Characters: Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson, Wilson Fisk, Peter Parker, Karen Page
Genre(s): Hurt/Comfort, Action, Angst, Drama
Spoilers: Surprisingly none, this chapter that haven't been referenced in earlier installments...
Warnings: References to drug addiction; discussion of drug withdrawal, references to domestic abuse
Word Count: 3979
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 and Karen are reunited, but there's a lot of baggage that needs to be addressed.
Thanks to Elke for legal advice!
In Foggy's apartment, Matt waited impatiently for his friend to return. He was getting a clearer understanding of what Foggy must have been going through on that afternoon, over a week ago, now, when Matt had gone off to deal with Kingpin. In fact, had Foggy given him the address where he was going to meet Karen, Matt couldn't be sure that he'd still be sitting here waiting, danger or no danger, ribs or no ribs.
As much as he knew that he needed to lie low for a time, there was something in him that bristled at having to stay behind. It was the same thing he'd been struggling with for more than half his life: if you back down, if you slack off, even if you know it's because you're tired, everyone else is going to think it's because you're blind. Foggy definitely didn't think like that, but Matt didn't want to give him any reason to start. His high school guidance counselor had called it overcompensating, but Matt knew that he wouldn't have come nearly as far as he had if he hadn't pushed himself. Kids from Hell's Kitchen seldom made it to college, let alone law school.
To have managed to not only get into college but get into law school, to have managed not only to get into law school, but to have stayed the course and graduated magna cum laude, and to have achieved it while blind... yes, part of it had been to make his father proud. Most of it had been to make his father proud. Part of it had been for the little kid who'd been targeted by the neighborhood bullies because he wouldn't play with them. When things had been really bad, Dad had told him that one day, he'd show them all. And yes, getting as far as he did had given him no small sense of satisfaction on that score. But there had also been a refusal to give up in the face of the odds stacked against him. He never had. He never would. He just wished that sitting here, waiting for Foggy to return... with Karen didn't feel like giving up.
Karen... How many years had it been? He'd tried to put her out of his mind when she'd left him for Hollywood. He'd thought he'd moved on. He'd dated other women. He'd nearly married one of them. But now, hearing Karen's voice, even though it had been muffled when it leaked out of the telephone, had brought all the old feelings back.
She was in trouble. She was in trouble and all he could do was sit here on the sofa and wait and hope she was all right. Ironically, she'd left him largely because she hadn't wanted to spend her life doing something similar while he was off being Daredevil. He'd understood that. It had been the main reason that he hadn't gone after her—not even when he'd moved down to San Francisco for a year. He'd thought about it. Even though he'd been with Natasha at the time, he'd thought about looking her up.
True, she hadn't been that close by. Almost 400 miles separated San Francisco from Hollywood, but he'd traveled over 2500 miles to get to the West Coast from New York. Another 400 miles would have been nothing. But he hadn't. She'd never called, never written. He'd assumed that it had been because her feelings for him had run as deep as his for her and that, once she'd decided that she needed to leave, she'd wanted a clean break. He'd never considered whether she might have moved on from him. She might be married now. With kids. She'd make a wonderful mother. Maybe the reason she was back in town wasn't because she still loved him, but because she needed his help as Daredevil.
Matt rested his elbow on the arm of the sofa and his chin in his hand. Whatever her reasons, if Karen needed him, he was going to be there for her. He frowned as his fingertips encountered stubble. That wouldn't do. She'd think he was letting himself go. He had to shave before she got here. He got up carefully and headed for the bathroom.
Foggy did his best to keep conversation light during the taxi ride back to his apartment. He'd never been this paranoid before these last few weeks, but he wasn't quite ready to bet their lives that they weren't being followed, that the taxi driver wasn't on Kingpin's payroll, that someone wasn't waiting outside his building to check if Matt was going to show up. He didn't like having to be this careful, but he knew how necessary it was. It wasn't lost on him that Karen hadn't questioned his precautions. She'd said that people were after her, too. Perhaps she was used to looking over her shoulder by now.
It wasn't until they were taking the elevator up to his apartment that Foggy finally cleared his throat. "About Matt," he said in a low voice. "He's there. In my apartment."
"What?" Karen gasped. "Why didn't—?"
The elevator was already passing the third floor. The doors would open again on the fifth. "He's in disguise," Foggy interrupted her. "Brown hair, color contact lenses. People are after him, too. We decided this way was best. I just wanted to prepare you..." He let his voice trail off as the doors opened. He poked his head out and looked quickly up and down the corridor. Then he beckoned to Karen and she followed him out of the elevator.
"Thanks for being careful," she said shakily. "I-I was in Mexico before all this. I was going to visit a..." She hesitated. "...A friend," she said. "Well, okay. Not a friend." She looked miserably at the ground. "M-my supplier. I needed a fix." She flinched when Foggy wrapped an arm around her. "I got to his room and he was... he was dead. Shot. Someone was bending over his body, still holding the gun. And then he pointed it at me. I was lucky. He missed. I ran. I've been running ever since."
"It's going to be okay," Foggy tried to reassure her. "We're almost there. Come on."
Karen nodded and moved forward a few steps. Then she froze. "I can't," she said. "Foggy, I can't see him. You don't know..."
"I can't face him, Foggy!" Although she was still speaking softly, panic seemed to lend volume to her voice. "Not after what I did to him. I can't. I have to go."
Foggy's voice hardened. "Where? Back to Mexico? Back to the guy who gave you that shiner?" He hoped Matt could hear this. "Karen..."
"It's my fault that people are after him!" Karen snapped. "Don't you get it? I needed a fix. That was the only thing I could think about. I needed something so I could feel good and not remember how wrong things had gone for me. I had to get the stuff. I didn't care what I had to do. Only... I didn't have any money. I'd already pawned everything of value I owned. I had nothing worth anything except..." Her voice broke. "Except something Matt told me in confidence a long time ago."
Well, that confirmed his suspicions. Foggy closed his eyes. "I think I know what it was," he said heavily.
Foggy nodded. "Yeah. It took a little longer for him to share it with me, but... yeah."
"Then you know I can't face him!"
"I know you don't want to face him," Foggy said, "but Karen... I'm sorry. From what you've told me, I can only imagine what you've been going through, these last few years. Scratch that. I can't imagine what you've been going through, not really. I know that. But one thing I've been hearing loud and clear is that you've been running away for a very long time. You ran away from Matt when you couldn't deal with... what he told you." He didn't miss her involuntary nod. "You ran away from Hollywood when your film career didn't happen. You ran away from Mexico when—"
"What was I suppose to do?" Karen demanded with a hint of her old spirit. "Let that gunman shoot me?"
"Of course not," Foggy said, motioning to her to lower her voice. "I'm not saying you didn't have a good reason every time. But Karen... isn't it time to stop running now? You're not alone. I'm right here, standing next to you."
"But... Matt... Foggy, I—"
"I know. You're going to have to tell him," Foggy said. "Something this big... you've got to. And honestly? I don't know how he's going to react. But I do know this: he loves you. He always has. That's going to count for something."
"And I love him. That's what makes this so horrible."
She gave him a tremulous smile. "I... I guess if I've come all the way from Mexico looking for him, I'd better see him." She shook her head. "And if he hates me after I tell him what I did, it'll be no more than I deserve anyway."
Foggy pulled her closer. "I don't think he could ever hate you," he said. "But whatever happens, I'm going to be right there with you."
Karen screwed her eyes shut and nodded, but despite her best efforts, when she opened them again, he saw that they were brimming with tears. It was only another few steps to the door of his apartment. As Foggy fumbled for his key, he hoped for the best, even as he steeled himself for the worst. The problem was that he was hard-pressed to determine what was going to be 'best' in this situation.
He heard them talking as they came down the hall. Karen sounded tense, almost hysterical. Foggy was calmer, but his voice was a little too controlled. As Matt listened, he understood why. He took a deep breath, held it, and let it out. So. That was how the Kingpin had found out. Matt hadn't been sloppy. He hadn't been careless. Or, if he had been, that hadn't been the problem. Karen had... she had... she had to have been in a far darker headspace than he'd ever been for her to have done something like that.
Matt thought about what he'd gone through in the months following Elektra's death. How he'd lashed out at, or withdrawn from those closest to him. What he'd put Heather through... How much had his treatment of her factored into her final decision? It was all well and good to say that he'd been coming apart inside at the time. He'd been grieving. He hadn't been thinking clearly. That still didn't alter the fact that she'd been hanging on by her fingertips and he'd practically danced on her hands.
He hadn't thought about consequences when he'd been in that state. Heather had paid the price. He hadn't thought about consequences when he'd gone abroad, going above and beyond (or so he'd convinced himself) to track down a lead, ignoring what Foggy had been trying to tell him about the state of their practice. The firm had paid the price.
Foggy had put his heart and soul into that law firm, far more than Matt ever had. Losing it had nearly killed him. But when Matt had called him—almost before the sign painters had finished scraping 'Nelson and Murdock' off of the office door—because of the grand jury summons, Foggy hadn't hesitated. In the weeks that followed, he hadn't voiced a single recrimination, hadn't played the martyr, and hadn't once reminded Matt that he was lucky Foggy was even willing to talk to him at this point, much less help him. And Foggy hadn't just phoned in his defense, either. With all of the evidence against him, right up until the verdict, Matt had been sure that he'd be looking at five to seven years in prison. If he was lucky. Foggy had stayed awake till all hours, researching every possible angle, every possible precedent, and every lead— no matter how slight— that might give them an advantage. And in the end, Matt had been disbarred, but not incarcerated.
Foggy had done all that and then, after the trial, he'd gone and done so much more. When anyone else would have walked out, Foggy had stood with him. Not just by him. With him. Whatever Karen had gone through, whatever she was going through now, Matt knew from immediate past experience just how badly she needed someone in her corner.
But Karen had...
All right, Matt. Pretend she's your client. How could you argue the case, hmm? He thought about it. Karen had been frightened and desperate and people who were desperate did desperate things. Didn't he have enough experience on that front already to understand what she must have been going through? She might not have been fully rational; drugs could mess up a person's mind. Not to mention their judgment. Didn't the fact that she'd sold his secret for a fix only bolster that argument? Compassionate grounds: Karen had nearly been killed in Mexico, from what he was overhearing. Somebody named 'Paulo' had given her a black eye. Thinking about that made his blood boil. When he got his hands on that guy, he was going to... He was going to admit that if he was trying to find reasons to justify helping her, he'd already made up his mind that he was going to.
They were at the door. He heard Foggy's key turning in the lock and he got up to greet them.
Karen was in trouble and she desperately needed his help, despite... or perhaps especially... because of what had happened. Turning her away would be almost like brushing off every way that Foggy had come through for him. But more than that... More than that, he still loved her. Maybe that argument would never fly in a court of law, but then, he wasn't bound by those rules anymore now, was he?
The door opened and they walked in. Matt took a step toward them—toward her—and spread his arms wide. Karen fell into them, crying out his name and Matt held her tightly, ignoring the protest from his healing ribs. He still loved her, he was going to help her through this, and for this moment, that was the only thing that mattered.
"I still don't see how you can just... brush off what I did to you so easily," Karen repeated. She ran her finger along the rim of her empty mug of tea.
"I can refill that," Foggy offered, reaching for the teapot on the coffee table before them. Karen shook her head.
Matt smiled easily. "Over the last little while," he said slowly, "I think I've come to realize that Fisk may have been able to separate me from everything he thinks is important, but..." his smile widened, "...not everything that's really important. The funny thing about it is that I needed to be separated from all of it to realize how little it mattered."
"But... your home... your career..." Karen protested. "Matt, I never meant to—"
"Of course you didn't," Matt's voice was gentle. "Listen to me. I've defended enough clients in court on drug-related charges to recognize that the need for another hit—and with heroin, it is a physical dependency, not just a psychological one—can be strong enough that you're willing to do anything in order to get it. Things that you'd never do if you didn't have the addiction." His smile dimmed. "Which brings me to a question. And I need you to answer me honestly. Before you do," he reached over and sandwiched her hand between both of his, "I want you to know that whatever you decide, I am still going help you. No strings attached; I just need to know how things stand." He slid closer to her. "Karen, do you want to get off of the drugs?"
"Yes!" She hesitated. "But... the withdrawal... I've gone through that before... a little. It was bad. Really bad."
Matt nodded. "Yeah. I'll be here to help you through that, as much as I can." He squeezed her right hand in his left and brought his right hand to her shoulder. "If I could take the withdrawal pain on for you, I would. I hope you know that. I can't. But I can promise you that you aren't going to go through it alone. I'll be right here with you."
"We both will," Foggy spoke up resolutely.
Matt smiled. "Right. Karen?"
Matt exhaled. "All right. How long has it been since you got your last... hit?"
Karen hesitated. "I don't know, I didn't look at my watch. It might have been late morning or... or early afternoon. I don't know. I remember the sun was pretty bright. ...I think. Oh, I don't know." She sniffled. "I'm sorry."
"No, it's fine," Matt said. "I'm just trying to remember the timeline. Once the withdrawal symptoms kick in," he said slowly, "the first two days are going to be the hardest. Whatever symptoms you've had in the past when the junk was leaving your system are going to be worse. I can't sugarcoat this. It's going to hurt. You probably won't be able to sleep. Sweats... anxiety..." He squeezed her hand again. "Once again, you are not going to be alone while you're going through this. At least one of us will be here in the room with you at all times. After two days, the worst of the pain will have passed, though you'll still be experiencing some, and probably a few other symptoms like nausea and lack of appetite. Usually, by the sixth day, you're mostly out of the woods. You still won't feel one hundred percent okay, but you'll be getting there. Then we can start looking at some kind of support group."
"Support group?" Karen repeated. "Isn't that what the two of you are going to be doing? I thought you were going to be helping me!" she said frantically. "How can I go talk to total strangers? I couldn't!"
"Easy," Matt said, still holding her hand and remembering that one of the first symptoms of heroin withdrawal was increased agitation. "Easy. I said that we were going to help you and I meant it. We are going to be here with you, while the drugs work their way out of your system. But after that, you might find it helps to talk to people who've been through the same things you have. That doesn't mean either of us are going to just hand you over to them and walk away. We're both here for you now and we'll both be here for you then. But it's one thing for me to have researched the symptoms of withdrawal well enough to list them and hold on to you when you're in pain. It's another thing to truly know what going through withdrawal feels like. There might be a time when you need to talk to someone who's experienced it."
"But if not," Foggy broke in, "nobody is going to force you to go. It's your choice all the way."
"I haven't felt like I've had a lot of choices lately," Karen murmured.
"Yeah, well that's changing. Meanwhile, let's just focus on the next couple of days, yeah?"
Karen relaxed slightly. "Okay," she said, sounding like she was trying not to cry. "Okay."
"Why don't you lie down?" Matt suggested. "Try to sleep now, before the pain starts to hit." He turned to Foggy. "I'm going to need to sleep on the recliner for the next few days, as it is. I guess Karen can have the bed?"
"Sure," Foggy said easily. "I'll just put fresh sheets on. Shouldn't be more than a few minutes."
"Oh, no!" Karen protested. "Foggy, I can't turn you out of your bed. I'll take the—"
Foggy laughed. "I've been sleeping on the sofa for nearly a month, now. You'd be turning me out of my bed if you took it. And Matt can't sleep in a bed until his ribs heal; not comfortably, anyway. The bed's yours and welcome to it."
"Well..." Karen said slowly, "If you're sure..."
"I'm sure. Look," Foggy suggested, "why don't you take a shower while you're waiting? I'll lend you a shirt to sleep in and there should be some laundry soap under the sink if you... I mean, there are some things you're wearing that you probably want to wash," he said awkwardly. "If you know what I mean."
"Not sure I can think about that right now," Karen admitted.
"No problem," Foggy said, changing tracks quickly. "I was planning to head down to the Laundromat tomorrow anyway. I'll just throw your things in with ours. I don't think I'll get 'em mixed up," he said, coaxing a bit of uncertainty into his voice.
Karen giggled. "Thanks." She took a deep breath. "Okay. A shower does sound good. Thanks."
After Foggy showed her where the bathroom was, he waited until he heard the water running before he told Matt, "Try not to prepare her too far in advance. She's got a rough couple of days in store. I don't think it's going to do her much good worrying about what comes after it when she's might just need to focus on getting through one hour at a time."
Matt nodded. "I should have realized that. Thanks for being so... good about all of this. It's going to be a hard few days for all of us."
"I couldn't very well do anything else," Foggy replied. "And I know. We'll manage. How are your ribs holding up?"
"Sore," Matt admitted, "but nothing I can't handle at this point." He frowned. "You don't have any prescription-strength painkillers in your medicine cabinet, do you? Opiates in particular?"
Foggy thought for a minute. "No, it's all over-the-counter stuff. Aspirin, cough syrup, Pepto-Bismol... there might be a few prednisone left over; you remember when I had that really bad laryngitis and a trial date coming up? The doc gave me ten and told me I could stop taking 'em once my symptoms cleared up. It's a steroid, not a painkiller. Do you need something?"
Matt shook his head. "No. I was just checking. If you did, I was going to suggest you lock them up or get rid of them."
For a moment, Foggy didn't understand. Then he drew in a breath sharply. "Right. I didn't think about that. But since you're bringing it up, what about you? Didn't the clinic give you anything?"
Matt shook his head. "They offered, but meditation and Ibuprofen seem to be handling whatever the epidural didn't." He sighed. "I'm still in a bit of pain," he admitted, "but nothing I can't deal with."
"Maybe you could teach some of that to Karen."
Matt nodded. "Possibly, but it takes time to master. It won't help her through this."
"No," Foggy smiled. "But then, that's where we come in, right?"
Matt smiled back. "Right."
In a seedy room in Washington Heights, an angry man paced the floor impatiently. "Stupid skirt should have been back hours ago," he muttered. "If she thinks she can run out on Paulo, she's got another think coming." Still mumbling to himself, he picked up a small attaché case that was leaning against the rickety wooden desk, deposited it on the bed and opened it. Inside, embedded in custom-cut foam, was a disassembled gun.
As he set about fitting the pieces together, he was muttering, "I warned you to come right back, Karen Page. Guess it's up to Paulo to teach you a lesson..."