A/N: The first words out of my mouth after viewing Cap 2 were "Where was Clint?!", and this is my (admittedly somewhat late) answer to that. It's building up to Clint/Coulson, so be warned if that's not your thing, although I can guarantee I won't be writing anything steamy. Really it's more about reuniting the Avengers than anything.

Not Agents of SHIELD compliant, and warnings for Clint having a potty mouth.

Clint is hiding in a barn in Crimea when the world goes to shit. He doesn't know it at the time, but three Helicarriers are smoldering in the Potomac as he sits perched in the rafters, eye-to-eye with a particularly adventurous mouse.

He's been drifting from job to adrenaline-fueled job, everything from busting up a protection racket in Chicago to an honest-to-God sea monster in Macau. It was there that he wandered into a nondescript market, looking for something to wash the taste of sea water out of his mouth, and stumbled onto a human trafficking ring.

Two broken noses, a stab wound, and one arrow to the clavicle later, Clint had the names of a gang of traffickers operating under the guise of Chinese investors scoping out farmland in the Ukraine.

Now, perched on a wooden beam the width of his thigh with a compound bow strapped to his back, Clint is starting to regret this little bout of vigilantism. He's been crawling down on occasion to drink the somewhat dubious water he'd discovered trickling from a hose, doing his business in a far corner that already smelled of lingering cow shit.

Not to mention, he has no idea who he'll turn the traffickers over to, even if they do show. He'd tried playing nice with SHIELD for a while after the whole Loki thing, but between everyone giving him the side-eye (honestly, you get possessed by one homicidal god) and his own lingering guilt ... well.

"And getting your handler killed is just bad for anyone's career," he tells the mouse. It's the first living creature he's seen in three days of surveillance, and at the sound of his voice the mouse twitches but doesn't run away. Clint takes it as permission to carry on.

"Although sticking me with Sitwell … the man's a goddamn evil robot, I swear. I know I used to bitch about Coulson, but at least he had a sense of humor. With Sitwell it's all, 'No chatter on the comms, Hawkeye.' 'No shooting at the pigeons, Hawkeye.' Well excuse me if I've been sitting here with a rusty water tower up my ass for 14 hours and needed to make sure I was still alive, Robot Overlord, sir."

Clint sighs, watching dust particles float in a beam of fading sunlight. There's something poetic there, he's sure – some comparison to his own decaying soul, maybe – but he's too tired to contemplate it. It feels like he's been tired for years.

"The thing is," Clint confides, "I know I deserved it. I thought, for a few hours there, that the Avengers could be a great thing. My … my fucking redemption, you know?"

The mouse twitches its nose (which Clint will take as a sympathetic gesture. He's pretty fucking short on those lately, all right?) and Clint laughs bitterly. "But without Coulson … And here I am, back to being a goddamn mercenary."

Coulson – Phil; he can call him Phil here in the privacy of his head, something he'd only dared do aloud a couple times over the years – was supposed to be the one that held them together. He'd been there when everyone else at SHIELD thought Hawkeye and Black Widow

were nothing more than two sociopathic killers (and oh, how things have come full circle). He'd wrangled Stark, something Clint privately thinks belongs at the top of Phil's list of accomplishments. He'd chatted with the god of thunder, cool as if he were discussing his grocery list. No one else could ever be calm, confident (and possibly crazy) enough to babysit the Avengers. And so they'd drifted apart.

He'd forgotten just how boring it could be, this solo gig. After gods and monsters and Tony frickin' Stark, the lone wolf sniper act leaves him feeling empty, unfulfilled. Lonely. He'd gotten so used to having a voice in his ear, cool and calm and delightfully snarky, and now the silence is oppressive.

"Still, better alone than Sitwell," he says aloud. "You know those assholes had me on probation? Sent me on milk runs and shit, nothing high security. I guess they were waiting to see if I'd go all glowy-eyed and homicidal again, never mind that I'd just helped fight off an invasion of bug-aliens. Natasha trusted me. Captain America trusted me! But then they fuck off to D.C., and what do I get? Sitwell! If Coulson had been - "

The words dry up in his throat, bitter and useless. He rubs at his eyes (it's the hay, damn it – he's been allergic to that shit since the circus; Hawkeye doesn't cry) and wonders when that name will stop feeling like a knife in the gut.

The truth is, he might have dealt with the boredom and the distrust, taking it as penance, if he hadn't started to worry for his safety. Two months or so after New York, he'd been in the field with a couple baby agents, Sitwell in his ear, on what should've been strictly a surveillance gig. Instead, there'd been an ambush, a bullet in Clint's thigh, and his backup running for the hills. Even now, he isn't sure whether they panicked or left him there on purpose.

The mouse inches closer, and Clint digs in his pocket for the remains of some God-awful Chinese protein bar he'd liberated from the shady market. He breaks off a piece and nudges it toward the mouse before taking a bite of his own. It tastes vaguely like salty cardboard, and the mouse gives his own chunk a suspicious sniff before backing away. "I know, buddy. Believe me, if I could go on a burger run - "

The door to the barn rattles, and Clint has an arrow drawn and nocked before the mouse can scurry away. If it's one of those friggin' stray cats again, he's gonna be pissed.

The door swings open, and a woman stands silhouetted in the setting sun. Clint has to blink a few times to make sure he isn't hallucinating.

"Clint," Natasha says briskly. "Come down from there. I have some things to tell you."