Disclaimer: I do not own the Avengers or any of the characters affiliated with them. If I did, there would totally be a Hawkeye/Black Widow movie in the works.
Author's Note: While I embrace constructive criticism remember this old saying if you choose to leave a review "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all"
Unfortunately the end is here. I know some of you are sad that this story isn't longer, but the point was to show the beginning of the epic brotherhood between Clint and Coulson. To keep going would take away from the intensity and true impact of everything that's happened. So I'll simply say thank you to all who read this story diligently and even more to those who reviewed. I truly enjoy writing and love making my readers happy. This chapter is shorter, but contains perhaps the most pivotal moment in Clint's relationship with Coulson. The moment that sets the stage for their deep relationship of trust and brotherhood that lasted for the next nine years until Coulson is killed during the events of the Avengers. I hope this fic made Clint's grief in "Vantage Point" even more powerful.
By the way the song the titles are from is by Tim McGraw "Better Than I Used To Be". If you haven't heard it, or even if you have, go look it up really quick and give it a listen either before, after, or while you read this chapter. I thought it described Clint perfectly at this stage in his life. Tell me if you agree :)
"Good thinking getting yourself captured on purpose to give us eyes and ear in the compound. Don't know how we would have done it otherwise, kid." Coulson added lowly, a meaningful glint in his eyes.
Clint frowned in confusion and Coulson smirked.
"At least this time you didn't break protocol."
Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it. –Bill Cosby
"Stop hovering. I'm fine." Clint assured, even as he shifted in his seat on the jet. Coulson raised his hands in defeat and sat back in his own seat.
Clint shifted again, trying in vain to find a comfortable position. He'd been released from the SHIELD infirmary in Brazil just this morning. He'd spent a week and a half there after being transferred out of the local hospital in Argentina that had saved his life. Everything still hurt in its own way, but considering the first time he'd woken up in the hospital his pain meds had worn off, he took the dull aches without complaint.
Clint finally sighed and gave up trying to get comfortable. It just wasn't happening. He snuck a glance at his handler, Coulson was sifting through the stack of files he always seemed to have with him.
"So…thanks." Clint stated suddenly. "For saving my life. I guess I owe you one."
Coulson put down the files and looked at him very seriously, more seriously than Clint expected or was prepared for.
"I didn't save you so that you would owe me, Clint. I saved you because you're my friend. You don't owe me anything."
Clint stared hard at him and then nodded, accepting.
"Why did you lie in the mission report?" He asked curiously. Coulson had needed to explain their "report" again when Clint was more coherent. Clint hadn't had a chance to ask the questions burning on his lips until now.
"I knew you didn't pay attention when we went over the protocols." Coulson accused.
"Mission protocol for captured agents." Coulson prodded.
Clint blinked and then his eyes widened.
"Protocol dictates that I should have cut you loose the moment you were captured. Packed up and went home."
"But you didn't." Clint realized quietly.
"No." Coulson smiled. "You're not the only one that can break protocol, Clint. And besides," He shrugged, "I always thought that one was stupid anyway."
Clint smiled, shaking his head as Coulson turned back to his files.
"You do this often? Bend the rules?"
"Only when it's worth it." Coulson replied easily.
Clint watched him for a moment, considering, before using his foot to pull his pack towards him. He groaned as he leaned over and rifled through it. He felt Coulson's eyes on him, watching curiously. Clint leaned back slowly, pulling his small leather book with him.
He weighed it in his hand for a moment before holding it out to Coulson with the most serious expression the handler had ever seen the teen wear.
"Take it." Clint urged when Phil didn't move.
Slowly, he reached out and took it.
"Go ahead." Clint nodded at the book. Coulson opened it to the first page, frowning slightly at the list of names written in clear, precise capital letters. He turned the page and found more names. He kept turning.
"That's the list of every person I took a contract on. 287 names of people I killed for money."
"You were only working for a year." Coulson breathed in shock.
"Yeah." Clint scoffed, "Scary isn't it. Some of the contracts had multiple names, groups of people I had to take out. And sometimes I would take multiple contracts at once and group them by country so I could get them done faster."
"Why are you showing me this?"
"So that you would know." Clint replied seriously. "Because you deserve to know what you saved me from."
Phil looked at him then, seeing the pain and sincerity in his agent's eyes.
"What I'm going to tell you now, I've never told anyone. But after these past months, after everything, you deserve to know the whole story."
Phil nodded, afraid to speak that he would somehow derail the direction the conversation had taken.
Clint took a deep breath and then started speaking.
"It all started with my parents. They were amazing. The kind of parents that would stand in line for nine hours just so you got the latest toy before anyone else. We were coming home from dinner, celebrating my dad's birthday, when the guy ran the red light. His blood alcohol was off the charts and he was going 20 miles above the speed limit. My parents were killed on impact, and my brother, Barney, and I spent the next two months in a hospital. I was six years old. And my whole life just changed in a moment.
"We didn't have any family, no trusted friends, it was just us. Me and Barney against the world. The orphanage was bad. Too many kids, not enough money, and a director with a short temper. I still don't know how I drew his attention. Maybe it was because I was always climbing things. I loved being up high, even back then," Clint smiled wistfully before his expression darkened, "God, that man was a mean bastard. I was ten when Barney told me we were going to run. He used to look out for me back then. Protect me when he could. I would have followed him anywhere."
There was pain in Clint's eyes as he spoke of his brother. Coulson's own throat tightened at the sight of it, so fresh and real even after so long.
"I ended up following him to the circus, well it was a carnival technically, Carson Carnival of Travelling Wonders. It was amazing to a ten year old. All bright lights, fantastic stunts and fascinating people. We were only there for two months before a man called Swordsman caught me throwing knives at a target. I'll never forget the look on his face when he stopped yelling long enough to realize I'd hit the bull's eye every time. And that was when I stopped being Clint Barton and started being The Amazing Hawkeye.
"I was good, damn good," Clint smirked, "It didn't matter what weapon they put in my hand, I only had to practice for an hour before I could hit the bull's eye every time. I was famous, at least in our little world, and Barney got jealous. He got bitter, because all he did was work with the props. I was center stage every show. And maybe he thought I was leaving him behind." Clint shook his head.
He still didn't know what had poisoned his brother against him.
"I stole a bow from the prop tent when I was eleven. The prop manager almost skinned me alive until Swordsman stopped him, told me the bow was mine, and he would add it to my act. Five years we spent there. I learned acrobatics, the high wire, the trapeze, everything, and for a while I thought I was where I belonged.
"Then one night when I was months from turning sixteen, I caught Barney and Swordsman stealing money from the owner. I confronted them and after they roughed me up a little, I realized they weren't my brother and my mentor anymore. They were going to do whatever it took to shut me up, so I tried to run. They cornered me outside the prop tent and Barney stabbed me in the chest." Clint said the last part quickly, as if the words themselves pained him.
Coulson wondered if the teen realized his hand had gone to the scar on his chest.
"They left after that, I recovered, Trickshot, another marksman at the circus, took over my training. Things went sideways between us six months later. He told me to leave and I did, got a buddy to get me fake papers so I could be 18 and I joined the Army, got assigned to a sniper team. For a year it was great. I didn't really like all the orders, or the sand, but I was doing good, serving my country. Then they found out I'd lied to enlist and arrested me.
"You know about my escape from prison. And about the year that followed. I hated what I was doing. I mean seriously? Killing people for money?" He looked at Coulson, "That was so weak. I was too weak to find another way to survive and by the time I realized how deep I was, it was too late. I couldn't stop, I didn't want to stop. I was good at it and I made a lot of money." Clint laughed a little, "What eighteen year old doesn't want millions of dollars? And I have it, now, sitting in a bank account, that I have no desire to access anymore.
"Because of you. Because you pulled me back from the edge and reminded me that I could do something good with these skills that I have. That maybe I could have something real to fight for again."
Coulson smiled, glancing down at the book.
"Why the book?" He asked quietly.
"So I would never forget." Clint replied. "So that none of them would be forgotten." He pointed at the book. "You want to know what I dream about that makes some days worse?" Clint asked, "It's them. I remember them and on the days when I do, I hate myself even more. I hate myself for what I did. On those days all I can feel is anger. I'm so angry all the time. Angry that I didn't find another way. That I was the one that filled the contracts. And on those days I do whatever I can to just make it better, like getting in fights and getting in trouble so I have to run or firing my bow until I hurt. Anything to make it better."
Coulson met his eyes seriously.
"It's that anger that tells me I made the right call six months ago when I offered you a way out. You have it in your head that you're some evil, dark person. That you should be punished. But you're not. You're eighteen and you made some bad choices. But this shows me," He held up the book, "That if you could take it back, you would. That's enough for me. So I'm not worried about your past, Clint. I only care about your future and what you choose to do to make it right."
"You think I ever could?" Clint's eyes dropped to the ledger then rose back to Coulson's. "Make it right?"
"I think you already have a really good start." Coulson assured, holding the book out for Clint to take it back.
Clint shook his head.
"You keep it. Let me know when I make it right."
Coulson nodded, tucking the book into his pack. Clint watched his ledger disappear into his handler's bag. There was no grand epiphany. No great weight lifted from his shoulders, but he felt the load lighten, as if someone had taken a share of the weight so it wasn't so oppressive anymore.
Maybe he wouldn't ever be able to make up for everything he'd done. But he would try. He would do whatever it took to show Coulson that he hadn't made the wrong choice that day he didn't choke him in a dirty alley in Vienna.
Four months later…
"I can't believe I'm on a mission on my birthday." Clint complained as he made the trek over the rooftops of Venice to get back to his and Coulson's safe house.
"The mission's over, Hawk, there's still time to celebrate. I'm told there's an amazing little place on the water that has the best lasagna."
"You're making my mouth water." Clint grinned as he stopped to appreciate the sight of the moonlight on the water, absently running his tongue across his brand new fake molar. He still wasn't used to it yet and had flat out refused to have a communicator put in his mouth for the foreseeable future.
With a sigh, he continued his trek, eventually shimmying down the drain pipe on the safe house and swinging onto the balcony. He pushed open the door and laughed.
Black and purple streamers were hanging from every possible point in the ceiling. A long package was wrapped on the table next to two to-go boxes.
"I didn't know they delivered." Clint chuckled, leaning down to smell the lasagna.
"I'm very persuasive." Coulson smirked.
"You didn't have to do this."
"I know." Coulson smiled. "Don't tell anyone." He ordered seriously.
"You're secret's safe with me, you big softie." Clint smirked. He eyed the present.
"Go ahead." Coulson rolled his eyes.
Clint tore into it.
"Shit." He gasped pulling out the new quiver.
"It's automated. You can change the arrow tips with the control on the side." Coulson explained, "The techs were very proud."
"This is awesome." Clint beamed. "Thank you."
"What are you doing up? You're supposed to be flying us out of Italy at 0500." Coulson asked as he came out onto the balcony to lean against the railing next to Clint.
"Bad night." Clint admitted easily, demonstrating his shaking hands to Coulson.
"Yeah. I'm good." Clint smiled slightly, "Just needed some air."
Then he told Coulson the story of the hit. It had become a routine of theirs. For some reason, when he told the story, shared it with Coulson often in the middle of the night on the SHIELD rooftop, it hurt less.
He'd told Coulson 73 stories since the day he'd given the man his ledger four months ago. And the nights where he needed to share were becoming fewer with greater lengths of time between them.
He was healing. Slowly. But he was healing.
"Thanks, Phil." Clint whispered into the night an hour after he'd finished his story. "For not letting me deal with this alone."
"You're not alone anymore, Clint. You never will be again, don't forget that."
Clint granted him a half smile, warmed by the words. Coulson reached out and squeezed his shoulder before returning inside and leaving Clint to take one last deep breath of the cool night air before he followed.
End of Youngest in History
I hope that chapter wrapped up the story for everyone. Clint, with Coulson's help, is healing. I took some creative license on Clint's back story. I hope no die-hard comic fans are too disappointed. I tried to keep the main points accurate.
Clint talks about his past exactly TWO times in my series. That was one of them. I'll give you two guesses who the other person he tells is. ;D DUH! I hope no one thinks he and Coulson were out of character at all during this mostly bromance chapter. This was the defining moment of their friendship/brotherhood, the moment where Clint decided to trust him completely and tell him his story. So I stand by it :)
And the birthday celebration. I couldn't help it. The Coulson I have in my mind would never admit to going out of his way to make Clint's 19th birthday special, but he would do it. And he would swear Clint to secrecy afterwards.
Clint's ledger will come up again in a later story. Promise :)
Also, you may have noticed Barney is, as far as Clint knows, still alive in this universe. Perhaps I can come up with a story about his ultimate return...hmmm...
I am almost done with my next story, as in I literally have a chapter left to right and then I just need to do a round of revisions. I can feasibly have the story begin posting by...Monday at the absolute latest. It very well may be earlier, but I want to cover my bases :D
Now before I give you the summary for the next story, I want to explain why I decided to the next two in the order I am.
I'm doing the story "Vietnam" which will show the origin of BlackHawk and tell the story of how their relationship changed from just being partners to being what they are in "Vantage Point" and "Trust". I felt I needed to do this story next so that when "The Heart Bleeds" comes after it, everyone will get the full impact of what Clint is feeling when he gets the report that Natasha has been killed in action. So...for simplicity's sake...I'm going to give you TWO summaries. The first is for the next story "Vietnam", the second is for "The Heart Bleeds" which will come directly afterwards.
Barton and Romanoff are partners, kind of friends, but mostly they're Hawkeye and Black Widow, SHIELD's most deadly duo. Then a mission to stop a slave trading ring in Vietnam changes everything. When tragedy strikes, they're cut off from SHIELD and on the run. In order to survive, the two assassins must face everything they've been denying, and decide if they can give each other their most protected possession...trust.
"The Heart Bleeds"
When Natasha is reported killed in action, Clint walks away. From SHIELD, from the Avengers, from everything. He has only one mission left: Find the man responsible and make him pay. But nothing is as it seems and Clint's one-man quest for vengeance leads him to startling discoveries about revenge and how your past always finds a way to catch up to you. (Sequel to "Trust", BlackHawk, whole team is there)