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: 4009
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...
The second night was nearly as bad as the first. Again, Matt woke to the sound of Karen's moans and he stumbled to her room and lay next to her until she quieted. When he was sure that she was sleeping soundly, he made his way back to the recliner. He was settling in when he realized that the sounds in the living room had changed. More accurately, one sound had stopped: Foggy's snores. Matt winced. He should have gotten to Karen faster, before her whimpers had roused the both of them. "Sorry I woke you," he said softly.
There was a moment's silence. Then, "You didn't. I woke up on my own. How's Karen doing?"
Matt sighed. "In terms of getting the stuff she was on out of her system? She's coming along. In terms of how she feels right now? Unless you only just got up, I guess you heard."
"That built-in polygraph of yours picks up on white lies, too, right?"
"In that case," Foggy admitted, "yes, I heard. Next time, wake me. I mean, you're still recuperating."
"The nurse at the clinic told me I need to move around."
"You also need fresh air." The sofa creaked as Foggy turned on his side. "Get out for a bit tomorrow, Matt. I mean it. Take a walk. I've got some stuff to do around here anyway."
"Yeah. I started going through that stack of mail that piled up while we were away. There were a few job offers in the pile. I added them to the ones that came in before; I figured with the holidays on us, nobody was going to be hiring until about now and..." His voice trailed off. "Nothing."
Matt mentally filled in the blanks. He knew what kind of shape he'd been in when Foggy had brought him here. Evidently, Foggy had also had some inkling. And before he started verbally chastising his friend for looking after him at the cost of possible job prospects, Matt reflected, perhaps he needed to remember that he'd committed himself to staying in the apartment until Karen was further along in her recovery. "Thanks," he said softly. "For 'nothing'."
"Aw, 't'weren't 'nothing'," Matt heard the smile in his voice, as Foggy continued. "Anyway, I haven't finished sorting through all the offers, but there's one that's looks almost too good to be true. The salary, the benefits, they're all... Offhand, do you know of anyone at Kelco?"
"Matt? Did you fall asleep on me?"
"No. I can't get it now; it's in the bedroom and I don't want to risk waking Karen."
"Don't call Kelco, yet. I want to make sure I'm right before I try talking you out of it."
Foggy sat up on the sofa. "Talking me out of what, Matt?"
"I hope I'm wrong," Matt said heavily. "I want you to believe that. I might have inadvertently sabotaged our firm, but the last thing I want is to do something similar to your future prospects."
"Are you making sense, yet?"
"If I'm right," Matt said slowly, "then you probably don't want to work for Kelco, no matter what they're offering. If I'm right, then that's one of Wilson Fisk's holdings." He heard Foggy's heart rate jump, but his best friend said nothing. "You don't know," Matt continued finally, "how much I hope I'm wrong. But I'm pretty sure that it was one of the names that came up when I was going to the library and researching Fisk's activities. I'm almost positive. I'm sorry."
Foggy let out a long breath. "Oh... golly."
Somehow, despite Matt's revelation, Foggy managed to fall back asleep and when he woke again, some four hours later, Matt was still in deep slumber in the recliner. Foggy wondered whether Karen had roused him again during the night. He shook his head sadly. A month ago, he'd never have predicted any of this. And now...
He reached for one of the stacks of opened mail on the end-table, thinking that it was the job offers. Instead, he found himself looking at his credit card bill. It was quite a bit higher than usual and, even though it was to be expected, it had still been a slight shock to see the total in print. A month ago, he hadn't been expecting to take Matt clothes shopping. Coming up with first-and-last on the new apartment had eaten into his bank account, forcing him to put more than usual on the AmEx this month. He sighed. There was no help for it. Much as he hated the idea of dipping into his MMA, this month, it looked like he was going to have to. He reached for the second stack of papers and studied the Kelco offer again.
After a moment or two, he got up, reached for the bathrobe that lay crumpled on the floor by the sofa, and headed for the kitchen to make coffee. Decaf wasn't nearly as good as the real stuff, but it was still better than nothing. He had an idea, but he wanted to see if it would still make as much sense when he was more alert. He'd see if the flavor of the coffee would be enough to jump-start his mind and if it wasn't, then he was going to put Matt's 'apples and peppermint tea' trick to the test.
Of course, if he was going to do that, he'd best get it done before Matt woke up or Matt would probably be gloating for the better part of the morning...
When Matt came into the kitchen, Foggy was cutting up his third waffle. "The box is in the freezer if you want some," he said, lifting a piece and waiting for the syrup to finish dripping onto his plate.
Matt shook his head. "No thanks. But if you have a waffle iron, I'll fix some from scratch." He smiled apologetically. "Once the box has been opened, I can always taste freezer burn."
"No waffle iron," Foggy sighed. "Now, if you wanted to do pancakes..."
Matt considered. "That's an idea." A frown creased his forehead. "I thought I left the peppermint tea on the counter. Have you seen it?"
"Uh... yeah. It's here on the table. Sorry."
"It's for all of us," Matt pointed out. "The only problem is that while it stays fresher in the tin, once it's sealed, I can't sniff it out. So, if you could put it back where you..." He stopped. "I'm sorry. It's your kitchen. Just tell me where you'd like me to keep it."
Foggy blinked. "Anywhere. I'll try to remember where I get it from." He frowned. "Are you okay?"
"I am," Matt said, nodding, his dismayed expression yielding to puzzlement. "Are you? Your heart rate's speeding up."
"Ah." Foggy sighed. "No, I'm fine. I was just thinking. Wait. So, you can't really tell if I'm upset. You just notice when my heartbeat changes and try to guess what it means?"
Matt tilted his head to one side and frowned, thinking. "It depends on the person. Your heart rate tends to speed up when you're annoyed and trying to bottle it up and pretend it's not a big deal. Of course, it speeds up when you're frightened, too, but I didn't think I was scaring you." He stopped. "I'm not, am I?"
"But you are scared."
He was about to deny it when he remembered that Matt would spot the lie in a (literal) heart beat. "I had a crazy idea," he said. "That scares me because I don't usually get crazy ideas."
"Except for the time that you wanted Karen to think that you were Daredevil."
"I said 'not usually'."
"The time you grew a moustache?"
"That was a fashion statement." His lips twitched. "And before you make any further comment on that score, note that I will be referencing your," he coughed, "choice of attire as Mike Murdock, should the need arise."
"I'll withdraw the question," Matt said easily. "And substitute another: what kind of crazy idea?"
Foggy took a deep breath. "You know that letter from Kelco? What kind of danger would I be in if I called them about it? I mean, we know that Kingpin knows I'm alive, so this isn't going to be news. He obviously already knows where I live..."
Matt held up a hand. "Back up. What do you mean, 'if you called them'? Do you want to work for Kingpin?"
"Not exactly," Foggy said. "Not long-term, anyway. But two things have occurred to me. One: if we take a leaf out of his playbook, the best way to take him down is to come at him from an angle he won't expect. Once he knows you're alive, he's going to figure you'll go after him—which you will, of course. But how were you going to do it?"
"I..." Matt frowned. "I haven't really been thinking much about that in the last couple of days. Obviously, going to his office to beat the tar out of him isn't going to work. I guess that, when the time comes, I'll go after his people, get them to cough something up and play it from there. Even if I can't stop him that way, I can still hurt him."
Foggy nodded. "Yeah. That might work. Except, it's sort of what he'd expect, isn't it?"
"Do you have a better idea?"
Foggy flinched at the irritation in his best friend's voice. "Well, I don't know if it's better," he admitted. "But it's different. I'll admit it's not particularly original. I mean, it's," he swallowed, "well, it's kind of his. Tweaked a little, I mean."
"Go after him where it hurts. You take out Kingpin's lieutenants, and he'll just promote more underlings. A direct confrontation didn't work last time."
"I wasn't at the top of my game last time."
"I know. That's not the point. The point is that he'll be expecting it. Just like you expect to be in danger when you put on that costume. I'm not sure I understand why you keep doing it; I know I couldn't, but evidently, it works for you. Or, at least, it was working for you until just a little while ago. Anyway, getting back to my point, when you go out as Daredevil, you expect trouble to come at you. When you've had enough and you want to relax, you show up at the office—when we've got one—and unwind."
"Well," Matt replied, "actually, I'd do that at home, but I guess that is more or less accurate."
"He came at you through your home, too, if you recall. He didn't go after you as Daredevil. He went after you as Murdock. I think we need to borrow that playbook."
Foggy ignored the question. "If we can find evidence tying Wilson Fisk to organized crime, even if we can't prove he's the head of the underworld, his reputation as a legitimate businessman will be toast. Gee... if only you had someone on the inside who—"
"No!" It came out louder than Matt had intended and he immediately lowered his voice, knowing that Karen was still asleep. "No. Foggy, he almost killed me. If you're caught..."
"Then I won't be caught. I'll keep my head down, and do my job, but every day, I'll be going in there knowing exactly who owns the firm, paying attention to every bit of paper on my desk, looking for an edge. Then, when I get home, I'll discuss what I'm working on with you and we'll see whether, between the two of us, we can find something—anything—that we can use to build a case against him that might stick."
"It's too dangerous. Did it occur to you that the offer might be a trap? He might be waiting for you to let it slip that I'm alive."
"Actually, Matt," Foggy said, "it did. Until I took a look at the date on the letter and the postmark on the envelope. It was from one day after the grand jury hearing. At the time the letter was sent, you hadn't gone to confront him, yet. He might not even have known that you were here."
Despite himself, Matt's lips twitched. "It seems like I wasn't the only one impressed by your defense."
"I can do without his seal of approval, thank you very much. Anyway, the way I see it, this could work to your advantage. I've got a chance to see what kind of cases Kelco actually handles and how they handle them. Which brings me to point number two: they're offering a very good salary. And, while I'd normally want to tell Kingpin what he can go do with his money, I can't help thinking that taking it and using it to help finance the guy who's going to eventually take him down..."
The twitch became a smile. "There is a certain elegance to it," Matt admitted. His smile faded. "Foggy, you're not just thinking of taking the job for the money? I hate not being able to contribute my share of expenses, but—"
"No. I'm managing for now," Foggy said. "I can't keep living off my savings forever; they're going down, but I'm nowhere near destitute. I just figure if Kingpin's got the IRS keeping you away from what's rightfully yours, it's only fair that you get some sort of compensation from him. Maybe, after all this, you can thank him—right before you send him off to Ryker's."
The smile was back. "Well, when you put it that way..." He shook his head. "As far as your first reason, you're probably not going to find anything major. Fisk owns a number of law firms and does business with many more. It's how he spreads his influence around."
"Not really surprised."
"No," Matt said slowly. "You aren't. So then..."
"Matt? Why would you spend half your time upholding the law and half your time taking the law into your own hands?"
"Answer the question, counselor. Or I'll take a stab at it myself. I'm guessing that at some point, you figured out that what was legal wasn't necessarily what was right. Playing both sides helps you balance the scales. How'm I doing?"
"Go on," Matt prompted, his expression unreadable.
"We've both had first-hand experience facing off against companies that know how to exploit the law and find the loopholes that let them do pretty much whatever the heck they want to, no matter who suffers. Well," he said slowly, "knowing that Kelco is one of Fisk's companies and Fisk likes to do pretty much whatever the heck he wants to, maybe I'm jumping to conclusions here, but what if this turns out to be one of those aforementioned companies?"
"It probably will," Matt acknowledged, "but what are you going to do? It might not be right, but if it's legal..."
"How much does Fisk value his reputation as a legitimate businessman? I admit I haven't been paying much attention, but whenever there's a charity fundraiser or a dedication or an endowment fund, his name seems to come up on a lot of donor plaques."
"Oh, yes," Matt nodded. "He does pride himself on his philanthropy. Or money laundering. I'm not sure there's a difference."
"So, it would hurt him if, say, the press were to find out about some of lengths he's willing to go to in order to win a case? Manolis probably wasn't the first guy he bribed into saying what he wanted. If word of that got out, the hit to his reputation would be..."
"You do realize that your plan is based on a chain of suppositions and probability with no real proof."
"Yet," Foggy said stubbornly. "Look, I'm not going to go poking around and asking suspicious questions. I'm just going to look very carefully at anything that comes onto my desk. Meanwhile, at least we get the satisfaction of knowing that Kingpin is paying a small sum toward getting himself put behind bars where he belongs."
Matt hesitated. "You're serious about taking no unnecessary risks?"
"What does your polygraph tell you?"
"I don't know. You haven't answered the question."
Foggy sighed. "I'm serious. I'm not you. If I try playing Sherlock Holmes, I'll probably be wearing cement shoes and taking another dip in the East River. I'm not an idiot."
"Four truthful statements," Matt smiled. "Especially that last one. All right. Call Kelco. But be careful." He pushed his chair away from the table. "Karen just got up," he said. "I'll start the pancakes. Are you still hungry?"
"If you make pancakes as well as you make eggs," Foggy smiled back, "I'll find room for them."
Paulo prowled the sidewalk restlessly. He'd been staking out the apartment building for several hours and he'd seen no sign of Karen Page, or of anybody resembling the man whom the server had described to him. He shifted nervously from one foot to the next. This was a well-to-do neighborhood and he looked—and felt—out of place, here. Nelson must be doing well for himself to live in a place like this.
As he watched, a yellow taxicab came to a halt before the apartment building doors and an attractive young woman in a stylish fur coat emerged, a purse over one shoulder and a department store shopping bag in the opposite hand. As she walked up the steps to the front door, the doorman sprang to open it. "Good morning, Mrs. Nelson! Oh. I'm so sorry, ma'am. Ms Harris."
"Quite all right, Rodney," the woman replied warmly. "The divorce won't be final for another month, so until then, 'Mrs. Nelson' is still accurate."
"Of course, ma'am. Welcome home."
As the door closed behind her, Paulo's eyes narrowed. It looked like the address in the phone book was out of date. Foggy Nelson clearly didn't live here anymore. He muffled a curse, thinking about the time he'd wasted waiting on the street for him, turned on his heel, and walked off in the direction of the subway.
It looked like he would have to keep looking for Karen Page.
The object of Paulo's search was, at the moment, struggling to get through the two pancakes on her plate. "I'm sorry," she said finally. "I don't think I can keep it down." She hugged herself miserably. "C-could you turn up the heat. I'm fr-freezing."
Matt moved his chair closer to hers and wrapped an arm around her. "I know it doesn't help much, but shivering and stomach cramps are pretty much par for the course for heroin withdrawal. You're going to get through this." With his free hand, he covered one of hers. "You're doing fine."
"I don't feel fine," Karen protested. "I feel like I'm gonna..." She clapped a hand to her mouth and bolted from the kitchen.
"Trust me," Foggy said, free-pouring syrup over pancakes, plate, and the bowl with the half-grapefruit that Matt had pointedly set down next to it. "It's not your cooking."
"I know," Matt sighed. "The first two days are the worst. I'm not sure whether this counts as day two, or day three. Not that it makes a huge difference." He shook his head. "I'm staying in today. We'll see about tomorrow."
Foggy sighed. "There's really no point in my protesting, is there?" he asked. "I just would have thought that with everything you usually do, being cooped up for days on end would be getting to you."
Matt winced. "It is, a little," he admitted. "But..."
"But nothing," Foggy snapped. "Go for a walk. Here." He reached for his wallet and pulled out two bills. "Feed the ducks in Central Park. Buy some flowers for Karen. Head on over to West 39th and 8th and see if Paron Fabrics has any red leather in stock. Meanwhile, I'm going to call Kelco and see if they've filled that position, yet."
Matt smiled reluctantly. Now that Foggy was coming up with suggestions, he had to admit that getting outside did sound good. He didn't want to leave Karen, though he knew that she'd be fine with Foggy. "Before you do," he said, walking toward the wall phone, "let me give Ben a shout. He may know something about them already."
He frowned. He never had gotten that phone number from Spider-Man, but now that he was in a better frame of mind, he thought he remembered it. He dialed seven digits and was rewarded by Ben's tired laconic tones on the other end of the line. "Ben? It's Matt."
There was a long pause. Then, in a panicky voice, just louder than a whisper, Ben said, "I don't know anyone by that name!" The line went dead.
Stunned, Matt held onto the receiver for several long seconds, before returning it to its hook. "What in the world...?" he said, talking more to himself than to Foggy.
"He hung up on me," Matt said disbelievingly. "Something's wrong. I'll... try to connect with him some other way." His consternation gave way to another smile, as Karen walked back to the table. She was trailing something behind her. To Matt's radar sense, it appeared to be a torn blanket, but his nose told a different story.
"Is it okay if I hold onto this?" Karen asked hesitantly. "I found it in the bureau drawer. It... I know it sounds silly, but somehow, I feel like I can deal with... stuff... better if it's with me."
Matt's smile broadened. "The costume's had that effect on me too, every now and again," he admitted. "If it helps you, it's yours." He touched her shoulder. "I'm going to go out for a little bit. Will you be okay here with Foggy? I shouldn't be too long."
He didn't miss the way her hand squeezed the costume all the more tightly. "When will you be back?"
It was on the tip of his tongue to tell her an hour, but time sometimes got away from him and he knew she'd worry if he were late. "I shouldn't be too long," he repeated. "There are just some things I need to check out. I don't know exactly how much time I need, but I expect I'll be back for lunch. His hand flew to his Braille watch. It wasn't even nine o'clock, yet. He knew that Ben generally stopped for coffee at the same restaurant at ten. Maybe Ben would talk to him face to face, even if he wouldn't take his calls.
"Hey," Foggy said, "I'll still be here, gorgeous."
"I know," Karen said. "I can't help worrying about Paulo, though. What if he followed me? What if the men who were after me in Mexico catch up?"
"Well," Foggy said with a self-assurance he didn't fully feel, "Matt has taught me a thing or two about breaking kneecaps."
"He's very good," Matt confirmed, adding mentally, for someone who's been practicing for about three weeks.
His statement had the desired effect on Karen, though. Her heart rate slowed noticeably and the tension seemed to leave her body. "You won't be too late?" she pleaded. "Please?"
Matt kissed her forehead. "I won't be too late," he promised. "Just eat, rest, and concentrate on getting better. I'll be back as quick as I can."
As he closed the apartment door behind him, he heard Foggy say, "You notice he ducked out leaving me with all the dirty dishes, right?"
He'd been a bit worried about finding his way to the restaurant from Foggy's. He knew how to get there from his brownstone or from the office. He could find it easily enough swinging from rooftop to flagpole. He hadn't been sure about getting there on foot from a different starting point, but it didn't take long for him to get his bearings.
When he was a block away from his destination, he wrinkled his nose. Something was burning.