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Amateur Theatrics

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“He finally go to sleep?” Clint asks, slinging the dish towel over his shoulder.

Steve rubs his eyes. “Yeah. He made me read him a chapter out of the Physics Textbook for Scientists and Engineers and I had to leave the rest of his books behind when I left so he wouldn’t freak out, but he’s asleep.” He gives Clint a baleful look. “Feeding him two bowls of ice cream for dinner didn’t help. I’m surprised you didn’t make him sick.”

Clint winces. In retrospect it probably hadn’t been a great idea to pair Loki’s anxieties over fixing everyone magically with his own guilt - the sugar high and resulting meltdown had been pretty epic. For both of them, he’s ashamed to say.

“You should have some real food before you go out on patrol,” Steve tells him, digging in the refrigerator. “I can make you an omelette or something.”

“Thanks, Mom,” Clint says.

Steve just rolls his eyes. “At least this is something I can do to be helpful,” he says, and then tries to cover the truth of what he’s just said with a smile.

Clint winces again. “Hey,” he says, putting his hand on Steve’s shoulder. “You’re still the brains of this operation. If tonight has proved anything it’s that we’re useless and prone to making bad choices without a good strategist. Or tactician. What’s the difference, again?”

Steve’s smile firms a little. “Very funny, Hawkeye,” he says, and Clint pretends that hadn’t been an honest question. “Looks like it’s neuroses night at Avengers Mansion, I guess,” he adds sheepishly.

Clint lets it go; they’re a team made up of misfits and everyone’s got their own quirks and hangups and things they absolutely don’t want to talk about. They’ve all learned to step back and not push too hard. Except Tony, but he’s the one paying for repairs so it all evens out in the end.

Patrol goes pretty smoothly - there’s not much happening in the city, but Clint makes sure he’s seen by a few crowds of people and that one of the paparazzi gets a good shot of him coming and going and calls it a success.

There’s a light on under Loki’s door when he tiptoes down to his room. Clint sighs and edges the door open; Loki’s seated cross-legged in the middle of the floor, surrounded by books and diagrams. He’s scribbling furiously on a piece of printer paper and chewing on his lower lip. He doesn’t even look up as Clint enters.

“Hey. Kiddo. Time to put it away and go to bed, all right?”

Loki waves him off. “I am almost - I thought of something else, it will only take a moment. I will be back in bed by midnight, I promise.”

“It’s two AM, kid. Back to bed.”

“I need to finish this,” Loki says, voice cracking a little.

Clint sighs. “You’ve got ten minutes to finish that thought,” he says, and makes a show of looking at his watch. Loki makes an irritated sound and scribbles faster. To Clint’s uninitiated eye it looks like a bizarre mix of runes and equations, although Loki’s childish hand might be confusing the issue somewhat.

“Time’s up.”

Loki looks up. “I can do this,” he insists.

“Kiddo, I have no doubt,” Clint says as gently as he can manage. “But if you don’t get any sleep you’ll be exhausted tomorrow, and everybody makes mistakes when they’re tired.” He pulls out the big guns. “Even Thor.”

Loki’s face crumples. There are already dark shadows under his eyes. Clint sighs.

“Look... just lie down for a few minutes. Take a little nap and I promise I’ll let you work when you wake up.”

Loki blinks up at him. “Half an hour,” he says suspiciously.

“Half an hour,” Clint agrees.

“You’ll set an alarm?”

“Doing it now,” Clint says, pulling out his phone and setting it to silent.

“I suppose a brief nap wouldn’t hurt,” Loki says grudgingly.

Clint tucks him into bed, eyes the way he’s practically vibrating with tension, and lies down beside him. “I’ll rub your back a little,” he says. “My mom used to do this for me when I couldn’t sleep.” And then his brother did it, for a little while after their mom died. Then he’d decided it wasn’t macho enough. Clint has always regretted that.

Loki blinks at him, eyes already getting heavy. Bingo. “It feels nice,” he says sleepily. “When we were little and I couldn’t sleep, I used to climb into bed with Thor. But then he outgrew the nursery...” his voice trails off. “I used to read when I had nightmares,” he mumbles, eyes sliding shut. “This’s better... I like that Midgardians are so tactile...”

Clint keeps rubbing Loki’s back. It’s soothing for him too, frankly, and it’s been a long day. His phone vibrates at the half-hour mark, and Clint decides to give Loki another few minutes to get really asleep before he tries to move. Loki’s bed is awfully comfortable, actually...