Work In Progress

October 11, 2017:

Jane and Bucky pay the law firm of Nelson & Murdock a visit, in thanks for all that happened with the trial (and with Wakanda, but no one told poor Foggy that).

Nelson & Murdock, Hell's Kitchen

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Jessica Jones, Tony Stark

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Summer still lingers like a stubborn old ghost over Manhattan, bringing surprising warmth to a dusky evening days from November. It's a good day, a good night, for James Barnes and Jane Foster to begin paying overdue and requisite housecalls after weeks away — weeks fighting an ocean away in Wakanda.

Now home, with that believed all behind them, and having gotten rest and reacclimation back to whatever "normal life" is — actually living again without a guillotine hanging over their hands, and a perpetual crisis pressing weight on their backs, it's time to indulge the things normal people tend to do.

Like go pay a visit and a proper thank-you to the two lawyers who defended your seventy-year list of murder against the United States.

OK, almost normal people things.

Either way, in her first actual break from her consummate work — right now life is Tony Stark's lab, and business is rebuilding Bucky's lost left arm — Jane spends the better part of the day cooking. Cooking everything. It's what happens when you're honestly not sure what a certain two men even like to eat. Everything is a good catch-all. Make everything.

Unfortunately, this fierce multitasking had Jane's attention skip when it came to the one-armed Bucky and whatever the hell he was doing on his side of the kitchen. Apparently, at one point, it was supposed to be cake, but when retrieved from the oven, Jane had said, awkwardly, "Oh. That's a nice… trapezoid." That didn't go over well.

And now, across the city and at a certain law firm in Hell's Kitchen, the door opens with a curious, beseeching, "Hello?"

It's Jane Foster, looking and hearing a lot different from that wraith of a thing months ago, worried and morose. She's still painfully tiny, but in great spirits, and with her comes bearing a couple bags of food, a rolling carry-on of luggage (more food), and a Bucky Barnes (also carrying food with his one arm.) "It's us! We brought food!"

It has been a slow day for Nelson, and this is quite obvious by the way he lazily throws a hacky sack up in the air to catch it, only to throw it up again. It's a dull, repeative motion that seems to hypnotize him — and it does so, so well that he hardly hears the door open or the hello that comes from it despite his own office door being wide open to the tiny entry room. He is leaning back in his chair as he continues his repeative up-down with the hacky-filled bag. He pauses then, blinking as the thought crosses his mind. "I wonder what hacky really is…"

That's when he looks up, and blinks again at the sight of someone crossing into the room, and the familiar voice of Bucky Barnes. "Huh?"

Summer may be keeping its stubborn grip on New York City, but to judge from view when the door swings open, the turn of the seasons has brought at least some changes to the law offices of Nelson & Murdock. It's not exactly a makeover — that would require more cash flow than their fledgling partnership has at the moment — but gone are the naked wires, the half-finished Styrofoam cups of coffee, the strewn and scattered papers, and the constant din of televisions inevitably turned to the latest-breaking developments in what was dubbed first by Ben Urich and later the country as the "Trial of Two Centuries."

Instead, the lobby of their railroad office space is neat and clean, warmed with a few flourishes: potted plants here, a framed New York Times headline there, a picture of the eponymous Nelson & Murdock on the cover of the ABA Journal.

And a new office manager, too, from the look of the person sitting behind the desk who comes to a rise as Bucky and Jane enter. She's a thirty-something, pencil-skirted woman who seems just a little too-put-together for her scrappy surroundings. "Ms. Foster, Mr. Barnes," she says with a brisk, professional smile as she comes to a rise and begins circling her desk towards them. She's never met them before, but she hasn't lived under a rock for the last year, and doesn't miss a beat. "Please, come in. I'll take the food off your hands and let the partners know you're here."

"Ah, that won't be necessary, Lydia," comes the soft, wry, all-too-familiar tone of Matthew Murdock from his side-office — the one without the view. The door swings open to reveal the man himself, almost the same as ever. There are lingering blushes of sunburn on the bridge of his nose and his temples that speak to his own time away in warmer climes, a new (and much-needed) haircut — but he's otherwise same as he ever was: suit coat abandoned, sleeves rolled up, tie slightly loose at its knot. The smile might be a rarity, of course. Especially in his professional life Matt's are infrequent and often close-mouthed — this one is bright, almost boyish in its effusiveness.

"Oh, guys, you really shouldn't have," he says with rueful good humor… and means it, being able to smell as he can each part and parcel of the mobile feast Jane Foster put together for them with the powers of science. He walks into the foyer in Jane's general direction, hands spread in welcome.

Just behind Jane, the familiar-not-familiar form of Bucky Barnes hovers. Familiar, because he's broadly unchanged despite his long sojourn in Wakanda; unfamiliar, because the one way in which he has changed is fairly major: his left arm is gone.

He carries himself with about as much grace as can be expected of a fresh amputee that has the balancing advantage of a supersoldier serum. Oddly enough, he's never actually had to live without his lost arm, despite losing it over seventy years ago. When he woke up on that table, the prosthetic was already in place.

Such thoughts seem to be far from his mind for the moment, as well they should be. He is the most relaxed he has been in over half a year. Or — he would be relaxed, if not for the object he is carrying in his one arm. It is the trapezoid. He still looks annoyed that it was called the trapezoid.

At the changes the office has undergone, he turns a bemused but rather pleased glance on Jane, lifting his brows. Not bad, huh? his expression says, especially when they are greeted by a very put-together lady who was definitely not there last time they were in this office regularly. He relinquishes his trapezoid willingly — thank God Matt can't see, though Foggy might have Opinions — and turns back towards the two lawyers.

"It's no trouble," he says, "especially after all the late nights and headaches you both went through." And panthers, but that is a secret. "Business, I hear, is picking up, so one less thing to think about, the better."

This may well be Jane Foster's first time in this office, despite being the key defence witness and party to the trial of James Barnes. All of Matthew Murdock's preparation of her for testimony, for the stand — occurred all in the comfort of her home, and knowing the subject matter, all for good reason. Catching Bucky's glance, her eyebrows pop up with silent agreement.

The petite woman helps herself to a good look around, tucking a look of her dark hair behind an eye, and receiving the office manager with a quieter smile. The strange face, and one definitely in addition to knowing her name, probably has the sometimes-awkward Jane momentarily shy. She's not used to being a semi-famous face, and she's really not used to it for being reasons that are not even related to her work, her job — or her, really. "Oh," she says quietly, "thank y —"

Then a sudden Murdock. Jane definitely recognizes him, mollifying the instant she sees the lawyer. A smile breaks out across her face. Sight for sore eyes, and if her eyes aren't sore as hell. "Hey, Matt," she says fondly, abandoning her carry-on of food to shuffle forward, up on her tip-toes to steal him into a quick hug.

Behind him, she can catch a glimpse of Foggy in through the open door of his office, her eyes crinkling with affectionate welcome, hand outstretched in a barely-contained-Jane-high-energy wavewavewave.

"Um." Foggy closely examines the food that has come in their door. "Did I miss something, or are we stocking up for winter?" He glances toward Matt with his brows arched in habit more than actually seeking the man to give an opinion. He glances then toward Jane, and offers a sheepish smile with a returned wave while still holding the hacky-sack. "Hi." He lets the silence hang for a second. "How's it going?" There's something awkward in those words as if Foggy is still working through some stuff… like abandonment issues.

Then with a half-cock of his head, the shaggy lawyer regards Bucky. "You're looking chipper," he offers with a slight smirk in his voice. He notes the trapezoid with another arch of his brows, but refrains from comment. Same goes for Bucky's missing arm. Lots of lack of commenting here. Like why his partner disappeared on a long vacation without him, or why Lydia the Lovely Receptionist still hasn't asked for her weekly wages. Yeah, Foggy has Opinions.

"Well, we may not be bears, but we still welcome the gesture," Matt pivots wryly off of Foggy's quip about stocking up for the winter as he shares that quick hug from Jane and extends a hand towards Bucky. After all, Matt can't see — or can't let on that he sees — much of the interplay here. Not Bucky's missing arm, nor Jane's slow recovery from her turn as ragged little-a-avenger to something like normalcy. But what he can offer is a warm and welcoming presence as Lydia absconds with Bucky & Jane's foodstuffs sets about to stocking their nearly-empty kitchenette.

Bucky's saying business is good, and Matt shrugs a little. "Yeah, we've been getting some decent word of mouth lately," he deadpans back, swallowing a smile. Winning a high-wire, David and Goliath bout with a formidable U.S.A. in a media-frenzied legal case will do that, goes unsaid.

And for all that Matt may be all pleasant comradery, it's safe to say that even if he weren't possessed of hyper-senses, he'd be able to tell that his best friend and law partners has many as-yet unspoken opinions about many things. But for the moment he presses the entering couple instead. "Can we get you some coffee? Or, you know, a dish of your choice from the cornucopia you apparently hauled over?"

"Winter IS coming," Bucky says with half a smile, unaware that he has just popular culture meme'd. "It's the time to stock up, if there ever was one."

Relinquishing his burdens, he watches Jane with amusement as she first flusters to the attention, then shuffles forward to greet Matt. You're looking chipper, Foggy says, drawing his eye, and he returns half a smirk — and tries not to look too betrayingly guilty about his part in having Matt mysteriously vanish on Foggy again for a few months.

"Yeah, not being on death row in some country or another does wonders for the mood," he quips. "I've had enough trial-by-combat-to-the-death scenarios to last me a lifetime by now."

He takes the offered hand when Matt extends it, a quick grasp and half a shake exchanged. "Oh, coffee would be great," he says. "Jane has barely slept, and when she has it's been over top of arm prototypes."

Jane is a very expressive woman. And she makes a really expressive face around when Bucky makes that totally unironic Game of Thrones quote. Oh god, she's so embarrassed. "Are you telling people to /stock up/ for winter — people don't need to be oldmansplained, James," she says, with deep, deep suffering, albeit spoken around a grin cracked up over her mouth.

When he speaks of death rows — plural, in his case — her grin smothers down to rueful smiling, still a bit too soon or too hard for her to joke about it, though even she knows it's probably for the best she does. Wasted far too long being so mournfully deep inside her own head.

And glad to be free of that, it gives her opportunity to look on others — namely, the silent interplay between Matt and Foggy. Jane's a perceptive person, especially in the realm of /this/ sort of stuff.

There's definitely something there, something /really/ strained and /really/ awkward, and she's got a third of an idea why.

"I don't need much sleep, never did, doctoral student thing," she chirps absently, with half-a-concerned eye toward Foggy that she tries not to make too obvious. Mention of fooding is a good topic to grab onto. "And please — everyone eat! I… am not sure of allergies or intolerances or any vegetarian or related -isms. I made everything. Stew. Chili. Curry. Everything. James made… a cake. It's… good."

Foggy glances over toward Lydia is already arming the Keurig for incoming caffeine, and he snappoints to her. "Lyds is already on it." To which Lydia gives Foggy a patient smile for his nickname while also starting to fill cups from a brand new Keurig and its accompanying cups. He whispers to Matt. "That showed up yesterday. Notice the logo on the cups?" Which isn't said completely from a place of ignorance; the logo is helpfully raised as if someone knew a blind guy would be holding the cup, and Stark Industries has a very distinctive logo.

Then he tries to relax a bit more easily into a smile for the two, even while his presence still hums with unresolved issues.

The Game of Thrones reference has Foggy's brows arching, and then he dryly retorts, "Aren't you a little old for HBO?" Beat pause. "You probably don't do Social Media either, or you would know that you have just one-degree of separation from Ned Stark. Tell me, do you know what a meme is?"

Matt's head ducks and smile mutes when Bucky speaks of being off death-row in one jurisdiction or another for the first time in months. There's relief, obviously, but as with Jane, the grueling gauntlet of the last half-year — whether in the courtroom or their harrowing experience in Wakanda — makes it difficult to joke about with the ease at which the man who himself was under the knife manages. The smile comes back full-fore, if quizzical, when their conversation descends into Ned Starks and memes.

But the world of Game of Thrones memes — or any internet memes at all — is beyond Matt Murdock. Still, he has probably read the first book — probably read it at Foggy Nelson's insistence, and so he can put two and two together. Winter is Coming. Winter Soldier. lolz abound. "It's a pop culture reference," Matt softly asides to Bucky pithily, while thinking silently to himself: You know, Ned Stark is probably the only person in the world, fictional or not, with shittier luck than James Buchanan Barnes.

"Uh, yeah," Matt goes on at Jane's offering(s). "I'll defer to Lydia on the spread. We're finding that's a good tack to take with most things."

Of course, he hears Foggy's aside, about the Keuring cups, and the raised print on them. It's safe to say that he has made a note of both the machine and their benefactor, at least from the way stubbled skin tightens around the hinge of his jaw, accompanied by a slight, short nod. He has some Unspoken Opinions himself.

Bucky is a perceptive man. His job demands it. He notices the face Jane makes, and his own expression turns a little indignant. "What?" he says, cross. "It's not oldmansplaining. It's called making conversation. Didn't they teach that in rocket science school?"

He notices the mood flatten out a bit when he speaks of death rows (multiple), however. Aware it's something that he responded to a little differently than those who were responsible for trying, frantically, to keep him alive — one has the luxury of bleak fatalism when one is the person under the guillotine, without power to change the outcome — he quiets on the matter.

Foggy, as always, is quite good for lightening the mood, even when his own still seems to bear such weight towards his absentee partner.

Nelson's salvo of references has the old man looking bewildered. Is this 'Ned Stark' part of the Stark clan? He looks at Jane, then at Matt. The latter helpfully clarifies, but Bucky only looks a little less uncertain. "I'm figuring out memes," he says, and he might be getting assistance in this in the form of Jessica's barrage of them. "Most of them seem to be about cats, though."

There is a pause. Then he realizes Jane is impugning his cake. "You try to make anything with one arm," he grumbles.

"Memes are still a work in progress," is Jane's opinion on the matter, entombed in her voice many long nights of trying to educate a hundred-year-old man on the subject of 'dank memes' and the saga of Bad Luck Brian. She doesn't miss Bucky's perceptive catch where she questions the honour of his poor, lopsided cake. It is defended justly, and righteously.

Her smile goes just as lopsided, and she nudges Bucky's side briefly, playfully. "He's got emojis down pat though. Seasoned pro."

With that cup proffered up for everyone to get a peek, Jane's dark eyes catch the logo. Her eyebrows pop up. "Speaking of Starks," she says dubiously. She'd know /that/ logo anywhere. It's graciously donated her lab space and access to Tony-level resources. The man himself built her a small (and frankly incomprehensible, she has no idea what to do with it) company. "What's that? Wait, you guys aren't representing Tony Stark or anything?" A beat, and the blood drains out of her face. /He/ isn't facing any charges, is he?!

Lydia makes the rounds with cups of fresh coffee, smiling that wonderful smile as she does. She hands Foggy his Stark-emblazoned mug, and her smile goes rueful. "Mr. Nelson said no to the espresso machine though… fully automatic." Then the woman moves along to prepare the spread of food in Matt's office, because, well, has anyone really seen the whirlwind of hell that is Foggy's office at the moment?

Nelson just takes his cup and sips it without comment. Nope, he's not going to say anything. He does wait a heartbeat before snorting a bit. "You loved the book… you hated the ending. I think you were comparing yourself too much to Ned. That leads to nowhere but disappointment and tragedy." He takes another sip, still not exactly making eye contact with his partner as he does.

Bucky's mention of trying to navigate the world of memes and running into cats earns him an earnest, serious nod. "We're Egyptians all over again… writing on walls and worshipping cats."

Foggy is about to take another sip of coffee when Jane gets right on into it, and he casts a dubious look toward Matt. "Um, well. Maybe." Then Foggy shakes his head, holding up a hand. "No, no, nothing like that… um. Pepper Potts came by and offered us a gig as basically the lawyers on retainer for Stark Industries employees… not necessarily representing Mr. Stark directly." He side-eyes Matt before he takes another sip. "Something like that."

"I didn't compare myself to Ned Stark," Matt scoffs breezily. And it's true, for what it's worth — though the death of the Stark family paterfamilias had some resonances for the orphan boy. If there was a point of comparison, it was with broody Jon Snow. Matt's smile lights up again and twists wry when Foggy makes his perceptive quip about the through-line leading from Ptolemaic Egypt and modern day internet culture. "That's cute," he says.

Though the humor is utterly quashed when the matter of Stark Industries and Nelson & Murdock is brought out in the open. "Obviously we can't talk much about it," Matt adds on to Foggy's statement with a brief, perfectly politic quirk of his lips. "Even intake meetings are privileged, after all." He's always been good at keeping his feelings close to his chest, but even Matt's circumspection has its limits. He does his best to school his voice to neutrality, but there's a detectable tightness in it. "But I think the bottom line is that they're pitching us on some business. Like I told you at the party, Bucky, we're trying to be… selective… about our clientele right now."

Bucky rolls his eyes obviously when Jane cites his meme education as a work in progress. "It doesn't seem like anything that important to understand," he says, just as one might expect a hundred year old man to say. Though he does smirk a little when Jane praises his emoji game.

"It's like the man says," he retorts, with a cant of his head towards Foggy. "It's close enough to hieroglyphs that apparently even a relic like me can figure it out."

The Stark logo, however… that's something Jane catches before Bucky does. She spends much more time staring at the thing. His eyes stray to it a moment after Jane points it out, and her hesitation brings him to lapse into thoughtful silence. His reaction, being that he knew Howard, is more in the flavor of 'man, those Starks really get their paws on everything.'

Foggy's clarification, and Matt's reaction, carries a certain charged awkwardness between the two partners that the erstwhile Winter Soldier can't miss. He looks between the two, then at Jane. "Ah. Well — of course we wouldn't pry on privileged business…"

Accepting the gift of coffee ever-so-gratefully, Jane drains a good third of it right off the bat. Maybe she does need to sleep more. "Good stuff," she remarks politely, with a humoured pivot of her eyes against all Foggy's history lessons of millennials going full-redux-Egypt, and Bucky's old man grumbling.

Not that it lasts long, when both lawyers answer her question two different ways — accordingly with different levels of privilege, discretion, and /excitement/ about the whole thing.

Usually so good at picking up the little things, right now she gets blindsided by sheer professional hype for Nelson & Murdock. "On retainer for /Stark Enterprises/?" she repeats. "That's — wow. Like — wow! Career-changing and — congratulations! You'd probably have to have an entire /staff/, and, what's that — I can't lawyerese. Associates? And —"

Jane catches that glance from Bucky. She sobers immediately. Oh, she's doing that thing, and they're doing entirely opposite things. "I mean — should you guys accept. Not prying whatsoever." A beat. "I will say," Jane adds, pryingly, "I do consultant work with Tony Stark. He's a really good guy."

"And we lack a tie-breaker." Foggy's tone tries to carry some sense of chipperness, but it is easy to also detect an ice chip in it, too. He doesn't look back at Matt this time, instead sticking to his coffee, where it's warm and welcoming and only slightly bitter. In comparison. He clears his throat then, detecting the sudden weight of awkwardness settling over the office.

Unable to help himself, Foggy quips, "It isn't even Thanksgiving yet, and the uncomfortable family dinners have already started."

Which is just in time for Lydia to pop back in, announcing she has put sandwich fixings out, and wonders if the lawyers have a bowl for the chips. Foggy just turns to blink at her owlishly, and then looks to Matt. He is about to inquire about why on earth would you put chips in a bowl when the bag is good enough, but Jane is piping in with her eager and go-to attitude, which has Foggy looking a bit rueful.

"Yeah, Matt… he's a good guy," Foggy says dryly toward Murdock, but leaves it at that.

Matt accepts his cup of coffee — in his Columbia Law mug — with a note of quiet but sincere gratitude towards Lydia. He takes a slow sip, and he'll even echo Jane's endorsement with a grudging: "Yeah, it's not bad." It may be damning with faint praise, though in fairness, Matt's taste have always been ridiculously refined. See the gourmet African blends he was plying Bucky with at early hours in the morning while they prepared for the case. And, of course, his tepid reaction surely has nothing at all to do with the name and logo that accompany this particular brew. Heaven forbid.

Then Jane is waxing ecstatic and effusive over an offer that has left Matt with a sinking feeling in his gut since he first heard about it — at least until Bucky's knowing look tips her off with a knowing look. And Foggy does what he so often does in a minefield of awkwardness: calls it out, makes light of it. The familiarity of the move prompts a quiet chuckle from Matt, even if the subject matter continues to set him on edge. "Uh, yeah, Lydia, I think there's a bowl that would work for it on the top-middle shelf," says the blind man politely before turning back to the group. "Thanks, Jane," he says evenly, presumably both for the congratulations and her own two-cents on the billionaire playboy. "And it's flattering to get that kind of interest. Obviously. It's just something we have to put our heads together about. The first clients and cases we take on after Bucky's trial send a message about the kind of firm we'll be."

Foggy's echo of Jane's recommendation sees his partner let out a quiet sigh. "Anyway," Matt adds casually, in a clear attempt to table the topic. "I'm glad you're liking the work there. Anything exciting on the horizon?" A beat, another twitch of a smile: "Aside from a certain new and improved prosthetic, of course."

Bucky eyes Jane draining the coffee like no tomorrow. His own cup is sipped, though he has no commentary on whether it is good or not. Everything tastes good to a man raised mostly on Depression food and war rations.

And while Jane's reaction about the Stark-related news is quite expected and sensible, on the one hand, on the other there's also the way Foggy and Matt are looking at each other — or not looking at each other — and the tautness to their tones of voice that makes him drift a sidewise glance at her. It's not a quelling gaze, nothing that peremptory, but it is a sort of 'you seeing this?' look.

She sees it. She gets quiet. A little feebly, she endorses Stark.

Foggy quips about uncomfortable family dinners. Bucky chokes a little on his coffee.

Matt moves to clear the topic away, and Bucky is happy to let it go. "There's the prosthetic," he agrees. "First thing on the table. A couple of things we left hanging when America took the first swing." He pauses, glances at Jane — he's told her about this — before he adds quite casually, "Been catching up with Jessica, too. Seems like she's got a lot on the horizon also."

Inside a handful of minutes, Jane nearly has her coffee emptied. Bring on the caffeine. If she can no longer have magic in her arm — which helps wonderfully as a wake-me-up, by the way — then extreme amounts of caffeine will surely suffice.

Meanwhile, there is no mistaking the way the air is /thick/ between Foggy and Matt. Foggy's more tempered echo of her own words sobers Jane out of her professional enthusiasm, she answers Bucky's quick look, the pretends to be greatly interested in staring at the shallow layer of coffee left at the bottom of her cup. Jane Foster will go to Germany to fight nazis, or face off with T'Challa directly in the eye, but give her some awkwardness and it'll shut her right up. And, oh god, is this awkward.

Definitely some things are going on with Nelson & Murdock.

Relieved for a change in topic, Jane ends her grand coffee cup study to Matt's question. "Exciting?" she answers. "I… this and that. I'm helping Tony with a few things, but I'm not sure what I'm at liberty to say. Then I get sued /by you/ for it. Awkward. But, yeah, James's arm is definitely my numero uno priority. Among some other projects of mine still on the table." That comes with another rueful stare down into her coffee cup.

Jane catches Bucky's glance, tied with the remark on Jessica. Casual as ever, her smile creaks into the corners of her eyes, and she finishes her coffee.

Foggy clears his throat a bit, taking another sip from his coffee as it serves as a place to escape the awkwardness — or make it worse. Then he looks back over toward Bucky and Jane, and he offers a small smile as if apologizing wordlessly. Then he huffs a breath, and nods to Matt's office. "Well, why don't we grab something to eat… since you're trying to fatten us up." He shuffles his feet a bit, headed for the open office. He's barely following the track of conversation at this point, feeling a bit like he's definitely missing some key pieces to a very big and confusing puzzle.

"You call Tony Stark just 'Tony'…" Foggy breathes a heavy sigh and looks at Matt. "Why can't my best friend be cool?" Oh ye of little knowledge, Senor Foggy. Then Foggy starts preparing himself a sandwich.

Bucky and Jane speak in code of plans and opportunities that cross the line from one part of Matt's deeply compartmentalized life to the other. Even though he can read between the lines in a way Foggy can't, he accepts the information silently and without visible reaction. Over the course of nearly a year he's gotten half-way decent at meeting the requirements of his double life, including heretofore unknown levels of secrecy. He's not sure if that's a good thing for his character or the contents of his soul — he expects not. But he is convinced that it's necessary.

Foggy mournfully wishes that Matt were cool enough to call Tony Stark by his first name, to which Matt just shrugs his eyebrows as he follows behind Foggy into his office. "Hey, who knows? Maybe Jane'll introduce you, and you can go riding on his back as he rockets around Manhattan," quips the lawyer through a half-smile as he approaches the food with half-drunk coffee in hand. It's clearly a sore spot, this offer from a generous and well-heeled benefactor, and it will continue to be until they address it head-on instead of circling around it in the midst of company. "Anyway, yeah, let's dig in. We've got plenty of reasons to celebrate — and plenty to talk about besides billionaires and superheroes."

A beat. "Am I right?"

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