Rain Check

January 30, 2017:

Matt Murdock belatedly returns a call.

New York Metro General Hospital - New York City AND The Garage -- Gotham City

A major hospital in New York; Kinsey Sheridan's private bunker in Gotham.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

SIX DAYS EARLIER:

It was an extremely informal plan: have a beer, as previously suggested, and then do the walkabout. Get the tour of his neighborhood, or at least those parts of it he feels like showing her, and then — dinner? Maybe? But loose plans, really, a framework more than anything, implicitly open to revision.

And then he never shows, and the arc of Kinsey's evening will play itself out for him in the messages she left behind, framed in the background by ambient chatter.

Voicemail #1, 15 minutes after they were supposed to meet:

"Maaaaaaatthew." Lilting. Teasing. "You didn't forget about me, did you? Is your cab stuck in traffic? I told a guy who tried to join me at the bar that I'm waiting for someone and he's starting to give me dirty looks, because he thinks I lied to chase him off. If you get this, send me a text, okay? I'm sitting right at the end of the bar near the window."

Voicemail #2, 40 minutes after they were supposed to meet: "Uh, it's…me again. I'm just…" Pause. "I don't even know why I'm still sitting here waiting. I guess because I keep hoping this isn't what it looks like? Like maybe you forgot your phone and traffic is — is really bad, or the train you're taking broke down and you have no signal, or something…except I know you're not on a train because you live here and it's not even a big part of town, and…shit." Her voice shrinks. "You should've just called me if you didn't want to come." Another pause. "Well, don't, if you are, which I'm sure you're not, but whatever. Because I'm going home." Yet another pause. "If it turns out you're not actually an asshole though, at least let me know." Another pause, and then the click.

Voicemail #3, several hours later:

She sounds scared. Upset. Upset enough that she might be on the verge of tears, though if so she's masking it well; it's largely in the cadence of her speech. "Oh god, Matt. I saw the news. I saw what happened. I'm so sorry about my last message, I'm so — I'm so sorry. I'm so worried. I called the hospital and they won't tell me anything, and they won't let me come to see you, and I don't — I can't just show up, you know? If you have family there or your partner from the firm, I don't know how to tell them who I am, I don't want to — it seems really inappropriate. They said you're in critical condition on the news. I don't know what that means, it could mean anything. If you're in the ICU I know they don't even let you have your phone in there…I don't know, if there's someone checking your messages ma—"

The third voicemail gets abruptly ended by message buffer. Resulting in:

Voicemail #4, placed ten seconds after the end of Voicemail #3:
"Um…if someone is getting these messages for Matt and you know if he's alright, could you call me and let me know? My number is—"

The number follows.

There's a long pause. "Okay. I guess that's it. Um, if you do get this and you talk to him, just tell him I hope he—" Feels better soon? The pause is long enough to suggest she realizes how dumb that sounds. "Tell him I hope he gets back on his feet soon. It sounds like Hell's Kitchen really needs a guy like him."

Click.

PRESENT DAY:

Outside it's a wintry evening on the eastern seaboard, snapping cold and coated in pitch. Whichever side of the Hudson one lives on, the wind is whipping through the streets, futilely shaking down barren branches for whatever little they have left to give. You can hear it through the walls, even if without the benefit of super senses. It's been six days since two cosmopolitan twenty-somethings from either side of that river were supposed to meet up for a simple drink, a little low-key sight-seeing, who knows? To say the evening did not go as planned for either of them is an understatement. It left Kinsey Sheridan waiting for a guy who never showed, while her date lay insensate in the antiseptic environs of Metro-General's ICU, gutted like a trout by surgeons and seutered back together again.

It was days of silence for each of them, after a fashion. Her frantic final messages were left ominously un-returned, and he himself of course enjoyed a deeper sort of quiet still. Enough time might have passed to suspect that one could fairly guess his condition had become more a persistent or even declining state than some intensive crisis to be overcome, but… then, around 9 o'clock on Day 6, her phone will sound, his name (or whatever moniker she has for him) will pop up on her lock screen.

And, assuming she answers, it will be hard to mistake the wry, low-key voice, even if the greeting is a single word:

"Hey."

The Garage is closed, the floor — huddled with half-complete repair jobs in progress — dark with shadows, all of the interior lights but those required for security long since having been turned off. All of the lights in the interior building in which she actually lives are off too, though. Silence reigns.

Sink down through the concrete floor via a false bottom in a mechanized pit, however, and it's an entirely different story. Sunk down tens of feet underground, Kinsey's lab is awash in the blue-white glow of countless monitors, arrayed in stepped positions, like the seating areas of a coliseum. There are scrolling displays of captured signal information from across the span of the three cities, reports from monitored radio and satellite frequencies, graphical AutoCAD models of mechanical components she's modifying or designing entirely from the ground up. Highly complicated banks of equipment line the walls, most quiescent, sitting in stand-by. One server rack is lit up like a Christmas tree, though, lights winking and flashing as Five bends all of its processing power to the task of decrypting information stored on a small thumb drive. Beyond those racks, the space spills out into cavernous darkness, the private landing pad for the Valkyrie. The highly modified VTOL craft makes for an intimidating backsplash.

Kinsey has been working tirelessly. Rather, had been: she did finally tire, and that goes some distance toward explaining why she's drowsing on a fold-up military cot in the center of the lab, one arm tucked under her head, messy bun half-undone on the pillow, bare legs curled up toward her chest, in a far-too-large, very well-worn DEO sweatshirt, cotton shorts, and socks. Her other arm dangles over the edge, the backs of her fingers resting lightly atop her phone, which she'd been checking — as you do — when sleep finally decided to steal in and sweep her away.

She startles when it rings, because it jitters across the floor, sends an electric spike up through the contact with her hand. Bleary-eyed, she picks it up and looks at it for a long moment before processing what she's seeing.

She sucks a sharp breath and sits up, blinking rapidly, sniffing, impatiently raking the dark, loose strands of her hair away from her face. Even as she hits the button to answer, she's leaning and squinting at the monitor displaying output from the decryption efforts, checking the progress.

"Oh, god, Matt. You're okay." Pause. "You…are you okay?"

"Yeah," comes the voice over the phone. "I'm — okay." It sounds almost surprised at itself.

The speaker is dozens of miles away, laying down on a cot of his own with one hand on his phone and the other tucked behind his head as his vacant gaze is sent ceiling ward. The light fixtures up there paint the whole room — Matt Murdock's be-gowned, blanketed figure included — in a wash of faint blues and greens. However surprised she might be to hear him, she might be more shocked were she to see him — if only for how much he resembles himself rather than a man who just went through a harrowing week-long ordeal of near fatal bodily trauma. Aside from a thick overlay of a stubble, he's never looked stronger, a fact which has flummoxed and won quiet glares from hospital staff.

A miracle, some say — didn't you read that Bugle article? Bullshit, say others. It's no miracle: it's just /weird shit/. The kind that happens all along the Tri-City area.

"I've, uh, been up for about a day now," Matt explains after that brief pause. His voice seems muted in the way one's does when you're laying down, but still crisp, clear, lucid — entirety absent the sluggish notes opiates had introduced during those first early hours of his awakening. "But they just gave me back my phone and lent me a charger a few hours ago. Anyway, I was just…" a beat. "I was just calling people to let them know I was OK. That I was going to be fine."

The ease with which he speaks does not line up with the—

Full disclosure: Six has Matt Murdock's medical records. Not all of them, although she could easily have obtained them. In spite of her willingness to break the law, violating his privacy that way would have been a step too far in the wrong direction. But the intake records from his hospital stay?

She glances at one of the idle monitors, and in response to the mere flicker of a thought, the file opens.

/What the hell kind of weapon can do this?/ had been her thought, upon locating the thing she wanted. /What was this, and who had it, and why did they do this to Matt Murdock, of all people?/

Her exhale comes across the line, long and soft. "Oh, Matt. I'm so sorry about the messages and the — and just, everything. I couldn't believe it when I saw the news." A silence. "Thanks. For calling me to let me know. When I didn't hear anything back for a while, I started to worry things were getting worse instead of better."

/So I pried into your private information./ Guilt twists her stomach, though given the chance to go back in time, she isn't sure she'd have done things any differently.

"It's crazy that you've been out cold for—" She pauses, glances at the date. "Six days? Are you — do they know how long it's going to take you to recover?"

What kind of weapon can do — what? Enter the body through a wound the size of a quarter, then branch out from the inside through vine-like tendrils that rend muscle and fat, veins and capillaries, not to mention a host of sensitive bodily organs? Certainly none of the high-tech gizmos that adorn her laboratory, or even any of the lethal obscurities you'd find in a DEO armory. This was something else entirely.

"Seriously, please don't apologize," quietly insists the man who listened to the cascade of messages, where her tone relayed in the space of about a minute an arc of hours: from teasing to wounded to fearful and then to something like quiet, glum acceptance. The act of listening to them was unsettling, like skipping scenes in some on-screen thriller, and provoked a wash of conflicting emotions in the convalescing lawyer. Sadness, disappointment, and a fair measure of pity dealt equally in both directions. "I'm really sorry things got so messed up. That you came all the way over here only to get disappointed and frightened like that."

Her next questions are thorny ones; delicate. It should take him weeks of rehabilitation to get back to anywhere close to his old self under the auspices of modern medicine, but his healing has been as bizarre as his injury. He could lie — he does it often — but he opts for something close to the truth. "I'm actually doing better than my doctors could have predicted," Matt says. "I think I'll be out — soon?" There's a beat, and then an instant acknowledgment of just how bizarre that optimistic prediction must sound: "Kinsey, this whole thing… the attack, my recovery. It's all surreal. Literally, I mean. Hands down the weirdest week of my life. Puts alien rocket boots to /fucking shame/." His chuckle doubles as a groan. "And I hate to be cagey about it, but none of it's really my place to talk about. Bottom line, though, is that I should be on my feet not too long from now."

Don't apologize, he says, and then goes on himself to apologize. In the blue glow of her monitors, all other lights off, Kinsey's expression turns eloquently incredulous. "Did — did you just apologize to /me/ because you almost /died/?" The breath that bleeds across the line after that is a huff of air, softened by the sleep she had almost slipped into, and by the hour. She lifts one of her hands, rubbing delicately at her closed eyes with careful fingertips. Humor and rue braid together in her muted voice. "I know you said you were Catholic, but that's above and beyond the call of duty, don't you think?"

Everything else he says seems practically calculated to pique her interest, and she says as much. "You sure know how to get a girl's attention. You do realize that I'm dying to know what you're talking about, now? I'm a curious person. This is practically torture." She slowly unfolds her legs and slides her calves over the edge, gets her feet on the floor, gradually shedding layers of near-sleep. "So you're saying you don't need somebody to come to the hospital and bring you real food? And clothing with the ass bits intact?"

When she calls Matt on his well-honed sense of guilt, he tips his head backwards into that bleach-white pillow and sighs in mild (mock?) exasperation. "I didn't say it was my /fault/," the lawyer equivocates, just a little too defensively to be credited. "I was just expressing regret that it happened at all!" A beat. "The you being there part, I mean — obviously I regret what happened to m —" Another beat. "You know what? Never mind."

He rolls his head from side to side, doing his best to manage the perma-crick the aforementioned bleach-white pillow has left for him. He's only been awake a day, but he's already so done with this room, this building, and perhaps this city block whose sounds and smells he'll forever associate with his brief but maddening incapacity. He's cranky, clearly, despite his miraculous mending, but he also can't help but crack a smile at both her piqued curiosity and her offer to visit. "Insatiably curious," Matt corrects in a gentle tease, "I remember." He lets out a speculative sigh before offering: "You know, I'd tell you that the less you know the better, but that'd really just make it worse, wouldn't it?" And then the sidestep: "Anyway, God yes, covering my ass sounds /fantastic/. It's freezing in here, which is practically criminal. Someone should sue."

Matt clears his throat and adds a quiet, wry: "Tempting as that offer is, though, if all this really hasn't scared you off New York for good? I'd rather not waste your next visit at a hospital. Because… I /totally/ get a rain check, right? It's not like: 'Sorry, got stabbed, missed your shot.' You can harass me for the details of my misadventure, I can be smug and coy. It'll be fun."

Sitting on the edge of a deeply ascetic, uncomfortable cot, looking down at her sock-covered feet, Kinsey listens to Matt dissemble, wind between explanations and land somewhere in the vicinity of exasperation, by which time the faint, dry amusement has culminated in an actual smile, and a shake of the head that reminds her of the half-wrecked bun of her hair, dangling awkwardly. She reaches up to strip the tie out, eyes narrowing, nails scoring lazily over her scalp. "Yes," she confirms, as though he needed her to do such a thing. "It would just make it worse."

He wins a little bubble of hummed laughter from her with his /lawyer/ joke, though the look on her face is sympathetic. "Mmhm. I hate hospitals," is all she says, simple commiseration that cannot quite encapsulate the full spectrum of her feelings about them. She remembers those days: the hospital gown, the pain, the uncertainty, the boredom — that was, for her, almost the worst of it — and the absolute lack of dignity, every last procedure and piece of equipment feeling as though it had been designed to be as dehumanizing as possible.

Nor can he /possibly/ sense the vast store of recent evidence to back up her next claim, even with his prodigious capability to glean the unseen.

He asks her if she's been scared away from New York for good, and the torrent of images that follow is swift and vivid, having happened so recently. Clinging to the side of the DC to Boston Acela train at well over a hundred miles per hour as it raced toward, and then into New York City, the wind an icy knife, to take something that didn't belong to her — or rather, something that used to belong to her, and then didn't anymore. The /terrifying/, exhilarating sensation of being slung through the skyline at the end of Spider-Man's bizarre webbing, held only by a hand that didn't seem as though it ought to be able to hold her weight. Being forced to go /back/ to the train, and put the thing she stole /back on it/, with the Knightwatch soldiers in the personnel cars by that time on high alert.

Multithreaded consciousness processes every last remembered sensory detail of those memories in the span of a heartbeat, leaving her free to cultivate a smile that spreads slowly, expanding into a laugh that makes itself known more in the breath she takes after it and the tone of her voice than any sound in the moment. "I'm braver than I look. New York is gonna have to try a lot harder than that." Pause. Wince. "Um, not that I think it…should. Forget I said that. Pretend I said something /really/ witty, and then followed it up with, 'of course you get a rain check.'"

He doesn't know about her other adventure in New York, it's true, and so can only accept the obvious interpretation, and the subsequent apology, for the faux pas. She can probably hear the hushed mix of exasperation and incredulity in the puff of a laugh that follows. "You know how I know I'm not just your average Catholic, but actually a bona fide masochist, Kinsey?" Matt Murdock offers ruefully, before a long breath of air flares his nostrils, expands his now entirely unblemished torso, and then exits in an audible exhale from his lips. "Even when you're calling me an asshole, or saying the city that literally gutted me needs to up its game to /really/ get your goat, I still kind of like the sound of your voice. That's pretty fucked up."

It's a joke, obviously. But he knows it's an unfair one — even an unkind one. And so, beats later, the voice in her ear will add a quiet addendum: "Glad to hear about the rain check, all the same. I was… really looking forward to it, before things went all sideways." But he's still Matt, so there's /another/ beat, and then a dry: "I was going to offer the West Village, but since you're feeling all brave, we'll stick to the original plan."

It /might/ be unfair, or unkind, but if it's either, Kinsey doesn't notice. It's the dry humor of it that remains, the self-deprecation implicit in the conclusion — and the compliment, too, all rolled together into a complex riposte that somehow manages to inspire a creeping, tingling warmth up either side of her throat. Not a blush, exactly, lacking the momentum necessary to carry the color up onto her cheeks, but enough that she views it with objective interest, almost as though at some remove from herself. She curls slim fingertips back over her nape and her self-conscious smile evolves into something less straightforward with a slight knit of the brows. There is a trace amount of guilt in her voice, but it plays second fiddle to her lingering, muted humor. "Yeah…when you put it that way, I feel like I should stage an intervention for you."

She props her phone between her ear and one shoulder as she finally slides off of the cot, one free hand raking back into long, tousled tresses to shake them out, the other reaching for the door of a mini-fridge beneath the desk, from which she drags a wide-mouth plastic bottle of water. She's uncapping it when he finishes. "I'd like to see where you're from. Besides, going there with you is probably the statistically safest choice. The odds of you being involved in another random mugging are astronomical."

There is something in her tone that suggests she has her doubts about whether or not this was a random mugging. Not something that anyone with less developed senses than Matthew Murdock would detect, but for him, enough to point toward uncertainty that stops somewhat shy of outright disbelief.

It's a minor tragedy that poor, bedridden Matt Murdock that this is a phone conversation. Were they in the same room, the quiet coup of that flush might carry the air between them, communicating itself through subtle variances in temperature he could ferret out and keep close to his chest. It's safe to say that it would make his week, stabbing or no. Still, he'll make do well enough with the little notes of mirth that buoy her reply. "Hey, look," and one can hear both the shrug and the smile in his voice, "if you really want to save me from myself, Sheriden, I'm not going anywhere. Stage whatever intervention you'd like."

Her skepticism — however subtle, however muted — is met with honesty. "Wasn't a mugging," he says with quiet candor. "But you'll still be safe with me." A pause, and then that the intensity behind that quiet tone ramps up. "Anyway, Urich's article was such bullshit. Hell's Kitchen has its problems, yeah, but it's not about /random robberies/." The phone is quiet for one beat, two. And then an arch: "Okay, I'm all poised to rant about hyper-local politics with a girl I'm about to take out. That's probably my cue to quit while I'm ahead, right?"

And there it is: the little push needed to tilt the rose stain under fair skin up enough to splash high cheekbones. It's not the honesty that does it — though that surprises her — but his promise; not because of the chivalry in it but because of the way he sounds when he says it, with an unusual understated confidence so unlike the bravado with which she might expect to hear something like that articulated.

There is a white-noise lull on her end of the conversation as she reaches to reclaim the phone with one hand and brings her bottle of water up, taking measured sips and staring out into the darkened vehicle bay at the ghostly outlines of the Valkyrie, trying to decide whether or not she should press him for details of what actually happened. The greyscale images of his tissue damage hang in her thoughts, provoking her prodigious curiosity.

She elects to wait, in the end. "You're asking me? I'm…" She pauses, finally laughs — at herself. "I'm probably an outlier. A lot of things that bore other people are interesting to me." The cot squeaks as she sits down again, jostling the pillow, which falls onto the floor. She leaves it where it is. "You should probably rest up, though, so they'll stop holding your pants hostage."

Tragedy compounded, and he doesn't even know it. Still, for a man whose already admitted how much he likes her voice, the laugh is victory enough. He even joins her in it. She laughs at herself, and he laughs with her. At her? Both. "Well you're a lucky girl, Kinsey," he quips good naturedly, "because with that little turn of self-effacement you just earned yourself a half-hour to forty-five-minute digression on the storied history of Hell's Kitchen somewhere in the course of the night. Something to look forward to."

There's a long pause that spells reluctance, though when he /does/ speak it's in the same droll, bantering tone: "Speaking of looking forward to things — you're probably right. I need some fucking /pants/! And they're worth a little bit of patience. Catch you soon, Kinsey."

"I wouldn't have said it if I didn't mean it," Kinsey points out, setting her water bottle down with an audible /thunk/. She transfers the phone between ears, listens to the call drift off into silence, eyes unfocusing. It's almost long enough for her to start thinking about everything. Almost.

"Alright. Let me know when you're out of prison. And, um…" Lips purse, relax. Heavy lashes lower, gaze slanted off and away, down. "I'm glad you're alright. Thanks for letting me know. G'night, Matt."

Click.

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