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Losing your mind felt different from what Clint had always expected.

Not that he had thought that much about it. Never wanted to. Always thought he'd be far too strong to ever fall prey to someone else's agenda. That was the kind of thing people tended to think, and he knew it. "Victim" refers to someone else, until it doesn't.

He knew Natasha had been through something like this, this reprogramming, people reaching in through your ears and changing your mind because they like you better that way. Does he still care about Natasha he thinks he does he wants to care about her but the tesseract the mission the mission and he wants to scream until her name means what it used to mean. No one would ever say Natasha was weak. So it's not his fault. And what it entailed was... different from what he might have expected.

He didn't expect to spend an evening sitting on a bed with his master's head resting in his lap, with no other duty than to stroke his hair.

"I killed my father," Loki said softly. No emotion in his voice, at least not one that Clint could recognise. "There's some part of me that thinks that should be a significant fact to take away, but I barely think about it. Except to think that I'm not thinking about it. The only reason I still care is that being able to say I killed my father for you should have merited something more significant than..." He sighed. "I killed a man to show Odin that I was his son. Instead I showed him that I could kill my father without flinching."

Clint thought that at least he knew his priorities were messed up. He also thought that some father figures deserved killing, but wondered if Loki had killed the right one, all things considered. He thought he opened his mouth to say so, but when he managed to order his words he found his lips stubbornly sealed. He wasn't expected to offer any input then. He swallowed the observation and slid his fingers behind Loki's ear. He was rewarded with a gentle sigh, and knew that had been the best thing to do.

His master, his broken exalted enlightened depraved master spoke to him in a stream that went from monotone whispers to truths that tasted so bad he spat them in fury. Clint accepted every grievance and tilted his head to provide better access to his throat every time Loki's rage was great enough that he might need a quick kill. But though Loki had his hand around Clint's neck once he sighed and fell back into his lap unsatisfied. Clint wasn't sure whether to be relieved or disappointed, and he didn't think the screaming voice of reason in the back of his mind would be able to tell him.

A spark caught in him at some point. Not resistance, or anything he could use as resistance. That was all too far away from him. But as his master hollowed him out and stuffed him full of secrets, a spark caught, of curiosity. Just a little yellow-hot thing in the depths of him where he still had thoughts. And it was smothered there, with nothing to fuel it and it died, and it died, and it died.

There was something that was making lists, cataloguing and keeping the most dangerous secrets. Loki spoke about his brother; about gods who were locked in battle and war and hate and love and that was important. Loki told him about the army that waited at the other end of space, and Clint parsed what information he could around the lurid descriptions of what they had done to ensure Loki's subservience. He took note that what they thought they had ensured they had not, because that was something that would be useful and at last he realised why he was doing it. This was information he would have taken back to Phil in another life, something that could save lives in the battle to come. A faint smile touched his lips at the thought of Phil, no, weeks-long stakeouts and arguments about politics and teasing his handler, no, they were all things of the past, it must be something else at the realisation. Old habits died hard. The only person he wanted to please now was Loki, and all this was something he already knew.

As he unburdened himself, Loki began to feel paradoxically heavier where his body rested on Clint's. Or perhaps it was the weight of the knowledge being forced on him that made Clint feel that way. Loki told him things he never had call to know, never wanted to know. Things that no human should know. They'd driven Loki mad, what would they do to-- but not mad, Loki wasn't mad, not really. He knew what he wanted and he would have it, that was all. But the watching part of Clint, the Hawkeye that still loved Natasha and feared for Phil and wanted to be away from the Tesseract and home, that part wondered why, if Loki was in such possession of himself, why he would be trying so hard to make Clint tell him he should stop.

"Sometimes," he said in a voice like a hollow star, "I wonder if I ought to say it aloud. Not to anyone, just... aloud."

The spark flared up, struggling into a flame and Clint asked, "Say what?"

Loki looked up. He was too... too, to look surprised, but he paused, and swallowed heavily, and fixed his eyes on a pipe on the opposite wall. His head was tucked into Clint's neck against his shoulder. He breathed deeply, for so long that Clint thought he had decided not to answer. The flame died, and he mentally shrugged it away. Only then did Loki speak again.

"...I'm sorry."

Clint said nothing, and slid his fingers behind Loki's ear.