Fandom: Daredevil (Comics)
Characters: Foggy Nelson, Karen Page, Kirsten McDuffie
Genre(s): General, Drama, Friendship, Weird Sandwiches
Spoilers: Passing references to Vol. 1 #56
Word Count: 3517
Story Summary: With Matt AWOL and Foggy rushing to the courthouse, it's up to office manager Karen Page to show the new summer intern the ropes. But Kirsten McDuffie has a few ideas of her own on that score!
Written for: Elizabeth Culmer(edenfalling) for Yuletide 2015
This fic takes place before Matt fakes his death in DD Vol. 1, No. 54 (and before Karen learns that Matt and DD are one and the same).
In Daredevil Season 1 (the hardcover GN, not the Netflix show), Karen's position was upgraded from secretary to office manager. I'm going with that.
“Almost everyone will make a good first impression, but only a few will make a good lasting impression.”
A Good Lasting Impression
“Foggy!” Karen exclaimed. “Wait! You can’t just leave me here with all of this…” she gestured vaguely at the messy stacks of books and papers on the desk in front of her. “What am I supposed to do?”
Foggy appeared to be simultaneously attempting to fasten his bowtie, jam several thick folders into his briefcase, and scarf down a doughnut. No, on closer examination, the doughnut had been sliced crosswise and an assortment of meats and cheeses could be seen poking out. Deli meats. Karen winced as the smells hit her. Spicy deli meats, mustard, sauerkraut, and blue cheese sauce. On a chocolate-frosted donut. With sprinkles.
“I know, I know,” he mumbled through the bite in his mouth. He smiled apologetically and briefly took his greasy hand off his bowtie to raise a finger in the universal sign for ‘give me a minute’.
“Oh, here,” Karen sighed. “Let me take care of that.” She reached into her desk drawer and pulled out another bowtie. “You got frosting all over that one. And mustard,” she added, trying not to gag.
Foggy handed her the soiled tie gratefully.
“And this one’s a clip-on,” she added, “so, as much as I’d like to strangle you for—”
Foggy finally managed to swallow the bite in his mouth. “I know,” he said again. “And I’m sorry. Nobody’s heard from Matt in four days. I was up till almost five this morning trying to make sense out of his notes. Do you have any idea how long it takes when you’re sitting there with a Braille alphabet key trying to decode pages of raised dots? Do you know that there are specific dot combinations for certain short words, prefixes—Hey, that’s my neck, not my collar!” he gasped and Karen apologized and made another attempt with the tie.
“If you’d stop squirming, I’d be done,” she murmured.
“Sorry. Prefixes, suffixes, and common word abbreviations. Oh, and did you know Matt makes a lot of spelling mistakes when he doesn’t think anyone else is going to read what he’s writing?”
Karen clucked sympathetically.
“Anyway,” Foggy sighed, “I think I deciphered everything I need to. I’m off to meet with the client and review before court convenes. Unfortunately, that means leaving you with all of that,” he nodded at the paperwork disaster on the desk, “but you won’t have to deal with it alone. The 1L starts today.” He took another bite of the donut sandwich and something that was neither mustard nor blue cheese sauce dribbled out onto his fingers.
“The 1L?” Karen repeated. “Wait… what?”
“Summer intern. Didn’t I mention it to you last week?”
Foggy touched his hand to his forehead, then closed his eyes and accepted the tissue Karen held waiting to mop the chocolate frosting off his face. “Kristy Mc… McSomething. She’s finished her first year of law and she’s spending the next couple of months with us as a summer associate. Get her to sign the confidentiality agreement and then get her to help you with sorting that mess out. And then?” He grinned. “Give her the Braille key and have her transcribe some more of Matt’s notes. Oh and give her a couple of briefs to read over and proof. I’ll call in later. Wait.” He dashed into his office and returned with a slender beige folder. “Here. And here’s the Braille key. The intern’s name is Kirsten McDuffie and she should be here at ten sharp. Now I’ve got to run. Do I look okay?”
“Um…” Karen dove into her purse, fished out her compact case, and flipped it open. “You’d better wash your face. And…” she passed him a roll of peppermints, “trust me, if you have to approach the bench, you don’t want to your breath smelling of pepperoni and sauerkraut this early in the morning.” She dropped her voice to a stage whisper. “Or any other time.”
“Thanks,” Foggy grinned. “I’ll clean up before I enter the courtroom. Meanwhile, I have to run. Have fun with the new intern.”
“Good luck,” Karen called as he bolted out the door.
The 1L arrived at a quarter to ten. She was wearing tan pumps with two-inch stiletto heels, camel-brown corduroys and a yellow silk blouse with a muted pattern under an open, lightweight, lavender blazer. Her hair was sensibly braided and tied back, although a few unruly curls had broken free. She greeted Karen with a cheerful smile.
“Summer intern Kirsten McDuffie reporting for duty,” she said, shifting her leather briefcase to her left hand and extending her right. Karen took it with a smile of her own and introduced herself.
“So,” Karen said, smiling back, “Mr. Murdock is currently away and Mr. Nelson’s down at the courthouse. I guess it’s just you and me.” She gestured toward the disaster area that was the long table. “I’ve been trying to sort that out for the last hour and I’ve barely managed to put a dent in it, but it should go faster with two of us working at it.”
Kirsten frowned. “Respectfully, Ms Page, I’m here as a law intern, not a secretary. I was under the impression that I’d be doing legal work not…” She didn’t finish the sentence.
Karen’s smile died. She hated confrontation and she didn’t generally assert herself. That didn’t mean that she couldn’t, when the situation warranted. “Ms McDuffie,” she said crisply, “Mr. Nelson told me that you’re here to help us in any way possible. We’ve got plenty of legal work to do, but first things first. That table’s going to be your work station. We need to clear it, and we need to make sure we know where every book and bit of paper is going to end up.” She smiled again. “Trust me. The one time you toss something away or you shove it somewhere out of sight, meaning to go back and put it away properly later, is going to be the one time Fog—I mean, Mr. Nelson—will call frantically from the courthouse, asking you to read off what it says on the page, because he can’t find his copy, or because that page on the table was his copy. You want to do legal work? Help me with this first. Or, you can spend the rest of the day watching me do it all on my own, but then, you’ll probably have to wait until tomorrow before you so much as look at a brief.” She frowned then, considering. “Unless there’s one in those stacks,” she said thoughtfully. “Anyway…” she pretended to roll up her short shirt sleeves and made her way to the table.
After a moment, Kirsten set down her briefcase and joined her. “My best friend,” she said slowly, as she picked up a heavy green tome, “landed a summer internship at a Fortune 500 company in her first year of college.” She looked at the ceiling-to-floor bookcase on the opposite wall and spied a series of books of the same color with several gaps in the range. Still talking, she scooped three more volumes. “For two months,” she continued, “she got to make coffee, feed confidential documents into the shredder, and buy sandwiches. Once in a while, they let her make photocopies. I promised myself that wasn’t going to be me.” She carried the books over to the shelves. “So when you asked me to start tidying up…”
“It was like a nightmare come true?” Karen ventured.
Kirsten laughed. “Pretty much. Sorry I started us off on the wrong foot.”
This time, Karen didn’t have to force herself to smile.
There was some awkwardness at first. Karen was trying to find a balance between being a supervisor and being a friend. She’d rarely supervised anyone until now; even at summer camp, she’d been a junior counselor—approachable, happy to assist, but cheerfully deferring most real authority to the senior counselor in charge. The kids had been half her age and looked at her as though she was already a grown-up, too. That had helped. Kirsten was no wide-eyed seven-year-old.
For her part, Kirsten kept the conversation to a minimum, mostly asking how the papers were to be indexed and where to put the books that were not part of a set.
“As long as you keep them in the right sections,” Karen said, “I don’t think there’s a specific order. Just put torts with torts, crim with crim, and so on.”
Kirsten sighed with relief. “Some of the people who interviewed me at other firms were a bit stricter about nothing being out of place. They had the books grouped alphabetically or in height order. I think at one firm, they were color-coded.”
Karen laughed at that. “Mr. Nelson’s a bit more laid-back,” she said. “Or, to put it a different way, these are his books and papers.” She wondered whether voicing the mild criticism might seem unprofessional, but within a day or two, Kirsten would have figured it out anyway.
“I don’t believe that you’ll find anything to do with corporate law on the table, but if you do, those go in his office.”
“Are you from New York originally?” Karen asked.
Kirsten grinned. “No, I’m from the Bay area, San Francisco. You?”
“Fagan Corners, Vermont.”
“Ah.” Kirsten moved on to another stack of papers. After a moment, she looked up with a frown. “Fagan Cor—Wait. Are you any relation to Paxton Page?”
Karen felt her heart sink. She should have guessed the subject could come up, but she hadn’t thought a kid Kirsten’s age would know much about it. “He’s my father,” she admitted, bracing herself for the awkwardness—if not outright hostility—that was almost certain to follow. When Paxton Page had been branded a traitor, Karen had gone overnight from being one of the most popular girls at school to, probably, the most ostracized. Former friends became tormenters and those who didn’t had lowered their eyes in embarrassment when she’d appealed to them for support. It had been almost like she’d contracted some deadly disease that anyone who got close to her was in danger of catching.
“I took American Legal History last semester!” Kirsten exclaimed. “We covered the hearings in one of the units! Actually…” Her voice trailed off and she hurriedly went back to sorting papers.
Karen looked up. “Actually…?”
“Nothing.” Kirsten sounded embarrassed, but not in the way Karen had been dreading. “Well...” a note of enthusiasm stole back into her tone. "We had a debate,” she blurted. “About whether Congress was justified in demanding your father’s research. About the verdict. It was…” she let out a long breath. “Sorry. I was going to say that I had a lot of fun arguing the case. But then, it wasn’t my dad under discussion.” She winced. “I didn’t mean to sound insensitive.”
Karen sighed. “It was a long time ago,” she said. Not long enough, though. “I’ve… pretty much put it behind me. Moving to the ‘big city’ helped. Fagan Corners isn’t exactly the kind of place where people forget things like that. It’s…” she thought for a moment and smiled. “It’s the kind of place where people still talk about how fifteen years ago, Morris McKinley painted his front door in two shades of blue, because he ran out of paint and the hardware store couldn’t match the color exactly.”
“Nothing ever happens, so when something does, people talk about it forever,” Kirsten nodded.
“Exactly.” She sighed again. “Five years later, I left home, got a BPS in law office administration and got hired here right after I graduated. I haven’t gone back since.” She straightened her stack of file folders. “I’ll just… put these away.”
“I won that debate,” Kirsten ventured. “Defending your father.”
“Too bad you weren’t around at the actual hearings.”
“I doubt I could have come up with the same arguments when I was eleven,” Kirsten replied.
Karen smiled. “True. So. What does your father do?”
Kirsten made a face. “He runs a publishing company.”
“Oh.” Karen’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh! Wendell McDuffie Publishing? That’s your father?”
Kirsten sighed. “Yes. Please tell me you don’t have a manuscript you’re shopping around that you’d like me to pitch to him for you.”
“No,” Karen said, laughing a little and feeling her mood lighten with the change of subject. “I guess you get asked that a lot?”
“You have absolutely no idea.”
By the time the long table was cleared off, it was almost lunchtime. “Did you bring?” Karen asked. “Or should we go out?”
For answer, Kirsten opened her briefcase and pulled out a brown paper bag. “I didn’t know if there’d be time to go out,” she said. “And I’ve spent too much time waiting in line at the counter to pay for a lunch I had to eat on my way back to class.”
“I brought my own, too,” Karen answered. “I don’t like to leave the front desk unattended. But we are pretty laid-back here,” she added. “If you want to go pick something up tomorrow, nobody’s going to jump on you for being five minutes late. But if you’re going to make a habit of bringing your own lunch, we do have a fridge in the room down the hall.” She considered. “I guess it’s a break room, or it would be if we needed a special room for taking breaks.”
“As opposed to just grabbing food and eating at your desk?”
“Something like that,” Karen replied. “It’s your choice.”
Kirsten nodded. Then she sat down at the now-cleared table, took a sandwich, drink, and peach out of her paper bag, and flattened the bag to use as a placemat. Karen walked down the hall and returned with her own lunch. “Do you have to sit behind the desk?” Kirsten asked, “Or would you rather join me?”
For answer, Karen beamed and dragged her chair over to the table. “This doesn’t happen often,” she said, unwrapping her sandwich.
“Lawyers and office managers don’t eat together?” Kirsten asked.
Karen hesitated. “Um… Mr. Nelson likes… well, let’s just call them interesting sandwich fillings. They tend to have… er… well, let’s just say they’re um… fragrant. If he’s eating out here, as opposed to in his office, I try to use the break room. And I think it’s harder on Ma—on Mr. Murdock. He’s pretty sensitive to smells.”
“I think I’ve heard that if you lose one sense, the other ones get sharper to compensate. Or they seem sharper because you depend on them more, I’m not sure which,” Kirsten added.
“Well, that’s definitely true of Mr. Murdock,” Karen laughed. “I swear, sometimes I think he can tell you exactly what the menu is in the coffee shop downstairs, just from the smells alone.”
“Um…” Kirsten smiled. “I hate to burst your bubble, but I can identify a lot of dishes by smell myself.”
“The cold foods, too?”
“Okay,” Karen said. “These are Mr. Murdock’s notes. This is a Braille key. See how much you can translate and type out. And if you find that you’re losing concentration, let me know and I can give you something else, but Mr. Nelson said he really needs this material and he hasn’t got the time to work on it himself.”
“Got it,” Kirsten replied. “I sort of know the Braille alphabet. What the letters are, I mean. I can’t actually read it with my fingers. But this… I guess it’s shorthand? That’s new to me.”
“You’ll get the hang—” Karen jumped, startled, at the sound of a loud crash coming from the other side of the office wall. “What in the world…”
Kirsten was half out of her chair already. “I don’t know, but I’m going to find out,” she said, walking toward the door.
“Wait!” Karen tried to grab hold of her, but Kristen moved out of range. “It could be trouble.”
“I know,” Kirsten said, opening the door.
The crash had coming from the doctor’s office next door. Now, both women could hear shouted profanities and more banging.
“I keep telling you,” a panicked voice was almost yelling to be heard, “Doctor Marciano is in a meeting. He won’t be back until two!”
“That’s fine!” The other speaker was clearly irate. “Just give me a prescription pad and I’ll write down what I need!”
“We can’t do that—” There was another curse, followed by a loud crash and a frightened shriek.
Kirsten’s eyes grew wide. “That sounded like a baseball bat!” she exclaimed. “My dad’s sort of big into baseball,” she added in an undertone.
“I’m calling the police,” Karen said.
There was another crash. Then, the irate voice said, “You get that doc back here or I stop banging on furniture and start in on you.”
Kirsten bent down and pulled off her shoes. “The police will need a few minutes to respond. That woman needs help now,” she muttered and dashed out of the office, eluding Karen’s frantic hand for the second time.
Dr. Marciano’s office boasted a miniscule reception area, which seemed all the smaller with a red-faced, beefy man in a rumpled shirt, who was leaning menacingly toward the desk and brandishing a Louisville Slugger. He reeked of alcohol and stale sweat. The woman behind the desk looked to be about Kirsten’s age and terrified. Idly, Kirsten wondered whether it was another university student starting a summer job today.
“So, lady,” the man snarled, “what’s it gonna be? The desk, your face, or you or that doc getting me my prescription?”
So far, Kirsten noted, the man was focused on the receptionist and didn’t seem to be aware of her presence. She locked eyes with the receptionist, raised her shoe to shoulder height and held it with the narrow heel facing away.
Something about the other woman’s face must have tipped off the angry man, because as Kirsten lunged, the man spun about and seized her wrist in a vise-like grip. “What’s this?” he snapped. “Someone who can’t mind their own business? You just had to butt in, didn’t you? Well, I guess you’re part of this, now.” He pulled Kirsten forward, twisting her wrist in the process, and forcing a pained yelp. “Now,” the man continued, “you give me what I want, or I smash her face in—”
There was a sickening thump and the man pitched forward slightly. Then his grip on Kirsten’s wrist loosened and he sank, glassy-eyed to the floor. Kirsten glanced hesitantly over her shoulder to see Karen standing with a frightened, but resolute expression on her face—and a heavy law book in her hand. It was almost a perfect match for the law book currently lying on the waiting room floor, where it had fallen after striking the back of the man’s head. “I called the police,” Karen said softly. “They’ll be here in about ten minutes. Are you two okay?”
Kirsten and the receptionist exchanged glances. Both nodded slowly. Kirsten rubbed her wrist.
“Are you sure?” the receptionist asked. “I can have Dr. Marciano look at that when he comes back.”
Kirsten rotated her hand gingerly. “I don’t think anything’s broken. It hurts and I’ll probably have a bruise for a day or two, but I think I’ll be fine. Thanks.”
“I think I should be thanking you,” the receptionist countered. “Both of you. If you hadn’t come when you did…”
“Uh,” Karen said, “we-we’ve got a coffee machine next door. Would you like a cup while we wait for the police to arrive?”
The receptionist nodded. “That sounds wonderful,” she replied, with feeling.
When Foggy made it back to the office, Kirsten had already gone home for the day.
“She typed out about thirty pages of Matt’s notes. I mean, they were thirty pages in Braille; I think after she converted them, she ended up with about twelve.”
“Sounds about right,” Foggy said absently. “I don’t suppose Matt called in?”
Karen shook her head. “I hope he’s okay.”
“Me too.” Foggy sighed. “So, what do you think of her? Kristy.”
“Kirsten,” Karen corrected. “Well… She’s tough. She’s determined. She knows what she wants. And… she’s still a bit rough around the edges. We had a couple of tense moments early on. But I think she’s going to work out just fine.”
The phone rang then and Karen picked up automatically. “Thank you for calling Nelson and Murdock. How may I—Matt?! Where have you be—oh!”
Covering the mouthpiece with one hand, she whispered to Foggy, “He caught that bug that’s been going around. He’ll be in tomorrow.”
Foggy smiled broadly. “Even better.”
He headed in the direction of his office, leaving Karen to fill Matt in on the last few days.
“…And yes,” she was saying. “I think that… L1? That L1 is going be a huge help this summer. Maybe she’ll even end up working with us when she graduates...."