See You Around, Stark

August 10, 2018:

A scheduling snafu leads to a first-ever meeting between Tony Stark and his lawyer, Matt Murdock. It goes about as well as you might expect.

//Nelson & Murdock //


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Kinsey Sheridan, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Danny Rand, Foggy Nelson, Rachel Summers, Wilson Fisk

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

For all that the partners of Nelson & Murdock have recently been caught up by a thousand distractions only tangentially connected to their actual business — from hunting down Disney princesses to tangling with Mexican cartels — the firm has never been busier. Hell's Kitchen is in serious need, and the complaints are endless: insurance claims, wills and estates, navigating the Byzantine labyrinth of the city bureaucracy. And, of course, there are the firm's suits on behalf of homeless, former tenants meant to challenge each and every development that wants to replace a fallen building with a glitzy condo.

There's a lot to do.

It leaves them burning the candle at both ends, subbing out for each other at odd hours. And it also leaves them neglecting the people who actually pay the bills. See how Foggy harriedly, hurriedly passes his quarterly meeting with one Pepper Potts from Stark Industries — a vital sit-down he'd ordinarily never miss — off to Matt at the last minute so he can rush to the courthouse downtown for a crucial last-minute hearing.

It leaves Matt there in the office foyer, by himself, standing by the printer as it pushes out pages of braille on the Stark account for easy reference.

He's finally moved beyond the t-shirt and jeans he wore in the first month after the fires: navy slacks and a light blue button down with the sleeves rolled up his forearms. But his glasses are still off-brand and store-bought browns, and his whole aspect is… rough around the edges. There's a small bandage at the base of his neck under scruffy reddish-brown hair that wants a cutting.

Matt has likely heard the click of Pepper Potts heels before. The quick and efficient steps taking her towards meetings. The soft whisper of her dress. The light thump of a handbag. Eveyone has a sound he can associate with them…

…and the approaching figure is /not/ giving off any of those sounds.

The thump of a man's flats. The squeak of expensive leather shoes. The whisper soft rustle of a silk suit. With it, just on the edge of even his hearing is a soft whirr. The current of power, of energy, flowing from a bright circle of metal mounted in the chest of his newest visitor.

It seems that this time. This. One. Time. Pepper Potts didn't come.

Instead. The man himself is there. Tony Stark. In all his…


Which could be annoying at the best of times.

"Huh," Stark drawls out as he knocks on the door before just strolling in like he owns the place. "Never been down here before." The comment casual, almost idle. "Figured I should fix that."

One of the nice things about being Matt Murdock is that you can very rarely catch him completely off guard. Most of the time he has a one to five minute jump on surprises that might rattle him. It's probably what allows him to maintain his quiet composure even in startling circumstances —

Like, one might imagine, the CEO of his firm's largest client suddenly deciding to drop in to their very modest office space.

So Matt hears the Italian leather, the silk, the barely audible thrum of a goddamn arc reactor, and has time to cancel the useless print job and stack the printed pages, jut his jaw, and wait for those footsteps to carry Tony Stark to him.

At the very least the shabby, green-walled office looks slightly more put together since Pepper put her executive assistant to the task of sprucing it up. There are plants, a picture of Matt and Foggy on the cover of a 2017 ABA journal, framed news clippings from the Winter Soldier trial, knick-knacks and paper-weights and a nice little throw rug.

But still, like Matt, it's rough around the edges. And it probably always will be.

"Ah… Mr. Stark," Matt says. The eyebrows shoot up in mimicry of surprise, but there's no need to overdo it. No need to feign ignorance or confusion over who it is that utters that flip, Huh. Tony Stark is a public figure with a familiar voice that's been heard on radio stations, television programs, and podcasts the world over. He's a bona fide celebrity, on top of everything else he may be. Matt and Foggy had at best thirty minutes of fame — Stark has had years.

Matt flickers a smile: professional, courteous, if slight. "Of course," he says as he rounds the printer and makes his way to the front of the foyer. "Welcome to Nelson and Murdock, then. I'm Matt Murdock." He puts out a hand. He's found it's usually easiest in these situations for the blind man to go first.

And than hand…isn't…taken.

"Er…sorry…don't do hand shakes its just…don't do em. Keeps up the quirky inventor mystique." So what takes his hand seems to be some kind of metallic manipulator unit from a little drone. The one known as 'Ace' or 'Dunce' depending on who is talking about it.

"Thats why I have him," The drone /does/ shake Matt's hand though, even as Stark examines the pictures on the wall.

"Add I know who you are, Matt."

Those words hang there for a second longer than they should. Long enough to make people wonder if there is more to those words than just a flippant remark. Then he forges ahead.

"I mean Pepper hired you, I had to sign some papers. Did some background checks….well I didn't. JARVIS did. He's good at that sort of thing." The words are fast and furious as is often the case with Stark. But…there isn't a patter of a worried heart. Stark seems…well…perfectly calm.

"How you and Foggy holding up?"

News flash: Matt Murdock doesn't like Tony Stark. He doesn't like the fact that Tony came from money, or where that money comes from. He doesn't like Tony's breezy, entitled demeanor. He doesn't even like Tony's flashy brand of heroism, played for the crowds.

It's not a particularly informed opinion, cobbled together as it is from Stark's public persona. It's certainly not a wise or prudent opinion to have about your single biggest client if you can avoid it. But it is a strongly held one. Matt feels the metal grasp his left hand for a shake and his jaw works and reworks under his skin. He turns away from the probe in the direction of Tony Stark's voice.

Does it unnerve Matt? The way that Stark lingers on that simple assertion: I know who you are. Tony might. More dangerous than the background checks is the simple fact that Tony is so closely connected to several people at the nexus of Matt's life, from his girlfriend to his best girl-friend.

But if Matt's sweating, he doesn't let himself show it, offering instead another brief press of his lips that approximates something close to a smile. "We're holding up, thanks," Matt says to Tony's question — something that would be boilerplate courtesy were it not for the ruin and wreckage just outside their shingled door. "Just keeping ourselves busy — there's a lot to do for people around here."

Together here in the same room, it's clear their styles couldn't be more different. Tony with the scattershot speech patterns, roaming the office in seeming distraction of a mind that moves more quickly than the world around it. Matt with the quiet and deliberative cadence, and an air of coiled, tightly-wound stillness about him.

"I know this was supposed to be Foggy's meeting, but he had a court appointment," Matt adds after a beat. "Like I said — it's a busy time."

Another beat. "Can I get you anything?" he asks, though feels an internal, gut-level resistance to doing so — even though it's what he'd offer just about anyone else who walked through those doors. "Coffee, or water. We can use the conference room. Will Ms. Potts be joining us, or is it just the two of us?"

"Oh I know there is a lot to do around here, I'm funding half a dozen reconstruction projects." Stark replies just offhandedly. "Though I'm leaving other people to fight for the construction rights."

That isn't in the papers. A surprise right off the bat from Stark perhaps, but the man does like to keep people off balance.

"Naw, Pepper is one of the ones fighting for the permits. And don't worry, I'm not going to put up Starkbucks coffee shops or something like that." A beatpause. "Starkbucks. It sounds so dumb." A shake of his head before he turns to look towards the blind lawyer.

"No no, I'm fine." He waves off the offer for a moment. A beatpause. "It is just us isn't it, Dunce?"

There is a burble from the little drone that obviously means something to Tony as the man nods.

Turning to face Murdock for a moment the shorter man, the multibillionare, tilts his head to one side. "You don't like me much do you?" Again that pause. "I mean either that or the crack to the back of your head you got is making your jaw clench like that. If that is the case you really should go get it looked at."

…Stark just right to the heart of the problem.

I'm funding half-a-dozen reconstruction projects, Tony says, so very blithe, and Matt's head whips in the direction of his voice. Shades may obscure the flash of surprise in his eyes, but the sharp crease that bisects the pale skin of his forehead is telling enough. "I wish you'd — "

Matt collects his breath, and visibly attempts to regain his footing. "I wish you had told the firm you were doing that. There's a whole, ah, community-based reconstruction strategy with several stakeholders. We could have brought the company in on that."

And then Tony is turning his attention from Matt's walls to Matt himself, and calling the question and calling out Matt's barely-concealed injury. Now is the point where most lawyers on the receiving end of a seven-figure annual retainer would feign shock, say it isn't so, and that if they somehow conveyed anything of the kind they are profusely sorry. This whole thing could be cleared up over steaks and martinis.

But Matt? The blind lawyer bristles, putting his hands on his hips. He won't bother to deny it. "Mr. Stark, all due respect, I don't even know you," he says with a shrug of his shoulders. "And I don't need to know you or to like you in order to vigorously defend your interests." A beat. "Which I always will."

"Is there?" Stark glances towards Matt for a moment, slight smile on his face. "JARVIS. Send a memo to Pepper, tell her to get with Foggy and set that up. Should be early enough to coordinate efforts." A glance back towards Matt, a quirk of an eyebrow. As if to ask if that is good enough.

He is quiet at that moment though as Matt turns his attention on him. "I believe that," There is just a twitch of his smile there. "But…" There is a pause again before Stark rattles on again. "…see. Here is the problem I've noticed that people who /don't/ know me get one of two reactions. Awe, which I'm guessing this isn't. And hate. Which I'm guessing this is. Not that I blame you, I'm pretty hateable. But when your girlfriend works for me and Jess is on retainer, Danny is like the nephew that just smiles and bumbles his way to glory and Luke is…well I like Luke. But the point is I know most of them and they know…ish…me at least…."

A pause.

"…right getting off topic here. Where was I going with this?"

There is a few heartbeats there.

"Oh yeah. So back to you not liking me. I've noticed that that usually leads to not trusting, which usually leads to people not asking for help, which can lead to people getting hurt and or dead. So…here I am…introducing myself."

A beatpause.

"In pretty much the most abrupt and worst way I can but…at least its honest."

…which…it is.

Matt's objections aren't just churlish or uncharitable nitpicking, he's telling himself, all while Stark attempts to mollify him with a memo from his favorite A.I. However well-meaning Stark's attempts to rebuild Hell's Kitchen may be, the billionaire is wading quietly into a bidding war between the various corporate entities controlled by Wilson Fisk and those controlled by Danny Rand. Together, Rand and Stark could give Fisk a run for his ill-gotten money. But if both billionaires are going in blind, bidding against each other, it's a circular firing squad.

Good enough? Stark asks silently, with a quirk of an eyebrow Matt can't see. But Matt still picks up on the gesture, and his slightly upturned chin dips in a faint but still-decisive nod. Good enough.

But then Stark is bringing it back to the — personal? Interpersonal, at least. And bringing Jess, and Kinsey, and Danny, and Luke into it. All of whom have one thing in common, and one thing in common with Matt. The man lets out a puff of breath that flares his nostrils. He knows, or thinks he knows. Join the goddamn club, ever since Azalea Kingston ripped his mask off on that rooftop.

"Yeah… it's definitely not awe," Matt quips back, his smile brief and biting. He brings one of the hands up his face to rub down his stubbled jawline, towards his neck. It's an absent gesture while he mulls Tony's introductions, and his stated reasons for it. "Look, Stark, I appreciate the —"

What is this, exactly?

"The gesture?" There's a pause, before a quieter and more sincere: "And what you did during the fires." That sincerity doesn't last long, of course. Suddenly he seems like nothing more than a lawyer cross-examining a witness. "But… if you really have all these inroads to some of the people on the ground trying to make things better, why are you here coming to see me?"

He brings up a staying hand. "And I'm not trying to be coy here," Matt says with a little shrug of his shoulders. "Foggy and I are neck-deep in the stuff with the rest of them, and have been for a while. It just seems like Luke Cage or Jessica Jones could always get you most of what you need. Jess is really good about keeping people in the loop."

Matt's head cants ever so slightly to the right. "Why do you and I need to know each other, Stark?"

Stark has a way of pushing peoples buttons, possibly even jumping on them in delight. Sometimes he knows exactly what he's doing. Somethings he is just…being himself. It is hard to tell which it is.

Pepper will get the deal sorted out with Danny, Tony will see to that much.

The question is a good one though and for once Tony pauses before he answers. It isn't a long pause, but nothing with Stark is. The man seems to love hearing his own voice. "…because we're all connected." He finally says as he turns back towards the lawyer.

"See, I was asked to stay out of all this. Everything that happened. It was for good reasons so…I did. For the most part. And then a whole section of my city exploded." He holds up a hand to forstall any protest. "…and no, I'm not saying that I could have stopped it. I'm just saying that now? Now I'm involved. So…that is why I figured I should come down here and introduce myself."

A beatpause.

"That and you're kinda going out with my sorta protégé. So if you got seriously hurt she might do something…" A pause. "…dramatic." A longer pause. "And explosive. And I'd rather prevent that if its all the same to you."

An even longer pause.

"…and I'd really appreciate if you don't tell her the protégé bit. Since her ego is almost as big as mine."

Tony may not be able to stop himself from talking, but what he says after that long pause is enough to engender, briefly, a similar sort of pause from Matt Murdock. It's Tony's appeal to connection that surprises Matt. There's an earnestness about the city and the people in it behind the bravado and snark that, for all Tony Stark is a bona fide superhero, Matt would not have necessarily expected.

On the matter of Kinsey Sheridan, and Tony's confession of vaguely paternal, or at the very least mentoring feelings towards her, Matt's lips curling into a smirk at one corner. "You're secret's safe with me," he says dryly, before he decides to hazard a speculative: "But I bet the new suit gave you away already."

That aside gives him time, really, to consider the rest of what Tony says. "I won't say that you couldn't have stopped it," Matt murmurs. The honesty of the admission surprises him even as he's making it, especially given the whole one-sided rivalry he's built up in his head. "Or the Titans or Rogers or whoever. I just don't know. Some combination of things would have stopped it, and whatever they were, we didn't do them. But we can't —"

He stops himself, takes a breath. "If we keep looking backwards, we're lost."

The moment passes, and some part of Matt that holds him almost perpetually in reserve reasserts itself. His brow furrows, his throat clears. "Anyway. Alright. Connection made. Mission accomplished. I think we can — ah — leave going over the actual books and accounts to Foggy and Pepper." Lips quirk at their corners. "They're better at it, anyway."

"Noticed that did ya?" Stark smirks slightly. "Tried to leave it with mostly her style but…figured she needed one." A longer pause. "She /also/ needs flying and landing lessons." A shake of his head at that before he draws a deep breath.

There is a nod then though as he slips his hands in his pockets. "Then we look forward. Easy enough. And get the bastard that did it. Just don't forget I'm here in the future, alright?" A smirk at that. "I know. I'm just so subtle its hard to remember."

Ha. Ha.

"I got a dinner to get to, so yeah. We'll leave the paperwork to Pepper and Foggy. They are /way/ better at it than me. I get bored halfway though the numbers thing and usually build a shielding system out of a calculator or something."

…it has happened before.

He turns towards the door. Pauses.

"So how light is Jane's suit-work anyway? Flexible enough? Been wondering about the style she used…" A long pause. "You know, don't have to answer that. I should totally be going. I have a redhead to hit on…"

A smirk as he again starts to make his way towards the door.

"Hard to miss," Matt says of Kinsey's new suit. And for all that Tony did a fine job of hewing his gift to Six's signature, slightly alien style, to Matt's view of the world the difference between the two costumes is probably night and day.

"And yeah, I've got your number," the lawyer adds with a lift of his chin towards the billionaire as he makes his way out of the office. Whether he'll ever actually use it remains an open question. Confident that Tony can see his own way out, the blind man turns and begins making his way unhurriedly towards his own private office — maybe to visit that bottle of Jameson in the bottom counter.

The chances of that seem to spike with Tony's parting quip about Jane Foster's hand-crafted devil suit. This time Matt doesn't miss a beat. There's not a pause, nor a hitch in his step, nor even a turn of his head. There's just the lifting of one hand, middle-finger extended, as he walks through the doorway and into his office.

"See you around, Stark."

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