When you call, don't ask me how I feel about it
I don't know
I'm sorry though
I am, I am
He's in the mask but he turns at his name, trying to parse the voice through this new world of sound and dust and shit - but it's not until her arms trap his ribs - his pounding heart and clogged lungs - squeezing tight - too tight for her size - "Marci."
He called her, he thinks. "Did I call you?"
She digs her fingers into his back. "Asshole. Yes, hours ago - I couldn't - Foggy and my Dad - everyone - just - can you be real for a minute and - "
He shakes his head and turns into her hair, her overpriced shampoo and flat-ironed hair that made Foggy swoon and cry when she went for a 'butcher bob' for her second internship. It's clear and clean. "Please tell me I'm having another mental breakdown and none of this is real."
"God," she sobs into his chest. "Shut up, I take it back, keep being a weirdo - "
"Is your place safe?" he asks when he remembers that if he can breathe - he can still talk. "Are you - "
"Someone looted it, all the windows are - it's - I didn't know where else - "
He hasn't been back to his apartment since he made his fifth round of phone calls. He doesn't know what time it is - he can't care about that when there was still too much dust in his periphery for him to sense the sun. "I'm sorry I wasn't home, come on."
She doesn't move when he tugs at her and he frowns. "What - "
She jingles something - keys. "I have the car and you're insane if you think I'm walking."
"I have - Colleen!" he calls across the street and she hurries over with her familiar steady pulse - she's steady, so steady and he tries to focus on her over Marci's rabbit-heartbeat. "Marci, this is Colleen."
She's polite enough to put the sword away before she greets her. "Hey. We know each other from - stuff. My ex is dust." She's unsteady now.
"She's staying with me, too. We'll work out sleeping bags later, just," Matt says. Unsteady's bad. There's too much to do -
"I have a car," Marci repeats. "I'd like to park it before they do the martial law curfew thing again."
"Oh my God, you had me at car, come on, DD," Colleen says. "Take his other arm, he'll follow."
Hour eighty-nine and Matt and Colleen are going out. It's barely dusk and even if she managed three hours of sleep on the couch and one in Matt's bed, twenty minutes in the bathtub - even with all that sleep, she's still off her game.
She has a task - she'll take Foggy's cases and stop waiting for her job to make it down the list of employees for her number.
She doesn't know why she blurts out the question when Matt's on his way out but she can't take it back. "Are you okay with me staying, honestly?"
Matt pauses as if he doesn't know why she's asking. Colleen murmurs something under her breath and he nods. She's so out of place but where else can she go?
"I'll be in and out all night, I don't want you to be anywhere else. I can't protect you if - "
Colleen rolls her eyes behind him and Marci lets out a breath. "Sorry - just - go do your thing."
He takes her hand with his stupid roped-up fingers. "You know I'm a little nuts, right? I mean, obvious example aside - " he says, his voice low like it switches on when he's got the black fabric over his eyes. "Orphanage - full of people, then dorms - full of people - then here, just me - where all overnight guests are requested to leave before coffee - so I get why you think I'd be weird about houseguests - "
"Which is why I'm checking again - " Marci interrupts before he gets any more frantic with his explanation.
Colleen - and who even the fuck is she to interrupt - clears her throat. "I can maybe translate for the sleep-deprived weirdos in the room - he already had you in the 'resolved' box as a perm guest and now you're making him reopen boxes he's too tired to think about."
"You're helping me with work, Colleen's helping me with not-work and I'm helping you two with rent - resolved. What's changed - "
Marci closes her eyes when he brushes his lips over her forehead. God, she remembers why she hates him so much - he always turned Foggy to mush. "Nothing. Go, I'll call you from the roof if anything happens here - and I'll dictate my notes on the new cases."
Matt disappears up the stairs but Colleen lingers a moment. "The last place I had with Danny blew up and we stayed here a couple of weeks - Matt was totally fine with it, but if he thinks you're temp, he won't 'subtract' you from his whole Devil radar. It's part of his whole order function." She lowers her voice. "He's my ex-boyfriend's friend, you're supposed to be here way more than I am - if you ditch then I'll have to - "
"Keep me in the resolved box, please - now go beat up bad guys, all this 'feelings' talk is going to stress the Devil out even more," Marci adds with an impulsive hug.
They're all in this shit together.
'cause you know that I should fuck it
give me one more reason why I need to start the ruckus
She doesn't hear the phone ring but she recognizes Matt's emergency tone of voice.
"Karen trusted you with her life, that's enough for me," Matt says without moving from the kitchen island. "Tell me. Goddammit, I don't know that area - "
Marci moves to his side and covers one of his clenched fists on the counter. She's not Foggy, she doesn't know Matt that well - no one ever will - but she's here and she can try. "Where?"
Matt slowly relaxes his hand so she can lace her fingers between his bruised ones. "Address. I don't need your word, not for this. I'll - find a way, is there a signal? Okay, I'll call you back. Be safe, Frank."
"If that was the Punisher, then I'm not making the offer to drive you," Marci says.
"A set of kids, both parents dusted and - well, they're his friends so they're paranoid. He's out of state." He goes very still. "He doesn't ask for help, especially not me."
She doesn't want to be associated with Castle's kind of crazy but - but - shit. "It's what Karen would do. Any more stops before I start plotting the route?"
"Harlem. I need to check on Luke, he's not answering my calls anymore," Matt answers after a beat. "I don't want to be that far out of the Kitchen without a fast way back."
He pauses, making sure Marci's heartbeat is still steady and distant before he drops down into the crowds of gathered civilians and gangbangers. She's savvy and the suggestion of pulling a hoodie over his head still with the mask helps him blend into the crowd as he snitches the wallets of everyone with a comm buzzing with orders from the boss - he's not happy that Matt took out his snipers even if the civilians and spatter of cops haven't noticed.
He finally clocks the man mumbling to himself, aka into his Bluetooth, and pauses long enough for the guy to glance at him and promptly judge him as not a threat before swinging out his boot and elbow to catch his shin and his jaw to take him down.
He doesn't let him stay down, not now that he's exposed and flicks his head to shake the hoodie off his head as he yanks the punk by the collar and flings him several feet near where Luke's standing with the decoy-leader of the gang holding court.
A baton, a thunk another, a whimper, and then catch - full attention - mission accomplished. He hears Luke's muted huff of annoyance but Daredevil's known for his Drama so he takes it up another notch.
He drops the looted wallets in the same motion of scooping up the troublemaker and holding him up to Luke like a mouse gift from a housecat.
"You want to fuck with me, Asshole? Because you fucked with him, so you fucked with me. Did you want to fuck with me?" Matt demands, holding the skinny gang leader by the throat in front of the crowd.
He doesn't find the guy's broken gurgle a proper response and tips his head toward Luke when the scent of fresh urine fills his senses. "You sure he's the one?" Luke asks loudly, taking the lead. This is his borough, not Matt's.
"Yeah, you want me to bring you the rest?" Matt offers, murmurs rippling through the crowd. A lot of them are scared - good - that's what Luke needs. "I got the ones off the roof, I can fetch the rest," he sneers. "Just say the word - "
The crowds murmur gets louder and enough of the gangsters he's mapped are shifting uncomfortably that he hopes he can make it back to Marci and the next task a little faster.
"Thanks for the assist, Daredevil. We can handle it from here, unless someone else wants to try and block the relief shipments?" Luke directs toward the crowd. So that's why there were so many civilians on the street.
"Left a pile of guns under a dumpster three blocks over," Matt says under his breath when Luke's people - because he totally has minions - take over herding the crowds toward the shelter that's distributing the bottled water and emergency boxes. "You okay?"
Luke's heart does something thunderous and he clasps Matt's roped hand and pulls him into a hug. "Thank you. I'm regretting missing church the past few months."
"Didn't make a difference for me," Matt snorts.
"I owe you - what - " Luke begins but he shakes his head.
"No debts, not now. Just - stay alive and answer your phone," Matt says.
"It's busted, but you'll be my second or third call when I replace it. Is Colleen still with you?"
Matt nods. "Not at the moment, but she brought her stuff over. I got a thing across town, do you want me to come by on our way back?"
"This is going to keep me busy for a while. I'll swing by your place, late, if that's okay," Luke says.
"Bring beer, we've got food," Matt agrees.
"They're getting their 'go-bags'. I feel like I need a go-bag," Matt says, leaning against the car. "Are you all right?" He can't tell from her heartbeat, he doesn't know her in this context to judge.
She huffs. "There's video of you and Luke Cage in Harlem. It's - Foggy didn't talk to me about Daredevil much. It seemed like a touchy subject."
"It is. Was. We didn't talk about it and he - I would never involve him the way I have you tonight."
"I offered and I haven't really done anything," she says. "Foggy's not really cut out for defensive driving or fighting outside of a courtroom - I know my limits. You need me to shame a bitch or pull some hair, I'm there, but I think I'm fine being DD's DD for now."
He gets a heavy whiff of gunpowder and oil when the pair of teenagers join him. "Do you need all those guns?"
"Um," the girl shifts. "We have protocol."
Marci pops the trunk at the same moment that Matt shrugs. Maybe she is on the same page. "Carry on, then."
If you break my heart, it's 1, 2, 3
boom boom boom
Frank collects his kids two days before the government finds enough suits to reopen and school and work has to be addressed. It's not temporary. It isn't an accident. It isn't fixable. But school and work and life - things have to go on. Foggy - it's - things have to go on.
"Shit," Matt curses, his coffee cup slipping from his hand and splashing across his bare feet and the freshly swept floor. They try to keep it clean but he micromanages dust like he does Hell's Kitchen.
"I can't go out tonight, I - we have work tomorrow," Matt says suddenly, clenching his fists. "I have to - be responsible. I promised Foggy, I promise - just - I'm going to sit in my closet and be - I'll - I need a minute, an hour - no longer than an hour, I promise," he chants, rocking forward and holding onto this knees. She almost thinks he's going to tip over - shit -
Marci's never seen one of Matt's 'downswings' but Foggy told her enough over the years for her to have a decent idea of how to handle it. "Stray cat protocol," she whispers to Colleen. Matt doesn't hear it because he's too busy trying not to puke.
"Okay, so, closet is this way, we'll be totally quiet," Colleen says softly, meeting her gaze with a solemn nod. They each take an arm and he recovers enough to let them lead him into the bedroom.
"Do you need a bottle of water or a blanket - " She shuts up when he moves ahead and drops to his knees.
"Oh. I got this," Colleen says suddenly. "But I might need a bottle of vodka and a blanket. Come on, DD, I'll put the rice down, you're going to make a mess."
Marci doesn't know what she's doing until the dried rice is spread in a neat puddle so Matt can kneel as uncomfortably as possible.
Foggy never told her about this - he would - shit - he wouldn't have told her. This is private. This is Mom doing lines in the pantry - Daddy fucking the gardener - Marci's three pint pistachio purges - kind of private. Family private.
She stays, needing to see for future reference, or therapy, but Colleen seems to know these steps better than her 'stray cat' advice.
"One hour. We'll set the timer in the kitchen so you can hear the seconds. What? No, the ball's fine, it'll give me trauma if you want anything more than that," Colleen says, barely audible. When she steps out, Marci makes out a shiny red ball slightly bigger than a golf ball balanced on the bump of Matt's bowed neck before Colleen slides the door closed.
Marci realizes how Colleen has gone goth-pale in the lamplight. "You good?"
"Better than him. I don't - I know what that's like, just, never felt the need personally to do it without a - teacher - giving me the order," Colleen says, editing herself. "He won't drop the ball. Timer and drinks, his self-care is his business."
"Ours, too, at least tangentially," Marci says, turning the knob on the counter-timer to 45 minutes - they've wasted some seconds, surely. "He's family now. We're in his home, it's our home - so it's - no judgment, but it's okay that we know," she tries to correct.
"Oh. Right, sure."
She takes a short breath, but she doesn't need much air to spit it out - she's been to therapy - everyone's been to therapy. "I have food issues when I'm stressed. Bulimia, if you need a label, but - "
Colleen blinks and turns away to grab the bottle of vodka from the freezer. She doesn't look at Marci when she speaks again. "Sometimes I pick up strangers at clubs and ask them to choke me. It's - not a - regular thing."
"Our self-care is our business," Marci repeats. "But. Maybe you let me or Matt know if you go clubbing."
"And maybe I stop letting you skip breakfast," Colleen says with a slow nod.
Lyric tags belong to, in order: Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Michael Barr, & X-Ambassadors.
Hope you don't find someone like me
I care, but I'm tired
Swear you won't die if I turn off the lights
"Oh. Shit. I gotta - " Matt bounces off the couch like he's in the suit already and darts out of the apartment. Colleen shrugs and gathers his discarded cup and socks to put away. They're doing better with the OCD cleaning now that they have loft beds of their very own to keep them out of sniping sight and keeping the floor space open.
It's both temporary and permanent enough for the three of them to manage their new routine. They're waiting, not so patiently, but they can wait and stay ready for whatever comes next. It's been four months. This is okay for four months.
"He's got someone with him," Colleen says, peering through the kitchen window. "Incoming, fast."
The door slams open, always with the drama. "Leave her alone, no questions, fuck off," Matt growls in their general direction with a strange woman bundled in his arms. He steers her into the bedroom. Someone starts to sob and Marci's quickly slides the door closed behind them.
"Okay, so I'll get kitted out just in case," Colleen says quietly.
Marci goes back to her files but doesn't let her attention drift from the stamina of the sobs behind the door. It feels like an eternity before the woman goes quiet and even longer before Matt slinks through the door.
"You need anything other than us to fuck off?" she asks, feigning indifference.
"Sorry. No, just, the bedroom's off limits for a bit."
As if the bathroom's not in there. He's distracted enough for her to slip past him into the room to snoop.
The woman in Matt's bed - wow - is unexpected and not because she's wearing clothes. She's the Black fucking Widow. Wow. "Hey. I'm Marci Stahl," she introduces just to have something to say.
"Roommate, he told me," she replies with sharp eyes. "Are you - "
"Foggy's fiancee," she says. Marci knew Elektra, before and after death, so she doesn't doubt that Matt has more deadly exes that she should treat with anti-jealousy defenses.
"Foggy was his normal friend, right? I'm glad he kept him around," Natasha says quietly.
Marci has a slow realization. "Please tell me Matt's not your normal friend."
The Black Widow smiles and tucks herself deeper into Matt's blankets. "We were a thing, once, for a few weeks. He's - my friend."
"Marci. Leave her alone," Matt warns as he returns to the room.
"It's okay. I had my moment, I can be social," Natasha says.
"If you're really feeling better maybe, you can text the giant that's perched on his motorcycle down the street trying to seem natural," Matt suggests.
"Steve," Natasha sighs. "I yelled at him, of course he followed me."
Marci turns to Matt with wide eyes that she hopes his blindness can appreciate. She pays top dollar for these eyelashes. "Please let me go get him."
Natasha laughs, but she's still hoarse from the spontaneous weeping session. "I'll text him, but I'm not apologizing."
"God no, never to a man. Give me the Devil phone, you're off the clock," she adds, snatching the phone from him and closing the door to the bedroom to give them privacy.
She passes the phone off to Colleen, already suited up with her sword as backup. Marci's just glad he doesn't have cases tomorrow - an Avenger visit probably means it's a work-from-home day.
Captain America is a sad puppy and she catches him staring at his phone vacantly when she approaches his bike. He immediately refuses to go back to Matt's or move his bike, repeating that he's fine, everything's fine and he doesn't need any help.
Foggy's counting on her to care for sad heroic puppies while he's away and she flips through her scattered memories of his fanboy stories.
She takes his phone and his hand and manages to drag him to the end of the street where Matt's church stands like a lighthouse.
It's not her thing, it's never going to be her thing - but it helps Matt and maybe it'll help Foggy's hero, too.
One of the older Sisters spots them immediately and moves swiftly to join her in the vestibule with sharp eyes searching for Matt before settling on her.
"Sister Agatha, hello. This is a friend of Matt's and he could use a quiet place - " Marci begins softly, holding Steve's forearm with both hands but it's not hiding his tremors.
The Sister recognizes him, beard and all but Clinton Church has protected their Matthew for years and the name drop works. She motions to a set of deserted pews lit in dim red from the stained glass - like it was the only place dramatic enough for Matt to be dramatic. "Would you like me to pray with you, Child?"
Steve shudders and allows himself to be herded and Marci considers scaring the nun away so he can have his privacy until he accepts the rosary she presses into his hands like a rescue rope.
His sobs remind her immediately of Matt, choked and desperate from trying to be silent, and they turn into a Pied Piper call for nuns and other robed servants of God that quietly fall into seats behind them to show solidarity for his grief? Support for Captain A? She doesn't let herself question it and nobody scolds her when she texts Matt to let him know she's delayed.
She rubs his back while he ugly-cries into his hands. She doesn't know how much time passes before Natasha appears at her side, urging her up so she can take her place. Marci hopes she hasn't broken some kind of rule, but she spots Matt, and Luke - Frank and his new wards - Theo - oh, wow - has the niece and nephew grown in the past week?
Matt hugs her quickly, out of character but totally genuine. "Good idea," he murmurs into her ear. "Nat says he hasn't popped the seal since - well, everything."
"The nuns are horrible gossips, there's a whole vigil outside. Brooklyn nuns are pulling rank," Luke nods his chin to the suddenly filled church.
"Can't be easy - stakes like the whole world, you can barely handle Hell's Kitchen," Theo says, giving her a hug. She saw him yesterday but she has been avoiding the children. Foggy - Foggy's not here to protect her from kids. She gives them hugs and kisses to make up for it.
"Wasn't just Earth. Happened across the universe - everywhere, everything," Matt whispers. "Bad guy was playing the long game. I think they might stay a couple of days."
"Good," Frank says under his breath. "Keep your ears on that one."
She shivers at the incidental reminder that all of the local stations have switched to time-delay news because of on-air suicides and that cyanide capsules are being shopped at PTA meetings. "You think this will make the news?"
"Ellison's on it, I owe him a scoop for - reasons," Matt says. "No cameras."
Steve wakes up with Natasha spooned in his arms in someone else's bed. They're home - or closer than he's been in years - but nothing's right, everything's still wrong.
"Listen to me, man, you can't have Queens if you keep killing people, just - Frank only gets the Bronx because he's not using deadly force."
"I hate Staten Island - "
"Then stop killing people, Christ, Wilson, it's not that hard."
"Marci won't give you a Gordon if you can't follow the rules, man."
Steve's curiosity wins out and he steps out of the bedroom. He's not prepared for three out of five people around the table to stand up and salute. "Oh." He returns the honorific and they fall back into their seats.
Matt slants his head, thoughtful. "Marines, Canadian Forces - you still do that? Never mind, Steve, there's coffee and bagels in the kitchen. That's Steve, he's not here."
He recognizes Frank Castle but not the heavily scarred man or the two black men. "Luke, Curt and Wade, we're not here either," Frank says.
"Never seen them before," Matt smiles kindly, offering a chipped mug that he accepts.
"So Cap, did you see Spider-Man around when you were fighting that big purple asshole?" Wade asks suddenly. Steve places him, finally. Deadpool - Sam wasn't a fan.
"You know the kid?" Steve asks him - he can't think of the guy as Deadpool, what did that even mean? "Queens?"
"Nah, I mean, I kept my eye on him, know where he lives, what his Aunt used to have for breakfast, but he's always stayed in his lane - never had a reason to introduce myself. Wait 'til he grows his teeth," Wade says, snapping his jaws with a dramatic click. "Looked around for him, but - "
"He was with Tony. Dust," Steve says quietly.
Wilson inhales sharply and pivots to get in Matt's face. "D - you gotta - "
"No," Matt cuts him off. "Kid didn't chop drug dealers into parts or set pimps on fire just to watch them burn - it'll break his fucking heart if he comes back to that kind of shit."
Frank gives Wade a low five under the table and Luke and Curtis both sigh.
Luke motions to catch Steve's attention. "Off the record like everything else - Marci's got her vigilantes set up with the local cops - a Gordon in every borough - but Spider-Man's got a good reputation and the rest of us are - "
"Problematic," Frank grunts.
"I didn't think it was - still this bad here," Steve admits.
"Hey, at least we're not under martial law anymore - that was fucking problematic," Luke replies.
Matt stands up and goes to the door, opening it without a knock to let in Marci and a tall muscular man that looks to be on the brink of tears. "What happened? You left, like, half an hour ago."
"They called off court the rest of the week, dismissed all the misdemeanor and traffic shit like you said," Marci replies. She seems shorter today. "I need shoes. Melvin - "
"All of your friends are small. I thought she was in danger," Melvin says, hunching his shoulders, sadness thick in his deep voice.
"I broke a heel and he - overcompensated. Everyone's on edge. He knocked out two guys that tried to help me up," Marci explains under her breath when she catches Steve watching her worriedly. "But everyone was fine - he did exactly what he was supposed to," she adds in her normal voice.
"Not supposed to fight," Melvin murmurs.
Matt pats the huge man's shoulder. "Melvin, we pay you to drive us and keep us safe, which sometimes ends up in a fight. Not today, but you were ready just in case. Betsy would be very proud of you for not hurting anyone."
Wade claps his hands and heaves himself out of his chair. "All right, I'm going to go light some candles for the missing and get out of your hair - "
"Stop lighting people on fire, oh my God," Luke groans. "What is wrong with you?" Marci glares at Wade and mouths 'never getting Queens' at him.
Curtis nods his chin at Melvin. "You wanna come with me, Big Guy, set up some chairs for the meeting?"
"Meeting?" Steve asks.
Curtis shifts. "I can't really help the same way these assholes can. I'm setting up counseling groups wherever I can get room space."
"Don't let him get you alone, he'll counsel the shit out of you," Wade warns.
Matt sighs. "Wade's not a good example, but Curt's a godsend, still don't know why he's friends with Frank. We're good at keeping bad guys scared, but shit at the rest of it."
"I'm not scared," Melvin says, patting Matt's hair with his giant hand. "You need horns."
Steve turns to Curtis. "Can I help?"
"You sure you don't want to throw in with these guys instead?" Curt replies, raising his eyebrow in surprise.
He thinks of Sam. "No. I already told Nat and Rhodey to take me off the roster for - I think - I should find other ways to help."
"He has pamphlets, don't get his hopes up if you aren't going to take the pamphlets," Luke chuckles softly.
Wade gives a final wave and starts for the stairs but Matt clears his throat. "What?"
"Your suit's still in the dryer. Finish your breakfast," Matt calls.
Wade returns to his seat and Frank nudges the coffee in front of him.
Does the devil get scared if she dies in her dreams
Where the earth burns?
She cries cause she's nothing like you, is she like you?
"Are you sure?" Steve hesitates and Natasha swats him hard on the back of the head.
"Shut up. They're your friends, too, because you're a mooch," Nat says. She'll always be a little bitter that Steve makes friends so easily. "You spend your time outside of classes with Curt or getting high with Luke - and it's Thanksgiving so you're expected."
"And we really don't have to bring anything?" He doesn't deny it.
She sighs. "They ordered take-out from ten different places last night so today they'll have a spread of leftovers that should even fill you up. I know this is - "
"It's nice, that's why I'm having trouble dealing with it."
"Don't feel too special, Nebula and Rocket are coming, too," Natasha says, appreciating his shocked expression before allowing herself to laugh.
Matt is already drunk when he opens the door to his apartment. She regrets moving him into the friend-zone when he's so goddamn adorable. Her cheek tingles from his welcome kiss but he ruins it by giving Steve one immediately.
"Introductions," Matt says, sloshing a glass of whiskey in the direction of the clusters of people. "Fuck it, I don't know you - put your guns in the box while you eat. Hey, Nat."
She ignores his sloppy grin and narrows her eyes at the assassin across the room. "I thought she was dead."
Elektra gives a wave with her middle finger. "I am."
"Rude," Matt frowns. "Second, maybe third, chances are totally valid. It's not her fault she's the way she is. Apologize."
Natasha flips her off. "Sorry."
"Is she Becky with the good hair?" Nebula fails to whisper to Rocket.
Matt turns to the blue alien with an awestruck expression. "I take it back. I need an introduction." It takes a moment before Natasha gets it.
"You can see her?" Natasha asks.
"Um," Steve clears his throat. "Matt, this is Nebula. She's - "
Matt ignores him, carefully taking Nebula's hand despite the danger and pressing his lips to her knuckles. "It's a pleasure to meet you. Wow. You - "
Natasha pulls him back as Nebula gapes at him. Rocket says what nobody else does - "Watch it, Buddy, she bites."
"If you think that's going to make her less attractive to him, you're obviously new. Stop blocking the door - " Marci greets them with a couple of kids and her dusted fiance's scruffy brother on her heels.
"Yeah, stop 'blocking', so rude," Matt pouts.
She visits enough, a couple of times a month at least, and she's touched when she spots some of her favorite orders spread out on the serving table. A few pointed questions lets her know that Colleen's spending the day with her scattered gangs of street urchins that she's been not-so-secretly mentoring into healthy ninja life.
She must not have been visiting enough to miss Elektra's reappearance and she plants herself next to her with her filled plate.
Elektra flips her hair. "I don't want to fight, unless you draw my name in the challenge round after dessert."
She files it away for further investigation. "What are you doing here?"
"My troops were affected," Elektra says quietly. "I don't normally visit if the Daughter of the Dragon is here but - Matthew is here. He likes to know I still exist even if I no longer breathe." Don't die and answer the phone, Natasha knows the new rules.
"Your troops?" Natasha pushes. "What do you have them doing?"
"Learning," she replies with a polite nod to Nebula who doesn't hide her eavesdropping. She snitches an egg roll from her plate before she can process the nerve of the dead ninja. "We are soulless servants with no Master."
"Don't let Matty hear you say that, he'll get all sad-eyed again and he's already wasted," Luke says in passing.
Elektra rolls her eyes, annoyed. "I have gathered the remnants of The Hand and we are reevaluating our goals. This - world - this ending - it cannot stand. We did not serve and die for this - but we will fight for what's left. Some of us do not have enough good things in our lives to risk losing them."
Nebula nods sharply.
Natasha sighs. "How do I get to challenge you? First blood?"
"Only if you draw Deadpool, no one else is allowed bodily-harm challenges. Perhaps I will loan you my sai if you draw Colleen's name," Elektra says.
"I didn't know we were allowed to bring swords," Nebula says. "I only brought guns."
"He doesn't make us put them in the box," Elektra grins, sliding her deadly sharp weapons from hidden sheaths on her back.
"NOT WHILE WE'RE EATING!" Marci yells across the room.
The kids are gone, the nuns have been dismissed and the keys have been confiscated when they circle the chairs on the roof in the cool night.
The layout of the game is simple - names go in a hat and a pair of challengers are announced. The challenges can be anything from trivia - the scruffy Nelson guy knows way too much about Batman - to boxing - Marci knocks Curt out way too easily - and she adds her name to the hat after Luke eviscerates Elektra's Lady MacBeth reading with an Oscar-worthy Hamlet piece.
But Matt gets paired with Nebula and everyone starts paying more attention as they circle each other.
"I challenge you - to darts," Nebula says, raising her chin.
Blind guy - darts - Steve raises a veto.
Matt sniffs, crossing his arms. "Counter - swimming."
Robot lady - water - Natasha raises a veto.
Nebula frowns, dangerous. "Counter. Paso doble."
Matt grins, dangerous. "Accepted. You want to lead?"
"Of course," Nebula huffs, holding out her hand.
Natasha leans back against Steve's solid form. They've lost so much, everyone has. But she's glad they came. She needs a reminder of what they have left. A day off from what they've lost.
She's going to fucking find out who taught Matt how to fucking dance before night ends, so there's already something new to look forward to.
Lyric tags both from RKS this chap.
I deleted so much of this - Rhodey and Okoye show up for year two since the others are in space, Carol and Frank are weird BFFs at first sight, and of course Wade and Rocket are soulmates - but it doesn't add as much to the fic as I wanted it to - I got across what I needed, I think.
But Elektra, Nebula and Natasha hanging out? Yes, please. Someone do it justice.
Chapter 3: pop
Thanks so much for the askbox prompt and for those of you that took the time to send kudos and comments my way. ♥ ♥ ♥ You guys are the only reason this was posted and finished and I ♥ you for not letting me give up.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
you can't stop me
'cause my pain is gasoline
He answers the phone on the first vibration so it doesn't wake the rest of the apartment yelling a name. "Matt."
"What'd I say?" Wait. Wait. "Wait."
"Matt - what the hell - where are you right now?"
He sits up in bed and shoves the body next to him awake with a grunt, pushing the phone into his hand. "Tell me who's on the other end."
"Who's calling please?" Luke rumbles into the phone. "Foggy?"
He scrambles out of the covers and whistles sharply as he goes now that he needs to wake the rest of the overnight guests.
Last night had been a celebration - Zack finally got the college acceptance letter he wanted and Frank had used the Holiday call list to invite everyone to the place with the most folding chairs - aka Matt's roof. They're not his blood kids, but when the Punisher dedicated himself to parenting instead of vengeance - the results were just as dramatic.
"Everybody up - phones out, somebody turn on the TV," Matt barks, heading to the roof as the couch, bunk beds, blankets on the floor, all start to come to life through the hangovers.
He flings open the door and the sound knocks him back a step - the sound - so much sound - life in stereo - double the birds and bugs and squirrels and - heartbeats. So many heartbeats.
Marci's manicured nails dig into his side as she hugs him from behind. "I'm not crying, you're crying."
She's right, he is.
"Stahl and Murdock? The fuck is this, Marci?" Foggy shoves the paper printout Colleen duct-taped to the office window last year into her chest.
She flings it aside and wraps her arms around him - God - "Foggy - fuck - where have you been?"
"Hey, hey, I'm right here - I feel like I should be asking you that - what the hell happened? Karen and I - "
Marci blinks and focuses on Karen standing behind him frowning at her phone. "Karen, shit - I missed you - please forgive us for subletting your apartment because I have all your books and shoes in storage," she says, pulling her into a hug.
"I don't have service and - five years, Marci?" Karen asks, only slightly panicked. She remembers this unflappable under pressure Karen - God - they're back - Foggy's here - Karen - everyone -
"Matt?" Foggy grunts with the force of Matt's hug. He's in his black outfit but the Devil phone's been ringing nonstop. He hasn't covered his face yet and she chokes out a laugh when Foggy immediately fixates on the splash of gray in his shaggy hair.
Matt buries his face in Foggy's neck. "Fogs. You have been my family longer than anyone else in my life. Please."
Foggy's shudders and fists his hands in Matt's shirt. "Buddy - "
"Never leave me again. I can't - please."
"I'll do my best, Matt," Foggy says, softly. "But I gotta know - Stahl and Murdock?"
"Five years - " Matt starts, moving on from Foggy to hug a squeal out of Karen but the Devil phone tinkles and someone whistles from the roof. "Was way too long for me to try run a business on my own."
"And I made us lots of money," Marci says.
"Come on, DD, before we lose our police escort!" Colleen yells from the roof entrance.
Matt smoothes his hands down Karen's shoulders, gives Foggy another squeeze and slides on his mask. "I'll find you both later if you're not here when I get back."
"Wait - " Foggy calls after him.
Marci hushes him. "He'll be back. Theo - "
"Shit, I didn't go by the shop - was he - " Foggy gasps.
"Your sister and brother-in-law were dusted, too, so you got demoted to second favorite uncle when he moved into their house," Marci says.
Foggy reaches out to steady himself and pulls over a stool before promptly sitting in the floor instead. "Give me one, maybe two minutes, and then tell me everything."
Karen laughs, only slightly hysterical, and pats him on the head. "Fuck that, Matt's got a TV now."
don't waste a light on me
save your eyes for someone brighter
than I will ever be
"So, Foggy's my fiance, officially again, since you scared off all his possible replacements," Marci says when Matt finally - fucking finally - shuffles into his apartment long after midnight. She's been living next door for the past couple of years, ever since it opened up for her to rent. "Where - "
"Nat didn't make it," Matt replies hoarsely. "I - took a minute."
She gasps and hugs him in the same motion and he shudders before he splays his hands on her back. He smells like vodka and she wonders who he took his minute with.
"Oh, what's going on?" Foggy asks sleepily from the couch where he insisted on waiting up with her. He's taking things a lot better than Karen who refuses to believe she missed Frank parenting 2 kids right into college. Marci's not looking forward to when she finds out he's been living with a bartender for two years.
Foggy's never going to meet Nat, never going to see her sneak up on Matt just to make him jump, or hear the soft laugh that only she can earn from him after a long night. "You're sure?"
"Barton called. He - it's - old rules said it would always come from him if it ever happened," Matt murmurs, not pulling out of her hug. "I'm - taking some time off. Can we close the office, like, a couple of days?"
Foggy reminds them of his presence and pats her hand on Matt's back. "Hey, me and Karen can help. What do you need, DD?"
"Don't call me that," Matt huffs. "Not you."
"Do you want to talk?" Foggy gives Marci a 'why did you break my best friend' look.
"I have so much to tell you but - not tonight. Fuck, I'm sorry - " Matt shudders. "This - we've been waiting for everyone to come back for so long - it's not fair that she won't get to meet you, to see that her team won - "
"You're so drunk. Can you shower unattended or - " Marci starts.
"Yeah. Is Karen - "
"She's next door at mine, are you tuned in?"
Matt swallows and finally pulls out of her hug. "Yeah." He turns to Foggy. "We lost a friend. I'll - I'll be able to talk about it tomorrow."
"You can talk about it when you're ready, Matt. We have time," Foggy says and Matt nods, swallows again and shuffles into his room. He turns to her as soon as Matt's out of sight. "You guys are so close, it's going to take some getting used to."
"We take care of each other. We'll take care of you, too," Marci says.
"Matty - "
"Steve? I thought you - "
"I need you to look in your super-secret trunk and take the pouch - it's a Crown Royal pouch, just, be careful with it and meet me at that place you know in - three hours. Four twenty-one pm exactly."
"What - "
"I can't tell you anything but I - just you."
"I'll be there. Nobody will know."
"Thank you. I don't trust anyone else - not with this."
'This' turns out to be letting Captain America dress him in fabric he's never felt before and punching buttons into a weird wristwatch he isn't allowed to wear on his wrist.
Matt doesn't need a long, elaborate explanation, he thinks, not it they're going to save Natasha.
It explains why Cap didn't call him until after Stark's service - he's been planning it since it happened and Matt follows him into a swirling carousel of nausea without a second thought.
It's a mistake - a critical fucking mistake - because he's blinded all over again by the uneven taste of the air and the unwelcoming shards of shapes in the strange place he finds himself puking up his lunch.
"D, Matt - listen - we've got five minutes and then - I need you to knock Clint out as soon as he hits your sightline, can you do that?"
He wants to sit down with Cap and explain sightlines and blind people but he gets the point and tries to get himself together and expand his senses. "Where are we?"
"Kansas," Cap lies.
He doesn't call him on it, he's too busy flinging his baton and waiting for Hawkeye to thump to the ground - or rock - whatever.
"The hell - Matt? Steve - what's - "
Cap rushes her, pinning her arms to her sides. "Think. Why would I bring him if it wasn't an absolute fucking emergency? I need you to write Clint a note, put this stone in his pocket and come with us."
Natasha's heartbeat soars. "Cap - "
"It has to be this way - trust me - trust him - think - please," Cap says and Matt tastes salt. Fuck.
Matt takes her hand and presses the blank note-card into palm. "Write it and come with us. He has to think you knocked him out and got the stone. He has to go back alone."
"He won't believe it," Natasha says, looking down at Clint's dozing form.
Cap's voice breaks. "He will if you write it. You've got three guys right here that trust you enough to go to space - "
Matt twitches. "You didn't say we were - "
"I meant - follow you through time, obviously," Steve corrects. "Nat, please - "
"Wait. Go back to the space part," Matt says. He processes the sound of pen against paper before Natasha presses her body against him and claims his belt loops. Please. Please let this work.
"Here, I'll put in the coordinates, stay with Matt until I get there - " Cap says.
"Where are you - " Natasha and Matt ask but they're already spinning back through the otherworldly - time or space - ride from hell.
"Never trust Captain America, he's a fucking liar," Matt announces.
"Well, 'America' is part of his name, so sure - oh shit," Colleen freezes when she sees Natasha following on his heels in some kind of uniform. "Nat?"
"Space! Goddammit, I'm taking a shower," Matt grumbles, throwing his hands up and storming into the back.
Colleen rushes to her side and freezes again at the woman's lost expression. "Are you - "
"I didn't make it back?" Natasha asks softly and she doesn't have to answer, her expression answers for her. "Shit."
"Hawkeye called us, we haven't heard from Cap - unless - Matt does like his secrets. They didn't have a service for you yet, they - we were planning one, or - shit, are you really okay? What happened?" Colleen blurts out.
"Did we - is it - " Natasha whispers.
She gets it suddenly and wants to punch Matt and Steve for not filling Nat in before dropping her back into the world. She drags her over to the muted TV, filled with scenes of reunions and, well, riots and celebrations. "Your team did it. Nobody really knows how, I mean, other than what the news says. We didn't touch your stuff, Matt didn't want to believe it."
"Then how - "
Colleen hugs her impulsively even though it's not their way - sometimes it's necessary. "I honestly had no idea this was happening but I'm so glad you're not dead forever."
"SPACE, WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK IS MY LIFE!" Matt yells from the other room. "Nat, I hate your friends!"
She sleeps, Steve doesn't come back. She showers, eats, hides, watches the insane news coverage, drinks half a bottle of scotch for Stark and Steve - he doesn't come back.
She's been undead two days before she hears anything from him at all - a text, an 'OMG' emoticon and an address three hours outside of the city.
"I fucked up," Steve says when Marci opens the door. Nat sighs behind him, she's on Matt's side and hates her friends. "Sorry, is Matt home?"
"Cap - oh - wow, yeah, so come in," Marci says, blinking at Nat and then at Bucky Barnes who still has snow on his uniform. She blinks three times before stepping aside to let Steve limp inside. "I'm already late as fuck but I'm texting the hell out of you on the subway," she adds, shaking her head and her phone at Natasha before abandoning them.
"Missing arm? Well, at least we have a guy for that," Colleen yawns. "Hi, who's this?"
"Why are you in Matt's room?" Natasha asks after a beat. Matt had been alone when she got Steve's call - shit, maybe she should have left a note.
"We promised Foggy, who is totally a buzzkill, to keep him off the streets this week but last night was a little difficult."
"Sent me out six times before midnight, why are people so awful to each other?" a guy with a massive dragon tattoo on a not so massive body asks as he totters into the kitchen. "Coffee?"
"How do you just have a guy for that?" Steve asks, casually dripping blood but maintaining consciousness like a boss.
"It's too early to start drinking so we can't talk about it, but - oh. I'll make a call," Shirtless guy says, taking in Bucky's empty sleeve. "Also. I'm Danny," he waves. Cap and Bucky both wave back without hesitation. Who the actual Fuck is this guy?
"Stop being an asshole - it's too early - " Another new voice drifts from Matt's room and he finally shuffles out, shoulder swollen and bruised from a familiar dislocation injury that she didn't notice before. The woman that follows him has a shiny mechanical arm, albeit a different version than the Winter Soldier has. Who the actual Fuck?
"She lost it because of us," Colleen whispers to Nat, offering her something granola. "Danny's got scientists, they made it for her, but it's - it doesn't change the fact that it's gone."
Matt finally reaches them gathered at the door. He tilts his head at Steve when he processes the newest guest and huffs, thoughtful. "Oh. You fucked up, didn't you?"
"God," Cap groans. "Matt, please - "
"Don't you dare bring that wizard into my house, I'm not fucking with your portals or space math bullshit - you're a mess. Go clean up and find your friend some clothes." Matt grabs his wrist - then the other until Steve goes still. "Stop thinking. You don't need to think right now. Go."
Cap actually goes and Bucky stares at Matt like he's some kind of hypnotist. Natasha elbows him. "This is a safe space, we don't have to listen to him but Steve does."
"Natasha, introduce your friend because I think I'm confused," Matt says.
"Oh, you have no idea," Bucky replies.
"So, Matt's not the best to go to with magic stuff, and Danny, bless his heart," Marci makes the motion, she adores that brat. "Wouldn't fare too well with a shark like Stephen Strange so I took one for the team - the Nelson, Page, Stahl and Murdock team - and had some chats with him off the record. He's my first real superhero client and you're not going to fuck it up for me."
"What are we talking about again?" Steve asks, glancing at Nat warily. He knows he's on thin ice after his little time traveling adventures and there's always a reason when Marci waits for Matt to be out of earshot to talk to them.
"You swapped her out, right? Took her right before she fell so she would know the deal?"
Cap nods slowly. "Yeah?"
"You won't really have a chance to do that with Stark," Marci says, dropping the bomb. "It's trickier because you have to actually swap him with, well, himself - just a version that can survive it, play dead, and then give us back our Iron Man. And you have to convince the other one to do it."
Natasha turns to him sharply. "Like you convinced your old self to fake it for Sam and the Soldier." Marci appreciates that they get to keep the ‘Bucky' name reserved for the one that lives on Matt's roof.
Cap's face slowly blooms with hope and maybe - fuck, understanding? "I didn't even think - Maybe Tony wasn't dead in his timeline, maybe that's why he knew I was going - oh shit, I'm so dumb - "
"You're too pretty to need brains," Bucky pats his head absently as he wanders through the room. "What's happening?"
Marci raises her hand, confused and she hates being confused. "What are you talking about?"
"No, your turn again - what else did Dr. Strange say?"
"He says a lot if you give him the right kind of tea," Marci says. "Apparently, there's a timeline where things went way different and Extremis turned into a thing that makes Tony more like Vision than Iron Man. He actually is the suit, or something, blah science blah, but the point is - he could survive the snap. And he might do it because he doesn't have a Pepper in his ‘verse."
"Then how do you know he'll go back when - " Natasha starts.
"Because he has someone there to go back to," Marci shrugs.
Steve stiffens and Marci doesn't meet his eyes so he'll know what she's not saying.
Bucky knows, laughing out loud. "No shit?"
"What?" Natasha snaps.
"He doesn't have a ‘Pepper', he has a ‘Steve'," Cap sighs. "Fuck Dr. Strange."
"From what I've heard, there are timelines for that too," Marci stage-whispers to Bucky.
"I don't have any Pym particles," Steve says suddenly. "I - used the last - "
"There are Crown Royal bags in Matt's bottom drawer," Bucky says. "Matt says they smell expensive and someone keeps putting them in his Daredevil box but they're full of those little vials."
"And you didn't think to say anything?" Steve sputters.
Bucky shrugs. "He said that he had to wait for a message to go with them. A date and a time."
"Well, I have both of those," Marci hums. "But you - Captain Rogers - are going to have to meet with my client to discuss your little time travel adventures - after you do this last thing."
Happy glances up at the tap-tap-tap on the window. Not knuckles, but a cane. A blind dude in a suit is tapping on the driver's window.
Pepper and Rhodey are still arguing politely in the backseat while Morgan sits obliviously between them with her headphones chirping distantly poppy music. Happy hasn't had a chance to start the kid's musical education yet in Tony's absence - the list he left is so long.
The tap is harsher this time and he hits the button to roll it down enough to yell but the man speaks as soon as it's cracked enough to let in sound. "You can't park here."
"How does a blind guy know where I'm parked?" Happy asks accidentally out loud.
"Because the asshole Colonel Rhodes left in my house is touching all my stuff. Move the car three spaces and come upstairs."
Happy shifts the car into gear.
don't hesitate to bring me to my knees
"Wait - where's Morgan?" Pepper asks sharply.
"The roof, Bucky's got marshmallows," Matt responds from the kitchen.
"Wait, what?" Rhodey asks before she gets out her gasp.
He winces. "I knew we should have waited for Nat."
"Nat? Wait, Murdock - how many - " Rhodes starts slowly.
"The guy camping on my roof fell off a train and languished in the snow, like, twenty minutes before Cap dragged him into the future. Colleen calls him OG Bucky, apparently his hair is a tragedy?" Matt waves his hand. "Your daughter's explaining - fuel injection - cars. They're talking about cars. I'll tell him to come down?"
Before anyone can respond, the blind lawyer takes a wooden spoon from his spread of vegetables and bowls and flings it hard at a beam in the ceiling, ricocheting it back to his hand so he can put it back.
A moment later, Morgan trots into the room with a bag of marshmallows and a wiry guy with hollowed eyes. "You better not have a campfire on my roof," Matt says, ignoring the obvious tension in the room - the wooden spoon has proved that he's more than blind.
"Toaster," Bucky shrugs. He's - definitely not the one Pepper met at the funeral, he's a baby-faced kid fresh out of the past.
"Extension cord. Stevie said - " Bucky falls into place behind the counter with him, watching over the spread of snacks.
"He's not paying the renter's insurance on the place - you're both awful squatters," Matt grumbles. "Wash your hands before you touch the food, who knows where you got that toaster."
Pepper makes a note of the suspiciously toaster-shaped empty space on the shelf behind them.
Matt flinches slightly as Morgan chatters to Tony and Happy on her new sugar high. "Spider-Man's not allowed around here, isn't he one of yours?" he asks Rhodey, sensing them watching him.
"Yeah, why?" Tony answers immediately.
"I think he's following Cap and Natasha. I think Cap fucked up again," Matt says, passing the knife to Bucky. "That wizard's with him and someone else - " he sniffs. "Mutant. Can you - "
"Go," Bucky says and Matt turns toward the door. "Wait - what am I making?"
"Guac," Matt calls over his shoulder.
"Am I allowed to ask who he is?" Pepper directs to Rhodey.
"He's Natasha's and we're lucky she's nice enough to share. The fuck is guac?" Bucky asks blankly.
Lyric tags belong to X-Ambassadors and RKS.
(There's a lot more I wanted to do for this, the 'Steve & Rhodey meet alt-timeline Tony & Steve and are slightly traumatized by their epic love' scene, the 'Nebula introduces Matt to Gamora' scene, the 'Steve convinces Tony to tag out in the final battle scene' - the final 'fucked it up' scene where Cap brings Pietro back when he can't get Vision and they have a time-travel intervention and of course the epic 'Sam and Bucky meet OG Bucky and emo-chastised by wizards-Steve' scene - I'm sorry that none of that made it into this final chapter. My muses aren't very happy with me right now and I'm so sorry that it shows.)
♥ Thanks for sticking with me. ♥