So, here's the thing. I don't handle boredom well. Class is boring. Hence the one-shots.
I made a concerted effort to not kill anyone, and I am pleased to report that I was successful.
Eternal gratitude to my beta, irite, who doesn't slaughter me when I send her 10 things a week, and calls me out when Thor randomly appears.
I do not own the Avengers.
For the first 5 days, he does not get out of bed, except to take care of those bodily functions that he cannot stop through willpower alone. He lies immobile, frozen, unable to sleep but unwilling to move, too afraid to face a world that sees him as a murderer.
On day 6, Natasha comes and literally drags him from his stupor. She watches him shower, and dress, and brings him to SHIELD for his disciplinary hearing.
There, to Fury and the other higher-ups, Clint argues in what he feels is a passionate, convincing manner for his own immediate dismissal from the agency, to be followed by his arrest and imprisonment.
By the end, he is begging them.
Fury shakes his head 'no,' and that's that. They do not fire him, do not arrest him, do not lock him up and throw away the key.
They do send him to see a shrink.
During breakfast on the 10th day, Clint muses aloud to the general population of the kitchen that he thought he might have preferred that Loki had just killed him, but he thought he understood why Loki had done things this way, instead. Living with the guilt is worse, and Loki is a cruel bastard who'd want to draw his suffering out as long as possible.
Absorbed in his own thoughts, he misses the concerned looks that circulate through the room.
Day 14 dawns bright and cheerful, and Clint emerges from his bedroom with a too-wide smile and tells everyone that he is taking a vacation. Twelve hours later, he cuts his wrists with his pocketknife and nearly bleeds to death in the underground parking garage, lying in the backseat of one of Tony's sports cars.
JARVIS informs the others, thereby saving his life; Tony does not once complain about the blood on his upholstery.
Clint spends days 15 through 75 in the hospital. When he emerges on the morning of day 76, the scars on his arms are fading and, while he is not entirely sure that he wants to live, he has at least been convinced that he does not want to die.
His welcome-home party is a subdued affair, but there's cake, and he makes a joke about being allowed to eat with real silverware. The resultant laughter is strained, but by the end of the night, everyone's treating him like he's almost normal.
He's reinstated at SHIELD on day 97 after three more weeks of 'recovery' that mostly consisted of agitated pacing, sleepless nights, and too much whiskey, interspersed with five two-hour therapy sessions a week.
His first major mission begins on day 108. It lasts through day 118, and he and Natasha return to Stark Tower on day 119 bruised and battered, but ultimately successful.
Or not. Clint locks himself in his room through day 121. Tony presses Natasha for information, but she just shrugs with infuriating calmness and says, "Why don't you ask him?"
She doesn't seem worried, but Tony's too damn curious for his own good, and he's never been one to turn down a challenge. He has JARVIS monitor Barton, and waits until the archer emerges from his room at 3:32 AM on day 122.
Tony accosts him in the kitchen. "Morning, Barton. How's it going?"
Clint had been digging through the fridge, but he slowly pivots and straightens. "Nothing."
Tony decides to let the fact that his answer made absolutely no sense slide. "You've been in your room for two days."
"I needed to think."
Silently and empty-handed, Clint turns and heads back towards his room. Before he shuts the door behind him, he says, "Do you know how hard it is, to choose to kill someone, after you've done it without thinking?"
"...No, Barton, I don't."
"I know." And then he shuts the door.
They make it until day 243 without a major incident. Sure, Clint is still drinking too much, and sometimes locks himself in his room for days at a time, but that's the new 'normal' and everyone seems to be adjusting to it fairly well.
It's Bruce who notices something's wrong.
"I don't think Barton's sleeping," he says to the others over a late breakfast. Clint and Natasha are absent, having left for work at 7:30.
"Huh," Tony muses. "Why do you say that?"
Bruce shrugs. "He looks like hell. More than usual. I found him dozing in the kitchen yesterday afternoon, and that's just weird. He doesn't nap, and he really doesn't nap there."
Steve nods in agreement. "Same thing happened with me a few days ago. Except it was in the gym."
Thor, who has relocated to Earth for an extended visit, adds, "He truly does not seem well."
Tony agrees, and makes a note to look into it. In the end, though, he doesn't have to. When he's watching the news later, he sees a story break that explains everything.
He calls Fury immediately. "Did you know this was going to happen?"
"Yeah, Stark, I did. And before you ask, so did Barton. It's not a big fucking deal."
Tony begs to differ, and he thinks the dark circles under Barton's eyes would beg to differ as well. "You don't think this is a big fucking deal? His face is plastered all over the fucking news. They're calling him a murderer, Fury. How did this even get out?"
But Tony already knows that. There's always someone willing to go to the media, for the right price. And it's a pretty juicy story, that SHIELD never punished a man who was known to have killed several people in the days leading up to the events in Manhattan the previous May. Hell, there was video footage of him at work, and yet he'd walked free.
Well, 'free.' Tony didn't think the public would understand exactly how 'un-free' Barton really was. Or they wouldn't care. They just wanted the story, the sensationalism, the furor.
Fury reassures him that they've got the situation under control. "This story is going nowhere, Stark. We've got it handled."
Tony knows the director is completely full of shit the next time he sees Barton, which isn't until day 245.
"Christ, what happened to you?"
Because Clint has a black eye and a split lip, and a nasty cut near his eyebrow that is still slowly leaking a tacky stream of blood down his face. He's also limping badly, his gait slow and uneven.
"Oh. Nothing. Just ran into...something."
As it turned out, the 'something' was a group of new SHIELD recruits. It was their first day of training, and to prove their loyalty to their country and their physical acumen to each other, they'd ganged up on Clint (the 'traitor') and beaten the hell out of him. Tony was horrified to discover that at least four veteran SHIELD agents had stood by and allowed the attack to take place, jeering.
"But couldn't you have taken them, Barton?" Tony asks, incredulous. "They were rookies."
Clint at least has the decency to look chagrined when he answers, "Well, probably. Didn't seem worth it, though. They just had to get it out of their systems. Everything should be fine, now."
Tony somehow refrains from punching Clint in his stupid, already-bruised, masochistic face and instead personally drives him to the hospital, even sitting with him while the doctors patch him up. Clint finds this oddly touching.
He is laid up in the Tower with a broken ankle until day 305.
When he returns to SHIELD on day 306, it is to discover that the group of recruits and the four agents who had just stood by and watched his assault have been fired and banned from the premises, and are in fact facing criminal charges. And, well, Clint finds that oddly touching, too.
The Avengers decide to celebrate his return to full health (and employment), and there's cake again, and this time everyone treats him like he's completely normal.
On day 315, he wakes up and realizes that, for the first time in almost a year, he feels completely normal.
Day 336 dawns bright and cheerful, and Clint emerges from his bedroom with a wide smile and tells everyone that he is taking a vacation.
He packs his bags and spends two weeks on a beach in Jamaica with Natasha, sipping mojitos, eating jerk chicken, and working on a tan.
He returns to Manhattan feeling like a new man.
On day 363, the anniversary of the day Loki took him, he gets very, very drunk. He'd been doing better on that front, and honestly, no one begrudges him the release today. In fact, the other Avengers slowly trickle into his room to join him, and soon everyone's completely wasted and Clint is reveling in the feeling that he's not alone.
Early on day 365, the anniversary of the Chitauri invasion, Clint locks himself in his room. But Tony comes by a few hours later and unscrews the hinges on his door, setting it off to the side. "Sorry, Barton. Not today." Behind him, Natasha, Bruce, Steve, and Thor all nod at Clint gravely in agreement.
And Clint's annoyed at the intrusion for maybe ten seconds, but then he shrugs. "Yeah. You're right. Wanna go get shawarma?"
Well, no one particularly does (no one had liked it that much), but it seems like the start of a really good tradition.
So they all go anyway. Because it's not really about the food. It's about marking the passing of time.
It has been a year.
And Clint's survived.
Look, a happy ending! Do you know how hard that was? You should review. Positive reinforcement will encourage this kind of thing.