongue, eager and excited and insistent in ways they probably shouldn't be but he can't stop them.
"I love the way you talk to me," he continues ardently, "I love the way we banter. I love the way you drag me into flirting on the comms and piss people off who annoy you. I never expected you to change Clint – you're not a different person just because you go to your knees for me. You don't stop being a badass sniper, you don't stop being you. I don't want that. I told you when we started this that it was you I liked, and maybe that was a little bit of a lie. It's you I love Clint; all the good parts and all the bad parts and everything in between."
Taking a huge breath, Phil lets it out on a shudder, feels like a ton of bricks has been lifted off his chest. After so long holding all this in, keeping it all bottled up, it's the most amazing sense of relief to finally get it out.
"You... you really mean all that."
It's half a question, a little unsure, and Phil smiles, wraps his fingers around the nape of Clint's neck.
"Really, really do," he murmurs. "That being clear, I shouldn't have said what I did. I knew you were halfway down, I didn't think... Apparently my timing's kind of shot where you're concerned."
"I get it," Clint says after a contemplative moment, "And just so we're both clear. Outside of a scene, hell, outside of that moment I think I probably would have been fine. I know I'm a shit - I do it on purpose half the time – and... and I like the way you talk to me too. I like the way we go back and forth, I like that I can be... I can be me and you can keep right up like it doesn't even phase you. You did that tonight and I was fine. It was just that one thing..."
"Something for us both to work on then," Phil says, and it occurs to him that he's repeating Clint a lot tonight, that the sniper really is more observant and clever than he realizes.
"That sounds like a plan."
"Maybe," he admits with a shrug. "Like I said, I think we both need some reassurance. A little practice."
"Well now that sounds like a plan I can get behind," Clint says, looking up with a wolfish grin, grabbing Phil and rolling him over, landing astride his hips and leaning down to kiss him. "You're a sexy bastard when you go all toppy on me, you know that?"
"Just glad we got all this cleared up," Phil chuckles, leaning up into the kiss.
"Yeah," Clint laughs, "Crazy huh? Did... did this really happen? Was it really this easy after all this time?"
"Seems too simple right?"
"I'll take what I can get."
"Everything I give you?"
"Mmm, yes please Sir."
It hits Phil all once, later that night, when he's sat Clint down at the dining room table and served him canned tomato soup doctored with basil and cream and fresh crushed tomatoes, cheese sandwiches toasted golden brown. They're sitting across from each other in his breakfast nook, Clint's heels resting on the edge of Phil's chair between his thighs, not sexual at all just entirely casual and comfortable. The archer is swaddled in a pair of sweats and Phil's pilfered Ranger's hoodie, which has made a reappearance and looks just as good on him as it did the first time, and he looks warm and snuggly and content, munching his food quietly.
They're both floating in good headspaces, Clint a little subby, Phil a little toppy, and they're taking care of each other, getting and giving the aftercare each of them craves so badly. Phil's got him cozy and well-fed and later they're going to cuddle on the couch for a few hours, watch an episode of Dog Cops before bed. They've talked a little more about their scene while Phil had cooked, Clint going into loving, filthy detail about each little bit of it that had turned him on, and he's already getting ideas about what comes next.
If those ideas are leaning a bit more toward collaring ceremonies and... and engagement rings, well that's between him and his gods for now.
They've got time.
They still have things to learn about each other, things to explore and he's excited about their prospects.
More than anything he's... he's stunned, and grateful, and happier than he's ever been with this beautiful man sitting across from him, his friend whom he's so terribly fond of.
"I love you."
Clint blinks, looks up with bright, thrilled eyes, his sandwich halfway to his mouth and a pale pink blush spreading across his cheeks.
"Love you too Phil."
Maybe it is too easy.
Maybe after all this time it's still a little hard to believe.
In the end, he decides it doesn't matter.
They have each other, and it's all too perfect for Phil to care.
Hey all! So the plan for this was always loose chapters, disconnected at the end with each chapter a scene or an event in Clint and Phil's lives. This feels like a good place to stop, and so we come to the end of Pavlov was a Jerk. Never fear – Operant Conditioning will start posting soon and pick up right where we left off. Thank you guys so much for all the encouragement and kind words - you are fantastic, inspiring people! Hope you continue to follow and let me know what you think!