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Clint’s on his feet and out the bedroom door before he wakes up enough to realise he can hear Loki screaming. He slams through Loki’s door with enough force to bounce it off the wall.

Loki sits up as Clint gets to the bed and bursts into tears, reaching out for him. Clint picks him up and he burrows into Clint’s chest, clinging desperately.

The door hits the wall a second time as Tony and Bruce crash in, followed closely by Steve lugging his shield.

“It’s okay,” Clint says over Loki’s hysterical crying. “It was nightmare-screaming, not being-murdered-screaming.”

Tony sags theatrically. “Jesus, my heart. My adrenal glands.”

Loki wails and tries to cling harder, so Clint tucks Loki’s head securely under his chin and hugs him as tightly as he can without hurting him. The reinforced embrace seems to help - the edge of hysteria in Loki’s voice softens a little bit and Clint can start to make out some words here and there, mostly ‘Thor’ and ‘sorry’ but it’s pretty easy to fill in the rest.

Bruce’s face twists in sympathy. “I guess it was just a matter of time, huh?” He grabs the blanket at the foot of Loki’s bed and tucks it gently around them both, building a shield between Loki and the rest of the world. Loki’s grip on Clint relaxes a fraction and Clint gives Bruce an encouraging smile as thanks.

“Do you need anything?” Steve asks from the doorway. Tony’s already vanished.

Clint shakes his head. “I think we’re okay. Sorry to get you all up.”

“We can count it as the bi-weekly surprise drill,” Steve says, shrugging.

Bruce steps back reluctantly. “I’ll get your phone from your room so you can call us if you need help,” he says. “And I’ll put a glass of water on the bedside table - crying that much is very dehydrating.”

“That’s a good idea. Thanks, Bruce.”

Once the others have gone (Steve has to tug the doorknob free from the plaster wall in order to shut the door - after the second violent opening it’s probably a miracle the thing’s even still on its hinges), Clint shifts until he’s leaning against Loki’s headboard. It takes a while but Loki’s tears eventually fade to exhausted whimpers and Clint gets him to drink a little water. He doesn’t say anything and only the way he reaches up occasionally as if to make sure Clint’s still there indicates he’s even aware of Clint’s presence.

Loki has another nightmare a few hours later, but doesn’t wake fully and calms down when Clint makes soothing noises and rubs his back. Clint wakes up the next morning still leaning against the headboard, his neck in agony and his spine apparently fused. Loki is drooling into his shirtfront, totally wiped out. Clint leans them both over sideways until he’s more or less horizontal and falls asleep again.

The next time he regains consciousness Loki’s woken up too, although he’s still curled up in Clint’s arms. One of his knees is doing something unfortunate to Clint’s intestines.

“Morning, kid,” Clint rasps.

“Good morning,” Loki says to Clint’s sternum.

“How’re you feeling?”

“I’m fine please don’t tell Thor I was scared,” Loki says, and buries his face in the blankets.

Clint pets the back of Loki’s head with one hand. “We all have bad dreams, kiddo, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. We won’t tell him if you don’t want us to.”

Loki nods but doesn’t raise his head.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Headshake.

“That’s okay, you don’t have to. Do you want breakfast?”

Headshake.

“Do you... want an elephant?”

There’s a pause, and then Loki cautiously raises his head. “Are you being ridiculous on purpose or is that an honest question?”

Clint regards him seriously. “I am without a doubt being extremely ridiculous.”

“Okay.” Loki rests his head back on Clint’s arm. “I want to... I want to not be brave,” he says quietly, picking at the edge of the blanket.

Clint pets his head again. “What do you mean, kiddo?”

“I...” Loki makes a face. “...It is nothing. I am speaking nonsense.”

Clint frowns. “Are you worried about trying to change Steve back? Did something happen with the device that you haven’t told us?”

“No, no,” Loki says, patting him comfortingly on the chest. “It is just a feeling. Pay it no mind. I think I would like breakfast now.”

Clint lets it go, but he takes Steve aside at the first opportunity and tells him about the conversation.

Steve thinks it over for a long moment. “I wish he’d said something more concrete,” he says finally. “I think we’re just going to have to be more on our guard. Unless he tells us something we can work with or gets a more specific feeling, there’s nothing we can really do.”

Clint sighs. “Yeah, I know.”

Steve pats him kindly on the arm. “I know you’re worried, Clint. We’re just going to have to trust that Loki knows what he’s doing. So far that certainly seems to be the case.”