The thing about all of the Avengers living together is that they’re all pretty immature when you get right down to it. They all missed out on really having a childhood, to varying degrees, so when they start to relax around each other, when they realize that everyone else gets it, they revert to teasing and ribbing and playing pranks, which escalate to full-on wars more often than not, which is why it’s not really unusual to see Clint making his way toward Tony’s room with a bucket full of ice water. It’s Tony’s fault, really. If the man wouldn’t work himself until he passed out for twenty-eight straight hours, Clint wouldn’t feel the need to wake him.
Clint quietly pushes open the door to Tony’s room and slips inside. Tony is sleeping on his back at the edge of his large bed, one arm curled up underneath his pillow and the other thrown across his chest. Moving stealthily, so as to not wake the genius up and ruin the prank, Clint reaches the edge of the bed and, unable to contain his grin, dumps the water onto the sleeping figure.
He expects yelling and cursing, and attempts at hitting him which will undoubtedly fail, and some retaliation later in the day when Tony is actually awake and able to think of an appropriate prank. What he doesn’t expect is for Tony to bolt straight up, eyes jumping around the room frantically, a mantra of “I won’t, I won’t” falling from his lips, and an expression on his face that hits Clint like a punch to the gut. It’s an expression he’s worn many times before, an expression he’s seen on Natasha’s face, on Steve’s and Phil’s and a dozen random agents’, because it’s an expression that belongs to people like them. It’s the expression of someone who is somewhere they’re not, the expression you wear when you relive something no one should have to live through in the first place.
Clint sinks to his knees beside the bed to be level with the other. “Tony? Can you hear me? Listen to my voice. Do you know who I am?”
Tony’s eyes jump to Clint. They take a few seconds to focus, but when they do, he whispers, “Clint?”
“Yeah. Yeah, buddy, it’s me. You’re safe. You’re home.”
Tony’s gaze jumps around the room once more, before he closes his eyes and presses the heels of his palms against them.
“You are indeed safe, sir,” the AI responds at once, voice soft and soothing. “You are in your bedroom in Avengers Tower in New York City. The other Avengers are here as well. You are safe.”
Tony nods, pulling his knees up so that he can wrap his arms around them and drop his head to rest against them.
“Can you, can you just keep talking?”
“Of course, sir.”
The AI begins to take roll, telling Tony where all of the Avengers are and what they’re doing. He ends with, “Agent Barton is currently kneeling at your bedside.” There’s a pause before he continues.
“My most sincere apologies, sir. Had I thought that Agent Barton’s actions-”
“It’s fine, JARVIS. Doesn’t matter.”
“With all due respect, sir, it does matter. My primary function-”
Tony finally looks up, eyes fixed on the wall ahead of him. He’s still ashen, still shaking and breathing hard and tense, but he’s there, his eyes are there, with them, in the present, and that’s the most important part.
“I’m fucking nuts, that’s not your problem.”
“You’re not nuts, Stark.” Tony’s gaze slides over to Clint’s kneeling form. “You have flashbacks. You’re not the only one on this team with PTSD.”
“Hey. We’ve all been through shit, okay? You’re not, like, broken.”
There’s a pause and then, “It was Afghanistan, right?”
Tony licks his lips and nods. “They uh, they wanted me to build them a weapon. The Jericho missile. I said no. They… they tried to convince me.”
It’s not hard for Clint to put two and two together.
“They waterboarded you.”
“Technically they just shoved my head into a bucket of water.”
“Shit, I’m sorry. I didn’t know. If I had-”
A silence falls over them. After a couple of minutes Clint stands. A shaking hand closes around his wrist before he can move to leave.
Clint nods and sits were Tony’s made room for him, ignoring the wetness that soaks through his pants. He gingerly puts his arm around the other’s shoulders, watching for signs of distress at the contact, but Tony buries into his side and Clint tightens his hold on him. After a few moments Clint begins to sing. It’s a folk song the gypsy lady had sung to him when he was sick, back from his days in the circus. It’s stupid, but it always made him feel better. Even now, he’ll sing it to himself when his own demons coming knocking at the door, and it helps keep them at bay. It’s for no other reason than that that he sings it for Tony. He doesn’t stop until Tony’s tremors run out.