Equals and Opposites

November 24, 2017:

After unearthing the secrets of Wilson Fisk and IGH, Matt and Kinsey retreat to his apartment to regroup, only to find themselves at odds over what to do next.

Matt Murdock's loft


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Wilson Fisk, Tony Stark, Pepper Potts, Foggy Nelson

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

It's some two and a half hours after Luke Cage exited a dilapidated Harlem walkup with all the answers he could ever ask for, all of which were predictably the very opposite of any he'd ever expect or want. Time enough for Daredevil to climb leap, swing his way across dozens of city blocks to his troubled corner of Manhattan, and slink down into his poor man's fortress of solitude: a spacious mid-town penthouse decked neon and shadow, courtesy of the billboard lights from across the street. Time enough for him to shower, washing away the sweat accumulated during his parkouring, not to mention the the slick layer of grime he felt coated with from head to toe after listening to page after page of Wilson Fisk and IGH's deepest, darkest secrets.

And, as it turns out, a few of his own as well.

There was a lot to say after reading the documents that layed out, in sordid detail, the history of the drugs that made Matthew Murdock and Jessica Jones who they are, and which are intimately bound up in the past of Luke Cage as well. But that wasn't the time, and that Harlem brownstone definitely wasn't the place. And so he told Six — Kinsey — to meet him after she'd completed her own transformation. In the already-dark of the early evening he sits and waits in the dark of his living room, in grey sweat pants and a dark zip-up hoodie. Were they the mostly-ordinary millennials they each pretended to be, it would be prelude to a stay-in date. But neither Netflixing nor chilling are at the forefront of Matt's mind as his head cranes upward to stare sightlessly at his plaster ceiling. Normally so intent and decisive, or at least deliberative, in the moment he looks shell-shocked — or even lost.

It was a while ago that Kinsey began keeping a change of attire (and a full set of Six's equipment) in her office at Stark's tower. With all of the time she's spending there by necessity, it was the only decision that made any sense. Moments like this, that foresight uncomplicates her life dramatically: it's not so far from Harlem to the tower, and after ditching the Six gear and putting on a pair of jeans, sneakers, and a sweater beneath a jacket, she pulls her hair back and hops onto public transit. It's probably an hour before she finds her way to him, and it's an hour she's been grateful for — not just so that she can review the information in conversation with Five for the duration of the trip, but because she's still sorting through a jumble of feelings about it, for the most part on behalf of the two men whose lives are inextricably bound up in what they've discovered. There is still room, though, to wonder how and why she caught the attention of someone like Wilson Fisk.

Her knock on the door has a signature cadence, light enough that nobody else would hear it, she's sure — not that she needs to knock, she suspects, but old habits die hard.

The door opens almost as soon as the knock strikes — proof positive that Matt had sensed her approach before she oh-so-softly announced it. He's flipped on the apartment's lights for her benefit, and they illuminate one side of the profile that greets her there in the doorway, while leaving the other side mostly shadowed. The basics are there, though: still-damp hair, the stubbled planes of his cheek and jaw, a tired but appreciative smile — and a pair of searching, sightless, and slightly-sad brown eyes.

"Hey, Kinsey," he says quietly, two words laden with layers of emotion, relief first and foremost among them. Part of that is simply a function of her transformation. He's gotten to know — and consequently come increasingly to accept — Kinsey Sheridan's more blatantly bionic, voice-modulated alter-ego. But there's still something nice about seeing her as the young woman he'd literally stumbled into on the streets of Metropolis nearly one year ago. "Thanks for coming."

Squaring goofy, oh-so-human Kinsey Sheridan with the emotionaless cipher she's slowly trying to turn Six into must be difficult, but she finds it equally difficult to reconcile Matt Murdock with the growling, vicious shadow of the Daredevil. Standing there dressed down, sill finding it within himself to formally thank her for doing something she'd have wanted to do anyway, he could not be more different than the nocturnal creature he becomes.

All because he'd been unfortunate enough to cross paths with one remote tendril of the leviathan that now acts on behalf of one man, when Matt himself was only a boy.

She crosses the threshold just enough for the door's closing arc to be clear, reaching with one hand to lightly skate her fingertips over his cheekbone, back across his temple, behind the shell of his ear where the first cropped lengths of his hair are feathered. It's her prelude to an embrace, silent and sighing: not commiseration, precisely — she earned what happened to her on her own initiative — but sympathy, at least.

Matt lets out a raspy breath at that first moment of contact, as the fingers of one hand — natural, artificial, it's never mattered much to him — grace his features and land somewhere behind one ear. It's just prelude to the full-body shudder he gives when she closes the distance and embraces him. His arms band around her back, mindful of his own strength but still tight enough to convey gratitude and the kind of naked, unguarded need he's rarely allowed himself to display with her or anyone else. With him barefoot and her in shoes they're of a height, and the fierce kiss he gives lands on one smooth temple.

"I know you're dead set on finding out what happened to you, Kinsey," he says of her own personal quest for answers to her transformation when he finally finds breath and wherewithal to speak. His smile is brief but tight, his hushed tone suffused with gallows humor. "But, ah, I gotta say, at least in my experience it's not all it's cracked up to be." After a beat, there's a slight (and slightly reluctant) slackening of that embrace. "Come on, let's go in. I — uh, ordered us some food. Should be here in soonish."

For that moment, arms wound about the nape of his neck and slender fingers splayed into a cradle over the curve of the back of his skull, Kinsey directs her knit-browed, distant-eyed expression into the wall behind him, no one there to see the small mote of anger that sparks there like a firefly, brief but bright. She's less overt about her desire to protect the people around her, but the impulse exists.

With deliberate intent she pushes thoughts of Fisk away to focus, instead, on the man in front of her and all of his reopened wounds, the shapes of which she can't hope to know.

"I'm sorry, Matt." Green-gold eyes wander his face as she leans back enough to look at him, unbinding her arms to cradle his face. You are more than what happened to you, she wants to say, and it's only because of the struggle in his expression that she finds the restraint to hold it back. Later, maybe. After they've unwound some of the worst of the tension.

She claims his hand with insistence and draws him into the apartment as though it belonged to her rather than the other way around, carrying with her the clinging chill of the outdoors and the scents of the city beyond. "Good thinking. I'm starving." Then again, she's basically always hungry. That neural net requires a whole lot of fuel.

"I hope Cage is okay," she adds, soft, just before she puts the backs of her legs to his sofa and folds to sitting, turning her gaze up at him. Two beats later, and rueful: "He probably isn't."

"Hey, it's okay," Matt offers in the face of her sympathies, even though his unmasked features, and the almost haunted look in his off-center eyes, make it as clear as any leaping heartbeat that this is an utter lie. But then, there's an addition that makes it at least more true: "I made out so much better than so many others. I was lucky." The cool, clinical list of the dead and warped who were sacrificed on the twin altars of science and profit is enough to get his renewed ire up, and a return of the familiar clench that marked his jawline throughout most of the interview with Dr. Parker and his review of the contents of Reva Connors' thumb drive.

He follows her lead from the foyer into the living room, walking over to the leather couch to lower himself down. "God, I know," Matt says, eyebrows lifting as he blows out a breath at the prospect of Luke Cage. It had felt invasive, even voyeuristic to be there while a man he barely knows — but instinctively likes — is forced to confront the unraveling of so much that he thought he knew about his life and marriage. "I'd send Jess to check in on him, but it sounds like things between them are — complicated." That's said with a slight note of regret; he'd been rooting for them ever since Wakanda, complicated histories and all.

After a brief lull in which that endless cycle of ruminations which has dominated his mind for the last three hours suddenly reasserts itself, he adds softly, distantly: "Kinze, we've got to put these guys away. From Fisk all the way down. They all need to pay. What they did."

Kinsey's response to mention of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones is a quiet sound in the chest, wordless but compassionate on the matter of Jones' private life. Not because of the way things played out with Matt, but because the last message she had from Jessica, post-hospital basement adventure, had included the news that Jessica's seeing someone, and she has yet to hear anything contrary to that…but like hell she's going to be the one who blabs.

Once he's seated she nudges her sneakers off neatly to one side of the couch and then swings her legs up and over his, one shoulder turned into the sofa beside him, her arm braced on the back to prop up her head, fingers wandering through dark locks still slightly kinked from the pins she keeps them in underneath her helmet.

"What they're still doing." Hazel eyes unfocus, thoughts wandering the astonishing breadth of the information they found. "It's going to be difficult. This man obtained highly classified government data from a secure facility without so much as a ripple. He had someone on the inside of the DEO. That's…" The sentence trails off, thoughts coasting onward silently until they reach a question, and her gaze focuses again, on him. "Matt, what are we going to do if no due process exists for him?"

She slides her legs over his in a familiar, companionable sort of intimacy as they mull the matter of mass murderers, megacorporations and mad scientists. Matt lays his hand gently on one of her knees, near the juncture where organic meets bionic, and graces the jean-clad leg with an idle, thoughtless stroke of his thumb. Meanwhile, she talks about Fisks' apparent access, his silent and deft touch that has kept him out of the spotlight and out of the cross-hairs for months going on years. He feels himself growing increasingly agitated, and he doesn't know why — at least until Kinsey openly voices the question Matt has been mulling ever since he reviewed those documents — and perhaps even longer. Perhaps as long ago as the disastrous Stark Expo, when he heard the powerful, percussive beat of Wilson Fisk's heart.

One day, perhaps, you'll come around to my way of thinking, sounds a familiar voice in his head: posh and knowing. It's a long-remembered voice but a fresh memory, two former lovers debating the rights and wrongs of lethal force.

When you face an opponent who won't be stopped.

Matt lets out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding, and swallows hard. "We haven't gotten there yet. We've got to try due process first. It… seems like there are two options. There's SHIELD, where I have connections now, though only as me, not Daredevil. They might consider this small time, if you can believe it. But the fact that the pills deal with metas…"

A long beat, a shifting of his jaw that signals he's not altogether sure about this next course: "The other option is David Archer." Matt's rival and nemesis on the Barnes' case. "Yeah, he made Jane and Bucky's lives hell, but he was doing his job. He didn't strike me as corruptible, and we're likely to fare better with him than some city D.A. who has either been bought and paid for or whose boss has been bought and paid for."

We haven't gotten there yet is not a sufficient answer for the likes of Kinsey, her character disposed to thinking well ahead at all times. It's really only the degree to which she's learned to read him that keeps her from pressing the point, understanding, perhaps, that it's not something they're likely to resolve tonight — but the thought of finding herself faced with making a decision of that significance on the fly leaves her distinctly uneasy. In a gesture of at least temporary concession, she places her hand atop the one on her knee and lets him list out his other thoughts about their approach, the second of which gets a blink of surprise, but no verbal counterarguments, even if she does put on a small frown. By her estimation, Archer's adherence to the letter, rather than the spirit, of his role in the proceedings had been overzealous. The bad taste lingers.

She is not, however, any kind of expert on law, and in all things related to that, she'll inevitably defer to him.

Besides: "That's great if we can actually get him charged with anything. I'm not even sure that's possible. And if we can get him charged with something formally, I'm not sure he won't just be allowed to wander off and go into hiding, and if that doesn't happen and he's convicted, I don't know that he won't get an insanely light sentence, and if he's given an insanely light sentence who's to say he doesn't wind up out again in very short order?"

It's an exhausting train of thought, and accordingly she folds the arm she's bracing her head with against the back of the cushions and lets her head settle there, eyes closing and brows faintly knit.

"I don't understand what he wants me for. I never had exposure to his mutagen."

It's a fault line between Matt Murdock and Kinsey Sheridan, or perhaps between Daredevil and Six: their equal and opposite inclinations towards careful planning and seat-of-the-pants improvisation. Matt's aware of it, and through all those ineffable nonverbal cues aware of the way it crops up in this very conversation. He isn't entirely sure whether they will balance each other out or drive each other crazy, but he's hoping, at least, for the former.

Meanwhile, she points out all the potential pitfalls of taking on Fisk through the law and the legal system, and he smiles and ducks his head. "Kinze, I know how often the law can fail us," he assures her, schooling his voice more towards an even-keeled understanding than any slight twinge of exasperation he might feel. "That's why I do what I do, right? I'm just saying that giving up hope of charging him with something at the outset doesn't make sense. That what he's doing is glaringly illegal is his biggest weakness. Let's at least consider taking advantage of it."

It's an argument that could take up the whole evening, but then a weary, frustrated Kinsey takes things in a new direction. Matt lets out a quiet breath. "Yeah, I've been thinking a lot about that. We — made a deliberate decision to go after his empire instead of pursuing his interest in you. We can pick that thread back up, if you want. I have a few notions — "

The buzzer rings. Dinner. Matt rolls his eyes a the timing. "Sorry, do you mind buzzing him up and getting it? Less blind man Kabuki that way."

It's possible to guess from the slow shake of her head what her answer might be, but it'll have to wait. As frustrating as it is to have the discussion interrupted, she's hungry enough not to have the heart to complain. She lifts her head, leans in to press a kiss to his cheek, then swings her legs over the side of the sofa to get to her feet, already patting down her pockets for her essentials as she trots to the door.

Two minutes later she closes the door and carries a crinkling, brown paper bag with a rolled top into his open-concept kitchen to set it down on the counter, rifling through his cabinets with the confidence of someone who long ago made a point to learn where everything was.

"If anything, finding out more about him just confirms that going after the rest of his operation is probably the same thing as proactively interfering with his plans for me. He's invested in these other companies. It's possible he won't have time or interest for anything else if we start to unravel that." As long as he doesn't catch me doing that as Six, she refrains from adding. Cutlery is produced. Wide bowls, too, because shy of pizza there really isn't much in the world that isn't appropriate to eat out of a bowl.

"And I'm free. ..For a given value of free, I guess." The latter is murmured. "We can't say the same for those poor people he's mining for genetic material."

It's Indian, point of fact. From Vikram's place — her preferred comfort dish of chicken korma, along with his saag paneer — perfect for the bowls she's already laying out. Though he was loathe to engage in the second-nature but, in this moment, somehow exhausting notion of faking his blindness with the delivery man, he hops to his feet as soon as the door closes. Some placemats are acquired, two bottles of beer uncapped with a little applied pressure against the corner of his tabletop.

She lays out all the reasons that it makes more sense to go for the jugular on Wilson Fisk than spin their wheels pursuing leads on why he is trying to corner her. And it's right and sensible, but he also has been thinking about it, and won't let a delivery of food, however welcome, entirely derail that thread. "It could be that he sees something in what you did at that train that could be useful in augmenting his work on the drugs," he ventures, but seems a little skeptical even as he says it. "The limbs? How you were able to deal with computer systems? Maybe he feels there's something you have that would get him past this hurdle — but I don't know. You're not the only — "

A beat of silence as he lays out the placemats, sets the beer at their corners, and contemplates a word he's rarely associated with her: "— you're not the only cyborg around. So maybe it was what you were doing. Which was…"

Illegal. "This guy wants to control everything," Matt says with quiet conviction, after the food's laid out and they're standing, facing each other in front of the couch. After a year on the hunt, he feels like he already knows this Fisk, even if he only learned his name last month. "Maybe… he wants to control you, too. Maybe he wanted to use the skills you put on display at the train — and wherever else he caught a glimpse of them — for himself. Once he had you pegged as Six, he'd have the footage from the security cameras and the weight of the world over your head. If I had to guess? I think he's looking for you because he wants to offer you a job."

Or, rather, indentured servitude.

Kinsey does not even begin to bother disguising her delight when she unrolls the top of the bag and peeks down into it, only to get a warm, wafting faceful of fragrant aromas. It sharpens her hunger the way a grindstone will a blade, and she's silent as much because she's really focused on dishing the contents of the bag into their bowls as because she's listening to him, glancing up only once, when he drifts into silence upon the heels of some realization or other.

By the time he's made his way to the logical end of the thought they're seated again, she with her bowl on her knees, and as ravenous as she is — the fork is in her hand and poised above the bowl — she nevertheless stills, a faint frown answering his conclusion. She weighs it, holding it up against other things, and eventually drops her gaze to the bowl, stirring the sauced chicken into the rice. "Maybe." The word is as neutral as she can make it, but uneasiness stirs in its depths like an insidious current.

Not least because it inspires another line of thinking altogether. A line of thinking that Matt Murdock is not going to like. Quiet, she takes several bites of her food and swallows them before she even begins to broach it.

"If we want to undo him, maybe I ought to take him up on that."

It's not the first time Kinsey Sheridan has made Matt Murdock choke — quips about talking, alien raccoons spring to mind — and it probably won't be the last. He stifles it, taking a hard swallow of his fork-full of paneer, along with a moment to catch his breath. "Wait — what?" He balks. Of course he balks. His tone, his expression — everything about him registers incredulity. He'd told her his growing suspicions about Fisk's aims to make her more cautious about exposing herself, not…

He lets the for rest on the bowl with a 'clink' before turning in his kneel to face her. A breath: cleansing, collecting. "Let's say for a minute that it's true." He's a lawyer, and he can deal in hypotheticals — and indeed, embracing that part of his brain helps cool some of the licking flames spreading along his cheeks and neck. "His attempts to I.D. you all predate you openly disrupting his operations," Matt points out. "He might just as soon kill you as hire you now. And even if he were still interested, the only way Fisk would ever trust you is if he had something over you. The real you, not some anonymous 'Six' who can just disappear into the ether one day. How could we risk that?"

He's deliberate in his arguments. This, too, is the lawyer in him. There's no immediate appeal to morality: How could you work for him? What would you have to DO for him? Even if those may be the very arguments silently sounding off in his pretty Catholic head.

The balking does not, it's safe to say, arrive as a surprise. He can't see her expression but she schools it anyway, a lifetime of training-enhanced habit pulled to the fore by the note of friction introduced to the conversation, however slight.

Her eyes remain on her bowl, and she uses the tines of her fork to move her food around, stirring rice into sauce and chicken and eating unhurriedly, tone casual. "He already has all of the information he needs to discover who I am. His people have had the servers from that train car for months. It's a lot of information, but we've established he has a team of hackers. Good ones. Not me-good, but good enough to design search algorithms to winnow down the content of those servers for characteristics he's interested in. They'll find the information eventually, at which point I expect any other persons of interest they can't rule out will begin to receive unexpected visits from this Wesley character, and who knows what might happen to them?"

Lowering the bowl to her lap, she reaches for the bottle of beer and takes two sips before setting it aside and continuing, brow rising, "To date his only experience of me as Six was at the shipyards, and it was clear we weren't expecting to run into one another — you and I. He's intelligent enough to no doubt be open to the possibility, but it must seem unlikely, given the way things played out. And yes, of course he'd as soon kill me as hire me. My instincts, though, tell me that someone who's useful to him has a longer expiration date than someone who isn't. Truth is? I have things to hold over him, to. Maybe that outweighs usefulness…maybe it doesn't. Maybe he's the kind of man who'd prefer to keep variables where he can see them."

She is right that her days of evading Wilson Fisk's attention were numbered from the start, and whatever his stubbornness, he's smart enough to realize it and not even bother to contest it. Which doesn't mean he'll leave every point uncontested. "It's true he didn't see us come into the docks together, but he'll certainly hear about how we both came to Jessica's rescue together," Matt notes, shifting in his chair to face her full front. Even without sight he's attuned to their positioning.

Their training in this respect is similar. He feels heat rising along his collar-bone, his neck, but he wills his tone to something even. "On the outside chance that he may want to use you rather than kill you," Matt allows, reaching for his own suddenly much-needed beer as he tries to keep the conversation in the realm of hypotheticals, "what's the end game, Kinsey? Dig up enough dirt on Fisk to put him away? We have a world of dirt on IGH and CGI now. We have a witness who will likely sing to a U.S.A. What could we gain with putting you in his orbit that's possibly worth the risk?"

"Knowledge. Insurance against the day he finds out who I am, because at least then I'll be able to see him coming. Information about his movements and agendas, the possibility of tracking him without his knowledge, a map of his empire. We have a lot of information and we've developed more leads based on what I snatched out from under his nose, but that was just a small part of what was there, and I grabbed it in a hurry on my way out the door, figuratively speaking. Imagine how much there must actually be. Sure, we have stuff. It might even stick. But there's no way in hell we have even the majority of it all, and when you go after him, whatever we don't know about, we're not going to catch that in the net we throw. It'll run all of the rest of it to ground."

She quiets for some moments, spearing chicken and scooping rice, and finally does look up, setting her fork down with a click against the sidewall of her bowl. "Matt. I'm not insisting, but the idea has more merit than you're giving it. You go out there every single night and put yourself at risk of harm and death for far more granular reasons. Good reasons. Saving people. But this isn't any different. It's risking harm and death for the opportunity to possibly save a whole lot of people. I understand your hesitation, and it's not like I'd enjoy being around a person who- I know what he's done. Even a small part of it. He's a fucking monster! But sometimes the risk to reward ratio is high on both sides of the equation, and sometimes that makes sense."

She argues the merits, and says he's not paying enough heed to them. The hinge of his jaw moves as he swallows some of his cheek and ducks his head briefly down. "Look, Kinze, you're not insisting and I'm not saying no," he says, with a subtle wince that suggests that he's working overtime to refrain from it. "I'm just trying to ask questions and understand what it is you're suggesting."

He marshals the rest of his thoughts while taking a long swig of beer and a hard swallow. "And I get what you're saying, about the relative dangers," he admits, and it's both a major admission and an obvious one. His name — his brand, if you want to be obnoxious about it — is death-defying, utterly foolhardy feats in service of the greater good. How can he deny her the risks he undertakes nearly every night? But still, there's something in his tone that suggests resistance — and that the admission comes with an epic caveat. "But I'm at least mostly in control of what I do when I'm out there on my own. I can keep myself from going too far, from crossing lines I can't come back from." His jaw sets, resets as he thinks through the potential outcomes. "You'd have to materially help Fisk for this to work, and you've seen the nightmarish stuff this guy is up to. It's not about whether you'd enjoy being around him — it's what he'd be asking you to do for him that I'm really worried about."

Kinsey collects her fork again after he makes his first concession, and she's eating when he — rather by accident and obliquely, more as a consequence of his phrasing than his intent — strikes a nerve. The fork clanks as she drops it, green-gold eyes angled up beneath elegant dark brows. Soft lips tilt into a small frown that looks the way distant thunder stounds as a storm attempts to create itself on a horizon.

"And you think I can't. Keep myself from crossing lines I can't come back from."

This is what is colloquially known as a 'trick question.'

Attuned as his ears are to the subtleties of the human voice, he hears her quietly balk at his choice of words. Part of him wants to let his anger rise in kind, to show the kind of outrage that even her suggestion of working with Wilson Fisk demands. Instead he breathes, once, twice, and rakes his hand through his hair. "That came out wrong," he murmurs, and lets those words hang for a beat before continuing, slowly:

"What I'm saying is that if you entangle yourself with Fisk, and give him at least some degree of power over your fate, you could be forced to make some terrible choices with no upsides. There's no doubt he'd want to put the amazing things you can do to some awful ends. I trust you, Kinsey. I do. But do you blame me for being worried about you, in that scenario?"

That came out wrong.

"Yeah, it did," Kinsey says, with the quiet but firm tone of voice one might expect of a young woman who, for all that she has a head of blonde hair beneath dark dye, is more than worthy of her Irish heritage. It would be far more sensible to throw the brakes, given the signals of contained tension in him — she doesn't miss them; couldn't — but it's a raw spot, and the rise in her isn't so quick to subdue again.

She does lapse into silence again, though, and let him follow the words up with more, with a long silence as the end cap before she even begins to respond.

"Yeah. That's entirely possible, Matt, and I don't blame you for being worried. I would worry. I do worry, every time you go running off to fight men with assault rifles with a stick. But I'd also have the advantage of being able to mitigate some of those terrible things, and- I'm just gonna table this for now. We'll stick to the plan, and just…" She picks up the fork, returns to prodding at her food while her voice dips down into tonelessly low registers. "Hope he doesn't figure me out before then."

Matt's smile is slight but tight when she affirms that his words were poorly chosen. He rolls one shoulder, then the other — the reflexive moves of a boxer mid-round in the ring. He centers his attention on the food: the pungent smell of korma and paneer, the warm waft of freshly baked naan. He takes a bit and tries to savor it, despite the hundred cross-currents of thought in his head.

But then she's offering to table, paired with a final aside. Exasperation tinges the breath he puffs out. "Not hope he doesn't figure out," he says, quiet but emphatic. "Try to take him down before he's in any position to do it. God, Kinsey, we're on the verge of taking a major piece of his empire down, and may have a man in our hands whose testimony alone could probably put Fisk away. And we have a ton of other leads we haven't pursued yet. Let's see how that plays out before considering —"

Things that make his stomach churn, and his hackles rise, and roil the waters between the pair before they even fully engage with them.

Seeing how things play out is still kind of the same thing as hoping he doesn't figure me out before then, she desperately wants to say, but she's finally bled off enough of her earlier pique to have the sense not to needlessly exacerbate the issue.

She even manages to find something conciliatory to slip into her tone of voice, though he'll know perfectly well that she's still just as irate as he is. It's a mild kind of tension, at least; the kind of squall that tends to come and go readily. "We are. I said I was tabling it and I was being serious." Sliding her fork under what little remains in her bowl, she sets it aside and reaches for her beer instead. She isn't much of a drinker, and no longer has to make up excuses as to why, but she puts away a fair amount of what the bottle has in it before she speaks again, grateful for whatever slight edge it might take off of the moment.

"So which lead do you want to pick up next? We'll have follow-up to what we do up north, but everything's going to get more difficult after that goes down. He's going to be ready for serious trouble after that."

She insists they've put the matter aside, and Matt pauses before nodding his silent assent. He's a brooder, for sure, but squabbles aren't the sorts of things he has ever tended to linger on for long. For all his fits of judgmental self-righteousness, he's quick to bury the hatchet, and takes the time required for a few more bites of his saag to clear his head and silently do exactly that.

"There are four other prisons CGI owns besides Monterary Shock," Matt notes with a simple shrug of his shoulders. "That's a place to start. We ought to reconnoiter them all before he has a chance to scrub them clean." He runs his mind through the dossier Kinsey herself put together, or rather ripped from CGI's internal networks. "He's purchased a munitions plant in Hell's Kitchen, along with a bunch of nearly-condemned apartment buildings. Neither of those things sound good. There's also that tech company he bought — the one that focused on VR. And there's Martin Vescorsi — that ponzi-scheme guy Fisk is giving legal assistance to for God-knows why."

"He works fast," Kinsey says, finally setting her bottle aside, too, to lean back into the embrace of the sofa behind her, drawing long legs up in front of her, socked feet braced on the cushion's edge. One arm folds over her ribs, the other elbow props atop that wrist, and the tip of her thumb slides in the shallow between her lower lip and the tip of her chin, eyes gone distant with thought. "I'd be prepared for him to close up any related shop within hours of Monterary Shock — at most. Pulling the plug on a substantial part of his information network when his hackers detected me in it? That's the nuclear option. I don't think this guy does anything in half-steps." Really, this line of thinking applies to virtually everything in his control; she expects more than just related arms of his umbrella of interests to fold the instant Fisk grasps the implications of everything, assuming they're able to pull of their objective.

"I want to look into the tech company," she decides, to the surprise of absolutely no one on earth. It was…" Pause. "Inconvenient. VR? And hacking? It's nonsensical, and he's doing it. And he's not a nonsensical kinda guy. I want to know what he's up to. You're obviously the only choice for the Vescorsi situation."

Kinsey suggests that Fisk is likely to react strongly to any siege of Monterrary Shock, scuttling any number of ventures in response to a hint of exposure. "Then maybe that's part of the solution," Matt says as he sets his bowl of saag paneer on the small table and grabs the neck of his half-full bottle of beer to sit his back into his soft corner of the couch in turn and face her. "Stay on offense, and force him to keep torching parts of his own empire in reaction." Part of the solution, he says, at least a realist enough to realize that taking on Wilson Fisk and CGI will require a multi-pronged approach.

Matt's lips quirk at their corners when she offers to take on the ostnesibly 'nonsensical' VR/hacking operation, and he nods a little when she points out he's best suited to take on the Vescorsi case. "There's also the Hell's Kitchen stuff — the munitions, the slums. I'll take that on too." Because of course he will, zealous defender of his ten square blocks of territory that he is.

He takes a long sip of his beer after that, with his fair features taking a turn for the thoughtful. They're backlit in purple and shadow by the electronic billboard beyond the far window. "But just so we're clear?" Matt offers after that beat, in tones quiet and wry. There's nothing apologetic in them, necessarily, but they and the words they're paired with do suggest a more thorough peace offering. "I'm very aware that just about all the leads that we have, for however long they last, are thanks to you. Your gifts, your cunning, your carefulness. That we even have a name for this guy is because of you. Don't think I don't know it — or value it."

"Maybe." Matt's 'maybe' sounds like hope; Kinsey's sounds like skepticism. "He won't just stop doing these things because we put pressure on him. He'll move the pieces around, hide them somewhere else. Shuffle the deck. If I were him, I'd move large parts of that operation out of the state, in fact. North, further up into New England. It'll slow him down, but he'll adapt. Nobody gets to be at the center of a web this size without resilience. The risk we run by tipping him off as to how much we know is that he just sends the whole thing so far underground that everything we know becomes virtually irrelevant."

She's still wrapped in a cocoon of her own thoughts when his tone of voice changes, and her immediate response to 'just so we're clear' is one that obviously anticipates trouble, the slight turn of her head only enough for her to look at him out of the corners of her eyes, guarded.

At least she knows an olive branch when she sees one. The wary look doesn't instantly evaporate, but it wanes slowly, softening, and eventually she draws a long, deep breath in and reaches with her left hand to lay it lightly on the flat of his chest, pale and artificial fingers in a gentle splay. Violet light winks on the dark red lacquer on her nails. "I appreciate that. I know you know it, and you know I wouldn't let you forget it," she adds, a tease that doesn't have much edge at all. "It's not really about that. I don't think you're used to working with a team, and I know I'm not. Not…" She lifts the hand on him to gesture briefly, meaninglessly, before setting it back down. Exquisitely sensitive sensors pick up every thump of his heart. "As Six. This is going to happen sometimes while we figure it out. I know that. It's…it's okay."

In the lengthy silence that follows, a thought she's had more than once recently surfaces, prompting a wince and intake of breath. She uncurls her legs, slides off of the sofa and unhurriedly crosses to the beautiful, inconvenient window that lines one wall of his apartment. Bars of shadow slant over her, intercut with wedges of neon, as she faces the ledge of it and looks out into Hell's Kitchen.

"I need to ask you about Stark. He did me a huge favor, taking me in that way. We know a whole lot now about what we're dealing with, and I can't help but feel like I owe it to him to tell him what it is that I'm mixed up with. He's protecting me, you know? But I didn't want to tell him without talking to you first."

Uneasy, she turns her head, one bright eye lanced over her shoulder toward him. "…What do you think?"

For once, his biological reflexes are there for the reading despite the placid, rueful expression he lets play on his features at her tease. To wit: for all his outward composure, his heart still hitches at her touch — even after a year of stopping and starting, and even if the hands and fingers aren't her natural own.

I don't think you're used to working with a team, she tells him before rising, and he dips his head and swallows a smile. "Really not," he confirms. His brow wrinkles as an old memory strikes him: "You know, I think I almost picked a fight the first time Jessica asked me to a group — thing." That sojourn to the dilapidated carnival grounds was nearly nine months ago, as was his terse but prickly exchange with the voice-modulated 'Red Robin' who kept bossing everyone around over the intercom.

Which of course may go at least some way (though by no means all of the way) towards explaining his reaction when she brings up Tony Stark. The way his jaw works itself out, setting and re-setting — and the way he nearly finishes off his beer in a long, slow sip that defers any easy answer to her question. "I don't know Tony Stark," he offers, setting his beer down with an emphatic 'clink' on the wooden table. "I hear things, of course, good and bad," Some of those things from her. "And I… get… that him protecting you could land him in the middle of all this."

A beat. "Why is he protecting you, anyhow?"

If anything, Kinsey's relationship to Tony Stark is more complicated now than it was when she met Matt, and not less. He needles her endlessly, but she's grateful; the conflict of these disparate feelings is written all over her face — and more importantly for her blind companion, all through the tone of her voice. Even discussing the issue has her folding her arms, less in a cross over the front of her body than in a kind of self-hug, as though she were cold.

"Because of what happened with SHIELD and the — all of that Decimux the Infiniplex business. Jessica. You remember. Things have been quiet, but with someone hunting for me for unknown reasons, it seemed wise to stay where I was. I wasn't sure what might be connected, or not. And Stark was caught up in that whole cross-dimensional whatever-it-was, too."

The silence that descends is not the silence of someone finished speaking, but of someone lost in corridors of thought. Her eyes reflect the nightscape beyond the plate glass, seeing none of it. "I'm not sure that anybody knows him, really," she says finally, tone almost absent. She recalls herself with a slow blink, then slants her gaze down at the floor to one side. "He has resources. He has no reason to get involved, and I don't know that I want him involved, either, but…"

This silence does not have a follow-up.

"Yeah, I remember the whole machine god thing," Matt says archly, in a tone that suggests it'd be hard to forget if he tried. Wry humor is good for deflecting the manifold uncomfortable emotions this conversation has unearthed. But it's not enough when you want answers, not mere protection. And so, more seriously, the man on the sofa shifts to regard her with his hands clasped at his sternum. "And I get why you wanted protection, with all that happening. My question was why he is protecting you." Presumably, Stark being 'caught up in the whole cross-dimensional whatever-it-was' isn't an entirely sufficient explanation — but then, her reply that no one really knows Tony Stark's whys or wherefores may be the best anyone can offer.

"My interest isn't just related to all this," Matt adds with a note of reluctance, and irritation, as he puts his hands on his thighs and pushing himself to a smooth rise. He'll turn and make his way towards fridge — suddenly more beer seems a requirement. "Pepper Potts made a hard pitch to Foggy to put us on retainer while I was in Wakanda. Foggy all but told her yes, and I'm — trying to get my head around it."


Kinsey's gaze lifts off of the floor, landing on him just before he continues and finds his way back to standing, and she tracks him with her eyes as he maneuvers through his apartment with an effortlessness that no longer inspires wonder in her, too familiar to be strange.

She has an answer for him. She does.

She's also sure he isn't going to like it.

"I…I can't tell you." The words are heavy with apology, plaintive already with the hope that he'll understand. "He has…internal concerns that I'm well-positioned to help him resolve. That's all I can say. I'm sorry. I would tell you if I- but it would be unethical. Like asking you for details about your clients."

She swings her eyes back out through the window, tilting her crown into the cool of the glass, soon to be frost-cold as winter descends in earnest. Information about Potts is new and absorbed in silence initially, though her brows knit.

"I don't understand why he'd do that, which makes me suspicious. He could hire anyone." She blinks, then glances aside at him. "Not that you wouldn't do a good job, obviously, but you'd think he'd already have all of the legal counsel he'll ever need. You think he's trophy-hunting?"

She's always opted to honestly say she can't answer a question rather than lie to him. And that was even before she knew what he was capable of sussing out. It's a trait he's always admired about her, frankly. But it's not one he can appreciate in the moment; not when her answer brings some of the previous hour's anger rushing back, apologetic tones or not. "Oh, come on," Matt scoffs as he arrives at the fridge. "Really, Kinsey? We have to consider sharing all our secrets with Tony Stark, but his stay sacrosanct?"

He does not want to be petty or — he'd never begin to admit it out loud — jealous. For all his plentiful faults, when he's his best self, Matt Murdock is magnanimous, empathetic, generous and brave. But the conversation — and the whole subject of the billionaire playboy himself — pushes enough of the blue-collar orphan-boy's sore spots, which have only grown more tender since Kinsey Sheridan started working for him.

Though this is certainly the first time Matt has ever allowed it to show. He knows it, and hates it — which may be why he turns his back and busies himself in the fridge.

While his head may be suddenly throbbing, but the idea of Nelson & Murdock, with their ramshackle Hell's Kitchen offices, as any sort of trophy punctuates the whirlwind of negative emotions — and draws a brief, nearly humorless chortle from Matt as he pulls a beer out of the fridge. "I haven't got a clue," he says darkly. That's a lie. He has a few in mind, different from hers, that have done nothing to . "I've got to mend fences with Foggy after all that time in Wakanda, so I told him I'd at least sit down with Pepper and hear her out. Haven't gotten there yet."

He untwists the cap before angling his profile over his shoulder to greet her, jawline hard-set and stubborn. "You want another?"

He didn't like it.

Expression schooled in spite of the lack of any need to do that, Kinsey draws a more telling long breath, deep and slow, and exhales it just as slowly, turning her shoulder into the window to lean and watch him.

"No, I shouldn't," she says, of the beer, and then — not without some humor, even: "You know, you can't have it both ways, Matthew Murdock. You can't raise ethical objections to me going undercover one minute, then ask me to spill sensitive corporate information the next." She lets that hang for just a moment, then rolls her head over to the side, letting her eyes wander away from his broad-shouldered silhouette to travel around the sparse interior of his living room.

"I'll let you sleep on it," is her only follow-up. She doesn't even bother to address the logic of his first irritated objection at all, treating it like rhetoric, or at least making it clear she assumes he has all of the information he needs to make his decision. It could be that she knows him well enough to expect his moral compass to point him in the proper direction once his annoyance wanes; it could be that she just expects him to find his way to that point because she would expect the same of anyone, as a standard of behavior in the people she spends time with. Either way, it goes unexplored further.

"But sooner rather than later, I need to know."

The humor, for all that it prods at points of contention that still linger between them, takes some of the umbrage out of Matt Murdock's indignant sails. He smiles despite himself at her quip, showing off what seems a glint of winking purple in the strangely-lit room. "God, Kinsey, I'm not objecting to you conning Wilson Fisk, or spilling his corporate secrets," he counters as he shuts the fridge behind him and steps slowly towards the woman at his window. "Spill as many as you want if you can get your hands on them. I'm just worried — understandably worried — about everything he'd make you do to win them."

He takes a slow, lingering sip of his beer as barefoot steps close some of the distance between them, navigating the small table and bringing him within a foot's span. He swallows it down before offering her a close-lipped, rueful little smile. "I can do that," he agrees softly of sleeping on it, gently wry even in his acquiescence.

The fair expanse above his full dark brows knits as he leans down ever so slightly to ask: "…am I doing it alone?"

Exasperation sends her wandering eyes upward. "I know. Because you're worried. That he might make me do something…unethical." She punctuates that arch clarification with a little humming note of humor, righting her head, and by the time she turns it to look at him again he's on his way over to her, and her lashes lower in anticipation of his proximity, something in her lean against the wall turning pliant. "Wilson Fisk deserves whatever he gets."

Kinsey's definition of 'whatever' is almost certainly wider than Matt's.

Truthfully, she hadn't intended to stay. She's eager to begin taking apart the contents of the thumb drive, compiling notes to filter everything they now know into one cohesive block of information. She wants to begin laying in the groundwork for her investigation into Fisk's interest in virtual reality, and there are adjustments to her ever-evolving costume to make in anticipation of encountering those bolt-slinging, pill-popping soldiers of Fisk's — necessary ways to disperse the energy so that she doesn't wind up fried like an old VCR.

Really, she has plenty of reason to go home, change into comfortable clothes, and descend to the darkened space underneath the garage to spend the rest of the night basking in the pale glow of countless displays.

Hazel eyes lift to slide across the ripples in his skin, the knit of his brows over brown eyes he certainly manages to have uses for, even if they're off-label. All of those soulful looks. Foggy probably told him about it sometime in the distant past, she thinks. There's no way he just does this on his own.

She should really go home.

Her sigh is huge and incredibly theatrical, and it happens along with a defeated backward tilt of her head, eyes squeezed closed. "You are so bad for my productivity!" It's a lament she almost wails, but even as the words are coming out of her mouth she's winding an arm over his shoulders, using him as leverage to lift her head again. Her eyes open only a little, and the corners of her mouth flick subtly upward. "God."

That's a 'no,' then, to answer his question.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License