Clint knew Tony was remembering, that his mind was going back to that cave in Afghanistan. Clint needed to pull Tony back, but he didn’t know how. He had never felt so helpless.
The house was silent when Clint entered. His worry immediately increased. “….Tony?” He moved further into the house, looking around. “Tony?”
All of the lights were on. That NEVER happened. Tony usually forgot to turn on the lights at all, or only turned on the light in the room he was in. But the lights were on in every single room. Fuck. Clint was really beginning to worry. “Tony, where are you?”
He found Tony in the living room. Tony was curled up in a tight ball on one of the couches, burrowed deep into the pillows, knees drawn up to his chest, arms wrapped tightly around himself. He looked up at Clint, and Clint felt as if someone had slapped him in the face. There was a look in Tony’s eyes that Clint had never seen before. It was fear, plain and simple. Tony was scared. Clint had never seen Tony scared.
He moved to Tony, sitting beside him. “Hey.” Tony was stiff, and rigid, unmoving. “Hey, Tony.” Clint stroked Tony’s hair, his back. “…c’mere.” He gently tugged at Tony’s hands, loosening the grip Tony had on himself, pulling Tony out of the tight ball he had curled himself into.
It was as if a dam broke. Tony practically threw himself into Clint’s arms, clinging. Clint was getting really alarmed now. Tony wasn’t just scared, he was terrified. Clint wasn’t sure how to deal with this. “Hey.” He stroked Tony’s hair. “You’re okay. I’m here.”
“Sorry.” Tony’s face was buried in Clint’s shirt, his voice muffled. “M’sorry.”
“Don’t be. Don’t be sorry.” Clint pulled Tony closer, shifting Tony into his lap. He had no idea what he was doing. He kissed Tony’s forehead, trying to shush him, to calm him. “Shhh…”
“Can’t. Can’t.” Tony’s voice was choked now, and Clint realized that Tony was crying. Fuck.
“Tony….Tony, it’s okay. I’ve got you. You’re safe.”
“I know. Just……I can’t do that again. I can’t.” Tony was clutching Clint’s shirt, and his hands were shaking. Clint knew Tony was remembering, that his mind was going back to that cave in Afghanistan. Clint needed to pull Tony back, but he didn’t know how. He had never felt so helpless.
“You won’t have to. Ever. I won’t ever let anyone hurt you. You hear me?” But there was no answer, just Tony’s gasping breath, choked with tears, and Clint was beginning to freak out. Tony was broken and Clint didn’t know how to fix him. I am the worst boyfriend ever.
“Tony…..” Clint glanced around him, spotting the worn quilt at the edge of the couch. Stretching out his arm, he grabbed it, and wrapped it around the two of them, forming a cocoon of warmth. “You’re okay. You’re here with me. You’re safe. I’ve got you.” He stroked Tony’s hair, kissing his head, gently rocking him. “No one is ever going to hurt you. I won’t let them.”
It seemed like hours before Tony’s tears began to subside, though it couldn’t have been more than an hour. His breath began to even out again, the shakes abating. Clint slipped a hand beneath Tony’s chin, tilting his face up.
Tony’s cheeks were flushed and stained with tears, but it was his eyes that hurt the most. Those beautiful brown eyes that Clint loved so much were filled with pain and tears. Clint gently brushed away a tear with his thumb. “….hey.” He leaned in, softly kissing Tony. “I love you.”
Tony almost looked as if he were going to cry all over again. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. Don’t be sorry.” Clint kissed Tony again. “You have every right to be upset. You went through something terrible. But you’ll never have to again. I won’t let it happen. I’ll never let anyone hurt you.” He stroked Tony’s cheek. “You know that, right?”
Tony nodded. “Yea. Yea, I…….sorry.”
“Shut up. Told you, don’t be sorry. Just want you to know…I’m here for you. Always.”
“I know.” Tony shifted in Clint’s lap, finally letting go of Clint’s shirt and wrapping his arms around Clint’s neck. Clint became aware of how wet his shirt was from all of Tony’s tears. “I really do know. I trust you. You always take care of me.”
“Yeah. And I always will.”
This time, it was Tony who initiated, kissing Clint. Clint took that as a sign that Tony really was calming down. He pulled the man closer, cupping his cheek as they kissed, smiling when they separated. “Hey…..how about we get you in some pajamas…..get in bed.”
Tony managed a smile. It was small, but true, not forced or fake. “Yea…..that sounds good.”
“Okay.” Clint unwrapped their quilt-cocoon and Tony slid from his lap. But Clint could tell Tony still wasn’t completely at ease. He slipped an arm around Tony’s waist, pulling him close, maintaining contact all the way back to the room. He honestly had no idea if he was doing any of this right, but Tony had at least calmed down. That was good. And he wanted to make sure Tony knew that he was never going to leave. Never. Maintaining contact seemed to be a good way to do that.
Clint pulled out a pair of his own pajamas and, without even questioning it, began helping Tony into them. Apparently this was the right thing to do. Tony looked much happier as he slipped into Clint’s pajamas.
Clint separated from Tony only long enough to put on some pajamas himself, and then he crawled into bed, holding out his arms. “C’mere.” Tony was immediately beside him, snuggling into Clint’s arms. Clint stroked his back soothingly, kissing his forehead. “Try to sleep.”
“……don’t think I can.”
“I know. But try. I’m right here with you. I’ll take care of you.” He gave Tony another kiss. “I love you. So much.”
“I love you too. I….” Tony’s voice was soft, and hesitant, and so unlike him. “……thank you.”
Clint gave Tony a light swat to the back of the head. “Shut up. Dork. I love you. You don’t need to thank me.”
“Told you to shut up.” He tugged a lock of brown hair. “And sleep. I love you.”
Without even looking, Clint knew Tony was smiling. “I love you too.”
It had taken hours before Tony had fallen asleep, but he had managed, and though he had woken up three times from nightmares, Clint was just happy that the man had slept at all. With the way he initially reacted to news of the kidnapping threat, Clint hadn’t had much hope of Tony getting ANY sleep.
Unfortunately, it didn’t seem there was much chance of getting Tony to move on much farther. He had gotten up, dressed, and headed straight to the lab without eating a thing, and didn’t show any signs of leaving.
“Tony……” The man didn’t look up from his work. Clint sighed. “Tony. You have to eat something.”
“Tony, I will force food down your throat if I have to.”
Tony’s eyes flicked up, glancing at Clint. “……I don’t believe you.”
“You wanna try me?”
The two men just stared at each other for a long moment, but it was clear who was going to win the fight. Clint held out a muffin; Tony snatched it out of his hand with a scowl. “Pain in the ass.”
“You need to eat.” Clint watched as Tony began dutifully eating the muffin. “Sides, we need to leave soon. Coulson called a meeting of the Avengers.”
Tony was very purposefully not looking at Clint as he answered. “I’m not going.”
Clint wouldn’t say he’d been expecting this, but after last night, he’d been worried something like this would happen. “…..Tony….”
“I’m not going.”
Clint rose from his chair, moving to Tony, who was still very deliberately ignoring him. “Tony…..what’re you gonna do, just never leave the house again?”
“No. I’ll leave.” He fiddled with his work, yanking off the top of a toolbox and tossing it aside. “…..eventually.”
“Tony.” Clint grabbed Tony’s shoulders, forcing the man to face him. “Look at me, dammit.” Those brown eyes reluctantly met Clint’s blue ones. “I meant what I said last night. I’m never going to let anyone hurt you. Ever. Okay? That doesn’t just mean here at the house. It means anywhere and everywhere. Wherever you are, I’ll take care of you. You said you trust me.” He looked deep into Tony’s eyes. “……were you lying?”
“No!” The answer was immediate. “I trust you more than anything!”
“Then listen to me! I’m gonna take care of you! I’ll always take care of you!”
Tony was silent, simply looking at Clint. After a moment, he nodded. “……yea….I……..sorry.” Clint gave him another swat to the side of the head. “Hey!”
“I told you not to apologize.”
“Okay, okay.” Tony’s mouth curved in the tiniest of smiles. “….I love you. I’m sorry if it seemed like I didn’t trust you.”
Clint shook his head. “It’s okay. You were upset. Just…….do…okay? Do trust me. Cuz it’s true. I’ll never let you down.”
“I know. I really do know.”
“Okay.” Clint kissed Tony, and Tony moved to meet him, arms slipping around Clint’s waist, pressing into him. Clint pulled away slowly, with a little smile. “…..you okay to go now?”
Tony groaned. “Do we REALLY have to? I don’t wanna go to a stupid meeting.”
“Unfortunately, we do.”
Clint laughed, guiding Tony towards the stairs. “Well, how about a compromise. After the meeting, we go do something fun.”
“Sounds good to me.” Tony pushed open the door. “Oh! Oh! Can we TP Coulson’s car?”
“God, you really do have a death wish, don’t you?”
“Haha what? He’s fun to annoy.”
“You know, maybe if you were nice to him, he’d actually like you and be nice back. Food for thought.”
“Psh.” Tony grabbed the keys to the car. “Coulson will NEVER like me. Besides, where’s the fun in THAT?”
Clint just shook his head. “You’re such an asshole.”
Tony grinned, leaning back against the car. “Yup.”
Clint shook his head, smiling, and moved closer. “So……should we stop at the store, then? Pick up some toilet paper?”
Tony’s eyes widened; a surprised grin spread across his face. “You serious?”
The grin on Tony’s face filled Clint with warmth. He was so relieved to see that smile after last night. Tony had seemed broken. Clint had been terrified that the damage was irreparable. That smile showed Clint that Tony was going to be fine, and Clint couldn’t help but smile himself. “Yeah.”
“And you say I have a death wish. You’re the one who has to work with him every day.”
“Yeah, but he likes me.” Clint ran his fingers through Tony’s hair, eliciting a happy hum. “So……grocery store, then meeting, then we TP Coulson’s car?”
Tony grinned. “Sounds perfect.”
“Well, then, we better get going.” Clint slid into the car, leaning out the window to smile at Tony. “We’ve got a meeting to attend.”