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I'm Seeing Ghosts

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Bruce couldn't sleep. He was exhausted and aching and he should have been out like a light, and yet here he was, wide awake in the early hours of the morning.

Clint, on his right, had an arm thrown across Bruce's chest, his fingers pressed in Bruce’s shoulder. Tony was on Bruce's left, body at a strange angle, face pressed into Bruce's bicep, hands curled around Bruce's arm.

In short, Bruce was trapped in the most comfortable place possible and he couldn't sleep.

He shifted, trying to get up, which only made the others tighten their grip. Clint’s fingers dug into his skin, and Tony tightened his hold on his arm.

“Go to sleep, Bruce,” Clint muttered, “or tell us a bedtime story at least.”

Bruce contemplated his options, and decided on a story.

“Have you guys ever heard the original little mermaid?” he said.

“Seriously?” Tony asked.

“I've watched the Disney version, does that count?” Clint asked, shifting so he could look at Bruce.

“Why have you watched the Disney version?” Tony asked, also shifting so he could lift his head and see them both, “How does that even happen?”

“It was on YouTube,” Clint answered simply.

“That's not a valid reason, ‘it was there so I watched it’?”

“It works for you and food,” Clint threw back.

“The Disney version doesn't count,” Bruce interrupted, amused, “ it was a lot... nicer.”

“Oh?” Tony said, suddenly interested, “how so?”

“Well, originally, she rescues him, and he doesn't even know because he's unconscious but she falls in love with him. She makes a deal with this sorceress and gets her tongue cut off, for the chance to grow legs and be on the surface and stuff. Apparently it was excruciating for her. Imagine having part of you torn in two, and walking was agonising but she persevered.”

“What happened? Did she find the prince?” Clint asked, captivated.

“Yeah, but he didn't love her, in fact he led her on until he found someone else and married that girl instead.”

“I can understand that,” Tony said, “kissing isn't as much fun if it’s not French.” And poked his own tongue out at Clint’s horrified face.

“But see the deal was that if he married someone else she would die,” Bruce continued, “her body would turn to sea-foam and she’d have to spend the next 300 years in purgatory as an air-spirit. So on their wedding day she kissed them goodbye and leaves to submit to her fate.”

“Why didn't she just kill the other chick? Or kill him?” Clint asked.

“She loved them, both, she couldn't do that to them,” Bruce said, “and as a spirit she gets to win eternal life by doing good deeds, something she couldn't even hope for as a mermaid.”

“That's a terrible story,” Clint said, snuggling in close again so his next words came out muffled, “I like the Disney one better.”

“You would,” Tony said and Bruce laughed softly.

“Go to sleep you guys,” he said, feeling suddenly tired.

Clint dropped off almost immediately, and Bruce thought Tony was fast behind but just as Bruce was thinking about getting away from their loosened grip, Tony's hand tightened around his again.

“You're thinking about leaving,” he said, sounding wide awake.

“Just to get a drink of water,” Bruce said.

“You're a terrible liar, Bruce,” Tony replied.

“I- I hadn't made up a decision yet, and being with you, like this,” he said, “I can’t think clearly.”

“Good,” Tony said, “because you can't leave.”

“It'd be better for you, you know how the Other Guy- how I-” he stopped and tried again, “it'd be safer for the both of you.”

“Bruce, look at us,” Tony said, “Clint’s been with SHIELD for who knows how long, I'm fucking Iron Man, we fight aliens and robots for a living, safety was never a priority for us.”

“It should be,” Bruce insisted, “it’s bad enough you fight all of these things, you shouldn't have to worry about fighting things at home too.”

“I don’t worry about it,” Tony insisted, “neither does Clint, isn't that right, Cupid?”

“No worrying here,” Clint said, “the Other Guy likes us.”

Bruce sighed. “I thought you were sleeping.”

“Can’t sleep with all this chit-chat going on,” he said.

Tony let out a huff of laughter. “You almost had me fooled.”

Clint finally lifted his head and smirked at him. “I’m awesome,” he said, “now, it’s obvious sleep isn't happening tonight, come on.” He sat up and threw the covers off.

“Where are you going?” Bruce asked, also sitting up, suddenly feeling cold.

“I need to watch the Little Mermaid,” he said, “your story bummed me out and I need to fix it.”

“Sorry,” Bruce said.

“Not that easy,” he replied, “you’re going to have to watch it with me, as payback.”

“Have fun,” Tony told them pulling the covers up.

“Yeah, no,” Bruce said, pushing the covers off again, “if I have to, you have to.”

Tony whined and grumbled but pushed himself up. “I guess I’ll get the coffee started,” he said, running a hand through his hair and making it stand at odd angles.

It took them another 30 minutes to settle on the couch with all the appropriate snacks but Bruce still ended up in the middle, with Clint’s toes buried under his thigh, and Tony’s legs in his lap.

As the familiar Disney animation came across the screen, Bruce wondered about leaving again. Tony was right, they could all take care of themselves, but sometimes it was nice to be taken care of as well. The decision could always be made later. The problem will always be getting convinced again and again to stay.