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The Square Root Of Sixteen

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The mix title, 'The Square Root of Sixteen by Jadedoll' against a dark blue background above and below a screenshot of the Defenders sitting around a table talking

The track listing, with white text against a dark blue background

Matt took a deep breath, letting the air slide evenly into his lungs. A slow exhale. One. Two. Three. His body needed more time but Matt couldn’t give it any. Hands flat on the parquetry floor, the repeated grooves even and clear even through the fine leather of his gloves, Matt pushed his chest off the ground till he was kneeling.

Swayed and just barely caught himself from falling back down.

Danny was crying, Jessica swearing and Luke frighteningly silent.

“Iron Fist.” Matt’s voice was like broken concrete but he swallowed past the ruin of a half strangled throat. “Iron Fist.”

Danny kept sobbing and a low, fierce “oh fuck you, piece of shit” placed Jessica thirty feet away.

Matt curled his hand into a fist and snarled, “DANNY.”

A chocked gasp and the shifting of two bodies to his right.

“What?” The kid was utterly lost to despair, his hands cold and the scent of his tears diluting the rich copper and wet of blood. So much blood.

Matt couldn’t soften his voice even if he wanted to. “Colleen’s alive. Stop crying and control the bleeding.”

Danny jumped, his head snapping down with a strain of tendons towards the woman lying in his arms. His fingers roughing up the cloth of her head wrap to find her pulse. “Colleen? Are you sure Matt? Are you sure?”

“She’s breathing Danny, but if you don’t put pressure on the wound it won’t be for long.” Blood was slowly pooling into one of her lungs too. She’d need surgery soon but wouldn’t die in the next few minutes if Danny got his head together and remembered some basic first aid.

“Okay, okay. You’re gonna be okay Colleen. I swear you’ll be okay.” Danny started to reassure the unconscious woman as a tear of fabric indicated he’d sacrificed the last of his shirt to staunch the blood loss.

A spike of peppermint in the air indicated the Iron Fist was drawing in his chi but as long as Colleen’s heart was still beating Matt had other things to concern himself with.

Matt pulled his focus from Danny and called, “Jones! Untie Claire.”

“Fuck you Murdock!” Jessica yelled back, the grinding of her broken collar bone pulling the power from her voice. “Luke’s trapped under the staircase in case you didn’t notice. You untie Claire.”

Uncurling his fist, Matt wiped the blood from his mouth. The scent of someone else’s on his gloved fingers.

“Luke’s heart is arrhythmic.” Matt said, fingers tingling. “You need to untie Claire.”

The ongoing strain of the staircase versus Jessica Jones extraordinary strength suddenly stopped. “Fuck. Right.”

Booted feet across the wreckage and the scrape of a chair as Jessica dragged Claire’s restrained body into an upright position.

“Hey.” Jessica spoke with a millimetre more warmth in her voice as she pulled the gag from the nurse’s mouth. “Matt says you have to save Luke again.”

“I heard.” Claire replied; fear lacing her words but also exasperation. Matt smiled sadly to himself at the tone. Claire and Luke had been disturbingly cool towards one another during this whole debacle with the fourth tier of the Hand. Matt had actually been hoping their relationship would last through all the bullshittery with this strange vigilante team-up that had stumbled into being on the wet streets of New York.

Claire dropped to her knees beside Luke’s half buried form. Her hands on his chest and throat caused tiny lumps of stone to fall, plinking minute sounds on the geometric floor.

Matt leaned forward onto his forearm, brow back on what was no doubt a lovely pattern. He wondered vaguely if it would imprint on his forehead as he’d lost his helmet during the fight.

The scent of blood flooded his nose and he nearly toppled sideways again.

“Murdock. You okay?” Jessica called from her place next to Claire. She sounded concerned. Unlikely. Greater chance that Matt was about to black out.

“I’m just dandy.” Sister Assumpta had always used those words when she’d been hurting. She’d had terrible endometriosis pain for years, but Matt’s attempts to convince her to tell a doctor had always resulted in a cool hand to his cheek and that silly old timey phrase. Just dandy. “Defibrillator. Butler’s pantry in the kitchen. Next to the bar fridge.” The fine buzz of the constant low charge was apparent even under all the appliances in the kitchen. Matt had spent too much time in hospitals not to know how one sounded. “Tachycardia. Shock him and I’ll tell you when it’s normal.”

Jessica cursed viciously again as she stopped shifting large broken pieces of timber to thump away towards the kitchen.

“Wrong door.” Matt called. “Two to your left.”

“Fucking mansions.” Jessica slammed the correct door open and cracked the plaster in the wall alongside it. “What asshole needs a butler’s pantry? What asshole needs a butler?”

Their own personal private investigator continued to denigrate the poor bastard who’d sold his soul and his beautiful house to the Hand.

“Matt?” Claire’s voice was slightly muffled as she had her ear pressed to Luke’s naked torso. She then sat up and resumed hard chest compressions.

Luke’s heart beat was always steady and deep like a bass drum. It had been such a constant strong background sound since Matt had met the man. Listening to Luke’s body work was like a perfect meditation mix, an orchestra of being alive. Luke’s blood rushed in metronome violin pulses, his breath a low soothing oboe.

Matt had the concertos of all his people memorised down to the softest chords. If any one of those songs faltered Matt’s rusty heart broke its rhythm. Right now, Luke’s drum was off beat and far too fast.

Twenty seconds later and Jessica almost dropped the defibrillator next to Claire, whose fingernails scratched over the small pads as she pressed them to Luke’s chest.

Matt’s hearing was starting to go hazy and he couldn’t really smell anything but his own blood. It was Danny’s voice that cut through the buzzing of the defibrillator as it charged.

“Matt? Matt?” Danny was stopping Colleen from bleeding to death. Jessica and Claire would save Luke. Maybe Matt could rest for a few minutes before they needed him to do something.

“Jessica!” Danny’s voice was frantic again, but Colleen’s blood was clotting now, the rough bandage and hard pressure doing their job. The wound was far less serious than he’d first thought. He could sense almost no internal damage just from listening. She’d live.

Hands that chilled his skin like ice in a glass cradled his face and ran through his hair. It was so soothing. Jessica’s orchestra was always tipping into crescendo. Her fingers smelled like blood now. Matt’s blood.

“They’ll be okay now.” He reassured Jess and fell asleep to her brilliant, blistering anger.

Chapter Text

Matt woke to the sound of Luke and Jessica having a low, hissing argument on the balcony, the smell of Danny burning an omelette in the kitchen and Claire checking Colleen’s stitches on the sofa in the living room.

He was in Danny’s penthouse at the top of a Rand Corp owned building with a nauseating headache and no idea what day it was. Matt drew in a dozen deep steadying breaths and worked the pain into something manageable. At least he might be able to make it to the bathroom without vomiting from agony but you never know.

Several painfully slow and crablike minutes later, Matt washed his hands in that rare animal that was a bathroom neither too warm from steam nor too cold from an excess of tile. The fine flares and ridges in the counter meant he was likely surrounded by spotless marble and as out of place as a ragged blind orphan could ever be.

“I’m going to stop drinking at eight am when you stop giving me that face.” Jessica’s voice was remarkably affable considering the truculence of the words spoken just outside the door to the bedroom Matt had been put in.

“Which face would that be exactly?” Luke asked with mild amusement.

His heart was steady, relentless and true.

Matt smiled.

“All of them,” Jessica snarked before opening Matt’s door. She stopped all movement for a second or two then called back into the main room. “Murdock’s standing and almost naked. Who wants first dibs?”

Matt felt himself flush and just knew it went down to his collarbone. This woman had no damn filter at all. Jessica’s arm should be in a sling to treat the broken collar bone but it wasn’t. Matt wondered how that conversation had gone.

He felt his way back to the bed and tugged at the sheet while Claire came to join Jessica at the door.

“No you don’t.” She pulled the sheet from his hands and pushed until he was sitting on the bed. “You got shot in the head Matthew. Get back in the goddamned bed or I’ll tie you down.”

With a swirl of air Jessica threw her hands up. “And people say I have a garbage mouth?”

“You do.” Luke, Danny and Matt said simultaneously.

A moment of silence then Danny chuckled like the dumb kid he was and gently bumped knuckles with Luke. Very gently.

“Fuck you all.” Jessica strode out into the kitchen and with a scrape of a plate stole Danny’s omelette.

A low murmur of Luke talking to Colleen and Danny protesting food theft with Jessica soothed Matt while Claire washed his head wound and checked his back. “Nice job with the triage.” She commented, fingers strong and not particularly gentle. “Next time bump yourself up the list when you’ve got a bullet in your abdomen and one in your head.”

Matt swallowed. “Not in my head, just a graze.”

Clair stepped back from him and the latex on her hands pressed against the leather of her belt as she put them on her hips.

“Bullet fragments in your head.” Her enunciation was clear. “There were tweezers involved and likely infection because of resting in the crap at that house while I shocked Luke. I hate being the nagging caregiver Matt. I. Hate. It. Don’t make me nag okay?”

“Promise.” Matt lied and slowly tilted forward until he could rest his head on her stomach. She was using a coconut body lotion and it made him feel hungry. “So, you and Luke?”

Fingers twisted lightly though his hair but steered well away from the gash just beyond his temple. “Very subtle Murdock and none of your business.”

“Yeah, but,” Matt drank in her scent like water, “you were happy. So was he.”

“We were, but relationships are complex and not easy. Also,” fingers tugged until his face was raised up. “Still not your business to know.”

He smiled. “But if Luke’s single I could finally have a shot at that.”

Claire’s fingers stilled then pulled away, almost snagging a few strands. “You probably could.” Her voice was coloured with hurt.

Matt stood and reached out, desperate to fix what he’d inadvertently fucked up. “No Claire, I’m joking. I would never even try...”

“I know,” Claire picked up her kit and stuffed a bottle of saline roughly into her bag. “But you probably could.”

“Claire,” Matt tried again.

She caught one of his hands in hers and lifted it to quickly press a kiss to his wrist. “You’re fine. I’m being weird. Don’t wash your hair for a few days until I take the stitches out. See you later.”

With that, Claire ripped out of the room and the penthouse. Matt wanted to follow, to explain and to plead with her to forgive him but his first step left him dizzy and almost falling if Jessica hadn’t decided to come see what was going on.

“Why’d you chase Claire away?” She puffed a curl of eggs, onion and whiskey onto his check as her brutally strong fingers left imprints on his bicep.

Matt grabbed for balance, and managed to find Jessica’s leather clad elbow. “A shitty joke?” He offered as an excuse.

“Your sass finally bite you on that ass huh?” Jessica took his hands from her jacket and pushed him to sit back down.

It suddenly struck Matt that this was the second time a delicious smelling woman was pushing him into this bed. Pity neither of them felt like joining him there.

“Any chance I could have some clothes?” Because naked with a head wound was not giving him an advantage in any conversation with Jessica Jones.

She sniggered. “I’d rather not but Danny dug something out of his fancy closet.” Her boots held faint traces of mud even as their heavy tread was absorbed by the pure plush wool of the carpet. A rattle as Jessica pulled three bundles of fabric from the dresser. “It took him nearly fifteen minutes to go through what he thought would fit you. Don’t ever go shopping with that kid, it’d be like having a twelve year old girl with ten million dollars to spend.”

A hard shake of cloth then something smacked into Matt’s chest. A cursory feel revealed a long sleeved t-shirt with buttons at the throat. He pulled it on.

“Don’t get down on twelve year old girls,” Matt chastised with a smile as the throbbing in his head settled to a dull roar. “Didn’t you want to buy ‘pretty’ things at that age?” Matt accepted sweat pants to the face followed by a hoodie. She nearly took his eye out with the zip.

A snort of contempt. “I was never pretty Murdock. Didn’t want to be and still don’t.” She slumped down next to him on the bed. “You smelled my armpit lately? Pretty ladies don’t smell like crap.”

He had and didn’t care in the slightest. Since he was nine he’d been able to discern anyone’s bodily functions to an excruciating degree. Stick had taught him to filter almost everything out that was irrelevant but bodies were bodies. Matt wasn’t a delicate flower and Jessica smelled like a person. Like a woman who washed most days and brushed her teeth, ate salty food and farted when her body needed to. She was real and human and Matt wanted to breathe her in every chance she would let him. As she turned her head beside him her long hair trailed across his shoulder. The usual whiskey smell was undercut by Danny’s expensive shampoo. It was distinctive and the fragrance was irritating. Jess had showered here too.

Matt would love to know what colour her hair was.

“You don’t smell like crap.” He doubted she really cared about how she smelled. In her own words Jessica had shit to do that no one else could and didn’t have time or interest in pleasing other people, but he wanted her to hear the truth from him, even if it didn’t matter in the slightest. “You smell like whiskey most of the time, but whiskey’s delicious so that’s okay.”

Beside him, Jessica had gone very still, her fingers curled over her knees, nails scratching the denim.

“Whiskey’s good?” She snorted again and Matt wondered if she was smiling. He doubted she smiled very often. “Tell that to Luke.”

Of course Matt had known they’d been together in some fashion in the past. They were both attracted to each other, body temperatures rising a little, Luke occasionally got hard when Jessica was pressed against him in a fight him but he got angry as well. Jessica smelled warm and sweet in the quiet moments when they were planning their next move against the Hand but her voice became quiet and her movements more sluggish than when she was blind drunk.

They wanted each other, but they couldn’t be together. They weren’t even close to a place of trust for Matt to know their pain, but it dripped from Luke and Jessica like tears.

Matt shrugged. “Luke doesn’t get to decide what works for you. No one does.” Matt thought of Foggy and Karen and the person he’d tried to be. Thought of Elektra strangling her pain with rage and his own need to find someone who just understood. He’d wrecked things with the only two people who’d been willing to try to understand his world, but he hadn’t given them enough credit and now they were gone.

“Hmmm.” Jessica hummed thoughtfully. She didn’t thank him for his validation, because she didn’t need it. “What works for you Murdock?”

Matt smiled as he stood up and reached out his senses to find his armor. “Still trying to work that out Jones. But I know for sure...” Matt picked up the duffle bag that someone, probably Luke being considerate as usual, had put his Daredevil gear into, “...hitting assholes really helps.”

Jessica gave a small gurgle of amusement that was the closest he’d ever heard of her laughter. “Yes is fucking does Murdock. Yes it does.”

****

Three weeks later and Matt was trying to unlock the door to Jessica’s apartment while Danny Rand’s heartbeat spiked and he convulsed in Jessica Jones’ arms.

“The silver one.” Jessica snarled as she hefted Danny into a more comfortable position. It isn’t Danny’s weight that’s the problem, Jessica can throw a piano. It’s her slim built body holding all six foot of Danny’s without banging her knees into his legs.

“Not helpful.” Matt shot back and tried the third key which clicked neatly into the tumblers and allowed them in. Jessica shoved past him and laid Danny relatively gently on her bed then pulled out her phone. Matt could smell the blood on her fingers but it’s not hers so he crawled onto the bed beside Danny and pressed his palms over the not-ink of his dragon tattoo.

“Luke’s five minutes away with Claire.” Jessica said as she dropped a first aid kit beside Matt.

Matt tilted his head in acknowledgment but didn’t speak as he focussed his hearing and touch on the man beside him. He listened as the blood in Danny’s body moved along his veins and arteries, the soft gurgle of stomach acid and the whisper of the air in his lungs.

“Can you tell what was in the needle?” Jessica asked in an unusually quiet voice. The clink of glasses in her kitchen and the twist of a bottle top accompanying her words.

Matt pulled his senses back but kept his hand in place over Danny’s heart. The reassuring thump running faster than normal as the drug worked its way through his system. But not dangerously fast.

“I’m good,” Matt pulled his helmet off with one hand and dropped it to the floor by Jessica’s bed. “But not that good. I can smell the components of the drug in that...” he nodded in the direction of the hypodermic he’d put next to the first aid kit. “...but I’m not a chemist. Probably methamphetamine, but it’s not a standard mix. We need Claire.”

“Or a hospital.” Jessica slid her back down the wall near the bedroom door and poured whiskey into a glass. Matt guessed from faint smell of strawberries on the rim that in a former life it had had jelly in it.

Matt shook his head, counting Danny’s heartbeat in the back of his mind while he talked with Jessica. “Do you think we can explain one of the wealthiest people in New York being stabbed with a needle at 2am three blocks from your office?”

“We could lie?” Jessica suggested after a deep drink. The warm barley of the whiskey on her tongue made Matt shiver. “You’re a lawyer, that’s your main skill set isn’t it?”

Matt would be a little offended by that if it wasn’t mostly true. Still. “My lawyer skill set saved your ass a couple of times Jones. So did Hogarth’s.”

The whiskey swirled as Jessica raised her glass. “By lying her ass off.”

And Matt probably could have charmed his way into Metro General and got Danny’s identity suppressed but hospitals are huge, sprawling creatures and the truth would have escaped eventually. Plus, walking in dressed as Daredevil would lessen his credibility somewhat.

Matt’s response was lost as Luke and Claire came into the apartment with the smell of a taxi on their shoes. Carpet shampoo, asphalt and wine. Claire had her medical kit. She knelt on Danny’s other side and checked his pulse then his pupils.

“How long ago was he injected?” Claire asked as she took his temperature.

Matt blinked. He’d not been keeping track of the time, worry for their young friend throwing off his usual monitoring duties for the team.

“Forty-six minutes,” Jessica reported and shuffled her ass to one side as Luke came into the room. Matt lifted his palms off Danny, mourning the loss of contact as his fingers cooled and Luke took his place.

“What was in the needle?” Luke knew Matt’s sense of smell was extraordinary in fine detail as well as distance. So Matt reeled off the list of chemicals he knew could identify, but he also knew they wouldn’t be that helpful.

“It’s crystal meth but mixed with something else. He was lethargic and disoriented not euphoric.” Matt was familiar enough with ice users from his public defender work to know most of the symptoms and behaviours.

“Someone’s experimenting again.” Claire muttered as she hooked Danny up to a saline bag. “Stay close Matt. Tell me when his heart is spiking.”

Matt nodded and pulled his focus to Danny’s heart again, sidelining Claire’s brisk orders or Luke’s low pleas for Danny to wake up. Luke and Danny were becoming fast friends in that high school bros way that Matt had never been able to navigate. He’d had exactly one friend his entire life before Claire and Karen and he’d met Foggy in college. Twenty one and studying a ridiculous amount they’d been oddly close he knew, but he’d never had a yard stick to measure them by. Luke and Danny were so vastly different in their life experience and yet that seemed to help them gel together rather than keep them apart. They were quickly becoming the core of this group effort they were trying and Matt was only the faintest bit jealous of their healthy emotional connection.

A tug at the leather shin guard on his pants.

“Come join the trash on the floor.” Jessica offered and scooted even closer to the window.

Matt sat down next to her then arched his hips up and pulled his eskrima from his thigh holsters before joining her. The jelly jar was knocked carelessly against his knuckles, the alcohol burning the split skin as it trickled over. Matt drank deeply and handed back the glass while they watched Claire save their teammate’s life.

“That was planned right? They were targeting Rand specifically?” Matt wasn’t surprised that Jessica’s meticulous mind had shoved her concern away and was teasing out the reason for their current situation.

“He could have hit me first but he moved around the fight to get to the side.” Matt reviewed the combat in his head. “It might have been for you.”

Luke had been passed the information about another of the Hand’s slave-like warehouses. Danny and Matt had taken down the guards easily while Luke and Jessica tore the place apart and chased out all the workers. Matt knew that it was only a small operation and that most of the people there had been indoctrinated illegal immigrants with little hope of assistance in Hell’s Kitchen, but every jab at the Hand was worth pursuing.

They’d been about to go back to their separate lives when another group had come barrelling out of a laundromat and attacked them. Matt had heard the group as the four of them came up the side alley and been planning to bust up the gang after the others left but they’d beat him to the punch.

“They were waiting for us.” Matt speculated. “I thought they were going to hit the bodega across the street but they were waiting for us or...” Matt thought about the likely hood of all them in that one particular place and time. “Or just you?” It had been only a couple of blocks away and Jessica was well-known in the local area despite her best efforts.

“I love that bodega.” Jessica’s voice was just starting to blur from the whiskey. “It’s my favourite. The cashier doesn’t try to talk to me.”

“A saint.” Matt stole her jelly jar and took another drink. It was surprisingly good whiskey. Danny must have bought her some or thrown money at her head again for Jessica to buy anything above the bottom shelf.

Two pairs of legs came to stop in front of them. Claire’s boots were fur lined and her toes were getting hot.

“I need to test this and I need a lab.” Their nurse was carefully sealing the hypodermic into a zip lock bag.

“I’m going with her and getting Danny’s bag from the penthouse.” Luke reached down and Matt would have dodged if the whiskey wasn’t still on his tongue and Luke’s gran cassa heartbeat hadn’t been so steady.

He ruffled Matt’s hair.

The silence that pooled into the apartment after the door closed behind them was mildly shocked and a little drunk.

Matt ignored his own pulse and focussed his hearing back on Danny’s.

Jessica refilled the jelly jar.

“He would fuck you if you looked interested for even a second.” She spoke with a tone that Matt could only label as self loathing.

Matt chocked a little. “Luke? No he wouldn’t, he’s working very hard to fix what’s going wrong with Claire.” Matt had overheard them one night in the penthouse. He’d overheard all of them at one point or another and was getting less able to justify his creepiness by citing lack of trust in these new people.

He hadn’t wanted to be a part of Claire’s four musketeers but after Alexandra and the fall of the Hand he’d felt obliged to help with the clean up. When Claire had been kidnapped to get them to stop, he’d reacted like the others and taken that as an invite to fuck up the Hand even worse.

Now he was sitting on the floor of Jessica Jones shitty apartment, drinking expensive whiskey and getting suggestions on his sex life.

Sometimes he missed Foggy so bad it hurt.

“Not Luke.” Jessica corrected, the self loathing replaced by a hint of anger. “Rand.”

Matt wasn’t even going to try to work out what Jessica was trying to do here.

“Danny’s straight and with Colleen.” His still remembered the kid’s tears when their not very friendly samurai had been skewered the night Luke’s heart had stopped.

Jessica’s scoff of contempt puffed air into Matt’s ear. “He’s just working out he’s gay and she’s got better things to do now she’s taking over the New York Hand than feeding his yellow fever.”

“Fucking hell, Jones.” Matt was quite literally gobsmacked by how raw this woman could be. “He grew up in a Chinese monastery.”

Jessica shrugged, her leather jacket snagging on the shoulder strap of his chest plate. “Not that much different from a frat boy spending three weeks in Thailand and thinking how exotic Asian girls are.”

Matt dropped his face into his hands. “It’s quite a bit different actually.”

“Not saying he doesn’t care about her. But I bet you a hundred that his first crush was on the daughter of some high up at the monastery. She fits his idea of a perfect girl; Asian and deadly with a samurai sword. It’s like one of those cartoons that they make pillows out of.” Matt was trying to parse that while Jessica downed a shot that he could faintly smell burning the flesh of her throat. “It’s just that’s she’s too good for him.” A nudge of her knee against his shin. “She and Claire were fucking while Luke was in jail and I think they want some of that back.”

He’d known that. It had been part of a low discussion between Luke and Claire that Matt had stopped listening to after Luke had asked if Claire regretted her choice. The ladies had stopped their casual arrangement when Danny came on the scene and charmed Colleen despite herself. Matt pressed the heels of his palms into his useless eye sockets. “One, I barely know him. Two; how do you know who’s been fucking who and three, why do you care about who I’m sleeping with?”

Jessica finished off the last of the whiskey in the jar and replaced it with the dregs from the bottle. “Because my job is to find out who is fucking who and I can’t just shut that off. I really don’t care,” Matt heard the lie. “But Rand looks at you like you’re honey and you can’t see it so I thought I’d narrate.”

“Thanks,” Matt’s sarcasm was getting far more use the more he spent time with Jessica Jones. “Maybe I’m straight and interested in you.”

One lie and one truth and he would see if Jessica was as good a lie detector as he was.

“Oh, I’d fuck you Murdock.” Matt’s own heart almost stopped at the lack of a jump in hers. “But my cunt’s poison apparently so you’d have more fun climbing on Rand’s dick instead.”

That was the end of the bottle and Jessica tried to stand up but really couldn’t.

“Or Luke’s. It’s really great.” Her hand’s waved the air into eddies as she tried to emphasise size or girth.

“Jones.” Matt reached up a hand but she stumbled away from him.

“I gotta take a shit.” She slurred as she make her way carefully to the bathroom. She didn’t bother closing the door.

Matt listened to Danny’s heartbeat and waited a polite amount of time before getting Jessica from the floor of the bathroom and carrying her to the couch.

The long hours until Claire and Luke returned were quiet.

Chapter Text

The problem was that now Jessica had sowed the idea in his head, Matt couldn’t get rid of it.

Danny recovered from the drug he’d been injected with and then got slightly manic about finding the source. There was a series of text messages between the group with speculation about weather Jessica or Danny had been the actual target. Matt had spent far too many minutes listening to his reader describe various emojis and had decided to restrict Danny’s use of a phone to calls only.

They’d agreed to meet at the penthouse in a week with any information they were able to sniff out in the meantime. As Jessica’s job was to investigate, Luke’s was charming the people of Harlem and beyond into loving him while Danny was the idle rich, they were having more luck than Matt was. Matt was a public defender with a string of clients and court dates from 9.15am till seven in the evening.

A dealer in an alley off West 46th had gasped that some new shit was being cooked at a cafe near the Lincoln Tunnel but that was all Matt was going to contribute. He hoped the others were having more luck because right now Matt was wishing Google translate wasn’t a complete joke as he tried to understand the mournful Chinese being spoken by an older gentleman that he thought might be a client.

His tiny office had terrible internet coverage and the utter distress coming off the man was causing Matt’s protective instincts to kick in. That could have been the tiny seven year old girl clinging to the man’s hand with her face buried in his hip as well, but Matt’s heart bled for sad kids on the regular so that was nothing new.

“Just a moment, please?” Matt interrupted the man’s repeated explanations that were a mix of despair and frustration with their inability to understand each other. Matt tilted his ear towards his door and had to swallow a gasp of relief as the squeak of high end trainers and a familiar heartbeat came up the corridor towards his office.

In two strides he had the door open and his fist curled in the ridiculously expensive tie around Danny Rand’s neck.

“Help.” A tug had Danny crowding into the office and even though he was only a couple of inches taller than Matt, the added fourth body pressed into the room and Matt’s senses equally.

“Sure Matt, I...” Danny broke off as he must have seen Matt’s clients.

He spoke neat, precise Chinese. As far as Matt could tell from cadence and tone, he was likely introducing himself and asking if he could help. The old man replied with a tone of absolute relief and the little girl’s head popped up out of its place of hiding.

They spoke for several minutes so Matt collected up his notes, files and reader and put them into his briefcase. He switched his phone from the internet to voice record and rested his hip against his desk while he waited for Danny to finish saving his ass.

“Okay.” Danny rubbed his hands together and turned to Matt. “This is Mr Huong and his granddaughter Charlotte.” Danny broke into Chinese and introduced Matt. An exchange of nods and the careful shake of Charlotte’s petite hand. “Mr. Huong’s daughter Mei has been arrested while Mr. Huong was minding Charlotte after collecting her from school. He was sent here by a police officer at the station where Ms. Ng is being held.”

This, Matt could work with. “Right. Danny can you tell Mr. Huong I will definitely help his daughter and that coming here was the right thing to do.”

Danny translated and with his teammate’s help was able to get the full story. Matt kept a lid on his anger for little Charlotte’s sake but it was a close call.

“Danny,” Matt pulled on his coat, snared his briefcase and cane. “Can I buy your services as a translator for a couple of hours?”

The low chuckle from Danny seemed to push a cool pine breeze into his pokey little office. “I was going to ask you to come to lunch to talk about the ‘thing’ but this is a much better idea.”

With a wide sweep of his arm, Danny gestured Mr. Huong, Charlotte and Matt through the door, out of the building and into the fancy town car he’d had idling by the curb. Another conversation in Chinese had Mr. Huong relaxing from his somewhat tense state as Charlotte started playing with the automatic windows.

“He was worried you were corrupt because of this,” a vague hand wave near Matt’s ear to indicate the luxurious interior of the car.

Matt could sympathise with the assumption. Danny’s brand of rich was beyond a scale of most people’s understanding. Matt suspected that even Danny didn’t really get just how much money he could throw around without making a dent in his assets. He thought it a good thing that Danny was pretty naive about the world in some ways because his innocence and charm made up for his sometimes offensive ignorance. It was a stain against his orphan catholic childhood but Matt found he didn’t resent Danny a thing.

Danny Rand’s parents had died and he’d been taking in by monks and then returned to America to become a billionaire. Matt had ended up in an orphanage under the dubious tutelage of Stick.

He should hate Danny Rand just like he hated all the wealthy of New York who used people for their own ends. But he didn’t, because Danny was trying to be a good man. Just like Matt and Jessica and Luke, Danny was using the abilities and privileges he’s been given and was making the world a better place as best he could.

“After we rescue Ms. Ng, can we get something to eat? One of the security women at Rand was telling me about this new vegan place on Lexington that I’d like to try.”

Because of course billionaire Danny Rand would be chatting to a security guard about veganism.

“If we assist Ms. Ng, then yes. We can do that.” Although with Jessica planting the idea, Matt was distracted by the thought that this was date and not just a chance to exchange information about illegal drug manufacturers.

Was it weird that he almost hoped it was the latter?

Their arrival at the precinct stalled Matt’s mental crisis about if he should go on a date with Danny if it was a date at all. They climbed from the car with Danny having to lift Charlotte out and Matt led the way into the building, his aim set on the duty officer. A tall woman with the lingering smell of cigarettes and Gatorade.

“Matt Murdock, attorney. I’m here for Ms. Mei Ng.” The officer’ snails clicked as she tapped her keyboard and then waved Matt to the waiting area.

“Ten minutes.”

It took twenty minutes to see Ms. Ng and he had to go in alone but fortunately Ms. Ng spoke English and was justifiably furious at her situation. Matt agreed with her rage and joined them together to tear strips off the arresting officer and the detective assigned her case.

Ms. Ng had been harassed by a co-worker at the bank she worked at for the past few months. When the asshole had tried to pull her into a storage room to sexually assault her, Ms. Ng had proceeded to smack the crap out of the guy with any of the stationary supplies she could get her hands on. Including a large, heavy stapler. The man had then called the police and claimed that Ms. Ng had attacked him because he’s turned down her romantic advances.

Ms. Ng had told Matt she was too fucking tired being a single mother supporting herself and her father in New York to even think about having sex with the oily, white loans supervisor for fuck’s sake. She’d said ‘oily’ with a distinct tone of pure disgust. Her heartbeat was steady during her entire statement, although Matt would have believed her anyway. Her story was depressingly common.

There was very little doubt in Matt’s mind that had Ms. Ng been the white male employee and his attacker a Chinese person then the claims of self-defence would have fallen on more sympathetic ears. It was intolerable. This was the kind of bullshit that Matt had overheard all the time at Landman and Zack and it still made his blood boil.

Fifty minutes later Ms. Ng was hugging Charlotte and trying to stop her father from crying while Matt angrily signed paperwork with his terrible handwriting that he didn’t even try to get in the right spot.

Danny stood to one side with his hands clasped behind his back, radiating smugness.

Matt’s temper cooled down over vegetable soup, Turkish bread and banana, peanut butter ice cream.

“You’re amazing.” Danny finished his dessert while gushing over Matt’s lawyering. “You literally saved that family today.”

“Not really.” Matt liked being complimented as much as the next person but it wasn’t actually deserved in this case. “The charges were garbage and they knew it but the guy was a relative of one of the board so the cop had to treat it seriously.”

“Hmmm,” Danny agreed quietly. “Chinese woman get a lot of harassment from guys in New York.”

Matt knew a loaded statement when he heard one. “Most women do. But yes, it happens.”

“Colleen thought...at the start,” Danny stumbled awkwardly then took a breath. “She thought I was another white guy harassing an Asian girl for sex.”

Jessica’s disparaging comments came back to Matt but he pushed them aside because he hoped that Danny wasn’t going to prove her right.

“She’s beautiful and very good at her job.” He’d never fought her but Matt knew that you didn’t take on a trained sword wielder with your fists. Kobu had taught him that in blood.

“How can you tell she’s beautiful?” Danny asked with genuine curiosity as he paid the bill. He’d had to look through about six credit cards to choose the right one and part of Matt squirmed a little at being friends with someone who needed to do that.

Because he was pretty sure he was now friends with Danny Rand.

“The way people react around her.” Matt found his cane and stood up, pulling on his coat. “The way you react to her. Also...” he trailed off as they left the restaurant and Danny guided him towards the town car. “...Claire said she’s gorgeous.”

Danny laughed and opened the door. “They used to date, you know?”

That hadn’t been the term Jessica used but then Jessica spoke with brutality to keep the world in its place.

“I did yes.” Matt wasn’t sure why the rest of the team seemed inclined to tell him about the various hook ups that had happened amongst them. He knew far more of the intimate details of their lives than they’d probably be comfortable with. Including the fact that Danny and Colleen were no longer dating because she and Claire were giving their prior another try. Without the men in their lives. “I’ll walk.”

Danny’s shoulders dropped and he stepped back a little. “But I have a big, stupid car and Laura will drive us anywhere I ask.”

“It’s not stupid.” Matt argued because of course Danny had found out the name of his driver and thought that she was driving him around because he’d asked nicely.
God, he was cute.

“It really is.” Danny opened the door. “It’s also about to rain and we haven’t talked about the ‘thing’ I found out about the ‘stuff’ from last week.”

It was about to rain, there was moisture in the air and Matt’s ears could feel the pressure dropping. The heater from inside the car was on. Matt shivered.

“It’s toasty warm inside.” Danny said enticingly, waving a hand and bringing swirls of warm air towards Matt’s groin area.

“Okay, thanks.” He didn’t want to be rude but this was getting far too friendly and Matt had to keep a certain distance from people otherwise he tended to get too involved. “Just back to my office.”

“Agreed.” Danny climbed in behind him and pulled the door closed. “Can we train together sometime? Colleen said I can use the dojo while she’s dealing with the ‘problems’ we had last year.” A wave of his hand near Matt’s face because Danny had a less than zero ability to be subtle. “Are you free Friday night?”

Matt was free. He was also fucked because he was finding it impossible to say no to Danny.

“Yeah, I am.”

“Awesome,” Danny said, fiddling with his phone and the car’s speakers system.

Aerosmith spilled out onto the genuine leather seats.

“I love this song.”

Matt was so, so fucked.

****

Danny Rand’s fighting style was a complete contradiction. From the little information Claire had given him about the Rand heir, the young man had started training at about the same age as Matt. Matt could remember the other children at school and in the orphanage. Nine years old was a weird age in many ways. The beginning of a real identity starting in a swiftly growing body, independence balanced against desperation to hold onto childish things.

One time in the orphanage a kid Matt barely knew had zipped himself into a sleeping bag and pretended to be a caterpillar. The kid, Andy, had rolled around the floor eating everyone’s shoes. The other boys thought it was hilarious and made a show of feeding the caterpillar the grossest runners in the room. It had reeked in the bag. Matt had only just come back from a tutoring session with Stick where he’d almost broken his shin. He’d laughed too when Emmaus told him what Andy was doing. Matt learning several different martial arts at nine with an old blind sensei wasn’t the weirdest thing to happen in that dorm.

At ten, Danny Rand had apparently had an entire city of people teaching him Quan fa and Matt could kinda tell by the way he fought. His base style was as smooth as water but much of his technique was incomplete or redundant to his other skills. He fought like a person who had found a style that appealed to him and had refined it to the exclusion of everything else. Excess focus of the use of his fists meant that while Danny could take Matt down if Matt only used strikes, as soon as Matt reached for another style he could own Danny’s ass.

After 9pm in Colleen’s dojo, Matt was practicing evasion while Danny Rand pulled far too many of his strikes for fear of killing Matt. They were in gym gear with Matt forgoing his mask for the blacked out windows of the front office.

“I like that thing you do with the sticks.” Danny disengaged, bouncing back on the balls of his feet. “Teach me.”

Matt blew out a breath and made sure to grab the correct smelling towel to wipe sweat off the back of his neck. “The thing with the sticks?”

“I googled it. I love Google.” A shuffling and the rush of flames that surrounded Danny went to his gear to pull out his phone.

“I am aware that you love Google.” Matt acknowledged with a grin. “You’ve told me many times.”

“Because it’s brilliant.” He still spoke like it was 2002. It was somewhat adorable but very disconcerting coming from an adult man in 2017. Danny came over to press his shoulder to Matt’s and swiped his fingers across the phone screen. As well as an undying commitment to the search engine, Danny Rand was ignoring the concept of personal space like it was his mission. Matt’s limited knowledge of Chinese monks came mostly by listening to alternately terrible or awesome movies. He was pretty sure that they weren’t that big on brohugging and physical displays of affection. Danny played like he was sunbathing in their chi but Matt was calling bullshit there. The guy was a stealth cuddler and he insinuated himself into physical contact with Matt every chance he got.

And if Matt was so very touch starved that he soaked up the touches like a sponge well, he wasn’t going to examine that very deeply.

“The eskrima sticks.” Danny almost lifted the phone to show Matt before he stopped himself.

Matt felt stupidly warm. He had no idea if there had been blind people in Kun-Lun but Danny was doing a better job of understanding Matt’s disability than people who lived every day of their lives in one of the most diverse cities on the planet.

“Silat is a group of styles,” Matt said, turning to drop the towel and take out his sticks. “The sticks are part of Arnis...” he settled his weight and rolled his shoulders as Danny dropped his phone to one side and readied a deep stance. “...from the Phillippines.”

They moved in at the same time, but Matt kept his actions slower and well defined. A display. This wasn’t a brawl, this was practice. Matt hadn’t trained with another human being since Elektra. A bright adrenaline suffused him, one that wasn’t caused by fear or a threat. A smothered laugh when one of them lost their footing and had to self correct awkwardly. He’d forgotten that it could be fun.

Back and forth. Slow then fast. Repetition till the body reacted with only the barest command of the mind.

“And the cartwheels?” Danny panted after taking a small smack to the thigh. Matt wondered if he was pouting.

“Capoeira.” Matt smiled and threw himself into a high flip, hands still holding the eskrima sticks. “From Angola via Brazil.”

Danny launched a high kick towards Matt’s head. “Cool.”

The thing was; Danny was very, very good. While he’d developed his specific style to an awesome degree and the power of the Iron Fist his most dangerous weapon, Danny had all the makings of an unstoppable martial artist. All that power and ability in a rich, white boy who would prefer to sleep in Central Park than the ridiculous penthouse he owned.

Another hour and Matt was starting to tire. He’d had a rough encounter with a pack of rapists two nights ago and he was still feeling it. He’d let Danny use the eskrima sticks after about twenty minutes of manly whinging and regretted it not soon after when Danny forgot they extended his reach and scored a hard strike to Matt’s ribs.

Ribs that had taken an identical strike with a baseball bat not 48 hours earlier.

Matt was used to pain. He couldn’t be Daredevil without a high pain tolerance and great recovery speed. Even though he was fighting, he wasn’t in a Daredevil mindset and he’d felt safe for a few hours, so the sudden flare of pain pulled a noise that he tried to suppress but it was still a hurt whimper. Like that of a kicked dog.

Danny dropped the sticks like they were on fire.

“I’m so sorry.” Regret filled every word and his heartbeat spiked with anxiety.

Matt pressed a hand against his side then sucked in a breath that was both pained and embarrassed. “It’s fine.”

“No, that was bad. I fucked that up and it was bad.” Danny moved closer, looping one arm across his shoulders and covering Matt’s braced hand with his own.

Matt gritted his teeth and tried to ignore the warm press of heat along his side as he was pulled into a half hug. “Stop swearing. You sound like Jessica. And it’s fine.”

“Here,” Danny ignored him to move Matt towards the wall before sliding down against it. Firm tugs had Matt sinking down into the v of Danny’s legs with his back against the other’s chest. “This will help.”

“What will?” The pain had faded somewhat with Matt’s focus on his breathing, but the smooth purr of Danny’s voice behind him relaxed the sudden tension in his shoulders even further. “Cuddling?”

Danny laughed. “Yeah,” he agreed. “That too.”

A scent like peppermint swirled around Matt as Danny called his chi from the centre of his being and the world around him. It was an extraordinary talent that left Matt breathless even with his own distinct ‘abilities’.

“Please don’t punch me?” Matt joked as the Immortal Iron Fist drew energy into his body to create a terrifyingly deadly weapon.

“Never.” Danny’s voice had dropped to a whisper that he must know Matt could hear. His heartbeat had steadied after the sudden end to their fight and now thumped even and true as Matt’s teeth stung a little from the proximity of the Iron Fist.

“Relax,” Danny advised, followed by a sudden exhale as he dropped his hand to Matt’s damaged side.

Matt couldn’t bite back a groan as the focussed chi of the Iron Fist pushed into his body. Extraordinary senses overwhelmed by the rush of energy, Matt could only taste the cool peppermint of Danny’s power, smell dew on long grass and the feel of his damaged body healing at an impossible rate.

“You fucking idiot.” Danny growled, anger spiling like perfume over Matt’s shoulder. “They’re broken.”

So lost to the sensory symphony that surrounded him, Matt could only sluggishly nod his agreement.

“Why would you spar with me when you have broken ribs?” Danny asked rhetorically as Matt was pretty high from the lime soda spritzing along his nerve endings. Keeping his hand pressed hard against the fractured bones, Danny dropped his chin to Matt’s shoulder and snuggled in closer.

“Idiot.”

Chapter Text

The three of Matt’s ribs on his left side that had been fractured were now perfectly healed. They were even weirdly sturdier than the undamaged right ones, feeling like they were strengthened to an impossible degree by Danny’s chi. Even now, as Matt crouched on the edge of a rooftop, the air he breathed seemed to fill the left side of his body more competently than the right. He wondered vaguely if he had some kind of lung problem that Danny had accidently fixed for him. Made a mental note to ask Claire.

The song in Luke’s ear buds changed to something low and soulful. A woman’s voice, rough and pissed off, snarling her displeasure at a man she now hated and the world they lived in. Matt carefully filtered out the music, along with everything else Luke’s body gave him and tilted his head to the side to zero in on Danny and Jessica below them.

“They’re in the fifth floor offices now,” he reported to Luke. Danny was shuffling papers but probably only pretending to read them while Jessica copied computer files onto a thumb drive. Her fingers tapping impatiently at the keyboard, clicking the mouse too many times while the computer did its job despite her ‘help’. Matt’s information about the new drug lab and Danny’s about the chemical compounds currently being sold in large quantities had panned out. They weren’t clear leads until they were added to Jessica’s more successful snooping though the archives at a private rehab clinic and the amount of people Luke had found with substantial increases of income.

A deceased person with blood tests like Danny’s and currently missing family members had led them here.

“Good timing.” Luke’s voice was as unruffled as the deep thrum of his heartbeat. “Is Danny actually helping or just being dumb?”

Jessica was cursing under her breath at a locked door as she wasn’t allowed to do any ‘breaking’ with her ‘entering’ tonight. A low thud indicated Danny lifting and dropping something onto the carpet.

He did it again, six feet along the wall.

Matt sighed but his lips curled a little in amusement. “I think he’s pulling down paintings looking for a hidden safe.”

Luke chuckled and Matt basked in the sound. Everything about Luke filled him with a feeling of such contentedness that he suspected was artificial. It was like meditation but pushed into an almost ‘just woken up’ feeling of simple joy with world. From the faintest traces of the smooth cologne Luke wore, to the relaxed gait of his walk, everything about Luke spoke to Matt of ease. He didn’t doubt Luke was complex, the arguments with Claire spoke to that, but to Matt he was an effortless presence, a person fully and completely themselves with no conflict of voice, scent or manner. When he was next to him, Matt felt, for a bright golden moment, at peace.

He was surprised he could even recognise the feeling. Matt had never really had a ‘peaceful’ day in his life.

Danny’s gasp of joy three floors down was quickly followed by a hissed, “Jessica, look what I found!”

Matt rose to his feet, balanced easily on the precarious edge. “Danny’s got something. Should we...?”

~Everybody was Kung Fu fighting.~

Matt turned on his heel to Luke and put his fists on his hips.

~Those kicks as fast as lightning.~

Luke casually pulled his phone from his pocket and unplugged the ear buds.

“They are not.” Matt commented with a laugh. “He’s better at punching.”

~In fact it was a little bit frightening.~

Luke voice was deadly serious. “I am very frightened by Danny on a regular basis.” He answered his phone. “Did you find a secret door?”

Matt could hear Danny’s sigh of disappointment in stereo from downstairs as well as the phone.

“Devil heard a safe in the wall? That’s shit. What am I even doing down here?” Danny grumbled.

“I have no fucking idea.” Jessica answered in the background.

Luke chuckled again, that rich tone curling around Matt’s knees. “He didn’t hear the safe; he heard your dumb ass find it.” That seemed to mollify Danny somewhat as the brightness returned to his voice. “Can Jessica crack it?” Danny relayed the question.

“She’s trying.” Matt offered.

“I’m trying.” Jessica said at almost the same time. “It’s not electronic; it’s a shitty old vintage thing with a dial.”

Luke was silent for a couple of moments and Matt contemplated if he should offer to go down. Luke was unofficial leader and plan designer of their group. Jessica had quickly shaken her head and refused all responsibility outside of her own specific skill set, while Matt could completely acknowledge his ability to plan ahead was not his strongest of attributes.

Danny’s plans were a great example of what not to do.

Luke’s career as a police detective and his calm, measured approach to their work made him their natural leader. They all easily deferred to him when it came to changing plans and responding to new information. Even though Jessica’s voice and body went tight with both desire and grief in his presence, she always listened to Luke.

“Tell Jessica she has ten minutes till the cleaners arrive. Then you leave.” Luke ordered.

Matt waved his hand awkwardly. “I can go down and open it.”

Luke’s heartbeat, scent and presence didn’t alter in any way noticeable to Matt, but something did.

“Of course you can.” Luke said with some self-depreciation, as if he was cursing himself for not knowing that Matt could crack a safe in under a minute. “Devil is coming down to open it. Iron Fist, I need you up here to help me watch the perimeter. It’s about to get much smaller without our bat.”

Matt nodded and moved quickly to the stairwell door Jessica had jimmied earlier in the night. He jogged as fast as he could down the cold, concrete stairs, counting down the seconds until the maintenance crew arrived and they’d be out of luck getting the information they needed tonight. There was also a big risk that the owners would know they’d been broken into and put on extra security in case they came back.

“Fancy meeting you here,” Danny laughed as he came up towards Matt, hand held high.

Matt grinned and high fived Danny as he darted past. “Tag.”

As he moved into the offices, Matt pulled out his phone and called Luke.

“What’s my ringtone?” he asked before Luke could even speak.

A definite pause. “You don’t have one.”

Luke’s heart never naturally skipped a beat, even when lying. His miraculous body was too much the perfect organic machine to risk Luke’s health over a simple emotional response. It took a lot of electricity or impact to throw that gran cassa throb out of rhythm. Right now Matt not only knew he was lying, but that he was being ridiculous about it.

“I can actually hear you up there you know. I heard it.”

Luke’s chuckle was not just affecting Matt’s knees now. “Then why did you ask?”

Matt pushed through the door to the CEO’s office and tossed his phone to Jessica.

She caught it and stepped out of his way while he pulled off his helmet and pressed his ear against the smooth metal of the safe. It had warmed a little under Jessica’s hands.

“He’s nuzzling the safe and I’m feeling pretty uncomfortable about it.” Jessica began talking to Luke as she palmed the last of the thumb drives from the desk and shoved chairs back into place.

“Oh really?” Luke drawled.

“Not that kind of uncomfortable.” Jessica hissed, leaving the office to turn off a light in the space next door. “Well maybe a little. He’s almost making out with it, vintage hipster piece of shit.”

“The safe or the Devil?” Luke asked wickedly.

“It’s not vintage,” Matt interrupted because they were both awful people. “It’s better than most of the electronic ones because it can’t be hacked.” Stick’s words in his mouth sometimes made him want to gag. “Tell me when the cleaners arrive. I won’t be listening.” With that he focussed on the lock and contents of the classic little number built into the wall.

“Sure,” Jessica snarked back. “Anything else.”

Matt got the first number. “Put Danny’s paintings back up.”

“Fuck.” Jessica stomped out of the room and Matt heard Luke’s laugh over the open phone line.

Maybe he could find a little bit of peace.

~Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game~

****

The paperwork in the safe led to a building containing another, larger lab. Jessica had faked her way inside by pretending to hit on one of the guards. It was frankly disturbing to hear Jessica’s voice go soft and sweet as she talked about her girlfriend who’d taken a taxi back to some guy’s apartment. The slurred girlishness was so different to her normal acerbic dryness that Matt could have mistaken her for a different woman if he didn’t know better.

The guard, pretty high on whatever concoctions Matt could smell in the abandoned bookshop was happily leaning closer to the drunk woman swaying invitingly just a few steps from his spot on the sidewalk. Matt felt a definite hum of satisfaction when he delivered a quick strike to the back of the guy’s head. Neither he nor Jessica bothered to catch him.

Luke sighed. “I’m not dragging his ass somewhere out of sight. You hit him, Daredevil.”

“I did.” Matt agreed proudly then pointed to the door of the bookshop. “But I must now check to see how many more assholes are in there.” He moved past a fuming Jessica and pressed his ear to the door. He didn’t need to because Matt already knew that there were three more people inside. Two asleep. A third writing viciously fast texts on a phone while cursing fluently in what Matt guessed was Polish. There were almost ten more, scattered further into the building.

Danny and Jessica were both silent behind him in what was probably an epic staring competition. Foggy had banned Matt from pranking people with staring challenges after about three weeks in college. “You must use your gifts for good and not evil.” His friend had been drunk at the time so Matt wasn’t sure if he was serious or not.

“Well i’m trying Foggy.” Matt muttered under his breath.

“Fine.” A scrape as Danny grabbed the legs of the guard and pulled. Matt could hear the guy’s shirt ride up his back and expose his skin to the chilly air and cold pavement.

“It’s fucking awkward carrying someone taller than you.” Jessica hissed defensively. Danny was making a show of huffing and puffing while moving the comatose guy.

“You can lift a truck.” Danny replied pettily. A thump as the guard’s feet joined the rest of his person next to a dumpster. “And this guy was taller than me...”

Their bickering continued as Jessica kicked in the door, Matt and Danny knocked the guards unconscious and Luke picked up the woman with the phone. By the back of her hoodie.

She kicked Luke in the knee and Matt heard her toe almost break even through the boots she wore.

“Who is in the back?” Luke’s voice was always perfectly calm and controlled in situations like this. It took a lot more than second tier drug traffickers to bring anger from their leader.

“Fuck you,” the woman snarled and then took a deep breath. Matt got his hand over her mouth a second too late as her discordant yell echoed around the area they were standing in.

Matt picked up the unmistakable sound of safety’s being taken off seven guns.

“They know we’re here now.” Matt sighed. “Seven guns, eleven people.”

“Good.” Danny began bouncing on the balls of his feet then settled into a low stance. Peppermint and cool mist reached Matt from across the room. “I’m bad at subtle.”

Iron Fist destroyed the door and showered the crew of drug manufacturers in splintered wood.

They were winning the fight when it all went wrong.

Jessica was fighting near Danny, tossing anything heavy she could find and shoving people in the direction of that terrifying fist. Luke wandered about, doing his usual schtick of just walking up to gunmen, clothes slowing becoming frayed with bullet holes before almost gently knocking them unconscious with the flat of his hand. Matt went after the chemists. The ones making the products that were bringing tears to his eyes with the toxic fumes and bitter taste. He’d kicked two to the ground before rounding on the third. Unfortunately for Matt, people good enough at chemistry to make variants of heroine and ice generally knew what they had sitting in front of them.

He swerved to the side but that simply meant that the bucket of sodium hydroxide caught him along the back, side and hips rather than the face.

Everything in Matt’s world went pretty blurry after that. The overwhelming smell of the alkaline chemical that he was saturated with brought him to his knees. A few drops had splattered on his throat, burning his skin sharp and crisp like ice. That combined with the scent of his armor slowly being eaten away was too much to process. He could feel the chemical inching closer to his skin and panic was hovering just behind his ears, threatening to send him under.

Matt pulled at his gloves, fingers slipping on the wet leather. He got one hand free then scrabbled at the clasp for his top, the metal catches burning his fingers before they even made contact.

“No, no no.” A voice, low and calm alongside a heartbeat that felt like thunder in his middle. One big hand caught Matt’s naked one and pulled it from his shoulder. “Let me do it Devil, let me.”

Matt resisted, lost in the tears that seeped from his bitter eyes. Every inhale was bleach and his skin was going cold where his armor was dying. He had to get away from here.

“Too much.” He gasped, futilely yanking his hands from the iron grip they were in.

“I know, I know.” A sudden lightness as his helmet was pulled off and the shoulders of his armor tore.

Matt’s throat hurt, the skin on his side and hip starting to sunburn inside the leather.

“I’m taking it off Devil. Hold still for me.” The voice was smothered by the slow rising pain but the heartbeat was true and unworried.

It’s eating through the Kevlar.

Is there water? His side is burnt.

There’s some on his neck. We need running water.

Cool, blessed relief washes across Matt’s skin as the suffocating smell and taste lessened enough for him to drag in a deep breath.

It sounded more like a sob.

Luke, holding Matt in his arms on the ground while he worked Matt’s acid saturated pants from his hips.

“Lift that ass up Matt and it’ll be done. I swear.”

Luke’s voice wasn’t as calm as it had been and Matt wanted to know what could possibly have rattled their leader so hard he lost some of that effortless cool.

His suit was gone. Bright spots of pain flared into Matt’s senses as the poisonous flavour of the chemical finally moved away. Or Matt was moved away as Luke had picked him up princess style and carried him to one side of the lab. A burst of rushing water and then Matt’s head was unceremoniously shoved into a trough of water. He fought the hand that held him under, but the strength was unrelenting. Matt kicked and twisted in desperation against Luke’s hold but he was like a puppy getting a bath. His frantic struggling lessened somewhat when he felt a warm hand gently rubbing the small of his back. Above the water filling his ears, Matt could hear Luke’s voice.

He was counting.

Luke hit thirty as Matt stopped resisting and was pulled up out of the water.

He inhaled a huge lungful of air and slumped against the strong chest at his back. The spots of pain on his throat and ribs still burned.

“Again.” He panted into Luke’s collarbone. “A minute, I can handle it.”

“Okay.” There was something horribly broken in Luke’s voice that Matt would have to check on when he wasn’t in danger of major chemical burns.

Matt’s face and body went back into the trough and in his disorientation Matt thought he heard Luke’s heart skip a beat.

****

Matt had never claimed to be the most rational member of their group. His anger issues and propensity for needless violence were one of the main reasons he’d stopped being Daredevil after Elektra’s death. Matt didn’t like being angry, but he had accepted that his rage fuelled his motivation to be Daredevil and with that he could do something good. Maybe one day even be something good.

Having his Daredevil suit made into swiss cheese by a dodgy heroin chemist had set Matt’s blood metaphorically boiling. Melvin’s voice when Matt had showed him the suit had nearly caused him to hit something right there in the workshop.

He’d resisted because Melvin was holding the suit like a damaged child and Matt had already broken too many of Melvin’s things.

“I’m so sorry Melvin.” Matt should have sensed the chemist reaching for that bucket.

Melvin sniffled and wiped the scent of salt from his cheek. “S’okay.” It wasn’t but Melvin didn’t get angry like Matt did.

“It’s not.” Matt argued.

Melvin dropped the damaged suit onto a bench. “I have some new cloth that I just got back from a guy in Norway.”

“You don’t have to make a new one.” Matt countered. “Just any patches you can...”

Melvin spun towards Matt with a bolt of fabric clutched in his hands. “Didn’t you see how ruined it is? I can’t patch it. You’d get stabbed right away. I can make a new one.”

Matt stepped back from Melvin’s sudden burst of activity. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah man. I can do this.” Melvin was bent over his workbench sketching something. “I’ll send a text.”

Matt wasn’t really sure how he expected this encounter to go. Melvin throwing something heavy at him and telling him to never come back had been a possibility. But Melvin making him a new suit out of something even sturdier than his first miraculous fabric. Might make the dousing in acid almost worth it.

****

Matt listened as the couple he was following paid for their meal, left the diner and started to walk down the street. Jumping a gap in the rooftops, Matt pulled out his phone and called Luke.

“I have them. Heading up 9th.”

They’d split up for the night, the four of them following different leads, trying to get to the center of the web of designer drugs.

“Don’t fight them.” Luke instructed as the sound of him hailing a cab came to Matt loud and clear. “That black get up isn’t any use in a fight.”

Matt shimmied up a fire escape. “It did me just fine for a couple of years.”

Luke’s head tilted back against the upholstery, a delicate scrape of fine skin against cheap nylon.

“I don’t think that’s true.”

Matt laughed and didn’t reply for a couple of seconds as he dropped to ground level then darted into a parking garage the pair he was tailing had entered. He gave Luke the address and loitered near a column.

“If we don’t get back soon he’s gonna kill us.” The woman was definitely worried, her voice had a sharp bite and she was fidgeting with her coat.

“It’s fine.” The man was unlocking a car and while Matt was confident he could track them on foot to any corner of New York, if they went by car he wouldn’t be able to keep up.

“They’re taking a car,” he told Luke. “I’m going to have a conversation.”

A sigh from the phone. “You are going to do something stupid. With your black gym gear on.”

“It’s not gym gear.” Matt hissed then disconnected the call. He contemplated jumping onto the hood as it began to reverse but then went with his more usual approach of a punch to the head. He’d half dragged the driver through the door with his eskrima aimed at the passenger when she leaned over her friend and sprayed something into Matt’s face.

“That’s not mace.” Matt thought as his hearing went strange and the world wobbled into quiet.

Chapter Text

Matt’s perception of the floor kept shifting and changing under his feet. Like missing the bottom stair and having to catch yourself as you fall. The only problem was that the floor was there when his foot landed but he wasn’t ready for it. Fortunately the two people dragging him along what he thought was a floor, were holding him up enough that he didn’t fall flat on his face. It might have been an alley, but it didn’t smell like one. It smelled like carpet and the fake lemon scent of cleaning spray.

His hands were cuffed together in front of him, so that wasn’t an issue.

Unfortunately his pillars of support were probably taking him somewhere he definitely didn’t want to go. Maybe. Unless they were taking him to a bodega for ice cream, which given that the women who sprayed him with something that tasted of metal was cursing about how heavy he was then the bodega was probably unlikely.

They stopped with a stumbling drag, then the hollow knock of knuckles against ply wood told Matt they had arrived. The couple of seconds of waiting allowed Matt a few desperate moments to reorient himself in the world. Swallowing the horrid taste of the drug, Matt took deep low breathes.

Smell. Paint; spray cleaner, carpet deodoriser, artificial fragrance and powdered coffee.

Feel. Carpeted hallway, air conditioned warmth and the buzz of low watt LED lights spaced every fifteen feet.

Listen. YouTube videos, laughter, moans, a goal scored, a microwave radiating food, snoring, ear buds dampening an audio book, cutlery on china.

All around him. Above and below. Continuous, easy. A hundred heartbeats. Two hundred.

Not apartments. A hotel.

The door opened as Matt’s senses snapped back into place and the world righted itself around him. From the doorway came cigarette smoke and nineties power ballads.

“Fuck man, really?” Hair wax and fries, stepping backwards from the door. “You got him?”

“Obviously.” The woman, who must bathe in rum and coke replied, pulling Matt into the room. No, more than one space, too many doors. A suite.

Matt kept his head hanging and his feet weak even as the last of the drug worked through him. He needed every second to get as much information about who these people were as possible.

“Oh, ho ho ho. This is just the biggest smile I am wearing tonight,” pasta and red wine. Shorter than Matt, jeans creaking, no shoes. The whisper of bare feet on expensive carpet. Not as nice as Danny’s carpet. Closer. Fingers reaching to Matt’s face. It took more of an effort to not dodge the touch. “You bought me a present. A Devil of my very own.”

“We didn’t see the others around, Sir.” Rum and Coke supplied, her voice softened with nerves. This man in front of Matt made tough people afraid. “He was alone. I used the new spray and he just...”

“Excellent.” Sir Pasta Matriciana rolled his l’s. Low and deep. His touch, surprisingly soft tilted Matt’s chin up. “How bad is he fucked up? Can he talk? Hey...” a small shake of Matt’s face. “How bad you fucked up Baby?”

Matt breathed in the urge to kick Sir Matriciana in the face. They needed information. The source of the drugs or the original chemist. Fifteen people around him. Men and women, all armed with guns and four with the smell of polished steel. Knives.

He licked dry lips and kept his voice rough. “Pretty bad.” The fingers fell from his face as a heartbeat behind Sir Matriciana kicked up a little. “But I’m still going to kick the shit out of you.”

A deep, throaty laugh sent a breeze of tannin from the red wine over Matt’s face.

“’Course you are Devil. Not like every bitch in this room wants to beat you down tonight, do they?” Sir Matriciana asked his crew as he turned away from Matt.

A chorus of ‘fuck yeah’ was the reply. One of the ‘fucks’ was because of a last life lost on an app game but Matt still added that to the total. Most of the people in the room were sitting and standing in various places around the suite. At least four were playing games on their phones or sending messages. The faint beeps and tinny electric sounds were small drops of rain under the cascade of music from the speakers. Only one heartbeat was still elevated. Strawberries and seafood, a wool suit and leather shoes. Best dressed man in the room.

“Lift him up.” From Sir Matriciana so Matt dropped his weight even further because here was a moment of decision. Keep playing dead fish or get the hell out? The texture of Jessica’s hair tingled over his fingers for a moment and Matt’s resolved that he could go another few minutes. A few bruises from this lot weren’t going to be a big deal if he could get to the person who’d tried to drug his friend.

Matt was pushed back a couple of steps, plastic crinkling under his feet. A chair set heavily behind him and then Rum and Coke climbed up to yank Matt’s arms over his head. A hard pull up onto his toes and the cuffs were locked into a ‘D’ ring over his head. Matt tilted his head up as if looking at his wrists. He now hung from a three foot chain that had been bolted into the ceiling. Small bits of paint and plaster fell onto his shoulders.

“Did that come with the room?” He asked with genuine curiosity.

“No.” Strawberries answered in a higher pitched voice than Sir Matriciana. He came closer to Matt, leather shoes scuffing slightly with a limp. “We put it up. Just for you.” An unmistakable promise of pain in those words.

“Ahhh,” Matt thought with a hint of dark humour. “Creepy, sadistic bodyguard is in play.”

“You see,” Sir Matriciana spoke from where he had settled on one of the room’s five sofas. “My man Woodrow has just received several messages from some people who are very interested in your Daredeviling ass. Oh yes,” a forefinger quickly scrolling over a phone screen. Nail scratching a small impression into the plastic protector. “You see, I have arranged across a network of colleagues for you to be broken down into the base elements of a human being. I have been taking bids since the moment Deminia texted me a photo of you on the floor in that parking garage.”

“Bids?” Matt bit his lip to keep his surprise in. His fingers began to twist carefully in the cuffs.

“First we were trying to get that chick that broke the guy’s neck. Had a contract for her but Anthon fucked it up.” Tap, tap, scroll. “You are a cherry bonus, Baby.”

“What’s the numbers at now, Sir?” Deminia aka Rum and Coke asked from where she was now loitering near the door.

“Okay, okay.” Sir Matriciana was waving his arms in a ’listen to this shit’ gesture. “I got twenty grand to let this asshole shoot you in the knees. I got fifty to let another water board your ass and I got a hundred to having you beaten the fuck down with a baseball bat. How’s that sound Devil? You wanna pick one?”

Matt couldn’t help but swallow at the idea of being helpless with people who would pay this man for a chance to hurt him in a thousand horrible ways. Good thing he was far from helpless.

They’d tried to get Jessica first. Matt welcomed the familiar burn of anger.

“Only a hundred? Must be off my game.” Matt was actually more focussed on Strawberries who had shifted the chair away and was standing directly behind him. He almost had the cuffs right where he wanted them.

“No Devil, you are not.” Sir Matriciana continued to scroll. “I have a bid of one hundred and fifty thousand for your face. This man right here is tearing up the fucking streets of New York to get his ass here so that he can see your damn face. He’s gonna put you all over Twitter with your mask off. Your grandma gonna fucking die when she sees you murdered on her goddamn feed.”

Raucous laughter from most of the crew near Sir Matriciana.

“I’m a little disappointed.” Strawberries said, low and sad. His palm pressed firmly into Matt’s lower back, just above his belt. “I want to see your face.” His hand moved lower. Matt’s shoulders tensed.

“Nah Man,” Sir Matriciana called and the hand stopped. “I got fifty grand from this dude wanna fuck that ass. I’m going to have to come up with a fucking timetable so no one kills him before the Kingpin gets here.” Sir Matriciana sounded genuinely put upon that he would have a scheduling conflict over Matt’s future rape and torture.

“I bid seventy.” Strawberries spoke without a hint of emotion in his voice. He sounded like Google Maps.

A pool of silence spread through the room.

Sir Matriciana leaned back on the sofa, cushion’s compressing. “You serious Nik?”

Strawberries moved closer, mouth pressed to Matt’s spine and palms hot on his ribs. “Oh yes.”

One of the crew stood up and said with a voice full of disgust. “I’m not watching this shit.” He pushed passed Strawberries on the way to the door. For a moment Matt could feel that Strawberries was off balance. Now or never.

Slipping his hand lower in one cuff Matt’s was tensing to lift his leg in a kick when the hotel room door opened into Disgust’s face. Matt had been so focussed on the men and women in the room that he’d missed the person coming to the door.

Relief washed through him as a heartbeat like a cathedral bell filled his ears.

Luke.

Fifteen guns had their safeties released, four knives came from holsters. Matt bit a smile from his lips.

“I’m here on behalf of Mr Gardenvale.” The utter chill in the presence of so many weapons gave gravity to the simple words.

Sir Matriciana stood up and crossed to his former place directly in front of Matt. “Mr Gardenvale can make his bids like every other asshole in this city. Why are you here?”

Luke tilted his head at Disgust’s presence barring him from the room. “I don’t think Mr Gardenvale would like my offer discussed in the hallway, do you?”

Sir Matriciana waved Disgust away. “Get in here and tell me what Gardenvale’s gonna offer because I’ve got half a million dollars strung up from my fucking ceiling and I’m getting richer by the second.”

Luke closed the door behind him and walked the ten steps until he was face to face with Sir Matriciana.

“Mr Gardenvale was concerned that some of the other bidders might cause so much damage that his option would be...impossible...to be redeemed.” Luke spoke with a calm certainty that commanded the attention of everyone in the room. “The Devil’s identity is to be private only to Mr Gardenvale. If anyone else were to know then, well...” Luke’s hands went wide in a ‘what can you do’ gesture, “...Mr Gardenvale would be very displeased.”

Sir Matriciana’s head rolled back in exasperation. “He’s still got the fucking mask on hasn’t he? You take a photo and send it to Gardenvale then my boys can mince his face and then no one else will ever know? Yes? Agreed?” He spun around and Matt heard crack of a wine bottle lid turning.

“That would be acceptable to Mr Gardenvale.” Luke put his hands on his hips. It was a strong stance; one that coupled with his height would likely intimidate Sir Matriciana as he moved to stay within sight of the other man.

His back was less than foot in front of Matt.

“Now.” Luke whispered with no voice.

With powerful pull, Matt lifted himself up the chain and planted both boots squarely on Luke’s shoulders. A twist of his wrists had the cuffs off the chain and the strength in his legs pushed him into a back flip off Luke’s shoulders.

His heels scuffed the ceiling.

Quickly using elbow strikes to knock out the two guards who were about to shoot at them, Matt dropped low to keep under a spray of bullets from the sofa and rammed his shoulder into Strawberries’ gut.

“NO!” The quiet voice hissed over his head as Matt slammed him into the floor. “You’re mine.

Matt flipped up and slammed his boot hard into Strawberries’ jaw just as Luke’s hands lifted him up by the middle and planted Matt’s back into the wall by the bathroom door.
With his mouth less than an inch from Luke’s chest, Matt winced as a dozen guns spewed hell onto them from across the suite. Luke had curved his arms carefully around Matt’s head and Matt cold feel the impacts like a hundred hailstones as the bullets bounced off Luke’s unbreakable skin. Putting his hands on the broad chest in front of him, Matt curled his fingers into Luke’s t shirt and hoped like hell the assholes with guns wouldn’t aim at his legs. He shivered at Luke’s warmth, the bass drum of his heart and the unrelenting strength of Luke’s presence surrounding him completely.
Caged in. Protected.

Beneath the shearing heat of the guns, an off chord hum began like the warm up of a violin. The hair on the back of Matt’s neck prickled and the scent of peppermint tea filled the air. He stood up on his toes and yelled into Luke’s ear.

“Danny.”

A nod then Luke curled an arm around Matt’s back to pull him away from their corner. As Luke punched open the bathroom door, Matt kicked it closed behind them. A moment of peace had Luke lowering Matt down and Matt wondering at the blood he could feel heating Luke’s face. He wanted to climb back up, to run his hands over Luke’s face and to kiss him with all the ridiculous feelings that wouldn’t die no matter how much Matt tried to pretend they weren’t there. Matt wanted to curl up like a cat in the warmth that exuded from Luke skin, from his soul. For just an instant, Matt gave in.

Luke had bluffed his way into this criminal hotel room. His suave charm had saved Matt’s ass and fucking hell Matt knew he was so gone on this guy that he leaned up without thinking and kissed Luke like he’d been longing to do since they’d had sat down to noodles after nearly dying together. For a moment Luke was still and Matt nearly toppled backwards with all his grace forgotten until Luke’s hands came back to pull him close and deepen the kiss into something raw and real and filthy.

A moment only as their mouths were torn apart when Matt grabbed Luke’s biceps for balance as Danny Rand obliterated the outer wall of the hotel room.

Silence from the other room pooled under the shredded door until Matt heard a woman yell and flesh hitting a clothed body. He kicked the door again, but this time it crumpled to wood pulp and Matt ran into the room to help his friends. He ducked almost immediately as Jessica grunted with the effort of throwing a sofa over his head to take down a woman with a knife just behind him.

“Thanks,” he called and rammed his still cuffed fists into the throat of a man to her left.

He knew Jessica was unlikely to be smiling but there was something close to enjoyment in her voice. “I like throwing furniture at assholes, gets my blood going, ya know?”

“I’ll take your work for it.” Luke was bending people’s guns into pretzels and causing terror as he did so, while Danny was trying a series of capoeira kicks and executing them rather badly.

“You’ll break your ankle.” Matt offered and dodged under a punch then kicked out a man’s knee, hearing a satisfying crunch of bone and cartilage. He took a moment to seek out the scent of spicy pasta and in three steps was pulling the phone from his auctioneer’s limp fingers. “I’ve got the phone. It should have what we need.”

Danny grunted and launched into a quick series of punches that flatted the three people he’d been playing with. “It’s just...” he said thoughtfully as he hooked a hand through Matt’s arm and towed him towards the destroyed outer wall, “...I can’t get the footwork on the landings. My legs don’t like cartwheels when I’m supposed to be fighting.”

Matt drew in a sharp breath as they jumped out on the balcony. The tail end of a rope slithered around on the tile, nudged by a brisk cold wind. “Don’t think of them as cartwheels,” Matt advised. “Think of a spinning heel kick with ideas of grandeur.”

Glass shattered behind them and Luke chuckled.

“Yeah, that could work.” Danny sounded dubious. “Ah damn. Cuffs. Luke was supposed to snap those. He get distracted?”

Matt was so grateful that as late as it must be the darkness would hide his ridiculous blush. “A little bit.”

“Can you still get up the rope?” Danny asked as something heavy broke in the room and Jessica called one of the remaining gangbangers a ‘dickless motherfucking roach’.

Matt was pretty sure he could. He could also wait for Jessica or Luke to come out the giant hole in the wall and snap them but they did sound like they were having fun and it was only a couple of floors.

“You go first so if I fall I won’t kill you.” Matt nudged Danny with an elbow and put his foot on the rope to hold it taut.

“I’d catch you.” Danny petted Matt on the hip and leapt ten feet up the rope on his first bound, completely missing that the pink on Matt’s cheeks had returned full force.

As Matt followed Danny to the roof of the hotel and Jessica finished knocking heads below him, Matt realised that he was in the terrifying position of having actively flirted with his three teammates and that inconceivably, they were all in some way responding positively.

Or conversely, that his three teammates had been actively flirting with Matt, who hadn’t actually realised that they were serious. As serious as Danny Rand was as capable of being of course, which was not much at all.

But Matt had been trying to be a good teammate. Had been pushing himself to do better with the people he cared about so he didn’t destroy the good things in his life like he had done with Foggy and Karen. He’d fallen hard for all three of them but that was just par for the course with Matt. When he knew people, when he listened to them, felt their rough edges, smelled their thoughts and heard their stories they sizzled in him until they owned a little pieces of his soul. With Matt it was either a polite acquaintance or full blown lay down my life for you, run away to Europe and clutch your dying body in my arms kind of love.

He was pretty shit at doing casual.

Matt shoved the stolen phone into a pocket in his pants and climbed the rope. One advantage of the blacks over the red armour was they had far more pockets. He’d have to talk to Melvin about pockets when he went back to see the new suit. Danny’s ridiculously warm hand almost burned through the thin weight of Matt’s black shirt as he helped him onto the roof and if Matt shivered he could blame it on the cold wind and his lack of leather body armour.

Danny hooked a finger in the cuffs and tugged him close, wrapping his arms around Matt’s waist and pressing some of his boundless energy into Matt’s chilled skin.

“Danny.” They had to talk like adults. Matt had information about the case on the phone in his pocket and he’d kissed Luke five minutes earlier and he couldn’t let Danny cuddle him on a rooftop without talking to Jessica because he loved her and she didn’t even know about hoe he’d flirted with Luke.

“Yeah?” Danny murmured, warm and low into fabric of the mask where is sat snug over Matt’s temple. His hands slipped down to hook his thumbs into Matt’s belt. Matt’s fingers spread out from where his wrists were cuffed, curling into the fabric of Danny’s shirt. “Devil?”

“That would be fucking right.” Jessica accused as a gust of wind announced the successful landing of one of her ‘jumps’. “Luke’s got a face like he just ate ice cream off your ass and now Danny’s getting some sugar while I’m beating up the bad guys.” She dragged her phone from the pocket of her jeans and her fingernails tapped away at the screen.

“Sugar?” Matt asked incredulously while he turned in Danny’s embrace and held out his cuffed hands to her. “I was cold.”

“What kind of ice cream?” Was Danny’s main concern, hands still on Matt’s hips despite Jessica’s jibe.

Jessica’s boots crunched on the rough cement of the roof as she came closer. A pause and then her fingers tickled against his palms as she snapped the chain off the cuffs.

“She just took a photo of us with her phone.” Danny moved forward until his chest was pressed flushed to Matt’s back. Jessica had turned off the unmistakable sound of a camera phone for both her work and so she could take pictures of Matt without him stopping her. “I still love that phone’s can do that now.”

“Jessica...” Matt began without really knowing what to say. He could deny that he put an ‘ice cream’ look on Luke’s face or that he and Danny were getting some but he would be lying and as good as he was at it, he didn’t want to lie to Jessica. He’d promised himself not to fuck with her head or her feelings and he would honour that promise even if she really didn’t expect him to. Jessica didn’t hope for truth or loyalty from anyone except Trish and Matt found he was desperate to prove her wrong.

“I have no idea what’s going on with the four of us.” Matt confessed and ‘really Matthew?’ Matt thought to himself. This is the time and place you pick to discuss this?

“The four of us...” Luke said as he pulled himself up Danny’s rope and onto the roof, his steady heartbeat pulling Matt’s thoughts back from just shy of crazy. “...are going to the penthouse.”

Big hands lifted one of Matt’s and crushed the remaining cuff bracelet into powdered metal.

“Salted caramel.” Luke said to Danny over Matt’s shoulder.

Jessica took another picture.

Chapter Text

The run over the rooftops towards midtown was exhilarating. Matt loved this city so fucking much and his tiny corner of it even more. He was keeping pace with Danny, because although the Iron Fist was able to make the same jumps and climbs that Matt did, he really had no idea where he was going.

He’d probably end up in Brooklyn if he wasn’t following Matt’s ass at a suspiciously optimal distance.

Despite Foggy’s jokes, Matt couldn’t actually tell when someone was looking at him with an interested eye, but given what the four of them were heading towards tonight then Danny’s insistence on following Matt could be taken in any number of ways.

As Matt was hoping he might be when they stopped running.

Matt smirked to himself as he ducked a low beam. Of course he could be reading the whole situation wrong and the kiss with Luke was simply fuelled by the fight nothing more. Matt’s entire ocean of self-doubt almost caught him by the throat and stumbled his steps but the sound of his team around him soon put paid to that.

Luke’s heavy tread, steady and even reached him from the street below, Jessica oscillating between striding along at his side and leaping up to the rooftops to make snide comments about the runners. They didn’t need to leap from roof to roof, climbing staircases and ducking under water towers. They could be walking with Luke, catch a cab or even let Jessica take them via the air to Danny’s building.

But this was way more fun.

Matt had learned through painful effort that sometimes he was permitted to simply enjoy himself. No guilt required for being less than miserable all the time. Whether it was talking shit with Jessica, sparring with Danny or teasing Luke, he was allowed this. Allowed to maybe, just maybe find something good with these people that he wanted to love and in turn be loved by. They did want him. They did. And Matt wanted all three of them so bad it was an ache that was only settled by them being right where he needed them. At his back, in his arms, by his side and all around him.

The bright chill of the cold air, occasional puff of steam from a vent, the brilliant whirl of fire when he flipped forward over a small wall for no apparent reason. Matt’s heart was racing, lips split wide in a foolish grin as Danny copied the move then called, “Why did we just flip? It was like, three feet high.”

A bubble of laughter from Matt as he dropped down to the next rooftop and performed a jaunty triple step on a one brick wide edging. Luke and Jessica where half a block behind and he’d need to go to ground soon as the closer they got to Danny’s building the harder it was to hide on rooftops that rose fifty stories in the air.

Harder, but not impossible. Particularly if Danny would let himself be carried Princess Leia style on Matt’s grapple.

He’d need to lose the black mask too, particularly when the others were dressed as civilians. Matt spun around as Danny landed next to him. Not on the edge because Danny was daring but he was no-where near as reckless as Matt.

“Because flips are fun.” Matt smiled down. On the ledge he was a head taller than Danny for a change and it was interesting to feel his friend from a new perspective. Cool air with a hint of rain brought Danny’s scent to him, easy, familiar and sweet. Danny didn’t reply, suddenly still, face turned up to Matt but body motionless save for the delicate bounce of short curls in the breeze. Luke was below them checking his phone and Jessica’s heartbeat rising up faster than a human could climb.

“Danny?” The smell of clean sweat overcame the stupidly expensive cologne that Matt doubted Danny knew the name of. The sound of Danny’s heartbeat, high and quick from the run told him nothing.

“You...” Danny said. Low and strangely calm for a man whose very emotions dictated his actions on most occasions.

“I’m...?” Matt lifted a foot to step down but Jessica landed beside him and with her usual lack of grace almost kicked him in the knee. He caught his balance instantly but that didn’t stop both Danny and Jessica from grabbing handfuls of his clothing to pull him safely onto the roof.

“I always think you’re gonna fall and die when you do that Murdock.” Jessica commented as if she didn’t care one way or another. The strength of her grip spoke differently.

Given what they’d all implied back at the hotel Matt decided that he could take a small risk. Instead of pulling her hands out of his shirt he got his fingers in the leather of her jacket and stepped in tight until they were nose to nose. When she wore her steel capped boots they were the same height.

“I will if you keep trying to kick me off the roof Jones.” Matt could feel her breath on his lips. She hadn’t had a drink in hours, maybe even the previous day from the bare hints that reached him.

He waited the split second it took her to tense up under his hands. If Jessica didn’t want him to touch her then she’d either tell him to take a fucking step back, break his fingers or throw him off the roof. Possibly all three.

Matt would actually die before hurting her but he knew she didn’t trust that for a second.

If Matt had ever had doubts to the strength and courage of Jessica Jones then they were dust as her hands crawled around his neck and pulled him into a burning kiss. Her lips were soft and hot in the chill of the air so he was soon sighing into Jessica like she contained the only heat in his world. Danny gave a short aborted noise that was somewhere between shocked and turned on leading Jessica to pull her tongue out of Matt’s mouth and snap, “Don’t whine at me kid. I can share.”

Matt grinned against the softness of her cheek.

“We are not doing this on a roof.” Luke said quietly from four stories below. “Get down here so we can find a bed like actual human people.”

Laughing, Matt pulled away from both of them, hands untangling from Jessica’s leather. “Luke’s ordered us to go down.”

“Oh baby,” Jessica drawled, filthy amusement washing out the usual grind from her voice. “You’d better go...”

Matt jumped off the roof.

Glimmering free fall for a couple of seconds before his hands caught on the railing two stories below and Matt slowed his momentum with a neat twist sideways. Another drop with a forward roll to snag delicate stonework for leverage before landing at Luke’s feet.

Two heartbeats above gone suddenly frantic coupled with swearing as Jessica lifted Danny to bring him down to street level. Luke’s heartbeat hadn’t changed but Matt didn’t know if that was because it couldn’t or because he trusted Matt knew what he was doing.

Probably the former.

Matt often longed for things he couldn’t have. It was normal and okay to do so, but Matt had always chastised himself for wanting to know what he couldn’t see. The colour of Jessica’s hair, the shape of Danny’s smile and the look in Luke’s eyes when he said thing like, “Can we make it four blocks without nudity or should I get a cab?”

They were hidden to the side of the main road but there were enough people down here that Matt couldn’t be Daredevil any longer. Pulling off his black mask, Matt stuffed the bulk of it down the back of his pants and hoped the rest looked like a t-shirt. It was bitterly cold but adrenaline and the body heat of his friends was keeping him pretty warm. The blacks didn’t have any of the insulation that Marvin’s armor did but given he was trying to not get arrested then one layer would have to do.

“This seems awkward.” Danny said as they moved out onto the sidewalk and started a fast walk.

It was 2am but there were plenty of people walking the streets, coming out of restaurants and hailing cabs.

“You mean how we’re rushing to get inside so we can fuck or that we look like a porno version of Wizard of Oz?” Sometimes Jessica had a turn of phrase like a razor blade. Other times she was fucking hilarious.

Luke’s laugh filled Matt’s ears and forced his lips into another grin. He’d smiled so many times tonight it was like his face had forgotten who it belonged to.

“Both,” Danny answered and the laughter was in his voice as well.

“Oh no.” Jessica stumbled backwards into Matt as Danny tried to hug her..? No. Not a hug. He’d linked his arm with her like the Scarecrow with Dorothy and was trying to sync his walk with hers. Matt realised how telling it was that Jessica could have shoved Danny into a wall easily but she didn’t.

She tossed her head and snorted like a horse but she let Danny play with her. Almost dancing together in their back and forth over how it looked in the movie. It was the lightest side of Jessica that Matt had seen in the months of him knowing her and it wasn’t actually a surprise that it was Danny that bought it out. For all the awesome power in his literal fingertips, Danny was about the least threatening person Matt knew. Even Foggy was scarier than Danny Rand.

Matt hadn’t just been moving towards something with the three of them. They had all been slowly getting hooked into each other’s lives till there was very little space between them. Four sides to a shape that wasn’t really a square but more like an equation that equalled something bigger than their individual noise. A calamity of messy lives with the possibility of a rhapsody if they got this last bit right.

Matt was so eager to get them alone he could feel it like a shiver crawling up his spine.

Only twenty minutes later they dived into the service lift for Danny’s apartment building, the brisk night air and rush of anticipation joining them.

It was remarkably similar to their first night they had worked together. The night that Alexandra had tried to kill Danny and Matt had wrapped Jessica’s scent around his face while he fought with Luke at his back. They’d been weirdly co-ordinated for people who’d barely interacted beyond conversations via Claire and Detective Knight.

Like that first elevator ride they kept their distance from one another, but this time wasn’t from caution. Oh no. Matt knew that if they didn’t keep a solid foot of air between them then it would start a chain reaction of desire that might lead the Rand paid security guys to get a eye full of their boss well and truly compromised.

Danny’s code got them into the penthouse and Matt had just finished checking the foyer for any intruders when his friend’s arms circled his waist and he was being somewhat messily kissed. The arms tightened and Danny tugged Matt so close that he almost stumbled. A sweet scent curled into Matt’s nose, delicious and cool and not Danny’s usual cologne. This guy was turning Matt’s world upside down with only a kiss.

Excited and sweet, hands glued to Matt’s ass, tongue pushing desperately into his mouth then withdrawing for a soft laugh of joy. So very young but also startlingly naive. As if this was...

Matt’s own hands stopped their exploration of the smooth skin under Danny’s shirt. Danny had been so forward in many ways, so obviously interested in Matt that Matt hadn’t even considered that the kid knew next to nothing about flirting or getting laid. Raised in a monastery and then coming alone to New York to miraculously find Colleen.

But only ever Colleen.

Warmth rushed through Matt in counter to the hard, dirty heat of lust. He gentled the push of his hips into Danny’s and softened the rough kisses into something lovelier, something more romantic. Foggy might joke about Matt’s success with bed partners but it really was just paying attention to what the person in his arms was doing. What they needed from him.

Danny sighed into his mouth and then tried to bend Matt back at the waist for a dip.

It was breathtaking and delightful and so very much Danny Rand that Matt almost let him do it. Breaking the kiss, Matt laughed against Danny’s cheekbone. “I weigh a lot more than you. You’re gonna drop me if you do that.”

Danny’s chuckle started low in his chest and hummed against Matt. “No I won’t.”

“Yes he will.” Luke came closer, the perfection of his body pressed down into Matt, the joy and arousal giving his voice a rough burr. Lost in the sharp mint flavour of Danny’s mouth, Matt realised that the others had been keeping their distance. The door to the suite was locked but neither Luke nor Jessica had followed them towards the bed.

Pulling his fingers from Danny’s hair, Matt uncurled his hand towards them in entreaty.

“All of us.” A tiny quaver as Danny’s teeth brushed the edge of his jaw.

The muffled thump of Jessica’s jacket hitting the carpet. “I’m good.” Low and hungry but with core of tension.

There was something wrong with her voice, the set of her shoulders and the smell of her as she unzipped her boots and tossed them to the side. Matt pulled his face away from Danny’s teeth but Luke stepped in behind him, hands on his belt and breath hot and sweet on the back of Matt’s neck.

“Jessica.” He couldn’t leave her there. Alone. Lingering beside the bedroom door with the scent of salt coming from her eyes. She did want them, he was sure she did. They’d kissed on the rooftop and she’d played with Danny like he was someone she could find joy with for a few precious moments.

Matt reached for the resolution he’d had since before he was blinded and ducked away from the two men who were going to own his body as well as his heart. Under Luke’s arm, he trailed a regretful hand down Danny’s leg and fell to his knees in front of her.

Matt had no idea what his face was doing, without the mask he was open to her. His love and knife edged arousal naked on every part of him.

“Jessica?” He couldn’t do this without her. If she wouldn’t join them, then everything needed to change. They were four equal parts and what Jessica wanted was too important for him to ignore.

“Fuck Murdock,” she moved hard in against him. Hands in his hair, pressing his face into her stomach. Matt tipped his mouth down to lip at the zip of her jeans before turning his face back up. Her fingers twisted almost painfully in his hair making him moan. Matt bit back another one as the smell from her sex filled him; he was so hard for her and her desire spiked an equal response from him. She was turned on. Jessica wanted something from him. Matt just had to find out what it was.

“Do you want to watch us because you don’t want us touching you?” He knew she’d been terribly abused when under Kilgrave’s control so he had to navigate this carefully. If Jessica needed space she would get it, but he had to be sure.

No answer, just the tips of her fingers moving carefully now over his scalp. It was incredibly distracting, he needed to focus on Jessica’s mind rather than her body but she was so close he was saturated in her.

“Do you want Luke to watch?” Fingers stopped. “Danny?”

Jessica didn’t speak and her silence was so fucking wrong that Matt wanted to scream. Jessica Jones always said whatever the fuck she wanted, nothing should be able to silence her voice. Especiaaly not them. They belonged to her.

Luke shifted from behind Matt, Danny in his arms if the rustle of their clothes and mixture of their scents was any indication.

“We stop.” Luke’s command sent a shiver through Matt’s insides from both desire and disappointment. He nodded, forehead bumping her belt.

Danny groaned.

“No.” Jessica gasped wetly, hands leaving Matt’s hair and reaching to pull her t-shirt over her head. “I fucking want you but I have so much shit going on...”

Matt kept his hands on his thighs and pushed his face back against the bare skin of her stomach.

“Just Luke?” He offered, because she’d trusted him before and could maybe do so again. It was Danny and Matt that were the new parts of this equation.

He couldn’t know what happened over his head, but Jessica’s heart rate settled from its heightened state and Luke shifted away from Danny to stand at Matt’s back again.

“To start with.” Jessica agreed. The pain in her voice softened now to something bearable. “If you’re okay with that Sweetheart?” The endearment was threaded with her usual harsh tone, but Luke would never have loved her in the first place if he’d been vulnerable to Jessica’s pain.

“Oh Jones.” Matt shivered at the deep affection in the warm syrup of Luke’s voice. “This was the part we were always good at.”

“Yeah.” The skin next to Jessica’s belly button pebbled as her body lost some its whipcord tension. “Murdock? Take my fucking jeans off.”

Matt smiled in relief and realisation. He kissed the skin he could reach and dipped his tongue into her navel. Hands rising from his thighs to unbuckle her belt and zip then draw the jeans down her long, slender legs. It hadn’t been the group of them that had bothered her. Not even Danny’s new presence or Matt’s far too intimate knowledge. It had been Luke.

She’d been afraid that Luke wouldn’t want her.

Knowing that was a fear that Matt could do nothing about, Matt nuzzled into the front of her panties, soaking in the wet scent of her vagina and the slight tremble of her knees.

Then Luke was there, arms over Matt’s head lifting Jessica up into his arms, the desperate clash of the mouths a hot rhythm that left Matt panting with want.

“Yay.” Danny celebrated cheerfully from the bed. “That means I get you.”

Matt rose gracefully to his feet and reached over his head to pull of his top. Belt and boots soon joined the pile of clothes beside the ostentatiously huge bed. Jessica had consumed his attention so tightly that Matt hadn’t really registered Danny getting naked and climbing onto the bed. Luke had shed his clothes too while watching Matt on his knees at Jessica’s feet so that he found himself the most overdressed person in the room.

Danny reeled him in with long arm and Matt sank into the biting green scent of Danny’s cologne mixed with the energy of the Iron Fist humming beneath his skin. Straddling him on the bed, Matt was consumed by the heady mixture of Danny beneath him and the unmistakable feeling of Jessica and Luke fucking beside them. Leaning down Matt kissed Danny long and low and rolled his hips until they both moaned.

Danny’s hands shook with nerves as they explored Matt but they were relentless in mapping his skin. Matt copied the movements, a fingertip down his spine with one along Danny’s abdominals, a hand on his ass matched by one on Danny’s cock.

Matt followed just a fraction of a second behind, so that Danny, sweet, innocent, ridiculous Danny, could lead them where he wanted them to go. It wasn’t awkward when he dropped kissed across Danny’s hip bones, but it was when he took Danny’s cock in his mouth and Danny bucked him full off the bed onto the floor.

Jessica and Luke stopped their mesmerising rhythm for a long, tight moment and then flooded the room with their laughter.

Matt couldn’t help but join them, Danny’s mortified apologies lost under their riotous amusement.

Climbing back onto the bed, Matt gratefully drowned himself in the sound of their joy, the scent of sex and sweat, the thundering pulse of three heartbeats and the smooth glide of skin on skin.

They were rough and wild, a puzzle with so many pieces missing that no-one could even guess the picture. But in that moment Matt didn’t care in the slightest. Here he was wanted and by god, he wanted them.

The four of them, together.

Chapter Text

Matt sat on the edge of the roof and thumped his booted feet onto Luke’s shoulders. Looking down on the scene below from the top of a fire escape, Luke didn’t even flinch at the impact. He just raised one hand to curl his fingers around Matt’s crossed ankles.

“She’s better at this than I give her credit for.” Luke commented, attention on the pair of vigilante’s four stories down at street level.

The police task force had come to the modified ice dealer’s main headquarters not quite twenty minutes after the team had beaten down the doors and zip tied everyone they could find. Danny and Jessica were now explaining why they had been there and how the two of them had made citizens arrests of the criminals within. Luke and Matt had retreated to the roof at the first whine of sirens and were now watching as Jessica lied her ass off to the lead detective.

Lucky it wasn’t Knight or Mahoney. They knew Jessica was full of shit.

Matt snorted. “Ten bucks says she tells the detective to go fuck himself.”

Luke’s shoulder shook slightly with his laughter. “I’m not taking that bet.” His head tilted till his jaw rested against Matt’s leg. “I’m waiting to see if they freak out when they recognize Danny.”

That was something Matt hadn’t considered.

“Maybe you should go down?” Because Luke could shut down a confrontation just by walking towards it.

A headshake. “I don’t think so. Harlem cops might know who I am but these ones?”

“Point.” Matt conceded.

About to offer to get changed and offer some legal muscle to Jessica’s physical ones, Matt caught an unfortunately familiar sound.

A woman’s yell. Voice shrill with anger and fear, a loss of control that gave her such an edge of panic that it had cut through the low hum of sounds whispering through Hell’s Kitchen.

‘No. Don’t. Don’t.’

Matt pulled his feet from Luke and stood up.

‘Get away from her.’

“I have to go.” He spun on his heel and focussed his hearing in the direction of the woman’s voice.

Luke’s hand returned, comfortable with touching Matt after all the tentative dancing around they’d done months beforehand. This time fingers on his calf, holding him in place with implacable strength.

“They’re done with the cops. Call us with your location before going in.” An order, clear and direct.

Matt hesitated for a moment. This didn’t need all of them, some asshole trying to hurt his girlfriend’s daughter didn’t need four vigilantes.

Daredevil could bring bloody justice just fine on his own.

Matt turned his face down towards Luke’s upturned one.

“Okay.” The hand moved and Matt ran towards the sound of people in trouble.

Daredevil didn’t work alone anymore.