AKA Resting the F&@! Up

September 15, 2018:

Matt Murdock stops by the bedside of a recovering Jessica Jones.

Stark Tower


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Kinsey Sheridan, Tony Stark, Luke Cage, Wilson Fisk, Danny Rand, Foggy Nelson

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

As if putting Wilson Fisk in jail was the magic key to ending a sleeping curse, news came down the pike that one Jessica Jones had finally come out of her coma practically the day after.

Swearing, of course. How else would Jess wake up?

Her room smells like a nursery, thanks to flowers. And she herself smells of better moisturizing and lip and whatever products than she ever uses on her own. Luke took care of her.

The day after waking up she's not really doing much, but she is awake. No television program is going, not even the hum of a show on 'mute.' No radio is going, and she's not reading a book. She is doing her best to squeeze a rubber ball with her left hand, over and over again, grumbling her way through the entire exercise. All this means there is plenty of grousing for Matt to hear whenever he gets close enough to her room.

Things like: "I guess if I just threw this fucking thing under the bed you'd send a drone to retrieve it, wouldn't you, JARVIS?"

"Yes, Miss Jones, I would. It is very important to your recovery that you go through the physical therapy exercises as recommended."

"The goddamn physical therapy exercise is pissing me off. And stop shouting."

"My volume levels are normal."

A growl. "Normal sucks right now, man. Take it down about 70%%. At least."

But then, for Jess? A certain amount of grouchiness is a fantastic sign. And the AI to talk to means there's no getting too lonely, even when one of her friends can't be around to keep her company.

It was a late-night text from Luke that told him she was up, and shook loose a breath he didn't know he'd been holding for the better part of a week. He thought he'd go over right then and there, started getting dressed for it before common sense intervened. First, Jessica should spend her first waking hours with her man. Second, he needed sleep. Days and days of sleep after the ordeal of the last few weeks — or months, depending on how you slice it.

Regardless, it's a minute before Matt Murdock makes his way to Stark Tower — his first-ever visit, if you can believe it — and to the medbay where Jessica Jones is being kept. He can't help the smile on his face when he hears her grousing; it's still there by the time he's walking through her door.

"Now you know how I feel eighty percent of the time," he says, wry and warm. His head tilts right-ward, and adds a satisfied: "You're looking good, Jessica Jones." A strange comment from a blind man, perhaps, but he has his own ways of knowing.

"Hey!" Jessica says, equally warm. cheered both by Matt's presence…and the totally legitimate excuse to drop the rubber ball. Not under the bed, as JARVIS has already confirmed drone retrieval, but between her knees.

There's a soft chuff of a laugh as he points out she now knows how he feels all the time, and she says, "I think I only get to say I know a fraction of that. Smells aren't going haywire, just sounds. I feel like the smells have got to be worse."

Says the woman whose first reaction to learning about his powers was to immediately give herself the sniff test.

"You're looking pretty good yourself." Pretty not-dead and not-kidnapped, but of course despite Tony probably knowing more than Tony ought to know about all the Defenders, here she will be circumspect. Mostly. She was so out of it when she first woke up that she did mention him by real name in connection with being 'taken,' a slip she wouldn't usually have made.

"Smells are worse," Matt admits, feeling himself genuinely smile for the first time in more than a week as he tap-tap-taps inside. "But I also chose to live in New York City, so I can't complain too much."

He finds his way towards the chair by her bedside and claims it, setting his cane against the electronic monitors.

Does he look good? His skin is still bruise-mottled. His glasses still off-brand browns. She can't see the missing tooth, but he feels its lack every time he talks. And he's still dressed down: just a chambray shirt, a pair of chinos, and some beat-up canvas sneakers. But she's certainly seen him worse.

"How are they treating you?" he asks with a lift of his brows and an angling of his head around the room, aimed at all those solicitous disembodied voices.

Considering she slipped off into the darkness thinking he might be as good as dead himself, bruises and casual clothes still count as looking good. But she makes no more commentary on it one way or the other.

"Probably better than I deserve," she says dryly. "I'm glad they brought me here though. I think I'd have already tried to…"

There's this long pause.

And then she makes an irritated noise. The world-on-fire silhouette of her hand gestures vaguely at the door to indicate what she's trying to get across instead. And then she takes up the narrative again.

"…If I'd woken up in Metro Gen or something. And then you'd have come in to find Luke just sort of sitting on me, and that's no good for business. Fortunately for Luke's sanity…and apparently all of yours as well, given he admitted he was a bear while I was out…the bed's comfy and stuff and I've decided to stick around till I'm cleared."

"I mean, I can't really begrudge you creature comforts in your time of need," Matt says with a little chuckle that's seen more in the shake of his shoulders than actually heard. "I'm still living at Danny's place."

He reaches over to where he sees that hand in his 360 degree world-on-fire and tries to take it. "We're just glad to have you back," he says, smile slight but true. Another chuckle. "Not the least because, yeah, Luke was starting to get a little ripe." Says the man with legendary olfactory senses.

That humor tempers itself, subsides, when he adds: "I'm sorry for — "

You getting shot. My not taking you to the hospital or Stark Tower or wherever myself and sparing you the coma, because I was getting beaten down.

And because none of that is easy to say, he says instead: "— I'm sorry."

"JARVIS. Take off for awhile, dude, " the PI tells the AI.

"Activating privacy mode," the British voice offers gamely. And then Matt will hear some sort of computer beep to indicate something's happened. There. Now they can speak with some freedom.

And so Jessica squeezes Matt's hand gently. He apologizes, and Jess knows him pretty well by now. She in fact had a feeling this was coming, and is ready for it.

"Counsel, I have to inform you of something," she says, with all sorts of mock gravity. "This is a guilt-free zone. I wrote an ordinance. In purple crayon. Very official. You can't go breaking ordinances. Because if you start apologizing because you couldn't stop a goddamn sniper hitting me while you were fighting off what, six guys or something? Then I have to start apologizing for not being able to stop them from dragging you off and beating the shit out of you, and then we'll just start doing this round robin thing until we both feel like crap. That won't do. So screw that. I lived, you got out, and you guys all apparently went and kicked some ass and stomped Pinhead's face into the goddamn ground. In uh. Paragraph 2, subsection B, the ordinance says we celebrate that. You just closed a two year whale hunt, man. How does that feel?"

Matt smiles faintly when she tells the A.I. to take a hike. If only they were all so easy to power down, bubbles up one sardonic thought.

But then he's focusing on Jessica, puffing out a little laugh as she starts in. She absolves him out of self-defense if nothing else, cutting off the endless cycle of self-recrimination before it starts. He presses his lips together, his head moves a fraction of an inch, but the message is clear: Okay. Guilt-free zone.

Then she's asking him how he feels after finally bringing in their white whale, casting him as the Ahab who lived. And like a man who has lived past the natural ending point of his story, Matt seems a little at a loss. "I'm having a hard time believing it's really over," he admits as he lets her hand go and sits against the back of a chair.

His voice lowers a notch. "I'm… not sure it is." A beat, a shrug of his eyebrows. "He's in jail, and putting him in jail instead of in the ground was the right call — but he may find a way to do a lot of damage all the same. To people I — to people Matt Murdock cares about."

He knows my name, after all.

It's an interesting choice, him referring to Matt Murdock like he's someone else when he has in fact come in as Matt, cane and all. There is a long moment where her face is turned in his direction, where there's not much sign of what else is going on. Right now her neurochemicals aren't spiking up in any particularly useful directions. With no immediate words to rely on, the only faint clue might be the slight cock of her head, the one she gets when she's reasoning things out.

It takes far longer than usual. But finally: jump of her heartbeat as she works her way all too slowly to the conclusion. Worry. Unnecessarily, she lowers her voice all the more. "Christ. He saw your face? I guess there was no reason why they'd have done anything else."

She exhales sharply, leans back, and says, "Think there's a way to maybe make it too expensive for him to use that info?"

He saw your face?

Matt shrugs, a silent but eloquent: What can you do?

It's a blase response for something genuinely seismic. There's a Sword of Damocles hanging over Matt Murdock's head, and it'll last as long as his double-life and Wilson Fisk's single life each endure. Jessica poses an interesting question to him, and he mulls it openly, brow knitted and hands clasped pensively in front of him. "We just took everything from him, didn't we?" he says slowly. "What do you hold over a man with nothing left to lose?"

He winces, suddenly pained. The kind of look you get from a thought you don't want to be thinking. "It'll be fine," is what he actually says, forcing up a smile. "What about you? How're you going to treat yourself once you're out of Air B&B: Skynet Edition?"

The soft puff of Jessica's breath is still concerned, but she sees the wince and decides to let him change the subject without comment other than: "It will be fine."

Because if she can't offer much else, unshakable faith in Matt's ability to navigate sticky problems is out there. And because: "We've all got your back."

But once she lets that pass, she gets back to answering his question.

"Me? I'm going to go find myself a case, that's what. What else but to get right back to work?"

There was no universe in which a little thing like nearly dying of a gunshot wound was going to make Jessica decide to turn her life in some new and less-dangerous direction. It never has before and it probably never will, barring one of the very few circumstances where she has in fact made a promise to do just that.

But she doesn't stop there. She clears her throat, perhaps a little self-consciously, and says: "Actually I meant to ask you about something. Well, you and Foggy, but let's face it, I can bribe Foggy with those cereal donuts he likes. I happened to notice there's some vacant office space in the Nelson and Murdock building, downstairs. Would you be okay with me relocating Alias Investigations there? And if so, could you put me in touch with your landlord?"

We've all got your back. Matt is still a little baffled by the notion of a team, tribe, or anything like family beyond Foggy. It's the same strain of skepticism that he trains on their recent emergence into the light of day after that long fight with Wilson Fisk — he can't quite believe it's real.

But the surge of gratitude she provokes is definitely real, even if it only finds expression in the flicker of a smile and a faint nod of thanks. Still, she probably knows him well enough at this point to pick up on his subtleties of expression, right?

His reaction to her determation to find a goddamn case to solve as soon as she can get out of bed is much less understated. There's no disguising the fondness in that smile. "Good for you," he says, entirely approving.

He might have even been about to suggest some fruitful avenues for her to go down — the case of Frank Castle comes to mind — but then she's dropping the best bomb on him she can imagine. He'd never in a million years begrudge her moving out of Hell's Kitchen to Harlem. Her old apartment is still just a pile of rubble and ash, and it's no secret that she and Luke are gradually building their lives around each other. He'd just assumed that she'd do as she did before; set up a home office for herself in Luke's sparkling new spot.

It made total sense. But it still pained him, the idea of people moving on from the neighborhood he loved — punctuated the catastrophic loss and inevitable transformation his home has undergone. So the revelation that Jessica is keeping some part of her life in Hell's Kitchen has Matt visibly moved, obscuring sunglasses be damned. "That's —" A beat. Get ahold of yourself Murdock. "Yeah, of course." A sudden thought strikes him, shakes loose a little laugh. "I mean, you may not be the easiest sell to the landlord. Alias had a rep for being a pretty eventful spot — but no one sells like Foggy."

A beat. "That's — great. We'd love it."

There's a soft chuckle about Alias' reputation as an eventful spot. "I'll leave the selling to Foggy then," she says, relieved and sounding warm. "Surely all those incidents couldn't have gotten out right?"

She starts doing a quick count on her fingers, and there's a soft mutter of, "Holy shit…" as she realizes just how eventful it was. From her own stint as a one-woman wrecking team in early 2017 to the masked weirdo found strapped to a bomb in her bathtub. The numerous break-ins, friendly and unfriendly. The number of times the goddamn door was kicked in, blown in, shot in. The number of times various bits of furniture, or people, were thrown out of the window.

But surely they can't all have gotten around.

"I'm…hoping it's less eventful with the home and office separated," she says. Dryly. Hopefully. "But thank you."

She's not reading his mind or anything when she adds, "I could never leave the neighborhood for good. I'm no native…" really, given where she grew up, either in the old Jones household or the Walker one, she's borderline gentrification herself…"but…the Kitchen is where I made something of myself, you know? Stood on my own two feet for the first time. Became who I am. And you know."

It's possible to hear a grin in a voice, and here one is now. "There's also the company."

Surely all of those incidents couldn't have gotten out, right? she says. "Not all of them," Matt deadpans in agreement. "And thank God for that, right? Foggy's good, but he's not a miracle worker." He's still coasting on the weird wave of relief on which any reasonably observant person — much less an outright telepath — could pick up. You can see the twinkle in his eyes even with the shades.

"You didn't need to be born in Hell's Kitchen for it to fit you like that leather jacket of yours," the lawyer offers as she touches on the matter directly. There's warmth in his soft-spoken tone, though it cools and turns reflective as he adds: "It still will, I hope." Whatever the outcome of the battle in the subways, the fate of Hell's Kitchen is still decidedly undecided. They'd foiled Fisk, stopped that city council legislation in its tracks, but how do you rebuild a neighborhood that was already swimming against the currents of time?

He lets that question mark hang in the air only a minute before he says: "If you're looking for a case, though, I may have one. Uh, Batgirl gave Daredevil a file with a ton of info on this Punisher who has been shooting up gangs left and right in Hell's Kitchen. He's on a revenge mission — his whole family was murdered in Central Park a few months ago. Spun as some kind of gang beef, but…"

But there's more to it, he says with an eloquent roll of his shoulders. "We can't let this guy keep shooting up Manhattan, but if there's more to his story — well. I want to know that too."

Jessica's head tilts in some surprise as Matt brings that out to her. "She came in to see me and said she had given that information to him," she agrees thoughtfully. "She is determined to…I dunno. Help him avoid falling down the rabbithole. Mentioned some street chucklehead named Blacksmith. Said Owen Mercer was helping with it too. To be honest I was having trouble following the thread of what she was trying to accomplish there, so fell into confidante mode rather than case mode. When I'm out of here and all the words stop swimming around on all the pages I'll swing by and get the file, and see what I can't figure out about it. I'm not sure if she thinks that she can just…speed this up, let him kill the right person and then he'll be done or…I'm honestly not sure what the Hell she's trying to accomplish. I've met Castle a few times myself; he tried to bullshit me into finding some of his targets for him, and I personally think Rambo McMeathead is a lost cause, but…if there's more, I will definitely find it. Cause like I told her, yeah, dead kids suck, but all 50 of those guys…or however many…he's gone and mowed through sure didn't all shoot his kids."

Matt smirks when he realizes that Jessica Jones is, predictably, already on the case, though he listens to what she says next with all his trademark intensity. When she touches on Batgirl and her absence of a mission, Matt winces visibly. "Yeah," he says quietly. "I sort of got the sense that she was getting a little too close to the case, there. Who among us though, right?"

Speaking who among us… when she talks about at least some of those fifty-odd men Frank has killed having kids, Matt visibly flinches. The lawyer's jaw works under his skin, a sure sign that he's mulling something he'd much rather not. "We've got to stop him," Matt repeats. "Even if that means bringing in the people he wants to kill and sending them to jail first. But —" his brow briefly knits as he wrestles with what he wants to say next.

Finally: "I have a harder time judging him, after all this. Castle lost his family. I was — I was willing to kill people after nine people I didn't even know were murdered in my name. And I… I made choices that, even if I didn't kill, probably did cost people lives." Yes, they'd saved people on the Kingpin's sinking yacht. Over a dozen. But all of them? There was no manifest, and none of the men on board were in a position to give any kind of headcount. That lack of knowing hangs heavy on Matt Murdock, and maybe it always will.

"Maybe people with families. I don't — I don't know. This whole thing with Fisk it. It spun out of control, you know? I spun out of control."

"It's not about judging him," Jessica says quietly. "It's never about judgement, Matt. It can't be. It's more about…what we will and will not allow. It's dangerous to have a loose canon out there shooting up entire gangs. A lot of gang members are downright kids themselves. And when people just start turning our neighborhood into a war zone it's really only a matter of time before some innocent gets caught in the crossfire."

She leans forward a little, just to touch his arm briefly. "You got back in control." A little squeeze before she leans back. "You're going to cross the line again. And then you'll get your ass back up and get back on the right side of it. That's the real measure, you know. Whether you decide there's a line and hold to it, or whether you just kind of keep…moving it…whenever it's convenient. Falling flat on your moral face? 'S much a hazard of this job as falling flat on your physical one, I guess."

She shrugs her shoulder. Providing this perspective isn't entirely comfortable, growing, as it does, out of the fact that Jessica Jones can never really be said to have even tried to exactly have held to the straight and narrow. That's never really been her thing. It's never been about justice for her. It has always been about protecting people who just want to live their lives. What she will allow, and what she won't, a stance which hardly requires her to worry about moral perfection, or whether she is any kind of hypocrite, things she knows most of her friends, including the one sitting right here, worry about a great deal most of the time.

Jessica makes a cogent case for not letting a semi-sympathetic Frank Castle's mission of revenge slide. "Preaching to the choir, Jess," is Matt's sardonic reply. Even that subtle strain of humor ebbs when he adds: "Especially the part about the crossfire. The man thinks a shotgun is a scalpel. Sooner or later someone's going to catch some friendly fire."

To the rest? Eyes close behind his glasses as he listens to her lay out a pragmatic middle ground. No packing up and turning in his hero card because he can't always live up to his own moral standards. No giving people a free pass to people who are endangering innocents. Focus on protection as much as principle.

Does it satisfy all of the nagging thoughts in Matt's mind? Of course not. But it's assurance and sensible advice from a person he trusts, and for now that's enough. She puts her hand on his arm, he smiles — slightly, briefly — and puts his own hand over it. "Fair enough," he says, and means it.

"Anyway, I'm sure all kinds of crises aside from Frank Castle will come falling in our laps soon enough." Like, though he has absolutely no way of knowing it, an imminent demonic invasion. "And there'll be people who want to fill Fisk's shoes. Lots of work to do."

His lips twitch. "Which is why you better rest up and get back in the game, Jones."

His sardonic 'preaching to the choir' is met with a chuff. "Wasn't trying to preach," she says, a little sheepishly. "Just reasoning it out, I guess."

She settles back down into her nest of pillows and blankets, stifling a yawn. "I'll be back in the game in a week," she assures him. "Give or take a few days. Being up at all means I'll be jumping off this bench ASAP."

But the sound she makes is rueful as she adds, "Though apparently it really is about resting the fuck up. I'm going to end up sleeping another good 14 hours here in a bit."

At least it's just sleep though, not the near-death of a coma. Good, healing stuff.

The signs of weariness are already there though, both running through her physiology and her voice. Healing brain damage is much harder work than healing stab wounds, and she can't exactly pour booze and neosporin all over her cerebral cortex.

"I know it," Matt says wryly of resting. He remembers his aggressive resting regimen in the days between his escape from captivity and the final confrontation with Fisk. Though all that rest then — and all of the rest he's had since — doesn't keep him from wincing when he pushes himself to a rise from the chair. It still hurts to move. And, lacking her healing factor, it will for a while yet.

"So I'd better let you get back to it," he adds as he stands over her bedside, offering her another subtle, tired smile. "See you on the other side, neighbor."

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