AKA Proprioception

May 26, 2017:

Jessica Jones heads to Nelson & Murdock to pay Matt an overdue visit. They have a quiet discussion about their abilities, shared cases, their mutual ties to IGH…and one budding superhero.

Nelson & Murdock, Hell's Kitchen, NYC

There's nearly always pie!

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Trish Walker, Azalea Kingston, John Constantine, Tony Stark, Zatanna Zatara, Six, Red Robin, Cindy Moon

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It's the Friday before a long weekend — the very start of summer — and everyone in the city with the slightest amount of resources or inclination has either left or is poised to abandon it for some kind of getaway. Even those who will remain are lazy to the point of indolence, an unspoken pact among working people that leaves the otherwise bustling (if modest) environs of Nelson & Murdock uncharacteristically quiet. Foggy Nelson is out, having covered more than his fair share of the work the last week or two while his partner took a an unexpected 'sick week' earlier in the month.

It leaves the green-tinged, spare office space empty save for a man who is decidedly not participating in the Memorial Day wind-down, but instead catching up on all the things he missed after his extended stay in New Jersey. Even in his room, Matt is visible to any entrant — the shades are raised and the windows broad and spacious enough to give view to the stubbled man seated at the desk as he scans along on a braille display. With no client meetings on the day's calendar, his suit coat is folded over the back of his chair, his sleeves are rolled, and his glasses are cast casually onto the paper-littered desk.

It's quiet enough to hear a pin drop — even if you're not Matt Murdock.

—-

The quiet is about to be disturbed, without any text or call-ahead of warning.

The first smell that might well hit Matthew Murdock's nose when someone comes stomp stomp stomping up the stairs and clip-clip-clopping down the hall may not be the scents of vanilla shampoo, vanilla soap, hard-nosed PI and t-shirt fabric (because at 69 degrees today, Jessica Jones is so not in the mood for a jacket).

Instead, it would be the fragrant scent of a warm egg-and-cheese on a roll with salt and pepper, direct from Sal's Deli, accompanied by the strong scent of two black coffee-flavored-coffees, the only kind of coffee Sal ever serves. Sal doesn't even serve decaf unless one asks for it, and unless one has a freaking medical condition that demands the drinking of decaf, the act of asking creates some measure of scorn in one Sal Sarino. So it's safe to assume these are the high-octane versions.

The long weekend made a good day for this; Jessica had perhaps guessed the office would be free of clients and she wouldn't be disturbing him. And for her part (back from Jersey herself, though she only was there a day)…she's feeling pretty damned done herself, her cases having taken twists and turns she was not at all prepared for.

She can't help the rush of oxytocin and dopamine that accompanies her push through the door, the skip of her heart, the increase in her temperature, but…she does a great job of ignoring all of it, if her easy-going tone is any indication. "Emergency food delivery. Somebody called about a lawyer starving to death, wasting away in here?"

—-

Matt picks up all those familiar clues — the rhythm of her gait, the smell of her brand of soap — well before her arrival. Ordinarily he'd play it off, play dumb and wait for the door to open and the entrant to announce him or herself with some auditory clues an ordinarily blind person could pick up. But when she enters he's already half-way risen from his seat. There's no reason to hide what he can sense or do from her at this point, for better or worse. And not entirely worse, from the tired, close-lipped, but entirely genuine smile that greets her from behind the window separating the pair of them. He steps through the open doorway, "Hey, Jess," he says with quiet warmth as he reaches out — with far more confidence as to positioning than he's ever displayed in the past — to accept some of her load.

"Sal's? You shouldn't have. Come on into my office. I've been meaning to give you a call since you got back from Europe. All over your jet-lag?" The tone is as it ever is, aside from rare moments of high drama they've both been privy to — quiet, wry, and steady.

—-

The fact that he doesn't bother pretending produces another kind of warmth in her responses; the one that accompanies a smile. She lets him take his coffee and his sandwich, leaving only her own coffee. She comes in, and looks around, taking in his space for the very first time. She's never been inside, after all, and her natural curiosity means she's looking this way and that.

"Sal's is your reward for gently reigning my sister in so she didn't leap off a cliff while I was gone," Jess says, her tone more humorous than serious, despite the fact that it brushes right up against some fairly serious things. The humor softens the hard-bitten edges on that alto, but in stark contrast to his quiet, steady voice, hers is animated. It's subtle, that animation, easy to miss; but it's always there, a rich tapestry of emotion, whether that emotion is anger or affection, biting humor or gentle teasing, depression, or deep empathy.

"Plus, I bring food to all my friends. Ask anyone." And she does, because it was, in her sort of trial-and-error attempts to figure out how to have friends at all, one of the first things she hit on: most people really seem to appreciate gifts-of-food. Her habit of doggedly pursuing courses of action that seem to work may even mean that she takes the food thing a bit overboard, but such is life.

As for the jet-lag, she chuffs. "I slept for over a day when I came back, but I'm so glad to be home. How are you doing, Matt?"

Now, the tone reflects a deeper concern, after all, when last they saw one another he was shaken, tense, rattled by the experience they'd just shared. He seems well enough, but all the same.

—-

The quick chuckle he gives when she informs him of what he's done to earn that egg sandwich is entirely unvoiced, but evident from the shake of his shoulders and the briefest glimpse of teeth in his smile. It's a relief for him that she brings it all up first. For all that he and Jessica are friends, no one is more respectful of the privacy of others than Matt Murdock — both his personal inclinations and his professional life make him circumspect to a fault in (most) instances. That Trish told her at least some of what happens opens the door to a conversation he's been wanting to have for a while.

But that can wait. They're exchanging easy, casual pleasantries, which are their own sort of balm when weighed down —

Well, by the things she proceeds to reference. No avoiding any of it, really — that messiness that has consumed his segmented (if brittle) double-life. Matt's lets ought a rueful sigh as he rounds the desk with his coffee and brown paper bag to claim the seat by the braille display, leaving the opposing chair for her. "It's been — quite the month," he dryly admits. "For a lot of reasons." Some she's aware of, and some she couldn't possibly be. His confrontation with Kinsey, the personal revelations learned in his brushes with Trish and CGI. "But… I'm okay. The world didn't end." Despite, perhaps, Xihunel's best efforts.

A beat, and then: "How's your sister? How's — the girl?"

—-

Jessica turns the chair on the client side of the desk so she can straddle it, and steals a corner of said desk to hold her coffee after taking a few quick gulps. It was a balm, but the problem is Jessica only knows how to exchange pleasantries for so long, and the truth is neither one of them have a life that would allow them to go from a question of 'how are you' to an answer like 'oh fine, I just found just the most delightful mini-golf place last weekend' or whatever it is that normal people talk about.

She drapes her arms over the back of that chair, and addresses the matter of Trish first, and tries to decide what to say. "I think," she says, "she's better. Right now she's focusing on getting that bullshit under control. I wish she'd have just called me instead of spending weeks stressing out over my god damn reaction." She gives a bit of a sigh; but the predominant emotion radiating through her voice now is shame, more than anything else.

He asks about the girl, and now her physiology goes through such a host of conflicting emotions it's hard to pick out any one, though what's left behind to dance through her nerves and across her skin is fear. She ignores these spikes in her adrenaline and flutters of her heart to maintain the exact same easy-going sort of air to her most overt conversational rhythms that she had when she arrived, though her voice lowers a little. "She wants to go home. The goddess is— I can't visit her again, even trying to talk to Az produced a 'Jess has to beg for mercy now' scenario. But…"

And here? Relief. Wonder. A hint of confusion, because she still is a little blown away that this took place without her having to do a thing, control-freak that she is:

"John's on it. I got a text, he and Zee were at Stark Towers just the other night. And I guess they passed under her radar, to boot." Itz's, not Az's.

—-

Matt's chin is tilted upward, vacant eyes fixed on some indeterminate point on the ceiling as she speaks. He'll smile a little, knowingly, and maybe a little sadly, when she speaks of Trish's behavior. "Sometimes it's easier to open up to strangers than it is to open up to the people you're closest to, isn't it?" he offers with a roll of one shoulder. "With the ones who are close, you're worried — about scaring them, disappointing them, angering them. It's weird, but it makes sense. They're the ones with whom you have the most to lose." As he thinks to himself: So far four women, one creepy A.I., and an Aztec god know who you are and what you do. Why doesn't your best friend?

There are reasons both for and against disclosure, but it's safe to say they're ones he'll be wrestling with for a while.

To the matter of Azalea — well. She's at Stark tower, because of course she is. He isn't sure how he feels about that — Tony Stark is an unknown quantity, and what little Matt knows about the billionaire playboy sets off all sorts of little triggers for the working class son of Hell's Kitchen. "It's good to know she's being taken care of, at least. I — need to talk to Zatanna…" a beat. "Zee? About some things related to that. If you don't mind giving her my cell."

A longer pause, then, weighing, before he simply thinks, 'Fuck it,' and shrugs. "Look — I know the last time we saw each other was a crazy night. And it ended on a crazy note. I — bet you have questions." He lets out a little puff of breath, filled with incredulous, self-deprecating mirth. "I can answer them. If you want."

—-

Matt offers his comfort in that deft, empathetic way of his, and Jessica's head dips as she looks down at the ground. She accepts it— his insightful comments hitting the right chord with her as they so often do, but some of the uneasiness lingers. Still, she moves on from the matter of her relationship with her not-so-squishy-sister for the time being.

Why? Because he offers to answer her questions, and she hesitates, not because she doesn't want to know. Indeed, he might well feel her heart leap in the way it often does when she is about to get some answers. She desperately wants to know, but something holds her back.

And so, she starts with, "I'll give Zee your number for sure— though…she gave you that Princess of Prestidigitation card ages ago, and Zee being Zee? That really is her direct cell. Course…it wasn't in Braille…"

Yeah, she really needs to know, she decides, what he can do. Given how often they end up back to back facing down various horrors. For one thing…"Neither were my files, though I hope they're helping you. I just kind of assumed that— I mean sending them to a translator seemed a bad idea— but I guess I just had this feeling you'd maybe— "

Augh. For some reason his willingness to be open with her about this has flustered her, and even she couldn't say why. She takes a deep breath. She needs to know, and yet…

Her tone is gentle when she finally gets herself back on something like an even keel.

"Matt, I am incredibly curious and I do want to ask you all about what you are doing to pull off your performance as the most bad-ass of all bad-ass ninjas. I know you have off-the-charts-hearing, but that doesn't account for everything I've seen. I want to know it all, but…I also don't want anything from you that you don't want to give me." And if there are some layers of context there that have nothing to do with the Mysterious Matters of Daredevils, well, she can't help that. It's nothing but unvarnished truth.

"I know you offered to tell me, but…do you want to?"

—-

This time Matt's quiet laugh has emphasis: in the way it has a little breath to it, the way it throws his head backwards. "She must have added the braille last minute when she handed it over to me," he says of Zee. "You're friend is a real show off. But text me her number anyway, just to make sure it's the same one."

And then? Then she offers him an out. A chance to backtrack. But as much as it's silently appreciated:

"It's not just hearing," Matt Murdock says, softly, the answer to her question evident enough in the disclosure. For whatever reason, he's given up on secrecy with her. "The chemicals that took my sight ramped up my other senses. Hearing, yeah. But also taste, touch, smell, what you'd probably call balance — all of them shot through the roof." There's a beat, a tightening around eyes that emphatically do not work. "It took a… long time, to adjust. And some training and mentorship too. But eventually I was able to cobble together a picture of the world from those places. Sometimes it's even more accurate than the pictures most people see. Sometimes it's — far less. Better or worse, it's always different."

He blows out a breath, runs a hand through his hair. "When it happened I was just a kid. And I didn't know what it was — or how to talk about it. So it was easier just to — hide it. And I just… kept on hiding it."

—-

Jessica laughs quietly when Matt says Zee is a show-off, but it's filled with affection, even love for the girl. It is a laugh with a hint of 'oh, man. You just so have no idea', but she leaves it unspoken.

All her attention is on him, as he starts to just tell her. That brings forth another of those shots of oxytocin and dopamine, another flash of warmth. Everything about her is just…attentive.

He adds the last, and it almost sounds like…an apology? For hiding it? An explanation?

"It's nobody's god damn business anyway," she says, and despite the gutter language, the words still carry that gentle quality, "unless you want it to be their business."

And, quietly, "It was chemicals for me, too."

It's just a little bit of sharing, that, but she wants to stay on him for the moment, and she has still more questions. Immenently practical ones, most of them. "So…how far can you hear? How far away do I have to be from your office before you know I'm here? When you went for your batons, was it because you heard them fall or did you— like could you smell the metal of them? Or I guess both? Balance? That one I don't understand at all."

She also…Well. This is inevitable right? This is a perfectly normal response to hearing this, isn't it? Surely?

She reaches down. Pulls out her shirt a bit. He'll hear her giving it the sniff test. See, in the world on fire, one Jessica Jones quickly and surruptitiously raise her arms and sniff under her pits. If she understood the world on fire? That would never happen, but yep, one more fine chance to make an ass out of herself, all unknowing, in front of Matt Murdock, and she leaps in with both feet and takes it because for just a moment, she's got to wonder if his super-senses mean she might be stinking up his office.

—-

She has no idea of what he can or can't sense, so of course she overcorrects — and in a way that would provide maximum embarrassment if she had any idea what it looked like in his view of the world. But Matt is — most of the time — a gentleman, and has become adept over the last decade and a half at politely ignoring any number of things people inadvertently let him see for the sake of maintaining their comfort.

And she has a torrent of questions, the sum total of which prompt a twitch of his lips and faintly amused cast to his expression. He is not used to talking about this, even if it is the second-such conversation he's had in a month. How to even start, though, when one's experience is so dramatically different not just from those ordinarily sighted, but perhaps every other person in the world? "Not balance so much as proprioception," Matt amends, picking up on her question about balance first, since it helps to inform the rest of his idiosyncratic way of moving in the world. "How people sense the position of their own body, the force they're applying to their actions. I may not have a perfect sense of what's going on in the world but I do have a… much better than average sense of what I'm doing. It's a prerequisite and component balance — it's what lets people walk in the dark, for instance." A beat. "I can do better than walk." Obviously, if the dizzying backflips, spinning kicks and other acrobatics he put on display in his midnight duel with a possessed Azalea are any indication.

"As for the rest… it's all sort of relative, more experiential than hard or fast rules," Matt adds with a slight shrug of his shoulders. "I can hear someone's heartbeat — and identify it as theirs if I know them — about twenty paces away? When I'm — when I have on the mask, I usually pick a rooftop and just listen for trouble. Shouts, cries for help. And if that's any indication… I can hear for miles when I focus. With sensing the baton it's —

Now his brow creases down its center as his eyes narrow thoughtfully while he grapples with how to describe his radial, red-tinged view of the world. "It's… really more about the sum total of what my senses tell me. Hearing, smell, the feeling of microvibrations in the air, it all adds up to a sort of panoramic, impressionistic painting of the world across 360 degrees. I see, or sense, a whole lot others miss — though I miss a lot too."

He half-smiles, seemingly suddenly self-conscious as he recognizes just how much he's talking about himself — not the least because it's something he's still unused to. "Anyway, I'd take being able to punch through concrete walls any day of the week, all things being equal."

—-

Oh hey, word of the day. Proprioception.

He may be self-conscious, but she's listening in fascinated fashion. This really is the most she's ever gotten him to talk about himself, it's true. She usually feels self-conscious herself, sure she's just babbling on and on. She closes her eyes briefly, tries to imagine what it's like…but of course she really can't. She opens them, and sees his self-consciousness. She makes a chuffing noise at his crack about the concrete walls, and says, "Yeah, that has its moments."

Then she asks, "So…were you one of those people who sort of said 'well, I have super powers so I need to put on a mask now?' Or did something else get you to start doing all this? I mean…for a lot of people, I guess, having the ability to compensate for the blindness would be enough. You're already working a good, meaningful job, doing good, meaningful things. Why'd you sign up to get shit-kicked on the regular? Not that you don't give as much shit-kicking as you get, and more."

Really, the man puts her to shame, given the amount of wasted time she can account for in her own life.

—-

"Nah," Matt says with a quick and dismissive shake of his head. "I've had my powers since I was ten years old. And while I wasn't much older than that when I was taught how to fight, I didn't put on the mask until just this last year. I just —"

He rakes a hand through his already disheveled head of reddish-brown hair, sending it askew ten new different ways. "I tried for a long time not to do it. Like you said. I'd built a good life — the kind of life my dad always wanted for me, really. But that's the thing — I hear all this pain out there. In ways others can't. And trying to block it out — pretending I heard it wrong or it wasn't my business — that just wasn't sustainable. I can see people in trouble where others can't, and I have the skills to do something about it. Anything less than what I'm doing and I'd be one of those bystanders in Kitty Genovese case every other night for the rest of my life. Who can live like that? Who'd want to?"

He let's out a cleansing exhale after that hybrid explanation and rant on his drive to put on a silly costume and stalk the Manhattan skyline for people in need of help. "Anyway," he says with a slight, close-mouthed, slightly weary smile, "I should probably whore my skills out to a big corporation looking to make the perfect potato chip, or go make some really great wine somewhere in a town with a population of a 150… but Hell's Kitchen is my home. And I've come to learn in the last few months that this is how I have to live in it."

A beat. "Yours was chemicals too, you say?"

—-

His rant produces no scorn, and really, the costume isn't that silly, all jokes about the tiny adorable devil horns notwithstanding. Maybe if she could have heard all the suffering she'd have gotten her own head out of her own ass that much sooner. It took one tiny girl and a taxi to change her heart…and then it took one older girl in fishnets to change it a second time.

The passionate way he talks about defending others produces another quiet stab of shame. But then…he's only been at it for a few months himself, right? So maybe she can give herself a pass.

The shame is soon wiped away by humor anyway, when he starts joking about the perfect potato chip or wine making. "Well you could always brew some wine up in your kitchen, everyone's got to have a have a hobby, right?"

He asks about chemicals, and he'll see the silhouette of her head move in a nod. "The accident when I was a kid was with this big chemical tanker truck." She realizes, abruptly, that this information is actually kind of relevant to his investigation— and that Trish must have kept it under wraps.

"IGH's bullshit chemicals, in fact. I was just doused in this stuff before the whole car went up in flames. I don't know why it gave me powers and just killed the rest of my family, but maybe I just had the right genetic quirks." Her tone is sober when she talks about this; old survivor's guilt coming to the fore.

—-

"A winery is probably out in Manhattan," Matt offers dryly to her idea of a hobby alongside his day job as a lawyer and his night gig beating bad people purple, "but the outer-boroughs could use another microbrew, I guess." Humor swiftly evaporates as she answers his question by laying bare personal details about her own transformation — what it cost her, and others. Empathy and commiseration, however muted, pass detectably over his features. His lips press together.

And then she's veering into his current obsession, and questions he'd intended to ask her soon enough. The fact that she was hit with chemicals from the same company that, he has learned, were almost certainly responsible for his own life taking it's sideways turn sends dark eyebrows shooting upward, even as it rocks his core. It's a long moment before his voice returns. "It was — ah, IGH?" he asks, nakedly surprised. "The chemicals that changed you?" His jaw juts. "I'm — sorry, Jess." And inwardly, he's adding her family to the tally of bodies laid at the feet of IGH and the strange, hydra-headed (little H) company that has taken their research and run with it.

—-

In her mind, he'd be laying three of those bodies at the wrong feet.

He says he's sorry, and for a moment she can't even speak. Old sadness wells up in her, dropping her body temperature, making the muscles of her throat tighten.

"Yeah, it was them. They didn't set out to get into an accident with us or anything. I threw a fucking Game Boy because I was being a fucking snot, I distracted Dad at a crucial moment, they died, and I profited."

She exhales sharply. "Sorry, that's— " Heavy. Inappropriate. Oversharing? She doesn't know. She moves on after a few rounds of deep breathing, the sound of a beginner with meditative techniques attempting to use them, despite having absolutely no kind of temperament that lends itself well to such calming.

"But that's what put Trish on the trail. Fucking Dorothy waved my old medical records under her nose. IGH paid all my bills. Kelt was my doctor. I guess they induced the coma, which tracks, cause I heal almost everything in days— so they could biopsy every damned organ in my body three or four times over. God knows what kind of creepy shit they did with it. I guess that's what she was trying to find out."

In stark contrast to her feelings about the accident, her feelings about the rest are sort of detached; like she's having trouble making it real for herself. Which…she might be. It was a long time ago, and she slept through all of it.

—-

Matt's useless eyelids snap shut, pained, when she vents about the real culprit and beneficiary in her family's murder. "Jess," he says, "you were just a kid. You couldn't know. It was an accident. And I don't think anyone on the planet would say you profited from any of it." And he says it, naturally, without any hint of how the same could be said a thousand-fold right back to him over his old wounds. It's always easier to encourage self-forgiveness than to practice it.

He draws in a breath and opens his sightless brown eyes once again. "Probably lots of creepy shit, and you weren't the first, and you weren't the last," Matt says with quiet fervor. "The company's been bought — though there's opportunity to bring the people at the top to justice, I hope. It's the buyers of the company I'm focused on right now." He pauses, exhales, knowing the next question has weight to it. "Trish already has a target on her back because of what she did at Kelt's, and plenty of motive to keep pushing all this forward." He visibly wrestles with the question internally for a moment before giving it voice: "I can try to to convince her to back off — which might or might not save her further trouble — or," his palms open, "Knowing she's likely to pursue this no matter what, I can enlist her wearing my other hat, and do all that I can to protect her."

He doesn't say it, but it's clear enough from the look he levels at her that he leaves that decision in her hands.

—-

She swallows hard when he comforts her a second time this evening, and takes another deep breath. It's one of those things that is sometimes put to rest and sometimes, like a zombie, claws itself back up out of her heart, stomping around and ripping at her mind. She doesn't refute him, certainly; she listens to him. Unaware of his own guilt over parental deaths, she hardly calls him on the double standard, but really…it's one she's familiar with. She had no trouble telling Trish Kelt wasn't her fault even as she simultaneously blames herself for bodies hitting the ground on her own investigations.

But on the matter of her sister's budding new career options, she doesn't answer right away. He visibly wrestles with the question. She sort of goes still, quiet, wrestling internally with this question which has, in truth, come up before. For a moment it's like everything in her just shuts down while she has that internal battle.

In the end, though, she knows. She can't force her sister to stand behind her any longer.

Now she just has to give voice to this.

"There is nobody on this earth," she says at last, "that I would trust to see my sister through this safely while letting her grow into the person she is trying to become than you."

Her words radiate with quiet conviction, her heartbeat with utter truth. He does have this much trust out of her, this woman who trusts so very few. Implicit trust doesn't even begin to cover it.

She chuffs a little. "I wouldn't even trust myself that much, because the truth is, I can't do it. I can't be that person for her, because all I want to do is protect her, and that will fuck her up, cripple her confidence in ways that might get her killed later instead of helping her become a person who can survive without me. So if you want to, then…you have my blessing and even my thanks. I already extracted a promise from her that she wouldn't do anything without back up from someone, and gave her just about every number I had to make sure she would, but…this is…better, I think. I even told her very firmly this was your investigation and she had to try not to get into your way. Easier still for her to avoid that with you actively directing her."

She scrubs her fingers through her hair until it's a right mess, because while she trusts, she also fears. "I'd say it's her choice, not mine, but let's face it, we both know what she's going to say."

—-

Matt's chin dips in deference and appreciation when he realizes she's giving him her blessing to not just protect or direct Trish in some mission against an evil corporation, but shepherd her into whatever it is she's becoming. He hasn't brought up her telekenetic powers because he isn't sure how much Trish has told Jessica, and he is — again — wary about betraying the confidences of others. But it does inform his decision to approach Trish again. Not just because of what she can do — but because of the false confidence 'having power' can instill in people who are all too often extremely vulnerable outside of those powers.

See: One man who has been beaten black and blue, stabbed, and nearly crushed to death by what looked at the time like a teenage girl.

"I wouldn't ask if I didn't think it would make things less dangerous in the long run," Matt says quietly and appreciatively, knowing something about people with superpowers hungry to make a difference. "I'll tell her that you and I talked then, and keep you in the loop about things. I'll stick with her in the field — won't let her out of my sight."

His head cants ever so slightly to the right. "And your stuff? The Germany stuff? All handled, but you're still going a mile a minute, I bet."

—-

Germany does not produce anything triumphant in her emotions. "Germany, yeah. The fucking moon turned to blood, so on balance I guess it was good we were there. I think the Cult of the Cold Flame isn't going to be a problem for awhile. Saw the asshole who attacked you back in January. I said hello. With my foot." Despite the levity of the words, the tone is a bit off. Her shoulders dip, her head dips. She's sitting here telling him that they stopped something terrible, but there is no pride in her words.

If anything, everything about Germany leaves her resigned, makes the beat of her heart and the churn of her stomach uneasy, leaves her wrestling with something deep and serious.

But he offers a fine transition to get off the subject, too.

"Yeah. Going a mile a minute. Though I'm taking a vacation day tomorrow, I picked up a simple little security gig at some science fair in Princeton. Just something simple to do, should be a nice, boring day."

Yeah, she's the last person to advise anyone on picking hobbies, because this is her idea of relaxing. "Haven't even touched our iDol case yet, though I'm bringing the drives to Red later this week. The Stark case is just an ever-expanding clusterfuck that I don't understand for shit. Oh…here."

She pulls out her phone. First, as promised, she texts Zatanna's phone number. Second, though, she texts a login URL, a login number (13550, basically his street number and address smushed together), and a temporary password.

"I had Cindy digitize all the files," she explains. "Now they're fully searchable. You'll find you don't have access to just one of my cases. It's a cold one, it's hers, and it took me 5 months to get her to trust me enough to give a single name. I don't think it's likely to bite you in the ass though. The database offers you the ability to add information if you wish too, so if you come across something you think I should know, please just plug it in. You can, if you want, use it to set up an IGH file for you and Trish to work on simultaneously, or so I can add stuff if I come across it, she has a login too. There will be others in the system, everyone's assigned by number so that everyone can maintain their privacy. Except me, cause I give no fucks. I'm the only one who knows which people correspond to which numbers. A little more efficient then you having to stop by Alias every time you wanna know what might sideswipe you."

—-

Oddly, Matt hopes against hope Jess kicked in the face the cultist from Sal's rather than the alleyway. For nearly six month snow he has worried he killed the former when he punched him in the throat, at the risk of his immortal soul. To know that he survived — even if likely to only be killed by Constantine's crew — would take a load off his overburdened shoulders.

But he still won't ask, and instead will hear the buzzing register of his own received text and listen to Jessica's description of the new system she's putting into place. Jesus, I wonder what Kinsey would have to say about this, Matt says to the idea of a single database and storehouse for all this information — right before he resolves not to tell her a thing about it. "Thanks," the lawyer says with a brief flicker of a smile. "It's helpful to have all this for my own — work. Let me know how the talk with your hacker goes. I'm around for follow-up. Even if your cultists are gone, those Silicon valley demonologists are around and in need of a good beating. Just say where and when."

—-

Jess isn't worried about her immortal soul, pretty sure, as she is, where it's going. But…neither is she blase about the fact that cultists died. Whether by her hand or not— and she has no idea— she was part of the crew that killed them, which…makes her responsible, period. And she has found she could do without a repeat performance, no matter how much good it might have arguably done.

(As for the database, ironically Jess had given some thought to what Kinsey would say about it. Kinsey is not actually one of the people on the database, both for the purposes of further concealing her very existence and because, well. Kinsey can probably get into the damn thing if she wants in anyway, and without any actual login information to boot.)

But the truth is it's probably more secure than leaving it all in a file cabinet in a business that gets broken into at least four times a month. Sooner or later Jess rather thinks her luck is going to run out, and it's not going to be a friend or a client she finds waiting for her when she comes home to discover yet another breach. Now the paper copies can just all sit in her STUFF app. It's the paper she likes working with.

Mention of 'her hacker' makes her start, because that's how she thinks of She Who Must Not Be Named, though admittedly she might have just burned that bridge to little more than a collection of sticks, just by introducing Kinsey to the wrong robot.

It takes her a moment to realize he's talking about Red. The sudden start calms.

"I will," she promises. "You'll be the first to know."

She tap-taps his desk a little. "I'm about to get out your hair, I think," she says, wearily, if warmly. "You need me to go handle any process service for you or anything like that?" She gestures to the mountain of work he's got, adding, "The normal stuff keeps right on coming too, after all."

—-

Safe to say that Matthew Murdock observes at least the outline of those shadows that linger over the Germany trip — and that for the first time, she can be safely assured that he notices it, both from the prior revelation of his talents and the thoughtful downward tick of dark eyes suddenly obscured by twin fans of lash. He resolves to ask her about it soon — and will likely have cause to even sooner than he thinks, given the stormclouds that gather beyond even his formidable powers of perception.

But not today, when he's rushing to get done with his day-to-day and refocus on his sprawling, increasingly strange second-life. His smile, tired but fond, could be a mirror of her own. "Nah," he says with a shrug. "No subpoenas this week. Nice of you to offer — but today's just an act of will as much as anything." He pushes himself to a rise. "Next time I'll drop by your shop, and breakfast and coffee are on me, deal?"

—-

Jessica rises as well, sticking her phone back into her pocket.

She catches the smile, and it warms her, brings her serotonin and dopamine spiralling back upward, chasing the shadows and the cold away, at least for a little while. He offers to bring breakfast next time, and she lets out a soft chuff of appreciation. "Deal," she says. "No way I'd turn that down. See you around, Matt."

And then there she goes…a clip clip clop down the hall, and a stomp stomp thump down the stairs, her heartbeat soon blending into the ebb and flow of the thousands of other lives going about their business on even just the single slice of his Hell's Kitchen city block.

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