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Letters · from · Mars


Fic: Friendly Fire [Avengers]

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* * *
Title: Friendly Fire
Fandom: The Avengers (2012)
Pairing: Clint/Coulson
Rating: R [Violence, Non-con]
Summary: Damages incurred do not decrease value.
A/N: I realized that I forgot to post some of my recent fics over here. Oops. So here's part 4 of Line of Sight.



The first time it happened, Clint was asleep.

It was on the tail end of a long, hard, but ultimately successful mission, and Clint was past exhausted. Phil was going to be in debriefings all night, and Clint’s bruises had bruises, so he dutifully reported to medical. They sent him on his way with a bandaid and a handful of painkillers, and he immediately went to his cramped, dark quarters and passed the fuck out.

He blamed the painkillers for the fact that he didn’t wake up the second anyone touched his door. The fact that he didn’t wake up when they jimmied the lock and inched open the door, he figured, was mostly down to a false sense of security. Honestly, who would be stupid enough to fuck with him in his own bed?

He did, however, wake up when a hot palm clamped down over his mouth and the cold steel of handcuffs slipped suddenly around one of his wrists.

Instinctively, Clint kicked out and caught one of the bastards in the head. Whoever it was fell back with a grunt, but the rest of them leapt away just outside his reach, laughing. The room was pitch black, and Clint couldn’t see who was there, but, from the sound, he guessed there were three of them, probably wearing night vision gear. One laugh, unfortunately, he recognized.

“Goddammit, Park. What the fuck?” Clint growled.

Park laughed again. “What’s the matter, faggot? You don’t like getting tied up?”

“Only if you’re planning to suck my cock,” Clint shot back. “On second thought, no. Stay away from my cock. I don’t wanna catch anything.”

He heard the rustling of clothing and the rush of air as one of Park’s buddies swung the nightstick, but not fast enough to register and certainly not fast enough to duck. It cracked against his head with a flash of pain and a burst of blood inside his mouth.

The three of them just kept laughing.

Clint aimed in the general direction of Park’s boots and spat. “Is that supposed to be foreplay?”

The second blow was a straight jab into his gut. It knocked the wind out of him, but he grabbed the hand gripping the stick and pulled the asshole off balance, tumbling him onto the bed. There was a satisfying thunk as his forehead collided with the wall. Clint brought up the nightstick to fend off the next attack just as something else, something heavier, smashed into the back of his head.

He didn’t black out for long, but it was long enough for them to get hold of his arms and legs and cuff him spread-eagle on the narrow bed. The light came on suddenly, and Clint blinked, blinded by brightness after the dark. When his vision cleared, he saw Park standing over him, grinning.

“Not so tough now, huh, faggot?” His speech was slightly slurred, courtesy of a row of stitches on the inside of his lip.

Clint was starting to think he might actually be in trouble. “Listen, Park, I’m flattered, but you’re not really my type.”

This time, Clint saw the battle stave as Park brought it down onto his stomach. He clenched his muscles to protect his ribs and organs, but it didn’t lessen the impact.

“What did you tell Fury?” Park demanded, brandishing the stave in Clint’s face.

“Tell him about what? How I kicked your ass for being a douchebag?” Clint huffed. It hurt to breathe, and his head was pounding. Bruised ribs, mild concussion, not to mention the injuries he’d already sustained. And there would be no help coming.

Montoya was slumped against the wall, eyes glazed, and he must have been the dumb fuck Clint had gotten in the head. Park turned to his other pal, a pock-faced grunt Clint didn’t know, and said, “Get his shins.”

“Now hold on a m-!” Clint’s protest was cut off as the punk caught him hard across his left leg with a piece of PVC pipe.

It made sense, really. Park wasn’t dumb enough to put a valuable asset out of commission, but Clint knew well enough that he could inflict a lot of pain without doing any permanent damage.

Yeah, Clint was definitely in trouble.

“Fuck! Fuck you, asshat. I didn’t tell him anything,” Clint spat. “He figured out you were a tool all on his own.”

Park’s buddy hit the other shin without being prompted. Real go-getter, that one. Park just went right on grinning.

“Bullshit.” He jabbed Clint’s side with the stave. “I got written up, stuck on probation. Assaulted by a fucking faggot, and I got probation.”

“Y’know, you keep using that word….”

That time, Park hit him in the chest, and Clint really couldn’t breathe for a full three seconds.

“What’d you do, Barton? D’you suck Fury’s cock?”

Clint wheezed. “Offered. Didn’t take.”

He expected another blow, but Park just gave him a poisonous grin. “It’s ‘cause you’re fucking that creepy suit, isn’t it? Just spread your legs and you get all kinds of special treatment.”

“S’a treat to fuck him,” Clint said. “Seriously.”

The pock-faced kid snorted. “Thinks he’s hot shit, doesn’t he?”

“Sure does,” Park agreed. “That’s why we’re here. We’re gonna bring this faggot down a peg.”

“I really don’t think that m- whoah, okay, now hold on.” It was all fun and games until someone pulled out a deadly weapon, and Park had just reached for his field knife, a sturdy, ugly thing with a fine edge that glinted under the bright lights. “Look, Park, you wanna beat me up, that’s one thing, but don’t do something stupid.”

“What’s the matter, faggot? You scared?” He brought the blade close to Clint’s face, close enough that Clint could feel the cold on the metal. “I could gut you right now, and nobody’d know. Nobody’d even care but that fucking suit, but he can always find another butt boy.”

“You think nobody’s gonna care if you take out the best sniper in the division?” Clint pointed out. There was no way Park was that stupid. At least, he hoped Park wasn’t that stupid.

“I think you overestimate your value as an asset,” Park replied, and there it was, the clear-headed calculation of a trained operative. Park might be a first class asshole, but he was still a SHIELD agent. “Still,” he sighed, “You’re probably right. Don’t want a dead body lying around, even if it is just a dirty faggot.”

“Okay, seriously….” Park jabbed him hard in the ribs, and Clint shut up.

“So how about we just teach you a lesson.” He slipped the knife under the waistband of Clint’s shorts and pulled, cutting through the worn elastic and flimsy fabric. When they were in tatters, Park jerked the remains roughly away from Clint’s body and, wadding them into a tight ball, stuffed the material into Clint’s mouth.

Clint knew what was coming. He’d survived enough abuses and had enough imagination to anticipate the hands bracing his knees apart and the cold shiver as one end of the battle stave was pressed against his ass. He struggled instinctively, knowing it wouldn’t do any good, would only make it hurt worse, but he had to fight back. He had to make them work for every inch. Park shoved hard, and the tip of the stave breached Clint’s asshole.

“Is that what you like, faggot?” Park asked as his buddy laughed. “You want some more?”

There was a difference between getting fucked and getting violated. Clint could have written a book on that distinction, and this? This was the latter.

Montoya was still sitting against the wall, but his eyes had cleared and he was watching everything with a sick expression. By chance, Clint caught his eye and, for a second, saw whatever it was decent people felt when confronted with the ugly realities of the world. Disgust, compassion, helplessness, fear. Then Park pushed the stave in another inch, and Clint had to shut his eyes against the pain, groaning silently behind the gag.

It was another fifteen minutes before the little metal rod was in as far as it would go and Park was satisfied. Clint felt every last centimeter scraping inside of him.

The pock-faced kid pulled out his dick, already hard with the thrill of whatever rush of power he was feeling, and gave it a few rough tugs until a short stream of hot, sticky semen shot out onto Clint’s face and chest.

“We done now?” Montoya asked, standing but still pale. “Can we go?”

“Yeah, we’re done.” Park got down in Clint’s face. “You tell anybody about this or get me in any kind of trouble again, and I’ll tie you down and let every last man in the division fuck you in your little faggot ass. Got it?”

Clint couldn’t speak around the gag in his mouth, and his mind was doing its absolute best to be elsewhere, to pull the same trick he’d used as a kid and go somewhere quiet and calm. He managed to give Park a weak scowl, but he was pretty sure it just came out as an eye-roll.

They left, shutting off the light and leaving Clint once again in the pitch black, cuffed to the bed with a battle stave shoved into his ass and semen cooling on his skin.

The most pathetic part of this situation, Clint decided, was that it wasn’t nearly the worst shape he’d ever been left in. Only slightly less pathetic was that it took him a full half hour to get free of the cuffs.

The stave hurt nearly as much coming out as it had going in, but he was resolved not to dwell too much on that.

Instead, he took a shower to wash away at least the visceral evidence of the attack, then went to the range to give himself over to the familiar, repetitive rhythm of nock, draw, fire. Nock, draw, fire. Nock, draw, fire. Nock, draw, fire. Nock, draw, fire. Nock, draw, fire. Nock, draw, fire. Retrieve. Nock, draw, fire. Nock, draw, fire.

It was well into the next morning when Phil finally found him.

“How long have you been here?”

“Couldn’t sleep.” Nock, draw, fire.

“Clint, your fingers are bleeding.”

“Happens sometimes.” Nock, draw, fire.

“Clint….”

Nock, draw, fire.

“Clint.” Phil’s hand on his shoulder shocked him out of rhythm, and the next arrow struck a half inch to the left of his target. “Come on, let’s go get some rest.”

Clint looked down at his bloodied gloves, at the streaks of dried blood on his fletching. “Yeah. Maybe that’s… yeah.”

He followed Phil out and didn’t say another word. It was daylight outside, but Clint had no idea what time it was. At Phil’s apartment, they ate and showered, and Clint didn’t say anything until Phil pulled him close for a slow, soft kiss, his hand trailing along Clint’s back.

It was sweet and good and perfect, and Clint could have forgotten everything until Phil’s fingers skated beneath the edge of his shorts and dragged the cleft of his ass.

Clint broke away suddenly. “No. I, uh…. I’m sorry, I just….”

Phil drew his warm, strong hand back to Clint’s hip, frowning. “Is everything okay?”

No. No, it wasn’t. If Phil fucked him, he’d know. He’d be able to tell that something was wrong. Clint shook his head. “No, it’s fine, I just…. Not tonight, okay? Still a little sore from that tumble.”

Phil rolled his eyes. “Only you would refer to falling three stories onto a canvas pavillion as a ‘tumble’.”

Well, he had a point, there. Clint gave him a thin smile. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be.” Phil kissed him gently. “Get some sleep. There’s plenty of time for everything else.”

Clint fell asleep in Phil’s arms, wrapped so tightly and so gently that it made his whole being ache.

The second time it happened was mostly bad luck.

He was assigned to give sharp-shooting pointers to a handful of SHIELD’s more accomplished marksmen – and markswomen, obviously – one of whom, because Clint just could not catch a break, was Agent Park.

Park was a good shot. All of them were, and Clint spent most of the allotted hour adjusting grips and pinpointing problems with sighting. Park’s shooting was good but inconsistent, and Clint immediately spotted the cause in his stance. Rigid foundation, unbalanced, recoil causing shifts in bodyline. All he needed to do was ease off his right knee and rotate his hips forward.

Clint didn’t want to touch Park, didn’t want to be anywhere near him, didn’t want to be stuck in this room teaching hard-ass military snobs how to shoot their damn weapons. But he had a job to do, dammit, and if he had learned one thing from Phil it was the ability to be utterly professional in the face of unspeakable douchery.

“You’re doing good, you just need to tweak your stance,” he told Park in the mildest, most casual voice he could manage. “Here, just relax this leg. There. Now turn your hips to the front.” Predictably, Park overcorrected and wound up standing at an even worse angle. “Uh, that’s a little much. Try just….” He set his hands lightly on Park’s waist, just to guide him into a better position, and Park jerked instantly away.

“Don’t you fucking touch me,” he snarled, raising his weapon toward Clint.

Clint backed away hands up. “Whoah, man. I’m just trying to help.”

“You gotta touch me to help?” Park looked around at the other agents. “Everybody saw that, right? This faggot was feeling me up.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” another agent said, rolling her eyes. “Nobody’s feeling you up, Park.”

“Nobody wants to,” one of the others put in.

“You’re not his type,” a short woman on the end called out.

“I’ve got a brother, if you’re looking,” put in a man on the next aisle.

Park’s face went red, and there was a chorus of laughter from everyone but Park and Clint. One bullet, and it would be done. It was an accident, he could say. He was nervous, he could say. He would be disciplined and sent to psych, and it wouldn’t matter because Clint would be dead, shot in the face by some an ignorant asshole.

“I understand you’re a little fussy about your personal space,” Clint said, “but I’d feel a hell of a lot better if that was pointed somewhere else.”

“And I’d feel a hell of a lot better if you’d quit harassing me,” Park snapped.

“You can come harass me, sir,” one of the women piped up cheerfully.

“You’re not his type, either,” the woman on the end shot back, and there was another round of laughter.

“Plenty of me to go around, ladies,” Clint replied, grinning. With a wink, he added to the agent in the next aisle, “And gentlemen.”

This was met with a chorus of shouting and catcalls, and Park’s scowl deepened. “You’re disgusting.”

“I’m trying to teach you how to shoot your damn gun, asshat,” Clint said. “As far as I know, that has nothing to do with how anybody gets laid.”

“Unless you’re into guns,” the woman on the end called.

“Unless you’re into guns,” Clint amended, “which I’m really not. So can we please go back to shooting things?”

Park glared at him coldly. Lowering his weapon, he stepped close into Clint’s space, looming. In a low voice, too quiet for anyone else to hear, he said flatly, “Touch me again, and I’ll kill you.”

He resumed his position on the firing lane, and Clint didn’t go near him for the rest of the session.

That really should have been it. Clint and Park should have defaulted to the state of distant antagonism that existed between Clint and… well, most of SHIELD. That should have been it, but for the meddling and concern of senior agent Philip James Delaware Coulson, whose single flaw, Clint decided, was his inability to leave well enough alone.

“Is Agent Park still giving you trouble?”

They were sharing take-out in Phil’s office. Clint, accustomed to eating alone in the mess or chewing on rations up in a nest, looked forward to these companionable meals more than he would ever be willing to admit out loud. He’d been looking forward to dinner all day just for the chance to sit here and share food and company with the one person he trusted without question, and now the thing that had kept him on edge for a week was chasing him here, as well.

“No more than usual,” he said, stabbing at a piece of tofu that kept slipping away from his fork. Phil liked eating things with tofu. Go figure.

“I heard there was an incident during your workshop,” Phil remarked, and Clint looked up sharply. Phil met his eye and shrugged. “It seems a junior agent insulting and threatening a ranking specialist is an event worth gossiping about.”

Clint snorted. “Him being there was an insult. Apart from that, it was dickery as usual.”

“Including the part where he pointed a live weapon at your face?”

“You know kids these days, with their rock music and their small caliber handguns,” Clint said, shrugging. He stared down at his food, suddenly not hungry, and didn’t look at Phil.

There was a long, still silence, and Clint almost hoped that Phil would just let it drop. He just wanted to have dinner with his… with Phil and forget about Park and his buddies and guns and battle staves, just for a little while.

Phil had this voice, though. This one tone that he only seemed to use with Clint, that was somehow both commanding and comforting. When he used that voice, all Clint could hear, inescapably and impossibly, was, I love you. Do what I say.

It was in that voice that Phil asked, “Clint, what happened?”

It crossed Clint’s mind to try and lie, but only for a second. No lies here, not between the two of them. Clint sighed. “Park and two of his pals got the jump on me. He was pissed because I got him in trouble, and he wanted to get back at me. He’s an asshole. Nothing new.”

Phil’s expression was unreadable. “And?”

“And nothing. They roughed me up and went on their way.” Clint shifted in his chair. “The thing with the shooting had nothing to do with that.”

Phil gave that little hum that meant he called bullshit. “So three junior agents, the leader of whom has threatened and harassed you in the past, caught you by surprise, overwhelmed you, and beat you.” He shook his head. “And you didn’t feel this was worth mentioning.”

“Because I don’t wanna talk about it,” Clint snapped. “Besides, the last thing I need is my fucking boyfriend swooping in to save the day.”

Phil didn’t react, and that, in itself, was telling. “If that’s how you feel about it,” he said mildly, and that was the end of it.

Except for the part where that totally wasn’t the end of it.

The third time it happened, Clint really should have seen it coming.

Apparently, threatening a ranking specialist with a live weapon wasn’t only gossip-worthy, it warranted a private chat with Deputy Director Hill, who absolutely did not under any circumstances suffer fools or put up with bullshit. Clint kept forgetting that he even had a rank and that he was supposed to be afforded some degree of deference from junior agents. He was also, apparently, not the only one Park had been harassing. There’d been complaints for months, mostly about his tendency to be a hateful asshole, and it added up enough to get him under the brass’s eye. Pointing a gun at Clint was enough to get him a firm talking-to.

The actual last straw, though, was that the pock-faced grunt couldn’t keep his damn mouth shut and had bragged to his pals about their little night-time assault. That was enough to bring the hammer down on all three of them.

Of course, Clint didn’t learn any of this until later. All he knew at the time was that he was walking back to Phil’s apartment, and he heard the sound of rushing footsteps just in time to sidestep the swing of a riot baton.

In the street lights’ glare, Park’s scowling face was a twisted mask. He swung again, and Clint ducked, stepping in for a jab to Park’s gut. Park grunted, but he rapped the baton hard across Clint’s shoulders.

Clint staggered back, swearing. “Jesus Christ, what the fuck is your problem?”

“You fucking rat!” Park snarled. “What’d you do, faggot? Did you go running to your fucking boyfriend?”

He took another swing, and Clint grabbed his arm, twisting. Park rolled with the twist and elbowed Clint in the kidney. Clint caught his knee with a kick, and Park stumbled.

“You psychotic, motherfucking asswipe!” Clint shouted. “What are you even talking about?”

Park just yelled and rushed him. Clint kicked out, but Park caught him low and they went down in a tangle. Clint rolled, but Park rolled with him, pummeling his face and arms. He got a grip on Park’s hair, but Park smashed the nightstick into his nose.

Clint saw stars and tasted blood, but he didn’t let go. He made another grab for the stick, but Park dodged and jammed his fist hard into Clint’s windpipe. Clint gasped, and Park rolled them so that he was sitting on Clint’s chest. He caught one of Clint’s arms under his knee and wrapped his free hand around Clint’s throat, still raining blows onto Clint’s face.

He was screaming wildly, words lost in the fall of the nightstick. “…fucking kill you! Fucking… suspended… kill you! …kill your fucking boyfriend!”

Clint released Park’s hair and tried to cover his face, struggling for air. Park just kept on beating and screaming.

Phil was gonna get pizza, Clint thought distantly as the edges of his vision began to grey. Gonna have leftovers, now.

Suddenly, Park’s fist clenched, and he gave a violent shudder. The weight on Clint’s chest lifted as Park fell away, kicking, and Clint gulped for air as the pressure on his throat vanished.

He didn’t hear the footsteps over the rushing in his ears, but he saw Phil’s shoes appear on the ground beside him, saw one black shoe collide with Park’s head and Park go limp. Dazedly, Clint blinked blood out of his eyes as Phil knelt over him, his hands gentle on Clint’s face.

“Clint? Come on, Barton, talk to me.” Phil’s voice was tight, his face pale in the weak light. Clint kind of loved him maybe really a lot.

“’M fine,” Clint rasped, and Phil swore quietly.

“Good. Good, just stay with me.” He pulled out his phone and punched a number. “This is Coulson. Victor India six one nine. Emergency code Alan North. I need medics and MPs to my location immediately,” he said in his Agent Coulson voice, flat and empty.

“Seriously, I’m fine,” Clint slurred, and he could feel the blood on his lips and teeth. He looked at Park’s still form. “D’you kill him?”

Phil put the phone away, frowning. “No,” he said coldly, “but say the word and I will.”

He would, too, Clint realized. One word, or even just a nod, and Phil would snap Park’s neck without a second thought. He might be arrested, court-martialed, lose his position and reputation, but he’d do it and not lose a wink of sleep, for no other reason than that Clint asked.

Clint closed his eyes and shook his head. “No.”

Phil laid a hand gently on Clint’s bruised face and just said, “Okay.”

The damage was a broken nose, busted lip, and a handful of hairline fractures, including one from when Park had brained him with the battle stave. At that point, the whole story came out, and Clint carried on his side of the discussion without looking Phil in the eye.

The next time he saw Park was in a concrete interview room, safely behind a pane of two-way glass.

Park sat at the steel table in handcuffs, looking rebellious and throwing glares at the glass like he knew Clint was on the other side. When the door opened, he straightened, and only the hardening of his mouth betrayed his surprise and apprehension as Phil entered, looking every inch the unflappable badass that he was.

“Agent Park,” Phil greeted in a cool, empty voice. “I don’t believe we’ve officially met. I’m Agent Coulson.”

Park scowled, but his answer was polite enough. “Pleasure to meet you, sir.”

“I doubt that,” Phil replied icily. Even muffled through the speakers, Clint could hear the undercurrent of disgust. “Do you know why you’re here, Agent Park?”

Park shifted in his seat, and Clint wished he could find some satisfaction in his discomfort. He just wanted this to be over.

“I got into a fight with another agent.”

Phil hummed, unimpressed. He produced a small bundle of papers and said mildly, “Since your arrival at SHIELD, there have been seventeen reports of verbal harassment from your fellow agents. Were you aware of that?”

Park cleared his throat. “No, sir, I was not.”

“These reports claim that you have been disrespectful to your fellow agents and superior officers on the basis of, among other things, gender, perceived sexuality, and ethnicity, and that this harassment has, on occasion, included threatening speech.” Phil was probably the only person who could read someone the riot act and put them in fear for their life without so much as raising his voice. Clint felt the smallest shiver of pride.

Park sat forward. “Listen, sir, I’m sorry if I hurt anybody’s feelings, b-“

“I wasn’t finished.” There was an audible click as Park’s jaw snapped closed, and Phil went on calmly, “Several witnesses also claim that you used offensive speech against Specialist Clint Barton and that you threatened Specialist Barton with a live weapon during a training workshop. Is that true?”

“I didn’t threaten him,” Park grumbled. “I told him not to touch me. That’s it.”

“Did you point your firearm toward Specialist Barton?”

“I mean, yes, but-“

“Was your firearm loaded at the time?”

“I just told him t-“

“Did you use a pejorative term in reference to Specialist Barton’s sexuality?”

Park’s face reddened. “What does that have to do with anything?”

Phil shuffled the papers in his hand and didn’t look at Park. If Clint didn’t know better, he’d think Phil was bored with the whole thing. Of course, he knew better. “Do you recall your precise words?”

A look of sudden understanding dawned on Park’s face, and that was it. That was the moment Park knew he was in trouble.

“No, sir. I don’t recall the precise words.” Well, Clint had to give the man credit for digging in his heels.

Phil cleared his throat and said blandly, “According to witnesses, you aimed your weapon at Specialist Barton and said, ‘This faggot was feeling me up’.”

Not a hint, not a flicker, nothing for anyone but Clint to see the anger Phil was holding back. He wondered if Park could see it, too.

“That may be what I said. I don’t recall.”

Phil fixed him with a stare so cold, Clint was surprised Park didn’t freeze in his seat. “You’ve also been implicated in two separate assaults against Specialist Barton. The first assault was allegedly sexual in nature, and the second could have you facing a charge of attempted manslaughter. Either of which would be more than sufficient to have you blacklisted from every government agency on the planet and sent to prison for several years.”

Park’s face darkened. “I formally deny these implications and request that they be stricken from the record.”

For the first time since entering the room, Phil’s expression changed. Slowly, deliberately, he smiled. “I was hoping you’d say that.” Still smiling, he set the papers down on the table and looked Park in the eye. “This interview is a formality to give you an opportunity to answer the allegations. Since you’ve elected not to answer….”

“Now, wait a minute,” Park protested. “This isn’t fair.”

“And what is fair, Agent Park?” Phil asked mildly. “Assaulting an injured man in his bed? Threatening and mocking the men and women you trust to have your back in the field? Fairness is a luxury few people can afford. Justice, thankfully, is not always so rare.”

Park scowled. “Justice? For what? Barton set me on fire. Even if I did rough him u-“

“Specialist Barton admitted to that incident and was appropriately disciplined,” Phil cut him off, and there was an edge of icy rage in his voice. “An incident, I might add, that did not result in any injuries. Whereas Specialist Barton is currently recovering from a broken nose, a skull fracture, and severe tracheal bruising, not to mention the psychological trauma of being assaulted, bound, and beaten in his own bed. But by all means, Agent Park, please attempt to justify your actions, since I’m sure it can only help your case.”

Clint looked away. He didn’t want this, didn’t want any of this, and he certainly didn’t want to hear the circumstances of his humiliation recounted in Phil’s chilling tone.

Park, wisely, swallowed any reply, and Phil went on, “After discussing the situation, in light of the prior complaints against you and the testimony of your accomplices, the director, deputy director, personnel chief, your commanding officer, and myself have decided that the manner in which you are disciplined will be entirely at the discretion of Specialist Barton.”

The color drained from Park’s face, replaced by pale, naked fear. Phil gave him an acid smile.

“So far as I know, Specialist Barton is still deliberating on that decision,” Phil said, standing and straightening his flawless tie. “I would suggest, if I may, that you hope his capacity for compassion is greater than your own.”

The door to the interview room slammed behind him, and Park buried his face in his hands. Clint couldn’t get away fast enough.

He went home, for a given value of home.

He didn’t know if he’d still be welcome at Phil’s apartment, not after the things that had come to light, but his own quarters felt like a steel trap closing around his aching throat. So he went to the only home he had, and he waited, and he cleaned, and he cooked, and he read, and he cleaned some more, and he did everything he could think of to distract himself, until finally he was too exhausted to stand and he sat down and did nothing.

That was how Phil found him, sitting at the kitchen table in the falling light, a cold cup of coffee beside him. He gave Phil a wary smile and shrugged. “Didn’t know where else to go.” His voice was still rough and raw.

Phil frowned and pulled up a chair next to him. “Why would you go anywhere else?”

“I don’t know, I guess I just thought….” Clint cleared his throat. “Guess I needed you to save the day, after all. You really put the fear of god in that asshole.”

“He’s lucky that’s all I did,” Phil replied, and there was a little bit of that chill in his voice. “Fury said you made your recommendation, but he wouldn’t tell me what it was.”

Clint looked up and met Phil’s eye, silent for a moment, considering, then he said, “You would have killed him if I’d asked you to.”

“In a heartbeat.”

That was it. No justification, no remorse, just a simple solution to a complex problem. “What if I wanted to kill him?” Clint asked. “What if that’s what I asked for? Carte blanche, ten minutes, and a locked room.”

Phil held his gaze and said seriously, “Clint, if you asked for it, I’d give you twenty-four hours and the implements of torture of your choice, no questions. That bastard deserves whatever you decide to give him.”

Clint blinked. “Y’know, you scare me a little, sometimes.”

“Honestly? Sometimes, I scare myself a little, too,” Phil replied with a flicker of a smile. “Is that what you asked for? Execution?”

“What? No! Fuck no. Of course not.” Clint rubbed at the back of his neck. “I had him transferred to Station Twelve.”

Phil sat back, startled. “The observation post in Antarctica?”

“Yep. Six month rotation on the edge of the Savage Land,” Clint said grinning. “All by himself with no entertainment but a crate full of gay porn.”

Phil stared at him in disbelief, and Clint just smiled back. Finally, his eyes wide and fixed on Clint, Phil said, “You are unbelievable.”

Clint shrugged. “He’ll either go crazy or discover something new about himself. Either way, lesson learned.”

There was a beat of silence, and Clint was stunned when Phil moved forward to kiss him, deep and hard, like he couldn’t help it. Clint felt heat rising on his neck, a flush of pleasure and shame both, and when Phil pulled back, he swallowed and asked, “What was that for?”

Phil shook his head. “You really have no idea, do you?”

Clint dropped his gaze, studying the discolored edge of the coffee mug. “I guess I just…. After what happened with Park, and, I mean, it’s not like he was the first one to… you know. Which, I guess that stuff’s not really in my file, so maybe you didn’t know, but....” He was fucking this up, even worse than usual. He curled his hand into a fist, took a deep breath, and tried again. “It’s no secret that I’m damaged goods. I mean, you practically picked me up out of the trash, and this…. Well, I figure you can really see the cracks, now, and I didn’t know if….” Clint steeled himself and finished, “Look, all I’m trying to say is that I understand if this changes things.”

Phil gave him a blank look. “Changes things,” he repeated slowly.

Clint’s face burned under that calm gaze. “I just mean I get if you don’t want… me. Anymore.”

There was a long, tense moment, and part of Clint was prepared for Phil to breathe a sigh of relief and pull away. Thank god, he would say. I was afraid this would be awkward.

Clint was ready to break the silence himself and just bolt for the door when Phil said evenly, “That is the single most ridiculous thing that has ever come out of your mouth. And I’ve heard you carry a serious argument about pro-fascist themes in Back to the Future.”

“I’m telling you, controlled rebellion allows for the assertion of independence without presenting a threat to the establishment,” Clint insisted, and Phil laughed.

“I will never understand the way your brain works,” he said, and Clint figured that was probably a good thing. “None of this is in any way your fault. How could you even think…? Is that why you didn’t tell me? Christ, is that what you think of me?”

Clint rolled his eyes. “I think you’re too damn good for me, is what I think. A fact you’ve conveniently chosen to ignore.” Phil snorted, and Clint gave him a glare. “So you’re not gonna throw me out?”

“Oh for fuck’s…. No. I’m not going to throw you out,” Phil sighed.

“Even after what happened? Even though you know how truly damaged I am?”

“A few dents and scratches don’t make a thing any less priceless,” Phil said, “or a person any less worthy.”

Clint blinked. “I don’t know what that means.”

“It means I want you exactly as you are, exactly as you will always be.” He curled his hand gently around Clint’s neck, his fingertips brushing the bruise where Clint had been struck. “It means I know you, damages included, and I want all of you. Nothing’s going to change that.”

“Oh,” Clint said quietly. “Well, okay then.”

Phil kissed him again, so softly that it made Clint feel fragile and thin, like a spun glass vial filled with wildfire, ready to crack at the roughest touch. But there was no roughness in this, no force or pressure, just the sweet pull of Phil’s kiss to tip Clint gently over and let the fire pour out.

Yeah, Clint kind of loved him a lot.

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