Matt was dreaming.
And it wasn't a gut-wrenchingly awful, get-down-on-your-knees-and-cry terrible, which was really what was the most surprising about it. His usual dreams involved him kneeling beside a corpse in an alleyway, knees in inch-deep water, and hands trembling as they rested on the body's sticky, bloody face. The identity of the body always changed, but the dream was, otherwise, exactly the same. Sirens, the hot wet smell of blood, and his own heartbeat drumming painfully loudly in his ears.
When he as a child, the body was always his father's. And why wouldn't it be? He had no one else, no friends, no other family who wanted anything to do with him. Just the two Murdock boys- and then, just the one- against the rest of the world.
When he met Stick, it was suddenly his shrivelled old mentor lying dead in the rain. He never old Stick about it, obviously; Stick would have snorted, gotten angry, knocked him to the ground. "Get up," he would have said. "Get up!" And Stick left him when Matt gave him a fucking bracelet, of all things. What would he have done if he'd discovered the kid he was training to be a soldier was constantly frightened over his death?
At least Matt understood what an asshat Stick was now. But that didn't change the fact that if Matt did find that old man's corpse growing cold in a side street… he wouldn't just keep walking.
College, there were only two people who haunted his dreams as bled-out corpses, who he laid awake sometimes worrying about: Foggy, and Elektra.
Foggy was bold and loud and hilarious, didn't dance around him like he'd shatter at the slightest touch, but it didn't change the fact that Matt could feel just how weak Foggy's body was. His lungs rasped with asthma; the smallest sprint had him panting and doubling over, lungs straining. Foggy's left ankle was hyperflexible. He strained it all the time. He had astigmatism, he couldn't see properly and didn't wear glasses because he was far too proud to.
If someone went after Foggy in a dark alley with a gun- he would never, ever be able to defend himself.
Elektra… Elektra Natchios was interesting. Dark, independent, strong in more ways than just physical strength. She was charismatic and elusive and fiercely intelligent.
And, Matt sometimes though, most importantly, she did not treat his disability as though it defined everything he was. And she expected others to behave the same, or suffer her wrath. (A frat-boy once yelled abuse at Matt from across the street, when Elektra was there beside him. He turned up at the emergency room with a broken wrist and a smashed ego. That, Matt supposed, was when the cracks started showing.)
Elektra was more likely to put someone in that alley than be the one lying down in it. When they stopped seeing each other, however regretful he was, Matt knew it was for the best.
And now it was Foggy, Karen, and Claire.
Karen, who nearly died every other week from attempting to expose corruption scandals. Who was singularly selected for careful execution for getting her nose into the Union Allied files. And who still didn't press Matt for the secret she knew he and Foggy were both keeping from her.
She'd work it out herself, he was sure. She was clever. She probably already suspected, and was merely looking for evidence.
Claire had been specifically singled out and attacked to get to him. They had gone after her because she had helped him, they'd almost killed her just to get his name from her. And even through all of that pain, she hadn't given him up.
She was in Spain now, to Matt's great relief. Quite safe from the bullshit going on in Hell's Kitchen.
Still. Matt missed her.
And as none of these loved ones were lying dead in his mindscape, and his dream was really quite nice, it was understandably a disappointment to be woken far earlier than he should have been.
Foggy's newly personalised ringtone, the dulcet tones of him bellowing his own name, Karen laughing ridiculously in the background, shattered Matt's deep sleep, and he woke up abruptly and unpleasantly. The first few seconds after this rude interruption were spent glaring at the invisible ceiling, and softly swearing.
"Foggy? What's happening?" Matt demanded the second he slapped hi phone into answering the call.
Foggy laughed at him. "And good morning to you too, sunshine! Time to get the hell up!"
Ah, no peaceful morning greeting for today.
"Why? My alarm hasn't even gone off yet. What is it, 5 in the morning?"
"5:25. But that doesn't matter," Foggy said, sounding far too delighted to be up this earlier. Matt thought wistfully of the good night's sleep he might have had, had he not been beating up that rapist he'd defended and afterwards beaten up, who was prowling a McDonald's parking lot for victims. He just never learned.
Matt squeezed his eyes shut and groaned. "Foggy, I went to sleep two hours ago. Any reason for this? Or is it just revenge?"
"Revenge, partly," Foggy said helpfully. "I'm still annoyed about your new acquaintance."
He huffed out of his nose. "Foggy, I had no idea he was Captain America until I heard his voice on the news," he tried to explain. How many times had he told Foggy that? It must have been rapidly approaching the triple digits. But Foggy accepted no excuses when it came to his childhood hero. "You know how many 'Steve Rogers' there must be in New York? A lot."
"I know!" Foggy said brightly. "But I don't really care."
"You sound like Marci."
"You take that back. And I have no sympathy for you being exhausted over your questionably illegal night-time activities."
Matt forced himself to sit up. "You have someone there with you?" It wasn't like Foggy to be so- elusive when talking about Matt's night-time criminal activities if he were by himself. If he wanted to say something, he would say it straight out. No fudging around. And Foggy delighted in telling Matt that beating people up was A) illegal, B) morally wrong, and C) ironic and completely hypocritical considering Matt was an innocent lawyer in the daytime, maniacal vigilante by night.
So, there were two possibilities as to Foggy's company.
"Don't tell me Karen is up as well. Do you two live off coffee and energy drinks? When was the last time you had an actual night's sleep?"
"July. Anyway, when did you? Not since college?" Foggy laughed. "Nah, it's not Karen. I think she's asleep, or buying energy drinks. We have a client."
Matt let his head fall back and hit the headboard. "A client? At 5:30 in the morning?"
"The law waits for no man."
"Shut up. I'm coming." Matt heaved himself out of bed and padded over to the bathroom, snatching his phone as he went. "Anything I should know before I get there? Crime, etc.?"
"Extensive property damage. Under a pseudonym, of course."
"Under a pseudonym?"
"Yeah. Like broke a bunch of stuff when he- was someone else. So, he's being sued. You'll find out more when you get here."
"That's not really a pseudonym. That would be when someone has a secret or separate identity, under which they partake in questionable activities, like writing novellas. You're saying this client is being sued, but not under his 'pseudonym'. And if he's being sued under his actual identity for something his counterpart has done, the-"
"Fight me, Matt. Just get here and we can argue about it then." Foggy sounded gleeful. A high calibre client, perhaps? This was just getting more and more suspicious.
"Yeah, okay. I'll try be there in twenty."
"I look forward to it, mi compañero de avocado."
"Please don't try to speak Spanish. It doesn't work."
Matt made a show of fumbling with the doorhandle as he listened carefully to the heartbeats in the room. Two. One Foggy's easily recognisable heartbeat, steady and strong with a touch of raspiness to his breathing, and a fluttering one that must have belonged to the client. There was a strange undertone to his heartbeat, like the bass to a song. Deeper and heavier and darker than what a body should sound like.
He wondered who the client was.
Matt found the handle and pushed himself into the room, smiling lightly in a way that apparently (according to Karen, at least) made people calm down. "Hey Foggy," he said pleasantly. "Is the client here?"
"Ah, yes," the client said, leaping to his feet.
"You must be in some trouble if you're looking for a lawyer at 5:30 in the morning," Matt joked. "I'm Foggy's business partner, Matt Murdock." He stretched out a hand.
"Bruce Banner," the client replied, accepting the hand. He had a firm grip, but his hand was shaking very slightly. Not enough for an ordinary person to feel, but Matt could.
Matt patted his way to his chair, and sat. He felt Foggy turn his head towards him, and he wondered what expression would be on his face.
"Well, we're all here now!" Foggy said. "Do you want to explain why you're here to Matt, Mr. Banner, or-?"
"Dr," Banner corrected automatically. "I can explain, but thank you."
Matt heard a deep, quiet intake of breath. He found himself leaning forward fractionally, and forced himself to sit straight.
Dr. Banner twitched. "I'm sure you're both very familiar with the Battle of New York, especially considering the damage inflicted on your neighbourhood."
Foggy's heartbeat was racing. And there was really only one reason why that would be.
Matt nodded. "We are."
"And I suppose you may have heard of the great damage in-" Banner's heartbeat was speeding up.
"Dr. Banner," Matt interrupted. "I know who you are, and I know of your- counterpart. We only represent those who are innocent or act in self-defence. I believe you come under a combination of those headings, and we are therefore happy to represent you."
"We did represent a rapist because we were poor," Foggy added helpfully. "But he got beaten up the second he left court, and his buddies tried to take Matt out, so we're just sticking to the innocent for the moment."
"One question, Dr. Banner," Matt continued. The poor man seems to be quite taken-aback. "Your- colleague Mr. Stark undoubtedly has more experienced lawyers. Why come to us, a small company barely on our feet?"
Bruce laughed quietly. "That's your only question? Nothing about how- my condition arose?"
Foggy shrugged. "Well, at the moment it's not any of our business. I mean sure, later we'll probably need to know the basics, but right now…" he looked towards Matt.
"And nothing about concerns to your safety?" Dr. Banner seemed to be more surprised than his heartbeat was letting on. "The Hulk doesn't exactly make people feel safe."
"We trust you, Dr. Banner," Matt told him firmly. "You and your colleagues have all worked for the safety of the world, and for this we are grateful. And having a- a disability, of sorts- I understand that, and I also understand how that does not define you, and how you probably wish to be treated by others."
Dr. Banner seemed taken aback, but his heartbeat was slowing down, which was undoubtedly a good sign. "Oh. Thank you." He paused. "I did hear about you being attacked by that gang, it was my friend Steve, who I think you met, who recommended I find you."
Foggy, who was taking a sip of water, choked.