Characters: Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson, Wilson Fisk
Spoilers: Man Without Fear #1, Daredevil 226, 227, 228
Warnings: Mental breakdown
Word Count: 2912
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: Just because the secret's out doesn't make everything smooth sailing...
It took two months without heat or hot water to make Matt truly appreciate the therapeutic effects of a hot bath. When he and Foggy had returned from their shopping trip, he'd grabbed a towel and headed toward the bathroom, while Foggy had set about improving the apartment's security. (They both knew that the extra chain would do little to stop a determined intruder, but it was still better than the current setup.) Once reassured that Foggy's rent included utilities, Matt drew the bath, lay back in the tub, submerged himself in warm water up to his neck and tried to release the tensions of the last few weeks.
He wasn't sure how long he soaked. He knew that at some point, Foggy stopped pounding nails into the door and wall, cursing each time he missed the nail and hit his thumb. When the water cooled, he let some of it drain and ran the hot tap again. He knew that he'd have to get out eventually, but not now.
He was still tired, but it wasn't the crippling lethargy that had overtaken him earlier. Kingpin had hurt him. He had to acknowledge that and accept that he needed some time to recuperate. Soon. Soon he would have his life back. But for now...
"Quit feeling sorry for yourself. Get up."
Startled, Matt sat bolt upright, sloshing water over the side of the tub. "Wha...?" He knew that voice.
"Undisciplined," the voice rasped. "Indulgent. Emotional."
No. It wasn't possible. "Stick?" It couldn't be. There was no other heartbeat in the room. No breathing but his own, no silica-corundum smell of pool chalk mixed with myrrh and sandalwood incense. No, Matt knew he was alone. But he could still hear the same sharp sarcastic voice that had forced its way through the wall of self-pity he'd erected around himself after the accident. But that had been then. He wasn't feeling sorry for himself now. He was just tired. That was all. And... maybe it was time to take stock and let a few things go. He wasn't a lawyer anymore. Without a place to train, without a costume, maybe Daredevil needed a break, too. Maybe it was time to...
A new voice broke into his thoughts, thick with rage and strong with purpose. Another voice that Matt knew he couldn't be hearing, but memories were odd things and, at times, stronger than reality.
"...My boy is out there in the audience and I'm thinking about how I told him one thing worth a damn. I told him to never give up. Never. It's time I showed him his Dad might be a loser... but he's no quitter."
The crowd had been roaring that night. It had been hard for Matt to know what was going on. Foggy had tried to give him a play-by-play, but his voice had been swallowed up in the cheers and boos and bells and stomping feet. Still, every now and then, there had been a slight ebb in the cacophony and a snatch of conversation had carried. And those words, the last words he ever heard his father speak, had seared themselves into his brain, replaying in dreams and in fleeting moments of solitude. He would never forget them and he couldn't ignore them.
"Message received, Dad," he whispered. He took a deep breath, held it for a seven-count, then released it. He repeated the exercise a second time and then a third. How long had it been since he'd even tried to meditate? Too long. He set his jaw firmly and took a fourth breath.
The water was tepid by the time he stopped and he pulled out the plug with his toes. The soak had done his tired muscles a world of good, but it had also made him drowsy and he'd slept too many hours away already. He hauled himself upright, drew the plastic curtain, and ran the shower. A cold one.
Foggy was on the sofa, leaning toward the television, but he turned the set off as soon as Matt came into the living room. Matt shook his head. "You don't have to stop watching on my account," he said, smiling.
"Ehhh," Foggy snorted, "there's nothing on anyway. How are you doing?"
"Better." He joined Foggy on the sofa. A moment later, he frowned. "Did you spill coffee on this?"
"Yeah," Foggy admitted, sounding surprised. "A couple of days ago. You're telling me that even though I got the stain out, you still smell it?"
"It's faint, but it's there," Matt nodded. "It'll fade in time. Meanwhile," he smiled, "I like the smell of coffee anyway."
Foggy sighed in relief. "I guess I'd better pay more attention to stuff like that, though. I can try to keep the TV and radio lower and—"
"I appreciate the thought," Matt shook his head, "but I really wish you wouldn't." Foggy started to say something. Matt held up a hand. "No. Seriously. You've known me for how many years now?" He plowed on without waiting for an answer. "I had enhanced senses all that time and it's not like going a varsity basketball game ever left me curled up in the fetal position with my hands over my ears." He forced a smile. "Look. You've never felt a need to walk on eggshells around me, before. Don't start now."
Foggy considered that for a moment. "Okay," he said, and Matt heard the smile in his voice and the creak of the sofa as he leaned back. "So. Am I the first person to figure out you're Daredevil?"
Matt tilted his head toward him. "It was the Kingpin who left my costume in the rubble," he pointed out. "His way of 'signing' his work."
"Right," Foggy exhaled. "Sorry."
"Karen knew," Matt said after a moment. "We were becoming serious. I was contemplating asking her to marry me and, under the circumstances, I felt I had to tell her. She couldn't deal with it. It's the main reason we broke up."
"Ah. Wait. Spider-Man knows, too, right?"
Foggy let out another long breath. "Okay. The woman you thought you were going to marry. Your worst enemy. Another costumed hero... anyone else?"
"How about Heather?"
Matt hesitated. "Ben Urich."
"He's an investigative reporter with the Bugle. He figured it out. He was planning a whole exposé."
"Oh, for..." Foggy broke off abruptly. "What happened?"
"He changed his mind." Matt slumped. "He called me when the news broke about the grand jury. He wanted to get my side things. I blew him off." He winced. "I should probably call him to apologize."
Foggy groaned. "So half the Western Hemisphere already knew about this and you didn't tell me."
"I didn't tell anyone but Karen and Heather. The others found out on their own." He reached over and put a hand on Foggy's shoulder. "You're right, though. I should have told you before this."
The hurt in Foggy's voice was almost palpable. Matt sighed. "The two people I did tell on my own, I..." He sucked in a breath. "I'll probably never be certain whether knowing my identity was part of what led Heather to..." He shook his head. "I can't be certain. But, I do know that Karen couldn't handle it. She'd had a few brushes with the people I fight. She knew too well the danger. And once I told her, she worried every time she knew I was out in costume. That worry was a big part of why she left. Her leaving was a big part of why I didn't want to tell you." He shook his head. "But I still should have."
For a moment, Foggy was silent. Then, "Did I mention that you can be a real jerk sometimes?"
"Case. In. Point." He sighed. "Okay. I know now. Better late than never. And I get that you didn't want to risk my letting you down, but I wish you could have..." He broke off abruptly. "Oh, what's the use? What's done is done. I know now," he repeated. "I'm not running for the door and I'm not kicking you out on your ear." He covered the hand on his shoulder with his own. "Just... try trusting me a little more from now on?"
Matt nodded. "You got it."
Matt woke up the next morning feeling—if not exactly invigorated, at least—a great deal closer to his old self than he had in a long time. He knew he wasn't ready to take on the Kingpin yet, but he wasn't going to sit cowering in Foggy's apartment, either. Kingpin had ripped almost everything away from him, so it was time to go back to the basics. If he had to start from scratch, then so be it.
He opened one of the dresser drawers that Foggy had cleared out for him yesterday—over his protests—and pulled out a pair of cargo pants, a t-shirt and a cable-knit sweater. A stale sweat-and-smoke smell from the hamper in the corner hit him and he wrinkled his nose with distaste. Last night, he'd been too tired to notice and he'd had other things on his mind until now, but he was going to have to wash those clothes... or burn them. For now, he cracked the window open a bit to air out the room and headed for the kitchen.
Foggy wished him a good morning through a mouthful of doughnut. "Guess you know what's on the table," he said. "Help yourself. Or ask if there's something else you want."
Matt nodded. "Is that a toaster?" he asked, gesturing toward the counter.
"Thanks." He'd caught Foggy's hesitation and he had a pretty good idea of the reason for it. "Asking about the extent of my hyper-senses isn't walking on eggshells around me, just so you know," he smiled. "My radar sense gives me shapes... contours. Deductive reasoning fills in a lot of the blanks. I see something on the counter that looks like a square box. There's an electrical cord coming out from behind... at least, I think I can infer that it's plugged in," he pointed to the wall socket, "and not some I-don't-even-know-what that you've chained to the wall." He reached toward the loaf of sandwich bread on the table, took two slices, and strode toward the toaster. "Believe me, if we were in a store where they tie the merchandise to the walls or counters, I'd have a harder time distinguishing between an electrical cord and a security chain. Anyway, this is a kitchen, so it's probably a small appliance. You don't buy a lot of fad gadgets, so it's not likely to be a juicer or a yogurt-maker; not that I'd recognize one of those without having one pointed out to me. So, at this point, I've pretty much got it narrowed down to three likely possibilities: a toaster, a clock or a radio. You've got a radio on that shelf," he pointed over Foggy's head, "at least, the sports scores were coming from up there yesterday. Clocks don't necessarily need to be on counters, so I'm going with toaster." He placed the bread in the slots and slid the lever down.
Foggy laughed and applauded lightly. "And your sense of smell tells you when the bread's dark enough?"
"You got it. Now," he lowered his voice as though about to impart some great secret, "my hypersenses don't tell me where you keep your frying pans and I could really go for some scrambled eggs."
"Cabinet to the left of the window," Foggy smiled. "Just turn the burner about a notch lower than you think you should. They're made out of some new alloy that heats up faster or better."
"Noted. You have eggs, right?"
"Yeah, in the fridge. Second shelf up from the crisper... Sorry, I don't remember which side."
Matt shrugged. "Egg cartons have a distinctive shape. That's how I knew they weren't on the table. I think I can find them." He flicked the toaster lever back up and smiled with satisfaction.
"Did you have any plans this evening?" he asked, as he set the pan down on the burner.
Foggy considered. "I don't know. I'm pretty open. Why?"
"I need to buckle down," Matt said. "Kingpin believes I'm beaten and that's fine; let him. What's important is that I don't start believing it." His face fell for a moment. "...Again," he added.
"Okay," Foggy said slowly. "So..."
"So I need to get into the right headspace. That means training. Normally, this would not be a problem; I had a gym in my brownstone."
"This is a problem," Foggy replied.
"This is a problem," Matt confirmed, as he opened the fridge. "There are two solutions. One is going to be difficult for both of us. One is just going to be inconvenient." He closed the fridge door with one hand while carefully holding the eggs in the other.
There was a long pause. Then, Foggy exhaled softly. "Hit me."
Matt hesitated. "I put some of my father's things in storage. I couldn't get rid of them, but some things... his gloves... his punching bag... there were too many memories, too many familiar smells... Having them in the house would have been overwhelming. But I could get them out of storage and bring them here, except that you don't have that much room." He lifted the butter dish off the table.
"...And they might still trigger those memories."
"They might," Matt admitted. "I don't know, but at this point, I'll risk it."
"Okay. What's the other solution?"
"Fogwell's gym," Matt replied. "It's in Hell's Kitchen. I know how to get in after hours. Lord knows I did it often enough when I was training in the first place. It's not far from the subway. I was thinking of going tonight after supper."
"I could drive you."
Matt smiled. "Thanks, Foggy, but you don't drive a Lincoln Town Car through Hell's Kitchen in broad daylight, let alone after dark, unless you're looking to get it keyed. Or stolen."
"Subway," Matt nodded.
"Can I come?" There was a wistful note in his voice. "I'd kind of like to watch."
Matt paused from spooning the eggs out of the frying pan and onto his plate.
"Hey, I wouldn't mind the chance to see a bona fide hero work out."
Matt chuckled. "My head still may not be where it needs to be," he admitted, sobering. "I might spend a lot of time falling on my face."
"I wouldn't mind the chance to see that, too."
This time the chuckle erupted into a full-blown laugh. "Fogwell's closes at eight," he said. "The staff is usually gone within ten minutes, but we'll leave here at eight-thirty, just in case they're slow."
"Sounds like a plan. What are you doing until then?"
"I mean, we could start reviewing your case."
"Let's deal with Kingpin first. I don't think we'll get anywhere until that's done. I'm going to head to the library and see what I can turn up on Fisk Industries." Foggy started to say something, but Matt held up a hand. "Don't hover." He pulled off his glasses. "There are ways to not be noticed."
"What? By taking off your glasses?" Foggy averted his eyes. "Sorry. Without them you look... very noticeable."
Matt smiled. "Yes. But not very much like Matt Murdock. There are two things that usually make me stand out in a crowd," he pointed out. "The sunglasses and this cane." So saying, he lifted the cane, pressed a button in the center, and folded it neatly in half. "It'll fit into a coat pocket now," he said.
His expression turned serious. "Truthfully, if Kingpin has people watching this place and tailing me, there's not much I'll be able to do to shake them. I have to assume that they know it's just you and me in here and they're going to follow anyone who isn't you. But if they're not that thorough... if they're just flashing a photo around and asking people if they've seen me, without my glasses... well, people may look at me, but they won't see me. They'll be too busy looking away."
"Don't be. Why do you think I wear sunglasses in the first place?"
Matt spent the rest of the morning and a good part of the afternoon at the library looking at annual reports and browsing periodicals indexes for information on Fisk Industries. He hadn't expected to turn up much of anything that seemed immediately useful—criminal fronts were hardly in the habit of listing their illegal activities in public documents. Still, by the time he left, he had a fairly-good idea of the companies that were directly or indirectly under the Kingpin's control. He wasn't sure how helpful that was going to be at the moment, but it was a start.
If nothing else, he had a fairly good idea of where not to look for work when he started job-hunting—and he was going to have to and fairly soon. He couldn't keep taking advantage of Foggy's good will and he couldn't assume that they'd be able to get his license back in short order. These things took time and he needed to do something in the interim. He just didn't know what.