Running away had been Barney's idea.
Clint hadn't said no because he hated the orphanage, and the only good thing they'd had since their parents died and they got stuck here was the trip to the circus. They'd been loaded on a bus and driven out to the fairgrounds, and that was where Barney got the idea.
He would always deny that it was the Grayson kid who made him think it was possible, though Clint knew it was because no one would have thought they could join the circus as two ordinary kids without watching the trapeze artists first. Their boy was only Clint's age, but he soared through the sky, flipping between his parents who never dropped him, who made it so he could fly.
When Barney said they should leave the orphanage the last day the circus was in town so they could leave with them, Clint agreed.
“I see we have stowaways,” a woman said, smiling down at Clint, who tensed when he heard her voice. He hadn't thought they'd be caught so soon, and he didn't know where Barney was, or he would have ran to him, would have wanted to have his older brother help him because Barney always knew what to do and what to say. “Where did you come from?”
“You're a flying Grayson,” Clint said, blinking when he recognized her. It hadn't been easy. She didn't look the same as she had in costume. She was wearing something his mother might have worn, a pale shirt and jeans, though his mother would never have tied the ends of it in a knot like this woman had.
“I am,” she agreed. “I'm Mary. What's your name?”
“Clint.” He swallowed. “You said stowaways. Does that mean that you found my brother?”
“I didn't. Trickshot did,” she said. “Your brother is probably lucky it was him. Swordsman would have scared him half to death.”
“Not Barney. Barney's not scared of anything.”
She laughed, and Clint smiled at the sound of it. She sounded so much happier than his mother had when she laughed. She always seemed to look over her shoulder for his father if she did. Her smile was still soft and nice when she leaned down to Clint's face.
“Sometimes being too brave can get us into trouble, though,” Mary told him. “Running away to the circus, for instance. Where are your parents?”
She closed her eyes for a moment, and Clint wondered if she said a prayer or something like some people did. He didn't know. She swallowed and looked down at him. “And you ran away from the orphanage?”
He nodded. “It's a bad place. Please don't send us back there.”
She looked back at the man approaching her, and him Clint recognized right away. That was the other Flying Grayson. Her husband. He put a hand on her shoulder, and she tilted her head up, kissing him. He smiled, putting his arm around her waist and looking down at Clint.
“Who do we have here?”
“John, this is Clint. Clint, this is my husband. I'm surprised you haven't run into our son yet. Where is that little Robin of mine?”
Clint had to jump back when he heard the cry. A boy jumped off the top of the truck, flipping onto the ground in front of them. The Graysons clapped as he took a bow.
“You're getting better at that,” Mary said, reaching over to ruffle his hair. “Such a little star.”
Clint fidgeted. All of this made him feel uncomfortable. He shouldn't be here, didn't belong with these people. They were so close and not like his family and he didn't fit in. They shouldn't have come.
“Hey,” the boy said. “You ever see an elephant before?”
“Come on, then. I'll introduce you to a friend of mine. If you're good, she might even let you on her back.”
“This is Zitka.”
The other boy laughed, and Clint glared at him. He didn't like it when people made fun of him. Barney would beat them up for that, and he wished his brother was here to do it. He had thought he liked this Grayson kid, but now he wasn't sure. Maybe this boy was meaner than he'd realized and was just putting on an act for his family.
“I thought the same thing when I first saw her,” Grayson said. “I mean, the first time I remember seeing her. I've been in the circus all my life, and I grew up with Zitka, but I remember walking into the tent and just looking up and going wow. I knew her, but she was still amazing.”
Grayson held out a hand, and the elephant lifted her foot up, almost like they were shaking hands. Clint stared at them. Grayson let go. The elephant put her foot down, and Grayson hugged her, reaching over to pass her some kind of treat.
“You want to try?”
“I don't know.”
“She won't hurt you. She's a sweetheart.” Grayson leaned against the elephant and sighed. “She's my only friend. Besides my parents, I mean. All the other kids are older and too busy with their routines or work or they left the circus already. I think I'm the only one under ten, at least until our lion tamer has her baby.”
“You think they'll let me stay?”
“I hope so,” Grayson said. He gave Clint a big smile. “I hope we can be friends, too.”
Clint shrugged. “I think we already are.”