Who: Clint and Dark What: With one final realistic nightmare, Clint flees for the only other place he felt peace at: Dark's Carnival Where: His and Natasha's bedroom moving to the Carnival When: Late night of August 3rd Rating/Status: Medium/Complete
The last several days had been trying on Clint. Every time he saw himself in a mirror or reflective surface he saw the eyes he had when under the influence of the Tesseract. Sleep was no better as he was constantly bombarded with nightmares. He was desperately wanting to ask Natasha to have his head looked at again, but for the life of him, he couldn't understand why he hadn't yet. Sighing, he crawled under the covers and closed his eyes, hoping for a dreamless sleep tonight...
Clint had just finished speaking with Fury when the Tesseract activated. As the man in strange garb began his assault, Clint tried to get in a few headshots but it was no use. Dodging the blast, he regained his footing only to hear the words, "You have heart..." Then the scepter was pressed against his chest softly, as if it were a caress from a lover.
He could feel cold tendrils seep into his chest and he wanted to whimper in pain, to claw at them to get them out but he couldn't move. He could feel the icy fire burning it's way up from his heart into his brain. And that was when the worst pain began. He began to relive every bit of pain he had ever caused, feeling each rip of the bullet and arrow he had sent to end their targets. It felt like and eternity and he started whimpering for it to stop. Soon he had no idea if he was the killer or the victim of the bullets and arrows. It just felt like he was going insane.
His mind no longer felt like his own. Almost like each bit of pain was ripping away his soul. Then his mind began playing tricks on him with his mission to kill the Black Widow. Only this time he chose to end her, watching as her blood poured from her chest from his bullet. Or was it his chest and her bullet. He watched as she walked up to him before pushing her finger into the wound and twisting it.
"Life for life, death for death..." she whispered, her voice horribly distorted...
Clint tossed and turned as his dreams shifted again...
It has been almost too easy to fool Natasha into thinking he was back. That she had knocked Loki out of his brain. He played his part though, knowing his boss had plans that needed to occur on Asgard. But now, Loki was back and it was time to deal with the Russian woman. It had been an easy enough matter to go into her bedroom. She had stirred of course, she was too aware of her surroundings sleeping or awake, but she seemed to settle when she realized it was just her partner. He gave a cold smirk and quickly used the cuffs to bind her wrists to the bed. That seemed to snap her out of it and wild, pissed off jade eyes landed on him. He grinned cruelly at the look of fear that formed when Natasha saw how bright blue they were.
"Clint..." she whispered, her voice sounding desperate.
He smirked some and pulled out his combat knife. Slowly he moved forward and began to work, carving into her skin with expert precision to draw out the most pain but keeping her from bleeding out and dying too soon. After the knife came some acid tipped arrows. Then fire. Her screams and pleas seemed only to drive him.
Hours later, when her voice was hoarse and ragged, he pulled out his pistol and selected a bullet, putting it in the top of the clip and chambering it into the round. "Just like that kid we saw partner," he sneered.
"Clint...I..." Natasha began but her words were silenced as he pulled the trigger. The gunshot seemed to snap him out of it and he stared in horror at the bloodied mess of his partner.
"T-Tasha..." he stammered, his eyes clear and horrified. He stared at his bloodied hands, realization dawning on him. A figure stepped into view wearing green and gold armor. Clint looked up, pure hate burning in his eyes and he lunged forward with a scream only to pass through Loki. He turned, frowning, when he felt a sharp, searing pain rip through his spine and abdomen.
"Good work Barton..."
Eyes opening, Clint sighed and rolled over, facing Natasha. He reached out and brushed his hand over her face but he frowned when he felt how cold it was. He sat up slowly and pulled the covers back, his eyes widening when he saw the lifeless jade eyes staring at him.
He scrambled back, falling of the bed and hitting someone's legs. He turned and blinked when he saw his brother Barney staring down at him with lifeless eyes, an arrow sticking out of him. Clint struggled to get up but hands grabbed him and held him to the floor as he saw more and more of those he had killed start to stalk towards him. When they reached him they began grabbing at him and he couldn't help but scream when they started tearing his flesh off...
Gasping awake, Clint sat up and looked around a bit wildly before he realized for real he was awake. Rubbing his face, he got up and silently went to the bathroom, turning the water on and splashed it on his face. He wasn't finding peace anymore. He could see it as he stared back at the Tesseract eyes. He looked towards the bedroom before he made a decision.
Soundlessly, he packed up a few belongings, mainly clothes, before he grabbed one of the bows he had made and packed it as well with a leather quiver. Before leaving though, he wrote out a quick letter to Natasha before laying it on his side of their bed followed by his dogtags. Then he was gone, walking silently.
Passing through the entrance of the carnival, he prayed he was making the right choice and began heading for the main tent, hoping Dark would be there.
*** The music had stopped when the carnival closed for the evening. Now the air was filled with silence, and the occasional mirthless laughter of some of the creatures that worked the shows. They were huddled here and there in their own minds and the occasional small group, most had gone back to the train that held the beds, others patrolled the grounds to make sure no one had entered to snoop around. In the large tent at the center of the carnival, Mr. Dark stood with a small crowd that included Mr. Cresswell, a woman and two dwarves.
They were outfitting her with a costume, Mr. Dark watching with amusement while the others worked.
He had sensed Mr. Barton's approach, having attached himself to the man some time ago. He felt him getting nearer, and smiled further. He pulled up the sleeve of his left arm, checking the tattoo that had appeared on his skin earlier. It had moved from his hand to make room amidst the other faces. When the tent flap moved, admitting Mr. Barton, Dark half turned and looked at Clint. A look of surprise crossed his visage though he very well knew what would happen.
"Mr. Barton!" he said brightly, looking at him quizzically, "I'm surprised to see you so late. How can I help you.."
Clint knew this was stupid and foolish and he should turn around and go back to the Avenger Warehouse and tell Natasha everything. Get help through her. But Loki had checked his mind and he had said there was nothing. Which meant this had to be psychological. And while peace had been had with Natasha, it no longer was happening. And between seeing the eyes everywhere he looked now and the nightmares...
He let a slow breath out, looking at Dark. “I was uh, wondering if that job opening was still available,” he said, his voice quiet but sure. He had noticed a few days ago upon visiting Dark’s carnival that he hadn’t caught any trace of the Tesseract in his eyes and an odd sense of peace had washed over him. If he had been thinking clearly he would have been more wary of it but given he still had the amulet and was oblivious that it wasn’t working, he felt safe.
He shifted his bag on his shoulder and looked at Dark, awaiting his answer, a small part of him dreading it.
Dark resisted the urge to smile, "I see," he responded. He couldn't look too eager, or pleased to hear Mr. Barton's request, otherwise it might set him off that it had been a ploy to gain him. Dark looked back at Mr. Creswell and the others and gestured them away, "We'll continue this tomorrow, if you please." Everyone departed except for Cresswell, who as a lurker, simply disappeared into the shadows to watch over Mr. Dark.
Turning back to Clint, Dark looked him over appreciatively.
"It is," he said slowly, approaching Clint and gesturing for him to walk with him. They exited the tent with Cresswell following behind, "but I'm curious as to why you've come back so suddenly. I had believed you disinterested in our line of work."
He very well knew. But, it was all for a show. It was all a game, and they had to go through the motions lest the whole thing be given up. Dark hummed a low tune, looking about the carnival with a bit of pride.
*** Clint had known it would be strange for him to suddenly come back asking for a job when he kept refusing. But even here at the carnival, passing by one or two reflective surfaces he hadn’t seen the eyes staring back at him. He walked with Dark, still holding his bag and case with the bow.
“I admit I was at first but things change after all,” he returned. “I’m not exactly happy where I am and I figured a change would be in order.” He gave a shrug. “I’m sorry for the sudden arrival, I can come back at a more decent hour if that’s convenient.” By then Natasha might be up when he got back and rather pissed he had left without a single word to her. Not only that, but she could probably convince him that they’d figure out what was wrong with him.
But Clint didn’t move from Dark’s side, content to hear the other man’s offer of a job out. If the terms were acceptable, Clint would no doubt join.
*** "A decent hour, perhaps, is not now. But I'm glad you came after the show had closed for the day," he said amicably. Dark smiled faintly, and paused in his steps, looking a Clint with interest. "We have room. Aboard the train, you see." There was a pause, and then, "You understand that as.. the 'new guy' you are relatively low on the bottom of the food chain.. " Everyone worked for everyone, in the carnival. In some ways, they were dependent upon each other, but could function to some extent until a replacement could be found should one of their shows disappear.
"If you're prepared to work for your dues, Mr. Barton, we can then surely find a place for you here." There had been a place carved out for him from the beginning.
"We work as a team, Mr. Barton. You've been part of a show before, so you very well understand how these things work. It oughtn't take you long to mesh with the atmosphere of the carnival, and our routines. Mr. Cresswell here will show you the ropes."
Clint nodded some, listening to Dark’s words. “I know and realize I’ll need to work my way up Mr. Dark.” Honestly Clint didn’t have a problem with that. It often made the bond in a carnival stronger because everyone had done a similar job and knew the ropes. You were raised on skill alone and not favoritism. It was why as a boy Clint had worked as hard as he could to be the best archer in the shows. It meant better showtimes, a better cut of the earnings, and respect. Not only that but it also helped the carnival or circus in the long run given how popular his shows were.
Steel blue eyes darted over at the train before returning to Dark. “I’m prepared to work for my dues,” he said. He ignored the twisting in his gut that was trying to tell him this was a bad idea. That he should turn tail and flee back to the safety of the city and the warehouse. But his feet remained firmly planted and he stared at Dark.
He had noted the shadow in the form of Mr. Cresswell but he hadn’t said anything on it. As far as he knew Dark didn’t know exactly who Clint was. And Clint was determined to keep it that way given if he told it could mean Natasha and the others would be in danger. After all, who knew just what this strange man was capable of.
*** Dark clapped his hands together, "Wonderful!" he exclaimed, "wages, breaks and all of that business will be determined on the morrow. For now, come put your things away. We have early mornings, after all." Dark turned on his heel and headed back in the direction of the train, allowing Mr. Barton to come along with him.
"Mr. Cresswell, please move on ahead and get Mr. Williamson to make room for this man here." Mr. Cresswell, silent as ever, nodded and ran ahead to complete Dark's command. And well, it was all very true that Dark did not know who Clint was. He knew the man only as an archer with a bad history, and a lot of trouble in his mind. He was susceptible to the Darkest part of the carnival, after all. And well, here he was today. A fine acquisition! What did Dark care for his real life, now that Clint was one of them?
Perhaps tomorrow Clint would regret it. Perhaps tomorrow he'd see what the carnival was. He was Dark's now. There was no going back.
Eventually, they reached the train. It was long, ominous and glowing with the faint light of lamps alight in several cars. The carnies were inside, indulging their freetime while they could and in what limited capacities they may. There was no true free spirit in the carnival. All of them belonged to Dark, and Hell itself.
“Do you have questions, Mr. Barton?” Dark asked.
*** Clint followed Dark, falling silent. His eyes took in everything as they walked. Dark really should have cared more for the life that Clint led, or had led, outside of the carnivals and circuses. A master assassin with friends and allies even here in this strange world. Clint had no doubt that they would come after him once they realized where he was. Or at least Natasha. He hated that he was probably hurting her by doing this. But she deserved better than him.
Arriving on the train, Clint kept the slight frown off of his face. He remembered carnival trains being more...lively. Upbeat. Laughter at least but here there was an air of oppression. He shoved the uncomfortable feeling aside and glanced at Dark.
“For now no. Just curious as to where I’ll be bunking.” He wanted to ask about the sullenness on the train but he stayed silent for now. Answers would come in time. Of that he was certain.
*** "Mr. Williamson has made room for you," he assured him, pushing open one of the car doors. The carnies looked up at Dark, and eyed Clint for a moment before getting up to greet him. There was a general air of uneasiness and then the carnies burst into commotion to move aside and allow passage of their leader. Dark raised a hand to calm them, "Please, control yourselves." They eyed Clint with curiosity, wondering who he was and how he had come to join the carnival. None of them would share their own stories, should Clint inquire. At least, not a story of truth.
"Just through the other side," and passing the people in their current car, Mr. Dark directed Clint through to the other side. "Mr. Cresswell will fetch you in the morning to show you the routine," he gestured at an empty bunk on the lowest rung. "Good evening, Mr. Barton."
Dark smiled faintly, nodded his greetings at the other four people in the current car, then turned to exit. He lived in the most luxurious section of the train, and wouldn't walk through the whole of the sleeper cars to get there.
*** Clint nodded in greeting to the few men and women who introduced themselves. He suddenly felt very unsure about this choice. But if it gave him peace... Shoving the thoughts aside, he followed Dark through the car and to where he’d be rooming. Hearing Dark’s words, Clint turned and nodded. “Mr. Dark,” he bidded.
Silently he moved to the tiny room that held his bed and set his things down in it. He shut the door and looked around the cramped space before sitting on the bed. Brushing a hand through his short hair, he sighed. Oh how he hoped this was the right choice. His instinct said no but he felt at peace here. Rubbing his head, he curled up on his bunk, wishing he had something of Natasha’s to keep with him while he stayed with Dark’s carnival.