Jessica’s been buried in cases for weeks, so it’s not until it’s almost over that she hears the news. Specifically, she’s in a bodega waiting impatiently to pay for her whiskey when a familiar name makes her glance up at the TV over the register.
“ - involvement by Daredevil,” the anchorwoman says, over wobbly footage of a figure in black. “Hell’s Kitchen’s controversial vigilante was presumed dead after the incident at Midland Circle last winter. It’s been unclear whether recent sightings were the original or a copycat, but sources in the NYPD assure us that the original Daredevil is back. It remains to be seen for how long.”
“Son of a bitch,” Jessica says.
Her phone is dead. It’s a sign, she thinks, not to google this.
She gets home, plugs her phone into the charger, and sits down at her desk. Unscrews the whiskey bottle and takes a swig.
Opens her laptop.
Daredevil Collars Fisk...Again! the internet tells her when she sorts the news results by most recent.
Daredevil Faces Off Against Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. Unholy Carnage at Clinton Church. Daredevil Attacks Bulletin Office, Slaughters Journos.
There’s a couple of grainy cell phone pictures. Some are of a guy in the Daredevil costume; others show someone in the all-black Discount Commando getup she recognizes from her last round of researching Murdock, before Midland Circle. Before everything. It’s impossible from the picture quality to tell which one is really him, if either.
Her phone dings from the bedroom.
“All right already!” she hollers, and gets up to see whose number she needs to block. She has three missed calls, two voicemails, and eighteen texts, all from Danny Rand. She’s very sure she didn’t give him her number, so either Luke or Claire is going to get their ass kicked. Verbally, because she can’t kick Luke’s and wouldn’t kick Claire’s, but still.
Did you see the news??? 😮
Jess pick up
Oh it's Danny
Jess it's Matt!!!!!! 😈😈🕶
I mean this is Danny i’m danny but Matt is on the news!!!! 📺
I left you a message
It's really him Claire said she called that foggy guy 🌫☁️💨
Ok left you another message
Jess call me back MATT’S ALIVE
Ok there’s something wrong with your phone I'm ordering you a new one
JESS MATTS ALIVE HE MADE IT OUT 😮😆😆
WE SHOULD HAVE A PARTY
WE SHOULD HAVE A TEAM NAME 👿🍺⛓🐉
Jessica turns off her phone.
She makes herself watch three episodes of Tiny House Storage Wars: Celebrity Edition before she gives in and starts researching.
From what she can tell, someone in a red Daredevil suit attacked the Bulletin office and killed five people before being stopped by someone in a black Devil of Hell’s Kitchen outfit. Three days later, Red Suit attacked Clinton Church and killed a priest, before again being driven off by Black Suit.
Red Suit, it seems, was a rogue FBI agent with the profoundly stupid name of Benjamin Poindexter, according to another rogue FBI agent who also appears to be dead. An undisclosed NYPD source assures Karen Page at the Bulletin that Black Suit is the real deal, which is what Jessica would have guessed. Only someone as dumb as Murdock would go up against crime bosses and bullets with no powers and a compression shirt. And he would have had to come back from the dead very wrong to kill a priest.
Not that he was ever actually dead.
Not that anyone in her life is ever actually dead, apparently. Just gone.
She eventually turns her phone back on before Rand bursts a blood vessel and texts him back: I saw. Team up with him if you want. I’m out.
She keeps the new phone when it arrives, though. She’s not a complete idiot.
It’s two weeks later and she’s lurking on a fire escape waiting for the guy she’s tailing to fuck his mistress already so Jessica can take her dirty photos back to her client and get paid when a noise behind her makes her spine lock up.
“Hey, protip,” she says. “Sneaking up on me isn’t a great idea if you like your fingers unbroken.”
“As sociable as ever, I see.”
Jessica somehow manages to stiffen even more, but she doesn’t turn around. She’s proud of that. “Well, if it isn’t Dead Man Walking.”
Murdock settles into a crouch beside her. He’s still wearing the black. She wonders when he’s going back to the red, if he’s going to at all, and then reminds herself that she doesn’t give a shit. “How’ve you been, Jess?”
Murdock tilts his head. “If you’re hoping to catch them in the act, you’re going to be waiting a while. They’re arguing about how much money she’s been spending out of what he gives her.”
“Thanks for the Lifestyles of the Rich and Sleazy update,” she says. “Bye.”
“Danny called me,” he says. “Luke called me. Even Detective Knight called me.”
“Congratulations,” Jessica says. “You guys finally got your phone tree worked out.”
“Are you mad at me?”
It’s so profoundly middle school that Jessica gives him an incredulous look. He looks almost as much like a doofus in his goofy bandana and cargo pants as he did with her scarf tied around his head.
“I’m sorry, did I hurt your fee-fees because I didn’t bring over a ‘I’m glad you only faked your death’ jello mold?” she asks.
“You are mad at me.”
She snorts. “Don’t flatter yourself.”
“I didn’t fake my death,” Murdock says. “A building really did fall on me. I was out of commission for a while. I just...didn’t clear the record as quickly as I could have.”
“Save it for the judge, Lawyer Boy,” Jessica says, turning back to the hotel room across the street and squinting through her viewfinder. “Out of all of the people I’ve thought were dead who weren’t, you’re the one who has the least impact on my life.”
There’s silence, and then a noise so soft she wouldn’t have heard it if she hadn’t been paying attention. When she glances over, Murdock is gone.
“Good riddance,” she mutters, and takes another pull from her flask.
The coffee cart outside Jeri’s new office tastes like shit, but at least it’s cheap. Jessica’s rooting around in her pocket for the crumpled singles she knows are in there when the cart guy waves it off.
“It’s covered,” he says.
She glares at him. She’s used to sleazebags hitting on her, but she’s vaguely insulted he thinks she comes as cheap as a cup of coffee. Especially coffee this bad. “What do you mean, it’s covered?”
“Guy over there paid for you. The blind one.” Cart Guy jerks his chin in the direction over her left shoulder. “Don’t ask me how he knew you were comin’.”
Oh, Jesus. Jessica rolls her eyes, then snatches the coffee from Cart Guy’s hand. “Great.”
“He tipped me, too! Which you never do!” Cart Guy calls after her as she walks away.
Murdock’s leaning against a mailbox in one of his tidy little gray suits, cane in hand. The effect is slightly spoiled by the healing cuts on his lip and forehead. He tilts his head inquisitively at her.
Jessica tips her coffee cup and slowly pours the contents into the gutter.
Murdock’s eyebrows shoot up, but all he says is: “Cutting back on caffeine?”
She shoves the empty cup at him. “Quit following me, Murdock.”
She turns on her heel and stalks off, and he pings the cup into a trash can ten feet away and comes trotting after her, tappity tap tap. Of course. Not once in the scant handful of days she knew the guy did he do a single thing anyone told him to. Why would this be any different?
“Jessica. Come on, talk to me,” he says.
“Got nothing to say,” she retorts, and walks faster.
His tone changes. “Jessica?” he calls, sounding more tremulous than she’s ever heard him, even when confronting his undead ex-girlfriend. “Jessica, are you there?”
Jessica turns to see Murdock reaching out with his free hand, groping at the air, his cane faltering on the pavement and his eyebrows knit together. “Jessica, where are you?”
“What are you doing?” she asks, and then spots the disapproving looks of the passersby around them. Even Cart Guy looks judgey. “Oh, for Christ’s sake,” she says, and grabs Murdock’s free hand, tucking it into her elbow.
“Language,” Murdock says with a beatific smile.
“Fuck you,” she retorts, and heads down the street towards her subway. Which, she realizes belatedly, is also his subway. Shit. “That was low.”
“I work with what I have,” he says serenely. “So what’s new in your life?”
Nothing good, but she has no intention of getting into that with Matt Murdock. She has no intention of getting into anything with him, considering that their last adventure led to widespread property damage and far too many deaths. Just because that last count turned out to be one shorter than she’d initially thought doesn’t mean she wants a sequel.
She comes to a halt, swinging Murdock around to face her. “Listen good, Murdock, because I’m only going to say this once, okay?” she says. “We are not friends. We were never friends. We worked together once, against my better judgment, and it went to shit in about five seconds, so I’m not in any hurry to repeat the experience. Quit following me, quit pointing those puppy dog eyes my way, and if you buy me another cup of coffee I’ll hold you upside down and pour it up your nose until you cry. Got it?”
Murdock opens and closes his mouth like a fish for a minute. Finally, the “schoolboy out for a jolly lark” expression disappears, and earnestness replaces it. It’s ten thousand times worse.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m really not trying to mess with you. Well, not much. It’s just…” He makes a face. “I fucked up. A lot. And I tried the whole ‘no friends’ thing too, a couple of times.” A ghost of a smile flickers over his face, sadder than any of the ones before. “It didn’t take. So I’m trying this new thing, where I apologize to the people who matter to me.”
Jessica doesn’t want to matter to Matt Murdock. She doesn’t want to matter to anyone. Life’s much easier that way, when no one gets hurt trying to hoist you onto a pedestal you never asked for.
She wants him to matter to her even less.
“How nice for you,” she says, disentangling her arm from his. “Now how about trying a new new thing, where you leave me the fuck alone?”
This time when she walks away, he doesn’t follow her.
It’s not fair to blame Luke, Jessica knows, but ever since he showed up, everyone assumes that anyone with super strength has got to be bulletproof too. Which is why she’s trapped on the roof of a residential building in Hell’s Kitchen using a fire safety door as a shield against goddamn Judas bullets. Turns out the latest sleazebag cheater really isn’t happy about his wife having a good reason to deploy their prenup against him, and has hired some muscle to make the evidence go away.
“Eat lead, bitch!” one of the two idiots with seriously overpriced weaponry shouts at her.
“What decade are you living in?” she shouts back, cringing as another bullet pings off the door. The door isn’t heavy but the impact is murder on her arms. She can’t keep this up much longer.
Out of nowhere, there’s a weird whistling noise. A klonk! A groan and a thump.
The other idiot swears, and Jessica risks a peek around her door to see Daredevil parkouring like an absolute goober, boot-first into Idiot #2’s face. Idiot #1 is already out cold, apparently knocked out by one of Murdock’s little color guard batons that he loves so much.
Murdock’s still in the blacks, but it doesn’t slow him down one bit. He kicks the gun out of Idiot #2’s limp hands so that it goes skidding across the roof to Jessica’s feet. She drops the door and bends the gun into unusability while Murdock puts Idiot #2 down for the count with a right hook to the jaw.
He steps back from the unconscious mooks. Without a word, Jessica marches over, picks up the other gun, and bends that one too. The fewer of these out on the street, the better.
Then she turns to Murdock.
He holds his hands up. “I wasn’t following you, I swear! I just heard the gunshots and thought you could use an assist - ”
“God fucking dammit, Murdock!” she snaps, dropping the gun and shoving him in the chest. It’s not hard enough to hurt, but it does make him stumble back, a dumb look on the half of his face she can see.
She doesn’t care. She doesn’t care. “I told you to leave me alone!” she shouts, shoving him again. “I told you I didn’t want to play Avengers Lite! Take the goddamn hint!”
She kind of wants him to take a swing at her but he just steps back with each hit, hands open and empty. It’s infuriating. She shouldn’t be the only one hurting.
He came back. She shouldn’t be hurting at all.
The third shove makes him wince, and he holds a hand up. “Not that rib, please? Knock me around if you want, but I’ve already broken that one twice.”
“Ugh!” She turns and starts to stalk off before remembering she’s on a roof. “What do you want, Murdock?”
“I - ” He deflates a little, turns his head away, rubs the back of his neck. “I don’t know.”
She rolls her eyes. “Great.”
“I didn’t…” Murdock sighs. “We were a shitty team, and you were a shitty client. But I’d be pissed as hell if you died. So I get it, really.”
“You chose to stay down there.”
Jessica didn’t know she was going to say that. Her nails dig into her palms.
“I did.” At least he doesn’t make an excuse.
“I didn’t tell them. None of us did,” Jessica admits, grudgingly. “That Karen Page and your lawyer friend who Luke loves so much. That you stayed.”
“Thank you. They’ve forgiven me a lot, but I don’t know if they’d forgive that.” Murdock tilts his head towards the unconscious idiots and seems to hear something that satisfies him, because he pulls the mask up enough to show his face. His eyes are wide and focused on nothing. “I understand if you can’t.”
Murdock being genuinely apologetic is still way worse than him being an annoying troll, ugh. Jessica shoves her hands in her pockets and shrugs. “It’s not the same. They’re, like, your people. I knew you less than a week.”
“Yeah. You’ve got your own people,” he says. She must make a sound or - a smell or something at that, because he frowns. “What?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she says.
He nods. “I understand that, too.”
It’s too much. Thinking about Trish and Malcolm and her mother and everything she’s lost, everything that won’t come back while the one good thing that did come back stands there with his sad face and tries to make it right. She’s about to hop off the edge of the building and leave him to hand the idiots over to the police on his own when he spreads his hands and says, “So now what?”
She shakes her head. “I don’t know.”
“Avengers Lite?” he repeats, a hint of a smile curving his cheek.
Fuck it, she’s not going to laugh. “You’re the one with the mask and the codename, Devil Boy. All you need is a cape.”
“Nah. It’d ruin my look.”
Okay, fine, she is going to laugh. Matt grins at her. “Let’s leave the synchronized heroics to the millionaires. But…” She scuffs at the roof with her boot. “I’m in the neighborhood. You need help, maybe call me.”
“Maybe?” he echoes.
She shrugs. “Sometimes I’m busy.”
“Maybe’s good.” He gets serious. “I won’t do it again, Jess.”
She punches him in the arm, not hard enough to do real damage but hard enough to hurt. He can take it. “You better not. Rand was inconsolable.”
“He was, huh?” Matt asks.
Jessica looks away, out over Hell’s Kitchen in all its messy, noisy, obnoxious glory; Times Square glowing neon beyond it. Losing Matt wasn’t the worst thing to happen to her over the past year, not by a long shot. But maybe getting him back helps to make up for the rest of it, just a little.
Not that she’s ever telling him that.
“Well, you know how he gets,” she says, and points to the unconscious mooks. “What are we gonna do with them?”
“I got it,” Matt says, and pulls out a burner phone. “I know a cop who would love to have a chat with them.”
“Tell him to call me with as little paperwork as possible,” Jessica says, backing towards the edge of the roof. She pauses, then - ah, what the hell. “Good to have you back, Daredevil.”
He pulls the mask back down and grins. “Good to be back, Jones.”
As she jumps down to the street she finds she’s grinning, too. Avengers Lite, no way. But maybe it’s no bad thing to not be alone in the neighborhood.