Professional Opinions

June 15, 2017:

Matt Murdock preps Agent Peggy Carter and talks time travel, hearsay, and his honest opinion on Bucky Barnes' chances of prevailing at trial.

Law Offices of Nelson & Murdock

A modest law office in Hell's Kitchen.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Last night's downpour has yielded to an unseasonably cool and pleasant June afternoon in Hell's Kitchen, New York. The cross-street on which the law offices of Nelson & Murdock are perched is busy, not not unreasonably so. Most of the chaos that engulfed the corner following those mad days following the arraignment has subsided with time: the camera crews have fallen away, the gawkers and social media mavens have stopped with their selfies, and only a few dogged paparazzi and interns for the major news outlets are skulking about the bright and busy thoroughfare.

It allows visitors to make their way unobstructed into the ramshackle office building, the rickety elevator, the dingy third-floor hallway, and into the clean but exceedingly modest office space of the young lawyers foolish enough to take up the case of James Buchanan Barnes.

And one of them is there waiting, playing the attentive and gracious host despite his obvious (and now, thanks to the media, famous) handicap. The young lawyer, fresh-faced despite his stubble, offers a brief but eminently courteous smile when he hears the hinge of the office's front door swing its way open. He'll even extend an anticipatory hand. "Agent Carter, I presume."

Peggy Carter, despite her inescapable and - to her - inexplicable fame in the world of SHIELD, remains a relatively unknown woman to those outside the community. And to those that are not SHIELD and might know her name or face would never expect a woman in her late twenties to approach the Hell's Kitchen building known to house Nelson & Murdock. That is to say that when Peggy makes her way through the doors, dressed in a professional dark blue pantsuit and a red scarf about her head to catch any stray drops of water left over from the storm the night before, they pay her little attention to her other than perhaps the rude once-over to which certain men feel entitled.

Through the hallways, the creaky elevator and down the worn carpet, Peggy makes her way with determination. She is unsure of what this Matthew Murdock will know about her or what he might expect. There are two Peggy Carters in 2017. One suffers from Alzheimers and is in a Virginia Nursing Home. This one traveled through time to present. Who is to say which is the 'real' Peggy Carter.

Pushing through the front door, she meets the man she's seen in the papers and on TV that is defending her friend. The door shuts behind her and she reaches out to take his. "Quite correct. Good afternoon, Mr. Murdock. First of all, I wish to thank you for agreeing to take this case. I know that it is certainly not an easy one."

The navy-suited, crimson-shaded twenty-something accepts Peggy's offered hand and gives it a brief, brisk shake — and seems unsurprised by the lack of fragility, tremor, or wrinkled skin one might expect from a nonagenarian. A little of his prior welcoming smile returns briefly when she expresses her gratitude. "My partner and I firmly believe that everyone accused is entitled to a strong defense." A beat, and then a dry: "Especially the innocent. Thank you for taking the time to drop by and answer a few questions. I'm sure you've got a lot on your plate."

Introductions made, Matt gestures in the rough direction of the doorway to her left. "Please, step into my office. Can I get you anything? Coffee? Water? We have some pastries leftover from the morning if you're hungry."

Pulling the red scarf from her hair, Peggy tucks it into her purse and takes a practiced look about the place. She can get a general scene of a person and a business from how things are set up and what is taken clean and dirty. It speaks to a person - or multiple peoples' - psyche to see what is important, what they think is the defining characteristic to clients. The cramped and cared for offices gives only a few glimpses into the lives of Nelson and Murdock.

"That is the letter of the law, however many do not follow it quite as vigorously. Or agree to something that could be so damaging to a burgeoning law practice as this." Of course, if they win it could make them. The thought is left hanging, but unsaid. "I'm fine, thank you," she tells him at the offer of coffee, water or food. "Of course, anything that might help." There's a pause, as if something she might want to say is left out.

Instead, she asks, "Do you truly believe him innocent?" It might - to a lawyer and to Matt in particular - sound like a baited question. It is. Peggy is curious as to why he would take on this case, why he believes Bucky innocent when many would find it far more complicated a matter.

"And here I thought I was the one who was supposed to be asking questions," Matt rejoins wryly as he makes his way through the doorframe and into his own office, a smaller space dominated by a large and curiously uncluttered desk. He finds touchpoints on his way — here the door with his right hand's fingertips, there one of the guest chairs with his left, and then the front corner, and around and around the path takes him until he's at his leather-cushioned seat behind the desk.

He'll wait for her — wait to hear the creak of furniture joints and the give of the cushion — before actually claiming the seat his hand rests upon. And in the mean time, he will answer her question. "Sergeant Barnes came highly recommended by people whose judgment and character I trust," he says in his quiet-voiced and deliberative cadence. "But beyond that? I've had the opportunity to review the evidence, including the Brady evidence provided by the prosecution. I have a sense of what — what Barnes went through. What was done to him. Most people think of themselves and their identities as fixed and unchangeable." Three heartbeats, and then the blind man offers a softer: "And some of us? Life has taught to know better."

He clears his throat and offers a flicker of a smile. "You, of course, knew Sergeant Barnes before he ever was the Winter Soldier. Right?"

"From what I have been able to glean from you, Mr. Murdock, you do your research. And from that I can assume you would know I would have quite a few questions." Peggy's tone is clearly wry. Perhaps its the nature of the British accent, or perhaps that's just her personality. Matt - with his natural detection skills - would gather this to be general banter, a way a spy gets to know another person's reactions to knowledge and facts to get a baseline.

It does not take long for Peggy to settle into her chair. She watches Matt as he finds his way behind his desk. In fact, she also waits until he's settled before she starts to both ask and answer questions. "You mean Jessica Jones?" The question is still a question, but the tone belies the idea that she believes herself to be correct. She knows that Jessica trusts Murdock. And while she also trusts Jessica, well, she has to find things out for herself.

Though she does not know that Matt can generally act has his own lie detector, she has her own methods to know if someone is lying or attempting to deceive her. Matt reads sincere. "I know the feeling," she tells Matt, her voice suddenly becoming a little less clipped, more natural.

The question is met with a nod, even though she knows he can't see it. That's just her natural reaction. "I did, yes. I met Sergeant Sergeant Barnes during the War." There's a pause. "You know, I've been called to be a witness to the prosecution. It seems pointless to me as they must know I will be a hostile witness."

Matt cracks a smile at Peggy's quip on questions, and when she has one more for him — a point-blank one on whether it's that common denominator of Jessica Jones who vouched for Bucky — he offers a forthright and unruffled: "That's right." And then says nothing further, instead easing into his chair and laying out one hand palm-down on the table. They're big hands for a middling-framed man, fingers calloused and knuckles un-evened by their impact against hard surfaces.

Then the woman unstuck in time is sympathizing with the sentiment of life teaching you that nothing is certain or set — not even, perhaps, yourself. And the blind lawyer smiles briefly, slightly, but genuinely in commiseration.

And then it's to business, as Peggy puzzles over U.S.A. Archer's legal strategy. She says it seems pointless, and Matt's eyebrows rise and fall above the panes of his sunglasses in the semblance of a shrug. He knows better than to underestimate the man, and so he says: "Even if you're hostile, you'll be under oath. Perhaps he's banking on you to tell the truth of what you saw that day, on the street, when Mr. Delloway was killed. And that the jury will accept the testimony of one of Bucky Barnes' oldest friends and supporters freely putting him at the scene as damning…"

his head tilts, his smile twists wry, and his voice takes a turn for the self-deprecating: "…while dismissing all the mind control nonsense. It's not a bad strategy, if that's in fact what he plans."

"Then, we have something in common," Peggy tells Matt about their mutual trust and friendship that is placed in Jessica Jones. There is, as far as she is concerned, nothing else that needs to be stated on the subject. If there is a mutual respect there, she acknowledges it. From what she can see so far, she trusts both Jessica's judgement and her own gut instinct about Matt Murdock.

The smile of commiseration is met with a raised eyebrow that she knows he can't see. However, there is another smile there, too. "Perhaps. I could also plead the fifth, I believe, as I shot James Barnes in his side which might have been a mortal wound. That could be considered incriminating." Peggy tells Matt. "Of course, I could also speak of the fact that I fought a war with James Barnes and the man who killed Mr. Delloway did not recognize me. Even without mind control, perhaps I could shed some confusion into the mix."

As for strategy, she frowns, debates. "I must ask," she says after a bit of self wrestling. "I have a unique situation, which I am not sure that you know about or not. However, how would judge or jury know that I am the properly deposed Peggy Carter?"

Matt's head dips downward and his smile flashes full and white-toothed when she suggests taking the 5th over Barnes' shooting. "That's pretty creative," he says in tones equal parts amusement and apology. "But when it comes to the 5th Amendment, it's really up to the discretion of the judge — not just the witness — as to what answers might incriminate. And you were, I assume, a duly deputized agent of SHIELD acting in the defense of others. I imagine the judge would compel you no matter what."

The rest of her solutions, though? That set the wheels of Matt Murdock's mind turning — right up until her outwardly obvious internal debate. "Why don't you tell me about your unique situation," he suggests with a spread of his hands, a quizzical furrow of his brow. "Are you… not… who you say you are, Agent Carter?"

"I am, yes." Peggy Carter is a fully deputized member of SHIELD. She, in fact, is a founding member of the the organization, though the time travel aspect makes things a little more interesting.

When her idea about pleading the fifth is shot down, she sighs and shrugs her shoulders. It was a long shot anyway and she was just trying to get a gauge on what was possible and what wasn't.

AS for the unique situation, Peggy raises an eyebrow. "Well, this is something, depending on legal documents is about to become public knowledge, but there are two Peggy Carters today that are biologically - to my knowledge - and perhaps even legally the same person."

There's a sigh and a shake of her head. "I am Margaret Elizabeth Carter. I am exactly who I say I am. However, due a bit of weird science, there is another woman who is in her nineties that is also Margaret Elizabeth Carter with the same memories to a certain point, the same finger prints. I am, to put it kindly, that weird science."

If Matt seems surprised by this revelation that Peggy Carter is unstuck in time, he doesn't show it. His crimson lenses wink and glitter, reflecting the low light of the room. "I see," says the youngish attorney softly, with a downward bend of his lips. Two heartbeats pass, and then he continues on, deliberative and arch at once: "Well, look. This jury is going to have to swallow a lot — multiple cryogenic freezes, mind control, and magic books that could destroy, or at least radically reshape, the world as we know it. What's a little time travel?"

One dark eyebrow lifts over the rim of his sunglasses: "Besides, who the hell is going to believe a 90-year-old-woman fought off the Winter Soldier?" Fingers drum once, twice, thrice on the tabletop. "Agent Carter, there's no need to try to disqualify you, because your testimony — that you knew James Barnes well, but that in the moment of your first encounter, he did not recognize you at all — is more valuable to me than your testimony that may have shot that executive is to U.S.A. Archer. I'm not contesting the wrong the Winter Soldier's done. There's too much of a paper trail, too long a history. I'm going to do my best to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that the Bucky Barnes in that courtroom is not the same man who committed those acts." His lips twitch upward. "Which has the virtue of being the truth."

There's a pursing of lips. As she watches Matt's expression not change in her revelation, she does not respond for a few moments as well. There is quite a bit about this that will need to be explained to a jury. It's not an easy position for the defense. This is simply a nightmare case for the defense any way its sliced.

"The way people talk about Agent Peggy Carter, Founder of SHIELD…?" There's not exactly a bitterness in her voice there so much as a bewilderment. Her own history that she did not live through has quite a veneer of secrecy to which she still does not have access.

As for how he's attempting to use her as a witness, she raises an eyebrow. "As I have said before, I am sure the prosecution knows exactly how you mean to use my testimony. The truth is always a good starting point, but you and I both know that the truth is not always what wins. The fact of the matter is that people are going to be scared of James and the threat he poses to both the United States and to their own families. It's easier for a jury to be safe rather than sorry and lock him up and believe the worst in him."

She sighs, glancing to the side, feeling ashamed that she was hoping the testimony of the elder Peggy Carter would do more than she could. "I am not exactly a sympathetic witness, Mr. Murdock. The woman in that bed? She also knows James Barnes. I know she does and would. And she would be far more sympathetic a witness. I believe a jury would take one look at me and believe me to be a woman holding back secrets." Which, of course, she most likely is.

"I guess I could call her up while Archer calls you up, and we could really turn the jury's head," Matt says of Peggy Carter the elder, his smile wry and wan. It's a joke, really — a momentary sidestep of the serious issues that she raises. He brings a hand around to rub the back of his neck, where white oxford-cloth-collar meets nape, and finally says:

"I'm not under any illusions that the truth will prevail," Murdock says, a little wistfully. Would that it were so. "The jury will respond to the more powerful narrative. Now, fear is powerful, for sure. But there are other stories people respond to as well."

A beat, and then: "Anyway, it's moot. Archer's calling you, he's not going to accept a nonagenarian version of you in your place. So unless you have sudden plans to leave the country, you are testifying and we must make the best of it."

Then the lawyer is leaning back in his chair, lacing his hands at his abdomen, just over his solid-blue tie. "But while we're on the subject of secrets," Matt suggests, and his voice would seem almost casual if it weren't for the deliberative cadence that carries each word, "I'm in need of a few. Barnes tells me SHIELD is in possession of all the documentation related to the Winter Soldier program that was taken from Ozone Park. That's exculpatory evidence. The kind that makes a difference between James going free and getting shot full of lethal injection. How do I get my hands on them?"

As Matt somewhat acquiesces to some of her admittedly thin and clearly manufactured hope that another Peggy Carter would take the stand instead of her, she just gives a smirk. "I am not sure I tell a good story," she tells him very directly.

It's moot. She knew it was, but she had to, at least, explore the option. The fact that she is even bringing up the possibility of her putting Older Peggy on the stand rather than herself should show how little faith she had in the idea. Should she think it a game changer, she would have simply done it without any indication to either counsel. It's as if she wanted Matt to talk her out of it.

"We have quite a bit of documents related to the program, yes," she tells him. There's a raised eyebrow. "Those were claimed in an incredibly classified mission. I am…not sure if I can disclose them to either the defense or the prosecution, as much as I would like to do so." There's a bit of a grimace. "You'd need to go through SHIELD protocol and their lawyers. Most of them are under my authority, but that does not make it readily available to outside council, no matter the case. I will attempt to do my best to release them to your firm. I will say that should I be asked about them I will answer as truthfully as I am allowed. I will not take the fifth about his torture."

"They say practice makes perfect, Agent Carter," Matt quips back of telling stories, as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth.

But then they're veering into the direction he steered them, and she's throwing up the same roadblocks he'd found in the self-same office with another ostensible agent of (or something of) SHIELD. Steve Rogers, with all his 'aw shucks' persona and personal heroism, declined to give an accounting of Bucky Barnes in this room, in a move that rankled the Hell's Kitchen attorney.

She is certainly more forthcoming, and even apologetic about the secrecy stifling this very public trial, but although he nods in appreciation when she says she'll tell as much of the truth as she can on the stand, her ultimate answer is still met with a brief, close-lipped smile and a whiff of barely contained exasperation.

"I appreciate all that," he says, which is what you say when you have no patience at all for the points raised, "And I'm going through all the proper protocols and channels. Your office should have received a subpoena yesterday, actually."

He lets out a breath that flares the nostrils of his ever-so-slightly beaked nose before angling those red-tinted lenses her way. "But you must know that this case hinges on explaining to twelve people what was done to Bucky Barnes, and why, and how he escaped it. I meant what I said about narratives, Agent Carter. In a trial, whoever tells the better story wins. If I'm made to tell one full of holes, then Bucky Barnes is a dead man — and no amount of legal tricks can save him."

A flicker of a smile. "So, with those stakes? Whatever you can do would be grand."

"I am sure. However, a subpoena has quite a ripple effect when it involves an agency such as SHIELD. It is not quite the same requesting documents of a regular business." Her tone is crisp - incredibly British as she says it. "Releasing those documents are not up to me. Those are in the hands of SHIELD and they will either with hold or release them to you depending on how they deem this trail to world security." The way she says this is incredibly professional, entirely what one might expect of not only an Agent of SHIELD, but the Founder.

There is a pause a shake of her head - again that she knows he cannot see. The original offer has slipped by. She will be blunter. "You misunderstand me, Mr. Murdock." The tone is pointed now. All her words are clipped. "I have read every single document that SHIELD has requisitioned from the raid on Hydra in our rescue of Jane Foster and what we believe was done to Sergeant Barnes. I have read all of it." She looks up at him. Though he cannot see her eyes, cannot see her expression, her tone will hopefully convey what it is she will give him. "I have a fantastic memory and I will not plead the fifth in what I have read or in what I have seen." And her introduction of those certain elements into the case should require them to be produced. What she is offering is something that may have serious repercussions for her in her community and with SHIELD. However, she says with conviction, "If you ask me what was done to Sergeant Barnes? I can answer. And I will."

Peggy spells out her thinking for him, offers to relay her understanding of all those gathered documents, and Matt pauses, mouth open, as if he is about to offer some rejoinder. Then it shuts, as he decides to follow the time-honored tradition of never looking a gift horse in the mouth. "In the United States," he offers of the line of questioning she proposes, "that would be ordinarily considered hearsay. But there are one or two exceptions to the rule that might cover it." Perhaps. And besides, this avenue beats rattling the cages of a labyrinthine and secretive security agency.

And besides, in a media-rich trial, there are worlds beyond the rule of law. The mere utterance by a credible source that evidence of the Winter Soldier program exists will create public pressure on SHIELD to reveal it. And, naturally, private backlash against Peggy Carter for making that fact public. He's far from unmindful of that possibility — what this will cost her. But here, now, he's a lawyer with a client — and a relentless advocate for his client.

And so Matt leans forward in his chair, planting his elbows on either side of his desk. "So, good," he says, smiling slightly. "Then consider this me asking. Where do you want to start, Agent Carter?"

Peggy knows all of these things. Media-rich trials are not a sudden invention of the 21st century. She has studied and realizes exactly what is at stake and what she is offering. It does not sound like she cares. In fact, she was wondering if Matt would take this gift horse and look it in the mouth or if he would run with it. His answer is met with a bit of a smirk, a lighter tone in her response as they continue forward. For her, a test was put forward and Matt answered it. Whether he passed or not? It's hard to tell with a woman like Peggy Carter. Her warmth is either an indication that she now trusts him or that she now believes that she has the upper hand. Either is incredibly possible.

"Yes. It might be hearsay. However, in order for them to refute it, would they not require evidence?" An eyebrow is raised. "I have witnessed quite a bit that is not hearsay and of which I can be a personal witness."

The question - which is really the most rational one - is met with a smile. Where should they begin? "I would prefer we start with the questions that will not get me disavowed: how I knew James Barnes and why I know him to not be the Winter Soldier. However, should we need to bring out these more pointed facts, I will do so without regret."

Peggy asks a question — would the introduction of hearsay and a challenge to it — not require the court to compel the original evidence. Matt seems less than sanguine on that strategy: "It depends," he says, ever the lawyer's favorite answer. But at least he won't stop there: "But even if the judge ruled against us, it would create political pressure on SHIELD to cough it up. Still, whatever you can testify to first-hand is our most likely bet for overcoming Archer's objections."

But all of that nitpicking over the intricacies of the rules of evidence is for the moment set aside as they address the matter at hand: what does Peggy Carter actually know. Murdock shares her smile: brief, close-lipped, and understanding of her situation if not quite apologetic. "Yeah, good a place to start as any. You knew James even before his fall, after all. Like Captain Rogers."

As Matt goes over his understanding of the law and what they might be able to compel SHIELD to turn over should it be necessary, Peggy listens and nods. While she knows some international law - a necessity to start SHIELD - her knowledge is also decades old and not exactly extensive. "I see," she tells him. And she does. It's clear that she is willing to testify to what she has seen and heard, with or without clearance.

"Yes, I met James Barnes shortly before Captain Rogers became Captain Rogers officially. After much of the 107th Infantry Division was killed or captured by Hydra, Captain Rogers learned that Sergeant Barnes was captured and insisted on a single man rescue mission. Realizing that he was determined and that he would almost certainly get himself killed if he attempted it alone, I asked Howard Stark to pilot him behind enemy lines, which he did. Steve rescued many of the prisoners held by Hydra and due to his heroism, he was given a command. James Barnes was amongst those he chose for the elite combat unit that became known as the Howling Commandos. I only knew him peripherally during that time. As an intelligence officer that relayed information from both missions and the London base, Sergeant Barnes and I worked together often and we became friends. I was saddened to learn of what I believed to be his death."

Taking a breath, she continues, "It was not until a few months ago that I had any interactions with the entity Winter Soldier. We fought and in the melee, his mask was knocked off and I saw that my opponent looked remarkably like Sergeant Barnes. However, he had absolutely no recognition of me. I referred to him by name and he had absolutely no recognition as to who Sergeant James Barnes or Captain Steve Rogers were."

Matt listens to her outline her relationship — cordial, collegial even — with James Barnes amid the tumult of World War II. Her sadness over his death, her surprise over finding his likeness decades later. "This fight with the Winter Soldier," Matt says, mirroring her characterization of the man she struggled with, "You encountered him minutes after someone shot Shane Delloway. The Winter Soldier appeared on the street, poised to finish the job, yes?"

The lawyer is a passionate advocate for Barnes, but that requires playing Devil's Advocate with his witnesses. "Surely intelligence officers have been known to try to keep cover in public even after they've been 'made', right?" Matt asks musingly. "Couldn't he have just been doing the same? What made you so sure he really didn't know you there?"

"I did, yes." Peggy nods her head, crossing her hands over her knees. She looks very much like she might on the stand: straight backed, collected. "He seemed a man closing in to finish a job when I got in his way. I believe his previous vantage point became disadvantageous." After a moment to collect her thoughts, she answers his second question. "A spy would attempt to keep their cover, yes. However, there is a difference between a man attempting to cover his identity and simply not knowing it." She waits a beat to make an emphasis. "I am well trained in reading people, it's the life and death in the life of a spy: knowing who is trustworthy, who might be pushed for information, who is scared. The Winter Soldier did not know who I was and he did not like that he did not know who I was."

"You mean the encounter seemed to cause confusion in him," Matt says quietly. He leans back in his chair and draws a breath that flares the nostrils of his beak of a nose. He seems to accept her answer on how she knew it was genuine confusion instead of something counterfeit, instead opting to follow the trail where it leads. "My understanding, Agent Carter, is that an attempt was made to engage with him. Either to confront him and draw back memories of who he was, or to capture him and perhaps achieve the same result. And that it was undertaken not just by you and Captain Rogers, but by — well. Let's call them a motely crew."

He cants his head. "How did all of that fare?"

Unable to help herself, Peggy gives Matt a smile. She truly feels as if she is on the stand now as he asks his questions, picks apart her statements. While she might have had doubts about him before this - even with Jessica's impeccable recommendation - it seems her reservations about him are starting to fall away.

"At first I was not sure if it truly was Sergeant Barnes' face I saw, you understand. However, as I had come to realize due to multiple other circumstances, it seems as if death has a tenuous grip on many." There is a bit of a smirk there, but she continues, expression schooled. "I brought up my observations to Captain Rogers and we - along with others - attempted to locate the man we knew as the Winter Soldier. The next time we met, it seemed as if he had recovered some of his memory. He knew both me and Steve on sight. He was worried about both our and his own safety."

Shifting her legs, she rests her hands on her knees again. "Those fears seems substantiated, as after we met him the second time, a sniper attempted to shoot him with a tacking device. After turning it over to SHIELD, it was traced back to a facility that had known Hydra ties. In the confusion, he escaped. The next time I saw him, he had been what I know now to be reconditioned."

Matt's keeps his smile slight, schools his voice to cool affability, but he's impressed as she is. She worries that she'll come off as a woman with things to hide, but in this carnival of witches, mad scientists, deeply damaged former-superheroes, and… well, Captain America, her professionalism and poise is almost refreshing. It might be to what's sure to be an increasingly bewildered jury as well. At least she's open about being a spy, and all that requires.

"Seemed concerned," Matt asks, his brow wrinkling above his crimson-shaded lenses in what must be mock confusion rather than the genuine article. He's been living inside Bucky Barnes' head for six weeks now, and almost certainly knows more than he lets on. But he wants to hear her tell it. "About threat from his handlers, I assume. How did you proceed?"

"Yes. He kept telling us that it was not safe to be near him. The shot only confirmed his suspicions." Peggy is careful not to cross her arms, careful to keep her body language open. She knows quite a lot about appearing open to other people - how to look receptive and she does that while sitting much like the military woman that she is.

"After he disappeared, we attempted to find him again, however he contacted Captain Rogers for a meet after we found that Dr. Foster had gone missing. I insisted on following in the shadows to ensure his safety, as I believed Sergeant Barnes' assertions that it was not safe." Frowning, she adds, "I will also say now, so that it does not come up as a surprise during cross, that I did not trust him at that time. I believed him to be leading Captain Rogers into a trap for Hydra capture.

"However, the man Steve met that night was a man who had his memories, but he was not exactly Sergeant Barnes. His body language was off, he was attempting to get Captain Rogers to join Hydra, which I know Sergeant Barnes would never do."

Of all the dangers and pitfalls posed by this case, the scenario she outlines is among the worst. Matt Murdock's task is simple: to tell a tale of redemption. A good man abused and tortured and misshapen into something he's not, but eventually redeemed by his brother in all but blood and name, a good woman, and some friends he didn't even know yet. The complications found in the truth of it all — Bucky's back and forth, halting awakening, Hydra's ultimately misguided attempt to make use of it and co-opt Bucky's personality for its own purposes — all of it is poisonous to that simple, sweet narrative of up, down, and up again.

But, to fashion a story that will hold steady despite Archer's best efforts to knock it down, Mat must know the full and ugly truth, along with what everyone involved made of it at the time.

"Pretty remarkable that the Winter Soldier, no matter what was done to him, thought he could win Captain Rogers over," Matt offers with a lift of his chin. "But what happened then?"

"I believe that was an attempt on the programming to reconcile James Barnes with the Winter Soldier," Peggy tells Matt. It's unsure if this is testimony or just her response to him. "Steve is an important an necessary friend to Sergeant Barnes. If Hydra - or the Winter Soldier - could bring Steve into the fold, it's possible he would never have strayed."

Moving back on point, though, she says, "Obviously, Captain Rogers turned the Winter Soldier down on his offer to join Hydra. The Winter Soldier departed. The next time I saw him was when SHIELD and another small group raided a Hydra base to rescue Dr. Foster. During that battle, Sergeant Barnes broke through his programming and helped us put a stop to the attacks. They were attempting to brainwash Dr. Foster using similar techniques as to what they used with Sergeant Barnes. I believe Sergeant Barnes killed the man torturing Jane." More bad news for Matt in his defense of James Barnes. But, much like you should tell your doctor all your bad habits, she believes that Matt should know everything beforehand, so he should not be surprised during court. He has earned that level of trust to her.

Peggy clips through the brave storming of Ozone Park, the harrowing battle that followed, and the eventual rescue of Jane Foster by way of what was arguably murder. The last part — the prospect of Bucky Barnes freed from his programming and still murdering someone — should put the fear of God into Matt. Even if the jury buys his brainwashing defense, this killing arguably came after Bucky had regained his right mind. Chalk it up to a crime in the heat of passion and it's still a manslaughter charge that will put Barnes away for his full sentence. There's no early release for good behavior when Wakanda and half a dozen nations of the world are breathing down America's neck.

And yet? It's not there where Matt focuses his immediate attention. He does lean forward, resting his elbows on the edge of his desk and linking his fingers together as he regards the agent of SHIELD intently — almost as if he were, you know. Actually looking at her. "Let's back up," Matt says with a cant to his head. "During the battle, Sergeant Barnes broke through the programming that had been driving him for seventy years," he murmurs with sudden intensity. "What led to it? What did it look like?"

This part is difficult, as it's not just her as an observer: she was there, she has her own thoughts and repressed emotions about it. It's - most likely - why she danced over it. There's a frown. Much of her testimony, it seems, is adding Matt's difficulties to help defend Barnes. This is also why she is so willing to add more to her testimony to try and prove that James is a man worth saving, that should not be put behind bars despite the actions many might pin to him.

"It was…this is all hard for testimony, you understand, Mr. Murdock. There was a vision we were placed into, a perfect Hydra world. They attempted to give us what they thought we wanted to make us placated. It was…convincing. What I do remember, though, is that in the midst of that, the Winter Soldier attempted to shoot Captain Rogers in the chest. But, at the last minute, he refused. He recognized Steve and pulled back. He wanted to help Jane. We all returned to ourselves and I saw that Sergeant Barnes was more like himself, but then he disappeared. When I saw him again, he had murdered the man who was torturing Dr. Foster."

This is not as helpful as she would wish to be and she gives Matt an apologetic look. "I know this is…not a good testimony."

Alternate Hydra worlds, Captain America nearly dying, and 21st century Nazis actually dying in ways that may complicate Bucky Barnes' life.

She apologizes for all this with a gaze Matt can't see, and to the words that follow the lawyer smiles a little, wry and self-deprecating. "You're doing great," he assures her. "I asked you here to share your truth. Better now than to be surprised." A beat, a qualification: "But maybe try saying he had killed the man, not murdered," Matt gently instructs, his only arguable piece of 'witness coaching' so far. "A murder is an unlawful killing, and we're not there yet."

A beat, then, as Matt gathers his thoughts. "So, Jane is recovered, Hydra is beaten, Bucky… is himself, or something like it," Matt ventures almost speculatively, as if he were imagining the scene. "What happened then? You had a world-famous assassin right there. Did you arrest him? Did you bring him in from the cold? And more importantly — what did he do?"

"Yes, of course, 'killed.'" Peggy nods her head, taking the note in stride. That's far easier than the other things. "No, I did not arrest him." That is part of it. "We were all dumbstruck and also assuring Dr. Foster's health. He used his knowledge of the base to escape both our and SHIELD's arrest." However, she has had multiple contacts with him since than and has never attempted to arrest him or bring him in.

"We brought Dr. Foster back for recovery. I saw Sergeant Barnes again and he seemed like himself, or at least he did not seem like his reprogrammed self. He attempted to make amends and heal. I read and listened to all the information we retrieved from the Hydra base we infiltrated."

Matt listens not just to the words but the unsaid things between them. He could press — he seems about to press but forbears for the moment, instead sliding backwards to once more rest against the frame of his office chair. "I'd like very much to hear about what amends and healing looked like," the lawyer says, and seems to mean it.

But the way his head cants, it's almost certain that's not the part of what she said that he found most interesting. "I assume there was material in what you read and listened to that pertained to the Winter Soldier," Matt suggests. "His cultivation, his handling, his particular assignments. Yes?"

"It's hard to explain," Peggy tells Matt with a ghost of a smile. "He apologized to me. We talked about the past, he thought himself unworthy of forgiveness. I, however, did not agree with that sentiment. He cares very deeply for the people in his life: Dr. Foster, Captain Rogers. He has expressed and attempted to do right by them. Honestly, the very fact that a man who is condemned as being one of the deadliest assassins in the past sixty years was apprehended and placed in custody willingly? It means to me that he is willing to listen to the judgement of the court."

As for what she knows about the Winter Soldier? She nods, her expression become stone. "Yes. I now know quite a bit about it. The physical, mental and emotional torture that Sergeant Barnes was put under in order to turn him into the Winter Soldier was severe. By the time that I met him, they had managed to completely brainwash Sergeant Barnes into not knowing who he was other than someone with a singular mission."

He felt himself unworthy of forgiveness, she says. Matt's features are typically opaque: perfectly poker. But there's a flicker of recognition that passes over his countenance that suggests he knows too well of what she speaks — that said latent self-loathing has cropped up in the law office as much as conversations with friends. But he doesn't touch it — not openly. Not yet. "I have no doubt Sergeant Barnes could have made a run for it," Matt says instead, of her assessment on his character. "And though juries tend not to award points for not fleeing custody, it speaks to the difference between the man he was and the man he is now. Agreed."

And then she, stony-faced, intimates her knowledge of all that was done to him to hone him into the living weapon he became. "But it was more than just brainwashing, wasn't it?" Matt asks with a tilt to his head. "I mean, more than just psychological warfare, and torture — the sort of thing many POWs endure, even if not to the same extent or for the same duration." The man's brown knits: many expressions are available to his features, and the one he chooses now is incredulity. "They physically tampered with his brain. Isn't that right?"

The flicker of recognition that Matt feels for Peggy's words about Bucky's mental state is either politely ignored or completely unseen by the spy. The questions and the recollection of some of the hardest things she's had to witness certainly seem to give her a change in her demeanor. Her back straightens and her hands tighten in her lap. The question about what they physically did to him is met with a single nod.

"Yes. That is correct. They physically tampered with his brain in order to make him forget his past. Part of the brainwashing done to Sergeant Barnes involved implanting false memories as well as wiping the past through a procedure that involved extreme electroshock impulses into the brain. They would wipe all of his previous memories and then 'program' him with new - false - memories for his missions. Once the mission was completed, he was brought back and wiped once again."

Even Peggy Carter, the unflappable founder of SHIELD, tenses at the prospect of recounting all the many horrors visited on Bucky Barnes. Matt senses it, even if he can't see it, and lets out a slow exhale while spreading a single hand palm downward out on the wooden desk between them. "On the stand," he ventures in his characteristically quiet tone, "you're going to have to lay it all out in detail. The brain chip, the nanites, how they fed him new memories, and how they froze him in between his missions. It will sound like science fiction, but your demeanor and professionalism — that will help."

One bushy, chocolate eyebrow inches up. "You say the jury won't trust you because of your history and your occupation," Matt adds, his lips twitching at their corners. "My advice there? On the stand, the more you can allow yourself to feel what you feel right now, as you talk about what happened to Bucky, the more persuasive they will find you." The hand on the table draws up, waves off. "I'm not saying you need to mug, or become maudlin, or compromise your dignity. But if you are cool and collected during Archer's inquisition, but allow yourself honest expression when answering my questions about what was done to Barnes — "

A beat. "The jury will notice the contrast."

It's a delicate thing, asking someone to set up barriers and take them down, to compartmentalize and decompartmentalize. Matt is good at it because of who he is and the double-life he leads, but he knows most aren't. He'd never ask — never broach the possibility — with someone whose job didn't require something of the same.

"I was leading to it," Peggy tells Matt with a raised eyebrow. "I was under the impression that giving out too much science fiction in one long statement might be too much for a jury to understand." The tenseness in her shoulders remain as she remembers the documents she all read that dealt with Bucky's treatment over decades in the hands of Hydra. She was far more giving on the physical events that she witnessed. It seems she does not like discussing all these things that were done to her friend, especially with so much on the line. She is attempting to not seem combative, but that is also what this meeting is all about - to smooth over her answers and demeanor so that she presents herself as best as she can on the day of the trial.

Even knowing all this, she still bristles. It's hard to stop it, though she keeps it in the clutch of her hands and not verbally. As he talks about her carriage, she blinks and tilts her head slightly. "I've assumed many different characters over the course of my career, Mr. Murdock," she tells him, almost amused. "Myself but less closed off has not been one of them." After a pause, she sighs, closing her eyes to center herself. "However, I am sure I can imagine I am speaking with someone I respect and therefore will be slightly less guarded." She can try, at least.

There's a moment, and she looks back up at him with complete seriousness. "I will not discuss the machine that did this to him, however," she tells Matt. "I do not want that to be public record for someone one day to decide they would like their own personal Winter Soldier and go to numerous lengths to find it. I will discuss what was done to him - the chip the nanites, the freezing, the electroshock, the torture, but not the machine itself."

When she bristles and gives her sharp answer, Matt's eyebrows inch ever so slightly upward above the curved rims of his spectacles, while underneath crimson lenses wink with with scattershots of reflected light. "Well, we've only just started prepping, Agent Carter," the lawyer says, keeping his tone mellow and affable. "Who knows? Maybe by the day of your testimony, you won't even have to imagine." A beat, and then he offers her an answer a little less flip: "Trials are probably not unlike your operations, Agent Carter, in that they are both center on planning and presentation. I'm speaking candidly here, because I believe you and I share the same goal: helping Sergeant Barnes survive."

Of course, there are different goals too, and lines one or the other will not cross. See how Peggy draws one at mention of the machine, which has Matt pressing together his lips. "I understand and respect that," Murdock affirms with a little dip of his head. "We'll have to mention that there was some object within which Jane was imprisoned. It's integral to the story because Jane was in it when Bucky and the rest of you found her." His jaw tightens as he adds, "And, there is video we do have from the prosecutor's office of her — of some of her conditioning. That will be in evidence, but it only intimates at her confinements; my partner assures me that her face occupies almost all of the frame." Now it's his turn to display discomfort; it may be the firs time in human history that a blind man balks at a video. Regardless, his chin lifts as he adds with real, if quiet, conviction: "But no, I'd never ask you to paint a half-way reliable picture of how to create a Winter Soldier, Agent Carter. No one should be subjected to what Bucky or Jane were ever again."

At Matt's reply, Peggy gives a soft laugh she cannot help. "I did not mean to be rude, Mr. Murdock. I do respect you. I was thinking of cross examination." However, the fact that she still remains still a bit closed off speaks to how it may take her a little bit to allowing even a little bit of that wall to come down. It tends to be either all or nothing with her. "Yes, I understand," she tells him. This is, also, not a flippant answer. They are all here to help James and she will do her best to keep that on target.

"Yes, I understand," she repeats to saying that they have to say something about the machine. "I will certainly speak to the fact that Jane was found in a chair that was used to torture her. However, I will not say as to what effects it might have had on the Winter Soldier or Jane." She seems a bit relieved that Matt does not wish to push the matter any further. They both wish to save James, but the risk of letting more people know about that machine seems a risk she is not willing to take.

Unable to help herself, she asks, "I know this has little to do with prep. But, in your professional opinion, what do you think of his chances?"

Matt flashes a smile at her first clarification, his teeth glittering white and his lips parting for a silent laugh that briefly shakes his shoulders. "Fair enough," he says of respect, defense attorneys and USAs, and no more.

But then she's asking him for his professional opinion on where this trial is headed, and all of Matt's humor is gone in an instant; he's sober-miened as ever, with a thoughtful dip to his head that is his only concession to the weight and worries surrounding it. It's a moment before he answers. "Agent Carter, we are in uncharted waters, and any of the legal talking heads on cable news or Twitter are lying when they say otherwise," he says with a note of quiet apology. "He's innocent of the crimes accused, which helps, but the reasons for his innocence are outlandish and intangible. Precedent seems to help the prosecution, but there really is no precedent for this case. The facts you'll lay out — the sheer extent to what was done to him and the fact that Hydra certainly seemed to think it would shape his mind is all more powerful evidence than has ever been brought to bear in a brainwashing case before. Some hate him as a traitor, but to others he's still Captain America's best friend and sidekick."

He lets out a weary breath that suggests it's the millionth time he's mulled these particular odds. "I really wish I could give you a percentage. Any percentage! Certainty has its virtues, even if it's certainty of a bad result. most I can say is — "

a beat. The briefest of smiles. "— he has a fighting chance. Lucky for us he's a fighter, and his friends are too. Right, Agent Carter?"

As Matt lays out James' odds, Peggy listens and nods. For the first time, that more emotional response cracks through the veneer. There's clearly worry there and a fierce protectiveness over her friend in this time. "And as I said, all that I know other than what I have laid out to you about what I will not discuss is open for questioning." She worries that it will not be enough, but she will still divulge it as she can.

"A fighting chance," she repeats, tone slightly amused, but also determined. "Yes, I believe there is a reassurance in that. If anyone can make the most of those odds, it is James and those that surround him."

Unclasping her hands, Peggy smiles at Matt and nods her head. "Thank you for that, Mr. Murdock. Let's continue."

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