Step Into My Office

April 07, 2017:

When Kinsey Sheridan approaches Matt Murdock with some fresh intelligence about trouble brewing in Hell's Kitchen and beyond, the boundaries between both their double-lives begin to blur.

Law Office of Nelson & Murdock

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Spider-Man, Jessica Jones

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

When imagines the Platonic ideal of a Manhattan law office, one's mind tends to go to high-rise, multi-story affairs: all sleek lines and glittering glass and steel. And that mental picture, firmly established in the public consciousness by years of cinema and television, may even be appropriate for a certain rarefied class of firms, though they're far from emblematic of the real practice of law in New York City or anywhere else.

Regardless, they bear no relation whatsoever to the offices of Nelson & Murdock. An ancient elevator takes one up to the second floor of the ramshackle 9th Ave. office building, and then it's a short walk down a dingy hallway to the front doors, where the names of the partners are emblazoned on dimly-frosted glass:

Nelson & Murdock
Attorneys at Law

The doors open to reveal a space that is modestly, even sparsely appointed. One enters into the center of three equally apportioned rooms run along a railroad and bisected by green-tinged walls so flimsy and thin that they stretch the promise of confidentiality to its limits even were one /not/ possessed of super-senses. Ordinarily their receptionist — a pleasant but awkward young man, fresh out of college and bent on a law degree himself — would greet entrants. But it's five minutes after five o'clock on a Friday, and while this time of year still has the day's full force of sunlight blasting through the windows, technically office hours for the day — and the week — are officially over.

Which leaves the quiet, unassuming form of Matt Murdock the sole occupant of the quiet, unassuming space. He's in the office space to the left, bespectacled but with his tie loosened around the white oxford-cloth of his shirt collar. One hand is propped on his jaw, the other hand scanning patterns of braile on a crisp, freshly printed sheet of paper. The door to his office is swung wide open, either in standing invitation or to present one less obstacle to a man who has enough as-is.

There's no sneaking up on Matt Murdock. He'll doubtless hear the familiar, virtually silent whisper of the mechanisms in Kinsey's prosthetics the moment she steps off of the elevator, if not well before, so it won't come as any surprise when she knocks quietly on the front door and steps through on finding the door unlocked, leaning in first and glancing first one way, then the other. While it's technically officially spring, there's still enough bite in the air that she's yet to shed all of her winter attire: jean leggings with knee-high, flat-soled, brown leather boots with a soft, tunic-length sweater, topped with a lightwight fabric scarf in a houndstooth pattern.

Stepping through and shutting the door behind herself, she shifts the strap of her purse on her shoulder and takes in the modest interior with open curiosity, slow steps taking her to the center of the main room. "Hello?" Her lips curve, most of the smile tilted to one side. "I'd like to hire an attorney, and I've been told I can find a devastatingly handsome one here…"

When she pivots on the ball of her foot she spies him through the open doorway, and the quality of her gaze warms as she crosses to take up a lissome lean against the door's frame, thumb hooked in her purse's strap. "Aha. I knew yelp wouldn't steer me wrong."

Matt can, indeed, sense her coming — from the waft of her now-familiar perfume even on her entry at the first floor, to distinctive rythmn of her heartbeat to, yes, the slightly alien grace of the bionic limbs that carry her to the foyer of his office. And in truth, she gives him enough lead time between that first searching 'Hello' and what follows that he doesn't even have to play dumb about it. The smile that flashes across his stubbled features is the sort of broad, white-toothed thing that can only be won by honest and pleasant surprise.

"You know, I think this is where my internal monologue should start with, 'I knew from the minute she walked into my office she was trouble…'" he banters back, even hazarding an impersonation of that hard-boiled, film-noire voiceover as he pushes himself up to a stand from behind his desk. With no court appearance scheduled he's dressed down today, relatively speaking: grey jacket slung over the back of his chair, skinny tie loosened, white sleeves rolled up to the half-way point of his forearms.

His fingers graze the edge of his desk as he rounds it, striding to meet her with hands spread once he exits the orbit of the desk. "This is some Friday surprise, Kinsey," he says as he approaches her, eyes sparkling behind the red, round lenses of his glasses. "I thought we were on for tomorrow — just couldn't wait?"

Kinsey's eyes contain an answering sparkle as he makes his game attempt at impersonation, her smile widening in a flash of white. She hikes slim shoulders upward and inward half an inch and glances skyward in a girlish gesture of 'who, me?' that wouldn't hold up in a single court of law. "That sounds like profiling to me, Mr. Murdock."

She watches him rise and round the desk, waiting until he's fairly close before pushing herself out of her lean into the door's frame to lift one arm in anticipation of him. When he's near enough, gracile fingers entwine themselves around the loosened noose of his tie and ever-so-gently draw toward her, the better to lean, eyes lidding, to steal a kiss that tastes of the mint-oil lip balm she uses in the cold weather. It's unhurried but doesn't linger overlong; it's still, after all, his place of work.

"Mmm, well. Tomorrow, I'm on for spending time with this guy I'm dating who happens to be an attorney, but it's his weekend. Today I need an attorney, so I decided I would hire the one that just happens to be this guy I'm dating, and I figured I'd better do that during the work week." Her smile and tone are light and wry, though some apology slips into the quality of her voice as she glances down, releasing his tie and smoothing it again. "I would have come earlier in the day, but I had a lot to get done at the Garage before I could leave."

Matt had a quip all ready to go about how he's last person anyone would find guilty of /profiling/, but then fingers are clasping around his tie and he's being pulled towards her as much by force of chemistry as her guiding hand.

It's just as well.

He smiles into the kiss, letting one hand find her waist and drawing up the other to gently brush the summit of one cheekbone with the pad of his thumb before he pulls back to listen to her explanation for this drop-in. Surprise registers on his features, if only subtly so, here in the lift of his brows over the rims of his glasses, there in the nearly microscopic tightening of the corners of his eyes. There are rules about this sort of thing, codes of professional conduct to adhere to, and he sifts through them quickly and internally before bending his lips downward musingly and nodding his assent.

"Well then," he says as he pivots on his heels and makes to guide her further into his room with the palm resting on the curve of her hip, "Step into my office, won't you, Ms. Sheriden?" He'll bring her near enough the chair that sits across from his while eschewing reclaiming his prior seat on the other side. Insteead he'll find the edge of the desk with the back of his palms and hoist himself to a seat on it. "Now, we take lots of different kinds of cases, but our focus is on, uh, criminal defense, so don't be surprised or disappointed if I just end up referring you to someone else. Chances are that's what I'll do."

His smile remains in place, engaging and pleased by her presence as ever, but there's a curious, even quizzical note found in the final: "So what's your issue, Kinsey?"

For his willingness to hear her out — and his coy framing of it — he receives a small, close-lipped smile he can't see, but will certainly feel against his cheek as she turns to make her way into the office he so recently abandoned. She takes her time in getting settled in the chair he gives her, and unlike most every other time she's ever used a chair in his presence she doesn't make herself comfortable immediately, choosing instead to remain perched on the edge, boots together, both of her hands folded over the zippered top of her purse on her thighs.

The quality of the smile she answers his disclaimer with is different, the fullness of her mouth pressed into a tighter line. "I'll understand if you don't want to get involved, but I'm not in the market for any referrals. And I need to tell you in advance that this may be dangerous, Matt. I figure you're used to that kind of thing, given the kinds of people you're going to have to represent in court, but…" Pale teeth nip into her lower lip, the manicured brows above clear, green-gold eyes sliding toward one another just enough to suggest inner conflict. "It's only fair that I warn you." Her fingertips nervously trace the pebbled leather texture of her purse in the brief silence that follows. "I'm looking into something for a friend." Truth. "Someone is…harassing a friend of his. Making vague threats against his friend's family members. He…knows I used to work for the DEO." Also all truth, though she sounds hesitant. "I told him I would poke around, see what I could learn about the guy doing the harassing. What I have here is…well, it's…" She glances down at her purse, wherein her information still sits, waiting to be retrieved for his use. "I think I may have found something big, and it even involves a lot of Hell's Kitchen. There's more to find in here, but I think some of it needs a law degree to puzzle through. I can find information, but I need to know it's being interpreted correctly."

She lifts her eyes to rest on him again, searching his face, or what of it she can see around the lenses he's wearing. "Do you want to see it, or would you rather not?"

Vague and halting though Kinsey's explanation may be, it still leaves Matt with a great deal to absorb — and to grapple with. When her eyes search him out, they'll find that the playfulness that marked his aspect just moments ago is gone, replaced instantly by a sober intensity that is the halmark of his professional life. Safe to say that his interests and concerns are not /merely/ professional, of course. He has already admitted to having a protective streak, and she has just herself admitted to getting mixed up into something dangerous.

He sets that reflexive need to dissuade her aside — at least for now — both because it's an argument that can be fought later, once he has a better handle on her entanglement, and because he himself has a powerful sense of curiosity that was triggered the moment she said the words 'something big' and 'Hell's Kitchen.;

"Wow," he says after a moment, lips pursing, before he shrugs his shoulders in assent. It's a through-line between both sides of his life, this utter lack of hesitation at the prospect of (physical) danger. It's the same quality that has him leaping rooftops or stabbed by shadows in alleyways or doused with toxic chemicals, and he makes no effort to hide it even in his current, more mild-mannered iteration. "Yeah, of course I'll take a look. If they're electronic, I can read whatever they are on my computer."

Kinsey waits in silent patience for his answer, though everything about her seems poised in expectancy. If he turns her down, her avenues for digging into this information dwindle almost entirely; the other person she would typically contact, Jessica, knows her identity and has therefore been ruled out entirely as someone she wants to involve.

Her relief is palpable, particularly for Matt, who'll hear the soft puff of an exhale, the whisper of fabric on skin as her shoulders untighten, and the creak of leather as her tightened fingers relax. "Thanks." She unzips her purse, an abrasive sound that seems loud to her in the otherwise silent suite of offices, and retrieves from within it a nondescript thumb drive. She holds it out, ready to place it in his hand. "It's — they're — electronic. The documents. There's a lot there, but there's nothing else on the drive."

"Yeah, of course," Matt says as he stretches out a hand to receive the proffered USB drive, the relief he detects in the tenor of her voice and every move she makes only deepens his concern and makes him more confident in his decision to help. Once she places the drive in his palm, he'll slide off his perch at the front of his desk and maneuver his way back to his laptop. He retakes his leather seat, inserts the key, pops in one earpiece into his left ear and sets to work. The laptop itself is a small, mid-end thinkpad, but underneath it is a small platform with what appears to be a braille terminal. Whatever magic he's working on his end is obscured from her view, but it isn't long at all before he seems to be scanning the output before he seems to be scanning the output on that platform in smooth, methodical sweeps.

"You weren't kidding about there being a lot here," the lawyer is saying after a minute or two of review, brow knitting. "I'm just giving it a quick scan right now to get a sense of what I'm dealing with." Which, really, represents a small treasure trove of legal documents related to the innocuous-sounding Confederated Global Investments, containing a dizzying array of employment contracts, NDAs, litigation records, leases, and purchase agreements…

…and which include purchases of several properties in and around Hell's Kitchen, including at least a few he has become intimately familiar with in ways he could never expect the lady across from him to believe and for reasons that can't begin to relay to her. Night after night spent on the docks in cat-and-mouse games with Russian thugs; finding drugs or — worse — women and children brought in a dozen at a time in giant metal cans, kept like animals in a pitch-black voyage across the Atlantic.

What was formerly curiosity and concern becomes something else entirely, and Matt's never been more thankful for the spectacles that help obscure his aspect, or that his partner lacks the perceptive power to hear his own heart lurch in his chest. "Kinsey," he says, his voice carefully schooled to the most neutral of tones and emotions: curiosity predominates, with perhaps a grace note of incredulity. "Where'd you get all this stuff?"

His first observation doesn't receive a reply, as it seems unnecessary; he has his hands full — literally, in a sense — with trying to wrap his head around the scope of what she's brought for him to look at. In her silence she watches him attentively, hazel eyes wandering his face, waiting for some subtle nuance to give her more information about what she's found.

The difficult, inevitable question arrives eventually, as she'd known it must…but hoped it would not. She'd thought long and hard on the journey to New York about what she would say when the time came, but she never quite settled on an answer. There are countless reasons to lie, well beyond even just protecting herself; protecting Matt is a not-insignificant part of the equation, and while she's growing to understand more about him, she has no sense of whether or not he's the type to look into something more directly and aggressively than he should. Any ping on CGI's radar might bring around the goons, now, to threaten Matt's friends and family the way that Spider-Man's friend had been threatened, and that's a possibility she can't countenance. On the other hand, the strongest point in favor of letting him know is that if he's willing to really, truly commit to getting to the bottom of this…he'll know she's likely capable of accessing specific things he may find he wants as they follow the paper trail to its ultimate end.

Quiet, thumbs fidgeting with one another, she stares at him across the span of the desk and bites one side of her lower lip, suspended in a crisis of indecision.

How much do you trust him, Kinze?

"…from CGI."

The corners of Matt's jaw tighten when she gives the answer he already knows, knew in his gut before he even voiced the question. "And I'm guessing that they didn't hand them over in response to a subpoena," he murmurs. He frames it as a statement, not a question that invites further explanation on her part. Later, when he's had time to mull it all, her admission will trigger memories of first meetings long since set aside. But in this moment, his growing concern makes that kind of retrospection impossible.

Matt's fingers leave the display and he turns in his seat to face her, or at least where her chair is situated. "Kinsey," he says, voice carried on a gentle sigh. "I — get that you want to help this friend of yours. Or this friend of a friend, I guess. That's really — noble. But you're not joking about this being dangerous. I've just skimmed this shit and I can already tell you that whatever this CGI is, it's seedy as hell and has money to burn. Doing the sort of… poking around… you're doing could open you up to all kinds of liability. Legal or otherwise."

He leans forward in his chair, elbows planted on his desk. "You came here looking for my professional counsel, not my personal advice, but in this case it's really the same. You should stay /clear/ of all this."

As he doesn't seem to be mandating a response to his first guess, she doesn't provide him with one. Matt's a sharp guy; he doesn't need her to hold his hand through the implications, and in any case the less said out loud about these kinds of things, the better.

His warning for her doesn't come as anything even remotely like a surprise. As a self-professed protective type, it would be stranger if he didn't, really. But it does cause a knife of guilt to lodge between her ribs, puncturing her stomach and putting pressure on her lungs. The deep breath she draws fights against the constriction of it all, finding herself in an ever-shrinking margin of plausible deniability with him. Just as it did once before, she experiences the overwhelming urge to just tell him everything, unburden herself of the exhausting weight of carrying around a second life, if for no other reason than that these moments of dancing dangerously around the truth have begun to wear her heart threadbare in the exchange.

She shouldn't. If she does, he's one more person who knows what she really is, one more weak point that someone else could exploit. But he's at risk, isn't he? If they learn who she is, and begin to dig around, find out who she's been seen with…

She bowls her head, directing her gaze down at her interlacing fingers, already fair digits turning white where they tightly link.

"I can't do that, Matt. It's…complicated."

Another beat, and then her head lifts. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have brought you in on this. If you give me the thumb drive we can just pretend you never saw it."

She laments the deception built into her double-life, while he is… disquietingly at peace with his own hypocrisy. He has attempted to warn her off a dangerous, extra-legal pursuit of justice only so that he can take the information she's given him and pursue it on his own, sporting either a lawyer's suit or a mesh-mask depending on the needs of the moment. It's his martyr syndrome more than anything that lets him rationalize such a blatant double-standard, but however at peace he is with it, it is what it is.

However, she is not dissuaded, not in the slightest, and for reasons she is unwilling to divulge. Hypocrisy, part the second: for all his manifold secrets, he feels some part of himself balk at her initial unwillingness to share the 'complications' she hints at. This instinct he does repress, for now, summoning some of the angels of his better nature as he pushes himself to a rise. The drive stays were it is, firmly lodged in his computer. "Hey," he's murmuring as he circles the desk, that brief and content-less word somehow filled with worlds of quiet emotion. His fingertips graze along the edge of the desk in a path that leads him rounding towards the chair upon which she's perched herself. "Don't apologize," he insists as he nears her, bringing himself down to one knee beside her. "I'm glad you came to me. We ought to be able to do that. Look, I had to ask you to stop. But if you really can't… of course I'll help."

Eyes with all of the hues of a sunlit forest track his movement around his desk, back into the sphere of her personal space, and down to something just below her eye level when he takes a knee. Her expression straddles the line between regret and inner conflict, elegant brows drawn slightly together and the curve of her mouth taken with something that isn't a pout — she's not the type — but has something of that in it, pursed in weary concern.

He promises to help, if she really can't. Her expression softens, though it doesn't lose any of its complicated character, not even when she lifts and extends one of her wringing hands to gently cradle the side of his cheek, fingertips cool near the hinge of his jaw and in the sweep of her thumb over his cheekbone. It's a gesture of pensive tenderness, enacted as she tries to envision spilling her secrets to him here in the office, explaining the whole terrible, beautiful arc of her rebirth and all of the questionable things she's been doing ever since in a mad bid to understand what she's become.

Her imagination is a rare thing indeed, but even she can't imagine that scenario…though she's beginning to think that reluctance needs to be more thoroughly examined. If not now, when? What's holding her back?

She tilts forward at the waist, slowly and carefully to touch her crown to his, and close her eyes. A deep, quiet breath pulls in all of the myriad fragrances she remembers from her time in his apartment, and she exhales most of that in a sigh before using the rest to confirm in a whisper: "I really can't."

Two, three, four seconds of silence, and then the curve of her mouth ghosts toward something gentle, a little wry. Whispered, still: "You're copying the thumb drive, aren't you?"

Because that's what she would do.

A gentle palm is cupping his cheek, an elegant brow is pressed against his, and a wry voice is accusing him of stealing the fruits of corporate espionage. All of it makes the smile that slashes across his features a complicated thing — equal parts affection, relief, and rueful, slightly abashed humor. "You got me," he confesses in a rush of warm breath, shoulders briefly shaking in a laugh that never really finds expression.

But there's nothing at all complicated about the hand that seeks her spare one, attempting as it does to deliver a reassuring squeeze. "I'm going to give the docs a once over," he says — a simple statement of fact, because not even rescinding her offer would or could stop him now. "I already see a few red flags. Something crazy is up with that food vendor for schools and colleges. But it's going to take me days to sort through it all." He hasn't moved an inch from there shared space, and even now his thumb is gently stroking that tender bridge between the knuckles of her forefinger and her thumb.

"I do have — questions," he adds quietly. "Especially about the end-game on this scavenger hunt of yours. But they can wait a little while."

The hand at his cheek slips away when he takes her other one, to fold it in between them in a loose clasp of palms. "Mmhm. I sure did. I did mention I was in intelligence for a while? C'mon. Unfortunately for you, the copying process is going to destroy everything on the thumb drive. I'm very careful, Matt. But if you're serious about looking into this…I'll pull the data for you again. All of it. Just keep it on the drive, and keep the drive, alright? Somewhere safe."

Light and air return to the space between them as she straightens out of her careful forward bend, pausing in doing so to press a soft kiss to his forehead. "I can't promise you answers to your questions until I know more about what I — what we — have on that stick of memory. But…" Again, she worries her lower lip. This will edge right up against the boundaries of what she's comfortable with saying, but:

"Look. When you're poking around…please…just…don't do anything that might get you noticed. Okay? Don't trip any wires or make anyone suspicious. I'm…" Frustration swirls through her chest like a slow-moving tornado. "I just need you to not be associated with whatever I did to get that information."

A measure of wry respect passes over Matt's features when Kinsey outlines her countermeasures against anyone foolish enough to copy the thumb drive's contents, although every step deeper they take into this terrain fills him with fresh questions about /her/. What he's encountering isn't necessarily at odds with the clever, flirtatious, slightly goofy mechanic he's pursued the last few months. Really, it complicates the mental picture he'd painted so far while filling in a fair share of missing brush strokes.

But what really catches his attention, would summon his gaze for renewed scrutiny of her had he one to summon, is her final remark. It doesn't seem to be a plea for /his/ sake, skirting as he'd be against the dangerous enemies she seems to be courting, or even an expressed desire to keep him from implication in her less-than-legal run at them. It's something far more complex than that, and carries greater weight. If you're a practicing Catholic you may not want to take me out, Matt, unless you /really/ like hanging out in confessionals. I think I'm probably a bad influence.

"Look" he says quietly, banishing her long-ago-murmured words from his thoughts, "I know how to protect myself, and other people." A brief twitch of his lips, more smirk than smile. "Well — on this terrain, anyway. I'll be careful; cross my heart." It's a promise delivered with the quiet confidence she was initially so taken with, but perhaps belied by something she can only glean when she pulls back from that kiss upon his brow to spy… a small rivulet of blood trickling down its slope. Its point of origin is his hairline near the part, where a mostly-obscured, day-old cut has reopened.

Waking up this morning and knowing that she'd be taking a trip to New York to do this, Kinsey had spent her entire morning routine battling her own conflicted feelings about it, and she has yet to be able to silence them. Even after he makes her that promise with all of the self-certainty any man is able to muster, she feels her own reluctance in her stomach like a stone.

But she needs this. She needs the information, she needs to know what's happening. Who's after Spider-Man, and herself. She owes it to the guy in red and blue if nothing else, but she's keen for her own reasons, too. And this qualifies, she knows, as using Matt in a way, but he's very obviously determined to have a crack at it whether she wants him to or not, which in a way absolves her of the need to feel any more guilt about it than she does.

"Alright," she says, because what else is there to say?

…a lot, actually, because her eyes fly wide and she immediately opens her mouth again, first in a gasp. "Oh my god, Matt! …You're bleeding!" Her brows wing together, hands careful as the turn his head, gaze narrowed as she searches for the source of the blood.

He's what? Too swept up in the conversation, in the puzzle of her and, let's be honest, her proximity, he didn't even notice that trickle against his skin or the sudden taste of copper on his tongue until she called it out. "Oh, shit," Matt mutters as his free hand flies up to the general area of what is, truly, a relatively small small cut and attendant bruise. Head wounds are inevitably dramatic, both because of the area's sensitivity and — well, because they tend to bleed like crazy. "Yeah, it must have re-opened. There's, uh — a swab on my desk. Near the computer. Can you grab it for me? I just need to apply some pressure to it for a few minutes and it'll be fine."

His smile is brief, apologetic, slightly bashful, and a total fiction. This was a wound won on the docks she's looking into, he realizes, a lucky graze from some cudgel swung that had raised fury in Murdock at the moment, both for the shock of it and because it could conceivably lead to exactly this moment — one more injury he'd have to explain to /her/, to Foggy, and whoever else he's admitted into his orbit. "Sorry about this," he murmurs in unnecessary addition.

The alarm on her face isn't something he can see, though he'll hear the urgency in her movements when she springs up out of her seat and quickly rounds the desk to find what he's asked her to, snapping up the packet and bringing it back with brows that continue to slip in toward one another, enough now to form a faint and temporary crease between. "You're sorry? Matt, your levels of guilt border on the weird sometimes." He didn't ask for her help, but it appears he's going to get it anyway, as the crinkling sounds of the packet's wrapper indicate she's getting out a fresh swab to apply it herself.

Delicate pressure places the pad on the wound, but the crinkling doesn't stop. The next swab she pulls from the package she turns to the purpose of carefully wiping the blood from his skin where it ran down over the contours of his face. "What did you do to yourself?"

"Yeah, you're telling me," Matt Murdock says ruefully of the guilt and the weird, his shoulders even hitching in a brief, aborted chuckle. For all his apologizing and all his quiet demurrals, he makes no move to block her from tending to him. The truth is that it's soothing, and in more ways than one. The ways in which we were cared for, the rituals of intimacy, vary by family and invariably leave a permanent mark of one kind or another on those who came up in them. In the Murdock household, the dressing of wounds was the currency of affection, whether it was Battlin' Jack caring for his son after the accident or the self-same blinded son stitching up his father's eye after a bout. To feel that gentle pressure brought to bear on the cut, even when it comes with a bite, for him conveys more intimacy than anything they've shared so far tonight.

But in short order she's asking him the question he knew was coming, and at this vantage she can see his unfocused eyes roll upwards behind the glasses in self-deprecating mirth. "I could say I hit my head in my apartment or was hit by, hah, a /bike/," he offers at first in a soft, wry dig at his former answer to her in the coffee shop months back. One hand seeks to reclaim the one he'd lost, though it'll settle for whatever comfortable landing place he could find, whether it's a shoulder, elbow, or knee. "But the truth is — you know that cliche about people with one handicap or another who do really dumb stuff just to prove that they can do as well or better than everyone else?" he asks ruefully, his lips curving at one corner. "That's me, full stop. I wasn't necessarily joking when I offered /rock-climbing/ as a dating activity, Kinsey. And it's no surprise at all you won me over with a pair of rocket boots. Matt Murdock, esquire and blind adrenaline junky, at your service."

The gesture is pragmatic, of course, offering as it does her ability to see the mess he's made of himself in order to ensure that no one else will once it's gone, no opinions from another client required…but it's tender, too. Having defeated the last bastion of psychological restraint for her in shattering the barrier between thought and touch, little quarter remains for Kinsey save whatever she hides on the other side of the door with the number six on it: the rest of her she gives without hesitation.

For better or worse. Part of that, close to the core of what she is, is the kind of curious mind that doesn't rest well where there are unanswered questions, countless of which arise in the wake of his explanation. It's her nature to peel back the shrouds that occlude full view of the truth.

She knows 'intentionally vague' when she sees it, though, and to her credit she has enough restraint to keep her mouth closed as she thinks her way through his words again, allowing the cool, light touch of her fingers to be all of the answer she gives until she's decided on the best question to ask.

"I had almost forgotten what this dance is like," she says quietly, careful in lifting the edge of the pressing pad at his crown to see if the blood has stopped yet. It hasn't. She reapplies the pressure, returns to cleaning him up, wiping beneath the cut of his jaw. "Being with somebody, having them decide they want to tell you the truth but don't really want to get into details and doing their best to walk that line for both your sakes. Been a while, really. Last time was when I made the mistake of dating someone actively working in intelligence. I don't recommend it." She pauses, a smile blooming sudden and wry. "I'm not actively working in intelligence anymore, I'd like to point out."

Two beats of silence, then: "So…should I ask what specifically happened, or should I not?" She approaches this potential for him to decline with as much equanimity as possible, keeping her tone bereft of anything he might interpret as the warning notes that would lead him to believe there's only one right answer.

She calls him out on his evasiveness and he manages a smile, close-lipped and rueful. He does want to tell her the truth, of course. He has since last week in the concert hall, and all through the morning after. It was a pressure that seemed fit to burst his chest at the time, until he found several avenues for relief and temporarily side-stepped the looming problem altogether. Even some part of the truth would simplify so much, to his thinking, and open so many long-shuttered doors. And yet. There are two people in the world who know the truth about Matt Murdock and what he can do, and it may be no coincidence that both of them are currently estranged from him. Whatever his physical bravery, there are some doors he's genuinely afraid of stepping through. Perhaps for good reason.

And so he draws in a sharp breath which, while mostly silent, pinches his nostrils and and tip his red-tinted spectacles ever-so-slightly from their perch. "Well," he says after a beat, tone quiet, warm, and wry, "I'm… no James Bond, for /sure/. But my world can get a little dicey and discretion-oriented. Let's not say no — but can we say raincheck? That's worked out pretty well in the past." He reaches out for where her face /must/ be, searching fingertips finding the hinge of her jawline for a gentle graze. "And, you know, if this is a mistake? On either of our parts? It feels like a pretty damn good one from /my/ point of view —" a smile flashes, glinting white — "even if it's a little limited."

She'd expected that answer — it was less a choice than a way out — but gentle disappointment still finds its way in. Not in him, at least. Over the not knowing.

Which is not to say that unopened doors don't have their appeal, as well. Mysteries and questions may chafe at her boundless need to know things, but they keep her focus like a candle keeps a moth's, too, and for some silent moments she contemplates the interior life of the man across from her. Months into what they have, she knows so little about him, even knowing more than he thinks she does. A consequence of living in a city, perhaps — or of the distance imposed by her own peculiarly misleading boundaries.

It's his touch that pulls her from her own winding thoughts, stilling the careful brushing of fabric over skin where she tidies him back toward respectability, hazel eyes lifting and meeting his attention. It is a real and tangible thing for her, regardless of the fact that she can't lock with his eyes themselves.

"Raincheck it is." Which is obligatory agreement, really, and not the piece of what he says that she circles. After a moment, she lets him in on what piece that is: "Do you think it is?" Pause. "A mistake?"

Not hurt, her tone, but curious. And to prevent any worries to that effect, she adds, not unwry: "Not that I'd change anything about it if you do."

He knows how curious she can be, even teased her repeatedly for it, and so when she forbears from pressing the issue the corners of his lips twitch up in comingled amusement and gratitude.

But then she's moving on, and asking her question. His countenance stills amid an internal stocktaking that registers the insanity and illegality she has likely brought to his office doorstep, the secrets he knows she's keeping from him, and the many he believes he is keeping from her. In the span of a second he's sifting through sidewalk stumbles, awkward coffees, rocket boots, hospital stays, strange phone conversations, good dates, bloody mayhem and all its aftermath.

Brown eyes can never meet green, but they can glint with simmering humor and affection. "I… know that tomorrow's our night, and you're probably due back," he says quietly after that pause, hand sliding along the arc of her neck to her shoulder, "but I'm supposed to meet Foggy after I'm done for a drink at Josie's — it's this dive bar we go to. Do you… want to come? Close as you get to meeting the family with me."

It's one of the rudest things you can do, answering a question with another question. Unless, of course, the second question is an answer in itself.

Fascinated eyes track the change in the shape of his mouth. He's likely to give her an answer and it serves no real purpose to try to guess what that nuance of expression means, but she can't help herself: she's the kind of person who spoils movies for herself by actively guessing what the solution to the mystery is every step of the way, rather than letting the story roll over her and enjoying it for its own sake. She's good that, too. With the movies. She has an excellent track record in guessing what the plot twist will be.

Not this time, though.

He answers in his own way, electing to avoid staking a claim on the truth in any kind of direct fashion. It suits her well enough; her memory is prodigious, and she remembers the name Josie's from their first date in Hell's Kitchen. It's a big step, he'd said then. Introducing someone to your bar.

Throw a business partner into the mix, an oblique reference to the family-shaped hole in his life occupied now by a man she knows only by reputation as an accomplished snorer, and the whole thing takes her entirely off-guard. Thrown, she watches as though from a distance with the mortified realization that her eyes and nose are prickling with the sudden onset of what would love to be sentimental tears. She opens and closes her mouth, swallows a knot in her throat, shifting restlessly in her chair and trusting herself to a short laugh as she frantically tries to stow the evidence that she is, given the right alignment of factors, the kind of young woman who tears up over animal shelter commercials.

You can't answer a question like that by crying, Kinsey, he'll think you want to have his babies or something.

"Uh.." So casual. So, so casual. "Uh, yeah. I would. Like that. A lot."

Inside: elation, paired with the not-insignificant urge to curl up into an invisible bundle of molecules and die. Emotions are difficult.

That urge to dissolve might become even less-insignificant if she had an inkling of the strange universe of sensory input Matt is privy to. After all, he can taste the salt from the prickling in her eyes, hear the swallow in her throat, perceive every minute shift in her chair and hear the tension in the laugh she uses to offset it all. And for all that what she's brought before him tonight has piqued both his interest, his wariness, and his concern for her safety, he still feels a heady rush of euphoria at her internal reaction. It's like this in the beginning, a feedback loop of affection that intensifies with every pass — right until the circuit breaks.

But goddamn, doesn't it feel good while it lasts?

"Cool," he says with simple, quiet warmth, even if he feels anything but. He rises, pushing himself up from his kneel beside her chair, and even offering her a gallant hand to help her do the same — and entirely unmindful of her ministrations to his forehead. "Let's get out of here."

"Okay. Let's— Matt wait, you—!" Kinsey flusters as he gets to his feet, the pad she's been pressing to the gasp in his hairline half-sticking, half-pulling away, reopening capillaries. She's on her feet in an instant, tsking and trying not to laugh but laughing a little, anyway — shedding some of her giddiness and also sort of genuinely amused. Tickled and endeared. "God, you're — you're a disaster. Honestly." But she says it quietly, leaning in to press the benediction of a kiss to his cheek, nose crinkled in play. "Let's just make sure you stop looking like a really conservatively-dressed Hellraiser extra before we go, okay? I don't need Foggy thinking you're in an abusive relationship. Sit tight, I'm gonna get more swabs."

And so it goes.

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