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Thorns for Flowers

Chapter Text

Natasha Romanov had powers the world knew not, Clint discovered all over again. In the aftermath of a frankly embarrassing raid where Hydra blasted their entire underground base and the Avengers’ dignity with a massive electromagnetic pulse, she’d managed to convince Daredevil to actually set foot in Avengers Tower.

The EMP had been the most intense Tony had ever encountered. It took out every light except the arc reactor itself, which flickered in the aftermath and left Tony gasping. Natasha’s taser-bracelets were toast. The communicators were too light to serve as paperweights. Clint’s hearing aids were also useless, making Clint useless by extension. Hydra vanished like they were cockroaches that skittered away in the dark because the jerks did everything backwards.

Daredevil had been sprinting through the pitch-black base like a lunatic when Natasha thought he was one of the Hydra grunts. He had managed to yell “It’s Daredevil, Widow” somewhere between her third kick and the typically-inevitable thighs of death, so really the guy was ridiculously fast. It was possibly bizarro guilt that had convinced him to attend an actual debriefing. Natasha had landed a kick straight on top of his previously cracked rib and looked sadly in his direction until he huffed and stumbled into the pickup van. She hadn’t even started the polite monologue about collapsed lungs being a terrible way to spend his day. Clint always got the collapsed lungs speech.

Clint, meanwhile, had happily accepted his backup hearing aids and could hear again before they were even halfway back to the tower. Daredevil hadn’t seemed all that surprised to learn that Clint was mostly deaf, which was cool. It was actually insulting how many people seemed to think that he couldn’t have good aim and not much hearing.

His goodwill toward Daredevil was fading fast, however, because the asshole wasn’t even trying. The Avengers had agreed that adding hand-signs to the repertoire would be a good idea in case communications went down again or for times when speaking out loud was just a bad idea. He and Natasha had their own language of signs already for days when the hearing aids were too much, and combined with Steve’s World War II handsigns and Tony’s ideas about which would be easiest to make in gauntlets, they were developing a good basic language.

Daredevil, meanwhile, wasn’t even watching while Steve demonstrated his usual signal for “enemies ahead.” He had his head cocked to the side, sure, and looked like he was frowning in concentration, but he was actually looking at Steve’s shoulders instead of his hands.

Clint sunk lower in his chair and pretended it was fine that Daredevil, Mr. Rapt Attention to Plans of Engagement that same morning, didn’t care about nice gestures for a deaf teammate. Not like he had that much room to whine, he knew. Clint considered himself small-d deaf as he could pass for normal.

“Let’s break for lunch,” Steve suggested, because he was Clint’s favorite after Natasha.

“I should get going, actually,” Daredevil hedged. Clint deducted another two points, one for the dodge and one for not being honest about it. “I called out of my day job already, but I could still get a few hours of work in.”

“This is important, Daredevil,” Steve said, frowning. He looked straight at Daredevil with the Captain America Wants You To Consider Your Life Decisions look.

Daredevil didn’t even pause. The man was a mutant. Nobody could ever hold up in the face of Captain America’s Earnest Disapproval. He did actually try for eye contact, though, instead of staring off into space. “We don’t work together enough for these to be that useful. I don’t do Hydra, I don’t do aliens falling out of the sky. I take care of Hell’s Kitchen.”

Natasha glanced at the red-suited maniac. “You’re skipping lunch? Tony’s buying.”

“Rushman, you don’t have an expense account anymore.” Tony was already tapping something into his tablet, though, so they all knew lunch was coming soon. “Privilege revoked.”

“Pepper’s in charge of my HR file and we both know it,” Natasha replied with a hint of a smile. “I still temp for her sometimes. Beyond that, we carried your suit out of a Hydra base with no working elevators, Stark. You owe us lunch. Thai?”

Clint hid a smirk at the way Daredevil suddenly looked far more interested. Tony agreed to Thai and picking up the bill, no less.

Daredevil muttered something about restrooms before fleeing the room as if someone was about to try to make small talk with him. Previous attempts had been actually sad. Steve had asked him about movies during the last team up, and it seemed Mr. Daredevil was too special to go to the movie theater like normal superheroes who took nights off. When Bruce invited him to movie nights sometime, costume welcome, Daredevil had turned him down flat and found his first excuse to wander off into the shadows. Maybe it wasn't too surprising that Daredevil stopping by the Tower wasn't enough to drag Bruce out of his lab.

“Well, that could have gone better,” Steve muttered.

“Maybe he’ll pick it up later,” Clint suggested, trying to be gracious that Daredevil’s attempts at replicating hand gestures had been frankly awful. “We could take a video demonstrating the signs we settle on for him to look over later.”

After lunch, Steve suggested that Daredevil could work on signals later after they sent the video to him. That went over poorly.

Daredevil’s cell phone didn’t play videos. He hadn’t even wanted to exchange numbers; he only conceded to the combined powers of Natasha's bland stare and Steve’s palpable irritation. He’d shoved his beat-up prepaid phone to Natasha and left her to enter their main line and her own number. He did recite his number for Steve, but apparently didn’t have an e-mail not tied to his civilian identity and didn’t want himself on SHIELD’s radar.

Clint wasn’t sure how a man in bright red pleather planned to get from the Tower to Hell’s Kitchen in broad daylight, but he didn’t let himself care too much about the guy’s contingency plans. He’d thought Daredevil was okay with working with the Avengers and maybe starting to fit into a team. Maybe they’d been expecting too much from a guy who didn’t even wander out of Hell’s Kitchen without direct coaxing. Not everybody was built to be a team player.

Chapter Text

The next time Hawkeye saw Daredevil, the vigilante was pacing near Metro General’s helipad. He’d called in the Avengers after overhearing Hydra’s plan to hit up the hospital to clean out the pharmacy. Hawkeye was close enough it had been faster to run over himself instead of heading back to the Tower first.

Despite being reminded again just a minute before, Daredevil still wasn’t facing Hawkeye to make lip-reading possible. It usually wasn’t a concern but with the ambient noise of a windy night, Clint was straining to make out the words. “They have another EMP en route, I’m not sure how far away it is,” Clint thought Daredevil said. “I called in the threat to the hospital and they have backup generators ready.”

“They’re taking it seriously?”

“They called in the chief medical officer, yes,” he said, finally turning toward Hawkeye. “They’re going to be putting some visitors to work, but they have enough people for someone to stand by the patients on a ventilator and keep them breathing. The rest of the team is coming in, I hear the rotors.”

Right. So on top of the possibility of an EMP, if they lost the lights they’d also lose the ventilators and whatever other equipment that was keeping people alive. “How are you with hand signals?”

Daredevil grimaced. “Not great,” he said, as if it hadn’t been two weeks since the man reluctantly produced an email address and replied that he’d gone through the video. “If you need me, though, say my name. I’ll hear you.”

Clint was a professional. He did not bite the man’s head off for the cute reminder that hearing things was a normal human ability. “Right. Any other hints?”

Daredevil was looking two inches to his right, again, because he didn’t always bother with eye contact. It usually didn’t make Clint want to tell Daredevil that he didn’t get to call in Avengers and then be pissed that they showed up. “If you have time, you and Iron Man should get to the MRI room. They have a Faraday cage over that room to keep out external radiation, it might hold up against an EMP.”

“Tony’s bringing fancy glow sticks,” Hawkeye offered. “After last time, he got annoyed that all of his tech went boom. He and Bruce worked out something like the little kid toys that works more like a really bright flashlight.”

“I don’t need help with that,” Daredevil said, a hint of a smile breaking through the stoicism. “I almost caught up with the stragglers last time before Widow picked me out as the guy on my own.”

Hawkeye gritted his teeth against the reminder that being deaf and blind during a fight was pretty much a guarantee of being useless. Hawkeye had been trapped on a catwalk until SHIELD brought in a light, Daredevil had nearly tackled someone to the ground. “Yeah, well, take one anyway,” he said curtly. “Maybe you can scare the civilians a little less that way.”

“That’s not—Hawkeye, I didn’t mean—”

Clint was done with this talk and now even he could hear the helicopter coming down, a long time after Daredevil announced when people with normal hearing would pick out his teammates arrival. “Save it,” he said. Personally, Hawkeye was saved from further crap by Tony touching down gently for once in their lives. Hawkeye bet the hospital would appreciate the gesture. Tony’s usual landings broke concrete all the way through. Tony was still having a conversation with Cap through a private link about the architecture, Daredevil and Clint left them to it.

Daredevil kept his mouth shut while Cap ran through their approach. He didn’t say a word when Hawkeye pointed out that the MRI room would be shielded. He didn’t have a single twitch to his lower face when Tony lit up at the idea and mentioned that he and Clint could stay toward that part of the hospital and try to get there in time.

When Tony handed out glow sticks and muttered about preschool solutions, Daredevil didn’t have a word to say against Tony. Maybe he just had a problem with Clint.

Clint took the roof to play sentry. He could rappel down the side of the hospital and get himself to the radiology department and its MRI room fast enough to take the risk. Steve had taken a minute to talk to the hospital’s chief medical officer and hear her priorities for keeping patients safe. Even given forty minutes’ notice, fully evacuating a hospital was a heady task that still would leave patients in the path of whoever Hydra was sending in. The most they had been able to do was divert all ambulances to a different hospital’s emergency room, freeing up staff to help through the rest of the hospital. They had made an overhead announcement about a possible power disruption, nothing more than that.

Hawkeye called out the arrival of a new helicopter. On the roof with an unobstructed view, he could pick it out of the sky without issue long before he could hear it. “We have a bogey coming in from the west. They’re not angled toward the helipad, it looks like they’re going to park in the courtyard.” The helipad was the top floor of the parking garage. Natasha and Steve had both agreed the courtyard had a better angle toward the pharmacy when they studied blueprints Stark had pulled out of nowhere.

“I’m taking a chance on the Faraday cage,” Tony said. “I’m not much good in a fight otherwise.”

“There’s fighting downstairs,” Daredevil said. Clint could just picture the head-tilt that always accompanied those sudden bursts of new information. “By the pharmacy. Someone just screamed.”

“Daredevil, you were supposed to be covering the intensive care unit,” Steve replied with more patience than the comment deserved.

Even the lunatic had limits, it seemed, because Daredevil was clearly annoyed when he replied. “I am in the ICU’s main stairwell, the echoes here are pretty loud. I’m still closest, I didn’t think Hydra would have someone in the building already.”

Cap was never one to waste an advantage. “Go,” he said. “Widow and I will take the crew from the helicopter.”

The communicator clicked in Clint’s ear a minute later. “Daredevil’s not in this little chat, just us. I have him on the surveillance cameras, I might have hacked in so I’m not just standing in an empty room like a boring damsel,” Tony said. He always took point on communicators, but he rarely cut someone out of the group line. “I should rip this crap for youtube, he actually just parkoured down the stairs instead of moving like a normal human. He’s using more banister than stairs, and… Okay, there’s a tech down, found the pharmacy. Somebody want to tell me why Daredevil is beating the shit out of a… well fuck.”

“Iron Man, clarify,” Cap bit out.

“Pharmacists don’t usually have guns in their pockets, right? Okay, those aren’t pharmacists full-time. They were boxing up a lot of things that probably don’t belong in boxes and actually are decent at hand-to-hand.”

“The man with the EMP is down,” Natasha said. She wasn’t out of breath, of course, because she was Clint’s favorite. “He hadn’t armed it yet. The rest of the helicopter crew is also taking naps. Hospital security is going to keep an eye on them.”

“Alright, I’m going to help clean up downstairs.” In the background of Tony’s reply, Clint could hear the hum of the armor assembling itself. “Anything to add before Daredevil’s back on radio?”

“Widow is supervising hospital security to make sure we don’t have any surprises, I’m headed for Daredevil’s location,” Cap reported.

Clint knew that letting the team know was more important than feeling petty. It turned out they didn’t need hand signals after all, so he shouldn’t feel disappointed just because he’d wasted everyone’s time. He could talk over their earlier conversation with Natasha when they were back at the Tower.

“Let Daredevil back onto the comms, Iron Man,” Hawkeye said. “I think we won this round.”

Chapter Text

Clint didn’t really need to use an arrow with a grappling line, of course. He could have rappelled down from the roof or taken the elevator. Given an excuse, though… the Hydra helicopter was sturdy enough to handle an arrow through the fuselage, and one of the captives was trying to squirm past the NYPD’s perimeter.

It didn’t hurt that there were a couple reporters embedded in the center of the squad of cruisers that caught him looking awesome zip-lining down from the roof, which was sturdy enough to serve as an anchor without more than fifty dollars of property damage. He was personally paying the hospital back later. Hawkeye managed to wink at one of the nicer reporters just before landing, detaching his bow from the line, and swinging it to tap the crawling Hydra agent on the calf all in one motion.

Natasha looked bored, of course, but if he hadn’t looked amazing she would have smirked at him.

When all of the would-be infiltrators were neatly packed in the back of the police cruisers, one per squad car, Clint and Natasha finished chatting with a few of the cops that were fans of the Avengers’ work and made their way back to the debriefing Cap was hosting over by the emergency department.

“Do we know what they were after yet?” Clint asked.

“Not yet. Bruce is on his way, Happy said they’re about five minutes out.” Tony’s voice had an edge to it that even hearing aids could pick up. Stark was still in the suit, which either meant that there was still a threat, he didn’t feel like talking to the press, or Pepper was too sleep-deprived already for him to spend much time with reporters. “They didn’t have time to finish cleaning up before Daredevil interrupted the show, there was some kind of blue… goop,” Tony finished.

The corner of Natasha’s mouth twitched at the clear distaste in Tony’s voice. “Goop, hm?”

“I am a genius, Rushman, but even I have my limits,” Tony retorted. “Besides, this is some kind of gooey Hydra biology experiment, this is all kinds of Bruce’s work.”

The entire team had been happy to keep Bruce well back from the main action. His control was good, now, but having the Hulk loose in a civilian hospital with no special reinforcement to the floors or ceilings… Bruce Banner would take charge of analyzing whatever they had been brewing down in the basement and help look over records to see if any patients in the hospital had been given the wrong medications.

The communicator clicked in their ears again.

Natasha took a sharp turn to her left and stepped into a women’s single-stall restroom. She beckoned Clint in after her after a moment.

Clint let the door close behind him. “Any new threats?”

“Daredevil wasn’t in the stairwell of the ICU when he started moving. He was near the central hub surrounded by an unholy assortment of beeping and alarm chimes,” Tony said. His voice was the closest to a whisper Clint had ever heard out of the man. “I mean, sure, the guy always has his ears on, but he just happens to overhear that Hydra is hitting a hospital and then realizes that the bodybuilder in the white coat is actually working for Hydra? Right after Hydra’s day went south and one of the techs knew that ‘large amounts of blue nonsense’ wasn’t on formulary.”

Clint supposed that he couldn’t really make the claim that Daredevil wasn’t Hydra, not after so many of his hypothetically trustworthy colleagues hadn’t deserved trust, but he just couldn’t see it. Daredevil had an open invitation to spend time with the Avengers off-duty. “He told me that his hearing is good.”

“Possibly. It’s still a bit tidy.” Natasha checked the clips on her pistols and the charge levels for her wrist-tasers that Stark had made more dangerous because Stark was a terrible enabler. “Keep an eye on him, Tony.”

“Will do. Cap thinks I’m still in trouble for that magazine article last week, which is completely false. Pepper forwarded me a link to the article with a smiley-face,” Tony said proudly. “Hammer’s on the PR department’s hit list, insult at will.”

“We’ll keep our eyes open,” Clint promised.

The comms clicked back to open channel. Clint left the ladies’ room and ignored Natasha snickering at him.

Natasha managed to sneak them into the back of a large crowd of people. Cap was talking to a short woman in a red dress and black suit jacket. Beyond Cap’s costume and shield, her outfit stood out amidst a sea of pale blue scrubs and rumpled white coats.

“Chief medical officer,” Natasha said quietly. “Dr. Smith was the one talking with Cap on the phone earlier.”

The pair shook hands, both looking pleased. One of the white-coated doctors blurted out a request for a group picture. Daredevil frowned, of course, but he was keeping away from the crowd and didn’t seem to like people. He wasn’t known for press conferences or sneaking in visits to children’s hospitals.

Natasha chivvied Clint toward the back of the crowd before slipping over to snag Daredevil by the elbow. He startled, badly, and pulled a reflexive hit. Natasha rolled her eyes at the jumpy vigilante. She’d rolled her eyes at Clint for years until he got used to her. “C’mon, picture,” she said. “We saved the day and didn’t break the building, this is the best time to get a little publicity.”

Daredevil conceded, which was the only actual option when Natasha had that grip on his arm. She tugged him over to a not-ideal place, probably to appease to his secrecy complex. The short man in scrubs that had offered to take the picture probably wouldn’t see much of Daredevil past Cap’s shoulders.

Natasha slid into the group on the chief medical officer’s other side, leaving Clint standing behind the doctor. Clint knew that having the hospital’s big boss fully flanked by superheroes was just the kind of press that everybody wanted. Cap jokingly held out his shield and Dr. Smith grabbed it with a broad smile, holding the strap loosely in her hand and mentioning she expected it to be heavier.

Daredevil frowned, again, and had his head cocked at an odd angle that was not going to be flattering in a picture. Who knew, maybe part of hiding his identity was tilting his head over all the time.

The tall doctor that had proposed a picture had nearly tripped over himself when the photographer told him that he’d fit in right next to Cap. He settled his hands in his pockets and fidgeted. The man was flushed, like most people who ended up that close to Cap, but managed a small smile.

Clint saw Daredevil’s posture shift just before the vigilante moved.

“Down!” Daredevil bellowed, actually leaping over Dr. Smith’s head and whipping the shield away from her even as he tackled the tall doctor. Natasha had both her handguns drawn before the two men hit the ground, but Daredevil didn’t pull back to punch the doctor. Clint saw a red-gloved hand snag something out of the doctor’s pocket before he rolled away, stopping with the shield pressed down against the ground beneath the curl of Daredevil’s body.

“Get down,” Cap roared. That left the civilians scrambling back while Natasha trained both guns on the doctor Daredevil had downed.

Something underneath Cap’s shield exploded. The combination of the explosion, the ringing of the vibranium, and the screaming of the crowd left Clint’s ears ringing and his hearing aids screeching with feedback. For once, however, Daredevil was facing straight toward Clint as he pointed roughly toward the nurse who had taken the photograph. “The photographer. He’s Hydra!”

Clint had the photographer down on the ground two seconds later. The guy had been trying to dart back into the crowd as a whole and hadn’t heard Daredevil either. Well, that or Clint’s hand-to-hand was actually impressive when he wasn’t sparring against Cap or Natasha.

From the gun in a holster on the man’s back, Clint knew the man was at least up to something no good, Hydra or not. He turned to Daredevil to ask what the tell had been, now that Clint’s hearing had returned to normal levels, but the man did not look good. Daredevil had gotten off of the shield, but he was crouched in a way that didn’t speak to feeling steady.

“Daredevil?” Clint asked.

The man didn’t react. For a man who maybe had superhuman hearing, that was concerning.

Cap had edged close enough to nudge his shield. There wasn’t a crater beneath it, which Clint would have expected, but there was some kind of sticky blue substance. “I’ll let Bruce handle that, too,” Cap said with a grimace. “We should seal off this room to be sure. Good work, Daredevil.”

Daredevil still wasn’t moving. Clint leaned up, keeping his knee on the maybe-Hydra jerk’s back. “Cap, I think Daredevil’s hearing isn’t back online yet. He was literally on top of the blast.”

Tony clunked up behind Clint. “I’ve got this loser, Hawkeye. Happy’s got a van outside the main doors, get Daredevil back to the Tower.”

Clint deliberately made his way over to Daredevil. The man still wasn’t tracking visually, and wasn't even trying, but he seemed to realize that someone was in range.

Slowly, Daredevil formed one of their hand-signs. It was only a rough approximation, but it was one of the three signals he had managed during their last meeting. Friend?

Clint made the sign for ‘confirmed’ before bumping his hand against Daredevil’s. Daredevil mapped Clint’s hand with light touches, drawing back after finding the shape of the sign. The vigilante was angling his head down, mostly toward their joined hands, but as always his eyes weren’t aimed quite where they should be.

Hawkeye really needed to give the blind guy a little more credit for trying to accommodate his partially-deaf teammate.

Chapter Text

There would be time for introspection later, Hawkeye knew. For now, he had an incapacitated teammate and a lot of bystanders that didn’t need to get curious about Daredevil. Hawkeye wasn’t sure just how to telegraph his intentions, but when he braced his hand under Daredevil’s bicep, the man stood up.

Hawkeye slid his arm across Daredevil’s back and turned them toward the door. It only took a few steps for Daredevil to settle into the rhythm of walking together. Hawkeye nodded to Bruce when they passed in the hospital’s main doorway. They needed Bruce looking at the Hydra bioweapon. Hawkeye could try to figure out how to tell the deaf and blind guy that Dr. Cho was available if the man started looking worse.

Happy was standing by the open door of the black Stark Industries van. As always, he was so earnest and ready to help that Hawkeye had to remind himself the guy was that open about his emotions. He went by Happy and meant it. Clint maybe spent too much time with Natasha and other superspies when Happy was hard to understand.

“Hey, Happy. Daredevil’s bell got rung a bit,” Clint said, slowing as they reached the van. They didn’t have a sign for ‘car.’ Even if they did have one, asking Daredevil to learn even more hand positions they hadn’t let him feel would have been difficult.

“Mr. Stark said that you two could use a lift.” Happy frowned at the sight that they made. “Do you need a hand?”

Daredevil spoke before Clint could try to figure out the easiest way forward when a couple photographers were taking long shots of the van. “This our ride?” he asked, voice a touch quieter than normal.

Clint nodded and nudged the other man forward in the same gesture. Daredevil reached out to find the edge of the van door and the floorboards, then stepped into the van. He felt the bench seat before moving to take the seat behind the driver. Daredevil had the seatbelt fashioned before Clint could try to look less stunned that the vigilante had figured it out for both of them.

Happy didn’t ask questions. He waited for Hawkeye to collapse his bow and climb in before closing the door, every inch the chauffeur. He didn’t say a word until they were already out of the hospital parking lot.

“We’re going back to the Tower?” Happy asked.

“Yeah. I might try to sell him on Dr. Cho when we get there,” Hawkeye said. “He pulled a big damn hero moment on all of us, it was actually pretty great. He can’t hear much of anything right now.”

“That’s pretty serious, Daredevil,” Happy said, glancing in the rearview mirror. “You really ought to let someone look at you.” He frowned for a moment before his expression cleared. “Right, sorry, you can’t hear me.”

“We do appreciate the ride, though,” Clint said. “Metro General has some good people, but there’s never a guarantee that some tech won’t sell out the hero’s face to make the papers.”

“Gives me something to do. I’ll swing back to the hospital after I drop you guys off, Dr. Banner gets pretty particular about who transports samples for him.” Happy turned his attention to the worsening crush of traffic.

Daredevil’s breathing had evened out, finally, and he was at least doing a good impression of calm. That left Hawkeye time to puzzle out just how he and the team had been wrong about the man so many times.

Clint had a good eye. Most people assumed he’d been recommended up through SHIELD all the way to the Avengers Initiative because he had good aim. He did, sure, but being able to tag someone with a rifle or even an arrow at long distance wasn’t an unknown skill. There were a lot of elite snipers in the world. Phil and Fury had chosen him for the Initiative because they wanted an up-high fighter that could call out the patterns in a fight and notice early when a teammate was flagging.

Out of all of the clues available, though, Hawkeye had been sure when Daredevil had taken the lead in dealing with suddenly missing a sense. If the grenade had been the cause of his blindness, the loss in vision would have become Daredevil’s priority. He would have waved a hand in front of his eyes, or craned his neck to try to find a source of light. Clint wouldn’t have been surprised if the man had tried to peer out from beneath his mask. Daredevil had formed a hand-sign and not even tried to look at Clint’s hands to find the answering sign.

Daredevil was a good man. Nobody was paying him to prowl the alleys of Hell’s Kitchen, but a few local blogs kept track of mentions and the man had a prolific record of helping people that needed him. That made a new kind of sense, now, knowing that people in Hell’s Kitchen always said that the only way to find the Devil (as they used to call him) was to call for help. Unless the guy was bugging every single alley in that part of Manhattan, he had impressive hearing that justified urban legends.

It didn’t fit that Daredevil would sabotage his relationship with his teammates intentionally. It did fit that he wanted to keep his civilian life and vigilante activities very far removed. Superheroes made enemies, and no matter what Daredevil would argue, a lot of people in Hell’s Kitchen did not call him a vigilante. There probably weren’t that many blind men in the area that were also some kind of back-flipping ninja. Daredevil wasn’t trying to join the Avengers, he was joining forces with them on occasion to protect Hell’s Kitchen, his main priority. Clint wasn’t personally invested in his own hometown but he could recognize signs when he saw them.

Daredevil was a blind man that fought crime, which still boggled Clint’s mind, but he was trying to get over the reflexive thought that nobody could fight without using their eyes. It made sense, now, why Daredevil had been able to sprint through that Hydra base when the lights had gone down. To him, there wasn’t any difference. It also explained the first battle where the Avengers had belatedly joined the action. They had thought the man was in danger of being overwhelmed by the twenty-odd involved in a trafficking ring scattered through the building. They also thought it was fierce bravado that had led Daredevil to claim after the fight was over that he’d had it under control. He’d probably found the fuse box himself before starting the fight.

Happy slowed down as they reached the narrow inlet that led to the garage beneath Avengers’ Tower and lowered his window down to set his hand against the scanner. The device lit green and chimed. Happy raised the window again as he drove forward.

Daredevil’s head had turned slightly at the sound of the chime.

“How are you doing, Daredevil?” Clint asked.

“I can hear a bit, now.” Daredevil tilted his head before frowning. “Not that well, but I can hear your voice.”

“You should get better from here,” Clint replied, tapping a quick message to Natasha. She and the rest of the team would want to know that Daredevil looked to be on the mend. “Thanks for the ride, Happy.”

Daredevil made it out of the van on his own, of course, because the press called this guy Daredevil and didn’t even know about the blindness. He followed Clint to the elevator and back up to the conference room they’d used just two weeks before. Clint felt awkward all over again at just how upset he’d been that Daredevil had wanted to run back to his civilian life instead of have people criticize his ability to copy visual signs or wonder why he never wanted to watch a movie.

Clint noticed belatedly that unless the chair was taken, Daredevil always picked the chair toward the back corner where he would have fewer people to dodge if he wanted another cup of coffee. Today, he didn’t hide that he touched the back and seat of the chair before sitting down. Usually the quick touches looked more like an unconscious habit than a double check the chair’s position. Clint checked the pot and silently blessed whatever person on Tony’s staff always seemed to keep the coffee pot clean and with fresh grounds ready. “Want some coffee?”

“Yeah, that would be good,” Daredevil said. “Thanks.”

“No problem. Hearing loss is a very bad day,” Clint said with feeling. “Temporary or not.”

“Worse when you’re blind.” Daredevil paused, after, as if the words had slipped out before he could hold them back.

“I can understand not wanting people to know about a weak spot.” Clint didn’t realize how true that was until he said the words. He’d seen Daredevil in action half a dozen times and his impulse after several minutes of thought was that a blind man shouldn’t be in their kind of fights.

Daredevil nodded. “That’s a big part of it, but the rest was trying to have a secret identity. Blindness is really visible to everybody else, it seems like.”

“It’s been easy to take not having much of a secret identity for granted lately,” Clint allowed. “I don’t blame Natasha, at all, but I liked being anonymous.” Stark’s coffee machine worked by some principle Clint didn’t care to understand and already was done brewing. Clint poured a mug for each of them then hesitated after he walked back to the table.

Daredevil didn’t make him ask. “If you’re handing something right to me, usually tapping the back of my hand works. For coffee, usually people put in front of me then try to give me an idea where,” he offered.

“Right.” Clint pushed the mug over gently. “About… eight inches from your right hand? One o’clock vector.”

“Thanks,” he said, wrapping both hands around the mug carefully. “Usually I can map things out through sound but everything’s still muffled.”

“You’re all blind, then?” Clint asked. “I mean, whatever the term is.”

“I have no light perception, yes. Sometimes that makes people treat me like an invalid. As Daredevil?” He shrugged before taking a long drink of coffee. “People don’t know I’m blind, so they don’t treat me like I’m blind. It’s… good. Really good. Aside from that, I think I’m still the top result for anyone that plugs ‘blinded’ and ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ into a search engine. I was still number one the time I had a pity party in undergrad, anyway.”

Clint typed the words into the conference room’s laptop. Daredevil knew perfectly well saying anything out loud in the Tower as an invitation to chat back with an AI. First result on the screen? “Local hero blinded saving life of old man,” Clint read quietly. “Matthew Murdock, 9 years old.”

Daredevil shrugged again. “I figured Stark would need less than ‘blind’ to get that far, really. I still should have been honest about what I could do before teaming up again.”

“We work together to protect people. You didn’t owe us anything,” Clint said seriously. “If you want to ditch the mask, though, I know those things itch.”

Daredevil kept both hands wrapped around his coffee mug for another minute before setting it aside and taking the mask off. “Only if you call me Matt.”

Out of the mask, Daredevil looked much younger. To most people, he would look less dangerous, but Clint never gauged danger like most people. That was part of why he’d done so well with SHIELD.

Clint nodded and then realized that the blind guy might not pick up that gesture. “I’d shake your hand, Matt, but suddenly I understand why people feel weird sometimes when I don’t have my hearing aids in.”

Matt smiled and held out his hand first. He had a good handshake when the logistics were sorted out. “I can puzzle out some basics, and usually have a shot at knowing how many fingers someone is holding up, but I don’t like to advertise that having chemicals spilled on your face occasionally results in super-senses. People just might try to replicate the effects.”

“If you’re okay with it, Bruce would love to talk origin stories.” Clint belatedly sipped at his own coffee. “I mean, we all would, but he’d have the more scientific interest.”

“My day job keeps me busy enough.”

Clint glanced back at the laptop and found a likely link. The website wasn’t much more than a landing page with contact information, but Nelson & Murdock, Attorneys at Law did advertise a Matthew M. Murdock as a partner. “You’re kidding me. You’re a lawyer?”

“I believe the legal system is usually the answer. It doesn’t help everyone, though. In the hospital, I could hear the pharmacy technician. I knew she was about three floors below me, but it can be difficult to judge in buildings with uneven stories,” Matt said, tapping his empty right hand as if he usually had something to fiddle with. “I knew when she yelled ‘you’re a pharmacist, what do you think you’re doing.’”

“So, when you say your hearing is good…”

“I didn’t need to be standing twenty feet away from Tony. I heard you and Romanov from the emergency room,” Matt said far more gently than the comment deserved.

Clint winced. “Yeah, I’m sorry about that. We have a lot of trust issues lately where Hydra is concerned. Steve and Nat were working with one of their primary teams right when the worst of that disaster went down.”

“It probably looked bad.”

Matt sounded serious, but with that little involuntary quirk to his lips… “You tell awful blind jokes,” Clint said with complete confidence. He was sure that wasn’t a one-time slip even before Matt smirked. “This is why I didn’t want you to be Hydra. I like you. How could you tell about the guy with the grenade? And the photographer, maybe especially the photographer.”

“Both of them had a headset or earpiece. Something,” Matt said, head tilted at a familiar angle. “I couldn’t pick the humming out at baseline above all of the other equipment, but when the man volunteered to take the photo there was a voice saying ‘hail Hydra’ I heard through both of them. They’re not all that subtle. The tall man pulled a pin. After that it wasn’t hard to guess what he was going to do. I wouldn’t have wasted time on the tackle if I’d been sure the pocket wouldn’t trip me up.”

Occasionally, Clint was immensely glad that he spent his time surrounded by the kind of mad people whose immediate impulse was to throw their own body on a grenade. Even better, Matt was clever enough to put Steve’s shield to good use.

Clint changed his search term in google. Sure enough, the internet was already going mad over the part where Daredevil had pulled a Captain America right in front of Captain America. The pictures of Daredevil curled over Cap’s shield… well, it really was a shame that Matt couldn’t see them, because they were incredible. A couple people at the hospital had of course taken pictures instead of clearing the area. Just this once maybe Clint would let that go. The world deserved a reminder that Daredevil was one of the good guys.

“Are you staying for the post-battle dinner?” Clint asked. “I bet we could guilt Stark into schawarma. It’s official part-time Avenger initiation. Plus an apology for the part where we occasionally suspect good people are Hydra.”

“I wouldn’t say part-time,” Matt hedged. “Maybe a contractor.”

“Lawyers,” Clint sighed. “Fine, official Avenger ally who isn’t Hydra.”

“Hydra never asked and they probably don’t make Braille brochures,” Matt said lightly. “The only possible conflict I should mention is the part where I failed the recruitment process to spend my life fighting a ninja death cult.”

Clint jumped when Natasha reached over his shoulder to steal his coffee, which wasn’t even fair, because he was mostly used to her and the blind guy was laughing at him.

“Ninja death cults are pretty rare, lately.” Natasha drank all of Clint’s coffee before leaving the empty mug on the table in front of him. “Who did you trained under again?”

“I didn’t, actually.” Matt was still smirking. He turned to face Natasha automatically, but with the mask off, it seemed to Clint that he put less effort into pretending to track her visually.

Natasha’s returning smile was dangerous and fond. “Sometime later we are going to compare notes. I knew someone familiar must have ran into Stick for him to look so pissed on the way out, but I did not expect you.”

Clint laughed at the carefully composed look on Matt’s face that was probably meant to cover shock. Matt was good, sure, but Clint was a veteran at watching Natasha surprise people. “Seriously, she’s a superspy, she knows people,” he said, glancing over his shoulder to see who else was in range. He caught a glimpse of Banner lurking behind Tony and Steve. “Hey, guys. This is Matt, the blind dude with zero light perception we kept inviting to movie-related events.”

Cap blinked. Tony was visibly trying to find words, a sure sign that he was trying to pretend he could not be shocked into speechlessness. Bruce slipped between them holding an otoscope. “I guess checking your pupils wouldn’t help, then,” Bruce said. “Can I take a look in your ears, though? I’m not actually a doctor but I can make sure your eardrums are intact.”

“I’d appreciate that,” Matt said. He stayed obligingly still and relaxed when Bruce pronounced both tympanic membranes intact with no sign of fluid buildup or bleeding.

“I kept inviting you to movie nights,” Steve said, shaking his head. While Bruce did his exam, Steve and the rest of the group had found their favorite mugs for coffee and their usual seat. “Next time I want opinions about favorite music instead.”

“I am no longer offended that you were unimpressed by the new StarkPhone,” Tony said with a decisive nod. “In about two weeks, though, I will be offended if you won’t give me feedback on the newer model. You have my e-mail, I expect you to tell me which parts of the accessibility controls are terrible.”

Clint could have made a similarly friendly offer, sure, but he wasn’t missing his chance. “So, Matt. How much can you teach me about sprinting through pitch-black warehouses like a nimble madman?”

“I’m… really not sure,” he said, head tilted as he thought. Matt’s eyes were doing their own thing that had very little to do with the way that his head moved.

“I’ll trade you archery lessons,” Clint offered. He was pretty sure the guy had enough muscle memory to hit a stationary target from the same starting position at the very least, but he was very willing to be surprised.

Matt’s answering smile was all Daredevil. “Sounds like a deal to me.”

Matt held out his hand. Clint shook on it.