It starts, as many things do, with Clint Barton making an incorrect assumption.
And, of course, with a rumor.
“Pft,” Clint scoffs to himself, eavesdropping in a bar and hearing a handful of two-bit criminals try to one-up each other with stories about how the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen is the actual Devil.
Clint’s known about those rumors for a while; they showed up in the SHIELD briefing on Daredevil when he’d first appeared on the radar of a government agency besides the local boys in blue. (And yes, he does occasionally read briefing memos that aren’t directly connected to his own missions, Kate.) But knowing about the wide variety of rumors only gives him more ground to appreciate how ridiculous they are.
The Devil has come to cleanse the world of sinners, and he’s starting with Hell’s Kitchen. For some reason. A citizen of Hell’s Kitchen stole something from the Devil, and he’s beating up every evildoer one by one until he finds it. The Devil made a deal with some poor, victimized resident of Hell’s Kitchen, to clear the Kitchen of criminals in exchange for the man’s soul. Or his firstborn. Or his firstborn’s soul. Or for completing various Satanic rituals on demand. Once again, the rumors weren’t terribly clear. Then, there were other rumors that said the Devil was possessing some poor schmuck—maybe the result of a deal, maybe not—to wreak vengeance on the sinners of Hell’s Kitchen, and that was why the scattered bits of camera footage of Daredevil showed a man in plain black clothes, then in something red.
The eyewitness accounts, of course, tell of much more…interesting things. Flaming eyes, flaming fists, a flaming skull, a wreath of flames—generally a lot of flames. Glowing red eyes, black eyes that stared into your soul, for all that Clint had seen enough of the super blurry footage to know that Daredevil had concealed the eyeholes in his masks. A hulking, impossible frame, eight feet tall, with horns and cloven hooves—which, again, not so much.
Well, okay, his suit has tiny, little, bitty horns. Clint actually thinks they’re kinda cute, in a puny sort of way. But they also clearly belong to the dude’s suit, not his head.
So. Daredevil. Not the actual Devil. Clint feels pretty comfortable in that assumption.
But two weeks later, he meets Daredevil. And suddenly? He’s not so sure.
He’s lying on the top of the firescape of a six-story building. Surveillance, technically, because that’s what they pay agents like him the big bucks for. SHIELD finally found a current tip on the location of Daredevil, so they sent him off, and he got real comfortable with the dried pigeon shit on top of the fire escape, just like usual.
Daredevil’s been interrogating some guy in this alleyway for the past half hour. Got him shoved up against a dumpster and everything. Clint’s kinda wondered if he should step in—he’s watching through his scope, although it’s detached from his bow or a rifle at the moment, and he can see a lot of the gory details.
But the guy will be okayish, after some bedrest.
The mic Clint has aimed at the alleyway, silently capturing the sound and enhancing it to feed through his comm/hearing aid combos, picks up the crack of a bone.
…Emphasis on the -ish.
Geeze, the dude is a low-level flunky in organized crime, judging by the interrogation, not anything truly heinous.
Also, didn’t Daredevil see the two hundred government reports, get all the activist and reformist memos? Torture doesn’t actually fucking work.
But just as Clint’s about to jump in anyway—maybe literally, and against orders, pfft—Daredevil releases his victim and shoves him out the mouth of the alleyway with some growled threats that Clint can only kind of make out.
Well, at least he’s not gonna have to make up an excuse later for why this is the one thing he didn’t call in tonight, despite Natasha chilling on the other end of his headset. Or, for a few minutes, Tony, which led to funny reports but a slightly irritating refusal to use codenames.
Ugh, his foot fell asleep. Aww, foot. But he’s gonna have to walk on it anyway, because he’s gonna have to keep trailing Daredevil, of course…
Then Daredevil turns and looks right at him, through the scope. Luckily, Clint is a seasoned professional, so he definitely doesn’t jump.
“I know you’re not about to shoot me, Hawkeye,” Daredevil growls, voice so deep the mic actually has a bit of trouble picking it up. “So why don’t you stop wasting your own time and get down here.”
Hey, Clint loves mission improv. Loves it a lot less when his target somehow know who he is, but y’know. Can’t win ‘em all.
Clint slides down the fire escape at record speed.
He’s in the middle of a serious SHIELD mission, so he doesn’t yell “Parkour!” out loud, but he’s definitely thinking it.
“Yo,” is what Clint goes with for his greeting.
Daredevil’s mouth looks unimpressed. “Is there any particular reason you’ve been spying on me for the past hour and a half?”
Aww man, the dude had caught him immediately? Not fair.
Clint just shrugs. “In the neighborhood.”
“In my neighborhood, you mean,” Daredevil growls.
“Oh, you own it now?” Clint’s says, because he can’t always stop his mouth from getting ahead of him, and anyway, provoking people is good for information. “Didn’t see your name on the deed. Devil, comma, Dare. Fancy flourishes on the signature, I assume?”
“This neighborhood is under my protection. So I repeat. What are you doing here.”
“Like I said, in the neighborhood. Got curious. Y’know the drill.”
Daredevil’s mouth tightens, from what little Clint can see of it. The alley isn’t exactly brightly lit, and it is two in the morning. “You’re lying.”
…Yeah, Clint’s definitely come up with better lies than that.
“The Avengers get curious about anyone taking on bad guys in a costume,” Clint returns, “I’m just checking you out on their behalf, making sure you aren’t a worse guy.”
“It’s not a costume,” Daredevil rumbles. “And you are still. Lying.”
Hey, that was a perfectly decent lie!
And all joking aside, Clint is a highly trained spy. He has his rough moments, sure, but most of them are in his non-spy life. SHIELD does pay him for a reason. When he’s got a lie planned out and actually puts his mind to telling that lie, well, his business is making sure it’s hard for people to figure out that he’s full of crap.
But Daredevil continues before he can answer. “No, you’re here for SHIELD. For a threat assessment, on me.”
…Welp, there goes stealth. Yeesh, how does Daredevil know all this? And how did he even know Clint was there? Clint is way too good for that, and now it’s like the guy is reading his mind or something—
Reading minds, is that something bad guys can do? Is that a new thing? Clint really hopes not.
But it probably isn’t mind-reading, if only because Clint feels like the guy would have responded to something in his inner monologue. He’s been told he’s naturally provocative like that.
“So what if I am?” Clint asks, and wow, is that the best he can do? Kate can never hear about this—she always pretends like she isn’t just as bad.
Daredevil steps forward. Clint will give it to the rumors for something: the guy looms. Clint’s been trained to mentally log physical descriptions of everyone he gets in a fight with, but somehow when he’s not paying attention to the probable measurements, the guy always seems to get bigger in his perceptions. Tall, broader, closer, more…all-encompassing.
Also, Clint’s totally willing to admit the horns look less cute in person.
“This is my city,” Daredevil grinds out. “I know what SHIELD has done, the sins they try to hide. If you had been here for the Avengers, it might be different. But when I declare that I want no murderers in my city, and enforce that with their pain, I mean all murderers, including the ones with suspiciously limitless and unregulated authority, courtesy of governmental fiat.”
“You’re not so big on the government or the law, huh?”
“The law does not matter when it stands opposed to justice. And when it comes to the government, justice is better dictated by a much higher Authority.”
So Daredevil’s a frighteningly all-knowing religious fanatic. Great.
Also, Clint has to admit the faint smell of sulfur coming from Daredevil’s side of the alley is giving the whole situation an extra creepy ambiance. Did he set that up somehow? No way—Clint trailed him all the way into the alley.
And apparently Daredevil knew he was there the whole time.
“Uh huh, and your higher authority told you torture is okay? Or that it actually works?”
Daredevil scoffs so deeply it sounds like another growl. “Don’t pretend you have no blood on your hands, Clint Barton.”
Despite himself, Clint freezes. It could be a guess, but the Devil sounds so certain, so damning. And the Devil knows his name.
His past isn’t something he’s always proud of, but his record is classified at near the highest levels—
Germany. This guy has to mean Loki’s deal in Germany. It’s also highly classified, but it’s the only thing he could mean.
“And that makes the blood on your hands okay?” Clint forces out.
“Unlike you, I don’t kill people,” Daredevil answers. “If they have committed evil, they will receive their punishment, whether in this world or the next. I am not the one who renders judgment. Here, my job is merely to stop them.”
So maybe random lowlife criminals aren’t the only ones who think that Daredevil is actually the Devil. Great, just what they need: a delusional, frighteningly all-knowing religious fanatic.
“Uh huh. And how’s that going for you?”
Daredevil’s head tilts, the motion…oddly stilted. Not quite how most people moved their heads, like he’s imitating a gesture he’d read about, rather than seen other people perform.
“I am needed elsewhere,” Daredevil rumbles. Clint blinks repeatedly in startlement, and between one blink and the next, Daredevil has melted into the pitch black of the shadows further into the alleyway. Clint can’t see for shit, even as adjusted to the dark as his eyes have become, and he isn’t even sure Natasha could have navigated it confidently. But from where Daredevil had disappeared, there wasn’t the slightest sound.
Clint moves forward, slowly, quietly, just to be sure, but there’s no sign of Daredevil remaining. No blood spatter he could take back to have SHIELD analyze. Only silence, darkness, and the smell of sulfur, strongest by far at the exact spot where Daredevil had been standing as he’d interrogated his victim.
“I’m not saying I really believe it,” Clint says, chowing down on some pizza bagels in the Avengers’ kitchen. “I’m just saying that maybe it’s worth, y’know, considering the possibility.”
Natasha scoffs. “The Devil is a fairy tale made up to scare children into behaving and adults into giving churches and politicians money.” Which, Clint isn’t exactly sure he disagrees with, but he’s also pretty sure that the Soviet-run Red Room would have never let on religion existed, except as a pathetic superstition to take advantage of in others. So maybe she’s biased.
“Wow, you’re not cynical or anything,” Tony butts in, and Clint can definitely tell that Cap is forcing himself not to comment. He’d been alternately yelling loudly and keeping totally to himself on religion since he’d found out how Fox News was using his reputation, and apparently this is a quiet time.
“I’m just saying,” Clint says, “the whole area where he was standing smelled like sulfur, and normally I’d assume all the references to judgment and sinners were just him being a total wacko, but he knew things.”
“Like what?” Steve asks, face a bit more stoic than usual.
“Like every time I was lying.”
Tony laughs, “Hawkguy, last week you told me a pigeon had stolen the last pizza bagel, that’s not definitive.”
Natasha rolls her eyes. “Clint is a professional spy. He just happens to be much better at lying in a professional setting. But he’s better by enough that it’s relevant.” So at least Natasha is in his corner on something.
“Plus, he knew that I was there the whole time, and he knew that I was there for SHIELD, without me even saying anything. And he says the reason his whole beating-people-up-for-answers shtick works is that he can always tell when people are lying. And I checked the news, and five minutes after he left, he stopped an in-progress B&E on the other side of Hell’s Kitchen.”
“Maybe his superpower is always being able to tell when people are lying?” Tony asks, twirling a fork in his hands. “I mean, that would be pretty useful. It would suck, because you’d always know when people were lying about how those pants really look on you, but you’d also know when they were lying about being trustworthy and shit, so.”
“But that doesn’t explain the sulfur! Or the shadow-melting! Or the silence!”
In contrast, one Matt Murdock, attorney at law, spends the whole morning futilely trying to get the smell of rotten eggs out of his uniform. He spends the entire time grumbling about whether it's too much to ask for people to actually use their eggs, instead of letting them rot completely and then throwing them out in an open dumpster.
Three days later, Tony Stark ambushes Clint in the Avengers’ common room.
Or, well, it probably would have been an ambush if Clint hadn’t been hanging upside down out the vent to watch a movie.
“Hey, Stalactite, if you fall from there, I’m not getting you fixed up.” Which is the biggest lie, Tony Stark is surprisingly way too into the whole Avengers team thing for that.
Tony, as is par for course about half the time, doesn’t even bother returning his greeting. “So, I’ve been on the internet. On forums, you owe me so big for this, Legolas, you have no idea, the things I had to see. Anyway, I was on Daredevil forums.”
Clint’s head perks up. Or, technically, down. “Yeah?”
“Yeah. So you know how I was totally skeptical about the whole he’s-actually-the-devil weirdness, cuz, well, duh?”
“So, logically, I still think it’s total batshit. I mean some of the eyewitness stuff sounds pretty convincing, but the only thing more unreliable than people is people on the internet. So, you know, whatever. But. Some good Samaritan leaked some police reports…”
That’s worth enough for Clint to leap down for, which he does with a mid-air twist. “And?”
“Let’s just say after that whole Thor-is-an-actual-Norse-god-or-whatever thing, they might be worth looking at.”
“I still don’t believe you,” Natasha says, not even looking up from where she’s sharpening her knives at the kitchen table. Some of them gleam so much that Clint can see her face reflected in them. “Neither does Steve.”
“Really, Steve?” Clint turns on him. “You’re the only one in the tower who actually believes in the Devil.”
Suffice to say Steve had been surprised when he’d asked if anyone wanted to come to Easter Mass with him.
“Which is why,” Steve answers firmly, “I refuse to believe that the Devil is prancing around Hell’s Kitchen in red body armor.”
“You know some of the rumors say he took over a human host?”
“The Devil doesn’t take over a human host anywhere in the Bible,” Steve sighs, “he tempts people.”
Well that’s what Clint gets for having run off to the circus instead of going to church.
The next time Daredevil encounters an Avenger, he breaks into the middle of one of Natasha’s look-I’m-a-helpless-victim-please-don’t-interrogate-me plots, beats everyone up, and then tells her that he’s sure she can get out of the ropes herself, seeing as she’s an Avenger and all.
And the thing was, yeah, the Avengers had become public in the Chitauri Invasion. Everyone knows who Iron Man and Thor are, though Bruce’s identity is still pretty hush-hush, and Steve has only just decided to reveal to the world that yes, he’s the original Cap.
But Clint and Natasha? That’d be a no. They’re spies, and they are pretty reduced in their capacity as spies if the bad guys or whoever SHIELD’s opposing that day can just recognize them any time of day.
Clint’s point: No one makes Natasha.
Even Loki didn’t make Natasha, and he’s somewhere between a superpowered alien and a god, depending on how much one believes Thor.
Natasha, of course, refuses to consider that Clint could possibly right about this, and just curses in Russian once she’s back at the tower.
But Clint thinks it’s pretty compelling evidence.
When Clint brings it up to Thor, the dude looks contemplative in a way that Clint knows most people don’t realize Thor can be. “I know not of any other races on your Earth at the same time as we were, although two thousand years ago was nearing the end of Asgard’s time here. But the Nine Realms are not all that there is to the universe.”
“So you’re with me on this?”
“I could certainly believe that this Daredevil is the figure that may have posed as your Devil, historically. Whether or not he would be classified as a deity in the sense of my people, or simply rather long-lived, I fear I cannot say. But if his abilities are truly as you say, and if he was indeed able to know the identity of the Lady Natasha—” which Natasha does not let Thor call her in her presence “—given my own history, I could hardly protest the mere idea.”
Chalk up yet another vote to his side. Awesome.
Bruce is, like, startlingly willing to believe it, given that he’s a scientist and all.
“I turn into a giant green rage monster,” Bruce says, with that pinched expression that means he just got reminded that he hates himself. “What do I know about what’s possible?”
“But you’re a scientist!” Steve protests. Now that Tony has defected to Clint’s side, Steve is left to be the main one arguing against the whole Devil theory. In part because Natasha thinks it’s too amusing to stop them.
“When I was away…” Bruce says, the same elliptical way he always refers to his years on the run and under the radar. “When I was away, I saw things. Things that defied explanation. The idea that the Devil is real would hardly be the most outlandish.”
Also, Clint suspects, it kinda furthers Bruce’s subconscious desire to believe he’ll never end up with anything but pain, but hey, what does he know.
The next time Clint encounters Daredevil, he hears him first, because Clint can’t see anything except the starless night sky above him and the roofs of a couple run-down buildings.
Because he’s lying in a dumpster.
“Hawkeye,” a familiar voice growls. “I thought I told you to stay out of my neighborhood.”
Clint really does not want to do this. His ribs hurt, his wrists hurt, his face is super swollen, and by now, he’s pretty sure that the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen is actually Satan.
His ribs ache more when he sighs. “I’m here for the Avengers this time?”
“Lying will get you nowhere, Clint Barton.”
Shit, so that lie detector trick hadn’t been a one-time thing. Or a two-time thing, given Natasha. “I’m here by myself. No mission or anything.”
“Thank you for managing not to lie this time. Maybe you can do it again and tell me what you’re doing here.”
“Long story. Tracksuit mafia. Ongoing feud.”
“Yeah, you know. The Russians in the track suits. Whatever, it’s not even a thing in ‘your neighborhood,’ or whatever, we just ended up running over here from mine before they caught up to me and started with the successful punching.” The unsuccessful punching had started a lot earlier.
The next thing Clint sees is the Devil(?) looming over him, balanced on the thin metal rim of the dumpster, which he’s apparently reached in one jump, Clint's kind of insulting that the guy's not swaying even a little bit. “You want help out of there?” Daredevil growls.
Normally, the answer to that would be yes.
“I pull you out of there. There’s a cab six blocks away. It should stay on the street outside this alley unless it’s called first. You’ll be out in time to hail that and take it that back to Stark’s place.”
There are not a lot of cabs in Hell’s Kitchen at one in the morning, to understate things massively. Ugh. “Fine.”
Contrary to all of Clint’s expectations, Daredevil is shockingly careful with his injuries. Almost like he’s managing not to jostle them because he knows exactly where they are.
And the cab is exactly where Daredevil said it would be.
So it’s not that Clint necessarily believes all the rumors on the internet. Some of them are pretty out there, and he definitely doesn’t believe any of the people claiming they beat Daredevil in a fight. Even if the dude isn’t the Devil, anyone good enough to do that is not bragging about it on reddit.
But after he and Cap and Iron Man are called to an arson case on the border of Hell’s Kitchen…
The first thing they see at the scene is a small clump of singed-looking hostages being helped by the firefighters. Half of them are talking about how Daredevil saved their lives, and the other half are talking about all sorts of outlandish ways he looked while doing it. Walking through the flames over and over to rescue them and shit. Righteous or demonic by turns, haloed by the smoke and haze of the fire.
Just as he’s taken all that in, Daredevil walks through the front doors of the burning apartment building, a full-grown man cradled in his arms like it's nothing. Not, admittedly, a sumo wrestler or anything, but still.
And while the guy is absolutely covered in ash and dust and looks seriously burned, Daredevil is maybe a little ashy, but otherwise completely unscathed. The horns on his suit still gleam.
“This is the last of them,” Daredevil tells the firefighters. “You can trust me on that.”
So that’s creepy. But when Clint and Steve and Tony all go to help with the fire as best they can, they don’t encounter another living soul. Or a single body.
Daredevil, at least, seems to thaw a bit toward them by the end of the many, many hours helping haul fire buckets and evacuate the nearby buildings.
Matt Murdock, meanwhile, is kind of surprised to find that he likes most of the Avengers in person. Sure, repelling the whole alien invasion had won them some brownie points, but it's nice to know they can also help local New Yorkers with normal, everyday problems without making an even bigger mess of it.
And Barton is pretty entertaining when he isn’t lying his ass off.
His heartbeat had kept spiking oddly, though, during the fire. Especially when Matt had first come out. Actually, Barton's heartbeat had been the slightest bit elevated when talking to Matt for a few months. Which was odd, coming from a man that was definitely a professional spy.
Maybe he should just be flattered that Hawkeye thinks him a genuine threat?
Before bed that night, Matt sends up a prayer of thanks that he was persuaded to switch over to his current suit, with its flame-retardant fabric. If he hadn’t, people would have died, and he would have been direly injured trying to get them all out.
The next time Clint ends up in a joint op with Daredevil, along with Cap and Natasha, they’re chasing some seriously violent assholes scavenging Chitauri tech and selling it on the black market. Daredevil picked up the trail around the same time they did, Clint assumes, because he once again melts out of the shadows to meet them there.
He knows Clint isn’t lying when he says it’s for the Avengers, at which point Daredevil reluctantly agrees to team up.
But then the scavengers they’re chasing run and hide in the basement of an old but still operable church, having mistakenly believed they’d lost the Avengers.
Clint’s both unnerved and impressed by the fact that they totally had lost the Avengers, or would have, if Daredevil hadn’t been able to lead them unerringly toward the church.
But once they were there, Daredevil refused to pursue them inside.
“We can wait them out,” he growled. “There’s no reason to defile holy ground.”
At this point, Clint is totally, 100% convinced that Daredevil is actually Satan.
“There isn’t?” Natasha asks, eyebrow raised.
“No,” Daredevil responds. “The father here would not be pleased to find that his church is being used this way, but he’d be even less pleased by the damage we’d inflict.”
God disapproves of them punching people in churches? Damn, uh, okay.
Or maybe it's the lowercase kind of church dad. Maybe the Devil just psychically knows what all the local priests think. That’s not really more comforting.
So by the time four months have passed, Clint is not only totally convinced that Daredevil is actually Satan, but he’s gotten most of the Avengers on board with him. He’s been helped a lot by Nat and Cap backing up that he isn’t just spouting bullshit, even if they’re the two holdouts that refuse to believe him.
Which is why Clint just about has a minor heart attack when Daredevil meets the whole Avengers team on the rooftops of a pretty damn tall building in Hell’s Kitchen, without anyone noticing his approach, and Tony fucking Stark whips out a crucifix and sticks it in Daredevil’s face.
Just because Tony Stark thinks he’s funny, Matt reflects, does not mean he has to dignify the man’s unimaginative jokes. “Yes, I’m the Devil, you got me,” Matt says, completely deadpan, and turns back to Captain America. (Captain America. His preteen self is bouncing with joy.) “So. The Chitauri tech smugglers.”
Stark and Barton have their heartbeats almost through the roof, but a quick sweep of the area doesn’t reveal any threats.
Matt decides to ignore it. Stark and Barton are both very different, but equally excessive, types of weird on their best days.
“So do you believe me now?” Clint demands, hounding Steve and Natasha across the weapons locker, where they’re stowing their weapons.
Or, in Natasha’s case, 80% of her weapons. He counted.
Natasha just smirks at him and raises her eyebrow, and yeah, he’s just hassling Nat for fun. Nothing sort of being kidnapped straight to Hell by Daredevil will convince her.
But Steve is a much softer target.
“No,” Steve answers firmly, stowing his shield on the elaborate hooks Stark made for it.
“He did admit it to us directly,” Thor says, pointedly not stowing Mjolnir, as always. “Do you not find that evidence to be compelling?”
“Anyone can put on some horns and call themselves the Devil,” Steve answers. “That doesn’t mean the Devil runs around Hell’s Kitchen beating up muggers and saving children from fires. And he definitely doesn’t do it dressed like that.”
“You know, he says it’s not a costume,” Clint informs Steve as he racks his arrows. “Maybe it’s just how he manifests in this realm.”
“Maybe you should ask him about his motivations next time, Steve,” Natasha says, because she secretly enjoys messing with all sides of any given conflict. None of the other Avengers have actually caught on yet, hilariously, and in the meantime, it’s Clint’s private comedy show. “It could help you build your case against Clint.”
Steve sets his jaw. “Maybe I will.”
The next time they run into Daredevil, it’s just Steve and Clint, and he gets his question in.
“Mr. Rogers,” the answer comes, “I may be the Devil, but that doesn’t mean I am willing to stand by while children burn to death. Their screams, their cries, their prayers—I could hear the slightest whisper. I always can. Hell’s Kitchen is mine to protect, and I will save every victim and punish every mugger and rapist and would-be arsonist within it.”
Cap says, when they get back, but he still doesn’t believe the dude, but Clint’s pretty sure that between the admissions and the fire thing and the holy ground thing, he’s starting to wonder.
Matt knows people don’t always believe Daredevil is a good guy, he really does, but to have his motivations for saving children questioned? And by Captain America?
He’s not going to lie (for once). That hurts. But he knows what people say about Daredevil, especially after the bombings, how some people refuse to believe he took down Fisk for the right reasons, how some people even think he’s actually the Devil.
It’s ridiculous, but hey, it makes Matt’s job easier now that criminals are starting to scream and run when they see him coming. Well, easier for not getting beat up, harder for actually catching them.
But the Avengers are presumably caught up on the torture thing, not the Devil rumors. And maybe the bombings, if they don’t believe the part where he was cleared for them.
The Chitauri tech smugglers are annoying, persistent, and persistently annoying.
The fact that they were teaming up with the Devil to take them down didn’t lessen the annoyance, although the way that Tony kept jumping a bit whenever Daredevil turned toward him too fast did.
Bruce jumping, however, was not so funny. Since he’d only been along for science stuff anyway, they’d sent him back to the Tower and stayed in touch over the coms.
So by the start of their team-up-part-eight with DD, it’s Natasha, Cap, and Clint on the ground, since they’re the ones with some concept of subtlety, with Tony and Thor scanning the skies for odd activity and/or a bunch of science stuff Clint didn’t understand and also didn’t bother listening to.
They’ve been carrying out a search grid together for hours, but they haven’t split up at Cap’s insistence that they don’t know what the Chitauri tech could do. Which, hey, Clint agrees with, especially since it meant none of them would be alone with the Devil.
Sure, he’d been fine so far, but the guy is already pissed about the blood on Clint’s hands, and Natasha has way, way more. Cap would probably be safe on the “punishment for sinners” front, but that was assuming the Devil wasn’t gonna go in for the whole temptation-of-mortals shtick.
It’s in the fifth shady-looking corporate office they break into that things get interesting. Because there’s someone already there.
It’s a woman, blonde, probably late 20s, and she’s taking photos of everything. Photos with what even Clint can recognize as meticulous source labels arrange in the corner of each document she photographs. The same one photocopied over and over, cuz she’s probably in a hurry, but she’s acting like a seasoned journalist, B&E aside (hah, he’s a hypocrite), and this is definitely not her first time around the block.
“Excuse me, miss,” Cap calls, and she jumps like a foot in the air. Her hand is resting on something at her waist—a taser and some mace, Clint notices—before she starts again and goes, “Holy shit, you’re the Avengers.”
Daredevil is lingering back in the hallway behind them.
“Yes, we are,” Cap says with a charming smile. “And I’m afraid we’d like to know what you’re doing here. Are you investigating the company?”
“I’m—I work here. Obviously. My boss called me and said he needed documentation of these files real quick, he’s overseas right now trying to seal a deal. But why are you guys here? He hasn’t done anything wrong, has he?”
The woman is a surprisingly good actor, her voice just the right amount of anxious. She is also definitely, 500% lying.
Then Daredevil slinks forward out of the shadows and into the room. The woman’s focus lasers in on them and it stays there.
“Daredevil?” she asks, still startled but suddenly much calmer.
“Yes,” Daredevil rumbles. His voice is almost less menacing now than Clint has ever heard it. “How long have you been conducting research on NexCorp, and what for?”
“A few weeks now,” she answers, and holy shit, what? Clint’s read on her was that it would take at least ten minutes of cajoling to get real answers out of her. “And I’ve been investigating them for links to smuggling Chitauri weapons. Which is what I assume you’re here about too.”
And yeah, they may be in Hell’s Kitchen, she may just be a Daredevil fan, but they’re the Avengers, that isn’t good for something.
And even a fan would be acting excited or nervous, but she is way too calm. Like Daredevil’s presence has soothed something in her.
“And where have you been keeping your research? Have you been concealing it carefully enough?”
“It’s very well-hidden in my apartment.”
Okay, what she’s doing there is one thing, but the location of her research?
“Karen,” Daredevil says, and sure, he’s psychically known everyone else’s name, why not. “This is urgent. Please tell me where you’ve hidden it in your apartment and give me your keys.”
There’s no way she says yes, just hands a violent vigilante keys to her apartment and permission to go through her whole damn place, not without—
“The keys to my apartment?” Apparently-Karen repeats. And oh, thank all the gods Clint is maybe starting to think he needs to believe in, she’s objecting.
Daredevil nods. And Karen reaches into her pocket and tosses them over. "It's hidden inside the vent behind my sofa."
Mind control. That’s it, the Devil has mind control. Clint is totally gonna manage to hold off on an anxiety attack til he gets back to the tower. Yep, totally.
“Thanks,” the Devil says, because apparently he’s polite to the people he mind controls into doing shit for him. How nice.
“Karen,” the Devil continues, “this is time-sensitive, and I need to leave now. How are you doing here? Are you going to be able to get back okay?”
And whatever honesty compulsion the Devil is using on her continues. “Well,” she drawls, and at least whatever this is lets her keep a bit of sass, “I’m a little unnerved because we’re all clearly breaking and entering. But I’m almost done documenting everything here, and luckily I trust you, so I’ll be fine.”
She trusts the asshole mind-controlling her, of course she does, Clint remembers how that—
“And I should be fine getting home. I’ll leave with you guys and I’ll be fine. Though I’ll be better if my boss doesn’t ask why I sound so tired tomorrow, and surprises me with donuts.”
The Devil smirks. Oh good, he finds his victim amusing. “Sure thing,” he says—
Then the sky lights up with the fire of Chitauri weapons.
“Shit,” Clint says feelingly, and he can hear Natasha saying the same thing in Russian under her breath.
“You guys take care of that,” Daredevil says, “I’ll collect Karen’s research and run it to the Tower, where you can lock it up. And I’ll get her home.”
Clint absolutely, totally does not approve of leaving people with the assholes mind-controlling them. “Now wait just a minute—”
Then there’s an explosion, this time from right outside the building. They can see the top of the smoke plume from where they are—
“Shit, my car!” Karen says, before shoving all the documents more-or-less neatly back in their box—she was prepared to leave in a hurry, nice—and running off.
So that’s one problem kind of solved.
“Go,” Daredevil growls, and takes off himself, like a bat out of Hell.
Hah, Clint’s hilarious.
Fuck, Clint thinks, and refuses to look over at Natasha’s knowing glance.
Clint refuses to be there when Daredevil shows up to drop of the documents, for reasons, that none of his teammates know, stop with the sympathetic glances—
So he only hears about what happens later from Cap, Tony, Thor, and Natasha, who all made various excuses to be there.
Apparently it had started off with Cap warily thanking him for the intel, then saying, “You know, everything I had heard about you, I wouldn’t have thought you could do good. Not like this. But you’re making me rethink a lot of things. So thank you.”
Hah, Cap is finally in on Team Actual Devil! Now Clint just needs to get Natasha kidnapped to Hell (temporarily) so she’ll buy in.
“You’re welcome?” Daredevil had growled, but Natasha reported that it sounded a bit questioning.
“That young lady, is she safe?” Cap had asked, because he’s a gentleman like that. One who hasn’t figured out that no one in the state of New York likes being called a “young lady” anymore.
“Yes, she’s safe,” Daredevil had said. And then, because maybe the Devil is socially stunted—which frankly would make a lot of sense—he turned to leave.
Apparently everyone else had let him.
“Hah!” Tony had shouted as soon as the Devil was gone, along with a fistpump, according to his overdramatic summary of the encounter’s aftermath. “You believe it too! You finally agree he’s the actual Devil, suck it, we told you so!”
Steve had just sighed. “Let’s not do this now, Tony.”
“But we have made you a convert! Hah!”
“If it is indeed as you say,” Thor had said, “then we should indeed be grateful that the Devil is far more honorable than your mythology makes him out to be.”
“It’s not mythology,” Steve had grumbled, which was an argument he and Thor accidentally had pretty regularly, and walked out.
“What about you, Natasha?” Thor had apparently asked. “Do you not also find this evidence compelling?”
Natasha had smiled during her recounting of that part of the tale. “No.”
Matt Murdock, ears far sharper than the Avengers have ever realized, almost trips and falls flat on his face in the service entrance to Star Tower.
The Avengers think he’s the what.
At least that explains why their heartbeats—except for Natasha and Thor—have been out of control around him for a while now. Also, Matt realizes faintly, it probably explains the crucifix.
But the Avengers.
The Avengers think that he’s the actual Devil.
He…he doesn’t even know what to do with that.
Well, actually, he knows at least one thing he’s going to do with it.
Foggy and Karen are going to laugh their asses off.
Foggy and Karen do, indeed, laugh their asses off. It’s a very unproductive morning, because every five to ten minutes, one of them will look up from their papers, start laughing, and go, “The Devil. The Devil.”
It’s an extremely unproductive morning.
At least they lay off for the single hour they’re with a client that day.
…Matt can still hear Foggy snickering under his breath when the client isn’t looking.
“Okay,” Foggy chuckles over one of the donuts that Karen has deigned to share, “but are you actually going to tell them?”
“You could mess with them just a bit more,” Karen puts in, on her second donut of the day. Matt had splurged and gotten four as a thank you, because using her name and asking for her keys in front of other superheroes was a lot. Sure, she'd clearly had fun snarking at him in front of the Avengers, but Matt didn't think that was enough. He hadn’t wanted to expose her like that at all, but the case with the Chitauri weaponry—they were destroying evidence as fast as possible, and he had been very short on time.
Actually… “I’m pretty sure they think I did something nefarious to you last night,” Matt says.
Karen bursts out laughing yet again.
Honestly, Matt’s planning to tell them. Maybe not immediately…because on the one hand, Karen’s right and this is kind of hilarious. But on the other hand, impersonating the Devil is bad for his Catholic guilt. And it turns out impersonating the Devil to the good guys is even worse. Especially because he’s been logging a lot of hours with them over this whole Chitauri tech smuggling ring, and he honestly does like them.
But he isn’t planning to tell them quite as immediately as he ends up doing.
His plans change when he hunts down Barton doing surveillance in Hell’s Kitchen with Romanoff.
They don’t seem to be attempting to find him, but that’s not super unusual, since Matt pretty much always hears the show up and then goes to find them.
…In retrospect, that probably had not helped the whole Devil thing.
He does melt out of the shadows again, partly because it’s habit, and partly because something in him can’t quite resist the drama of it—
And that’s when Barton whirls on him and starts cursing him out. It’s lower and colder than he’s ever heard Barton get by miles. The man can be so ridiculous, Matt sometimes has a hard time believing he could be a spy, that he could have a kill count.
But now he doesn’t doubt it.
“—So you can fuck the hell off back to whatever burning hellhole you came from, because I sure as fucking shit do not work with fucking mind controlling bastards.”
Barton is halfway up the next building before Matt can respond.
Romanoff, however, is not. “I’m 75% certain the others are wrong about it being mind control, and completely certain that you’re not the Devil,” she says. “However, it would behoove you to correct those misapprehensions. Promptly.”
“It’s not mind control,” Matt forces out, though for some reason he can’t get his voice quite as far down as he usually prefers when he’s in the suit.
Romanoff nods. “Good. That’s better for everyone.” Matt suddenly wonders if she might have done something to him if he’d said otherwise. That’s an unpleasant thought. He can take almost anyone, but Natasha Romanoff, he’s not so sure about.
Then, she says, “So, are you her boss, or just a friend?”
“I plead the Fifth.” It’s reflexive. It’s probably a mistake.
“Right,” Romanoff says, uncaring. No hint as to whether she read anything into that. “Well, Clint’s never going to work with you unless you explain what’s really going on and offer some proof, and everyone else is going to go along with it out of respect for Clint. Seeing as you just turned over most of your evidence to us, I suggest you produce some explanations.”
Then Romanoff is up the side of the building too.
Well, then. Apparently Matt needs to go talk to the Avengers.
The thing is, getting inside Avengers Tower as Daredevil will freak everyone out and probably result in him being told to leave immediately. But getting anywhere past the lobby of Avengers Towers as Matt Murdock will be impossible. Maybe the legal department, if he made up a client to serve them, but not near the Avengers.
So Matt goes to the service entrance of the tower in full uniform, just like he has in the past, and sneaks in under the bottom of one of the delivery trucks.
As soon as he gets out and by himself, he calls out, “Jarvis. I’m here because Natasha Romanoff told me to be. I’m here to explain things. Can you ask her to let me up?” Then, a thought. “Privately.”
This will go a lot easier if he doesn’t have all of the Avengers on high guard before he gets within ten floors of them.
After a pause, the voice of Stark’s electronic butler echoes through the room. Matt still kind of hates it, because there’s no one physically there, and also because Jarvis’s sound system gives off a subtle but annoying form of feedback way too high-pitched and quiet for an unenhanced human to sense. “Agent Romanoff has cleared you for the Tower, Daredevil, over my protests. Proceed down the hallway in front of you and take the fourth elevator on your left.”
Really? “You’re an AI, Jarvis,” Matt says as he walks. “Surely you don’t also think I’m the Devil.”
“I think it’s highly unlikely. The probability of you possessing mind control abilities, however, is not. And, that you have created significant distress for certain members of the Avengers, is a fact.”
Matt forces himself not to sigh. This is going to go real well, then.
The elevator door, when it finally opens, arrives at what Matt can tell is a common living floor for a number of residents. And all of the Avengers are standing in front of them.
Matt steps out of the elevator at a relaxed pace. Natasha Romanoff is the only one of the Avengers with a level heartbeat, though Bruce Banner comes in a thankful second, and Thor’s feels more like excitement. Probably at the possibility of a fight, joy.
“Last night, it came to my attention that there’s been a misunderstanding,” he says. “I’d like to apologize for that misunderstanding, and clarify: I am not the actual Devil.”
“Uh huh.” Barton’s voice isn’t exactly credulous.
“So, what?” Stark demands. “You’re just a telepath is then? Telepathy is real? You know we’re gonna study your brain, right? Right, Brucie?”
Matt very carefully does not sigh. “I am also not a telepath. I do not possess mind control powers. Karen gave me her keys last night because she’s a friend, and she knows who I am under the suit.”
Barton’s teeth are grinding. “You got any proof?”
This is the part Matt’s been dreading. But Foggy and Karen have been so much happier since he’s had backup, and he’s been injured less often, able to do more good—
He lifts his hand and peels off his cowl. “My name is Matt Murdock,” he says. “I’m an attorney in Hell’s Kitchen. I have a well-documented childhood you can look up proving that I am not, in fact, Satan. You will also find documentation proving that Karen works for my law firm. I do have powers, but they’re not mind control; I have drastically enhanced senses instead.”
“Results for Matt Murdock displayed,” Jarvis’s voice comes, and Stark starts gesturing a bunch in the air. Some sort of hologram of his history, presumably. Thrilling.
“Hey, you’re the Matt Murdock who saved that old guy,” Stark says, “but wait, didn’t he go blind? This totally says you went blind.”
This time, Matt does sigh. “I am blind. All of my senses are enhanced except my vision.”
“Echolocation,” Banner says, “it must be. Fascinating.”
Matt is definitely putting off dealing with the people who want to science him.
“So. Not the Devil. It just makes my life easier if the criminals think I am.”
The Avengers calm down after a few hours of explanations. He successfully fends off all scientists, with surprise backup from Natasha.
Stark refuses to use his name, or call him anything other than “Devil’s Advocate,” but Matt’s certainly heard worse.
And Clint is talking to him again. So that’s surprisingly, actually nice.