“Good morning, New York. You’re listening to the Morning Radio with Emma and Charles. How are you today, Charles?”
“I’m doing very well, thank you, Emma. It’s a sunny day in the middle of Manhattan and the city is safe once again thanks to our local collection of superheroes, the Avengers.”
“Indeed. I was sitting in my wife’s rooftop garden when the attack occurred last night. The aliens were quite a sight, weren’t they? Rather ugly creatures, if you ask me. Perhaps they need some fashion tips.”
“I daresay they weren’t interested in looking good, Emma, although I do wish that we could discuss with them rather than going to war at first contact.”
“You and your pacifism, Charles.”
“Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt during the invasion. There was some property damage, but nothing to phone home about. The aliens have returned to their home planet, and we will continue as normal.”
“All in all, I’d say it was a successful venture. We owe our thanks to the Avengers, Earth’s so-called Mightiest Heroes.”
“Indeed. And now onto our brand-new segment, Erik Tells You How It Is.”
“Tell me, Charles - why did we let your ex-husband have a segment again?"
A dog barks outside.
“-very sorry, Mister Barton, but your insurance with our company does not cover Avengers-related events. My suggestion is that you get in contact with your local bank and take out a loan for repairs. Thank you for choosing X-Insurance.”
Delete. Next message.
“Hey, it’s Kate. I’m gonna be in California for a few more weeks. Made a friend. Keep the shop warm for me."
Delete. Next message.
“Clint? Call me. I’ve got the divorce papers ready for you to sign.”
Definitely deleting that one.
He’ll deal with it all later. Thankfully, it’s the last one on the machine and Clint can feel somewhat at peace when he sees the red zero blinking up at him from the screen. It pulls a sigh of relief out of his mouth. He’s not religious but he’s got to say, god bless. Another sliver of bad news might do him in for good.
He’s bent over a little chalkboard and it takes him a few minutes to remember to write something on it.
The neon purple chalk has been crushed to dust and he’s now forced to use a shade of yellow that’s more white than anything. It’s got no life and he hates it. Coffee of the Day: Depresso, he scrawls on it in nearly-illegible letters before he tries to balance the sign on a smaller stack of rubble. Perfect.
Clint’s face itches.
He scratches at it one-handed and his fingers come away wet with blood.
“Goddamn Avengers,” he mutters to himself, wiping his hand off on his jeans.
It’s been a long day.
It’s seven in the morning and it’s been a long day.
There’s a clanking noise and Clint tries to ignore it. He saw the finishing touches on the repaired StarkTech store being done when he was taking out the trash - kind of pointless, considering the whole place is trash right now - and it pisses him off to no end. None of the local contractors have even answered his calls yet.
It’s not worth going to Stark Tower to try and beat up Tony Stark. It’s not, but fuck if it isn’t tempting. His bow is in the back; might be time to attempt his hand at becoming a supervillain. (There’s nothing super about him, but he could always jump into some radioactive waste and see how that goes.)
The first-aid kit is somehow undamaged in its spot underneath the main counter and Clint rescues it from the mess, opens it up and checks the contents.
There’s a single band-aid left. It’ll have to do.
“Hey there, buddy,” Clint says distractedly as he sees a familiar hooded figure shuffle in the front door. “Just give me a second and I’ll… try and clear up your spot for you.”
He doesn’t get a reply, but then again, he never does.
It doesn’t matter.
Clint finishes applying the bandaid to his face in the cracked mirror and turns around. The guy is making his way to his usual spot - back to the wall, easy access to the emergency exit and the front door - and Clint follows, stepping over the mess of wooden beams and broken ceramics.
“Sorry about the… yeah,” Clint says. Doesn’t really know how to finish that sentence.
There’s no reaction from the dark-haired man and Clint glances around for a chair that isn’t broken, slides it over when he finds one. The guy sits down and Clint scrubs a hand over his face, tries to put on his Customer Service Smile.
There isn’t one. His whole body feels like one big bruise and he can only hope it isn’t anything lethal because he can’t afford that kind of bill.
His regular nods and Clint refrains from asking why. The coffee can’t be that good - Clint hasn’t even got a proper barista license, he just presses a few buttons on a machine. Still, he goes to hunt down a mug that isn’t broken or covered in glass and slides it into place, makes sure there’s nothing dangerous in the milk.
He’s not sure that the coffee would taste any worse if it was, honestly.
The silence swallows up Clint’s exhausted brain, turns it to static.
He’s got no idea why the guy came back the first time, let alone why he’s shown up every Tuesday and Thursday like clockwork for the last six months. Surely there’s better coffee shops than Clint’s.
At least, there’s gotta be one that isn’t in ruins right now.
The guy’s looking up at the massive hole in the roof when Clint returns with his drink.
“I’ll get it fixed,” he says, tries to keep the exhaustion out of his voice. He’ll probably just cover it with as much duct tape as possible, but that counts as fixing, right? He waves away the money that’s pushed in his direction. “Don’t worry about it. This one’s on me.”
God, he’s got so much to get fixed. Maybe he can pull some favours from Carol and get some extra furniture.
Clint turns away and starts trying to swipe debris off of the few tables that aren’t completely totaled. He swipes at one a little too hard and it falls over with a creak, and the frustration is so thick in his throat that he nearly doesn’t notice the shards of glass that have gotten caught in his hand.
Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
He doesn’t realize he’s muttering it out loud until his wrist is caught by gloved fingers.
“Maybe sit down for a minute?”
Clint’s so surprised that the guy is actually talking that he doesn’t resist, lets himself be pushed down into a chair. A first aid kit appears out of nowhere and he twitches as the disinfectant touches the cut. Clint sucks in a worryingly shaky breath and covers his face with the hand that isn’t bleeding profusely.
His hands are surprisingly gentle.
“Do I need to kill somebody for you?”
“Not unless you’re into trying to murder your best friend again,” Clint says without removing his hand. “It’s just… collateral damage. You know.”
“Maybe not murder,” Bucky Barnes agrees. “Could rough him up a little, though.”
Clint, despite everything, laughs at that. “Only if I get to watch.”
“Didn’t take you for the sadistic type,” comes the reply.
“I’m just tired,” Clint answers, closes his eyes for a second. “Don’t worry about it.”
A second turns into a few seconds, turns into a minute. When he finally opens his eyes again it’s been fifteen minutes and there’s a collection of tiny pieces of bloodstained glass sitting on a tissue. Clint’s puzzling new nurse has his gaze is fixed firmly on his fucked-up hand. It’s very clinical but it’s also the kindest touch he’s been greeted with in months.
What is his life?
Clint vaguely notes that his eyes aren’t grey like the television and newspapers make them out to be. They’re more of a washed-out blue, like faded jeans and the sky on a stormy day. Interesting. He’d never noticed that before.
“This needs stitches,” Barnes says.
“I’ll take care of it later,” Clint tells him. “You can just bandage it up for now.”
“It’ll be fine for a few hours. A couple of cuts never stopped anyone. Can’t leave the shop unattended, anyway,” Clint says, waves at the debris covering everything and the complete lack of people inside besides the two of them.
That earns him the full force of that washed-out blue stare, and the intensity of it makes him want to squirm. He’s not expecting to actually get the hand bandaged at all, but a few seconds later the first-aid kit is being freed of its cargo and Clint is looking down at a remarkably nicely-done dressing.
Unsurprising, really. The guy is a war hero, it makes sense that he’d know what he was doing when it comes to patching up folks. Does he do this for the Avengers too? No. The Avengers cause damage, they don’t have anything to do with fixing it up.
Clint ignores the squirming in his stomach and stands up abruptly. “Do you want any food with your coffee?”
Barnes lifts an eyebrow. “Do you have any food that isn’t crushed to death or contaminated?”
“...I have some peanuts,” Clint says.
“Uh huh. Nah, that’s fine.”
“You’re listening to the Morning Show with Emma and Charles.”
“Have you heard the news, Charles? According to a source from the inner workings of Stark Tower, a certain superhero has been walking around with a ring on their finger.”
“Is that right? Are you going to reveal which one it is or will I be attempting to read your mind?”
“You could certainly try, Charles. No, it’s our very own Sam Wilson, the Falcon. He’s always been my favourite, and it’s almost a shame someone else has stolen him away. I’ll be offering my congratulations nonetheless, however.”
“Do you suppose he’s being married to a teammate, then?”
“Hard to say - he’s a secretive one. I will say that he’s often seen with the former Winter Soldier, so perhaps there’s something there.”
“I’m sure they’d make a lovely couple.”
“Unfortunately all of the Avengers are out on a call to New Zealand, so they can’t be contacted for comment. I daresay that a Falcon-Winter Soldier wedding would be quite the sight to see, though.”
“That being said, if Miss Potts is listening in: you know where to send my invite. I expect they won’t pick a day when I am busy."
“Your coffee,” Clint announces, dropping off the sole undamaged mug. It’s gently steaming in the cold morning air and he can only thank whatever terrible, sadistic god is out there for the small mercy of the espresso machine still working.
He gets a simple nod of thanks for it in return, as he usually does.
Maybe the other day was a dream after all. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d dreamed about a dark stranger treating him nicely. (Working in customer service for years makes it feel like a far-off dream, honestly.)
His one customer for the day satisfied, Clint heads back to where he’s been trying to sweep the mess behind the counter.
It’s mostly broken cups and shattered plates - he’s careful to keep his hands out of the way and his feet firmly in the work boots he’d kept from his week at the wild bird sanctuary. If he finishes cleaning this part, he can probably look at ordering some replacement mugs. Not that anyone will be coming inside the shop anytime soon.
At least he’s put some tarp over the hole in the ceiling.
The tarp is bright purple and it’s quite possibly the only cheery thing in the whole place right now. Clint’s quite fond of it - he’d been using it to collect rainwater for Aimee’s vegetable garden, and it feels a little like the tarp’s been demoted now. Good thing it doesn’t know it’s been demoted.
Clint wishes he was that unaware. Must be nice.
The radio gets clicked off once he’s done with the broken porcelain.
It’s not meant to be on in the first place, but it keeps somehow switching itself back on every time he turns his back. He’s pretty sure the damn thing’s haunted. If the ghost just wants to listen to the weird posh people on the radio instead of murdering him, Clint’s willing to let it pass for a few hours each morning.
One task down, onto the rest of the store.
This is going to take him forever, isn’t it?
“’scuse me,” he says, tossing the first bag of debris over Barnes’ head and out the open window. It’s the only one that’ll open and he wonders briefly if it’s a terrible idea to throw something near a man that can snap him in half with ease. He’s not worried about hitting the guy, at least. His aim’s better than that.
Clint thinks he’s being ignored until a rough voice makes him jump. “Did you go to the hospital and get your hand fixed?”
“What? No. I can’t afford that. I did it myself.” Clint waggles his bandaged hand in Barnes’ direction without looking, ignores the way it aches. It’s a messier job than Barnes’ efforts the other day, but it gets the job done. He’s not trying to look pretty anyway.
“Do you have any formal medical training?”
Barnes sighs in a way that suggests he’s dealt with stubborn people before. “Let me see.”
Clint feels a frown slide onto his face. “Why?”
“Because I don’t trust that you’re looking after yourself properly,” is the instant reply.
“I don’t know why you care,” Clint says, but he sits down obediently and lets careful fingers take his injured hand, peel back the covers to inspect the few stitches he’d put in to be on the safe side.
Barnes runs his thumb over a stripe of unharmed skin and looks at it thoughtfully for a few moments before he looks back up at Clint. “Not a bad job.”
“I’m used to patching myself up,” Clint says simply.
There’s no reply to that and Clint shifts uncomfortably, tries to think of some way to make this less awkward for himself.
“What’s it like, being engaged to a legitimate superhero?” is what he ends up saying, which earns him a raised eyebrow. “The Falcon’s pretty hot, but I don’t know if I could deal with all the spandex he wears. Or the bird shit everywhere.”
“The radio’s full of bullshit and gossip,” Barnes says.
“Aw,” Clint says. “It’d be nice to have some good news.”
“Wilson’s too high-maintenance for me. ‘sides, he’s not my type,” Barnes adds after a moment.
“Yeah? What is your type, then?”
Barnes lifts that eyebrow again and Clint gets the distinct impression that he’s missed something.
Why is every second of eye contact with this guy so intense? Jesus. Clint feels like he’s under a spotlight. His phone chooses that moment to ring and he yanks his hand back as quickly as he can, gets up to answer it and doesn’t think about how warm Barnes’ skin felt against his own.
The caller ID claims it’s the insurance company and Clint readies himself for more disappointment - there’s never good news when insurance is involved, not these days. He might be able to get something for the window that vandals had broken last night, though. It’d be a very small win but he’ll take what he can get.
It’s a long, tiring conversation with the woman on the other end and by the time he’s finished, Clint’s ready to go back to bed again. He’s expecting the coffeeshop to be empty again when he steps out of the back room, but instead he’s greeted with an entirely different sight.
“Can I ask what you’re doing?”
“You could,” Barnes says.
The long black coat has been neatly folded over the remains of an office chair. His hair is pulled back into an artfully messy bun. He almost looks like a person and Clint’s got no idea what’s going on. Is he having some kind of a concussion-induced hallucination from that brick that had smacked him in the head?
Clint takes in a breath. “Alright. What’re you doing?”
“I don’t understand.”
Barnes hefts a jagged block of concrete off of a table and starts carrying it towards the door. Clint just watches him with bewilderment as he drops it with a loud thunk and comes back to collect another piece, acting as if it’s completely normal for the fucking Winter Soldier to be doing something so strange as helping.
It was weird enough when he was just buying coffee.
“We get all this crap out on the sidewalk by three, I can get someone to pick it up,” Barnes says. “Take it wherever they take it for free.”
Clint’s a fan of the word free though, so he silently starts picking up his own piece of rubble.
“This is the Morning Show with Emma and Charles. Good morning, Charles.”
“Good morning to you, Emma. It’s raining outside and I hope everyone is thinking of having a hot drink and wearing a sweater. What are we discussing today?”
“Well, Charles, the station has just been given ten brand-new coffee machines! Unfortunately, I already have a state-of-the-art machine myself and for some reason you think tea is an acceptable substitute, so they’re of no use to us. We’ll be gifting them to people who call in and give us a juicy story about why they deserve it.”
“Wonderful. Here’s our first caller now. James, say hello to the listeners.”
“I, ah. Hi.”
“Tell us, James, why should we give you a machine? Don’t just tell me you’re a caffeine addict, that’s no fun.”
“No, I - I’m not even calling in for me, actually.”
“There’s this guy, and he’s been having a hard time lately. Kinda miss seeing him smile, y’know?”
“Is he your boyfriend, James?”
“Nah. Don’t think we’re even friends, yet.”
“A shame. I’ll tell you what; we’ll send you one of the machines, but only if you promise to call back when there’s an update on this situation. I want to know all the details. We all love a good romance, don’t we, Charles?"
A hand brushes his shoulder and Clint squirms away from it, distantly wondering who the hell has broken into his bedroom this time. It’s not Kate; she would’ve just shoved him off the mattress. A few seconds later Clint realizes he isn’t in his bed in the first place, because his cheek is pressed against something pointy and hard and it’s been weeks since he’s slept with a knife.
He blinks bleary eyes up at a black blur. “Wh-?”
“You can go back to sleep in a second - what the hell’s an affogato?”
“Icecream,” Clint mumbles. “Espresso on top. Hot.”
“That’s gross. Okay, okay.”
It takes him a few more minutes to fully realize the weirdness of this situation as he sits up from where he’s been slumped over the front counter of the coffeeshop. He vaguely remembers shutting his eyes for a second after doing some paperwork - must’ve drifted off, he’s gotta stop it with the late-night Avatar rewatches - but that doesn’t explain why there’s people in here now.
There’s a small child playing with one of the plants he rescued from outside. He squints at it.
He’s still staring at them when a dark shape slides past him from the back and heads towards the group.
“One black, one latte, and an affer- affo- whatever. Here’s your icecream,” Barnes says, dropping each item in front of a person as he lists them off. He’s picked up an apron out of somewhere, tied around his waist with a neat bow sitting at the dip of his spine, just above the curve of his ass.
His pants are very tight.
“Thank you,” the woman receiving the latte says.
Barnes returns to the counter once he’s done, rounds it neatly and starts wiping down the coffee machine.
“This is a really weird dream,” Clint says.
Barnes doesn’t look at him. “What makes you think you’re dreaming?”
“You don’t work here,” Clint says slowly. “You’re the Winter Soldier.”
“I don’t work here,” Barnes agrees.
“I know I’ve asked this before, but I gotta try again; what are you doing?”
This makes Barnes stop what he’s doing. He gives Clint a sidelong look, something unreadable in his expression that makes Clint’s stomach twist, although not in a truly bad sort of way. “You looked tired.”
“Everybody’s tired,” Clint replies.
“I’m not in a position to help everybody,” Barnes answers. “Just you.”
“Seems like a waste of your abilities.”
“I don’t think so,” Barnes says, lips lifting in something that’s not quite a smile.
Clint doesn’t know how to react to that.
“Do you sell anything in here that isn’t coffee?”
“Nah. Tried sandwiches, once. Ended up eating ‘em all myself so they wouldn’t go stale. The owner - Kate - she ended up taking them off the menu after I ate a stack taller than me,” Clint says. “I was getting kinda out of shape. Still am.”
“I think your shape is fine how it is,” Barnes says. “You’re pretty easy on the eyes when you’re not covered in coffee grinds.”
“You’re listening to the Morning Show with Emma and Charles. It’s a sunny start to the day in New York and we’ve got a very special guest here to help us with today’s Music Trivia Tuesday. It’s Sam Wilson, the Falcon!”
“It’s lovely to have you on the show, Sam.”
“Is it? I thought you were just asking because you wanted to find out who I was engaged to.”
“And you think I can’t multitask, Mister Wilson? Please.”
“Whatever you say, Miss Frost. So, do we have any questions about The Supremes in this thing or is it just going to be teeny-bopper pop crap they play nowadays?”
“I’m sure we can fit in some classics just for you. So you’re not planning on telling us how your engagement with the Winter Soldier is going?”
“Emma, judging from that laughter, I don’t think he is engaged to the person you think he is.”
“Unfortunate. Never fear, I have a list of suspects.
“Have a nice day,” Barnes says to the last customer of the day as they head out the door.
“I’ll wash, you wipe,” Clint says, tosses him a green tea towel. If Barnes is going to help, he can work with the cleaning at the end of the day too. Clint’s not going to stop questioning why he’s helping - he’s never known anyone to do things out of the kindness of their hearts before, it’s always for some kind of benefit - but he isn’t turning down the assistance either.
“Not a lot of people who don’t use a dishwasher, these days,” Barnes notes.
“Yeah, well,” Clint says. “We do use a dishwasher, it’s just that the dishwasher is me. I don’t mind. It’s kinda calming to just stand here wiping mugs after a long day, y’know?”
They stand there in companionable silence as they finish up the dishes. It’s still strange having an extra pair of hands helping him, unexpected when he nearly drops a mug and Barnes is right there, steadying his shaking hands.
It’s silly for his hands to be shaking.
“How’d you end up here?”
“What? I work here."
“I know that,” Barnes says. “I meant - this place doesn’t suit you. You’ve got more personality than a little hole-in-the-wall place that can’t even sell sandwiches deserves.”
“I mean it.”
“I used to own an archery range,” Clint relents when Barnes doesn’t look like he’s going to give it up. “Nice little place in Iowa. Built it myself, on some of the farmland my deadbeat dad left us when he died. Ran classes from Monday to Thursday for five years, competitions every weekend except for one in July.”
“Sounds like you liked it,” Barnes says.
“Yeah,” Clint says noncommittally. “I guess.”
“Eh.” He keeps any sort of inflection out of his voice - it’s a practiced skill, nowadays. “The farm and all the land was in my brother’s name. He needed money, so he sold it all to one of our neighbours.”
“He couldn’t leave the range?”
“Nah. And I didn’t have the money to buy it off of him, anyway. Wouldn’t have been fair to make him give it away.”
Clint tries not to think about it - about desperately begging Barney for more time, more leniency, more anything as he watched his entire life get signed away. It had been hard, the first few days, especially when he’d nearly set fire to Barney’s brand-new houseboat when he’d spotted it after half a bottle of rum. Who the hell buys a houseboat in Iowa?
Fucking Barney. Clint hadn’t sent him a Christmas card that year. He’d felt guilty about it immediately after, but Kate had assured him it was a perfectly normal reaction to be mad and to ‘stop moping about the apartment like someone had tried to kill their dog again.’
“You didn’t try to buy it off the next guy?”
“There was nothing left to recover by then. He turned it all into a field for his sheep to run around. I moved up here and started working in my friend’s coffeeshop instead,” Clint says. “Are you going to keep interrogating me? I’m starting to think I liked it better when you were mute.”
“I was never mute,” Barnes answers bemusedly, turning to look out the window. “Just seemed like… a lot, to talk some days. Couldn’t handle being hounded by everyone.”
Yeah, Clint gets that.
“It’s always quiet here,” Barnes continues.
“That’s not really a sign of a successful business, but I’m glad it’s working out for someone.”
“It’s peaceful,” Barnes says. “I like sitting in here, watching the world go by. Listening to you hum some song I’ve never heard before in the background while you make weird little birds out of all the napkins that no one uses.”
“Sometimes. Less often, lately.”
Huh. How about that. Clint finishes up the washing and moves to check the stuff in the fridges - he’s forgotten about use-by dates before and it’s always come back to bite him in the ass. One of the whipped cream canisters has the cap off and he takes it from the shelf to wipe the excess off of the top.
Because it’s his life and it’s a mess, he accidentally presses down on the tab while cleaning it. The cream squirts him in the face and he can’t even find the energy to recoil from the cold spray on his nose. Instead he sighs and puts it back on the shelf without a word.
“You, uh, you got a little somethin’,” Barnes says, tapping his own face demonstratively.
“I know,” Clint says.
“Here,” Barnes says, steps in close. He’s got to tilt his head back to look at Clint properly and Clint feels oddly frozen when Barnes lifts up the metal hand, gently wipes off some of the cream.
Then he draws the hand to his mouth and sucks the cream off his fingers and Clint’s staring at his lips way too much for it to come off as anything but creepy, and he really can’t help it. It’s just a lot to take in. He’s only one man - one tragically mortal man who isn’t used to people helping him or licking things semi-seductively a few inches away from him.
“Think I missed a spot. Stay still,” Barnes says speculatively, and Clint’s breath catches in his throat as-
A phone rings.
“Shit,” Barnes says, pulling back. “That’s the emergency number. Steve’s in trouble, I gotta go.”
Clint’s still stuck in the same position he was in as Barnes answers the call, muttering something like Steve and irresponsible and not an Avenger, leave me the hell alone. The back door shuts and Clint blinks slowly, the residual cream dripping off of the end of his nose as he tries to figure out what just happened.
“You’re listening to the Morning Show with Emma and Charles. How has your morning been so far, Emma?”
“I’ve been good, Charles. A new jewelry store has opened just next to my apartment building and I’ve been spending some time there, I must admit. These new elegant diamond hair pins I’m currently wearing were a steal at only five hundred apiece.”
“Charming. Unfortunately, I fear that will be of no use to myself.”
“You could always buy a wig, you know. It might make up for your alarming lack of personality.”
“Oh, Emma. We don’t have time for barbs, we’ve got a very special guest waiting on the line. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime interview with our very own Captain America, Steven Rogers. How are you today, Steven?”
“Oh, I, uh. Just Steve, thanks. I’m okay.”
“All listeners can call into the station at xxx-xxxxxxx. Say hello to Steven, why don’t you? Ask him a question, tell him an instance of how he helped you, whatever you’d like. He’s at our mercy for the next hour.”
“And here’s our first caller, Phyllis. Phyllis, how are you?”
“I’m doing wonderful, thank you. Mister America, I just wanted to say bless your heart. You’re a perfect specimen and I do hope you’ll continue to look after our country for a long time.
There’s another goddamn hole in his ceiling.
Clint grabs the phone.
He manages to calmly state his name for the person who answers on the other end of the line, and he focuses on the breathing techniques Bobbi had drilled into him after she’d seen him have a panic attack for the very first time. It works, remarkably, and then Emma Frost is welcoming him onto the Morning Show.
“Hello,” Steve Rogers says. “How are y-”
“Listen here, fucko,” Clint says. “My store has been destroyed twice by your ginormous ass crashing through during a fight and I am sick of it. Either start throwing the bad guys out of New York before you start throwing that shield or start paying for my repairs.”
“Your little buddy Stark can just fix everything he owns with a snap of his fingers, but what happens to everyone else? You’re supposed to be heroes and yet the Avengers keep fucking over the little people.”
“I’m not-” Steve starts, and then they hang up on him.
Clint lets his phone drop onto the desk and tries to wrap his head around the last five minutes. What the fuck was that about? He doesn’t care that much about the goddamn hole in the roof. Is he losing it for real this time?
He hasn’t slept for the last week. No sign of the Winter Soldier. Clint keeps thinking about Barnes licking cream off of him. Every time he closed his eyes he’d see those washed-out blue eyes looking up at him through dark lashes, a flash of pink tongue against silver.
If Captain America’s on the radio that means Barnes is fine, and if he’s fine and he’s not coming here that means whatever Clint thought was going on wasn’t going on at all.
The door chimes open and Clint looks up.
Speak of the devil.
“Did you just yell at my best friend for saving the world?”
“Yep,” Clint says, because there’s nothing else to say.
He’s maybe expecting Barnes to yell at him, to say that Clint has no right - which he doesn’t - and instead Barnes doubles over and Clint’s scared for five short heartbeats until he realizes the man is laughing.
“You’re brilliant,” Barnes says through a wheeze. “I like you so much.
“You never say my name,” Barnes says. “Why is that?”
“We don’t know each other,” Clint says. “It’s not like we’re friends.”
That must sting. He doesn’t mean for it to come out the way it does, but it’s a little sharp anyway. Barnes - Bucky - doesn’t react beyond raising an eyebrow at him curiously. There’s still a crinkle of amusement on his face and Clint feels the anxiety bubble up in his stomach.
It’s a specific kind of anxiety that only seems to appear when Bucky’s looking at him, and he doesn’t know what to do with that.
“What goes on in your head, Clint?” It’s said in a soft, fond sort of voice, like the one Clint uses when Lucky’s come back from a trip to the vet’s.
“Don’t worry about it,” he says.
“You tell me not to worry a lot, but I feel like you need someone to worry about you or you’re just gonna fall apart when no one’s looking,” Bucky remarks.
It’s too much.
Clint’s not prepared for someone to see him, to notice him beyond a muttered ‘thanks’ when he drops off a drink. He doesn’t know how to deal with Bucky caring about him in any capacity, let alone this look he’s aiming in Clint’s direction. It’s soft and worried and filled with so much affection that it makes Clint’s chest ache.
He looks away. “I don’t know what this is.”
“You’re always nice,” Clint says, and now he’s saying it out loud it does sound kind of stupid.
“I like being nice to you,” Bucky says. He’s stepping further into the shop now, boots heavy against the dusty wood. “When you’re not making it weird. Why were you angry at Steve?”
“My insurance doesn’t cover Avengers-related incidents,” Clint answers, looking at the floor. “And you left.”
“I was picking up a coffee machine for you. It was supposed to be delivered four days ago but somehow they mixed up the addresses and I had to drive all the way to Maryland to get it back. Then the guy it got sent to wouldn’t give it back and I ended up autographing his motorbike for him as a trade.”
“I know you’re saying words, but they don’t make any sense,” Clint says. “Wait - for me?”
“For you,” Bucky agrees.
“Wanted to make you smile,” Bucky answers with a shrug. “It’s a nice smile.”
“Are you flirting with me?”
It slips out.
Clint’s not sure what he wants Bucky’s answer to be.
“I’m trying,” Bucky reasons, and he’s close enough that Clint can see the flecks of silver in his beard. “Doesn’t seem like it’s getting through to you, though, so I’m gonna try something new.”
Clint’s too busy trying to imagine what something new might be that he only vaguely registers the heat of Bucky’s skin, and then they’re scant inches from touching. Bucky stops right there, his breath warm against Clint’s face. He doesn’t close the distance. Why aren’t they kissing? Why does Clint want them to be kissing so badly?
The twisting in his chest suddenly makes sense and his hands come up to catch Bucky’s jacket in his hands, pulling him into a kiss that’s softer than it has any right to be.
“Hi,” Bucky breathes when they break apart, small and wondering like he thinks being this close to Clint is something precious.
“Hi,” Clint says, at a loss. “You’re - hi.”
“Good morning, New York. You’re listening to the Morning Show with Emma and Charles.”
“Charles, I saw a most peculiar sight on my way to work today. Did you happen to notice anything out of the ordinary when Erik dropped you off this morning?”
“I assume you’re thinking of the superheroes currently down the road in civilian attire, fixing up buildings that were damaged in their last fight against Doctor Doom.”
“I am indeed. I spotted Captain America and Falcon fixing beams in the roofs, Scarlet Witch removing shattered glass from the roads, and it appears that someone has given the Hulk a cement mixer. I’m not entirely sure that last one was a good idea, but it is what it is.”
“There’s also word on the street that Tony Stark and his team of lawyers are arguing with insurance companies to make them cover Avengers-related incidents. It’s looking up for small businesses in the New York area.”
“Maybe so, Emma. Maybe so."
“How’s it feel, taking a holiday for once?”
“Weird,” Clint admits, rolling over in bed to face Bucky. His hair’s all rumpled from sleep, the morning sunlight filtering through to paint stripes of his skin golden. “Are you sure this isn’t gonna come back and bite me in the ass? I mean, when I was yelling at him I was just stressed out, I didn’t expect him to show up with the entire team to fix my roof.”
“Steve doesn’t really do things in halves,” Bucky says, linking their fingers together and squeezing. “He likes the drama of it all. Anyway, they needed a reality check. It’s not just them and the bad guys out here.”
“I hope you’re right about that.”
“I’m right a startling amount of the time,” Bucky says. “You’ll see.”
“Sure you will. I’m not going anywhere,” Bucky tells him with a soft smile on his face. “Except to the kitchen. You want coffee?”
“Always,” Clint says, watches Bucky wander down the stairs in one of his own faded purple hoodies.
Jesus, what’d he do to deserve this? Something’s gotta go wrong soon or it’s going to break the universe. He can still feel Bucky’s hand holding his and it’s sickeningly sweet, softer than anyone else has ever treated him. They’d come home last night and all Bucky had done was hold him and kiss him - it just doesn’t make sense.
“Thanks,” he says distantly when the coffee’s set down on the bedside table, next to the lamp.
Bucky must sense that his mind is wandering, because his own coffee is set aside too as he slides back under the sheets. Clint shifts to give him more room but Bucky just nestles in close.
“Talk to me,” Bucky says, leaning in to press their foreheads together. “The real shit, not the ‘I’m okay’ bullshit you put on for everyone else. I want to know what you’re actually thinking.”
“You’re driving me crazy,” Clint breathes.
“Yeah,” Clint admits. “I don’t know how to deal with you at all.”
“Do you want to deal with me?”
“Absolutely,” Clint says.
“Then we can figure it out later,” Bucky replies with a half-hearted shrug, leaning in to kiss him. He tastes like coffee and toothpaste and Clint breathes out shaky when Bucky’s fingers touch the stripe of skin where his shirt has ridden up.
Somehow he ends up naked - he’s not sure when that happened because every time Bucky touches him it feels like his brain turns to static - and Bucky peels back the sheets to run his hands over every inch of bare skin, all the scars and hair and the blurry dog tattoo on his chest.
Bucky presses feather-light kisses against his sternum, smooths a hand against Clint's hip to keep him in place. His lips drift down Clint's ribs to a bruise on his stomach, across a sensitive spot that makes a noise slip out of Clint's lips.
Clint's hands fist in the sheets, looking for an outlet that doesn't include grabbing Bucky's shoulders and flipping him over. This is supposed to be gentle - it's supposed to be nice, and Clint's never done nice in his life, not once. He's completely out of his depth here and it feels like he's drowning as Bucky's metal fingertips rub softly over a bumpy scar on his side.
It's nearly impossible to just lie here and take whatever Bucky wants to give him.
It'd be easier if this was just sex, he thinks, but it feels bigger than that.
"What're you thinking about?"
"I'm thinking you have a fetish for mother-henning people," Clint says.
Bucky sits up slightly and blinks at him, a tiny smirk edging onto his lips. "Just the ones that need it."
"You think I need you to fuss over me?"
Rather than answer right away, Bucky leans in to press their mouths together. It's so tooth-rottingly sweet that can't quite help the way his whole body lights up from the kiss.
Clint's eyes slip shut and time turns slow and sticky as Bucky keeps touching him like he's precious, keeps kissing him like it's the only thing he wants to do with himself.
He doesn't mean to chase Bucky's mouth when Bucky leans away, but who could blame him?
"I think you could do whatever you wanted without any help at all," Bucky murmurs. "You're amazing. But I like it when you let me take care of you."
"I don't deserve it," Clint whispers back.
"Tony Stark didn't deserve an empire and look how that worked out for him," Bucky says. "Best to just let things happen and see where it gets you, hey?"
Before he can think too deeply about that he's being rolled over onto his stomach and Bucky's pressing his lips to Clint's skin again, careful down the bumps of his spine until-
"Oh," Clint says helplessly as Bucky's mouth brushes his hole. “Oh god.”
It’s true that he hasn’t gotten laid in a long, long time, and that might be part of it but even more than that he’s just unprepared for Bucky to settle down and eat him out like they’ve got all the time in the world. Bucky’s slow and methodical and he doesn’t seem to have any interest in reciprocation - when Clint shifts to try and reach for his dick, Bucky just pushes his tongue inside and Clint’s limbs stop working.
“Bucky,” he says weakly, can’t find an end to that sentence. It’s more of a plea, really.
“Dreamed about making you feel good like this. Gonna treat you so nice,” Bucky says, pushing one warm metal finger inside him, and Clint’s already gone.
“Greetings, New York. You’re listening to the Morning Show with Emma and Charles.”
“Today we have a return guest - that coffee machine we sent to James has been on quite the adventure, apparently, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about. How has your wooing been going since you were last here, James?”
“Well, I’m currently staying at his apartment, so.”
“Oh? Congratulations. Was this because of our gift? Because I’d be happy to take credit for this.”
“God, I hope not. No, uh - he feels the same way, so we’re gonna work it out as we go.”
“With coffee in hand?”
“With coffee in hand. Actually, he runs a coffeeshop - you guys should come visit sometime, I’ll pay for your drinks. As a thank you, y’know?”
“We’d be happy to take you up on that, James. I hope it all goes well in the future."
“Yeah, well. Fingers crossed, hey?”