Steve's released from the hospital the day after he wakes up. He's planning on calling a cab when Clint and Bruce show up.
"I'll just go home," he says when Clint asks where he's going. He's confused by the look of frustration on Clint's face and the matching raised eyebrows from Banner.
"It's got heating, I've got food, what's the problem?" He asks.
Clint huffs out a breath and shakes his head.
"Nah. You're coming to Stark Tower."
Rogers frowns. "I'm fine, got the all clear. You don't need to watch out for me."
"We're a team, Steve, it's what we do," Bruce says, his voice level.
"Yeah, well, look how well that turned out," Steve snaps. He wishes he could take it back immediately, watches as Barton's face pales, then hardens.
"Fuck you," Clint hisses. "Do what you want."
He storms out of the room and Steve drops his head.
"Damn it," he mutters.
"You scared him," Banner says. "All of us, actually."
"Sorry," Steve says sullenly.
"Don't apologize for that. You couldn't have helped it. But this? This macho bullshit you're pulling? Yeah, that one you can apologize for."
"I'm not being macho! I don't need to have a team of bodyguards watching everything I do. I just want to go home and sleep and get ready to go back out there! Is that so unreasonable?"
Bruce frowns slightly.
"Okay, Steve. Do you want a ride or are you calling a cab?"
"A cab is fine," he answers. Bruce doesn't even hide the concern in his eyes, but he just nods.
"Whatever you think is right," he says, then walks slowly out of the room.
Steve sighs heavily and sits down on the bed. He knows what his teammates did for him while he was in the coma, saw the picture and heard the music, heard about the watch they'd set up- but he's behaving like an ass and can't bring himself to change anything about his behavior.
What the hell is wrong with him?
He picks up his bag and calls a taxi, sits in the backseat with his head against the headrest. He doesn't even realizes he's fallen asleep until the taxi driver, young and clearly nervous, tentatively calls his name.
"Sorry," Steve murmurs.
"It's okay, man," the kid says earnestly. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah," Steve answers, and fumbles the money out of his pocket. He gives it to the kid and trudges up the stairs to his apartment- damn elevator's still broken down. By the time he gets to his door he is breathing heavily and weak in the knees, and he fumbles to get his key in the lock. His apartment is freezing. He turns on the heater then collapses onto his bed.
He just needs rest. He'll feel better when he wakes up. Everything will be better.
"He wasn't acting like himself. At all," Bruce says. "He was distant, and… kind of mean."
"Rogers? Mean?" Stark says with a snort. "The man's the most chivalrous person in New York."
"Yeah, well, he's an ass," Clint says.
"You don't think there could be some, you know, residual effects his injuries?" Pepper asks. She's come to act as a sort of motherly figure to the team when they're all at Stark Tower, and when she'd heard Steve wasn't coming, she'd been the one to call the emergency meeting they are all currently attending.
"I doubt it," Bruce says.
"He's just an ass," Clint repeats.
"Not helping," Bruce says, shooting the archer a glare.
"We could kidnap him," Thor suggests. "Force him to come here."
"Because that would go over well," Natasha says. "No, we should just leave him alone. Sometimes it takes time to get over shit like this."
Clint nods in agreement. "Sometimes almost getting killed can screw with your head," he says. "He's still an ass though."
He flips Bruce off without even looking as the scientist glares at him again.
"I do not like this," Thor says.
"Me neither," Pepper agrees.
"It doesn't matter what we want," Bruce says. "It matters what he needs."
Steve wakes with a start, heart thudding in his ears. He runs a shaking hand through his hair, checks the clock and groans. He's only been sleeping for an hour. He lays there for a moment, hoping he'll be able to fall back asleep, but he can't even force his eyes to stay closed.
"Damn it," he mutters, then climbs stiffly to his feet. He still feels weak and just… achy. The bruises that had been on his chest from the compressions are already faded, but there is still a deep hurt in his chest. He pours himself a glass of orange juice and sits heavily at his small table, groaning as his head pounds. He rests his head in one hand and breathes slowly. Turns out that being technically dead for a while is no cakewalk even with the serum.
He finishes his orange juice and struggles to his feet, shuffling slowly into his front room. He flips on the TV and settles on some game show he doesn't really care about, wraps the blanket around his shoulders, and takes deep breaths. Maybe, if he's lucky, he'll be able to fall asleep again.
Clint knows that they had tentatively decided to give Steve some space for a while, but after only a few hours he's more anxious than he would care to admit. Waiting has never been a strong point for him, especially when he has it in his control to do something.
He debates for a moment whether to knock at Steve's door or not. If he just walks in and Rogers is startled and in better shape than Barton suspects, he'll take Clint out with no hesitation. But if he does knock and Rogers just doesn't want to see him, the super soldier will just leave him outside.
He decides on the element of surprise, gently trying the doorknob. It's locked, of course, but Clint has his lock picks with him, and it only takes him a few seconds to get it open.
"Hey Cap?" He says quietly as he walks into the room. It's comfortably warm, bordering on hot, and the TV is on. "Steve?"
"What're you doing here?" Steve asks quietly. He doesn't look up from the TV. He's watching reruns of Family Feud. Clint raises an eyebrow.
"Checking on you. Why are you watching Family Feud?"
"I don't know, to be honest."
Clint sits down next to him and looks at his friend. Steve is pale and has lost weight. There are dark rings beneath his eyes. He looks awful.
"Sorry," Steve says, looking at him with baleful eyes. "For what I said. Earlier. I know you did your best, I don't blame you. Hell, it was my fault if anyone's."
Clint raises an eyebrow at Steve's use of profanity.
"I-I don't know what's wrong with me," Steve continues quietly.
"Are you sleeping at all?" Barton asks.
Rogers sighs and shakes his head. "Not for lack of trying," he says. "But I keep waking up."
Steve doesn't make eye contact but nods slightly. His jaw is clenched and he stares down at his lap.
"Sometimes it's you-all of you- dying. Sometimes it's that I never actually- that I just- that I'm still in the ice. And when I wake up, I'm scared that it's not today anymore, it's the future, you know? Sometimes I can't even fall asleep because I'm scared I won't wake up."
Clint listens sympathetically. He doesn't know what to say, what platitudes to offer that could help Steve. Part of him wishes he'd brought Pepper. She's better at this kind of thing. Or Banner. He winces internally. Maybe this wasn't the best idea.
"It- I mean they, the nightmares, they stopped after a while, or at least I was able to deal with them, but now, I guess with this injury and everything, they just- they won't stop."
"And I'm guessing you still feel weak and all around shitty?"
Steve barks out a startled laugh.
"That obvious, huh?"
"You look like shit."
Rogers sighs. "Well, thanks for your honesty, I guess," he says.
"Any time," Clint answers. They sit in silence for a moment.
"I'll stay here," Clint says eventually. "I'll stay, and I'll watch you, and I'll make sure you're okay." He hopes that isn't as creepy as it sounds in his head and pushes on.
"And I'll have my phone, so the others can call me if anything happens. I'll watch your back."
Steve looks at him with a mixture of embarrassment and gratitude.
"You'd do that?" He whispers.
"I won't let anything happen to you," Clint answers with a ferocity that startles even him.
"Okay," Steve breathes. "Okay. I'll try."
"Here or your bedroom?" Clint asks. He doesn't even make a dirty joke. Nat would be proud.
"Here's fine," Steve answers. He looks uncomfortable, the way his neck is angled, so Clint gently pulls him over so that Steve's head is resting on his thigh.
"You won't tell anyone about this."
"Never," Steve says, his breath exhaling in a puff of air. He's already dozing off. Clint smiles and grabs the remote, turns off the TV and lets himself be lulled to sleep by the steady rhythm of Steve's soft breaths.
Nat shows up not fifteen minutes later. Clint blinks awake and opens his mouth to say something, but Natasha shakes her head and puts a finger to her lips. She curls around Steve's other side. Rogers doesn't even budge.
Thor almost manages a quiet entrance, but he bumps into Steve's table and sends a chair careening to the floor. Natasha almost shoots him and Clint tightens his grip protectively around Rogers. Thor grins and shrugs, then stretches out on the floor, bunching his cape under his head. Steve just keeps sleeping.
Banner does manage a quiet entrance. None of the sleeping superheroes stir as he walks around Thor's sleeping form and lays down under the window, perpendicular to Thor.
"This is the cutest thing I've ever seen," Pepper whispers when she and Tony walk in.
"Ssh," Tony says. "Don't wake them." He snaps a picture of the sleeping friends with his phone, then yawns and stretches.
Pepper looks at him quizzically.
"Guess I am kind of tired," Tony explains. He takes the only remaining floor space and ends up cuddling near Thor.
"Cute. You're the small spoon," Pepper says.
"Don't care," Stark mumbles, already half asleep. Pepper smiles, takes another picture, then leaves, quietly shutting the door behind her.
Steve wakes up, heart pounding, sweat beading on his forehead.
"Hey," someone mumbles, a clumsy hand patting at his head. "You're okay."
"Huh?" Rogers mumbles, glancing sleepily around. There are people sleeping everywhere. Thor is snoring and Banner is curled up like a kitten and Natasha is on his legs. Tony is sleeping by Thor, one arm flung over the Asgardian, and that leaves Clint as his pillow.
"The heck?" He mutters.
"Shut up," Clint says, voice thick with sleep. "Jus' sleep."
Steve closes his eyes.
A/N: So this is called Group Hug because that's what the working title of the Avengers was. SO. COOL.