Characters: Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson, Wilson Fisk, Peter Parker
Genre(s): Hurt/Comfort, Action, Angst, Drama
Spoilers: Daredevil Vol. 1 #229, Vol. 3 #28, Spectacular Spider-Man #107–110.
Warnings: None, this chapter
Word Count: 5,369
Story Summary: Born Again AU. After the grand jury's ruling is handed down, Foggy can't help wondering if he could have done more. He decides to drop in on Matt and make sure that he's doing all right.
Chapter Summary: Matt's suffered extensive injuries at Kingpin's hands. It's up to the Night Nurse's staff to pull him through—if they can!
A/N: I'm still trying to keep the story set in 1986, when Born Again was first written. Although HIPAA was not passed into legislation until 1996, it's probable that an outfit like the Night Nurse's clinic, which caters to costumed heroes with secret identities, would have strong privacy protocols in place. These may or may not line up perfectly with HIPAA procedures. Also, while I have been researching treatments for broken ribs, it is possible that the procedures that I'm describing would not have been commonly used in 1986. If I need an in-universe explanation better than "a wizard did it"? Reed Richards and/or Tony Stark shared some techniques and cutting-edge equipment. Dr. Strange had some input, as well. (In other words, a wizard and two scientists did it!)
References: Daredevil Vol. 1 #229, Vol. 3 #28, Spectacular Spider-Man #107–110.
Foggy took a deep breath. "Okay," he said slowly. "Okay. He's in a hospital. That's the best place to be if there are complications. There are doctors and nurses here who can help, right?"
Spidey nodded slowly. "Well... nurses, anyway. This is a clinic, not a hospital, by the way. We came here because it's close to where I fished you out of the river, plus it's a place known for being friendly to guys like me. And Matt. And... well, a guy who'll go jumping off a pier to save a friend, so I'm pretty sure you'd qualify, too, if anyone asks."
Foggy smiled, feeling for the briefest instant, a warm glow at being included. Then honesty won out and he looked away. "I don't remember if I jumped or slipped," he admitted. "I wasn't exactly thinking straight."
"Well, you wouldn't let me bring you here until you made sure I knew about Matt. You came through loud and clear on that one," Spidey maintained. "That still counts as heroic in my book. And a good thing, I went back for him, too," he added. "He was half-drowned when I fished him out. Lucky thing I know CP..." his voice trailed off. "Oh no. No, no, no..."
Even though Spidey's mask covered his face completely, from the sick sound in his voice, Foggy could hazard a guess as to his expression when he said, "CPR... cardio pulmonary resuscitation. Do you... Do you know what that involves?"
"Uh... yeah. Sure. Theoretically," Foggy replied. He'd spent every summer between the ages of ten and sixteen at overnight camp. Although CPR had only been part of the swimming program for senior campers aiming to become certified lifeguards, some of the basics had been taught to the junior campers and weaker swimmers—of which he had been one—as well. Mostly stuff like 'if the drowning victim shows any of the following symptoms, CPR will be necessary. If you can't do it, find someone who can, fast.'
"If the victim isn't breathing... Sorry, I have a hard time thinking of DD as a victim, but... if he isn't breathing, which he wasn't, then the rescuer needs to perform... chest compressions. I... you know I'm a lot stronger than the average guy. My doing that, especially if he already had cracked ribs..."
"...Saved his life," a new voice interrupted. Both men turned to see one of the nurses standing in the doorway. The woman, her eyes rimmed with fatigue, gave them a tired smile, as her hand flew to her forehead and pushed back short, blonde bangs. She sighed. "I can't tell either of you the specifics of any patient's case without their permission, but I can talk about treatment and procedures in general terms. So, speaking generally," she continued, the corners of her eyes crinkling as her smile grew broader, "if a person were hypothetically fished out of freezing water with severe injuries and was given CPR at the earliest possible time, then even if said person suffered broken ribs as a result, his odds of survival would be far, far better than if he'd been brought to a hospital or clinic DOA and we'd tried to revive him here. This, even though hypothermia would actually work in his favor in our hypothetical scenario, as it slows down a patient's bodily functions, thus minimizing damage to heart and brain." She nodded at Spidey's unvoiced question. "You did the right thing. That doesn't mean that there aren't repercussions, but it does mean that they're likely less severe than if you hadn't done it."
Foggy sat up straighter as Spidey slumped in visible relief. "Can I see him?"
The nurse shook her head. "Not now. They're still working on him and he's heavily sedated. When he regains consciousness, we'll tell him you're here."
"Look, he's my best friend. He's also my client. I'm his lawyer."
The nurse beamed at him. "Then you can appreciate the need for confidentiality," she said.
"I'm his emergency contact."
"Do you have paperwork to support that?"
Foggy groaned. "In my filing cabinet. At home. Wait. His GP... I think it's a Dr. Rivera on West 42nd. Call him. He'll vouch for me."
The nurse's eyebrows shot up. "We can do that. Normally, we'd check ID to make sure you are who you claim to be, but as I understand it, you didn't have any on you when you came in. Is there a security question?"
Foggy groaned again, remembering that Kingpin's thugs had taken his wallet on the Pier. "I don't know, but if I was some... some assassin bent on finishing the job, don't you think I'd be smart enough not to take a dive into the East River chasing after him? Besides, you people are holding my clothes somewhere. Did you find anything in them resembling a high-powered assault rifle?"
The nurse brought a hand to her mouth an instant too late to fully muffle her laughter. "I'll make the call, Mr. Nelson. Meanwhile, rest. Even if that doctor vouches for you, we're going to be working on your friend for a while, yet. Don't count on getting to see him any time soon."
After the nurse left, Foggy turned to Spider-Man. "How long are you hanging around?"
Spidey looked pointedly down at his bathrobe. "I'm stuck here until my duds get back from the laundry and something tells me that they're going to be washing a lot of whites before they get around to solids and colors. Oh." He got up quickly. "Guess you probably want to be alone, though."
Foggy made a face. "Not really. Unless that was a polite way of saying you want to get out of here."
"Dressed like this?" Spidey chuckled. "Not really." He settled back in the chair, half-sitting on the forgotten magazine. He pulled it out from under him and rested it on his lap.
Foggy relaxed. "So, uh..." he cast about for a safe conversation topic, "...When did you find out about Matt?"
Spidey gave up any pretense of going back to reading and tucked the magazine in between the seat cushion and the armrest. "Last summer. I don't know if you remember that Sin-Eater business, but..."
Statistically, anesthesia awareness is believed to affect 0.2 to 0.4 percent of patients undergoing surgery. It occurs when the patient has been given too little general anesthesia to keep them fully unconscious during the procedure. For the majority of patients in this condition, there is no pain. Approximately one third, however, do report feeling some level of distress ranging from mild discomfort to agony. If no muscle relaxant has been used, the patient is able to move, which alerts the operating staff, who can then administer more anesthetic.
The muscle relaxant was the only reason that Matt wasn't screaming right now. He couldn't make a sound or move a fraction of an inch. All he had were his thoughts and he needed to marshal them, channel them away from his current situation or he was seriously going to lose it and nobody would even realize it. That much, at least, was familiar. Very much like...
...Another time, another hospital, a different pain...
Hard to think of anything except the agony, the terror... It's dark. Too dark and loud and smelly. Why is everyone shouting? How are they even breathing through the stomach-wrenching odors of medications and sweat and he doesn't even want to know what else. He has to think of something different before he loses it and so, he tries to remember how he got here.
(Why is it so dark, anyway? The sun was shining just a little while ago and it can't be night yet...)
He was past the schoolyard, walking down the street as quickly as he could, trying to put some distance between himself and the usual crowd of bullies, Nate Hackett's taunts still ringing in his ears.
"Daredevil, scared-devil, wears girl's underwear-devil!"
He won't give them the satisfaction of seeing him run, but he has no desire to stick around and keeps to a brisk trot, feet hitting the pavement, because he can't hit Nate and his gang. Can't. Won't. Same difference. He promised Dad. He promised... Wait...
Wait, why isn't that truck slowing down? It's going to hit the old man!
He remembers the truck, the man, the running leap that almost feels like flying as he springs into action, shoving the pedestrian out of the way. He lands wrong, his ankle buckling under him as he falls to the road, only a few feet in front of the truck. Horns honk and brakes squeal as the other vehicles halt. The truck driver has finally stopped daydreaming but, like the helmsman on the Titanic trying desperately to avoid the iceberg, he turns too late. A single canister dislodges from the truck bed, falling toward Matt and there's no time to avoid it. The canister bounces once and its lid comes off. It bounces once more. And then, the yellow goop is upon him, splashing his face, his eyes, he's on fire. He's burning up. Instinctively, he tries to wipe away the stuff with his arm, but he can't understand why even though he gets a lot of it off, all he can see is a haze of yellow that slowly fades, leaving him in the dark. The traffic has stopped and he can hear voices, people who have run into the street to help. Where were they a minute ago?
"Bravest thing I ever saw! But his face...his eyes..."
"That thing that fell from the truck, is it... radioactive?"
"Look at his face!"
What's wrong with his face? What's wrong with his eyes? Why does it hurt so much? And why is everyone shouting?
He finds his voice, finally, and starts to scream. It feels like his blood is burning, his heart is trying to burst from his chest, everything hurts and he doesn't know where he is. But it smells like chemicals and whatever he's lying on feels like sandpaper and they're cutting into his face and it hurts, it hurts so bad and...
...And he wasn't fifteen anymore. He'd learned a lot since then: how to manage his heightened senses, how to control his pain. He'd had to. He couldn't move, but he could still think... and breathe... and focus. He pulled his awareness inward. Focus. Find the center. Find your core. Slowly push your consciousness out, let it expand. Take in your surroundings...
He was lying down on something more comfortable than asphalt as people surrounded him once more. They talked of medications, vital stats, instruments. They moved quickly and spoke in confident tones. They knew what they were about. Nobody was panicking, so whatever it was that they were doing to him seemed to be proceeding smoothly. And it didn't really hurt that badly now that he had a better idea of what was going on. Nothing like... before. Before... when he lost. When Kingpin beat him. Nothing like that explosion of pain, the wet snap in his chest and the fire of cracked ribs. His chest still hurt somewhat now, and not just because that seemed to be where the... doctors? Yes, he'd call them that for now. ...Where the doctors were concentrating their efforts. They'd cut him there earlier, he realized; he could feel the incision site.
As his calm deepened, he began to make more sense of the conversations. Now he heard terms he recognized: flail chest; punctured lung. He couldn't focus enough to be sure whether they were describing what was wrong with him or what could have happened or what might yet develop and he fought another swelling tide of apprehension. The doctors weren't panicking, he reminded himself. They might not even be talking about him, right now. It could be that they were discussing a similar case when the patient had been in worse shape. Maybe. Steady voices, steady hands... it sounded as though they had things under control. And while he still didn't know where he was, he recognized that it was probably some kind of medical facility. And these people were trying to help. He should probably let them. (Not that he was sure he could stop them in his condition, but it was easier to stay calm if he let himself believe he could.) He could deal with the discomfort while he tried to get his bearings, figure out where he might be from the sounds and smells outside this room... He just had to expand his awareness and allow his senses to sort the data...
"...Normally, just need a local for this. Why did we put him under?"
"Boss-lady put the order in herself. She says numbing the area might not be enough. You want to ask her what she meant?"
"No. I can figure it out. I wonder which one this is."
"Ten bucks says Cap."
"No, I patched Cap up last week. Totally different guy. Fifteen says it's Spider-Man."
"Only if he was brought in by his clone. My money's on Hawkeye."
...If he could have smiled, he would be grinning from ear to ear and not just because of that conversation. Beyond these doctors, maybe fifty yards away, he could hear two voices, two heartbeats, both familiar, both relatively calm. He heard his own name mentioned; Spidey was telling Foggy about the Sin-Eater murders. Matt wondered how much of the record he was going to need to set straight later; Spidey was prone to exaggeration at times. He tried to zone in on their conversation. It was a welcome distraction from whatever was going on with his chest right now.
"He's awake," a woman's voice said sharply.
There was an expletive, quickly swallowed and an order for more anesthetic and a whispered apology from a couple of feet above his left ear. Around the ten o'clock position, Matt thought tiredly.
He heard a flurry of movement as someone approached his head. Much as he would have liked to hear more of what they were saying, he didn't try to resist the sickly-sweet chemical smell when it enveloped him. Already, he seemed removed from the pain in his chest. Maybe when he woke again, it would have vanished entirely...
It hadn't. He woke up feeling like his torso was on fire, but somehow muffled, as though there were several layers of cotton batting between the pain and his nerves. His upper body was elevated to the point where he was partially sitting up. Any attempt to alter his position was agony. The smells of chemical disinfectants and medications assaulted him. There had been something in his nose earlier; the inside felt as though something had scraped it. He was aware of a bitter, metallic taste in his mouth and a soreness in his forearm, close to the wrist, as though someone had stabbed him with a needle earlier. That... was familiar. In fact, it seemed to happen frequently in hospital settings. If his suspicions were correct...
The jumbled impressions of his radar sense slowly smoothed out, penetrating the haze of sleep and medication. Yes. There was an IV drip next to him. A narrow tube connected the bag to his arm. Well, that would account for the soreness. He wiggled a toe experimentally and was relieved when his radar sense registered the twitch of the bedclothes and he felt the cotton fabric slide over his skin. He was in pain and he couldn't move much, but if he could wiggle his toes, then he doubted that he was paralyzed. Now why was he here...? Because Kingpin had nearly beaten him to death and the last time he'd had a semi-conscious thought was in an operating room. Genius. He wondered exactly how badly he'd been hurt and what had been done to patch him up.
He let his mind drift back to his confrontation with Kingpin. All that training... the gymnastics, the capoeira, the kickboxing... and then, when he'd stood face-to-face with Fisk, he'd tossed it all out the window and tried to bludgeon the man with his billy-club. A groan escaped his lips. He should have known better. He did know better. The first time he'd fought the Kingpin, he'd nearly beaten himself to a pulp charging at nearly 400 pounds of solid muscle. He knew that a direct attack on Fisk was all but doomed to failure. Or, at least, he should have known. Then why...?
Because he'd let his emotions do his thinking instead of his brain. Damn it, it was as if nothing had changed since their first encounter. Then, he'd nearly been down for the count before Fisk had even landed a punch on him and he'd still almost been too stubbornly stupid to break off his attack.
So, just why had he gone for a direct attack when he'd known it was almost certainly doomed to failure? Matt winced as he tried to remember the sequence of events. Fisk hadn't even attempted to defend himself at first. He'd just stood there, unconcerned, making Matt feel like some petty annoyance to be tolerated or dispatched at whim. It had been Fisk's sheer... refusal to view him as a threat that had sent him over the edge. There were visual metaphors for the way that serene arrogance had affected him, Matt reflected. Blind fury, seeing red... He wasn't oblivious to the irony of his using such phrases. But the phrases were accurate, no matter who was using them. He had seen red, figuratively speaking, at least. He had attacked blindly—in every sense of the word, not just the obvious. The warnings had been there all along. He'd ignored them. He'd forgotten all of Stick's cautions against self-pity and letting anger make him careless. Hell, Foggy had tried to tell him as much... had it been only yesterday? It was a good thing, he thought dryly, that he was stuck in bed. He wanted to kick himself. Hard.
He needed to know how badly he was hurt and he wouldn't know that until he could get out of bed or, at the very least, talk to someone. He started to take a deep breath—and stopped, gasping, as agony stabbed him with white-hot fire. No deep breaths. Not now, anyway. Fine. He thought for a moment. From the pressure around his torso, he guessed that his ribs were splinted. Maybe he was restrained, maybe not. He couldn't move enough to be sure. But his hands were free and that was something. Carefully, his fingers explored the small bit of mattress and bed rails within their reach as he tried to make sense out of the shapes and contours that surrounded him. He allowed himself a triumphant smile when he recognized one such shape: a square box with a round doorbell-like button that protruded slightly—familiar to him from earlier hospital stays. If it was within his grasp, then it was fair to assume he was meant to use it. Only one button meant probably wasn't the bed control panel. However, if he was right about this device, its presence was still most welcome.
He reached for the box—plastic, as it turned out—pressed the call button, smiled when he heard the faint tone sound some thirty yards away, and settled back to wait.
Rubber-soled shoes on an epoxy floor, a whiff of Castile soap and floral shampoo, and a firm no-nonsense voice that said, "Good afternoon, Mr. Murdock. Nice to see you awake."
Matt managed to smile. "Where...?" His voice was hoarse to his ears and his automatic attempt to sit up straighter nearly made him cry out as his ribs protested.
"Easy," the woman said gently. "I know it probably doesn't feel much like it at the moment, but you're well on the road to recovery." She drew closer. "I'm just going to check a few things, if that's okay."
He nodded. "Who are you? Where am I?" The pain wasn't as severe when he was expecting it, but it was still pretty bad and it showed in his voice.
The woman's voice grew warmer. "I'm one of the night nurses," she said. "You're at a clinic on the waterfront. Spider-Man brought you in." Her hand was on his arm as she added, "with two broken ribs, a punctured lung, mild hypothermia, a truly impressive black eye, and various bruises and lacerations. We were pulling glass shards out of you for a couple of hours, easy," she added. Matt winced, even as he relaxed once more. He knew about the 'Night Nurse Clinic,' although he'd never been here before. Spider-Man had told him once that they dispensed free medical care to those costumed adventurers who needed it, no payment required (though donations were welcome) and no questions... no irrelevant questions asked.
"Do I want to see the other guy?" the nurse asked.
Almost no irrelevant questions. He didn't feel like answering that one and the nurse dropped it.
"Okay," the she said as she circled behind him to come to the other side of the bed. "You've been here for almost two days. If your throat is sore, it's because you had to be intubated while we were working on you. It'll pass. It won't always hurt when you breathe either, though I know it does now. I'm afraid painkillers can only do so much..."
Matt nodded his understanding.
"There are breathing exercises you'll need to do. A respiratory therapist should be here a bit later today. You're still at risk for pneumonia right now, and as painful as it is, you're going to need to take deep breaths at intervals to keep the air circulating throughout your lungs. If you don't, you'll be leaving yourself wide open for infection—something that was already a concern, seeing as you were fished out of the East River."
He remembered that now. Waking up in agony in a car, smelling the foul water outside, knowing that despite his pain, if he wanted to live, he had to move. Adrenaline had done the rest. There'd been an empty bottle next to him reeking of whiskey. He'd smashed it on the dashboard and used a jagged shard to cut himself free of the safety belt when it refused to open. When the door had behaved similarly, he'd had no choice but to break the windshield. He'd pulled his hand up his jacket sleeve, made a fist, and swung. When the water started to pour in, he'd given up on trying to get out of the car without getting cut by the windshield glass. There hadn't been time for anything fancy. He'd shouldered his way through. He remembered thinking that he needed to figure out which way the surface was and then... nothing. Until he'd woken up here in the clinic. Had he come to earlier? And was Foggy...?
"You're currently on full-spectrum antibiotics," the nurse continued, "in case you picked up something nasty in the river. Once we've confirmed that your blood is free of infection, we can probably set you up with an epidural. Should make you a lot more comfortable."
He smiled. 'A lot more comfortable' sounded wonderful. Now, where was... "Foggy?" he asked.
"Your friend? He'll be here shortly. To be honest, Mr. Murdock, we weren't sure when you were going to regain consciousness. Mr. Nelson just went to get something to eat... which, come to think of it, might not be a bad thing for you either. I'll tell him you were asking for him when he gets back."
Matt nodded, satisfied.
The clinic seemed to get less traffic than most of the hospitals he'd visited in the past. He said as much to the nurse when she returned with a tray of food. "While we wouldn't turn away a person in need," she explained, "the only people who generally come here in an emergency are those who heard about us through word of mouth—from a community that tends to be somewhat secretive. Otherwise, it's mostly cuts and scrapes, the odd broken bone, and before the start of the school year, inoculations. Our full-time staff is comprised entirely of nurses, so most serious cases that don't involve people like you tend to end up at other clinics or hospitals." She set the tray on a half-table connected to the bed by an extending arm and showed Matt where the controls were to push it aside or move it closer.
Matt frowned. "But... I had surgery here. Didn't I?" He smiled slightly, as some part of his brain registered a familiar heartbeat and the smells of diverse meats, cheeses, and condiments that probably weren't intended to be combined on a single submarine roll. The footsteps drew closer, and then paused.
"Minor," the nurse admitted. "Some of us have been field medics or worked in parts of the world where the distinctions between doctors and nurses were a bit blurrier. In extreme circumstances, we would call in a doctor, of course, but for the most part, we're more than capable of treating situations as they arise. And our services tend to be more discreet. For some in your line of work, that last bit tips the scales. Though if you've any complaints...?"
Matt shook his head. "You know who I am then."
"I imagine Nurse Carter does," the nurse replied. "She has a talent for figuring things out. As for me, I've learned that it's wiser not to ask those kinds of questions. Spider-Man brought you in. He made sure we noted a few details relevant to your treatment. I can guess you wear a costume," she admitted. "But as to which one? Not important."
Oh, Mr. Nelson. He's awake. And asking for you. He's in the...
Room on the right! I know! Thanks!
Matt mulled the nurse's words over, even as Foggy's footsteps sped up.
"Thanks," he said finally. "Um..."
The door opened. "Matt!"
Julie took a step back. "Enjoy your dinner, Mr. Murdock. I'll be in to check on you later."
Matt smiled. "Come in, Foggy." He started to lean forward, but the pain in his chest reminded him of the reason that he was here.
Foggy obeyed. "How are you doing?"
He groaned. "It only hurts when I'm conscious." He sent the tray away, appetite forgotten, and shook his head. "I lost, Foggy."
He heard the scrape of wood on epoxy as Foggy dragged a chair next to his bed and sat down with a creak. Foggy sighed, as he set a take-out bag down on the floor. "I hope so."
"I hope so," Foggy repeated. "Because if this is what winning looks like... it's pretty overrated."
For a moment, Matt froze. Then his lips twitched.
Matt started to laugh, but broke off with a gasp and brought a hand swiftly to his ribcage.
"Matt!" Foggy was half out of the chair. "Are you okay? Let me call—"
Matt placed a firm hand on Foggy's arm. "Don't. I'll be fine. But," he winced, "Reader's Digest notwithstanding, laughter isn't always the best medicine. Exhibit A: fractured ribs." He kept holding on until Foggy relaxed.
"I'm sorry," he said heavily, sinking back to the chair. "I was trying to cheer you up, not..."
"I know." He frowned. "How did you know to come here, anyway?"
"I didn't," Foggy admitted with a sigh. "Spider-Man brought me after I took a nosedive into the East River."
Matt's frown deepened. "Wait. What?"
"Yeah," his tone was deceptively casual. "See, after I followed you to Fisk Enterprises... don't get mad, I wasn't going to interfere..."
"You followed me," Matt repeated flatly, sounding very much like he was questioning a witness. "Go on."
Foggy gulped. "Well, when I didn't see you go in or come out, I decided to—"
"You did not go inside," Matt cut him off. "Tell me you did not go inside."
Foggy hesitated. "That swim you took wouldn't have shorted out your internal polygraph, by any chance?"
"Foggy..." Matt groaned. "You almost got yourself killed."
"Yeah, but that came later."
Foggy sighed. "If you keep making me get ahead of myself, I'll get all mixed up."
Matt tilted his head to one side. "Are you drawing this out in some attempt to distract me?"
"Hey, it's not making you laugh."
Matt glared at him. Then he gripped the bed rail tightly and grimaced. "Fine. You went inside. Totally oblivious to how stupid it was."
"Can't." His lips twitched. "You're the best lawyer I know and after the performance you gave before the grand jury, I would not want to face you in court representing myself."
Foggy laughed out loud. "Fine. I went in. Didn't get past the lobby, but I saw a couple of guys hauling you downstairs. By the time I registered what was going on, the doors had closed. I went back to the car, circled around and..."
As Matt listened, his jaw dropped lower and lower.
"...And then Spider-Man left me here and went back for you," he finished. "But seriously, if you hadn't drilled me on that kick, it could have gone down a lot differently. It saved my life."
Foggy actually believed that, Matt realized. He didn't see that his life wouldn't have been in danger in the first place if they hadn't been friends. He...
"Matty? Are you... crying?"
He could have blamed it on his ribs, he supposed. Or denied it outright. Foggy would have pretended to believe him. Instead, he simply said, "Sue me."
"Oh, please," Foggy got up and put a hand on Matt's shoulder. "Haven't you already had enough legal troubles to last a lifetime?"
Matt's lips twitched. A guffaw burst from his lips and then a gasp.
And then Foggy was apologizing for making him laugh and Matt was holding onto him and letting his tears come any old way they wanted to.