He knows he’s needed. He does, really, its just that sometimes he’ll be the one that’s only killed 10 or 20 of the bad guys (which says something sad about the people who think they can take on the Avengers) and then he’s knocked out and in the Medical Bay.
And then the little voice speaks up again and whispers to his heart, how disposable he is, always notices the way the teams expect him to be the injured one, always sound surprised if he doesn’t end up at least a little battered.
He doesn’t make the mistake of telling the medics about it, no need to get SHIELD worried again and no one cares to ask how he is, so it never gets mentioned. And the little voice curls up like a snake; a mottled, discoloured silver coil draped over the top of his ribcage whispering to his heart.
He doesn’t notice the way Tony always seems to be there when he leaps of the building because of the system in the suit that watches out for him, doesn’t see the way the Hulk specially hunts and kills with one crush of a mighty hand anyone that lands a severe blow on him, doesn’t see the way Thor tries not to conjure lightening too near him so it doesn’t burn him
Instead, he just wakes up in the sterile bed and gets Natasha’s glare as she brings him up to date on how they won without his ‘stupid ass’
Forgets that’s how she tells him she cares
He’s the last one told Coulson’s back. That hurts like a bitch. The bastard walks in his stupid, perfect black suit, walks right out of his dreams and Clint doesn’t know whether to kiss him or punch him. Then it hits him like a tsunami to the gut that Coulson didn’t care enough to let him know.
He just nods curtly and says ‘Welcome back, sir’, before he walks out, back to his room, locks the door and screams his lungs out into a pillow till it hurt.
Because he’d let Clint believe he was dead - let Clint mourn him, weep over him, feel a hole in his heart over him. The fucker probably laughed over him. Because he just didn’t care, not in the same way.
He misses the way Phil’s face crumpled as he left, never saw the way Phil had agonised over how to tell him, hadn’t been there to hear his name be the first word Phil spoke as he woke up, hadn’t seen the anger directed at Fury for letting Clint believe he was dead, hadn’t seen the nervous pacing, hadn’t seen Phil beg the team not to tell Clint, so he could do it personally, hadn’t seen the team leave to give them space.
He wants to curl up into the foetal position and cry, but Tony fucking Stark turns up and announces Clint needs a drink and so Clint goes and gets so hammered, Thor has to carry him home.
He doesn’t see the concern, and he doesn’t feel the Norse God gently tucking him into his bed and affectionately patting his head as he leaves.
The next mission he’s more useless than usual. It’s zombies of all things and of course, Tony’s got the suit, Steve, Bruce and Thor are immune and Natasha’s somehow found the uber secret lair of this particular mastermind and is politely taking them down, so all Clint can do is man the comms for everyone.
Oh, and get knocked unconscious when the helicarrier is overrun and he stupidly doesn’t notice.
He tries to ignore the pain of waking up to Tony joking it was a pity Clint wasn’t bitten. Oh, Clint knows Tony only meant it to study the virus, but that little snake tells him the team wouldn’t have cared if he was bitten.
Might even have been releived: an honourable death and gets the useless one out the way.
They leave him for the night, but he discharges himself. He hates hospitals, always has. He then wishes he hadn’t - he wakes up the team when he comes in.
The little snake blinds him from their smiles, their concern, their love
He’s sitting in the gym, recuperating after a mission that went belly-up and nearly blew his arm off, when he first thinks about it.
But he doesn’t do it, squashes it down because of all the trouble he’d cause. Can’t ruin the team’s rep.
He gets to his room before the little snake whispers he’s causing more trouble now. Already right now, Nat was out covering his role for SHEILD, going to his press conferences, doing all the jobs he knows she hates. His fault.
Doesn’t realise she’ll gladly do it for him, hates it more seeing him being treated like a dancing monkey again.
His fault Tony has to break away from his inventions to check Clint’s taken his medication, eaten, bring him tea.
Forgets tiny could just get JARVIS to do it, but doesn’t
His fault the team don’t get the excellence of Coulson’s leadership
Doesn’t realise its because Coulson wants to give him his space
Clint loves them, wants them, needs them far more than they can humanly possibly give him in return.
No one has ever questioned him having a gun in his room. It would be easy as anything to turn the barrel round, fit it inside his mouth and pull. He doesn’t waste his time, like a movies heroine, he just fits it where he knows the bullet will go right through the brain stem and pulls the trigger.
He doesn’t see Tony run up all those stairs as the first sight of the gun, just to cradle Clint’s body and weep, doesn’t see Bruce burst into the room and hulk out at the body, doesn’t see Nat get told and retreat to a corner and rock for 3 hours, whispering to herself in Russian (because if love is for children, then she’s most definitely a child)
He doesn’t see Thor fall to his knees and beg his father above him to bring Clint back, doesn’t see Steve weep and apologise for not being there, not seeing, not caring enough, doesn’t see Phil not quite make it back to his office before breaking down.
He doesn’t see the lines of mourners at his funeral, he doesn’t see the tears in the eyes of all the people he’d mattered to, doesn’t see the raw, gaping wound left in his team that will never heal.
He just sees his brother, and all the people he’d loved and lost. And they tell him there always was, always is and always will be love for him.