Clint wakes, confused, in the middle of the night. It only takes a moment for his head to clear enough to realize that Bucky is thrashing in his sleep, and even though he can’t hear Bucky’s screams he can feel the vibrations in his chest. He snags his aids off the nightstand, hooks them over his ears, then gathers Bucky into his arms. Bucky fights, still in the throes of his nightmare, but Clint holds tight. “Shh,” he whispers into Bucky’s ear, “shh. I’ve got you, sweetheart. I’ve got you.” He keeps murmuring; he knows it doesn’t matter what he says, just that he holds on and lets Bucky hear the sound of his voice.
Slowly, slowly, Bucky begins to relax in his arms. “Clint?” he says into the dark room. His voice is like broken glass.
“I’ve got you. Just breathe, okay? It’s alright, I’m here, it’s alright.” He knows it’s not, that Bucky will always be haunted by the things he did when HYDRA controlled him, but he also knows that he can’t let it control his life forever. And that’s where Clint comes in.
Bucky tries to breathe deep; Clint can feel him trying to match his breathing to Clint’s, but he’s too worked up by the nightmare. He begins to shake, and after a minute or two that seems endless he says, “I can’t go back to sleep right now. It’s… I just can’t.”
“Alright.” Clint knows what to do, they’ve been here before. He kisses the back of Bucky’s neck, just to reassure him, then slips out of their bed. He pulls on a pair of sweatpants, then finds a pair for Bucky. Tossing them onto the bed he says, “Put these on.” Bucky obeys.
Two minutes later they’re at the kitchen table, the overhead light illuminating a surface covered with arrow shafts, glue, jigs, clamps, utility knives, and feathers. Soon Bucky is completely engrossed in fletching arrows.
It’s a trick Clint learned when he was young, fletching arrows to break free of nightmares. Get involved in a task that takes total concentration, both mind and body; soon the mind is too occupied with other things for the nightmare to have purchase, and the body becomes so exhausted it can’t help but sleep. He doesn’t actually need to fletch his own arrows anymore--99% of the arrows he uses in the field are Stark tech--but the activity is still a useful one. And sometimes it’s just nice to use homemade arrows.
And Bucky is actually quite good at fletching. Even in this far from alert state his attention to detail is nearly flawless, and he’s taken to the painstakingly delicate work better than Clint ever expected.
They don’t speak while they work. Clint tries to keep his eyes on his own arrows, but it’s hard not to watch Bucky at work, to admire the deftness of his fingers, the fierce concentration in his increasingly tired eyes. He’s tired too, but he knows Bucky needs this. Knows in a way most people never could, because he’s been in Bucky’s place so many times before.
He’s dreamed of killing people, too.
He squeezes his eyes shut, then opens them again, determined to focus on his own arrow and nothing else. Choose an arrow, rub down the shaft with alcohol, and focus on not laughing like a twelve year old at “rub down” and “shaft” in the same sentence. Place the arrow in the jig, trim the feather to the right size and shape, gently clamp the feather, run a thin bead of glue down the rachis of the feather. Place the clamp on the jig, apply just enough pressure to set the glue. Leave it to dry. Move to another arrow.
It takes all his concentration, he doesn’t have any energy left to think about Bucky or nightmares or mind control or murder. Only arrows and feathers, clamps and glue, jigs and alcohol. The world shrinks to this table, to the feel of feathers under his fingertips and the scent of glue and rubbing alcohol sharp in his nose.
“I think I’m ready to sleep now.”
Bucky’s voice pierces the tiny world Clint’s inhabiting; he nearly drops his arrow. But when he looks up he sees that Bucky’s eyes have grown calm and clear--no traces of the night’s haunting remain.
They don’t speak as they put the supplies away, leaving only the drying arrows in their jigs on the table. There’s no need for words. They’ve learned to move together in harmony--on the battlefield, on the range, in the kitchen, in the bedroom. Their lives are a dance; sometimes they move apart but they always come together again, moving as one.
They settle back into their bed, no space between them. “Okay, sweetheart?” Clint murmurs into Bucky’s ear.
“Okay,” Bucky says. The word sounds true.
Clint takes out his aids and snuggles deeper into the blankets, into Bucky. It’s so late it’s almost early, and they both slide into sleep without difficulty.
A shaft of sunlight falls across Clint’s face. He’s still holding Bucky, his chest pressed against Bucky’s back, Bucky gripping his arm like he’s never going to let go. Clint’s okay with that. Staying in this bed forever doesn’t seem like a bad thing. Seems pretty damn perfect, actually.
Of course, just as he thinks that Bucky stirs. He squeezes Clint’s arm tighter, then rolls over within Clint’s arms so Clint can read his lips. “Any more nightmares?” Clint asks.
“None,” Bucky says. Then, after a moment, “Thanks.”
“Anytime, sweetheart.” He kisses Bucky on the forehead. “Anytime.”