Man on the Edge

June 07, 2018:

Concerned for Matt Murdock's well-being, Jessica Jones ambushes him on a rooftop for a talk.

Hell's Kitchen, NYC

The roofs aren't maintained that great anyway.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Six, Foggy Nelson, Bucky Barnes, Luke Cage, Danny Rand

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

It's the mildest of summer evening by the standards of New York City: temperate and breezy. The sun has just set over far-flung Jersey, casting the sky in the color of the an old bruise. It may be the City that Never Sleeps, but at least some storefronts are shuttering up, and the crowd teeming the streets is transitioning from the workaday fare to those who live for the night — for better or worse.

And above it all, the man in red begins his vigil with a balletic rooftop leap from a seven-story building to its six-story neighbor. This has become a nightly ritual of late, both because his mission has taken on a feverish urgency over the past few weeks — and because he's spent those same weeks casting off the various ties that bound him to the life he'd been living up to now.

He literally hits the ground running; there's a gap between this building and the next, and he will need all the momentum he can get to make the leap.

Some distance above him, Jess stays downwind. It might not actually help, but he seems pretty focused. She contemplates her approach, both physically and emotionally. Various conversations with all his other friends seem to filter, eventually, back to her. From Six's panicked texts to Foggy's anger and fear, along with her own deductions about his state. Deductions that honestly began back in her own apartment, where his rage over her beating began peeling back the facade of the man who always seems so cool and in control to reveal someone angry and frustrated beneath, but which were nudged along by the Jameson article, which helped draw a line from various murders she'd ignored straight back to him. With the attack on Trish Walker to confirm the media's pattern, she has a pretty good picture.

And she has hesitated, and hesitated, and hesitated, because she could either be the best person in the world to help him, or the worst. The best, because it has slowly dawned on her that they're a lot alike, a comparison she never would have really drawn when she first met him because he seemed to have too much of his shit together in comparison to herself. The worst, because…because she's Jessica Freaking Jones, and her emotional intelligence vis a vis helping friends and not running them off a verbal cliff is a little hit and miss at best.

One thing she does know. She's not going to freaking ambush him while he's about to take a leap he's going to need all his momentum to make. She is going to ready herself for a dive if he doesn't.

Because. Yikes, Matt.

She's seen him make some jumps, but that one looks just a little dodgy.

(She's not wrong in her suspicions that they share a lot, and she can be forgiven for coming to them a year late. Matt Murdock's projection of composure may be his single greatest act of fraud. More than the mask, more than his feigned disability. He was able to sense the waves of guilt, recrimination and self-loathing coming off her in waves and to almost-instantly know she was a kindred spirit; she had no means to similarly take stock of him.)

She worries that he is a man on the edge — both figuratively and, at this particular moment, literally. But his non-metaphorical feet are sure enough. Even without the billy-club and cable they carry him across the gap and to the ledge of the next building, with only the slightest wobble on landing to give her pause. He jumps from the ledge onto the rooftop proper, red boots landing on the pitch-black hardened tar that coats it, before craning his chin upwards. A stretch, a moment's rest before he makes his next run.

He seems like a man who has some ground to cover tonight.

And now he is a man who is going to be interrupted covering it. His landing is good.

Hers isn't.

She always tries to make it look cool, and she always fails. She hits the roof next to him, too fast, stumbles, tumbles, falls, rolls, stands up very fast in a I meant to do that, damn it motion…

And then ruefully picks up the long piece of roofing she just displaced by setting her feet just a little too hard in all of that. She holds it up, stares at it, and then whips it over her shoulder into the alley below. Nothing…to see here.

"Hey," she says.

She's off her smoking streak again at least, long enough that the scent of Marlboro Reds has once again faded from her smell. No booze at all, so it's just vanilla and leather and perhaps whatever the smell of unexpected and unwanted visitations from private detectives is like.

Hey. Great. Great start. Practically-Yoda-like.

If he didn't sense her literally hovering over him the last few minutes — and it's possible that he didn't, given he's spent little time registering her or anyone else in actual flight — it's safe to say he registers her less-than-elegant landing from the way his lips pull back into a little grimace.

He has spent the last nigh-on-month isolating himself from the people that had littered his life, with a few exceptions. Focusing on his work, in a new and more brutal iteration that does not lend itself to either friends or the motley 'team' they had been cobbling together during a more innocent time.

As dear as Jessica Jones is to him, he doesn't want to see her. Categorically does not. But he isn't hostile right out the gate. "Hey yourself," he says with a little lift of his chin. "You may want to find a stretch of land upstate and do a little, ah, landing practice, before you try rooftops."

"I'll keep that in mind," Jessica says, ruefully.

She slides her hands into her jacket pockets. "Heard you're about ready to go choke a bitch," she observes at last.

One might assume from that opener she's here to talk him out of it.

Problem is, she's not, exactly. She's not sure what she's doing. Maybe just trying to make sure someone she cares about doesn't drown in the same kind of dark pit she spent years in herself.

So finally she hitches a shrug and says, "Can't say I blame you. Between the shit he's pulling and the couple other things you got coming apart at the seams. You decide you're gonna go through with it, that you're ready to cross that line, then I'll be your alibi. And no crap about how you can't involve me or make me an accomplice or any of that shit. More fates than yours would be riding on you having that kind of safety, since I know you don't value yours for shit right now. And we both know I'm already not at all squeaky clean way beyond vigilantism. So."

She crosses her arms and faces him square on.

There's no judgment in her tone, there's no anger in her blood. There's a little resignation, maybe, in the deeper ranges of that hard-bitten alto. A lot of concern. But mostly rock-hard stubbornness, radiating from her stance, her steady heartbeat, the firmness in her voice.

Heard you're about to go choke a bitch, she says. Daredevil puffs out a breath that flares the nostrils that rest just below that mask. He'd assumed she'd talked to Kinsey by now, heard about their whole sorry row, and what appears to be the abrupt ending of a romance that had after more than a year just begun to properly flourish.

And worse, the reasons for it — what Matt had said he'd planned to do.

Those plans haven't changed in the weeks that followed, and the lack of recrimination or judgment from Jessica is a minor blessing. There's a softening in his shoulders as the tension leaves his frame, even if he does balk at her offer to lie for him. "Given what Fisk was doing with Kilgrave, the feds may think you're a suspect as much as me if he dies," the masked man notes. "Or that we did it together."

A beat. "But it's good of you to offer," he adds, tone quiet and ruefully grim. "Or the very opposite of good. It's —" a corner of his lips twitch. "Hard for me to tell anymore, really."

"Yeah well, they'd have to prove it first," Jessica says with a shrug of her shoulders.

"That would be some irony. Passed on letting Bucky kill Kilgrave for me because I knew you didn't want to cross that line, and I didn't want you to have to, or even be an accessory to it. But if you're gonna, you're gonna need help, and I don't give a shit if that puts me in the crosshairs. You've put yourself in the crosshairs for me dozens of times. That's how we met, and you didn't even know me. You've never failed to have my back. So. I have yours. Period. As for good or bad, well."

She shrugs her shoulder. She sounds uneasy as she speaks. "When you stop questioning that is when you need to hang up that mask of yours. I sure as Hell don't know. And I have choked some bitches. Not Reva. Others. Probably good you're contemplating the question at an earlier point than I did."

Her willingness to stand with him is both maddening and reassuring. Even with most of his face obscured, Jess can likely see the tightening of Matt's throat, the taut line of his jaw as he tries his best to swallow down that confusing cocktail of emotions. "This suit is done after Fisk is, one way or another," he answers her, and there's a matter-of-fact kind of fatalism to be found in his soft-spoken voice. He either hangs said suit up after putting Fisk down, or he just…

Well. Hangs.

But what she says at the end, though, catches the vigilante briefly off-guard. "Wait, who?" he asks, wracking his brain. He feels a sense of defeat. He'd kept her away from the raid on Fisk's warehouse so she wouldn't encounter Kilgrave; so she wouldn't have to make that terrible choice. And like so many things he's done or tried to do, it hasn't made a difference.

"Sorry," he says after a beat, a shake of his head. "It's — that's none of my business."

"Germany. Cultists." Jessica says quietly. "There were reasons, and plenty of justifications, and I can spout them all, right down to making a fine defense-of-self-and-others argument. Except thing is, we went after an immortal sorcerer trying to make him not-immortal anymore. I can't lie to myself and say I didn't know that someone was going to die on that trip. I can say we saved a lot of lives. Because we did. But that doesn't make it cleaner or prettier."

He says the suit is done, one way or the other. And that's when she drops all the bullshit. Arms still crossed, she sighs and steps closer to him.

"Matt," she says, using his real name while he wears the full mask for the first time. They're alone. She knows it, he knows it.

"Let me guess. You feel like you're walking trash right now. I know you. You're the guy who apologized when someone else stabbed me. So I'm sure these murders are cutting you to ribbons inside. Let me see if I can run it down for you. You think you're worthless. You think it doesn't matter what happens to you because you think we're all better off without you. You think everything you touch turns to the grossest form of liquid shit. So you're going to do this thing, kill the shit out of this guy, one good thing before you let yourself go down in flames. Maybe his men take you out, maybe the cops take you out, whatever, maybe every part of your life is just burning in this endgame, and that pretty much suits you, because fuck Matt Murdock. Yeah?"

It's not like she doesn't know this line of thought real damn well.

As far back as Germany, Matt thinks, with a sinking feeling in his chest. For a man who enters a room knowing ten times more than anyone in it just by virtue of his peculiar gifts, being caught truly by surprise is a rare feeling. "I'm sure you did what you had to do," the trite, reassuring words sound strange on his tongue. After a moment he adds: "And didn't do it lightly."

But then she's veering away from her own struggles and straight square into the middle of his own depressive break. The already hard line of his jaw tightens further, not the least because so much about what she says rings so true — as close or even closer than Kinsey's similar attempts in the boxing gym — and it's never easy to hear your own internal monologue repeated back at you from the outside.

"I —" he pauses, mouth still open. He wants to protest, but finally those half-slumped shoulders stiffen again. "So much of this — too much of this — is on me. My crazy overconfidence in myself — in us. My belief that the justice system could handle someone like Fisk, that they just needed a little help." He puts his thumb and fore-finger together.

"So yeah, if my fucking hubris helped get us here, I should be the one who pays that penalty," he says, heat rising in his voice. "Better me than a string of women whose only crime was my swinging into their lives."

"Versus what, Matt? A lifetime of sexual slavery before someone finally ended them anyway?" Normally she wouldn't use such blatant language, but this time Jess doesn't skimp on the truth. "Trust me, you saved them. You didn't choose to kill them. What you've done wasn't hubris. That was trying to do good. Fisk made that choice. Fisk and only Fisk, and this low-rent ninja-lackey he sent after them."

Her tone is matter-of-fact as she says quietly, "Let's talk about the hundreds of thousands of date rape victims, trafficking victims and god-knows-what-else victims you saved from designer mind-control pills. Way more than the ten Fisk killed trying to do exactly what he's done. Trying to make you feel like a poison. Trying to make you feel like you fucked up. Let's talk about the fact that I'm still standing here at all. That you beat, let's see. Aliens, Aztec god, dragons. Drug-overdose-kidnap-attempt. Or all those people you saved at Radio City Music Hall from the Fight-or-Fuck demon. Let's talk about how you saved Bucky's life, and Jane's life, and then went to Wakanda and did it for both of them all over again. John and Zee, because if you hadn't stopped what you were doing and put your ass on the line to put together the pieces of the puzzle I was incapable of gathering they'd still be in Hell right now. Let's talk about the sheer amount of kindness and everyday empathy you extend to everyone around you. How if some sob story in Hell's Kitchen is getting kicked in the teeth by the legal system you really just can't give two shits if they can pay you or not. How you could have lived a life of luxury and ease, and instead? You do this. Go after the bad people who do the bad shit because your heart is so fucking big you can't see yourself doing anything else. Your heart, Matt. Not your hubris."

She speaks in quiet, measured tones. "That is who you are. Matt 'Daredevil' Murdock, a man who is really fucking important to a lot of fucking people. So. This shithead just hit you hard with a psychological blow right on the chin. You're reeling. You're on the goddamn ground. Remember who you are and get up, and regroup, and let's see him taken down in a way that doesn't destroy you and your ability to keep stopping the kind of bad shit he seems to get off on."

As pep talks go, it's a good one. Generous while still being genuine. Tough-minded and unsentimental. It absolves him of guilt and places responsibility for the crimes squarely on Fisk, while reminding him that he has people who depend on him, and for whom he is responsible.

Get up, she tells him, echoing a leathery voice he hasn't heard in a long, long time.

It all has an effect on him, even if it can only be outwardly measured in the drawing back of his lips into something subtle and pained.

The problem is that it's up against everything he's been telling himself for the last month. Or the last seventeen years. Take your pick. "What, get the team together?" Matt asks. It's not quite a scoff, but there's wry skepticism in his voice. "That didn't work out so well last time. Luke's bar got blown up, Danny's whole business is embattled, mutant terrorists got sicked on Hell's Kitchen and you. Six is only okay by virtue of having a mask. And while my mask has protected me, that's the only person it's protected."

He draws in a breath that expands his whole frame, and then let's it out. "Look, I appreciate everything you're saying, and trying to do," he says with a staying palm. "And I appreciate you, and am so — " he seems to search for the word, and finally settles on: "— proud, of you, really."

Then his voice flattens. "But this is something I can handle on my own. Something I need to handle on my own."

Under normal circumstances his kind words about being proud of her might have more of an impact. If she reacts to them now it's tough to tell; she's very focused on him, intent, and little seems to shift her stance. "Luke's rebuilding, I'm fine— remember plenty of people want to bash my face in for things totally unrelated to you anyway. I don't know about getting teams back together…" Jess says with a gentle puff of air that isn't quite a scoff of its own.

"And I'm not saying you can't handle shit on your own. Of course you can. There's a difference between handling your own enemy and setting your life on fire. I've never pushed myself on your work and I won't start now. Do the thing, do it by yourself if you gotta, be brilliant, but don't self-destruct and push everyone away while you do it, man. Just. Take a breath. Take a nap. Go to confession. Give yourself five minutes to grieve. So you can bring your frickin' brain back into this problem. Right now what you're doing is all fury and self-loathing. Bad scene. From the Queen of Bad Scenes. Or the former Queen, if you prefer."

A pause, a beat, and a turn into gentle humor. "You want the tiara? It would look damn strange on your devil horns, but I guess we could make it fit if you really really want it. It's black. I only do emo tiaras."

She can't see Matt's eyes roll behind the red lenses of his mask, but something of the sentiment must come through. "And here I thought the santa's hat was your crowning achievement," he says, calling back to that Christmas party at Luke's. It was just six months ago, but it feels like a century. Fisk was on the road to jail, his plans foiled, and they were all together. Luke, Danny, Jess — Kinsey.

His slight smile turns into a wince. "You know, you can't tell me it's totally irrational," Daredevil says finally, head dipped slightly down. "Keeping my distance from — others. I do make people's lives more dangerous when I'm around, just by virtue of the things I've done and the choices I've made. I play with fire every single day, and one day I'm going to bring it home with me. Get Foggy disbarred. Get Kinsey caught or killed. I've lied to the world most of my life, but the truth is I've been lying to myself, too. Telling myself I can compartmentalize, segment, and have it all."

His jaw sets. "One way or another, I'm done with that."

"I went straight home and dyed it black," Jessica Jones lies, of the Santa hat.

She listens to the rest though, and gives it some real consideration. A hitch of her breath says she might well have a counter-argument or two. But then she closes her mouth and takes a thoughtful rock back on her heel. Considering a chance meeting in a sandwich shop over a year ago, where a mere five minutes of innocuous words exchanged with her put him and Foggy both in the crossfire, and nearly ended his life.

And who is to say her strategy…well, less a strategy and more something she's just fallen into…whereupon she is surrounded by contacts and people to call on from a beginning of being cynical and isolated…is really better than his, at this point where his early optimism has crumbled into something else entirely? It's just a strategy, one way or the other.

And yet.

"I don't think it's irrational," she allows, speaking slowly. "I just think you should ask yourself…Why are you the only person who can make the decision to endanger himself or herself to make the world a better place, or to look out for his friends? Why are you the only person who should? It's a fine line to walk, between protecting your friends and infantilizing them."

Humor breaks through the numbing fog that's clouded Matt's thinking for nearly a month, and even summons a phantom smile. "Red's probably overrated, anyway," he quips.

Jessica's more substantive point — which echoes Kinsey's words about the impossibility of putting one's friends on shelves — meets with more resistance. Surprise surprise. "Jess, I'm not trying to infantilize anyone," Matt says, his voice taut, tone perched on the edge of exasperation. "Or to make choices for anyone except myself. Because I get a choice too. I get to value my life and my soul as I see fit, and I get the choice to not to drag other people into what I do. Whether it's for their sake or my own, does it really matter?"

He rolls his head this way, that, neck cricking. "Anyway, thanks for dropping in," he says, and though it's a joke, the humor is gentle enough and couched in as much affection as he can muster in his current state. "Tell Luke 'hey' for me."

The humor is there, but Jess winces at it. Because she hears subtext in that humor that worries her.

Of course, she doesn't know she's echoing Kinsey's points; they talked a lot less than he thinks. She raises her hands and says, "Yes, you do," because his point stands as well. It's a good one.

And because she knows one more thing. He's not going to be able to unstick this frozen gear he's in until he wants to. And right now, she's seeing someone who can't. Not just can't unstick, but can't want to.

And because she's been there, she knows she's done about all she can. She takes the dismissal, backs off. Sometimes letting someone know you give a shit is the best you can do, and Jess judges that to be the case here. "Sure, no problem. I will, but you should tell him hey, yourself."

She leaps into a kind of hover above, a trick she's got down better than flying, and notes, "Have a few drinks. He's got that ferocious bro-crush on you, you know. It would just be cruel and unusual not to give him the attention he so desperately craves from you."

It's all jokes and humor now, and while anyone else roasting their boyfriend in this way might seem awfully cruel the truth is she and Luke run almost entirely on this kind of humor as it is, and he'd readily jump in, were he here.

Besides, making it funny might increase the chances Matt will actually do it.

With that, though, she floats backwards, drifting away, giving him some space to get out of there without just zipping away. It just seems weird to just zip away, and he actually had somewhere to be.

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