Characters: Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson, Wilson Fisk, Peter Parker, Karen Page
Genre(s): Hurt/Comfort, Action, Angst, Drama
Spoilers: Daredevil Vol 1 #232
Warnings: Drug withdrawal
Word Count: 3945
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: The first couple of days of opiate withdrawal are the worst...
A/N: If canon ever tells us what the "P" in 'Franklin P. Nelson' stands for, I may revisit this if I guessed wrong.
That night, Matt dreamed he was fifteen again and back in the hospital. He was recovering from the surgery they'd done on his face to restore the damage caused by the radioactive waste—the cosmetic damage, at any rate. He'd felt every cut, every stitch, every jab, despite the amount of anesthetic they'd administered. He'd screamed his pain and fear out on the operating table, writhing in his restraints. Eventually, the surgery had stopped. The pain had remained. Hours later, his face was still throbbing and burning, the agony as fresh as if he were still under the knife.
Not long afterwards, one of the doctors had come in and told him firmly that his cries were disturbing the other patients. "And really," he'd continued tartly, "a boy your age shouldn't be carrying on quite so much. There's no way you can still be in that much pain."
Easy for him to say. He wasn't in Matt's skin. But then he'd heard voices in the hallway and realized that Dad was talking with the doctor now. If he kept screaming, it would only upset Dad. So, he'd clamped his teeth together and tried to control himself.
Dad hadn't been fooled. He'd spent about a minute in the room with Matt and then stormed out, yelling at the doctors. Matt had heard the doctor saying that Matt was already on stronger painkillers than normally warranted after this kind of surgery. Dad would have none of it. "You get him on something better!" he'd demanded.
They had. Even that hadn't fully masked the pain, but at least he'd been able to stop crying, most of the time. When he slept, though, his control slipped. The nurses later told him that he moaned in his sleep. He hadn't believed them. Hadn't wanted to.
But tonight, he was dreaming that he was visiting his younger self in the hospital, doped to the gills on morphine, scared, alone, in pain... and moaning. As he sat next to the bed, keeping his younger self company, the moans grew louder. After a moment, he realized that they weren't coming from the bed beside him at all, but from the room next door. There had to be another patient there. Maybe there was something he could do to help them.
He started to rise from his chair, but it felt like he was trying to move through syrup. He was slow, sluggish, and the moans were getting louder. He struggled to move faster, another step, another...
He was awake. He was in Foggy's living room, leaning back in the La-Z-Boy recliner, surrounded by the lingering scent of fabric softener, the old-paper smell of the textbooks on the bookshelf, and the fragrance of the tea that had spilled on the rug earlier. A few feet away, Foggy was snoring on the sofa—a sound he'd grown used to during their four years rooming together at Columbia. During their first semester, the noise had been annoying. By their last, it had been almost comforting.
He smiled, but the smile fell away when he realized that he was still hearing the moaning from his dream. It was coming from the other room. Karen.
He wanted to bolt from the recliner into the bedroom, but he reminded himself that, thanks to his own condition, he needed to take it a bit slower. Remembering the tips that the nurses had given him at the clinic, he eased himself carefully out of the chair. Then he strode quickly to the bedroom.
Karen was lying on her side, curled up in a ball, clutching the hem of the bedspread in both hands for dear life. She was biting down on the spread, whimpering. Matt caught the sour smell of perspiration on her forehead.
"Hey." Matt approached her carefully, keeping his voice low. "Hey, it's going to be all right."
Karen quivered under the bedspread. Matt heard her sudden intake of breath, as though she was getting ready to scream. Instead, there was only a dry sucking sound.
"I know," Matt whispered. "I know it hurts. I'm right here for you." He went around the foot of the bed and sat down behind her on the mattress. "I'm right here."
Karen didn't move, but her heartbeat slowed marginally. Encouraged, Matt lay down beside her, remembering as he did so that the nurse had recommended he spend some time resting on his side. "I'm here with you," he whispered, stroking her hair gently. "You're going to get through this. You're going to be okay."
"It hurts," she croaked. "S-so bad. Feels... like I'm dying."
Matt didn't doubt it. "I'm right here," he said again. "You're going to be okay." Words. Stupid, useless words that couldn't do a thing for her pain. Maybe there was something else he could try. "Where does it hurt?"
He should have expected that answer. He took a deep breath. "Karen... I'm going to try something. I don't know if it's going to do any good, but I don't think it'll make things worse. If I'm wrong... if you want me to stop, tell me, okay?"
In most cases, Matt would never say that his radar sense was superior to the vision he'd lost. The ability to pick up shapes and contours and know when he was about to hit a wall would have paled had he been one to brood on what he had lost. Faces, colors, the ability to watch a movie and know what was going on when the actors weren't talking... But lying in bed next to the woman he loved in the wee hours of the morning, when it had to be pitch-black in the room, even had his vision been perfect, his eyes could never have caught Karen's slight nod. His radar sense did. He got up carefully, pulled back the blanket, and lay back down. Gently, he ran his fingers over her back, wincing a bit in sympathy when he felt the tightness in her muscles.
Thanks in no small part to the lessons he'd learned from Stick years ago, Matt had more than a passing knowledge of acupressure. When his own body had ached after a particularly strenuous training session, rather than allow him to follow a lighter regimen for a few days, the elderly sensei had directed him to lie down. Matt remembered feeling Stick's fingers pushing down on his muscles like steel pegs. And then, his pain had vanished.
"There are a lot of things you can do, once you understand a few things about pressure points, kid," Stick had said. Then they'd gone on with the training. But later, much later, Stick had given Matt more instruction in acupressure massage—instruction Matt was now grateful for. He found the right places on her back and pressed down gently, the techniques coming back to him from those long ago days. Under his ministrations, he felt Karen slowly relax. He kept going, he didn't know how long. He focused on the feeling of her loosening muscles under his fingers, on the scents of lavender-mint shampoo in her hair and Irish Spring soap on her body, on the way her rapid, shallow breathing gradually slowed and lengthened.
It wasn't until Matt was sure that she had finally fallen asleep that he withdrew his hands from her back. For several long moments, he lay next to her, listening to her heartbeat. Then, carefully, so as not to disturb her, he got up and made his way back to the living room, where the recliner awaited him.
When Foggy awoke several hours later, it was to the mouth-watering aromas of eggs, bacon, and coffee. He found Matt in the kitchen, standing over the stove.
"Morning, Foggy," Matt said without turning around.
"I didn't know you could cook."
Matt snorted. "I've been living alone for years and there is way too much salt in most takeout and processed foods." He flipped an egg onto a waiting plate, added two strips of bacon and shoved it at Foggy. "Here."
Foggy blinked. Then he fished a knife and fork out of the drainage tray and sat down at the table. A bit nervously, he lifted a forkful of bacon to his mouth. Then, "Matt... This is good. I mean, really good. Like 'better than the Farmer's Breakfast at Peel's, down on Bowery' good."
"I'm glad. Karen's going to need to eat something," he lowered his voice a drop, "whether she wants to or not."
"Ah." Foggy frowned. "I didn't just eat her breakfast, did I? You could have said something."
Matt shook his head. "No, I figured as long as I was making breakfast, I might as well do it for the three of us. I'll put up more eggs when I know she's awake."
"Oh. Wait." His frown, which had disappeared with Matt's explanation, returned. "I didn't just eat your breakfast, did I?"
Matt cracked another egg into the pan. "I figured if you came in here before I sat down, it was yours. Mine'll be ready in a minute." He hesitated. "You really like it?"
"Isn't your lie detector working?"
Matt didn't say anything until he had his own bacon and eggs on a plate and joined Foggy at the table. "Just fishing for compliments, I guess," he admitted. "I haven't really cooked much for other people. I worry that, with my sense of taste as keen as it is, what's flavorful for me might be bland for everyone else."
Foggy's fork scraped the plate. "That's one worry you can put to bed," he declared. "Seriously."
Matt smiled. "Well, good, then." He took a sip of coffee and made a face. "I wasn't expecting decaf to be quite this... Uh... you don't have herbal tea, do you?"
"No. I guess I can pick some up when I go out to do laundry, if you like." Foggy chuckled. "I don't know why I even have that stuff. Debbie used to drink it. I think I might have kept it around when I still thought there was a chance we'd reconcile."
"Please. Actually," he hesitated for a moment, "maybe I should make a list. Karen's going to need food that's both healthy and easy to digest, at least for the next few days."
"Got it. Let me put some real coffee on for us."
"Better not for awhile," Matt said slowly. "I admit I don't know everything there is to know about drug detox, but I think when someone goes into rehab, the staff keep them away from all addictive substances, including caffeine. Maybe that's not strictly necessary. Like I said, I'm not an expert. But I think that, for the next week or so, maybe we could try to stick to decaf in here." He shook his head apologetically. "I know that's asking a lot."
Foggy let out a breath. "Well, it's not like there aren't any coffee shops around. I guess I can go out if I really need a cup that badly."
"Peppermint tea is usually good for staying awake," Matt replied. "I'll probably be going through a lot of that myself." He smiled. "Okay. I'll write up that list in a few minutes."
"Matt?" Foggy ventured. "Do you want to do the shopping after I get back from the laundry? I mean, you aren't planning to stay cooped up in here for a whole week, are you?"
Matt shook his head. "I'm not thinking that far in advance, to be honest. I do want to be here for the first couple of days, until Karen's over the worst of the withdrawal. Once that happens, the next step would be to get a support group in place to help her avoid relapse, and we can deal with other stuff as it comes up."
"You mentioned a support group last night," Foggy remembered. "Where would you find something like that?"
Matt took a gulp of decaf. "I'll make some inquiries," he said. "I know there's a church not too far from Fogwell's in the Kitchen. They run homeless shelter and a soup kitchen, or they used to. I'm not sure if they have rehab services too, but odds are that if they don't, they'll know who does. It's a starting point, anyway."
Foggy nodded. "Sounds good. When were you thinking of going?"
"In a couple of days," Matt said, jerking his head in the direction of the kitchen door. "She should be past the worst of the pain by then."
"Matt..." Foggy stopped, thinking it over. Matt was more focused now than he had been in weeks. Ever since his life had gone to hell, he'd been drowning in depression and self-pity. He'd started coming out of it when Foggy had asked him to teach him how to defend himself. He'd rallied when Spider-Man had asked him for legal assistance. And now, Karen. It made sense. Whether as a defense attorney or as Daredevil, Matt had dedicated himself to helping people in need. Kingpin's actions had rendered him incapable of rendering that assistance in either guise—something that had likely contributed to his breakdown. In trying to be there for others... for him, for Spidey, and now, for Karen, Matt was slowly, surely, pulling himself out of whatever dark place he'd retreated to when everything around him had collapsed. He needed to be there for Karen as much as Karen needed him to be there for her.
Fine. If extending himself for other people was helping him, then Foggy wasn't going to try talking him out of it. Still, he had been through far too much recently. Foggy took a deep breath. "If you need a break, let me know."
After Foggy left, Matt remained in the kitchen. Yesterday's paper was on the table and he hadn't read it yet. More for something to do than out of interest, he ran his fingers lightly over the page, reading the news.
When he heard the bedroom door open, he smiled and got up to make another batch of eggs. He would have added bacon, but in her condition, she probably wouldn't be able to keep it down.
Karen walked past the kitchen doorway in the direction of the bathroom.
The butter was sizzling in the pan and he was just about to crack open the first egg, when he heard a noise he wished he hadn't: the sound of the door of the medicine cabinet sliding back. He turned off the stove and headed for the bathroom.
"Karen?" He tried the door. Locked, but a wire hanger would take care of that. He got one from the closet in the bedroom. Less than a moment later, he heard the latch click and pushed open the door.
Karen was lying on the bathroom floor, the contents of Foggy's medicine cabinet—at least the contents that had remained after Matt had taken out all of the over-the-counter-medications the night before—scattered around her. Karen was sobbing and pawing through the mess.
"Karen." Matt knelt next to her. "Karen, I'm right here."
"Matt...?" Her voice was a hoarse croak. "I just... I need something. Hurts... hurts so bad..."
As he had the night before, he stroked her hair. "I know," he whispered. "I know. Hang in there." He pulled her up and into an embrace, ruthlessly ignoring his own pain. She needed him and he was damned if he was going to let his busted ribs stop him from being there for her. "You're not alone. You're going to get through this. It's going to be okay."
Shaking, Karen buried her head in Matt's shoulder. "I can't," she hiccupped. "I thought I could beat this, but I can't. Hurts too bad. Please, Matt. I just need a little fix to help me through. Just a little one."
"I'm dying, Matt! Help me!" Her anger drained and she wept brokenly once more. "Please..."
He ran his fingertips gently over her back and found the pressure points again. He wasn't sure how long he sat with her, stroking, rubbing, massaging, and rocking her gently until her sobs quieted and she relaxed in his arms.
"You should eat something," he said softly.
"Don't think I could," Karen murmured. "Feel like I'm gonna..." Still on her knees, she lurched for the toilet bowl, barely making it in time to void the contents of her stomach. When she was done, she slid back to the floor with a whimper.
Matt sat next to her and gently combed her hair with his fingers.
Getting the both of them upright was a challenge all its own, but Matt managed it. He filled a glass of water from the sink and coaxed her to drink it. He waited until he was sure that she could keep it down before he helped her get back to the bedroom.
When Foggy returned, he found the two of them lying on the bed, Karen curled up under the blankets, Matt on top of them, curled around her, one arm draped protectively around her waist.
At first, he thought that they were both asleep, but then Karen moaned and Matt pulled her closer to him.
"I'll be in the living room," he said finally. "Tell me if you need anything."
Matt nodded. Karen twitched.
Later, with Matt's coaxing, Karen managed to finish a bowl of broth. And, although she insisted that she wasn't hungry for anything more, she consented to join Matt and Foggy at the table for supper and barely protested when Matt put small portions of sautéed greens, mashed sweet potatoes, boiled rice, and broiled chicken on her plate.
"Just eat as much as you think you can keep down," Matt said. "Nobody's telling you you've got to finish it."
"You realize," Foggy said, through a mouthful of chicken, "that I am probably never going to be able to show my face at that grocery store again. That cashier took one look at what I put down on the counter and stared at me like I was a pod-person."
"You should have said you were your twin brother, Philip," Matt smiled.
Karen made a noise that might have been a sniff or a very faint laugh. Foggy gave her a quick grin before turning his attention back to Matt. "Right. With this physique," he clapped his hands to his torso for emphasis, "I should be able to pull off posing as my non-existent brother, the health-nut, without a hitch." He took another bite of chicken. "Though I have to admit, if you keep cooking like this, healthy might not be so bad."
"You have a stash of Twinkies and Cheez-Its right by your pillow on the sofa, don't you?"
"Excuse me for not being sure if I'd like kale."
"And now that you know you like it, you're going to dump the junk food?"
Foggy deliberately lifted a forkful of kale to his mouth, chewed and swallowed. "Not when I paid good money for it," he replied virtuously. "That would be wasteful."
This time, Karen definitely laughed. "You guys," she said, with a catch in her throat. "I missed you. You don't know how much." Without warning, she clapped both hands to her mouth.
"Karen?" Foggy was half out of his chair, reaching toward her. "Are you..."
Karen took a couple of deep, slow breaths. "Stomach just did a flip," she groaned.
"Here," Matt rose to his feet. "Let's get you to the..."
She shook her head. "It's okay," she said weakly. "I think it's going to be okay. As long as I just... sit here and don't try getting up."
"Hang on," Foggy said. "One sec..." He walked over to the kitchen sink and rummaged in the cabinet below for a moment. "Here we go," he said, holding up an empty plastic ice cream tub. "Keep one of these with you for the next little while," he said, placing it on the table next to Karen. "Hopefully, you won't need it, but if you do... no harm done." He grinned. "Don't look at me that way. When I get a stomach virus, I have to tough it out without two dedicated nurses at my beck and call. How do you think I manage with some of the nastier symptoms in an emergency?"
"You know," Matt said, "you could have called me if you were that bad."
"Right. Between taking over my caseload and running around in red tights, when exactly would you have hypothetically found time to play Florence Nightingale? And you can wipe that guilty expression off your face, too. If you'd insisted, I'd have yelled at you to think of the clients and get out of here."
Matt shook his head, but he was smiling. "Foggy... I don't know if you've noticed, but those clients didn't stand by me at a grand jury hearing that appeared to be open-and-shut against me. They didn't take me in when I had nothing but the clothes on my back and ten dollars in my pocket. They didn't jump off a pier to save me from—what probably would have been—a posthumous murder rap."
"What?" Karen broke in.
"I'll fill you in later," Matt promised.
He turned back to Foggy. "Granted, my not thinking of the clients contributed in no small part to our firm's foundering. That being said... I haven't worn the red tights in weeks and the city's still standing."
"You're not thinking of giving up...?"
Matt shook his head. "No. Once my ribs are healed I'll be out there again. But, to answer your question, I started out as Daredevil to avenge Dad's murder. I kept on because I wanted to help people when the system couldn't. I just... think there's something wrong with my priorities, if... if you're one of the people who needs help and I'm looking farther afield, is all." He ducked his head, an old reflex from when he could still establish eye contact.
After a moment, Foggy patted his arm. "Yeah, well, if I need you, I'll tell you. Most of the time, I can handle a stomach virus without an audience." He smiled. "Hey. Thanks."
Wordlessly, Matt covered Foggy's hand with his own.
Paulo smiled grimly as he walked into the restaurant. This was the place he'd overheard Karen tell that friend of hers to meet her at. He approached the counter and the barkeep nodded to him. "Yeah?"
For answer, Paulo reached into his coat, pulled out a video cassette, and showed it to the man.
The barkeep glanced at it and let out an appreciative whistle. "She is fine," he said. "Not in the market for it, but she is."
"No," Paulo said. "I'm looking for her. Karen Page. She was in here last night. Said she was meeting an old friend, name of Foggy. You see her?"
The barkeep shook his head. "I wasn't working last night." He glanced over his shoulder. "Hey. Salvatore! Maybe you know who this guy's talking about?"
In answer to the summons, a barista hurried up. Once Paulo repeated his story, the second man frowned. "I don't know if I saw her," he said slowly. "She might have come in. A body like that? I think I'd remember if I'd served her. But that other name you said... Foggy. That rings a bell. My cousin, Nicky ran into some legal troubles a few years back. He got lucky, got a guy to handle it pro bonus... I think they call it. Free, you know? Well, that lawyer who helped him out, his name was Foggy. Foggy... Nelson."
Paulo smiled. "Foggy Nelson, eh? Any idea where I'd find him?"