Tony had room to accommodate everyone at Stark Tower, even if the top half of the building had been partially destroyed. He had let them all know, with a mouth full of pita, that they were all welcome for as long as they needed. Natasha, Clint, and Bruce were in. Steve tried to think of a place to go, but he had no place. So, he agreed. Thor declined. He would accompany his brother to S.H.I.E.L.D. The god of thunder kept watch by his brother that night.
The heroes disappeared into the night.
In the confines of Stark Tower, locked away in various rooms that night, were six people hiding in the darkness. They were finally trying to dress their wounds. Some however were dripping with more blood than others.
On top of the still made bed, Pepper held Tony and listened as he tried to make sense of it. She knew he knew it didn't matter, but that he needed to say it. Together they grieved for Phil. Tony felt he had failed him in the worst way. In his mind he could see Phil's mild mannered fierceness. He and Pepper already missed him and it hurt. Earlier, Tony wiped tears from her eyes as she expressed what she had felt when she saw him disappear through that portal. "I was never going to see you again." She gently wept into his chest. His hands cradled her head against himself. He whispered into her hair. "I'm sorry." There was nothing else he could have said. It hurt and that was all.
Bruce punched out the mirror in his bathroom and proceeded to cry himself to sleep in the empty tub. He didn't know why. He felt too much. There was, of course, the ever present anger. Then there was a fear and an overwhelming sensation of a new freedom that he didn't know if he could handle. There was the relief of having let loose. An excitement for being a part of something good and saving lives. It was like his swollen heart had finally been lanced and was draining out. It hurt. It was good and it was necessary and it had been a long time coming, but it hurt. The tub walls gave him a sense of security, of containment. It made him feel safe. Safety had been out of his reach for so long now.
Steve lay alone. Completely and totally alone. He simply did not sleep. He stared at the ceiling. He tried to pray. He thought about Peggy. That is when he too began to cry. He was alone. He covered his eyes though there was nobody to hide from. Steve was impacted by the force of how profoundly out of place he was. And it hurt.
In Barton's given room Natasha and Clint sat together just looking out the window. Both agents were no longer clad for battle. Clint wore a dark hooded sweatshirt and grey sweatpants. Natasha wore a t-shirt and black hands were clasped tightly together as they leaned on each other, seeking safety. When the two of them were alone, there was no hesitation to display the full extent of their trust and reliance on one another. Eventually Natasha said she needed to sleep, and rose to leave, but Clint didn't let go of her hand. She cocked her head and questioned him with her eyes.
"Tasha, please stay." was all he asked.
He could admit it to her. He didn't want to be alone. Not after what was done to him, what he did,.
"Ok" she said "I will."
She then settled into the bed. It was not strange for them to share a bed. They already shared a life.
Clint stayed by the window for a while after she lay down. There was a lot still on his mind.
When his head finally hit the pillow nothing happened. Neither one of them could really sleep. She woke up so many times that she eventually gave up and chose to take up watch on the windowsill. She alternated between watching Clint (try to) sleep and looking out over the half ruined city. Every so often he would look over at her and then, as if reassured by her presence, he would roll back over. Eventually Clint did fall asleep and stay asleep.
Natasha's eyes never got heavy so she remained where she was. Near dawn, he cried out in his sleep. Natasha looked up sharply. "Clint?" He gave no response. He was not awake and suddenly thrashed violently. "Get out!" He screamed. Natasha was nearly paralyzed by the sound of his voice. She had never heard that kind of vulnerable pain from him before. Shaking it off, she got off the window sill and sat on the bed beside him. Barton's hands were now clutching his head. "Please! No"
Gently her hands rested on his. "Clint."
He awoke abruptly and scrambled up into sitting position. His eyes darted around trying to focus. "Oh fuck!" He gasped hard for breath. His chest heaved with great effort.
"I'm here." Natasha said in her usual steadiness.
He looked at her and, as his eyes acknowledged her, his face fell apart. He couldn't even try to stop it. This was something she had never before seen. Barton began to sob. Taking in breaths that seemed to tear through his chest and pushing out the most raw, ugly sounds. Natasha moved closer to him and put her arms around him. He seemed to drag himself into the refuge of her embrace, his arms wrapped around her, his face buried in her shoulder.
"He can't hurt you." She soothed, her voice never losing it's serious tone, no matter how much feeling her heart contained.
"I killed you!" Came his muffled voice. The words were fragmented by sobs.
"He made me! I couldn't stop it."
Their trust was total, but physical boundaries like this had never been crossed. She had not been there for him in this way before, but he needed it now. Clint had experienced the temporary destruction of himself, and had been forced to watch. Natasha pulled him closer and gently pressed her face to the side of his. She whispered to him "I'm here. I didn't let you hurt me."
She could even be trusted her to save herself from him. Another harsh sob wracked his body. He had a fistfuls of her shirt in each hand as he held onto her, having no one, nothing else in the world. Just her.
There was nothing to be said, no excuses, no reasons. Loki exploited all that Barton had to offer and now Clint was reeling. He had spent all day at 100%, with enormous amounts of focus and no lack of things to focus on, but now there was nothing. It was just him alone with his own mind. He felt in this moment as though, when Loki had pulled him out and stuffed in all of his malice, that it hadn't fit. It broke the structure and that structure, now emptied, began to collapse.
Now, he just cried. That's all he had. He'd killed good men. He had destroyed things he lived for and he had attempted to take down his only friend in the world. Natasha was his whole family. She was Nat, the only one he loved.
Clint continued to cry for a long time and she didn't let him go. Eventually his sobs faded into steady breathing, and when the morning sun had finally filled the room, he had exhausted himself. Soon, Natasha began to feel the dead weight of his sleeping body. When she had carefully lowered him back down, she examined his face. His red and puffy eyes were now closed and calm. She pushed some of his hair off his sweaty forehead and then quietly lay back down beside him. Natasha closed her eyes and fell into heavy sleep.