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“Tell me about these?” Clint traces calloused fingers over three pale, barely-there lines of white scar tissue on Phil’s back. He feels Phil tense under his touch but doesn’t draw back, doesn’t speak. He waits.

Phil draws in a sharp, steadying breath and rolls up on his side to face Clint, draping his arm over the younger man’s waist. Clint’s hand settles on Phil’s neck, thumb brushing soothing circles over his thrumming pulse.

“My dad,” he says, his voice low and flat, like he was delivering a briefing. “He served in Vietnam and just . . . couldn’t let it go. He was a mean drunk. His weapon of choice was his belt. But his fists would do when he didn’t have it. I was the preferred target, but my step-mom would get it sometimes. Emily . . . he got Emily only once.”

“What happened to him?”

“He--,” Phil hesitates. It’s on the tip of his tongue: “killed himself,” but he can’t make the words come out.

He has never lied to Clint in the history of their association. He has withheld information, even misdirected him, but he has never lied. He could say: he d and still be telling the truth, but this . . . this is different. Clint has trusted Phil with his secrets and his life. Clint has the right to know that he’s been sleeping with a murderer.

He’s terrified of what Clint might say, what he might think. Being with Clint makes Phil want to be a better man, the man Clint has always deserved, but this . . . this could change so much. But if anyone were to understand, if anyone were to accept it, Phil thinks it would be Clint. Phil is self-aware enough to know that he doesn’t want to carry this sin alone anymore. He doesn’t want absolution, or even forgiveness, he just wants someone else to know.

So, with his heart in his throat and his blood thrumming with suppressed panic, Phil says: “I killed him. When I was fourteen I took his service revolver and shot him in the head.”

Clint’s hand freezes, his entire body going rigid under Phil’s arm. Phil draws it back, sits up on the bed and doesn’t look at his lover. He feels cold, skin bristling with goosebumps from the loss of contact. He focuses his eyes on the door across the room and lets the confession fall from his lips.

“He was passed out on the couch, my step-mom was at work and Emily was asleep. I took his gun, put it in his hand, and shot him. I called the cops and told them it was a suicide.”

He doesn’t tell Clint about the fresh welts on Emily’s back. He doesn’t tell Clint that his father had taken the same revolver and shoved it in his step-mom’s face and threatened to kill them all if she tried to leave him. He doesn’t tell Clint that his dad used the butt of the revolver to break Phil’s ribs when he got a C on his history test three weeks earlier. He doesn’t tell Clint about the cops who stopped responding to 911 calls because they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do anything to help.

He doesn’t think about the fact that his dad bought him his first Captain America comic when he was five years old and home sick with the flu. He doesn’t think of the good, sober days when his dad would patiently help him with his math homework or when he first started dating Beatrice. He doesn’t think about their wedding and how a six year old Phil had been the ringbearer or the day Emily was born. He doesn’t think about the overwhelming grief on his dad’s face when Samantha died.

He waits, silent and still for whatever judgement Clint passes on him.

He doesn’t need to look to know that Clint is staring at him, he can feel the archer’s eyes boring into his back. He clenches his fists in the covers and makes his face as blank as he can manage. The silence is condemnation enough.

Feeling sick with guilt and terror, Phil forces himself to move. He swings his legs over the edge of the bed and reaches for his discarded t-shirt.

Clint grabs his wrist, hard enough to hurt. Phil is startled enough by the sudden contact that he flinches and turns to meet Clint’s eyes.

What he sees there makes his legs weak with relief so strong that he’d have fallen if he’d been standing. There is no condemnation in Clint’s eyes, no accusation, nothing but grief for a teenage boy who’d seen no other way out.

“Jesus, Phil,” Clint breathes. “Just...fuck. Who else--?”

“Just you,” he says. “You’re the only one I’ve told. I think Nick suspects, and maybe Beatrice. But you’re the first.”

Clint looks stunned, eyes wide and vibrant blue in a pale face, and it quickly turns to something Phil can’t read before he’s being crushed against Clint’s chest. Phil clings back, burying his face in the archer’s neck and ignoring the sharp stinging in his eyes.