Barton can’t remember when the killing started.
It was probably a Skrull, or even a Kree. Something not human, something to do with war, with star travel and other worlds and no bearings. With adrenaline and having to not know or care about up from down. Adrenaline, ego, are a huge part of being a hero for him, he knows it. They are everything in this circus of alien spaceships, walking with Gods, industrial mega-giants and monsters.
Being with Natasha was easy. Others have been and gone since - hell, he married the blond. The Black Widow was the one, though. And, he knows, never will be again, even though she will be until he dies. She was an assassin, yet so vulnerable. Their moment was unbelievably strong. When it all boils down, his history is a shit thing. Moments are all he has, the only time he feels alive. There was no planning with Natasha, no tomorrow, there couldn’t be. Their now was so impossible, so fragile. They were always due to die.
Sometimes he feels so human amongst all this power and steel. He never thought he’d live this far.
Natasha, the assassin, had taught him how to hang on, how to survive. Maybe the killing started with her, when she left, and the anger kicked into overdrive.
Now his anger roams, playing on whatever catches his mind’s eye.
There’s so much wrong.
For example, Barton hates Bullseye, hates him so much. All those people he’s killed. He hates Daredevil for not stopping him once and for all. He thinks there’s something fucked-up and incestuous about how Murdock, and he is Murdock, lets that roll.
These things make him furious. The drinking helps, bringing his anger at people, at the world, back on himself.
“And a triple for my friend over there,” he tells the barman.
The barman looks up at a tall, solid man, to the right of the bar, face hidden in shadow, standing over slumped barflies.
“Why a triple?” the man asks.
“You have some catching up to do.”
“Do I know you?”
Barton ignores him.
“Triple,” he insists, to the barman.“Unlike his pertinacious friend Logan, who can’t actually get drunk because of his healing factor, but pretends he does to impress no-one, this guy, despite his big, hairy mutant frame, can get hammered.”
The man seems to flicker, his pink skin suddenly replaced by blue fur.
“This is tired, Clint. I don’t even know what it is, and it looks tired.”
“You’ve saved the entire universe at least twice I know of, died, actually died, three times. You, a human, with no powers at all, here, drinking like a loser in such a loser’s bar even villains don’t come here in their down time. Don’t you know some people think that makes you the greatest hero of all?”
“Being so human.”
“Yeah, what do you think?”
“You tell me.”
“I’m a dumb thug with good timing?”
“Lucky? How the hell have I not died?”
“A mostly good person? Drink or fuck off McCoy.”
The barman makes to give Barton his shot glass, and McCoy a bigger glass with three shots in it. Barton takes the bigger glass off him, and hands McCoy the bottle.
“Matt Murdock is Daredevil,” Barton sneers into his empty glass.
“There’s no actual proof of-“
“Don’t need it. People like us, we have… we stand a cetin way. It’s how I spotted you though Stark’s holo-bullshit.”
“So who else in this shitty little hole is-“
“Nobody. Just me. You.”
“You’ve already scoped the place?“
“The second I came in. Every minute, every day.”
“Did you imagine-”
“Taking on this bar? Of course. Risk assessment. Whatever. It keeps me focused. Stops me doing it, too, to be honest.”
“Every minute, everybody, anywhere. Imagine ways to beat them. Even when showering, or on the crapper. Black Tom, Venom, Doc Ock, the Wrecker. Logan, Stark, Steve, Carol, Danny, Wanda.”
“Stark would be a hard get.”
“Not as hard as he thinks. I know he’s built kill switches into the arrows he’s given me.”
“Sure. Hey, I’m a circus runaway. You think I can build this high-tech shit? Design it? AFFORD it? Do you know how hard it is sucking up to people I hate like him and Pym? Who HATE me? All the bullying and bluster I have to give off just to get through their sycophants, assistants and secretaries, only to have them fob me off to some geeky apprentice who’ll do the job so it will look good on his resume?”
“Hot air and bluster. Arrogance. You have any idea how much of my arrogance is just show? How else could a carnie worker use such industrial giants?”
“By being friends?”
“You think Stark and Pym truly have friends? That they can relate to anyone except through work and the Avengers?”
“So that’s one of the reasons you’re so determined to stay in the group? Access to what helps you be Hawkeye?”
They down another drink.
McCoy leans over, pouring Barton’s glass full again, keeping the bottle for his next skull.
“…Kill switches? Really?”
“People. It’s my only real skill. Knowing people. I went to the Tinker to confirm they were there.”
“But he’s a villain.”
“Who’ll look at things for money.”
‘Which you don’t have.”
“So, maybe he got the smallest peek at Stark’s technology as a payoff. I wasn’t stupid. I did all the hands on. He didn’t touch anything.”
“I see them. Reckon I could beat almost any one of you, given room enough. Except Thor. Can’t even imagine that.”
“The Hulk, too, surely?”
“I could have him. The right weapons. The right environment.”
“I doubt it. Me?”
Barton glances up from staring into his drink.
“No. I wouldn’t give you the room you’re after.”
Barton goes back to being hunched over his drink.
“You’re human, Barton. Just human. One punch would-“
“That’s what we’re about to find out, isn’t it?”
“In the alley. That’s why you’re in a dive like this, hiding. You’ve got your own demons. Your own anger. You think you can’t let it show, that you have to be the nice guy, because you look scary enough already, but, man, I can feel the anger coming off you. I can smell its stink. Me, with my human nose.”
“Why do you think I’ve been telling you all this?”
“You don’t know me.”
“People! I know people! You think just because you’re a mutant, you’re not people? THAT’S WHAT’S SO FUCKED UP ABOUT YOU ALL! WHY YOU HATE US AND EACH OTHER SO MUCH! YOU KNOW, UNDER IT ALL, YOU’RE STILL PEOPLE! THAT WE’RE ALL PEOPLE!”
There's a moment’s pause. Barton is standing, drink knocked over, fists clenched, glaring at McCoy.
“Okay. I’ll be outside,” McCoy says.
“You’ll be lucky if I don’t rip your head off.”
“I like you Hank. It will be good to beat the shit out of someone without wanting to kill them.”
“See you soon.”
The barman grabs Barton by the arm.
“Clint, I can’t afford-“
“Afford? Do you know how many times I’ve saved yo-“
“But you’re drunk! You can’t even…”
Barton struggles to connect his arrow to his bow. He trips, falls, tries again. There is a loud crash from outside.
“What was that?” the barman squawks.
“I was picturing Barton’s head, and punched a hole through this brick wall,” McCoy’s voice comes through the door.
“Insurance claim it. Whatever,” Barton says, glaring outside, drawing his bow.
“Hurry up!” McCoy’s voice snaps.
Barton charges the door. He knows Hank McCoy. The Beast will think this was bonding between friends when it’s done, but they aren’t. He has so few he’d give that title. McCoy is merely servicing Barton’s addiction.
To adrenaline, anger, the things he needs to keep answering the call.