Characters: Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson, Wilson Fisk, Peter Parker
Genre(s): Hurt/Comfort, Action, Angst, Drama
Spoilers: Daredevil, Volume 1; No. 75, Amazing Spider-Man, Volume 1; No. 281.
Warnings: None, this chapter
Word Count: 3,706
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 decides it's time to start shouldering his share of the load—whether he's ready or not!
A/N: In researching Irish speech patterns, I'm hoping that I've gotten it right. I apologize for any inadvertent offense.
For a moment, neither Matt nor Foggy said a word. Then, Matt gripped the armrests of his chair tightly with both hands. "Back before the hearing," he said, "Ben called me. He wanted to find out what was going on. I blew him off." He shook his head. "Not that I knew what was going on either, but..."
"Yeah," Spidey nodded. "It could have gotten a little awkward if you'd let it slip that it was Daredevil-related, as opposed to—"
Matt shook his head. "Ben found out about that a long time ago."
"You have got to be kidding," Spidey said, shocked.
"No. He knows. And since the Bugle was following my grand jury hearing, Ben would have found out about it—which would explain why he was so hot to talk to Manolis, once he knew I was avoiding him." He quickly brought Spider-Man up to speed on what had happened when he'd confronted the officer himself.
The masked man clapped a hand to his forehead. "It doesn't make sense," he said. "Manolis is a decorated officer. Well-respected. I guess it's possible that he could be on Kingpin's payroll, but..."
"I know," Matt sighed. "If he'd been on record as a Brady cop..."
"I'll field this one," Foggy broke in. "Say a cop messes up one time and gets caught falsifying evidence or committing perjury. That kind of thing follows them for life. Any time they might be called upon to testify in court—pretty common occurrence for most officers, as you can imagine—that testimony gets called into question." He smiled. "Or, simply put, a known liar isn't likely to be believed, even when they're telling the truth."
Spidey nodded. "Wait. If a Brady cop is a cop who's already been caught lying, or whatever... why are they still cops?"
"Most of the time," Matt replied, "they aren't quite bad enough to be fired. Or they might be, but the department doesn't want to get tied up in a possible wrongful dismissal suit. Trust me, the media is all over it when people who are supposed to represent the law find themselves on the witness stand for all the wrong reasons. It starts people asking questions about whether the defendant was the only one to slip through the cracks, or just the only one—so far—to get caught." He heard Foggy's sharp intake of breath and waved him off. "I'm fine. Anyway, rather than leave themselves open to a media feeding frenzy, the usual solution to the problem is to quietly move these people into areas where they'll never have to make an arrest, thus obviating their need to testify against a defendant in court. They get switched into desk jobs, like permits or personnel."
"It sounds pretty humiliating. You'd think they'd just quit."
"Some do," Foggy nodded. "But keep in mind that Brady cops are still paid a police officer's salary. And while that's nowhere near a seven-figure income, it's not chump change either. Add in the pension and benefits and... There are a fair number who figure it's worth a little humiliation."
"So, as I was saying," Matt continued, "if Manolis had been a Brady cop, the case against me would have been tossed out. There's no question. A first-year law student could have won it. To make the charges against me carry weight, Kingpin had to find someone absolutely incorruptible..."
"...And corrupt him," Foggy finished.
"How?" Spidey asked.
Matt sighed. "If we knew that..." His expression hardened. "Ben would have been wondering the same thing. If he tracked down Manolis... and Manolis was ready to talk... and they were being watched..."
"Why would they have met at a hospital, of all places?" Foggy wondered. "It's not exactly private. Hell, this place isn't private; it's just a bit off the beaten track and we wouldn't be having this kind of discussion here if Matt wasn't recuperating."
"Good point." Matt frowned. "I don't suppose you could locate Ben's home or office number for me, Spider-Man?" he ventured. "My address book blew up with my brownstone. I think it might be time to compare notes."
"Sure," Spidey said. "I know his ext..." he stopped. "I know his extension would be written on his phone," he continued glibly. "I'll just stop by the Bugle after hours and get it."
"Sounds like a plan," Matt nodded.
Two days later, Foggy arrived at the clinic to find Matt out of bed and gripping his IV pole tightly. He gave Foggy a pained smile. "I'm fine when I stay in one position," he said. "It's when I have to get up or sit down that I have to struggle." He shook his head. "Still, I'm doing better now than I was when Spidey brought me in. How are you doing?"
"I signed a lease on a new place today," Foggy announced. "I take possession on January 2nd. Two bedrooms, not far from the old one. I even get to keep my old phone number. I figured that if I was going to go the whole 'advertise for a new roommate' route, it might look better if I had another room where they could sleep." He held up a hand, wondering if Matt realized he was doing it. "Don't argue. Don't apologize. Don't protest. It's done. Over. Moving on, now."
Matt sighed. "How much more?"
"None of your—"
Foggy named a figure. Matt nodded. "I'll start looking for some kind of work as soon as I can get out of here." He held up his own hand in conscious imitation of Foggy's earlier gesture. "No. Enough is enough. If you seriously want me to stay on, then I need to start contributing my share. We both know that you wouldn't be moving if I hadn't let you get involved—"
"Excuse me?" Foggy interrupted. "If you hadn't let me? How were you planning to stop me?"
"I've done it before," Matt replied. "Do you remember when you collapsed in that alley in Delvadia on our way to the embassy?"
"Huh?" Foggy blinked in surprise. "Yeah, one minute we were walking along, talking and then you..." A note of anger crept into his voice. "You yelled that there was something behind me and the next thing I knew, I was waking up with a headache and some local kid was..." He gave an angry start. "You didn't."
"Afraid so," Matt admitted. "I didn't want to, but I..."
"Had to get away to change into costume," Foggy sighed. "Tell me again how much safer I was not knowing about your night job?"
Matt shook his head.
"And you're planning a repeat performance?"
"I didn't plan the first one. I just... improvised," he admitted. "If I'd thought things through, I probably wouldn't have."
Matt let out a slow breath. "Does it help that I felt like a jerk for doing it?"
"Well, you were a jerk for doing it."
"Feel any better about allowing me to pay part of the rent on the new place now?"
There was a long silence. Finally, Foggy sighed. "If and when you find a job, we'll continue this discussion. Until then, let's just consider the matter tabled." He frowned. "The next time we have a business trip in some foreign country, I'm bringing a helmet with me. Not to mention Luke Cage."
It was Peter Parker who stopped by later that afternoon, a few minutes after Foggy left the clinic. He'd walked several steps past Matt, who had been slowly making his way down the hallway and grunting with the effort, before he doubled back. "Sorry. I almost forgot about your new look," he admitted.
"You changed your clothes," Matt remarked. A slow smile spread his lips when Peter stopped in his tracks. "Your voice was muffled before. Don't worry. Foggy will be gone for a bit." He sighed. "He had to do some shopping."
"Furniture. I don't suppose you've heard of any job prospects for a disgraced former attorney, lately?"
Matt sighed again. "The more he insists that I don't have to reimburse him, the more I need to. This morning, I'm pretty sure I deliberately brought up an incident when I was... well, let's just say that it was a time when I was nowhere near as good a friend to him as he's being to me and I think some part of me wanted him to realize it."
"Did it work?"
Matt shook his head. "Oh, he got angry, all right. Then he cracked a joke and started making a list of things he needed to take care of before my discharge. I just..." He felt a slight pressure on his shoulder and turned his head on reflex, even though his radar had already caught the contour of Peter's hand. "There is no way that I can possibly pay him back for these last few weeks, unless he ever finds himself in a situation like my current one and I don't think I'd..." His lips twitched. "Okay, I guess I would wish that on my worst enemy. But not my best friend."
"I hear you. I'll keep my eyes peeled. Anyway, I did find something out today. Sort of accidentally."
"About your friend, Flash?"
Peter shook his head. "No. Something did happen on that front; I'll fill you in on it in a minute. But first, I did a little bit of skulking at Bellevue. I was looking for information about Ben's condition. And Manolis'."
Matt stopped walking. "And?"
"Well, Ben's going to be fine. Broken fingers, but the prognosis is positive. Manolis... they're not sure. But that's not the accidental part. See, there were two records listed under 'Manolis'. One was for Nick. The other was for an Anthony Manolis—a kid, ten years old, underwent emergency heart surgery on the night of December 24th. He... he didn't make it. The hospital recorded the time of death as midnight. And when I was swinging by, it was maybe a half hour or so later." He paused for a beat. "Nicholas Manolis was listed as his next of kin."
Matt let out a long breath. "I believe that would explain why a decorated police officer with a spotless record would commit perjury on the stand. I've fought insurance companies in the courtroom before. I've had to learn something about typical policies: what they generally cover, what they generally don't, and what kinds of co-pays are typical. And heart surgery, even when they pay a significant part of the cost, the co-pay is... prohibitive. Sometimes, depending on the policy and what the exclusions might be, it wouldn't be covered at all. Obviously, without seeing Manolis' coverage, I can't comment further. But if Kingpin offered to cover the cost, provided Manolis did what he wanted..." He nodded slowly. "It does make sense."
"And then the kid... doesn't make it. And Manolis realizes that he got you disbarred—"
"—Not to mention, gave Kingpin something to hold over him in future, should he need other dirty jobs done..."
Peter sucked in his breath. "I hadn't thought of that, but yeah. So... for whatever reason... grief, guilt, anger... he decides to come clean. He doesn't turn himself in—not to the authorities—not when he doesn't know who's working for Kingpin and might cover the whole thing up—but to a member of the press, as it were..."
"And he tries to talk to Ben in the parking lot, but somebody else was keeping an eye on one or both of them and follows them..."
"And the next thing you know, one of them has broken fingers and the other one's in ICU," Peter nodded. "It all fits."
"It does," Matt nodded back. "I've asked you to keep an eye on Ben. Breaking his fingers was a warning. It's a pretty effective way to silence a writer. If, despite that, he goes ahead with the story, I don't think I need to tell you the danger he'll be in."
"I know. I'm on it."
"Thanks." Matt smiled. "Now," he continued seriously, "You mentioned something about your friend's case? Foggy hasn't contacted Sharon Banks yet. He was going to, but he thought it might be wiser to wait until he had a phone number where he could be reached."
Peter sighed. "I... It's just as well, I guess. Two days ago, some guy named Jack O'Lantern broke him out of jail. He hasn't been seen since. I'm hoping I can track him down and convince him to turn himself in before he gets in any deeper, but right now, I have no leads."
Matt nodded. "Keep me in the loop."
Two days before the end of the year, Matt moved into the Plaza Hotel. On December 29th, one of the clinic nurses politely but firmly informed him that he'd been with them for over a week and could convalesce on his own now. "Normally, we would have released you sooner," she admitted, "but sending you away right at Christmas would have been harsh and then we decided that you might as well stay on until it was time to remove your chest tubes."
Matt's fingers flew unconsciously to his torso. Under the thin fabric of the scrubs he'd been issued—a darned sight less embarrassing than a hospital gown—he could feel the thickness of the taped gauze bandage covering the spot where the lower tube had gone in. The area was still a bit tender, though a good deal better than it had been.
"You'll have a scar after it heals," the nurse advised him. "For now, keep taking the painkillers and ice when necessary, as you've been doing here. Continue with the stretches and breathing exercises. You'll probably want to keep sleeping with your torso elevated; a recliner is usually a good idea."
"And lie on my injured side, right?" Matt asked. It had sounded counter-intuitive when the nurse had suggested it to him here, but it did make breathing easier.
"Yes, if you can manage that." He heard the smile in her voice. "Depending on the chair, you might find it difficult to get comfortable in that position, but you might want to spend some time lying on your side during the day, if you need to rest. Now, it normally takes at least six weeks for broken ribs to heal completely. You'll probably be able to resume normal activities..." She stopped. "Well, normal for most people," she continued, "a bit sooner." Her tone grew more serious. "Physical activity is good for you and there's no reason why you can't do most of a regular workout. The exercises you'll need to avoid are those that place a lot of pressure on your ribs. Ab crunches, pushing and pulling heavy objects—that would apply to weight training, by the way."
She sighed. "As we've mentioned before, you're not the first person of your... vocation that we've treated here. Perseverance is good. Working through pain—within reason—will help you. But hold off on, um, field work... until you don't have any pain to work through." There was a hint of good humor behind her sternness. "You've been delightful company, Mr. Murdock, but we don't want you back here in a hurry."
Matt smiled. "I understand."
Now, leaning back in the recliner in the hotel room, Foggy's even snores audible from the suite next door, Matt's forehead was creased in thought. Even if he had been inclined to ignore the nurse's advice, his costume had been reduced to smoldering rags by the explosion that had destroyed his house. He'd need to make a new one before he went out to patrol again. He thought of the time and trouble it had taken to sew the suit in the first place. He'd stitched his original costume by hand and the repetitive work had nearly bored him to tears. Having to rip out uneven stitches, or worse, discovering that he'd miscalculated and made the sleeve widths uneven had set him pummeling his frustrations out on a heavy bag, before gritting his teeth and resuming the task. He'd purchased a sewing machine for subsequent costumes. It, too, had been in the brownstone and was probably melted slag by now.
That settled it. He was going to start looking for work as soon as he could provide a valid address and telephone number to a prospective employer. He didn't know what kind of job he'd be qualified for and he didn't much care, but he was going to start contributing something to the rent and he was going to find some way to procure a sewing machine and some red fabric.
With these thoughts uppermost in his mind, and a painkiller adding to his drowsiness, Matt drifted into a dreamless sleep.
They went back to Foggy's apartment the next day. "I've still got this place for another month," Foggy said, shifting the stack of collapsed cardboard boxes from his storage locker in his arms, "so there's no real hurry to pack everything up." The elevator doors parted at their floor and the two emerged.
Matt smiled. "No, but let's do as much as we can," he suggested. "It's probably a good idea to make sure that we get everything essential ready to go now. Spider-Man's schedule can be erratic and the window of opportunity for his help can be a bit narrow."
"Are you sure he doesn't mind?" Foggy asked seriously. "I mean, it's not that I'm ungrateful. I didn't know where I was going to find a mover in less than a week, forget what they would have charged. But..."
"We came to an agreement," Matt replied. "He knows someone in need of paralegal services—a woman in Forest Hills who's running into some zoning issues. She's turned her home into a seniors' boardinghouse and apparently, she has a neighbor trying to make trouble about it." He extended his arms for the boxes and Foggy slid them over so that he could get his key out. Matt continued talking. "I told him I'd trade him a few hours going over the municipal bylaws and seeing if she's in compliance or—if she isn't—whether there's any way that she could be without too many hassles, in exchange for his helping with the move." He smiled as Foggy turned his key in the lock. "I'd still take any breakables by car," he added. "Spidey's preferred method of transportation can be a little... rough."
"Tell me about it," Foggy replied. "At least you were unconscious when he brought you to the clinic." He pushed the door open, disturbing a pile of mail. He sighed. "Probably more bills than job offers in there," he muttered, stooping to gather the envelopes. "Here," he deposited them atop the pile of boxes. "You might as well set everything down by the sofa. See if you can separate out the junk mail from the important stuff; maybe we can use some of it for packing. I'm just going to check the messages."
"Sure." Matt walked over to the sofa and slowly eased himself onto the cushions as Foggy heading for the answering machine in the kitchen. He retrieved the pile of mail and started sorting. A moment later, he heard a tone and a familiar voice began to speak.
"Foggy, it's been over a week since last I've heard from ye. I hope all's well. Call me." Another tone. "Foggy, I haven't the understandin' of why ye've not called me. Honestly, it's feeling like the same old song, it is. Please call." Another tone. "On second thought, Foggy, ye needn't be after calling me. Not for the next little while. I wish ye well."
A moment later, Foggy returned to the living room. "I guess you heard."
"Yeah." He sighed. "I'm sorry. You and she probably would have been good together."
"We weren't going out," Foggy said, joining him on the sofa. "We were... sort of getting to that point."
Matt smiled. "I know. You told me. And Foggy, it wouldn't have been a problem if you had been. Glori broke up with me weeks ago. I can't really blame her. I was still trying to process Elektra... and Heather... and," he shook his head, "I think on some level, I knew that I was probably dating Glori on the rebound. I started pulling away... looking for excuses to break dates. Yes," he smiled sadly, "Daredevil was part of it. However, there's a difference between being out with someone, overhearing a crime in progress and hoping that the next sound you hear will be a police siren, or the Fantasticar, versus overhearing a crime in progress and hoping that you'll get there first. Still," he admitted, "I might have tried to chase after her. If I hadn't gotten her break-up cassette on the day that I received the grand jury summons."
"I never knew that." Foggy was stunned. "Talk about lousy timing."
"Maybe it's just as well," Matt sighed. "If she'd been meaning to mail me that tape, held off a couple of days, and then found out about my situation, knowing Glori, she probably would have insisted on standing by me, not because she wanted to, but because she wouldn't have wanted to deliver one more bit of bad news. Continuing the relationship out of pity or some... I don't know... misplaced sense of duty would have been..." He took another breath. "...much worse. I'm just sorry that your looking out for me scuttled your chances."
"Hey. If it's meant to be, it'll be," Foggy said with forced cheer.
The phone rang then, startling the two men. "Do you suppose...?" Matt let his voice trail off meaningfully.
Foggy laughed. "It's probably just a telemarketer. I'll get rid of him." Even so, Matt noted that he sprang from his seat and nearly lunged for the phone.
He snatched up the receiver. "Hello?"
Of course, Matt couldn't see the change in Foggy's expression, but he could hear his sudden intake of breath and the spike in his heart rate. An instant later, he felt his own autonomic responses follow suit, as he heard Foggy's incredulous exclamation.