Office Chatter

January 23, 2018:

Matt Murdock and intern Stephanie Brown do some catch up after the NYC blackout.

Law Offices of Nelson & Murdoc

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Tony Stark, Kinsey Sheridan

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The days-long blackout that sent New York City into a wholesale panic has finally ended, the snows have at least partly subsided, but any recovery from that deadly combination has been blunted by still-freezing temperatures that keep most people shuttered indoors. Still, at least some businesses are opening their doors, especially businesses that provide sensitive, critical services — or who rely on the goodwill of clients to stay afloat.

Nelson & Murdock meet the criterion for both. Matt likely told his Gotham-based intern she categorically did not have to come into work with conditions this awful, but did ask her for the whereabouts of a few files that he was unlikely to find easily, you know, by sight.

At the moment he's in his office, typing out a brief on his braille board. The office's heating is woefully inadequate, so he's wearing a forest-green v-neck sweater over his oxford-cloth button-down and tie. He's bespectacled, as almost always — and sporting a purpling bruise on his right temple.

Told not to show up, Stephanie assured Mr. Murdock that it wasn't any trouble and that she was almost there anyway. She happened to be in town and figured she'd stop by. Since he was there, she'd go in to get those files for him, and anything else he needed help with. She was still organizing the filing cabinet for them, double labeling so that both sighted and unsighted legal partners can find things. The snow delayed her.

True to her word, it didn't take Stephanie long to arrive, and she hung her heavier outer jacket by the door.

"Good afternoon," she calls out to announce herself, moving first to get the file he wanted and a hot cup of coffee before taking both to him.

"I'll check the system for any phone messa-" her words cut off for a heartbeat, concern spiking her heartrate as she spots the bruise.

"-ages. Here's the file and some coffee," she says, making sure to lightly brush the file against a forearm before setting his coffee mug against the side of his hand.

"Oh, hey Steph," he says, turning his head towards the direction of his open office door when he hears her voice. His smile is wan and his expression weary. Normally sporting a five-o'clock-shadow, it's clear he hasn't shaved for days and a full on beard is imminent. Still, tired as he seems, distracted as he seems, the tone of voice is characteristically quiet and kind.

A slight, close-lipped smile of appreciation greets her placing of the file on his forearm and the cup of gourmet coffee he prefers in-reach. "Thanks for this, and for coming in," the lawyer says. "Did you, ah, run into much trouble getting in?" Not any. Much. It's too much to hope she had an easy commute, what with all the talk about stalled train lines and closed roads on WNYC.

"It wasn't a problem, Mr. Murdock," Stephanie replies, eyes tracing over the bruise, concerned by it. Under her high end business attire, her own body is all but one giant bruise. She can feel it lurking just on the other side of her current dose of painkillers.

"I was already in New York, actually. I was helping some friends during the black out," she adds just enough of the actually details for the statement to ring perfectly true with all the right things left out to not implicate that her friends were the Avengers and that she had been crawling around electrical ducts, fighting demon robots, pommeled by a Stark suit, and then used as target practice by the Hulk before getting sent to get him pizza.

Steph's life is WEIRD some days.

"And you? How are you doing?" she asks, waiting by his desk for the time being.

"Oh yeah?" Matt says when she mentions she's been in New York the whole time, but the question is practically rhetorical. Indeed, he never presses too much into the personal lives of his employees, even when there seems some intersection between theirs and his own. Like, for instance, apparently having a mutual acquaintance in one Jessica Jones, private investigator. "Sounds like you're a pretty good friend."

But then she's asking about him. If he were being honest, how would he even describe it? I've been running around the city, leaping from icy fire escape to icy fire escape, rescuing elderly people trapped in highrise apartment buildings and beating up burglars. Oh, and my girlfriend has been possessed by the crazy A.I. virus that turned JARVIS into a serial killer. No, not likely. Instead he says: "Mostly trying to stay warm," he says, offering a brief half smile and a shrug of nonchalance. "And stay indoors. I took a walk outside and it ended — uh, predictably." He casts the file onto the table in front of him and gestures to the bruise on his head ruefully.

Hearing that Matt slipped on the icy streets, has the blond frowning lightly, brows pulling together.

"Not that you'd really WANT more cold but do you want me to make you an icepack? See if I can get some of the color to fade at least?" she offers, eyes flitting tot he file briefly. His comment about being a good friend has her blushing faintly, and licking her pink glossed lips lightly. She brings a still gloved hand up to tuck a lock of blond behind an ear, weighing Jess's last conversation with her before life got turned upside down and they missed their New Year's plans. Steph wasn't upset. That was their life. Hopefully things calm down soon. Steph makes a mental note to stalk her security system to know when she's in so that ice cream can be brought.

Tell him, Jess had urged. He's trust worthy and could help, in case of anything.

A silent, brief, but shoulder-shaking chuckle greets her offer of an ice-pack in the middle of a historic freeze. "I'm okay, Stephanie, really," he assures her, putting up one hand in a staying motion while the other seeks and easily finds that cup of coffee. "Accidents come with the territory, to be honest." There's no self-pity to be found in the words; just wry, self-deprecating humor — an altogether different beast.

Of course he sees more than he lets on, and more than others can. For instance, he can judge subtle stiffness and halting movements of the injured for what they are, where others who rely on their eyes would have no idea. But for all his sensory powers, it's safe to say he has no idea she's what she's contemplating. "Anyway, thanks. And you really shouldn't stay long — definitely leave before dark, okay?"

"Arlight," Stephanie says, giggling lightly herself. Very lightly. Cracked ribs, after all. Satisfied, it seems, Stephanie turns for the filing cabinet to continue her task of reorganization. Her steps are light enough on flat-heeled boots, though ginger and stiff. That's when her concussion-brain recalls something. The memory is audible in a light but sharp inhale through her nose.

"Hmm? Oh. Right yes. Dark. Don't worry, Mr. Murdock. New York at night has nothing on Gotham at night. I"ll be fine. Sorry. I …just remembered I have that cross reference you requested on those addresses for Miss Jones. Let me just make sure the braille printer is working and I'll have them for you. Sorry. I meant to have it sooner, but the power outage…" And then demon robots.

"Oh, that's great," Matt says when she brings up the research, and means it. "I'd kind of lost track of it, to be honest." And the fact that he let that slip is a source of some self-recrimination, even if he's had ample distraction over the last few weeks. "It's good timing, too. I'm headed to Gotham myself for a few days, I think, and wanted to take as much work with me as I can."

A beat, a part of his lips. "You know…" he says, brow furrowing. "There's another research project you could tackle while I'm out. This Councilwoman Dillard? Jessica's client told me she's bad news, and 'everybody knows it.' But we don't even have a decent profile of her. If you could do a little investigatory work online — poke around? Could be helpful. Normally it's the sort of thing I'd ask Jess to do, but…"

A wry, lopsided smile. "Let's not make the problem worse, you know?"

Stephanie was headed back to her workstation to get the file ready to translate for the braille printer when Matt says that he's going to Gotham and that he wants her to case Dillard.

"Yes, of course. How much information on her do you want?" Stephanie asks, because knowing that would give her a clue as to whether or not she's going to give him just the surface or just about everything…. Which just makes her fret over whether or not she should tell him. She knows what Batman's told her. It's not something to be given out, not something should be shared. She frowns at it again even as she offers.

"If you're going to Gotham, I'd like to go with you, if that's alright? It's my hometown and I know it very well." Any a blind lawyer from New York in Gotham? It worries her for his safety!

"As much as you can find, really," Matt says with a grimace. "We're really flying blind here — " a beat, a short laugh. "Ah, no pun intended."

He swivels in the direction of the door and pushes himself up and out of the chair to elaborate — no use shouting across the office if he doesn't need to. One hand is planted on the doorframe leading into the front lobby. "I mean, try to dig deeper than TV spots on NY1 or campaign ads, you know? Her reports to the city campaign finance bureau should all be public. Why don't you cross-reference them with votes she's cast, public statements she's made? If she's corrupt, chances are it's for the sake of her donors."

The offer to go with him to Gotham pops his eyebrows up over his spectacles, the smile he shows smacks of surprise. "Aw, thanks, Stephanie," he says, and with sincerity. "I'll be okay, though. Jess and another friend are picking me up as soon as I get off New Jersey Transit, and driving me over to my girlfriend's place." A beat, a clearing of his throat, as he realizes that it sounds like he's taking time off work to go shack up with his lady-friend. "She's, ah, been pretty sick, so I'm going to stay there for a bit. You know, help out some."

It is, much like Stephanie's suggestion that she's been 'helping friends' in New York City, the truth. Strictly speaking. But not the whole truth.

Everything? As in, everything everything? Stephanie pauses as the task is outlined before she nods once.

"I'll get you everything I can find on her," she gives word to her otherwise silent nods, getting her file set up and sent to be printed. Of course, her tone is a whole lot more serious than her usual, aging her closer to her actual twenty-one than the more typical teen-something she sounds.

"Oh. OH!" Stephanie squeaks as the nature of his trip is made clear. One doesn't need eyes to hear the brightness of her blush. And still…

"Well, I do live there, most of the time… and classes are starting up so… if you need something while you're there…. You can call me. It won't be a problem," she offers again, voice sounded as embarrassed as her face. What is she even saying right now?

"Great," Matt says with a smile, and however much he may have picked up about Nelson & Murdock's newest, whatever questions are floating around in his head regarding her, he has absolutely no idea what he's just asked her to do, or how far she's capable of going in the pursuit of information regarding one Councilwoman Mariah Dillard.

Matt dips his head down briefly, his own expression slightly sheepish, as Stephanie 'squeaks.' His arms are folded at his chest. A private person by nature as much as necessity, even touching on his personal life is enough to leave him off balance — especially when that life is currently so fraught. "Thanks," he says, summoning a brief, slight smile. "Foggy may have some remote work for you to do. I think the Stark caseload is about to blow up, to be honest."

"Yep," Stephanie chirps, blushing hard and turning back to the braille printer. Oh god, she just embarassed the boss!! Her shoulders comes up, one hand pressing lightly to her side as the motion makes her ribs ache slightly through the pain meds.

"Will Foggy be going to Stark Tower soon? Because …umm…" Crap! Because slipped out! Because no reason at all related to Floor 16 and HULK hanging out there. OHMYGOD!!!!

"I drove by it was a mess!" Yeah. Half of that was an out right lie. First one ever. Stephanie did NOT drive by it. Where she had put her car was no where NEAR Stark Tower and the skycycle does not DRIVE.

"No, I don't think so," Matt says, fair brow crinkling when Stephanie comments on the mess of Stark Tower. She's just outed herself in more ways than one — by betraying some hint of what she knows, and even further by lying about it. For all that Matt Murdock is a private person, he's a walking, one-man invasion of other people's privacy. A lie, even one with the smallest of stakes, triggers an unmistakable physiological response in all but the most trained and inveterate of dissemblers: an ever-so-slight uptick in the heartbeat.

And Matt, with his oh-so-attuned ears, is practically a polygraph machine. With Stephanie already on edge, concussed, and doped up on pain medication, there's no disguising the spike he hears, or what it signals.

"There was a major incident at Stark Tower," Matt goes on after too-long of a pause, marked by equal parts confusion and deliberation. "And a lot of sensitive stuff will be coming through this office. Worst comes to worst, Mr. Stark may be in for more public scrutiny than even he is used to." Another beat. "Just — keep your head down, and focus on the work. Not the noise. Okay?"

Stephanie really didn't have a way to disguise any of it. Her cheeks flush and she's smack her own forehead if she wasn't aware that that would make the concussion ache more then it threatens to. She does let herself rub at the bridge of her nose.

Major incident: no surprise from Stephanie in the slightest, just the sluggish thump of recalled dread. Sensitive stuff: Worry, the uptick of a heart rate again in nervousness.

"Fantastic," she murmurs, thinking it only loud enough for herself to hear it as she imagines needing to see if she can either talk Tony into telling her if Avengers files are part of that versus just trying to crack his system again and deleting her body specs from his system. She knows he doesn't have name on file, but still. Batling paranoia demands zero forensic evidence.

"Certainly, Mr. Murdock," she intones then. This might be one of those 'this could be close to home' moments…

For a moment, Matt Murdock regards the young woman in front of him: the soft-spoken, sweet, and slightly skittish young woman who knows more than she seems and is almost certainly hiding more than he knows. Who blushes at the drop of a hat but whose heart doesn't skip a single beat when Jessica Jones is making her landing and making their offices sound like it's under attack by heavy artillery. Whose whole body is a bruise, and seen more than she's letting on of Stark Tower since it became a battleground with murderous robots.

And he says… nothing. For now. A tightening at the hinges of his jaw is the only signal of inward debate. He purses his lips, and nods once. "Thanks, Stephanie," he says, cool and affable as ever as he pats the door frame once and turns around to head back to his office chair.

"And come on," his voice sounds from beyond the doorway. "Call me Matt."

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