He doesn't tell anyone, sharing isn't really his style, but having Loki wheedle his way into your mind isn't something that you simply recover from. He has nightmares. Nightmares that cling to him, sit on his chest so he can't breathe, startle him awake in the night, shaken and chilled with sweat. He wakes trembling, fumbling from the covers, desperate to check the mirror. Every time a sliver of ice stabs into his heart when he looks at his own reflection, because every time he worries it isn't him anymore. Whose eyes are going to look back at him?
He would tell Nat, should tell her, but damn it if she isn't dealing with her own shit, she sure as hell doesn't need to deal with his demons too. Besides, it's hard to look at her sometimes, when the shadows of his nightmares bleed onto reality, and he swears he can see bruises on her skin. They used to spar, because she was as good as him, better, and he liked the challenge, but he can't do it anymore. Not right now. Pretending to want to hurt her makes him remember.
She doesn't talk either, though. He guesses at it, assumes that he knows what's eating at her, from what Loki asked him. But Natasha is a little too much like him, a little too broken to tell him how she's doing. All he knows is that when he's looking down from his roost, the dark smudges beneath her eyes match the ones he's been cultivating under his.
The problem with the dreams isn't that they're gruesome – he's seen enough gore to fill a lifetime of nightmares, and he used to sleep pretty well – but that they're personal. Twisted shit, blood on his hands, in her hair, the light fading from her eyes, with his name on her lips. Then there's the numbness, the distance he felt when he was torn out of his own head fading, to be replaced with horror at what he'd done. Revulsion. And the problem is that he can feel it. She knocked him upside the head and he'd woken up as Clint again, but he can feel it, like an infection in the back of his brain. He was weak enough to be unmade the first time, he could be unmade again, and be something else in an instant.
When he wakes up from the dreams, nightly occurrences, he's torn. He wants to see her, to be able to reach out and see that her skin is unbroken, and be reassured that he isn't the monster of his nightmares, but he's afraid to see the real damage. Just because he hasn't killed her, doesn't mean he hasn't broken her. He gave Loki the knife to bury in her back. Eventually, to quell the inner struggle, he takes to hanging in the hallways outside her room. He can't sleep, so he might as well do what he does best, keep an eye on everything; he'll keep her safe, from a distance, that is. He hears her sometimes, murmuring in her fitful sleep, and he wants to help, would, if he knew how.
It's one of those nights, and he's leaning outside her door when it slides open without warning. She's standing in the dim lighting, red hair clinging to her forehead, skin shimmering with sweat. He can see the fading images of her nightmare in the shining of her eyes, and he's lost. He knew he didn't want her to suffer, but seeing her like this makes an ache in his chest that stabs at his ribcage. He doesn't remember making the decision to move, but he finds himself holding her, her cool skin warming against his. He pulls away after a time, arms on her shoulders, holding her away and holding her steady all at once.
He opens his mouth to speak, but she silences him with a raised hand.
"It's ok, Clint," she says, haltingly, but the words fall feeble from her lips, and they both know it isn't true. After a beat she tries again, "it will be okay." The words do something to him, simple though they are, soothe something inside that's raw. He can't help but shake his head at this impossible woman, comforting him of all things, telling him that everything will be alright. He sighs, and suddenly his limbs are leaden, dragging him down with more weight than even his guilt could manage. She is pulling him toward her bed, dragging him forward before sleep pulls him under. Before he can even protest she's tucked under his arm, head resting above his heart, and he's settled into the mattress with a sigh. His eyes drift closed, and for the first time in weeks, he falls asleep, untroubled by dreams.
AN: I'm definitely done this time. The idea of exploring Clint's side has been nagging me for a while, but now that I've gotten this out of my system, there won't be any more updates. Thank you so much for reading, and if you would like to, press that little button and review.