T2C: Final Moves

August 01, 2017:

In their final strategy meeting before closing arguments, Jane Foster, Matt Murdock and Bucky Barnes each make some big decisions.

Bucky and Jane's little house of murder

Sleepy brownstone Brooklyn.


NPCs: None.


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

It's a sunny, unseasonably mild summer morning. The city is closing in on an August weekend — prime vacation season — which means half of it has emptied out to Jersey, or upstate, or places even more remote. It thins the thronging crowds in Manhattan, and leaves comparably sleepy Brooklyn a veritable ghost town. An easy walk sans much in the way of obstacles for the blind man in a lightweight grey blazer and navy slacks who navigates down the street, a red-handled walking stick in one hand and the handles of a plain, unmarked paper bag in the other.

After weeks of all-nighters, marathon prep sessions, and grueling days of trial he's tired and running on fumes — you can see it even without seeing the circles under eyes that the red-lensed glasses obscure. It's there in the pallor of his features — no summer tan for Matt Murdock — and in the two-day stubble that covers much of his cheeks and neck. Still, he moves with purpose as he makes is careful way up the steps to the front door of the brownstone and rings the buzzer for one Dr. Jane Foster.

The door of Dr. Jane Foster is not answered so hospitably, these days, courtesy of the extremely paranoid man with whom she is sharing the space. The buzzer is never answered anymore unless Bucky has time to check to see who's waiting out there.

Once he sees it's Matt Murdock, though, the lawyer gets buzzed in right quick.
It's a short jaunt up to the apartment, fortunately for Matt — he might be a superpowered blind man, but he's still a blind man and the easier things are on him the better. The door is already opening by the time he gets up there, and though he can't see the solicitous way Bucky peers out at his transparent exhaustion with concern, he can probably detect it some other way.

Like the way Bucky sounds when he says, "Come in, take a load off."

Lost in the chaos of her bedroom, most of its little space conscripted into the tedious and borderline-impossible task of decrypting and piecing HYDRA data, Jane sits on the edge of her bed and doesn't work.

Their shared insomnia has her too, sleeplessness that layers on and on by the hour, in a strange way that has her feeling like time is dragging too-slow and yet, at the same time, losing itself too-fast through her fingers. In not so long, the decision will be made on the outcome of James's life — of her life too.

Her attention only rivets off the wall she's been staring at the last however long, and Jane picks up announcement of Murdock's visit. Not really wanting company, she fixes herself up for it anyway, and lastly makes sure she has one of her decorative scarves pulled on to hide the fresh bruising ringing her throat.

It hits Jane, half-way down the hall to the main room, that it's not as if Matt Murdock will even /see/, and the egregious error of forgetting he's blind momentarily frustrates her worse. Where the hell is her head lately?

The apartment smells of their stress, tension, and anxiety; just entering the threshold is like getting hit by a wave of two women at their psychological limit.

"Hey, Matt," Jane calls, with a momentary glance on Bucky, taking in his state. "Did anything happen?" She's already preparing for the worst.

"Hey," Matt answers back upward to the pair as he folds his walking stick and tucks the compact bundle of metal rods neatly under his arm. They take stock of him for signs of strain, and in his own way he does the same for them. Even from down the stairs he can smell the stress in the air; that faint whiff of comingled cortisol and adrenaline. He expected that; this has been a nerve-rending exercise, and now that there isn't much more to do than wait it's all the more so. There are other things he picks up, too, even from this distance — that are less expected. "Nah, nothing happened," Matt answers Jane as he trudges up the steps, bag in hand. "I just wanted to go over a few more details as I'm putting together the closing."

When Matt gets to that short summit, he offers a brief but thoroughly affable smile. "And I brought breakfast," he says with a lift of his bag. "If you haven't eaten already, that is."

There's certainly more strain in the air than usual, even given they're in the midst of a trial that will determine, quite literally, the course of all three of their lives for the foreseeable future. Bucky himself feels like a taut, wound wire sparking with electricity, the usual tension hovering about him now mixed with with paranoia, defensiveness, and a deep and tidal rage.

He was angry before, but now something has him infuriated.

He lets little of it show outwardly, at the least, his countenance, voice, and demeanor controlled — though little of that means anything, really, to a man like Matt Murdock. A slight reprieve in the intensity hovering about Bucky does come eventually, in tandem with the look he slants the bag the lawyer is holding — the whiff he takes of the contents. His senses are nowhere near Matt's, but they're still pretty damned sharp.

"No, we haven't. Good of you to bring something." Something like a smile crosses his face for the first time in days. "C'mon," he says, taking Jane's hand and trying to guide her to the couch. "Sit down a bit." She'll want to be sitting.

There are many less expected things — such as that heavy, low-ceilinged ozone of fury coming off Bucky Barnes.

And the smell of fresh contusions coming off Jane Foster.

Something neither of them seem particularly partial to mentioning, for as much as the unspoken tension hangs like a guillotine over the tiny confines of their apartment. At the least, Jane gentles a little to Matt's familiar face; her greeting is soft, though that formality is still about her, a coldness to what he represents in their life — reminders brought to their door about the trial, and the first person to know so deeply and intimately about them both, even before their closest friends.

Things like that keep Jane at her usual, careful reserve. Still, she has enough friendliness left to be grateful for a lawyer bearing free breakfast. At least it's not an emergency.

"That's thoughtful, Matt," she answers. "Thank you." Lord knows where her appetite is, but Bucky sure needs to eat.

She steps forward, no doubt to helpfully free Matt of the bag of food, but Bucky interjects to lead Jane to her couch. She looks on his mysterious almost-smiling with wordless question, following his guide and settling down. She won't fight being relieved of hostess duties. "I can make coffee," she offers, unused to being waited on. She pauses, and thinks to ask, "What sort of details?"

Matt Murdock is one walking, talking invasion of privacy. The anger and stress in the air — and so much more — are clear as day to him once he's within a few feet of them, a few feet into their home. But most of his life is collecting a million trace signals and hints while leaving them unmentioned with no one the wiser. And so: "Yeah, no problem," Matt says with nonchalance and a flicker of a smile as he reaches into the paper bag and pulls out the — well. A small box of Dunkin' Donuts, which he hands to Bucky before making to claim the sofa chair he's occupied during past visits, including his interview(s) with Jane. It's common enough among the blind to seek out the anchor points in a room, and he lowers himself into the seat with enough ease to suggest it's a familiar one at this point.

He sets the now mostly-empty paper bag down beside the chair.

Then she asks what sort of details, and the lawyer nods a little. "I wanted you both to see a transcript and make sure it was something you were comfortable with," he begins in his slow, deliberative cadence. "There are a few key questions I have, but —" a measured beat before he affixes a sightless, red-lensed gaze on his host. Another brief smile passes over his features, apologetic. "Well, first, I guess I wanted to fill you in on a discussion I've been having with James the last couple of days, because I think you've a right to know — ah. To know a little bit more about me. And why I took this case in the first place. Maybe it will even help inform some of your answers later on."

The cords of his neck tighten as he takes a hard swallow. He dips his head, his slight smile taking a turn towards the self-deprecating as he clears his throat and hurdles over the barrier. "Look, Jane, I didn't just take this case because I'm fond of Jessica Jones," he murmurs, before reaching into that paper bag with one hand. "I took it out of respect — for both you and James. And… out of gratitude, too."

And out comes his hand, bearing a familiar dark-crimson half-helm — hornes and all.

There is palpable affection in the way he holds her hand, guiding her to the touch, and then sitting beside her himself. He accepts the expected box of donuts when it's proffered, leaning forward to put it on the coffee table, but he doesn't open it up yet.
"Yeah," is all he says, characteristically taciturn. "We can go over whatever you need."

But first — other matters. His attention turns to Matt, his expression completely blase. For a short while, at least, his anger seems to be forgotten, lost instead into some mysterious coyness. A coyness that is soon explained by Matt's admission that he's been having a 'discussion' with James, over the last few days, and it's about time to let Jane know too, because she's got a right —

The aforementioned James doesn't interrupt. He knows this is a matter of deep import to Murdock. Instead of staring, he lets go of Jane's hand — which may be a mistake — and folds his hands in his lap in respectful silence for this revelation.

For a moment, Jane holds her silence, and merely looks between the two men: she runs with the strangest feeling that there's some in-joke and she's not privy on the punchline.
But Bucky leads her to sit, and she's docile enough to comply, her hand still in his as the boyfriend sees about arranging a very obvious box of Dunkin' Donuts. It goes over her head; the woman isn't paying attention, no mind or stomach for food, her eyes up on Matt Murdock assuming the armchair.

Talk of the transcript immediately tightens her into business mode, that same sharp, too-calm, weaponized way Jane has affected dealing with the minutiae of the trial. Court procedure is arduous and banal, but there's something dangerous in its tedium, and she takes care not to misunderstand any piece of it. He speaks of transcripts and questions, and she listens attentively —

— as conversation shifts. Discussions over the last couple of days? This seems to be the first Jane has heard of it, and her eyebrows knit; she goes still. Even as something girds her anxiously for the worst, she turns a quiet glance up on Bucky; Jane's hope shines even now, out through her dark eyes. Good news for the trial? Good news, and they didn't want to tell her? She doesn't understand, and —

Jane glances back as Matt speaks. Not as Bucky's counsel, but as himself, offering a preliminary answer to the million-dollar question: why would be take such a case?
She listens. The crease deepens between her brows. Her lips part like she wants to speak, but whatever those words are — they are lost from her tongue the instant she recognizes a very, very familiar helm.

'How did you get —?!' asks her expression. Jane pauses. She opens her mouth. She fails. She turns her head and stares at Bucky. Her eyes say it clearly: what the fuck?
She looks back. She stares at Matt. She opens her mouth again. "But you're —!" blurts out, before she stutters silent. Realization dawns across her face.

Hand let go, the woman jerks up to her feet, hands held forward like double stop signs. Stop the world, she wants to get off. She opens her mouth a third time.

Then Jane just marches forward and angrily punches Matt in the arm.

Confusion, protestation, shock — and then, inevitably, anger. He has only a few seconds of forewarning before she slugs him in the arm: an elevated heartrate, the stern purposefulness of her march across the room. Now, truth be told, Matt Murdock has been on the receiving end of harder blows than the one she solidly lands on the slope between his shoulder and tricep. But it still smarts, and leaves him ducking his head and puffing out a breath through a quick, tight smile.

"You know, I feel like one day the whole world's going to find out who I am, and everyone in it is going to want to take their swings all at once," comes the dry reply of the arguably blind lawyer as he turns his aspect back upward to face where he knows — not thinks, but knows — Jane hovers above him. "Might as well stagger them out a bit."

A beat before he cants his bespectacled profile. "I'm sorry I kept it from you as long as I did," he offers in his customarily quiet tone as he tucks the mask beside him on the sofa chair. "If it makes any difference? You're the second person I've told willingly. Ever." And then he gives a little nod — with uncanny accuracy — towards the general direction of the first.

The hope in Jane's eyes breaks his heart a little. His hand squeezes hers. Even if it's not necessarily the kind of news she's hoping for, it's at least a little something to take her mind off everything going on. At least for a few moments.

Matt drops the bombshell, then, and James smiles indulgently as Jane looks, bewildered, to him, and then proceeds through all the various stages of surprise, shock, disbelief, incredulity — and then to the inevitable final stage of furious punching.

The lawyer's dry remark to follow has James cracking an equally dry smile. "I wouldn't know how that feels," he says, deadpan. "Wouldn't happen to just be living that out right now. My recommendation? You're doing the exact right thing, staggering it out instead. Space out the hits and you'll stay in the ring longer."

It doesn't seem like it's aimed at Matt, in any particular way. Just at the unique cruelties and ironies that the world can bring to bear against a man.

"Yeah?" James says, when Matt admits she is the second person he has willingly told. "Makes me flattered to be the first, then." He shakes his head. "No wonder you didn't fight much like anybody I've ever fought. You must track by your senses. Damnedest thing I ever saw."

For that, Bucky is right — this certainly takes Jane's mind off things for a good beat.
She forgets just about everything long enough to cross the room and annoyedly slug the Devil of Hell's Kitchen right in his damn arm.

"I'll sure /stagger/ something out," Jane grunts back, but despite it all, her threat is empty. Her anger — small little swells of this and that — can't even seem to sustain itself for long. Still, she grouses, "You could've told me, you jerk."

Part of her wants to feel offended, hurt even, to think back on the interview with him — Jesus Christ, she gave her life story to him and she thought he was a stranger, but actually the same man she built armor for — but Jane loses the emotion beneath far more pressing thoughts: she gets privacy, protecting it, and she'd sure love hers back; and Jesus Skateboardin' Christ, but he's blind!

Pushing a hand back through her hair, palm flat against her forehead, Jane steps back to marvel Matt Murdock a second time, head to toe. It disarms her further when he calls her his second, second ever told — right after —

Jane arches a flat look back at Bucky. She can't even feel offended; she can't even stop her own amused smile. "Oh, so he broke your cherry?" she intones. "You two need a room? I am so not surprised. What is it with you men and whipping out the superpowers to see whose is longer?"

Bucky mentions the memory of their spar, and head still reeling, her eyes light up to join in. "No shit! I mean — Matt! You almost kicked James's ass! And you're /blind/!"

He could have told her, Jane snaps at him. "Yeah, I know," Matt says, without a trace or hint of apology in his softspoken tone. "But I'm telling you now." To her quip about the dick-measuring of meta-human men Matt cracks a grin and ducks his head, and this time his chuckle can be heard. "You might be on to something," he allows wryly. "More charitably — I may have come to the realization that hiding myself from two people whose lives I was already enmeshed with on both sides of the mask was doing you a disservice. Not just as your friend, but as James' lawyer, too."

And then there's the inevitable zeroing in on his strange powers, that let him do and sense what many perfectly sighted cannot. Ultimately, these sorts of conversations — their gawking, however good natured — is a large part of why he made the choice as a child not to divulge his strengths, even to his father. Not even to what few friends Matt Murdock had growing up after his father died. Not even to Foggy. Still, he knew he was inviting it with the confession and bears it with equanimity.

Bucky fairly well zeroes in on Matt's hidden strength, to which he nods a touch.

"Ordinarily, all that talk about blind people compensating for the loss of sight by strengthening their other senses is mostly B.S.," the lawyer answers with a lean back into the upholstery of the sofa chair. "In my case? It's… not. The way I lost my sight heightened the rest of my senses so that I — ah, actually pick up on a lot." The short chuckle that follows is more seen in the shake of his shoulders than heard. "The man who taught me to fight said it was like being the ultimate southpaw. The input is different, so it makes your responses and fighting style different too. More difficult to predict." A beat, and then a dry: "He's blind like me, so I guess he knew what he was talking about."

James' smiling turns affectionate as Jane throws around all five tiny feet of her weight in angry grousing. She's adorable when she's mad and punching caped devils who moonlight as lawyers. Or is it the other way around?

His amusement subsides a bit when Jane starts getting sarcastic, though it's only so he can roll his eyes. "It was not whipping out superpowers," he says. "It was… well… what he said." James, taking the easy way out rather than have to express anything that might come close to being an emotion. "Don't ruin the moment, Jane."

He REALLY gets unamused when Jane goes on, however. About how Matt is BLIND, but he still nearly kicked James' ass —

"That's a bridge too goddamn far, Jane Foster," he says. "You think I'm gonna go all out in a spar? Hell, we can go again right now." Which is a terrible idea.

The crankiness persists as Matt explains the nuances of his style, fighting blind, though he does remark, "Not inaccurate. You were crazy as hell to try to anticipate or bait. No wonder the usual tricks didn't work on you."

However good-natured, Jane Foster definitely gawks. Usually so tempered, aware of herself — and hating attention that she takes extra pains never to direct it too scorchingly on others — she can't help but stare poor Murdock down.

Though he cannot see, at least the light in her eyes is a calculating one, and she remembers the proof she wrote of his movement months ago as if solved yesterday, and the questions she'd asked herself at the time: his speed, his low error in reflexive timing, and how he seemed preternatural when it came to predicting James. Of course, of course it makes sense now, and data fills in all the holes and voids of her math, and —

She realizes who she's really angry at, and it's her /own/ damn self, for not figuring this out sooner. So obtuse of you, Foster. Obtuse!

"James, you are /not/ fighting your lawyer," Jane orders, matter-of-fact. She reaches to lay a hand on Matt's shoulder, the touch like a thank-you, before she retreats back to the couch, reassuming her place at Bucky's side, her closest hand resting on his knee. Eyes still bright with questions, she listens as the two men discuss fighting — the terms go over her head.

"That must be a hell of a lot of feedback," Jane comments, a wince in her voice. "And New York, no else? /I/ had trouble coping here from middle-of-nothing, New Mexico. It must be agony — unless you've learned to habituate to the stimuli? A CT scan on you must be incredible to see. And I'm not even a neurologist." She pauses. "Christ, sorry. I'm being way too much. This is just a lot — you're a vigilante /lawyer/."

Bucky offers to fight him, right then, right there, and Matt lets out a rare bark of a laugh. "Let's take a rain check on that one," he says in wry agreement with Jane, and offering her a brief but appreciative smile at the hand on her shoulder before she moves back to Bucky. Then he trains his eyes on the erstwhile Winter Soldier, and despite the spectacles you can still see the flinty glint in his eye. "Though I've only been getting better at this stuff over the last six months. Careful what you wish for, Barnes."

And of course Jane can't help herself; she pries and she prods. It's nothing he didn't expect — at least two of the others who learned about his condition without his consent had powerful curiosities and peppered him with similar questions. He shrugs his shoulders. "Yeah, it was tough as a kid, especially the first few years after the accident," Matt allows as he leans forward and clasps his hands together, elbows planted on knees. "it got better once I started training my body and my mind. After all, if your survival depended on learning to filter, to focus, to concentrate on what's important, can you imagine a better training ground than New York City?"

But she keeps going — now bringing in his dual roles. He cracks a slight, rueful smile, though it's a little pained too. "Yeah, I'm still working through the nuances on that one. I guess it's because I see where the system begins to break down, and step in to pick up the slack." A beat, and then more quietly: "Also, I just — I pick up on a lot. Good and bad. And when I pick up on the bad, I can't just —"

He swallows, clears his throat as the conversation strays away from the already delicate ground of his abilities and onto the outright danger zone of Matt Murdock's various contradictions. "Anyway, it's all kind of a work in progress," he concludes with a slight and slightly self-conscious smile. "Some of that progress thanks to you, actually."

James rolls his eyes a little when Jane forbids him from fighting his lawyer. Matt takes a rain check, which causes Bucky to aim a semi-triumphant look at Jane — he's going to fight his lawyer if he wants to, Jane, eventually — but he settles down a little bit.

Well, he does up until Matt dares him to be careful what he wishes for. "We'll see, Murdock," he says, folding his arms.

He subsides as Matt goes into more detail about his powers and the circumstances of their acquisition, however. Jane's comforting hand on his knee contributes, the light touch calming him visibly. His gaze is curious, because the few times he fought Daredevil, he HAD observed that the man had a unique fighting style, a preternatural ability to sense and anticipate his actions, and he's always interested in the novel new ways that people find to fight. It's not often, after all this time, that someone presents him with a completely new style he has never seen before.

If he notices the inherent contradictions in Matt's day job and moonlighting work, he tactfully doesn't say anything about them. Vigilante LAWYER kind of sums it up. Well — he does say something, eventually, but it's not more than this: "Sometimes the system fails." He would know. "Then something else has to step in."

He shrugs, as Matt confesses it's all a work in progress. Some of that progress thanks to them. "Well, nothing's changed about us backing you," he says. "And not just because you're pulling crazy hours on this trial."

As the men talk about rain checks and careful wishes and a specific future tense application to seeing things, Jane Foster imparts them both equal halves of one long, skeptical look.

Lawyer and client on the cusp of a life-and-death trial, and the two dumbasses are dick-measuring. She would almost sigh long-sufferingly, but, in the end, even Jane cannot deny her own amusement, and, well — hope.

It's new, and nice, just to hear James make plans to do something that isn't a quiet, forbearing march toward his own execution. It's nice just to feel normal, even if normal somehow is now her supersoldier boyfriend making man-dates with his vigilante lawyerdevil friend.

Her hand squeezes Bucky's knee.

Jane's attention rivets back on Murdock, in her brown eyes the visible appreciation for the distraction he provides: a sacrifice on his part, too, having to absorb the focus and questions of the curious. "Pick up a lot?" she asks. "Auditory, tactile, olfactory cues? That means — oh God, you're a human lie detector? No wonder you move like you're in somebody's head."

But she proclaims him a vigilante lawyer — and the term is as ridiculous as it feels to say it — though Jane's eyes avert on Bucky's wise estimation of Matt's moonlighting. Failing system. She thinks she can understand.

"Yeah," she agrees quietly. "I — I was having trouble at first, Matt. But I trust you. I know you can do this."

They won't stop backing him, for reasons having nothing to do with the months he's spent trying to save James' life. That brings a brief smile, tired but true, to his lips and an appreciative nod. "All that stuff's still going on," he says, a grim note creeping into his voice. "I've been keeping you out of it because — well. You've got enough problems right now. But thanks. Appreciate it."

And then comes Jane's barrage of questions, followed by a first-ever assertion of trust and faith. He shares Bucky's emotional reticence, but even so it's clear from the slight duck of his head, the vertical crease that forms between two bushy brown brows, that the words make an impact. "We can do this," Matt gently corrects her, looking back up. "And — yeah. Yeah, I can tell when someone's lying. I can tell when they're angry or hungry or stressed. When they're in love, or when they're depressed. It's all in the rhythms of the heartbeat, the grinding of their teeth, the hormones that wind their way into their scents. I know it's weird as hell, but it's true. During voire dire, I could judge the jurors by what they were feeling when they answered, not just by what they said. And I've been observing all twelve of them nonstop these last weeks of trial."

Matt's hands — big boxer's hands, strong and calloused — spread. "We're so close," he says with honest conviction. "They want to believe you two. Archer's landed some blows and planted some doubt. But I know what they respond to, and I think I can push us over the edge. A clean win — no guilty verdict, no mistrial and retrial."

But. It hangs in the air between them, unspoken.

Jane looks long-suffering. James ignores it. This is just what men do, and she'll have to put up with it. Besides, it's a nice, familiar ritual to engage to take the mind off terrible court cases that might end in execution. She acknowledges that with a squeeze of her hand on his knee, and he briefly moves his right to cover hers.

His attention turns back to Murdock as the man speaks, and James' brows lift as Matt elucidates a particularly useful aspect of his abilities. "Hell of a good card to have in your hand, as a lawyer," he observes. Being a walking lie detector? Huge in the courtroom.
"And as a fighter," he says. "Silly thinking back on all the feints I tried. Likely you knew what I was gonna do before I did it." His eyes are narrowed in thought. "Though I bet there's downsides…"

He lets the topic go. No sense in dissecting how to beat up his lawyer right now.

Especially when Matt seems so confident. Confident except for —

"But?" James ventures.

The heavy warmth of Bucky's hand over her own mollifies Jane, a quiet, fierce wave of affection spreading under her skin — and Matt will no doubt pick up on that one too.
"It's not weird," she corrects gently. "It's incredible. It's every insight into the human stain. That's an amazing ability. You probably know people better than they know themselves. If you didn't want to be lawyer, you'd be an astounding physician. Or a biologist. Christ, even a therapist. And —"

A fighter, Bucky adds, as Jane slants him up a humoured look. One of her eyes is squinted, watchful, not quite missing the rueful, pensive way the soldier dissects their own spar. As his /lawyer/ works on routes to gain his acquittal and freedom, the client seems to be thinking of future ways to punch him better.

Jane can't quite smother her half-smile, though she really tries to look disapproving about the entire thing. Men, seriously.

But as Matt speaks back of the trial, the jurors, Bucky lets that thought go — and Jane too, her attention riveted back on the Devil of Her Apartment's Armchair. 'But' is the unspoken word, until Bucky helpfully voices it aloud.

Jane is quiet, but her loaded silence and knitted brows speak tomes enough.

Matt can indeed see the flush of warmth and reassurance that comes with such a simple gesture; it brings a short-lived but entirely genuine smile to his lips. It's quieted by what follows. That Matt's greatest liabilities and weaknesses are comingled and, perhaps, coequal with his strengths is not a fact lost on the man, to judge from the shrug of his eyebrows and the sardonic smirk when Bucky takes a few steps down that road. If anything, it makes his disclosure to this pair or anyone else that much more of a risk — to learn who Matthew Murdock is and how he sees the world is to know how to defeat the so-called Devil of Hell's Kitchen. Trust indeed.

Bucky susses out Matt's weaknesses, while Jane speaks incisively of his strengths: that they are not freakish but marvelous, providing him with unique insight into the human condition and positioning him for any number of jobs besides the slightly seedy one he works by day and the brutal one he's taken up at night. For a man who has always felt himself set apart by his gifts her verdict is a moving one, and he briefly lets it show in the parting of his lips, the wave of quiet emotion that passes over his features, before he manages a brief, slight smile to convey his gratitude.

In some ways, her words make what he says next all the harder. But, James voices for him, and he nods. There's a 'but', of course. "But to close this deal, we need to make an impact. To settle doubts. The jury has been most moved when we're able to document and outline in vivid detail HYDRA's tactics. To create a picture for them using the words of witness testimony — an it's working. I can hear it, smell, taste it working. But they need something more."

He draws in a breath; the line of his jaw shifts right, shifts left as he ever-so-slightly swallows his cheeks. "We need to show the jury the tape in my closing," he says. "And I didn't want to surprise either of you when I do."

James is much more muted about his affection, but it is there to be read for someone as perceptive as Matt Murdock, too. He squeezes Jane's hand briefly, and then lets go, his attention turned back to more somber matters.

Turned, too, off his instinctive and immediate contemplation of how he would defeat a man with skills like Matt Murdock. It's the risk the Daredevil takes; allowing others to know about his strengths is also allowing them to know his weaknesses. But with any luck, his trust in these two will not be misplaced.

James, for his part, would sooner die than willingly harm this man who has done so much to help him.

As Matt elucidates the 'but,' however, a frown starts on James' face, and deepens progressively into a distinctly dark look when Murdock admits the one way in which the jury could be most decisively moved. To create a truly impactful picture of Hydra's savagery — they have to show the tape.

James is silent. He is transparently troubled. His blue eyes turn to Jane, because this decision is hers.


Jane's expression flinches.

Murdock speaks of the video, and she knows within a breath what he means; he can hear, and James too with his closeness, the audible catch and quickening of her heart. The room sweetens cloyingly with the woman's sudden, panicked stress.

She never demonstrates it. Never says a word to suggest it's there; Jane locks down, gone deathly silent, her eyes angled down on her lap. As James Barnes looks down on her, she is, in that moment, far and away, gazing sightlessly into a not-so-distant future where the entire world will have seen her weak.

For the rest of her life, they'll call her a victim.

Jane's hand brushes absently on the scarf wound around her throat. Then she shifts, reanimating, her eyes lifting up to meet James's. Even now, there's hope in the way she looks at him: hope that she'll be seeing him for a long life ahead.

"I'll be ready for it," Jane tells Matt, her decision already made. "Whatever helps, show them."

Matt can't see her flinch, but he can, by his own admission, detect a dozen trace signs of Jane Foster's distress. More, he can, as a man who goes to outlandish lengths to keep the world and everyone in it from seeing his true self, know the sacrifice Jane is making by allowing that tape to be shown to the courtroom. The world may not see it — no televisions in the courtroom — but its contents will be the subject of countless news articles and tweets that will enter the public record for as long as the internet lasts. It's Jane at her most vulnerable, preserved publicly and permanently.

Not to mention, of course, that Matt can also hear the trace of fingers along the silk scarf that obscures her neck. Who would wear a silk scarf in August, even with the summer as relatively mild as it has been? He can see the contusions in his mind's eye, and the signs of the attack she surely must have endured fills the vigilante with fury, yes — even if the fury isn't so powerful or so personal as to drive him to the lengths James will soon go to address the assault. But it also informs his estimation of Jane Foster, and her decision, and her relationship with Bucky Barnes.

Outloud, he'll simply say: "Thank you, Jane. I promise you — it'll help."

But inside? Quiet wonder and appreciation takes the form of seven unspoken words:

He's lucky as hell to have you.

James doesn't need Matt's degree of senses to get a hint of Jane's stress and panic, himself. It brings him to loop an arm around her waist.

"You don't have to do this," he says. But in her mind, there is no other choice. His eyes avert, his gaze dropping, the familiar-to-Murdock pattern of pure guilt saturating him.
The way she touches her scarf solidifies a decision in his own mind. His eyes harden, and his left arm grinds a little as its plates tighten and lock. The guilt vanishes, replaced by a resolution colder than dead midwinter. If the world is going to ask this of Jane Foster, he's sure as hell going to take his pound of flesh back from it. In his own way.

"Don't worry," he says to Jane, his determination made, and he brushes his left hand against the folds of her scarf.

The familiar weight and strength of his arm draws up Jane's eyes, and her own momentary stress and panic forgets itself to the guilt alleying James Barnes's face.
She knows him well enough to recognize it immediately, and the woman acknowledges it with a brief, gentle touch of her hand to his chin. Yes, I do, answers the gesture. It'll be fine.

But even if she knows she can bear it, it does not mean Jane cannot anticipate it hurting; it hurts to bear the world thinking of her this one way only. A victim, and that makes her remember those fresh bruises.

She pulls a little self-consciously at her scarf; the gesture is telling to both men, in their own ways, to their own abilities and strengths. Jane sobers to the familiar, often-heard sound of his steel left arm, the plates locking down in an autonomic signal. It grinds as it lingers close to her scarf, and those bruises beneath.

Don't worry, he promises. Jane doesn't miss the undertow between James's words. Her eyes soothe. She touches what they keep calling his weapon — his left hand.

"Like I said, Matt," Jane answers Murdock lightly, "I trust you. You've been our friend for a long time. For everything you've done for James, everything you will do. Thank you."

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