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A Merry War

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It all starts in Mr. Hokit’s 5th period AP English class with the latest reading assignment - Much Ado About Nothing. With all of the bickering and back and forth between the two main characters, Karen notices a striking resemblance between two of her classmates. Matt Murdock and Jessica Jones have the most infamous rivalry in the history of Independence High, and their mutual attraction, which they both refuse to acknowledge, is the worst kept secret in the senior class. But Karen doesn’t see why it has to be that way; in fact, she starts to think that a little meddling would do the two of them some good.

Maybe it’s the fact that she’s inspired by the Bard and the ending of a good story. Maybe she’s just sick of dealing with the incessant back and forth, the obnoxious will they or won’t they between the two. Karen isn’t quite sure what convinces her to approach Trish with the idea, but by the time their scheme is hatched and put into motion, she’s fairly certain Shakespeare himself would be proud. Karen’s confident that the couple in question will be in agreement … as soon as they finish their latest round of insults-come-flirtations. They’re perfect for each other, if only they could stop pretending to hate one another long enough to notice.

-----

To: Trish Walker
Sent 7:36am
Morning Agent Walker. Ready to put Operation Cupid in motion?

To: Karen Page
Sent 7:37am
Affirmative. See you in 5th.

-----

Trish is all too excited to get started with her part of the plot, not wanting to waste a moment as Jessica will likely be difficult to convince. She decides to force the conversation on Jess at lunch, which is the closest to a captive audience that she’s likely to get. But as soon as Trish speaks a word about the dance, Jessica scoffs at her.

“Oh my god. You’ve got to be kidding. No, I’m not going to prom.”

Jessica has to fight off the urge to throw what remains of her lunch at Trish for making such a ridiculous suggestion. She would never hear the end of it if she ruined Trish’s shirt, though. And she doesn’t want (another) detention for starting a food fight, so she decides to shoot Trish a look instead.

But Trish is undeterred. “Come on. We’ll all be there together. It’ll be fun!”

“Our definitions of fun are vastly different. Besides, I wouldn’t have date. All of our exes are assholes - except Luke, but we both know how that ended up. Plus, he’s with Claire now anyway. So who the hell else is there? And don’t say Malcolm. Because ew. He’s like a brother to me.”

Trish gives an exaggerated sigh, playing at irritation as she spears a leaf of lettuce on her fork with more force than is strictly necessary. “You’re being intentionally difficult. Could you at least try to think of a serious candidate? He’s supposed to be your date, after all.”

“Hmmm. It’s almost like I don’t want to go to this godforsaken dance. Weird.”

The exasperation in Jessica’s sigh makes Trish frown.

“Jess, please. It’s our senior year - the last chance we have to do all of the quintessentially high school things. Which just so happens to include going to prom. When was the last time you even went to a dance, anyway?”

“... I don’t know. Homecoming freshman year, I guess?”

“Seriously?”

“Did you forget who you’re talking to? You’re the one who’s invested and involved and has friends. I wouldn’t have even gone freshman year if you hadn’t forced me.”

“And was it really so bad?”

“Yes. You ditched me for Simpson during the first slow song. And then I had to spend the rest of the night dodging Spencer Harding.”

Trish frowns, feeling genuinely contrite. That had not been one of her finer moments. “Well, I’m sorry. Truly. I was young and naive then, trying to prove myself to anyone and everyone. But I promise I won’t abandon you this time.”

Jessica’s tone is flatter than Trish’s hair gets when it’s humid. “Wow. That makes me feel so much better.”

“Jess…”

With a groan and an exaggerated eye-roll, Jessica raises a hand to quiet Trish. “If I agree to entertain this ridiculous idea for a minute, will you get off my back?”

Trish smiles tightly. “All I want is for you to seriously consider it.”

Jessica lets out a sound that’s a mix between a sigh and a growl. “ Fine . If I were to go - and that’s a big fucking if - I still don’t have anyone to go with. The only person in my life I would consider going with but haven’t mentioned yet is you. And I can’t even go with you as a friend because you’re taking Karen. So who the hell else is there?”

For effect, Trish pauses for a moment, before shrugging. “Well, what about Matt?”

“... What ?”

“You know - Matt. Matt Murdock.”

Jessica narrows her eyes at Trish. “No, I know who you meant. I just can’t figure out why you’d think that was a good idea.”

Spearing another bite of lettuce of her fork, Trish smirks. “Why not? He’s recently single. He’s cute. And he’s very gentlemanly. The complete opposite of your ex.”

Jessica sucks her teeth and crosses her arms. “Uh huh. Except that he’s the most irritating guy I’ve ever met, he’s blind, and he hates my guts.”

Trish can’t help but scoff in distaste at that particular quip. There’s reprimand in her tone as she fixes Jessica with an intense frown. “Jess, it’s not like you to be so ableist.”

Rolling her eyes, Jessica huffs a sigh. “Sorry. But let’s not pretend my temperament is one which would be called patient or gracious. Or particularly helpful. Plus, there’s the point I already mentioned about how he absolutely loathes me.”

Trish catches Jessica’s eyes and leans forward on the table, like she has a thrilling secret. Raising her eyebrow, she all but whispers. “He doesn’t.”

Jessica stares right back, face blank, like she’s trying to call Trish’s bluff. “Right. Like you’d know. So tell me - why the hell does he act the way he acts whenever I’m around, then?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because you’ve had a crush on him for years, which always causes you treat him like an asshole because you don’t know how to flirt? I think the problem here is that he thinks you hate him .”

“You say that as if I don’t.”

“Jess, be honest. If not with yourself, with me. You don’t. And just think- what if he didn’t hate you?”

“Well, if we’re imagining impossible things, why stop there? What if money grew on trees and pigs could fly?”

“I’m serious. Can you look me in the eye and tell me that you wouldn’t want to date him if you knew he was interested?”

Jessica rolls her eyes. “Duh. Or did you forget that I’m not the one who’s blind?”

“Soooo, that’s a yes?”

Jessica scoffs and shrugs. “Uh … I - I guess. But it’s all imaginary anyway, so don’t act like you’ve won any kind of victory.”

With a sigh of resignation, Trish sets down her fork and lifts her hands in surrender. “Fine. I’ll let it go. For now. But I’ve still got some time left to convince you.”

“Whatever you have to tell yourself, sis.”

Trish turns her head subtly to the side as she sighs, trying to hide her smirk. She couldn’t have gotten Jessica to play into her hands any better if she’d been controlling her with strings. And Trish knows that now that the idea has been planted in Jessica’s head, she won’t be able to let it go until, eventually, she stops trying and gives in. Trish can hardly wait to check in with Karen and hear how things go with Matt.

-----

As it turns out, it isn’t quite as easy for Karen to trap Matt as it was for Trish to trap Jessica. While Matt and Karen are still cordial post-break-up while they work toward being friends, it’s hard for him to spend much time alone with her since their relationship fell through. Karen doesn’t fault him for his tendency to imitate David Copperfield and vanish whenever they end up in a room together. She still has some amount of feelings for him too, even if she isn’t prepared to act on them; but regardless, she isn’t willing to give up on the larger plan she made with Trish just because things are currently awkward with Matt. Eventually she decides to enlist the help of Foggy in order to lay the bait

But if Matt was hard to trap, he’s even harder to harangue into talking about the upcoming dance using any semblance of the natural flow of conversation as they walk home from school together the following day. Maybe it’s the budding lawyer in him, but he’s suspicious before the word “dance” has even left Foggy’s mouth.

“So, buddy… have you thought abou-“

“Foggy, are you going to try to convince me to go to prom? Because I’ll save you the breath - no thanks. I appreciate the gesture of trying to include me, but I’m just not interested.”

“How did you … nevermind. But, uh w-why not?”

“Aside from the fact that dancing is not one of my many skills, for obvious reasons, I don’t have anyone to go with. And I’d really rather not go alone when everyone else will be there as couples. You’re taking Marci. Claire’s with Luke now, so I’m sure they’ll be going together. Danny and Colleen will be there. And Karen is going with her friend from the paper. I’m the odd man out, it’s just simple math. It’s okay. But I’d rather you didn’t push it.”

“Right… but I heard Trish has a friend who needs a date.”

“If that friend is who I think it is, it’s no wonder she needs a date.”

Foggy gives a nervous chuckle. “And who do you think it is?”

The look Matt gives Foggy is very close to patronizing, and it only makes Foggy’s anxiety rise. Even if Jessica Jones weren’t infamous for her biting sense of sarcasm and, at times, her outright bitchiness, Matt has pointed out her sour attitude toward him, in particular, many, many times in the past. He’s all but said he’d rather willingly spend time with Fisk - the school’s biggest and meanest bully - rather than her. Foggy swallows thickly as he questions himself for agreeing to Karen’s cockamamie plan to set the two of them up. It seemed great, in theory, but standing in front of Matt, he suddenly can’t imagine a possible universe in which such a pairing would work. But he gave Karen his word, and Foggy’s word is his bond, so he takes a deep breath and squares his shoulders. He tries for a light, joking tone, though it comes out sounding weak and thin instead.

“So ... I’m guessing that’s a no?”

Matt’s glare turns withering, which is accentuated by his glasses. His crisp pronunciation of his words reminds Foggy of the tone he uses in debate when he is preparing to verbally eviscerate his opponent. It brooks no argument.

“I would hope that was obvious.”

Foggy’s face crumbles into a severe frown as sweat starts to bead at his temples. “Come on, Matty. She can’t be that bad.”

Though Matt’s tone is bland and his face is carefully blank, Foggy knows him well enough by know to catch the storm behind his eyes, just waiting to be unleashed.

“We’re talking about Jessica Jones, aren’t we? Jessica - Sworn Enemy of Matt Murdock Since Elementary School - Jones? The insufferable bitch who has called me every insult that has ever existed and on multiple occasions, gone out of her way to embarrass me and belittle me in front of everyone she possibly could? That Jessica?”

Foggy’s expression is not very dissimilar to a grimace as he lets out a nervous chuckle. “Well, when you put it that way--”

"Foggy, what the hell is going on?”

“Nothing. Nothing. Just trying to help out my friend.”

“Oh? That’s funny. Because you’re not helping me any. Unless you’ve suddenly become friends with her?”

“Matty, please-”

“Did you hear what I just said? Any part of it?”

“Come on. Maybe you’re just misinterpreting something.”

“Hey, I might be blind, but I’m not an idiot.”

“But Matt, look. Being obnoxious or constantly making fun? That’s how some girls flirt.”

The laugh Matt lets out is devoid of any mirth, sounding more like a snarl than anything else. “Oh, because you’re the expert on women.”

“Hey, I’m with Marci, aren’t I? That isn’t nothing. And her style of flirting is very similar to Jessica’s. The difference is, I know how to catch flies with honey.”

“What are you implying?”

“Just that you’re a guilty party in this, too. Every time the two of you talk, you’re trying to be more clever than she is, trying to get in an insult faster. That’s bound to get old, even for someone as tough as Jessica. But it doesn’t have to be that way, buddy.”

That catches Matt’s attention. He stills, cocking his head and fixing Foggy with an intent look.

“Meaning?”

Foggy fights a smirk because he knows he’s caught Matt. For years Matt has admired Jessica from afar, and the idea that she might actually return the sentiment is too tempting for him to ignore. Foggy smirks as he lays the rest on nice and thick.

“Just that I don’t think she hates you like you think she does. And if you’d give her a chance, I think you’d be pleasantly surprised.

Matt opens his mouth as if to speak, but nothing comes. He looks more perplexed than Foggy can ever remember seeing him. After a beat passes and he’s still gaping, he shakes his head and licks his lips. “What are you talking about?”

With a shrug and a knowing smile that colors his tone, Foggy moves in for the kill.

“I have it on good authority that Jessica Jones may be more interested in you than you realize. And because I know you, I know that no matter how much you might pretend otherwise, you’re a little more than interested in her, yourself. So why don’t the two of you stop dancing circles around one another and do something about it.”

Matt’s mouth presses into a thin line and he frowns, as though he’s carefully considering what to say. After a beat, he blows out a long sigh and runs a hand through his hair. His voice is hesitant when he speaks again.

“And what would you suggest?”

Foggy’s can’t contain his knowing smile any longer, though he tries to keep the I told you so tone from leaking into his voice.

“Well, talking to her without insulting her or belittling her might be a good place to start.”

Matt sighs, then puts his hands on his hips and laughs anxiously. “And what would I say, instead?”

Foggy laughs, eyes bright with relief as he pats Matt on the shoulder and ushers him into his apartment, where he fully expects them to pass the majority of the evening helping to assuage Matt’s fears and help him practice starting a conversation with Jessica. “Way ahead of you, buddy. Way ahead of you.”

----

To: Trish Walker
Sent 7:28pm
So, Foggy just texted me. His conversation with Matt went well. He took the bait. What about Jess?


To: Karen Page
Sent 7:29pm
She’ll deny it up and down, but she’s on the line and biting. It’s just a matter of time.

 
To: Trish Walker
Sent 7:33pm
Nice work, Walker. I guess it’s time for Phase Two. I’ll help draw up the new seating chart in Eccher’s class tomorrow during my teacher’s aid hour. Let’s talk again Thursday afternoon.

-----

It would be a lie to say that Trish’s comment doesn’t have an effect Jessica. It would also be a lie to say that Trish wasn’t one hundred percent correct when she insinuated that Jessica was more than interested in Matt, his typically prickly demeanor toward her notwithstanding. She’s had a thing for him for years, for long enough that she’s almost come to resent him for it - as though she’s been waiting to outgrow her attraction to him, only to be surprised anew each fall at the ever sharper and more defined line of his jaw, the darker stubble dusting his cheeks, his increasingly more athletic frame (and isn’t that a puzzle, considering his inability to see). He’s unfairly attractive, especially for how hateful he can be, and the contradiction is never more pronounced than when he is talking down to her, berating her or patronizing her for one thing or the other. They only have one class together this semester, thank god , but it’s the worst possible class to have. American Government.

Jessica couldn’t give much less of a shit about the class, but Matt has plenty of opinions, and he always finds a way to bombard her with them, even when she is not asking. Before she’d always thought he was trying to make a point or rub in the fact that he is intelligent, trying to make her feel lesser than somehow, but if Trish is right, is it possible that it could be something else? Something as simple as a guy trying to show off and impress a girl who he thinks needs impressing? She supposes that there is no time like the present to find out.

When she walks into Mrs. Eccher’s a couple of days later, however, she is surprised and a tad suspicious to see that the seating chart has changed. It’s not incredibly uncommon - the teacher is always encouraging them to share their opinions and hear other perspectives in small group discussions - and it wouldn’t even be a problem, if not for the fact that she is now sitting right next to Matt. She groans internally and spends a moment seriously considering whether or not the Fates have it out for her, and if so, what she may have done to incur their wrath.

Her mounting fury is tempered, however, with the dazzling smile he gives to her as she plops down next to him, seconds before the bell rings.

“Impressive timing. I’m Matt, by the way.” He extends his hand across the distance between their desks, an expectant look on his face.

She hesitates and just barely manages to swallow a scoff because this whole exchange strikes her as ludicrous. But an instant later she kicks herself as her brain registers the sight of his red-colored glasses and the implication that this is his only way to discover the identity of his new seat partner. And though she’s known him for many years, anxiety beings to course through her stomach at the thought of speaking to him. Trish’s words from a few days before play on loop in her head, and she struggles to decide what might be the best response.

His face is just starting to fall, a disappointed frown evicting his previously bright smile, right as she breaks the silence.

“Hi, Matt. I am … pretty sure you might not want to shake my hand.”

He falters, posture going rigid and face going white as he recognizes her voice.

“Jessica? Oh...” She watches him wage an internal war before deciding not to retract his hand. And even if it’s a little less charming - more forced and tighter in the eyes - he offers her another smile. “Consider this a truce, then. Don’t you think it’s past time we stop with all this fighting and try to be friends?”

She scoffs and quirks an eyebrow at him before taking his outstretched hand. And that’s when everything changes.

When her hand touches his, a jolt of electricity crackles between their palms, causing every nerve and cell in her body to alight and buzz with anticipation. It’s overwhelming to say the least. Her heart skips and her eyes dart up to take in his expression, because she wants confirmation that he is experiencing the same earth-shattering moment that she is. As she looks at him, her breath seizes in her chest. Because his mouth is open, his eyes are wide behind his glasses, and she thinks she hears his breath catch. A mirror image of her own reaction. As the moment stretches on, she doesn’t try to hide the beatific smile that is breaking across her face, in no small part because he can’t see it. But after that touch, she’s fairly confident he could guess her expression anyway.

Mrs. Eccher’s voice ringing out to begin her lecture is what jolts them back to the current moment. Their hands part and they both chuckle under their breath as go about getting out their textbooks and notebooks. And for once, Jessica’s distraction is borne not out of boredom, but preoccupation with a much more interesting subject: Matthew Murdock.

-----


To: Trish
Sent 1:26pm
So… I may owe you an apology …


To: Trish
Sent 1:26pm
… And $20.


To: Jess
Sent 2:16pm
OH MY GOD, I KNEW IT!


To: Jess
Sent 2:16pm
MEET ME AT JOSIE’S CAFE IMMEDIATELY AFTER SCHOOL!!!


To: Trish
Sent 2:17pm
Jesus, take a breath. I’m the one with exciting news to share.


To: Jess
Sent 2:18pm
Jess, I’m a reporter. I need DETAILS.


To: Trish
Sent 2:45pm
Yeah, whatever. Fine, I’ll be there. But coffee’s on you this time.


To: Jess
Sent 2:47pm
If it means you’ll tell me everything, I’ll buy you coffee for a week.


To: Trish
Sent 2:47pm
Add in lunch and you’ve got a deal.


To: Jess
Sent 2:51pm
Done.


To: Jess
Sent 2:53pm
But I still want my $20.


To: Trish
Sent 2:59pm
Ugh… fine. See you in a bit.

-----

As soon as Matt walks - or rather, floats - through the door of their homeroom class, Foggy is confident that the plan is going perfectly. He hasn’t seen Matt this love-struck since the foreign exchange student Elektra showed up sophomore year. And Foggy is more than hopeful that this situation with Jessica ends better than that, for both their sakes.

Matt sits in his desk, which is right next to Foggy’s, his smile bright, airy, and unbelievably charming. With a smile like that, he’s amazed Jessica lasted as long as she did against Matt’s charms. Foggy can’t help but tease Matt about his change in his demeanor concerning Jessica.

“Hey, have you seen my buddy Matt? He looks kind of like you - tall, dark, and handsome - but he’s usually very broody and tragically sad. Any chance you know where he might be?”

Matt huffs a laugh and shakes his head. “Very funny, Fog. And original, too. You should take that show on the road.”

“As fun as that would be, why don’t you catch me up instead. Clearly something happened earlier.”

A blush rises on Matt’s cheeks, and he clears his throat. “Nothing, really. But we did have an interaction in which we didn’t insult one another. It was … nice.” A dreamy look settles on Matt’s face, and Foggy thinks he must be reliving said positive interaction.

“That’s great. But you’re holding out on me, buddy. You’re practically floating over there. So what gives?”

Matt opens his mouth to speak, but sighs instead, before shaking his head, as though shaking free whatever thought was stuck on his tongue. He rubs the back of his neck, then smiles shyly and tries again. “It’s gonna sound stupid, but ... I offered her my hand for a truce, and when she took it, it was like magic . Like, a crazy amount of electricity. I’ve never felt anything like it before.”

Foggy rolls his eyes, and gives Matt a pat on the shoulder, his tone bordering on playfully patronizing. “I’m very happy for you, but totally not surprised.”

With a confused frown, Matt cocks his head in Foggy’s direction. “What are you talking about?”

Foggy chuckles and shrugs. “Dude, it’s like, the worst kept secret that you guys are made for one another. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but people don’t usually bicker like the two of you do - not unless the bickering is standing in for something else. What you two have always interpreted as hate or derision, the rest of us have seen for what it really is.”

Matt waits a beat for Foggy to continue, but when no further explanation follows, he raises an eyebrow. “Which is?”

Foggy leans back in his desk, hands behind his head and a knowing grin on his face. “Chemistry, buddy. Chemistry.”

Matt smiles in spite of himself, and takes a moment to let himself consider the possibility that Foggy is right. And if so? It means the feelings that he has kept buried so very deep for so very long may finally be allowed to see the light of day. Which means that finally , it might be safe to let himself truly feel them. The thought makes concentrating on school work the rest of the day an impossible task, but Matt can’t find it in him to mind. He has much better things to think about.

-----


To: Foggy Nelson; Karen Page
Sent 4:47pm
Omg, you guys! We’re geniuses. This is totally working.


To: Trish Walker; Karen Page
Sent 4:48pm
I know! Matt was ridiculously happy today. It was almost disgusting.


To: Foggy Nelson; Trish Walker
Sent: 4:51pm
And to think - some people argue that Shakespeare has no practical application in the modern world.


To: Foggy Nelson; Trish Walker
Sent: 4:51pm
Nice work, btw. Now we just wait for Phase 3.


To: Foggy Nelson; Trish Walker
Sent: 4:51pm
OH, and before I forget, make sure you have placed your bet with Mr. Urich for how long it takes until they’re officially dating by the end of the school day on Friday. Price is Right rules, meaning closest to the actual without going over wins. Good luck! :D

-----

The next week passes in a blur of anticipation and anxiety and happiness, the likes of which Matt hasn’t felt in longer than he’d like to admit. He spends a ridiculous amount of time getting acquainted with Jessica’s schedule so that he can happen upon her in the halls or cross paths with her at lunch before heading his own way. By the third day that they sit together in American Government, bantering and flirting back and forth with the same rhythm and fervor as they used to trade insults, he has worked up the courage to invite her to coffee. By the weekend, she has invited him to concert where her favorite local band is playing. By the next week they are, for all intents and purpose, inseparable, if not officially dating yet (much to the chagrin of Foggy and his wallet). Matt figures that now is as good a time as any to ask her to prom.

But deciding how to ask is much more dificult. There are so many “prom-posal” ideas on the internet, and the more of them he finds, the more overwhelmed he gets. After a week of indecision, he calls Foggy, hoping that his friend will have insight as to the best approach. But when Matt shares the possible scenarios he had been considering, Foggy does little more than laugh.

“You’re overthinking this, Matty. Is she really the type to go for dramatic or public gestures? It’ll be fine. Just ask her.”

Matt’s shoulders slump a little as he hangs up the phone because he knows that Foggy is right; he’s definitely overthinking it. But at the same time, he still wants to do a little something special. Matt is not ashamed to admit that he’s something of a romantic, and he can’t imagine doing nothing more than walking up to her and just asking her. In the end, he settles for a classic but understated approach - a single red rose taped to her locker with a card reading “Prom?”. And if her reaction is anything to go by, he chose well.

She comes to find him at lunch that day, where he is eating with Foggy and Marci and other people from the debate team, and sits next to him before kissing him once, then playfully punching at his shoulder.

“I was wondering when you’d get around to that. I was starting to think I’d have to ask you myself.”

He smiles at her, the bright and unrestrained kind that she has said makes him look “devilishly and unfairly handsome”, though he plays at uncertainty about her response.

“So, is that a yes? I wasn’t quite sure.”

She rolls her eyes at the smirk curling the corner of his lips, then leans in to kiss him again. “That clear enough for you?” she whispers against his lips as they part.

This time he kisses her instead of responding.

-----

Trish takes her dress shopping after school the very next day, muttering under her breath about her “perfect timing” and “leaving things to the last possible second” until Jessica steps out of the dressing room in a red, mid-length, one-shoulder, long-sleeved, asymmetrical sequined gown with cutouts at the waist. Trish’s sudden silence, save for a soft, “Oh, Jess” under her breath tells Jessica that she doesn’t even need to try the other gowns on. When walks back into the dressing room and looks in the mirror, she catches sight of a striking, blissfully happy girl staring back at her. For a split second, she doesn’t recognize the image, having seen it so rarely in the last year. But seeing it now, she takes a moment to savor the sight. And she makes a mental note to try to think of a way to thank Matt for making her life so much better in the last few months.

A week and a half later when the limo that the group all chipped in to pay for comes around to pick Trish and her up, Jessica is nervous. She’s even more so when Matt steps out, looking superhumanly attractive in a tux. The bow tie and vest are a perfect match for the red of her dress. She smirks at that because he probably hadn’t even known, but leave it to him to choose the perfect thing anyway.

The ride to the school is an energetic one - everyone is talking and laughing, taking selfies and making plans for what to do for the after party - but Jessica and Matt sit in their corner in relative silence. Unconsciously, she bobs her foot, but stops when Matt leans in to whisper in her ear.

“Nervous, Jones? I never thought I’d see the day.”

She huffs a laugh and rolls her eyes before turning to whisper her response to him. “This may come as quite the shock, but I don’t usually do dances. And crowds can make me jumpy.”

He smiles sweetly at her. “I get that, and I don’t typically go to dances either. But for what it’s worth, I’ll stay by your side all night. If that’s what you’d like.” He offers her his hand, palm up, and she takes it. She doesn’t reply with words, but with the way she laces her fingers with his and leans into his shoulder, she’s guessing he can catch her meaning.

An hour or so later, after they all make their entrance, take some photos, and stake out a table in the corner of the gym, Jessica and Matt find themselves hanging back as the rest of the couples make their way out onto the dancefloor. Trish shoots Jessica a meaningful look and gestures toward Matt, but Jessica gives her the finger in response. Trish simply laughs as she takes Karen by the hand and leads her to the center of the gym where the two of them start dancing with the others. A beat passes as Jessica watches them and smiles to see her sister and her friends so happy. The touch of Matt’s hand against the skin of her bare shoulder steals her attention and sets electricity flowing through her. She turns to him to see a tight smile on his face, which she thinks is meant to mask worry, but that doesn’t quite achieve its goal.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. I just … Are you having a good time? You can go dance with them, if you want. I don’t mind.”

She scoffs. “Did you forget the part where I said that I don’t do dances. Because what I really meant is that I don’t really dance. I’d much prefer to sit here...”

The words “with you” stay stuck on her tongue, but the warmth that shines from the smile that he gives her at that makes her wonder if he somehow hears them anyway.

They chat for a while after that, discussing future plans - concerts and parties and other group outings which they plan to attend. The others filter back to their table periodically to sip on their drinks and chat and take selfies. Time passes quicker than she expects it to, and before she knows it, the DJ is announcing that it’s the last song of the night - a slow song, of course.

Matt turns to her and leans in, his breath tickling the shell of her ear as he speaks.

“Do you want to dance?”

She raises an eyebrow at him. “I thought you didn’t.”

He smirks and shrugs. “I don’t. Usually. But this is your very last chance. I had to offer.”

In a turn of events that surprises her, she finds herself considering his offer. But she doesn’t want to make him uncomfortable. “Are you sure?”

“It’s a slow song, I think I’ll be okay. But you’ll have to lead.”

She smirks and takes his hand. “I think I can manage that.”

Jessica tries very hard to ignore the looks that they are getting from their friends - Trish and Karen, especially - as she leads Matt out onto the dancefloor. But as Matt’s hands come to rest on the small of her back, Jessica shivers and the rest of the world seems to melt away from her consciousness. She loops her own hands around his neck as his fingers make contact with a patch of bare skin where her dress has a cutout. Her breath catches and he chuckles lowly but says nothing. They begin swaying, moving to the beat of the song currently playing throughout the gym, and she takes a moment to reflect on how the hell she has come to be standing here with Matt Murdock, of all people. Her unrequited crush for years. Her former enemy. But now, her date, and boyfriend. She’s pretty sure that’s what they are now, even if they haven’t said those words exactly. It doesn’t bother her any, even if Trish seems to have a weird preoccupation with knowing when they’ll announce it.

As Jessica thinks about Trish and how she had something to do with setting her up with Matt, she smiles. Normally the idea of Trish meddling in her business would rankle her, but with Matt’s arms around her and his breath on her neck as she rests her head on his shoulder, she decides she doesn’t really mind. Not at all.

Matt seems to notice her faraway thoughts. “What? Cat got your tongue? It’s not like you to be so quiet, Jones.”

She scoffs at him. “Maybe I was just preparing. Perfecting my next insult for you. Better watch out.”

He chuckles and her stomach does flips at the sound. “Oh, I wait with bated breath to hear what you’ve come up with. Do your worst.”

A blush rises on her cheeks as she considers telling the truth, for once, instead of joking with him. She doubts he'll see it coming, so maybe it will be a nice surprise for him. That or... she prefers not to think of the alternative. She takes a deep breath, and forces herself to speak before she loses her nerve. “Okay. Well how about this one: boyfriend.”

He stills, forgetting to move to the music for a moment, but he recovers his composure a moment later. A tentative smile curls his lips as he rests his cheek against the back of her head. “If you say so. Does that make you my girlfriend?”

She hums before curling a little further into his neck. “I guess so.”

The chuckle of delight that escapes his lips as she says it is one of her very favorite things, in the history, she decides. She spends the rest of the song cataloguing every single detail of the current moment and committing them to memory, though she spends special attention and time on his laugh.

The song ends and they find their group and filter out, amid the throngs of her peers, as they head toward wherever they are going for the after party. And as they get back in the limo, and Matt reaches over to take her hand, she smiles. Maybe high school isn’t all bad. Not with Matt Murdock by her side.

-----


To: Foggy Nelson; Trish Walker; Claire Temple; Luke Cage; Danny Rand; Colleen Wing; Malcolm Ducasse; Marci Stahl
Sent 1:12am
Alright, ladies and gents. If you didn't already hear, it's official. Matt & Jessica are boyfriend and girlfriend as of 11:52pm. Please congratulate Trish Walker for her winning bet of "the week of prom". Way to go, Trish! And a special thanks to Trish and Foggy for your top notch work in executing Operation Cupid. I'm sure Shakespeare himself would be proud.