Bearers of Bad News
Roleplaying Log: Bearers of Bad News
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Bucky and Jane tell Matt about Wilson Fisk's quiet takeover of the Raft.

Other Characters Referenced: Wilson Fisk, Jessica Jones, Kinsey Sheridan
IC Date: May 15, 2019
IC Location: Matt's place
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 25 Aug 2019 20:14
Rating & Warnings: R (Language)
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

For the better part of a year, Bucky Barnes' lawyer was homeless. Sure, the guy crashed in some of the ritziest homes in Manhattan — thank you, Danny Rand! — and some less than glamorous. (Hello, Foggy Nelson's crumb-laden couch.)

But the fact of the matter is that Matt Murdock hasn't had a home to call his own ever since Wilson Fisk blew his bachelor-pad loft (and half the neighborhood surrounding it) all the way from Hell's Kitchen straight to hell itself. He's lived more or less out of a duffel bag.

So, when Matt suggests that they handle the remainder of Jane Foster's paperwork from her stint at the Raft over dinner at his place, it's a little bit of a thing. Even if Seamless delivery is the order of the day. (He leaves cuisine choice up to them.)

It's still shy of dusk when they arrive: praise be New York City summer days. Shafts of sunlight strike one of the few unblasted blocks in the beleaguered Midtown neighborhood. It's all elegant townhouses cut with wide blocks of textured red stone, big-windowed and graced with lush green tree cover.

You can see why poor-boy Wilson Fisk spared this one. He hated everything about where he came from, transferring his feelings for his abusive father to his community. He saw Hell's Kitchen as he saw his father: sordid, squalid, brutal. But all those feelings never touched this block. He never wanted to destroy it. If anything, he aspired to be a part of it.

It's short rowhouse stairs that lead them to the second-story entrance, with its fine wood double-doors. Matt isn't living on the basement floor.

—-

Bucky Barnes isn't really a hovering sort of guy. Never was before the Winter Soldier, and especially wasn't afterwards. It took Jane a long time to even get him to be comfortable with physical contact and proximity, in fact, much less having to worry about him lurking over her shoulder. Yet given recent circumstances? As of late, he's been doing as much hovering as Bucky can be ever said to do, which is essentially 'lurking around nearby like a shadow in the event she needs him.'

Something about your girl being thrown in prison — when she's already not been feeling her best — tends to do that. It only got worse once Jane told him what happened in there.

It keeps his mood a little sober, even through the news that Matt's finally gotten a place after too many months as an itinerant lawyer — though that is welcome news, to be sure. They'd headed over promptly enough on getting the call (Bucky had no particular opinion on the choice of food, leaving it up to pickier tastes).

The actual location, when they arrive, does give Bucky pause a moment, his blue eyes taking in the sleek townhouses with a lift of his brows. "Nice place," he says aside to Jane as they ascend the stairs to ring the bell, though the comment seems as much question as anything else.

—-

Jane Foster isn't really a brooding sort of girl. Mind was never wired for it. She was given to this world for discovery, for exploration, and meaning comes ultimately with an end point — so even her thoughts script themselves a destination, a solution, a proof. She never felt justified wasting time to hold onto any single one feeling — especially not in a life where anyone can die young, work unfinished, questions unasked, answers unsolved.

Cyclic things — brooding nonetheless — always seemed an unnecessary labour.

Lately, she's been brooding a lot.

After the due diligence of informing friends that she was released from the Raft, and was in one piece — Jane went radio silent. Didn't reach out. Didn't extend herself past brief fits of work. Didn't do much but be a wraith in her own apartment, barely exuding a presence, doing very little, and brooding. Bucky Barnes was the only creature she tolerated near.

The only one she's told what happened to her — of her — within that prison's four walls.

The weeks have gone by, and through the grace of routine, Jane has opened back to showing shades of her old self, and indulging in her familiar, workaholic habits. With that grounding came the eventual understanding: what had happened needs to be told to others.

The invitation of dinner decides it for her. Jane, like Bucky, doesn't offer a grand opinion about the food: passed along, through him, is one ask. Nothing too fancy.

Hers are light steps after his, wearing dour, long-sleeved clothes that sets her apart from the sunny, almost-summer city. Jane turns eyes up on the ceiling on the climb up, taking in Bucky's remark. "Yeah," is all she says, but there's an inflection in her voice. Unsaid: 'It's weird.'

—-

It doesn't take long for Matt to open one of those doors. Why should it? He didn't need the doorbell; he probably heard them coming around the block. He probably even heard, through stone and wood and spans of space, that puzzled inflection in Jane Foster's voice.

He looks the same as ever, at least. Dressed casual: a grey t-shirt and some dark denim, his trademark round-rimmed shades, some beat-up grey sneakers. His hair is neatly cut: someone shaved off the those floppy sides to make him TV-presentable. After all, lawsuit's filed, he's got to be on air making the case. Trial of the century, round two — right down to opposing counsel, David Archer.

His smile still lights up his whole face, a burst of bright teeth and crinkles and warmth, so that you'd never know he was a depressed, violent vigilante who dressed up like a devil in his off-hours. It doesn't come often, but seeing them — seeing her out and about for what's the first time since he and Bucky picked her up from the pier they dropped her at — seems to be enough.

"Hey, you two," he says with all his quiet, wry warmth. Sounds the same, too. He steps in to give Bucky a handshake, Jane a hug. "Good to see you." It's a figure of speech he doesn't think twice about. "Come on in, pizza's here."

Looks the same. Sounds the same. But for the observant — and both of them are observant — there may be one difference in sight. There's not a nick, not a scratch, not a yellowing bruise on his visible skin.

—-

Bucky gives Matt a quick once-over. Despite the new digs, nothing else — to his immediate eye — seems markedly changed about the man other than the necessaries for facing another big trial.

And David Archer — again.

That familiarity seems to relax Bucky, especially on seeing that smile. The handshake's returned warmly, though where another man might have lifted his off arm to add a squeeze to the shoulder, Bucky doesn't. No wonder — it's his left arm, and he still prefers not to use it too casually.

"Same," Bucky says. "Been too long."

That one bit of dissonance, though? He's starting to notice it, even as Matt invites them in. He slants Jane a quick look, an expression on his face like he isn't sure whether this is a good sign or not, before he holds the door to let Jane enter first. "Even if it's to see to some real unfortunate paperwork."

It's all very, very weird.

The upscale digs. The host-at-home dinner plans. The first sight of Matt Murdock, looking a good hundred pounds lighter in the soul, devoid of his usual accessorization of bruises and cuts. That smile on his face, even.

Briefly, between seconds, Jane Foster freezes in place. Staring down Wilson Fisk in prison, she knew this was coming, and then she felt like a piece of shit to deliver the news. Now, she just feels like a monster.

Even with her heart sinking, and not without a quick, miserable glance at Bucky, Jane returns Matt's hug. She's thinner to the touch, and she seems to know that, so she doesn't linger long.

"Hi, Matt," is all Jane says, and there's no single note of happiness in her voice.

Entering past the threshold, she gives a cursory look-around at the apartment, though it's a reflexive gesture, something for which neither her mind nor heart are particularly in congress. The signs spell it out crystal-clear through all of Jane's physiological tells: slightly quick heartbeat, and alkaline with cortisol.

"I really appreciate all this. We seem to give you endless work," continues Jane, though she pauses, hesitant like she wants to say more.

She glances back on Bucky. Maybe he shouldn't know? Is this all a mistake?

—-

"Sure has," Matt says of it having been too long, still full of warmth and good humor, even if it's tinged with regret. He'd meant to check in on them before this. The plan had been to wait for some appropriate amount of time after Jane's release and then pop in with the papers. But… the case. These white wales of cases that Nelson & Murdock sometimes catch are every bit as all-consuming as Ahab's. They require single-minded focus. And so the plan to text one night can slip to the next, and the next. And then it's a full week later than Matt had intended, and…

…Jane is a wreck. Matt's powers of perception are formidable. He can read the whole world like a book. What he can't do is read someone else's thoughts, so the source of her misery remains elusive, or else just filed in a growing folder that reads: "Dr. Jane Foster's PTSD." There's a crease of his careworn brow as he detaches from her, a brief register of concern. Then he pivots and walks them inside.

It's a spacious two-story railroad. Living room then dining room then kitchen on the first floor, presumably bedroom(s) up above. It's bright and airy thanks to the windows, spacious and modern and clearly renovated only recently. In Boise or Albuquerque it would be a modest space. Here, in Midtown Manhattan, it's ostentatious. Just too much space —

—at least, for any one person.

He walks towards the kitchen, dispensing with the blind man's kabuki fumbling in place of sure strides. "Hey," he says, putting up a hand behind him, "anything for you two." The words are easy but heartfelt. He's already proved that in federal courthouses and in the jungles of Wakanda and in the snows of upstate New York. "I'm just so sorry this happened." That's the first bare hint of tension that he's registered so far tonight, there in the shift of his jaw when he says that. Testament, perhaps, to simmering anger at an increasingly immoral and unaccountable system. Not for putting Jane away, necessarily, but for putting her in a position where she felt she had to act as she did.

He walks to the wood and marble kitchen island to claim one of the stools that circle it. A box of good New York pizza sits on top of it, a stack of papers and a sixpack of beer beside it. Matt claims his stool and plops himself down, elbows and forearms planted on the surface. His head tilts, like a dog listening to some whistle in the distance. "How have you been doing?" An innocent enough question, were it in any context other than this one.

—-

It's surreal, really. The nice apartment, the non-beaten up Matt Murdock, the smile on his features that doesn't come weighed with ten thousand pounds of spiritual burden. Perhaps it's just a front, but… Bucky's known Matt long enough to know that the man doesn't do fronts very well. In his experience, anyway.

Perhaps Matt Murdock really is much more in his element with some big righteous case to fight, especially with Wilson Fisk safely put away. And here he and Jane are with more news about Fisk…

He returns Jane's miserable look, though it's with a rather grim one that pretty much says, 'We can't not tell him. He'd want to know.' The way Bucky sees it, it'd be like someone not telling him something relating to Hydra, or the old Soviets who made such a hell of his life. Besides — and Bucky doesn't say this part, not even with his eyes, his gaze turning away; besides, Jane's already given away that something is amiss with the pure unhappiness in her voice.

He follows Matt into the apartment, letting Jane make the initial apologies for Matt to expectedly brush them away. "You and me both," says Bucky tersely to the 'I'm so sorry this happened.'

He'll reach to help Jane up onto one of the stools — it's absolutely unnecessary, a reflex from a more chivalric era — before taking one himself. How have you been doing? Matt asks.

Bucky glances at Jane — maybe a little warm-up before the bomb drop — then back at Matt. "Getting by," he says. "My top priority's still chasing leads on the Triskelion business. Doesn't leave a lot of time for considering all the ins and outs of the law, and what's apparently a horrible enough crime to get you sent away to the damn Raft." He reaches for the six-pack to open it up and start passing it out. "We wanna go over the papers first?"

Jane closes her eyes for a heartbeat and a half. She needs to pull herself together.

She's never been good at this sort of thing: being the bearer of bad news. Give her tedious scientific minutiae to expound on at length for hours upon hours. Anything else. She loathes this crap.

Bucky's look seems to center her, and Jane knows she cannot disagree. Matt needs to know, of course. As is anyone else's right for knowledge, and to keep anyone wilfully ignorant — much less a close friend — goes against the grain of her soul. But walking through the valley of Matt Murdock's Life Finally On Track, she can't find a single bit of it close to fair.

Matt says he's sorry it happened, Bucky agrees, and Jane rouses from her dark thoughts. It takes her a moment to ascertain what they're even talking about, so far gone in her brooding that she's ignoring basic human sympathy. She exhales, somewhere between impatient and ashamed. "I'm fine. I mean — it's not exactly new. I have a rocky history with government bodies, and it's not the first time I've been dicked around."

The taste of those words come so bitter that Jane doesn't linger on a single syllable. The statement spit out, clear and quick, so she can be done with it.

Any last well of patience goes to Bucky Barnes; used to him, Jane accepts the hand up without even thinking of it. It's not that she needs the help (maybe, hard to say, her footsteps are cringingly too-light), but that she likes to indulge his old world manners as habit. It's not often he lets in traces of Bucky Barnes purely unadulterated by the decades of the Winter Soldier.

She eyes the pizza with her lukewarm appetite, and reaches first for a beer. Turning the can aimlessly in her hands, Jane is quiet as Bucky speaks for both of them. Back to her thoughts again. How the hell is she going to phrase this? So, Matt, about all you suffered and lost the last year putting away the monster that blew up your home —

Bucky glances again at Jane, and it's fortunate timing, because she's got that look on her face like she's one twitch from exploding and letting it all out — right here, right now, no time like the present. She meets his eyes, and it holds her back, just in time. Her lips press — good idea, she agrees — and she opens her beer.

"I hope the paperwork hasn't been too much BS," Jane ventures, voice still too-brittle. "I've been keeping my nose down. Staying on SHIELD's good side."

—-

Talk that Bucky is investigating the destruction of the Triskelion - Manhattan's six or seventh major disaster in the space of half as many years - sends Matt's bushy eyebrows to the roof of his brow. He knows that Bucky has been consulting for SHIELD for some time now, so it shouldn't necessarily surprise. But something about it nags, there at the basement of his brain. "That's enough to keep anyone busy," is all he says as he scoots his stool in and grabs a beer. He smiles a little at the chivalric sound of a stool screeching across the new kitchen floors before he forces the cap of the beer straight off with a thumb, sending it flying through the air, ricocheting off two walls before it makes a 10-point landing in the open garbage.

Such a fucking showoff.

"There's a big difference between having your work stolen and getting sent to the Raft for civil disobedience," her lawyer notes, ever her advocate, even to her. Sure, what she did may have stretched those boundaries… but what the DPS has been doing has been stretching boundaries in other ways. Is it any wonder that the proportions are all out of shape?

He slides a hand over to a manilla folder and sends it back towards Jane. "Your driver's license is in there," he says with a nod towards the folder. "Fill out the forms on your parole terms. The biggest one is no leaving the state for the next couple months. Weekly check-ins with your officer." Demeaning, senseless drug tests — those he doesn't go into, but she'll find them there anyway.

Matt's not a mind reader, but he's still sharp and, to put it mildly, perceptive. He can sense the anxiety coming off Jane in waves. Hear the misery in her voice. And so a clean-cut and (seemingly?) well-adjusted Matt Murdock, who this time last year was in the throes of a self-destructive binge and set to murder a couple of Russian gangsters in his basement, upnods towards Jane.

"Hey," he says in his quiet way, "What is it?"

—-

Perhaps the first sign something is off is that Bucky reaches for the beer before he reaches for the pizza. His enhanced metabolism leaves him perennially interested in food whenever it appears; that fact he doesn't seem in the mood for it right now is a hell of a tell. Jane isn't either, but… that's more usual.

The only bit of levity comes from his observation of Matt's trick shot with the bottlecap. "I gotta see enough of that in my life from Steve," is his amused remark.

Bucky turns a rather neutral eye on Jane as she spits out her disdain for governmental bodies and their fondness of 'dicking her over.' It's neutral more because he isn't a very demonstrative person than because he disagrees, though. Bucky knows, better than most, how a man — or woman — can suffer at the hands of corrupt governments. His own history with them can't be encapsulated in any word so small as 'rocky.' To try to apply such a term would be understatement bordering on parody.

Another unusual beat — the fact that it's Bucky doing most of the talking. Usually Jane's talking first, between the two of them; she's harder to get to be quiet. That impulsiveness puts her right on the verge of blurting everything out before they've had a chance to really settle down, which Bucky — exercising the remembered social skills he had as a young man — doesn't quite think is the best idea.

Of course, they can't hide that they've got something on their minds forever. Not from senses like Matt Murdock's. His direct question has Bucky glancing a bit unhappily askance at Jane. Well, nothing for it.

"Well, it wasn't all uneventful in the Raft," he says, blunt as ever. "Jane had a run-in with an old friend in there, up to his old tricks."

—-

Every bit a crow at heart — greater forces chose to reflect Jane the spiritual, curious bird — her eyes follow the trajectory of that beer cap, attracted by movement. She makes no comment on the perfection of the shot by a blind man, or its inherent joke; she doesn't even seem to notice.

Dr. Foster isn't home at the moment.

Deep in thought, she instead opens her own beer and indulges in a deep gulp that's less pleasure and more a necessary first breath of air, emptying it until her insides stoke with warmth. It still doesn't help. There's no enjoying a moment she knows is going to be ruined ever so shortly — maybe even ever so irrepairably.

Thankfully, the manilla folder seems to break her out of it, just enough, that Jane comes to, accepting it with a wan, beat-too-late smile. She doesn't care to open it to check its promised contents, appearing to care the least about her legal future, and however it'll end up. "Sounds fair," she says to the terms, either incredibly dry or just well beyond giving a shit. Parole, whatever. Check-ins, sure. She'll wear whatever demeaning leash they'll put on her.

There are worse worries than the threat of peeing into a cup for the next however many weeks.

A beat. She remembers to say, "Thanks again, Matt. I am sorry for the work."

But it doesn't end there. Not with a man like Matt Murdock, who senses all, sees all — in his own way. His question thins her mouth. Her fingertips press fussily into her beer in hand. Fidgetting. She needs to say it, and she doesn't know how to.

So Bucky Barnes saves her life again, like the dozens upon dozens of times before. Jane, stolen from whatever dark place that took her mind again, slants him a surprised, stricken look. Not expecting him to speak for her, and appreciating it beyond words.

Jane sets her beer down, and rubs her fingers over her closed eyes. She exhales. She finds her words. "Fisk cornered me in there. He has the guards bankrolled. He's living like a king. He wanted me to see it, so I can do just this. Tell you."

Jane thanks Matt, again, and apologizes for the work she's laid at the lawyer's feet. To which Matt waves a dismissive hand. "It's what friends do," he says simply. And then he waits for the inevitable unspooling of whatever it is that has her fidgeting, and that has Bucky Barnes reaching for a beer before loading up on carbs.

—-

Three years in, they all know each other too well at this point.

All the buildup was probably a good thing. By the time the couple answer him, he's had a chance to build up an emotional seawall to meet whatever tide of bad news they bring.

It still hits hard enough to shake him right to the core. He knew that DPS was shipping Jane to Wilson Fisk's prison. It was a nagging point of concern, given how last year Jane had committed the one truly unforgivable sin in the book of Fisk: threatening the mobster's beloved girlfriend Vanessa.

It was a concern, sure. But this was the Raft. It had a legendary reputation that put maximum security facilities to shame. State of the art, built to withstand Magneto or Namor or whatever the metahuman marvels of the world could throw at it. It placed a premium on solitary confinement, never letting its detainees get too close or organize…

…and Jane Foster is telling him that ordinary human Wilson Fisk has taken it over from within. It's staggering news, and you can see it in the briefly stricken look on Matt's fair-featured face. That blast of shock creates a chasm, into which other emotions seep. Disbelief, disgust, anger — and fear. It's those last two emotions that have Matt suddenly leaning forward towards her:

"Jane, did he hurt you?

—-

The stricken look on Matt's features turns Bucky's face aside. It's partially his own guilt, and partially a surreptitious check on Jane's own reaction to causing such an expression to appear on Matt's face. The deep draught she took of the beer earlier, her lack of response to the restrictions and terms and conditions (uncharacteristic of her) already concerned him. Enough that he took it upon himself to speak first on her behalf, to break the ice. It's not usually what he does, the taciturn old soldier tending to let her lead in talking, but sometimes he does dig out his old social skills for special occasions.

Occasions like these. He reaches under the table to take Jane's left hand in his right, tangling fingers. Both a reminder and a reassurance.

His eyes only leave Jane when Matt finally speaks. His choice of first question softens Bucky's grim blue gaze, but there's something in the silence after the inquiry that seems to contain something vast and awful. "He didn't hurt her," is his brief remark. Brief because, though he would like to help take some of the burden of Jane telling the story all by herself, it's still not really his story to tell. "I figure the whole thing was meant for a message."

What he doesn't say: if Fisk had hurt her, he would have done so already, and then the Winter Soldier would have long since had something to say about it.

Her expression is not quite smithed in steel, but it is distant — briefly a thousand miles away in memory. The touch is the only thing that brings enough flutter to her lashes.

Little changes on Jane Foster's face, but beneath the table, her hand tightens back on Bucky's. She's still here with him, every step of the way, and nothing in this world shall ever change that.

However, the hanging guillotine spectre of Wilson Fisk could have changed that — had the power to change that, for all the nights Jane spent caged in that underwater prison. It would have been a different story had the Kingpin acted immediately, and without reserve, on his rage, and deemed Dr. Foster of no value enough to take a next breath. It is Bucky holding Jane's hand, but in every way, she is the one grounding him —

Would there be any reason for James Barnes to stay, and not recede back into his quiet winter for good?

Her pained silence has help, and Jane turns down her eyes, shameful and grateful both, when Bucky answers for her. She looks up, sees Matt, sees that unadulterated concern on his face, and hates herself a little more.

"Yeah," she says, voice dry-bone brittle. "I'm fine. It wasn't about me. It's not about me at all. He wanted me to pass the message — to you. Matt. It's all his. They platter him steak dinners. They serve his every whim. He's found some way to maintain access over his money in the country's more secure prison. Or he's — got some third party paying the Raft off for him, if he doesn't own it already. It's like… it's like he hasn't been touched, just changed venues."

—-

It's a stupid question that Matt asked. Did he hurt you? If Wilson Fisk had truly hurt Jane Foster, this discussion would be moot. Because Raft or no Raft, the storied one-armed assassin who currently sits at Matt Murdock's kitchen island sipping a beer would have found a way to kill him.

At any other moment Matt would have known better to ask. But that concern Jane sees in his baffled, anguished features isn't truly unalloyed. It's comingled with a rising tide of fear and guilt that helped bring aforementioned question to the surface.

I made the wrong choice. There at the end, in the abandoned subway station below City Hall, Matt Murdock convinced Luke Cage to spare Wilson Fisk's life. After months of feverish deliberation over whether to murder the Kingpin, Matt had done the 'right' thing: turning him in to SHIELD and letting the justice system do its work. There had been something cathartic and liberating about that decision, even if it had come on the heels of so many less savory ones.

What Jane says calls it all into question. This is on you, he hears Wanda Maximoff's voice from one year ago and a hundred miles away, on the shores of some Connecticut beach. He should be dead. The sins he soon commits — they are yours.

Even if Jane escaped harm — this time — others won't. Wilson Fisk is a great white shark. He will move and feed and feed and feed until he dies. Until someone has the gumption and resolve to finally kill him.

Matt's hands tighten on his beer bottle, white-knuckled. And as his head bows in a rare expression of utter defeat, he says to his friends what he replied to his unlikely ally, there on that beach.

"Yeah," he murmurs, head still dipped. "This is on me."

—-

Bucky is aware of how close they came to Jane being taken away from him. It's there in the pressure of his hand around her own. And for him, the fears involved in that do not just surround Jane's death in and of itself, though that's of course the primary thing that keeps him awake at night. It's the knowledge that without Jane, there is a one hundred percent chance would slip back into the Winter Soldier again in order to kill Wilson Fisk — and a high chance that afterwards, James Barnes would not come back out.

Would there be enough left to coax him back out? It's not a question that he seems to desire even speculating on the answer to.

Instead, he just listens as Jane explains Fisk's posh living conditions in the Raft. It is something that both angers him and does not surprise him, judging by the look on his face. He worked extensively in the Cold War-era Soviet Union; corruption is not a stranger. His attention seems to be on Matt's reaction to the news instead of on any intensive contemplation of the news in and of itself. He got the full briefing from Jane already — the full one.

This is on me, Matt says. "It's on Wilson Fisk," is Bucky's blunt counter. "Everything Fisk does, that's on Fisk. Not you." His left hand tightens in a wring of metal. "We'll just find a way to put him away — proper."

—-

These three have been through a lot. And in the course of these travails, they've often traded roles with each other. Each has assumed the part of destroyer, savior, and even damsel, before passing the baton over to their counterpart.

So when Bucky Barnes tells Matt that the evils Fisk surely continues to commit aren't on him, it's easy to hear the echoes of a young upstart lawyer telling Barnes, the ladies and gentlemen of the jury, and the whole world that the crimes committed by the so-called "Winter Soldier" were at the feet of Hydra, and not of Barnes himself.

Even in the midst of self-recrimination, Matt gets the resonances. It adds a mix of sentiments to an already complicated cocktail of emotions that finds expression on his stubbled, careworn features. Gratitude, of course, and equal parts obstinate denial. And right alongside them? Fear. Because putting Fisk away proper has a note of finality to it. And as much as Matt is questioning his decision to imprison Fisk instead of killing him, he's not at all sure he's ready to take that step. And he's dead-set against Barnes making that move.

But they've had that fight before. Exactly that fight, as it happens, and Matt is in no mood to revisit it now. He needs time to think, to plan, and — maybe — even to consult the others in this recently depleted crew of theirs.

"Thanks," Matt says quietly and lets it hang there in the air a moment before he clarifies what he's thanking these bearers of bad news for: "For, ah, telling me. We'll figure it out together."

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