It had been ten years. Almost a full ten years had passed since the team was forged in fire and blood and battle and loss and victory despite it all. Things had never been the same since that day when Clint had come back to himself but found part of himself lost regardless, since Phil had died. Not just for him, but for anyone, for a variety of different ways. But they persevered, and they kept on, because what other choice was there? Phil's sacrifice was not going to be for nothing. And so the team worked, and it worked well, and the years went on, and the rosters shifted, and new blood came in, and slowly but surely the originals aged (for the most part) and some started to step aside for the next generation of heroes.
And Clint was on the bubble of doing just that. His eyesight and his skills were as finely honed as ever, but he was just tired. Even before the Avengers, before the threats had become that much more, back when he'd just been Agent Barton, the job had always been high-octane, but with Phil there, it was never quite as draining. He was the foundation for everything, as much as nobody outside a bare handful knew, and the team, more and more, was composed of people who'd never known him at all. To whom talk of Coulson was just old Avenger lore, with no relevance. They didn't understand, they didn't get it, and it rankled, although he couldn't possibly blame them.
And then he was tapped to be one of the ones to go to some PR event, one of those fluff Meet The Avengers!* [*Not all Avengers will be present.] thing that happened once in a while, not that anyone in the public cared that much anymore about the aging archer who lacked the glamor and flash of his teammates. Not that they ever much had. Which suited him fine, really. The limelight was never exactly a comfortable place for a sniper.
He was sitting at the table that had been set up for him, watching the autograph lines for his teammates and calculating ways to toss ice cubes to get them exactly down their shirts. (He could, but he wouldn't. He would have, in the early days, when it was just the friends that forged the team together, but it was different now.)
"Excuse me, Hawkeye?" came a small, soft voice from in front of him. He looked over, and there was actually a kid, no more than ten, donning a well-worn t-shirt with his face on it (granted, there was also a Cap pin stuck on, but who didn't have one of those?), and carefully holding one of his publicity photos. (Yeah. He had publicity photos. Who would have guessed?)
He tried not to show his surprise that he'd gotten even one person to show up for him. "Hey, buddy. Nice shirt."
The kid ducked his head and smiled a bit, and his smile was almost familiar in a way. "I had to wear it. You're my favorite Avenger. I had to beg my mom to bring me here." He held the photo forward tentatively, and almost reverently. "Could you sign this? It's the best thing I have right now but I'm working on the trading card set."
Clint grinned and took the photo with a smile, being as careful with it as the boy obviously was. "Sure thing." He met the kid's gaze with his own and almost forgot to breathe.
They were Phil's eyes. They were younger, brighter, less worn, not weighted with the burdens of so many responsibilities and so much knowledge, but Clint had looked in those eyes enough that even a decade on, he would never forget them.
It was sheer instinct and muscle memory that had him picking up his marker. He cleared his suddenly dry throat a bit. "Uh. What's your name? So I can sign it to you."
"PJ. Thank you very much."
He scribbled it down, a quick 'To PJ. Thanks for being my #1 fan! Hawkeye.' Curiosity overtook him. "How old are you, PJ?"
"Oh, really? When's your birthday?"
It was in May. It was that day. It was that day exactly. Clint had never believed in-- he still wasn't sure he did. But as he handed the photo back to PJ, who grinned and waved and thanked him before heading back to his mother, who was standing off to the side, he couldn't help but wonder.
Maybe it was coincidence. But maybe people, the really good ones, still got second chances. And maybe there were some people the world just couldn't do without.
He could live with that.