telaryn: (AOS Skye)
[personal profile] telaryn
Title: Risk Management
Author: [ profile] telaryn
Word Count: 1425
Fandom: Daredevil (TV), Agents of SHIELD
Characters: Matt Murdock, Mary Sue Poots (Skye/Daisy Johnson), assorted religious folk
Rating: G
Warnings: None
Disclaimer: No ownership implied, no profit obtained.
Summary: Still nursing his hurt from Stick walking out on him, eleven year old Matt is drawn to a new girl at St. Agnes.
Author's Note: Written for [ profile] hc_bingo's Round 6, for the prompt "isolation".

Stick leaving hurt. Matt could feel the scar forming deep in his heart, almost as thick and heavy as the one left by his father’s death. I needed a soldier. You wanted a father.

The disgust in even the echo of his teacher’s voice churned his stomach. Stick had given him direction, focus, and even if the sense of connection had ultimately been a lie, the man had taught him how to walk in a world where he was no one’s victim.

A world where he wasn’t alone.


Lying back on his bed, Matt curled up on his side – pointedly facing the wall as Sister Agatha cautiously opened the door. The nuns had respected his grief up to a point, but Mother Superior herself had strongly hinted just that morning that he would not be allowed to cut himself off from the other children for much longer. “I’m not hungry,” he announced, before she could tell him it was time for dinner.

The hand on his arm was gentle, but Sister Agatha’s tone was firm. “No one will force you to eat, my boy, but you need to show your face.”

Knowing that he was being a brat, but unable to stop himself, Matt turned his face towards the nun. The movement allowed him to shift free of her touch without actually jerking away. “I’ve shown it,” he said, unable to sense whether she appreciated his admittedly lame attempt at sarcasm. “Please go away now.”

Her heart rate was a steady, soothing beat in his ears – Matt pushed the knowledge away, not wanting to risk letting his guard down far enough to accept any sort of comfort. That lead to feelings, to connections…”You wanted a father.”

He turned his face to the wall again. Quiet footsteps were hurrying down the hall now. Something had happened that would take Sister Agatha away in a moment. All he had to do was be patient.

“Sister?” The query was accompanied by a soft knock on the door. Sister Rose, Matt thought, her scent reaching him a beat before he heard the soft rasp of her leg bones as they grated against each other. The cartilage in her right knee had worn entirely away, leaving bone-on bone friction as a constant, unyielding pain. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but…”

“No, it’s fine,” Agatha said, and Matt could taste the lie in her words. It was a small lie, colored with a healthy dose of frustration, but a lie nonetheless. “What’s happened?”

There was a pause, then Sister Rose said, “It’s the new girl – Mary Poots. Nobody can say for certain how it started, but…”

A fight, Matt understood. Sister Agatha’s hand was withdrawn now and he was out of the woods for the night. “Have somebody make a tray for Matthew. This subject is not closed, young man.”

He was pushing himself back up into a sitting position before Sister Agatha reached the door. “Is…is she okay?” he asked, his voice unsteady. “Mary, I mean?” He felt the women’s hesitation like a sharply plucked string vibrating in the air.

“Sister Margaret believes she is more scared than injured,” said Sister Rose. Matt had sensed the new girl briefly when Stick had dropped him off, but he’d been too hurt, too closed in on himself to pursue it any further. Unlike the other children, her fire was steady and warm – Matt’s brief contact with her had left him with the feel of a well-loved blanket, fresh out of the dryer.

“Can I help?” His brain was screaming for him not to say it, not to offer, to open himself up to more risk and hurt and betrayal, but he remembered all too well what it was like being new in this place.

And he’d always sucked at turning his back on a fellow human being in need.

In the end, he was allowed to follow the sisters to the orphanage’s tiny library. “I trust that if we allow the two of you to eat in here, you will respect the books and not make a mess?”

Matt nodded, taking a seat where Sister Agatha directed. He heard the girl Mary say, “Yes, sister,” tasted a sullen note in her words, and then felt her join him at the table. She sounded about his age. Felt taller, which he knew enough to understand was a basic difference between boys and girls at this stage of things. “I’m Matt,” he said, once they were both seated.

“Mary,” she said, clearly not understanding what he was doing here.
The fight had actually been a relief. The humiliation of this latest failed placement had been much worse than the disappointment that came with hearing that Hannah and Ted had decided not to keep her. You’re almost twelve, she berated herself, idly tracing patterns in the chipped plastic tabletop as she fought not to stare at the boy sitting across from her. You should have known better.

“You’re going to get a headache.”

It was such a strange thing for him to say that it caught her attention. “Thinking so hard,” he added, once she was fully focused on him. “You tense the muscles of your forehead and that puts pressure on your sinuses. You have allergies, right?”

“I don’t know,” she said. He’s blind, she thought, staring at the boy’s opaque glasses. Isn’t he? She’d been at St. Agnes’ long enough to hear the story – Matt Murdock, his father was a famous local boxer, he’d been blinded in an accident when he was nine. “Why are you here?”

He smiled. It was a sweet smile; Mary felt herself start to respond to it, but tensed – pushing the feeling away. “I, um…I live here,” Matt said. “Like you.”

That made her cheeks feel hot. “I mean here. Don’t you eat with everybody else?”

“I’m supposed to.” His answer was quick – almost too sharp – and it made her wonder what sort of wound she’d accidentally poked. “Some of the kids here though…well, you know.”

Mary did know. Ben Brock hadn’t actually punched her in the face, but he’d been meaning to when Sister Margaret pulled him off her. She’d seen it in his eyes. “Kids are like that everywhere though,” she said.

“You talk like you’ve been in the system a while,” he said. She shrugged, her stomach giving a tiny growl. “They’ll be back in a minute with our food,” he added, almost as if he’d heard it.

“Don’t know anything else,” she admitted. Saying as much didn’t feel like a risk. “How about you? I heard you were nine when you got blinded.”

His mouth was already open to answer, when they were interrupted by Sister Agatha and Sister Rose returning – each of them with a tray loaded down with food. “I expect you both to eat everything here,” Sister Agatha announced as the trays were set in front of the children. “And understand that we will not be making a habit of this.”

“My father was killed last year,” Matt said abruptly. Startled, Mary looked up at Sister Agatha, who’d frozen in the midst of arranging the boy’s tray. The nun was staring resolutely at the food, then after a handful of beats she resumed her work. “He was…he was a boxer,” Matt finished, his voice quieter, his slender shoulders dipping.

Sister Agatha straightened before Mary could say anything. “Bow your heads, children,” she said, resting a hand on Matthew’s shoulder. Mary obeyed, risking only one quick glance wondering if Matt closed his eyes behind his glasses.

The words of the simple grace came automatically to Mary’s lips – over half of the group homes she’d been placed in enforced it. Comfort in familiarity, someone had said once; Mary had never heard anything more ridiculous in her life.

“Eat up,” Sister Rose said, encouragement in her voice. The two nuns retreated far enough to give the two of them at least the illusion of privacy. Mary had been in the system long enough to know better. Looking across the table, she suspected that Matt’s blindness had taught him a similar lesson.

She also knew better than to form serious attachments. Especially not here, not right on the heels of another failed placement. But almost of its own accord, her free hand slid across the table, gently wrapping around Matt’s hand. He didn’t move for a moment, didn’t react – then his hand turned in hers, until they were palm-to-palm, fingers laced, a tiny bit of comfort finally risked for a little bit of reward.
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September 2015

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