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when you're lost inside

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Alcohol wasn’t as common in the tower as it used to be, but you could still find a bottle if you were knew where to look. Specifically, Natasha’s bedroom, where she always kept a bottle of very high quality Russian vodka. She’d kill him when she found out he’d nicked it, but Clint didn’t care. Maybe it would even be better that way.

His daddy would be so mad if he heard Clint say that. But that was the problem. It had been six months and it was finally sinking in that Phil Coulson was never going to hear anything again.

For the fifth time that night alone, Clint picked up the bottle and swished the contents around, listening to the sloshing of the liquid inside. It would be so easy to indulge. He’d be able to drink all the pain away. For a few blissful hours he would be able to forget about his daddy, forget about the fact that he was alone, forget about the nightmares that would inevitably wake him up screaming.

He wouldn’t have to think about how he needed to be big all the time now, because it was just too hard to be little by himself. And if he was big, then surely it didn’t matter if he had some of the vodka?

His eyes burned with hot tears and he huffed, dropping the bottle into his lap. He’d lost count of how many times Phil had told him that alcohol wasn’t meant for little boys, but the lesson had stuck. He couldn’t bring himself to break the rule, even though he was no longer at risk of a spanking.

If it would bring his daddy back, he’d gladly take a hundred spankings. He wouldn’t fight to stay up late and then get cranky the next day because he was overtired. He wouldn’t refuse to pee before bed and then wake up crying and wet after a bad dream. He wouldn’t make a mess and then complain about having to clean it up. He wouldn’t do any of those things if he could just have his daddy back.

The bottle of vodka blurred as a tear spilled down his cheek. Clint choked on a noisy sob and stuck his thumb into his mouth to muffle the sound. More tears followed, hot and itchy, but it didn’t do anything to relieve the pressure in his chest. What he really needed was to cry out loud, but he was too worried about being overheard.

It was dangerous to be this little right out in the middle of the common living room, but he couldn’t bear to be on their - his - floor. It was too much of a reminder. But he wasn’t allowed to hide in the vents when he was feeling this little, and going to one of the many guest floors would’ve been too scary. And he didn’t know how Natasha would respond; she didn’t know about the arrangement between Clint and his daddy.

He wanted his teddy bear. He wanted his blankie. But most of all, he wanted his daddy. He keened softly and rocked back and forth, overwhelmed with how much it hurt.

“Clint?”

It took a few seconds for the sound of his name to register. When it did, Clint snapped his head up and stared in horror at Steve and Tony. He’d been positive that everyone was asleep by now, even Tony. For a moment he wondered if he was hallucinating.

“Clint,” Steve said again, sounding concerned. Tony shifted next to him, and Clint suddenly registered the very familiar blankie and teddy bear in Tony’s arms. That was definitely real.

Oh fuck no. Clint kept staring at them, too shocked to even pull his thumb out of his mouth. His mind had gone completely blank.

Steve approached him slowly, one hand outstretched, taking the long way around the coffee table. Tony followed, but went the shorter way, and it wasn’t until the cushions of the couch shifted beside him that Clint realized they’d effectively blocked him in. He was trapped.

NononononononoNONO.

He shot to his feet, babbling something about his bow and practice. He might’ve gotten away with it, too. But the vodka bottle fell to the floor when he jumped up, and Clint accidentally stepped on it when he tried to jump over the coffee table to escape. Miraculously it didn’t shatter, but he slipped and fell straight onto the coffee table, slamming his knee into the floor and bumping his jaw hard on the table.

It was nothing compared to some of the things he’d endured as a SHIELD agent, but right then it was the last straw. Clint burst into tears. He tried to stop crying, and when that failed he tried to get up, but his knee hurt so bad that he gave up and curled up on the floor, sobbing into his hands.

What did it matter if Tony and Steve found out his secret? He had nothing else, so he might as well lose the team too.

“Oh, Clint. It’s okay.” Unexpectedly strong hands slid underneath his armpits, lifting him with ease. Clint found himself sitting on Steve’s knee, with warm arms holding him close. He knew this was wrong, but it felt so good after all those hours of lonely crying in the dark that he couldn’t help nuzzling into the comfort.

He was surprised when he felt a hand gently petting his hair after several minutes, and turned his head a little to see that it was Tony. When he noticed that he had Clint’s attention, Tony gave him a sad smile and scooted closer, offering the teddy bear. It was Clint’s only stuffed toy, one of his most prized possessions, and even though he didn’t understand, he couldn’t resist taking it.

He still couldn’t stop crying, but it didn’t seem to matter. Steve held him close and rocked him back and forth, and Tony kept petting his hair. It was very soothing and before long, Clint could feel himself becoming very sleepy. He closed his eyes and latched onto the ear of his teddy bear, chewing, and distantly heard Tony chuckle.

“Tasha didn’t say anything about pacifiers, did she?”

“No,” Steve said, his voice quiet. “But she didn’t know everything. He’s a lot worse off than she thought.”

“Yeah.” Tony sighed and stopped petting just long enough to tuck Clint’s blankie around him before he started again. “You’re better with little kids than I thought you’d be.”

Steve snorted. “Hugs are easy. 3am diaper changes are hard.”

“Kinda makes you wonder what Coulson was thinking,” Tony said thoughtfully. He said something else, but Clint didn’t hear anymore. He was fast asleep.