New York’s resident ragtag bunch of vigilantes don’t so much have a safehouse as a collection of addresses where they happen to meet. Danny has offered to buy them a place. He can snap his fingers and they would have a base outfitted with all sorts of space age gadgetry, a security system, but the three vigilantes with whom he is loosely associated (sweet Christmas, don’t get any of them started on the word team), they all refuse. Jessica and Matt balk at the idea of this becoming official, and they’re so lone-wolf about the whole thing they don’t even revel in the solidarity at having found someone as asocial as themselves. Luke has a much more positive solution. He urges for the funds to go towards community development. That’s who this ragtag bunch works for, right?
Long story short, after one of their nights on patrol, Claire gets called to Jessica’s office. It’s gotten messier. Fewer empties, though, so that’s something. Crime-fighting may make the Top Five of Jessica’s exhaustive List of Reasons NOT to Get Out of Bed but at least it’s taking her mind off drinking.
Well, some of her mind. She’s nursing bourbon straight out the bottle, an ancient bag of frozen peas pressed against the left side of her face. But she’s fine. Pissed off, but what the hell is new? She isn’t the reason Claire got called.
Luke is seated on the couch, halfway between resting and ready to move. He rises when Claire comes in, planting a kiss on her cheek and lacing his fingers through her hair. “I’m okay,” he tells her, because he knows she’s thinking it. Knows she can’t help but ask even though there’s only one kind of bullet in the world can hurt him.
“Danny’s fine too,” Luke explains, inching back towards the couch. “Don’t let that face fool you.”
“I won’t,” Claire replies, grateful for the warning. Danny’s face would have fooled her. His mouth is twisted up in a combination of a scowl and a pout. The way he’s holding his left arm suggests an injury but not one Claire is going to be looking at. None of them are going to be looking at it. They can all go to hell in his monastically humble opinion.
Just as well: Danny can take care of his own injuries anyways. Claire turns to Luke: “How’s Matt?”
“He has a concussion and a dislocated shoulder!”
All eyes go back to Danny: Luke’s flash, Claire’s go wide, and Jessica’s roll on over under the combined weight of her exasperation and her makeshift ice pack.
Danny takes a few deep breaths, eyes closed, fighting his temper. His hand goes into a white-knuckled grip around his opposite arm, but the warm glow of his power doesn’t make an appearance. He gets himself back under control. “Matt has a concussion and a dislocated shoulder, and he doesn’t have to have those things. Luke didn’t have to call you.”
“What Trustfund McPrettyboy is trying to say is-“ Jessica ignores the pointed glare in her direction from Danny, “-Matt needs a doctor and turned down the offer for Danny to fist him back to health.”
“Would you please,” Danny mentally counts to ten, “stop calling it that?”
“I’m calling it like it is.”
“I could have him healed in seconds!”
“That’s what I told him.”
“That’s not what you told him!”
“I told him a good fisting always makes me feel better.” Jessica unpeels the bag of frozen peas from her face, revealing the makings of a giant bruise. “My personal testimony is no match for Catholic repression though. Seems to be effective against Buddhist chill.”
Luke wears an expression through all of this that quietly urges Claire, “This is what I have to deal with all the damn time.” She nods slowly in corroboration knowing exactly how he feels and more because she put the links in this happy little daisy chain of violence and brutality together. The city has her to thank every day that Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, the Immortal Iron Fist, and the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen started having playdates.
“Did one of you at least pop his shoulder back into place?” Claire asks.
“He wouldn’t let us touch him,” Jessica glares at Danny, this clearly being his fault.
Luke agrees, also glaring at Danny. His gaze softens when he looks to Claire. “Said he wanted to wait for you.”
“He is suffering when he doesn’t have to be,” Danny declares.
“That’s not your call to make,” Luke intones, folding his arms across his chest, ending the discussion.
That his words start a fight is no surprise to Claire. It’s pretty much how it goes with this crew. Danny finally drops his injured arm to better emphasize how pissed he is. “That’s not a call someone should make! How many head injuries has he had? How long will his shoulder take to fully heal?”
“It doesn’t matter!” Jessica snaps, boredom having vanished from her voice. No more innuendos or jabs against Danny’s character: this is a real fight. “You don’t get to do anything to him that he doesn’t want!”
“It’s for his own good!”
Claire plants herself in the middle of the firefight. “Okay, enough.” She listens carefully, unable to hear anything beyond the angry puffs of air coming out Danny’s nose. Luke is silent, still, but he’s watching Danny, ready to strike if necessary. “Where’s Matt? Is he still even here, or did he slip out a window?”
“He’s still here,” Luke says.
“He’s in the bedroom.” Jessica adds.
Their positions in the apartment take on new meaning: they’re standing guard against Danny, protecting Matt.
Claire finds the boyish billionaire staring at her gently, eyes loaded with that scary monkish wisdom of his. “Claire, you’re a nurse. A healer. You of all people should understand.”
“I do,” she replies. That’s not the point. “And believe me, I would love it if Matt agreed to be healed by you. Or anyone. But unless he is dying or his decisions have been compromised-“ she can’t help but catch the way Jessica and Luke look at one another when she says that, “-it’s his call.”
“I offered to take him to a Rand medical facility,” Danny offers in his defence.
Luke looks to Claire: “But he insisted we call you.”
“This was after Danny asked us to hold Matt down for the fisting.”
Claire glares at him. “You did what?”
“Stop calling it that!” Danny shouts at Jessica. He grips his left arm again, wincing. “I was trying to help him!”
Jessica slams her hand down so hard that she shatters the corner of her desk. “He doesn’t want your help!”
“That’s why he wouldn’t let us help. Not until you got here.” Luke tells Claire directly, ignoring the other two. He’s gotten used to this. The combined stubbornness of Jessica, Matt, and Danny makes them less a team and more a screaming pack of violent toddlers.
“I better get to him them,” Claire agrees.
Luke nods. “We’ll keep busy. Danny needs to learn a thing or two about boundaries.”
“There should be no boundaries when trying to help someone.” He pout-glares at Jessica, sulking aggressively.
She rolls her eyes again, replacing the dripping bag of peas to her face. “There are no boundaries that’ll stop me, you go trying to force your help on people again.”
He eyes that bruise on the side of her face. “You’re lucky I was holding back.”
“You’re lucky your arm is still attached,” Jessica fires back, bored.
Danny presses himself even more deeply into the corner. His ego is at odds with the reality of what happened. The Immortal Iron Fist clearly isn’t Jessica-proof. And as handy as his powers are in a jam, he really does need a good lesson in boundaries.
“She must have wrenched that arm good,” Claire notes on her way through the apartment. “Why don’t you fist it better?”
Luke shakes his head, muttering, “Sweet Christmas…”
“Don’t call it that,” Danny says without looking at her.
Jessica tilts her head at Claire subtly with a small shrug. It’s as close to a “well played” as Jessica is ever going to give anyone.
Claire keeps walking. She rubs Luke’s arm on her way past but the stare-down between them stays with her long after she’s left the room.
Matt is seated on the far side of Jessica’s bed, cowl at his side. He has a bag of frozen vegetables clutched to the back of his scalp. Claire can see dried blood, matte and black, dried to his messy hair.
His right shoulder has ballooned under his armour. It’s going to be a nightmare getting off without Jessica, and she isn’t exactly delicate. Claire sighs, coming around to where Matt’s facing. He’s got his eyes fixed on the floor. The look of embarrassment on his face is painful to behold. Really takes the wind out of Claire’s sails. There’s nothing she can say to him that he isn’t already saying to himself and worse.
She puts her kit on the floor, grabs a pair of gloves from the top, and puts them on. “Little surprised you’re still here,” she says.
“You and me both,” Matt says, the devil still in his voice.
It must be pretty bad to him to admit that. “You want to lie down?”
He shakes his head and almost pitches himself onto the floor, but he doesn’t give Claire the opportunity to catch him before correcting himself. “I’ll be fine.”
She tries to make as much sarcasm audible in her tone: “Yeah, always are. Your head need stitches?”
She checks under the bag of vegetables. Least he wasn’t lying about that. Matt takes the touch with his usual expression, a pathetic mix of vulnerability and stony detachment. He doesn’t need her. He doesn’t need anybody. But since she’s here, could she please stay?
Claire runs a hand down the uninjured half of his head, lowering to her haunches in front of him. “I’m going to need a hand with that shoulder of yours.”
Matt nods mutely, resolute. “Not Danny.”
“Not if you don’t want him.”
He draws a shuddering breath, leaning away from her like she might take that back.
Claire tries to put him at ease. “Nobody’s going to do anything without your permission, Matt.”
“If I pass out-“
His eyes peel back in their sockets, lids fluttering. Matt hangs his head, groaning, trying to stay upright, to stay awake. “I want him to go.”
“Okay.” Claire pats him on the knee. “I’ll get Jessica to put your shoulder back into place.”
The devil peers out through Matt’s pale face, his glossy eyes. Contrary son of a bitch indeed. “Not until he’s gone.”
Jessica’s peeking around the corner through the kitchen. Claire gives her a slight nod. “Have Danny take a walk?”
Danny storms towards the kitchen doorway and straight into Jessica’s outstretched arm. They glare daggers at each other for a couple seconds. “Take a hike,” she tells him, gripping him by the collar of his shirt and tossing him back into the office.
There’s a steady march in the direction of the door, followed a quick rattle of footsteps towards the bedroom from the opposite hallway. Then Luke’s in the way, or must be, because Danny’s movement has stopped and only a soft scuffle can be heard.
Matt drops the frozen vegetables. He stands up, unsteady on his feet, but ready and willing to fight. Claire puts herself in front of him. She listens as the sound of the scuffling stops and the door to the office opens. “Luke? We good?” she calls.
“Yeah, we’re good.” The office door slams behind them.
Jessica comes into the bedroom. “We doing this?”
Matt nods. Bad idea – for him. His knees give out, and he lands back on the bed. Claire balances him before he hits the floor: one hand on his shoulder, the other taking his pulse. It’s elevated and only gains in speed when Jessica approaches.
Claire talks to take his mind off things: “She would have done this before I got here.”
“She had her hands full before you got here,” Matt says.
“I’m no match for the Immortal Iron Fist,” Claire adds.
But, she realizes, that’s not the point. Matt already had muscle against Danny; he wanted piece of mind. He wanted someone he could trust absolutely, and that’s Claire.
She takes his hand in hers. Meanwhile, Jessica grabs his bloated shoulder.
One quick push, and the shoulder pops back in place so quickly that it takes Matt a long time to scream. He focuses, focuses, but then a cry rips out of his chest. Tears mingle with the sweat on his cheeks. “Matt, we have to get your armour-“ Claire starts, but he’s already nodding. She steadies him as Jessica unzips his armour to the waist and gets it the hell off his shoulder.
“I’ll get more ice,” Jessica says, retreating to the freezer. Claire nods in thanks, gripping Matt’s injured arm as gently as she can.
“I need to-“
“Just do it. Do it, I trust you. I trust you.”
“You might not after this.” She checks his brachial pulse and can barely make it out from the swelling. She starts maneuvering the arm to test the integrity of the joint. Matt is silent through the whole procedure, on the outside at least. His face is screwed up tight to keep from screaming.
Jessica comes bearing a box of frozen pizza. “I used all my good icepacks,” she says, holding the box over Matt’s shoulder. “Sorry.”
Matt doesn’t seem like he can hear her over his own heavy breathing.
Claire folds Matt’s forearm across his waist to brace it. She stares at the joint, swollen and distended. Advil isn’t going to make at a dent in his pain or his swelling. He could probably use a muscle relaxant to keep the joint from locking. In the hospital, she could monitor it more closely. Get him on some heavy anti-inflammatories. Check to see if he’s bleeding into his brain while she’s at it.
Rand has private medical facilities.
But then there’s the little matter of Danny, a happy risker of everyone else’s lives and limbs to get his way, who’ll only be too happy to hijack this little operation with his glowing fist. And Matt, who’s picked fights with broken ribs and a stab wound, trying to take on the Immortal Iron Fist when he can barely stand.
Shitty as the options are, Claire’s least favourite part of a gig full of least favourites is just watching Matt stiff-upper lip this. There’s just something about how Matt handles pain that makes her heart ache and rage, makes her want to stay and walk away.
There should be no barriers when it comes to helping people. Danny’s right about that. But this is no different to Matt signing an AMA. It’s his call. Realistically, all the hospital is going to be able to do is medicate him more adequately. And provide a better ice pack.
Claire sighs, trying to find some middle ground here. “Look, I know you don’t want to hear this right now, but I’ve seen what Danny can do. He drew poison out of a wound, then healed the wound off the person’s body.”
“Hey,” Jessica snarls protectively, “he said he doesn’t want the Immortal Iron Asshole anywhere near him.”
Matt’s expression is one of barely contained screaming. “I’ll be fine,” he growls firmly.
“Yeah, you will. In a couple of weeks.” He shakes his head, despite learning all the reasons he shouldn’t do that in the past couple minutes. His grip tightens on the edge of the bed to keep from falling. Claire continues reasoning with him. “The only thing you’ll be missing out on is pain. And the very good chance of reinjuring it from trying to fight again too soon.”
He draws one breath, then two, but the rhythm spirals rapidly out of control. “I can manage.”
“Why would you want to manage? Do you like this, Matt?”
His face starts to crack. The thin veneer of control he’s been maintaining shatters. Claire looks at Jessica. She understands immediately. Feelings are happening. Jessica puts down her makeshift ice pack: “I need a drink.” And she leaves the room.
Matt lets himself go a little bit. Claire tries not to break along with him. “I have never seen you in pain like this.”
“I’ve never been in pain like this.”
Claire inches closer to him and presents him with the ultimatum. “Which means you need to go to the hospital or you need to let Danny do this.” Matt scoffs at the notion, wiping his face on the back of his hand. Claire tries a different tactic. “You need…to let Danny fist you back to health.”
He gives a small laugh. “I can’t believe you just said that.”
“I can’t believe he doesn’t say that,” Claire replies.
“Oh, he did,” Matt breathes, “until Jessica started sending him pages from Urban Dictionary about it.”
Claire hopes this means that she has him, that she’s talked him into something beneficial for a change. “So what’ll it be? Hospital or fisting?”
Matt breaks into a small, withering smile. He grips the edge of the bed, wavering a little from his head injury. “I don’t like pain,” he mutters, “but I don’t…like the idea of giving this up so easily. It shouldn’t be that easy.”
“Just when I thought you couldn’t get anymore Catholic….” Claire looks at him with fresh eyes and sees what she’s always feared: that martyr, that sacrificial lamb. “Can he at least fix the major problems, St. Matthew? Leave you with some of your precious pain?”
“It’s not the pain,” he says. And Claire is about to call bullshit, but one look at him and she knows he’s telling the truth. It isn’t the pain that he wants to hold onto; it’s what the pain represents. The work, the struggle, the fight: those are the things Matt Murdock is made of. They’re the things he believes he deserves.
Claire sighs. “You’ll have to ask Danny.”
Matt makes a face. He isn’t going to ask, and Danny sure as hell better listen.
The tension in the room is thick, stifling. Loaded with insurmountable baggage, with past disagreements, with posturing. Only Luke believes a good defence is a good defence; Jessica, Danny, and Matt are all hardwired to work on the offensive first. Defence is secondary. Jessica comes armed with her bottle and a murderous side-eye. Danny’s got his frightening calm, and Matt’s every kind of terrifying and more. This is the same guy who dropped a cop off her rooftop so long ago only angrier thanks to his busted shoulder.
“I don’t know that I can control it like that,” Danny says.
“You better,” Jessica warns, tapping a finger against her bottle as if to say that she’s finally found other uses for it besides drinking.
“Why wouldn’t you –“
Matt growls, “You’re lucky you’re here at all, Danny.”
“You’re lucky I’m here.”
“All right - we’re all lucky,” Luke declares.
Claire can’t believe how many times it needs to be said: all right or okay or enough. With this crew, it seems like every five minutes. They get sidetracked by hostility into a quippy cul-de-sac and never get back to the real issue at hand.
Luke continues: “Danny, you are only here because Matt agreed to this.“
“He shouldn’t have had to agree with this! It’s for his own good.“
“Jesus, how the hell is this not making sense for you?” Jessica interjects, “How many times did those monks –“
“Don’t talk about my -“
Matt almost springs off the bed. “Don’t talk to her like that.”
“How about all of you stop talking? Now?”
But they don’t hear Claire over the sounds of their starting up again.
She looks to Luke, who waits for the argument to reach its fever pitch, a brief moment of silence where words fail and fists are about to be deployed. “You done?” he receives no response but the ragged breathing of his three compatriots. “Y’all remember why you came in here? What you’re supposed to be doing? Matt, sit down before you fall down. Danny, you finally got what you want, now do it. And Jessica, you owe me twenty dollars next time I see you for the stuff that just came out of your mouth.”
“We are not using a swear jar!” Jessica scowls.
“You lost the vote,” Danny states flatly.
Colour Claire intrigued: “You guys had a vote?” Can’t have a civil conversation, but they can participate in the democratic process.
Matt replies, “It was more like a shouting contest.”
And there, right there, for a moment, the tension in the room dissipates to the ridiculous authority of a past argument. For a moment, Matt’s smirking and Luke’s at ease, Danny’s nodding slightly in silent agreement and Jessica has not torn her apartment down.
For a moment, they’re a team. Which is a level of messed-up befitting them.
The moment passes, but it undercuts the tension of the aftermath. There’s no more shouting. No more snarling. Everybody waits quietly for Danny to get to work. He balls his right hand into a fist. He places his knuckles against the palm of his shaking left hand – evidently he hasn’t fisted away whatever damage Jessica did to him while on his walk with Luke (Claire bites her tongue to stop from saying it out loud) – and he gets to work on Matt’s shoulder. A few seconds of groaning and grunting, and the swelling recedes. There’s some left when Danny moves his fist to Matt’s face to work on the head injury.
He stops short, gasping. Sweating. A little unstable on his feet. He’s given his stability to Matt, who looks a lot better. “That’s it,” Danny says, “that’s all I can do.”
Just as well. Matt tests his shoulder and winces, the joint still stiff apparently. When he rises off the bed, he still sways a little on his feet, but he can stand by himself without adrenaline holding him up.
Danny shakes the latent tension from his arms. He draws a few calming breaths and rises back to his full height.
Matt punches him. Danny hits the deck face-first.
Jessica laughs. “Nice.”
“Oh, sweet Christmas,” Claire groans.
Luke is between them in an instant, catching Danny’s hands with his shoulder blades when they fly towards Matt. Matt looks a little disappointed that he doesn’t get the chance to have a real fight, but the first punch clearly revealed more pain in his shoulder than he initially suspected. He winces.
Danny scuffles around Luke for a better vantage point. He ends up with one of Luke’s fists wrapped around the collar of his shirt to restrain him. Blood drips down his neck from his busted lip. “What was that for?”
“For what you did to Jessica,” says Matt. Not for himself, of course. For the mental anguish Danny’s put him through. For someone, for anyone else.
“I’m fine,” Jessica remarks flatly. “Been fisted harder than that before…”
“Stop saying it like that!” Danny shouts to all of them.
Matt inches back from the palm Luke places against his own chest, getting back on track. “You don’t get to do whatever you want, Danny.”
“You needed help!”
“I need help, I’ll ask for it.”
Claire lets out a very loud scoff, one Matt seems to feel through his armour. “No, you won’t!”
He relents, what with her being right and all. Not that he admits that out loud. His scowl wouldn’t allow for that. Matt does go so far to admit that, “...but I get to agree to it.” That’s something.
Danny raises his hands in mock surrender, prompting Luke to release him. He tugs at his shirt, left hand still shaking. His mouth curling in pain and righteous anger. “We came together because we agreed that the law was inadequate. That helping people was more important than abiding by the rules.”
“You’re not talking about rules, asshole.”
Luke regards Jessica coolly. “That’s twenty-one dollars.”
She blazes. “We’re not using a God damn swear jar!”
A shrug. Have it your way. “Twenty-two.”
Claire intercedes on behalf of reason. And her own precious time, which always seems to get wasted between these four. “Unless someone is dying, you need to respect their decisions.”
“Would you say that to the people we’re trying to help?” Danny looks around the room, regarding his fellow vigilantes with fury. “To the people we’re trying to save?”
Claire meets his gaze and holds it with her own. “Their lives are in danger. You work outside the law because it the law doesn’t work. People’s consent is different. That’s not a broken system, Danny. You disrespect those boundaries, you do hurt people, even if you’re trying to save them.”
Danny glares at Matt so hard. “It was a stupid decision.”
Matt doesn’t flinch even though a glare like that has to register. “But it was my decision.”
“You were in pain.”
“But it was my pain.”
Danny throws up his hands again in disbelief. He whips away from the conversation before it can continue. Matt waits, impassive, marking his victory in apathetic silence. He doesn’t need grand gestures when Danny can be undone by small ones.
Claire, naturally, has to reintroduce sound reason into this debate before someone else gets punched. “Vigilantism has a place in medicine when a life is at stake. Why do you think you got invited back into the apartment? Why do you think I suggested you as an option when you were trying so hard to violate his rights before?”
“I would want you all to do it for me,” Danny declares.
Oh, God, Jessica: “You got that, everyone? Danny is down for a fisting from any of us.”
“Motion to add ‘fisting’ to the list of recognized swear words,” Luke says. “All in favour say ‘aye’.”
Claire hangs back in her head in exasperation: she is going to be here all night.
“AYE,” Danny states emphatically.
“NAY.” Jessica folds her arms across her chest. Matt joins her in silence.
“Motion closes at a draw,” Luke says.
“Uh, motion is rejected,” Claire corrects him sternly. “Two votes for, three votes against.”
“Who’s the third –“
Claire gives him an eye. Luke quiets. Who the hell does he think the third vote is?
Danny gestures towards her. “Does her vote count? Is she a member of the team?”
The room bristles with new energy like a volcano about to erupt.
“We’re not a team!” Jessica snaps.
Meanwhile, Luke and Matt and Claire are silent because Danny actually had to ask that.
They do well to let her spell it out for him: “It’s two o’clock in the morning, and I am here playing mediator, medical professional, and legal counsel, just like I have been every other time you have called me. I’ve fought alongside each of you. Sometimes by throwing punches or stabbing ninjas. Sometimes by putting you back together again. Sometimes by saving the lives of people you’re a little too late to protect. So yes, I am a member of this team. I might be the most important member of this team.”
She thinks about it, and yes, she just might be. She’s the one who put this little party together, she might as well get some benefits. “In fact, I am the most important member of this team. My vote counts as two. So motion denied. Four votes against.”
“Your vote doesn’t count for-“
Luke glares Danny into silence. Matt looks about ready to wind up for another punch. Jessica fingers her mostly empty bottle of bourbon in quiet calculation of what would be more useful: drinking or using the damn thing as a weapon.
Danny sighs. “Fine. Motion…denied!”
“Fisting right it’s denied,” Jessica deadpans.
“Oh, now you’re going to replace every swear word with ‘fist’?”
“Fist yeah, I am.”
“Does this make you team president?” Matt asks Claire.
She shakes her head in horror. “I think this makes me team custodian, the way I clean up your messes.”
“This isn’t a team,” Jessica interjects.
The rest of the room miraculously ignores her. They’ve done more bonding tonight than ever and at least two are wearing injuries inflicted by fellow members. Which is such a disaster.
“By the way,” Matt segues casually, “Jessica, you were right: I do feel better.”
“Told you: a good fisting fixes everything.”
And on that note, Claire decides, “I think my work here is done for tonight.”
She picks up her kit, ready to walk out of the room. Luke glances from Danny to Matt, triple dog-daring them to start back up again. Neither of them do, not if the other one isn’t looking to start something. Luke leaves them to walk Claire to the door. Behind them, the conversation winds back up again, a mixture of verbal jabs (Danny) and lucid arguments (Matt) with a whole lot of crude innuendos (Jessica) thrown in for good measure.
Luke kisses her goodbye and lets her out the door, returning to the bedroom and the rising voices within. Claire stands for a long time in the hallway listening. The tone stays aggressive, snarky, but suddenly, Jessica offers the pizza box to Danny as an ice pack for the shoulder she wounded. Luke discusses what to do differently with Matt. Danny says he’ll heal Jessica’s face if she wants before begging her not to make the fisting joke that she inevitably does.
“Go team,” Claire says with a sigh and heads for home.