They’d been living in the tower for six months before Steve realized that there was something... different about Clint. Given that he lived with costumed superheroes, that was saying something.
He probably wouldn’t have twigged to it if he hadn’t noticed that Coulson would frequently tap the table where they were having meetings if Clint was distracted. That wasn’t obvious, in and of itself, but whenever Coulson needed someone else’s attention, he’d call them by name.
Noticing that led him to noticing other things. Early in the mornings, Clint would ignore everyone and everything until he’d eaten breakfast, had some coffee, and then gone back to his room to dress for the day. He tended to position himself so that he could see the face of whoever was talking, even if that meant turning completely around to observe multiple speakers. He also repeated things back, as if to confirm that he’d heard correctly.
Steve figured that it all added up to something. He just wasn’t sure what. He also figured that if it was something he actually needed to know, either Clint or Coulson would tell him eventually.
It wasn’t until there was an argument between Tony, Steve, and Thor about the best way to deal with the Oxidation Android, the latest supervillian to attack the tower. He’d managed to corrode Tony’s armor so badly it was unusable, and Thor’s hammer had just bounced right off of him. Steve was very reluctant to risk his shield, and thought that the best solution was one of Clint’s explosive arrows. Usually Clint had something to add, some point of view that they may not have considered. But instead, he was growing obviously frustrated as the conversation raged around him.
Finally, Steve said, “Okay, that’s enough. Hawkeye, you think you can get the shot?”
There was no reaction for a second, and Clint only turned to face Steve when Natasha nudged him in the side. “What?” he asked.
Steve blinked for a second, badly startled by the fact that he needed to repeat himself. He didn’t say anything about it, though. He just repeated, “Can you get the shot?”
“No problem,” Clint said, and then he was out the balcony door, swinging down to the floor below, and Steve could hear the repeated twang of Clint’s bowstring and muted explosions, and even from here Steve could see parts of the Android go flying by.
After the obligatory “Yay, we beat the bad guy” dinner, Tony and Bruce went to the lab to work on repairing Tony’s armor, Thor and Natasha went to drill in the gym, and Coulson went to write up the incident report. That left Steve and Clint in what Coulson joked was the “Situation room” and everyone else called the dining room.
“Sorry, Cap,” Clint said, rubbing the back of his neck and looking embarrassed.
“Don’t worry about it,” Steve said. “Job got done, that’s all I care about.” Even as he said the words Steve knew that wasn’t completely true. He was concerned about what had caused the momentary lapse earlier, and wanted to find out how he could prevent it from happening again, but he didn’t want to push, either.
“No, I guess I should tell you. Coulson said I should, anyway,” Clint said, but he didn’t look happy about it.
“Tell me what?” Steve said. “Is it something that I need to take you out of the field because of?”
“Aw, hell, no,” Clint said, looking very uncomfortable. “Just... have you noticed that this isn’t the first time I’ve had trouble following what’s going on?”
Steve realized that they were treading on dangerous ground here. But he couldn’t lie, either. “Yes, but it’s never mattered.”
“That’s not completely true,” Clint said with a grimace. “Today it did, for example. But thanks for pretending otherwise. It’s, well, I’ve got some hearing loss.”
“Okay...” Steve said, fairly certain there was more to the story.
“I managed to screw it up with a sonic arrow a few years ago,” Clint said. “Normally I wear a hearing aid, and it’s fine, but I hadn’t put it in yet this morning. I’m sorry about that.”
“Does Coulson know?” Steve asked, a whole raft of things coming clear in his mind.
“Yeah, both him and Natasha know.” Clint shifted again, clearly uncomfortable with the subject matter. Steve could understand that - he knew what it was to have what you interpreted to be a weakness, something that could be used against you. At least in Steve’s case, he’d never had to tell someone that he was a 90 pound weakling.
“Okay, so how do we make sure that this doesn’t happen again?” Steve asked.
Clint looked surprised for a moment, and then grinned. “That’s just like you, Cap. Don’t bother to yell at me for screwing up - just skip right to fixing it.”
Steve shrugged. “What’s done is done. I don’t see any reason to get upset. But let’s see if we can find away around it.”
“The problem is that I can only wear the aid for so long before it becomes uncomfortable. Maybe I should stash a spare with my quiver?” Clint suggested.
“That’s a good idea, but there’s always the possibility that you won’t be able to get to it in time,” Steve said, thinking out loud. “Can we get several spares?”
“They’re SHIELD issue,” Clint said, “But I bet if Coulson requisitioned them, we could get them. Why?”
“If you’re okay with it, I’d like to find a way to keep a spare with my shield,” Steve said. “And... maybe one with Tony’s suit?”
Clint made a face. “Does that mean I have to tell Stark about it?” Steve started to tell him that of course he didn’t have to, but Clint shook his head and laughed a little, clearly self-conscious. “No, it’s okay. It would make sense for the team to know.”
Steve clapped a hand on Clint’s shoulder. “Thank you for telling me,” he said seriously. “It means a lot that you trust me.”
“Like trusting Captain America is a challenge,” Clint scoffed, but there was an expression of relief on his face.
He didn’t call Clint on it, though. Learning to trust was a slow process, but they were getting there. They all were.