It was a slow Tuesday morning at Hawkeye’s Body Studio. There had been a few walk-ins, a guy who wanted some body mods from Kate and a couple of college girls looking for their first tattoo — some small, dainty thing like a butterfly or a cluster of stars or dandelion seeds transforming into birds or some other generic bullshit. Nothing Grace couldn’t handle; although he would owe her for that later. His first booked appointment was still hours away, and Clint had never been good at staying still for long. On his worst days, when the ADHD and the PTSD were wreaking havoc with his head, he wondered why he had given up smoking.
The independent bookshop down the block had a brand new SHIELD installation in their newly expanded graphic novel section. He had a couple hours to kill, and the girl who ran the cafe made a decent cup of coffee. Maybe he would text Steve a photo of him gleefully browsing through the latest issue of Captain America.
The purple dome lights flashed when Clint opened the front door, and Kate popped her head out from the back, a bottle of sanitizing solution clutched in her black gloved hands.
“Stepping out, Katie-Kate. I’ll bring you back a coffee.”
“Get me a chocolate croissant.”
Clint saluted in affirmation as he slipped out the door.
It was mid-spring, and the hanging planters above the bright blue door of The Little Indie Bookshop were bursting with vining foliage and flowers. The scent of coffee and pastries hit him full force as he pushed open the door, the little bell tinkling above it, and his stomach was quick to remind him that his two coffee breakfast had been insufficient. But before his nose could carry him toward certain bliss, he was quickly distracted by the colorful, patriotically-hued cardboard shield hanging in prominent position near the front of the shop, advertising SHIELD Studio’s latest offerings. He smiled to himself as he pulled his phone from his pocket and opened the camera. He felt like a proud dad.
Clint: i heard you can get awards for comics nowadays, i wanna be named in the credits as a military consultant if you win
Clint: closest ill ever get to winning something
Steve: I’ve dedicated more than one issue to you. Including the one I got that Eisner nomination for. What more do you want?
Clint: is there $$$ involved if you win?
Steve: Probably not.
Clint: then I want writer credits!
Steve: Speaking of money, you owe me like five lunches, three favors, a first born son, and a kidney, just for this month. I'm cashing in tomorrow.
Steve: I’m thinking sushi. Maybe surf and turf.
Clint: okay lets not be hasty. I'm willing to negotiate
Steve: Tomorrow at 12!
Clint: I'm proud of you, Stevie.
Steve: :-) Thanks.
Clint closed his text app, which left up the photo he had cropped to send to Steve, and noticed he had unwittingly captured a partial profile of another man he had not noticed there before, intently flipping through copies of Captain America graphic novels. Clint may have passed the man by had he not recognized the familiar logo on the cover. And then he took the rest of the man in.
The man was a bit older than Clint and looked smart with his thick, black-framed glasses. The particular blue of his shirt made him seem approachable and soft. He had a straight, strong back and held himself as if he was comfortable in his skin and with what his body could do. There was a hint of muscles stretching underneath his shirt sleeves. He looked like he had his shit together. Probably filed his taxes early and paid all of his bills on time because he had a calendar and a planner and maybe even an assistant to help him keep it all on track. He looked like he gave good hugs.
He’s probably a dad , Clint thought. Maybe that was it. He just had a parental vibe. Probably buying comics for his kid. I’ll be your kid. Wait, no. Ew.
Nevertheless. There was something about him. Something...safe.
Safety was something that Clint had, despite all appearances, been looking for to no avail his entire life. There was a certain hard and fast approach to his life thus far, at least from an outsider's perspective— from getting sent to detention for smoking behind the gym to getting kicked out of his first few foster homes for underage drinking and a fist fight or two. Then there were his years in the military, his tattoos, and not least of all, his impressive string of crash and burn relationships. But who was there to know that so many of his decisions, perhaps as fraught with missteps as they were, proved less a show of uninhibited recklessness and more a craving for something desperately longed for and never fulfilled? Not many at all. Fewer than the fingers on his left hand, and he was fine with that.
There were few witnesses to the whole truth-- like how hard he had worked to overcome learning disabilities and a traumatic childhood to finish his GED. That going into the military was a way for him to be homeless and still have a place to sleep at night while he figured out the rest of his life. That those fist fights were never started by him and were often the result of trying to rescue his foster brother, Steve, who had an apparent death wish ten times his diminutive size.
And maybe he was crazy, maybe he was just so desperate he could convince himself of anything, but Clint looked at the older man before him and thought to himself, Maybe this guy is what I need.
Clint was suddenly grateful it was still cool enough for a lightweight sweater and that he had the fortune of grabbing the purplish gray one Nat had bought him for his birthday last year. It covered up the worst of the coffee stains and holes in his t-shirt and concealed the tattoos on his arms. Maybe he could actually pass for respectable. If he didn’t open his mouth, that is.
But he took a chance, anyway, a flying leap of faith and sidled over next to the older man, pretending to browse the titles at eye level without really reading them at all, shuffling down the row of colorful issues until he was mere feet from the other man and said, “You a Captain America fan?”
The other man flicked a quick look to the side but answered, “I appreciate the historical accuracies.”
Okay. Did that mean he actually liked the graphic novels or not? Not too much to go on, but Clint pushed on. “History buff, huh?” And he practically rolled his eyes at himself. He sounded like a complete idiot.
“Something like that. I teach history.”
He knew it! He knew the man must be smart.
“Oh, yeah? That's cool.” Cool? Cool?! Where was Natasha’s relentless interference and brutal judgement keeping him from making witless, asinine comments when he needed it? “What grade?”
“Oh.” So he was a professor . Why was that kinda hot? “Which one? Maybe I’ve heard of it.” Was that insulting? He couldn't tell. Why did his curiosity come off as being an asshole?
“Columbia,” the other man said simply.
And he’s modest. Jesus.
But then Clint remembered who he was, and his faux bravado deflated. This guy was book smart . How could a high school drop out hope to hold an engaging conversation with an Ivy League professor without completely embarrassing himself? This guy knew stuff. Probably had vocabulary and shit with lots of syllables and not so many four letter words, which was Clint’s particular speciality. Fuck . He was so screwed.
But then, it was like the clouds of heaven opened to him for the very first time in his wretched existence when, amid Clint’s roiling inner turmoil, the older man continued unprompted.
“I’ve read a little about the artist and I’m interested in how someone with no background in armed combat could depict it with such authenticity.”
God is real , Clint squealed to himself. “Now that I can actually answer. I happen to know the artist who created Captain America .”
For the first time, the man turned to look at Clint head on, and oh . Wow. Okay. Kind face. Prettiest blue eyes ever. Intense gaze. Sexy forearms. Christ . A bit of a receding hairline. Fuck, why was that cute? No biggie. He could do this. Deep breath.
“Uh, uh...um. Well...what was the question?” Clint mentally facepalmed himself so hard, he threatened permanent brain damage. Why was he like this?
The other man smiled, a barely-there tug of lips that seemed to mostly skip his mouth entirely and flood up to his eyes, until the cool blue seemed as warm as ocean waves against a sun-drenched beach and little crows feet spread out in the corners. Clint wanted to cry. He wanted to kiss those little wrinkles. He had serious issues.
“I noticed a coffee shop next door. Perhaps I could buy you a cup in exchange for some insider information?”
Clint knew his face must have been doing its best impression of a tomato tartlet but he could not be fussed to care.
“Sure. Okay,” he answered shyly, shrugging muscular shoulders, tattooed hands tucked away in the pockets of perpetually torn jeans.
Clint had no idea what he was doing but he knew that he wanted more of whatever this was even if all it ever was was a cup of coffee and a kind smile.
The man’s name was Phil. Phil. The name had been like a record on repeat since that Tuesday morning. When he was alone, Clint found himself saying the name aloud, loving the way it felt in his mouth, on his tongue. He imagined various scenarios where he could get away with repeating it over and over. And if he was being a little skeevy about a man he had met once, well, no one had to know but him.
And then, as if he had conjured the man himself with his thoughts alone, the current star of all his recent jerk off fantasies waltzed through the doors of his shop, wearing a deep blue suit with a crisp white shirt, sans tie.
“Welcome to Hawkeye’s,” Grace greeted the potential client with a dimpled smile, looking up from where she was prepping her station for her next appointment. She and Kate were the more social ones. They could keep things diplomatic and not awkward and keep clients coming back. “What can we do for you?”
The man caught Clint’s deer-in-headlights gaze with a knowing one of his own.
“This place came highly recommended by some students of mine,” he answered, practically swaggering into the shop. Or maybe that was Clint’s imagination. “They said you take walk-in consultations. I was hoping someone could consult me with their expertise,” he explained, gaze continually drifting to Clint’s even as he spoke to Grace.
Grace narrowed her eyes between the two men but, blessedly, said nothing about it.
Clint literally shuddered. The man could not be serious, walking in like that looking like a live action GQ cover, talking like that, and making innocuous words like consult and expertise sound so damn dirty.
Clint’s voice was embarrassingly breathy when he answered, “I’d love to lend you my expertise.” Expertise. Body. Heart. Soul . Whatever. “Uh, I mean. What did you have in mind?”
Grace snorted and muttered to herself, “Looks like I’m not needed here.”
The man stripped off his suit jacket, and Clint pinched his thigh, hard, because there was no damn way this man was in his shop stripping for him on a Thursday morning.
Ouch . Okay. Not dreaming. Also, close your damn mouth, you mouth-breathing Neanderthal.
Phil folded the jacket and laid it with care over the front desk. How can everything he does be strangely attractive? He began to roll up the starched sleeves of his button down. Mm, yes, those sexy forearms. Clint just barely refrained from licking his lips.
“I need to be honest. I’m not quite sure exactly what I want just yet.”
I find that hard to believe, thought Clint. The man looked incapable of indecisiveness, and Clint had a competence kink a mile wide.
Phil laughed. Genuinely, full on laughed. Jesus, it sounded so good.
Clint winced. “I said that out loud, didn’t I?”
“Let me rephrase that. I know exactly what I want,” Phil said with a small smile, eyes never wavering from Clint’s.
If the man asked him to get on his knees right then at the front of the shop in front of all the windows, God, and his co-workers, Clint was pretty sure he would break his damn knee caps in a rush to obey. He was that far gone.
“I’m just not sure I can have it. I was hoping you could help me figure it out. Help me figure out what would work best, what would look good.”
“Uh Uh…,” Clint stuttered.
”I think he broke him,” sniggered Kate.
Phil reached for the buttons at his neck and popped two more open before Clint could get a hold of himself long enough to stop him.
“S-stop,” Clint uttered, embarrassingly breathless. “Uh, I mean, that’s not necessary just yet.”
Apparently that was a thing he did now— turn down free strip teases.
Phil smirked. “I love when you do that. Spouting flirtations so brazenly and thoughtlessly one moment and then blushing and stuttering the next. You’re very endearing, Clint. I…,” and then it was the older man’s turn to be shy. Clint’s mouth dropped open in shock. “After last week, I kept thinking to myself, he seemed so obvious about what he wants. I couldn’t possibly be mistaking his interest.”
The two women weren’t even pretending to work now, they just stood there, eyes as big as dinner plates, holding hands in the middle of the shop and trying not to scream.
“No one’s ever accused me of being subtle.” Clint said softly. Because, no. He was about as subtle as a brick through a window.
Somewhere in the background, Clint heard a smothered laugh and Kate’s mocking, “Ain’t that the truth. Ow! What? It is!”
“You’re not helping,” Grace whispered fiercely.
But the women were quickly forgotten again in the face of Phil’s smile.
“I kept kicking myself for not getting your number. And then yesterday, one of my TA’s brought up your name, and I thought I had to be hallucinating. I hadn’t been able to get you out of my mind, and suddenly, it was like there you were, almost within reach. I cancelled my office hours today and came here as soon as I could.”
“Holy shit,” murmured Kate. “The guy has guts.”
”I like this guy,” decided Grace.
Clint could only blink and flap his mouth wordlessly. This man could not be real. The absolute brass-balled courage it took to put it all out there like that and risk rejection. He could not imagine being so brave.
“So, you don’t want a tattoo?” Why even bother speaking at all? You’re that fucking hopeless.
Kate literally smacked herself in the face at that. ”Oh my god, he’s hopeless.”
”I’m just glad Natasha isn’t here to see this,” muttered Grace. “This is physically painful.”
“From you? Absolutely. Despite this seeming like nothing more than an excuse to see you, I looked up your website before making my appointment. Your work is incredible , Clint. Absolutely breathtaking,” he effused while looking at Clint in a way that said Phil could be talking about more than Clint’s artwork. “I’d be proud to carry your work on my body even if that’s all I ever got from you.”
”Damn,” Kate breathed.
“Smooth operator,” Grace agreed.
You can have whatever you want, Clint only barely refrained from speaking aloud. He did not know how much more he could take.
Hearing Phil’s confession, Clint felt as if all his insides had tipped sideways. There had to be a mistake. There had to be something he missed or misunderstood. Clint Barton never got exactly what he wanted. The world was not that kind of place. Not for him.
“Okay. But fair warning, my prices are pretty steep.” Clint’s voice was almost steady.
“Worth it,” said Phil softly, moving closer.
“You sure?” asked Clint, uncertain, not quite willing to give into hope just yet.
“Just name it.”
Now they were definitely standing closer than what was considered appropriate for two people who weren’t sleeping together. Clint was pretty much dying for that to be rectified.
“A date,” Clint breathed as a choked off gasp echoed in the background.
Phil’s eyes were molten, holding Clint’s captive as he felt the brush of Phil’s thumb across his cheek.
“I have no idea how I got so lucky but I won’t be an idiot to turn down such a gift. Have dinner with me?”
A duet of excited, girly squeals accompanied Clint’s rapid nodding, and Clint knew he was doing his best impersonation of a bobble head but was helpless to stop himself.
“You mentioned you like Italian. Let me cook for you. I was thinking handmade pasta with clams. I’ve been saving a Sauvignon Blanc for the right dish, if...that sounds good to you?”
”If Clint says no, I am definitely available,” Kate piped up. “Ow! Stop hitting me!”
“Yes, please. I... please .” Clint was not beyond begging.’
The man smiled wider. “You’re just a sweet boy, aren’t you?”
Clint absolutely did not whimper and flush and flutter his eyelashes. He would not, on pain of death, admit it.
But maybe he could convince the guy to stretch things out a little longer than a homemade Italian entree?
Like perhaps somewhere between dessert and the rest of his life? Yeah, he could live with that.
Phil’s apartment was much like the man himself— classy, understated, and warm. There were dark blue walls and stained oak bookcases crowded with collector’s editions, a comfort-worn leather sofa with a soft looking blanket folded over the back. A jazz record was playing on the record player, something sultry and inviting on a brass horn. A couple of lamps were on, keeping the light mellow.
Phil handed him a glass of wine to drink while he cooked for Clint in his cozy apartment in his weekend jeans and knit socks, and Clint knew he was ruined for all others. He felt shaken apart by desire he had never felt before and could hardly even begin to fully comprehend.
“Tell me what you want, Clint,” Phil asked later as they finished off the wine over candlelight.
This whole night was the most romantic thing that had ever happened to him. How could he ever go back to what he had before? How could the relationships that mostly began as casual, drunken hookups he picked up at a dive bar even begin to compare?
“Kiss me,” Clint answered in a whisper, shy of the sheer magnitude of his own desire.
The older man cradled Clint’s face in his hands, fingers sliding through the hair at the back of his neck while his thumbs gently massaged Clint’s jaw, tenderly angling and guiding his head where he wanted it to go. And Clint sighed, closed his eyes, and let the tension leave him, putting himself into Phil’s capable hands.
He heard Phil’s answering pleased hum before soft, warm lips were on his. Gentle, soft, a little wet. How could these sweet little kisses already be some of the best he had ever had? Phil continued to massage the hinges of Clint’s jaw while occupying Clint’s lips, already kissing him so expertly without taking it any deeper.
Clint moaned softly with a gentle parting of his lips.
“There you go, baby,” Phil said before dipping his tongue inside.
It was the single best kiss of Clint’s life. No, he could not possibly go back to life before this. Before homemade Italian and old records and warm hands and life changing kisses.
Untold minutes later, Clint’s eyes slowly fluttered open when Phil pulled away and asked, “Was that what you wanted, sweet boy?”
Clint blinked back sudden tears. “Y-yeah. Yes. More.”
“Ssh,” Phil soothed him, pulling away from Clint’s rough, too-eager mouth.
“We have time for all of that. I don’t want to ruin this by taking it too fast, Clint. I don’t want a quick fuck with you as amazing as I’m sure that would be. You’re worth more than you’ve been given in the past. I don’t know how anyone could see that beautiful, gentle heart underneath and not take care of it. But I want to try, Clint. Please let me be the one to give that to you.”
“Ph-Phil,” Clint wavered. “How can you be real?”
“I keep thinking the same thing, beautiful.”
Clint buried his face into Phil’s chest and honest to god cried. He was terrified that the other man would get turned off by his behavior and push him away, but he could not help it. It was like everything he had ever wanted presented to him on a silver platter, and he did not know what to do with that. He did not know how to be worthy of the kind of care and devotion the older man was promising. He could not imagine not fucking this all up. But he wanted it. He wanted it so goddamn bad, he could barely breathe around the hot fist of desperation punching up through his chest and into his throat.
He felt Phil’s steady arms wrap around him, holding him close and pulling him closer until Clint’s body was pressed up against his on the couch from head to shin. It was as soft and comfortable as it looked.
“My sweet boy,” Phil said against his hair, followed by a gentle kiss to that same spot.
Later, after many more homemade meals and morning coffee dates and mid-week lunches. After walks in the park and cuddly marathons of Dog Cops on Phil’s ridiculously comfortable leather sofa, when Phil next asked Clint what he needed, and Clint asked to be taken to bed, Phil led him to his bedroom, stripped him carefully, and laid him down on the luxurious gray sheets.
There was nothing in the world but Phil’s mouth on Clint’s skin and Phil’s gorgeous fingers shoved up deep inside him. He touched Clint as if he was laying claim to him.
“You’re so soft inside, baby. So wet and ready for me, aren’t you?” Phil said, pressing kisses low across his stomach and hips where Clint shuddered from the sensitivity.
Clint could only gasp and moan and whimper, tears gathering at the corners of his eyes at the intensity of it all as Phil brought him higher and higher and closer and closer to falling apart.
Phil massaged a thumb around his stretched and swollen rim and then firmly into his perineum, causing Clint to cry out. He did not know how much more pleasure he could take. Phil had already spent the better part of an hour licking and kissing and sucking at his hole, turning Clint into a quivering, sobbing mess before he ever breached him. This was too much.
“Please, Phil. Please ,” Clint sobbed. “I’m ready. I need you. Oh, god .”
“Ssh. Not yet, honey. Soon. Just enjoy it,” Phil assured him before lowering his head to lick and suck at Clint’s straining cock.
Clint threw his head back, eyes screwed tightly shut as he held his orgasm at bay. Phil had told him to wait just a little longer, and he would. Phil would take care of him, would take care of everything.
“Oh, baby . How sweet you are. I’m going to give you everything you need. I’m going to make you mine, sweetheart.”
And if Clint could have spoken then, he would have told Phil the truth: I’m already yours. But all Clint could do was cry out as those fingers massaged unforgiving circles deep inside him.
When Phil finally pressed inside of him, deep and full in a way no one ever had before, Clint soared, trusting Phil would catch him when he came back down.
After Phil was done taking him apart with his soft lips and talented hands, his sweet words of affection and praise, his gorgeous cock and agile tongue, emotionally flaying Clint alive until he was a trembling mess of spit and sweat and tears and come, those familiar words echoed back to him as if from a dream: “Is that what you needed?” Phil whispered against his ear, as Clint trembled helplessly in the other man’s arms.
And Clint knew then, for certain, although let’s face it, he reasoned, it had been a foregone conclusion from the first conversation: there was no one in the world left for him if it wasn’t Phil Coulson.