Not trying to be a Hero (Part Two)

Three weeks later, the Nelson and Murdock team dressed in their finest clothes and shared a cab to the New York Defence Lawyers Association Annual Convention.

"We don't get to go to many fancy parties!" Karen exclaimed as they walked in to the ballroom hosting the event, where a chandelier glittered over a wide space filled with tastefully decorated tables. A pianist and violinist accompanied the low hum of conversation.

"It's not really a party," Matt muttered. He didn't much like conventions like this, there were too many people in too confined a space, it was overwhelming. "More of an excuse for shameless networking."

Foggy clapped a hand on Matt's shoulders and then darted sideways to grab some canapes from a passing waiter. "We're relying on shameless networking tonight, buddy, there are all kinds of investors and fancy rich people here who we have to convince to give us cash."

Matt groaned under his breath. But he knew Foggy was right, so he sucked it up and followed his friends to their table. They'd dressed the part, and looked pretty good - well, Matt assumed. He and Foggy had brought out their 'fancy suits', and Karen was wearing a dress made out of some kind of shimmery, satiny fabric and she'd spritzed on a nice-smelling perfume.

The night wore on, in glasses of champagne and conversations with lawyers and business owners much richer and more important than Matt and Foggy. They ate the too-expensive dinner and watched as various awards and acknowledgments were given. Karen turned out to be a lifesaver: she turned on the charm, telling potential investors about the success of Nelson & Murdock and inviting them to speak with Matt and Foggy.

The convention was also a nice opportunity to speak with lawyers they'd met at school or in the courtroom. Matt and Foggy steered a wide berth away from the Landman and Zack sharks, though.

Karen wandered over from a discussion with an investment firm to find Matt and Foggy laughing with an older man wearing glasses and a friendly smile. "Hello, boys," she said, easing into the conversation.

"Karen!" called Foggy, as if he was surprised to see her. He gestured toward the man, and Karen noted his suit was very expensive. "This is Diego Martinez, he was one of our guest lecturers at Columbia. One of the best in the game. Diego, this is our office manager Karan Page."

"Yes, I-" Karen cut herself off from saying I've seen you before, since lawyers usually got squirrely when she told them that she used to report on their cases as a journalist. "I'm really pleased to meet you," she smiled, holding out her hand.

Martinez shook her hand with a knowing look. "A pleasure. As I was saying, Matthew, I really do appreciate that you've kept up your study of Spanish in order to communicate better with your clients, there are shockingly few good Spanish-speaking attorneys in this city."

Diego and Matt began continuing their conversation in rapid Spanish, and Karen shared a glance with Foggy.

Foggy shrugged. "They always do this. Surprisingly I have not been praised for my grasp of the Punjab language."

"Shocking," Karen laughed under her breath. She leaned in a little. "Is, uh, this a potential investor?"

Foggy tipped a hand. "Kinda. Diego's got his own firm, Kemp & Martinez, he's got good connections and he looks out for clients and stuff for us where he can. He does a lot of pro bono work in the area, so our clients often have a lot in common."

Diego's eyes drifted across the room as he chatted with Matt, and suddenly he gave a wide smile. "Ah, I was hoping to introduce you to my friend and she's just arrived. Cielita!"

Karen looked over her shoulder to follow Diego's gaze, and her mouth dropped open. Beside her, the breath left Foggy's chest in a rush.

Margaret Stark, wearing a sleek silver dress with her dark hair pinned up on top of her head, had been accepting a glass of champagne from a waiter when she heard Diego's call. She turned, eyebrows raised, and when she spotted Diego her face broke into a brilliant smile.

Karen only just had time to realize that Matt had frozen before Margaret Stark hurried over.

"Diego!" she exclaimed, beaming as she leaned in to kiss Diego on the cheek. Diego smiled indulgently at her, as if she was a favourite grandchild. "I never thought I'd find you in this crowd. Where's Andrea?"

"I'll never doubt your skills," Diego smiled. "Andrea bowed out of this evening, she hates these things. No dashing beaux on your arm tonight?"

"He hates these things too, maybe it's a family thing." Her eyes glinted. "He's back at home with the dog and a book about the space race."

Diego chuckled, then turned so he was facing Matt, Foggy, and Karen again. If he'd noticed that they'd all frozen where they stood and were staring, he didn't say anything. "Maggie, I would like to introduce you to-"

"Oh you don't have to tell me," Ms Stark grinned as her dark eyes flicked over them. Matt tensed, one hand tightening on his cane. "I know you guys, you're the legal firm that took down Fisk! Twice! It's my pleasure to meet you." She reached out a hand to Karen first. "Karen Page, right?"

Karen blinked, but reached out on instinct and shook Ms Stark's hand. "Nice to meet you," she almost whispered.

"And… Foggy Nelson," Ms Stark continued, offering another handshake. Foggy shook Ms Stark's hand without taking his eyes off her face. Karen got it. She might have spotted Ms Stark in Josie's bar a few weeks ago, but that had felt different. Seeing her tonight, in a beautifully tailored dress with her prosthetic leg and back tattoos on full display felt slightly like meeting royalty.

Ms Stark turned again, and Matt stuck out his hand without being prompted. "Mr Murdock," Maggie smiled.

They shook hands, and Matt felt all the strength Ms Stark was holding back. Up close the metal in the air around her tickled his nose, and he kept getting distracted listening to the strange technology on her back. His own heart pounded. Does she know?

Introductions complete, Ms Stark folded her hands in front of her and eyed the small law firm. None of them seemed very able (or willing) to speak, so she cleared her throat.

"Look, I'm going to be totally upfront and also admit that I read some of the stuff you wrote about my trial, Ms Page."

Karen blanched, and Ms Stark held up a hand.

"I'm not saying that to alarm you, I actually wanted to thank you. You were very fair, and measured. Plus my lawyers" - she leaned to nudge Diego affectionately - "said that your press probably helped my case a great deal. So thank you."

"Oh," Karen said. She tucked her hair behind her ear. "I, uh, I'm glad you think so. I got in a few fights with my editor over your story, actually."

Ms Stark raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"Yes, I… He always said I was kind of paranoid, though he thought it was a good quality. I didn't really trust the story the government was spinning. And then I was there in the courtroom and…" Karen's eyes very abruptly stung with tears and she bit down on her next words. She didn't know quite how to say watching you testify damn near broke my heart.

Ms Stark's smile turned soft. "I read your reporting," she said, though Karen knew what she meant was I heard you when you said you were on my side, and it meant the world.

"It is very nice to finally meet you," Karen said, rallying, even though Foggy was shell-shocked and Matt seemed to be grinding his jaw. "And… I know this really isn't the event, but my old editor will kill me for not asking, would I be able to interview you some time?"

"Sure," Ms Stark said easily. "I'd like that." Her head cocked. "As long as you let me shamelessly talk up my various projects."

Diego laughed. "Well, I hadn't expected you all to know so much about each other, perhaps you'd better introduce me!"

Ms Stark smiled at him. "Diego. Thank you."

He shook his head at her. "I called you over, though, because I thought you might be interested in talking to the Nelson & Murdock team about your nonprofit." He tilted his eyebrows at her.

"Oh, right!" Ms Stark sipped her champagne, then turned back to the trio, apparently not put off by the fact that two of them had hardly spoken a word. "I've started up the Astraea Foundation in conjunction with a few law firms, it's essentially a collective of legal representatives who would be willing to stand up for people failed by the system in various ways, pro bono."

The three of them listened politely as Ms Stark told them about her organisation. Karen absorbed the facts as a journalist, but the reporter in her also took in the way Ms Stark's eyes lit up as she talked about the work Astraea had already done, and where she hoped it would lead. She hadn't seen this enthusiasm in the Wyvern trial courtroom, which made sense, but it was still strange to see this side of the fugitive-turned-Avenger.

Finally, Foggy found his tongue. "So… it kind of sounds like you're looking for people on the plaintiff's side of the courtroom, rather than the defense," he pointed out. "We're defense lawyers."

Ms Stark grinned at him. "I don't know, I think there's always a place for a good defense lawyer." She nudged Diego, who smiled fondly. "Astraea would also be available to victims who find themselves in the defense seat. I'm actually working on a collaboration with the Innocence Project."

Foggy frowned. "So… you're offering to keep us on retainer for something we're already doing? Defending the innocent?"

"Exactly," Ms Stark said smoothly. "Your firm seems to have a pretty good track record for identifying those who really need and deserve help. That seems like a useful set of skills for Astraea. You would, of course, be compensated for whatever percentage of Astraea clients you'd take on, be remunerated with up-to-date legal resources, and occasionally participate in interviews to boost the exposure of Astraea and your firm. I'll send you the billing sheet of course-"

"Thank you for the offer, Ms Stark," said Matt in a clipped voice. "We'll consider it."

Ms Stark's eyes focused on Matt. It was clear from his tone and the look on his face that the conversation was over. Her eyes flicked to Diego, who looked put out, and then she smiled. "Of course. Enjoy the rest of the party." And with that, she and Diego wandered away, no doubt to find more potential Astraea law firms.

Karen turned on Matt. "Why did you have to chase her off?"

Matt's brows lowered. "Are we sure she's here for us?"

"What, you think she recognized you?"

Matt considered. Unless she was a very good liar… and he'd been zeroed in on her heartbeat ever since she walked up. "Probably not. She's never really seen my face. But she clearly knows Nelson & Murdock have some connection with Daredevil, if she's researched the Fisk case."

Foggy frowned. "So what, you think she invented a whole nonprofit just to talk to us?"

Matt went silent.

Karen sighed. "Look, you said she and the other Avengers have backed off the past few weeks. This could honestly be a coincidence, Matt."

"Hm."

Foggy cracked his knuckles. "I'm going to go back and charm her. We're getting that contract."

Matt hesitated for a moment, his brow still lowered, before he sighed. "Fine." He didn't follow Foggy.


Two weeks later, Matt found himself slumped behind the bolted door of a warehouse basement, wincing at the sounds of shouts and thuds on the other side, as blood pulsed from a bullet hole in his shoulder.

He slid his phone out of his pocket.

After hitting the unlabelled number, the phone rang twice before:

"Hiii, Carlie May here!"

Matt frowned, then realized that he'd just called the probably very secure phone of an Avenger from an unknown number. He shifted, and grunted when his shoulder throbbed.

"It's me," he said. "Uh, Daredevil."

The fake voice dropped. "You sound hurt," Ms Stark replied. "Where are you?" She didn't ask if he needed help, because the fact that he was calling was answer enough.

"Warehouse on 36th and 10th," Matt told her. He kept half his attention on the gunrunners on the other side of the door, and let out a low hiss when he heard them discussing a plan to go get tools to dismantle the door. "Five stories, armed guards on every entrance, you can't miss it. I tracked the buyer of that shipment last month to this place and I might've…" he gritted his teeth. "I might have bitten off more than I can chew."

"Are you still in the warehouse?" He could hear her moving on the other end of the line, and once or twice a muffled whisper as if she were talking to others.

"I'm locked in the basement," Matt admitted. "Got hit, managed to bolt myself down here. There's no other exit. And I'd estimate I have…" he cocked his head, concentrating on the rushing bodies through the building. "Maybe fifteen minutes before they get in."

"I'll be there in ten. Stay on the phone."

"Okay," Matt breathed. He wasn't used to this; aside from the brief stint with Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and the kid who called himself Iron Fist, he wasn't accustomed to teamwork. Normally he got himself into situations, then figured out how to get himself out of them. But he couldn't see much of a way out of this other than hoping he could fight off whoever burst through that door when it inevitably came down.

He took in a deep breath, centring himself. He'd already considered all his options in this basement - it was just a wide, empty space, nowhere to hide.

His attack plan for tonight had been to slip past all the guards and confront the buyer directly in his office, but he hadn't accounted for the fact that they apparently had motion sensors on every corridor. He'd gotten sloppy.

There were a few more whispers over the phone, and then abruptly a rush of wind, as if Ms Stark had started flying. "Talk to me, Daredevil."

"Right. There's fifty two personnel in the building, and eight others who I believe are undocumented immigrants who've been hired to file the serial numbers off the weaponry. My intention was not to harm them, it sounds like they don't have a lot of choice to leave."

"Smart," said Ms Stark in an even voice. She didn't question how he'd gotten his information. "Describe the buyer?"

"I didn't get in far enough to confront him, but I know he's late forties, wearing a suit, strong cologne, metal inserts in his shoes." He hoped she didn't ask what color his hair or eyes were.

"And your condition?"

Matt dropped his head back against the door, and regretted it when someone on the other side slammed an axe against the hinge, rattling his brain. "I'll survive."

"So not good, then."

Ms Stark kept Matt on the phone as the minutes ticked by. He gave her all the details on the warehouse and the best entry points, and tried to keep his increasing dread out of his voice. He couldn't help but listen in on the plans to dismantle the door and tear him apart. They'd brought levers, a laser cutter and a grinder down and were currently bringing them all to task on the groaning metal door. Matt had shuffled away from the door, seeking some cover against the adjacent wall as sparks flickered through into the basement.

"We're almost there, Daredevil," came Ms Stark's reassuring voice in his ear. "You just stay safe and we'll-"

With a shrieking groan and a snap the left-hand door sagged inward, letting in a rush of fresh air and bullets.

"Gotta go," Matt said into the phone, then tossed it aside.

Matt waited for the initial deafening volley of bullets to subside, and gave the men on the other side about thirty seconds to doubt themselves:

"Maybe we got him?"

"Are we sure he's even in there?"

"I saw him run in there myself, he's gotta be hiding-"

Then Matt vaulted over the half-fallen door and slammed his feet into the closest man's chest. The others shouted in surprise but recovered quickly, swinging their weapons up and firing. Matt dropped, and barely had a moment to feel an ounce of satisfaction when the close-quarters shooting resulted in two of them going down with new bullet-holes. Someone swung their boot into his face and he rolled, swearing, until he had enough floor space to surge upwards and slam his forehead into someone's chin.

His head echoed with shouts from all directions. The stairwell was cramped and loud with gunshots and yelling and Matt's own fast breath. He swung at the nearest gunrunner and then surged upwards, fighting for more space. A bullet sliced through the air by his cheek, suddenly crystal-clear, and he seized the nearest item - a diamond-edged circular saw - and hurled it backwards to gain enough cover to dive out of the mouth of the stairwell and onto the next floor of the warehouse.

It wasn't any safer here. The air rippled with gunshots, and the hot, sweating bodies of his pursuers surged after him, making his gut fill with panic. He ducked and rolled, using the metal-reinforced containers on this level for cover. This was the main room of the warehouse, stretching five stories up to the ceiling, a massive space at the heart of it all. He could sense every man in the warehouse running for the source of renewed commotion, guns loaded. He'd never be able to fight them all in an open place like this and they'd covered each exit, he had no way out-

The roof burst open.

Matt didn't know how he hadn't noticed the Wyvern, the Winter Soldier, the Falcon, Iron Man, Hawkeye and the Black Widow on the roof. He blamed it on being rather distracted with the dire situation inside the warehouse, but there was no missing them when an explosion tore the roof open and they all dropped inside, blazing with bullets and bolts of energy that scorched the air.

For a moment, Matt slumped against the container he'd been hiding behind. Every gun in the warehouse swung upward and began firing on the Avengers, who descended on the gunrunners with frankly terrifying efficiency. Matt focused on the sleek and devastating way Ms Stark's wings sliced through the air, used for flying and for fighting; on the impenetrable Iron Man suit with the sleep-rumpled man inside, on Hawkeye's arrows soaring across the warehouse and finding targets Matt hadn't even noticed.

Matt caught his breath, pushed away his pain, and got to work.

It didn't take long, once the others had shown up. Matt fought alongside the Avengers, holding his own despite his bloodloss and non-powered-ness. He trusted the Winter Soldier and the Falcon to catch the buyer, who was fleeing out the south exit, and turned his attention instead to taking out every single gunrunner in the warehouse. He darted across the warehouse floor under the swooping, scorching Wyvern and Iron Man, flipped over containers without fear of Hawkeye's arrows, and when he dropped down from a container to take down a knot of men with the Black Widow, he sensed her eyes fall intense and focused on him.

Matt drove his fist into a large, snarling man's face, made sure he dropped, then turned to find - nothing. His senses darted, starting close before expanding outward, but he couldn't feel a single gunrunner left standing in the warehouse. He could hear the sounds of banter and the click of reinforced cuffs as the Falcon read the buyer his rights two blocks away. The other Avengers stood on the warehouse floor, talking in low tones and glancing around the space.

Matt drew in a long breath, and bit back a groan as his injuries made themselves loudly known. The bullet hole in his shoulder pulsed a steady stream of blood into his dark uniform, he was pretty sure his nose was broken, and there was something not right with his knee, but he felt too dizzy and bruised to concentrate on it.

"... Daredevil?"

His head jerked up to the source of the voice, and he realized Ms Stark had landed and was talking to him. Her wings were gone, vanished back into the strange tattoo on her back, and her heartrate was remarkably steady.

Matt tried not to sway.

"The warehouse is clear," Ms Stark told him. "We got them. Now I know you're nervous about trusting us, but I think it's a good idea for you to come - Daredevil?"

Matt opened his mouth, intending to say thank you.

"He doesn't look so hot," came Tony Stark's voice, filtered through the helmet.

Matt frowned, trying to think of how to respond to that. But then he felt a sudden rush of movement, as if the world were spinning all around him, a second later there was a brief spike of pain as his shoulder hit some kind of surface, and then nothing.


Matt opened his eyes when he woke up. More out of habit, since it wasn't like having his eyes open changed anything, but the moment they opened he felt sensation rush back in.

"Agh."

He should've been used to waking up to pain at this point. His shoulder throbbed, his ribs ached, his whole face pounded with pain. He shifted, and his body seemed to find more places to hurt. And yet from experience, he knew that he should probably be in a lot more pain than this. But it felt dulled slightly, giving him room to draw in a full breath and put a few thoughts together.

I've been medicated.

A worrying thought. He drew in two deep, steadying breaths, then considered his surroundings.

He lay on a bed with crisp white linen like hospital sheets, with a pulse monitor clamped to his finger, and an array of machinery to his left. But this was no hospital: though the room smelled sterile and was packed with medical equipment, beyond the room Matt could sense carpets, wooden walls, corridors empty of people. More like a house. A big house, he reflected, as he let his senses wander.

He touched his shoulder, and found a compression bandage over the bullet wound. That realization sparked more: his other wounds had been treated too, cleaned and dressed, and there was a small bruise in the crook of his elbow, where he must have had an IV or a blood transfusion. He drew in another long breath, gauging how dizzy he felt. He didn't feel as woozy as he normally did after being shot. Blood transfusion, then.

Matt groaned and reached up to gingerly probe his nose, only to find that his mask was still pulled over his face. He hesitated.

"Good morning, sir."

Matt flinched so violently that the bed frame creaked. There wasn't anyone else in the room, that would have been the first thing he noticed, so how-

"There's no need to be alarmed. I am F.R.I.D.A.Y., an AI designed by Tony Stark."

Matt stilled, listening to his pounding heart on the heart monitor. "I-" his voice cracked. "Where am I?"

"You are in Stark Mansion, in New York City." Matt screwed his eyes shut. "How do you feel?"

Matt didn't answer the bodiless voice. His mind was racing. Stark Mansion. Who knew how many people had seen his face while he was unconscious? Sure, his mask had been left intact, but he'd been completely at their mercy. Stupid.

"Ms Stark wishes to reassure you that your identity remains anonymous." Matt froze. Was the AI a mind-reader? "She was sure you would be concerned upon waking, so I have been advised to inform you that the Stark Mansion on-call doctor and nurse did not see your face while treating your wounds, and that they are bound by the strictest of NDAs. The Avengers who transported you to the Stark Mansion medical facility also did not see your face, and have not been in to this room except to ensure your continued health and safety."

Matt let out a long breath.

"There is a change of clothes in the cabinet to your left, and if you follow my directions to the rear driveway you will find a self-driving sedan with blacked-out windows, which will take you wherever you wish to go, and the location will never be recorded."

Matt's eyebrows rose. How long had Ms Stark been planning for something like this?

"Your cell phone - which you will also find in the cabinet - rang seventeen separate times last night before it lost battery, but we have not interfered with it in order to maintain your privacy." Matt closed his eyes. Foggy, Karen. They knew he was going to the warehouse last night. F.R.I.D.A.Y. paused a moment, before adding: "If you wish, if you are ever unable to answer your phone in a similar situation in future, I can send an information alert to a trusted person of your choice."

Matt sat up, groaning. The AI didn't tell him not to, so he climbed out of the bed - testing his weight on his knee first - then limped over to the cabinet and started getting changed. They'd provided him with dark trousers, a t-shirt and a hoodie, as well as shoes that were more or less his size, and a baseball cap. He tucked his dead phone in the pocket of the hoodie.

"Is Ms Stark here?" he asked the empty room.

"Ms Stark is in the east wing of the mansion, and does not intend to come out until after you have left."

Matt frowned, getting his bearings and then casting his senses outward. The mansion sprawled over a rather large plot of land, so it took him a moment to find Ms Stark. She sat in a room that felt like an office of some kind, and after frowning at another source of movement Matt realized she had her dog with her. The same dog she'd had the first time they met, the one with three legs.

He hesitated. "How do I get to the east wing?"

F.R.I.D.A.Y. paused a moment, as if she were a real person considering his request, before calmly giving him directions.

Matt limped through the corridors of the mansion, sliding his hand over the wall to stay upright. The place was nice - he felt warm rays of sun on his face as he walked by the windows, and breathed in the calming scents of wood, clean carpet, and freshly-cleaned linens. He walked past the library, with its trace of old paper and whiskey.

When he reached the east wing, he paused outside the closed door of the room Ms Stark occupied. He could sense her inside, tapping at her phone, with a lukewarm cup of coffee on the side table beside her. The dog was belly-up on the floor, snorting.

He reached out to knock on the door.

Ms Stark's head jerked up. "Uh… if that's who I think it is, then I should let you know that I'm… in here?" The dog rolled onto its three legs and came over to nose at the door.

Matt let out a breath through his nose. "You know who I am, don't you."

There was a long pause. Her heart rate spiked. "Not if you don't want me to."

He sighed. "How did you find out?"

"I've been trained in covert operations since I was five. You get good at picking apart disguises. If it makes you feel better though, I didn't figure it out until the phone call last night. You weren't able to disguise your voice as much."

"And you weren't going to… say anything? Confront me?"

"It's pretty clear you value your privacy."

Matt opened the door. Ms Stark still sat on her leather sofa chair with her feet tucked under her, and she took in the sight of him in the doorway, wearing normal clothes. He'd noticed she hadn't provided him with glasses or a cane - she'd been pretending not to know who he was.

"Mr Murdock," Ms Stark said evenly.

"Ms Stark," he acknowledged. The dog sniffed at his shoes, nosed at his knee (the good one, thankfully), then walked around behind him to stick its head between his legs.

The corner of Ms Stark's mouth ticked up. "Call me Maggie. Are you feeling okay?"

He took stock. "I've had worse."

"Well that's alarming to hear."

It was his turn for a ghost of a smile to cross his mouth. "Thank you, Maggie."

"You're welcome."

He took a few steps into the room, fighting back an eye roll when the dog followed and stuck her head between his legs again, looking up at him.

"That's Artemis," Ms Stark - Maggie - told him, with a hint of a smile in her voice. "I think she remembers you."

Matt wasn't good with dogs. He looked down, scratched the dog's head for a second, before straightening and facing Maggie again. "You're not going to ask about the…?" He gestured to his face. His eyes were uncovered, and he was pretty sure he was looking in Maggie's direction, but it was pretty obvious his eyes couldn't focus on anything.

"I thought it might be rude," she responded, then made a gesture with her hand which got the dog to slide through his legs and go to her side. "I am incredibly curious though."

Matt smiled, took a breath, and then gave her a short description of the accident when he was a kid, how he experienced the world, and the training he had received. She asked a few questions, mostly about the extent of his enhanced senses and about Stick, and seemed mostly enthusiastic about his abilities. It was by far the least stressful explanation he'd had to give about it all so far.

"Well," Maggie told him eventually. "My offer of any help you need still stands, and I can make F.R.I.D.A.Y. available on your phone if you'd like. I also want to iterate that this" - she gestured between them - "will have no bearing on my professional relationship with Nelson & Murdock."

"Thanks," Matt said. "Karen and Foggy know about the whole… thing, but they'll be glad you're still working with us."

"Of course. Do they know you're okay?"

He thought again of the seventeen missed calls, and stiffened. "Uh, no. I should probably go."

"Don't forget your free car ride!" she reminded him. "It was lovely to see you again, Mr Murdock."

He turned to leave, then hesitated. "You can call me Matt."

"Matt," she said, and he knew she was smiling. "One of these days you'll have to let me introduce you to Clint and Bucky, they're desperate to hang out with Daredevil."

Matt looked over his shoulder, frowning in confusion.

Maggie shrugged. "It's a man thing, I think. They like the parkour."

Matt laughed under his breath. "Thank you, again. Bye, Ms - uh, Maggie."

"Safe travels."


Foggy and Karen were waiting at his place when he got back, frantic with worry. He calmed them down, reassuring them he was fine (he'd get to the gunshot part later), and once the panicked tone had left their voices he told them about the night and morning he'd had.

"So you are an Avenger now!" Foggy exclaimed from where he sat on Matt's couch.

"No," Matt said, quick to nip that in the bud. "I just have… a professional agreement with them. Sort of. Who knows if Ms Stark speaks for all the Avengers."

"Her brother is Iron Man and she's dating the Winter Soldier, I'd say she's got a lot of sway," Karen said.

"So you're an associate Avenger," Foggy clarified.

"Fine, yes," Matt sighed. "Can we please go to the office and get to work?"

"Uh, no," Foggy said, "You're injured, and we're going to be talking about this all day." He paused. "So do you think you'll get to meet Sergeant Barnes?"

"Or the Falcon?" Karen added, her voice suspiciously neutral.

Matt's head dropped between his shoulders and he reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose - then regretted it when he remembered his nose was broken. He looked up, feeling his friends' excitement sparking in the air around them like a physical presence. He thought of last night, and how unlikely it had looked that he would even live to see today, let alone be more or less in one piece and with his identity (mostly) intact.

The corner of his mouth quirked up. "We'll see."