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There’s a weight on Clint’s chest, making it hard to breathe and not helped by the tight atmosphere in the emptier than usual room, each missing person an added note in the tension. No one is speaking, something that would be a relief to Clint if it wasn’t so damned wrong , a sense that sinks into his bones and only adds to the clawing anxiety and anger he feels. The silence is such a stark contrast to their usual post-battle debriefs, which are full of cheer and light weighted relief as they celebrate their victories, tease each other for their screw ups, and reassure themselves - and each other - that the failures can be fixed and didn’t… didn’t matter.

There’s no victories to celebrate today. The failures did matter.

Clint shuffles, trying to wedge himself more into the corner of the room. It’s the only location he can find where he has a view, imperfect as it is, of everyone present, from Tony pacing by the door; to Natasha cleaning her knife at the table with an angry glint in her eyes and sharpness to her movements; to the always shifting and currently soaking wet Daredevil in the opposite corner to Clint by the window. His face is blank, not helped by the black screens that are his eyes, but he seems nervous. Every so often he shifts in position, a grimace flashing across his face. Considering he’s still smoking from the flames that apparently had engulfed him when Steve found him, Clint’s not sure how he’s still standing. Daredevil’s armour’s fucking awesome if he’s walking away from that - according to him -  serious burn free.

The paramedics had apparently agreed, judging by his presence here.

Steve finally opens the door, Thor and Bruce a step behind. ‘Sam ---- fine,’ he says, his eyes on Clint, and a bit of the tension breaks under the sigh of relief, visible to Clint in heaving chests if not at this moment audible as anything beyond a low hum that might be words. Clint gives Steve a twitch of his lips that might have made their way into a smile, if he could get one past the weight on him. ‘Managed [knot? not?] [to?] [break?] anything in the [fall???].’ There’s a pause and maybe a noise - is that real or Clint’s imagination? - then he laughs, his eyes moving from Clint as he turns his head. ‘He said [some?]thing similar ---- paramedic cleared [him?].’

Blinking in confusion, Clint follows Steve’s eyes and sees Tony sagging into a chair. Right, he must’ve said something Clint didn’t… well didn’t see. ‘How’d Sam manage that?’ Clint says and Tony looks up with a raised eyebrow.

‘[I? Eye?] just said that- aaaand [you?] missed it because --- weren’t [looking? booking?] at me.’ Tony facepalms. ‘My [bad?]. How [fried?????] are your [aide? aid? aids?]?’

Rearranging the previous conversation in his head until it makes sense, Clint raises his own eyebrow. ‘What do you think?’

‘That [bad?] [something that might be a noise because his throat moved right?]?’ Tony turns his head suddenly and Clint, well used to using the visual cues of others to act as audio cues, turns to look at Steve too.

‘[Clint?], do [you?] need anything [right? write? wright?] now?’ Steve asks. Clint shakes his head and moves his right hand in front of his lips, with only the index and middle fingers extended. ‘[Right? White?]… that[’s?] lipreading, [right?]’ Clint nods, feeling a touch of warmth as he realises Steve’s picked up some of the sign language Clint uses. Course, it would be nice if they all knew more - lip reading is exhausting, frustrating, guesswork - but beggars can’t be choosers.

‘[Any? Many?] context [you? too?] miss,’ Natasha adds after waving to get Clint’s attention, ‘I[’ll] [fill? bill? till?] [in? bin? tin?] later.’ Clint smiles at her and she touches her left hand to her chin and moves it forward. You’re welcome.

‘So,’ Steve (possibly) says, exaggerating the word a bit.

Clint sighs and shakes his head. ‘Speak normally Steve, or I’ll miss even more.’

A red blush creeps over Steve’s face as he ducks his head but nods. ‘Okay,’ he says when he raises his head. ‘Okay. [So? sew?]. What did [we? wee?] [do? due?] [right? write?]’

Tony waves his arms around in the corner of Clint’s eye and he turns to look at him. ‘What did [we? wee?] [do? due?] [right, gotta be]? Wrong question!’  He pauses, then sneers, ‘[I? Eye?] don’t care about,’ Tony raises his fingers and wriggles them as quote marks, ‘’[team? teem?] morale’. Let[’s?] figure out [wear? where?] [we?] ---- up!’

Realising Steve must have spoken, Clint snaps his head around to look at Steve, wincing a bit at the pinch in his brow and the way he’s biting his lip. Oh man, Captain America is pissed . ‘[Alright? All write?] then [Tony? can’t be pony]. ---- [fuck?] up?’

Was that ‘where did they fuck up?’? Yes, yes it was. So where did they fuck up?

Probably from the moment they arrived, if Clint’s honest.

********

Six hours earlier

‘Okay, so who made the call to bring in the loud, obvious, and if I’m honest prone to destruction team of superheroes, to catch a trio of idiot ‘enhanced individuals’ running amuck?’ Clint runs his eyes over the streets, anticipation making his shoulders itch and only experience keeping him from twitching at every movement. ‘If they’ve any sense they went to ground the moment the flying tank showed up.’

‘I hope you always are,’ Steve says and Clint frowns at the non-sequitur. Did he miss something?

‘What?’

‘Honest ,’ Steve says, turning his head to look at Clint’s position - if not quite at Clint, he’s looking about a metre left of Clint - with the grin Clint can hear lighting up his face.

A chorus of groans echo through the comms. ‘Rogers, that was a Dad joke. I didn’t know you had it in you? Did you go look it up in a book, I bet you looked a whole bunch up in a book, grumbling about whippersnappers and their internet.’ Tony lands, shooting a salute Clint’s way. ‘Flying tank, birdbrain?’

‘How’d you know I meant you, not Thor?’ A flicker of movement and flash of red catches his eye and Clint swallows his grin to look. But there’s nothing there. A stillness creeps into his limbs, steading them beyond his usual sniper’s patient statue. Someone is coming. One of their targets?

Of the two of us, who is actually in metal? ’ Tony gripes and it takes Clint a second to remember that they’re mock fighting while waiting to see if there’s any reason for them to be here. Sure, the series of robberies in Hell’s Kitchen committed by invisible and undetectable men might be Avenger business, and the fiery deaths look very Avenger worthy but this isn’t the first time a government or police force has decided something is an enhanced person’s doing when it’s really not. Part of SHIELD’s job used to be weeding out the enhanced  - god they need a better name for people with powers - people amongst all the normal weird for the Avengers and others to handle.

Contact! ’ Sam cries out, breathless and Clint resists the urge to look up. ‘ Big guy and I got someone aiming projectiles. One of our targets is definitely able to throw fire. Aaaand he can fly. Well damn.’

Thor’s booming laugh doesn’t need the comms to be audible and Clint does wince. ‘ They are still no match for the Son of Will and the Son of Odin. Shall we, Bird of Iron?

Oh now you’re just messing with me .’ Clint does risk a glance up as Sam falls into a dive, spinning to miss a glowing ball - yup, that’s fire. Fuck. This is a residential area, full of civilians and more importantly, their extremely flammable things. Fucking fuck. Sam flicks a hand at him, the signal he and Thor are swapping to a private channel, in an attempt to keep the comms clear for everyone else. Bruce is also on that channel, using the fact Nat’s sticking to his side to their advantage so they can have multiple channels going and still have communication between them. No one is willing to risk the Hulk losing it in Hell’s Kitchen… not again.

Clint looks back down, throat tight. ‘How’s the evacuation going?’

Nat’s frustrated tone is clear to him, though as usual hidden deep in her voice. She volunteered for this job, the best choice as the Avenger able to identify and judge people the quickest. ‘Slowly. Bruce and I have to check each person against our three men. Anyone got eyes on the other two? We’d go a lot faster if we could just get them running.’

‘There’s two men fighting-,’ a voice says behind Clint and he jumps, adrenaline flooding his system and turning his blood to ice. He spins, bow raised and arrow drawn.

Standing there is Daredevil, hands already slowly rising into a position of surrender. He tilts his head. ‘Are you going to try and arrest me Hawkeye?’

Snorting a laugh, Clint lowers his bow, point the arrow at the ground as he releases the tension. ‘Not today. I’m not feeling suicidal,’ he says, trying to calm his pounding heart without taking deep breaths that might give it away. In his ears, the chatter on the comms stops, as if a gunshot has rung out. Which, you know maybe it has. Metaphorically speaking - yes he knows big words too! Well sometimes. ‘I’ve seen what you do to people who get in your way.’

A smirk dances across Daredevil’s face and a shiver runs down Clint’s spine at the reminder this man enjoys the violence he inflicts. He hates every occasion their paths have crossed, mostly for this reason. For all the violence Clint’s had to deal out in his life, he’s only really enjoyed a couple of moments and those were mostly tied in with the pleasure of revenge. The bloody smirk Daredevil wore during their last encounter, where he’d bashed two Hydra grunts into a week long coma, still features in Clint’s nightmares. It truly is the grin of the Devil.

‘Only the bad ones.’ Lowering his hands, Daredevil does another one of his odd head tilts and turns his head. ‘Like I was saying, there’s two men fighting in that building,’ he points to a building to the left, one of the first evacuated, ‘about who was the idiot that got the attention of the Avengers. Sound like the men you’re looking for?’

Clint grins and turns back to look at the street. ‘Our resident Devil’s joined the party,’ he says and smirks at Tony’s outraged groan breaking the silence on the comms. ‘Says there’s a couple of presents around here, if you and Stark are up for it Cap.’

Steve looks up at Clint, as Daredevil moves to stand on the edge of the roof beside him. ‘Bring it on .’

‘I’ll lead the way,’ Daredevil says, nodding at Clint before-

Before jumping off the roof. Holy fuck, the crazy fucker, what the fu-

One baton flies out, wrapping around the top of the fire escape on the other side of the road. Daredevil swings down, using the cord between his batons as his vine. He hits the ground running and Clint curses his obvious insanity in the dozen or so languages he knows (if you can swear in a language, you know it, right?). Neither Steve nor Tony move for a long moment - Steve’s dropped jaw visible to Clint - until Daredevil looks over his shoulder and gestures at them to follow.

Raising his bow, Clint waits.

Aww, only one present in here ,’ Tony says two minutes later as he lands on the roof. It’s not exactly a silent landing but considering the booming thunder of Thor and Sam’s aerial battle, maybe it’ll go unnoticed. Maybe. Hopefully. But Clint’s not one to rely on hope.

According to my suit’s sensors, he’s in the living room. Near the window - hey Katniss, can you get a visual?’

‘Daredevil says there’s two men there ,’ Steve says and there’s the soft tinkle of breaking glass in the background. He and Daredevil must be using - or making - a ground floor entrance from somewhere out of Clint’s sight. Smart move, should trap whoever’s in the building. ‘Says he can hear both of them talking .’ Well, that’s fucking good hearing the Devil’s got there, though Clint’s not one to judge. Without his aids he’s struggling to hear more than the loudest of sirens - he’s not completely deaf but it’s really just splitting the difference. ‘I think I might hear them too,’ Steve adds, ‘ though I can’t make out what they’re saying. Hawkeye, what can you see?’

Shuffling along the roof, Clint wriggles his way into a position where he can see into the front window. True to Tony’s word, there’s one man there, pacing in front of the window. One hand is in his pocket and the other waving around, his moving lips suggesting he’s talking to someone. Only… Clint focuses and while it’s a little too far away to be sure, there’s no glint of light off something metal in his ears, nor a wire running down his front. If he’s talking, it’s not to anyone on a phone.

A flash of movement catches Clint’s eye and he shifts his view to the couch, just behind the pacing man. It’s empty, nothing th-

No. The pillow just shifted. ‘Devil’s right, there’s two people there. One of them’s invisible.’ Tony groans over the speaker as Clint frowns. ‘Stark, is your present pacing?’

‘No, it’s not moving at all .’

A smirk crawls over Clint’s face. ‘Got ‘em. Invisibility and some form of sensor blocking ability. I have a clear shot on the sensor blocker. He’s got a hand in his pocket, so might have a weapon.’

‘Confirmed. Wait until we’re in position, then take the shot.

Sensor Blocker stops pacing, moving to the window and looking up and down the street. His eyes run along Clint’s roof and heart pounding, Clint ducks down as much as he can without losing his shot. Fuck, fuck fuck. ‘I think he’s made us.’

‘I have ,’ a strange voice says and Clint’s heart stops. Rising, he goes to loose his arrow as Sensor Blocker pulls out a thin remote from his pocket.

‘BOMB!’ Clint cries and releases. It flies true, but Sensor stumbles and falls, Clint’s arrow stopping in midair. Blood begins to creep along the arrow and run down nothing, to pool on the ground. It would be a terrifying sight that left Clint breathless if he didn’t have bigger things to worry about.

Like the fact the world has gone silent, only the dim sounds of Thor’s thunder breaking through the overwhelming nothingness he can hear - the roar of traffic might be the buzzing he hears; the squeaking, voices but he’s… he’s too deaf to tell. His hands rush to his ears, feeling the devices are still here and still on. ‘Hello?’ he shouts, feeling the rumble of his throat as he speaks but hearing next to nothing, as if he whispered instead of shouted at the top of his lungs. Unless… did he yell? Was it only a whisper that he thought he screamed? He needs… he needs…

He needs his teammates. Oh God, his teammates.

Clint forces his attention back to the window, not surprised to see a body there, his arrow in the dead man’s heart. Even invisible, no one is a match for Clint’s shooting. There’s no sign of Sensor Blocker… but there’s also no sign of anyone else. Fuck. ‘Cap?’ he tries, hoping it’s just something in his aids but it’s not like he can ch-

No hang on. His phone . Pulling it out, something in him isn’t surprised to see a blank screen that doesn’t react no matter what buttons he presses. The heavy weight in his chest sinks to his stomach. It wasn’t a bomb; it was an EMP pulse.

Oh fuck, Tony. With one last glance at the empty room, Clint races for the building’s fire escape. It’s only a moment’s work to hop down the stairs, his feet only occasionally touching them as he makes as many jumps as he feels comfortable making. Considering these are child’s play compared to the things the circus had him doing as an actual child, there’s a lot of jumps.

It’s off putting, in a familiar but never comfortable way, to not hear the banging of the metal or the thundering of his feet. Sure he can feel it vibrating and there’s a rhythmic noise at the edge of his hearing that might be the racket he’s surely making, but it’s still making his skin crawl. What else is he missing? Is someone following him? Should he look?

No. Get to Steve. Stop at the edge of the road, check it’s clear then sprin-

Flash of red in the corner of his eye. Drawing an arrow, Clint spins on his heels to face the person approaching.

Nat throws her hands up as Clint puts an arrow in her face. He drops it the moment he realises, the lack of clatter as it falls to the ground making his teeth clench. Nat’s lips move but Clint’s too wired to focus enough to read them; adrenaline buzzing under his skin. ‘I’m deaf,’ he says and to his relief Nat just nods. She taps at her heart, then points at the sky before raising an eyebrow. Where’s Steve and Tony?

Clint points at the building he’d been heading for. ‘Stark from the roof, Cap with the Devil from the ground.’ Nat nods then points back the way she came.

She doesn’t wait for his reply before dashing into the building. Gritting his teeth, Clint follows. He’s not going to be benched because he’s a bit deaf right now.

Okay, a lot deaf. So what? He’s still capable of fighting.

He revises that choice when he slips in the door and nearly puts an arrow through Steve’s eye. ‘Fuck,’ he swears and Steve, hands in a surrender position, frowns. Clint’s not sure if it’s the noise or the swearing that’s got him making that face. ‘Sorry Cap, EMP took out my aids. Can’t hear you.’

Steve lowers his hands, grimacing at Clint’s words. He goes to speak, stops about a word in and stares at a point behind Clint. Nerves dancing, Clint looks over his shoulder to see nothing there and a look best described as ‘sheepish’ on Steve’s face when he turns back around. Right staring into space not at something.

‘Find [Nat? Bat? Rat?],’ he says, and Clint nods. Steve pats him on the shoulder and bounds away, heading up the stairs, towards the growing scent of smoke - and Tony. Clint takes a moment to consider the order. Find Nat is about the only thing that makes sense… right? Okay, go back up Nat.

Shouldn’t be too hard, right?

********

Now

‘[So? Sew?] --- spent forty-[five? jive? No gotta be five] minutes ---- Natasha,’ Steve says, '---- ---- twenty trying [to? two?] find ----?’

Clint works through the sentence, years of nodding to things that he probably shouldn’t have telling him to hold on a second. ‘Ah, yes?’ he says when he thinks he has it. ‘We kept missing each other, it was probably a bit sad.’

Nat holds up a piece of paper, placing it behind Steve’s head so Clint will notice. Just a bit . Her lips move too, but Clint doesn’t bother to read them, certain she’s just saying it aloud.

‘We saw each other a few times,’ Clint adds. ‘But we couldn’t really communicate anything, not without me maybe accidentally yelling or misunderstanding her message.’

Steve glances behind him, sees the piece of paper Nat’s lowering and looks back around with a grimace. He doesn’t speak, but grabs a pen and a piece of paper. Should we start writing instead of speaking? he holds up, with a raised eyebrow.

‘Ah, probably? Lipreading’s a lot of guesswork.’ Clint pauses, considers for a long moment, the apprehension he feels humming in his veins as he considers his next words. ‘Sign language is a lot easier to understand,’ he says, shrugging a little. ‘A lot less guesswork at least.’

Blinking, Steve mouths the words - or says them, it’s not like Clint can tell. But from the frown on Nat’s face, Steve didn’t speak. Maybe?

Grabbing a pen, Steve scribbles a message. Can u teach us? Useful in field 4 comm 2. Clint finds himself smirking at the chatspeak in Steve’s writing and the grin on Steve’s face hints that he’s aware what’s so amusing.

‘I’m sure I could show you a few things,’ he says, not keeping the warm and amused delight he feels surging through him, out of his voice. Steve wants to learn his language! It might be for practical reasons but he wants to learn it!

Behind him, still pacing by the door, Tony has the best look of complete bafflement on his face. Which Clint only notices when Tony starts to wave his arms, speaking too quickly for his lips to be read, his voice a muffled hum that’s near impossible to distinguish as words. Steve doesn’t answer, just holds up a piece of paper and hands it to Tony. With a visible pout that Clint knows usually comes with a grunt of annoyance, Tony steals the pen off Steve and writes What the hell is happening?

‘I’m going to teach you guys sign language, or some basics of it. For communication in the field, so long as we have line of sight.’ Clint taps his ears. ‘Which, we should meaning these won’t be a weakness anymore.’

Everyone’s heads turn, looking towards the other corner, as something buzzes at the edge of his hearing. Recognising the cue, Clint looks over to see Daredevil speaking. He’s too far into his sentence for Clint to get the context and stops speaking before he gets enough focus to read his lips.

‘Okay, I missed all that. Care to grab a pen and write it down.’ A grimace flashes across Daredevil’s face, so fast that anyone with lesser eyesight might have missed it. But Clint’s made a living off his eyesight - not to mention lived because of it. So much of his life is based on reading the expressions and body language of others. He doesn’t miss anything . And the flash of Daredevil’s annoyance - for what else can it be? - at having to write things down for the deaf man is not something Clint’s likely to miss.

Even if it feels like a knife to his heart. He should be used to it by now but somehow he never is.

Nat moves to Daredevil’s side, piece of paper and pen in hand. She pushes it into his hands and he looks down at it, then back up at Clint. With a visible sigh, he moves to the table and writes something down. Well, tries to. His handwriting is a mess , it looks like a kid wrote it. Is this guy a doctor or something? But Clint can make out Do I need to stay?

‘Up to Steve,’ Clint says, something heavy in his chest. Bit rich though of this man, thinking he needs to work alone and can skip this. Not when he’s the one who’s only alive because Steve happened to stumble upon him mere seconds after he was attacked and put out the fire that was killing him. Well, according to Steve’s hastily scribbled report - Daredevil hadn’t deigned himself to give even a few lines about anything in his messy handwriting so Clint could read it.

Clint looks over at Steve just as the man nods. ‘[We? Wee?] [all? awl?] [do? due? dew?] this. If ---- work with [us? ?] [you?] have [to?] [do? due?] this.’ Something cold and harsh slips across Steve’s face in the pause; Daredevil must have responded and Clint missed it. ‘Are you[?] that petty, that you[?] [‘ll???] refuse [hour? our?] help ---- city because you[?] won’t learn ---- signs?’

Clint looks back over at Daredevil as the man turns his head away. Nat punches him a moment later and he turns back, so Clint can see his lips. ‘Fine. [I? I’ll?] learn them. [I? Eye?] have ---- else [to?] [be???] [so? sew?] make it fast.’

He's somewhere else to be? That's what he said, right?

Huh. Must be a very busy vigilante then, scheduling things after going after bad guys. 

So much of the power of spoken language is in the ability to change it with tone and inflection. Daredevil’s body language is tight, his shoulders hunched and his lips pressed together. But that doesn’t give Clint his tone of voice, doesn’t tell him which words Daredevil emphasied. There’s no way for him to know if Daredevil’s tone is actually anxious because he has somewhere to be, or annoyed at having to do this and lying to make it go faster. From the look on Nat’s face, it might be the first - she’s got a raised eyebrow but her ‘this guy's an asshole’ face is nowhere to be seen.

For now, Clint’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

********

They go back to the tower - everyone, including Daredevil who takes the lift in Tony’s limo with bad grace. Clint’s the first one out of the car, sprinting to the elevator and, once it’s on his floor, to his room. He needs to hunt out his old pair of aids, the silence is starting to get on his nerves a little.

The old aids are from before Tony took over making his things and it takes him twenty minutes to find the spare batteries and fittings so they’ll work, but they’ll do for the moment, even if he really should see someone about fixing the fitting and all that annoying necessity. These are nowhere near as high tech as his actual aids, but they were the best piece of tech he’d had until the Avengers - other than the field aids that’d been built into his comms - and as a temporary fix they’ll at least let him hear more than the vague and soft noises that are making up his hearing right now. SHIELD might’ve been a cover for Hydra but they did take care of their own.

Turning them on is overwhelming for a moment, his near silent world exploding into noise. Right, should’ve checked the volume on them first. He covers his ears until the ache fades somewhat and takes deep breaths before dropping them. It’s not as good as it was before - he knows this place like the back of his hand and with Tony’s amazing aids he’s able to hear the ticking of his clock and sometimes the low hum of voices through his open door - but it’ll do until the old ones are fixed. For now, he can bask in the warm relief of sound , the tightness in his chest easing as it slowly sinks in that he’s safer now, no one can sneak up on him anymore. Sure it’s… off in a way that’s hard to describe, sounds still too soft and slightly distorted but for now, it’ll do.

Slipping the little control to his aids - God, he’d forgotten what it’s like to carry one of these; strange to think this once high tech thing is low tech now - around his neck, he heads down to their living room as quietly as he can. To his complete lack of surprise, Tony is already trying to get behind the bar, stopped only by Steve putting himself in the entrance and not moving. Nat’s on the couch, running through some of the signs she knows and Bruce is beside her, apparently comparing signs while Thor watches from his place on the floor in front of them. Huh. Would’ve been nice to know… oh hang on, that’s the sign for ‘hostage’ the military use. How the hell did Bruce pick up military hand signals?

...Oh right, on the run from the military,  he needed to know what they’re saying. Okay. Good point brain.

Only Daredevil’s alone, staring out the window. He’s got some of Clint’s oldest and darkest clothes on - though he’s still wearing his mask and gloves - and it’s clear to see how bright red his skin is. Like a bad sunburn, something that makes Clint shift in sympathy at the sight, skin tingling with remembered pain of similar burns. Daredevil should’ve gone with Sam, in Clint’s opinion, but his skin is shiny and there’s the smell of aloe vera in the air. And from the look of his arms, shown by the short sleeves of Clint’s shirt, it’s a minor burn; the red of his arms contrasting with the still white skin of his visible jawline. Lucky devil - literally. Unless that’s offensive? Is it offensive?

Either way, Clint wants his armour. Seriously.

‘Good view?’ Clint asks, smirking at the way half the room jumps at his voice. He hides his flinch at the slight boom to his voice; these aids stick more into his ear than Tony’s do and it shows.

A jolt of annoyance runs through him when Daredevil just turns with a small smirk, making it clear Clint didn’t surprise him. Damn the man must have good hearing. Clint thought he was being quiet and only those who’d been able to see him coming - and Nat - hadn’t jumped at his voice. ‘It’ll do,’ Daredevil says. His voice is muffled, like he’s speaking from a lot further away than the other side of the room, but Clint can hear what he said anyway. Thank fucking God.

‘It’ll do!’ Tony says, outrage in his voice and the thrusting of his finger at Daredevil. A part of Clint jumps for joy at Tony’s volume, his inherent need to project meaning he’s audible despite being the furthest away from Clint. ‘I’ll have you know that view’s amazed every visitor to this tower; there’s nothing like it in the city.’

‘Of course there isn’t,’ Daredevil says, his smirk growing, ‘there’s no other tower in the city in this exact location.’ Tony sputters, the sound lost to Clint but easily deduced to have existed from Tony’s flailing limbs and outraged lip movements. Also Steve’s laugh is a pretty good hint - and loud enough for Clint to hear and make out.

Nat rises from her place, hands up as if to separate the already very separate Daredevil and Tony. ‘Alright boys,’ she says, turning her lips towards Clint even though she knows he can hear her, ‘if you’re going to fight, take your shirts off and give us a show first.’

That gets Tony sputtering again and Daredevil tilting his head but moving away from the window. ‘Are we going to do this then?’ he asks, his hands twitching at his side.

Clint sighs, unsure if there is actually a note of reluctance in Daredevil’s voice or if he’s imagining it there. ‘How much military sign do you guys know?’ he asks, focusing on Bruce and Steve.

Bruce moves his horizontal hand, waving it in a clear ‘a little bit’ gesture. Steve frowns, looking off into the distance for a moment. ‘We used them a little in the war,’ he says wiggling his fingers. ‘Though pretty soon the commandos and I had… ah well, butchered them into signals for things we actually needed to use. Made it easier to communicate when we had to be silent… I never thought of them as sign language before.’

‘Not quite the same but certainly a dialogue,’ Clint says. ‘I assume SHIELD taught you theirs?’ Steve just raises an eyebrow, causing everyone but Daredevil to laugh. Guess you had to know SHIELD then. ‘Thought so. Well, we can work off that I think… make a language suited to our needs.’

‘Wait,’ Tony says, finally stopping his staring at Nat to look at Clint. ‘You’re not teaching us sign language but making one up?’

‘Logical,’ Bruce says before Clint can speak. ‘Easier for us to learn signals we make up then try and learn a whole language. Besides, we’ll want something only we know, for safety.’ Unspoken, but hanging in the air, is the fact that Bruce knows military hand signals despite never having served.

Clint nods. ‘Exactly. So… I thought we’d start simple. Stop,’ he says, putting his right hand into a fist in front of him, palm facing outwards, ‘and Go,’ he flattens the hand, so it’s horizontal. Like an arrow, and Clint moves it around to face different directions, ‘Do this so we know where to go.’

‘Things I can do in my gauntlets,’ Tony says, copying the motions. Nat smirks as she copies and Thor is watching the movements he’s making with his hand with extreme focus like they’re prey and he’s a hawk. It’s kinda amusing. Steve isn’t doing the motions but the moment he spots Clint looking at him, he quickly does the signs and nods. Daredevil i-

Daredevil isn’t moving, just staring at Clint with a tilt to his head. ‘You need those again?’ Clint asks, barely able to keep the frustration clawing at his chest out of his voice.

‘If you could?’ Daredevil says with a quirk of his lips. ‘I ah, might’ve missed them the first time around.’

‘Not paying attention?’ Clint repeats the two signs, with slow and exaggerated movements. ‘Stop,’ hand in fist. ‘Go,’ hand extended. Daredevil finally copies the signs, though he’s moving at the same speed Clint is, as if testing the waters.

Clint exchanges a look with Steve. Daredevil is a little toasty from his experiences today, maybe that’s making his movements slow? ‘Well, what other things do we need to be able to say?’

‘Ally,’ Thor says.

‘Enemy,’ Nat says, a beat behind Thor.

‘Avenger,’ Tony says, and smirks at Nat, who’s giving him her ‘you’re an idiot but I care for you and I am regretting my life choice right now’ look. Clint’s very familiar with it, having seen it a million times - and it is that look, which is a hair’s width away from her ‘I hate you and all you stand for’ glare, that can make grown men weep in fear. ‘What, I thought we were listing the categories of people likely to be found in the field.’

Clint laughs and runs his hands through his hair, pushing down the last of the nerves bouncing in his stomach. ‘Any ideas for signs then?’

‘Yes!’ Thor booms, holding his right hand, clenched in a fist, over his heart. ‘This should be ‘ally’ for we are all allies of the heart, are we not?’ There’s a twist of his lip that might mean he’s kidding, it’s still hard for Clint to tell. He swears the big guy knows more than he lets on and is just, trolling everyone half the time.

But it makes sense as a sign. And what’s more, ‘It’s easily reversible too, good idea Thor.’ Everyone blinks at him, and Clint smirks. ‘Ally,’ he says, copying Thor so his clenched right hand is over his heart, his arm positioned diagonally across his torso, ‘and enemy,’ he swaps hands so now his left hand is over the right side of his chest, making a mirror image of the ‘ally’ sign.

‘That is logical,’ Thor says, copying both signs in quick succession. ‘And what of the other sign? Avenger?’

‘Like this,’ Tony says, drawing attention to himself. He makes the sign for ‘ally’, but lifts it off his chest, so it’s hovering just above it.

Clint shakes his head. ‘Too close, easy to mistake. But,’ he makes the sign for ‘ally’ but instead of resting his hand on his heart, taps it three times, ‘that might be clearer?’

A room full of nods greet him… except Daredevil. Again. He’s just staring at Clint, head still tilted and a frown on his face. Something cold creeps into Clint’s veins and sits there, making it harder to keep something of a smile on his face. Everyone else on the team is paying attention, wants to learn. One guy’s rejection shouldn’t hurt… especially since he’s not even on the damned team.

‘Need it again?’ Clint asks Daredevil and his head rises with a jolt.

‘Ah… no. I… I think I have it.’

Unwilling to argue, Clint just bites down his sigh. ‘Okay, practice time?’ Everyone nods, the team moving into a something that might be a circle without prompting. Even Daredevil manages it, though he’s a half step back as if he’s trying to not be a part of the impromptu team bonding thing. ‘Ally,’ Clint says and makes the sign - and Daredevil puts his left hand up, making some unholy hybrid of the two signs. ‘No Daredevil, right hand.’

Calling out the rest of the signs does not improve Daredevil’s ability with them at all. He gets ‘stop’ and ‘go’, though he seems to never quite point to the person Clint says, always a bit to the left. But ‘ally’, ‘avenger’ and ‘enemy’ seem beyond him - he keeps putting the wrong hand up.

‘Enough,’ Steve says. ‘Did… did you have somewhere else to be Daredevil?’

Daredevil raises his left wrist, seems to remember he’s not wearing a watch, and nods. ‘Yes.’ He grabs a bag, the bulkiness of which suggests it holds his armour, and heads for the door, practically sprinting. Clint tries to ignore the sinking feeling in his stomach at Daredevil’s eagerness to leave. They only covered five signs with him after all; Clint had been imaging an Avenger sign language of hundreds of signs.

‘Hey,’ Steve calls and Daredevil pauses, ‘next practice for this is tomorrow, twenty hundred hours.’

‘Don’t be late!’ Tony adds, a painfully fake smile on his face. ‘Hate to have to track you down for it.’

A long pause, then Daredevil gives a curt nod. ‘And if you see our targets,’ Nat adds, her head held high and a glare as sharp as diamonds boring into Daredevil, ‘don’t engage them alone. They might be a man down but they’re still dangerous and you don’t want to die trying to live up to your name.’ There’s a rebuke in her tone that gets what might be a glare from Daredevil - hard to tell with the lenses in his mask.

‘I’ll see what I can do,’ he says then leaves.

‘Well, and I thought I was an asshole,’ Tony says. That gets a laugh that breaks the tension, though it does nothing for the pressure in Clint’s chest.

Maybe Daredevil’s just sore from his injuries. Maybe tomorrow he’ll be better about this whole thing.

...Yeah right.

********

To Clint’s surprise Daredevil does rock up the next night, at exactly eight pm, wearing his old get-up with his new mask. The first thing he does is hand the bag he took the day before to Clint, with a soft smile. ‘Your things,’ he says. ‘Ah, thank you.’

‘No problem,’ Clint says automatically even though it wasn’t he who lent them to Daredevil and hell, he’s not even sure who did. ‘We came up with a few new signs last night, after you left. We’ll go through those first, then Nat’s got some intel about the targets from yesterday.’

Yup, that’s definitely a grimace at the mention of new signs but Clint swallows the disappointment and gets to work. They mostly fought over personal signs - signs they justified making because it might be necessary to know who’s where or doing what - all night so he starts with those first. Daredevil seems to get Clint’s - touching the corner of the right eye -, Nat’s - holding the right hand out from the body with fingers spread out like a spider before clenching it into a fist -, and Bruce’s - dropping the fisted right hand in a sharp and fast motion - easily enough but he can’t seem to keep the signs for Thor, Tony, and Sam straight.

‘No, that’s Thor ,’ Clint snaps as Daredevil puts his fist straight up into the air. ‘Thumb and pinky out for Sam, like a bird!’ The signs were picked because they looked like something the group agreed would be easy to associate with each person, not for any relation to existing sign - which Clint’s trying to keep out so their signals are theirs and theirs alone. ‘Tony’s is a single finger, because he’s an egomaniac-’

‘Hey!’ Tony calls out, from his place on the couch. Only he, Steve, and Nat are in the living room, the others all visiting with Sam who’s confined to his bed. And extremely grumpy about it.

‘-and Thor’s,’ Clint continues, ‘is his hammer. Or his hand when he lifts it up, he wasn’t exactly clear.’ It’s not that hard , hovers on his lips but never manages to leave them, swallowed every time he almost gets the courage to give voice to the words. Words have power, after all, and none more than the spoken ones.

Daredevil runs through all three signs in quick succession, making it nearly impossible to tell if he actually got them or something close. Sighing internally, his heart heavy, Clint lets it go. ‘Okay, so Steve’s is this,’ Clint puts his right hand in a fist, palm facing his chest and thrusts it out, like Steve’s shield, ‘and yours is this.’ He rubs his closed right fist on his forehead twice, the sign for ‘dare’ near to the position for signing ‘devil’. ‘Daredevil’ has its own sign but it requires two hands and Clint’s trying to make sure their language only uses one hand as much as possible. Besides, this is unique.

When Daredevil doesn’t move, Clint swallows another sigh, trying to ignore the weariness in his chest that even the fire of the anger in his veins can’t lift. ‘And again,’ he says, repeating the signs. With slow movements this time, so Daredevil can get it already.

He does this time, signing Steve and then his name in quick succession, as if he’d never paused. Briefly Clint considers running through the dozen other signs they’ve come up with but decides against it - he’ll settle for these for now.

‘You finished?’ Nat asks when Clint lowers his hands and moves towards the bar.

‘I think we are for now. How about you guys fill Daredevil in on our two ‘friends’.’ Tony’s followed Clint over and swats his hands away from the brandy, instead making some complicated drink tha- okay yeah Clint knows this. It’s the cocktail he never got the name of from the bar the Avengers crashed a few weeks back. Literally crashed, there had been Hydra minions working in it. But afterwards the owner had begged them to stay and with the offer of free alcohol, who wasn’t going to? Even if Tony paid for it afterwards, it’s the principal of the matter.

Tony passes the finished drink to Clint who raises an eyebrow at him. ‘What?’ Tony says in a soft voice. ‘You like this better.’ Slipping at it, Clint bites his lip to hide the smile because yeah, he did prefer this to the beers he usually drinks. For all he can drink his coffee black as night, he’s always had a sweet tooth and sometimes it’s hard to repress. ‘So, plans for dealing with Hornhead?’

Clint shrugs. ‘Keep at the lessons? Not much else I can do, Steve’s made it clear we’re all learning this and he’s making it clear he’s not.’ Looking over, Clint’s not surprised to see Steve knee deep in a lecture about the murders they’ve linked to the trio - now pair - they’re chasing, complete with pictures of the crime scenes on the screen. Daredevil’s ignoring them in favour of staring at the files Nat ah, ‘precured’, on the burglaries, probably looking for a pattern. His head is tilted - seriously does it live in that position or what? - towards Clint and Tony but he does seem to be engrossed in what he’s reading.

Though If he can find a pattern, he’s doing better than JARVIS. These guys strike randomly and are never seen… though that might change now their invisible man is cooling his heels in the morgue.

And that was awful wordplay Clint, what are you doing . He turns back to see Tony giving him a look, one eyebrow raised. ‘What?’

‘He’s driving you to drink.’ Tony takes a sip of his own drink. ‘And I know I’m a hypocritic for the drinking but Clint, don’t let him get to you.’ Daredevil coughs and both of them look over at him but nope, still reading the file and nodding along to Steve. Out of earshot, even for impressive hearing like Daredevil’s. ‘We need what the man knows of Hell’s Kitchen or I’d have told him never to set foot in my tower.’

Something warm slips into Clint’s veins that’s not just the alcohol buzzing in his brain. ‘He’s not that bad Stark, I’ve had far worse than reluctance to learn a few signs.’

Tony grimaces and says, ‘I know you have Clint. Doesn’t mean this is acceptable.’

Yeah, that’s also true.

********

Daredevil leaves a half hour later, holding the USB with videos of their signs so far that Tony gave him, as if it is a live bomb. Which, okay sure Tony’s tech can sometimes be overpowered and do weird things but usually it doesn’t merit that kind of half terrified, half annoyed look. And okay, the whole ‘it’ll update itself with new signs’ is creepy as fuck Tony, but it’s still not that bad. It’s handy even, for Daredevil to not have to inflict dealing with Clint upon himself.

Course the look Daredevil gives it causes a feeling like a knife to his chest - and he’s had a few of those over the years - to strike Clint but well. He can deal.

Yeah, right.

********

Just under three weeks later they get word from Daredevil that one half of their evil duo has been seen in Hell’s Kitchen during the mad rush to get there. He’s a fast dialer but no one beats JARVIS, monitoring police communications.

‘Is that even legal?’ Clint asks as Tony dumps him on the roof Daredevil said he’d be on.

‘Is anything we do legal?’ Tony replies, landing beside him. Sam comes in to land beside him, almost fully healed from his last meeting with these guys - thank goodness for Tony’s newest invention-, with Nat hanging gracefully on his arm, looking as carefree as she would if they’d driven here. Thor lands a moment later and puts Bruce down with extreme caution, causing the man to smile slightly. He finds Thor’s aversion to Hulk somewhat entertaining, if only because Thor’s about the only Avenger capable of going hand to hand with Hulk and maybe winning. Or because Hulk apparently likes Thor, from what Bruce’s said and remembers. Clint thinks it’s cute.

Below them there’s a roar of a motorcycle that then cuts off, and Steve’s up the fire escape a moment later. Clint doesn’t feel any surprise Steve kept up with them, only a suppressed shudder of fear at the memory of Steve’s ‘have somewhere to be ASAP’ driving. When he’s in a rush, he drives like a manic… or like someone who learnt to drive in a warzone.

‘I mean, it needs to be done but huh. Legal. Should put lawyers on that, set a few of ‘em on it. Maybe some newbies, see if they can handle the heat.’

‘I know a lawyer or two who’d like to argue the legalities of the Avengers,’ Daredevil says, his voice soft. It’s enough of a surprise to have everyone - but Nat, ever the collected appearing one - jumping. He steps out of the shadows of the rooftop access, a smirk on his face. ‘Though I don’t think they’d be arguing for you.’

Tony huffs, lowering his facepiece. ‘Wait, is the vigilante going to claim we’re illegal?’

‘I never said I’d be arguing,’ Daredevil smile slips off his face, as Tony’s smile grows. ‘Just that I know lawyers wanting to argue it.’ A sliver of amusement creeps though Clint at Daredevil’s denial. No way he’s a lawyer - the ones Clint’s met are all too busy and lazy to break the law with anything other than words and office bound deeds, even the righteous ones - but Clint’s willing to bet Daredevil’s day job works with the justice system. The lawyers he’s talking about are probably close friends.

Nat takes a step forward. ‘You have a sighting?’ she asks and everyone’s minds slip off the amusing idea of Daredevil and the legal system to the problem at hand. Or at least Clint’s does, and judging by the laser focus of all the other Avengers he’s not alone. Tony snaps his faceplate back into position, leaving only Iron Man’s emotionless mask in place.

Daredevil nods, quick and sharp moves that are too fast to be fear. Eager to move away from the topic of lawyers? ‘Your firebug’s been spotted in a few bars, never staying for long. Talking to a few people I’ve met before.’ He smiles, a devilish grimace that has Clint shivering.

‘How many bones of theirs did you break?’

‘Apparently not enough,’ Daredevil says with a twitch of his lips. Is… is he joking ? Oh that bastard. He’s playing this up to put Clint off. Asshole. Appreciation for the way he’s being played wars with the anger at being mocked, leaving Clint a twitching, fiery mess of happy nerves.

‘Okay, where’s he headed now?’ Steve asks, dumping his leather jacket and grasping his shield. ‘Or did you just cal-’

Daredevil cocks an ear. ‘My information puts him - and a friend - in a warehouse about two blocks from here.’

‘Police have him the other side of town,’ Tony says, and while his voice is the robotic monotone of Iron Man, Clint can see the way his shoulders have risen up slightly. He’s defensive.

‘Of course they do. That’s what their tips said. They’ve evacuated someone of the buildings here on a second tip but most of their forces are over there.’

Understanding sweeps through Clint in a rush that leaves him breathless. Whether it’s with admiration at Daredevil’s ability to keep the brave, but far less durable police out of this, or disbelief at his manipulations, Clint’s not sure. But hey, less people shooting. Always a plus.

A faint scream pierces the air, just at the higher ranges of Clint’s hearing. Only the instant turning of his fellow Avengers allows him to realise it must be a loud noise. Daredevil’s moving, before anyone can speak, jumping off the edge of the roof. He only just makes the next one, falling into a roll that barely steals any of his momentum.

‘Follow him,’ Steve hisses at Nat and she’s off. ‘Sam, Tony, Thor?’ He waits until they focus on him before he draws a circle above his head with his pointer finger, then touches one ear and drops the hand. Air support, out of earshot. Tapping the corner of his right eye, he then points after Nat and Daredevil, before putting his hand over his eyes, as if blocking the sun. Clint, after them and watch them.

Clint nods, something warm running through him at the sight not only of Steve using their signs but of the sight of everyone else nodding. Understanding.

God he loves his teammates.

Getting a run up, he makes the jump to the next roof, thanking each and every person who made him go on the damned trapeze wires as a kid. Okay the landing isn’t as graceful as either Nat’s or Daredevil’s were, but Clint’s always been a member of the ‘if you can walk away from it, it’s a good landing’ group. Experience has taught him it’s probably the best he can hope for - his skills have always been more in the shooting things and being up high areas than the landing area.

It’s not hard to find Daredevil. There’s a lot of screaming, getting louder with every building Clint sprints across, his pounding heart echoing in time with his thundering footsteps. Following the cries leads him to Daredevil, already on the ground and holding his hands up in a surrendering pose. Across from him is a man Clint doesn’t recognise, though something in his pose reminds him of Tony - maybe in the way the high tilt of his head gives him an appearance of arrogance or the dark hair that flops over his dark brown eyes. Of course he’s not Tony and Clint’s fairly sure he’s the third target.

The fact his hand is currently on fire is also good evidence of that. You know. A bit.

There’s also a woman, cowering against the wall between Daredevil and the man on fire. Blood is running down her cheek from a injury on her head and from this distance Clint can see the dazed look on her face.

Shit.

‘Stop!’ the man - Firebug, Clint decides - cries, pointing one hand at Clint. ‘Drop the bow, now!’ When Clint just raises an eyebrow at Firebug, ready to pull back on his bow string, Firebug lowers the other hand so it’s just feet from the woman. Clint feels himself start to sweat as the heat in the alleyway soars, despite the fact he’s two floors above the fire.

Shit.

Okay. Clint relaxes his muscles and drops the bow, letting it clatter on the ground below. It should still be intact - Tony dropped a prototype of this bow from two thousand feet somewhere out in the desert just to see what happened. And sure, it aimed a bit left but it still worked afterwards. He shivers as the heat dies down and his pounding heart slows as Firebug’s hand is no longer by the woman.

It’s still on fire, but small victories.

‘Come down here. Slowly!’ Firebug roars, then moves his other hand towards Daredevil. ‘If you do anything funny, I’ll roast them.’

Nodding, Clint moves towards the fire escape. Hang on… where’s Nat? She was right behind Daredevil. Using the natural movement of his head as he goes down the stairs, Clint looks around, trying to spot a flash of black and red that might be Nat.

But there’s nothing.

‘You-’ Daredevil goes to say, as Clint reaches the halfway point but Firebug shoves a flaming hand in Daredevil’s face and he shuts up.

‘Stop there,’ Firebug says and Clint freezes, still halfway down the fire escape. ‘Don’t get any closer.’ Well this is awkward. Clint has the higher ground but he’s got a jump and moving a few feet before he can use it.

Of course, now Firebug’s not looking at Clint, beyond a glance to make sure he stays put. No, he’s looking around, craning his neck as he looks at the roofs and the street at the end of the alleyway. Hell, he’s not paying any attention to Daredevil…

Clint waves a hand and Daredevil raises his head to look. Where’s Nat? he signs by waving his hand in a quick circle then making Nat’s sign.

But Daredevil just tilts his head and shakes it slightly. Great. Was that an ‘I don’t know’ or an ‘I have no idea what that means’ shake of the head. Clint repeats the signs and gets raised shoulders for his troubles.

The later is looking to be more likely. Come on Daredevil, these were the first signs on the damned USB. Did you even look at it? Clint repeats the movements a final time, after glancing at Firebug to check he’s distracted.

Daredevil finally makes the sign for Nat then towards the roof behind him. Okay, she’s around. Right. Backup is coming, and already here…

But maybe, they can get out of this without needing backup? Steve’s probably taken the air support and gone in search of their other target, figuring between the three of them they could cover this guy. Or he’s up there, waiting. Either way, there’s backup. So taking the chance here to avoid having to be rescued isn’t going to lead to complete disaster… There’s a safety net.

Safety nets are good, Clint’s told.

And he’s happy to take a chance, so long as he can get Daredevil to get the civilian out of the way. Something that will be easy to arrange if Daredevil’s learnt his signs.

Daredevil’s probably not learnt his signs. Still…

Clint gets Daredevil’s attention, waiting until Firebug isn’t looking before making the signal for civilian - the ally sign but with a flat hand instead of a fist - and escape - hand near right eye, thumb pointing out. Help her escape?

All Clint gets in reply is Daredevil’s tilted head. A surge of annoyance runs through him as he repeats the signs, with perhaps more haste than he really should. Again Daredevil just sort of, stands there maybe staring at Clint - though with those lens it’s hard to tell. With a swallowed groan, Clint signs one last time.

Daredevil nods. Oh thank whatever Gods exist, he’s got it.

‘Count of three,’ Clint mutters as he puts up three fingers, feeling the need to speak just in case the others can hear him on the comms. ‘One… Two… THREE.’

Clint throws himself over the fire escape’s banister, rolling the second his feet touch the ground so he doesn’t injure himself - well, not much anyway. He’s on his feet in a second, ready to throw himself at Firebug.

Only Daredevil’s already there, blocking a flaming arm while the hostage sits right there .

‘What the fuck? ’ Clint growls under his breath, while already moving to grab the woman’s arm and carry - or drag, he’s not fussy - her to safety. Damn it, he really should have checked how much sign Daredevil fucking knew. Asshole.

Of course this is when things go from bad but salvageable, to a real Charlie Foxtrot of a situation.

Daredevil half turns, somehow distracted - did… did he hear what Clint said? - and it’s the wrong move. Firebug’s flaming punch catches him on the side of the head. The scent of burning flesh - like roasted meat -  fills the air as Daredevil jerks away, his skin already red and a grimace on his face. He falls, of course, in his haste to get away.

Leaving the civilian wide open. Firebug’s already moving towards her, reaching for her with flaming hands. Her screams fill the alleyway and she wriggles away but there’s no way she’s moving fast enough to get away.

So Clint does the only thing he can, despite it being moronic, suicidal and probably pretty stupid (which describes his usual modus operandi honestly). He throws himself across the alleyway, right into the path of those flaming hands.

He’s wearing armour, the best Tony can provide. It takes the majority of the flame as Clint barrels into Firebug but it’s not perfect and it’s not really been designed to use against flames. Tony’s going to kick himself for not upgrading it later, Clint’s sure of it. A week of sulking.

A part of Clint recognises his thoughts are all over the place to avoid thinking about how the scent of burning flesh in the alleyway has only gotten stronger. He can’t feel pain in his side, despite the heat telling him that’s where Firebug’s hands are pressing against him. That… that might be bad.

He’s on the ground too. When did that happen? Shit, should he be more worried about this?

‘Fuck, Barton!’ Daredevil roars and Clint looks up in time to see the look on the face of the devil. And it is a devil’s face, the look on the visible bits of Daredevil’s human face far more terrifying than the mask has ever been. If the devil took human form, this would be the face it would pick and a thought pokes at Clint that maybe he’s not far off the mark here...

Also the look is for Clint. Because he’s been hurt. Huh.

Daredevil ducks another flaming punch and kicks Firebug in the chest. Firebug stumbles back, and there’s a solid ding as Steve bashes his shield into Firebug’s head. Clint blinks, trying to get his suddenly faulty memory to show him Steve’s arrival… he’s superhuman yes, but not appear out of thin air kind of superhuman…

‘Clint? Hold on, you’re going to be okay,’ Sam says, and hey maybe he’s the one the gentle hands on Clint’s side belong to.

Then his words register. Wait, why isn’t he going to be okay?

‘Exactly,’ Sam says and holy shit he’s reading minds, Clint’s going to be the only boring powerless person on the team. So not fair.

‘Natasha doesn’t have powers.’ Yes, definitely mind reader Sam. Awesome.

Also Nat totally has a power. The power of being the most badass and awesome person on the planet. And being totally flawless. That’s definitely the coolest superpower on the team.

‘I’m flattered,’ Nat says and it dawns on Clint he might be talking aloud. Which is silly, because talking takes energy and Clint…

Clint…

Darkness.

********

Clint wakes up.

It doesn’t hurt.

The fact that this is surprising, has him blinking in confusion and staring at the ceiling. Maybe it has answers? Something to be divined from the admittedly flaw free whiteness up there. Not even a dark spot, Tony you boring soul. How is someone supposed to get answers from a spotless ceiling?

Course, it might be nice if Clint also knew the questions he needs answers to but one step at a time.

‘Clint! You’re awake!’ Blinking, Clint turns his head to see Steve, walking in the doors of the Tower’s infirmity, Bruce a step behind. Which hey, means Clint’s in the infirmity! Again. Oops.

Something burning at the back of his head says that this time, it’s (mostly) not his fault. Someone else’s screw up put him in here.

Burning. Burning. Bu-

Oh fuck. Firebug. The civilian. Daredevil . ‘Is she alright?’ Clint says, trying to sit up. His side is pain free, yes, but if Tony used the tech Clint thinks he did, Clint’s going to be weak for a week. The cost of not dying is a high one.

Steve, to Clint’s eternal gratitude, is not slow on the uptake. ‘She’s fine,’ he says with a soft smile, ‘we got her out with no problems. You were the worst injury.’ Beside him, Bruce nods though he seems to be too busy feeling Clint up to comment.

Okay, he’s checking Clint’s side, at the place the injury must have been on. But still.

‘And Firebug… the fire guy?’

‘In custody,’ Steve says.

‘He’s being kept in a cold room, for the safety of others.’ Bruce gives Clint a savage smile, implying so many dark things. He never likes it when one of his teammates are injured. ‘Fire doesn’t do so well in the cold.’

Clint looks around at the empty room. ‘Where’s everyone else?’

‘Upstairs,’ Steve says. ‘I won the ah,’ he rubs at the back of his head, ‘ discussion,’ so fight, no discussion stays verbal in this tower, ‘to come with Bruce to check on you. We didn’t want to crowd you.’ Something warms Clint’s heart at the image of the Avengers - his team - fighting over the right to visit him like they fight over the last slice of pizza. He means that much to them? Nat must have let Steve win though; he’s stronger but very few people can anticipate her sneakiness. Though Daredevil migh-

The warmth is dashed as Daredevil’s actions flash across Clint’s mind. ‘Did Daredevil take off already?’

The anger Clint’s feeling burning under his chest is echoed on Steve’s face. ‘No,’ he says and Clint feels himself blinking in surprise, ‘another reason we’re not all leaving the room. Nat and I saw what you signed at him and how he ignored it… Tony’s up there now drilling him on sign.’

Clint huffs a laugh. ‘How’s that going?’

‘When I left?’ Bruce asks, taking his hands off Clint’s side. ‘Not good.’ Clint laughs again, the same lack of humour in his voice. ‘And you had a lucky escape,’ Bruce adds. ‘Your burns were nearly beyond this tech…’

‘Can I leave?’ Clint can’t quite keep the whine out of his voice.

Bruce raises an eyebrow but there’s a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth and a twinkle of a laugh in his eyes. ‘I think you should probably stay here until Tony gets an actual doctor in here-’

‘Like we need one when we have you.’

‘-but if you want to leave,’ Bruce continues, as if Clint never spoke, ‘I’m not going to stop you.’

‘Good.’ Clint turns to Steve as he eases his way out of bed, ignoring the twinge in his side. ‘I want to speak to Daredevil,’ Steve nods but Clint’s not done, ‘alone.’ From the way Steve’s face freezes, he’s not exactly pleased with that idea but Clint doesn’t actually care. He deserves an explanation, and Daredevil might give him one if he’s alone. ‘Steve, please.’

‘Okay. Okay. The roof?’

Clint has to smile at that. ‘You know me so well!’

‘Well, the range has terrible acoustics.’

********

‘Good view?’ Clint asks as he takes careful and slow steps out onto the roof. Even with the head start Clint got, Daredevil’s beaten him out here and is staring out over the skyline of New York.

Clint didn’t actually expect to be out here first. He had to get up here from the infirmity, Daredevil only had to go from the common room and had the advantage of not having recently been burnt to a crisp.

At least he came. Clint wasn’t sure he’d listen to the request JARVIS passed on. It’s not like he’s listened to anything else Clint’s said.

‘I don’t remember,’ Daredevil says in a soft voice and Clint blinks. What?

Wait… is that his answer to the view question? How the hell is that an answer? Clint opens his mouth to ask for clarification, then shuts it. No, he’s not going to be sidetracked by Daredevil being mysterious and weird. He’s got a mission here.

‘What happened out there?’ Clint asks, trying to make his voice as toneless as he can while still being disapproving. Like Steve’s when he's chewing someone out - no judgement but still with the sense of having disappointed Captain America. It’s a hard tone to capture and maybe his version is a touch too disapproving but all in all, Clint thinks he manages it.

Daredevil flinches anyway, as if Clint’s struck him. ‘I wasn’t quick enough to keep you safe,’ he says and fuck that shit, he sounds as guilty as Steve does when he talks about Bucky’s fall.

He should be guilty, but not for this. ‘Yeah, no. That’s not what went wrong.’

This gets Daredevil to turn around, to actually have the decency to look Clint in the eyes. ‘What?’

‘You fucked up. Great, admit that. But at least admit what you fucked up.’ Clint loses the battle to even manage a hint of neutrality in his voice but the anger is burning through him and he can’t quite manage to care. ‘I told you to get the civilian out, to leave that Firebug asshole to me . Get her out, get her safe . And because you’re too damned lazy or… or prejudiced whatever, to learn some fucking signs, we all nearly died.’ Clint’s eyes linger on the blazing red skin on Daredevil’s cheek. Why hasn’t he gotten that healed? Surely the team would have allowed that ? They’re mad, not monsters.

‘What? You said you’d get her out not me!’ Daredevil sounds outraged, like Clint’s being unreasonable and stupid. Something begins to nig at Clint, a voice in the back of his head going ‘wait a second…’.

‘I did not!’ Clint quickly repeats the signs for ‘ help her escape’ he made, the fury lighting up his veins maybe making him move through them faster than he usually would when talking to a beginner. ‘I said that!’

‘Yes, exactly!’ Daredevil repeats the signs only… only he gives the sign for Hawkeye not escape as the second sign. And the sign for ally not civilian but that barely matters.

Oh fuck. ‘Is… is that what you saw?’ Daredevil lifts his head a touch then nods and Clint can’t hold back a groan. Goddamnit, he needs to remember people don’t have eyesight as good as his. ‘Well shit. Okay.’

‘Okay?’

Clint nods. ‘I said this,’ he makes the signs for ‘ help civilian escape', ‘and you saw this ,’ he makes the signs for ‘hawkeye ally ’. Putting his face in his hands he sighs. ‘I can see why you mixed them up, they’d be similar to someone who can’t be bothered to learn the difference.’

‘There isn’t a difference?’ Daredevil says, sounding completely confused. ‘You just made the same pair of signs both times.’

Raising his head, Clint can’t keep what feels like an ugly scowl off his face. ‘There is a difference. This,’ he makes the sign for escape, ‘is escape and this ,’ he makes his personal sign, ‘is Hawkeye.’ Daredevil just stares, like he’s a fifth grader that Clint’s trying to teach college level experimental physics to. With a groan, Clint repeats the signs, stating what they mean each time. ‘Come on,’ he finally says, ‘can’t you see the difference?’

‘No, I can’t,’ Daredevil says and takes off his mask .

Holy fuck.

Daredevil’s a lot younger with the mask off, dark hair tousled from the mask and flopping over his face. He’s handsome too, skin smooth and unscarred - beyond the red burn on his cheek that’s now far more striking. A second look and Clint notices the slight bruises around his eyes, from lack of sleep maybe? Though he does have warm brown eyes-

Wait. Clint frowns as he realises Daredevil isn’t looking him in the eye. He takes a step left and while Daredevil’s head follows his movement, his eyes don’t track. They don’t focus either, just keep staring ahead.

He’s blind.

‘Oh fuck ,’ Clint says, putting every inch of the shock and shame roaring through his veins into his voice. He feels light headed and sick to the stomach, the words of his realisation rattling around in his head. Blind, blind, BLIND. And Clint was mad, pissed as hell, that he couldn’t learn a few signs - signs he couldn’t even see. God, how is Daredevil so calm? Why isn’t he screaming at Clint for being the cruelest person on the planet?

And how could Clint be so stupid? Didn’t he promise to himself he’d never make someone feel as stupid as Dad had made him feel as a kid? And look at him now. Seeing someone struggle to learn something and assuming asshole instead of asking… instead of talking and communicating. ‘I’m an idiot.’

Daredevil blinks, tilting his head. ‘No you’re not,’ he says tone still confused. ‘I’m the one who can’t manage to figure out a few signs.’ He look… no, he turns his head away. ‘I almost got you killed.’

I almost got myself killed,’ Clint argues, taking an instinctive step forward. Daredevil looks like a kicked puppy, how is this young cute thing the devil that haunts Hell’s Kitchen? ‘I’m guessing you had some issues with the videos then?’

Raising an eyebrow, Daredevil nods once. ‘And some of the signs are too… small for my senses. I… I can’t seem to find a difference, even when you insist there is one.’ He shrugs, and goes back to staring at the ground. Or lowering his head? Something. ‘Gestures just aren’t my thing.’

‘Tone isn’t mine,’ Clint says, an offering though he’s not sure what of. ‘Can’t always manage to pick it, even with the aids.’

Daredevil raises his head, his lips twitching with what might be the beginnings of a smile. ‘I don’t see what you mean; tone is easy.’

Oh you little shit. Clint has to laugh, because well. He’s all for bad jokes about things you can’t change. ‘That was so bad, I did not just hear that.’

It’s like something has broken on the rooftop. Daredevil starts to laugh and Clint finds himself joining in - not because it’s particularly funny but because there’s a pressure in his chest and he either has to laugh or scream himself hoarse at his own cruelty and stupidity. And well. This is the better of the two options. Nicer too, in terms of sound.

They laugh for what feels like ages but is probably only a few minutes before Clint feels the mirth drift out of him and he stops laughing. Daredevil stops a beat behind and for a moment the silence is oppressive, the awkwardness causing Clint to fidget as if it’ll help the nervous energy in his bones. What the hell does he do now?

‘Can…’ Daredevil shifts in place and bites at his lip. ‘Can you show me the signs again?’

A smile creeps onto Clint’s face, warmth at being asked warring with the stinging shame at the realisation of how badly he’s misjudged Daredevil. ‘Yes I can. This time, I’ll make sure you know what I’m doing.’

Daredevil copies Clint’s smile, making his face look even younger , God how old is this kid? ‘Thank you.’

Oh great, he’s thanking Clint for common human decency. Fuck. ‘Ah, you’re welcome?’ Clint looks around at the plain - for Tony Stark - roof, with little escape from the wind. ‘Want to go inside or is here okay?’

With a shrug, Daredevil moves to sit on the ledge at the edge of the roof. ‘Here’s fine.’ He looks down - no, lowers his head and adds, ‘I hear the view is spectacular.’

Clint groans as he sits down beside Daredevil. ‘Oh man, how many of those did you sneak by us?’

Daredevil smirks. ‘You’ll be surprised.’

*********

‘So you could hear everything we said?’ Clint says, in between his roars of laughter. He should be acting embarrassed that Daredevil’s heard every awful thing and he is actually embarrassed, the shame burning in his chest. But he’s long since learnt that the best way to deal with embarrassment is to pretend you never felt it and laugh at yourself. Puts others at ease too, and might have them be less angry at you. Hard to be mad at someone you’re laughing at.

Daredevil nods, nudging Clint forward which oops, nearly fell off the roof. ‘Yes. There’s ah… there’s not much you can do to stop me hearing something, if I’m in the room.’ He tilts his head, then adds, ‘Or in the building.’

‘Shit,’ Clint says with feeling because… wow. That level of hearing is beyond his imagination; even his haziest memories of sound without his aids can’t compare.

‘Basically.’ With a sigh, Daredevil shakes his head a bit. ‘So, this is escape?’ He makes the sign but with the wrong hand.

‘Not quite.’ Clint gently swaps Daredevil’s hands so they’re in the correct position. ‘That is.’ With a nod, Daredevil repeats the sign a half dozen times. ‘But you’ll hear anything we whisper, right?’

‘I will, yes,’ Daredevil says, signing ‘Hawkeye’.

Clint smiles at the sign. ‘So you don’t need to identify the signs, just know what to sign so we can see it.’

Daredevil stares at him for a long moment, his sightless eyes boring into Clint. ‘Yes,’ he finally says, in a surprised tone. ‘That would work.’

‘Thought so.’ Clint widens his eyes as a thought occurs to him. ‘Oh! I’m changing your personal sign.’

With a raised eyebrow, Daredevil goes, ‘Oh?’ There’s a smile twitching at the corner of his lips and his shoulders are relaxed.

‘Yeah!’ Clint covers his ears. ‘What do you think?’

For a moment Daredevil stares at him, his mouth moving but no sound coming out. Then he snorts, ducking his head as if trying to hide his laughter. ‘That’s awful .’

‘I know.’ Clint grins, delight warming him at Daredevil’s laughter. Success.

‘Okay, but I get to have a new sign for you then.’ Daredevil covers both his eyes and smirks at Clint. ‘Good?’

Clint bursts out laughing, feeling so relieved and happy that he might be light enough to fly if he ever cared to test it. ‘Perfect-’

‘Agent Barton?’ JARVIS says, breaking into their discussion and neatly reminding Clint of two things - one, that Tony had speakers and cameras everywhere, and two, that JARVIS was both too polite for his own good and a little shit when he wanted to be.

‘I’ve told you to call me Clint JARVIS.’

‘My mistake Agent Barton.’ Yeah okay, JARVIS is pissed, what did Clint do? ‘But the remainder of your team is having… difficulties facing the last of the Killer Trio.’

Clint blinks. ‘Is that our name for them? The Killer Trio?’ Who the hell named them? Probably Tony; he’s not exactly a genius at naming things. See Dummy.

‘What do you mean difficulties facing them?’ Daredevil asks, focusing on the rest of JARVIS’ statement that turned to white noise in Clint’s head once he heard the name ‘Killer Trio’.

Which shit, yes. ‘They left without me?’ Clint asks, only just managing to keep the hurt sinking into his stomach out of his voice. Also the panic, humming in his veins because his team is in danger and he’s not there to help; he’s been left behind and they’re in danger.

‘I believe they thought they could return before you noticed.’ JARVIS sounds as reproachful as he can manage. ‘Your injuries were also a consideration.’

Oh yeah shit. Clint sighs and rubs at the back of his neck, trying to breath through the panic. ‘Where are they?’

‘42nd Street and 10th Avenue.’

Daredevil sits up straighter. ‘Hell’s Kitchen,’ he growls and huh, okay. A shiver goes down Clint's spine. He can see the devil in this man’s face. All of a sudden he doesn’t look so young - or more accurately, he might look young but he also looks murderous and it’s well… it’s kinda terrifying.

It’s suddenly really easy to believe this man is the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.

‘Daredevil?’

Turning to face Clint, Daredevil’s glare is just as terrifying as the look on his face. ‘That’s my city and they’ve left me out of the loop.’ His eyes burn with his anger. ‘It’s mine to defend and I am not going to left out.’

Hell yes. Clint gives Daredevil a savage smile, regardless of the fact he might not be able to appreciate it. ‘Let’s go make them regret leaving us out then Daredevil,’ he says and admires the tone of his voice. Who knew he could sound so righteously angry and determined?

Daredevil blinks a few times, then matches Clint’s smile. ‘Let’s.’ He rises in a fluid motion and is nearly to the door to the roof before he pauses, head tilted as if he’s considering something. ‘Matt,’ he offers after a long moment.

‘What?’

‘Call me Matt.’ Matt blushes slightly, lowering his head. ‘It’s a little shorter than Daredevil and ah, not quite as ridiculous.’

Matt. Daredevil’s name, and Clint has a hunch it’s his real one too. Something begins to flow through Clint. Something warm and fluffy, like he’s swallowed a cloud of fairy floss. ‘Okay Matt. Let’s go remind the Avengers why they shouldn’t leave us behind.’

********

Here’s the thing - of the three members of the Trio, only two were clearly and obviously enhanced and had been marked as such. The whole, disappearing into thin air thing and the fire. Easy to spot or somewhat easy to figure out. But, Clint thinks as he and Matt sneak up 42nd Street, the Avengers really should have thought this through.

Why would two powerful criminals work with a powerless one, except if he had something up his sleeve?

Also it turns out fighting someone who has the ability to control technology is a bit hard, when the majority of your people use some form of technology.

Sam’s out of the fight, his recent injuries combining with the uselessness of his tech to ground him. Tony’s just as grounded, and Clint is kinda glad to not have to worry about Iron Man being turned against him. Both of them are, according to JARVIS, hanging out at the edge of Tech Guy’s (hey, the third crook needed a nickname too!) range and trying to coordinate information without technology.

Bruce is also out of the fight, judging by the lack of destruction. Which leaves three Avengers, as lost as they were the first time they faced this guy. All because they didn’t take the marksman who knows the signs they are failing to use and hey, look at that? Their comms are out.

Again.

‘You really are bitter about this,’ Matt says as they scout out the situation from a rooftop. Clint can just see Steve and Nat running around the street, trying to find a man in the haystack of Hell’s Kitchen. Thor’s up above, trying to signal to Steve and Nat where to go and failing miserably. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t quite so pathetic. Clearly everyone needs a lot more training on the signs.

‘Aren’t you?’ Clint says, as he spots the man half hidden behind a nearby dumpster. Clint recognises him from before; it’s the man he nearly put an arrow in. ‘Dumpster.’

Matt tilts his head then nods. ‘Got him.’ He wrinkles his nose. ‘Smells like it got him too.’

Clint huffs a laugh, an acknowledgement that yeah, the guy looks a lot worse for wear. ‘You ready for this?’ Matt nods. ‘You know,’ Clint continues, ‘we’re going to lose any tech we have the second we go into this.’

The smile Matt gives him is fierce and full of dark promises. It sends a spark of something through Clint’s viens, something dark but thrilling that has him smiling a matching devil’s grin.

‘Good thing we don’t need tech then,’ Matt says in a voice that promises things as dark as his smile.

********

There’s a difference, Clint has learnt, between the times he loses his aids because of some mishap, and when he chooses to take them out. Not a technical difference though. The world is just as silent, reduced to muffled bangs and vibrations. But… a difference , that’s hard to communicate. The silence isn’t as oppressive, the sounds he can make out somehow not as distant. It’s almost relaxing, to not have to focus on sound right now.

Personal choice makes a huge difference it seems.

Clint slips into position, crouched down but able to peek over the edge of the roof he’s chosen. Look… loo- There. Gotcha Tech Guy. Out of sight is not out of mind.

Though wait. He’s in Clint’s sights now. So… in sight is also in mind? Shit Clint’s lost track of this metaphor though he might’ve needed to have track of it to lose it in the first place. Also is it a metaphor or a saying? Are sayings metaphors?

Shit right. Focus.

Clint scans the rooftops above Tech Guy, searching fo- there! A flash of red, the flash of red that means…

‘Daredevil,’ he whispers and Matt raises his head. He freezes for a long moment before he smiles and covers his eyes, then salutes. Hawkeye. Got you .

Pleasure surges through Clint, warm delight at seeing his signs used, even as he redirects his focus back to Tech Guy. ‘Okay Matty boy, you ready for this?’ Clint mouths, glancing back at Matt to see him smirk and nod.

Quieter , Matt signs and Clint smiles.

‘Sorry, couldn’t tell,’ Clint says. Well mouths, putting almost no noise behind it. ‘Okay, when you’re ready I fire.’

Matt nods then moves towards the fire escape with such smooth movements that Clint can’t think of any word but slink to describe it. A burst of envy fills him for a moment; he’s light on his feet and good at landing - okay falling - but not always the most graceful mover on flat surfaces. But no, envy isn’t what he’s here for.

He’s the eyes of this operation.

‘Still there,’ Clint says, his focus now entirely on Tech Guy with only the occasional glance at Matt’s progress. ‘Tapping away at a laptop, can’t see the screen- stop.’ Matt freezes at the foot of the fire escape stairs, just one shadow amongst many; if a slightly redder one than most.

Tech Guy shifted and Clint’s got a better view of his screen, the image on it the reason he told Matt to freeze. ‘ Cameras ,’ Clint says with feeling, scanning the wall just above Tech Guy. Yup, there it is. Exactly as the angle predicts. ‘A camera right above him. You’re not getting close without him seeing you.’

Matt inches forward, so his hands are in the light and how can he tell that? Clint is so going to have to get the goss on what Matt can do after all this. It’s going to be epic and probably involve a shit tonne of alcohol. Ooh, maybe Matt’ll be good at darts. No one will play darts with Clint anymore - Sam having hung with them long enough to know not to - so it’ll be nice to have some fresh meat… by which Clint means a new competitor.

Hawkeye break? Matt signs, bringing Clint out of his thoughts. He mentally arranges the signs into a sentence that makes (more) sense in context. Destroy the camera?

‘Second I do, he’ll know we’re onto him. So much for flushing him out.’ Matt shrugs then repeats the signs. ‘Okay man, your call.’ Matt’s smirk glints in the street lights, a devil’s smile.

I’m ready .

‘Count of three… one, two,’ Clint takes the preparing breath he needs and gets the camera in his sights, ‘three!’

The arrow strikes the camera lens dead on, smashing it easily enough. Clint’s next arrow is in the air even before it hits, going right into the laptop on Tech Guy’s lap. Tech Guy surges to his feet, the shock and horror on his face making a part of Clint glow with warmth and pride. Course, Clint expected the movement - he’s too well trained to not have - so his third arrow strikes the wall behind Tech Guy.

Dude jumps like a startled rabbit and is moving, seemingly before his feet realise he is by the way he trips. He stumbles his way out from behind the dumpster, his eyes running along the rooftops near Clint. The blood drains from his face suddenly - ah he’s spotted Clint. He lifts a hand in Clint’s direction and glares, something of a smirk tugging at his lips.

Any sign of the smirk slides off Tech Guy’s face after a long second. Oh yeah, no technology here.

Watcha gonna do now boy? Clint thinks snidely, a smirk tugging at his lips.

It’s then Matt… no Daredevil , strikes.

Holy fuck he’s fast. Maybe even faster than Nat, though Clint will only ever think that - to say it aloud would be stupid even for him. But well... Clint doesn’t see Matt move. Just one moment Tech Guy is standing there looking ridiculous pointing at nothing and getting whiter with every second and the next…

The next second he’s on the ground, and Matt is standing above him with blood dripping off his knuckles. He goes for another set of punches, even though Tech Guy is on the ground and something clamps around Clint’s heart. There’s so much blood. Too much blood…

Matt pauses in his attack and the blood glistens in the street lights as it slowly falls to the ground and only Matt’s vicious smile is more horrific. Fuck he’s still scary. Even as a friend, that grin is still going to haunt Clint’s nightmares.

‘He’s had enough,’ Clint says in a flat voice - well he thinks… hopes it’s a flat voice - and Matt nods after a long moment. Tilting his head, he steps back. ‘Know where everyone else is?’

Coming , Matt signs and turns towards one end of the alleyway.

‘Time to face the music,’ Clint says and Matt nods with a smirk. ‘On my way down then.’

********

There are times Clint really loves his team. Like the times Steve gets everyone together for a movie and totally pretends to not understand over half the movie just to see everyone laugh. Or when Sam cooks enough cookies and cakes to feed three small armies and doesn’t care if Clint eats an entire plate by himself, just makes more. Or the times when Tony upgrades Clint’s tech and pretends it was always like that.

And then there are times when Clint absolutely fucking adores his team and finds himself wondering what the hell he did before them.

Like now.

Steve takes one look at Clint standing beside Matt and raises an eyebrow. But that’s it. He just nods at them both, and moves to arrest Tech Guy. Nat tilts her head at Clint as she approaches, a step behind Steve, her body language a silent question Clint’s had a dozen times before. He good?

He’s good , Clint says with a flick of his eyes and a twitch of his lips. Nat gives him her warmest smile - barely visible as a smile, he’s sure, to anyone else - before she continues to follow Steve, pulling his handcuffs out of her pocket and smirking at the look of outrage on his face.

A hand slams into his back and only Clint’s quick reflexes stop him falling because of the blow. His back aching with a familiar, fiery pain, Clint looks up to see Thor smiling down at him. He’s got that face, the face of someone who’s just said something and is waiting for a reply. Of course he is.

Luckily Thor is many things but he’s not slow. ‘Ah of course, [you? ewe?] [do? you?] [not? knot?] [here? hear?] me.’ He taps behind Clint ears then points at Matt, whose smirk does nothing to minimise the tension in his shoulders. ‘Have [you? ewe??] and the Devil of [Hell? Hel? That’s a name of someone in the Norse thing-ys right?] found common ground [as? has?] warriors?’

It takes a second for Clint to get his mind into the right context for the conversation. ‘Something like that,’ he says eventually and Thor gives him another back breaking thump. He only just makes to hide the grimace at the pain racing up his spine - it had almost faded from before!

Quieter , Matt signs just as Tony lands, the vibrations of his sudden, thumping landing sending something creeping up Clint’s spine as he tries not to jump. A pulse of longing for his aids - still hidden on a nearby rooftop with the rest of their tech - surges through him.

‘[Lips moving, maybe some sound] he[‘s?] signing,’ Tony says as the Iron Man helmet lifts to make his lips visible. ‘[That’s? Cat’s?] [new? knew?]’ He looks Clint in the eye, and there’s something fierce in the look. ‘[All? Ball?] good?’

Clint nods. ‘Yeah, everything’s all good now.’ He thinks then whispers under his breath, ‘We’re all good now.’

Matt looks down but his smile is soft and visible. Yeah, things are definitely better now they’re on the same page and all that shit.

This might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

And it’s totally Steve’s fault Clint knows that line. Totally Steve’s fault. Right.

Matt catches Clint’s attention then, flicking his head over Clint’s shoulder. ‘Someone behind me?’ Clint asks in a whisper and Matt nods. ‘Got it.’

Clint spins around just as Sam raises a hand, probably to tap Clint on the back. The movement makes Sam jump and drop something small he’s holding. But Clint’s always had fast reflexes so he darts forward and catches the item… items.

‘My aids!’ Clint says as he slips them in.

‘Appreciate them man,’ Sam says, and a part of Clint warms at the fact he waited until Clint met his eyes before he started speaking. ‘JARVIS sent me to a half dozen roofs after ‘em. Not sure if the tracking in ‘em was broken or JARVIS was trolling.’

‘Probably trolling,’ Tony says and Clint jumps a little, having forgotten Stark was still hanging around. ‘He’s petty like that.’

Clint snickers, unable to suppress the amusement he’s feeling. ‘Not sure if he got that from you or you’ve been letting him spend too much time with Cap.’

Tony opens his mouth to protest, and visibly pauses, raising a finger then lowering it. ‘Yeah, good point. Huh.’

Sam’s looking around, his eyes narrowed. ‘Just a thought… where’d our ah, ‘friendly’ devil go?’

Wait, Matt’s gone? Clint spins around and sure enough, Matt’s vanished.

Asshole.

‘You sneaky devil,’ Clint whispers and scans the rooftops. Nothing… nothing… no- There! A flash of light catches his eyes and Clint focuses on the roof two buildings down. Is… is that his arrow?

It is. Hmm.

No one questions Clint when he darts up to the roof, at least not after he says he’s going for an arrow. They’re all too used to his post battle clean ups and his desperate drive to collect every single arrow fired - that burning fire in his chest that screams arrows are too expensive, you can’t leave one, they can’t be replaced…

Yeah, some things Clint wishes he could’ve left behind in the circus.

It’s one of his arrow alright, the purple and black stripes stylish no matter what Tony says. It’s been wedged so the arrowhead is pointing at the sky, probably ruining the arrow but making it a million times easier to see. Clint pulls it out and holds it in his hands, waiting.

A flicker in a shadow catches his eye. ‘For someone without sight, you’re very good at attracting visual attention.’

Matt steps out, mask off and smiling. ‘It’s a gift.’ He throws a small card at Clint - a business card. ‘My number.’

Clint runs his fingers along the braille of the card. Matt Murdock, Attorney at law the card reads, in dark but somewhat stylish letters with a Hell’s Kitchen address. Huh.

‘I’m not one for calling,’ Clint says, a smile twitching at his lips. ‘Prefer to text.’

Matt’s lips are twitching too. ‘I’m not really one for texting. Prefer to call.’ He wriggles his fingers and shrugs. ‘But I manage anyway.’

Accessibility features. Of course. But… there’s a simpler way to solve this.

‘Your roof,’ Clint holds up the business card, to indicate he means that building, ‘a week today.’

Raising his head and narrowing his eyes, Matt… well Clint would say Matt stared at him but yeah. Not exactly applicable. Maybe Matt considers him? With hearing? Is that a thing?

‘It’s a date,’ Matt finally says and Clint grins.

‘Brilliant. You bring the chocolate, I’ll find the wine.’

The look of confusion on Matt’s face is a work of art. ‘What?’

‘Well, it’s a date right? Dates have chocolate and wine.’ Clint pauses and considers. ‘Or at least I’m told they do. But then, my dates are always knocked back as not being actual dates. Apparently it’s bad form if someone dies on your date, even if it’s not your actual date that dies.’

The confusion has morphed into the expression most people wear when faced with Clint’s… Clintness. Disbelief, coloured with a touch of confusion - because other people’s confusion is an inescapable fact of Clint’s life - and topped with either fondness or amusement, depending on the person. Matt’s opted for amusement, judging by the way his lips are twitching.

Good choice.

‘I’m told dates are usually blood free,’ Matt says, his tone indicating that perhaps that’s not been his experience either. Which goes to show. Something. Bloody dates are universal maybe?

‘Ours won’t be?’ Clint tries to state but accidently makes a question.

Matt smirks, that devil’s smile that somehow is starting to become… reassuring? Sure it’s still terrifying but it’s the comforting sort of terrifying. The devil might walk the streets of Hell’s Kitchen but he’s on Clint’s side - might even be Clint’s friend? - so it’s okay.

Well, a bit okay. As okay as the devil walking the streets can ever be.

‘Only if you’re very good,’ Matt says… no leers , the asshole. And then he’s off, sprinting for the next roof and not even bothering to point his eyes in the direction he’s going. He lands the jump with a roll and a small flourish that’s nearly a bow.

Show off,’ Clint growls, aware of the hypocrisy.

He’s so going to show Matt up next time they meet. It’ll be awesome.

This whole thing, Clint’s huge fuck up and Matt’s misunderstanding and all that awful, might actually turn into something awesome.

Who would’ve thunk it?