Based on character development in my "Trust" story. Nothing about the Marvel Universe is mine. Early nineties, so technology is most certainly not where it is today; computers were still becoming popular, the internet was mostly for universities and scientists, cell phones were little more than paperweights, and all the cool kids had pagers.
As soon as Clint put on his mask and scrambled up the rope ladder to the highest point in the tent, everything but the next hour went away. He didn't go on until near the end of the first act, so he was able to spend the time doing what he liked best, outside of shooting his bow – people watching. For all that the reactions were the same from one show to the next, he still enjoyed it, still enjoyed playing little games with himself about who would have what expression on their face, who would clap, who would cover their eyes when the tightrope twins did their falling routine. (His was better. They just seemed to stumble and fall into the net, he ran out and jumped, shooting arrows on the way down.)
For some reason tonight, there was a higher number of men and women in black suits, some of whom didn't look like they were enjoying themselves. He'd seen folks like them over the past couple of months, but tonight had the highest concentration. Clint guessed that there was some sort of business meeting that had decided a field trip to Coney Island, and the circus, was the thing to do. Saturday nights and all that. He'd've suggested, had he been asked, being someplace other than here, but since he hadn't been, and some of them did seem to be enjoying themselves, he just put them out of his mind.
One man, with an eyepatch, was pointing up at Clint about halfway through the first act and talking to another man. The observation shook Clint slightly, but years of performing allowed him to focus on what he was hoping he'd get paid to do. He'd missed the last payday, because there were rules about that sort of thing: if you weren't there to get your money, it went to something else. Last time, he'd been stuck in a police station a hundred miles away answering questions and only avoiding being booked and given a trial by the skin of his teeth. The good showing of the past few days gave the young man hope that he'd get enough over the usual to buy a new bowstring and some beer off of the weightlifters, or even get his good bow back.
His act went as well as normal, and he stuck around to help out for the rest of the circus. When he was finally able to return to the tent set up for the use of the circus performers, he passed through a very loose ring of the black-suited men and women. Most people wouldn't have seen it, but he'd been taught through life to watch out for patterns. It wasn't quite enough to set off his radar, but he entered the tent on edge. The fact that the tent was empty made it even worse, until he saw the man sitting in his chair, which just made him mad.
"You're in my chair." Clint's hand tightened around his bow as he pulled off his mask. "Get out. This is a private area. Get out."
"Clinton Francis Barton." The man didn't turn around, focusing on a file he held in his lap. "From Waverly, Iowa. Parents died about 15 years ago. Car accident, both of 'em were drunk. Tell me, how'd you like Juvie? Up to me, you'd've been tried as an adult, locking that little girl into her closet like that."
"Wasn't up to you. Now are you going to get out or am I going to have to make you?" Clint scowled. He should've turned around and ran when he'd gotten the first look at that group of agents, hidden in with the animals. He'd done it before, when the cops or the feds came sniffing, even when he knew that they were there for somebody else; it was why he'd left the last circus. It was never a good thing to be on anybody's persons-of-interest list, and this guy was poking at old hurts.
"Sit down, boy." The man stood up, turning around with a flare of his trench coat and tossing the folder onto Clint's dressing table. One eye covered with a black eyepatch, the man Clint had noticed earlier glared at the young man. "Sit down, shut up, and answer my questions. Understood?" He pointed at Clint's chair.
Clint glared back, dropping his mask next to him. "Hard to answer when you just told me to shut up." He shoved past the man, bumping shoulders, and was going to put his bow down on the table when he felt a hand grab his free arm. He spun around, raising his bow defensively. "Don't touch me."
The man smirked. "I like your spirit. Agent Santos?" he raised his voice.
"Yes, Director Fury?" The other man Clint had been watching from his perch just appeared, a thick envelope in his hand. Taking in the positions of Clint and Fury, he raised his eyebrows in a silent question, before handing the envelope to Fury and picking up the file folder.
With one smooth motion, Fury shifted his grip, from Clint's upper arm to his wrist, turning Clint's hand over and slapping the envelope into it. As Clint looked down at it, Fury smiled, all teeth and no real warmth. "Let's try this again, Mr. Barton. My name is Nick Fury, the director of an organization that you will have never heard of before. We have an interest in people like you. What you have there is an invitation." He dropped Clint's wrist. "Monday, 9 AM, at the address inside. I would recommend using the cash to get something else," he eyed Clint's costume, "to wear, something that will allow you to blend in. There are also tokens in there, enough to get you to and from Manhattan twice." As Clint stared at Fury, mute for once, the two dark-suited men vanished.
The other members of the circus slowly trickled into the tent as Clint put his bow on the table and sat down, taking a second, more in-depth look at the envelope. On the front was a strange emblem, and he traced his name typed on the front with one callused finger as he mouthed the words "Clinton F. Barton." He ignored the questions being put his way as he flipped the envelope over and worked one finger under the flap, opening it.
As he pulled out the folded paper he heard the clanking of subway tokens, and one fell out. Quick as his namesake, Clint tracked it through the air, snatching it before it hit the ground. Tucking it back into the envelope, he carefully placed it on his lap and unfolded the paper. A paperclip held some bills, and a glance around suggested that nobody was paying him any more attention. Clint pulled them off, folding them in half, then the money joined the tokens in the envelope.
The sheet of paper looked, at first glance, like the letter he had gotten from the FBI two months ago about his brother. Running one finger along the text, he slowly read "Dear Mr. Barton," Mentally, he swore that if this was more bad news, he'd put his quiver and his bow on his back and start walking east, not stopping until he hit Europe. He continued reading. "Report at 0900 Monday to to the address listed below. You are allowed one (1) bag or suitcase of personal belongings, including chosen weapons. Be prepared to be present for between one (1) and seven (7) days with little or no contact with family, friends, or current/previous employers. You will be compensated for your time. All meals and lodging will be provided. Upon arrival, please present this letter and photo identification to the security guard." It was signed with some random name.
"Hey, Hawkeye, William is about to do payday." One of the tightrope twins stuck her head over Clint's shoulder. "You aren't in trouble, are you?"
Clint shrugged, tucking the paper and envelope inside his costume top. Grabbing his bow, he followed the others out to where the ringmaster was holding court, handing each person a stack of bills with a flourish. It had been a good week, if William was looking that happy and acting like that in front of the entire group, who really didn't give a damn, as long as they got their fare share.
If one thing held true about any circus that Clint had been in, it was to never count your money around others. So once Clint had gotten his cash, he retreated to "his" spot: the perch in the performance tent. Business had been even better than the ringmaster's antics had suggested, if the amount he was holding was any indication. Pulling out the cash that had come with the letter, Clint did some thinking. He needed fifty bucks to get his good bow out of the pawn shop, he needed food, and he had been told to get clothing to "blend in" – that man, Fury, had probably been thinking of a suit, especially since the address was on Wall Street, but there were more than suits who were down there at 9 AM on a Monday morning. And besides, having some spare cash just in case was always a smart thing to do...here Clint paused in his musings, peeling off a twenty dollar bill and tucking it away in his shoe. Just in case. Clint couldn't do the math, but he did think that he'd be able to do everything with the money he still held in his hand. Tucking the money into the envelope, and the envelope back into his top, he tied the safety rope to his bow and himself, before firmly telling his stomach that it'd be fed tomorrow, and fell asleep.
One advantage to Sunday was that there was only one show in the evening. So when Clint woke up, it was with the entire day free. Climbing down from his perch, he parted with a dollar for a cup of coffee and leftovers from one of the hot dog vendors, then went to see if his one "normal" outfit still fit. The shirt didn't, but he was able to borrow a t-shirt, swearing up and down that he'd have it back by that evening, he just had to go someplace where he didn't want to be a walking advertisement for the circus. With the realization that clothing was more important than his bow or even more food, his first stop was an Army-Navy Surplus Store, where he was able to get most of the things that he thought he needed. The combat boots he got were surprisingly comfortable for a man who was used to wearing whatever he could dig from a dumpster or no shoes at all, and he found a duffel bag large enough for both of his bows as well as whatever clothing he got. Just because he could, he also got himself a watch and a knife. Knife throwing was a skill that he'd trained for, even if he rarely used it, and one that he enjoyed; finding a knife that was perfectly balanced meant that he not only wanted it, but felt that he needed it. An old Army jacket, complete with some patches, completed his ensemble.
No stranger to walking, Clint spent most of the rest of the day walking back to Coney Island, spending money along the way for the rest of the things that he thought or knew he needed. After stopping by the pawn shop for his bow, he returned to the circus for an hour's practice. The show that night went like any Sunday night show, and he spent that night curled around his new belongings.