Steve smiles a bit at the handwritten sign on the door though it's not exactly a confidence booster. But he knocks anyway, sure the sign isn't an indicator of skill. Money doesn't mean brilliance.
'It's open!' a man calls and Steve pushes the door open. The office is as shabby as the sign and very open, mostly because there's not a lot of furniture visible beyond a single desk and some printers on boxes. Standing in front of the desk is a dark haired man, wearing sunglasses and holding a cup of coff- no tea, Steve can see the tea bag from here.
'Nelson and Murdock. How can I help you-?' The man tilts his head with a mild smile.
Steve frowns. He's not really used to going unrecognised though it is nice when it happens. 'Steve. Steve Rogers.' He thinks about holding out a hand, but the other man's hands are full so it probably wouldn't be polite.
'Matt Murdock. What can I do for you?' Murdock? One of the lawyers? Steve's already high esteem for this firm increases. He's definitely making the right choice in coming here rather than using one of Tony's faceless pricey lawyers.
But, just to check... 'You're one of the partners?'
Murdock nods, still with that mild smile. 'I am.'
'And you're greeting clients?'
The smile grows, now almost seeming genuine. 'I am, yes. My partner and secretary went out to get something to drink and left me to hold the fort.' He holds up the cup. 'I've enough tea to manage until they return with the coffee.' Murdock's smile slips off his face. 'Is there anything I can help with?'
Oh yeah, Steve should tell him why he's here. 'I'm, ah. Looking for a lawyer.'
'Well you're certainly in the right place.' The smile returns to Murdock's face and he moves towards a door. 'One moment.' He ducks into the room - an office, by the look of it - and comes out with a laptop and tape recorder. 'This way please.'
Murdock leads Steve to a conference room and gestures vaguely at the table. 'Take a seat.' Steve slips into the seat he thinks Murdock meant as the man moves to the other side of the table. He waves his hand in the air near the top of the chair, until it touches it, then grips it and pulls it out.
Oh. Right. That explains the glasses then. Not just a fashion statement. And the lack of recognition. A mean spirited part of him thinks. Steve buries the thought as deep as he can.
'Do you mind if I record this?' While Steve's been thinking, Murdock has taken his seat and set up the laptop and tape recorder.
Steve nods without thinking. There's a long pause before he realises what he's done, 'Oh sorry. I nodded. It's fine.'
Murdock runs his fingers along the buttons and presses record. 'Mr Rogers, my name for the record is Matt Murdock. You've expressed an interest in engaging my firm as representation on your behalf.'
But that's not quite right. 'No. Well, yes. I need a lawyer but it's not for myself. I'm, uh, acting for someone else's.'
That has clearly thrown Murdock. 'Hmm. And this person is aware of this meeting and agrees fully with you discussing their case with u-me?'
'Yes. It's... it's a little hard for him to be in public right now; or to meet strangers. So I've come to meet you first to see if you would be willing to take his case. And if I think you're capable of handing it.' Murdock stiffens a bit, but doesn't speak so Steve continues, 'And if so, I'll organise a meeting with him as soon as possible.'
It's almost too cloak and dagger for Steve, but he's learnt a lot about this kind of thing since he got to the future. And for Bucky... for Bucky he'd do anything.
Murdock nods. 'Fine. May I have your friend's name?'
This is the test. 'Ah, Barnes. James Barnes.' Murdock's head lifts and Steve can see the signs of surprise on his face, though his eyes are covered.
Because Steve Rogers alone? That could be a coincidence. But a Steve Rogers with a friend named James Barnes? That's a whole other story. Even though the world thinks Bucky is dead, it's way too much of a coincidence for even the most oblivious of people not to notice.
And Murdock is definitely an observant man. 'Sergeant James Barnes?'
'Well, he was never officially discharged so, yes?' Steve considers then adds, 'I don't think he wants to be called that.'
Murdock nods. 'I'll keep that in mind. I was under the impression Sergeant Barnes was... the late Sergeant Barnes.'
Steve sighs. 'It's a long story,' he warns. 'Relevant to Bucky's case but not an easy one.'
Steve's just finished outlining the basics - only the basics - of Bucky's story when Murdock's partner and secretary return.
'Matt, we found coffee! And bagels, the best ba- Oh shit.'
There's the sound of a paper box hitting the ground and Steve turns to look. A long haired and slightly overweight man and a tall woman are standing in front of the same desk Murdock had been in front of. Both of them are holding coffee cups - the woman has two - and it looks like the man was the one who just dropped the box of bagels.
They both also have looks of complete disbelief on their faces. Steve gives him a shrug and a self-deprecating smile. Their jaws drop lower.
'Foggy, Karen?' Murdock says. 'This is Steve Rogers. We were just discussing the case he wants to hire us for. Mr Rogers, this is my associate Foggy Nelson and our secretary Karen Page.'
Nelson gives Steve a shaky smile and picks up his jaw. 'Matt, can I have a word?'
But Murdock shakes his head. 'I'm sorry Foggy, but I would like for you to hear Mr Roger's case first. It's rather urgent.'
'Call me Steve, please, no need for formality.' Steve says as he turns back to face Murdock.
'Exactly. I'm Matt, he's Foggy and she's Karen.' Foggy must trust Matt because he takes a seat next to him without another word, Karen following a moment later. She passes Foggy a notepad and pen and Steve gathers himself to recount Bucky's story again.
He tries not to go into too much detail about the fall - he can't really, not without breaking more than he has - but does try to give as much detail as he can about Bucky's treatment and experiences. As much as he can stand.
It's nearly more than Foggy can take; he's visibly white with horror by the end of it. Karen and Matt are holding up better, though Matt has the advantage of having already heard it. Steve wonders what they'll do when they see the photos?
'And what exactly can we help you with?' Murdock asks when Steve trails off into silence.
'There's a rumour that Bucky might... might face criminal charges for what... for what the Winter Soldier did.' Steve can't keep the anger out of his voice while Foggy and Karen stare at him in disbelief. Only Matt sighs, a resigned noise. 'So we... we were told we should prepare,' Steve continues, 'and that getting a good lawyer was the first step.'
Foggy smiles at that, a proud but surprised looking one. 'And you came to us?' He probably didn't mean to phrase it as a question but Steve decides to answer it anyway.
Steve nods. 'Yes. We wanted a lawyer that's not just... doing a job because Tony told them to. I saw your firm's work with Fisk and well... you seemed like you'd be the kind of people to help.'
Matt rises. 'We're happy to help. When can we meet Bu- Mr Barnes?' Steve hides a smile at the slip. He knows he made the right choice here; he can feel it already.
'How free is your afternoon?'
'I'm sure we can arrange something.'
Bucky is tense about meeting three new people at once so Karen agrees to come at a later date. So Steve takes Matt and Foggy back to the apartment in Brooklyn that they're staying at.
Despite having heard about Bucky's tale and being warned about the Winter Soldier, Foggy still stiffens when he catches sight of Bucky sitting on the lounge. Steve can see the subtle tightening of Bucky's face that indicates he's seen Foggy's reaction and a part of Steve hurts at the look.
Matt, on the other hand, pulls his arm out of Foggy's and walks towards Bucky, swinging his cane as he goes. 'Mr Barnes?'
'Bucky,' Matt says, ignoring the fact that he was all but growled at. He turns towards Bucky's voice and his cane hits the lounge. Matt feels for the top of it, then offers his hand over it. 'I'm Matt Murdock, and this is my partner Foggy Nelson.'
There's a long pause, then Bucky rises and shakes Matt's hand - with his right hand - and says, 'Bucky. Partners?' There's a hint of a leer in his voice, the kind Steve hasn't heard there for a long time.
'Business partners.' Matt's voice is teasing. 'We keep the actual partners bit for after hours. Kissing on the clock isn't very professional.'
It takes Foggy's sputtering for Steve to realise Matt is joking. He laughs, and Bucky tilts his head.
'I think we're going to get along just fine pal.'
Matt and Karen come the next day, so she can meet Bucky and he can pick up the last of the files Steve has on Bucky's containment.
Bucky is having a good day - his fifth good day in a row - and lights up the moment he sees Karen. 'Steve! You've been holding out on me. You didn't say one of my lawyers was this lovely.' He turns to Karen and takes her hand gently. 'I do love a woman who is as beautiful as she is brilliant.'
Karen blushes. 'I'm just the secretary.'
Matt laughs. 'Oh don't sell yourself short Karen. I doubt Nelson and Murdock would exist without you.' Her blush deepens.
'Murdock, you have this lovely lady the most gorgeous shade of red right now.' Matt smirks at Bucky's description and Steve shakes his head. He likes Bucky's good days; there's almost a sense of no time having passed at all when he has them. It's just like it was before the war.
Steve pats Matt on the hand with the folders he's here for and Matt takes them with a small smile. 'Don't read them alone,' Steve advises softly as Bucky continues to charm Karen. 'It's not light reading.'
Matt nods. 'We'll read them together then. Unless charges are laid, we'll meet again this time next week to discuss our next move?'
But Bucky runs out of luck the day after Karen and Matt's visit and has another run of bad days. Steve knows he's remembered another detail of his past; another crime his hands were made to commit and Steve's finds himself struggling to once again convince Bucky the blood on those hands is not his to clean off. Sam has Bucky seeing a professional and Steve has to play drill-sergeant to get Bucky to attend one of those sessions. To get the help he deserves and needs.
He texts Matt and Foggy to let them know they won't make their appointment and turns his attention to giving Bucky what he wants.
So he's surprised when, two hours after the time they were to met, he and Bucky return from one of Sam's sessions to find Matt leaning against the wall outside their apartment and seemingly daydreaming.
'Matt?' Steve asks confused and slightly annoyed. 'Did Foggy not pass on the message?'
Matt pushes off the wall with a gentle smile. 'Oh he did. I'm not here officially.' He shrugs. 'I just wanted to, ah... check in? Make sure everything was okay. See if there was anything I could do to help.' He fiddles with something in his pocket and Steve sees a wire.
He tenses and beside him, Bucky reaches into his pocket for a knife. 'You been waiting here long?'
'An hour or so. You were our last meeting of the day so it wasn't an issue if I came here to wait.' Matt pulls out the thing in his pocket and Steve realises it's a set of earphones connected to the voice recorder. 'I can listen to a recording just as well here as I could in the office.'
Steve huffs a small laugh. 'You're dedicated. Brick wall can't be comfortable.' He feels Bucky relax and Steve brushes his fingers against Bucky's arm in thanks.
Matt shrugs. 'I've been in worse positions for longer.' He must feel Steve's confused look somehow because he adds, 'I'm a practicing Catholic. It's good for your soul but hell on your knees.' Even Bucky manages a huff of laughter - more than Steve's heard him have since Matt's last visit - at that.
'Come on in then. Our lounge is much more comfortable.'
Their visits start to become regular affairs after that, despite the time it takes for the three of them to get to Brooklyn. Karen comes with paperwork at first, then recipes that she and Bucky swap and fight over while trying to cook. Matt drops in once or twice a week after work for a chat - at first about the case then slowly about the city and then anything they want to discuss - though he always leaves before nightfall. Foggy usually comes weekend mornings, with coffee and bagels from different places claiming he's introducing the pair of them to the new New York.
Slowly Steve and Bucky start to drift towards their places as well. Steve learns the best pizza places in Hell's Kitchen and takes one to their office one lunchtime when he's in the area. Bucky finds out Foggy is an occasional insomniac and drifts over to his apartment to keep him company the nights he can't sleep and seems glued to his phone. They both even have a standing invite to Karen's for dinner - though Bucky is not to comment on how she cooked it if he wants to eat it.
It takes Steve three months to realise that the lawyers he hired have become his friends as well.
Of course it's about then that Hydra decide to make their move.
It's well planned and carefully timed. Matt's over for one of their chats and Bucky has just stood to go grab him a drink when Matt cocks his head in confusion and five men wearing black clothes and masks kick down their front door. Before Bucky or Steve can react, the man in front fires his weapon at Bucky with an electric hiss.
He jolts, screaming silently and Steve can hear his left arm lock up as the taser shorts it out. Before Bucky can move, the man behind the one who shot him fires a dart and it sinks into Bucky's neck. A third man fires something with an electrical hiss at Steve and he ducks the first shot. He's not fast enough to manage the second one and Steve finds himself swallowing a scream of pain. With a bitten off cry, he lashes out, catching the man who fired at him by surprise. The man crumbles.
Then another one of the men speaks, 'Move and I kill him.' Steve looks up and his blood freezes as he seems the second man that entered now standing beside the too still Bucky with a gun to his head. Slowly Steve raises his hands and allows himself to be forced to his knees.
A gun is placed to his head. He forces himself to breathe calmly. Handcuffs are placed on him, strong ones that feel capable of holding a super soldier. The man lowers the gun and he breathes again.
'Boss, what do we do with the spares?' a fourth man asks. He's now standing by Matt who has been dragged towards the door but is otherwise unrestrained. The fifth is right beside him; leaving four of the five men who'd invaded Steve's apartment still in play. Only the man he hit is down, still groaning on the floor.
'Weren't given orders to bring them in,' the man who'd had a gun to Bucky's head says. 'Don't see why we should go to the effort of bothering with either of them.'
'You're going to kill us then?' Matt asks calmly and Steve has to stop himself making a sudden movement when trying to look at him. What is he doing?
The Boss stalks up to him, followed by the man who handcuffed Steve. He gets into Matt's space, trying to intimidate him.
Matt smiles, a deadly looking smile. 'Take your shot,' he says in an almost growl.
Then Matt strikes. He elbows the man on his left in a fast movement, dropping down the moment the blow lands. Matt sweeps his leg out as he goes down, knocking first the man on his left down and then the Boss' follower down as he twists. The Boss draws his gun but Matt's already rising with an uppercut to his stomach and grabbing the hand with the gun.
Steve can hear the sound of the man's bones breaking from here. He's not surprised the Boss cries out but Matt's already moving on, delivering two more punches to his face before elbowing back at the man he'd knocked down first. He'd been coming up behind Matt and takes the blow to his diaphragm. The man goes down again.
Matt takes this chance to get out of the close quarters he's been stuck in and aims a brutal kick at the man he'd elbowed first. It catches him on the face and Matt follows it up with a pair of well aimed punches that hit the same spot. He then sweeps the man’s legs out from under him in such a way that the man falls and hits his head on Steve's coffee table. The man doesn't get up.
The Boss is still making whimpering noises on the floor and Matt ignores him, going after the one man still struggling to his feet - the man who'd handcuffed Steve. Matt moves quicker than Steve thought possible, delivering a series of punches to his stomach and face that leave him bloody and wobbling. The man manages to land a punch on Matt's cheek but Matt then turns that into a chance to land a brutal hit to the man's windpipe that has him wheezing for breath. The man collapses, struggling to breathe.
For a long moment Matt stands in the middle of Steve's living room, head cocked and hands bloody. Then he turns to Steve. 'Which one handcuffed you?'
Steve blinks, then collects himself. 'The one in front of you.'
Matt bends down and feels at the man's waist, pulling out a set of keys. 'Hands.' Steve turns so Matt can unlock the handcuffs.
The second he's free, he's at Bucky's side. 'He's still breathing,' Matt says. 'Heart rate is a bit elevated but I doubt it's life threatening.'
'What?' Steve turns to Matt, who is running his fingers over his knuckles and wincing. 'How do you know?'
'Long story. We should leave. Their backup is in a van on the street; they'll be wondering where this lot is soon. Can we get Bucky out the back somehow?'
Right, get out of danger first, explanations later. 'Fire escape. It's out of sight of the front door and there's an alleyway that connects to another street just behind it.' Matt nods and moves towards Bucky.
Steve tenses and Matt freezes. 'Steve...?'
'You're not a threat?' Steve means it to sound reassuring but it comes out a question.
Matt's face falls and for a moment he looks heartbroken. It's that, more than his next words, that convinces Steve. 'I'm not a threat to you, I swear to God above that I am not.'
'Okay. Okay. Help me.' Matt's at Bucky's side in a fluid motion, one that Steve suddenly places from grainy security footage.
Huh. He thinks as he and Matt slowly get Bucky down the fire escape and out into the alleyway. All this time the Avengers have been searching for Daredevil and Steve went and hired him as a lawyer.
He knew he'd made the right choice in going to Nelson and Murdock. Steve's instincts were rarely wrong.