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Time and Time Again

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Something most people didn’t remember, was that there was a time when Clint wasn’t with SHIELD. When Clint hadn’t been the ‘law abiding’ citizen he was (pretending to be). That Clint had a past that none - outside of a select few (an ever dwindling number) - had been privileged to know.

A past that Clint tried to forget himself.

But that was the thing about the past, it always came back to haunt you, and you never knew if it was going to be good or bad until it was far, far too late.

Today, that haunting came in the shape of one Bucky Barnes as Steve hauled him into the currently sparsely occupied Avengers Tower (Nat was somewhere doing depositions or whatever, Thor was off planet as usual and Bruce was either on walkabout or at a scientists retreat or something) with a beaming smile on his face - the first real smile Clint thought he might have ever seen on Steve’s face since they met.

Of course, Clint hadn’t known Bucky would be that spector from his past - one that Clint had known by a different name, just like Natasha had once been Natalia - until he showed up.

They all had pasts of one kind or another, usually best forgotten. Steve was unlucky enough that nearly every iota, every facet of his life was open to the public - or had been. Tony wasn’t much better off.

Clint feared the day that level of scrutiny was brought to bear on him. He had been extremely lucky that some of the less savory aspects of his past had been left out of SHIELDS (and HYDRA’s) files.

But that was neither here or now. Here and now, Bucky was standing beside Steve, eyes gone wide in shock as he recognized Clint.

“Rob?” Bucky asked, a little hesitatingly, the way someone who couldn’t trust their memory would ask it. Which, yeah.

“Just Clint, actually,” Clint said awkwardly, rubbing at the back of his neck. “Heh, guess I wasn’t the only one keeping secrets back then.”

“Wait, you and the terminator here know each other?” Tony asked. “How the fuck?”

“It was years ago, before I was with SHIELD. We played house for a couple of months, then we had a big ass fight, I left to clear my head and when I got back he was gone,” Clint shrugged. “Figured he’d done what everybody else had ever done - gotten wise and split.”

Bucky’s face went pale and his eyes were pain filled. He opened his mouth to speak but couldn’t seem to find the words, because he closed it again. 

“You thought he just ran out on you?” Steve got over his shock enough to blurt the question in disapproving disbelief - whether over the idea that Bucky might do that, or that Clint might impugn Bucky’s honor in believing that he would, Clint wasn’t sure.

“In my defense,” Clint rushed to assure Steve. “That was more on me than him. I've never thought I was worth much of anything. Figured it was just par for the course. Of course, now that I know who he was … I’m guessing that wasn’t what happened.”

“Clint…” Steve looked stricken.

“Oh, don't worry, cap. I'm better now. I mean, New York was a bit of a setback, but…” Clint let it trail off because the truth was, New York had been more than a ‘bit of a setback’.

“For what it’s worth,” Bucky said softly. “I’m sorry. I - I don’t remember everything, yet - I don’t even remember why we fought - but I would never have…”

Bucky shook his head, eyebrows scrunching as he struggled to remember. “I went after you, I remember that much. But I don’t remember if it was minutes or even hours, but then... there was… there was a man following me. I thought it might be HYDRA. I couldn’t let them near you.”

“Taylor,” Clint couldn’t help the name that slipped from his lips, the one he’d actually known Bucky by, just as Bucky hadn’t known Clint’s true name. Clint had known then that it wasn’t his real name, but he’d never pushed, because Clint had never given Bucky his either.

It had been a long time ago when they met anyway, back when his world was shaped differently.

He’d been between the circus and SHIELD, when he kept trying to find a way to start clean, start new. He’d told anyone who asked that he was Rob Francis, not wanting any of his old cronies from the circus to find him and finish what they’d started.

Maybe it had been stupid, to use his middle name for a last name, but none in the circus had known it. He’d always been boy, then Barton, then Clint, eventually, till at last he’d had some worth in their eyes as Hawkeye.

But things had soured at the circus, he’d had a few false starts but was determined not to fall into their ways.

That was when he’d met Taylor. Taylor Grant, Bucky had been calling himself. And that was another thing Clint was just realizing, where Bucky’s chosen name had come for, at least in part.

Bucky had had shorter hair then, and his eyes had looked tired and haunted but they’d been captivating all the same, calling to Clint like a moth to flame.

And Taylor had been Clint’s flame. They’d set up shop in a less than savory neighborhood, neither of them having much money for better. Clint, with his lack of education and babyface, was only able to find odd, under the table jobs while Taylor had been a bouncer at a bar.

It hadn’t been perfect - hell, it had been a fucking struggle - but Clint had loved Taylor enough to stick things out, to at least try for something more, something better.

It had been a stupid argument that had Clint running off to be alone, something so goddamn stupid, he couldn’t even remember it, almost 20 years later.

They’d had more than one in their time together. It was harder for Clint to hold on to his anger back then, when he was younger, when the betrayal of his circus family and his brother was so fresh in his mind. But Clint remembered his father’s temper clearly, and he’d sworn he would never become like him. It hadn’t been the first time Clint had taken himself away to calm down, but this time, when he’d come back and Taylor had been gone, it had broken Clint. 

He’d given up on trying for better. 

And now, he was finding for the first time that Taylor - that Bucky - hadn’t left Clint out of anger, or because Clint had been a fuck up. He’d left to protect him. How long had Bucky been able to stay out before HYDRA got their hands on him again?

Clint’s heart ached for the person he’d been, for the pain he’d felt, for the things he and Bucky had lost and everything Bucky had to have gone through. He’d already sympathized with Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, when Nat had told him what had happened. But it ran even deeper than that now, to when Bucky was Taylor and they’d been Taylor and Rob. 

Bucky looked at Clint earnestly. “I can’t remember how long we were together, or what color the walls were - “

“Purple,” Tony coughed behind his hand. Clint flipped him off without once taking his eyes off Bucky.

“Or your favorite food or how we got money. I don’t… but none of that is important. The second I saw your face, I remembered you . The sense of you, the feelings I had - still have? - for you,” Bucky finished, looking at Clint in somewhat of a near panic, his face pale and tired.

“Hey, don’t sweat it,” Clint said hoarsely, giving Bucky a warm smile. “I’m a different person than I was then, and you aren’t exactly the same guy I remember either. We’ll just start over again, learn about each other fresh.”

Steve was looking between them now with a soft, sappy smile. Clint thought there might even be tears in his eyes. “Buck… I’m so glad that… that there were at least a few times in your life when HYDRA didn’t have you and you were happy. And Clint, thank you , for being that happiness for him.”

“Okay, when did I sign up to be in a Hallmark movie?” Tony complained. “You guys are all so sentimental. You’re killing me here. Besides, don’t kid yourselves, if we were in a movie, I’d be the lead, not Robin Hood and Terminator.”

Bucky’s mouth shaped the name Robin Hood and his eyes had a light bulb moment that caused a small, but incredulous smile to tug at his lips. Clint watched it forming and felt an old familiar swell of feeling - faint with age, but still there.

Oh no.

Was he still in love with Bucky Barnes?

Cap was gonna kill him. Maybe. Clint tore his gaze away from Bucky with difficulty - he still wanted to stare at every inch, take in all the differences and changes - to look at Steve and yeah, Steve was still beaming at Clint with a grateful, happy look.

It was kinda weirding Clint out, actually.

He was almost prepared - but definitely expecting it - when Steve cornered him later, Bucky and Tony eyeing each other uneasily across a table. Tony’s eyes had that glint in it that usually meant he was about to do something inappropriate by most people’s standards.

Clint sure wouldn't have left Tony and Bucky alone together if he’d been Steve. But he wasn’t Steve and really had no claim to Bucky. The man Clint had known maybe wasn’t the same man anymore.

“Needed to get something off your chest, cap?” Clint asked when Steve had finished drawing them both out of earshot - though how good that was when JARVIS could hear everything and when Bucky’s ears were probably just as enhanced as Steves, Clint didn’t know.

“It’s just…” Steves’ eyes flickered over to Bucky, then back to Clint. “You two were stepping out together. Did you know who he was?”

“Easy, cap. It was a long time ago and I was an uneducated kid. I had no idea who he was, nor would I ever have entertained the possibility that some guy who should have been dead 50 years was my boyfriend, even if I had thought there was a resemblance. Everyone out there has a doppelganger, you know that, right?”

“What about the Winter Soldier?” Steve asked. “You worked for SHIELD and even Nat knew who he was.”

“Noooo,” Clint said slowly. “I mean, yeah, we knew the Winter Soldier was more than a ghost, a story to scare the new kids. But we didn’t know his identity.”

“But if you were... intimate ,” Steve said, a blush forming over his face. “Shouldn’t you have recognized that he was the Winter Soldier? And when the Winter Soldier’s identity became known - “

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Clint said, holding up his hands to stop Steve in his tracks. “You askin’ me why I didn’t connect a guy I knew for a few months, way back when, with a stone cold killer with a metal arm? You’re asking how I could possibly know the Winter Soldier had a metal arm and not go ‘ oh yeah, didn’t I once date a guy with a metal arm? ’ almost 20 years after the fact?”

Steve looked taken aback by the vehemence of Clint’s words. “Well first off, Steve, Taylor - as I knew him then, was nothing like the Winter Soldier. The gentle, caring soul that I knew had a tough side, but it was a side he hated to use. The Winter Soldier was a robot. They were nothing alike , and I don't care how good of an actor you are, you can’t hide something like that if it’s truly a part of your nature. I may have been young, but I was very far from naive by that point. So no, I didn't make the connection that Taylor was the Winter Soldier and therefore your best friend.”

“But his arm - “ Steve said weekly. “It’s pretty defining -”

“Hate to break it to you, but he’s not the only one rocking a prosthetic. And it wasn’t as advanced back then as it is now.” Clint sighed, raking a hand through his hair. “Look, Steve, I don't know what you’re looking for from me. What difference would it have made if I had known? At any point along the way?”

Steve looked so… lost, so devastated and then suddenly Bucky was there, beside them, grasping at Steve’s shoulders. “Stevie, it ain’t R- Clint’s fault. Even if he’d realized the situation I was in, there wasn’t anything he or anybody could have done about it. Not then.”

“But Buck -”

“I’m out. You got me out,” Bucky said softly. “You tore it all down and I’m safe.”

Clint decided to slip away, leaving them to what was obviously a private moment and then, for good measure, decided to leave the common floor entirely in search of… anything else but more heart to hearts.

He needed to think.


Living with Bucky again was torture. Pure and simple.

Clint kept forgetting he was Bucky . It shouldn’t be hard to remember. The hair, the bulk, the haunted eyes, the slightly deeper voice . Even the clothes were different. He was skittish, too, in a way Taylor had never quite been.

Though there had been signs of it back then, too. Just, Clint had never known what it was and he’d been a little too caught up in his own shit to understand it, really.

Still, Bucky was here, and he was here to stay, and Clint had to keep reminding himself that it was Bucky, not Taylor. But that was hard to do when Bucky kept doing things that only Taylor would have done.

Like that first time Clint had shuffled into the common room one morning after Steve had brought Bucky home, like the absolute zombie he was pre coffee, and Bucky had been there. One glance at Clint, and Bucky was handing him a mug of coffee - not black, the way Clint often drank it because he was too impatient, too lazy or too dead on his feet to bother – but doctored up, just the way he liked it.

Something only Taylor and Natasha had ever known.

He stared at Bucky after his hands automatically took the mug and downed it in one long gulp. Then the taste of it registered on his tongue and his eyes went wide. Bucky stared back.

“You remember?” Clint asked, voice rough and a little shaky.

Bucky shrugged, looking down at his hands in confusion. “Not really? But my hands were already moving. They just… seemed to know what to do.”

“Oh,” Clint said, trying not to let his disappointment show, because, really, what right had he? Bucky wasn’t Taylor. Bucky was Bucky. And Clint knew that there was such a thing as muscle memory. Hell, he counted on it sometimes, having trained himself to the point that some of the things he did was pure instinct.

“I’m sorry, if you’d rather I not – “ and now Clint felt like a heel, because Bucky was looking a little panicked.

“It’s okay,” Clint rushed to say. “It’s good. It’s… thank you.” He smiled as broadly as he could at Bucky and tried to ignore the little swoops in his belly as Bucky’s whole face brightened and his demeanor shifted, to something a little straighter, a little pleased.

And so now that was how Clint took his coffee, nearly every morning he managed to drag himself out of bed if he wasn’t off on a mission. He tried not to give Bucky heart eyes every time the man greeted him with a mug, but judging from the blush that rose in Bucky’s cheeks, Clint wasn’t quite successful.

Bucky didn’t bring it up, but neither did he stop giving Clint his coffee and Clint… wasn’t sure what to do with that.

But aside from that, things were… good. Normal.

Ish.

Maybe.

Okay, so Clint had a hard time taking his eyes off Bucky, but he was bound and determined not to push the guy or make him uncomfortable. That time in their lives was long past and Clint just… needed to get over it.

“You are not over it,” Natasha said.

Clint groaned and rolled over onto his stomach, clutching the pillow tight to his chest and burying his face in it so he didn’t have to look at Nat. Why was she always right?

Fingers threaded into his hair and scratched at his head and he melted into a pile of boneless archer like he always did.

“But what am I gonna do, Nat?”

“What do you want to do?” she asked, her fingers retreating as she stretched out on the bed beside him, calmly picking up some knitting. He was probably the only Avenger who knew she knitted, and he was relatively certain she’d stab him with the knitting needles if he ever let that slip to the others.

“Doesn’t matter what I want,” he muttered.

She sighed, but let it drop. For now. With Nat, it was never really over. This was an old argument between them , about his inability to believe he was anything good. But it wasn’t that. It wasn’t about his self-worth or lack there-of. It was about Bucky and Bucky’s choices.

That was all.

Besides, like he’d told Steve, he’d been getting better. His self esteem was much higher now than it had been when he first joined SHIELD. It’d had a new low after the disaster with Loki, but he was better. The support of the team had done that, and Clint wasn’t going to yank that away from Bucky by making things awkward for him.

Except… it was just so hard.

And not in the good way. Fuck, Clint, get your mind out of the fucking gutter for once. But Bucky was just as sweet as he remembered, always going out of his way to help folks, even if he didn’t feel comfortable leaving the tower just yet.

But the team? Yeah. He was always there to hand Clint his coffee in the morning, and sometimes at other times of the day too. He braided Nat’s hair and let Steve use him as a cushion. He liked to cook, too, and was often found making treats just because he was bored. Or anxious. He silently helped Sam with his jigsaw puzzles (and safeguarded the pieces from any trolls wanting to pull a prank. No, Clint did not know who what could have been. Just… it was a challenge, okay? And how could he pass that up?)

Bucky also let Tony and Bruce both use him as a sounding board even when he didn’t have a clue what was going on, but then sometimes said or asked something so insightful, the science bros would completely flip out and disappear into their labs for days at a time.

(And then Bucky absolutely brought them meals, asking JARVIS to let him know if they hadn’t been eating).

The longer Bucky stayed at the tower, the more he joined in on team activities too. First meals, then movie nights, then game nights – board games, video games, whatever (he drew the line at karaoke though, which Clint thought was a shame). He watched the team sparring, a silent spectator at first, and then offering up critiques, though he declined all invitations to join with a murmured, “Not yet.”

All in all, he settled in, and endeared himself in just about every way. And then always seemed so surprised whenever anyone wanted to help him through one of his rough patches or bad nights.

It was a little heartbreaking – and absolutely too familiar.

But the team was family. Even in those early days, when it was still a very rough family, they’d still had each other’s back, even if Clint had been too stupid to realize it at the time. And Bucky was family now too – first, because of Steve, but also because of him.

So, if space wasn’t what he needed, the team were there for him, the way they always were for each other .

Nat would paint Bucky’s nails, Steve would read to him, and Tony would send Bucky’s favorite bot – FDR, Clint thought it was called, who was really a glorified Roomba but, like all of Tony’s bots, definitely had personality – up to play with him. Bruce would bring him up to the rooftop gardens and engage Bucky in gardening, while Sam cajoled him into trying out new recipes with him. Clint, on the other hand, made it his task to make Bucky laugh by doing the most ridiculous things he could think of.

It still made a part of Clint preen with pride whenever he managed to coax a husky laugh out of Bucky.

Like using Steve’s shield as a frisbee down in the gym, or the time he turned the hallways into bowling alleys or convinced the bots to put on a parade through the tower dressed as the Avengers.

His favorite, though, was getting JARVIS’s help in redecorating the common room by way of holograms, not every day, but each time a different theme. So far he’d done rainbows, puppies, Captain America everything (with a few bobble heads to boot), purple (of course), an amusement park, all the candy ever, and scenes from Bucky’s favorite sci fi’s.

Once he’d even done a Where’s Waldo, and that had quickly turned into a competition while JARVIS kept score.

So, all in all, life was good. The team was family and so was Bucky. Clint still went on missions – both for the Avengers and the newly revamped SHIELD – and if he still pined for Bucky Barnes (made all the worse by getting to know him all over again), that was nobody’s business but his.

And, apparently, Nat’s. Because she knew everything.


Clint slumped in after a mission.

It was late, and he was in pain, and he was tired and he probably should have checked in with medical, but he knew his injuries. They weren’t life threatening, just annoying, and he really didn’t want to deal with any lectures. He could patch himself up. He’d done it before.

Of course, that was probably best done in the privacy of his own quarters but he didn’t want to fall asleep in the middle of stitching himself up, so he decided to drop into the common area first for a bit of coffee.

His bow and quiver were left on the table on his way into the kitchen, where he could already smell the coffee percolating.

“You’re the best, J,” Clint said with a happy groan, working his uniform shirt up over his head and briefly getting tangled in it before it dropped away from bloodied fingers to the floor. He pulled down a mug and set it beside the coffee machine, only just registering another mug already waiting there just as JARVIS responded to him.

“Actually, Agent Barton, I believe that Sergeant Barnes is responsible for tonight's pot of coffee.”

“Oh, well then, I must thank him the next time I see him,” Clint said. He leaned back against the counter and let his eyes rove over the kitchen but he didn’t see anyone, which was maybe a little odd, given the brewing coffee. Oh well, whatever. Bucky would make his presence known if he wanted to.

Clint looked down at his naked torso and started poking at it, giving it another assessment as he twisted this way and that. Meh, not too bad, actually. Some impressive bruising. Could probably get away with taping some of the cuts shut too, instead of actual stitches.

A sound made him look up and oh, there was Bucky, staring right at him with wide eyes. For some reason, Clint actually blushed.

“What, not like you haven’t seen me half naked - or even all naked before,” Clint said defensively. And wow, that was weird. Why was he being defensive?

Bucky shook his head. “Don’t remember you being all banged up then,” he said. He finally approached and his hands reached out, tracing over Clints chest, featherlight and very careful. Clint's breath caught and his own fingers froze. He stared at Bucky, who wasn’t looking. 

“Did you always have so many scars?” Bucky’s voice was almost too quiet for Clint.

“Nah. That's what years of hard living will do when you're not a God or enhanced or, y'know , encased in a suit of armor.” Had Bucky not noticed them before, despite the many times Clint would show up shirtless in the mornings ? Ah, Bucky, ever the gentleman, he supposed. Probably hadn’t wanted to get caught staring.

But now, now he was. And more than that, Bucky was looking at him with a kind of awe that made Clint squirm

“And yet you still put yourself out there, throw yourself into the fray, regardless of your own safety,” Bucky said.

Clint shrugged uncomfortably. “It's just... Something I gotta do.”

Bucky stepped back, giving Clint space. “Where’ve I heard that before?” he said wryly.

“Anyway, I'm not so bad. Just a few bandages, I'll be right as rain before you know it,” Clint said, flashing Bucky a smile.

“Yeah, no,” Bucky said. “We’re going to look over those properly.” He stepped aside and started rummaging under the counters. 

“Uh, what are you looking for?”

“First aid kit,” Bucky grunted. “Don’t most people keep one in the kitchen?”

Clint shrugged, turning away with a lurch to avoid staring at Bucky’s ass while he was bent over. They weren’t like that anymore. That was incredibly rude. Even if it was a very nice ass. He fumbled for the mug and the pot and poured himself a nice, fresh cup, then filled the second mug too. “Uh, maybe? I don’t really know what normal people do. But we do, cause I stash them everywhere.”

Bucky stood up, triumphantly holding the first aid kit. “Okay, sweetheart, go sit down - yes, you can take the coffee with you - and I’ll patch you up.”

And there it was, yet another way that Bucky took care of the team, or at least Clint. Clint wanted to melt. Instead, he flashed Bucky a cheeky smile around the lip of his mug and made his way to the table and a chair, saying, “My hero.”

Snorting, Bucky pulled another chair over, close to Clint, and set the kit on the table, opening it. “Yeah, that’s not exactly me.”

“Bucky,” Clint said, then stalled. He didn’t know what to say. He’d been there, done that, Tony would probably get a t- shirt made if Clint even hinted that he wanted one. But what could he really say that would make anything better for Bucky?

“Hey, don’t worry about me, doll. Let’s worry about this gash over your ribs.”

“It’s fine, ” Clint said, trying to wave it away. “It’s not that deep. Just steri-strip the sucker, or maybe a little super glue.”

“You gotta take better care of yourself,” Bucky said. He hesitated. “Did you… Did you really mean it, that first day, that you didn’t think you were worth much?”

“I mean, that was a long time ago, and at that point, not very many people gave me reason to think otherwise. My own brother betrayed me not long before that,” Clint said with a bitter twist to his lips.

Distress showed on Bucky’s face. “And then I left…” he whispered. 

There was silence as he worked, hands gentle but strong, warm and caring. Clint’s skin tingled at the touch, at the memory of long ago touches and kisses and things Clint hadn’t known he could have. He struggled to push that back down, sipping at his mug to give himself an excuse not to break the silence.

Finally, though, the coffee was gone and the last bandage placed and Clint carefully put the mug down as Bucky put away the first aid kit. “I’m in therapy now, y’know? Most of us are. Probably all of us, but I’m not asking Nat or Tony - “

Bucky chuckled. “Wise idea.”

Clint huffed out a laugh too. “So yeah. Sure, I have self-esteem issues. Some childhood trauma I’m not getting into right now, and then New York… but in the end, I’m somewhere where I feel like I actually belong, doing something I'm really good at, and doing some good with it. So I'm in a better place than I was. And you gotta know, I never blamed you, even before I knew there were extenuating circumstances. Fuck, just knowing that you left because you were trying to protect me… it means more than you know.”

“Probably the only good thing I've done in 70 years.”

“Nah, that ain't true. I’m pretty sure I remember a lot of good deeds from when we were together, things you did around the neighborhood. Everything else - that was HYDRA. It wasn’t who you really were. All the things that made you you , all your kindnesses and generosity and strength of spirit - they may have tried to strip it away, but look at you - here, now. Still helping others.”

Bucky’s eyes were suspiciously wet as he stared at Clint. “I think I remember... A little white cat…”

Clint laughed. “Yeah, you wanted to adopt her so bad, but then the girl next door, Annie, she was only 8 years old, well , she’d lost her mom and that cat had been the first thing that made her smile in months. You gave up that cat in a heartbeat. See what I’m sayin’?”

“It don’t stack up against the other things, didn't make much difference or impact, not like what they made me do,” Bucky said, his hand clenching into a fist.

“It made a difference to her,” Clint said softly. He reached for Bucky’s hand, cradling it in both of his, uncurling his fingers one by one and stroking along them soothingly. 

Little by little, Bucky relaxed, and his breathing evened out.

“Y’know, something else I've remembered?” Bucky asked slyly.

“What’s that?” Clint said, looking up into smoldering eyes that made his insides turn somersaults. The hand not cradled in Clint’s reached out to cup Clint’s jaw and draw him in as Bucky leaned over.

“This,” he whispered, before pressing his lips against Clint’s, soft and plush and warm.

Their lips moved against each other for a few moments and then Bucky started kissing along his jaw, to the bolt of Clint’s neck.

The kisses had been chaste, but this was full of sin, Clint’s eyes rolling up in his head as Bucky mouthed and sucked along the long length of Clint’s neck. Because Bucky had remembered, had remembered that one spot that drove him mad, that made him gasp and clutch at Bucky, pulling him into his lap. 

Bucky went easily, the chair creaking underneath their weight. 

“Oh Jesus,” Clint said around a shuddering breath, as Bucky’s lips played him like a violin and his hands wandered over Clint’s mostly bare torso, careful of the bruises , each fingertip trailing fire. “I was always putty in your hands.”

Clint’s hands, sunk into the folds of Bucky's sweater, unclenched enough to frantically pull the sweater up and out of the way. Within seconds, Bucky was pulling away, his lips swollen, eyes hazy, as he tore the sweater off the rest of the way

“Beautiful,” Clint said with awe, eyes tracing over the muscles, taking in all the changes between the Bucky from way back and the Bucky from now. He’d always been muscled, always been strong, but he was a little thicker than he was before. Clint's hands tickled up over Bucky’s sides, then across his abs making Bucky suck in a breath and his stomach twitch.

Clint let his fingertips tease at the edge of Bucky’s pants then slid upwards to tangle in the dark chest hair before sweeping up and over those shoulders and meeting behind Bucky’s neck, drawing him back down. 

With a groan, Bucky let himself be pulled in and this time when their lips met, it was open and messy, frantic and wet. Bucky rocked against Clint, his hands braced on his chest, then sliding upward. 

Letting go of Bucky’s neck, Clint let his fingers trail down the spine of Bucky’s back till they reached the edge of his pants once more. This time, without hesitation, Clint plunged his hands into the back of Bucky’s pants and grabbed handfuls of naked flesh, urging Bucky to move, to grind down on Clint

Clint moaned, his hips rising to meet Bucky’s. Beneath them, the chair creaked ominously but Clint was past caring. This was right. Him and Buck. It had always been right in a way he’d never understood. The specter of what he and Taylor had once been had colored nearly every other relationship Clint had ever tried, despite his best efforts to forget.

He should never have tried to.

Bucky’s hands were in his hair now, drawing Clint’s head back so he could return to his neck. And oh, that was heaven. There was only one way to make it better - 

Clint abandoned Bucky’s well-formed ass to shift his hands to the front, fumbling at the buttons and zips of their jeans, Bucky's hips stuttering under his hands as he realized what Clint was doing.

“Oh god, oh Jesus, doll, ” Bucky breathed into Clint’s skin. He leaned back, hands still gripping Clint’s hair, looking down as Clint drew them both out of their pants. Clint gathered their dicks in a large, one handed grip and Bucky whined, thrusting into Clint’s hand, their dicks sliding together.

Clint’s eyes fluttered shut, head falling back in the chair, supported only by Bucky’s hands now. Bucky’s cock felt hot and heavy in his hands, electric against his own dick. Wishing he had lube, Clint spread the precome around best as he could around their lengths to make the slide of their cocks even easier.

“Fuck,” he panted. “Jesus, I’m so close already.”

“Me too,” Bucky groaned, rocking their hips together. “Fuck, next time we’re finding a bed and you’re gonna fuck me into the goddamn mattress.”

The thought of it made Clint’s eyes white out and then he was coming with a shout, driven by the feel of Bucky on top of him, the pull of Bucky’s teeth on Clint’s lower lip, the slide of their cocks pulsing in his hand, thrusting against each other and the image of Bucky, laid out on his bed and Cling sinking into him -

Bucky wasn’t far behind him and soon their chests and hands were both painted with come as they leaned into each other, breathing hard.

“Jesus, doll, that’s better than I remember,” Bucky said, a dopey smile on his face. He made no move to clean them up or to tuck himself back in, just looking down at Clint happily and very much satisfied, like a cat that got the canary.

Harsh, cold reality shoved its way over Clint, knocking him over the head. He jerked in the chair, though Bucky wasn’t dislodged or shifted in the slightest.

“Oh god. Is this a good idea? We don't really even know each other any more,” Clint said in the aftermath. Nat would be proud of him. Big boy words. Talking. All that jazz. Even though the words ripped him up inside just to say them. 

Bucky looked at him, suddenly uncertain. “Did you not want that as much as I have?”

“Fuck, yeah” Clint reassured him, placing his hands around Bucky’s waist and giving him a good, quick squeeze. “I really did. I just…” He lifted one hand up and stroked it over Bucky’s cheek, loving the bit of scruff there that Bucky had been letting grow. His choice. Choices. “You don’t remember all that much - I feel like… like I manipulated you into this.”

“Oh sweetheart,” Bucky said, looking at Clint far too fondly as he covered Clint’s hand with his own, trapping it against his face even as Clint tried to guiltily pull it away. 

“Bucky, you gotta see how… how irresponsible - how selfish - it is of me to -”

“Shhh…” Bucky said, placing a finger over Clint’s lps. It was very effective in shutting him up. Well, how about that? He hoped Bucky didn’t tell Cap or Tony that. Or maybe it was just that it was Bucky.  “ There was nothing that just happened that I didn't want. My memory from before may be full of holes, but the ones I’m making now are here to stay. And I've learned who you are all over again. Sure, I’m still learning, but everything I find just reinforces the idea that you’re special . That I once did and still have feelings for you, and that they’re only growing the longer I know you. And doll, I want something between us, if you want it too. I want to at least try, anyway.”

“Fuck,” Clint breathed. “How could I possibly say no to that?”

“Don’t,” Bucky whispered. “If there’s even a remote chance that…” Bucky paused and leaned forward, touching their foreheads together, his eyes squeezing shut. “Dammit, I used to know how to use my words. How can I even convince you to give us a shot, a fighting chance, if I can’t even find the fucking words?”

Bucky’s voice cracked and Clint’s heart soared and broke almost simultaneously.

“You don’t need words, Buck,” Clint whispered. Bucky’s eyes opened, glistening wet and both fearful and hopeful at the same time, his teeth coming out to bite at his bottom lip. Clint resolutely managed not to look down - 

Okay, he totally looked.

Taking a breath, Clint refocused on Bucky, staring into his beautiful, gray blue eyes. “I’m not much good with words most times either. Either the speaking or the listening. You gotta have noticed that sometimes I don’t seem… fully aware of the things going on around me. It ain’t all about mornings and lack of coffee. We’ve both changed, Buck, and I ain’t told you ‘bout all of it yet, but if we do this, you’ll find out for sure, sooner rather than later. And if you really want to try this then… I do too.”

The blindingly bright smile that formed on Bucky’s face was a thing of sheer beauty. It made Clint want to draw, to capture the brilliance of it for all eternity instead of having to rely on his memory. 

And then Bucky was tilting his head and their lips were meeting in the softest, gentlest kiss Clint could ever remember and the thought was chased away as he was consumed by the wholly fluffy feeling that was enveloping his very being.

If it wasn’t love, then it was a damn close.