Oikeiôsis

August 28, 2017:

Jane Foster, on her way to the south of Wakanda, is attacked and calls in Daredevil for backup. What neither of them expect is for their attacker to be a figure from Matt Murdock's past.

South of Birnin Zana, Wakanda

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Jessica Jones, Bucky Barnes

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Dusk stacks layer after layer of colour along the forever Wakandan skies.

Outside their great cities, the expanse is legend in itself, their advanced technology strangling unnecessary light pollution for one to give proper respect and reverence to the sky and its stars — a thick swath of constellations even Jane Foster has not seen in years.

Not that she's looking up. Not tonight. No time for such things.

She's commandeered a rental car — a car like nothing she's ever seen before — and takes the route directly south out of Birnin Zana. It runs on a power cell that she, on any other day, would wish to dissemble, it drives without sound, and most incredible of all, it does so entirely beyond her direction. She doesn't need to steer. She doesn't need to care.

Jane, for all her life, has always trusted technology. This is no different.

She trusts the car now to drive her on as she catches up on Jessica's forwarded notes, her eyes moving with quick absoption of the particular section: hacked firefighter drones. If it's the same source, made of the same person or group, and sourced back to that same terminal in Armenia — it could mean everything. It means direct HYDRA involvement. It means —

She looks up as the nav system informs her of an incoming fork in the road. The road weighs deep in vegetation on either sides, thick rainforest holding in the deepening shadow of the approaching night, cradling her in all the living sounds of its jungle as the car rolls to a stop.

Jane has no map to consult. Only what little she can still taste of the astral leylines.

Left, she programs it to go.

Left, Jane guides her car. And left it goes.

It runs along, sleek and quiet and so technologically advanced, with its soundless self-driving capabilities and its ability to run off a single power cell. Yet there are disadvantages to making something so efficient that it needs only one power source —

Something loud and horribly familiar cracks the quiet of the surrounding jungle. A sound Jane would know intimately from her relationship with James Buchanan Barnes. But he isn't here, he's fighting to the death somewhere far away, and that means the .50 caliber gunshot that pierces even the advanced alloys of the car's exterior and unerringly shatters the power cell into so many pieces… is unequivocally not good news at all.

The car is advanced enough that it doesn't go into a crazed spin, or flip, or any of those things, even with its power so abruptly destroyed. It rolls to a slow stop in the jungle, humming its last before going silent.

Leaving Jane sitting quite still and stranded, alone on the road, with whoever fired that round presumably drawing closer.

There are few sounds Jane knows so intimately.

The deafening report and explosive fragmentation of the power cell immediately jumps her, and the woman impulsively throws herself low, twisting to roll off the seat and down into the front deck to save her head.

The car rolls to a safe, controlled stop, the only sound the grit of gravel crunching beneath the tires. The darkened, empty road waits around her, though Jane knows more than anything she is not alone.

Her shallow breathing amplifies in the tight, closed quarters of the vehicle. She looks up, barely moving, but trying to calculate through her periphery the angle and source of the shot. Not that it will help for very long.

No need to perch and snipe someone all alone.

Jane hits her STUFF app and pulls free her gun, checking the magazine, and ridding the safety in the routine way James has taught her. James, who isn't here.

Doesn't mean she's alone, though.

She listens as she fires off a quick text. Only time for one. Time before she has to abandon the car and hope for the shelter of the jungle to save her.

Group recipients: Jessica Jones and Matthew Murdock.

south outsid birninzana. shooter. stuck

The jungle is silent around Jane as she scrambles free of the car and pulls a gun from her app, sending a text as she tries for the refuge of the thick vegetation. The animals have gone quiet, and even the wind has stilled.

Whoever is after Jane does not fire again. No second sniper's bullet leaps in to take her life. Perhaps it's because of the heavy cover that Jane instinctively sought, cover that fouls up sight lines — though it doesn't feel like that's the reason. Any shooter capable of making that shot would have been good enough, to begin with, not to bother even sniping in such a place like this at all.

Unless the shot was just to stop the prey. Unless said person is not here to kill with a bullet.

The descending night, coupled with the thick-woven canopy of branches overhead, makes it too dark to readily see. But in the silence, sound carries easily.

"Nani nani to pedhi." A woman's voice is singing out there, circling closer to the car. The lilt of her voice is playful, in the way cats are with mice. "Oso na 'pokimithi…"

There is a bright starburst of laughter, and then quiet.

Jane Foster does not have to strain to hear a woman's laughter.

A woman's singing.

It's Greek, is all she can pick up; she had a Greek doctoral advisor and some of the words synaptically click in her long memory. Even then, she has no idea what the crazy bitch is saying. If it's just one of her or if she's come with friends.

If it's not Wakanda at her heels, Jane can narrow this done to one suspect only: HYDRA?

The laughter dispels into quiet, and Jane's jaw tightens. She needs to get out of the car. It's certain death out there, stranded and hunted in the middle of Africa, but right now she's a sitting duck. Or worse: bait.

Fine. She wants to play? Jane has toys.

She quietly thumbs into a sub-folder on STUFF. James's tools.

And she pulls one particular tool free and attaches it to the underside of the glove compartment. Arms it just as he taught her. Ten second timer.

It happens fast. The driver's door kicks open, and like a tiny dart, Jane Foster arrows free from the interior, keeping low as she pushes herself on a desperate sprint. If there was ever a time to want to snipe a clear vantage of her fleeing body —

— it ends fast, interrupted in the sudden and violent way the car EXPLODES, filling the road in a brief, blinding plume of heat and light. Jane uses its cover to slip, phone and gun-in-hand and all, into the darkness of the jungle.

About twenty miles north of where vehicles are exploding and Jane Foster is fighting for dear life, the famed Devil of Hell's Kitchen, scourge of the Manhattan underworld, is rifling — stealthily and surreptitiously — through the garbage bin of a Wakandan firestation. Jessica Jones deployed him well. No one is more likely to be able to ferret out a damaged fire drone than he, but she's also still, all these months later, still not able to fully process what sensitive senses mean to someone like Matt Murdock.

Which means he's trying not to retch when Jane's text catches him. The burner's on silent, vibrate disabled — it's the brief pulse of electricity as the phone's pane light flickers on. He grabs it, turns on the volume — registered, of course, to its very lowest setting — and hears Jane's text read aloud in Siri-speak. He feels the spike of adrenaline course through him, hears the rush of blood in his ears as he brings the phone up and speaks in. "I can come," he says into the speech-to-text app, fully aware of what that means.

For as hurried as the response to James Barnes' abduction has been, there was some haphazard planning. There were contingencies.

Matt says he can provide backup. He'd better do so fast, because whoever is stalking Jane is closing in quick.

Those snatches of song — an obvious(?) ploy to unnerve — die off quickly. Wouldn't want to cross the line from effective inspiration of fear, into a careless disclosure of too much information about her position. Silence cloaks back down over the jungle. Animals tentatively start singing their night songs, again.

Then the darkness rips open with the deafening sound of an explosion. They sure stop again after that.

For about half a minute afterwards, Jane is able to vacate the area in the clear, with no apparent pursuit. Perhaps she caught the crazy bitch in the explosion. Perhaps it was just her, and the threat is taken care of. Perhaps —

A piece of the night detaches from the darkness overhead. Silent as death, a woman — masked over the lower half of her face — drops from an overhead branch like a leopard, aiming to land on Jane… or near enough behind her as not to matter. Only the mirroring movement of their shadows on the moonlit ground before Jane gives her warning.

Her lungs burn as she moves. On little food and even less sleep, Jane is a shell — and all that fuels her is the ignition fluid of raw adrenaline.

She escapes the road and pushes into the thick vegetation of the jungle, its high boughs and thick foliage almost immediately cloaking away the night and disguising those starry skies. Under the growing dusk, light is little, but Jane cares not to even see where she is going: she picks a direction and moves through it, until she can no longer hear the burn of the explosion or feel the heat of the scorching car at her back.

Jane wades deeper into a place that could and may surely kill her, with the only hope it will hide her from what will kill her far more quickly. She can't die this way. Not like this. Not to them.

Even if James finds a way out of this, out of his execution, if he knows she died out here, out here for him —

She moves low and quick-footed, and fetches herself up against the back of some great tree. She purses her mouth and goes silent, eyes turned as her phone's screen torches with a reply. She hides it inside her clothing to mask the light and reads.

Matt. Her heart thumps with relief.

There's only one way she'll be able to get him here. She's had ideas — but she's never done this before. Wrote the script, but never had anything yet in possession to a power source.

Unless —

A message fires back to him in a moment:

move run now dont stop. hold breath

She hooks herself into her phone, runs the astral script, and with that familiar rush, her eyes change colours. She can see her message as it sends, information moving like a wraith through spacetime. It tastes not like life, not of the mind and the soul, but something clinical — yet still energy, flowing in its way, coloured and pathed by her own menage of magic and science. She follows the signal and breathes in his coordinates.

It's time to see if ERBv1.exe will work.

The Devil of Hell's Kitchen has to step forward for the world to change around him: it is not a portal, not a break in the seam of reality, but a shifting: a sucking pull of matter tunnelling him forward. It will rip the air from his lungs if not held. It will pull violently at all his overamplified senses. But, in the time of one step forward, he instantly crosses twenty miles —

— and end up here, as a woman drops down on Jane whose distant, astral eyes are not even here to see.

Move run don't stop hold —

breath, which he does, implicitly trusting Jane's arguably insane instructions. He draws in two lungsful of refuse particles and swallows back bile before he pivots on his feet and runs. Barrels down the alleyway of the city street, footfalls loud and heavy and uncharacteristically unmindful of the attention they will draw. This will either work or it won't, and Daredevil will sure as hell do his —

—the world begins to shift and slide. His perception's foundation rests on something like sonar, and when molecules on which sounds bounce slide askew, all bets are fucking off. It's something like vertigo, sending his sprint careening sideways towards the wall before the transformation is complete and he's sucked through the funnel of physics and propelled into the thick tangle of the chirping jungle.

He comes out on the other side like he went in, at least, running the first few steps before vines and leaves and other foliage impress on him the sudden recognition that a new equilibrium has been found. He lets out a ragged breath, tries to get his bearings and form that hard-won mental picture of the world that is his lifeline.

I hear Jane's heartbeat, so fast. Faster than the courtroom. That's the start. And t here's more, too. The rush and crack of rustling limbs and leaves as Jane's assailant swoops down. Cacophony may be Daredevil's enemy, but in moderation, sounds are his friend. They paint a picture of the world, and the part of the world that concerns him is directly behind him. He grabs for his batons — the batons Jane crafted for him — and rounds to face his enemy.

Elektra feels something, as she drops. Something that cannot be seen, but which flits across the sixth sense and raises the hairs on the back of the neck. Something is happening, and the source is the woman below her who for whatever reason is not running, not even moving

— and who Elektra bounds away from, startled and wary, when a third party suddenly APPEARS in their midst from literally nowhere, far too close for her to dare an attack on Jane.

Slunk back into the heavy shadows criss-crossed beneath the trees, the masked woman pulls a pair of sai with the rasping slide of steel. Her breathing is even, her heart returning to a steady keel after her initial surprise. Her body hums with the idealized harmony of a perfectly-oiled machine, a killer refined to the apex of lethality by years and years of training.

There are familiar notes, beneath all that cold deadliness. But none so familiar as —

"Neat trick," murmurs the voice of Elektra Natchios. "You brought someone else to die with you." She bolts forward a moment later, feinting left with one sai, before plunging right towards his side with the other.

She doesn't know him. Not in this getup. The fact she tried a deke at all says that loud enough.

Jane's little heart beats a furious staccato.

Half of it is her quiet terror. Half of it is the toll on her body, a bit of time, a bit of life — a bit of something traded to make this happen. Telling reality a lie comes with a price, John warned her, but she has nothing else to do —

— nothing but to fuel the braiding mix of magic and science as it pulls a man through the very first Einstein-Rosen bridge of her making. Not how Jane planned it would be, and not built as truly as she believes it can be created in the realm of technology alone.

And certainly not something that makes her eyes shine unnaturally bright as blood drips from her nose.

But it pulls him in — and the woman here to kill her is the first to notice.

Jane comes to, pulling the line from her arm, her body trembling with the aftershock of magic.

The next happens so quickly she can barely follow it with her half-focused eyes. Elektra moves at Daredevil with blinding speed, fast, so fast, and Jane's first impulse is to call out in warning or demand.

She wants to yell for Matt by name, but knows better, her voice stuttered to a strangled sound as she tries to clear herself from the direct line of fire, knowing it would not help Matt to get herself mixed into the fray.

He's here, she thinks. She did it. It really is him in that suit. Really is the armor she made for him. And she —

— she hopes he doesn't get hurt because of her.

It really is Matt, in the suit Jane made, bearing the weapons she built. Though to someone who didn't know her handiwork so well, he'd be little more than a shadowy silhouette. That battle armor might be native ceremonial garb, or some particularly exotic SHIELD agent's gear. It's hard to say who or what this warrior that Jane Foster summoned is, particularly when —

—particularly when he so elegantly defuses her first feint, shifting his torso just enough to avoid accidental contact with the left sai, but concentrating mostly on his aim to strike with the right. Not the right sai, mind you. His brutal accuracy is aimed towards the hand, fingers, and wrist that wields it.

The ultimate rapping the knuckles.

It's only after the swing of that baton that her taunting voice — the voice he knew, knows, as well as any living — fully registers. The warrior comes full stop, momentarily stricken. Disbelief — well founded disbelief — is his first instinct. He wants nothing more, in that liminal, purgatorial span of seconds, to call out her name. He restrains himself.

I just went through a wormhole, or whateverthefuck. And HYDRA — or Wakanda — can't try to fake me out with her voice?

She hits his senses in flashes and snapshots of devastating familiarity. Here a fleeting whiff of her scent, there the steady cycle of her breathing. The pulse of her heart is the same cadence he remembers from quiet desultory evenings together, side by side, nothing but the two of them and the headiness of youth.

This is very far from the headiness of youth. So far, and these changed new circumstances so improbable, that Matthew Murdock questions his own reality. In his defense — he did just teleport through a wormhole. Who knows if he's still even in the same universe?

The woman certainly doesn't recognize him. She's not gifted with his unique perception. She only snarls as he turns her feint aside, not even noticing its deception, and strikes out at her right hand with such force that her weapon is jarred loose.

She perceives that her opponent hesitates, for some reason, a moment later. She isn't sure why, but she capitalizes on it anyway to duck in low, trying to sweep his feet out from under him as she recovers her dropped sai. "Two of you at once? Well, that'll make the job more efficient, at least — "

Each moment she continues to speak, breathe, move, exist in his general proximity summons old memories and gives them shape, in much the same way he cobbles together his present sense of the world through piecemeal fragments — trailing breadcrumbs of sensation. It's rushing back, yes, but because it's Matt, it's off-kilter, impressionistic: six heady months of sounds and smells and tastes, along with accompanying thoughts and feelings long since abandoned, if not forgotten. A dozen snippets of douchey conversation at a Columbia party and the thrilling roar of a stolen car. The very particular sound of the door window breaking at Fogwell's, and the

—the soft skin of her throat and the steady rhythm of her pulse beneath his hand, and, and —

He's off his game, both because he's still constructing his sense of place after his surreal timewarp, and because the jungle is not his native environ, and because he's still trying to decide whether it's her, or some HYDRA-induced hallucination. In the moment, he's not sure which of those options sounds crazier.

What he does know is that whoever it is doesn't know him, and so he stays silent, even as he's leaping upward, backward to avoid her leg swee —

Muay Thai?

Every other Thursday.

He's distracted enough to let her recover her weapon; his own — blunt where hers are triple-pointed — held in either hand. He waits for her to make the next move. It's a mistake to let her claim the initiative or regain her balance, and he knows it, but shock still has its hold on him. His mind has one refrain at the moment, and it's: No no no no no no no…

He dodges her, as handily as he detected and deflected her earlier feint. Her dark blue eyes flare with interest, and he can hear her heart quicken — smell her sudden eager curiosity. She does not know him, and she does not have his senses, but she's no slouch. She can feel out a highly trained fighter when she sees one. She can read body language. She can remember, with perfect photographic recollection, the little tiny cues and tells that allow students of the same master to recognize one another in battle.

This man was beaten by Stick, as well. She can read it in his movements. But there's something, else, too…

"You move like someone I used to fight," she laughs, but beneath the cruel, catlike playfulness of her tone, there are undercurrents plain as day for Matt's sensitive ears. Yearning, remembrance, and one small drop of regret.

Then there is only the complaint of splintering undergrowth as she lunges forward, leading with one sai flung for his center mass, then the other. They're just distractions, ultimately, though; Muay Thai every other Thursday, she told him once, and it's Muay Thai she slips into now, her body sliding in whip-quick after her weapons. Close against his. Way, way, too close.

Her hands try to clasp, one atop the other, at the back of his head. And if she gets a grip, she'll pull herself straight up by the anchor of his taller body, slingshotting herself upwards in an attempt to drive her knee straight into his solar plexus.

She's close to him, sais turned point-upward behind his head, and suddenly he's flooded with a million sensations, chemical signals, and suddenly vivid memories that all point to one inexorable truth: It's her.

For all his deft dodges and strikes in the opening round of this bout, Elektra is the one with the initiative. She even continues to taunt. And the words, not to mention the subtle resonances of her voice, strike deeper than she may even intend. Once? Once, the idea that the woman he knew regretted her sudden, grief-fueled ghosting of the college kid she'd taken up with would have filled him with, if not quite satisfaction, maybe one of its more melancholy cousins. Under different circumstances, the very idea that she missed him might have given him a strange sort of comfort. Or closure. Or something.

Here, it only adds to the moment's sheer confusion — a disorientation that leaves him vulnerable to…

Well. To getting kneed right in the heart. A million nerve centers burst aflame, sucking up all the oxygen in his chest as he doubles forward.

It is her. And from the faint air-stirring flicker of her lashes when she ghosts in close, the soft wondering exhale that escapes her… she suspects something too. Or at the least, finds herself deeply reminded of a part of her life that died years ago.

Then her eyes harden. Her jaw grits. Her body turns to steel against his. No — it can't be him. Why would it be him? He's thousands of miles away, his career on the rise, his life ascendant, out of her life — and she, out of his. She went somewhere, long ago, he plainly chose not to follow. He went and became a lawyer, and she…

She's here, the blood of countless on her hands, aiming to add the blood of all these foreign interferences in Wakanda to the mix. First up — the Daredevil.

Her knee rams home. His lack of timely responses, of resistance, rings odd to her, but only for a moment. The programming of years of killing takes over, urging her to capitalize on this, and he can hear the hiss of air past her bared teeth as she wraps in close around his folded form, flips her sai in her right hand… and stabs it in towards the side of his neck.

"Never mind," she mourns. "You don't move like him after all…"

For the first few minutes, Jane seeks cover.

She extricates herself from the fray and collapses, bearing herself up by her hands alone, forgetting both phone and gun and even the sounds of people /fighting to the death/ at her back, because her entire world eclipses in the twisting, swooping sickness of what isn't right. That short, blinding rush of magic fades, and in its place are the consequences — things John once warned her. The worse trick you play on reality, the harder it must snap itself back.

Because Jane did it, she thinks — unable to help but exult in that thought as violence wages not too far away. She bent reality. She —

No. Not a true Einstein-Rosen bridge. A cheat. A shortcut. Her true bridge, as she imagines it — as she will build it — will not be something that makes her feel like she has to palm a hand over her mouth to keep herself from vomiting her organs out. Breathing in deeply, wiping the blood from her nose, Jane lifts her head.

Eventually, her bleary eyes catch what's happening in the thinning light. She's witnessed a far many things in these last few months, but this stops her silent — the quiet awe of seeing Matt Murdock move again not as the lawyer she thought him the past several weeks. Wearing armor she designed in her head. And to see it in the flesh, being used —

Taking significant hits.

Something's wrong. Maybe it's her, and she's not seeing straight. He's not moving like he did from her old memory. Maybe she outmatches him. Maybe she hurt him. Maybe it's Jane's quantum tunnelling. Damnit. Maybe it's all her fault, and she can't just sit back, can't just be the useless civilian she was a year ago. She needs to do something—

An idea comes. Jane sets her jaw. She doesn't think she can handle another spell, not with her flesh as its direct conduit, but —

She opens her phone.

As the two ex-lovers clash with traded blows and weapons, and Elektra gains the leverage to bring a sai at Daredevil's neck: he'll hear and sense the entrance of a third. She will feel it too, a disturbance of someone crossing her predator's periphery.

Jane has neither their stealth. But she has quickness, very surgical hands, and the sudden blend of magic and science as ionized ozone ripples from manipulated spacetime. She dares in recklessly close, too close, eyes sparked unnaturally blue, as she tries to quantum tunnel one of James's detonators — carved with a fresh sigil — toward and /into/ Elektra's body. Jane's fingers entangle through matter to leave the rigged bomb inside, deep into the woman's side.

It's sheer shock that has Matt Murdock off his game and on his knees, doubled over and winded. And now, as he hears the whistle of the sai in the thick Wakandan wind, he realizes it's set to cost him both his life and the life of someone he pledged to protect. The metal speeds towards his neck with such force that it's unlikely even Jane Foster's expert handy work will save him; the layer of armor around his neck is necessarily thin to allow him full range of motion, and the force with which Elektra — yes, somehow, Elektra — is set to deliver the blow should still be enough to leave him choking on his own blood as she makes to finish the job with Jane.

And then, when it all seems suddenly and improbably over and done with, then he smells that familiar waff of ozone in the air. He first caught the scent the deli in Hell's Kitchen where he met Jessica Jones, and two magical goombas were ready to disembowel the owner with dark tendrils of power. Jane Foster is a very different beast, but he still hears, smells, and feels the power in her fist, singing as it strikes for Elektra Natchios.

And as the two women's arms arc towards their intended destinations, there's a millisecond of calculus — which is arguably more than the bright but impulsive lawyer-cum-vigilante gives some of his decisions — before the kneeling man in red charts his course.

Which is to deny them both. The arm that guides the speeding Sai is rebuffed with an armored forearm that moves with a speed and skill that recalls more of Jane and Elektra's past memories than the slip-shod work he's demonstrated so far tonight…

…and for better or worse (read: worse) that he a gentler but still deft upward strike diverts Jane's driving arm as it attempts to plant a bomb in the body of one Elektra Natchios.

It might be enough to make one question whether he's shifted sides — though Jane has seen how a sock-headed Matt was prepared to go to war with the storied Winter Soldier over some Russian thugs and slave-traders who were set to kill both him and her. It is that basic resistance to lethal force — coupled with other questions and drives that whirr in the back of his brain — that thwart Jane's expert idea.

But it still doesn't stop him from using the arm that had just rebuffed Jane's attempt from giving a fleet boxer's punch towards the side of Elektra's head, and following it with every swift and brutal trick in his trade.

In this short span of seconds that follow, he moves like water, like lightning, like —

Well. Like old times.

Elektra's sai plunges towards the side of Daredevil's neck. Her avid eyes watch for the moment of connection, when blood will spring free from the severed artery —

And her eyes catch movement at her periphery. She hesitates, her eyes cutting to one side. Her pause lasts just long enough for Jane to cut in and try to plant a bomb straight into her side. Plant a bomb straight into her side. Elektra tries to duck away, but her clinch on Matt makes it too hard. She tries to parry, but somehow, shockingly…

…her opponent gets there first, saving her from a detonator in her side, at the same time he fluidly knocks away her other hand from inflicting a fatal wound.

She's too shocked to even dodge. His follow-up knocks her straight off him, sending her tumbling back through the undergrowth before the force of his too-familiar assault. She recovers eventually, rolling back to a wary crouch, staring in pure disbelief. It was one thing when she was given a cold, impersonal dossier telling her the so-called Devil of Hell's Kitchen needed to die. That was brow-raising, but not anything to wonder at.

But that, combined with the painfully-familiar way this man moves, the way he feels, the way he just saved her life —

"Matthew?" she breathes.

"Elektra," he rasps in reply, reeling internally himself as she gives final confirmation to what he didn't want to believe.

No lovey-dovey baby names between these two: no Matts or Ellies. She was always too posh for it, for one. Paris Hilton, yes, arguably, but Old World and pre-hashtag. And for him, cutting short her name — musical, the literal stuff of Greek tragedies — seemed like a crime to a man who has always given every syllable he's heard in his life such powerful weight.

He stalks towards her, bending down briefly to pick up a dropped baton. The more he has time to settle with this strange new reality, to grasp and adjust to it, the more his anger rises. She had everything. Fierce intelligence, paired with indomitable strength and will — plus all the ephemerals: beauty, charm, money. She had all the gifts and privileges a scholarship kid from Hell's Kitchen stood in awe of at the time, and this is how she used them?

"What are you doing here?!" he says as he draws closer, prepared for a sweep from that crouching stance — prepared to strike if he needs to.

They were never a pair for baby names, never a pair to infantilize one another in that way. Even at their young ages, they had a certain dignity between them, despite the crazy shit they got up to. Whatever their relationship was… it was a step beyond the aimless fumblings and ill-chosen words usually characterizing college flings.

Theirs was an instant and visceral connection, a meeting of souls older than the bodies they inhabited. They brought out the worst in one another… and simultaneously, somehow, the best.

Their brief time together flickers through her eyes, through the shock that reverberates throughout her body, in the space of a few seconds, as she considers this new reality where one of her targets is Matthew Murdock. Where Matthew is the Devil of Hell's Kitchen, in a suit and in Wakanda

What are you DOING here? he asks, drawing closer.

"My job, Matthew," she retorts. "Why are you here?! You should go home. I can't do this twice. I shouldn't even do it once — "

She turns and tries to flee into the denseness of the jungle.

Jane Foster likes to think herself not so much a planner as a master of adaptation —

— but there is no permutation of the universe that prepares her for /this./

Prepares her for the way Daredevil strikes first — she's not thinking of his vow of non-lethality, because she has to be lethal, has to be lethal because this unknown woman decided to be lethal first, and that's how the world works, and that's how James Barnes survived his wars and helped Jane prepare to fight this one, and —

And really, she's not thinking of anything at all save an incredulous, furious, 'WHAT THE HELL, MATT', as he redirects her off, even his gentler block with enough directive strength that it stuns Jane's hand into nerve-numbness. It knocks the detonator out of her hand, the light of its burning sigil snuffed out. The blue goes out of her eyes. The rush of magic leaves her, concentration broken, spell broken.

Rebuffed and forced back, especially as his following strikes interjects a clear separation between her and Elektra — and Jane has no desire to go closer to that deadly woman without the advantage of surprise, she retreats, staggering off-kilter, too much magic in not enough time.

Miraculously, Jane holds, with enough cognizance to turn her too-bright eyes between vigilante and killer, man and woman — wearing transparent /shock/ as they speak each other's NAMES. She knows him? That crazy bitch who just tried to kill /both/ of them knows —

And he —

Elektra turns and escapes after her last words. Jane says nothing, stunned, her phone still clutched in one hand. Her eyes veer on Matt.

Even a blind man cannot miss how she must be looking at him: what the /fuck/?

It was just a semester, really. Five fleeting months — but between the fiery fling and sudden leave-taking, the way they got in each other's heads — it was powerful enough to nearly tank his GPA, derail his transition from Columbia undergrad to law, and ruin him for any number of transitory hook-ups to follow. It was love. And for all that they were old-souled kindred spirits, it was love in the way only the young can feel it.

But that is hundreds of miles and nearly a decade away from where these two combatants are now.

What is she doing here, he asks. Her job, she answers him.

The answer is a gut punch of its own. Not her duty. Not her mandate. Her job. It's so transactional, so mercenary, that he (almost) has to drop the one explanatory theory that has kept him hopeful while this madness all unfolded. He's all barely-coiled fury in these moments as he continues that swift, pantherine stride towards her fleeing figure. "Defending my client," he gravels in answer as a thousand warring emotions swirl in his breast, as he raises his baton and rounds on her fleeing form. "My friends. YOU should go home, to wherever you've fucking been all these years," he says, trying to keep the seething hurt out of his words. "Because if you touch any of them —"

But she's already gone, for all that his words chase after her, and with her the sudden surge of adrenaline that saved his life. He sags in the shoulders and turns his profile towards the incredulous Jane Foster. He lets out a puff of breath he didn't realize he'd been holding in. "You okay?" he asks, quiet voice leaden.

Defending his client, he says. And suddenly things make sense to her, in a thunderbolt. He was the Winter Soldier's lawyer. Of course — that explains why Daredevil, of all people, would be HERE, of all places. But whatever calculating thought processes she tries to engage die a swift death when he continues, when he says that she should go home to wherever she's fucking BEEN all these years —

And she can hear, for all he tries to hide it, the undercurrent to his words. She always did read him far too deeply.

"Where I've been?!" she retorts, backing away as he advances, retreating even as her scent floods with hurt and anger and one drop of fleeting sadness. "You should — you should know that, Matthew. Because you know me."

He isn't done, is swearing that if she touches his friends there'll be hell to pay, but she cannot stay and look at him a moment longer — needs to somehow parse this. She is gone before he can finish the sentence, a fleeting black-clad shape vanishing between the trees.

And though it's no longer the two trading strikes or parries from their weapons, but instead words — words that invoke old memory, lives of long ago, and intersecting paths that changed both —

Jane still tenses to find threat from that, not sure what any of this /means/ or where it could be going — not sure of anything but the most parsimonious conclusion of all: Matt Murdock has some sort of past with the whoever woman — Elektra, is that even a name? — sent to kill her. Who /tried/ to. Who /would have/.

She says nothing of her own. It takes all her focus and sense merely to stay on her feet, guard still up, unsure if at any moment she may need to defend herself again. She's not going to die tonight.

But then it ends, and the woman disappears. She melts seamlessly into the jungle brush, and delivers the remaining two to that denouement silence.

Jane hears her own too-quick beating heart. Overlaying its meter comes Matt's words — his question to her.

She tries to step forward, and her body gives out, an exhausted collapse straight down to the earth, as she huffs a half-choked breath through a wave of nausea she can no longer ignore. Adrenaline can delay for so long.

"Alive," she chokes out. "You?"

He should know, Elektra tells him before she vanishes into the thick of the jungle. Because he knows her. The shouted sentiment sets his jaw suddenly tight as he wrestles with its implications: he does know her, or knew her. And while he can't wrap his mind around the whole of her transformation, he can't help but draw a connection between what happened to her since her father was murdered on the Aegean Sea and —

Matt Murdock has about a half-second notice before Jane's collapsing, but he makes the best of it. He steals in swiftly to catch her as he can on the jungle floor, propping her up gently before chortling out a gallows-humored reply that admits just how deeply fucked-up everything she's seen over the last half hour has been: "Sure," he replies, of being alive. "Why not?"

He draws in a breath, searching for Elektra's scent — listens for her heartbeat's echo. Finding neither, he turns his attention back to a spent Jane Foster. "I'm sorry," the masked man murmurs. "I — uh." A beat. "I probably owe you an explanation, but it can wait until you're ready."

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