Characters: Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson, Wilson Fisk, Peter Parker, Karen Page
Genre(s): Hurt/Comfort, Action, Angst, Drama
Spoilers: Daredevil 230.
Warnings: References to drug addiction; references to domestic abuse
Word Count: 2150
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: What is Karen doing back in New York? And why now?
References: Daredevil Vol. 1 #230. Some dialogue in this chapter written by Frank Miller and lifted directly from canon.
Matt forced himself to stay seated on the sofa instead of jumping up to pull the receiver out of Foggy's hand.
"Karen Page?" Foggy was saying. "Golly, you're the last person I was expecting to hear from. How's it going?"
Matt strained to hear the voice on the other end of the phone, but although he could pick up general agitation, the individual words eluded him. The connection wasn't the greatest; static was crackling on the line, to say nothing of the traffic in the background—both outside Foggy's apartment building and coming through over the telephone line.
"Matt?" Foggy was saying. Matt half-rose from his seat, then stopped, frowning, as Foggy continued. "Well, Matt's come on hard times, Karen. It's a long story. No, I'm sorry; I can't say where he is right now—"
Matt couldn't believe what he was hearing. "What?"
Foggy held up one hand. "Love to see you, Karen. How long are you in town? What, right now? Well, I'm sort of tied up... moving soon and I have to pack." Karen was talking again, apprehension plain even through the static and interference. "Well, sure, if it's important. Where?" Foggy's heart rate spiked for an instant, then returned to normal. "Boy, that's a rough part of town. Are you sure? Sure, Karen. For old times, like you say. I'll be there in a few." He replaced the phone in its cradle.
"Old times," he said, more to himself than to Matt. "Geez, it wasn't so long ago..."
"Why," Matt's angry voice cut into his musings, "didn't you let me talk to her? Or tell her I was right there?"
Foggy took two steps toward the sofa. "Because for the past few weeks, Kingpin has had you followed and tried to have both of us killed. We still aren't positive that he's lost interest in me and if he thinks you might still be alive, we can't rule out the possibility that he's tapping my phone in case you call."
Matt was silent. "Yes, fine," he said in a more subdued tone, "but I can come with you to meet her."
Foggy sighed. "Do you really think that's wise?" he asked. "Look, you're in disguise. Either she'll recognize you, probably shout your name from across the room and run toward us, making your presence known, or she won't and she'll wonder why I brought you along. Then we'll have to tell her who you are. And if Kingpin is still having me followed, then..."
Matt shook his head. "I never meant my paranoia to rub off on you," he said softly.
"It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you," Foggy pointed out. "She wants me to meet her in a café corner of Audubon and West 170th."
"Washington Heights?" Matt frowned. "I see what you mean about a rough part of town."
"Yeah. I think—and let me know if you've got a better idea—I should meet her there and give her a quick recap of what's been going on, once I'm sure we're not being overheard. After that, I'll either call and ask you to join us—don't pick up the phone; you'll hear the message play—or bring her back here." He walked over to the sofa and placed a hand on Matt's arm. "What do you think?"
Matt gave a slight nod. "I couldn't quite make out her half of the conversation, but she sounded nervous."
"She was. I don't think she's in any immediate danger or she wouldn't be asking me to meet her in public, but you're right. She's got to be in some kind of trouble."
"Then I should go with you." He started to get up quickly, but stifled a gasp as his ribs protested the sudden movement and he sank back to the sofa. "Damn it." The hand on his arm tightened. He shook his head. "I'm fine. Relatively speaking."
"Yeah," Foggy smiled sympathetically. "I'll be careful. See you soon. Either back here or in Washington Heights."
Matt gave him a pained smile.
As soon as Foggy left, he clenched his jaw, hauled himself laboriously off the sofa and made his way toward a straight-backed chair to start on his stretching exercises.
The first thought Foggy had when he entered the seedy café and saw her sitting there was that she actually looked like she belonged in this neighborhood. Karen was pale and haggard; her hair was disheveled and her coat—a bit on the light side for New York in January—would have been the better for a dry cleaning. Then she looked up, saw him, gave him a tremulous smile and waved him over and Foggy forced himself to smile back as he approached her table.
"Have you ordered, yet?" he asked her. "Let me order you something. My treat."
She started to shake her head. "I don't..." She checked herself. "Actually, some coffee would be lovely. Thank you, Foggy."
"Are you sure that's all you want?" Foggy asked. "Seriously, I can spring for a burger, if you want. Or salad. Do they have salad here?"
She shook her head. "Just coffee."
"One cream, two sugars, right?"
This time her smile was a bit warmer as Foggy walked up to the counter to order. A bit more like the young woman he remembered, the woman he and Matt had both fallen hard for... before he'd married Debbie. And Matt had taken up with the Black Widow. And Heather." He sighed. He'd told Matt that it hadn't been that long ago, but it sure felt like a lifetime. When he made his way back to the booth, he was carrying both the coffee and a strawberry milkshake for himself.
Karen was looking about nervously as he approached. She relaxed when he sat down and reached gratefully for the coffee mug. Foggy waited until she lowered it before asking, "Um... How're things? I mean..." I mean, what happened to you in Hollywood after those first couple of pictures? Why are you back in New York? Why are you shaking like a leaf and half-ready to run every time someone passes by this booth? He looked away as Karen wiped her nose on her coat sleeve—something she never would have done in... Hell, he guessed they really were the 'old days' after all.
She smiled weakly. "I must look like hell," she murmured.
She did, but he immediately denied it. "You look like you just walked out of a fashion magazine," he replied.
She laughed then. "You need to get your eyes checked," she said and for a moment, he could see the old Karen bubbling below the surface.
"No," Foggy persisted, "I mean it. You look great."
She took a gulp of coffee. "Flatterer. Thank you for meeting me here, Foggy. I..." She closed her eyes. "I..."
Foggy leaned forward, all joking gone. "Karen... what happened?"
Karen set the cup down and exhaled in relief. "I thought you'd never ask, Foggy," she sighed. "It's... well, I... I..." She picked up the cup again, but didn't drink. Instead, she held it in both hands as though trying to draw some warmth from its contents. "I suppose you know about... no, you wouldn't have seen my movies. Let's just say that I've messed up my life about as badly as I could. Let's just..." She studied the pattern in the Formica table, not meeting his eyes.
"I'm a junkie," she said finally. "And I've got to find Matt or I'll be murdered."
If Foggy hadn't made a career out of taking what his clients told him in stride, he'd probably have reacted with a greater degree of shock. As it was, his jaw dropped for a moment, but he recovered quickly. She moved then and the light hit her profile, accentuating a bruise he hadn't noticed before.
"What happened to your mouth, Karen?" he asked quietly.
She shook her head. "That's Paulo. The man I'm with." She touched the bruise absently. "He's pretty awful."
She had a black eye, too, he realized. It wasn't some kind of eye shadow, as he'd originally let himself think. But more than her injuries, it was her calm acceptance of them that nearly sent him over the edge, as white-hot rage roiled within him. His hands clenched into fists as he all but snarled, "I'd like to get my hands on that rat..."
To his astonishment, Karen held up a hand. "Don't. Just... don't, Foggy. "I just need to know where Matt is. He... I can't tell you why. But he's the only man who can save me."
He was about to reassure her, to tell her that he knew exactly why she thought that Matt could save her. Then he remembered why Matt was still back at his apartment under protest and he decided that he could play his part a little bit longer. For the benefit of anyone who might be sitting nearby, listening to their conversation, he said, "Matt's disappeared, Karen. A lot has happened. Our law firm went out of business. Matt... Well, Matt's been acting crazy for some time now. Then... he was charged with criminal misconduct."
Karen turned her face away, but not before Foggy saw tears in her eyes. Sorrow, horror, and... something else. "Not Matt," she whispered. "No."
"It was a frame," Foggy continued. "By gangsters, I think. We did our best to fight it, but we lost. Then Matt's house blew up and he moved in with me. But now... Matt's vanished.
Karen buried her face in her hands. "Oh, no Foggy. No. It's... it's all my fault.
He felt his heart begin to pound as her words sank in. She couldn't mean... but unbidden, facts whirled in his mind and slowly, began to settle. Karen knew Matt was Daredevil. Somehow, Kingpin knew it too, now. Karen had come back to New York now, scared and desperate and... while she was aghast at what he was telling her, she didn't seem to be surprised. And why would she think that she could have done something to cause this? Was there some side effect to whatever she was taking that might make her delusional in some way. Or... "Tell me what you mean by that, Karen," he said, trying to stay calm.
She flinched. "Nothing," she said, not meeting his eyes. "Just talking like a junkie. Doesn't mean anything." She started to stand. "Look, I better go."
He was tempted to let her. If she had done what he was trying hard not to suspect she'd done, then Matt was better off without her. He could tell Matt that she hadn't been there—no, Matt would know he was lying. He could say she hadn't wanted to stay long and had had somewhere to go.
He could tell Matt what he suspected and that he hadn't wanted to bring Karen back.
The light hit her face again highlighting her bruises, startling sickly purple against her pale face. And he heard himself saying with clear conviction, "Back to the guy who punched you? No." He took her arm, shocked to realize how thin it was through the coat sleeve. "You're coming home with me, Karen."
She turned frightened eyes to his, then. "No," she protested. "Foggy, you're sweet, but no. Paulo... he'll kill you. He'll kill both of us."
There it was. He had an out. Karen was trying to protect him. Matt might even buy that he'd been too spineless to insist, when the truth was... The truth was that if he let Karen walk away now and found out later that Paulo had... done something to her, or that she'd OD'd or...
Weeks earlier, he'd fought down his worry over what he was getting himself into and convinced Matt to stay with him. And yes, there had been consequences for that decision, but he didn't regret them. At the end of the day, maybe he wasn't half the hero that Matt was... but sometimes, a man had to rise to the occasion if he wanted to be able to look himself in the mirror afterwards.
No matter what Karen had done... might have done... he couldn't let her go off alone into the night, anymore than he had Matt.
Still holding onto her arm with one hand, he clapped his other to her shoulder. "I won't take no for an answer, Karen. You and me, we're family. Matt's family. Come on."
Slowly, she looked up, meeting his eyes for the first time since he'd handed her the coffee. Tears filled her eyes. She tried to blink them back, but they ran down her cheek as she nodded.
Foggy pulled her into a hug and held onto her until she managed to attain some control. Then he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and they slowly walked out of the café.