Role Reversal

July 15, 2018:

The day after deciding not to throw in the towel, Kinsey and Matt try to catch one another up on the events that took place during their months apart, and it becomes clear that there are as many challenges ahead as there were behind them. More, maybe.

Danny Rand's Bachelor Pad

It's way too nice for either of these people to be staying at.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Wilson Fisk, Pietro Maximoff, Wanda Maximoff, Danny Rand, Foggy Nelson, Tony Stark, Jessica Jones, Steve Rogers,

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

You would think that at least one advantage of being blind is that a bar of morning sunlight through a windowpane couldn't wake you. But it's not the light that stirs Matt Murdock from the seemingly bottomless sleep he'd tumbled into at the end of a long, strange, sweet (?) night. It's the warmth of that shaft of sun on his jaw, along the back of his neck, running down his bare shoulder blade and bisecting his spine. For his too-sensitive-skin, even that slight variation in the otherwise perfectly calibrated temperature in Danny Rand's guest room is enough.

His eyes open blearily, the way they would if they were actually taking in the world, but as always there are other muscles doing the real work. He feels the broad expanse of mattress against his chest and stomach, the million-thread count sheets against his back. He hears enough to make out the contours of the expansive guest room and its minimalist, uncluttered decor. He smells six-month-old ash from an old-fashioned fireplace (fireplace, in Manhattan!) on the far wall, and the sound of electronic hum of a large flat-screen TV on standby.

The fog of sleep dissipates quickly enough and the details of the night before come back to him — including who shared the room with him.

He rolls over onto his back, and with a sudden sense of panic listens for a familiar heartbeat. Please don't let her have gone home, or to work, or — wherever. Let her still be here.


It's more than just a heartbeat, heard and likely felt across the span of a bed nothing like the miserly cot she so often occupies out of spartan necessity, down in the depths of the laboratory under the Garage. It's a radiant heat, too; a braided-together impression of body heat and electrical heat, strange differences in the sensation of temperature produced by flesh or synthetics. Breathing, too, slow and regular but morning-shallow. The air lacks the purity of a room slept-in in solitude, fragrant with whatever unique scent it is that two distinct lives produce in close habitation.

For years of her life Kinsey rolled out of bed before the sun rose, in fine, military tradition. What she's become in the time since then prohibits it twice over. She works late into the night, and that work often plunges her into a deficit of rest requiring prolonged periods of sleep.

Which is to say: even after he stirs, she doesn't, tilted over onto her side and curled into a comma underneath the opulent sheets. The gauntlet of the last few weeks has made deep sleep virtually impossible, and she's long-overdue.


Relief floods him, both because she really is still there and because there's absolutely no chance she saw that wave of anxiety and relief wash over him. More complicated emotions come next, contradictory but inextricable from each other: affection, anxiety, gratitude — and the grief that's always simmering under his surface these days all have their moment on his too-expressive features.

He dips his head back against the feather-soft array of pillows that supported his neck through the night and lets all those emotions out into the air with a long breath. He considers waking her, but how often does she get to sleep like this? How often does anyone?

And so, with care he probably doesn't need, he rolls out of bed and makes his way towards the bathroom and it's ridiculous showers for a long, scalding scrub that leaves his whole frame pink and ruddy. Weeks after the bombings, he can still feel the tattered ruins of Hell's Kitchen all over him just by walking through it.

When he comes out, it's in a white bathrobe tied at the waist, still scruffy but with his damp hair finger-raked into some rough semblance of order.


"This place is absurd."

She's sitting in a chair by the window, legs tucked up into it underneath herself, leaned over onto a hip with her forearms folded atop a New-England-deep windowsill, looking out over Gramercy Park. "My family is pretty well-off these days. This, though?" She sits back so that she can look at him, twisting as she does, until she's draped over either arm of the chair she's in, calves over one side, upper body cradled low in the corner of the opposite. Dark hair tousled first by his fingers and then by hours of sleep hangs in a loose tangle over one of her shoulders and snares on the upholstery of the back of her seat. "This is something else entirely. Who else lived here, aside from Rand and whatever staff he has, before the people we know started trickling in…?" There's some skepticism in her voice that makes it plain she's expecting the answer to be 'nobody, actually.'


This place is absurd, she says. It's not great, replies the grimace and nodding shrug from a working class kid from the Kitchen, now a card carrying member of the National Lawyer's Guild, who has cheered on the return of the word 'socialism' into the popular and political discourse.

Of course, on a deeper level he likes all the literal comforts of this lifestyle a little too much. In part because he can appreciate quality and comfort better than most.

"This was where Danny grew up, but after the plane crash I think it belonged to his family's business partners, the Meachums," Matt says as he walks across the room to stand beside the chair she's draped over, there by the deep window with its gorgeous view of the (obscenely) private park. He's become far too acquainted with the intricacies of Danny Rand's private life and finances over the last few months.

"The inheritance stuff all got super complicated," he adds with a slight smile, as he makes to place a light hand where her shoulder slopes to her throat. It would be a familiar gesture, except for the fact that it's been months since he's had opportunity to make it. "Sudden resurrections tend to. But now, yeah — I think it's just Danny, his, uh, butler, and the strays he takes in."

Like, on a handful of days over the past few weeks, one homeless lawyer from Hell's Kitchen.


There's a soft vibration that registers through the body he places his hand on when Kinsey drops her head back against the the angle of the back of the chair, rolled slightly to give her a view of him that doesn't crane her neck overly. There are times his lack of sight works in her favor, and she can be — not without some guilt — glad of that. Extremes of emotion render that lack unimportant, signaling to him her more emphatic moods in so many other ways, but there are things that occasionally escape. This is one of them: the narrow-eyed, pensive way she studies him, features organized around something more thoughtful than tender, processing the tide of muted feelings that rise up to meet the warmth of his palm.

It's a thing that she lays at Jane Foster's feet, actually. A holdover from her dance with a bit of demonic code. There's a seam of space in her now between some beats of emotion and the feeling of them, where intellect has the opportunity to intercept things before they hit home in her heart. It isn't a constant. It comes and goes. There are things that continue to elude that net — things that are too big, or too strong, or too unexpected.

"I wonder if he enjoys the company, or finds it intrusive." Toss-off words, nothing to do with the greater part of what she's weighing, looking at him like that. When she pulls in a long breath, closes her eyes and exhales, it's less the remark on the foibles of the wealthy that it seems, and more a forceful refusal to think about where she is and what she's doing.

"Did you sleep well?"


It's only fair that the tables get turned every now and then. Most of the time the buttoned-up and bespectacled Matt Murdock gets to unobtrusively survey his world and everyone in it. He takes in a lot and gives back very little. Here, she trains some of her (powerful) intellect and sensory powers of her own on him — and herself in relation to him — in a way he can't notice or fully appreciate.

And Matt? Matt's nearly naked. Literally, not counting the bathrobe. That earlier relief at not being seen was misplaced, because for all that he consistently puts on a, aheh, brave face — without those shades his features are eloquent and expressive. They betray all the complicated mix of emotions from before, if in subtler shades.

Not weariness, though. The dark circles that sat under his eyes last night are mostly gone, banished by sleep and steam. So she probably knows his answer before he even says it. "Yeah, slept great," he says quietly, mustering a smile. Inquiring eyebrows lift. "You? You sure seemed to."


"Good." And whatever complications remain — and they are legion — she means that, and the warmth in her voice as she lifts her hand to place it over his is real. There's a slight distance imposed on them by her arrangement in the chair, a little bit awkward to be sure, but for moments more she stays where she is, eyes still closed. Accumulating inner momentum, in a sense.

"Better than I have been. I imagine most of us are burning the candle at both ends, lately." As remarks go it skates as innocuously as possible around the chasm of Hell's Kitchen and everything related to that atrocity, but even in passing it's impossible for her not to feel the weight of what needs doing. It presses down on chest and shoulders, a knot of restless anxiety in her thoughts that reminds her of the stress she used to feel before finals, ambient and unfocused but nevertheless acute.

It's finally enough to push her up and out of her seat, gathering herself into a slow rise next to him, where fingertips slide through the wrap at the front of his robe to curve around the width of his ribs, seeking the standing lines of muscle that brace his spine. "Are we imposing a moratorium on work-talk today, or are we going to go ahead and dive in?"


"Yeah," Matt quietly admits of burning candles. "Everyone's — doing a lot. Everything they can." This is true, and was true before, and the fact that it has all amounted to not nearly enough still cuts him. That too passes over his face. He's so tired of feeling angry, and guilty, but the measure of their failure seems so vast that it's impossible to escape.

A gravity well, he'd said last night.

It may be so, but that makes makes fleeting distractions all the more precious. See the flicker of a smile and slight shift of his posture when she rises and sends familiar hands underneath his robe to raise goosebumps on his skin. "We've ah, always kind of mixed business and pleasure, haven't we?" Matt says with a short, barely-voiced chuckle as he brings hands to her hips to see whether it's bare skin, or silk, or the thin cotton of last night's t-shirt that's waiting for him.

Whatever he finds, he says. "We've — ah, got a lot of catching up to do on both ends. Us and — and everything out there." He juts his chin towards the warmth of the windowpane, the pristine garden and the scarred city-scape beyond it. "I'm — I'm glad we're here. So glad." And with an undisguised note of regret he says: "…but there is stuff I can fill you in on."


Silk and skin, and not much higher up than that another hem, well-worn cotton. Kinsey doesn't seem to have wanted to run the risk of being caught at the window in nothing at all, but it's a grudging concession at best. She's left her brassiere — somewhere. Wherever it wound up. She didn't bother to look.

The benefit of paring back terrycloth is that she can lean into the broad-shouldered plane of warmth he has to offer, tilting her head to let her cheekbone rest somewhere between shoulder and neck, loose tendrils of hair a ticklish spill over both. Maybe that embrace answers his gladness, that they are where they are. Maybe it's a response to the conversation inevitably coming, and all of the hard things in it, and the need to shelter from the lot. It might be weariness, too, over the thought of the emotional labor involved in catching up on months that were defined, at least for her, by the moment that broke them apart. Maybe it's a little of all of those things. It's not clear, and she doesn't clarify.

"Accidentally at first," she says, of business and pleasure. "We probably ought to get some coffee and breakfast going before we delve into anything…challenging. And I could use a shower, I guess."


"Kind of accidentally," Matt admits wryly, a concession to the fact that he was the party with a slight advantage at their start, whatever their as-yet-uncertain standing now.

They hugged desperately there in the park, and then spent some span of uncounted time in each other's arms later that night. But whatever the reasons driving it, the simple embrace she gives him still steals the breath from his chest all over again. He's still as solid as ever, though, and he dips his chin down so that he can plant a kiss to the hair at her crown.

"They've got a spread of bagels and fruit downstairs," Matt says, because of course he can smell it from where he's standing. "Cream cheese, lox, whitefish, the works. Coffee too. Let me go bring a tray up for us while you hop in the shower." He's not calling for a butler, no matter how obliging Danny's charming and insouciant attendant might be. This life isn't who he is, as much as he may like it.

He swallows and tilts his head, his rueful expression suggesting he's making a terrible mistake as he gently disengages from her. "Any special requests?" he asks her as he walks backwards to the door, still in his bathrobe. Yes, he fully intends to walk out there like that.


Oh, for that look on his face as he lets her go: the kind of look that makes a girl feel like she's something real to somebody else.

He really is sweet, is the unbidden thought. There's an echo, quieter and more remote: When he's sweet.

Add that to the list of thoughts Kinsey is going to pretend she hasn't actually had, subject to a lingering set of worries she no longer cares to allow any airtime at all. Once you choose to jump off of that high cliff, there's no point in flailing your limbs. It won't do anything but send you into a dizzying, disorienting spiral — and you're going to keep falling, anyway.

"Maybe tighten that robe up again," she suggests, by way of special request, and there's even a grace note of humor in her voice. The sound, then, of her feet on the floor as she makes her way toward the bathroom he so recently vacated, full of wondrous plumbing only available to the deepest pockets. The sound of clothing discarded en route. "And cream for the coffee," she adds, like he might have, in only a few months, forgotten.


When he's sweet, is right. That boyish charm was what he first showed her, nearly two years ago. She's had opportunities to see other sides of him since, both with others — borderline murderous — and with her. Cruel (arguably to be kind) and intentionally or unintentionally neglectful. He's provided some context for all those different faces he wears, but it would be hard for her to avoid the conclusion that he is in his own way as fragmented as she is.

At least, when he's not going down to get morning coffee and sheepishly tying the knot of his bathrobe, so as to avoid giving a show to a butler he suspects might like it a little too much. "Oh, come on, you're going to tell a blind man to make sure to close his fly? " he asks with a lift of his chin in her parting direction as he reaches behind him for the doorknob. "I could make a whole speech here about abelism right now, you know. Killer closing argument//."

He's back before she's done, the silver plate (good fucking grief, he thinks as he felt the handles in his palms) laid on the side table near the window. The man himself is back on the bed, arms folded back behind his head and the wafting aroma of gourmet coffee beside him on the nightstand.


"Preaching to the choir there, Murdock," Kinsey says over her shoulder of ableism, voice already ringing hollow, bouncing off of tile that probably costs more than her entire bathroom in Gotham. She doesn't bother to shut the door.

Underneath the jetstream of that hot water, she's able to get as close as she ever can get to the state of switching off her incessant thoughts about anything and everything, the sensory overload of it enough to help her mind float on top of things that would otherwise tug her downward into endless chains of related issues. Steam boils out of the bathroom door into the room once she opens the shower door, but it's ten, fifteen minutes more before she reappears, wrapped in a towel with the water for the most part wrung from her hair. The scent of after-shower oil she brings with her is assuredly not her own. Expensive. A little bit too floral, compared with the fragrances she prefers.

"Smells good." She clearly means the coffee, because that's what she immediately aims for. "Thanks."

Until she has a plate and a cup and both are laden with breakfast, she's silent. Once she has that, and she's sitting on the edge of the bed: "Okay. I'm ready. Maybe we should ease in, though? Give the coffee some time to start working before we tackle the really tough stuff…?"


"No problem," Matt says with a slight smile, sightless eyes trained inexplicably towards the crenellations on the ceiling.

Even in all the opulence around them, it's hard to forget the last time she walked into his room wrapped in a towel. Forget months — it was a few days ago, even if it was in a grimy gym and not a Gramcery Park palace.

She sits on the edge of this oversized bed and asks him to lay it on her — just not so thick. His brow knits. "It's, ah, all tough," he answers quietly, and doesn't say anything more than that for a good five heartbeats. Then, voice brittle, expression incredulous: "We were right. It wasn't about us, at the end of the day. This… was about real estate, Kinze." Another beat, a hasty correction. "I mean it wasn't. It wasn't what drove him, but it's driving this. Different gangs placed different bombs, all at his insistence and from three steps removed." Agitation grows in his voice, his jaw juts, and his hazel eyes take a searching quality, even though fix on not a thing. "And now, half a dozen holding companies owned and operated by you-know-who are going to swoop in and buy the newly empty plots, and construction companies like Union Allied are going to fucking clean up."


It's all tough.

"Yeah," Kinsey says, acknowledgement in her subdued tone. After that it's only the sound of cream cheese being spread or cream being stirred into her coffee, tiny little notes of bizarrely domestic sound given the backdrop of this conversation. She has her eyes on what she's doing up until there's a sudden surge of intensity in him, and then she glances up, plays her gaze over his face. Anger. Something, maybe, like impotent frustration.

"All of these things involve paperwork. Documentation, transferred funds, rezoning, engineers developing plans, getting permits…" She rolls her shoulder in a shrug in the pause that follows, and it's not until she finishes a bite of her bagel that she says, in case it weren't already apparent, "Interfering with that kind of thing is a cakewalk for me."


All of these things involve paperwork, she tells him. "Yeah, thanks," he agrees with a slight nod, a quirk of a smile. "Foggy's been great already, and you'll be — you'll be fantastic. There's a lot you can do to mess with his world now that we know what he's actually after."

The cup of coffee sits by him unsipped. There's no half-eaten bagel by his side. He is obviously, thoroughly in his head, and stays there for half a minute before he gives his thoughts any voice. "This fucker was from the Kitchen, did you know that?" he asks, knowing she doesn't. But he sounds furious and baffled at the same time. "This guy — he blew up his own neighborhood. Put twice as much under the building where he grew up as he did any other building. There were probably still old women living in rent controlled apartments who babysat him in that goddamn place."

This briefing has quickly ballooned beyond pragmatic questions of how they stop this man to questions of why he did what he did. Inevitable as they are, Matt shakes his ever-so-slightly to convey a note of apology.


"I'm pretty sure I could drain his bank accounts completely dry, among countless other tactics. It's just very, very illegal." On that note she sounds pragmatic, and not especially tortured about the boundaries she needs to respect. It was harder, of course, when Matt was determined to turn himself into a fiery meteor of vengeance, and it felt to her as though crossing every line to prevent that may be necessary. "Not that falsifying, willfully misplacing, or completely destroying the rest of these documents won't be illegal, but.." She tilts her hand in a gesture like a shrug that he can't see, anyway.

The revelation he has concerning Fisk's place of birth surprises her, but then so does his apologetic head-shake afterward. "The devil's in the details. You know, the intelligence community would consider that a vital piece of information in deciding how to deal with him, if they knew who he was." She taps her fingernail against her coffee cup, a soft ringing sound. "I wonder what happened to him in that building?"

What she does not say: I wonder how we could exploit that.


I wonder what happened to him in that building.

Matt, as it turns out, has an answer for that. "His father wanted to be a big shot," he murmurs, focus honed in on an inch of ceiling above him. "He wasn't, so he — beat his wife. Ran for city council. Lost. Then he beat his wife worse. Maybe his son, too. The landlord wasn't sure." He swallows over a knot in his throat. "All he knows is that, one day, the father was just gone. And that the Wilson and his mother disappeared a few months after, leaving their apartment scrubbed clean and their security deposit behind."

He puffs out a breath into the clean, fresh air of Danny Rand's apartment. "First thing I thought on hearing all that was: Who the fuck have we been fighting all this time?" he offers wistfully. "Then I thought: After all he's done, it doesn't even matter."

There's sensitivity around what she does, and what he's made clear he could do. He recognizes it, both as a historical fact and something that lingers unspoken between them. "I don't feel like I have to kill Wilson Fisk in mortal combat to settle a score or save someone else who might feel the need to from tarnishing their soul," he says at last, propping his hand under his head so that she can get a square look at him and gauge for herself whether she means it. "But I don't really care if he dies. Or, if he loses everything, by whatever means — cleared out bank accounts or a cell in the raft. All I know is? This has to stop, and it won't."

There's a beat. "Because he can't help himself," he says with quiet conviction. "It's not how he's built."


The story about Fisk's upbringing is so unsurprising that Kinsey doesn't even furnish Matt with a sound to denote that she's heard it. Cliche, almost, and isn't that the saddest thing? That a life like that one can be commonplace enough to become a cliche? Her eyes remain unfocused while she takes it all in, stealing small sips from a cup that never quite leaves the space in front of her lips.

"Mmm." It sounds like agreement, and it is. She sets the half-empty coffee cup aside on the nightstand, then the plate, half of a bagel still left. One careful hand sweeps over the sheets in case of crumbs, and then she slides off of the bed, unwinding the towel en route back to the bathroom. "No more than you would stop doing what it is that you do. That's a man who believes something down to the marrow in his bones, and if it was born in that building he blew to pieces it's tied to the thing that made him what he is, probably."

She hangs the towel up, roots until she finds a brush for her hair. "If you want me to go that route, I can. I'm never sure with you guys where the line is. I suspect that's because you guys aren't always sure, either. But given enough time to plan it, I'm pretty sure I could crash the world economy. I could knock out the stock exchange for a day on a lark. The hardest part of draining that guy dry would be finding the money in any comprehensive way, not taking it. That operation of his is labyrinthine, and by the time I puzzled through all of it he'd probably own half of Hell's Kitchen."


There's a lot in what she says that could unsettle him: off-hand references to collapsing the global economy, or to the fact that this ragtag group of vigilantes and do-gooders hasn't been able to figure out where to draw their lines.

But it's that last part, he could own half of Hell's Kitchen, that ends up really rankling him. It stirs something jealous and possessive in him that's always been fundamental to his guardianship of the Kitchen. This is my neighborhood, he's told more than one mobster peddling drugs or guns, the way a boyfriend might threaten some bro hitting on his girl at a bar. The thought of Wilson Fisk mass-murdering and gentrifying his way into making it his neighborhood is more than he can stomach.

So too is the thought that they both might, in their own strange way, harbor the same love.

"We're working on slowing that down," is all Matt says, though, as he maintains that supposedly relaxed recline on the oversized, far too comfortable four post bed they made such a mess of last night. "Even if it means Danny Rand buying up half the neighborhood instead." My billionaire beats yours.

He finally wills himself to a rise, curling his torso up and throwing his bare legs over the side of the bed. It's not long before he's at the door-frame of the bathroom, toes straddling the line between the marble there and the hard wood floors of the rest of the suite. He leans against the frame, arms folded against his chest. "You should look for the accounts. It would be useful to know where they are even if we don't end up raiding them ourselves. At this point I'm for throwing everything we have at him and seeing what sticks."

There's a beat. His mouth opens and closes as he debates what comes next. "I, ah, even tracked down the Maximoff twins to try to turn them against him," he says, the subtle note of chagrin in his voice and the lift and drop of his eyebrow suggesting he knows all the reasons that was a risky idea at best, foolhardy at most.


"You can slow it. I can help. It's only a stop-gap, though. Even if Rand winds up bulling him out of a chunk of those deals, he's willing to resort to intimidation tactics that Rand isn't, and the sales Rand does bring down first, those properties are going to be vulnerable to endless sabotage." Kinsey holds her own eyes in the mirror, carefully working the brush through her hair. The words are all grim, and maybe they ought to contain some note of apology, but they don't. They're as neutral as it's possible to be. Hard facts. A hard situation. It seems nonsensical to do anything but examine the raw truth of the thing.

She hears the bed shift as he gets out of it, and glances up, over her shoulder in the mirror, to watch him settle in the doorway behind her. "I'll look," she says. The no promises goes unsaid.

The sound of the brush bristles sliding through damp hair comes to a sudden stop when he mentions the Brotherhood mutants. Her head turns to the side, as though she's going to look over her shoulder at him, but the angle isn't right, so she couldn't even if she intended to. Instead, her eyes angle down, more floorward behind her than anything, for a long moment of silence.

When she finally speaks again, picking up with the brush where she left off, turning her eyes back toward the mirror, it's only one word, expecting the rest of the story and utterly failing to make any sort of remark on how she might feel about it: "And?"


She's not wrong in her assessment that all their artful legal tactics and real estate bids won't stop someone like Wilson Fisk, and he realizes it too. He communicates it in the downward slant of his head, the ever so faint nod of his head, the knowing look in his useless eyes. It's a weary look, absent any of the minor pleasures they found last night, or the comforts of their surroundings. Hard situation indeed.

"And I did it," Matt answers her on the matter of the terrorist twins, without a hint of pride, though maybe with more than a hint of that quiet confidence he'd conveyed on a phone call a year and a half ago and at least two lifetimes away. "They wanted proof, of course. That Fisk had been experimenting on mutants for his street drugs. I offered them redacted files from the thumb drive, more than they'd ever need to convince themselves."

His head keeps that thoughtful downward tilt, profile angled towards her naked back and the bathroom mirror she uses to watch him. "That wasn't enough," Matt says, quiet and wry, rolling one hand, talking with it the way he tends to. For a blind man, he's always been a showman, and it's steadily seeped into his natural, reflexive body language. "The sister — Wanda — she wanted to dig around in my mind, to that night at Monterary Shock. I, ah, told them it wouldn't be the sort of memories they'd be used to, or perhaps able to follow. That it'd — hurt, a lot." Because every single punch he takes does, twelve times over.

One hand untucks from underneath his arm and reaches around to rub the back of his neck. "It was — weird," he adds, a touch self-consciously. "But oddly… I don't know. Helpful. I think it even saved me."


Even if he could see her expression, he'd have a difficult time reading it in those moments. It's a difficult expression to parse because the feelings that fed into its creation are difficult to parse, as messy and unusual as the lives that created a situation in which he could wind up in that scenario: feeding atrocities to someone telepathically, amplified by his own strange affliction.

She's still silent when he finishes describing the thing itself. Silent until he says it was weird.

"Yeah. Having somebody else inside of your head is definitely weird," she agrees — words that could have been biting or sardonic, and aren't. It is weird. They stop shy of sympathetic, but there's nothing arch about them at all.

I think it even saved me.

Standing there without a stitch of clothing on in someone else's home as she discusses the ins and outs of vigilante counterterrorism with her no-longer-probably-ex boyfriend couldn't make her feel exposed. Anyone watching with the ability to see it would suspect that those words managed what the situation itself could not.

She lowers the brush. Gives that thought in the moment, and finally asks: "How?"


"I sort of thought you'd understand," Matt offers with a sardonic tone and the ghost of a smile on his lips. His brow knits then as he wrestles with her question, and all the other questions any answer he might give raises. Considers his answer, the way he always does when revealing anything. Someone taught him a long time ago that truth was just another currency, a piece of power or leverage he was giving up. Those old lessons are hard to unlearn, however much he might want to. "This wasn't exactly like Five, though," he says finally. "Or — what I imagine Five must be. She wasn't with me in the present, she didn't have access to everything, but she was with me in the past for a very specific moment. I let her draw that memory out, which means I got to relive it too."

He reaches up to the swung door beside him and plucks the twin hanging bathrobe off the hanger. A few short steps has him handing it to her, as if he could sense her exposure — if not the precise cause of it.

"It's one of the things meditation is supposed to do for you," he says with his arm outstretched, his hazel eyes glinting with reflected light and rueful humor in equal measure. "Or hypnotherapy, I guess. Allow you to view your own thoughts with a sense of detatchment and remove. I got to see not only what I did and what I sensed, but what I thought while I was doing and sensing it. You know?"

In case she doesn't he adds: "It was a, uh, moment of clarity. About stuff I'd been holding on to for a very long time." There's some twist of emotion, a familiar pang from some of the discomfort he showed yesterday when talking about his — affliction? The demon or monkey on his back? "It's not stuff I can let go of. But knowing that it's all there and how it's been driving me — that gave me a some power over it."

A long beat, and his eyes flicker downcast even though they don't need to. Maybe it's instinctive response, an attempt to shield themselves from her gaze. "If I — if I hadn't gotten that moment, and everything had unfolded the way it did last week? I don't even know what I would have done."

That's a lie; his first of the morning. If he had felt the full weight of eight-thousand souls on him, after having nearly run himself aground over eleven, he would have flung himself from one of New York City's skyscrapers with no grappling hook or billy club to deliver him.


Kinsey absorbs that explanation in silence, moving only when he steps forward to hand her the robe. She turns to take it, eyes on him direct, without the intermediary of the mirror. Threads her arms into the sleeves, loosely belts it in front. She glances down at it because it's for some reason strange for her, this unwieldy garment, not a thing she's ever inclined to wear on her own time or of her own volition — but her thoughts are all on what he's saying. The way that a mutant terrorist saved him, when nobody else could. Not even her. And not for want of trying.

Forced to see himself from outside of himself. Made to experience his inner world from a place no longer at the center of it, as a stranger might. No amount of telling him his behavior was self-destructive, no amount of pointing out the lack of logic could penetrate that depressive fog — it had to be pulled out of him from the inside. She finds herself wondering how much of the depression he'd worked through leading up to that moment, whether or not that mattered, and then she finds herself surprised to hear Five:

<We could probably learn to do that.>

Do what?

Five doesn't answer. It is, itself, a kind of answer.

No. Firm. Intense. Still: silence. Does he feel rebuked? Impossible to say.

Her mouth twists around a barb of displeasure. "I'm glad we're not going to have to find out," she says, picking up the thread where it was left. "Did they say they were going to get involved?"


Her interior exchange is lost on Matt, like they all are. All he can gauge is the effect of it; whatever signals of displeasure flicker in his world on fire before she tells him she's glad what's found at the very end of his tether will likewise remain a mystery to them both. "Yeah," he mouths more than says.

And to her question? Matt leans his hip against the expansive white marble of the bathroom counter to face her square. "They're ready to flay him alive for what he did in that prison," he says. "And it's tempting to just set them loose on him right now, blowing up whatever pieces of his world we can point them towards."

A beat, and then a shrug: "But it seems to me that however powerful they are, their biggest advantage is that Fisk still thinks they have a deal."


One well-kept brow leaps upward, then slowly settles back into place. "A deal. With the Brotherhood." While he experiments on mutants in the background? That previously arched brow slowly begins to slide inward toward its opposite, hazel eyes overcast with something troubled. "That seems reckless for Fisk. Especially after we trashed one of his operations. He knew people had that information — what he'd been doing. Cutting a deal with them, when it was possible they'd find out…? Knowing what they're capable of?"

She pins her lower lip with her teeth, then tips her head and asks the obvious question: "What was the deal for? He must have wanted it a whole lot to put his neck on a block that way."


A deal, she says incredulously. With the Brotherhood.

"Yeah, what kind of crazy person would negotiate with them, right?" Matt asks archly, a brief chuckle shaking his shoulders.

But her question is one he's asked himself half a dozen times over, and his chin eventually, inevitably dips downward when he asks it of himself again. "I don't know," he answers finally, quietly. "Fisk is smart, but he still thinks like a gangster and a bully. He has a lot of tactics, but escalation and dominance are his only real strategies. After Monterary Shock we were a problem that had to be dealt with."

Which answers, in a roundabout way, her second question. But he goes on, making it explicit: "That's why their brawler beat Jess half to death in the streets. The reason they were muscling in, and trying to intimidate us and cajole us into helping them with Trask and the mutant collars. They were meant to distract us."

He doesn't even have to say what he thinks next, it's written so clearly on his expressive features: regret, shame, and days-old grief felt suddenly fresh again. They were meant to distract us, and they succeeded.


No one is more surprised by the sudden, intense pulse of anger that shoots through Kinsey than she is.

They were responsible for what happened to Jess. Because they cut a deal with Fisk.

That white-hot candle of ire rises behind her breastbone and he only fans it to a greater flame with everything he adds. That it was a distraction. They beat Jess half to death as a distraction.

As a distraction from what Fisk was doing, which was systematically destroying Matt's life by killing the women he'd rescued, and trying to frame him for it. Which was, ultimately, destroying Hell's Kitchen. Murdering eight thousand people.

Disbelief and disgust and barely-contained fury war for supremacy in her expression. It's long moments before she can say anything at all, but for Matt it can't possibly be a silence: it's full of the pounding of her heart and the swift, shallow cadence of her breathing, elevating in answer to the adrenaline, the fight in her.

"So we're…just…going to let them get away with that, because we gave them a reason to aim at Fisk instead? Nearly killing Jessica? Distracting us? Doesn't that make them complicit in Hell's Kitchen, Matt?" She's clearly trying for an even, level tone. It's not convincing.


Righteous fury from Kinsey, then. He forgets sometimes how, behind all the hacking and subterfuge in her life as Six, she is perhaps one of the most principled people he's ever met. And more than that, passionate about those principles. It's an odd thing, for anger on her part to provoke a such a sudden and powerful surge of affection on his.

"The Maximoffs didn't understand who they were dealing with or what he wanted, but it doesn't even matter, because they deserve to spend the rest of their lives in the Raft for what happened at the Stark Expo," Matt says with the lift of his chin and all the gravity you might expect from a closing argument on a capital case. And, like the best arguments, it's rooted first and foremost in sincerity. "I was right there with you to see it. And I was the one in the room arguing for going to war over what happened to Jess, and yelling at Rand for wanting to cut a deal or figure out if there was some way we could co-opt them."

His jaw shifts left and right as memories and emotions come roiling to the surface. "But when Fisk killed those women?" he adds. "That changed things — for me. I was willing to make them the enemy of my enemy. Now, with everything — " he swallows, pale features reddening. "With everything Fisk has done? I'm more convinced than ever that it was necessary. This guy has to be stopped. The cops aren't doing it; he's bought them. Neither is the FBI or SHIELD. So we have to make the hard calls and yeah, maybe get our hands dirty or forgo a fight for a while."

His full, decidedly unkempt eyebrows lift and drop as he adds a weary and wry: "And besides, you know what? Somehow Jess made friends with the Maximoffs first, without my even knowing it."


She holds her tongue, as he tries to provide her with answers to her questions — which, perhaps unfairly, were never designed for being answered in the first place.

Matt Murdock has always been, for as long as she's known him, self-sacrificing. There's room to argue that some of his self-sacrifice is in itself selfish, perhaps; something to do with guilt, something to do with the way his sacrifices make him feel — but those are depths at which any one of them might be flayed for hypocrisy, and her not least of the lot. Breaking the law to right wrongs she committed legally. On behalf of the government that sets the laws, in fact.

This is different, though.

A mulish stubbornness sets her jaw toward the last of what he says. The subtle droplet of humor from him, tired and token, all but evaporates like steam in the fire of her stare, and quenches it not a bit. "The enemy of my enemy is not my fucking friend. Not when they came close to killing one of my best-" one of my only "-friends as part of a business arrangement we don't even know the shape of. These are not good people. Nobody who would do that is a good fucking person, and I don't care what kind of fight they think they need to fight. They don't have to do things like that. It's not- it's not justifiable. I feel dirty just thinking about this."

She sweeps out of the bathroom, trailing soap scents and, for Matt, no doubt a thousand other things, as well, any number of battle hormones all set peculiarly askew by her body's strange chemistry. She fails to comment on the piece he offers her about Jessica making friends with the two people who sent someone to break her in half — possibly because it complicates what is otherwise a satisfyingly pure sort of wrath.


And quickly as they were tentatively making up last night, they're fighting again today about all that transpired while they were apart. It's a fight that puts them in diametrically opposite sides of where they normally sit: Matt, rigidly dogmatic and Kinsey, flexibly pragmatic.

Matt lifts his chin up to the sky and fights his own Irish ire, the part of him that always wants to punch back. "They're not our friends," he says, trying to marshal his tone into something half-way even as he pivots on his heels and follows her back into their suite. "They're terrorists, yeah. And if you've got a solid plan to capture a speedster and a.. a witch, and hand them over to SHIELD, I'm all ears to hear it."

His jaw juts and his eyes flash. "But until we can do that," he adds with an added bit of bite to his voice, "you can't tell me that taking a piece off of Fisk's board and adding one to ours wasn't the right move to make. And if you've got a problem with it? Take it up with Jess herself — I think she's been helping them with Trask for a while now."


Long-legged stalking takes Kinsey back to her side of the bed, reaching for the cup of coffee she left there, lifting it up to murmur dryly to the lip of it, "That'll make a great tagline for our little band of justice-seeking do-gooders." She lifts one hand, splayed, and sweeps it through the air in front of her, voice pitched to sound as though she's describing something glamorous, like a marquis: "'The Defenders! We root out evil wherever it hides! Unless it happens to be really hard to do, in which case maybe we'll just kinda hold off for a while and get some use out of it first.'" She drains her cup in one go, then sets it down on the saucer to the side.

"Maybe I will take it up with her, because I think that's fucking stupid. Not the Trask thing. The 'making friends with the people who thought your health and wellbeing were something they could trade for in a business deal with the kind of guy who murders eight thousand people so he can buy real estate.'"

There's a brief pause, a hard push of her breath out through her nose, as though she's trying to vent the tension he can probably sense, strung through all of the lines of her body. "I don't know about that. The right move thing. Because honestly? Maybe in this situation there aren't any right moves. Or maybe the right moves are all stupid, too. Maybe we should ask Steve Rogers to give us a crash course in being successfully moral in a world that doesn't want to make it easy to do that." Pause. "I might only be half-kidding about that."


She takes her side of the bed, he stands on the opposite. "Is that how you think I see myself right now?" Matt says with incredulity, shock. More than that, something wounded. She drew blood, and it shows on his unguarded features. Worse, he knows that it shows, and that only adds to to the simmering anger. "A goddamn defender? A quarter of the people I know and see in my daily life are dead. My grocer, by bartender, my fucking priest, Kinze. I set out a year and a half ago to make my neighborhood a safer place. And I failed. Miserably. I may have even made it worse, helped cause —"

He swallows hard, his eyes shut tight, and he counts the soft, rhythmic drum of his heartbeat. One. Two. Three. "But I'm trying to make it right, however I can. And if that means throwing a few wrongs in, at this point? Maybe I'm okay with that."

He sends his sightless eyes ceilingward. "And you know what?" he adds, because he's a cauldron of emotions and can't really help himself. "As much as I failed at this superhero stuff, Steve Rogers wouldn't lift a finger to defend his own best friend and sidekick when he was being set up by his precious U.S. of A. He can spare us the goddamn lessons."


He'll hear it when she turns around, spins in place. It happens as soon as he asks that first question, but she has restraint enough not to trample all over his words, holding her silence. Holding it longer than she wants to; longer, maybe, than she should, given that last remark narrows her eyes. But it gives her time, that silence, to find some center within herself from which she can be — not less angry. But less loud about it, maybe. Less flippant, less…Irish…and more serious.

"First of all, no. That's not how I see you. We talked about that last night. What we are. Just…two random people that got dealt one very strange hand by chance and circumstance, and we're doing the best we can with it, imperfections and all. But that's how they-"

Blind or not, he'll hear it with crystal clarity when she snaps an arm out to indicate the large window set into the wall, with its luxuriously deep sill and even more opulent view. "-see you. They called us the Defenders. And you know why? Because that's what they saw. Nobody but you thinks that Hell's Kitchen was your fault. You're a Defender. Not to me. To them."

"So what does that even mean to you? That you'll protect people at any and all cost? What about when that cost becomes dealing with people whose agenda drives them to cut deals that hurt people, as long as it gets them what they want? In industrial professions that's what's called an 'externality.' You don't- you can't measure the impact of something with a narrow focus and be accurate about it. You have to back out a little. Like saying you're reducing your carbon footprint by buying a hybrid, without thinking about the environmental impact that nickel mines have, which is how they make the batteries for hybrid cars in the first place. Yeah, maybe we didn't stop Fisk, but we tried. And because we tried, maybe there's some little kid out there with a mom who got pulled out of a burning building by the Daredevil, and he's going to grow up to be a good person who does good things and the world's just a little bit brighter as a result. Or maybe," she adds, lifting her hands, palms splayed, "He hears later that Daredevil had a side-gig with the people who blew up that gala. What are you actually doing, when you say that? When you say you're willing to throw in a few wrongs? How far does that go? Where do you stop?"

"And I know what you're thinking: who the hell am I to hold forth on wrong things used to right other wrongs? Quite, though. Who the hell am I? I break laws, but I don't go out there and hurt people. I don't have to…to barter for somebody else's life, to do what I do. That's my code. Is it perfect? No. But I know what it's like to hold that line when things get difficult. And it's the same for Rogers, since we're on the subject. You can say that he's moral to a fault and mean that, and maybe he is, but he is. He trusted the system. And, frankly, if everything I've read about those two is true, Barnes probably told him to stay the hell away from that circus, anyway. Because men who suffer a huge amount of guilt and feel they need to bear the brunt of that pain apparently tend to be the kind of men who will push away the people closest to them in some noble but misbegotten attempt to save them from the same fate."


She let him go on, and he returns the favor. Let's her lay out the reasons, public and private, that they shouldn't blur the lines and consort with 'bad guys', even to take down someone who is arguably worse. She harkens back to that small apartment full of kids he saved the night of the blast and it inevitably recalls sense memories that make the hair stand out on the back of his head: of choking smoke and children's screams and collapsing stairwells and of all the heat you'd ever need to give Hell's Kitchen its name. It isn't Wanda Maximoff level revisiting, but it's close. He flinches visibly.

And then she asks him to carry that memory forward into an imaginary future, where the little boy learns that the man who saved him struck a deal with not one devil but two. Says that even if he did it to kill the gangster that murdered that boy's abuela and thousands more, the knowledge of that moral lapse will send ripples through his life — through the entire community he purports to defend.

There's a lot she says that galls him. The stuff about Steve Rogers alone is worth a full tirade on the luxury of naivete and blind faith in the failed institutions that litter this thoroughly fallen world of theirs. Even more, that she casts herself in the same lot with Rogers and implicitly consigns Matt to some realm outside it, a man without a code. That stings, but he still keeps his silence, swallowing all the caustic words that want to come out of him.

At least, until she roots this argument in the personal. In that thing that still hangs between them, despite whatever fragile peace they've made with each other. He lets out a long exhale through his prominent nose. "I'm going to be hearing that one for a long time, aren't I?" he asks with a single note of dark humor. There's something sad in it too, an admission that the damage he did or they did to what's between them can't be overcome with any one talk, any one night.

Maybe it can't be overcome after all. A few hours later, and we're cutting each other up all over again.

Oddly, the digression gives him space to consider the rest outside the heat of the moment — some much needed distance. "I didn't set out to be anyone's inspiration," Matt says after a long stretch of quiet, his tone soft. And it's true, as far as it goes, though it ellides the fact that some part of him might have hoped for it. "I'm certainly not worthy of it. But I take your point that the things we intended when we started all this or the things we believe now might not matter. People are going to think what they're going to think about us, and if they have vested hopes or aspirations in these 'Defenders', it makes sense to try to live up to them. Or at least to " he puffs out a short breath " not let them down too badly."

He sits down on his side of the bed, the weariness of the last few weeks showing through his features. "You want me to leave that gun on the table," he says at last, "I'll leave it on the table. But I did do the right thing by going there. Letting that alliance between Fisk and those mutants stand and failing to disrupt it out of some sanctimonious, holier-than-thou sense of purity is as stupid as putting your faith in the system a bunch of powerful people rigged to murder your best friend. I don't apologize for cajoling 'Captain America' into going onto talk shows and testifying as a character witness for Barnes, because if he didn't James would be dead right now. It wasn't the heroic thing to do, but it worked. And so did going to the Maximoffs and telling them about Fisk, in ways that protected more than just us. That kid I saved won't have any aspirations or hopes or good works if Wilson Fisk's next scheme kills him."

And for all that he seems tired, and ready to concede, he lifts his chin and quietly adds: "I won't apologize for it."


I'm going to be hearing that one for a long time, aren't I?

Kinsey's lips purse, pressed together in suppression of whatever she wants to say about it. Irrelevant, maybe. Or unproductive.

He has no ability to see the expression with which she watches him as he finds his way through those thoughts: attentive, intensely focused, down to what seems like the cellular level — every last piece of her attuned to what he's saying. That he never asked for the attention of anyone, and only set out to do what he felt needed to be done to improve the world around him — the world he loved most. That heroism is not in the long term as important as efficacy; that the ends justified the means.

That he isn't going to apologize.

The last is what sends her brow up, but only a little. Just in surprise. "I don't see what the point of apologizing to me would be. I don't have anything to do with whatever the consequences of your choice are going to be."

Leaving the plate and the coffee cup behind on the saucer, she's quiet as she makes her way back to the window, leaning a shoulder into the sill and angling her eyes out over the city. At this hour there are no spears of light lancing the sky, but she can — she is sure that all of them can — still feel the ragged hole where Hell's Kitchen used to be, like a psychic weight pushing down on the fabric of the soul of the city. A blemish, an illness, that refutes any ability to see the cityscape as healthy, whether the destruction is within line of sight or not.


Thinking about Jess making friends with the Maximoffs, and Matt using them to achieve an end, and all of the people they killed at the gala. The black-and-blue, ravaged body of Jessica Jones, as close to critical condition as Kinsey has ever known her to be.

"Maybe I'm the one with unrealistic ideas about how to improve the world. I admire Rogers, Matt. I do. It's more difficult to believe in people than it is to shadowbox. I spent my whole career doing that. That's what the military and the intelligence community do. They expect the worst so that they can try to prepare for it. It's even more difficult to commit to not using the methods of your enemies when you know what they're capable of, and when it falls to you to defend people from them. Rogers has, somehow. Even after everything he's lost. Even after…" Pause. She tilts her head down, slants her eyes off on an angle. With her back to him, can he sense the faint color in her cheeks as she arrests that thought, strangely vulnerable, slightly embarrassed? He'll hear her fingertips tighten against the sill, anyway. More quietly, and with some of his weariness: "But, you know, Fisk thinks he's got the best interests of people at heart, too, I'm sure. That how he gets there will be justified by whatever grand vision he has for a New And Improved Hell's Kitchen. Most terrorists and radical elements do feel that way. That they're doing the right thing, and just taking the necessary steps to ensure that the right side of history wins out. And all of them think that they're on it."


I don't see what the point of apologizing to me would be, she tells him with surprise. "To anyone," he corrects, quiet but firm in this conviction, at least. "Especially not when I haven't even pulled that trigger yet."

And he leaves it there, instead making his slow, stagger-stepped way towards the window next to her, out of mood than any concerns about actually navigating the space. He listens to her wax poetic about Steve Rogers and heroism some more as he closes the distance, to the point where she literally embarrasses herself. "Is that an official request to transfer from the Defenders to the Avengers, Sheridan?" he asks in that quiet, wry cadence of his as he comes up and leans one shoulder against the opposite side of the windowsill. "I have heard the pay and benefits are better."

But she's being too candid with him to pass it off with a joke, however muted. "I don't — dislike Rogers," he says finally, quietly, his features schooled once more to sobriety. "Not at all, in fact. I have a lot of respect for him and all he does. And he even ended up doing well at the trial. At the same time? I worry he would have let James twist in the wind if we hadn't pushed him, and that kind of rectitude frustrates the hell out of me. James is the closest thing Rogers had to family. If your life were in danger I wouldn't — "

A beat as he considers it, remembers all those women. "I'm not sure there are many lines I wouldn't cross," he finishes with a swallow. "Maybe that makes me more vigilante than hero. I — I just don't know."

Another pause, a cock of his head. "Fisk is a true believer, yeah. He's got a vision, and real faith. That's what scares me."


"If I wanted to be on the government's payroll, I'd probably just take my chances with the DEO again," she says, of a transfer to the Avengers. It's dry enough to signal that she gets the joke, but there's not really any amusement in her voice.

She listens to him tell her that he might do anything to protect her, if her life were threatened. It ought to be seductive, in its way. What woman wouldn't want that? And in a romanticized, abstract way, the sentiment is. On any other day, she might find it sexy, the way she caught a slightly guilty blush watching him absolutely maim Russians on a dock on the night she found out about his side gig, and he hers.

In the context of the present conversation, it brings no pleasure at all. Less than none, because she knows the same is true for her: there's probably very little she'd hesitate to do if she believed his life was on the line. In this moment, knowing that about herself doesn't leave her feeling proud or loyal, it leaves her feeling afraid, and as though he were able to sense the tenor of her thoughts, he remarks on the very real source of that fear. That passion, belief, commitment are such powerful forces, and so easily turned sour, so insidiously easy to corrupt.

"Maybe it should scare you to find it in yourself, too. It's good, to have faith, and vision. To believe in things. But it's dangerous, too. Because of what it means. Because of what you'd give up in pursuit of those things. It scares me, Matt. It scares me in myself."


"You… don't think it scares me?" Matt asks with a cant of his head, a quizzical furrow of his careworn brow. He's honestly startled by the suggestion. "The number of times I've come over the last few months to doing the unthinkable? The shit that would damn my soul? I nearly did in the basement of that gym, just a day before you found me. Of course it scares me. I've wrestled with it every day of the last year and a half, and never more so than in the last few months."

But then she's turning that around, fixing the doubt and skepticism she urges in him on herself. That what's inside her scares her too. And of course it does, this person who says she doesn't even know herself — who warned him so long ago that the limitless opportunities before her were frightening to her, because so many of those possibilities involved acts that in her past life would horrify her.

He nods a little faintly, and takes another slow step forward, this time to close a little bit of the distance between them. Then another. "Yeah, I know it does," he murmurs. He already offered her his take last night: that he felt he knew her, and implicit in that assumption was that she was a fundamentally good person, and worth loving. Here, he just accepts her fear, and after a beat, makes one more recommendation: "But maybe we can watch each other's backs a bit, you know? Spiritually, not just physically. Try to keep each other honest. Grounded. Make this thing we've got work for us."


Another of those moments where her mouth changes shape, like she has something to say about his first, maybe rhetorical, question, only to think better of it, and swallow it back into silence. There are increasingly more of those — but then, there are increasingly moments of friction between them, where things require circumspection in the pursuit of keeping the peace, too. Evolutions of what they are. Of how they work.

She doesn't look up, or back at him, when she hears him ever-so-gradually closing that distance. Not until the last, when she turns her head, and if he had eyes that could see it he'd have a view of her face in profile, one green-gold eye angled back at him, hard to read.

"That's what I'm doing," she says, an almost plaintive quality buried in her otherwise quiet tone of voice. More somber, then, or at least subdued, as she shifts her focus back through the window and adds, "Trying to do."

The conversation continues to loop through her head, the way it will for days to come, and it provokes the words that follow, exhaled, tired. "Maybe I'm not the best yardstick for taking the measure of these things, though."


That's what I'm doing, she says of trying to keep him honest, grounded. "Yeah, I got that part," he says with wry, dry understatement. She keeps her eyes towards the window as he approaches, just a sidelong glance paid to him and her tone alternately pleading and subdued.

He pauses there, half his profile lit up by the summer morning's sun, dips his chin down as he considers his next words. "And I don't know, Kinze. Maybe you don't need to be the measure or standard to have moral opinions. And well founded ones. I think you actually see with clearer eyes than most. Even mine."

There's a long beat before he adds, "You don't have to tiptoe around me," he murmurs. "I'm not made of glass, much as I may have seemed it the last few months. Say what you were going to say." Because of course he heard that swallow. And even though he's swallowed his own share of ill-advised barbs over the course of the morning, something makes him want to hear this one.


"Everything's relative." It's not clear whether this is agreement or refutation of his suggestion that a person doesn't need to be the standard against which they judge the morals of others. Her tone doesn't make it clear. Maybe it's neither; maybe it's just a remark on a fundamental truth of morality and the subsequent fluidity of that.

She doesn't expect him to ask for the thing he asks for. The silence that follows that request is long.

'Silence,' at any rate. No true silence in New York, even in the most expensive and beautiful of homes. Even through the glass, even for Kinsey's unaugmented ears, faint emanations of voices and traffic, and the occasional vibration of bass rising up through the structure to be felt more than heard. It puts life into the room even in the pauses that have weight to them; even while she's quietly weighing the wisdom — or lack thereof — of obliging him.

"Maybe…" she says, slowly, "Maybe it's the number of times you've come close, over the last few months, to doing the unthinkable that makes me wonder if you're always so afraid of it."

Another pause, and then she finally turns, pressing her back to the front angle of the sill and sliding her hands into the pockets of her robe, to look at him. "I saw you that night on the docks, too. They deserved what they got, those men. But, what I saw wasn't just about what they deserved. There's an anger in you, and if I'm completely honest? I liked it." She says that casually, follows it up with a shrug of her shoulders. "I still do. But equally honestly, I'm not sure the part of me that liked it is a good part of me, either."


Plus, I dunno. It kinda gets me going when you get all… punchy, she'd told him through a subvocal mic, hundreds of feet under the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of western Africa. It had been fodder for flirty banter then, even as he was being stalked through that underwater facility by something out of Lovecraft. Now, though, the remembered words harken right back to the things he was so afraid of telling her during that first delicate dance of courtship — right before the night on the docks she speaks of made all his deliberations moot.

How do I show her what happens when I let the devil out? he'd wondered, before finding out she had side of her own she was hiding. He was worried she'd reject him when she found out the truth; now she's afraid because it's part of what kept them together.

"Kinze, I'm so afraid of it because of how close I can get," he admits quietly, chin dipped ever so slightly downward, sightless hazel eyes downcast. "So I made myself a rule at the start of all… this. And I've kept it so far, despite —" despite losing nearly everything and everyone in his world. His smile is slight, pained, brittle, as he makes a further confession. "But I don't want to keep it. Even now, back on my feet, I don't. What I want to do is find Wilson Fisk and gut him like the world's fattest fish."

A quiet exhale. "I haven't, yet. Any more than I've sicked mutant terrorists on his world."


"But not afraid to get that close," she says, and it's gentle, this time, instead of pointed. Not a lecture, but an elaboration. "Or not so afraid it keeps you from getting that close." And this, as it happens, is the last she can stomach of any of that: when she dips her head and raises her hand, pressing the pads of her fingertips up into the arch of bone above one eye, eyes closing, it's like a gesture of surrender. She's turned the mill until all of the grist that can be made of that subject has been produced, and everything else feels like just so much grinding away, producing nothing.

For all her moral objections, she has nothing of the kind to offer concerning the fate of Wilson Fisk. Only this: "With any luck you'll have your chance soon enough."


You're an alcoholic who works in a bar, she tells him, in not so many words. A punch-drunk fighter who has made a night-life out of vigilantism, with no rules or sportsmanship to either guide or curb him. It's more complicated than that, perhaps, but he's in no mood to tell her about it — especially when she makes that visible gesture of surrender.

And then, off-hand, she tells him that he'll hopefully be able to do the very thing he dreads. It's indescribably strange to him that she took such umbrage from a conversation with the twins, while just minutes later urging him on to the one thing he lives in terror of: snatching an actual human life, no matter how warped or evil.

"Yeah, we'll see," Matt murmurs, and it's true, because he himself has absolutely no idea what he will do if he is ever in the same room with the man. He made to embrace her as soon as she showed that visible sign of strain, and while what she says gives him pause, it won't abort the impulse. His robed arms make to fold her up in him.


If there have been any doubts concerning her resolution to recommit to the messy thing that they are, her willingness to let him hold her now, at the end of another skirmish in uncertain territory, might well lay those to rest. Whatever her ire, whatever her discomfort, she doesn't hesitate to let him pull her in, and there's no tension wired through her spine — just the kind of weariness certainly familiar to him. The kind that left her sagging in his arms after she gave up on doubting the wisdom of this — or any — relationship.

Her eyes close. "Normal people just argue about what they're going to have for dinner," she says. "Or leaving the seat up." There's a little beat of silence, and then something wearily wry, in spite of herself: "So just imagine, they get to be angry about things and bored at the same time."


Now, like then, he holds her up. He bears what burdens she lays on him: whether it's her literal, physical weight (slight) or the less tangible but perhaps more significant weight of the judgments she passed on the things he did while they were parted.

"Never boring," he chuckles into her temple and the shell of her ear. His lips are close enough that she can feel it when he draw into a smile. "It's a dumb thing to fight about anyway, right? Wherever we decide to go for dinner, there's bound to be a life-threatening catastrophe."

She reaffirms her commitment quietly, by simple virtue of accepting and returning his embrace. But whatever their proportion of responsibility for where they are now, he's the one who took the actual, proactive step of breaking them. Passive won't do.

And so, hushed: "I love you, Kinze."


Anyone other than Matt Murdock would feel rather than hear the response his joke gets, in the small tremble of her chest and shoulders — a laugh that isn't much more than breath. It's small and it doesn't last long, but it marks the precise moment that they transition from being set slightly at odds to one another to being in accord again, the dissonance of askew viewpoints realigning once more. "God, that's the truth."

After months apart, there'd been no surprise for her in the swiftness with which she'd been ready to follow him back here, paving over her uncertainties with simpler, more physical affirmations. She may live inside of her head most of the time — not even as its only resident, either — but in spite of appearances whenever she's in costume, Kinsey is only human. Those were things she'd missed almost as much as the rest of his presence in her life, if perhaps differently.

It does surprise her now, when his whispering summons up a spate of goosebumps quickly chased by something warmer, a flash of heat that expands in her chest. Because she's exhausted, and because that conversation was not pleasant to have even if it may have been necessary, and because, in the cold light of day, there is something decidedly awkward about using Danny Rand The Iron Fist of K'un-Lun's billionaire bachelor pad to knock boots with her recently-not-an-ex-boyfriend-anymore boyfriend.

Still, it's there in her answer. Some element of warm velvet she can't quite keep out of her voice: "I love you too, Matt."

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