All Made Up

July 14, 2018:

Matt and Kinsey talk their way around the issues that led them to come apart, and whether it's even a good idea for them to come together again.


NPCs: None.


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

It's twilight in New York. The last few days of unseasonably breezy temperance are giving way to a full-throated July swelter that the sun's slow set does only a little to correct. Matt Murdock sits on a park bench near the Gapstow Bridge with the dense, lush foliage of Central Park around him. A brook trickles behind him, and even though he can't see it, he knows the might and grandeur of New York City towers above him. That skyline was just made all the more dramatic a few minutes ago, when the dozen of searchlights city officials set up amid the ruined properties and tenements of Hell's Kitchen switched on, shooting beams of silvery, ethereal light straight towards heaven.

A tribute in the tradition of the city's disasters past, some say, though the critics call it an attempt to keep the ruins of that lawless and beleaguered neighborhood well lit and well-policed. Whichever way one leans, Matt thinks to himself as he waits, it'd be quite the sight.

He's dressed simply, both for comfort in the face of the renewed heat and because he hasn't had a chance to begin to replace the wardrobe that went up with the rest of his apartment during the bombings. He's wearing a plain navy t-shirt, clean enough to be new, and a pair of faded jeans. His walking stick is propped against the bench beside him, and the fingers of one hand are lightly rapping against the underside of it in an absent rhythm.

The group's getting together, he'd told her by phone. You're welcome to join us. But even if you don't, I'd like to talk soon. I don't want us to leave things the way we left them. He'd offered to come to her, or meet her wherever she likes — and here they are.

Wherever that is.

I don't want us to leave things the way we left them.

Those are the words that circle the inside of her head on repeat as she sets off from Stark Tower. All day she's had the benefit of work-related concerns to preoccupy her, but en route to whatever this conversation is going to be she has no such luxury anymore. Well-versed in the habits of city living, she can walk a remarkable distance in very little time when she's of the mind, but tonight there's something reluctant in the way she fails to hurry, as though by slowing her gait she might put off the impending moments forever.

She's peeled out of her work attire, changed into jean cutoffs of severe brevity and a nondescript, white v-neck tee. As useful and dynamic as her prosthetic limbs may be — particularly the working set, with their converting feet and hidden weapons and nasty surprises tucked away — if Kinsey were asked, she would say that her most impressive technical achievement in design belongs instead to the set meant to mimic the real thing. And not even the vascular system she built in, or the temperature control, or the texture of the skin. The thing she is most proud of, the thing that daunted her most, was figuring out how to make that synthetic skin blend with her own seamlessly enough to be visible, and not immediately apparent.

Of course, Matt had bypassed all of that from the word 'go,' but, nevertheless.

She's not really looking at her phone when she gets close — only pretending, the way people do in elevators, a shield against something awkward. And why that ought to be true when he can't even technically see her approaching and he's going to hear her and know it's her anyway is just-


Her heart's racing before she even looks at him, stopping just a pace or two shy of that bench. "Hey."

"Hey," Matt says with a press of his lips that never quite rises to a smile. He can hear her heartbeat, the shift in the rhythm of her bare-legged gait, and even the ineffable stress hormones she sweats off into the summer air. Every inch of her tells him she doesn't want to be there.

And it makes sense, doesn't it, he thinks with a sinking feeling in his chest. It's been nearly three months since their disastrous fight at Fogwell's. Yes, they shared a moment in the ruins of Hell's Kitchen, and tried to comfort each other in the face of the unfathomable. After all they shared, how could they not? But it can at once be true that there are still powerful feelings between them and that they are done. He is — whether he likes it or not — her ex-boyfriend. And he made that choice. He broke her heart. Why would she want to see him? Why is he making her relive it?

She has her tells of nerves, he has is. He swallows, the corners around his jaw tighten. The eyes — unguarded, with his off-brand and rectangular-lensed shades sitting beside him — inevitably betray the mix of fear and grief and regret and hope and resolve and anger that have marked him since those buildings came down, even if they precise quantities of each sentiment has inevitably varied from moment to moment.

"Hey," he answers back, and lets that sit there a beat too long before he pushes himself to a rise. "Thanks for coming." A beat. "Do you want to sit? Or we could walk."

Somehow it's worse for the darkness. Not because it's dark, but because the dark makes possible the sight of those columns of illumination, spearing upward into the heavens from what was, not long ago, an entire ecosystem within the landscape of the city. Like a hole, now. Bleeding candelas. He knows they're there, and maybe Matt feels them — not with his finely-tuned senses, but with his soul — in ways that most people don't. But he can't see them — and Kinsey can't not.

Reminders, everywhere.

"Walk," she says, and then backtracks, nerves making her speech inelegant, awkward. "If, if that's okay. I'd like to walk." Cannot fathom sitting still, with only what's held between them to focus on.


It's what?

Maybe 'it's a nice night for it?' Or 'it's good to see you?' Or 'it's a fucked up world we live in, isn't it?'

She never quite gets to where she can finish the sentence, instead trying to stuff her hands into the front pockets of shorts barely designed to hold the bits of her in that are already in there, much less hands. And still: she's more successful in her efforts with the pockets than she is at trying to figure out how to end that sentence.

I'd like to walk."Sure," he answers softly, pushing himself up to a rise from the bench and grabbing that cane with deft fingers from one hand, his cheap pair of shades with the other. A walk sounds right. Let's them burn off some of that nervous energy. Let the sound of their footsteps or the novelty of their slowly-shifting surroundings provide some distraction from either the chasm between them or the devastation to their southwest.

After all, it can't be worse than this.

Once upon a time, before she knew what he could do, he would have offered her an elbow and asked her to guide him with winking irony. Later, after she knew, he would have offered to guide her with the self-same sentiment but flipped on its head.

He does neither here, simply stepping beside her, close enough to brush. And then he walks. It's — she starts and can't finish, so he does. "It's good to see you," he tells her quietly, and it's true in just about every way except literally. This was easier in his head. What can he say, really? The universe of available small talk is the size of a subatomic particle. How's she been? He missed her? Foggy and Jess say hello?

No, there's too much hanging over them for any of that. He lets his walking stick lead him by rote down the slender paved path alongside the trickling waterway, only the barest pretense paid to his fictitious handicap. He stuffs his sunglasses firmly in his right jean pocket.

"Kinze, there's so much I regret," he begins quietly as they walk. This was so much easier when he rehearsed it in his head. "But letting it drag out this long without saying that almost tops the list. Either of us could have died that night, and that fight would have been the last thing between us."

He summons a deep breath meant to cleanse him and pacify his skip-stutter heartbeat, but instead of calming him it takes some of his shaky and knocked-about quality when it leaves his chest. No confessional visit — however dark the deeds he described — has ever rattled him like this. "I behaved so badly," he murmurs, his fair brow knitting in consternation. "And I — I wanted to try to explain why and — if you'll let me — make amends."

Close enough for accidental contact, and yet: Kinsey shepherds her body with excessive awareness to avoid precisely that. Because she's here, but also not here. Here, but also leaning against that crappy table in the Garage where the coffee sits, while a man who disappeared from her life and left her only a bullet hole to remind her of him waltzes in, relieves her of her cup of coffee, and with a single charming, quiet murmur turns her upside-down all over again.

It was always so easy. It's still too easy.

Something in the rhythm of her heartbeat changes as he opens the conversation, delicately and with his regrets. There's a flush of heat in her, a change in her breathing. An exhale that probably warns him before she even opens her mouth that he's dealing with a minefield. "That was true of pretty much every night after we had that fight," she says, and manages to sound neutral about it, when everything else about her practically screams for him that she's anything but that.

Maybe there's more she wants to say. Her fingers are tightened into balled fists in the terrible pockets that clothing manufacturers deign to put into women's clothing, but with a swallow quiet only to her, she forces herself to make room for him. For what he asked.

"Okay. I'm listening."

"I know," he says when she tells him that what was true of that horrific night in the Kitchen was true of any night. It's a soft, simple, and straightforward admission. Both of them routinely put their lives on the line, and those lives could have been cut short any time over the past weeks — not just when Hell's Kitchen was lit up like a bonfire.

Now she's listening, Matt. You've got her attention. What are you going to say?

It takes him a moment to even start. Disclosures of any kind are hard for him, and this one forms a clutch in his chest that makes it difficult even breathe, much less talk. "When I told you — " his jaw works, his face contorts, and there are pinpricks suddenly behind his eyes. "When I told you that you didn't — that you didn't know me? That was a big, brazen lie. You know me better than anyone ever has." He puffs out a wry, sad breath and adds: "Even Fog, I guess."

His hand grips that walking stick a little tighter, and he can hear his rapid-fire pulse loudly in his oh-so-sensitive ears. "But if there's any, ah, truth to it at all, it's this," he begins slowly, haltingly, his voice only maintaining a threadbare control of equilibrium. "I have this — this thing inside me. It feels like a living creature sometimes, like the sci-fi shit we deal with every other week. Or sometimes it's just an… active lack… like a black hole or a fucking gravity well. Whatever it is, I try to fight it. And most days it feels like I do, but when it gets me — ah."

This is so stupid. What are you doing? Give her cake, like Jess said. Woo her. Flowers and candy. This is the world's worst sales pitch in the history of sales pitches. If you were in a courtroom making a closing argument you'd get sued for malpractice. For the love of God STOP!

He doesn't. He struggles past it, shuts his blind eyes and says: "It makes me feel like I'm — " A beat. "Shit. Like I'm worthless, or worse, like I'm an active blight. That I'm going to destroy every single thing I touch, including and especially the people I love. That they're, ah, better off without me. That I deserve to be and can only be alone. And it doesn't stop until I make sure that's true."

Matt shivers a little, even though it isn't close to cold. "This last time was the worst," he adds, clearing his throat. "And — there are reasons for that. Beyond the obvious ones. I don't need to get into them right now, or ever, but I — Kinze, I really hit bottom. And doing that gave me a view up, I guess. A little bit of clarity."

He snaps his head to her, and he's quick to say: "That's an explanation. It's no excuse. There is no excuse for how I acted, or how I — hurt you. And it's not some search for pity; I hate pity. I just wanted you to know… to know the why. And that it wasn't about you, or how much I valued you, or — us."

She said she wanted to walk, and she meant that. She does. More than anything Kinsey wants to stay moving, as though they could leave whatever is coming slightly behind them, stay out ahead of the wave of it, surfing on the moment's unresolvedness.

It's a desire she holds onto even after he tells her that she knows him. Better than anyone ever has. Words that have her pressing her lips together, thinning them in skepticism she can't, and presently is not willing to, articulate. The even Fog surprises her, genuinely, and does nothing to put her doubts to rest. Surely not?

Once he leads into the next piece, though, she can't. Can't keep moving. Can't keep walking. Not because the conversation isn't still uncomfortable — it is — but because he has so much of her attention that she forgets about everything else. She slows to a halt and looks at him, actually places her eyes on him for the first stretch of time of any real length at all, tonight. They anchor on his face and stay, absorbing all of the changes, big or small, that paint nuance into an already nuanced explanation of-

Well. She's not a psychologist, and he didn't ask for a diagnosis, anyway.

There were a lot of things she might have expected him to say about what happened. None of them looked like this. It leaves her standing in silence, listening to wind in leaves and the not-so-distant sound of automobiles and people, trying to take this piece of him — this huge piece of him — and seat it within the shape of what she knew. It was there all along, but it takes her time, and is not easy. And even then, helped along by her familiarity with the gnawing, pervasive phantom of his guilt, there's the matter of what that means not only for him, but for…

Them? For her? For..?

She's aware of the silence stretching long while she weighs her own thoughts, and maybe as much for that reason as because she wants to, she asks, quietly, "Can I hold your hand?"

It's a bittersweet moment. On the hand, Matt has just made a confession to rival any in his life, and made it to one of the two most important people in his world. Yes, is greeted with silence at first — impenetrable and unreadable even to him — but after those seemingly interminable beats of time he's met with something like acceptance. Dizzying relief floods him, setting his world-on-fire off kilter.

On the other hand, her acceptance is fragile, tentative. That Kinsey has to ask him whether she can take his hand, after all they've been through and shared, speaks to the still-yawning gap between them. And to the fact that — whatever his mental state at the time — he was the one who imposed that distance.

"…yeah, of course," he remembers to murmur, and offers his right one out for her to take. "I don't want to — belabor any of that stuff. It is what it is, and I needed to you to understand it, and if you've got questions I'll do my best to answer them."

He puffs out a little breath and rolls his eyes before nodding behind him towards the pillars of light in the distance, and all they represent. "At the same time: fuck my feelings, you know?"

It is tentative. Too easy. But what he's said tilts the scales, a bit, and she cannot — in that moment, with the weight of his heavy soul on her — fathom doing any differently. The way she takes his hand isn't hesitant, but instead careful, as though she were finding her way through the fact of contact as she goes.

Once she has her palm against his, she places her other hand over the top, firming that link. Still not walking.

"No. I mean…I know what you're saying." She turns her head, following that brief gesture of his with her eyes, off toward the jags of light in the sky. "I get why you're saying it. Emotions aren't a zero sum game, though. Perspective is good, but it doesn't — it doesn't make other hurts less real. And honestly, the last thing you need to do is keep embracing the idea that you're not worth comforting in your suffering."

She isn't done. The silence that happens makes that clear, restless in herself, shifting her weight, something in her breathing signaling maybe-speech for whole tens of seconds.

"It wasn't all your fault, Matt. That fight. I was hard on you because I was afraid for you and it wasn't…it wasn't kind. It wasn't. I wish I had done things differently. But that's…" In her chest, her heart feels to her as though it's going to punch a hole straight through her ribs, beating hard enough to shake her apart.

"But that's…that's the problem. I'm not, I wasn't-" The tears come, finally, gathering in thin crescents along her lower lids. "When we met and you asked me out to coffee, you know I almost didn't say yes? Not because it didn't sound like fun, but because I'm- because I hadn't done that in so long. Not, not since before the accident. And I wasn't sure how I could…do that. If I could do that. What if I failed at it, somehow? Or, almost worse, what if I didn't, and then- how would I ever explain? Would I ever be able to? But I told myself it was a, an experiment. That I had to start sometime, so why not start then? And, you know." She sniffs, and through something that isn't a sob but still catches in her throat like one, laughs a little, too: "And you were pretty cute, so that helped."

She lifts her hand from the back of his, lightly brushing away the first shining trails her cheeks. "I think somebody who isn't broken like me would have known how to make things okay for you, Matt. Instead of- instead of making them worse. They'd…they wouldn't- they would know you didn't mean those things. And knowing that would mean they could just let go of it. You know? Because it wasn't true. But I-"

This silence follows the closing of her throat. Something in her posture changes, yielding: shoulders forward, spine bending, her hand pressed over her mouth, as she grapples with her self-control. "I…I can't. I am so…so…deep in this with you now and I should be stronger, you know? Everything we do? I told you I always expected to break first and I was — I was being cruel, I guess, but it's still true. I always have. I still do. I'm…I feel like I'm always one half-step away from being something else. Like I made a mistake thinking I could do this, be with — be with anybody. When I'm…like this."

Kinsey reaches out with her hands, one flesh and blood and the other facsimile, to take his own. She absolves him of blame in a fight he started and ended. At first he wants to protest, but even in those long stretches of silence he can tell she's building momentum towards things she needs to say and he needs to hear.

Then she proceeds, in her own halting way, to one-up his confession by laying bare all her vulnerabilities and hidden doubts. His face wrenches and his brow knits, at some point he casts aside his walking stick onto the grass so he can bring his hand up to try to cup her cheek and wipe away some of those tear-streaks a calloused thumb.

"I knew," he says wistfully of her ambivalence on that first outing in Metropolis before he adds a soft: "I — knew a lot that you didn't, back then. I knew a lot about what you'd been through and lost, and not just — not just because of what I could feel with my hands. All the things you're talking about — it's what drew me to you, Kinze." Some of that same strange humor that bubbled up in her finds its mirror in him as he ruefully asides: "I mean, aside from the fact that you were brilliant, and funny, and sweet — and incredibly sexy despite being a truly ridiculous nerd."

He's dimly aware that they've been holding up a perfectly walkable path in Central Park for a stretch now, and realizes that they must look like a fraught sight to keep driving people off into other alternative routes. But, for once, Matt can't bring himself to care what other people see.

"What drew me to you was that I could sense we shared so much," he goes on with renewed urgency, even if his voice never lifts beyond a halting hush. "You'd had things taken from you, and had to deal with the world in a different way because of it. Had to pass for something that you weren't, and were grappling with the distance that put between you and just about everyone else in the world. I — I admired you, and saw the, ah, potential to share more with you."

He swallows hard, and tilts his head to the right, his whole face registering undisguised anguish. "But I still fucked it up — I didn't let you in," he says, his voice quiet and raw. "You think you couldn't forgive me because you were what — weak? Broken? Come on. That's bullshit, Kinze. The real reason is because I'm only just now coming clean with you about what a fucking mess I am."

Even through her tears — and they continue to fall, largely silent, while he speaks — she blushes for all of those kind words. Not just the flattering things, but the intimate ones; the things about what it's like to be both less and more than the people around you, half-held in secret.

Secret from most people, anyway.

It's not a feeling she's used to: blushing and miserable at the same time. To be pulled in two directions by one thing, so eager, so hungry to hear those things from someone, and so frightened of how much she needs that. The human contact in the gentle touch at the side of her face, the warmth of someone else's flesh and blood and bone, the salve that it is — all in tension against her fear of how easy he's always found it to draw her back in. How much, even now, she wants to let go of the hard things and hide from all of those in his arms. As though that could fix anything at all.

The pained look on his face is enough to drive her eyes away from him, too difficult to look at, especially when it arrives as it does on the heels of so many tender sentiments. Especially when-

"Oh, Matt." This time it really is a sob, a choked thing that sounds like a laugh and isn't, slightly nauseous. "It's not about forgiveness. I forgive you. I don't think it was ever about forgiveness for me. You never needed it in the first place. I love you. This dark thing in you doesn't change that. It can't. I'm already all in on you, so the mess that you are? It's just part of it."

Brows stitched together, she tips her head back and angles her eyes skyward, fighting for the right words. When she speaks next she's quieter, the clasp of her hand on his tighter for all that. "It's more like, once upon a time there was this stupid girl who had this stupid thing happen to her, and once she'd glued enough of the pieces together that she could pretend they hadn't gotten broken apart she wondered if she could do the things she used to do, maybe. Pretend things were normal again. But the pieces didn't go back together just right or in just the same way. Some of them were missing. Some of them were shapes she didn't recognize, and she had no idea where they were supposed to fit, but she had this worrying feeling she couldn't shake that they were important, somehow. And she was pretty sure — not completely sure, but pretty sure — that she'd put everything back together wrong, and all it would take to smash it all apart again is one hard knock from the wrong direction."

Her fingers ache when she finally makes to disentangle them from his, but only so that she can place her hands on his shoulders. It's her turn to wear an expression like a cramp, eyes closed, the shapes of her face radiating humidity and heat when they close in on his. "What if I'm just not strong enough, Matt?"

He compared his demons to a black hole or some monster out of Ridley Scott's imagination, gnawing in his gut. A crying Kinsey describes herself as the monster, a Frankenstein of component parts — mental and physical alike — given new life but misshapen as a result. She's intimated as much before, if never with such desperation. On that very first outing together in the swanky Manhattan coffee shop she'd told him: I don't think I'm the same person I was before it happened, but I don't know what that means. For me.

Then she's asking him: What if I'm just not strong enough? And for the first time in the evening his confidence is well and truly shook. Not because he doubts her, but because he continues to doubt himself. As much as he loves her, he's already hurt her — twice. Whatever he thinks about her self-assessment, her fears and doubts about her own fragility, he knows that she is vulnerable with him. That she's let him get close enough to give him endless capacity to wound her and stunt her recovery rather than foster it.

That persistent internal critic in his head prods him, asking: Was his first gut instinct there in the boxer's gym actually the right one? Might she not really be better off without him?

None of those doubts can last long when every inch of her conveys distress, from her hammering heartbeat to flushed skin to the salt of her tears he can taste on his lips from a full foot away. Whatever the arguable merits of the pair of them, they are here now, and she's distraught, and there's nothing at all to do but pull her even closer when she rearranges them, banding his arms around her back and setting his temple against hers.

It takes him a few moments to collect his thoughts long enough to say anything at all. "God, Kinze," he murmurs, his soft voice tight but still conveying warmth and even a grace note of humor, however shakey. "Strong enough for what? I've seen you face off against alien crocodile women, an actual sea monster, and hordes of gangsters. I've seen you take a bullet, and beat a demon virus. What are you afraid of?"

But those things are easy, she wants to say, as the line of her spine trembles and bows, folded into a circle of arms that way. When he gets close, and his crown is near to her own, and everything she can sense narrows down to everything he is, right down to the fragrance of the air she's breathing. And these things are hard.

It's what he asks her, more or less: which things are hard? That she cannot for the life of her figure out how to answer it in any comprehensive way only seems to reinforce her point — in a way that does nothing for his efforts to understand it. You doesn't paint the right picture. You and me is closer, but still not quite right. Me and anybody probably cuts closer than the rest, but still: it's not the whole truth, nor is it a perfect fragment thereof. In silence she wrestles with the phantoms that haunt the lacks she contains, fingertips tightened atop his shoulders in unconscious answer to the strain and anxiety of that.

None of the slightly staggered, disjointed whispers that follow feel any more satisfying to her, but she makes the effort because he asked, and his question needs an answer. "You said I didn't know you. Now you say I do. That you lied. But it all feels the same to me. I can't tell. There should be a feeling where the knowing of that is and I don't have it. I feel like I used to be able to do this, you know? That. Feel…that. What if I just can't, anymore? What if what happened to me took that away?" The shadow between her brows deepens, a crease that not even his proximity and tenderness can erase. "What if I'm…" ruinedbrokenlessthanonlypretendingnothumananymoregoingtobealoneforever "What if I'm trying to be something I can't be anymore?"

She floods his senses, the way she always does when they're close. Soap and shampoo and oil and the air freshener at Stark Tower and the days-old scent of actual jet fuel, or at least its rough equivalent. Horomones and pheromones that communicate with precision the weight that's bearing down on her bowed back as she returns his embrace.

He tries to move past those things, along with all his outsized feelings, and listen to her as she answers his question in her halting way. You said I didn't know you, she says, and it cuts him because he sees how deeply those words cut her. He used them unthinkingly at the time, just something to make her leave, but in retrospect he wonders whether some part of him didn't know those were the very words most likely to make sure she never came back.

He turns his head, planting a fierce kiss against her temple and the mess of dark hair that covers it. "Fucking epistemology," murmurs the boy raised by Jesuits, who'd bantered philosophy back and forth back with her on the first date. "How we know what we think we know, or all the ways we can't be sure we do. It's the worst — an endless goddamn loop of doubt and despair. And Kinsey, that's true no matter what, even if these things we went through — these 'accidents' — never happened to us. It's just that what happened to us makes us grapple with the shit everyone else shoves off and tries not to think about."

Summer breeze rustles in the trees above them. Swans squak, and somewhere in the distance there's the sound of a horse's clomping hooves. Absurd sounds in this island of glass and steel and concrete.

"I don't know who you were," he says, and while his tone is fierce the words themselves are given barely more voice than breath. "But I believe — I have faith — that I know who you are. I love the person you are right now. And I believe you when you say you love me. I'm — " he hisses, pauses, his fingers clench at her back absently. "I'm sorry I ever gave you reason to doubt the same."

I have faith that I know who you are.

Buried deep in the cement-dense core of her inner life, a little bubble rises up through her chest, a deep ache with two halves. Despair: how can you know that when I don't? But hope, too. Because she wants to believe that there is a Her to know — one cohesive whole, rather than a shattered, improvised assemblage of pieces never meant to exist in the configuration they're in, pretending lamely at a lost humanity that she's only now able to mimic, and never reproduce.

Maybe some piece of her knows how dangerous that is. The hope. It's possible that some part of her recognizes it's not Matthew Murdock's job to give her identity a definition. That it isn't fair to expect that of him, or healthy to want it. That the autonomy and agency she struggled to reattain after the loss of her limbs ought to extend to the hard-fought battle of figuring out who the fuck came through the other side of that catastrophe, for endless reasons — not least of which might be her confidence in whatever connections she might forge with other people. Present moment, case in point.

It's just so much easier, though, to let him carry that weight.

He'll probably feel it, the moment she gives in. The tension synonymous with her reluctance and fear dissolves as she lets her weight sag into his, a physical burden for him to bear, alongside all of those less tangible things. Her head is a buzzing hive of anxious thoughts, things that flit in and out of her awareness like startled birds, but she pushes them aside. Uses him to do that. The solid reality of him.

"Okay," she says. It ought to be a fierce reunion. In any kind of cinema, it would be. As usual, though, nothing about them moves in proscribed ways, and what she sounds — more than anything — is tired.

Still: she loops her arms around his neck, and rests her cheek on his shoulder, eyes angled unseeing out into the dark behind him.

Some other Matt Murdock may have been able to realize the benefit years of loneliness — and nearly a year of unsparing instruction — meant in terms of his self-reliance and confidence. The good that it could do her, regardless of their relationship and its relative merits.

But this Matt Murdock can't, both because he is tired of being alone, and because he's become very good at bearing the weight of others. She sags into him and his center of gravity doesn't yield an inch. Any dreams of something more cinematic are converted instantaneously into guilt that she's weary at all. He'll bear the ineffable burdens she consents (for now) to lay on him, because taking up other people's burdens is what he does — for reasons that he now understands, but still hasn't disclosed.

"Okay," he repeats softly, gratitude and tenderness and concern all finding their voice in that simple word.

A beat, and then he whispers a rueful, arch, and somehow still grief-stricken: "I really want to say, 'Let's go home.' But…"

Somewhere in the not-so-distant distance, columns of light surge skyward in memory of devastation wrought in one single moment of explosive violence. It will take time — time and work — to begin to sew together the things ripped apart in that mere instant, and some of those things will never be the same again. Some. Many. Many of those things. The logistics of rebuilding require taking full stock of the damage before a single repair can be made, and then only in stages: debris cleared away, foundations repoured, unsound structures torn down and rebuilt from the ground up.

Perhaps, some will say, what grows up in the place that the old Hell's Kitchen used to be will have its own qualities worthy of loving. No one will say — at least, no one will say loudly, or without being shouted down as a monster — that it'll be better. To do that would be to paint that tragic loss in a light somehow positive, disrespecting what was taken from the people who loved it the way that it was. The only certain thing is that it won't be the same. By definition, cannot.

Kinsey closes her eyes, shutting out the uneasy lances of light, and turns her face inward, down against the cliff of his shoulder.

Tentative, as though she may not like the answer to the question that she has to ask. "…but?"

There's a sudden pang in his chest, and a surge of tenderness. He thought he was making a wry little joke, and realizes she may have thought he was setting the stage for separation at a time when he'd rather anything but.

"But I… don't have one," Matt reminds the woman burrowing herself ever-deeper into his shoulder of homes. A hand finds its way to stroke dyed-black hair, reassuringly.

"I have Fogwell's, and I have Foggy Nelson's couch." He puffs out a quiet laugh. "I don't think we can Cabo Verde it this time." This is no time for escapism, especially when the hard truth of their trip to the African island was that escapism may not even be possible for people like them.

It probably wouldn't require senses of the acuity of a Daredevil to feel the blood rush into her face over that obvious answer. Her arms tighten around him. "Oh. Right." She winces. "…Sorry."

The hand in her hair helps, unknotting nerves that still hum with unresolved anxieties. It'll be hours still before they're properly buried — hours during which she wants to think about anything other than any of that. Silence sleeves those few moments of recovery — leaning into him and letting him pacify all of those worries. It makes her wants especially clear, and in the midst of so much uncertainty, she latches onto the feeling of being sure about something with a ferocity that has no sense of the irony of it all: that thing that is, and always has been, too easy.

"You could stay at the garage," she murmurs, "But it's far away." One heavy pause later, she lifts her head to whisper at his ear, all breath and glancing contact: "We could get a hotel room…"

She needs him, she communicates in not so many words. And whatever the contours of her need of him or its future implications, in the moment he welcomes it. It assuages his guilt, and it reaffirms that this is an actual reunion, not just some peacemaking or mending of fences that keep them respectful or even affectionate but apart.

Because, if his words and the lingering embrace haven't been made clear yet, that need is reciprocal.

Her breath at his ear sends a shiver up his length before the recommendation that comes with it makes him chuckle. "There's not a hotel room free in the five boroughs right now," he protests, in breath more than voice. But he gets the imperative, and feels it to. It's just moments before he has an answer, and his hand slides down to hook at her hip. The walking stick he cast on the grass was forgotten an hour ago, and he shows no intention of going back to snatch it up as he guides her down the cobblestone path that leads southward out of the park.

"I know a place," the blind man tells her. "Follow my lead."

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