The Coulson Variable

By Maquis Leader


Rated: NC17

Author’s note: Clint/Coulson. My first foray into slash smut, please be kind…



Clint Barton knew he wasn’t what anyone would call overly sentimental. He lived in the here and now because the past generally sucked and the future just might suck based on what the past had been like. Right now his present was pretty damn good, and he’d planned on spending tonight celebrating his and Phil’s anniversary. Instead, Phil had been gone for the last two days working on gathering intel for this op that they were stuck on instead of being alone together. Which made his immediate present suck. All he could hope for was that the damn op would wrap up quickly.

The whole damn thing bummed him out. Sure he wasn’t overly sentimental, but he was a little bit sentimental, and ten years was a big deal. Especially given their ungodly dangerous line of work. Clint didn’t bother to hide a little bit of his pout, because he knew it made him that much sexier, and his cover required him to be sexy. How fucking ironic was that?

So, here he was on his anniversary on an op waiting to meet a man in a bar. A man who was not his lover and with whom he did not share an anniversary date of any kind. A man who was not Phil. And, of all things, his cover was a male hustler looking for a trick. Clint took a swig of his beer. Irony is a fucking bitch.

Phil had surprisingly little intel on this op, despite having spent two days – and sexless nights – on it. At this point, all Clint knew was that he was supposed to meet a man at the bar. A man who would have information to pass to him. Important information. He hadn’t even been given a picture of his contact, and it made his job a real pain in the ass.

“Tell me again what I’m looking for tonight.” Clint muttered as he took another swig of his beer. The bartender overheard him and gave him a knowing look and a nod. Great. I’ve made a friend.

“Typical approaching-middle-age businessman. He will contact you.”

Can you be more vague? Clint shifted and leaned back against the bar, resting his elbows on the edge. He arched an eyebrow, knowing Phil – wherever he was – could see him and would know exactly what it meant.

“What he’s going to give to you is very important. Be patient, Barton.”

Clint shifted again. His balls were a little pressed for room. He was dressed in tight jeans, boots, a tight t-shirt and a battered leather vest that he was surprised Phil hadn’t tossed yet – each item very specific to what Phil had told him the target favored. He had a sneaking suspicion that the man was going to want a blow job in exchange for the info, and that was just not going to happen. Once upon a time, maybe, but not anymore.

The instructions had gone so far as to specify no product in his hair and a freshly shaven face. Look like a hustler but not completely slutty. Whoever this guy was, he must be important to get away with being so picky.

Turning around to lean both elbows on the bar, Clint nursed his beer, fending off the occasional men and women trying to pick him up, all the while wondering who this guy was that there was no photo of him. SHIELD, and Phil, were rarely without the resources to get even the most camera shy target in an eight by ten glossy.

Clint felt Phil lean on the bar beside him just before he caught a glimpse of him in the mirrored wall. “So this guy is a no show?” Clint asked softly.

“I wouldn’t say that.”

It took a moment for Clint to realize he hadn’t heard that on the comm. The op had to have been aborted for Phil to have killed the comm. He carefully pocketed the ear bud.

Using the mirror, he took a good look at his handler. Something was not quite right. Phil’s normally immaculate suit was rumpled, as if he’d been on a plane, and he had a shy and slightly wary smile on his face. He looked like a man who was hiding that he was gay or bi for those times when he was out of town for a business meeting. He wanted to pick someone up, but he was clearly scared of getting punched or robbed. Or both.

“Buy you a drink?”

While he wasn’t a genius, Clint wasn’t an idiot either. He turned and leaned on the bar, angling just slightly into Phil’s personal space, a lazy smirk on his face. He tapped his bottle. “Got one, but I’m sure another won’t hurt.”

Phil ordered Clint another beer and a scotch for himself. The bartender brought both and wandered away.

“So, you in town for the convention?” Clint asked. There was no need to be more specific; there was always a convention.

“Yeah, starts in the morning and I’m already bored. I really hate sitting alone in my room, you know?”

“There’s always pay per view.” He took a deep drink of the fresh beer, letting his tongue play along his lower lip to catch any stray drops.

“Also boring – at least alone. And I doubt…” Phil looked up at Clint and then down into his scotch as if embarrassed. “That they have the kind I like to watch.”

Clint eased closer and let his fingers trail along the other man’s thigh. “I gotcha. Me, I’m more for being involved than watching.” His hand moved upwards along the other man’s leg. ‘How about you?”

Phil caught Clint’s hand as it wandered close to his crotch and eased it over the hard bulge there briefly before moving it back to his thigh. “Y – y – yes.”

Downing his drink in one gulp, Phil tossed a bill on the bar. He leaned closer to the younger man, letting his hand fall to stroke along a muscled thigh for a moment before pulling away.

When Phil slid off his barstool and headed out of the bar, Clint took one last swig before following him. The elevator opened immediately, and Clint bit his lip to keep from asking if it had been waiting. They rode in silence, the archer lounging in the back corner watching Phil from half-closed eyes. From time to time, the other man would look at him, bite his lip, and look away.

The elevator stopped on the fifth floor, and Clint stepped up close behind Phil as they waited for the door to open. He blew a warm breath along the back of Phil’s neck, grinning at the shiver that shook the other man’s body. Phil all but bolted when the door opened, fumbling in his pocket for the key card to the room across from the elevator.

Inside the room, Clint looked around for anything pointing to their anniversary, but there was nothing. The room looked normal. Briefcase on the nightstand. Suitcase by the closet door. He wasn’t sure if he was disappointed or not. There was no way Phil had forgotten this was their tenth anniversary. Their very first meeting was ten years ago tonight, and it had changed both their lives.

Maybe he just wasn’t seeing his anniversary present. If so… he took another look around the room. Maybe this was his anniversary present. This looked like a role playing situation. Which can be fun. They didn’t do it a lot, but when they did, fun was had by all. His cock was already half-hard in agreement. I just need to figure out which game we’re playing, of course.

He tried to size Phil up the way he’d once sized up his marks. It wasn’t easy shutting off the part of him that looked at Phil Coulson through rose-colored glasses. Come on, Barton, you can do it.

Phil had taken his jacket off and looked even more nervous than he had in the bar. “Um… would you like to… um… sit down?”

Okay… so… shy guy who wants the cocky, aggressive hustler. Clint grinned. I can do that. Oh, how I can do that! “So, what do you want?”

“I don’t know, I guess… how much does it… does it cost?” Phil looked away as he finished the question, swallowing visibly. He appeared to be every inch the uneasy, closeted businessman getting his kicks away from home and hoping no one would ever find out.

Clint kept his eyebrows from climbing up into his hair and his jaw from hitting the floor through years of experience, but it was a very close call. He used the time he needed to keep his voice level by sliding a hand slowly along the front of his jeans, hooking his thumb over the buckle so that his fingers splayed over his hardening cock.

“Depends on what you want.” It’d been so many years – ten to be exact – since he’d had to do this kind of thing, that Clint actually wasn’t sure what the going rate was anymore.

“I – “

“You want me to blow you – it’s a hundred bucks.” He noticed a slight increase in Phil’s breathing.

“You want to blow me – fifty bucks.” Phil’s pupils dilated slightly. Interesting. Clint switched up the order for the next items on the menu.

“You want me to fuck – “

Phil jerked his wallet out of his pocket and opened it, flashing a handful of Benjamins.

Clint nodded. “You’ve got enough for the night, if you want.”

The other man nodded as well, his hands shaking as he thumbed through the bills.

Taking the wallet from Phil, he took the cash and pocketed it.

“This’ll get you just about anything you want – no tying me up though. I don’t go for that bondage crap.” He’d once been handcuffed to a bed by a mark and then the supposedly easy mark had invited two buddies in to take turns with him. It had not comforted him that he’d gotten loose during a switch and kicked the crap out of all of them. “I’m not into anything that kinky. Or really anything kinky.”

“Except picking up men you don’t know at strange hotels.” Phil laughed nervously. “Or is it strange men at hotels you don’t know?”

“Take off the tie and shirt.”

Phil hurried to do as he was ordered, laying them neatly over his suit coat on the chair.

“Come here.” Clint ran his hands over Phil’s baby soft skin, scraping his nails through the slight furring on his chest that trailed down his belly until Phil was shaking under his hands. He leaned down and kissed him hard and aggressively, one hand on Phil’s face, the other sliding around and cupping the back of his head.

He clamped one hand on Phil’s ass, pulling him close and grinding his cock into him. Phil was panting when Clint released him from the kiss.

“Get on your knees.” He jerked his belt undone and popped the buttons of his jeans. It was handy now, going commando, especially in the tight-ass jeans he’d been told to wear. They were a bitch to get out of.

He grinned as Phil hit his knees with a thud. Freeing his cock, Clint ordered. “Suck me.”

Phil already had his hands reaching for Clint’s cock, fingers of one hand wrapping around the thick shaft and the other curling around his balls. After a moment, he looked up, eagerness in his eyes, and his lips were trembling. Leaning forward, he took Clint’s cock in his mouth, hesitantly at first, and then gave it a few swirls of his tongue around the tip.

Clint threaded his fingers through the soft hair at the nape of Phil’s neck and urged him forward, arching his hips so that his cock slid deeper into the other man’s mouth. “I said suck me. It’s not a fucking lollipop. Suck it!”

Phil made a slight gagging sound, and Clint arched an eyebrow. Phil could deep throat like a motherfucker – he had never made Phil gag, and he’d tried. Then again, they were playing. A grin quirked the corner of Clint’s lips.

He eased back and stroked Phil’s cheek. “Come on, you can do it. You want to do it, don’t you? You love sucking cock.”

“Oh, yes – God, yes, I do.” He began sucking eagerly, head bobbing. Phil’s free hand went to Clint’s ass and massaged one tight cheek, pulling him forward.

It felt damn good, and Clint started rocking into his mouth, one hand still stroking Phil’s cheek and the other holding his head so he could fuck his mouth. “Fuck… yes … fuck...”

He grunted as he came, pulling back slightly even though he knew Phil could swallow him down without a problem. There was such a thing as overplaying the role, in his mind.

“Good boy.” He slapped Phil’s cheek lightly and pushed him back. “Your dick hard?”

“Yeah – yes – “ Phil’s lips were slick with spit and come, and his eyes were bright and hot with lust.

“Let me see.”

Phil opened his pants and shoved them down, his cock springing free. When he started to stroke himself, Clint nudged him with his foot. “No. Wait.”

He stopped instantly, obediently.

Clint tugged his own pants back into place but left them open. “You got lube? Condoms?” Normally, he’d have had them, but he hadn’t realized he was really going to be playing the part tonight.

“In my briefcase.”

“In your briefcase? Aren’t you scared the little woman might find them?” Guys like Phil was pretending to be always had a little woman at home so they could pretend they were straight. Normal.

“I only bring them on business trips.”

“Of course.” He jerked his head toward the briefcase. “Get them. Strip.”

Phil took the lube and condoms out of his briefcase, his hands shaking as he held them out to Clint.

He laughed as he opened the box. It was full. “Well, aren’t we the hopeful one?”

“I wasn’t sure – I like to be prepared – “ Phil stripped quickly and stood by the bed, fidgeting nervously.

“So, do you like it from the front?” Clint cocked his head, eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “Or from the back?”

“I want to see you while you fuck me.” The words were rushed, as if they wouldn’t get said if he didn’t say them all at once.

“Of course you do, I’m fucking hot.” He pushed Phil, causing him to lose his balance and flop onto the bed. Phil bounced before scooting backwards toward the pillows.

Clint stopped him, grabbing an ankle and jerking him to a stop and then dragging him closer so that his legs dangled off the edge of the bed. He stepped between Phil’s spread legs and pulled his vest and t-shirt off, smirking at the hungry look in Phil’s eyes.

Leaning over him, letting the bare skin of his chest rub over the other man’s face, Clint grabbed the pillows. He dropped one next to Phil’s head and shoved the other under his hips.

He pushed Phil’s legs up until his feet were on the bed and his legs were spread wide. The sight had his own recently satisfied cock waking up for another round. Satisfied isn’t the same as sated, by a long shot.

“Nice.” Clint stroked a finger down the soft trail of hair leading to a very hard, and more than likely, aching cock. He circled it, not touching, and smiled at the whimper Phil made.

Phil’s balls were covered with soft, downy hair, and Clint cupped them, weighing them in his palm. As much as he wanted to, Clint didn’t sigh in satisfaction. It wouldn’t be in character to be happy that they were full and heavy due to lack of sex, but who wouldn’t be happy to know that their partner had been faithful after a few days apart?

Instead, he dragged his fingers down, pressing hard on the perineum to make Phil groan, then between the quivering cheeks, searching for the opening. He shoved hard against it, making Phil moan and buck up from the bed. “You want it, don’t you?”

Flipping open the lid of the lube, Clint squirted a generous amount over his fingers and pressed once again at the tight opening.

“Oh, god… “ Phil gasped as a slick fingertip slid into him. His cock jerked and precum oozed from the tip in anticipation

“You like that.” It wasn’t a question. Clint slid one finger in and followed it quickly with a second, spreading and curling them until he hit what he was looking for and Phil arched up off the bed with a cry.

“No coming.” He warned. Phil obediently clamped a hand around the base of his cock and squeezed hard.

“Good boy.” Clint fucked him with two fingers for a moment, twisting his wrist to relax the other man and open him up. The game wasn’t calling for gentle and loving, so he shoved a third finger in and fucked Phil until he was gasping and whimpering.

His own cock was up and aching, demanding to be in on the action. He gave it a hard squeeze with his free hand. Catching Phil watching, he leered down at him. “You want this? Do you?”

“Yes, oh, yes, please!” Phil groaned, his free hand reaching up to touch Clint’s cock. 

“Condom.” Clint snapped his fingers impatiently.

Phil scrabbled to open one, leaning up to roll it onto Clint’s cock. The move forced Clint’s fingers deeper inside of him and he cried out. “Oh, god, please – please fuck me – “

Clint dropped one knee to the bed, shoving the other man’s thighs wider. He pulled his fingers from Phil’s body, ignoring the whimpered cry of protest.

Grasping his cock, he guided the tip to the slick, wet opening. Clint’s eyes flicked up to Phil’s, and the pale blue eyes were wide with need. He smiled and pressed forward, burying himself in one stroke.

Phil’s fingers dug into his hips as he started to pull back. “Wait… please…”

Waiting was fine with him. The feeling of hot, tight flesh around him was fanfuckingtastic. Clint panted and licked his lips as he watched Phil rock and wiggle on his cock, clearly trying to keep himself under control. Phil's hand was squeezing his cock again in an obvious effort to hold off his orgasm.

“Ready?” At the sharp nod, he grabbed Phil’s thighs and pulled him back as he arched forward. He dropped his foot back to the floor, fucking hard and fast. Grinding as his balls slapped against Phil’s hot skin, jerking back until he was barely inside and then slamming forward once more.

Phil was whimpering and moaning, his hips jerking up to meet each thrust. “Fuck me – fuck me – fuck me – “

“Like you’ve never been fucked – “ Clint ground out between clenched teeth.

Pushing Phil’s legs up over his shoulders, he settled down on his forearms, his mouth crushing Phil’s as he fucked as deep and hard as he could. They were both moaning and whimpering, slick skin sliding and slapping into each other.

“Come – now – now – “ Clint demanded.

Phil let go of his cock with a cry of relief, and come spurted onto his belly and chest. He groaned and went limp.

Clint pulled back up onto his knees and gave into what he wanted. Short, shallow strokes that never left the warmth of Phil’s body. “Yes – yes – yes –“

Phil’s voice came to him from far away, soft and slightly slurred. “Come for me.” Clint looked down, and the dazed, satisfied expression on Phil’s face was enough to finish him off. The muscles of his stomach and chest went taut and clenched, and he threw his head back, eyes closed, helplessly caught up in the explosions rippling through his body.

“Yes – fuck – guh – “ His cock spasmed, and Clint’s back arched until his spine hurt as he came. Gracelessly, he collapsed onto Phil, panting and gasping for air.

“Good?” Phil asked, stroking his fingers along Clint’s trembling biceps.

“Good.” Clint rasped as soon as he could form words again.

“Happy anniversary.”

“Damn, this totally tops the cupcake I got for you.”

“You got me a cupcake? What kind?”

“That sugar and sea salt caramel one you like.”

“Did you bring it with you?”

Clint lifted his head and frowned down at his lover. “No. I thought this was an op.”

“Good point.”

After they shifted and Clint finished stripping, they snuggled into each other’s arms.

“You shouldn’t wave the cash around like that.” Clint yawned. “That’s a good way to get knocked in the head and wake up broke.”

“Hmmm… noted. And by the way, put the money back when you get up.”

“Are you saying I haven’t earned it?” He nipped at Phil’s shoulder.

“Maybe.” Phil smiled. “Not yet anyway.”

That was a challenge if he ever heard one, but Clint needed a nap first. He snuggled his head onto Phil’s chest and sighed softly into his skin. “Love you.”

“You, too.”

They lay together quietly for a few minutes. Phil nuzzled at Clint’s earlobe just as the archer was drifting into sleep. “You know why I planned this, don’t you?”

“Yeah, because of how we first met, but I didn’t realize you thought it was romantic.”


Ten years ago…


Clint was leaning against the bar in a moderately nice hotel. One where it was okay for him to pick someone up as long as he was subtle about it. Only discreet hustlers need apply, please.  

He was willing to be discreet. Right now he was hungry and needed a place to sleep for the night, but he wasn’t desperate. His meeting with his client was in two days and he’d eaten a big breakfast with the last of his cash, saving just enough for his first beer. All he needed for now was a one night thing – or a one fuck thing if he could get away with it.

The last hour and a half had been spent looking for someone who would fill that requirement. Since he had the luxury of being picky, he was taking his time. This place seemed to be a popular spot for horny people looking to hook up, and there was a reasonably good selection. Clint wasn’t sure if he was looking for a man or a woman; it didn’t matter as long as they had enough money to tide him over.

Subject number one was a good looking guy, nice body and probably had enough cash. But he had that angry look in his eyes, as if he wasn’t happy being gay or bi. Clint marked him off the list. He wasn’t interested in angry sex or someone who wanted to use his fists.

Subject number two at the far end of the bar was a big guy. Big and burly, bearded and heavily muscled with just a slight gut. Probably a bear. He could be one of two types. Either he’d want to cuddle and care for a smaller/younger guy. The sex would be okay – Clint didn’t mind getting his cock sucked and maybe being fingered without getting fucked, but this type of bear tended to be clingy, and the guy wouldn’t want him to leave when they were done. The other type liked to dominate a smaller/younger guy, and he had no desire to get his ass pounded for hours tonight. Grizzly Adams would have to find himself another cub.

Turning to scan the other side of the bar, Clint spotted a pretty young woman, mid-twenties, dainty, long brown hair, nice tits. He smiled his open and friendly smile. She gave him a sweet, nervous smile in return. Crap. That smile said I’m looking for a relationship, and he was not going to be here that long. She would want to go home and not to a hotel room, which had its perks – such as breakfast and softer towels – but she’d be clingy and might not give him an easy escape. He turned away.

The bartender set him up a drink. Clint wasn’t surprised. He’d bought a beer when he’d got here, and nursed it until the “drinks from X” had started arriving from interested parties. He finished off the last swig of the beer that some unlucky contestant had bought for him and reached for the new one.

His hand paused just before it touched the glass. Most of the drinks sent to him were another of whatever he was drinking, which was good old Budweiser, or the occasional fancy ass beer that he tolerated because it showed that the mark might have some extra cash. Rarely did he get a glass of anything. Shots of Jack or tequila occasionally, but the buyer was right there with one of their own so they could start a conversation.

This one, however, was a mixed drink. A pink one. A fucking pink one.

 He looked up at the bartender. “What the fuck is this?”

“A Cosmo.”

“A what?” Even the name sounded pink.

“A Cosmo.” The bartender repeated. “From the lady over there.” He gestured behind Clint.

Clint turned and saw a woman in her fifties, but looking like forties thanks to makeup, the gym and probably plastic surgery or maybe just good genes. Poufed hair, tight dress, plump tits on display. A cougar. She smiled and did a small tongue lick over her lips. A horny cougar.

Normally, he might be interested. But… a pink drink?

Looks could be deceiving; entire empires had been built on looking one way and being another. “What’s in this thing?” Clint took an experimental sip and nearly spat it out on the bar. “It tastes like crap.”

“Vodka, a little cranberry juice, some –“

“Stop – that’s – just no.” She was either a Sex and the City fan or had constant UTI and other issues – or both. And most likely would want her pussy licked. Thoroughly and for freaking forever. Clint shuddered. He had nothing against the taste of pussy; he enjoyed it from time to time. However, she was a little too well used looking, probably in here every night picking up someone to fuck. Not only would he not get any sleep, but she was probably smart enough to have very little cash with her and would be keeping a sharp eye on it.

He shoved the drink away. Like him, the cougar was a seasoned hunter and recognized his refusal. In the mirror, he saw her change targets.

The bartender took pity on him and brought him another Budweiser. Nursing his beer, Clint pretended to be absorbed in peeling the label off the bottle in one piece while he studied the remaining patrons. The flow of people in had slowed down and now there was just the career drinkers, the couples who’d already hooked up and hadn’t left yet, the woo-girls – who acted like they wanted to hook up but didn’t have the nerve to leave their pack of friends – and the desperate to get laid.

Clint wasn’t desperate yet, but being too picky might mean he went to bed both outside and hungry. Relationship girl was looking to be the best of the lot. Settling for her wouldn’t be too bad. A good fuck, just enough to blow her mind, and he could get some sleep. If he had to spend the night and take off in the morning, it wasn’t that big of a problem. Wouldn’t be the first time. And he might get some home cooking for a change, who knows?

Turning back to where relationship girl was, Clint gave her another smile, this one just a little bashful as if he’d turned away earlier because he was shy guy working up his nerve. She smiled back, and he knew he had her on the hook. Another smile and she’d probably start planning to introduce him to her parents.

He stifled a sigh. What he needed was someone who was looking for a cash relationship. And someone who wouldn’t call the cops if he lifted a few extra bucks out of their wallet, because they couldn’t afford the publicity. Clint let the sigh slip this time – all he wanted an easy fuck, some food, and some sleep. Actually, just the food and sleep if he could get away with it.

Someone brushed against him, and Clint turned his head to look. It bothered him a little that he hadn’t noticed the guy walking up to the bar, but he was a little buzzed from no food and too many beers. And the guy looked harmless.

Clint gave him a quick once over. The man’s suit was rumpled, as if he’d been on a plane or in a car for a long drive. When he noticed Clint’s attention, he smiled and nodded. The smile was shy and slightly wary. He looked like a man who was hiding that he was gay or bi for those times when he was out of town for a business meeting. He wanted to pick someone up, but he was clearly scared of getting punched or robbed. Or both.

Perfect. Clint smiled in return, letting his gaze wander over the other man’s body.

The man leaned on the bar and sighed. “That flight was just too long. Are you… are you from here? From around here?”

“No, just here on my way through.” True enough. Bonus that it was what this guy wanted to hear.

“Can I – “ The man shot a nervous look around them. “Can I buy you a drink?”

Clint turned and leaned on the bar, angling just slightly into the other man’s personal space, a lazy smirk on his face. He tapped his bottle. “Got one, but I’m sure another won’t hurt.”

The man caught the bartender’s attention and ordered another beer for Clint and a scotch for himself. The bartender brought both and wandered away.

“I’m in town for the convention.”

Clint nodded. There was no need to be more specific; there was always a convention.

“It starts in the morning and I’m already bored. I really hate sitting alone in my room, you know?” Meaning the man wanted to get laid.

“There’s always pay per view.” Pay per view being code for porn. He took a deep drink of the fresh beer, letting his tongue play along his lower lip to catch any stray drops.

“Also boring – at least alone. And I doubt…” He looked up at Clint and then down into his scotch as if embarrassed. “I doubt they have the kind I like to watch.” Meaning gay porn, which to Clint’s knowledge rarely showed up on the PPV channels in hotels. At least not in the kind of hotel they were currently at.

Clint eased closer and dropped his hand casually off the edge of the bar, letting his fingers trail along the man’s thigh. “Personally…I’m more for being involved than watching.” His hand slid upwards along the other man’s leg. “How about you?”

He caught Clint’s hand as it got to his crotch and eased it over the bulge there briefly before moving it back to his thigh. “Yes. I’d like – I do like that.”

Downing his drink in one gulp, the other man threw some bills on the bar. He leaned closer to the younger man, letting his hand fall to stroke along a muscled thigh for a moment before pulling away. He slid off his barstool and headed for the elevator. Clint took one more swig of his beer and followed him

They rode up in silence, though Clint stayed close, brushing against him in a subtle, teasing way but not manhandling him in the elevator or on the way to the room. From time to time, the other man would look at him, bite his lip and look away. The elevator stopped on the fifth floor, and Clint stepped up close behind him as they waited for the door to open. He blew a warm breath along the back of the other man’s neck, grinning at the shiver that shook the man’s body. 

Clint had to stifle a laugh when the other man all but bolted when the door opened, fumbling in his pocket for the key card to the room across from the elevator.

When he stepped inside the room, Clint looked around for anything pointing to an ambush. It looked okay. Typical mid-priced hotel room. Bed, side tables, small dining table and two chairs to the side. A folder was lying on the table. Probably hotel stuff. He didn’t spot any luggage, but the folding door on the tiny closet was half closed.

There wasn’t any one thing that alarmed him, but something in the back of Clint’s mind started nagging at him. Normally, he’d head straight for the bed and they’d decide on what and how much before he so much as unbuttoned a button, but he lingered by the door instead. Something’s off.

The man didn’t go to the bed, either. Instead he pulled out one of the chairs at the table and sat, gesturing to the other chair. “Please, sit down.”

This was different, but then again, there was always the talk of how much for how much. The guy wasn’t likely to be an axe murderer, but he might be one of those kinky bastards that wanted to be pissed on or something equally weird. If he did, then Clint was walking, and he would go back and check if relationship girl was still in the bar.

“So, what do you want?” Clint leaned against the door, his hand resting casually on the handle.

“I have an offer for you.”

“Right.” He looked the man up and down as if he were a piece of meat, sticking to the cocky hustler routine. “And I’ve got something to offer you. Something you’re going to like.”

Warning bells went off in Clint’s head when the other man didn’t respond. There’s something wrong here. It hit him suddenly – the other man’s body language had changed as soon as they’d entered the room. He no longer looked nervous and unsure of himself – he looked like a completely different person than Clint had met in the bar. A much too confident person.

“Please sit down. I’d like to talk with you.” The other man smiled slightly and gestured again to the chair. “I believe you’ll be interested.”

“It depends on what you want.” Clint moved cautiously to the chair and dropped into it, lounging back and resting his feet against the table support so he could kick it over if he needed to.

“I – “

“You want me to blow you – it’s a hundred bucks.”  

“I don’t want to – “

“You want to blow me – fifty bucks. You want to fuck me – “

“No, I don’t want anything like that – “

“What? You want me to jack off while you watch?” One of these days he was going to print up a price list like a goddamn Chinese take-out menu. “Fifty bucks if you want to touch –

“Mr. Barton, I’m not here for sex. I have an offer for you.”

Clint jerked and scrambled up, the chair nearly overturning. “How do you know my name?”

“I know a great many things about you, Mr. Barton.” The man said.

Clint did another quick glance around the room, looking for other people to burst out of hiding. No one came out of the bathroom or the small closet, but Clint eased back toward the door anyway. Gangbangs were not his idea of fun.

“You can relax, Mr. Barton. There’s just the two of us, I assure you.”

“Yeah, well, now it’s just you.” His hand hit the door handle and he twisted it, pulling the door open.

“Please give me just a few moments to discuss the offer with you and then you can go if you like.” The man smiled slightly again. “I won’t try to stop you.”

“Like you could?” Clint sneered. “Fuck you and your offer. I’m not into weird role plays.” Letting the door close, he stalked over to the table. “But you do owe me some cash, so pony up.”

The other man shook his head slightly. “This would have been a cash-for-services-rendered arrangement, and no services have been rendered.”

Reaching down, Clint grabbed the man by his tie and jerked him up and half over the table. “Fuck that! You picked me up – wasted my time with your little fucking game! I could be doing another mark right now. So give me a hundred dollars and we’ll call it even.”

There was a nudge of cold metal under his chin and Clint froze. There was no mistaking the feel of a gun pressed to your flesh. It was something a person never forgot. Fuck! Mr. Cool had somehow produced a gun and had it angled up under his chin. Pressing gently, but pressing just the same.

Fuck… hopefully this weirdo just wants some dirty talk…

“Please sit down, Mr. Barton.” The other man met his gaze steadily, the pale blue eyes never wavering for a moment.

Clint sat, releasing the man’s tie and easing onto the chair. He kept his eyes fixed on the other man, watching him and looking for an opening. He had a couple of knives tucked away but no gun. The other man was older, bound to be slower –

“Please relax. If I’d wanted to kill you, you’d already be dead.” The other man tucked the gun away and straightened his tie.

Clint knew his mouth had dropped open, and it took him a moment to force it closed. This guy was the ballsiest guy he’d ever met. He was just way too damn sure of himself.

The man flipped open the folder that was on the table. “I’m Agent Coulson. We’ve been watching you for some time now, and we think it’s time we brought you in.”

“Watching – who the hell is we?” Clint couldn’t help looking around the room again. Were there surveillance cameras?

“I’m with the Strategic Homeland Interven –


Coulson paused as if considering. “Yes.”

“I’m not a government man. I’m not interested in SHIELD.” He’d heard of them, everyone had, with their clunky long name and MIB routines.

“My boss is very interested in you.” Coulson slid three pictures across the table.

Clint glanced at them. They were of him talking to contacts, up on a roof ready to take a shot, lounging at a bar sizing up a mark. His skin crawled at the thought of how easy they could have taken him out.

“So far, your movements haven’t interfered with any of our operations. You’ve actually taken out several targets that we had already deemed dangerous and were about to assign teams to.”

“Happy to oblige.” He dug the fingers of his bow hand into his thigh to keep from shaking.

“As I said, so far, your movements haven’t interfered with any of our operations. You did take out one target – “ He slid another photo over for Clint to see.

He recognized the man in the picture. Some terrorist asshole his client had wanted removed. Not because of the terrorism but because the target was hurting his business. Clint had enjoyed blowing the target’s head off not because of the terrorism or to help his client’s business, but because the bastard loved to molest little boys. Very little boys.

“ – that we hadn’t slated for termination – yet – because he was funneling information to us. However, his death allowed another mole to move up within that same organization, and we now have a more reliable source of information.”

“Gee, I’m glad you approve.” Clint said sarcastically.

“However, the time will come when you will interfere with an important operation – not intentionally, of course – and well…” Agent Coulson shrugged slightly.

“You’ll put me on your list. So what am I supposed to do? Call you and clear my targets? That could be a problem.” Clint didn’t always know who he was going to take out. Once he’d accidently put a nine millimeter round in a street pimp who was beating the hell out of one of his boys in an alley. Accidently meaning he’d walked up and shoved the barrel into the pimp’s eye socket and pulled the trigger.

“I’m offering you a position with the Strategic Homeland – “

“With SHIELD – seriously, you guys need to go with it. You’re not going to get a better one.” Clint moved his right foot to the table support. He could kick it over, the knife in his sleeve was already resting in his left hand, and he could take out Mr. Agent Man – and then be on the run for the rest of his very short life. You’re fucked, Barton.

“Perhaps. That’s not my decision.”

“Why would you want me? I’m not a fancy college grad with degrees and shit.” He knew the requirements for the FBI, CIA, and other alphabet groups out there and Clint Barton, runaway circus freak, didn’t qualify by a long shot.

“A college education isn’t a requirement.”

“I didn’t graduate high school either.” All he remembered of junior high is the science teacher who had a cardboard amoeba for a hall pass. Clint’s fairly sure he and Barney had run away well before the end of that year.

“I’m aware of that, Mr. Barton. From what little is in your file in the way of school transcripts, it appears you haven’t attended school since the first quarter of 7th grade.”

Clint felt his face burning. It wasn’t as if he’d never picked up another book. He’d learned plenty of things growing up in a circus. Like how to kill people with a bow and arrow.

“We believe each asset is unique.” Agent Coulson continued. “And that anything necessary can be learned.”

“What do you really want from me? I’m a fucking moron who’s only got one skill set – two if you count fucking.”

Agent Coulson paused and looked at him. There was a sad look in the man’s eyes, as if he’d been personally offended somehow. “I don’t believe that, Mr. Barton, and I’ve devoted a great deal of time to studying you.”

Clint found himself flushing again and broke eye contact. Those eyes saw way too deep.

“Please take the time to think seriously about the offer, I’d consider it a personal favor.” Coulson gathered the photographs up, sorted them, and put them back into the folder. “You come in, and we’ll provide a place to train and to learn new skills. A place to live, either on base or off, your choice. We have an excellent cafeteria with anything you might want.”

It sounded like heaven, but Clint knew better. No way they’d give anything like that to someone like him.

“You’d have a steady income.”

“Probably not as much as I get per target.”

“No, but as I said, it’s steady, meaning you won't have to sell yourself for a place to eat and sleep.”

That burned as well. It wasn’t like he enjoyed peddling his ass – he only did it when he had to. “And if I don’t come in?”

Coulson’s smile was regretful.

“Right.” The offer was pretty one-sided as far as Clint could tell. Work for SHIELD or we kill you. “Let me guess, you need an answer now?”

“No, of course not. I realize this is an important decision.” He slid a business card across the table. “You can reach me at this number any time day or night. The only time you will get my voicemail is if I’m under communications blackout during an op, but I will return your call immediately afterwards. I promise.

“For now, the room is rented for the night and room service will be delivering dinner shortly.” Agent Coulson took his wallet out of his pocket. “And here is enough to tide you over until after you make contact with your current client.” He put a stack of Benjamins on the table next to the keycard.

Clint eyed the cash but didn’t move to pick it up. “You know about the meet? Of course you know about that. You know I cut school since seventh grade.”

Coulson smiled slightly. “The target is one we’d like removed. Your involvement frees the team we would have used. It’s a win-win.”

“What, ah... What type of training are you talking about?” It didn’t hurt to ask, it wasn’t like he was going to seriously consider coming in.

“Weapons, of course. Languages, undercover skills, piloting, infiltration – “



“As in like planes and stuff?” Clint straightened in his chair.

Coulson smiled a little more broadly this time. “Yes, as in planes and stuff. We have a variety of aircraft. Helicopters, jets – “

“I can’t read – I mean – I can, but I probably can’t read well enough for flying planes.” Clint shrugged like he hadn’t nearly admitted he couldn’t read worth a crap. This Coulson guy had his school transcripts, so he probably already knew anyway.

“We can work around that.” Coulson stood and walked to the door. “Dyslexia doesn’t mean that you’re stupid.”

Tell that to my teachers. And my parents. And everybody else I’ve ever met.

Coulson paused at the door. “I hope you’ll seriously consider the offer, Mr. Barton. You’re better than this.”

“Better than what? Killing people – isn’t that what I’d be doing for you? How’s it different just because you’ve got the government behind you?”

“I’ve seen the pattern in your targets. Granted, they’re all bad people – terrorists and the like. But there’s more, isn’t there? More to what makes you take a job?”

“Yeah, like money?”

“We both know that many of your targets weren’t contracts, Mr. Barton. Either way, they were men who beat their wives and children, child molesters, slavers, rapists. Every target shares one or more of these traits.”

“So? You think these some of the targets I passed on are saints other than trying to blow crap up and start World War III?”

“Some of them are surprisingly good fathers and husbands, pillars of their communities.” Coulson looked thoughtful. “One man’s villain is another man’s hero. It’s all a matter of perspective.”

“My perspective depends on who’s paying me.” Clint was lying – he’d refused targets who were good people who just happened to be in someone’s way.

There was a knock on the door, and Clint jumped.

Coulson didn’t flinch. “That will be room service.” He put his hand on the handle but didn’t open the door. “I meant what I said. You’re better than this.”

Clint ignored him, pretending great interest in the business card he’d been given.

“You shouldn’t be selling yourself like this.”


“For a meal and a room. You’re selling yourself too cheaply.”

“What the fuck do you know?” Clint bolted out of his chair and pinned the other man to the door. “Just what the fuck do you know about it? Have you ever been hungry? I don’t mean I missed lunch hungry – I mean I haven’t eaten in two days hungry! Have you ever slept in an alley behind garbage cans because you don’t have anywhere else to sleep?”

Coulson didn’t answer and didn’t break eye contact, as if having angry men screaming in his face happened every day.

“Have you ever had to sell your ass because it was the only thing you had that was worth anything? Or sold it because it was better to get paid for it than not?”


For a moment, Clint held Coulson pinned to the door with his body, panting into his face, getting himself under control. “Well, when you have, then you can judge me.”

He stepped back, and Coulson opened the door.

A hotel bellboy eyed the two men warily as he rolled in a cart with covered trays. Clint lifted the lid from one and found a porterhouse steak. His stomach rumbled loud enough to wake the dead, but he didn’t care. He lifted each lid to see what was underneath, still not convinced he wouldn’t find a bomb of some kind. Baked potato with plenty of extras, salad, and a slice of cake. Nothing dangerous.

“What’s in the food?” His stomach rumbled again at the sight of the sour cream sitting on the baked potato like a snow-capped mountain.

“The food?” The kid looked at him.

“Nothing.” Coulson assured Clint. He handed the bellboy a ten dollar bill, and the kid hurried away. “If I wanted you dead, I wouldn’t have spent my expense money on dinner for you.”

“Why me?”

“You’re good at what you do. Clean, quick, efficient. Your targets are well chosen – terrorists, drug dealers, slave dealers – people who need to be eliminated to make the world a better place.”

Clint arched an eyebrow at that. “For the flag, mom and apple pie?”

“Something like that.” The SHIELD agent closed the door as he left, leaving Clint alone in the room.

Quickly locking the door, Clint sat down and dug into his food, not even bothering to move it from the cart to the table. Everything was exactly the way he liked it. The steak was medium rare, the baked potato was buried in butter, bacon bits, chives, and sour cream, the salad was covered in cheese and more bacon bits, and there was plenty of creamy Italian dressing.

He seriously considered saving the cake for breakfast, but Coulson had left him enough money that he could go to IHOP instead. The lemon cream cake was gone before he could even begin talking himself out of it.

Burping and scratching his full belly, Clint shoved the room service cart out into the hallway. 

He’d left his duffel bag in the crawl space above the ceiling of the men’s room next to the bar and Clint cautiously retrieved it, still expecting Agent Coulson and a band of SHIELD agents to appear at any moment.

Back in the room, Clint set up a tripwire at the door and pulled the blankets and pillows off the bed. As much as he would have liked to sleep on the bed, he wasn’t completely convinced that Coulson hadn’t served him his last meal only to send a wet works team in to kill him in his sleep. He seemed like a kind man, willing to let the condemned man die on a blissfully full stomach.

Clint made a nest in the closet, his gun in his hand, and tried to sleep.


Back to now…


“You know I just wanted something to eat and a place to sleep, right?” Clint asked softly.

“I know.” Phil pressed a kiss to his temple. “And I wasn’t judging you. I meant what I said. You’re too good for what you were doing.”

“I’m not proud of it, but I’m not going to beat myself up for it.”

“Anymore, you mean?”

He huffed a breath into Phil’s ear, making him shiver.

“I, uh… I almost wished that I’d had to persuade you with… you know, services rendered.”

Clint blinked in surprise. “Phil? You – really?”

“Despite what the other agents think, I am human.”

He stretched against Phil’s side, displaying a ripple of muscle. “And I am pretty damn hot.”

“I’ve always admired your modesty.”

“So… “ He snuggled back onto Phil’s chest. “…you’ve had this fantasy… for all these years?”


“And you waited all this time to play it out? Phil, next time let me in on your fantasies.” He slid his hand over Phil’s chest, stroking the soft skin. “I’ll do anything you want, you know that.”

“I know. I was saving this one for a special occasion.”

Clint kissed his shoulder again. “This was pretty special. Pretty damn special.” He stopped and thought again about the way they’d met. And where.

“This is the same hotel!” Sitting up, Clint looked around the room. “Is this the same room? It is, isn’t it? I think the colors are wrong, but – ”

“They’ve remodeled since then, but yes.” Phil admitted shyly. “It’s the same room.”

“That’s – “ The archer stopped, the pieces of the supposed mission clicking into place. Phil had kept him so distracted that he hadn’t connected the dots and figured out where they were going. “That’s devious.”

“Thank you.”

Clint rested on his elbow, smiling down at him. “Phillip Coulson, you are a hopeless romantic.”

“Not until I met you.” Phil pulled Clint down for a soft kiss. “Happy anniversary.”





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