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Symphony No. 5

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Clint was late.


This was not an unusual occurrence.  He was going to pay for it this time, though, because this was a semi-official Avengers function and he’d been told, in no uncertain terms, to arrive over half an hour ago.


Plus, he realized almost immediately, he was completely underdressed.


Natasha was waiting outside Lincoln Center, looking immaculate and fresh, despite the sweltering temperatures, in a form-fitting green dress that was both modest and probably expensive.  His first impulse was to melt back into the crowd and hightail it back to Bed-Stuy, but she’d already spotted him. She had that look on her face, the one of exasperated fondness that told him he’d already fucked up.


Clint had never gone to a symphony performance before.  He’d never had the desire. He still didn’t, if he were being truthful, but Pepper had given him a Look, and he’d promised to be here.  The performance was something-something Beethoven, something-something heroic period, something-something in honor of the Avengers, and he was technically  one of those. Plus, you know, Pepper. Force of nature. Not to be crossed. Could probably make his life a living nightmare with next to no effort. So here he was.  New York Philharmonic performance on a Friday night, when he’d much rather be eating pizza in his sweatpants or drinking at a dive bar in Brooklyn.


And he’d shown up in jeans, which was clearly a faux pas.  The other men he could see were in slacks and ties, suits and even the occasional tux.  Clint’s only concession to the deference of the occasion had been to wear a button up shirt. Purple, of course, though the more muted shade that matched the accents on his uniform, rather than the brighter color he usually preferred. The jeans, at least, were his best pair.  Not a rip, tear, or fray in sight. They were the ones that Kate had thrown at his face, threatening him with bodily harm if he wore them for anything except a nice date, and he knew her well enough to know they probably cost more than his summer electric bill.


His shirt, on the other hand, was barely buttoned, the sleeves rolled to the elbows and the tails hanging out of his pants, and vaguely wrinkled from where he’d pulled it off the closet floor after his shower.


Nat narrowed her gaze and pursed her lips once he was standing in front of her.


“You’re a disaster,” she said by way of greeting.  Clint shrugged in agreement. Nothing new there.


He followed her into the building, his shoulders up somewhere near his ears, and tried to make a beeline for the bar just inside the entrance.  Natasha snagged him by his elbow before he could make a break for it and steered him towards an unassuming door down a short, unoccupied hallway.  The inside was cramped and vaguely musty, with a series of hooks and a rack of hangers.


“Coat check,” Natasha offered in explanation.


Well no one was going to be checking a coat in July.  It was ninety-eight degrees outside. What that had to do with the two of them hiding in one was another story altogether.


“Take your shirt off,” she demanded, and Clint gaped at her until she held her hand out, demanding and impatient, and he started fumbling with the buttons.


Natasha pulled a small bottle out of her clutch purse when he handed it over, efficiently unrolling the sleeves and spraying the entire shirt with something that he figured smelled like the Snuggle bear looked.  She gave the whole thing a brisk, snapping shake, tugged the sleeves, and hung it off to the side on a hanger before returning her full attention to him.


Clint flushed.  He looked a mess, completely out of place, standing in a sweaty undershirt and jeans.


The spray bottle disappeared back into her clutch and a small silver tin appeared next.  Nat scooped a little of whatever it was out and tucked it away again. She spread the whatever it was between her fingers and proceeded to attack his scalp.  


“Hey!” Clint tried to duck out from under her hands, but she’d strategically positioned him up against a small table when they came in the room, and there was nowhere to go.  It only took a few seconds anyway, just a scrubbing sensation and the deft flicks of her fingers before she was stepping out of his space to look him over critically.


“Better,” she allowed.  “More ‘artfully tousled’ than ‘just rolled out of bed’, anyway.”


What did it say about the two of them that he was enough of a disaster to need this much help, and also that she apparently kept a Barton response kit in her purse for events? One that included some kind of minty-smelling hair product.


While he was considering this phenomenon, her fingers darted in and ripped the medical tape across his nose off without warning.


“Jesus Christ ,” he muttered, eyes stinging.  “Ok, ok, I’ll never be late again if this is what I get for it.”


“Shut up,” she snapped.  “You’re late and you look like a mess.  Barnes cleaned up better than this, for god’s sake.  I’m trying to help you.” She paused with her head cocked to the side.  “At least you shaved.”


Oh that’s what this was about.  Clint’s jaw twitched as he ground his teeth.  One moderately drunken confession of his maybe-crush on the former Winter Soldier, and now Natasha was trying to primp him as though Bucky didn’t know exactly how much of a trainwreck Clint was on any given day.


She was watching him with narrowed eyes, a considering look on her face.  Clint figured she was staring at the still-visible bruising around his nose and eyes from the last mission they were on.  He’d managed to break his nose again , hence the tape.  The bruises had faded to a sickly greenish-yellow, and he’d thought leaving the tape on was less offensive than the bruising.


Apparently, he’d been wrong.


Natasha dived back into her bag of tricks - and seriously how did she have so much shit in one small clutch? - and pulled out a wipe that she scrubbed briefly and painfully at his face with before wiping her own fingers off and tossing it into the nearby garbage can.  Then her hand re-emerged with a compact from the clutch.


Clint sighed as he resigned himself to his fate.  


Her heels made her a scant two inches shorter than him, but he obligingly bent his knees and leaned forward so she could apply makeup to his battered face.


“S’not like he doesn’t know what my face looks like,” Clint muttered mutinously.


“There are going to be press photos afterwards.”


Clint groaned dramatically.


The compact and sponge disappeared back into Natasha’s bag.  She reached for Clint’s shirt, giving it another snap, then held it out to him.  It looked like it had come fresh from the dry cleaner, because of course it did. Clint slid his arms into the sleeves, and Natasha wormed her way back into his space, buttoning the shirt and cuffs efficiently.  Quicker than he could stop her, she had his jeans unsnapped and was viciously tucking the shirt into his waistband while he yelped.


He was zipped up, imaginary lint brushed off his shoulder, and Natasha standing out of grabbing range before he could properly react.  She was assessing him from head to toe again, and looked smugly satisfied with the results. She frowned at his boots, but didn’t say anything.


They were brown leather with steel toes, all the better to kick the shit out of someone with, and she should be glad he hadn’t worn sneakers as far as Clint was concerned.  At least they didn’t look too battered.


Natasha evidently arrived at the same conclusion because she didn’t say anything.


“You’re welcome,” she said, gesturing at the exit, and Clint rolled his eyes as he reached for the handle.


When he stepped out of the door, he nearly ran smack into one of the theatre attendants.  She was young and fairly pretty, but staring at him suspiciously and trying to glance over his shoulder.  


Fucking Natasha.  Clint had a feeling she knew someone was coming.  This was the sort of set-up she loved to drop him into.


He smiled down at the young woman, wide and charming, the kind of grin that said ‘who, me?’ and worked exactly never in his experience.


She flushed and looked down at her toes, though, and damn, that was some kind of transformation Natasha must have accomplished in that coat closet.


“Bathroom?” Clint asked, both as an excuse for why he was wandering around in coat closets in Geffen Hall and also so he could get a look at the miracle his best friend had apparently worked.  “I’m a little lost.”


“Oh!  Yes sir, right this way.”


Clint followed her back down the empty hallway towards the hustle and bustle of the arriving crowd, but before she could lead him to the bathroom they were waylaid by Tony.


“Barton!  You made it!”  He was loud, he was boisterous, and he had a drink in hand already, Steve following him around with a look of indulgent tolerance on his face.


Honestly, the two of them were almost sickening to watch.


The attendant was now staring at him with new eyes, as though she’d suddenly made the connection between the disaster in front of her and the superhero Hawkeye.  Clint winked at her, and she stumbled off, stammering, to go whisper in the corner with two other employees. Out of the corner of his eye, Clint saw Natasha breeze into the room from a completely different hallway.


Tony threw his arm around Clint’s shoulders and steered him towards the bar.


That was what was great about Tony, he always seemed to know exactly what everyone needed, as long as what they needed was alcoholic in nature.  And right now, Clint definitely needed a drink.


“The gang’s all here,” Tony continued, in between procuring Clint’s beer and waving across the room at the dozens of other big-shot Manhattanites he knew in attendance.  “They don’t have private seating, but we’ve got an entire box to ourselves, hopefully that will be enough privacy to soothe you spy-assassin types.”


Clint rolled his eyes again and shrugged Tony off, moving to lift the icy beer bottle to his lips so he could take a deep drink.


Unfortunately, Nat materialized at his elbows and took the bottle out of his hand.  She poured the beer into the plastic cup the bartender had inexplicably handed him with the drink before giving it back.  Clint blinked at her and she made a subtle gesture around the room.


Everyone was drinking out of plastic cups.






Clint shrugged.  He was no stranger to red Solo cups, and this wasn’t much different from that, though the beer was better.


Thankfully, he’d made it just in time for them to be ushered to their seats, just in time for the concert to start, with no time for mingling with the masses.  He might have been late, but Clint privately thought he’d timed it just about perfectly.


Even if Natasha had needed to tuck his shirt in for him.


Bucky appeared like smoke in their midst just before they went through the doors to the performance hall, and Clint just barely managed to keep himself from stumbling.


Natasha hadn’t exaggerated in the slightest, Bucky had cleaned up better than him.


Clint and Bucky had formed a fairly fast friendship after the other man had turned up at the tower, holes in his memory and looking for Steve.  Turns out that even knock-off super soldier serum could repair brain damage, as soon as someone stopped damaging said brain with electroshock therapy and drugs.  Within just a few weeks of living at the tower, Bucky seemed to have gotten back as much of his memory as he was going to, and then it had just been an awkward dance of trying to fit in with the team, to varying degrees of success.


Given their pseudo-shared history and hobbies, Clint and Bucky had fallen into a natural sort of camaraderie that included shooting competitions on the range and watching Dog Cops.  Clint was used to a Bucky that wandered around the tower in Steve’s slightly-too-big cast-offs and hoodies that were acquired from God-knew-where, his hair hanging loose and a fair amount of scruff on his face.


Tonight, however, Bucky had apparently broken out 1940s pin-up Barnes, clean shaven and smiling, with his hair pulled back into a sleek knot at his neck.  He was wearing slacks that looked tailor-made to hug his ass and thighs, with a fitted black v-neck under a grey blazer. And actual dress shoes! Like, nice ones.  Oxfords or something, Clint didn’t know, but he was suitably impressed.


What the fuck? Clint mouthed at Nat, and she smirked back at him.


You’re welcome , she signed, and he was suddenly, immensely grateful that he no longer looked like a hobo.


Not the he’d ever managed to see what he did look like, thanks to Stark.


Then again, he had beer, so that was probably still a win.


Inside the box they settled into their seats.  Clint was between Natasha, who’d taken the exit seat, and Steve, who was already leaning forward in rapt attention.  Tony was to Steve’s right, at the edge of the balcony seating. Clint caught the glint of a gauntlet on his wrist as he gestured at something on the stage, whispering to Steve.  Bucky was in the same position as Tony in the row in front of them, Sam to his left. Behind them Bruce, Wanda, and Vision took up the remaining seats. The lights dimmed and Clint clapped along with the rest of the audience as a man - the conductor, he guessed - turned to face them with a microphone in hand.  He introduced himself quickly, gave a brief overview of the theme of tonight’s performance, which was apparently something about Heroism, and gave a much longer and less interesting talk on the first piece of music the orchestra was going to be playing.


Clint was interested in it all for approximately two minutes after the first song began.


He’d never been to a live orchestra performance, and this one seemed fine.  It sounded pretty, he supposed, and he amused himself at first just watching the conductor.  The flailing arms and emphatic movement reminded him a bit of when Tony was excited in the lab, or telling a drunken MIT story.  Then he amused himself watching the string instrument players jerk their arms furiously back and forth, because he was a mature and responsible adult.  He definitely was not nearly giggling at the fact that it looked like they were all vigorously jerking off. Nope, not at all.


Then he lost interest entirely.


The music was good, but there was nothing happening on the stage to really keep his attention.  Before long he was leaning his head on his fist and staring at the guy with the big drums at the back of the orchestra, his eyelids feeling heavy.


Natasha elbowed him twice before the song ended.


During the second song, she pinched him, hard, on the sensitive underside of his bicep, and Clint started mentally calculating trajectories for the various musicians and audience members in the front row to keep his mind occupied.


Steve was still sitting forward, entranced, and Clint could only assume that was the artist in him.


Bucky looked like Clint felt.


Well, that wasn’t true.


Bucky looked laser-focused, his eyes fixed on the conductor.  His gaze, however, was a million miles away, a look Clint recognized as complete inattention from the number of times he’d seen it on the other man’s face anytime Tony went off on one of his tangents.  So Bucky felt how Clint felt, he was just better at hiding it.


Clint decided Bucky watching was better than orchestra watching.  The other man wasn’t even doing anything, but at least he was pretty to look at.


He wasn’t sure how many songs he drifted through, staring at Bucky, but when the familiar Da da da daaaaaa sounded from the instruments, Clint jumped in surprise.  


“Hey, I know this one,” he blurted, then was instantly embarrassed by Natasha’s amused huff and Tony’s snort of laughter.  


Bucky, however, turned to grin at him, warm but not mocking.  “ Me too ,” Bucky signed, and something in Clint’s chest seized up, making it suddenly hard to breathe, or swallow, or think.  He’d known, of course, that Bucky had been learning ASL. Their nonverbal communication had become a bastardized combination of common signs and standard military signals, so much so that it had almost become a secret language just for the two of them.  It was something Clint couldn’t even say he had with Nat, because she’d known ASL before he met her. The effort Bucky was making to learn gave Clint a warm, squirmy feeling in his gut, and every time Bucky said something to him in sign, Clint got the same twisty-chest sensation he was having now.


He was trying very hard not to think too much about it.


Bucky pointed at Steve, and Clint nudged the blonde man, who turned to him in question.  Clint jerked his chin in Bucky’s direction. When Steve looked, Bucky flashed him a peace sign, which made Steve chuckle and Clint feel confused.  Steve turned back to the concert with a smile on his face, leaving Clint to quirk an eyebrow at Bucky in question.


“Old joke,” Bucky signed. “ Tell you later.”


Clint nodded, and Bucky turned back towards the stage, conversation abandoned.  Clint resumed his Bucky watching, and out of the corner of his eye he saw Natasha smirking.


Shut up,” he signed to her, and turned his plastic cup of beer up to finish it off.


Luckily orchestra performances were apparently short, only a little over an hour, because the next thing Clint knew the house lights were up and they were giving the musicians a standing ovation with the rest of the audience.  The conductor took an additional bow to raucous applause and, unfortunately for Clint’s ears, shrill whistling. He hated when people did that, it created a weird reverb or feedback in his aids that bordered on painful. He reached up and turned the volume almost all the way down - all the applause wasn’t a whole lot better anyway.


Which meant he missed the next part of what was said, and suddenly a spotlight was shining down on their little box, illuminating the Avengers.


This must not be unexpected, because Natasha was smiling serenely and Steve waved, so Clint mimicked him like a chump, smile plastered on his face.


Then, at last, they were allowed to escape into the mass exodus, though Natasha kept a firm grip on him, her hand draped through his elbow like he was escorting her instead of the other way around.  They were herded back to the center of the atrium, where the group had their pictures taken with the conductor and several unfamiliar old people who Clint assumed were rich donors or something.


He left his hearing aids off the entire time out of spite.


Natasha finally released him, and when he turned his head she’d peeled off into the crowd and was gone without so much as a goodbye.  Or maybe she’d said goodbye, and he hadn’t heard it.


A touch to his shoulder drew his attention back to the group, and he was surprised to find that only he and Bucky were left.


You want to get out of here? ” Bucky signed, and Clint wondered if he’d been trying to get his attention for a while, since his aids were still turned down.  He reached up to adjust the volume, letting the flood of unrestricted sound wash back over him with a grimace.


“You could have left them off,” Bucky said, frowning.  “I doesn’t bother me.”


Clint shrugged.  He liked being able to hear Bucky talk, that rolling Brooklyn accent that had found its way back into his words as he shed the Winter Soldier and became Bucky again.  


Not that he intended to say that.


“Nah, this is easier.  You wanna go grab a beer?”


Bucky smirked.  “As long as we go somewhere less…” He gestured at the crowd.


Grinning, Clint jerked his head towards the exit.  “C’mon I know a place.” He paused for a second, glancing down at Bucky’s shoes.  “It’s kind of a walk though.”


Bucky rolled his eyes.  “I was winning before you trashed your FitBit, asshole.”


That was absolutely true, not that Clint was going to admit to that either .  He didn’t know what had possessed him to get into a steps competition with not one, but two super soldiers, but he’d been fortunate enough to snap the band on his bright purple Blaze only a few weeks into the competition.  He’d tried to band-aid it back together, and then tossed the damn thing when it had left a weird, sticky residue that attracted all manner of dirt and grease.  Lucky for him, because he’d been losing piteously even then, and would only have embarrassed himself further by continuing.


Clint laughed as they stepped out onto the sidewalk and into the muggy New York summer night.  The sun was down, but it was still a soupy eighty-some degrees outside. Bucky slipped his jacket off and tossed it over his left shoulder, unintentionally looking like a runway model.  It served the dual purpose of hiding his arm from casual observance, but Clint couldn’t stop staring at how well the black shirt fit his body, the way the pants clung to his hips.


Jesus, this was torture.


They walked in companionable silence for the first five minutes, before Clint got itchy and started tugging his shirt out of his pants and rolled his sleeves up.  The heat only partly accounted for his actions. Mostly, he felt stuffy in a way that seemed disingenuous.  Plus, he’d look out of place where they were going.


Bucky was going to stick out a little himself, but he could also carry the hot model look off, so it would probably be fine.  People would wonder why he was with Clint more than they would wonder why he was dressed up.


Anyway, it was New York, people weren’t going to bother them much anyway.  Hopefully.


“You clean up pretty good, Barton, and now you’re ruinin’ the effect.”  Bucky bumped his shoulder gently, taking the sting out of his words.


Clint snorted his opinion of that .  “No, I got assaulted by Natasha in a coat closet.  I looked like a homeless person two hours ago.” He bumped Bucky back.  “Not all of us can pull out a genuine pin-up persona on demand, Barnes.”


A strange look crossed Bucky’s face, there and gone before Clint could really analyze it.  They continued walking, and Clint was almost starting to regret his choice of bars when Bucky didn’t respond to his comment.  A couple of miles was a long walk when you’d offended your companion.


He was just opening his mouth to apologize for sticking his foot in it when Bucky spoke.


“So where’r we goin’ anyway?”


Clint just smiled.  “You’ll see.”


Ten minutes later they arrived at their destination.


“What the fuck?” Bucky said, with feeling, as Clint rocked to a halt outside the bar.


Rudy’s was a dive bar in the truest sense of the word.  It was tiny, narrow, and only marginally clean enough to pass a loosely conducted health inspection.  Typically it was full of locals.


Drunk locals.


But the real attraction of the place, in Clint’s opinion, was the free hot dogs.


Every drink came with a free hot dog and when you were a practically a human garbage disposal - like Clint - or necessitated the caloric equivalent of a marathon runner just to get through the day - like Bucky - it was a godsend.


The giant pig outside was just an added bonus.


“You brought me to Hell’s Kitchen for a giant pig?”


Clint reached out and pulled the door to the bar open, taking in the cacophony of sound, people laughing and yelling, games playing on various TV screens, and the overall sense of belonging that came from leaving behind rich fucks and instead hanging out with what one of the old managers used to call ‘upper-low class’.  


“I brought you to Hell’s Kitchen for free hot dogs.”


Bucky blinked at him for a half second before bursting into delighted laughter.  The expression transformed his entire face. While he was more likely to smile or drop a sarcastic joke than he had been before, his expression still tended towards what Tony fondly referred to as a ‘resting murder face.’


Clint was so fucking gone on this guy it was absurd, and it was unfortunate that Nat had noticed.


He’d always fallen fast and hard and pined endlessly over gorgeously unattainable people, and Bucky was absolutely no exception.


The bouncer at the door gave them a brief once-over, but it had been a long time since anyone had tried to ID Clint, and Bucky, though he looked younger - especially with the fresh shave - didn’t look that young, and they passed through unquestioned.  Clint wondered about that, sometimes, how Steve still looked like a fresh-faced twenty-something, and Bucky looked nearly ten years older.


He didn’t wonder enough to actually ask .  Even Clint knew that would be rude as hell and possibly fraught with descriptions of horrifying Hydra fuckery.


Inside, the bar was the same mahogany bartop that had been there for as many years as Clint had been visiting, possibly since the place had been built back in the thirties and-


Clint suddenly realized it was entirely possible that Bucky had been here before, back when it was bright and fresh and getting a liquor license just after Prohibition.  He turned to look at the other man, watching him taken in the narrow room with a contemplative expression.


“There’s outdoor seating in the back, too,” Clint offered, knowing that the enclosed space and press of people might be too much for someone as twitchy as Bucky could be.


Bucky nodded in response, looking relieved, and Clint led the way through the bar to the patio, and found that one of the garish red tables was available in a tucked-away corner of the patio, just outside the pool of lights.  It was almost serendipitous, and as they made their way over, Clint sincerely hoped this wasn’t going to blow up in his face.


They settled into a pair of chairs, both of them with their backs to the corner of the fencing.


A waitress bounced her way up to them, smiling cheerfully.


Clint ordered a pitcher of the house blonde and however many hotdogs came standard with a whole pitcher, and settled in for the evening.  


“So tell me about this big inside joke between you and Steve,” Clint said, once their food had arrived.


Bucky was staring at the hotdogs and beer dubiously, but he took one and pulled it closer before looking up to meet Clint’s questioning glance.  Clint had already stuffed half a hot dog in his face by this point, so he just tried to look expectant around bulging cheeks while he flashed a peace sign at Bucky in explanation.  Bucky rolled his eyes.


“It’s not.”


Clint quirked a brow.


“An inside joke,” Bucky clarified, slathering the hot dog with mustard. “It’s literally just old.  Used to be called the Victory Symphony. Short short short long is Morse code for V.” Clint nodded encouragingly.  He might be younger than Bucky, but he was old by the rest of the team’s standards, and he knew Morse code. “So I dunno, it was a thing.  V for Victory, Victory symphony, da da da daaa, yadda yadda. They used to play it on the radio in Europe. Figured Stevie would get a kick outta me rememberin’ it.”


Clint swallowed his ridiculous mouthful with some difficulty.


Steve, Clint knew, was deeply, deeply invested in what and how well Bucky remembered anything .  Not that Clint necessarily blamed the guy, but it seemed like a lot of pressure to put on another person.  There was an awful lot of Hey, Buck remember when that went on in the Tower.  And then, if Bucky did remember, great, but if he didn’t, Steve got that awful, sad golden retriever look that he manfully tried to swallow down into something less devastated.  


Privately, Clint thought Steve should cut the guy some slack.  He had a swiss cheese brain, and, Clint was willing to bet, more bad memories than good ones waiting to be discovered.  Clint wished he could forget all the horrible shit he’d done in just three days under Loki’s control.  Bucky had seventy years of Hydra garbage rattling around in there, and only, like, ten of Good Steve Shit.  Leave the guy alone, man, was what Clint wanted to say.


But you didn’t say that to Captain America , or even to Steve Rogers, because Clint sure as hell didn’t want to be the recipient of the sad dog face.  He had a sad dog face at home, who looked at him enough over a pizza box.


So Clint changed the subject.


Or he meant to, but then both their phones pinged simultaneously.


Clint dug his out of his pocket and pulled up the message.  Bucky made no move to get his, and sure enough, the message was a group text to the two of them from Natasha.


More accurately, it was a photo.


Natasha wasn’t in the photo.  She’d clearly taken the picture, because all they could see of her was the tips of her fingers and a spread of cards in her hand.  The rest of the picture was of the group gathered around a poker table, chips piled in the center along with a few random items - a watch, a tie, a pair of socks with chemical elements printed on them - and copious empty drink glasses.


Tony was mid-laugh, Steve looked completely unimpressed, and Bruce was staring at his hand with a look of intense concentration.


She’d captioned it Avengers Poker Night .


She was also holding a straight flush.


“Are they playing for money, or is it strip poker?” Clint wondered aloud, confused by the combination of the pot.


Bucky shrugged as he took a long drink of his beer.  “Dunno, but I’m glad I’m not there. Steve is a dirty cheat.”


Clint clasped his hand to his chest in mock-offense.  “How dare you slander Captain America like that.  He is a beacon of truth, justice, and the American way.”


“He’s also a dirty cheat.  Always has been. I ‘taught’ him to play poker when we were kids and it took me weeks to figure out he was swindling me.  Then I watched him do the same thing to half the guys in our unit.”


That startled a laugh out of Clint, loud and surprised.  He could picture it, though. Steve, when he wasn’t being disgustingly earnest, was a little shit.  He’d had Tony absolutely convinced for months that he didn’t understand texting, couldn’t operate the phone camera, and was barely able to make phone calls.  Meanwhile, he’d set up a Twitter, an Instagram, and Snapchat.


Steve Rogers was a troll.


Barnes says Steve cheats Clint texted back, feeling morally obligated to warn his best friend.


Who do you think dealt my hand? She texted back, making Clint laugh again.  He showed Bucky the message, and the other man rolled his eyes, but there was a small, fond smile on his face.  Clint shoved his phone back in his pocket even as he committed Bucky’s expression to memory.


Totally. Gone.  


He was so fucked.


Clint turned his attention to the small television mounted in the outdoor area, positioned under the awning over the door.  There was a WNBA game on, Liberty currently holding a slim lead over Chicago’s team, whatever their name was. Sky, maybe?


“Ok, so goin’ back to the Tower is out,” Bucky said, out of nowhere.  “What’s the agenda for the rest of the night?” He leaned back in his chair, slung his right arm over the empty seat next to him and regarded Clint over the lip of his glass.


Bucky, with his hair pulled back and his jawline revealed sans his normal stubble - not that Clint didn’t like the stubble, Clint loved the stubble - was looking at Clint like something he’d like to eat , and-


Clint’s brain short-circuited.


Several seconds passed in awkward silence as his thoughts skittered like kittens on linoleum, while Bucky’s expression grew steadily more smugly amused.  His eyes flicked over Clint’s throat and chest, down to where his legs disappeared under the table.


“Well, you got plans for later or what?” he said, smirking.


“Uh, I gotta- I gotta feed my dog?”  


Smooth, Barton.


Bucky laughed.


Between the two of them, they were nearly through their second pitcher of beer, and Clint had lost count of the number of hot dogs, but he was now pleasantly full and sporting a slight buzz.  It would be easy to order a third pitcher, watch the game and shoot the shit-


There was a clap of thunder and out of nowhere the sky opened up, instantly drenching the two of them in a torrential downpour.


Amid shouted curses and slick concrete, he and Bucky managed to make it to the scant coverage of the awning, though they were both thoroughly soaked.  As was the left-behind food and remaining beer, which they hadn’t even tried to save. Clint dug his wallet out of his back pocket and glanced around for their waitress.  She was near the door, looking harried as customers shoved credit cards towards her. He rolled his eyes.


The beer was cheap and hot dogs were free, which was why Clint loved the place.  Weaving his way through the crowd he managed the catch her before she turned to go inside.  The look of annoyance on her face melted at the sight of cash in his hand, until she caught sight of the denomination.


“I’ll be back with your change,” she said, sounding put out.  Not that Clint could blame her.


“Nah, keep it,” he said, smiling, and she grinned back at him, a cheerful thanks on her lips as she went back inside.


Clint turned around only to run chest first into Bucky, who snagged his arm to keep him from falling.  Bucky’s palm on his bicep was hot, despite the cool rain, and Clint shivered.


“You wanna get outta here?” Bucky asked, and Clint’s very enthusiastic response got caught in his throat.


Bucky didn’t mean that the way it sounded, Clint reminded himself.  Bucky Barnes was not interested in Clint Fuckup Barton. Clint needed to get his mind out of the gutter.  Clint needed to stop staring at Bucky’s mouth for fuck’s sake.


He nodded.


“You want some help feedin’ that dog? We can split a cab.”


Clint blinked.


Bucky wanted to come back to his place? And feed the dog? What?


Both their phones pinged again, which is when he remembered it was apparently poker night at the tower and Bucky had said he didn’t want to be there.  Right. Clint’s place was definitely less fraught with sexual tension and card sharks.


“Sure,” Clint said, finally, and Bucky slid his hand down Clint’s arm to his wrist, pulling him behind him as he used his murder face to glare a path through the press of humanity and out the door.


The metal arm maybe helped.  Bucky had snagged his jacket off the chair when they ran for it, but it was just as soaked as the rest of him.


Including the black tshirt that was now clinging to his back and shoulders in a way that was, frankly, obscene.


Clint completely lost track of where they were and what they were doing up until the moment that Bucky manhandled him into a cab and gave the driver Clint’s address.  The cabbie did not look impressed with their soaking-wet selves, but given that anyone else he’d be picking up would probably be in a similar state, Clint wasn’t too worried about it.


They did not die during the forty minute drive to Bed-Stuy which, like all other cab rides in New York, was about the best that could be said.  


Halfway to his apartment, Clint remembered to check his phone, and found a new photo from Nat.  This time her feet were propped on the edges of the pool table, her high heels languishing in the pile of winnings on the table, and she was boasting a full house.  Tony was, as far as Clint could see, naked, his bare hip just visible around the edge of the table. Clint didn’t want to confirm that Tony was naked. He had less-than-zero desire to see Tony naked.  Steve, on the other hand, was still fully clothed, right down to the watch on his left wrist. Bruce was missing entirely.


He showed the photo to Bucky, who laughed again.


It wasn’t raining quite as hard when they tumbled out of the car in front of Clint’s building, but it was still a steady drizzle, and any drying off they’d managed to do in the cab was immediately undone on the walk from the street to the door.


Three flights of stairs later, Clint was twisting the key in the lock and wishing he’d bothered to do anything to make the place presentable, like ever.  Inside, he was nearly bowled over by a happy golden dog, Lucky dancing at their feet and making short, sharp yips for attention.  Clint tossed his keys on the nearby table as he knelt down to scratch behind the dog’s ears and accept his doggy kisses and just generally be loved on.


When he looked up, Bucky was leaning casually against the doorframe, his clothes plastered to his body, watching them.  His face had some kind of warm amusement that Clint was unused to seeing when people glanced at him. It was much more at home on Steve’s face, especially if he was looking at Tony.


Which... that was a weird connection to make.


“C’mon mutt,” Clint muttered, standing up. “Let’s get you fed.”


Clint kicked his boots off near the door and unbuttoned his shirt as he walked towards the kitchen, tossing it over the back of a chair and leaving him in his similarly-damp white t-shirt.  One bowl of kibble later, he was headed back towards Bucky, who hadn’t moved from his perch by the door. His face, however, had changed to something a lot more heated than amused.


“You wanna shower?” Clint asked.  “Can’t be comfortable in those wet clothes, and I’ve probably got something you can wear.  I mean I could toss yours in the dryer but I dunno what that would do to them. They look dry clean only or something.”


Bucky cocked his head in thought as he stared at Clint.  After a few seconds he straightened, toeing his own shoes off, and gestured. “Lead the way.”


He followed Clint down the hall to the bathroom, waiting while Clint paused briefly at the linen closet for fresh towels.  A quick glance into the bathroom as Clint flipped the lights on revealed nothing too embarrassing, although the bathroom wasn’t exactly guest-ready.  Clint’s toothbrush was leaning in a plastic Hawkeye cup, the toothpaste was open on the sink, and he couldn’t remember the last time - if ever - he’d scrubbed the toilet.  The trash can wasn’t overflowing, though, and the tub, at least, had been cleaned in recent memory, if only because Clint had showered off slime from a battle not that long ago and had subsequently had to scrub the slime off the tiles.


Clint turned around to say something and promptly forgot what it was.  Bucky was standing inches behind him, his unzipped slacks hanging dangerously low on his hips as he pulled his shirt up and over his head.  Clint caught him just as he got the fabric over his face, elbows stretching the black cotton, and as such got a full, unrestricted view of taut abs and impressive pecs and his goddamn bicep .


He swallowed, or tried to, but his mouth was suddenly as dry as a desert.


Dropping the towel and washcloth on top of the closed toilet seat, Clint moved to escape.  Or he would have, if Bucky hadn’t been blocking the doorway with his half-naked body. Clint had very few options here.  He could… he could wait and when Bucky moved to get in the shower he could leave, but that would involve waiting while Bucky took off possibly yet more clothes and that was an exquisite form of torture he was extremely interested in, but also an invasion of privacy.  Or he could try and squeeze past the other man and out the door but that would involve touching the half-naked body which… also wasn’t terrible sounding but would probably result in an embarrassing revelation about his current state of arousal.  


This was what people meant when they said caught between a rock and a hard place, and he wasn’t sure which half of that equation was Bucky.


Speaking of Bucky, he was watching Clint through eyes that were half-lidded and contemplative, and Clint felt the heat on his face that meant he was blushing pretty spectacularly.


“Lemme just- I’ll, um, go grab you some clothes.”  


Clint sincerely hoped he had something clean to offer Bucky, now that he thought about it.


“Or you could stay.” Bucky said, sending Clint’s thought processes to a screeching halt.






Bucky shrugged, and the play of muscles was spectacularly distracting.  “Stay. Help me wash my back.”


Clint blinked and waited for his brain to come online.  And waited. And waited. And stared. Bucky was wearing black underwear under the slacks, and he was consumed with wondering whether they were boxers or briefs.


While he was pondering nonsense, silver fingers reached out and snagged the belt loop on his jeans, tugging him closer, until he was pressed against Bucky from hip to chest.  


“Tell me if I’m readin’ this all wrong,” Bucky said, and then he was tilting his chin up and pressing his mouth to Clint’s and oh. Oh.


Clint was distracted from his surprise by the press of lips and slide of tongue and Bucky biting down on his lower lip just hard enough to send a jolt of arousal down his spine.  He groaned, the sound echoing in the bathroom. He reached for Bucky, hands sliding against the hot, smooth skin of his hips as he felt himself being backed further into the bathroom and up against the countertop.  Bucky’s hands scrabbled at his shirt and they broke apart so it could be pulled over his head and tossed aside.


“Well goddamn , Barton,” Bucky murmurred, ducking back in for another searing kiss.


Bucky was trailing kisses along Clint’s throat and unsnapping his pants when Clint’s brain finally rebooted enough for him to wonder if he was dreaming.


Holy shit, is this really happening?


The amused look Bucky gave him as he dragged the zipper of Clint’s jeans down meant that, yep, he’d said that out loud.


“Well,” Bucky said, tugging the jeans until they fell to pool at Clint’s feet. “I tried being subtle, but you’re kinda an oblivious idiot. What did you think all the movie nights and dinners and shit meant?”


And yeah ok, in retrospect, with his pants around his ankles, Clint could admit there had been a definite uptick in nights spent at either of their floors in the Tower, Bucky cooking or Clint ordering takeout, watching movies or whatever.  There’d been a half-dozen nights out too, to restaurants Bucky had been wanting to try or ones that Clint swore were amazing.  There’d been an increase in Bucky touching him too, casual contact that, again in hindsight, seemed less casual.  Bucky wasn’t exactly handsy.


Then Bucky stuck his hand in Clint’s boxer briefs, and Clint amended his statement.  


He sucked in a breath through his teeth as Bucky wrapped a calloused palm around his dick.  Yeah, Bucky could be handsy if the situation called for it.


Clint reached out, pushing at the conveniently unsnapped and unzipped slacks Bucky was wearing, shoving until they hit the floor and Bucky stepped out of them.  Boxers versus briefs was settled and the answer was briefs. Very tight, very brief briefs. And-


“Is that the Black Widow symbol on your dick?”


Bucky honest-to-god blushed.  Clint hadn’t been sure the man was capable of blushing, but here they were, and dull red was spreading from his cheeks to his throat.


“Yeah I, ah, I kinda asked Nat for help gettin’ dressed up.  She gave me a bag of clothes and. Yeah. Yes. Black Widow underwear.”


Clint collapsed into snickers, leaning on Bucky’s shoulder as his chest vibrated with poorly-suppressed humor.


God that explained so much about her level of exasperation with Clint, and also, the underwear was definitely petty revenge.


Not that the red hourglass was going to do anything at all to dissuade Clint.  Just as soon as he stopped laughing.


“Christ,” Bucky muttered, reaching for the waistband.  “I’ll take ‘em off, sheesh.”


“No, no,” Clint managed to get himself back under control and brushed Bucky’s hands away.  “Let me.”


The briefs looked good, if he was being honest, and if he got close enough he wouldn’t even be able to tell they were official Avengers merchandise.  And he fully intended to get very close.


Clint wondered if there was a Hawkeye version.


Then he nudged Bucky back and kicked his jeans off, turning them so that Bucky was against the countertop in his place. Clint slowly dropped to his knees.  He mouthed at the edges of the underwear, where black cotton gave way to the thin, sensitive skin on the inside of Bucky’s thighs, and dragged his tongue there.  He could hear Bucky’s sharp inhalation, and felt fingers tentatively combing through his hair.


Clint tilted his head into the touch, letting Bucky know it was welcome, before he turned his attention back to his task. He mouthed over the bulge in the front of the briefs, breathing warm breath into the cotton and felt Bucky twitch under his lips.  He reached up and tugged the waistband down, until the head of Bucky’s cock was exposed, flushed and leaking, and lifted his mouth to wrap his lips around it and suck.


Bucky’s knees sagged and Clint heard the ringing sound of metal on stone as the other man grabbed the counter behind him.


Clint grinned as much as he could around the cock in his mouth.


He tugged the briefs down further, following them with his mouth as he sucked Bucky down, finally shoving the underwear out of his way entirely and wrapping his hands around Bucky’s thighs for balance.


Bucky groaned as Clint worked on swallowing as much of his dick as he could.  It had been a while, but Clint hadn’t been close friends with the sword-swallower in the circus without learning a thing or two. Bucky had the best kind of dick - thick, hard, and long, but not monstrously large.  It was going to feel real good later, Clint was sure.  Uncut, which was a little bit new.  Clint swallowed and sucked, pushing past his gag reflex until he had his face pressed into Bucky’s pelvis and breathed in the scent of him.  Then he pulled back, hollowing his cheeks, and let Bucky’s cock drag over the roof of his mouth and his tongue. He moaned and Bucky gasped again, fisting Clint’s hair, so Clint did it again.  And again.


“Fuck, Clint .”  Bucky said his name like a revelation, and Clint opened his eyes enough to look up and see Bucky watching him, his face flushed for entirely different reasons, his lower lip caught between his teeth.  


Clint hummed his response, and Bucky’s hips twitched under his hands, rocking his dick a little deeper, before he forced himself to stop.


“Sorry,” Bucky said, breathless, and Clint made a sound that he hoped would be interpreted as negative.  


He slid his hands from Bucky’s thighs up to his hips and tugged, encouraging Bucky to rock forward.  Tentatively, the other man did, and Clint moaned in appreciation, pulling him forward again. When Bucky settled into a rhythm Clint let go of his hips and braced himself on the counter behind them.


Fuck, ” Bucky said again, thrusting forward a little bit harder, his hand still fisted in Clint’s hair.  It only took a few more thrusts before Bucky was fucking his face in earnest, dragging his cock against Clint’s lips and tongue, both of them breathing hard.  Every so often Clint glanced up to watch Bucky watching him, watching his cock disappear into Clint’s willing mouth, and he made it a point to flick his tongue or hum appreciatively, until Bucky was muttering curses interspersed with Clint’s name.


Clint was tortuously hard in his boxer briefs, and he let go of the counter with one hand to reach into his underwear and tug his own dick out, squeezing it roughly.  The resulting sensation was equal parts torture and relief. He didn’t want to jerk off - he wanted Bucky’s hands on him again - but god he was so fucking turned on.


Bucky made a small, surprised noise, and Clint opened his eyes to look at him.  Bucky was watching Clint touch himself, and the flush on his face had spread to his chest.  His hips stuttered, and Clint did it again, stroking himself from base to tip.


“Shit. Shit, Clint I’m gonna come.”


Clint sucked harder, made a positive-sounding noise, and tried to communicate with his eyes because hell yes he was .  


Bucky’s hips jerked, the hand in Clint’s hair tightened, and then he was coming in thick, hot spurts down Clint’s throat, his eyes never leaving Clint’s face, just fluttering a little in pleasure.  Clint swallowed roughly, easing off Bucky’s cock with light, teasing flicks of his tongue until the other man shuddered.


He sat back on his heels, dick still hanging out of his underwear, and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.


Hilariously, the briefs were still wrapped around Bucky’s knees, so Clint leaned forward and slipped them the rest of the way down and helped Bucky step out of them.


Bucky reached down and pulled Clint to his feet, plastering their bodies together and tilting his head up for another kiss, this one a lot slower and lazier than the ones earlier had been.  Bucky’s hand slid down Clint’s body, across his chest to pinch a nipple, then lower, past his abs, to wrap around Clint’s dick, and Clint whined into the kiss.


“You want some help with this?” Bucky asked, and honestly he had no right to sound that smug.


“Well I wouldn’t say no ,” Clint rasped.


“What would you say yes to?” Bucky dragged his mouth across Clint’s shoulder to his neck, trailing little bites.


Clint blinked.


There wasn’t anything he could think of that he wouldn’t say yes to.  Or at least, nothing that was likely to be on the table this early in their- what, relationship?


“Pretty much anything,” Clint admitted, his voice still rough and used-sounding.  “Unless you’re into some really freaky shit on a first date.”


Bucky laughed again, kissing him, and Bucky laughing was now his second favorite sound.  Right behind every sound he had made while Clint was sucking him off. Those were all his first favorite sounds.


“How do you feel about fucking me?”


Clint made a sound like he’d been punched, air whooshing out of his lungs as his hips rocked forward without his input, fucking up into Bucky’s fist.


“I feel, uh, I feel pretty good about it,” Clint wheezed out, blood still rushing from his brain straight to his dick.  “Let’s try that.” He leaned in to kiss Bucky again and felt the smile curling against his mouth as Bucky continued to laugh at him.


He decided he didn’t care.


Clint reached down to peel his socks off and shove his underwear down, leaving them in the floor with the rest of the clothes.  He gave one last, slightly disappointed glance at the shower, before tugging Bucky out of the bathroom and towards the stairs that led to the loft.


Note to future self - stock the bathroom with lube and condoms.


They stumbled up the stairs, Bucky still vaguely laughing at him, and Clint hard enough to cut diamonds, until Bucky finally shoved him up ahead of him on the stairs and followed before they both fell on their asses.  The bedroom was in marginally better shape than the bathroom, largely because Clint had laundered the sheets a couple of days ago and thrown dirty laundry into the hamper when he’d been trying to find the shirt he wore to the symphony.  So here, at least, he wasn’t completely humiliated by the prospect of bringing someone into his space.


Not that Bucky took the time to notice, instead pushing Clint onto the bed and climbing up after him to straddle his thighs.


It was a view he could definitely get used to, and Clint said as much, stroking his hands up Bucky’s thighs to his ribs and back.  He dragged his nails on the way back down and Bucky shuddered against him, his eyes falling closed. Clint kept doing it, watching goosebumps trail in his wake, until Bucky was grinding down against him and his cock was twitching against Clint’s stomach.  


Clint reached to stroke it, coaxing him to full hardness, and Bucky shivered again.


“Looks like that knock-off super serum was good for something,” Clint said, grinning, and Bucky rolled his eyes.


“Oh yeah, unlimited erections is definitely what Hydra was going for,” he snarked back.  “You got stuff?”


Clint jerked his head towards the nightstand by the bed, and Bucky leaned over him to reach for the drawer.  Clint lifted his head to worry a nipple between his teeth, tugging lightly, and Bucky swore, arching into the touch.  Clint could hear him scrabbling in the nightstand drawer as he continued to run his mouth over Bucky’s chest, but it only took him a minute to find what he was looking for and sit back on Clint’s thighs.  He dropped the half-empty bottle of lube and a strip of condoms on Clint’s chest. Clint felt his eyebrows go up.


“Someone’s feeling ambitious.”


“What part of unlimited erections did you misunderstand?” Bucky smirked, pressing the lube into his hand.


“The unlimited part, mostly,” Clint muttered as he poured lube onto his fingers and dropped the bottle on the mattress next to him.


Bucky leaned down to kiss him, lifting his hips into Clint’s touch and groaning at the first press of fingers against him.  Clint nudged the tip of his finger inside of Bucky, pushing into the tight ring of muscle and waited for Bucky to relax around him before sliding deeper.  He started a slow, steady rhythm, letting Bucky adjust as he went, until the other man was writhing and panting above him.


Clint rolled his fingers, pressing up until Bucky nearly shouted, his eyes rolling back.


“Any day now, Barton,” Bucky panted, bracing his arms on the headboard behind them.


“You sure?” Clint asked, rolling his fingers again, causing Bucky to make another of the punched out, low groans.  “I got time.”


Bucky shoved himself up off the headboard, using Clint’s chest for leverage, and shifted back to position himself over Clint’s cock.  Ripping a condom wrapper open with his teeth, Bucky nudged Clint’s arm with his knee and let out another ragged moan when Clint pulled his fingers away.  Reaching back, he steadied Clint’s dick as he deftly rolled the condom over him, then lifted himself up and lowered himself back down with a hiss, far faster than Clint would have done.


“Jesus Christ , Bucky,” Clint grunted through his teeth, gripping Bucky’s hips hard enough to bruise.  


In response, Bucky rolled his hips and Clint saw stars.


“Fuck,” Clint panted, arching up into the all-consuming wet heat of him, trying to match Bucky’s pace.  The man was going for gold, hard and brutal, and Clint was barely hanging on for the ride. “God, you feel good.”


“Coulda been doin’ this weeks ago,” Bucky ground out, “but you took forever to get your head outta your ass.”


The sound Clint made was caught somewhere between a laugh and a moan.  He twisted, pressing up with his left leg and tugging Bucky’s right arm down and under so that they rolled on the mattress, landing with Bucky underneath him.  He tucked Bucky’s knee over his shoulder and thrust hard, so that Bucky made another of the wrecked noises he was growing to love.


“You can put something else in my ass later,” Clint decided, leaning into the mattress and dragging his mouth across Bucky’s jaw and throat.  Then he started pounding hard and fast, since that was what Bucky seemed to want, watching as he turned into a thrashing, sweaty mess beneath him.


Clint felt like the top of his head was going to fly off.


Bucky reached between them and wrapped his goddamn metal hand around his dick, and that was it, Clint was fucking done .


He came with an humiliating, choked-off whine, his head wedged between Bucky’s neck and shoulder as he continued to thrust.  Somewhere in the fog of a truly spectacular orgasm he heard Bucky cry out, felt the wet spill of come between them, and he pressed open, breathy kisses to the other man’s neck before essentially collapsing on top of him.


They lay there, gasping for air and waiting for their heartbeats to return to normal for several long minutes before Bucky shoved gently at his shoulder.


“Christ you’re fuckin’ heavy,” he complained as Clint eased out of him and flopped to the side.


“Shut up,” Clint mumbled. “I’d have let you lay on me.”  He opened his eyes to look at the other man who, despite his words, was watching him fondly.  


“My arm weighs like fifty pounds, asshole, you don’t want me layin’ on you.”


Clint grinned and tugged Bucky closer, pulling until the other man was half draped across him, and ignoring the mess all over both of them.  “Aw, babe, that’s not true, you can lay on me anytime you want.”


He felt more than heard Bucky’s exasperated huff, but the other man rearranged himself into a more comfortable position, his right arm and leg draped over Clint’s chest and thighs.  Clint reached down to snag the condom and toss it in the bedside trash, then fumbled around in the bed until he found the edge of the sheet and used it to half-ass wipe the two of them off.  


They lay there in the dark and quiet for a while, Clint dragging his fingers up and down Bucky’s spine, half dozing.


“You still want me to wash your back?” Clint asked, voice hushed.


“I think I need you to wash my front more,” Bucky mumbled, sounding sated and sleepy.


Clint laughed.


“Maybe in the morning,” Bucky added, scooting closer until his half-hard cock was resting on Clint’s hip. “We’re probably just gonna get dirty again.”  He pressed a smile against Clint’s shoulder.


Groaning, Clint rolled to his side so he could pull Bucky in for more kissing.  “I’m gonna be dead in the morning, Mr. Unlimited Erections.”


Bucky laughed, low and dirty.  “Nah, they’re not really unlimited.  Just a real short refractory period. I could probably go, I dunno, another three or four times? Unless you can’t keep up, old man.”


It wasn’t that Clint didn’t know he was being played, it was just that he couldn’t seem to back down from a challenge.  


He was gonna be lucky to be able to walk tomorrow, but that didn’t stop him from pulling Bucky on top of him and lifting his head for an absolutely filthy kiss.  


“Try me,” he said, when they separated, and Bucky smiled as he leaned down.