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Target Practice

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Kate Bishop leans against a stool, staring unhappily across the kitchen counter at Clint Barton. Even though it's nearly eleven am, as usual he's still dressed in the same grubby sweatpants and t shirt he had worn to bed the night before. He's drinking coffee straight from the pot, slowly turning the pages of the newspaper spread out on the counter in front of him.

I mean seriously, who even reads the physical paper anymore, she thinks with annoyance for the thousandth time, making the stool wobble unevenly on the floor.

"Old geezer," she mutters, but he doesn't hear her.

She flicks her gaze up to his ears. At least he has his hearing aids in today, the purple plastic hanging over the back of each ear. Lots of mornings he doesn't even bother to put them in. She doesn't understand why he doesn't ask Tony to give him some fancy high tech implant, but when she asked him about it, Clint just muttered something about not wanting to be turned into an Ultron.

The truth is his hearing had always been for shit, even before. It was totally obvious, the way he was nearly killed on like every mission by someone sneaking up behind him, the way he routinely misheard things, like calling Gil Grills or thinking people were calling him Hawkguy, or the way he cranked the TV way up on Dog Cops, and still asked her what they just said. She hadn't known until he told her the extent of his hearing loss as a kid, when he explained that for years he basically only used ASL with Barney. Learning that made more details snap into focus, like the way he sometimes phrased things really strangely, like "Dog, can I pet it one time?" Or how even before, he kind of slurred his words a little, pronouncing the s and ch sound too far back, like his tongue didn't move quite right.

Now, a year after the attack, his voice has changed dramatically. It's tighter, rougher, more nasal. The words tend to run together, and the consonants are sometime wrong or missing. He sounds like a deaf person. He is, she has to remind herself. He is deaf. That's it forever now.

She hates herself for feeling differently about him. It isn't fair. But to make it in the superhero biz, you have to just charge forward and assume that whatever happens, someone will fix it by science or magic. Living with a disability isn't in her MO.

Kate had tried to learn ASL, but she still sucks at it. She feels self conscious about how slow and hesitant her hands are. She'd rather just talk, even though she knows how much he wants her to learn.

She didn't realize how intently she was staring at him until he meets her gaze. He flicks up a finger.

What's up?

She shakes her head. Nothing.

 

At the edge of a rooftop not far from Times Square, Clint shifts his weight very slightly from foot to foot, trying to ease his stiff muscles while making the minimum movement so he won't be spotted. Stakeouts are a bitch. He'd been standing in the same spot for two hours, watching a meeting going on in the building across the street. The well-lit room with wide windows stands out brightly against the night, and he can clearly see six of the Kingpin's goons arguing. If he really concentrates, he can even lipread a few words. There, that one just said Barton, he's sure of it, followed by something else he couldn't catch. Then they file out of the room and switch off the light. He has to tail them.

Clint turns fast to race down the stairs, then falls back with a surprised grunt.

"Gah!"

There's someone standing behind him. Clint, you dummy. Isn't Kate always telling you to watch your six? The figure takes another step closer to him. Even through the shadows, he can see the red costume and the little horns.

Daredevil. What the fuck is this guy doing here? Oh right, Kingpin, this must be his patrol. They've never crossed paths before, but Clint has seen SHIELD footage of some of his fights.

In the first second, Clint sizes him up as an opponent. The guy has a few inches on him, and probably a few pounds too, all muscle. Clint has faced all kinds of scary dudes including aliens but there's an aura of menace about this guy that he can practically feel. The slow footsteps, the deceptively loose way he holds his arms at his sides, Clint can tell he's anticipating his every move and mentally preparing a strike. The Kingpin's goons are getting away, and he doesn't want to waste time fighting this guy.

"Whoa! Hey! Daredevil, right?" He throws up his hands. "We're on the same side, right?"

"Who the [...] you?" Daredevil growls in a low tone that's hard to catch. The fan from the ventilation system is making white noise and there's not much light, but it's not hard to guess what he's saying. At least Daredevil's mask doesn't cover his mouth.

"I'm an Avenger!"

"Oh yeah, which one? You don't look like C[...] Am[..] or [....] Man." Damn dark roof. Why aren't there more lights up here?

"I'm Hawkeye." Clint pulls the bow off his back and brandishes it like some form of ID.

"Never .............................................................................................?"

"What?" Dammit, Daredevil just said something longer and he missed it completely. There's only one little light over the door in the stairwell, and he can't see the guy's mouth at all. Clint had followed along well enough at first but that last bit escaped him.

"Could you say that again?"

 

Matt Murdock had been eating his dinner when he hears someone go up to the roof of his apartment building. He lowers the chopsticks into the box of takeout noodles as he concentrates on the footsteps. It doesn't sound like anyone he recognizes, certainly not one of the tenants. The mystery guy positions himself at the edge of the roof like a sniper then goes still. There's no way that could be anything good.

Regretfully, Matt pushes away his food and suits up.

He listens carefully to make sure none of the tenants are in the stairwell, then jogs up to the roof. The door is ajar slightly, and the sniper is still poised unmoving at the far edge of the roof. Matt hangs back and assesses him slowly. Steady heartbeat, slow steady breathing. This guy has clearly had training, but he doesn't seem to have superpowers or to be wearing any kind of enhancements. He's just a guy.

He doesn't seem nervous either, so maybe he's not about to shoot someone. And he doesn't have a gun. Matt breathes in deeply just to be sure, but there's no smell of metal and grease and propellant. What kind of sniper doesn't have a gun?

He'll just talk to the guy to find out what's going on. Matt strides toward him, scuffing his feet and making some noise so as not to startle him, but the guy nearly jumps out of his skin anyway when Matt comes up behind him.

"Hey." He uses his low, growly Daredevil voice, not his loud projecting courtroom voice.

"Whoa, hey! Daredevil, right?" The guy's voice is not at all what Matt is expecting. There's something too loud but strangely muffled about it, like he doesn't know how to make the sounds vibrate in his face correctly.

The guy pulls a long narrow object off his back, and it comes into focus at last for Matt: it's a bow. Aha, now he gets it. That's why he doesn't have a gun. Matt knows who Hawkeye is, but he can't help playing with the guy a little.

"Never heard of you. I don't recall asking for assistance in this neighborhood."

But when Hawkeye asks him to repeat what he just said, suddenly all the pieces come together. That buzzing sound--Matt had assumed it was a comms unit, but he focuses more and realizes the voice coming through it is his own, and it's buzzing equally on both sides. The guy is wearing hearing aids.

Instead of repeating what he just said, he points one finger at Hawkeye, then points the same finger to his ear, and traces it down the side of his face to his mouth.

 

Clint's eyes go wide when instead of repeating his question, Daredevil asks him in ASL, You deaf?

Clint is so surprised he momentarily forgets about tailing the goons. Crap. It's probably too late already, anyway he'll pick up their trail tomorrow and just deal with Tony bitching at him for misappropriating Avengers resources later. He can count on one hand the number of people in his life who know ASL, and those people are Barney and Katie. Barney has been gone for a year, and Katie barely counts as half a finger. He has to find out more about this guy. You can sign?

Daredevil holds his thumb and fingers a half inch apart, the universal sign for a little bit.

How?

Daredevil points to himself then adds deaf girlfriend, long time ago. His gestures are expansive, emphasizing that is was a loooong time ago. "Sorry I'm not that good at it," he adds, dropping the vigilante growl and speaking more normally.

"Uh, if we're gonna talk, do you mind turning into the light? It's really dark up here and I can't see your face at all," Clint says apologetically.

"Oh, ok, sure..." Daredevil turns and they walk a few feet back towards the stairwell. "Is that better? Sorry, I'm not always sure when I'm in the light or shadow."

"What?"

"You know who I am, right?"

"No, I..." As Clint starts to speak, Daredevil pushes back his cowl, revealing a shock of coppery red hair and the bluest eyes Clint has ever seen. Scratch that, not a normal shade of blue, but a kind of glowing flat surface of blue scar tissue.

"My name is Matt Murdock," he says, fingerspelling it slowly then extending a hand.

Clint just stands there gaping at him. "You're blind?"

Matt makes an irritated snort. "I assumed you knew," he says, touching the tips of his fingers to the side of his forehead, the sign for know. "The Avengers and SHIELD have files on me. It was splashed all over the Bugle for weeks."

"I, uh, don't keep up with the superhero gossip," Clint admits, rubbing the back of his neck. "I never read the Bugle. It's a rag. New York Times only."

Matt's face splits in a dazzling grin. "Ha! A man after my own heart."