A/N Okay, so this is the alternate ending where Clint dies. If you do not want to read a deathfic ending then disregard this update.
Thanks go to WynonaRose for giving me the idea of organ donation.
Once again, I apologize if my medical information is wrong.
WARNING: CHARACTER DEATH! (I tried not to make it too sad, though, so hopefully there's not any need for a tissue warning :P)
Then This Is The Way It's Meant To Be
They didn't know which was worse, the conversation about removing life support, or the one about organ donation. But once again, the team had to go with what they knew Clint would want.
Clint was an Avenger, and as such, he risked his life, sometimes on a daily basis, to protect and save others. They knew that if Clint could, he would tell them to save people.
Clint was a hero, and yet he wasn't struck down saving the world from some threat or protecting a teammate. He was dying because of a sudden, senseless accident caused by an idiot who decided to drink then get behind the wheel and run a red light. It was all so senseless and meaningless.
And that was no way for one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes to go out.
Some good had to come from it, some meaning. Clint lived to save people, and that was the way he should die.
So when the doctors asked for Clint's organs, the team said yes. When the doctors asked for his eyes, they said yes. But when the doctors asked about his skin, they drew the line. As selfish as it might have been, they couldn't give that. They were already giving and losing so much.
They weren't allowed to know the names or details of who were to receive Clint's organs, but they were permitted to know that Clint's organs would be saving the lives of four people, including two children, a young single mother, and a man who would now live to see the birth of his first child. In addition to that, Clint's eyes would restore the sight to a young soldier whose eyes had been damaged in combat.
Even in death, Clint would be a hero, one of Earth's mightiest.
Ultimately,it took four hours for the beeping of the heart monitor to become slow and irregular, for his breathing to become uneven and halting, and for Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, Avenger, hero, and friend, to slip away.
The funeral was a private affair. There was no press, no dignitaries, no distant acquaintances. It was just the six friends gathered to say goodbye to their brother, while, around the world, people mourned the loss of one of the world's greatest heroes.
It tore the team up. They all missed Clint and took his death hard, but not nearly as hard as Tony and Bruce. Tony took to drinking more and more. He stopped tinkering and inventing, he stopped living and merely started existing. After all, he had been the one driving that night.
Bruce went back to school to get an MD after his name instead of the helpless PhD he already had. When the class was asked why they wanted to become doctors, several said for the money, several more said to help people. But Bruce silenced the room when he was asked why he had gone back to school at his age to become a doctor.
"Because I never want to sit by and watch a friend die because I am helpless to do anything, ever again," he answered. After all, he had been unable to help Clint while waiting for the ambulance, because he hadn't known what to do.
Tony and Bruce no longer talked. In fact, they could barely stand to look at each other, so afraid of seeing the same blame in each others eyes that they had placed on themselves. What they didn't realize was that the only ones blaming them were themselves, and nether one blamed the other as they each believed.
It wasn't until the rest of the team got fed up with Bruce's and Tony's self-destructive self-loathing and locked them in a room together, that they were finally forced to confront the truth.
"I'm sorry," Bruce whispered after thirty minutes of silence and avoiding each other's eyes.
"What?" Tony asked. "What for?"
"It's my fault he's gone," Bruce said softly.
"What are you talking about? It wasn't your fault. It was mine."
For the first time in months, the two friends looked each other in the eye and neither saw what they expected.
"But I couldn't save him. He was laying in the street, injured, and I couldn't save him," Bruce argued, trying to make Tony see where the blame truly belonged.
"I was driving!" Tony yelled.
"It was green," Bruce echoed Tony's words from so many months before.
"I should have seen it. I should have been able to avoid it," Tony said, all the fight going out of him.
"There was absolutely no way you could have. It wasn't your fault," Bruce said.
"It wasn't yours either," Tony replied.
"I couldn't save him," Bruce said sadly.
"Neither could I!" Tony exploded, the fire rising up in him again. "I sat there, concussed and mumbling about a green light like an idiot while you stemmed his bleeding and tried to help. You say it wasn't my fault? Well it wasn't yours either because, unlike me, you were actually able to do something to help!" He took a deep breath, his tone softening. "You can't punish yourself for not knowing something, Bruce. If you're going to blame yourself then you have to blame me too."
"I don't- I can't blame you. It wasn't your fault and Clint was just as much your friend as mine. I know this has to have torn you up just as much as me. I just- I just can't seem to stop blaming myself and thinking about 'what ifs.'"
"Well then I'll just have to keep reminding you that it wasn't your fault until you finally start believing it," Tony said with a small smile.
"And I'll have to keep reminding you," Bruce agreed.
"Because friends take care of each other."
"Speaking of which, you need to stop the drinking," Bruce said seriously, his voice hardening slightly out of concern. "It's not good and it's not healthy for you to drink yourself into oblivion everyday."
"How did you-"
"Pepper told me."
"You know he wouldn't want that," Bruce said gently.
"And he wouldn't want you trying to make up for his death, either," Tony replied.
"What do you mean?"
"This whole 'doctor' thing. Tell me the truth. Are you becoming an MD because you want to, or because you feel like you have to make it up to him?" Tony asked.
Bruce looked away, unable to meet Tony's penetrating gaze. Aside from Clint, Tony had always been the only one who could see through him like that. The three of them had always shared a special bond. They had known each other so well and could often tell when something was wrong and what the others were thinking. Now the three musketeers were only two, but that didn't change the fact that they knew each other well enough to see through facades that the rest of the world completely believed.
"If you want to become a doctor so you can save lives and help people, then do it. But don't do it because you're trying to atone for Clint's death," Tony whispered.
A long stretch of silence ensued as the two men got lost in their thoughts before Bruce finally spoke.
"I know we'll never be the same, but, do you think we'll ever be okay again?" Bruce asked softly, raising his eyes to meet Tony's once more.
"Will it ever stop hurting?" Tony said, voicing the question beneath Bruce's question. "No. I don't think that's possible. But will we be able to live with it without it crushing us every second of every day? Will we be able to go on and actually start living again instead of just existing? Yes. I think we can. But only together. Because I know I can't do it alone, and I don't think you can either."
They stood there, staring each other in the eye and silently acknowledging the insurmountable feat of getting past their grief and living their lives again. But they had overcome insurmountable before and they could do it again.
"Together," Bruce said.
"Together," Tony agreed.
Well, that's it guys. Thanks for coming along with me on this ride and hopefully I'll have some more Avengers stories for you before too terribly long. Until then, drop me one last review and let me know if this story was to your liking. :)