A/N: There's already been a lot of good fics highlight Clint's psych evals and his feelings about Coulson's death, so I wanted to do something a little different. Thanks to VLeRoux for the once over, and the new Silversun Pickups album for the melancholy mood swing.
It had been a few weeks since the battle. They had gone their separate ways, Clint and Natasha back to SHIELD, everyone else, who knew.
Clint wasn't kidding himself. They weren't a team. They had come together in a time of need. Once. They had saved the world.
Clint still had a lot to answer for. At first, he wasn't sure what would happen. But days went by, as did psych evals. New handlers came and went, Clint chasing them all away after five minutes locked in a room with them. Eventually, he was cleared for duty. So he waited, anxious to get back to work. To give himself something to occupy his drifting thoughts.
But no work came for either him, or Natasha. He spent all his time exploring the nooks and crannies of the helicarrier, isolating himself. Natasha did much the same, but on her own time.
Finally, Clint dropped unannounced from a ceiling vent into Director Fury's office.
"Can I help you, Agent Barton?" Fury grumbled, unsurprised.
"Sir. I was wondering if there was a reason Agent Romanov and I haven't had any assignments."
Fury sighed. "Barton, there's nothing for you to do at the moment. All of our resources are pooled into cleaning up Manhattan. I'm up to my eyeball in paperwork. If you're bored, take it out at the range."
It was a lie, of course. Clint had seen other agents in their line of work leave on missions.
It wasn't the answer he was looking for, but it was the one he expected.
God, he missed Coulson.
Finally, one day, when he was sitting on the deck with a mask on, flicking paperclips into the abyss below, his phone vibrated with an email.
It was from Stark. Inviting them all to dinner.
Clint ignored it.
In the end, it was Natasha that dragged him to Stark Tower. Rogers was there, as was Banner (who Clint was a little surprised to see), and Stark's girlfriend.
It may have been more awkward if Pepper Potts hadn't been there. She engaged everyone in polite conversation, making sure no one was left out. She also kept Stark's tongue in check, which Clint was grateful for. She seemed especially fond of Natasha.
"Agent Barton, tell us a little bit about yourself."
Clint looked up from his forkful of pasta, to see everyone looking at him curiously and somewhat expectantly. It instantly set him on edge, but he tried not to show it.
He shrugged. "Not much to tell."
"Oh, come now! I'm sure you have some exciting stories to share from your SHIELD days." Pepper gave him a warm smile, one that he felt was actually genuine.
"Sorry, they're classified," he said. He tried to sound apologetic, but couldn't quite manage it.
"Woah, sorry we asked, hawk-in-the-mud," Tony scoffed. Pepper glared at him. "What?"
"No, it's okay," Clint said, standing up. "Where's your bathroom?"
Pepper gave him directions, and he thanked her, hearing her and Tony have a conversation under their breath.
He went to one of the balconies instead, pulling up one of the patio chairs and resting his chin on the rail, looking down at the lights below. He picked out speeding cabs, people in the office building across the way, tourists.
About ten minutes after he sat down, he heard the door open behind him, but didn't turn.
She always knew where to find him.
"We don't belong here," he said to her.
"We don't belong anywhere," Natasha's quiet voice said back, pulling up a chair next to him.
"We belong at SHIELD."
"I'm not so sure anymore." He glanced at her, before looking back to the city below.
"Espionage and assassination are the only skillsets I have." He gave a bitter laugh. "The options are limited if SHIELD doesn't want anything to do with me anymore."
"With us, Clint. I've been thinking…maybe the Avengers could really use us."
"That's a wet dream, Nat, and you know it. They don't need us. Even if Thor were here, they still have enough firepower to level Manhattan by themselves. They don't need us. They're just being friendly because we happened to fly the plane off the helicarrier."
"Maybe it's not up to them, Clint." He turned to look at her again, her face deadly serious. Not that it ever wasn't. "I like being here. We have a skill set that rounds out their corners. I'm done being just a killer. I'm ready to start over. This is the place we can do it. And you know what? I kind of like them."
Clint raised his eyebrow mockingly. "You don't like anyone."
"I like you. And I like them. I think this could work."
Clint regarded her thoughtfully for a moment, before looking back down.
"Technically, you have more skills than Rogers. He just has the propensity to live longer," she smiled.
Clint let out an amused huff. "You're really serious about this."
"When am I not serious?"
Clint gave a sigh, standing up.
He was willing to try.