When people said that your childhood is going to define the rest of your life, they couldn't be more right where it concerned Clint Barton.
The circus gave him the skills with a bow and gymnastics that he would use until he died. Trickshot and Swordsman made him into the main act, made him into someone adored by the masses, even while they instilled the values of being able to take care of yourself.
After the abuse by his father the circus was the best thing that could have happened. Clint spent nearly all his time with Barney, training, having fun. He couldn't imagine doing anything else with his life ever.
Finding Swordsman stealing from the circus shattered the illusion of happiness. The offer to become partners was as ridiculous as it was insulting. Clint would never join someone stealing from family.
There was no doubt in his mind that Barney would take Clint's side and help him make Swordman pay for what he did.
“You didn't say yes? What the fuck is wrong with you?” Barney looked absolutely livid and Clint frowned at him uncertainly.
“But the circus is our home. You said so.”
The sneer on his brother's face was ugly and Clint found himself shrinking back.
“You're the headliner. They only let me stay because of you.” Barney grabbed the collar of Clint's Hawkeye costume with both hands and shook him. “How do you think I've earned my keep?”
The realization chilled Clint to the bone. “What? But..”
“You know what? I'm done. I'm done being second best.” Barney pushed Clint a few stumbling steps back, before reaching behind his back and pulling out the knife Swordsman had gifted him a couple months ago on his birthday.
“B-Barney? W-What are you do-doing?” Clint held up one hand, stumbling back as fast as he could, but Barney was older, taller with longer legs.
The next minute was a blur.
Clint managed to keep the knife away from him, but they grappled, they fell and rolled over the ground. The smell of grass was overwhelming and Clint felt stones dig into his skin and rip it open.
A noise, a grunt, filled the air and they stopped, Clint on his back with Barney above him. They were both panting, looking at each other wide eyed and for a few seconds Clint didn't realize what had happened.
Warmth spread over Clint's fingers, dripping onto his stomach.
“You stabbed me”, Barney said, his words a whisper.
Oh God, what had he done?
Barney tilted to the side until he fell, the hilt of his knife sticking out of his stomach where blood soaked his clothes. An uneven dark circle like it had been merely cherries that had been spilled.
“Barney.” Clint's voice was shaking. What did he do?, a continuous mantra in his head.
Barney's mouth opened, but he didn't speak. He choked and blood came out of his mouth.
“No. No. No. No. No.” Panic shut down Clint's brain. He couldn't think. He couldn't help. He couldn't...
Shouts from the circus. The sound of a siren. The knife in his brothers stomach. The blood.
Clint ran. Clint ran like he had always had run. He ran like he would always run his entire life. Plagued by nightmares and with the start of a life as a lonely mercenary. It was the only way to try to right what he had done, but it was never enough.