There was a woman crying in the legal help section of the local public library and Foggy kind of hated her for being in the place where he had gone to escape everything.
She was clearly miserable but he was miserable too, and he felt his own misery a whole lot more than he felt hers. He wanted to yell at her just to be yelling at someone.
He didn’t want to be that person, though. He wasn’t that person.
He just, he wanted to be in a place where there were rules and interpretations and logical argument and the suppression of emotions because he was an attorney and he was in control when it came to legal arguments.
He felt so torn apart and that crying woman and her whining kids were too much.
He had just learned that his friend, his best friend for so many years, was… Foggy wasn’t even sure what Matt was. Violent, certainly, but that wasn’t the problem, not really. Violent he thought he could have dealt with. Not actually blind, at least not blind in the way other blind people were blind.
Matt was more than he’d ever let Foggy see.
That was the problem.
Foggy had graduated Cum Laude from Columbia Law, and hadn’t been surprised at all when Matt had graduated Summa Cum Laude. Foggy was from a solidly middle class family. It had been expected that he’d go to college but he came out of law school swimming in debt, while Matt had grown up an orphan with a tragic and heroic backstory and gotten a full-ride merit scholarship that put him through the college no one expected him to attend.
Matt was brilliant and gorgeous and had earned everything he’d ever gotten. He was a rock star. He had started from so little and was set to achieve so much.
Foggy had to give himself periodic stern talks about not doubting their friendship just because Matt was just so much more than him. But Matt shared himself with Foggy and Foggy did his best to reciprocate. They were best friends and business partners and it didn’t matter that sometimes Foggy wondered what someone like Matt even saw in someone like him.
Except that Matt was more than Foggy had even realized, so much more that Matt had never wanted to share. Foggy gave his everything to their friendship, while Matt had held back huge swathes of himself.
All contracts were based on a premise of equality. Value for value. And all of Foggy Nelson was worth only part of Matt Murdock.
And maybe that was fair, it probably was, but it wasn’t a contract Foggy would have been willing to sign if he’d known.
Informed consent, that was also important.
But he was Matt’s friend. And his business partner. And those relationships were real and established and maybe he never should have entered into them, but he was in them now and what was he supposed to do about that?
The crying woman’s kids had finally stopped whining after she’d finally snapped at them to “just go to the kids section! And don’t leave the library!” but she’d also given up on reading the book and probably would have been flat out sobbing if she weren’t still trying to muffle the noise.
He still kind of had the urge to yell at her, to tell the librarians about her making noise, to make this random stranger’s life more miserable than it currently already was, because maybe that would make his own life better in comparison. Except that it would really just make his own life that much worse by taking away what little self-respect he still had.
He could recover from Matt thinking he was worthless.
He wouldn’t be able to recover from proving Matt right in thinking that.
Maybe focusing on someone else’s problems would at least distract him from his own. He plopped himself down at the table across from her, ignored her flinch, and was absolutely honest. "Hi, I'm Foggy Nelson. I'm an attorney, a good attorney, but my personal life is falling apart. It looks like your life is falling apart too, and I would love to focus on fixing your life instead of brooding about my own. Let me help you."
"If you’re in the legal section of the library, you clearly thought that the law could help you. The books are a mess if you don’t know what you’re looking for. I can help.”
“I can’t pay you anything!”
“I don't care!” She must see his desperation because she looked taken aback but also stopped arguing and told him about her case.
Except that it’s not a case; it’s something like five different cases as well as a whole lot of issues that would normally be the work of a social worker rather than a lawyer.
She was an unemployed ex-felon with a spiteful parole officer and an abusive ex-boyfriend, and the state was threatening to take her kids away from her. She needed a substance abuse program, a parenting class, a job that wasn't hooking, and sole custody of her kids so she could stay away from her pimp of a boyfriend. And childcare so that she could work and take classes.
He spent the next eighty-hour week working with her.
He felt like he was back in law school, throwing all of his attention into one case and sleeping like a log in the few hours he got.
The childcare was actually the hardest part of the situation. It turned out that the easiest way to deal with that was for Jasmine to create a business with a group of other women in the same situation to work together so no boss could complain about all of them having their kids with them.
The answer was a thrift store that Foggy used to shop at as a kid but which had been destroyed by the alien invasion.
The owners were an older couple who had been trying and failing to sell the business and the space because they hadn't been able to open the store because they hadn't been able to clean it up after the alien invasion.
A month after meeting Jasmine, there were five single mothers, all pro bono clients of Foggy’s, who worked together to clean it up and open it up and who had all of their kids playing in the toy section at the back of the store. The couple couldn't pay them anything even close to minimum wage, so Foggy convinced them to sell 70% of the business to the women in exchange for their work.
He also took a moment to call Marci. It was unpleasant to realize that feeling betrayed by Matt had made him distrust his relationships with his other friends and they didn’t deserve that. Innocent until proven guilty and all that. Also he had a favor to ask from Marci.
“Hey Marci, you change your whole wardrobe out every season, right?”
“Yeah. And?” She sounded, probably appropriately, suspicious at the abrupt greeting.
“What do you do with the clothing you get rid of?”
There was a long and moderately suspicious pause on the other side of the line. “Why do you want to know?”
“Because I’m helping with the business documents for an employee-owned thrift store.”
“I sell mine to a consignment store. It’s not cheap to stay fashionable. You do not get to tell anyone that.”
“Your secret is safe with me.”
“It had better be. What they want to do is rent a van on move-out day at the end of each semester and check out the dumpsters near the most expensive college dorms. I’m assuming that you’re still talking about a Hell’s Kitchen thrift store?”
“Yes, I am. And you’re taking me out for drinks to make up for ignoring my calls for the last month, and then calling out of the blue about a small-business issue that isn’t even your field.”
“Small businesses are becoming my expertize. But yeah, okay, that’s fair. Drinks tomorrow?”
He went out to drinks with Marci and she wound up paying for them since she was being paid with actual money rather than partial ownership of a failing business. Marci took her payment from him in endless mockery.
But it was still a good evening.
It wasn’t the end of the semester yet, but it turns out that Marci knew about a department store that had been damaged in the alien invasion but had then sat in legal limbo ever since. The stock was just sitting there; no one would notice if it went missing.
Foggy struggled with his own ethics. He was an attorney, for crying out loud. He was supposed to support the law.
He debated with himself for a week, but then Matt came in with more bruises and Foggy thought, fuck it. He told the women about the warehouse and went with them to collect as much of the goods as they could fit into the cars they’d had to borrow for the purpose.
The store opened up again and no one asked questions about who might possibly be sleeping on the sofas, and there began to be some income.
Foggy's own debt wasn't going down at all because even while these people weren't innocent, like Matt might have wanted, they also weren’t the guilty rich who could have paid like Foggy might have wished. Instead he got 5% of the new co-op.
He did get actual cash payment, in small amounts on a payment plan, for business paperwork and liability waivers for the official childcare center run in the same space by Gwendolyn, the mother of Charmaine, one of the single-mothers Jasmine had recruited to run the store.
It wasn’t a great childcare option, and Foggy had had to do some fancy footwork in the paperwork to make it pass code, but it was better than nothing. And it turns out that previously there had been nothing for the families that now dropped their kids off at the store in the morning and came back late at night after their second shifts.
Foggy was fairly sure one of the women was still dealing drugs, but at least not to any of the kids under Gwendolyn’s care.
And he worked with all of them and more to make sure they knew their rights and had the words needed to defend those rights.
A couple of weeks after his marathon session of getting Jasmine’s life back on track, one of the librarians had approached him about holding a regular legal clinic at the library. The library even paid him a small fee for showing up and providing legal advice to anyone who showed up. He would bet maybe fifty percent of the people there would have passed Matt’s innocence-test to be one of their clients. But Matt wasn’t there, and even guilty people, maybe particularly guilty people, need legal help.
The library had thought maybe they could get a monthly clinic going. They ended up happily giving him one of their meeting rooms to have daily office hours in.
The librarians knew how to take advantage, too. Every social worker in the community started showing up at his office hours and bringing their clients with them.
It all proved to be a glorious distraction from his misery.
He was way too busy to be miserable.
In the morning, he would go to the office of Nelson & Murdock to check in with Karen and deal with any drop-in clients. He would leave for a late lunch and head to the library. He’d leave the library to get some dinner and then head to the thrift store where he’d check in with the women there.
His day started with innocent clients and got progressively more guilty over the course of the day, but he didn’t feel even an ounce of shame for helping each and every one of them.
He rarely spoke to Matt in those months and never about anything that wasn’t case-related.
Matt was busy enough with his own vigilante efforts that it took no effort at all, really, to let their friendship lapse into professionalism.
It didn’t even occur to Foggy to yell for Daredevil the night he was attacked.
It wasn’t a mugging.
It wasn’t really surprising that his attacker was a man previously attached to one of the women he had helped.
Foggy was down on the ground before he even realized what was happening.
"You took my kids away from me!" the man yelled.
It was either a sign of how depressed Foggy was about Matt or how hard that first hit had been, that his survival instinct did not kick in. Instead, he found himself shouting back, "Yeah, I did, because you were being a crap dad!"
"I was doing the best I could! And you took them!"
"There's no way that was the best you could do. What the hell, man? Get your life together and get your kids back if you love them enough to put the effort to it."
"They'll never give them back to me!" Under the rage was real pain. Foggy recognized it all too well.
"Not with that attitude. You got to plan it, you got to work for it, you got to fight for it. And I don't mean with a knife."
Foggy wondered how much anger he still carried in his own life that it seemed like a better idea to focus on the life of some thug who's parental custody he'd already had removed. Maybe it was because he was still trying to decide what to even fight for when it came to his own life. At least this guy knew what he wanted to achieve.
"Come on, let's make a plan for you."
Because this thug with a knife and track marks on his arms, who had pimped out his girlfriend because they both needed money and had beaten her because he was so angry with the whole damn world, was still just a guy who had lost control of his life and didn't know how to get it back. Or get it for the first time.
How do you learn to be a parent if you grew up as a street kid yourself?
It turns out there are classes for that. The library taught some of them and had connections with a community center that taught more.
Classes for how to keep track of money and budget.
Classes for how to cook easy, cheap, and filling food. Healthy, too, at least in comparison to fast food.
Classes for how to buy in bulk and distribute it in smaller amounts.
The second co-op Foggy helped form was a small grocery run by gangbangers. They could buy 50-pound bags of rice, and 200 rolls of toilet paper, and own a massive industrial refrigerator so that they could keep frozen goods even if they didn’t have reliable electricity in their own apartments.
Foggy was fairly sure the industrial refrigerator had once been used for smuggling purposes, or possibly even for torture, and had insisted that they disinfect it before using it for food, but the guys had explained that they’d already done so to get rid of all DNA evidence. Foggy decided that was good enough, and then helped them come to an agreement on how the work and the proceeds and the food were to be split between the six of them.
In payment for several long days of work and then making the initial drive with them to the wholesale store, Foggy earned a couple hundred bucks and a new place to shop.
The third co-op was a whorehouse.
Employee owned and run.
Because Shanika, with the thrift store, had successfully made the argument that having sex with johns at the store would just mess up both the store and the childcare center that was growing there, and that if the others wanted to keep getting the extra cash, they needed a different place to go.
It was a reminder that the real purpose of these contracts wasn’t to stand up in a court of law but to make sure everyone involved understood and agreed to the partnerships they were forming. This was like Founding Fathers stuff: can you write an agreement that will cover all potential future eventualities without getting so far into abstruse legalese that no one but an attorney can understand it.
That third one actually paid him the best, possibly because they made the most money, possibly because he refused to be paid in kind and at this point was seriously hurting for cash to cover his rent.
There was a starfish at the thrift shop. Who knows who had found it and why they had decided to donate it here, but Foggy paid a whole dollar for it.
It reminded him a story he’d heard ages ago about a person walking along a beach where there were countless starfish as far as the eye could see, washed up on the shore and now dying from dehydration. They picked one up and threw it back into the ocean, to give it a chance to survive.
Their friend asked why they were bothering: there was no way they could throw all the starfish back into the ocean, there were just too many of them.
But the person picked up another starfish and tossed it into the ocean and said, “I might not be able to save them all, but I saved that one.”
Foggy always remembered that story when he studied the dry starfish sitting on his desk.
He wasn’t sure if it was a reminder of the things he had achieved, or a reminder of the people he had failed to save. Maybe it was just a reminder to keep his expectations reasonable. He wasn’t saving The City, like Matt was trying to do; he was saving the individual people who were his clients.
It was also a connection between the different places his job took him.
He kept it at his desk at Nelson & Murdock where Karen could see it and where Matt could have found it if he wanted to. And that was a bit of healing as well, he thought, because he really shouldn’t be living the kind of fractured life he had been for so many months. He was a single person and he couldn’t divide his clients between office, library, and thrift store indefinitely.
It was one of his library clients who had forced the issue.
He’d had to scamper to the stairwell to answer his phone, smiling apologetically at the librarian on duty and the other patrons. He’d actually answered it before he got there to prevent it from going to voicemail, but immediately said, “what a moment” before the caller could say anything.
The door shut behind him, and phew, he really hadn’t wanted to piss off the librarians here because this library was one of his new favorite place to be. “Okay, what’s up? Uh, Karen?” as he finally looked at the caller ID.
“Mr. Nelson, a Mrs. Marsh is at the office. She says she has a 2 o’clock appointment with you?”
“Huh. I was actually waiting for her at the library. Can you pass the phone over so I can talk with her?”
“Of course, Mr. Nelson.”
Foggy had sighed. Yeah, Karen was not happy with him. He came into the offices in the mornings, but he didn’t go to the office while Matt was potentially there and he imagined Karen spent a lot of pretty lonely hours trapped in that office.
He wondered why she hadn’t quit yet.
“Hi, Tavena. I thought we were going to meet here at the library. Did something happen?”
“No, I just thought it would be a good idea to meet at your office at least once.”
Foggy winced. There was a certain amount of entirely valid suspicion directed at a person who never actually conducted business in the office they claimed to have. On the other hand, in addition to avoiding Matt for personal reasons, Foggy really didn’t want to risk his clients being overheard by a violent vigilante.
Well, there was actually a pretty good chance that Matt wouldn’t even be there. And if he was, Foggy could arrange to speak with Tavena at a coffee shop around the corner, where distance and other conversations would help to muffle their own.
“I’ll be there in half an hour. Let Karen know if you’d like any coffee or tea.”
He had returned to the office and met with Tavena and it had been fine. More than fine, because Karen was there to provide beverages and assistance and an air of professionalism that was lacking in the library meeting room. It gave him respectability in the eyes of a client who was worried about being taken advantage of.
And it made Karen happy.
He bought a white noise generator and started to invite his clients back to his office for meetings. Jasmine had even hugged him in congratulations for starting to get his own life back together.
He thought maybe he was.
He started spending more time at his actual office and formally documenting his clients with Karen.
The last few months had been rough, but he was recovering from the betrayal and he didn’t want to lose the business that he and Matt had built together. He would take what he could get, while he could get it, but just make sure he had a life separate from Matt as well.
It was easy.
The only person to really notice how much had changed, or at least to comment on it, was Officer Brett Mahoney.
Foggy wasn’t sure it was due to their long acquaintance or to Brett being a decent police officer, that he was the one who asked, “Okay, what is up with you, Foggy?”
“What?” Foggy knew he sounded defensive.
“I call you about an interesting case that would normally get you both, and Murdock shows up alone. I call you about some poor-luck case that wouldn’t normally get either of you, and you show up alone.”
“Hey! You called me about that poor-luck case! If you thought he was important enough to call about, of course I’m going to come.”
“You used to come as a matched set. Now I never see you together.”
“We’re branching the firm out in different directions. Matt’s taking the high profile conspiracy cases, I’m taking the small business and family law cases.”
“And petty criminal? Because you sure do get a lot of these guys off on extremely light punishments.”
“Oh come on. Most of those guys are just trying to survive. And most of those cases I turn into small business cases. You know I’m decreasing recidivism.”
“Yeah, I’ve noticed. It’s why the whole department is willing to cut you some slack for going light on crime. The local economy’s actually doing pretty well, and without gentrification, too. My mom was singing your praises.”
“Your mom is an angel and I will take her praises!”
“You are a pain in my ass.”
“I’ll take that as praise as well!”
“Get out of here.”
And Foggy got out of there before the conversation could turn serious again. Because Brett was right, there was something up with Foggy. And Foggy had skirted the truth when it came to how Nelson & Murdock was expanding. Matt took high profile cases, yes, but he also insisted on innocent clients. Foggy didn’t bother with that now and didn’t bother arguing the point with Matt either. Because the guilty parties still needed help, especially needed help, and Matt wasn’t even there.
Half of any job was just showing up to do it. Foggy showed up to make this law firm work. And Matt… didn’t. Matt generally took one case at a time, maybe two. Foggy had dozens of ongoing cases. Matt did a lot of his work as a costumed vigilante at night, and showed up for a few hours at the office now and then. Foggy was at the office every single day.
It was still Nelson & Murdock. But the Murdock part was increasingly a silent partner and Foggy treated him as such. Matt would have a place in the firm always, an office to come home to, but he wasn’t willing to give him a say in the running of an office he wasn’t at.
It was a silent decision between him and his silent partner and he tried not to think about it too much.
He thought it might even change after Daredevil finally managed to take down the Kingpin and Matt Murdock of Nelson & Murdock took down Wilson Fisk. For a few days, Foggy had thought that maybe he and Matt would go back to normal, working cases together.
The thought didn’t last long.
With Fisk taken in, there was apparently a power vacuum in Hell’s Kitchen and plenty of claimants to fill it.
Foggy could only assume Matt had thrown himself into it, since he was just as bruised and sleep deprived as he’d ever been. Foggy wondered if he should try to stage an intervention, but why would Matt even listen to him? They didn’t hang out anymore, although Foggy had stopped actively avoiding Matt. It turned out that the avoidance had never really been necessary since Matt was rarely around anyway.
Foggy had grown up with a pretty sheltered childhood, certainly in comparison to Matt, but with his middle class upbringing he thought he probably knew more about the kind of kids who felt they deserved to be hurt in ways the world wasn’t providing, or needed to feel things in a way they couldn’t naturally.
With Matt’s enhanced senses, he wondered if his body’s pain receptors were already so overwhelmed that he needed the injuries just to feel touched.
A couple of weeks after Fisk had been taken down, Matt was still sporting new bruises every day, and Foggy had actually confronted him.
“This isn’t about fighting bad guys, is it? It’s about fighting. Is it self-harm that’s not actually self-inflicted?”
Somehow Matt had never learned to lie with his face. Not enough feedback, probably on what worked and what didn’t. Unless it was a whole complicated double bluff situation that was too convoluted for Foggy to even begin to figure out.
There was a point where he had to just trust his instincts and they were telling him that Matt may not have thought about it like that, but he did absolutely want the pain.
“You’re a lot better at lying through omission.”
“I’m not, I’m…” Matt’s eyes were wide behind his glasses, but he didn’t seem to know what to do with that.
“Are you attempting suicide?”
And that Foggy believed. Matt was a good Catholic boy at the oddest times and in the oddest ways. He sounded truly horrified at the thought.
Foggy relaxed slightly. It didn’t mean that Matt wouldn’t wind up dead sooner rather than later, given his lifestyle choices, but at least he wasn’t actively aiming for it. Foggy would look up possible treatments for self-harm later. In the meantime, “you need to go home.”
“You don’t look fine, and I’m about to have a meeting with a domestic violence victim and I don’t want her to think my own law partner is one too. So go home.”
“… I can stay in my office.”
“And eavesdrop? No.”
He didn’t say anything more, and neither did Matt for a long moment. Foggy wasn’t going to argue this one. He had told Matt what to do and Matt needed to do it. Finally Matt started packing up his desk. “Okay.”
He hoped Matt actually did go home and stay there to try to heal up. He thought it more likely, though, that he’d gone home to change into his costume to get beat up some more.
Don’t focus on what you can’t change, Foggy reminded himself. Focus on what you can.
He can’t fix Matt; he can help his client.
He continued to take more small cases and Matt continued to dig for massive conspiracies. Matt was looking for the single evil person behind all the sufferings of the city, while Foggy was certain it really was just life.
Maybe that was a facet of Matt’s Catholicism? Maybe it was a matter of faith that Matt thought there had to be a reason for evil; that there had to be a devil that caused and inspired evil. He might have even find it reassuring to believe that.
Foggy grew up Presbyterian, though not much of one at that. If he were being honest, he didn’t really believe in any god or devil. Just people trying to do the best they could with what they were given. Some people just got shitty cards and others made shitty choices. If there was a reason for suffering it was nothing more than the world not having been made solely to cater to humanity. And that, Foggy thought, was fair enough on the world’s part.
Still, he found Matt’s faith somewhat fascinating in its own way. How such a logical mind could rely so heavily on such illogical premises…
It led to so many blind spots, which was pretty funny when it came to his blind partner who wasn’t actually blind except in all the ways he was.
One of those blind spots, Foggy knew, was that Matt thought one massive public success was more significant than a thousand invisible small wins. Matt thought he had saved Hell’s Kitchen, even though Foggy knew that Fisk’s conviction had only made life more difficult for the majority of the city’s population. Matt thought his one big win against Fisk had also won them enough monetary compensation to make up for so many months without, even though Foggy knew it had helped them dig themselves out of debt only a little faster than his own cases.
Foggy knew this, and he knew that Matt didn’t, and it was a conscious decision this time to just not tell him. Let him enjoy his success. Because if his mental health demanded that he run around the city at night in a costume, then Foggy wasn’t going to heap any more stress on his college friend. His own side of the law firm was doing just fine and starting to make enough to support them all.
He was perfectly content to let things carry on unspoken.
Karen made him verbalize it though.
“Hey Foggy, you got a moment?” Karen sounded tentative in a way that she shouldn’t. That wasn’t her.
“Sure. What’s up?”
“So, I keep the office budget, right? And you and Matt never have meetings together anymore,” she sounded a bit more her regular acerbic self with that aside at least. “But you haven’t reviewed the budget in ages which is really stupid because I could be robbing you guys blind if I weren’t a paragon of virtue and didn’t have my eye on the long game—“
“You are getting a living wage at this point, right?” Foggy interjected. She had better be. He might not be keeping a close look at the budget, but he knew he was making enough at this point so that all their rents could be paid.
“Yeah, that’s fine. I gave myself a raise the other day when I was bored sitting here all by myself.”
He wasn’t sure if she was joking or not, but, “Good.”
She looked dissatisfied with that answer. But honestly, he knew he was being a lousy employer and she deserved a raise for putting up with his and Matt’s crap.
“The problem is, okay let me just spit this out: all the regular income is yours. Matt’s not charging his clients anything. And it’s not like his clients can afford to pay either. But, all the income is yours.”
Foggy wasn’t sure what his face must look like, congealed probably, but Karen winced. He should have realized that Karen would notice sooner rather than later. After all, she wasn’t spending nearly as much energy as Foggy was on not thinking about Matt. And it wasn’t like Foggy wasn’t already aware of the issue, either. It was just another issue he had planned to ignore indefinitely.
“I know, Karen. It’s okay. And you’re forwarding the clients Matt turns down to me, right?”
“Yeah,” she winced again. “I just like getting paid.” She sounded guilty about it, when she really, really shouldn’t.
“No, you’re doing the right thing. Everyone’s got to eat and everyone deserves legal representation.”
“It’s not right, though! You shouldn’t be supporting the whole business and Matt shouldn’t be cherry-picking his favorite clients!”
“It’s okay, Karen, it really is. Matt takes the high profile cases and gives the firm a gorgeous front man. It’s a valuable service.”
“Valuable enough to be a full partner of the firm?”
No. Not that valuable. “Yes.”
“You can’t lie for shit.”
“Okay, maybe worth a third?” And this was Foggy’s moment of brilliance, it really was, because yes! “Matt and I can each give up a part of our shares and make you a full partner to maintain the business side!” And Foggy could stop feeling guilty about pawning off all the office work on her. “You’d need to take classes for a suitable business degree.” He tried to say it like it was a requirement she’d have to put up with, although they both knew it was a benefit to keep her happy at a business with a deeply problematic office environment.
She looked somewhere between delighted and suspicious, which was only appropriate. But then the suspicion won out. “You’re trying to postpone bringing this up with Matt. Or maybe pawn that conversation off on me, since I’d be a partner rather than an employee. But you can’t make a secretary a partner at a law firm.”
“Can’t I?” But Foggy sighed. “Karen, I’ve been postponing this conversation for the last twelve months. And I’m kind of hoping that if I push it off long enough we’ll all just get used to the new status quo and never have to discuss it at all.”
“Foggy…” Karen clearly wasn’t even sure what to do with that confession. Sometimes honesty really was the best response. “… what happened?”
And other times, discretion was the better part of valor.
“Just life. I expected more from Matt than he was willing to give and set myself up for disappointment. It’s not his fault.”
Karen’s eyes went wide. “You finally asked him out? And he said, no?” She sounded shocked.
Foggy wasn’t sure why she was the one who was shocked. He was the one who should be shocked. “What? No, I didn’t ask him out! And what in the world do you mean by ‘finally’?”
“Oh, er, nothing? Um, I think your next appointment is soon. I’d better make sure the forms you need are prepared.”
She scampered off.
Foggy decided he was happier not following.
But he did follow up the next time Matt showed up at the office. Sort of.
“Hey Matt, we need to get Karen to notary public training. It’d be useful to have one in-house.”
“Oh, good idea. It’s a business expense.”
“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking.”
“Hey Karen, come in for a minute,” Matt called out. “Look into finding a licensing program for notary publics that’s close by and relatively soon, and get yourself signed up.”
Karen looked suspiciously at Foggy, even as she spoke cheerfully to Matt. “Absolutely! Employee development, here I come!”
Karen really did want the training and career development that they were offering, but she also really didn’t like being manipulated. After her experience being framed, she might have a bit of extra hatred for being managed in the way that Foggy was currently doing to both her and Matt. He figured the best way to go about it then was to not even try to be subtle about what he was doing. He knew what he wanted to achieve, he knew what they each wanted to achieve, and he would just make the proposal that would make them all happy.
“Actually,” Foggy said, as if it was a spur of the moment thought, “what are your thoughts on accounting, Karen? Like, do you think you’d be interested in taking some forensic accounting courses as well? You already keep our books, but what about investigating some other people’s books as well?”
“Foggy, that’s brilliant!” Matt was grinning. Mat, who was so smart and the Daredevil, somehow managed to miss the byplay between Karen and Foggy. “We could absolutely use a forensic accountant we could trust. It would be a business expense so all of your tuition would be on the firm.”
Karen’s heart must have done something truly startling because Matt actually looked taken aback. “What?”
From Foggy’s perspective, Karen’s face had merely gone blank in a way that could have meant anything, but he suspected it meant she was having trouble figuring out if she was ecstatic or furious. Whichever way it fell would likely be explosive and he jumped in to head it off. “That’s an excellent idea, Matt!”
He smiled at Karen with his lawyer’s grin. It was what he called the smile he’d practiced in a mirror all through law school: he bared all his teeth and looked way more threatening than happy.
Karen didn’t look at all cowed and bared her teeth right back at him. But she did refrain from doing anything other than agreeing to sign up for some accounting courses and thanking them both for the tuition.
Matt swung his head from one to the other of them, clearly trying to figure out what he was missing, but Foggy just started talking about the courses they’d expect Karen to take.
After Matt left again, Foggy went to talk to Karen.
“You’re right that I can’t make a secretary a partner at a law firm, but if you become a certified public accountant, and continue working with us, I’ll wait until you bring down your first big bad guy with Matt and create your first ten small business plans with me, and then Matt and I will make you a real partnership offer with no doubt that you’ll have earned it.”
“You’re putting me through school! That’s not me earning it.”
“I have student loans and Matt got a scholarship. We all go through school in different ways. It’s coming out the other side that’s you earning it. And you haven’t gotten there yet. But you will.”
“Say that again when tax season is upon us and I make you work 16-hour days for a month in our first annual tax clinic.”
“Oh god. So what you’re saying is that we really need to get a better source of coffee before tax season hits.”
“Yup. That’s what I’m saying.”
His relationship with Karen improved.
Matt was still absent more than he was present, though he would occasionally give Foggy an update on his activities if suitably prompted.
Sadly, it mostly consisted of Matt trying to figure out who was winning the fight to fill Fisk’s place in the criminal underworld.
Sometimes Foggy thought he saw Daredevil more than he saw Matt at this point. At least, he saw evidence of Daredevil more than he saw evidence of Matt.
Unfortunately, some of that evidence was in the lives of Foggy’s clients.
“It doesn’t look like your client has changed his lifestyle.” The judge looked disapprovingly at the bruises visible on Damien’s face.
“Sadly, that is evidence that he has changed his lifestyle, rather than that he has not. Because my client is no longer protected by the gang he has renounced, the Daredevil decided to question him about his former acquaintances.” And damn Matt again for making this whole conference with the judge take a little side-trip of explaining facial bruising.
The judge was unconvinced. “I’ve seen the people the Daredevil has questioned. Your client isn’t nearly bruised enough for that.”
“That’s because I chased Daredevil off as soon as I realized he was there. Unfortunately, it wasn’t soon enough to save my client the bruises.”
“You chased him off?”
“This is an important appointment for my client. I stayed with him last night to ensure he got here safely.” For pretty much this exact reason, too, although Foggy had hoped his mere presence would stop Matt from trying to question a client. He’d already given up on trying to convince Matt to leave his clients alone entirely.
“Yeah, yeah,” the judge waved that off. By this time most of the judges in the area knew that Foggy was going above and beyond for his hard luck cases and it wasn’t super unusual for him to walk them through every step they needed, up to and including escorting them to their appointments. “I need to get back to the part about you, Foggy Nelson, chasing off the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.”
“It was amazing, your justice,” Damien interjected. “I thought I was done for, then Foggy just started yelling at him. Said he’d make his life a living hell if he didn’t back off. Never even threw a punch and the Devil let me go and just kept backing away. Then he was gone. I’ve never seen anything like it. The Devil never even said a word.”
Foggy hadn’t given Matt a chance to say a word. Foggy wasn’t going to listen to Matt while Matt was in his crazy fetish-wear costume and trying to beat up his client. Even if Foggy wasn’t going to turn him in as the vigilante, Matt had better believe that Foggy wasn’t going to allow Matt’s vigilante actions to mess with his clients.
He expected that he had a fight with Matt in the near future, once he returned to the offices. But first, he was going to get Damien his parental rights reinstated since Elayna had agreed that they had both been young and stupid and Damien deserved a second chance at fatherhood. And their kids deserved a second legal guardian if anything happened to her.
Foggy didn’t want to talk about his confrontation with Daredevil but if it would help his case, then he’d certainly use it. “Even the Devil understands that redemption is possible. He might not like it, he might try to drag people back, but Damien is strong enough to fix his life and change his path and be a father and a role model to his children.”
And given the look in Damien’s eye, hopefully that would serve as a pep talk to keep him on the straight and narrow regarding his new lifestyle of teaching classes in English to Spanish-speakers and Spanish to English-speakers at the local community center rather than running a protection racket.
Judge Ramirez just looked fascinated. “Well. Well, Mr. Nelson, if you can convince the Devil himself that Damien’s on the path to redemption, who am I to stand in his way.”
It had worked out in his favor this time, but Foggy was not going to let this go without a confrontation with Matt.
And Matt sure wasn’t going to let it go without a confrontation either.
“What the hell were you thinking? You could have gotten hurt! You don’t just break up a fight like that! And he isn’t worth it! We agreed to help the innocent here! He’s scum and you shouldn’t have even been helping him!”
“Oh, that’s rich coming from you. I was thinking that we should support the rule of law. That’s what I was thinking! What about you? What’s your position on beating up a guy who’s trying to turn his life around? And it was you doing the hurting, so don’t you use passive voice here. Because it would have been you hurting me or you choosing not to hurt me, and I really appreciate you choosing not to, but you don’t get credit for it!”
“He’s scum and doesn’t deserve your protection! It doesn’t matter if he’s trying to turn over a new leaf or any of that crap. He’s in too deep!”
They were each bellowing at each other by the end, and it honestly felt good. For Foggy, at least. He expected from the way Matt as still visibly trembling that it wasn’t nearly as cathartic for him.
For Foggy it felt like venting emotions that had built up for way too long. He expected that for Matt, it felt like losing control.
Sometimes Matt was really dumb.
“What happened to forgiveness? What happened to redemption? You know what I saw last night? I saw two violent men in a violent altercation. But one of them is trying to change his life and become less violent and be a better person; and one of them has decided that violence is the way to get what he wants and is on a path of increasing violence. Which one do you think you were?”
Matt looked like Foggy had slapped him. Once upon a time Foggy might have tried to lessen the blow. As much as Foggy did like making those perfect arguments to win his cases, he’d never wanted to use them to tear down his friends. But this time, his friend was so thoroughly in the wrong and maybe if he could just prove that, it would change Matt.
Before he could continue -- maybe bring up Grandmaster Lee’s quote about how “It’s not so much where you are, but where you’re going,” surely Matt would respect a fellow martial artist? – Matt jumped out the window.
What had happened to his old college friend who was always so together and put together such stunning legal arguments?
Instead, there he went, jumping out windows to escape a verbal fight.
So Matt continued to search for the new kingpin that Foggy didn’t think even existed.
“Are you sure you’re not just being paranoid? I haven’t seen any evidence of a new kingpin.”
“I’m not being paranoid! There’s someone organizing these guys!”
“I’ve been told that the use of ‘guys’ as a general term is an example of ingrained misogyny and that there are plenty of female villains, too. You should probably use ‘people’ instead.”
“What? It’s helpful advice, and I can’t think of anything else helpful to say at this point, because I still think you’re paranoid.”
“No, I mean, fog, that’s what the new kingpin is like. He’s there. He’s everywhere. But even when I’m right there in it, it’s just a pervasive sense of him…”
“… I think that metaphor got away from you a little bit.”
That had been the end of that particular conversation.
But Matt continued to search for the phantom kingpin and Foggy attempted to hold his peace. After all, he hadn’t noticed Fisk being a criminal mastermind in the first place, so he supposed it wasn’t completely unreasonable to assume whoever came next was just as invisible. On the other hand, Foggy now worked with enough of the criminal elements in the city to know that their business plans were all pretty decentralized.
It wasn’t the kind of evidence Foggy was inclined to bring to Matt’s attention though.
Foggy’s knowledge of local criminal business structure was also almost entirely Matt’s fault, although Foggy wasn’t going to bring that up either.
After Foggy had chased Matt away from Damien, the word had apparently spread that Foggy Nelson could protect you from the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. Gang members started to come to him for help in turning state’s evidence in order get a protection deal in exchange for information before the Devil forced them to incriminate themselves.
Other lawyers started to come to him when they had clients they thought the Devil might try to attack. And as much as Foggy insisted that he couldn’t protect every random gangbanger and low-life, it turns out that in certain ways, he could.
Because after Damien, Daredevil never actually attacked anyone in Foggy’s presence or even in his hearing.
Matt had apparently tried once before giving up.
Foggy had heard the story later. He’d visited one of his clients in their apartment, and Daredevil had come to question one of his client’s roommates. The roommate had been hanging out in a neighboring apartment to give Foggy and his client some privacy. Jorge hadn’t even realized the Devil was there until he was being thrown against a wall and the Devil’s hand was over his mouth. “Don’t scream. You’re going to tell me when the next drug delivery is due, and you’re going to whisper that information to me. In exchange, I’m not going to break every bone in your body. Do you understand?”
Jorge had nodded. The Devil had removed his hand, and Jorge had screamed, “Foggy!”
The Devil had been gone before either of them even realized that Foggy hadn’t heard the scream.
All sorts of deeply shady people now tended to hang out in Foggy’s general area, which was both alarming and hilarious. It proved helpful for the various businesses that Foggy was helping to start since his entourage would follow him around and patronize them too.
How had Foggy wound up with an entourage?
The whole thing really led to even more work referrals though. Because, really? “Aren’t you organized crime? This is organized crime, right? Shouldn’t it be more, well, organized?”
“What’s that supposed to mean, funny guy!”
“Sorry! Sorry! Ignore me! Zipping my mouth right now!”
“Nah, don’t do that. What do you mean? And Deg, don’t hit him.”
“No, I want to know what he meant, for reals.”
Deg finally grunted and wandered pointedly away.
“Now, lawyer-man. What did you mean?”
Which led to a ludicrous negotiation between a couple of gangbangers about timesharing the dock made available by a bribed customs official, so that both of their gangs could import their smuggled goods without killing each other or drawing the attention of the police. They even started working together on security issues and started formal negotiations on territories and means of communication in cases of conflict.
The drug trade might go through a bit of a boom in response, but hopefully the human collateral from it would go down.
Meanwhile, because his life wasn’t ludicrous enough already, Matt’s priest friend came by to introduce himself. “Mr. Nelson? I’m Father Lantom. I’m not sure if your partner Matt Murdock has told you about me?”
“Father Lantom. Hi, how are you doing? Please call me Foggy. I’m afraid Matt’s not here right now.”
“Good afternoon, Foggy. I actually came to see you, if you have a moment.”
Foggy felt his eyebrows rise, but nodded easily enough. “Sure. Of course. Um, come on in. I hope Matt’s okay.”
“He’s fine, as far as I know. I actually wanted to speak with you about some other people. I’ve noticed an increasing presence in my church of people who are turning to religion after a life of crime.”
“Uh, that’s nice?”
“Yes, it is. What’s surprising is how many of them seem to have been converted by you.”
“Since I never see you at church, I thought I might come by to meet you.”
“Uh, I’m not sure who these people are, but I’m not Catholic.”
“I had rather thought that was the case. And yet, here we are. You are apparently known to be able to repel the devil.”
“Oh for god’s sake! Oops, sorry Father. I mean, for crying out loud! I’m a Presbyterian, and not a very good one at that. Kind of atheist at this point, really.”
“Well, you don’t need to believe in God to be doing God’s work.”
“That’s useful for you,” Foggy said rather blankly. He wasn’t sure what to make of this.
“Yes, it is,” Father Lantom smiled. Or possibly smirked. Dear god, were priests allowed to smirk?
“So, what brings you to me today?”
“I try to meet the various people who are helping out in this city so I know who to send people to when they need more earthly assistance than I can provide. But also so that they, or you, know that you can ask help in return. And not just spiritual assistance either. The Catholic Church is not without earthly power of its own.”
Foggy snorted at that understatement. “No, it’s not.”
“You’ve taken on a great deal of work recently and helped a great many people. I want to make sure you know that you are not alone. On a practical level, I want you to keep helping the people your helping and not burn out. Know that you can ask me for help if you or your clients need it.”
“Uh, thank you? I don’t think I have anything right now…”
“It’s not a time bound offer. Just keep it in mind.”
“I will. Thank you.”
And that should have been that. Except before the Lantom left, Foggy asked, “Can you offer legal sanctuary?” Because he didn’t think that was still a thing, but he wasn’t sure, and if he was going to keep the offer in mind, he needed the details.
“Not legally,” the man admitted. “But on a practical level, I still offer it.”
“I’m really beginning to wonder if there are any law-abiding people in this whole town.”
“I do not doubt there are some lawful good people in this city, just as I have no doubt there are lawful evil ones as well.”
Foggy wondered if his eyes were bugging out of his face. “You know D&D alignments?”
The middle-aged priest smiled. “Everybody has hobbies.”
“Okay. I need time to process that. Thank you for stopping by. Have a lovely day.”
“It was good to meet you as well.”
And then he was gone.
That was a very peculiar man, who had just offered Foggy’s clients a very valuable resource. He would absolutely keep it in mind if the occasion called for it, but it wouldn’t be his first choice.
The Catholic Church was very powerful and could be dangerous with that power.
At least Karen was too busy with their burgeoning workload and her own coursework to continue giving Foggy and Matt those sad, considering looks.
Or so he had thought.
Unfortunately, he had underestimated her ability to multitask.
It was only a couple of months later that she walked into his office and said, “Daredevil.”
Foggy looked up from his work, but she didn’t say anything more. “What about Daredevil?”
“Is that what happened last year between you and Matt? You found out about Daredevil?”
Foggy took a moment to accept that Karen knew about Daredevil. He wondered if she had just learned about it, or if she had known since the beginning. He wondered if it mattered.
“Oh, that. Yes.”
“That? Yeah, the super-uncomfortable shift in your and Matt’s relationship. I know it’s super dangerous and it makes me scared as anything, but he’s trying to help people.”
“I know. And I haven’t turned him in because of that, despite being fairly strongly anti-vigilante justice.”
“It’s not like the police are any good here. I can understand you being upset, but how has it become this thing where you never really speak to each other?”
“We speak to each other. We went out to the pub together just last week.”
“Yeah, all three of us. But I thought the two of you had been friends all through school.”
“Karen,” Foggy didn’t want to talk about this. Although he supposed enough time had gone by that he could if he wanted to. His head wasn’t as confused and he and Matt were beginning to be friends again, and he had other friends as well. Other things to keep his attention.
“No, I need to know. And I think you need to say it too, because it’s stupid that you’re letting this break up your friendship.”
“I’m not letting it break up our friendship. I’m reassessing what our friendship ever was.”
Karen looked taken aback at that. “He’s your friend!”
“And yet, he lied to me about something pretty fundamental to who he is.”
“Oh come on, being a vigilante is still kind of illegal. There’s a good reason to not tell anyone.”
“And I would have expected him to continue keeping that secret if it had just been him going out and being a vigilante, although I might have requested he be more competent at it, because the constant injuries are not subtle. But he literally lied about how he sees the world.”
“And what, you think he should have told you that he had super powers? Come on, Foggy. You were just telling me about the Slovakia accords and how they’re making a messy situation worse regarding the forced publicity on superpowers.”
“I don’t think mutants or other metahumans should have to register with the government. But people aren’t best friends with the government. And you know, most friendships have some equality to them: shared stories and experiences. Conversations with information flowing from both sides. Given his senses, though, Matt knows significantly more about me than I ever told him, and given his lies, I know him significantly less than I thought I did.”
“But…” Karen trailed off. She looked kind of defeated and kind of guilty. Which was just odd. She had nothing to be guilty about in this mess. She may have known about Daredevil, but it wasn’t her responsibility to tell Foggy what his friend was up to. That was Matt’s responsibility.
“I don’t hate him because he’s Daredevil. I just don’t trust him because I don’t know how to trust him anymore.”
“Yeah. I thought I knew him, and then I discovered I didn’t. And it was intentional on his part.” Just saying that felt like poking at a wound. It wasn’t open and bleeding anymore, but it still hurt.
“No, it’s not.”
“No, it wasn’t. But it will be. I’m getting over it.”
“You’re getting over our friendship?” Matt sounded heartbroken and Foggy almost jumped out of his damn skin.
Matt was in his doorway looking pale and unhappy and Karen looked guilty again.
“Of course,” Foggy said. “I’m working on my trust issues and you two decide that this is the way to get me to spill my feelings. I’m off to the library.”
“I’m sorry. I thought, I thought it was the Daredevil thing. I didn’t realize—”
“Wait, Foggy, I just, I miss you! I want my friend back—”
And Foggy was back to avoiding Matt. And Karen too this time.
Although it didn’t take much effort on his part this time, either, since the kidnappers also didn’t want him in contact with them.
Foggy woke up, sitting on a surprisingly comfortable chair at large dinner table, with two other guys watching him. He was also tied up in the oddest way he could imagine. (Not true: he could imagine fetish tying but under the circumstances really didn’t want to think on that at all.) His ankles were tied to the chair legs, and there was some sort of belt or rope tying him to both the seat and the back of the chair. But his arms and hands remained completely free.
“Okay, Lawyer man, do you know why you’re here?”
“I really, really don’t.” Foggy wondered if Matt’s hearing was good enough to hear him if or when he started screaming. There were a lot of reasons why high-end criminals like these wouldn’t care for what he’d been doing. He’d helped a lot of people get out from under their thumbs. He wasn’t sure how important any of them were in the grand scheme of criminal enterprises but he couldn’t imagine the Dons would appreciate what he was doing.
“Hmm. Well, then, you’ve got a bit of blind spot, don’t you. Good to know.”
Oh god, what was his blind spot? And how come even the word ‘blind’ now triggered a tiny bit of anger at Matt for being blind and not-blind at the same time? Before he could say anything, though, the guy continued, which was probably for the best.
“You’re here because my business and the business of the gentleman seated over there have a bit of a conflict and we decided we could try having a sort of conflict resolution, mediated discussion between us rather than starting a gang war that would just attract the Devil.”
“Oh,” said Foggy. “That’s a good idea.”
“Yeah, we thought so.”
So now his criminal clients were a lot more high-end.
It was the stupidest situation he’d ever been in, but also turned out to be not that different from any other business mediation. If you could ignore the death threats. And the complete lack of preparation he had for the first meeting.
In the first meeting he managed to insist, while still tied to a chair, that this would be a data gathering meeting only and they would schedule another meeting for the following week to actually try to accomplish something and then have monthly meetings thereafter.
And that week gave him plenty to occupy himself with as he crammed as much about mediation as possible. Matt clearly thought it was a distancing technique in which anytime he tried to apologize for that last meeting, Foggy would quiz him on mediation techniques instead. Luckily it worked as both: a distancing technique and a studying tool.
It had been several years since they’d taken that one international law / governmental mediation course, but this honestly felt like the type of mediation between two sovereign nations. Each side had their own people, armies, and industries. And none of them recognized the US government or legal system as an authority. So why, Foggy asked himself, was he mediating this as a representative of the US legal system?
It turned out that large criminal organizations still needed help with their organizations just like smaller criminal businesses. Maybe he just needed to accept that his law career was becoming deeply sketchy.
The thing was, he was still helping people.
Also, while Matt would surely have preferred that he tell him all about the new information he gained through these mediation sessions (which gangs had access to which docks during which times, etc.) he really was helping to avoid gang warfare.
And since Foggy refused to take monetary compensation for these mediation sessions, he requested that his compensation instead go towards non-interference agreements between these gangs and the various small businesses he’d helped create.
Honestly, the gang leaders seemed to be more willing to let his clients escape their past than Matt was.
At this point, though, he figured he was as good as bait for Matt’s phantom new kingpin of Hell’s Kitchen. If the guy actually existed, he would probably kidnap Foggy himself at some point.
Foggy was not looking forward to it.
But was also betting – probably his life — that the guy didn’t actually exist and Matt really was being paranoid.
Wow, did Foggy wish he weren’t betting those stakes.
In the meantime, he was still busy and still avoiding Matt, but Matt now wanted to save their friendship somehow.
His attempts at friendship were mostly extremely awkward.
Sure, they could go out to the bar, but what would they talk about? Matt would ask him how he was, and Foggy would talk about case law. Foggy would not ask how Matt was because he could see it in the bruises on his face and the limp in his step.
Sure, they could try to hang out, like they had once done, but they were both too busy to devote any real time to that without getting jittery about the things they weren’t doing.
Matt’s most successful outreach was when he asked for help with a Daredevil mission. It was actually a case where their interests and abilities intersected in a way that explicitly put them on the same side for once.
Mostly because they had a shared enemy: Stick.
Stick had returned to Hell’s Kitchen for another child from St. Agnes.
Foggy wondered, “What is it with that orphanage?”
“Super powers are increasingly common, they tend to come out of traumatic experiences, and New York has certainly experienced more than it’s fair share of those, and a lot of the surviving kids wind up at St. Agnes.”
“Well, when you say it like that, I’m kind of surprised there weren’t more than just the two of you in twenty years.”
Matt didn’t say anything.
“Oh.” There had been others. Foggy wondered if it was worth asking about them. Matt certainly wasn’t volunteering the information. He wondered how many other children Matt knew about and how many Foggy could have helped if only he had known too.
Focus on what you can change, Foggy reminded himself. And let go of what you can’t. And what he can change right now is the fate of this one child that Stick was after to recruit.
It said something about Matt’s particular level of self-hatred that he not only wanted the kid to have nothing to do with Stick’s cult or conspiracy or whatever it was, but also wanted him to have nothing to do with Matt’s own crusade either.
“So can you come with me? I can fight Stick, but I can’t get the kid to safety at the same time.”
“Sure. And do you have a plan for where this safe place I’m getting him to actually is?”
“Father Latham has agreed to take him in until Stick’s left.”
“What do you mean, and? Father Latham will take care of him, but can’t leave the church right now to get him.”
“I’m not even going to comment on being your second choice here, because not being your first choice is a lot smarter than the rest of your plan.” And Foggy was pleased that Matt had alternative backups since Foggy was never going to be very useful in Daredevil’s type of situation. Primarily because Foggy didn’t do well with violence, but a strong secondarily because he thought a lot of Matt’s plans were really stupid. He knew Matt was smarter than this. “Your plan to save a kid from being a child soldier is to hide him for a few days while the recruiter is in town? Really?”
Apparently, yes, really. “We’re running out of time!”
“For crying out loud. Okay, let’s go and rescue this poor kid. We can work out a long-term solution later.”
“Thank you,” said Matt in possibly the least appreciative tone of voice he could manage. Foggy expected he’d be testing how unappreciative his friend could be in a few hours, once they started talking about those long-term plans.
However, it turned out that he could bypass any discussion with Matt because he wound up sitting next to the kid in question while Matt and Stick fought it out.
“Hi there, Jeremiah. My name is Foggy.”
Jeremiah glared at him. Foggy sighed. Well, when in doubt or dealing with someone who did not want to talk with you, try a different angle. “Have you ever heard of Hamlet or the “to be or not to be” monologue?”
And sure enough, that changed things. At least enough that Jeremiah stopped glaring in order to roll his eyes. “Shakespeare, right? Everyone’s heard of him.”
“Yeah. It’s the second line of that of his monologue that I sometimes think of though. “Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” or to just walk away from them. It’s a tricky question. He’s facing an unpleasant situation and he’s not sure whether the strongest thing to do is to suffer through it – because no one is going to scare him off – or to refuse to deal with it – because no one is going to force him to do what he doesn’t want to do. So, you know, which is the more adult option. What do you think?”
“I don’t think I have options. So what’s the point in making a decision.”
“I think you have options.” Foggy said brightly. “Okay, they’re just not great options. You want me to tell you what they are? I’m a big believer in informed consent.” That last was a pointed statement in the direction of Stick and Matt, who had apparently reached an impasse as they tried to outwait each other, but Foggy suspected was because they both wanted to eavesdrop. Then, back to Jeremiah, “do you know what informed consent means?”
“… maybe? It’s a legal thing, right?”
“Yeah. It’s a legal thing, but it’s also something of a good-person thing. Legally, it means that someone can’t agree to a contract if they don’t know what that contract is. You have to be informed about what you’re agreeing to. In general, though, tricking someone into saying ‘yes’ to something they would normally say ‘no’ to is a pretty dick move.”
And Jeremiah was still young enough to grin at the idea of a professional adult swearing in conversation with him. It probably made him feel adult. God, Foggy felt ancient.
“Okay, so unless you say something now, I’m going to keep talking, okay? Cause the way I see it, you’ve got three options. And they’ve all got an upside and a downside.”
He paused for a moment, but Jeremiah remained quiet, but kept bright eyes on him. He seemed like a smart kid. More surprisingly, Stick and Matt also stayed quiet. They probably thought he couldn’t actually provide any third option.
“So, Stick over there wants to train you to be a bad-ass ninja assassin type and probably give you a job later on of going around the world killing people and training more bad-ass ninja assassin types. Upside is, your career path is set; downside is, it’s a kind of shitty career path, and it will likely hurt a lot. You’ll be an amazing fighter so the regular bullies won’t be able to hurt you, but you’ll also be an amazing fighter so a bunch of evil amazing fighters will probably start attacking you instead.
“Daredevil, also over there, wants to make sure you either stay in the orphanage or get adopted or fostered out with some nice family and get to spend a few more years as a kid. Upside is, you don’t get beat up by an old blind guy who’s trying to make you into a child soldier/assassin and get to explore your options for a different career path later. Like, maybe you want to be a lawyer when you grow up, like me, or a butcher, like my mom wanted me to be. You got options. Downside, you still have to put up with schoolyard bullies and an uncertain future.
“Third option, this is the Foggy Nelson special, is that there’s a school for kids with special powers, it’s up-state New York, and where most of the X-Men originally trained.”
“Hey!” Matt interrupted. Foggy hadn’t mentioned this option to Matt when they’d talked about Jeremiah.
A quick glance in his direction showed that Stick wasn’t looking any happier with this than Matt was. Foggy rather expected that was because it would be a lot harder for Stick to grab the kid from Xavier’s after Matt got distracted by some other crusade than from the orphanage. Foggy ignored them both because in this instance they were just a distraction. After a moment, Jeremiah followed his lead.
“The upside is that it’s a compromise position: you’d get training in how to use your powers and still get to hang out with other kids and play around and decide later what you want to do as an adult. The downside is that it’s a compromise position: you’d still be being trained but not as intensely and you’d still be in danger, although not as much. And then something that I don’t know if it’s an upside or a downside for you, but you’d be leaving Hell’s Kitchen. The school’s a live-in school surrounded by a nature preserve and while it’s got great internet, it’s pretty distant from any sort of urban center.”
Foggy was pleased with how he laid out the options, and he thought Jeremiah was probably capable of just picking which one he waned at this point. Yay for at least semi-informed consent!
“And those are the three options I see. Do you have any questions?”
Jeremiah looked thoughtful. It was a good sign. Then he asked, “Isn’t the to-be-or-not-to-be speech about suicide?”
Foggy manfully resisted beating his head against the wall. Stick actually barked out a laugh.
“Yes, but Hamlet didn’t have me to tell him what his options were. And suicide is kind of a terrible option.”
“Look, I know this is a crappy situation for you with three strange white guys each telling you what you should do. But, you need to make a choice.” Foggy tried not to get too intense on this, but the whole situation felt intense.
Jeremiah was feeling it too. A couple of times, he opened his mouth as if to choose before closing it again. And finally whispering, “Do I have to choose right now?”
And wow did Foggy feel like a jerk. Because, “no, actually. Let’s get you somewhere safe for a couple of days and you can think about it, okay?”
He stood up and offered his hand to Jeremiah, as if offering a man a hand-up. But then didn’t try to let go after they were both standing. Jeremiah didn’t let go either. So they walked out holding hands.
Matt and Stick started arguing in the background, but Foggy continued to ignore them. It would likely escalate to violence again pretty soon. In the meantime, Jeremiah could bunk down at Father Latham’s church for a bit to think through his options. Foggy would make sure that Father Latham knew what those options were, too, just in case Matt tried anything.
This wasn’t a perfect example of partnership and trust between him and Matt, but at least they were working together to save the same person.
Maybe it was the beginning of a new partnership, as they discovered ways they could work together more.
The following day, Matt even agreed, albeit grudgingly, that Xavier’s was a perfectly acceptable solution to Jeremiah’s future if he wanted that.
Sadly, while that agreement was in the morning, the afternoon brought one of Fisk’s prior employees looking for a criminal defense lawyer.
He was definitely guilty of everything he was accused of, plus a whole lot more, and had enough money saved to actually pay pretty well… and wanted to be fully acquitted.
“Even if you were being blackmailed, you wouldn’t be considered innocent. And you weren’t being blackmailed, you were being bribed. That really doesn’t make you innocent.”
“But I couldn’t say no! How could I say no, when they were offering me my family’s lives?”
“Were your former bosses the ones putting your family in danger?”
“No, my family is in Syria. But they offered to help me bring them over the US if I worked for them.”
“Did they ever actually do anything to help your family?”
“It was always after the next big deal.”
“Of course it was,” Foggy found himself muttering.
“I need to help them to safety, and I can’t do that if I’m in jail. Please!”
Defending this guy from the legal charges would actually be fairly straight forward. He had been a personal employee of Fisk’s, one of the guards at the house beaten up by Daredevil, and likely had done a variety of dirty deeds for Fisk, but Foggy could easily spin the story as an unsuspecting working-class guy used and thrown away by the unscrupulous rich.
That he could do. He was trained to do that. Adnan even had enough money to pay Foggy’s full fee for it.
But Adnan only had the money because he’d been saving up to bring his family to safety.
And a single criminal case settled wouldn’t fix the ultimate problem, which was that Adnan had a vulnerability which would allow the next corrupt rich person to make use of his skills. He needed to be defended not just this once, but from all future occurrences.
And how had Foggy, who’d always just wanted to make a good living, somehow turned his business into preventing repeat customers?
But going down the rabbit hole of defending this guy’s life, both past and future, would just eat up too much of Foggy’s time, because he was too damn busy.
Which was what he’d originally been hoping to achieve, but his time had since filled up so completely that he hadn’t had time to brood in months.
He couldn’t afford the time needed to defend just this one person. But…
“How many people in the city or hereabouts are in the same position as you?”
“Uh, what? A bunch of us?”
“With family in Syria, who are being bribed with the offer to get their family retrieved, but it’s not happening?”
“Yeah, a bunch of us. Although not all from Syria.”
“Can you make me a list of people you know, how many are in their families, and what cities those families are currently in?”
Because oh god, Foggy really was beginning to buy into all this cooperative stuff he was helping people with.
And then he had to track down the human traffickers.
When he’d finally managed a meeting, they’d looked at him like he was crazy.
Foggy was pretty sure he agreed with them.
“We don’t rescue people, you know.” The guy laughed. “We pretty much do the exact opposite. For money.”
“Yeah, I know. But you’ve got the skills and the know-how. So the question becomes, what motivates you: the misery or the money?”
God this was a terrible idea. And those poor families were going to have deal with these guys. Please, please let him not have just sent them to their deaths.
But he took on Adnan’s case, got him a short jail term and a long parole. And then, rather than helping him keep on the straight and narrow, he’d actually introduced him to more criminals performing illegal (but not immoral!) human smuggling.
Adnan should be out of jail by the time the smugglers returned with his family as well as the families of many of his prior coworkers.
But the rest of the cases just kept coming too. Somehow Foggy hadn’t expected this to happen. He’d planned to have a traditional law firm where he built his reputation up by taking what clients he could, before reaching a point where he was successful enough that he could turn some away. He hadn’t expected his reputation to build so quickly or the number of clients to avalanche to badly and their stories to be so heart-rending.
He took the hard luck cases and the people wanting to change. He took the clients who were struggling to pull themselves out of the gutter, literally in one case.
The social workers who had once looked at him with glee when they found him at the library now saw his approach with a wince knowing that it was their turn to go above and beyond the call of duty.
The library was a booming hub of social improvement and the librarians were beyond smug. The childcare center at the thrift store had now ran both a literacy program and a book club. The whorehouse had an extra room they kept for helping people detox and go through withdrawal (it wasn’t cheap, but it was less expensive than either a drug addiction or an official drug rehab center.) The grocery and the church had come to a complex agreement of shared services regarding a food pantry and a safe place for laying low. There was a “scavenger service” that drove all over the five New York buroughs dumpster diving behind warehouses and box stores and university dormitories.
Half the local economy was an exchange of goods and services that never approached cash and most of it was at least a tiny bit legally questionable. But that was apparently where Foggy’s career path was going.
His cases were complex and difficult and demanded justice that was equally complex.
His social life actually expanded as he invited other local attorneys out for drinks (his favorite bar was another small business he’d helped create and thus gave him discounts) so that he could refer cases their way. Karen had been excited at first to hear that drinking at the bar was now part of her workload.
That excitement hadn’t lasted long once she realized it really was for work purposes.
But now their firm had a growing network of other firms they worked with and referred to, which just built their reputation even further.
Unfortunately, there were still the occasional cases that were too massive for any of the local Hell’s Kitchen lawyers to take, but also too uniquely problematic to be referred to one of the larger Manhattan law firms.
He did what he could when those came up.
The obviously lethal mutant approached him when he was getting groceries from his deeply questionable co-op grocer. A lot of his shadier customers still didn’t like coming into his office and visible mutants weren’t always safe just walking on the streets. The grocery’s Church-sponsored sanctuary space was a boon to those who couldn’t even make it to the Church building.
Just knowing that the man didn’t feel safe reaching out made Foggy want to help him. But it also meant that the whole system was broken, and Foggy didn’t have the capacity to fix the legal system.
Not for such a big fix as this mutant and all the others like him needed.
He couldn’t do it. But he knew someone who maybe could. Maybe. And that was only if he actually agreed to it, which was another long shot.
This was going to be unpleasant, Foggy just knew. And it wouldn’t even work. He knew that, too.
But sometimes a person had to try, if only so he could reassure himself that he had tried everything before giving up. So here he was, trying. Back at Columbia University, waiting in line with a bunch of students for Professor Durgan’s office hours, since Foggy had never known the man to meet with anyone outside of those hours.
Durgan was the professor that everyone had a love-hate relationship with. With the possible exception of Matt who whole-heartedly loved professors who gave them insane amounts of work made all the worse by not a single bit of it being extraneous busy work. If something needed repetition to learn, then Professor Durgan expected you to do that repetition in your own time. He ran clinics that made you want to kill yourself from overwork and yet also stopped you from killing yourself because if you did then the work wouldn’t get done and it was too important to not get done! His focus was on human rights.
Honestly, it was pretty good preparation for Foggy’s current situation.
Now he could look at the poor, beleaguered students and realize that they thought this was bad but that it only lasted for a semester.
Foggy didn’t have any end in sight, not even a plateau. Just an increasing number of cases and issues that needed addressing now, now, now. It’s possible he hadn’t quite thought through the long-term implication of his strategy, which has started with just avoiding thinking about his personal life. Now his professional life was only getting more complex.
“You don’t look like one of my students.”
“I’m not. At least not any more. I’m Foggy. Foggy Nelson. I graduated in 2012. I’ve got my own firm now, Nelson & Murdock. But that’s not why I’m here. I’m here because I want your advice.”
Foggy took a quick breath, before plowing ahead because he knew he had five minutes or less before the professor kicked him out. “I have a client who’s a visible mutant with powers that classify him as lethally armed at all times; his existence is currently illegal because New York isn’t an open carry state. Because of that, his only previous employment has been with organized crime. I’ve got his file here.” He put the file on Durgan’s desk but kept his own hand on it.
“He was one of Wilson Fisk’s people and currently he’s a wanted man. He doesn’t feel like he has any options, and I don’t think the options I can give him are good enough. He wants to be legal. Can you review the case and give me your opinion?”
Durgan looked at Foggy, looked at the file, and said, “And where is your partner in all of this?”
“You said you had a firm, Nelson & Murdock. Where is Mr. Murdock?”
“This isn’t his case.” Foggy kept his face unflinching, because that was always going to be the question. Why was one partner in a law firm going for external assistance without his partner helping first. He wasn’t going to answer that question though.
Foggy had to consciously think about not shifting, which mostly made him itchy and want to scratch instead, which wasn’t any better. Was, in fact, probably worse.
“Leave the file and come back next week.”
“Thank you, sir!” It had actually worked. “Thank you! I’ll be back in a week!”
And he got out before Durgan could change his mind.
He left, planning to return next week at the same office hours.
He was not expecting Durgan to show up at his office four days later.
“Professor Durgan! This is soon!” His stomach sank, because it was too soon. Please let Durgan not be coming to tell him to drop the case. “I mean, please come in and let Karen get you some coffee. I need to get a few things sorted out and then I’ll be right with you.”
Because Foggy was swamped, but if Prof. Durgan had actually left his office to come here, surely it had to be more significant than a simple rejection of help.
“Okay, Karen, here’s one set of example paperwork, here’s the reference text, and here’s the other five businesses that need the same paperwork run up. You get to draft them all, in your on-the-job paralegal training. Have fun!”
Foggy forced a teasing grin as he dropped the stack of papers off with Karen and then hurried into their conference room.
Karen glared at him viciously because she was currently in the middle of working on one of her accounting assignments, while also on hold with a bank about a business loan for one of their other clients, and had a stack of additional files that needed attention waiting on her desk as well.
She loved him, really, Foggy was sure.
Or she had not yet developed laser eyes a la Cyclops of the X-Men.
One or the other, really.
“So, Professor, what brings you down to our humble abode? Have you had a chance to read the file?”
“Hmm, I’ve read it. I have my notes and some references here. I also wanted to see what you and Murdock were up to with this law firm. You seem to take very different cases.”
Matt had been one of Durgan’s favorites, to the extent the man had favorites, but Foggy hadn’t expected this level of interest. As much as he really didn’t want to talk about Matt, though, Foggy knew how to promote their firm.
“Have you read the news about Matt’s latest case? He’s developing quite the reputation for taking on complex frame jobs. At this point, the opposition sees him coming and starts questioning their own clients a lot more closely. I’m sorry he’s not in right now.”
“I can’t say I’m surprised by Mr. Murdock’s flair for melodrama in all things, including his career path. However, I have been surprised by the rumors floating around about your career path and thought I’d get the word from the horse’s mouth, as it were.”
“Huh. I’m not sure what rumors you’re listening to, but I can’t say much of my work is particularly sensational.”
“The work itself, maybe not, but the effects appear to be… hmm, transformative.”
Foggy felt his eyebrows raise at what was undoubtedly a compliment from the professor he least expected to ever receive a compliment from. “Thank you. Um, what has the gossip been?”
“The rumor mill has it that you’ve settled in as a small-town attorney,” which was not a compliment at all coming from a renowned law school professor at a world-class university, “in a massively corrupt urban environment,” also not a compliment, “and are bringing legitimacy to the masses in a way that not even most legal aid organizations manage.” And that was a compliment.
“I, I’m just trying to keep the firm going?”
“Mr. Murdock’s cases are quite flashy and make excellent headlines, but they don’t pay out particularly well, do they? And I’d guess the vast majority of his time is spent on very few actual clients.”
“They’re important cases that deserve the time devoted to them.” Foggy was not going to let anyone denigrate their law firm.
“Mr. Murdock’s brilliance lies in being able to track extremely complex situations and find the exact point at which to topple arguments and conspiracies, with only the effort of a single man.”
“He really is amazing.”
“Yes, in a flashy solo-type of way.”
“I thought you liked him?”
“I did. Every year there’s some brilliant student who makes teaching a delight, and Mr. Murdock was a bright point in his cohort. But what happens after the students graduate is the real test. Mr. Murdock is continuing to be entertaining and flashy. You appear to be changing the world, one co-op at a time.”
“Where do you get your information?” Because, honestly, where was this coming from?
“I’m a lawyer: I have friends in very high and very low places. But while curiosity brought me down here, I have two goals. First,” he pulled out the Blue Flame case file but then just held it, “to tell you that I’ll take this case personally, if the client will accept my representation and you can provide me temporary office space. I’m assuming that Mr. Flame and the Columbia University campus police would not appreciate each other.”
“Yes!” Foggy tried not to yell. “Yes, absolutely. Thank you. Thank you so much!”
“It’s a fascinating case. And you knew exactly what you were doing when you offered it to me, didn’t you.”
“I wish I was that capable. It was a Hail Mary pass at best.”
“Well, it worked. So congratulations on that.”
“We’ll see if you’re still properly appreciative when I’m in and out of your office all the time.”
“I think I’ll manage. Do you want to arrange your first meeting with Blue Flame now or do you want to tell me your second goal in coming down?”
Durgan looked rather disturbingly smug when he said, “My second goal is to ask you this: as someone who is willing to put in the hours to get things done, what would you do with a clinic’s worth of law students?”
Foggy took a moment just to breathe.
He’d never really considered where Durgan got the cases he used for his student clinics.
But god, having that many man-hours of legal assistance available with Durgan’s supervision, which of the pipe dreams could he finally follow through on? He set up co-ops for prostitutes and business partnerships for shady businesses and taught community classes on legal rights and responsibilities, and he kept on trying to take his guilty clients and make them just a bit more legit, one step at a time.
But there was one big sector that he was terrified of and furious about and that he knew Matt as Daredevil continued to fight and would one day die due to, and which would probably be Foggy’s own downfall as well, because he’d gotten himself involved with them without an exit: “Human trafficking.”
Durgan had his reserved face on, waiting for the presentation.
“The intersection of human trafficking, illegal aliens, and refugees.” Foggy couldn’t quite believe he was saying this out-loud. It wasn’t realistic at all, but if anyone could figure out how to manage it, it would be Professor Durgan and his obsessive overworked clinic of law students. “There’s a refugee crisis going on right now. People are fleeing from war torn countries while the countries around them, including the United States of America, attempt to close their borders and turn them back to their deaths. Human traffickers are preying on the refugees, and some refugees are even making use of the human traffickers. We have a system where people are illegal. Their existence. It’s not just mutants. It’s millions of refugees and massive communities.”
“That’s too unfocused an issue.”
“I know. However, there’s a shipment of smuggled refugees due in soon, the families of some of my clients. If I had a clinic of student lawyers, I’d deliver as many smuggled refugees into their hands as I possibly could and expect them to make their status legal.”
Durgan looked at him with cold appraisal for a moment and then finally grinned in a terrifyingly shark-like way.
“You said ‘as many smuggled refugees as I possibly could’. I’m going to need a more definite number for that, along with arrival date and countries of origin.”
“Is this real?”
“Oh yes. I won’t ask about how you get them into the country. I won’t risk myself or my students with any direct contact with the traffickers themselves unless it’s representing their cases. But once their passengers arrive, I’ll make sure their legal statuses are defended.”
And here was where Foggy actually managed to genuinely surprise his old professor. Because Foggy was able to stand up and go over to one of his filing cabinets and pull out the twenty-two case files he had already set up for refugee families already on their way.
He set those down on the desk.
“These are all refugees currently on their way. They’ll be landing in three weeks. Their safety was being used as blackmail by Wilson Fisk to maintain control of their family members. The goal here is not punishment of crimes but to avoid repetition of those crimes. Give these people a chance to be legal residents and they’ll take it.”
Durgan nodded his understanding and Foggy had the uncomfortable realization that he and Durgan were interacting as equals.
Then Durgan got that sharp look in his eyes and said, “This is why you and Murdock are splitting your cases. He does like to punish the evil-doer.”
Foggy sighed and shrugged.
“You’re taking the harder road trying to rehabilitate the evil-doer.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s the harder road,” said Foggy thinking of all of Matt’s bruises and the bags under his eyes from too many sleepless nights.
“Take it from an attorney with decades more experience than you. It is infinitely easier to focus on punishment. But better in the long-run to focus on rehabilitation.”
“Professor Durgan is taking on one of your cases?” Matt sounded absolutely flummoxed. Foggy couldn’t exactly blame him for that reaction. He didn’t even bother to feign taking offense.
“I know, right? Crazy! Also, I gave him your office to work in today. You don’t normally come in on Mondays. So, how do you feel about working from home? Or just getting some rest, Matt, because god, you don’t look great.”
“Unfortunately, I really do need to be here today. I have a meeting with my own client,” Matt spoke innocently. “I’ll just share your office.”
“Ah,” Foggy said.
“What? Isn’t that okay anymore? We are partners after all…” Matt pressed the issue.
After a moment, Foggy agreed, “No, of course it’s fine. Let’s get you settled in.”
And now, Matt looked appropriately suspicious. Because while it would have been fine to share offices when they were first starting, Foggy now went to some lengths to ensure that Matt didn’t get too much information on his cases.
He quickly knocked on Matt’s office door, Durgan’s temporary office.
“Can I interrupt for a moment? I just need to grab some equipment out of this office.”
Foggy quickly grabbed Matt’s disability aids.
“Also, I’m going to be heading out to the library for a bit. I’ll have my cell phone on me though and let Karen know if you need anything.”
“Hmm,” said Durgan.
Foggy knew that contemplative noise, and was determined to not think about it. He set up Matt’s equipment in his own office, made sure he left his file cabinet keys with Karen rather than in his office drawer, and left.
Matt looked crestfallen.
Honestly, he should feel embarrassed that he thought such a basic trap would actually work on Foggy.
He rolled his eyes as he left, and then spent the next three hours being remarkably productive at the library since he was off his schedule and no one expected him to be there so he could concentrate without interruptions.
When children’s story hour started, he decided to head back to the office.
Once he got there, he wished he had stuck it out with the toddler brigade.
Matt was telling Durgan about his cases, and Foggy mostly tuned it out. He always kept up to date on Matt’s cases in case he got injured badly enough that Foggy would have to take them over at a moment’s notice. It wasn’t great that their discussion of confidential cases was audible in the reception area, but there was no one currently there aside from Karen and Foggy.
Then Durgan said, “I didn’t expect you to play softball with your cases, Murdock.”
“What? I’m not…”
“You’re taking all the easy ones and Nelson is taking all the hard ones. I looked into this firm before agreeing to take a client for Nelson.”
“My cases are not easy.”
“Aren’t they? When was the last time you presented a morally ambiguous case?”
Foggy really didn’t want to be hearing this. Clearly he needed to stop for a coffee after all. Who cared about his budget anyway?
Given the gist of the conversation, Matt might have not even noticed his brief presence back in the office.
But while getting coffee he saw Brett and thought, he didn’t like secrets. They just never really benefitted anyone. Making sure everyone with a stake in a situation knew what was going on was to everyone’s benefit. Screw secrecy.
Luckily, Officer Brett Mahoney was walking the streets, and he could just pop up and keep the conversation casual. “Hey Brett, what are your thoughts about legal vs moral.”
“Oh god, Foggy, what are you trying to get me into?”
“It’s just there’s something pretty illegal going down and I’m involved, but I swear it’s for the greater good!”
“Umm… human trafficking?”
And Brett lost the hint of good humor he normally had hidden under his grumpiness. He was now deadly serious. “You’d better have a really good explanation for why I shouldn’t take you in to interrogation right now.”
And Foggy had to match that seriousness if he wanted to avoid arrest, much less get Brett’s support in this. “A lot of Fisk’s men were being coerced because their families were living in refugee camps in the Middle East. They thought they needed the help of someone like Fisk in order to get their families to safety.”
“And how does this bring us to human trafficking?”
“Human traffickers have been hired to find their families and bring them here.”
“There are so many things wrong with that statement.”
“I know.” Foggy winced.
“And why are you telling me this?”
“Because,” Foggy sighed. “Because it’s your city, too. Plus, I want to know if there’s a police raid scheduled for any of the docks on Thursday.”
“I’m not a dirty cop!”
“Then why are you asking me that! Why are you telling me this!”
“Because I’m setting up a meeting between a bunch of violent criminals, a bunch of innocent civilians, and a bunch of social reformers, and while the violent criminals deserve to be arrested, the civilians deserve a chance at free life and the social reformers deserve any support I can give them. And because I trust you to do what’s right with the information I give you.”
That was the real hook, Foggy knew. There was nothing quite like someone trusting you to make you go along with their plans. If he’d tried to hide when and where the delivery was happening, Brett would have searched for it. But since Foggy just told him a time and place, Brett would be a lot less likely to betray that trust. It was a gamble.
“This is a step down a really slippery slope.”
“Then we’d both better keep our footing careful. But for this once, can I trust that they’ll be safe.”
“You’ll take me with you.”
“Uh… you want to be part of this?”
“No, I really don’t. But just hearing about it has already made me involved. So if I’m involved, I’d better see with my own eyes that you really are smuggling in refugees and not slaves.”
“Yeah. Okay. Come by the office at 8pm on Thursday.”
“I’ll be there. And I’ll have left a note behind if I don’t return.”
“Yeah, yeah. Better safe than sorry. Thanks!”
He headed back to his office and by the time he arrived Durgan had left for the day and Matt was moping.
It occurred to Foggy, if he really was going to be against secrecy, then here was a good time to start with Matt too. Durgan had even pre-tenderized the guy for Foggy. And Matt had reached out to him to help Jeremiah, maybe it was time for Foggy to return the favor, especially since so many other people were already involved as well.
“Hey Matt, can I borrow you Thursday night. I’m working on my Punjabi but I could use your Spanish, too, especially since I imagine a lot of them will be speaking Farsi, and I figure two people are better than one when trying to communicate via charades.”
“I can’t say I’ve got much skill at charades, Foggy.”
“Yeah, well, you’re probably still not any worse than I am, so how about it?”
“Who are these Farsi-speakers we’re going to meet and try to talk to in Spanish-Punjabi-English pidgin?”
“Yeah, I’ve got a couple of legal clinics and a couple of halfway houses on standby to take them in and try to get them settled, but we’re going in as lawyers and trying to avoid ICE agents until we’ve got their legal defenses ready.”
“We? Have you even done any immigration law since school?”
“Yes, I have! And I got his work visa all sorted out, too!”
“So, one case?”
“Yeah, just the one.”
“And now there are how many?”
“I’m not sure, but they came across in shipping containers. Father Lantam and Claire are coming too, to help provide immediate care.”
“Hmm.” Matt looked dubious, but showed up at eight on Thursday to walk with him and Brett to the docks.
There were a lot of people already there. Most of them Foggy even recognized, which was reassuring. And none of them looked like cops on a sting operation, which was also reassuring.
“You said they were refugees,” Matt muttered in his ear.
“Uh, they are? Are you hearing something different?” Because god, Foggy did not want to admit to Matt that he had set this up and if it got messed up then he probably would have to admit to being the leader in order to fix it. He would do it if necessary, he just really hoped he wouldn’t have to. Not to mention, he really wanted it all to succeed on its own merit.
Because virtue may be its own reward, but he was really hoping this scenario would demonstrate that helping people could also be rewarding with a perfectly decent livelihood.
“These are human traffickers,” Matt hissed into Foggy’s ear. “These are not rescue workers.”
“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter,” Foggy hissed back. “They’re the ones who knew the smuggling routes to get people past customs. The people being smuggled are refugees.”
“They’re making money off human suffering!”
“They’re a self-supporting underground railroad!”
“They’re a what?”
“Listen, Matt. Listen! Listen to who they are and where they’re going. There’s a refugee crisis going on right now. It’s been in the news for months. People are suffering and dying and the government is returning them to their home countries to be tortured and killed!”
“… This isn’t just one shipment, is it?”
“The traffickers, yes, they used to traffick in unwilling humans, but they also know the routes and ways to smuggle people. And it turns out to be easier to smuggle willing people and we’ve set up way-stations to get them to safety and get their legal status sorted out at different clinics across the country, once they’re here safely. No, it’s not legal, and no, there are still some deeply problematic issues here, but these people are scared of their governments, not the smugglers who are saving their lives. So just shut up for now and let this play out.”
And thankfully Matt shut up, because by then they were in the crowd.
“Rabbi, good to see you. Imam, it’s good to see you, too, but are you sure? If we’re caught, you’ll be the first to be labeled a terrorist.”
“Probably true, but none of the rest of us are far behind.”
“Can’t forget the US tradition of anti-semitism. Or anti-papal deference for that matter.”
“And if we refrain from doing what is right for fear of human judgment, we’d be in the wrong line of work. That is for the politicians.”
“Thanks ever so much,” said the city council member.
“Thank you all for coming,” Foggy said. “I know this is pretty sketchy, but this is our city and our people and we need to help them. The police will be staying away for one night, so are you ready?”
“Welcoming the poor and ministering the sinners is a shared calling for most of us here. So let’s get on with it. The trucks are waiting.”
“Are you sure the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen won’t interrupt this?”
“Not tonight at least.” Foggy grinned mostly to cover for the grimace at Matt’s suddenly painfully tight grip.
“If we’re doing God’s work,” Matt said, with his own forced smile, “I don’t suppose the Devil will appear.”
“He’d better not be here,” one of the traffickers growled.
But even that threat was merely another bit of small talk as they all waited for the shipping containers to be slowly lifted off the ship and brought onto steady ground in the darkness of night. The containers were opened and suddenly stumbling out were people. Men and women and children, and it was heartbreaking to hear the cries of welcome and relief.
Foggy walked among them, counting out numbers and overseeing the transfer of payments. Signing off on his checklist and getting signatures to show that all the refugees were accounted for, all the traffickers were being paid, and that every single person had an envelope that contains business cards for all the social resources available.
“This is just the start, you know, right? You’re out of immediate danger, but now comes the bureaucracy.”
“I know, I know, but thank you, I can see my family and I will know they are not dead yet.”
In between meeting the new refugees, Matt asked him quietly, “These are the cases you’re giving Durgan’s clinic?”
“Yeah. You can see why I couldn’t keep them myself.”
“Wow. Just, yeah, I can see that. His students are going to hate you.” Matt sounded impressed.
It was a long night and by the end of it Foggy was drained. The initial adrenaline was gone, and he felt empty and kind of depressed because this was just the beginning. He would be entering a massive legal quagmire that might well rip these families apart again. But at least for now, they were safe and together.
And he’d had extra packets to give to two of the families.
The first was business papers for a small restaurant in an abandoned strip mall, with agreements from the landlord waiving rent for the first three months, delivered to a woman who’s husband had assured Foggy could cook like a dream, while the husband would manage the restaurant itself, ordering the ingredients through the grocery co-op.
The second was business papers for a small tailoring shop in the same strip mall for the father-in-law of another family. The thrift shop had agreed to give him all of the clothes that were too damaged to be sold as is to see what he could do with them.
Maybe those businesses would be successful, maybe not, but he’d had them prepared just in case.
He was so tired he was barely able to keep his eyes open on the way back to his apartment. He wasn’t sure how Matt managed to stay up so many nights.
Thinking of Matt though, Matt was still walking beside him as he’d done all night.
“You introduced me as your law partner, Matt Murdock.”
“You never used to say it that way.”
“You never used to say ‘law partner’. A year ago, you’d have said, ‘this is my partner, Matt.’”
“Oh yeah, it was confusing people, so I switch it up.”
He was too tired to continue the conversation. Silence fell again until they parted at Foggy’s apartment door. “Thanks for coming with me tonight.”
“Thank you for inviting me, Foggy.”
He smiled wearily, without even wondering if Matt was able to sense it or not. It was too late to think. He was too tired.
He went to bed and slept for a glorious seven hours.
Matt was actually in the office that afternoon too, when Foggy finally showed up. Maybe it meant that he hadn’t gone out Daredeviling after they separated.
He was dressed up as if he were going to court, even though Foggy knew Matt’s legal schedule as well as his own and there were no court appointments for today. If he didn’t know better, he’d think that Matt had actually dressed up in one of his charm-the-judge suits for their impending conversation. Which was just too odd to even really think about, so Foggy didn’t.
So many cases! Thank god for Durgan and his clinic students!
For a while they actually worked together in companionable silence and it was nice. It felt like college again.
Matt’s tone was non-judgmental when he said, “You could be importing terrorists, you realize that, right?”
“There is always that risk with any system. We have done what we can, the NGOs and the for-profits and me and the legal clinics, to bring in people who genuinely want to start a new life here.”
“And you think you can’t be fooled?”
“All tests come with the chance of false negatives as well as the chance of false positives. We don’t want to let in terrorists, but we also don’t want to abandon the innocent to die.” Foggy had worked with too many of their families to just write these refugees off as too risky. He couldn’t even pretend to impartiality on this point. “And currently the government is doing it wrong.”
“And you think you can do it so much better?” Now Matt was being genuinely nasty. Deriding. Foggy had dealt with enough bullies over the years to have developed an abiding hatred for that tone of voice. He wondered what Matt even wanted out of this conversation.
“You know, I’ve been thinking about vigilantes recently. For obvious reasons. Because they’re violent and they’re masked, and those are both things I take issue with. But here’s what they all have in common, they look at something wrong in the world and say “this needs to be fixed and I’m the one to fix it.” Now there’s some hubris for you. There are systems in place to deal with crime, even super-powered crime, but the vigilantes don’t turn to the system and expect the correct thing to be done. Instead they stand up against apathy and delegation and the paralysis of choice and declare, this problem, this is what I will fix. And that, that is something to admire. That is something to aspire to. That is something I can try to accomplish.”
“That’s not…” Matt tried to interject.
Foggy ignored the interruption, “I’ll never put on a mask, and I’ll never try to fix my problems with my fists, but I can stand up when I see a problem and do my best to fix it.”
It was what he did. Or he tried to do. And sometimes he won and sometimes he lost.
Sometimes he won by helping improve his clients’ lives. Sometimes he failed by saving the wrong person.
“He killed two people and injured a dozen more,” Brett said a month later.
“One of the men off that boat. One of the men I helped allow into the country.”
Foggy didn’t ask if Brett was certain. There was too much stifled guilt and muffled anger in Brett’s face to not be certain. “Do you have his name?”
“I have a picture.”
And sure enough, that was a picture of one of the rescues placing the bomb. Foggy knew his brother, Joram; knew where that family lived; knew what Brett must be here for. “Will you let me come with you to bring him in?”
Or maybe he didn’t know what Brett was thinking, because suddenly Brett looked relieved. And he asked, “You’ll let me arrest him?”
“Brett, he killed two people and injured a dozen more. You just told me.”
“Yeah, but you smuggled him into the country.”
“I helped him get another chance. And this is what he chose to do with that chance. I’ll defend him if he wants me to, but only to reach a suitable punishment for his actions. I’m not going to try to get him off.”
“I wasn’t sure how far down that slippery slope you might have gone.”
“Not that far. I still believe in the rule of law.”
It was still hard. Hard to call Joram and tell him he needed to bring his brother to the police station to be arrested. Hard to call Melodi, the student lawyer who was still working on the bomber’s legal status documents, and let her know the change in status.
And it was stupidly hard to listen to Matt say “I told you so.”
Because the thing was, Foggy knew it was bound to happen eventually. He wasn’t an idiot who thought that all of the people he helped were virtuous saints. He was a practical man who knew that there were always some false negatives and some false positives.
“That guy set off a bomb that killed two people and injured ten more.”
“And he was one of yours.”
“I know that too”
“You're importing terrorists and you don't even care!”
“I care! But you know what? He was one guy on a boat load of 52 people. Yes, he was malicious and I wish I hadn't brought him into this country. But you know what? I'm not going to regret saving those 51 other people because they don't deserve to be labeled with his guilt.”
"You don't know that they're not just as guilty!”
“And you don't know that the twelve people he injured weren't just as guilty. Them being victims doesn't make them innocent!”
“Don't you dare blame the victims here!”
“I'm not blaming the victims! I'm saying that being victims isn't the thing that makes them innocent. The fact that they didn't set off a bomb is what makes them innocent. And that is the same fact that makes those 51 other refugees innocent. They didn't set off a bomb either!”
“But those twelve victims were attacked by someone they should never have come into contact with!”
“And those fifty-one refugees should have been left to the mercy of him and all the others like him?”
“They weren't our problem until you made them our problem.”
“And when did you stop being a defense attorney and start working for the prosecution? When did you stop paying attention to defending people and decided you liked attacking more?”
“When did you decide that defending the guilty was better than defending the innocent?”
“If you're too stupid to see the difference between defending a population from the prejudice that labels them all as guilty and defending a specific individual who is actively guilty, then you've taken too many hits to the head.”
They yelled at each other and Matt disappeared and Foggy went with Brett to pick up the bomber and take him to jail. Joram was crying even as he restrained his brother for the police.
It was the start of a series of long days.
The work that used to distract him from his issues now just drove them home all the more.
And Matt was never in the office, throwing himself fully into his vigilante efforts.
Foggy continued to work long days and worry that he was setting himself up to die at his desk of a heart attack at age 40. At least it mostly allowed him to sleep when he did get home.
It had been a long day and Foggy was glad to finally head home at only 11pm. Why couldn’t these meetings be scheduled during regular business hours like sane businesses did? Why, oh why, did they always have to be in the late evenings?
It was late and dark and maybe once Foggy would have been nervous walking these streets, but not anymore. Now they felt like home. Even the shadows and the criminals. He knew them and they knew him. He helped them as best he could and helped their families even when he wouldn’t stop them from facing the consequences of their own actions.
The city may be crime ridden but it was still his city and he wanted it to be safe and the city’s people returned the favor.
It was a good feeling.
There was even a refreshing breeze, for all it smelled like garbage. It was still refreshing after so long in a stuffy meeting.
Then he was grabbed and dragged into an alley and pinned against a wall. Foggy considered that he should know better.
“Did you think I wouldn’t find out?” Daredevil growled.
“DID YOU THINK I WOULDN’T FIND OUT?”
“For god’s sake, Matt, tone it down a notch, give me a chance to recover from the heart-attack you just about gave me, and then maybe you can ask a question that actually makes sense.”
It had been a long day and seriously, Foggy just wanted to drink a beer and then go to bed, but it looked like it was coffee time instead.
“Okay, I’m going to get a bottle of Starbucks Frappuccino from that convenience store, and I’m not offering you one unless you take off that ridiculous fetish mask. Then I’ll be ready to talk. Okay?”
Matt glared at him, still holding him against the no-doubt dirty alley wall. Foggy didn’t bother to struggle. Finally Matt let go and stepped back. “I’ll be watching you.”
Foggy was way too tired for this. He went into the store, got a couple of Starbuck’s drinks. One went into his jacket pocket and the other he opened and took a long drink from. Then back into the fray.
“Okay, what was your question again?”
“Where have you been, Foggy?” Daredevil was back to growling.
“Oh my god. Really? You do realize we have an office secretary, right? Karen knows my whole schedule. You could have just asked her. But since apparently you didn’t, I will tell you: I was at a business mediation meeting. It’s held monthly. It’s every third Tuesday.”
“Business mediation. Held at night.”
“God, I know. Why do they do this to me? I wish I could transfer it to you, since you’re all night owl-y anyway, but you’re crap at these kinds of mediations.”
“STOP LYING TO ME!”
“STOP SHOUTING! Christ, it’s been a long day. Also, can’t you hear lies? I thought that was a thing you could do.”
“Who’s the new Kingpin of Hell’s Kitchen, Foggy?”
“There’s a new one? This day just keeps getting better and better. And by better, I mean worse.”
“Who’s the new Kingpin? Tell me you don’t know.” There really was something weird about Matt’s voice. He sounded genuinely upset, not just the pure anger Foggy was used to when dealing with ‘Daredevil’.
Foggy took a moment to really look at Matt’s face. Studied it for a bit and decided that something was seriously wrong. It was time to get back into professional gear, and be extremely precise with his language.
“I don’t know who the new kingpin is. Prior to you telling me just now that there was a new kingpin, I was unaware of the existence of such an individual. I have seen no evidence that such an individual exists.”
“You’ve seen no evidence of such an individual? Really?” the sarcasm was thick, but only confused Foggy more.
“Uh, yes, really. I sadly know a lot about what all is happening in the crime world in town. I don’t know about any crime lord.”
“For god’s sake, Foggy, listen to yourself talk! You just came from a meeting with all the crime lords of New York! You know all the crimes that are happening here! You set the laws, and those who break your rules, you force to confess to the police!”
That was about all he felt capable of for a moment.
“I’m the new kingpin?”
“Oh my god! Wait, if I’m the new kingpin, you’re my heavy!”
“What?” Matt sounded taken aback.
“No, really. All the other crime bosses would treat me like the Kingpin of Hell’s Kitchen only if there is no better candidate available. I would be the wimpiest crime boss ever. I don’t even like to watch fights; I really, really don’t want to be in any. I’d fold like a cheap something-that-folds if I ever went up against a real crime boss. But you keep on scaring them off, my putative competition. Leaving only the wimpiest crime boss to ever boss crime as the representative of Hell’s Kitchen crime. Just wow.”
“Foggy this is serious!”
“Seriously crazy, you mean. I am not a kingpin type. At most, I’m a lynchpin. I’m a coordinator, making sure all the gangs don’t get into conflicts and have open communication.”
“You have to stop!”
“I’m not going to just disappear on my clients!”
“You have to!”
“Well, I’m not going to.”
Silence settled. Matt looked belligerent under his mask. Foggy was too tired to get passionate about it all right now, but he certainly wasn’t going to budge on this issue. Maybe he was helping criminals be more competent in their crimes, but he was also helping them be less violent and more productive.
“So, what are you going to do then?”
“Well, now that we’ve figured out what’s going on, what are you planning on doing with that information?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I mean, you’re still here, and you are still masked. So there are three options. One: you leave. Two: you take your mask off. Three: you treat me like the crime boss you apparently think I am.”
Matt started pacing around.
And possibly growling lightly to himself.
Good god, what was up with him? And why, oh why, did this conversation have to be happening at nearly midnight on a Wednesday after a long day?
“You’re not going to stop, are you?” Matt finally asked. And it did sound like Matt, rather than Daredevil.
“No, probably not. I got into this to help people. And to make money, of course. But also to help people. And I’m doing both right now. And stopping would mean doing neither.”
“You’re committing crimes.”
“Eh, I’m definitely aiding and abetting crimes. Accessory to crimes. But not actually committing them.”
“Accessory to a crime IS a crime.”
“Is this really the argument you want to have right now?”
Matt went back to prowling around.
“You could probably have me arrested although the conviction would be in question. You could certainly get me disbarred,” Foggy offered.
“And what, you’d return the favor? We have a bit of mutually assured destruction?” The words were angry and the tone was almost angry, but Foggy had known Matt for a long time. Under that anger, Matt sounded pleased, almost relieved. Knowing you were going to lose a court case, you could turn your attention toward mitigation and settlements, rather than continuing to fight a losing battle.
“No,” Foggy said. “I won’t tell anyone about you. Even if you get me arrested and disbarred. I won’t do that to you.”
“Because it won’t help anything. It would make you miserable and it wouldn’t make me happier to make you miserable. And it wouldn’t help the community here any for you to turn into a full-time criminal vigilante rather than a part-time criminal vigilante and a part-time defense attorney for the innocent and framed.”
“I’m not the criminal here!”
“Uh, who’s the vigilante and who’s the mere accessory?”
“Getting you arrested and disbarred probably wouldn’t help either,” Matt said, apparently decided to let Foggy’s last comment go unchallenged.
“Probably not. I mean, most of my work at this point requires the legal knowledge but not the actual bar certification. And being in jail would make the work more difficult, but wouldn’t actually stop that, either.”
“You’d have to stop if you were kept in isolation.”
“That would be wretched. But also, really hard to achieve. Plus, I’d just use my lawyerly skills to Shawshank Redemption my way into the good graces of the guards and other prisoners and fix their lives up for them.”
“You would, wouldn’t you?”
“At this point, I’m honestly halfway there already. A lot of my clients are in jail and I already know the guards.”
“And more clients keep coming to you?”
“Yes, because my job wasn’t to prove they were innocent, it was to ensure they aren’t punished beyond what they deserve.”
“What do you want from me, Foggy?”
“Right now, I want to walk back to my apartment so that we can talk somewhere reasonable, or even better, get some sleep and talk in the morning.”
“We’ll talk here and now!”
Foggy shrugged off his jacket and then held it out. “Come on, take off your mask and put on the jacket. No one will notice anything with that on, and we can walk back to my place.”
Matt looked at him like he was crazy.
“There’s another Starbucks drink in the pocket. If you take off your mask and walk with me, you can drink it.”
The look got more distinct. But finally Matt took off the mask, put on the jacket and hooked his arm through Foggy’s like they had once done all the time in college.
Foggy led them out of the alley and in the direction of home.
“Some of the newspapers call you ‘The Man Without Fear.’”
“That’s what I want from you. I want you to be fearless.
“I want you to look at the people of this city, the ones we’re passing right now that have you tensed up and ready to fight at a moment’s notice. Look at them and realize they’re just people trying to live their lives. Look at them and be without fear.”
“Look at a bunch of potential terrorists and not worry? That’s just stupid.”
“Everyone is a potential terrorist. You and me, included. But we are also all innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the law.”
“Terrorists can kill too many people too quickly. I have to stop them before they even get a chance to start. It’s not possible to wait until after they’re guilty to stop them.”
Foggy was silent for a moment because that was just so wrong. He could hear a flag waving a bit in the nighttime breeze. He sang softly, “Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.”
“Foggy…” Matt sounded pained. Foggy’s voice was nowhere near bad enough to get that reaction. Foggy ignored the interjection.
“When those lyrics were first written, they were asking if the flag still stood. Now, when I hear that line, I wonder instead if this is still the land of the free, and the home of the brave? Because you can’t have one without the other. Bravery requires freedom, and freedom absolutely requires bravery. If you police those people, judge them as sinners without even giving them a chance to be saints, then you destroy more of this country than they ever could.”
Matt jerked to a stop.
Foggy stopped with him. Hopefully he was thinking through what he’d said.
It was a long wait, and Foggy had to concentrate on breathing even and calm, because his instinct was to chatter, to expound on his point again and again. But it looked like maybe he’d made his point already, and now Matt just needed some time to think it through. Foggy had to give him that time.
It was cold enough that Foggy shivered a little bit. Matt jerked again, and started walking; Foggy per force walking with.
It was a few more minutes, though, before Matt finally spoke.
“There’s a story about the Devil, you know. That he was once an angel but grew jealous of humanity. God had given humans so much, including freewill and the ability to act either righteously or sinfully. The Devil thought God should not have given them such freedom; that all men would naturally be sinners. The Book of Job is about the Devil trying to prove this is true, and punishing Job to goad him to sin. The Devil takes away his family and his home and his money to show that all men sin when they think God has betrayed them. But Job never sins, and God rewards him in the end for his faith.”
“Oh.” Foggy said.
They walked a ways more in silence.
“When I first went blind, when I started hearing things normal people couldn’t hear, when my Dad died, I thought about the Book of Job a lot. Sometimes terrible things happen to good people and I just needed to be strong and have faith and I’d be rewarded in the end.”
“Uh, that makes sense?” Foggy wouldn’t have taken much comfort in the Bible under those circumstances, but he knew Matt had been raised really religious.
Matt half-laughed at that weak response. Then he laughed again but this time without any humor at all. “I just never thought I’d find myself in the role of the Devil.”
The words were choked, like they pained him to even vocalize.
“You’re not the devil.”
“Aren’t I? It’s what everyone calls me. It’s how I was treating the people you’re helping.”
He sounded strained. He sounded hurt. He sounded more beaten now than when he was actually physically beaten and bleeding.
Foggy wasn’t sure how to deal with that. When in doubt, go for humor. It was the saving grace in a lot of ugly situations. It made people human. “Wouldn’t this situation cast me in the role of God? Because I can assure you, that’s not a great casting choice.”
Matt didn’t even laugh. He did calm down a bit, though. Still serious, he said, “Not God, no. But maybe one of his angels.”
“I’m not sure that’s much better.”
“You’ve never tried to stop me from being Daredevil.”
“Would it have even worked?”
“No. But you never even tried. I won’t try to stop you either.”
“Good enough. I’ll save the people you punish, and you’ll punish the people I save. And here’s hoping that between the two of us we’ll deliver justice.”
“It’s been a long night.”
“That it has. So justice in the morning, or more like the afternoon. We’ll sleep in, in the morning.”
“Don’t lie. You know you’ll be back in the office by ten.”
“Well, okay, I do have a meeting I need to attend, but the theory still holds. Sleep!”