When Clint is little, like really little, he can remember his mother cuddling him in her lap. She's holding one of those little hand held mirrors in one hand, her other arm is wrapped around Clint's waist and is holding him close. He watches with interest as the mirror flashes with light. The bare bulb that sits in the center of the living room ceiling giving everything a yellow tint.
"What do you think Clint? Do you think Daddy will like my new look?"
Clint tilts his head sideways until his ear thumps his shoulder, studying Mommy in the mirror. Her lines aren't as there as they usually are, the purply color underneath her eyes is gone and she's got a different, but still pretty, shade of purple on her eyelids. They almost look like she turned her eyes upside down.
Clint nods decisively. "Pretty."
Her red lips leave a smudge on his cheek that she wipes away with gentle fingertips.
"Thank you Sweetie."
Clint tilts his head again as he hears the front door slam open and hit the wall with a crack.
Clint shimmies out of Mommy's arms and bolts into the room he shares with Barney.
When Daddy comes home like that Clint likes to hide under the bed. If he curls up small in the far corner with the blanket his Daddy thought he had thrown away (Mommy had rescued it) he felt a little safe.
He can hear them and he shuts his eyes tight hoping that tonight will be different because Mommy got pretty for Daddy.
"Whatchu do to ur face?"
"I borrowed some makeup from a friend. Do you like it?"
"You look like a whore."
Clint heard a fleshy smack and Mommy gasped, Clint curled up tighter. Nope just the same as any other night.
"Didn't think I'd come home tonight did ya? Thought you could trick me?"
The floor vibrated through the small house when Mommy fell.
A meaty thud meant Daddy had kicked her in the tummy again.
Usually Barney would have come in by now. He could have yelled and made Daddy look at him, but Barney hadn't been home in a while.
Another thud and this time he heard Mommy cry out.
Maybe. Maybe he could be a big boy like Barney.
Clint hugged his blankie tight one last time for luck before he crawled out from under the bed and ran into the living room.
Mommy's pretty purple was smeared across her face and something black had dripped down her face from where she had been crying.
Mommy's head jerked towards his voice and she shook her head. No. No.
"Go to your room Clint."
Clint bit his lip hard and he squinted his eyes real hard so they looked mean like Daddy's.
"Get out of here you little bastard."
Mommy's head was still shaking. No.
Her pretty face was melting back, this time the purple was growing on her cheekbone.
Mommy used to be pretty until Daddy had hit her. He always had to ruin everything.
Clint ran straight towards his Daddy and shoved him in the leg as hard as he could.
Daddy swayed before he regained his balance.
Clint ducked away from the first blow but Daddy had picked up the mirror that Mommy had used to put her makeup on with and he swung it hard with his other hand.
Clint could feel and hear the glass of the mirror shattering as it crashed into the side of his head, before the sound was abruptly muffled and he felt something pop in his ear as he hit the ground dazed and sobbing.
Daddy dropped the broken mirror on the floor before he turned back towards Mommy and kicked her again.
When Barney finally came through the door Daddy had already left again and Mommy was trying to pick shards of glass out of Clint's scalp and ear.
Clint didn't talk about what had happened but he had to tilt his head now so that his right ear could pick up more sounds. All he could ever hear out of his left were really loud noises like shouting.
Mommy liked to call him Birdy after that. She said he looked like a little baby bird as he twisted and turned his head so he could hear.
The mirror got thrown away.
Daddy didn't really need it to hit him anyways.
When Clint is twelve his parents die in a fiery alcohol induced crash.
He wonders if the priest would hit him if he spit on his father's coffin.
He doesn't risk it.
The orphanage is pretty small.
The nuns tell him to say his prayers every night.
They say he should be grateful that he could be saved from the sins of his father.
The Mother Superior likes to drag him into the small bathroom and she goes over his face, feature by feature, while she brandishes his father's obituary picture.
He has his nose.
His hair color.
His goddamn chin is apparently exactly the same as his late father's and she tuts and frets and wonders how she'll ever save him since it's obvious that he has so much of his father in him.
She thinks he's a lost cause and when she catches him masturbating to a photo of a handsome half naked man. She beats him until his butt is as purple as his mother's cheeks used to be.
He got her eyes and her bruises.
When he's scrubbing the bathroom down as part of his punishment Clint looks at his face for a long hard moment.
Apple doesn't fall far from either tree and looks like he got the worst of both parents.
Of course the whole faggot thing is all his own so he has that going for him at least.
When he's fourteen Barney leads him to the visiting circus and they manage to convince the Ringmaster to let them stay.
Well Barney convinces him by himself. Barney goes into a small tent with the older man and twenty minutes later they're a part of the clean up crew. The Ringmaster's face is still red and he hasn't buttoned up his pants correctly. Clint's eyesight is near perfect. Clint doesn't look at him. He knows what happened anyways.
They clean and clean; sometimes there's food.
There's always beer and Clint likes the way it makes him floaty and calm.
He sneaks in to see the show sometimes, but he avoids the House of Mirrors like the plague.
Barney goes away and comes back at night. Sometimes his voice is hoarse. Sometimes he limps. Clint bites his lip and doesn't look. He's not as brave as Barney; he knows he's a coward.
He doesn't need a mirror to tell him that truth as well.
They keep moving with the circus and things aren't good but at least they aren't as bad as when they were home.
Clint sneaks quietly into the Big Top. Everyone has gone home or to bed and Clint likes to lay in the middle of the ring; cool sand cushioning his back and the tall tall tent spiraling up into infinity in the darkness.
Clint lets his bad ear rest in the sand as he looks sideways. A glimmering something pulls his head up and he looks into the darkness. There's no color to the shapes but they're all crystal clear and Clint sees a target.
Clint smiles a little as he stands back up, brushing sand off of his cut off jeans and ratty t-shirt.
He had found a small knife that one of the performers had dropped a while ago and he kept it with him. The thin blade felt good in his hands and he had seen the slender man throw it so it whipped through the air and bit deeply into wood and cloth. Clint was always looking for tree stumps and posts to work as targets but this would be better.
An actual target for target practice.
He throws the knife 5, 6, 7 times. He never seems to throw it correctly though. The knife always hits the target dead center, but more often than not it hits with its pommel.
The man appears out of the darkness behind him and grabs Clint's shoulder roughly.
Clint's whole body flinches as he looks up at the grown man who's knife he had stolen. Instead of anger however the man's face is pulled broad with a wide grin.
"Hey Boyo. I seen that; how'd you like to do it fer real?"
Clint slowly nods yes and Trickshot's smile broadened.
Turns out Barney's a good shot too; not as good as Clint but he learns fast.
When they join in the act Barney's visits to the Ringmaster stop. Now that they're earning their keep Barney doesn't have to earn it on his back.
Trickshot teaches them everything he can think of and Clint eats it up and soon he's taking shots with the bow, with knives, with anything he can lay his hands on. Impossible shots.
Trickshot starts calling him Hawkeye. With his bird tilted head and near perfect vision Trickshot says he looks like a scrawny magpie. But people don't want to see stupid little thieves, they want to see feats of daring and bravery. So Hawkeye it is.
Trickshot likes to teach the brother's in front of a mirror.
He says they can see where everything is going that way.
Form isn't worth squat in this type of marksmanship; it's about effectiveness, so they learn to shoot from almost any position. After a good night's practice sometimes Trickshot takes them out to a diner.
Clint eats until he is full and he smiles wide around a mouthful of food.
One day Clint is trying to figure out how to shoot down his body from a prone position. The arrow needs to fly just right or he'll get an unwanted dick piercing. Nothing he does seems to work and as he struggles and fights. Barney is the first to get it.
Trickshot looks at Clint like he's just failed some type of test and he prods the boy in the stomach with his toe.
"Look at urself."
Clint peeks at the mirror briefly before looking back up at Trickshot puzzled.
"You been eating too much food, being a fat ass ain't gonna get you anywhere. Suck in ur gut and do it right."
Clint looks back at the mirror silently and he looks at the profile of his stomach and feels a lurch of self disgust.
Fat asses don't get anywhere.
The next time they go to a diner Clint gets a salad with water.
Barney gets pie.
When Clint turns seventeen he figures out what Trickshot and Barney have been up to.
They break both of his legs and would have killed him if his screams of pain hadn't brought an off duty police officer running.
Barney sneers down at him and gives him one last kick to his side, that makes a rib give way, before he bolts after their mentor.
It was like looking at a mirror image of their father.
For a long time Clint kills people for a living.
His hair is long and shaggy and his beard is a birds nest of filth.
It's a good thing he kills people from a distance and takes his orders over a burner phone.
Nobody would hire him if they saw his face.
It should have made him even more disgusted with himself then he already was; but the truth was he hadn't looked in a mirror since he had seen what his brother's face had become.
He didn't want to see his father ever again.
Agent Coulson shoots him in the leg.
Clint is actually pretty impressed at the whole thing, the older man had crept up on his bad side and lay him out without giving away his position. Clint only knew he was there when he heard the gunshot and dropped with a curse of pain as his leg gave out.
That damn head tilt must have given him away.
When Clint wakes up from blood loss induced unconsciousness he's been strapped to a hospital bed and the worst of his grime has apparently been sponge bathed off of him.
Coulson stands over him in his perfectly pressed suit and looks him up and down with an unimpressed glare.
"You must be good."
Clint's eyes narrow.
"I'm the best."
"You'd have to be if people are willing to stand close enough to you to put out a contract on someone."
"Cellphones are a modern miracle man."
"Ah." Coulson shrugs. "My mistake."
"Lemme out of here."
"Nope. You're not going anywhere. Besides don't you want to hear my job offer?"
Clint smiled thinly. "Nope."
"So you'd prefer a prison sentence and the possibility of the death penalty?"
Clint hunched down low in his bed and glowered at the older man.
"I thought so."
Ten Years Later
Clint slowly and methodically twines his tie around his neck making an utter hash of putting it on. Grumbling quietly about being forced to participate in Starks wedding bash; about the intricacies of ties and formal wear, about just about anything he can think of really.
Phil steps up behind him and holds him close to his chest.
The older man is still pale and ragged from Loki's spear but he is back on his feet.
"Can't figure out the tie?"
Clint pouts at Phil's reflection in the mirror.
Phil smiles and turns him so that they're facing each other. His tie is perfectly made in a matter of seconds and Phil turns him back so that Clint can see the final look.
He looks at himself in the mirror in front of him.
The suit looks good on him.
His newest hearing aid is nearly invisible it's so small.
His face is the best part though, crowsfeet and laughlines are starting to appear around his mouth and eyes and he looks absolutely nothing like his father.
Clint's face broadens into a wide smile.
He thinks it's a good look for himself.