The day Clint returned to the helicarrier after the attack on New York City, he felt the hostile glares cast his way and heard the unsubtle insults thrown at him.
The first time he heard someone mutter 'murderer' bitterly under her breath as she passed him by, he turned, a taunt ready on his tongue before the fight died within him as he caught a glance of her weary face, marred by nights of sleepless tears.
When an agent, with fists clenched and tears running shamelessly down his face, accused him of killing his best friend in cold blood, Clint could not deny it. Even with his instincts screaming at him, when the punch came, he didn't dodge it.
He spent more and more time in the air vents, coming down only to grab food from the mess hall to eat in his room. It wasn't long before even that was compromised. Soon, angry scrawls were written on his door, 'murderer' and 'killer' being some of the tamer ones.
"How can you call yourself an Avenger? You say you take vengeance on those who deserve it, but what about you? Who takes vengeance on your crimes? Message saved. No new messages. Main menu."
Clint swallowed hard, staring at the blinking red on the phone, the only light in the room. Someone had leaked his number and a myriad of mourning agents had taken advantage of it, expressing their contempt anonymously. He couldn't blame them, after all, it was true. He was a murderer. He'd shot down agent after agent before they could even raise their gun. They'd seen him as an ally, someone they would trust to have their backs against Loki's attack. They were proven wrong. And Clint had been aware every agonizing second of it. He still remembered their faces as they fell dead, disbelief then pain at the arrow protruding from them like a morbid joke. Many of them hadn't even felt it.
It was within their right to show their hatred to him, because he deserved it.
Clint had gone to Phil's office only once. He'd stared at the piles of paper flung haphazardly across the room and at the coffee cup shattered on the floor. No one had had the time to clean up after Loki- no, he had breached the helicarrier and nearly sent it crashing down to earth. And Phil Coulson. Goddamn fucking Phil. Loki would never have had the chance to escape and Phil wouldn't have tried to stop him if he'd only had enough will to resist the mind control. Phil wouldn't be dead, wouldn't have been stabbed in the heart if it weren't for him. Clint would have had time to give him the ring. But now, he would never have the chance.
Sinking to the ground, he let the flood emotions pour out of him. Anger and frustration at himself for being too weak to resist the cube. Hopelessness at the piece of himself Phil had taken with him when he died. And anguish at all the young agents he'd killed, never to see their families and friends again. Never to kiss or smile or laugh. Their lives extinguished in a heartbeat, all because of him.
It would be hours later when he felt a hand land gently on his shoulder and the voice sounding so certain of herself, "It wasn't you. It was Loki."
"Tasha..." he breathed, voice heavy with guilt. "They were all good people. And Phil..."
"Clint, shut up," Natasha said, with a voice that spoke of assertive understanding. After a moment, she added, a tone softer, "You couldn't have done anything. Not then, not now. It's not and was never your fault."
He rose, his countenance exuding only grief. She brought him back to Stark Towers and Tony had given him a place, for once not jabbing fun at him. Clint hadn't missed the fact that the room was void of any sharp objects. She took his weapons from him, assuring that it got better with time. Natasha then left, saying that Fury wanted her to report. Clint was left with the faces of the dead haunting him. The words "Talk to me, Agent Barton." floated just within hearing, but when he turned his gaze sharply towards the sound with a flare of hope, he was met with only darkness.
Three weeks later, Agent Barton, codename Hawkeye, died. He was killed in action, taking out the ambushing enemy fire before succumbing to his lethal wounds. The three agents and the diplomat he'd saved heard the last words forced out between bloody gasps, "To be with him... and to make amends."
In a distant hospital, Phil Coulson awoke, Clint's name on his lips.