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A Really Good Lawyer

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It's been three days since Peter met with Matt Murdock. Three days to replay that hour he'd spent in a cramped office, shoulders hunched as Mr. Nelson and Mr. Murdock led him through the process of signing on a client. After Mysterio, he's had more than enough experience with lawyers to know they'd kept him there longer than necessary.

It should have bothered him, knowing they were throwing legal jargon around and urging him into conversation just to get a better read off the kid that had come in claiming to know Spider-Man. But truthfully? It had been the longest interaction he'd had in three months. It had been the most anyone had cared to learn about him since he'd fucked up Doctor Strange's spell, and paid a price that sometimes hurt worse than when he'd seen MJ fall and had known, with startling clarity, that he wasn't going to catch her. And Mr. Murdock and Mr. Nelson had been nice. So nice.

He didn't tell them much, not about himself, but he'd felt his limbs loosen the longer he listened to them talk. Muscles he'd long forgotten how to untense had relaxed and the constant pinging of his Spider sense had faded into background noise. Safe, his body had decided. We're safe.

(Peter's long since stopped calling it his "tingle." Ever since Osborn had betrayed Peter's trust, destroyed Happy's apartment, and killed... and killed... ever since Osborn had taken away the only family Peter'd had left, calling it a "tingle" had felt juvenile. And he knows now that it's more than just a tingle. More than just a feeling that pokes at the corners of his mind.

It's the hairs on the back of his neck rising. It's a heat that begins at his collar, flushing his skin. In his first month alone, he'd realized that it didn't distort his world, it snapped it into focus. Brighter colours. Stronger smells. An awareness of his surroundings that felt like a free dose of adrenaline. And there, in that office, Peter had realized he'd been running off adrenaline for a long time.)

They had needled him with questions, though Mr. Murdock ("You can call me Matt, if you prefer, Peter.") had been quick to reassure him that Nelson, Murdock and Page did not need to know Spider-Man's identity. In fact, it would be better if Peter didn't tell them.

"Call it plausible deniability," Mr. Nelson ("And you can call me Foggy.") had said, his shoulder almost bumping against Matt's. Foggy had dragged a chair from the foyer into Matt's office, muttering under his breath about how they really should be investing in better seating arrangements. They'd sat across from Peter, passing documents for him to review and take home.

Matt had smiled. "Aside from the essentials, like your contact information, we don't need much from you right now, Peter. We'll likely put you down as Spider-Man's negotiator rather than as a client, but you're more than welcome to request services for yourself as well. That extends to any friends or family that might need our help should Spider-Man face any legal trouble."

"Oh, that's good," Peter had said, words escaping his lips before he could swallow them. "But, uh, nobody knows him but me. You know, under the mask?"

"That's fine, Peter. The offer still stands." Matt's eyes had been almost visible under the soft lights. They hadn't focused on him, veering off just over Peter's left shoulder and tinted a smoky red from his glasses, but they'd been kind. Reassuring. Like May's had been when he'd talk her ear off about the classes at MIT. Outside, the sun had started to set. Even in March, the sun goes down too early. Peter's counting down the days before Daylight Savings time finally gives him back the hour it's been hoarding all winter. It's easier to still feel like himself in the daytime.

About a half hour into their chat, Peter's stomach had betrayed him with a growl that made his face grow hot. His metabolism still hadn't caught the memo about Peter's financial situation and hunger had become a constant companion. Nothing debilitating. Just a knot in his stomach that had grown tighter each passing day. Almost casually, Matt had paused, leaning back into his chair. "You know, our firm is often paid in baked goods. We still have some paperwork to cover and I wouldn't be opposed to trying Ms. Chen's pineapple buns while we work on it. Foggy?"

"God, yes. I've been waiting all day to try them. Peter?"

It had sounded better than the peanut butter, rice, and frozen veggies Peter had in his apartment. But still, he'd only come to help Spider-Man. He didn't know if he could afford to take this olive branch. Everyone Peter had let into his life up until now had ended up hurt or dead. "Oh, no, that's okay, Mr. Nelson. Thank you. I just, um, don't really like pineapple?"

"Lucky for you, there's no actual pineapple in pineapple buns," Matt had replied with a upturn of his lip. "It's just a sweet bread. Are you sure you wouldn't like one, Peter?"

Peter had caved. Aunt May had instilled in him the importance of being polite, after all, and Matt and Foggy had agreed to help him. Refusing a second time would've just been rude. The buns had been airy and soft and light on his tongue. Foggy had put two on Peter's plate and said nothing more about it.

When they finally had let Peter go, it had been with a small manila folder of documents and a box of Ms. Chen's pineapple buns.

("She gave us two boxes. And with everything else our clients give us, it'll go to waste here," Matt had said, holding the box out. Peter's hands had been shaking when he reached for it, knocking the box out of Matt's grip. Quick as a whip, Matt had caught the box on the top of his foot and kicked it back up to his hand. Foggy and Miss Page hadn't reacted. As if this had just been a normal thing a blind man could do.

"Nice catch," Peter had said, biting back the question of How did you do that? How did you catch that brick? What am I missing here?

Matt had just pushed the box towards Peter, the ghost of a smirk dancing on his lips. "You can bring the papers back whenever we're open. We'll be in touch.")

He'd all but booked it out of the building the second the office door clicked shut. In the interest of avoiding gossip, Peter had waited until he'd left Hell's Kitchen behind to take the Spider suit from his backpack. All the way home, his thoughts had stayed steady on the growing quirks of Matt Murdock.

While Peter doesn't have access to the same resources that he did with Mr. Stark, he's damn smart. He has a phone, an internet connection, and enough free time to research everything there is to know about Spider-Man's new lawyer. Sure, he probably should have done that before he sought out his former attorney, but it hadn't come to mind. For the past three months, he's made a point of avoiding the past. It's already terrifying enough to pretend he doesn't know Matt at all and he's not even sure he succeeded in that. Extra research would have muddied things, given him more reasons to avoid getting close to someone from his former life ever again.

But now that Spider-Man's got a lawyer (two lawyers, even), it can't hurt to know who he's hired, right?

Putting the buns into his almost-empty fridge, Peter pulls out his cellphone. A pineapple bun that's somehow managed to sneak its way out of the box hangs from his mouth. Out of habit, he switches on the police scanner before dropping in a heap on top of his mattress. On his phone's notes app, he marks his first question: psychic?

Peter is sure that Matt's actually blind. His eyes don't track, Peter doesn't think he's seen them react to light, all of Matt's documents are printed in braille, and, above all, Peter just doesn't think the charade would be worth it. After some light digging, Peter even finds an old news article about a nine-year old Matt Murdock being blinded from a chemical spill. He'd pushed an old man out of oncoming traffic and lost his eyesight as a reward. So unless Matt's been faking his blindness for over twenty-five years, he definitely can't see. At least, not in the traditional sense.

That's fine. Hawkeye has hearing aids. Rhodey uses leg braces to walk after shattering his spine in Germany. Both kick ass. So, blindness doesn't exactly preclude Matt Murdock from being more than the persona he puts out.

Psychic could work, Peter figures, stretching out on his bed. It would explain how he caught the brick that had been lovingly thrown by one of Mysterio's supporters last September. If he's enhanced, it would also explain why he has an obvious soft spot for New York's vigilantes, even if he only errs on the legal side of their work. After everything that had gone down with the Sokovia Accords (which Tony had reassured Peter he didn't have to worry about), it makes sense that Matt wouldn't be flaunting anything that could be considered super-human. Not every enhanced person had wanted to be registered as an agent for the United Nations or placed under heavy scrutiny.

Peter finds what he can about Matt Murdock, noting his successes in taking down Wilson Fisk, a notorious crime boss that'd had half of the NYPD in his back pocket, and his work with the disenfranchised around Hell's Kitchen. Digging deeper, like, the third page of Google deep, Peter uncovers a strange gap in Matt's history that spans from mid-2017 to late 2018. There's no court cases that mention him. A week after winning an eleven million dollar personal injury case for Aaron James, there's just... radio silence.

Coincidentally, the timeline matches up for when Matt Murdock had mentioned representing Jessica Jones.

Maybe even more of a coincidence, Jessica Jones had been spotted working alongside Daredevil at the same time. And a website called Hero Watchers confirms that Daredevil hadn't been sighted for almost a year before that. Then... there's another article about Midland Circle. A building that reportedly had caused earthquakes that'd rocked Manhattan a week before its collapse. The building falls. Daredevil disappears again, alongside Matt Murdock. Nothing gets investigated.

Over a year later, a fake Daredevil appears, the Devil of Hell's Kitchen returns to protect his people, and Matt Murdock emerges from hiding to once again bring down Wilson Fisk-- who'd apparently set up Special Agent Benjamin Poindexter to masquerade as the man in red.

Pieces that Peter had figured were from different puzzles fall into place.

There's a lot about Matt Murdock that's out of place with a blind lawyer from Hell's Kitchen, but fits well with a certain horned vigilante. He spends the next three days helping people out in Queens, waiting out rain in the corner of Hunter's Point public library, and doing a deep dive into New York's original vigilante.

The computers at the library are ancient compared to Mr. Stark's tech, but the library is less than a mile from his apartment at Gotham Point, so he spends a lot of time here. It's a good place to study for his GED when he's not busy trying to figure out what his lawyer's deal is.

(His studio apartment is right along the East River. While it's shabby, it had mentioned apartments for low-income tenants online, which he'd desperately needed if he'd wanted to avoid living on the streets. He likes that the windows are easy to open and that it's a little isolated from other high-rises. It makes it easier for Spider-Man to crawl up the side of the building at three in the morning, bleeding and in need of first aid. And it's far enough from his old home that he can almost pretend it doesn't exist anymore. Because it doesn't. Not for him.)

Peter's never used a microfiche before (what does looking at old newspapers have to do with tiny fish?), so he sticks to the articles he can find online. The photos of Daredevil aren't as good as Peter's own pictures he sells to Jameson, but, hey, Daredevil only works at night. Grainy security cam footage shows Daredevil making those same puppy-like head tilts as Matt. They're a lot scarier on a man in a devil suit, but the mannerisms are the same. Online forums debate about Daredevil's power set, arguing things that range from kickass ninja skills, enhanced senses, or clairvoyance. Maybe some combination of the three. Or maybe just a powerless vigilante like the Punisher.

After three days, Peter thinks he's sure.

Matt Murdock is Daredevil.

It's not nice to unmask people. Peter knows that all too well.

But, fuck, it'd be cool if he's right. He already needs to start networking, and Daredevil would be a good ally. He's a little more brutal than Peter, but his moral compass seems to be unwaveringly good and, well, it'd be a little easier to feel comfortable with Matt if he knows he's Daredevil. The people that have died because of Peter... they'd never had superpowers. And the people he'd known with powers who had? He's had time to understand that their deaths don't rest solely on his shoulders. They hadn't been in danger because they'd known Peter Parker was Spider-Man. It's a terrible rationalization, but maybe he'd feel a little better about dragging people into his Spider-Man business again if he knows they can protect themselves.

Even though he knows it's selfish and unfair, Peter doesn't want to be alone. He can't have his old life back. Until MJ and Ned finally leave for Boston, it takes everything in him to avoid going back to Peter Pan Donuts and fulfilling his promises to them. Whenever his feet lead him there, memories of everything that's happened halt his steps. His chest stutters and Aunt May's final words float through his mind, soft and ghostly. I just need to catch my breath.

No, they aren't made for a life steeped in crime. They aren't fighters. His friends deserve happiness, fulfillment, and a life that isn't threatened by super villains looking to get to Spider-Man. Ultimately, tragically, he knows they can't get what they deserve if he tries to be in their life. It isn't fair to drag them back in.

He'd failed to live two different lives. The only point of Peter Parker now is to be the person who pays Spider-Man's bills.

But Matt Murdock is Daredevil, and maybe that means he can tell him Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Maybe that means he doesn't have to be alone anymore.

Peter unlocks his apartment door on the third evening after re-meeting Matt Murdock for the first time. His apartment is cold. With spring almost here, his landlord's adjusted the heating for the building, pretending it's for scheduled maintenance. Shrugging off his jacket, Peter tosses it onto his unmade bed. Scrolling through his phone, he looks for any sightings of Daredevil on Hero Watchers. There's a ping for him from about an hour ago, near the fringes of Hell's Kitchen and Midtown. West 42nd and 10th Avenue. If he's quick, Peter figures he could swing there in about twenty minutes, give or take some time if anybody needs help along the way.

Pulling the suit from his backpack, Peter straightens out the crumpled fabric to slip it on. He likes his new suit. After seeing Peter Two and Peter Three's designs, he'd brightened the colours and mimicked the webbing style. After finding a functional sewing machine while dumpster diving, he'd even learned how to patch it up. He misses the nanotech on Mr. Stark's suit and, more importantly, he misses Karen, but the spandex and polyester Spider suit is something he's proud of. The mask even has a chrome covering over the lenses to stop people from seeing his eyes. It's definitely homemade, but he doesn't think it's a bad thing.

With the Spider suit on, he eases his window open, creeping off the sill like he's still trying to sneak out without Aunt May knowing. Sometimes, when he opens the window, Peter half-hopes he'll hear Aunt May reminding him to be home by midnight. Like every time before, there's no voice behind him. There's nobody left to care if he gets home safe.

He doesn't have any money to pay for the ferry, so he sneaks through the Queens Midtown tunnel. Tourists honk and wave from their cars, snapping photos as Spider-Man tries to swing above the traffic.

"Hey, it's Spider-Man! That's so cool!"

"Spider-Man! Look over here!"

"You can't make me pull over!"

Peter waves as he rushes by, promoting his favourite pizza places in Manhattan (hey, everyone should try Tony's once in their lives), reminding people to stay in school (hypocrite), and telling people to enjoy New York. The tunnel reeks of car exhaust and half-eaten fast food, so Peter's relieved when he finally swings out. From the tunnel, it's easy to keep on the path towards Hell's Kitchen. He takes a moment to stop a purse-snatcher and promises to let them off with a stern warning before shooting back into the sky. He feels like Tarzan as he swings, flying through the city on vines made of synthetic webs. MJ hadn't liked that movie. (Though she'd relented enough to admit that the soundtrack was incredible.)

Near the corner of West 42nd and 10th, Peter spies a man with his face covered at an ATM. He looks like a cartoon thief with his crow bar. All he's missing is the striped shirt.

"Hey, hamburglar!" Peter says, descending on the man. "Is it broken?"

The thief whirls around and Peter can see the whites of his eyes. They dart from side to side in search of an exit. His shoulders are tense. "What?"

"Is it broken?" Peter repeats, raising a wrist.

"Look, man, I'm not hurting nobody. I'm just trying to get some cash--"

A web covers his mouth. The crowbar clatters to the pavement in his alarm, the man's hands shooting up to his face. Peter shrugs. "Yeah, well, crime doesn't pay."

(That's gotta be the worst quip he's made in months. Fucking hell. Whoever thinks up his dialogue-- and Peter refuses to believe the responsibility lies solely on him-- has got to give him something better to work with.)

After telling the guy that the webs should dissolve in two hours, he decides it's not worth it to flag down a cop. He doesn't want to deal with police tonight, not when he's still not sure where the NYPD lies after the armored truck incident. Giving the guy a final reminder not to do that again, he shoots out a web and finally crosses the threshold into Hell's Kitchen. He knows the Devil is out tonight. Given Daredevil's reputation, Peter figures the vigilante will find him rather than the other way around. So, for lack of a better direction, he swings towards Nelson, Murdock and Page.

With the sun long gone, the air is chilly. It bites into his skin, pushing through the fabric of his costume. He can't help but miss Karen's heaters. He'd tinkered with the idea of adding heat packs (the kind you can find at a drug store) or insulation into his suit, but hadn't figured out how to add it without the suit becoming bulky and awkward to move in. So on nights like this, his teeth chatter as he flies through the air. Traffic is lighter in Hell's Kitchen. It's not exactly the part of town you want to be in after dark. Especially not since people had realized Daredevil was back.

He makes it about two blocks before he realizes he's being followed. Peter lands on a low-rise building, spinning around. No shadows are out of place. But still, Peter's Spider sense won't stop screaming. Somebody is watching him. "I know someone's there."

The wind answers back.

Peter huffs, crossing his arms across his chest. "I know, I know. This is your space. But, uh, I was actually looking for you."

The feeling of someone watching him gets closer. Peter can't hear any footsteps, no matter how hard he strains. But he can feel somebody closing in. Unless he's going crazy, only Daredevil can be so quiet. Peter's heard the stories. It's part of why there are rumours that Daredevil isn't human, but something supernatural. A devil in more than just the name. Trying to steady his breathing, Peter takes a step further into the open.

"Daredevil, right? I'm Spider-Man. Hey, if you're not busy, could we talk?"

"I can spare a minute," a deep voice says from behind him.

Peter jumps, spinning on his feet to throw a wild punch. Daredevil catches his wrist mid-swing, less than a foot away. The top half of his face is hidden behind that famous mask. The eye holes on his mask are the inverse of Peter's-- pitch black and definitely impossible to see out of. Daredevil clenches his jaw and cocks his head in a way that's achingly familiar. He slackens his grip on Peter's wrist and lets Peter take a step back. Peter's Spider sense stops going haywire, dampening to a dull hum. "Oh, sorry! Caught me by surprise."

"You wanted to talk?"

Right. All business. Peter debates just coming right out and asking. If he's wrong, no big deal. Even if he's right and Matt Murdock decides to drop Spider-Man as a client, he figures Matt will figure out something's up eventually. Peter's not a great liar. And besides, it isn't like Daredevil will kill him if he's right. He's about the only hero (vigilante?) in New York that's never killed.

"Um, yeah. Just give me a minute. And um, I know I'm not really in a position to be making demands, but could we just, like," he waves a hand over Daredevil, "cool it with the posturing?"

Perhaps a little taken aback, Daredevil takes a step back and relaxes, if only marginally. He's frowning. Peter wants to call the look on his face conflicted. Like he's debating saying something that could scare Peter off that rooftop. Peter takes a deep breath. He starts to ramble.

"So, uh, big fan. You're really cool. I've heard about a lot of the stuff you've done for Hell's Kitchen and I think it's awesome. And I know you're, like, really territorial and everything, but I was wondering if you wanted to network? Do they call it that? I know I stick to my place and you stick to yours for the most part, but, uh, I sometimes find it hard to work alone-- and maybe you do too!-- and I figured I'd swing over here to ask and--"


He freezes. Who's Peter? he wants to ask. Don't know anybody by that name, no way.

But Daredevil's infamous for being a human lie detector. And besides, Peter knows his name too. He looks into Daredevil's dark lenses and swallows.