Something was going on with Matt, and Foggy didn't know what caused it.
It was small at first, nothing really. Like, Matt seemed better rested, less hurt. That could only be a good thing, right? Maybe he was taking a break.
Except that wasn't borne out by the news and the blogs. (Of course Foggy had set up standard searches – he wasn't going to hear about Matt's exploits from Matt unless he knew to ask). There were new reports of Daredevil sightings every night. They were branching out further from Hell's Kitchen, too.
Then, Matt started getting… distracted during the day. The first time Foggy noticed, they'd been discussing a case. Matt had been talking, but all of a sudden he fell silent. If it weren't impossible for Matt to stare, Foggy might almost think he was staring at Karen. She was working at her desk on the other side of the interior window, completely oblivious.
"Matt? You okay?"
Matt started and turned to face him. For half an instant, Foggy had the impression of being eye-to-sunglasses with Matt. The dark ovals directed toward him instead of facing vaguely in the right direction. Then Matt swallowed and twitched his head, and the brief contact was gone. "Yes, I'm fine. Where were we?"
A few days after, Foggy came in after lunch to find Matt in Foggy's office. He had his cane in hand, and was facing the steadily-less-lovely view of buildings rising up between the office and the Hudson. He turned around as soon as Foggy entered and left without a word. He actually used his cane to find his way, too. Matt usually never did that, not in the office.
There were fewer new Daredevil stories online now, too.
It went on like that for a few more days. Until Matt didn't show up at the office. Foggy tried calling him, but he wasn't answering his phone, either. That was worrying. Matt usually answered his phone these days, or at least called back when he wasn't beating on someone. Foggy had made that a condition in any continuing partnership, never mind friendship. But it was during office hours. He couldn't be handing out beatings right now, right?
Foggy hoped he wasn't bleeding out somewhere from something that happened last night. Nothing on the internet to indicate that, but the blogs didn't catch everything.
Karen was worried, too, which made Foggy decide to drop by Matt's apartment on his way home. He'd tried the gym already, during lunch. They hadn't seen Matt in days either.
The front door was locked, so he got in through the roof again. No Matt. He called Claire, on the off chance that Matt had knocked on her door wounded, but no luck.
Foggy did another round of Matt's apartment, just to be sure. Then he heard scrabbling at the lock of the front door. Someone was coming in.
Foggy pressed himself into the corner, behind the ladder. He hoped it was Matt, but until he was sure, he'd rather not be noticed. It had to be Matt, right?
The person coming in turned on the lights. Oh shit. Not Matt.
Whoever it was, they stopped, around the corner that was now all that stood between Foggy and discovery. It had been a silly place to hide.
So, bluff it was, then. Foggy stepped out from behind the ladder. "Hey, what do you think –"
He didn't get to finish the sentence. Instead, he was roughly slammed against the wall. The intruder had taken the three intervening steps and grabbed Foggy before he could even get a good look at him.
"Ah, the partner," he heard. He'd hit his head against the wall. That made Foggy dizzy enough that he couldn't put up too much of a struggle as the guy turned him around. Also dizzy enough to make that voice sound a heck of a lot like Matt's. Except Matt at his angriest had never sounded as… as hungry for blood as this one did. "Nicodemus said to leave you for later. But with you nosing around, I don't think he'd mind."
He looked like Matt, too, as far as Foggy could tell in the brief clear glimpse he got. Then a jab hit him in the kidneys and a kick took his legs out from under him. A red haze of pain descended. He barely managed to roll away from a second kick.
Not!Matt followed, leisurely. It was weird, seeing Matt's eyes like that. Seeing eyes, tracking Foggy's movement around the room, calculating the best spot for impact and oh god this was sick. "Matt!" Foggy managed to get out, though he couldn't manage any kind of volume.
His attacker stumbled mid-kick. Foggy took the opportunity to scramble a little further away. Not!Matt stayed where he was. He didn't look as assured now. Disoriented, more like. He wasn't looking at Foggy anymore. Instead, he was cocking his head – something Foggy had seen Matt do countless times to get an idea of what was going on in the room. "Foggy?"
Okay, that had to be Matt. "Matt?" Foggy managed to get upright again. Sort of. So, this was Matt? "What the hell is going on?"
"Foggy." That was barely vocalised, not spoken to anyone. Now Matt(?) turned to face in Foggy's direction. He still wasn't looking at Foggy as he'd done earlier, though. This was what Matt usually did, facing the direction of the person he was talking to. "Foggy!" This came out louder. Panicky, almost. "Foggy, get out! I can't…" Matt screamed and doubled over, hands grasping at his head.
Foggy didn't wait to be told twice. He'd more or less found his feet, and he hobbled toward the door as fast as they would carry him. It was still unlocked, thank goodness.
He was halfway to the street exit when he heard the footsteps on the stair above him, moving fast. Whatever it was that was possessing Matt, it sounded like it was back in control and coming after Foggy.
He managed to get outside into the back alley, the back door being the closer exit. The lights here were broken, the only illumination that big billboard. But the main street was so, so close. Of course, that's when the other guy caught up with him. He shoved Foggy so hard he stumbled, then redirected that stumble into the wall. Foggy hit his head again, then felt both his arms pulled back nearly to breaking point. He screamed. No point in being embarrassed about it, that fucking hurt.
"Shush," Matt's voice said in his ear, and twisted his arm further until Foggy saw stars. "If it was just for me, I wouldn't mind how much you screamed. But we're outside. Drawing too much attention would spoil the whole thing. We don't want that now, do we?"
A humming sound started, and the light in the alley became a lot brighter. "Too late," someone said. "Why don't you pick on someone your own size?"
Foggy was released. Not!Matt turned toward the intruder. "Who, you?" He laughed. "I suggest you re-evaluate your chances, little Knight."
"You come closer and I'll get a better look, how about that?" Whatever this intruder was going to accomplish, at least Foggy got a little breathing room. He could turn and look past his attacker.
New Guy was short, but that was about all Foggy could catch. He was looking right into the new source of light in the alley and it was blinding him. New Guy seemed to be holding a full-length fluorescent light tube. He held it the way Foggy would hold his softball bat if he were expecting to defend himself with it. (Don't knock it, that happened more often than you might think). The hum also seemed to be coming from the light source.
"This night keeps getting better and better," Not!Matt gloated. He drew himself up to full height, a big, imposing fighting stance, and he stalked toward the light.
"You might want to re-evaluate your chances," New Guy echoed Not!Matt's earlier words, in the same tone. Then, as Not!Matt moved past an outcrop on the building, "Now!" The light went out.
Something jumped out of the darkness right next to Not!Matt. It knocked him into the outcrop headfirst and with considerable force. He dropped like a rock. Foggy couldn't stop himself. "Matt!"
The light returned. Foggy saw something like a large dog slink away while New Guy came closer to check on the unconscious attacker. He did a quick once-over, then approached Foggy. "He's out cold. Won't take long to recover, either." He transferred the fluorescent tube to one hand and offered the other to Foggy. He inclined his head to where Matt's body lay. "Friend of yours?" He shook his head. "Don't answer that. Let's get you out of here, first."
Foggy grabbed the offered hand. The stranger pulled him up. "Name's Butters, by the way. Here we go!" When Foggy overbalanced, he pulled one of Foggy's arms across his shoulders. That left him supporting Foggy's side where Not!Matt had kicked Foggy in the knee. Together, they stumbled out of the alley. There, a tall redhead in a long coat was already calling for a taxi. Like magic, one appeared instantly.
"Who the hell are you people?" Foggy asked while the redhead got into the cab. 'Butters' was talking to the cabbie. The fluorescent tube was gone, nowhere in sight.
"My name's Andi," the redhead said, now adjusting a big duffel bag in the footwell. She was barefoot as well as barelegged. She patted the seat next to her. "And this was supposed to be a vacation," she said a bit louder, aimed at her friend who had taken shotgun.
"No such thing in our line of work." Her friend didn't seem fazed by the accusatory tone. He turned in his seat to look at Foggy. "I know you've got nothing to go on yet, but we're the good guys, I promise. I just don't think a cab is the best place to discuss this."
"Not like I've got much of a choice right now." Foggy settled further into his seat as the cab pulled away from the curb. He shouldn't have gotten in the cab. Given the choice was between a possessed Matt and the … unusual couple who'd rescued him, Foggy was willing to tolerate some oddity for the moment.
"You've got a name, I hope?" Andi asked, smiling at him. It was a nice smile. Andi was kind of hot. And, if Foggy was any judge, completely naked under that coat. Also, Butters' girlfriend, or something. Hands off, Foggy.
"Franklin Nelson. People usually call me Foggy."
Butters turned around in his seat again. "Nice to meet you, Foggy. I'm Waldo Butters. People usually call me Butters."
The ride didn't take long. The cab dropped them off in front of a church. Matt's church. At least, the Catholic church closest to Matt's apartment. Foggy hadn't ever seen Matt there, but then Foggy only went to church for weddings and funerals. Well, and maybe his numerous cousins' Holy Communions. Beside the point now. They were here.
Andi supported Foggy after he got out of the cab, while Butters led the way to the front door of the rectory. Sort of. More like while Butters wandered around looking for the front door of the rectory.
It took two solid minutes of knocking before someone opened. Through the small gap in the door, Foggy saw an old man in a priest's collar, who looked at them with caution. "Who's there?"
Butters stepped into the priest's field of vision. "Father Lantom?" he asked. As the priest nodded, he continued. "My name is Waldo Butters. Father Forthill recommended that I pay you a visit if I was ever in New York. He sends his regards. So does Michael Carpenter." He indicated himself and Foggy, being supported by Andi. "I'm sorry to arrive without warning, but …"
The priest's eyes had widened, especially at that second name. It seemed to be some kind of code phrase, because he was opening the door before Butters finished his last sentence. "Of course," He didn't invite them in, but he stood aside to let them enter. Then he went off and busied himself at a very fancy coffee machine.
Inside, after quick introductions, Foggy was told to sit down on a folding chair and stay put. Butters opened Andi's duffel bag and took out what looked like the world's largest first aid kit. Andi then took off, with the bag, to find a bathroom.
Butters had washed his hands. He now approached Foggy again and eyed him in a business-like manner over his glasses. "Right, let's get a look at you," he said.
It gave Foggy the chance to get a good look at Butters, too. He was about a head shorter than Foggy, with greying black curls that stood out in a wild tumble from his head. He cleaned the scratches and cuts on Foggy's face and hands with quick and sure hands, then gave him another once-over.
"Are you hurting anywhere beside the leg?" When Foggy indicated his ribs, he gave a few careful pokes. "Just bruised," he concluded. "You'd have to take your shirt off if you want to give me a better look. Same for the knee. It doesn't feel too damaged, but it's hard to tell through clothing."
"Are you a doctor?" Foggy asked. Butters was being pretty professional about this.
"Of sorts, yes." Butters said. "I used to be an ME." That caused Foggy's eyebrows to rise. Butters grinned at his reaction. "I've since treated enough live people to tell the difference." He shrugged. "You should still go see an actual doctor later, but at least I'm satisfied you're not badly hurt."
"So what are you, then?" It wasn't like this was making any sense whatsoever. He might as well ask.
Andi chose that moment to come back into the room, now dressed in yoga pants and a Star Wars T-shirt. "Oh, this I got to hear," she said gleefully. "I haven't heard a way of explaining this that doesn't sound pompous at first."
Father Lantom had finally finished with the coffee machine. He now brought a tray over with four cups and a pot of sugar. The corner of his mouth twitched upward.
Butters buried his face in his hands. "Andi, you're no help whatsoever." He dropped his hands again, then looked at Father Lantom. "How much do you know about this, Father? Father Forthill told me I could get help from you if I needed it, but not more."
Lantom shook his head. "Anything I know was told to me under the seal of confession."
"It's church-related, is it?" Foggy asked. "You don't much look like a priest." Not with a girlfriend like Andi, he didn't. Then a snippet of the earlier exchange between Butters and Matt presented itself to his memory. "Matt called you a knight." Behind him, he heard Lantom move.
Butters' eyes had widened with a suppressed laugh at the priest comment. They lost the laughter as they shot to Lantom's face. "That name mean anything to you, Father?"
"Perhaps," Lantom hedged. "It's best left until after your explanation, in any case."
Butters nodded and continued his explanation. "Yes, a knight. The official job title, insofar as there is one, is 'Knight of the Cross'."
"There isn't an official job title because it's not an official job," Andi supplied. She was the only one so far who'd taken a cup of the coffee.
"That sounds pretty church-y." Foggy didn't know what else to say, but the situation seemed call for a comment.
"It has its origins in Christian mythology, yes, and that's why some priests still know about us." Butters confirmed. "But the Vatican isn't giving it any publicity anymore." He sighed. "The Knights were created to combat a specific evil. Usually, if we're called to interfere in something, it's because that evil's been at work." He inclined his head to Foggy. "Like tonight. The man assaulting you. He didn't act like the man you knew, am I right?"
"Right. He wasn't."
Father Lantom moved around, so he was facing Foggy. He was frowning, thinking. "You said 'Matt'. If you're Foggy Nelson… would that be Matt Murdock?"
Foggy matched the frown. "Yes." He looked up, taking a closer look at Lantom. "So you are Matt's priest?"
"I am. Oh… dear." There was a significant pause before the last word. The Father had stopped himself from using stronger language.
Butters was giving the priest a sharp look. When he didn't say anything further after the exclamation, he turned back to Foggy. "Can you tell me more? Anything else he said or did?"
Foggy related everything that had happened in Matt's apartment that night. Andi jumped when he quoted Not!Matt's words about killing him and who had ordered it. Butters' eyebrows went up, but he remained quiet until Foggy had finished. And some time after, too. From his expression, he was none too happy.
"Nicodemus," Butters eventually mumbled. He started to follow that up, but stopped after a glance at Lantom. The corners of his mouth turned down. It looked like he was exercising the same kind of restraint the Father had earlier. He sat back in his chair, closed his eyes and took a few slow, deep breaths.
Andi was having a little more trouble. She was practically growling with anger. She walked over to Butters so she could put her hands on his shoulders. "Nicodemus hurt a lot of our friends. He keeps on doing it, too."
Butters took one of her hands and squeezed. "And we keep fighting back. That's all we can do."
"Well, he's hurt one of mine, now," Foggy interrupted again, trying to get back on track. "And you still haven't explained what's happening."
"Yes." Butters let go of Andi's hand. He sat up, pressing both his hands together. "The short version is 'demonic possession'." He held up his hands. "I know that sounds crazy."
"About as crazy as a Knight of the Cross, fighting evil for God."
"Yeah, well, these demons are what the Knights are called to counter." Butters sat back. "On their own, they can't affect the world. But they can ally with humans, and through those vessels they can do, ah, pretty much anything."
"Ally," Foggy repeated dryly. "What was happening to Matt didn't look too much like an alliance to me." More like something taking control of Matt.
Butters nodded. "That's good. If your friend was still cooperating, this would be much harder." He frowned again. "But we need to get close to him to do that. Which means figuring out where he's going."
"And what Nicodemus is doing," Andi finished Butters' thought. The look she gave him was full of concern. Kind of like Karen worrying about Matt going home alone in a city where Fisk was on the loose. "We can't go up against Nicodemus with the two of us."
"I'm counting four people in this room right now," Father Lantom spoke up. "You pulled me into this, you can't expect me to not help." He gestured to Foggy. "And Mr. Nelson is already involved regardless."
Butters shook his head, turning so he could look at Lantom and Foggy at the same time. "And your help will be invaluable. For your friend. Nicodemus isn't your problem. "
"The hell he isn't," Foggy said, then glancing sideways at Lantom, "sorry, Father."
He didn't catch Lantom's response, because Butters had started talking again. "Thankfully, I know a guy. He's got no love for Nicodemus. He'd want to help if he knew this was going on."
Above their heads, the church bells started ringing. Father Lantom looked up, eyes moving to the clock. "I guess I'll go see if Father Rodriguez can take over tonight's service."
Butters shook his head. "No, please, Father. We're already imposing and there is not much you can do right now. You might as well say an extra prayer."
"There'll be more than one, son." Father Lantom left the rectory while Butters fished a cell phone out of his discarded coat. He hit a single quick-dial button, but then had to wait a long time for the call to connect. Andi, in the meantime, had finished her coffee and was now starting to set up two laptops on the rectory table.
"Hey Murph," Butters said when someone finally picked up at the other end. "It's Butte…" He fell silent as someone on the other end started talking. His eyebrows first rose in surprise, then dropped into a worried frown. "Oh, hi, Harry. Is Murphy all right?" He listened again for almost a full minute. Foggy couldn't get any sense of what the other side must be saying. It had to be something action-packed from the nonverbal responses Butters was giving.
Finally, Butters started talking again. "Oh, good. Has she seen a doctor yet? " He nodded along while he heard the explanation from the other side. "That's great. Pass on my best wishes." He took a deep breath, then continued. "But I called to see if Murphy could get a hold of you." He gave a concise summary of what Foggy had explained. He threw in a few terms that Foggy didn't recognise, but clearly meant something to the other side. It didn't take long.
"I can take care of those. See you soon, then." Butters ended the call. He breathed a sigh, visibly relieved. "We'll have help. That's good."
"I'm seeing what our contacts here in New York have to say," Andi spoke up. "It's a bit out of their league, but who knows."
"Excellent idea. And can you find me the number of a pizza place that delivers in bulk?" Butters said, directing a smile at his girlfriend. "Harry wants to ask his contacts, once he gets here."
"I'll place an order. Eight extra-large ones, any topping except anchovy?"
"Sounds about right. Might as well order us one, too. Are you hungry, Mr. Nelson?"
"What?" The sudden shift in topic threw Foggy. "Uh… not really." Although now he was starting to consider it, his stomach made itself known. He hadn't eaten before visiting Matt, and it had been a while since lunch. "On second thought… I'm okay with anything, though."
"Eight extra-large, one regular, surprise toppings, hold the anchovies," Andi confirmed. She was typing as she spoke. She hit 'Enter' with a grand gesture. "It'll be here within half an hour or we don't have to pay." She clicked through to a different page and continued with whatever she'd been doing before.
Butters grabbed the other laptop and started typing, too, leaving Foggy the odd one out in the room. And still none the wiser, too. Well, he wasn't an attorney for nothing. Time for the cross-examination. "What's a Denarian? You used the word on the phone"
"Oh, right. Explanations." Butters seemed to be recalled to the room, rather than the computer.
"A denarius is a small silver coin. Roman." Butters held up his hand, thumb and forefinger in a circle to show the size. "Those demons we were talking about earlier? Each is bound into one of these coins. That's why we call them 'Denarians'. Nicodemus is a willing host for one of these demons. He's got a few more of these coins, and it seems he's looking for allies." He nodded at Foggy. "He must have given your friend a coin, got him to touch it somehow. "
Foggy frowned. "Yeah, we had a client a couple of weeks back, kept playing with a coin. He left after Matt took it off him."
Butters nodded. " Sounds about right." He took a deep breath. "Touching the coin marks a person for the demon. The demon will try to tempt them into letting it in. Once they're in, if the host no longer willingly cooperates, they can take over the body completely."
"So Matt actually let this thing in?" That seemed hard to imagine.
Butters raised his eyebrows. "I did say temptation, didn't I? These demons are thousands of years old, and pretty darn powerful. They know a thing or two about finding a person's buttons."
"They also know a thing or ten about being subtle," a new voice came from the doorway. "Well, some of them do, at least."
Butters ' head whipped around, his hand moving to his coat's pocket. He relaxed again almost instantly, though. "Harry. You got here quick."
Andi, whose head had also shot up, relaxed a lot slower. She moved away from the computer to stand at Butters' back, still tensed.
'Harry', was a tall (no, taller than that), disreputable-looking bruiser. He'd spoken with a distinct Chicago accent. He was carrying a long… branch was the only description that came to mind. It had been smoothed, and sigils had been carved into the wood. And then someone set fire to it and put it out again. He acknowledged Andi with a weary nod she returned in kind.
The 'bruiser' description came more from the state of his face -- which had taken considerable punishment, some of it recently – than any actual musculature. All of that was hidden beneath a black leather greatcoat that hadn't fared any better than the face or the staff. Butters seemed to agree. "You're looking a bit… scorched."
The new guy raised an eyebrow. "You're the one who asked me to come as quickly as possible. Where do you think the fastest Way to Hell's Kitchen runs through?" Foggy could almost hear the capital on the 'way'. Well, this was making about as much sense as the rest of the evening had.
It meant something to Butters, because his expression changed as realisation dawned. "Oh." He swallowed. "Are you okay, at least?"
Harry shrugged "Nothing a shower won't take care of later. Who's your friend?"
Butters gave him a Look. Foggy recognised the sentiment. Every single time Matt had come in limping, saying he was fine, Foggy had given it to Matt. That Look. Of course, Matt had the excuse of pretending not to see it. Harry just ignored it completely. Butters shook his head. "I'll give you the full medical later," he threatened. "But for now…" he introduced Foggy and repeated what he'd said on the phone a bit more extensively.
Before Foggy could get a question in, though, someone knocked at the back door of the rectory.
"That'll be the pizza," Harry said before Butters could. He detached himself from the doorframe and walked across to the back door. "I'll get it."
It apparently was the pizza, because after a brief discussion with someone outside, Harry handed a single box over to Andi. Then, without a further word, he took the stack of boxes outside, out of view.
Foggy frowned. The door Harry had vanished through was the only outside door to the rectory. The one he'd come in through was the door to the corridor that led from the rectory to the church itself. Where a service was, if not in progress yet, at least starting up by now. "Hey, where did he come from?"
Butters had taken the distraction of Harry walking out as his cue to turn back to the laptops. He grabbed a piece of pizza without taking his eyes off the screen. "From the Church proper, it looked like." He frowned, eyes still on the screen but now unfocused. He turned back to Foggy. "Harry's going to take a little while to contact his sources. And we'd better do our own research."
"Then what do I do?" Foggy asked. A bell rang in the distance.
Butters nodded toward the door to the church. "You could still go to mass. Sounds like it's just begun. Pray for your friend."
"You think that makes a difference?"
"It can't hurt," Andi interrupted.
"But you don't know it helps, either, or you'd be there."
"Someone still has to do the research," Butters said. "Harry's sources are good, but they're… limited in their own way."
"Also, neither of us is Catholic." That was Andi.
"What? That whole story about the Knights of the Cross sounded pretty Catholic to me."
Butters nodded. "Very Christian, at the very least. And the Vatican has had charge of it for a very long time. But religion isn't actually a requirement for this job." He smiled. "Just faith. In what, doesn't matter that much."
"I'd rather help with the research."
Andi shrugged. "Sure." She took a quick glance around the room, then walked over to a stack of old newspapers and magazines. She deposited the entire stack in front of Foggy. "Anything about ancient artefacts or strange phenomena. Dates and locations. Good luck."
The three of them busied themselves for a while. Butters and Andi at the computers, Foggy with the paper trail. There wasn't much that matched Andi's less-than-comprehensive brief. Eventually though, something caught his eye. "Hey, what about this?" He asked, holding up an article.
Unfortunately, that was when the door opened and Harry came back in. He went straight for Foggy. "How well do you know your friend?" Harry asked before Butters could get a word in.
Foggy found himself under scrutiny, although Harry wasn't meeting his eyes. "Matt's been my best friend for years. We did everything together since college."
"Do you know what he does at night?"
What? What kind of question was that? Regardless, Foggy wasn't going to give Matt's secrets away like that. He felt his heart speed up. "Have dinner, listen to music, go to bed? What everyone does at night, right?"
"Liar," Andi said from across the room. "He knows something else," she said when Harry and Butters looked over to her.
Harry smiled at Foggy. "And you're not telling. Good. Keeping other's secrets is important. But then I'm not telling you anything new now. Does the name 'Daredevil' mean anything to you?"
Andi and Butters both gave sounds of realisation. Butters moved his laptop to the point in the room furthest from Harry, then started typing. Andi kept her focus on Foggy. So did Harry.
Foggy tried one more time. His heart was almost in his throat. "Yeah, that's that vigilante beating up criminals in the area. What about him?"
"No criminals assaulted in the past two weeks," Butters read from his computer screen. "Daredevil's been seen, but only moving through town, nothing else".
"He knows," Andi told Harry. "And that explains why Nicodemus would recruit his friend, too."
Harry nodded. "Someone who can already fight, is in prime condition, and can be seduced by the extra abilities the demon can offer." He grimaced. "Doesn’t sound unfamiliar, either. Nicodemus has patterns." He turned to Foggy. "We can still help your friend, but it's not going to be easy."
"Look, I'm lost, okay?" Foggy said, taking a step back from Harry and Butters. He had to take at least some nominal charge of the situation. Else he might as well have gone to mass and left it all to the Scooby gang here. "Demonic possession doesn't make any sense. Matt beating me up doesn't make any sense. You guys, all three of you, don't make any sense. Can anyone make it make sense, please?"
The other three fell quiet. Finally, Butters cleared his throat. "Someone kidnapped your friend. They are forcing him to help commit a crime. If we're lucky, we can stop them and break the hold they have on your friend. That last part is not going to be easy." He sighed. "That's as much sense as there is to be had, I'm afraid."
Okay. That was at least a summary Foggy could get behind, take at least a semblance of control. "Thank you. Commit a crime, you said. Do we know where? Or what?"
"Sorta kinda maybe," Harry spoke up. "I've got… a guide to the location. But it's not that great at giving addresses."
"Nicodemus tends to go for religious artefacts," Andi supplied. "I haven't been able to find anything yet, but there has to be something on display somewhere."
Finally. Something Foggy could contribute. He grabbed the newspaper off the table where he'd dropped it earlier. "Dead Sea scrolls religious enough?" He opened up the big ad from the New York Public Library. An exhibit about the Dead Sea scrolls, set to open two days from now.
Harry grabbed the newspaper. "It makes sense." He grimaced. "A library. That's going to be fun. It also means we've got a ways to go yet. We'd better get moving."
"Why don't we take another cab?" Foggy asked Butters, walking next to him. Andi was behind them, carrying the big duffel again. Harry was out in front, following a tiny blue light that had settled onto his staff. The light came loose whenever they needed to change direction. "Wouldn't be as conspicuous as walking out on the street with Steampunk Gandalf there, either."
Butters eyes lit up at Foggy's description of Harry. He smiled. "Unfortunately, Harry's guide isn't used to cars. And we're not entirely sure where we're going. So we're on foot for now." In front of them, the little blue light detached itself from Harry's staff and zoomed off. Harry took a sharp turn in pursuit. "Besides, we're not going to be out on the streets for long. There's always shortcuts."
The group followed Harry into a dark alley, then through a door and down stairs. Foggy lost all sense of direction after that. "What is this guide, anyway?"
It was hard to see Butters' face in the semidarkness they now walked through. Foggy thought he detected a frown. "You wanted this to make sense. If I answer that, the world might make a lot less sense. Do you still want to know?"
"I don't know what kind of definition of 'sense' you have… but this still isn't making much of it. Please. Give me something to put together." Maybe if he had more pieces, he could construct some sort of sense out of all the madness. He'd dealt with Matt being Daredevil, after all. Sort of.
"All right." Butters slowed his pace and let the distance between them and Harry increase a little. "It's one of the Little Folk. Urban Wildfae."
Foggy tried to parse that. "Fairies. Really?"
"I did say this wasn't going to make much sense, right?" Butters asked. "They're everywhere in most cities. Collectively, they see almost everything. If you can persuade them, they might give you information or a guide, like this. But they’re fickle. You could also end up with pink hair. Or worse."
Foggy eyed Harry who was now holding a whispered conversation with the little blue light. "He doesn’t look like he ever got his hair dyed pink."
"No." Butters said soberly. "He got much worse."
Oh. That was the end of that topic, then.
"Tell me about Matt," Butters asked. He held up a hand to stall Foggy's response. "I don't mean about what happened to him now. I want to know about your friend. Your real friend."
Butters frowned. "I'm not sure that was clear from our discussion at the church. Taking the coin is voluntary, at least initially. But so is letting go. Your friend must decide to let it go. If he does, the demon has to leave with it. But we'll need to get through to Matt and convince him of that. That won't be easy. The more I know about him, the better prepared I'll be."
That made some sense, at least. As much as anything did right now. "Matt… likes his secrets. He tends to think that what people don't know won't hurt them. But he's a good friend."
Andi lengthened her stride to join the two of them at Foggy's other side. She must have wanted to hear this too. "Wants to protect people, huh? Sounds familiar."
"Not just his friends, either. He keeps insisting that Daredevil is the only way he can keep the neighbourhood safe." Foggy shook his head. "We were roommates all through law school. He was always the better student. But being a damn good lawyer wasn't enough." He threw up his arms. "The only reason I even found out was because I walked in on him dying after he lost a fight."
"Given that he's walking around now, I assume that one had a happy ending." Butters, trying to lighten the conversation a little.
Foggy winced. "Mostly. The excuses got worse, though. He told Karen he fell down the stairs! Even if he's blind, he was never that clumsy. Karen probably thinks he was way too drunk."
"Wait a sec." Andi now stepped in front of Foggy. "Matt's blind? Don't you think you might have mentioned that before?"'
"Uh… didn't I?" Foggy tried to think back. "I guess Matt's just Matt. Yeah, he's blind. It hasn't stopped him ever." Harry was getting a bit far out front. Foggy stepped past Andi and tried to catch up.
Butters followed him, frowning. "Daredevil doesn't act blind. I mean, a blind man parkouring across the city seems a bit farfetched."
"It does help with the secret identity, that's true," Andi observed, coming back alongside. "Is there a reason for that? That he can fake being not blind, I mean."
"Here's where the superpowers come in," Butters murmured.
"You're actually right about that," Foggy confirmed. "Although that was another of Matt's secrets. His other senses are so sharp, he can get kind of a 3d picture of the world around him from that. I only found that out when I found him bleeding to death, too."
"And that answers the last question of why Nicodemus would want to recruit your friend." Butters looked contemplative. "But it might also give us a way in. The demon that has a hold of Matt can see – that's likely how they got him to accept the coin in the first place. But if we force him to rely on his other senses, that might bring the real Matt closer to the surface."
Harry had halted up ahead. The little blue light that had guided them so far was gone. Instead, Harry was holding up a piece of jewellery that was giving off light of almost the same colour. "We're here."
"We can't be at the Library yet." They hadn't gone that far, surely?
"We took a few shortcuts." Harry gestured at the wall. Nicodemus and four others are behind this wall. One of them is your friend." He dropped the necklace, plunging them into darkness. He grabbed his staff instead, and the carvings in them lit up. "This is the plan. I separate your friend from the group. From that point, I focus on Nicodemus, you three try and get your friend back. Deal?"
"What's behind that wall?" Butters asked.
"Car park. It shares a wall with a storage area for the Library."
Butters nodded. "Can I ask you to take out the lights?" He took of his long duffel coat. He only kept what looked like the grip of a sword that he took out of one pocket.
Harry smiled. "No problem. If that doesn't happen on its own anyway, I'll make sure nothing lights up afterward."
Andi had dropped the duffel and was divesting herself of most of her clothing. "Harry, do please remember it's a library. We like books, and they burn."
Harry grinned at her, showing teeth. "No fire. I get it." He stepped away from the wall and raised his staff. "Now stand back so I can get us through."
They stepped back. Harry pointed the staff at the wall. The carvings lit up brighter. Then he shouted, "Forzare!". The wall crumbled. Harry rushed through the hole, Butters right behind him.
Andi took a sprinter's position and… shifted. Her t-shirt, the only thing she had still been wearing, fluttered to the floor.
Foggy was left staring at a giant wolf leaping after the two men.
He was in over his head, here.
He should stay back, let the Wizard and the Knight and the damn Werewolf handle things.
But Matt was his friend. And Matt needed his help. Foggy followed.
"Nicodemus!" Harry was way ahead. He was approaching a small group of men standing near another hole in the wall. His long coat was flaring out behind him and all the dust and detritus in the garage was spiralling around him. Up on the ceiling, sparks crawled along all the lights. They were causing small explosions to radiate out from Harry's path. "Game's up!"
One of the men gestured to the rest. Three of them split off from the group and came toward Harry. Not!Matt was one of them.
They moved faster, almost, than Foggy could see. They were on Harry before Foggy could blink. But Harry was moving just as fast, and he had the range on them. One was thrown back by a blast of force, and Harry caught the other's blow on his staff and threw him back by main strength. That left Not!Matt. Him, Harry dodged, then shoved a blast of wind in his face that drove him toward Butters.
"Matthew!" Butters shouted. "You can stop this. Just…" Shouting Matt's name had served to get Not!Matt's attention. Butters had to dodge a blow that meant he couldn't finish his sentence. He backed away, bringing up the handle of the sword. It ignited with a whooshing sound. Now, the sword had a blade. A blade of light.
Sure. A lightsaber. A Jedi Knight of the Cross. Why not. Foggy didn't know whether to laugh, cry or scream anymore at this point.
It at least gave Not!Matt some pause. He stopped and stared at the blade, then grinned. "It's the little Knight! Come to try again, have you?"
Darkness fell. All the lights had finished sparking, and there was no more light other than Butters' sword. Foggy checked back to where Harry had been working. Instead of the concrete wall with a hole, all Foggy could see was a wall of ice. Harry had moved on, then.
He turned back to the standoff between Matt and Butters. Why had Butters wanted it dark, if his sword gave off light?
Butters was ignoring whatever the demon inside Matt was saying. "I'm talking to Matthew Murdock. It's not too late, Matt! You can let go of the coin."
"He's not listening, little Knight," Not!Matt said. He stalked closed to Butters, who backed further away, past a few parked cars. Foggy caught a sideways glance between the cars. Not!Matt grinned. "You keep on trying the same thing. It's not going to work."
Butters took another step back. "Oh, really?"
He dropped his sword. The blade went out. At the same time, a shadow flitted out from between the cars. It hit Not!Matt with a heavy thunk and sent him sprawling. There was a scrabbling of claws on concrete, and then Andi was standing next to Foggy. If he didn't know better, Foggy might think she was guarding him.
With no more light, all Foggy had to go on was sound. And both Matt and Butters were trying their best to be quiet.
Occasionally, the sounds of scuffling came out of the darkness.
Foggy couldn't even tell how close or far they were.
The wait was killing him.
There! The lightsaber flared up. It showed Butters scrambling out from under Not!Matt, not too far way. The flash of light had surprised the demon, distracted it. It gave Butters enough time to get back to his feet.
Next to Foggy, Andi growled.
The move with the lightsaber had been a desperation move. It didn't work for long enough. The light was gone again. Foggy could only see stars, but a body was being slammed into a car close by. From the grunts, it wasn't Not!Matt who took the brunt of that one.
Andi leapt into the fray. She got at least one solid hit in by the sound of it, but then Foggy heard a canine yelp. She was losing as well. Butters let out a yell and charged, once more igniting his lightsaber.
For a second, it was a scene fit for Star Wars itself. The blade was constantly moving, left, right, high low… You couldn't pay for this kind of special effect. Butters was a better swordfighter than he looked.
All in vain. The demon wearing Matt dodged all of them, and punched Butters in the stomach. Butters let out an 'oof' and his sword went flying.
The blade extinguished, plunging everything into darkness again. But something slid to a halt against Foggy's foot. He bent to pick it up. It was the sword grip Butters had been using.
Foggy felt for the activation button. But it was just a sword grip; wood and leather and about an inch of blade, nothing more. No electronics. Whatever was powering this lightshow, it was due to Butters, not the weapon.
Well, Foggy was out of options, anyway. Sooner or later, Not!Matt would find him. Best to get it over with, then. "Matt!" he called out. "You don't have to do this, Matt."
"Don't I?" said a voice in his ear. "I have to admit, it's been fun." Not!Matt laughed, and it sounded so much like the real Matt that Foggy almost started crying. Not!Matt patted his shoulder. "This is where the good part starts. For me, anyway."
This wasn't happening. This couldn’t be happening. Foggy started babbling. "I want my friend back, Matt. Don't do this. Let go of the coin."
That got him another laugh from the demon. This wasn't Matt. Matt was better than this. Matt wouldn't let himself get taken over by such a stupid demon. Monologuing, seriously? He spoke out again, more confident this time. "Matt! You can do it. Don't let him get to you!"
"Enough." The demon slapped Foggy across the face. Foggy brought up both hands to protect himself for the next move One was still holding the sword grip.
And the blade ignited. Straight in the path of Matt's fist.
The demon screamed and retreated, clutching his hand. The hand that was still attached. It didn't even look burned.
It was hurting the demon, though. Foggy advanced on Matt, keeping the blade in front of him. "Matty, are you in there?"
The demon cursed and charged again. Foggy stepped aside, trying to keep the beam of light in the demon's path. He didn't quite succeed. The demon clipped him, sending Foggy careening against the side of a car. But the sword had slashed all along the demon's side, and he limped away, after.
Foggy straightened up, keeping the blade in guard position as well as he could. "Matt?"
The demon (Matt?) was clutching at his head, in no shape to attack. Then, he froze. His hands dropped to his side and his breathing became more irregular. He gave a few quick jerks of his head. Then…
"Matt!" Thank goodness, he was getting through. "You have a coin, Matt. Let go of it. Drop it."
Matt shook his head. "I…. I can't do it, Foggy."
Foggy let the guard position drop, keeping the sword at his side. He approached Matt. "You can, Matt. It's easy. Just let go of the coin. Give it up. Then we can go home."
Matt bared his teeth and looked up. For just a second, the demon looked back at Foggy. He stepped back, raising the sword again. But it wasn't necessary. Matt let a yell, then made a throwing motion. Something metallic pinged off the car Foggy had landed against earlier.
Matt let out a sigh. So did Foggy. It was over.
Foggy dropped the sword so he could better support his friend. The blade extinguished. That hadn't been a smart move. Now they were stuck in the dark. "Matt, can you get us out of here? I can't see anything."
But there was no need. From the distance, a small point of light showed up. It resolved itself into Andi. She was human again and dressed in her t-shirt and slacks, holding a big flashlight. Butters was still picking himself off the floor several feet away.
"Where's the coin?" Butters asked. "Make sure you don't touch it with bare skin."
Andi started tracing the beam of her flashlight across the floor. Matt, having heard the question, took a deep breath and stomped on the floor with his boot. Then he pointed to a spot on the floor about three feet from where Andi was searching. "Over there."
Together, the three of them had gotten Matt back to the church. It hadn't been made easier by the fact that they had to go the entire distance above ground. Butters had been unable to follow Harry's 'shortcut'. Thankfully, Andi once again demonstrated her near-magical ability to get a cab in New York.
Matt fell asleep as soon as Father Lantom got him into a cot, leaving the rest of them waiting for Harry. He showed up an hour later, looking as tired and drained as Matt had. Foggy couldn't tell whether he'd been successful in his mission. There were no news articles the next day about either a theft of the Dead Sea Scrolls or a fire at the Library. Something had to have gone well, at least.
Matt spent all that day in the church, praying or talking to Father Lantom. Foggy eventually couldn't take it anymore. He sought out the fresh air of the benches outside the church.
Butters joined him there. "How are you holding up?"
Foggy looked at him. "Me? I barely did anything yesterday. You three and Matt did all the fighting."
Butters shrugged. "You did the important stuff. I was just the distraction."
Foggy tried to laugh at that. "It was a pretty good lightshow, I'll give you that." Then he frowned. "What is that sword anyway? Why did it work for me?"
Butters took out the sword grip and showed it to him. In the daylight, Foggy's tactile conclusions from last night were confirmed. Just a regular sword grip. Used to belong to one of those Japanese swords, by the looks of it.
"It's the Sword of Faith. That's all you need to make it work. Yesterday, you had faith in your friend. That's why it worked for you."
Foggy threw up his hands. "Wizards and fairies, knights, werewolves and magical swords. What did I get myself into?"
Butters smiled with genuine humor. "A world that already contained a Norse god, a big green guy capable of levelling a city and Tony Stark in flying armor. Oh, that had and an alien invasion. Why is one thing crazier than the other?"
"You know what? You might have a point there."
Three days later, it was pizza night. Matt had come into the office again for the first time, and everything seemed set to be going back to normal. But Matt had begged off pizza night this time, leaving Foggy with several slices of pizza, uneaten.
Well, it couldn't hurt.
He set the pizza out on the balcony and said to the world at large. "Come and get it if you're hungry."
He turned his back. When he looked again, the pizza was gone.