Characters: Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson, Wilson Fisk
Genre(s): Hurt/Comfort, Action
Spoilers: Man Without Fear #1, Daredevil 226, 227, 228
Warnings: Mental breakdown
Word Count: 5002
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 that it's time to confront the Kingpin.
A/N: Special thanks to Aiyokusama for advice on self-defense techniques.
Matt didn't need vision to guess the look on Foggy's face.
"You did what?"
He shrugged. "I told the guy who's been shadowing me to pass on a message."
"Oh." Foggy said with poorly-feigned nonchalance. "Well, just so long as you keep the element of surprise, I guess that's okay."
"I didn't have that to start with," Matt pointed out. "Kingpin's been more than a step ahead of me for months. He's been rattling my chains, keeping me on edge, leaving me wondering what's going to happen next..." His voice hardened. "I'm tired of it. Maybe it's time he started worrying a little."
Foggy was silent for several long minutes. Finally, he ventured, "Matt... we're talking about a guy who... who made a few phone calls and completely wrecked your life. Do you really think his knowing you're on your way is going to shake him up?"
Matt's jaw clenched. "If he's smart," he said through gritted teeth. He smiled grimly. "It may have taken me too long to add it all up. And once I did, I know it took me more time to get my head together. But these last couple of weeks at the gym, I've been feeling it all fall into place again. I think I need another night or two... and then I'll be ready to make my move."
Foggy exhaled. "Whatever you say, Matt," he said dubiously. "Whatever you say."
That night, Foggy watched as Matt attacked a heavy bag with fists, feet, and billy-club. He wasn't just boxing anymore, though he was landing some solid punches. His feet moved back and forth in a triangular pattern that almost seemed like a dance. Then, he flipped to his hands. At first, Foggy thought that he was about to turn a cartwheel, but then, Mat twisted his hips, and delivered a powerful split-kick to the heavy bag. The bag rocked, the chain creaked, and a light shower of plaster dust fell from the ceiling. "Uh... Matt?"
"I know." Matt sounded annoyed. He moved to a free-standing bag. "I've been noticing a problem for the last week or so."
"Then why keep using that bag?"
Matt shrugged and settled back into that weird triangular dance again. "I like that bag. When I first started sneaking in here at night, that's the one I gravitated toward. Almost feels like an old friend." He directed a savage high kick at the belly of the new bag. Foggy winced.
"Nice to know how you treat your old friends."
Matt balanced on one foot and kicked out again, hitting with the entire sole of his other foot. The bag swayed. "You're not old," he smiled.
"I'd like to get there one day," Foggy retorted. He watched a bit longer. "That doesn't look like WBA standard," he said after several moments.
"It's not," Matt replied. "Well, not entirely. I'm working capoeira and a few kick-boxing techniques into the mix." He sighed. "Kingpin's fast, strong, and in a higher weight class. I won't beat him with Marquess of Queensberry rules. I need to wear him down by using moves he won't expect."
"Like he did with you," Foggy said shrewdly, as Matt delivered another one of those split-kick cartwheels.
Matt bounced back on his feet and spun back to face him. "Excuse me?"
Foggy shrugged. "He found out who you are and he attacked you with the tools of that trade. He didn't show up at Nelson and Murdock to punch your lights out or throw you out the window. He came at you through the IRS and the legal system. And now, you're going after him with your fists."
"What else can I do?" Matt asked, walking back across the floor and taking a seat next to Foggy. "On the surface, there is nothing to connect Wilson Fisk with any criminal activity. I know. I've looked. I know he's up to his neck in it, but I can't prove it and even if I could, even if we could, he's got his hooks into too many people." He shook his head and reached down for a bottle of water. "I went to see Nick Manolis when I found out that he was going to testify against me—"
"You what?" Foggy demanded. "Matt, you know better than—"
"As Daredevil," Matt snapped. "Obviously, it was before I knew Kingpin was involved." He frowned. "He was drunk. Not just 'had a couple of beers before I showed up'. Unsteady, lurching on his feet... I surprised him in his kitchen. He told me to leave."
"There's a shocker," Foggy said, but without the heat in his voice that had been there a moment ago.
"I was confused. I know Manolis. We've worked together before. I know... knew that he wasn't on the take. He was a good cop, a decent man... I needed to understand why he was prepared to testify before the grand jury that I'd bribed that witness."
"Okay," Foggy replied. "I get that. What happened?"
"He got angry. He was holding a bottle and he smashed it against the counter. It broke. I could tell it was beer from the smell."
"Gotcha," Foggy nodded. "Okay, smashing the bottle seems a little extreme, but I guess if he was already drunk, like you say, it could have made him aggressive. Then what?"
"He attacked me with the broken bottle. I defended myself. It wasn't hard. He was angry, but the alcohol made him slow, sluggish... I slammed him into his kitchen table, more to knock some sense into him than to actually hurt him. He told me to leave again and I knew he wasn't going to tell me what I needed to know to my face, so I left... but I didn't go far. There was a ledge outside his window. I waited to see what he'd do next. He made a phone call."
Matt shook his head. "He never said. "What he did say—to whoever was on the other end—was that I'd just been there. He'd been expecting me to show up. Or been warned that I would. Same thing, I guess," he admitted, with a frown. "That wasn't all he said, though. He mentioned that his son needed some treatment soon—treatment Manolis didn't have the money for. He was ready to say whatever they wanted at the hearing in exchange for the funds to pay for it."
Foggy sucked in his breath. "Great. So you overheard him admitting that he was going to lie, but you couldn't prove it in any way that would stand up in court."
"Exactly," Matt sighed. "I didn't have a tape recorder on me. Even if I did have one, if the mike had been sensitive enough to pick up Manolis's conversation, it would have also picked too much background noise to be coherent. Outside, there was wind and traffic. Inside, he had loud music playing. It created enough interference that I couldn't hear the voice on the other end, and my ears pick up more than any recording mike I might have carried."
"And even if you had, somehow been able to record it," Foggy groaned, "it would have been inadmissible under the Federal Wiretap Act in the first place. You would have needed one of those two parties to consent to your taping it." He sighed. "This time, I don't blame you for not mentioning this to me before. It would have left me about as frustrated as it left you."
"Thanks," Matt said, not sarcastically, but sincerely. "Anyway, Kingpin knows who to enlist and which buttons to push to get them to do what he wants. We're not going to beat him at that game, so I'm going to have to challenge him to mine. And win." He gave Foggy a tired smile. "Give me another twenty minutes. I want to hit the free weights. Then, we'll go over a few more defensive tactics. Sound good?"
"Sure," Foggy smiled back. His smile dropped away as Matt got up and headed for the weights area. "Just be careful, Matt. I don't think Kingpin's done pushing your buttons, yet. You could be playing right into his hands."
Although he spoke in an undertone, he was sure that his best friend had heard him, but Matt never broke stride or turned around.
"You're really going through with this," Foggy stated two days later. "You're just going to waltz into Fisk's office and beat him to a pulp."
"He'll be expecting Daredevil to break into his home to threaten him," Matt pointed out. "He won't be expecting Matt Murdock to show up unannounced at his place of business. He'll assume I'm going after him through the court system and I'm coming to give him one last opportunity to come clean. He'll be curious to know why I think I stand a snowball's chance against him, curious enough to hear me out. The one thing he won't be expecting will be an attack. There's my edge. I beat him, he gives me my life back, and we go on from there."
"You don't think I can do it," Matt said flatly.
"I... I don't honestly know," Foggy admitted. "But it seems to me you're presupposing a lot, here. Fisk didn't make a move on you until he had everything in place and, I'm sorry to say, Matt, he trapped you very neatly when your back was turned. Why would you assume he's no longer interested in you now? He's had you followed for weeks, for crying out loud."
For a moment, Matt's face fell and Foggy thought that he might actually be getting through to him. Then his expression hardened. "I'm not just going to give up, roll over, and play dead, Foggy. And, while I appreciate everything you've been doing," he placed a hand on Foggy's shoulder, "more than you'll ever know," he added, "I can't just... stay here, living off of your savings, while you sleep on the sofa in your own home."
"It's just until we deal with the IRS," Foggy pointed out. "And I don't mind."
"I do." Matt shook his head. "Besides," he sighed, "we both know that this isn't going to get resolved overnight. It might take months. Maybe years. I can't stay here that long."
"Fine, but you don't have to move out right now," Foggy shot back. "And you don't have to deal with Fisk right now, either. Wait him out. He's not going to have people tailing you forever. Sooner or later, he is going to get tired of it. That's when you go after him."
Matt shook his head once more. "This has gone on long enough. It ends today." He smiled. "It'll be okay, Foggy. I've got a plan, now. I know what I have to do." He got his coat from the closet and pulled it on. "I'll see you later."
The door closed behind him with an ominous note of finality. Foggy sighed. Then he went to his filing cabinet and pulled out a bulging folder containing all the data relevant to a case that had consumed his waking hours for over six weeks. Matt's. Assuming that Matt was right and his play was successful, Foggy wanted to be sure that all bases would be covered, all ramifications considered. Matt had praised his attention to detail. Foggy meant to keep meriting that reputation.
After three quarters of an hour though, he shoved the folder away with a sigh. He couldn't concentrate when he was this worried, and he wasn't going to stop being worried until Matt came back, safe and sound. Meanwhile, he wasn't doing anyone much good by pretending to look at documents that might end up being irrelevant, assuming Matt was successful.
...Assuming Matt was successful in his attempt to get his life back by walking directly into the headquarters of an archenemy, a building that had to be crawling with security, to confront head-on a man with serious connections on both sides of the law, who had—from the sound of things—managed to utterly wreck Matt's world with a few well-placed telephone calls.
Outside the window, the sun was setting. Foggy shook his head silently. He wasn't sure whether it was morbid curiosity that made him get his own coat and head to his car. He told himself that even if Matt won, he'd probably appreciate having a lift back and not needing to brave the subways, assuming he even had the fare on him. He ignored the voice in his head that tried to remind him that if Matt could take out the Kingpin, the subway wasn't going to be a major hurdle. He just knew that sitting and waiting was worse than going out after Matt. Maybe there wasn't anything that he could actually do, but a drive down to Fisk Industries would make him feel better, all the same.
He made sure to lock his door before taking the elevator down to the parking garage.
Matt had walked the last twenty blocks to Fisk Industries. One final brisk workout to warm up for the coming confrontation. Besides, there was only so much he could take of the cacophony of heavy metal songs leaking out from over a dozen radio headphones. He could handle bitter cold and long walks far better than he could echoing tunnels and discordant... well, he knew that some people called it music, though he considered it a stretch.
It was nearly six when he reached his destination. For the first time, it occurred to him that the main doors might be locked, but they slid open automatically at his approach. Running his fingers quickly over the directory with its engraved metal nameplates told him the floor he needed. He crossed the foyer, listening for the faint hum that would tell him where the elevators were located.
There was a security guard at the desk, Matt could hear him breathing. He debated making some excuse about needing to pick something up from one of the offices, but then he heard the sound of a pen making a brief scratch on a piece of paper. "Good evening, Mr. Murdock," the guard greeted him. "You want office 2500. Go right on up. Elevator's to your left."
It was Matt's first inkling that things were not going to go according to plan. He squelched the small doubt ruthlessly. Of course, Kingpin knew he was coming. He'd had people following him for weeks. His latest tail had probably phoned in as soon as Matt's destination had become clear. He smiled and murmured his thanks to the guard.
Arriving at the twenty-fifth floor, he was greeted again—this time by a receptionist with a warm smile in her voice, who held the door for him. "Come right in, Mr. Murdock," she said. "Mr. Fisk is expecting you." She led him down a long hallway past evenly-spaced potted reed palms. She held another door open for him without a word.
He didn't need eyesight to know that he was in a gym. His radar sense gave him the contours of various large pieces of fitness equipment and free-weight racks—not to mention the two basketball hoops at opposite ends of the room, but there was also an odor of stale perspiration that no amount of disinfectant would ever eradicate and the edge of the thin exercise mat that his feet touched when he walked three paces into the room. There would be no basketball today.
Kingpin was standing several yards away, his back to Matt. He waited until Matt had nearly cut the gap between them in half before he turned. He uttered no word. He simply stood, waiting.
Matt held his ground, mentally sizing up his adversary. Fisk was calm. He didn't know why that perturbed him. Fisk was always calm, always deliberate. It was his stance. Kingpin was standing, barefoot, clad only in a pair of briefs, arms down, hands a bit more than shoulder distance apart, feet spread, wordlessly inviting Matt to take his best shot.
That was his first mistake, Matt told himself, as he lifted his cane and swung it two-handed into his enemy's mid-section. It hit Fisk's belly with an impact that jarred both of his arms, but didn't even stagger Fisk. He dodged, sliding under Fisk's counter-attack and surging upwards to bring his cane down hard on the bridge of Fisk's nose. There was a satisfying "thwack" and the smell of hot blood filled the air. Fisk snarled and Matt struck out once more, swinging his cane into the side of Fisk's skull.
The cane broke.
Matt crouched low, preparing for another attack, but Fisk was moving now, faster than he had a right to, after sustaining those hits. He should have been reeling. He should have been dazed.
He'd been toying with him.
As the realization struck, so did Fisk, seizing him by one arm. Matt swung what was left of his cane into Fisk's shoulder, but the blow glanced off. And then a massive fist plowed into Matt's abdomen and he would have fallen to the ground if Fisk hadn't kept hold of his arm, yanking him off of his feet. He let go and Matt fought to keep his footing. A right cross to the jaw knocked him heavily to the mat. For the briefest instant, Matt considered succumbing to the unconsciousness that threatened to claim him—a deeper darkness than the one he habitually lived with—but that would have been a betrayal of everything he stood for. It would have been a betrayal of his father's last charge. And so, Matt fought to raise himself from the ground, to rally enough strength for another swing. He wasn't sure whether he actually spoke his defiance or merely thought it.
"Never give up... Never..."
His world exploded in pain and he knew no more.
The Kingpin looked down at Murdock, noted that his foe was still breathing, and smiled. It wouldn't do at all for Murdock to expire here, in an office where respectable business people met and respectable business was carried out. No, there must be nothing to tie Murdock's demise to Wilson Fisk or Fisk Enterprises.
He walked over to the wall phone. "Have you procured the taxicab? And the driver? You have him in a secure area? Very well. Eliminate him. I'm sending down the necessary weapon now. Ensure that you wear gloves when handling." Murdock groaned. Kingpin paused for a moment in his instructions, but when the man gave no other sign of coming around, he pulled his attention back to the conversation. "When that deed has been carried out, report back here with Topper. Give the weapon to Kirkland. Ensure that he is also wearing gloves. He and Fuller are to go to the following address..." He gave it from memory, "...Apartment 5B. They should find within one Franklin P. Nelson. They are to make certain of this before proceeding further. Once they have ensured that he is, in fact, within, using the same weapon, they are to eliminate Nelson and anyone else whom they might find there. If Nelson is not present, they are to take no action. Report back to me when they return. Is that understood? Excellent."
He smiled down at the unconscious man before him. "There will be no questions about your death, Murdock. No investigations. Well. I suppose that someone might wonder what would entice a blind man to get behind the wheel of a checker cab after beating its owner to death, but there will be no reason to pursue that line of questioning. It will simply be chalked up as one of life's little mysteries. Perhaps," he said with a soft chuckle, as he reached into a supply locker and pulled out a bottle of whiskey, "they will blame the alcohol..."
Parked across the street from Fisk Industries, Foggy got out of his car and put another quarter into the meter. He'd been waiting for nearly an hour and there was no sign of Matt. He wondered whether Matt had ever even got there. Perhaps he'd thought things through on his way over, realized that confronting Kingpin now wouldn't be the wisest course of action, and was even now, back at the apartment, waiting patiently for Foggy to return. It was a nice idea, anyway.
Waiting in a car was just as nerve-wracking as waiting at home, he decided. He debated whether to stay put, drive back, or get out of the car. What would Matt do? He knew the answer to that one, but then, Matt was Daredevil. Matt was likely to do many things, not all of which were courses of action Foggy should consider emulating. He closed his eyes. He'd gotten himself into this in the first place because he couldn't turn his back on a friend. "In for a penny, in for a pound," he muttered, as he got out of his car.
He stole a look at the building directory and smiled. As he'd expected, there were several offices that had nothing to do with Fisk Industries, apart from renting space—including a familiar law firm.
"May I help you, sir?" a uniformed security guard asked from behind his desk.
Foggy nodded. "I'm with Patterson, Harris, and McCormack," he said, giving the name of the firm where he'd interned during his JD program. "I'm supposed to pick something up from Solly Brownstein's office in 1400. He said he'd leave it at the desk, if he wasn't in."
"I'll call up," the guard said. "Name?"
There was no way that Foggy was going to give his real name. Not when Kingpin knew where Matt had been staying. "It's um..." he smiled, "Michael Franklin, but I don't think they'll know it. Just the name of the firm." He walked toward the elevator and quickly pressed the button.
"Sir, you can't..."
The door opened and Foggy was about to step inside when he realized that the car was occupied. There were three men inside. One's head was down. There was blood on his shirt, he reeked of cheap whiskey, and he was being supported by the other two. Foggy thought he might be passed out. "Goin' down, Mac," one of the men said. "Yeah, sorry," Foggy mumbled. "I can see..." The doors shut again as his heart plummeted to his stomach. He'd recognized the clothes, even if he hadn't been able to see the middle guy's face. That had been Matt!
"Sir!" The guard was approaching him now. "I'm sorry, sir, but there's nobody answering the phone in the office. I can't let you up at this hour unless someone vouches for you."
Foggy shook his head, barely listening. "That's okay," he mumbled. "I'll call in the morning." He nearly ran out of the building.
He was shaking as he got back into his car. What was he supposed to do now? Calling the police was an option, but if that elevator had been going down, if the Fisk building was like most others, then there would be a parking garage on the lower level. If they were trying to get Matt out of the building, they could be gone while Foggy was on the phone. They'd probably ask him a bunch of questions he didn't have time to answer, too. Had Matt even been breathing? He closed his eyes, squared his shoulders and, although he didn't consider himself a particularly religious man, thought a quick prayer to whoever might be listening. Then he opened his eyes once more, started the engine, and put the car into drive. He circled the building slowly, looking for a garage door or a loading dock, some way that those men might be leaving—if they hadn't already gone while Foggy had been trying to decide what to do next!
There was a garage door on the opposite side. As Foggy watched, the door rose slowly and a cube van drove out. The passenger window rolled down and a hand tossed a lit match out of the cab. Before the window rolled up again, Foggy got a good look at man in the seat. It was the same one who had announced that the elevator was going down.
His knuckles whitened on the steering wheel as he followed the van toward the East River.
At Pier 41, the van stopped. Foggy found a place to park, then slipped out of his car and cautiously edged closer. There were a number of wooden crates and barrels nearby and he crouched next to them, trying to lose himself among them. As he watched, the back of the van opened and the two men let down a ramp from the back of the truck that ended just at the edge of the pier. Then, they walked up the ramp and disappeared into the van. From Foggy's angle, he couldn't tell exactly what they were doing, but a moment later, a yellow checker cab rolled slowly down the ramp until it was halted by the safety chain surrounding the pier's perimeter. His eyes narrowed. Was it just his imagination, or were the metal posts pitching slightly forward as the taxicab's front bumper strained against the chain? There was a figure in the driver's seat of the cab, slumped over, not moving. Foggy's heart sounded like a drum solo in his chest. Matt. It had to be Matt. Now, was there some way that he could get to the taxicab without being spotted?
A beam of light shone into his eyes and he yelped as a meaty hand clamped down on his neck, pulled him forward, and let him drop to the ground. "I told you we were followed!" a harsh voice snapped. For a moment, he lay on the slushy pier. Then the guy with the flashlight reached down, grabbed his wrist, twisted his arm behind his back, and hauled him to his feet.
It occurred to Foggy that he'd asked Matt to teach him exactly how to get out of situations like this. What if they were armed, though? What if his struggle to get away ended with his getting shot? And what if his tactics failed and all he managed to do was get these people mad? He offered no resistance as his captor pushed him closer to the van and the cab.
"Who've you got, Topper?" the second man asked. He frowned. "I recognize you. You're that guy from the lobby. Who are you? What's your stake in this?"
Foggy pressed his lips together and tried to assume a defiant expression.
The other man shrugged. "Fine. We'll do this the hard way. Hold him, Topper." A moment later, Foggy's wallet was in the other man's hand. He rifled through it and blinked. "Franklin Nelson, eh? Well isn't this a coincidence. We've got a couple of people out looking for you right now." He glanced over Foggy's shoulder.
"Don't let go of him, Topper. I'm going to see how the boss wants to handle this."
Foggy watched as the other man walked briskly toward a phone booth. He entered, made a call, and spoke briefly. Then he came back, a grim smile on his face. "We don't do anything yet," he said. "Not to him, not to Murdock. Kirkland and Fuller are on their way over with the cane. Boss wants Nelson eliminated first, then Murdock. We just gotta hold him until they get here."
There was a creaking sound. The metal posts that supported the safety chain were definitely straining forward now. Before Foggy's horrified eyes, the cab rolled another inch closer to the river.
His blood ran cold. Why would Kingpin want to be sure that he died before they pushed Matt into the river? The thug had said something about a cane...? Matt's cane! That had to be it. They weren't just going to kill Matt, they were going to make it look as though Matt had killed him. But in order to do that, they had to wait for the cane to arrive here. They had to keep him alive until then. Which meant... They couldn't shoot him. They. Could. Not. Shoot. Him. Foggy smiled. Then, just as Matt had taught him, he turned into the hammerlock and delivered a powerful kick to his captor's knee.
There was a sickening crunch and Topper screamed a profanity as he released Foggy and fell to the pavement, clutching his knee.
Foggy ran for the cab, knowing that the other man would be on top of him in a moment. Then he heard the last sound he wanted to hear. The creak-and-snap of rusting metal as it gave way. Taxicab, chain, and support poles plunged into the East River.
For a moment, Foggy stood, frozen in horror. Then running footsteps behind him galvanized him into action. He turned and looked about wildly for a way out. No good. He was trapped between Kingpin's goons and the East River. He was a dead man. Either way, he was a dead man. But, he thought to himself grimly, nobody was pinning this on Matt!
He ran toward the edge of the pier. How far down was it? Could he survive the fall? How long could he last in the water? Damn it, he was still a young man. He didn't want to die.
The other thug was nearly on top of him now. He turned to face him. It wasn't courage or even bravado. It was the realization that if he faced the river, he was probably going to freeze up and stay where he was. As it was, years later, when he recalled this moment, he would never be completely certain whether he jumped back or simply slipped on the slushy, icy, asphalt as he tumbled off the pier and into the murky depths of the river below.