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She heaves a sigh as she leans against the far-end wall of the elevator. Taps her foot impatiently. Counts the floors as they slide past the elevator display. Three, four, five.. Soft strings pluck at the air around her in the attempt to fill the silent space up with music, not knowing she despises the half-hearted classical pieces it comes up with almost as much as she hates today in general.

Somehow, she didn't realise encouraging Jessica to become a superhero would involve quite this much running around the city in high heels on her part.

Trish Walker heaves another sigh and lifts one of her feet off the ground. Winces at the sharp, throbbing pain that trickles across the sole of her foot. Sets it back down again and lifts the other one into the air. This time, she's prepared for the ache that follows the move. Mentally books herself a spa day that not even the potential end of the world is going to keep her away from. Thinks she's going to have to settle for a nice hot bath at the end of today, if she's still alive by then.

The elevator pings its arrival. She escapes it seconds later with a muttered "thank god" and only a small stumble on the hallway's carpet. Wrinkles her nose in distaste as she carefully makes her way over to the door. (Whoever puts carpets on floors in public areas needs to be shot. That's just unsanitary.) She grabs her bag a little tighter when she sees that the door is slightly ajar. Just her damn luck. Sure, Jessica, I'll take those papers to a total stranger I've never met before in my life. No problem. Don't worry about it. Trish rolls her eyes and reconsiders every last one of her choices that led her to this point. Is convinced that one day she's going to regret them.

She just hopes it's not today.

A crashing sound from behind the door almost brings her to a total standstill. She almost walks away. Then, she hears the clipped-out string of curses stream out in the voice of a rather harrassed-sounding man. Curiosity wins out over reason. Her hand touches the wooden door. Pushes it open slowly, not knowing what lies beyond it. Not knowing how safe or dangerous this man is, even though Jessica had scoffed "dangerous?" in a tone that said the mere suggestion of danger was a laughable one. (She doesn't trust Jessica's judgment, not really, even though her sister has never been wrong about people in her life before. Trish does not have superstrength with which to conquer everyone and come out of it laughing. As such, she thinks she can be forgiven for her occasional reluctance in trusting a situation.)

Her eyes meet total chaos beyond the door. Shards of glass litter the wooden floor in the hallway. One of the light fixtures has been ripped off the wall entirely. Another is hanging on for dear life, attached by nothing but a few wires and a rather persistent screw. Papers are strewn haphazardly from the centre of the hallway to one of the doorways at the far end of it. Low murmurs reach her ears soon after, coated in a warm voice that seems to grow hoarse at regular intervals. She's intrigued despite herself. Sets foot into the chaos gingerly, making sure to avoid stepping into the majority of the glass shards. Small slivers of them still crunch underfoot. The tapping of her heels on the hard floor echoes in the space.

"Who's there?" demands the same voice, louder now.

"Jessica Jones sent me!" Trish cautions, not wanting to be confronted by any kind of weaponry today if she can help it. She hesitates when the man doesn't respond. Surely he remembers Jessica? Her sister claimed she'd left a pretty big impression. She shakes her head. Offers another identifier: "She said your mutual friend is Danny Rand?"

"Danny is not my friend. He's the biggest pain in my ass."

"But you do know him," she says, choosing to latch onto that part of what he just said. "Not here to argue semantics."

"Why are you here, then?"

The man who appears in the doorway to her right has obviously seen better days. He rakes a hand through his already unruly hair in a vain attempt to get it away from his eyes. Eyes that currently narrow at the sight of her. They're bright in a way that's piercing, sweeping over her in a way that almost makes her feel naked. She shifts her balance from one foot to the other in response. Tilts her head and observes the five o'clock shadow on his face, the dirt that coats his fingernails, the alcohol in his hands. Mentally catalogues the creases in his shirt, the stains on his wrinkled slacks, the small cuts on his bare feet. No wonder Jess didn't see any danger in him. They're cut from the same cloth, her sister and this man, choosing to work through their issues with all the supply of dirt-cheap scotch they can carry. She scoffs softly at that.

Trish narrows her own eyes when she takes in the momentous chaos in the room behind his tall form. He blocks most of her view of the room, looming in the doorway as he does, but she can see more glass and paperwork scattered like a trail behind him. She spots what appears to be the skeleton of a couch, pillows strewn everywhere, one of the armrests completely separated from the rest as though he sought to tear the thing to pieces before giving up the effort. One of the chairs didn't survive the onslaught, if the remnants of its legs are anything to go by. One of the paintings is ruined. Another is sitting on the floor as though thoroughly ashamed of the room it finds itself in.

"Jessica Jones sent me," she says again, choosing to forego a proper introduction in light of the state the man is in. Tears her eyes away from the room and refocuses back on him with some effort. She can't wait to get out of here. "Said that you're her go-to for making sense of these papers she found on the job. She's going to require a swift response." Trish raises an eyebrow imperiously. Looks the man up and down. Lets slivers of doubt creep into her voice deliberately. "Do you think you can manage that?"

He knocks back the remainder of the drink he's holding in response. "Leave them on the table," he rasps out. Gestures at the empty coffee table behind him that miraculously seems to have survived his rampage through the apartment. "I'll call her when I'm done. Or text. Not sure." He shrugs carelessly. Sighs. "Have nothing better to do right now anyway."

"I can see that," she murmurs before she can help herself.

He closes his eyes at her response. Trish doesn't know if he's silently offering a prayer in supplication or devising ten different ways to kill her. She takes an involuntary step back when his eyes open again and there is something in them she can't identify. Wobbles on her feet when she strikes a particularly big glass shard with the pin of her heel. His hand closes around her outstretched wrist seconds later to steady her. Warmth seeps into her skin when his calloused fingers brush her hand before releasing her again.

"Careful now." His admonishment is laden with a twinge of amusement that makes the corner of his mouth curl upward. "I would hate to have to explain why Patsy Walker," he sneers the name like it's poison on his tongue, "broke her neck in my hallway."

She harrumphs at that. Tries not to wince at her old nickname. Of course he recognises her now. "Believe me, I have better things to do with my time than being the ultimate downfall of House Meachum," she shoots back. Can't help her voice sliding firmly into something more acerbic and disapproving. Lets her eyes deliberately sweep over the apartment one more time. "Given the state this place is in.. if I broke my neck here, you'd be looking at involuntary manslaughter at the very least." Looks him up and down once more, too. "I'd hate to add to your.. problems."

"Then leave."

"Gladly." She removes the paperwork from her purse. Holds it out for him to take. "I am not endangering myself any further by walking to your coffee table," she says when he doesn't move a muscle. "Either you take the papers, or I drop them on the floor where the rest of your dignity has seemingly gone to die. Your choice."

The speed with which he snatches the papers out of her hands surprises her. "Happy now? Leave," he repeats, voice dropping into a low hiss. "Get the fuck out of here."

Trish thinks she might have a death wish, but she can't stop herself from commenting on the state of his apartment while she walks back toward the door. "You know, for someone with good taste in paintings, your light fixtures are remarkably ugly," she says conversationally. "Rip those off and replace them. Paint the walls, too. That shade of blue hasn't been in fashion for years."

"What are you, some kind of interior decorator?"

"When the mood strikes," she hums contently, turning on her heel just as she reaches the door. Tries and fails to keep the pity out of her voice when she looks back at his bedraggled appearance. "Your feet are bleeding, by the way, did you know?"

She's out the door and closing it firmly behind her before he has a chance to reply. Makes a mental note to call Jess and let her know that this is the absolute last time she's walking into a situation without knowing every detail first. Recategorises all the things she knows about Danny Rand as she makes her way over to the elevator. Hell, she recategorises everything she thought she knew about Ward Meachum too. Wealthy CEO still stands (nobody can rent an apartment this size without being loaded -- she should know), but his famous poise and easy professionalism are a far cry from the man she met just now.

Trish shakes her head when she steps into the elevator. There must be a story there. There has to be a story. She clamps down on the urge to chase it down. Presses the button that will take her back to the ground floor. Ward Meachum is not her concern. There are bigger issues.

She thinks she might have a problem when she winds up mentioning him to Jess over the phone anyway.

*

Trish may have forgotten most of her mother's well-intended lessons, but there are certain parts that she knows will stick. Making her famous vegan casserole dish for a new neighbour is one of those. It's the polite thing to do, after all, when someone is new to the neighbourhood. Especially when that someone moves into the apartment down the hall with such minimal fuss that she would've missed it if the doorman hadn't commented on it yesterday.

She admits to some level of curiosity about her new neighbour. The doorman hadn't volunteered much other than it being a younger man coming to live there by himself. That in and of itself is a surprise: rent is so sky-high here that Trish is the only resident who's able to make ends meet while living on her own. She doesn't know anything else about him, or why he chose this place to live. And if there is one thing she loves, it's a good mystery. Especially when she can unravel it by herself.

She knocks sharply on the door. Waits patiently. Prays he's actually in, seeing as the casserole never tastes quite right once it cools off.

Wishes she hadn't prayed for anything when the door swings open and reveals a familiar face. Or, well, as familiar as he can be after a single meeting and some media recognition. At least he looks better than the last time she saw him. Even his eyes have softened, though they narrow at the sight of her once again in a way that she knows all too well.

Ward Meachum peers down at her with a frown. "You again?" He sounds as resigned as he does surprised, and she almost likes him for it. Almost. "What is it this time?"

She sets her shoulders into the Walker-line of you-are-not-pushing-me-over. "I made you food. As a 'welcome to the neighbourhood'-sort of deal. Only, I didn't know it was you before I brought the food over. I've been in the studio half the week and hauling Jess's ass out of trouble for the other half, so I didn't exactly see you move in." She's fully aware that she's babbling, but powerless to stop it. His particular brooding sort of silence never sits well with her. "So, here. It's a casserole. I've been told it's the only edible thing I can make, so there really wasn't another option despite casseroles not really being in-season or on trend or anything. Don't worry about bringing the dish it comes in back. I hate that thing with the fire of a thousand suns anyway and it would make me feel a lot better if I could just say I've permanently misplaced it."

He's silent for a long time following her words. Observes the proffered casserole as though it may contain a venomous snake, although he eventually takes it off her hands when she doesn't retract the dish. He sets it down out of sight, behind the door he's keeping only slightly ajar, but doesn't offer her more than a slight nod in acknowledgment. She wraps her arms around herself when he just keeps staring at her instead of saying something. Stares back patiently. She's got time. She can wait him out.

He shakes his head as though breaking himself out of an enchantment. "I'm sorry, I am being terribly rude." The fact that he acknowledges it at all amuses her slightly. Already puts him above the majority of businessmen she's ever interviewed, who wouldn't know the word 'sorry' unless it gave them a lapdance first. He seems to hesitate for a moment before he opens the door completely. "Would you like a cup of coffee?"

"Won't ever say no to that," she accepts readily, stepping forward into the space he leaves for her. "I like it strong, though. None of that wishy-washy Starbucks crap."

"Espresso okay?"

She nods enthusiastically at that and notices that he actually picks the casserole dish back up to carry it with him to the kitchen. Makes a mental note that perhaps he becomes a little more personable when one offers him food. His apartment is an exact mirror image of her own, so he does not need to tell her where to go. He seems to eschew personal effects almost as much as he has avoided carpets of any kind. There are no pictures anywhere, save for some modern art, and the space around her almost seems smaller because of the midnight blue that coats the walls. The room she steps into is almost spartan in nature. The kitchen is as minimalist as she likes it, but the living room decidedly is not her taste. Far too modern and impersonal.

Still.. "It looks better than your old place," she remarks slowly, remembering the utter chaos she'd walked into.

She peers at the full bookshelves that line the living room with interest. They are just about the only thing in the apartment that carries any kind of personal meaning. Is surprised to find that there is barely anything on the shelves that reminds her of the actual job he has. Instead, the walls are littered with books on architecture, law, philosophy, and science. Further down, she thinks she spots some classic novels mixed in with small bundles of poetry. "Did you actually read all of these?" she asks him.

"Most of them. Usually have a book or two stashed in one of my desk drawers at work. Late nights at the office can get tedious."

"I bet," she murmurs. Her hand hovers over the books, never quite touching them but taking comfort in their proximity. "You may have chosen the wrong profession."

"How so?"

"A lot of the businessmen I've interviewed kept talking about specific books concerning leadership, management, business, you name it.. It was rare for them to name any other book that had influenced them a lot. I don't see any of that here. It's like you lead two different lives." She shakes her head in amusement. "Thank you," she acknowledges when he hands her a small cup of strong coffee. Revels in the scent of the midnight black liquid. At least he's got good taste in that, even when his overall style is so minimalistic that what she stands in barely feels like a home. "What would you have done if you hadn't become Rand's CEO?"

"Architecture, probably. How about you?"

"Psychology. Or interior decorating. Maybe both." She shrugs. Takes a sip of the coffee. "Never got the chance to. Family pressure and all that."

The sound he makes is one of recognition, which takes her aback ever so slightly. Mentally reassesses what she knows of the man who now stands next to her in comfortable silence. Youngest leader of a multinational company. Double major in finance and management. Recipient of the New York Bulletin Philanthropy award. Not cutthroat like his sister, not shark-like in his father's image, but prone to erratic decisions and intuitive mechanisms that nobody else can mimic. Wonders at how family pressure possibly factors into his story. Isn't sure she'd like the answer.

She asks anyway.

"None of your concern, Miss Walker." His previously relaxed voice shifts into something stilted and almost mechanical at her inquisition. His face closes off from her questioning glance as he sips at his own cup of coffee. She notes he doesn't even call her Patsy anymore. "It's just me now. No father, no sister, nothing to fall back on. That should answer enough."

"Only it doesn't," she argues back. "It may not be my concern, but I'll admit to curiosity."

"You don't want to open that door."

"Why? Scared of what I'll find?" She issues the challenge without thinking twice. Finds herself bristling against his warnings. "We've all got skeletons in our closet, Ward." Makes a point of emphasising his given name the way he never does with hers. "I'm not scared of any ghosts."

"Maybe you should be." His voice darkens just before his hand closes around hers and takes the coffee cup out of her grasp. "This was a bad idea. You need to leave."

She doesn't even have the time to formulate any kind of response to the way he shuts down on her when she is steered out of his apartment rather expertly. His hold on her is not strong enough to leave any marks, but she senses the roiling emotion in his grasp all the same. Knows better than to speak in the face of that, though she does make incoherent sounds of protest at the sudden shift in mood. He doesn't seem to care. She's back out in the hallway before she knows it.

The door closes softly behind her. She hears its lock shift in place. Makes a mental note to never knock on his door for anything again.

*

"Don't start," she says as soon as the door swings open. "I have absolutely no desire to be in your presence any more than necessary."

"And yet, here you are."

She heaves a sigh. Glares. "Your friend seems to have confused my apartment for yours. He's currently bleeding all over my couch." She clips the words out faster than usual, hoping to impress a certain sense of urgency on him. "Apparently, immortal Iron Fists can still bleed a lot."

To the man's credit, he does not hesitate. He throws the door to his apartment wide open and beckons her to follow him. "There's a medical kit on the bottom shelf in the bathroom," he instructs without looking back at her, "and clean towels in the wardrobe right next to the door. I need to grab some things that will get his strength back up."

She walks into his apartment after a brief pause. "I have a kit as well," she says, hovering in the doorway to the kitchen. "I just did laundry, so plenty of clean towels too. I just thought you should know about the state he's in. Maybe get him out of my hair after he's patched up."

"Humour me a moment," he snaps at her. She raises an eyebrow when he goes through three kitchen cupboards and grabs what looks like an extraordinary amount of tea and insta-noodles. "Go and grab what I told you to grab. I know what I'm doing, here."

"So do I," she murmurs, though she does move toward his bedroom. Can't help the comment that escapes her when she sees nothing but a bed, a bedside table, a wardrobe, and a lamp inside it. "Jeez, Meachum, could you get any more boring?"

"It's functional!" he shoots back.

"Booo-ring," she reiterates in a sing-song tone. Moves into the bathroom next, expecting that to be more of the same. Comes to a halt three paces in. "I take it back!" she hollers when her eyes land on a very luxurious bathtub instead. "You're not that boring after all!"

"Good to know!"

She laughs as she drags the medical kit off the bottom shelf and swings it over her shoulder. It's heavier and bigger than she expected. Instead of a small kit, Ward seems to have packed an entire duffle bag full of supplies. Not for the first time, she wonders if she didn't just luck out with Jessica being made of strong stuff. Heel-turns out of the bathroom and grabs the towels that look a little worse for wear already. Rolls her eyes at the contents of his wardrobe before walking back out to where he's waiting.

"Do you even own a pair of jeans?" she asks conversationally as he shoulders a bag of his own and gestures for her to lead the way. "Or sweatpants, for that matter?"

"I do."

"Which one?"

He heaves a sigh at her line of inquisition. "Both. Don't start," he counters, assured as he is that she will still find more to argue about. (She can't say he's wrong about that.) Trish appreciates his effort to try and change the subject to something else. "How did Danny even wind up in your apartment?"

"He climbed up. Crashed onto my balcony. And no, I don't know why these superheroes don't take the stairs like normal people."

"Guess he miscalculated whose balcony it was. Then again, I'm still not convinced Danny knows how to read numbers. Doubt he would've fared better with our apartment doors."

She snorts out a laugh at that. "One of these days, that boy is going to surprise you," she says decisively. Has half a mind to stick up for the curly-haired ninja as she leads the way into her own apartment. "You think too poorly of him."

He does not reply immediately, having come to a standstill in her kitchen. Danny is still where she left him, thankfully, and doesn't look like he's in immediate danger of dying. His skin is still remarkably pale, though, and his brow shows a sheen of sweat that concerns her. It doesn't stop him from smiling at them once he opens his eyes.

"Hi Ward!"

Leave it to the bleeding warrior monk to actually sound happy about seeing her neighbour. Trish shakes her head at that. Frowns when she spots the towel she gave him lying on her coffee table. It's absolutely soaked with blood. Mentally notes to get rid of the rug. Between Jessica tracking mud all over it and Danny bleeding on top of it, it has seen far better days. Doesn't know what she was thinking getting a light-coloured rug like that with all the crap that's going on in her life all the time lately.

Danny seems to have cottoned onto her train of thought. "I'll refund you for it," he says. "I can pay for your troubles."

Ward heaves an exasperated sigh before Trish can get a word in edgewise. "You're bleeding out on the couch of one of New York's wealthiest women and you offer to pay for her expenses?" Trish has to hide a smile at the near-hiss that his question evolves into. "Do you ever even look at the information I give you about this city and the people in it? Do you even listen to my voicemails?"

"Not really."

"Why am I not surprised?" Ward drops to his knees next to the couch and puts a hand on Danny's brow. It's a gesture that's remarkably gentle in light of the continued frustrated string of comments the CEO is throwing Danny's way. She sets the medical kit down next to the couch and perches on the armrest near Danny's feet. Offers Danny a new towel that he gratefully takes to brush off the worst of the blood. "Honestly, Danny, what on earth did you do this time? Did you get into a fight with a shredder?" Ward's voice is incredulous as he takes in the many, many deep and small cuts that litter Danny's torso. "You're burning up, too -- did they poison you?"

"Nah. I just expended a lot of chi." Danny sounds calmer than Trish feels. Calmer than Ward seems to feel, too, if his muttered comments are anything to go by. "Really, guys. I'm just tired now. And the cuts sting."

Ward unzips the duffle bag to reveal an absolute mass of medical supplies she's pretty sure aren't even sold over the counter half the time. Unpacks some of them and hands half over to Trish. She takes them wordlessly, observing how methodical he seems to be about taking care of injuries. She's not sure why she files that away for future reference. There's something niggling in the back of her brain that she cannot yet identify.

Danny is seconds away from freaking out about the disinfectant in Ward's hands, though, and she postpones any other thoughts until after they patch up the young superhero. She pats Danny's leg and makes small hushing sounds she remembers Jess made over her once or twice. (Isn't about to let current company know that, though. Jess would likely kill her.) Keeps her eyes trained on what Ward is doing, so she knows when to increase the gentle touches as a comfort to Danny. In many ways, the warrior reminds her of a younger child who's still terrified of most medical procedures. Jess had filled her in on some of Danny's background, but it's only now that she hears him complain softly at Ward that she realises how much truth there was in Jess's "he's a goddamn kid"-comment.

She doesn't comment on how Ward's motions seem to slow and soften every time Danny lodges a complaint, or on how he peers up at Danny every few seconds to check on him, or on how carefully he coats the announcement that he needs to stitch two of the wounds up. She holds out the sterilised needle and thread, careful to keep it out of Danny's decidedly queasy-looking face. Marvels when Ward's movements become even more exacting the second he starts stitching Danny's wounds up. Neat rows of stitches begin to form in a way that almost looks machine-made instead of done by two steady human hands.

He's obviously done this before, too, and it occurs to her just how little she knows of the man whose hair now falls into his eyes and whose gaze never wavers from the grueling sight of Danny's injuries. The speed with which he treats the so-called 'immortal Iron Fist' gives her pause. When it becomes clear he no longer requires her help to treat Danny, she makes her way over to the kitchen counter upon which he set down the food supplies. Shakes her head as she takes in the huge number of items. Throws two packs of insta-noodles into the microwave for a short while before heating some water for cups of tea. Busies herself with preparing the rest of the food.

"Can I have some insta-noodles, please?" asks Danny's weak voice from behind her. "And some of the cereal, too."

"On its way." She decides to hand him the cereal first, given how that was the second thing he asked for. Jess always says that the second thing is what you actually want and the first thing is what you think the rest of the world wants. Or something like that. She shrugs as she pours the milk on top of the flakes. "I take it you like them soggy?"

"That's the only way to eat cereal," affirms the curly-haired warrior.

She finds herself smiling at Danny for real when she walks over to hand him the bowl and the prepared noodles. "Here you go." She pauses briefly. Considers. "Ward, do you want anything?"

"Some tea is fine," he replies distractedly. He rises to his feet as he packs away the last of the supplies. "I'll make it myself, though."

"Sure."

She trails Ward all the way to the kitchen. Hovers over him when he washes his hands thoroughly. Blood spills out into her sink. It's her new normal. His, too, by the looks of it, for he doesn't even wince at the sight. Even his fingers are steady and not a trembling mess. It makes her curious about him.

Too curious.

"How did you learn to do all that?" she asks. "The stitches and all, I mean?"

"Practice."

"Danny's only been back, what, a few months? You can't have gotten that good that fast. Unless Danny winds up looking like someone's voodoo doll every night.."

"I learned it before Danny."

Another thing for her to categorise. She still doesn't have a clue on how all of that fits into the puzzle that is Ward Meachum. "Why did you have to learn that?"

"Reasons."

"Helpful."

"Leave it alone," he warns.

"Seems like there's a lot of shit you want me to leave you alone about."

"I don't want you poking your nose into my business," he comments with all the tone of someone who's hit their daily Trish-limit. Jess can get like that, too, sometimes. "You might be Jessica's sister, and I might be Danny's training wheels pulling the brakes on him every so often, but that does not make us friends."

"No," she shoots back in frostier tones than ever, "it just makes us neighbours."

She pads back over to the couch after grabbing one of the cups of tea off the counter. Seats herself opposite Danny, as far away from Ward as she can possibly manage while still being in the same room as him. Trish breathes a silent sigh of relief when he withdraws from them shortly afterwards with the announcement that he needs to make some calls. Cradles the mug of tea between her hands a little more tightly and studiously avoids Danny's gaze. She can practically feel the monk's gaze on her as he wolfs down an entire bowl of cereal before grabbing a pack of insta-noodles and pouring it into the empty cereal bowl. She wrinkles her nose at his eating habits, convinced that he will regret the strange food combinations in about an hour.

"Sooooo," he says, drawing out the sound, "you and Ward are neighbours now? You're Jessica's sister, right?"

"Right," she affirms. Takes a sip of her tea. "And yeah, we're neighbours." Can't keep the annoyance out of her voice no matter how hard she tries.

"Superhero floor," laughs Danny, and scoots over a little closer to where she's sitting. "You could have a home base here. Like a safe space for the heroes of New York."

"Ward would be so pleased," she scoffs. Can't say she doesn't like the idea herself, though. If anything, it would let her keep a better eye on Jessica. She fixes Danny with a look. "He seems very, very tired of your superhero pursuits. How is it you're still friends?"

"He's not so bad, you know."

She lets out a snort of laughter at that. "Not to you, maybe. But he's nothing but rude to me, Danny. No matter what I say. No matter how nice I am to him." She pauses. "And I think I've been nice, you know, all things considered? He's just a corporate douchebag."

"He just takes some time to.. uh.. warm up to people." Danny's tone may be uncertain, but his eyes are steadier than she's seen them all evening. "Just.. give him a chance. Okay?"

Trish huffs when Danny's eyes turn into a silent plea. That is just unfair. The last Defender is a little too good at making puppy dog eyes. Even Jess, with all of her usual cynicism, had relented on occasion when Danny really turned it up a few notches. Trish fares no better. "Okay," she says. "I'll give him one chance. Just one." She's convinced that Danny may actually successfully stave off the end of the world someday by simply smiling at the apocalypse the way he smiles at her now. Shakes her head at that.

"Thank you."

Danny's words seem to encompass so much more than a 'thank you for trying with Ward' or a 'thank you for not throwing me off your couch while I was bleeding'. There is a motion in the young man's gaze that feels like reeds bending and swaying in the wind. He's not Jessica's hardened steel trapdoor, or Luke's easy and effortless rock, or Daredevil's furious storm. No wonder that Ward seems to be part-exasperated and part-affectionate when it comes to this immortal superhero. She finds herself smiling back at Danny with ease.

"You're welcome."

*

This is not a good night by any standards.

Trish curses softly when the key doesn't slide neatly into the lock of her apartment door. Squints her eyes at it, though that honestly just makes her see double. Scrapes at the lock as though she can find the right way to fit the key in by just sensing her way around. No such luck.

"Goddamn key." She mumbles it out into the quiet. Scrapes at the lock again, more half-heartedly this time. Fumbles with the hold on the key as though grasping it just right is magically going to open the door for her. Resorts to pleading with it when it seems the door is not going to budge. "Pleeeease just fucking work already."

"Is there a particular reason why you're trying to get into my apartment?"

A voice behind her sounds midway between amused and annoyed. She blinks blearily at the sound. Doesn't register it's Ward's voice until the scent of his aftershave curls into her nostrils. Blinks at the question he just asked her. Looks up at the door. Finally registers its number.

Well, shit.

She groans and closes her eyes. Just her damn luck. Rakes her hand through her hair haphazardly and turns around to face him. Almost loses her balance because heels and alcohol were never a good mix in her life. (Or so she had decided after a particularly nasty tumble off the stairs a few years ago, which had cemented her as yet another washed-up child star who'd lost their way.) Grabs onto the doorpost and steadies herself. Shakes her hair out of her eyes in a last-ditch effort to face him with some dignity.

Trish groans anew when the corners of Ward's mouth definitely curl upward at the sight of her. The annoyance that she heard in his voice seems to slide off his face the longer he stands there and stares at her. She shifts under his gaze. It's not that she's uncomfortable, not really anyway, but he doesn't know his own intensity and it grates on her. Makes her nervous. She tilts her head. Stares back. "Are you just gonna stand there?" she challenges when it becomes clear he doesn't speak. "Stare at me all night? Like that's not creepy or anything.."

He scoffs out half a strangled laugh at that. "Don't flatter yourself, Patsy. You're the one who's blocking my door." He steps closer toward her slowly, as if doing his best not to frighten her. "You know, if you wanted to come in," he says, voice darkening around the edge of his words, "all you had to do was ask."

"Don't flatter yourself," she shoots back instantly. Hates that he's just tall enough for her to have to tilt her head back when she wants to look him in the eye. There's something different about him tonight. Not different enough for her to back away from confrontation, though, so she stares him down until he looks away. Can't stop the smug and satisfied tone from creeping into her voice. "That's what I thought. Don't make my night any harder than it has to be."

"Rough night?" he laughs, then, and his voice is lighter than she's ever heard it when he actually tilts his head back to let the sharp laugh out. "I never would have guessed."

"Stupid. Fucking. Fundraiser." She hisses out the words as though they have physically offended her. Makes a concerted effort to walk around him and get to her apartment with her last scraps of dignity still intact. "I'm going to need a shower just to get the corporate stench out of my hair."

His fingers deftly pluck her keys out of her grasp when she brushes past him.

"Hey!" She rounds on him with all the vehemence she can muster. Wobbles precariously on her heels. "Give me those back! Ward, goddamnit, I swear.."

"So you do know how to use my name," he retorts, dangling the keys just out of her reach. "Good to know."

"Of course I know your fucking name," she snaps, "but it seems you are always forgetting mine. I'm not Patsy! I'm not that girl." Anger bubbles up in her stomach and coats her throat with the taste of disgust. There's a hot stream of rage threatening to spill forth from her lips. She sneers at him. "I'm not anybody's friend." He raises his hands slowly in the universal sign of surrender. She blinks at him in surprise. "What, no comeback?"

"Not tonight," he says to her. His voice is still laden with promise of 'later', though his eyes have softened at the sight of her. "Come, Patricia. Let's get you into your real apartment, shall we?"

"It's Trish."

Something shifts in the air between them at her barely audible correction of her name. Anger falls away from her the longer she looks at him. He acknowledges the change with a nod. Reaches out to steady her anew when she wobbles on her feet again. His arm closes around her shoulder, grasping it just tightly enough to hold her upright. Tucks her closer to his side when he steers her into the direction of her own door. It almost surprises her that she lets him, but the haziness in her mind reacts to his proximity in all the ways it shouldn't. She shifts closer to him in response, wrapping her own arm around his waist. Relaxes slightly when his hand never shifts away from her shoulder. The sigh that escapes her is more content than it should be.

"Don't fall asleep on me," he warns, shaking her gently as they come to a halt just outside her door. "Your judgment is severely impaired right now. You'll regret it in the morning."

She elects to ignore that now that she's finally registered what's different about him. "You clean up nice," she tells him decisively, now that she registers he's wearing a tailored suit and nicer shoes than she's ever seen him in. Appraises his slicked-back hair with a slight wrinkle in her nose. "Not sure about the hair situation, though."

Trish feels him huff out a short laugh at that. "Okay, your judgment definitely isn't up to its usual standards," he tells her decisively. He unlocks her door with no great difficulty and folds her hand around the keys anew. "There you are. Are you good from here?"

She mentally calculates the distance between the door and her bed. "Probably." Pushes the door ajar and kicks her heels off into the far-end corner of her hallway. Lets out a soft moan of relief at the feeling of her bare feet hitting the floor. "Better now."

A shiver runs down her spine when he appraises her and shakes his head. "Could have told you that Richardson's fundraiser would be a waste of your time," he says conversationally as he gently pushes her across the threshold. "The only merit of his gatherings is the fact that he keeps an open bar, which you seem to have discovered too. Don't blame you. Last time I was there, Richardson and his buddies," he sneers, "were ogling women like they were particularly crude paintings." He glances briefly at her. "I imagine you were subject to this as well tonight."

She blinks tiredly at him when he steps into the hallway with her. Leave it to Ward Meachum to actually know which fundraiser it was and what situation had gotten her into this state in the first place. "I was, until my drunken mouth insulted everyone within a two-mile radius," she affirms. "Danny thought it was rather funny. He helped me make a clean escape."

"I would've liked to see it." At her puzzled glance, he clarifies his words. "Not the escape. Just you insulting everyone at that damn fundraiser." A wry smile that makes him look almost five years younger tugs at his mouth. She finds herself smiling back as they venture further into her apartment. "Makes me feel better that I'm not the only 'corporate douchebag' you have problems with."

Trish has the grace to actually look a bit ashamed of herself. "You heard that, huh?" she mumbles. Recalls the conversation she had with Danny two weeks ago and how studiously she's been avoiding Ward ever since. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be. I know I can be.. difficult." He rolls his eyes to emphasise the point. "I haven't been the most welcoming to you."

"To be fair," she says, feeling all the weight of the alcohol she imbibed in the past six hours, "I inserted myself into your life like the pop-up book from hell. So I get it. Kinda." She shrugs. Is aware that she's now finally at the stage where she's slurring her words just a little. "Okay. I definitely need to drop into bed before I wake up in a world of regret. Sorry."

"Stop apologising."

"Sorry."

"It's okay."

He seems to mean it in all the ways nobody else ever does.

*

"I simply don't know why you insist on calling me Dorothy. I'm your mother!"

Trish scoffs as she steers her mother out of her apartment. "You haven't been my mother in years," she says, grabbing a firm hold of the woman's arm. "I don't want you coming over anymore. I don't need to have your mess in my life." She clips out the words rapidly, not letting her mother get a word in edgewise. Giving Dorothy Walker room to talk is a dangerous thing, after all. "I don't need your information, because all you will ever do is lord it over my head and withhold half of it from me just so you can continue seeing me." She rounds on the woman, then, after she presses the button for the elevator. Is pleased to see that her mother actually takes an involuntary step backwards. "Do you honestly think I'm that blind to what you do? I was raised by you. I was victim to you."

"Preposterous." Her mother sputters the word out indignantly. "I have never hurt you. I gave you everything!"

"You gave me an eating disorder, a drug addiction, that fucking Patsy-jingle, twenty different therapists," sums Trish up succinctly, "and your goddamn voice in my head every single time I look in the mirror." Vaguely, she registers that the elevator has arrived somewhere in the middle of her summary. Elects to slam her hand on the door so it won't close before she has said her piece. "I am done being controlled by you, mother. You do not get to say you have never hurt me when all the evidence shows otherwise."

"Oh sweetheart, you don't know what you're saying."

Dorothy's fake laugh alerts Trish to the fact that they are not alone anymore. As does the voice that now drifts into the silence. "Bad time?" asks Ward Meachum from inside the elevator. Trish closes her eyes and mentally counts to ten. Tries to stop herself from screaming out loud. The last thing she needs right now is for him to be inserted into the mess she's trying to wade through without drowning. He seems to cotton on to her frustration faster than she gave him credit for. He sidesteps them neatly and makes as if to walk toward his apartment. "I'll get out of your hair."

"Oh no, Mr Meachum, that's quite all right." Leave it to Dorothy Walker to instantly recognise her neighbour. "My daughter is having a bad day, nothing to concern yourself with."

"My day was fine until you came over," mumbles Trish, just loudly enough for Ward to catch. She rounds on her mother again. "You need to leave." Doesn't wait to hear the inevitable sounds of protest. Grabs her by the arm rather unceremoniously and clamps down on it a little more forcefully than she normally would. All but shoves her mother into the elevator. Slams the buttons (ground floor, close doors) impatiently before Dorothy Walker has recovered enough to respond. Trish breathes a sigh of relief when the doors finally close.

"Was that your mom?"

"That was my mother, yes," she replies with a roll of her eyes. Leave it to Ward to ask the obvious. "Wouldn't exactly categorise her as 'mom'. She's not worthy of the title."

"Figured as much."

She finds she can't look him in the eye. For some reason, that annoys her more than the fact that he's likely seen and heard some things just now that she never really wanted him to know. There are too many things in her life that paint her as the victim. Her mother is one. The many locks on her door is another. The panic room she knows Ward's sharp eyes located in her apartment is yet another. She's one long string of failures and abuse-fueled successes.

Trish is nothing like Ward.

She can't meet his gaze. Opts to turn on her heels and stride over to her apartment instead. She slams the door shut behind her before he can even get a word in edgewise. She can't deal with the way people like him look at her when they figure out Patsy Walker is still alive and well inside of Trish. Can't cope with her life sliding down into the mess she can't ever get out of. She's stuck in the fucking swamp.

A knock on the door startles her out of her reverie.

"What do you want?" she snarls, slamming her hand down on the 'talk'-button of her security system.

"To talk." Ward's voice is infinitely more patient than she's used to from him. She closes her eyes briefly at what he says next. "About your mother."

"My mother's a real piece of work. Thinks she's the most wonderful parent in existence but she's really just a hurtful toxic person." Trish rakes her hand through her hair as she stares at Ward's still form on the video screen. She hisses out a frustrated curse. Why isn't he leaving? Hits the intercom anew with more force than is strictly necessary. "What could someone like you possibly know about that?"

"My dad.. he.."

She closes her eyes anew when he doesn't leave. Leans against the door. Listens to Ward's hesitant voice filtering through into her apartment. It's rough around the edges, almost as if he needs to scrape his throat but hasn't found the right time to do so. Listens to him talk about his father and wonders if she is the first person to hear the story. Thinks she must be, when she hears him choke on the words that describe his father's resurrection. Listens to the years and years of categoric abuse that nobody ever learned about because Ward knows how to hide every bruise, every scrape, every ugly thought in a way that pours poison into his own veins before long. Finally listens, horrified, as Ward chokes out words that describe murder, resurrection, and another murder. Feels its weight in his words and knows it to be reality, even when it all sounds insane.

Trish almost flings the door wide open, then, as the puzzle pieces finally come together. Traces her thoughts from the security cameras his father had installed to the destroyed apartment she had first met him in. Recategorises the earlier mention of family pressure and the way in which he had known how to defuse her intoxicated anger. Balls a fist when she realises just why he had gotten that good at taking care of injuries.

She owes him an apology. She knows this, and her heart breaks for him.

"When I saw you with your mother just now," he says, as her hand reaches for the lock on the door, "it reminded me of how hard it was to get away from dad. How even his death doesn't stop me from seeking his approval until I realise I don't have to. How I feel like I've killed myself a thousand times more than I murdered him."

That does it.

She opens the door. Takes in his tear-streaked cheeks, his dishevelled hair, the way his surprised gaze shifts toward the floor. His fingers tremble. Her hand closes around them seconds later, letting his fingers tangle into her own for a moment. She tugs at him gently until his feet shuffle a step forward. Her other hand brushes past the track of a tear softly, tracing it across his skin, before coming to rest at the nape of his neck. The ends of his hair curl around her fingertips. She lets go of his hand. Tilts her head back to look at him.

"What are you doing?" His whisper sounds almost confused. Fragile, as though it may break at any given moment. "Trish.."

Her name falling off his lips is her undoing. She crosses the small distance between them without a second thought. Crashes her lips against his own desperately while tugging him closer to her with her free hand. She lets half a laugh tumble into his mouth when her fingers fold around his shirt haphazardly and come to rest against his chest. She can feel his heartbeat underneath her fingertips -- erratic, loud, beautiful. There is a fleeting moment in which she is certain she has horribly miscalculated, for he freezes beneath her touch and almost withdraws from her entirely. She lets her touch on his lips become featherlight. Easy to escape. Easy to brush off.

Then, he relents. His lips claim hers in a slow but steady pace, pushing back against her until all lightness is gone from the touch. One of his hands comes to rest at her waist, threading through the folds of her shirt, while the other hesitantly brushes past her cheek before entangling in her hair. She gasps into his mouth when she feels him tug on her hair in a way that tilts her head back even further. Goosebumps prickle her bare arms as his hand shifts to the small of her back.

It's all the encouragement he needs.

"And here I thought you didn't like me," he says as he backs her into her apartment's hallway expertly. Presses soft kisses to her cheek, her neck, her shoulder that make her shudder against him. He sounds amused, damn him, and she almost reconsiders. Almost. But then he smiles, and his lips curve underneath hers anew, and she thinks her dignity can survive this one crash of reason. "What changed your mind?"

"Who says I changed my mind?" She challenges him with a smirk while pulling him further into her apartment expertly. "From what I recall, you didn't like me much either.. Did that change?"

"It could." He rasps the answer out in the small space between them, eyes locking steadily onto hers for the first time since she opened the door for him. Corrects himself half a second later, though these words come out more haltingly. "It did. Just now, it did."

She hums contently at that. Presses a kiss to his lips and cheek before stepping in even closer to fold her arms around him. "It did for me too," she assures him. Has a thought soon thereafter that turns her smile a little more devious. If she knows him well enough by now, he will take this as a challenge instead of as doubt. "How do I know you won't change your mind?"

He doesn't disappoint. "Which way was that bedroom of yours, again?" he asks without missing a beat. "I'd like a shot at convincing you."

"I'm open to being convinced," she murmurs in his ear as she guides them both across the floor in a haphazard dance of their own making. Not for the first time, she is glad that her apartment is an ocean of open spaces and clear patterns. It makes everything less.. convoluted. Sunlight clings to their bodies now that they come to rest at the foot of her bed. The light catches his eyes and sets fire to his gaze. She traces smaller patterns across his skin. Intersperses them with kisses that make him shudder underneath her touch. "Just as long as you know that I lead."

"For now," he acquiesces. Tilts his head back and looks down at her with a gaze she wants to learn to unravel someday. "Apology accepted, by the way."

"Asshole," she smiles.

"Thank you."