Partner Meeting

October 26, 2017:

Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson talk over drinks at Josie's Bar about the direction of their firm following the Barnes trial.

A dive bar in Hell's Kitchen, New York.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Pepper Potts, Ironman, Six


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

It's a few hours after close of business on an autumn-crisp Thursday evening, and Foggy Nelson and Matthew Murdock are on their second round of drinks at Josie's Bar, Hell's Kitchen's diviest of dives. The first round was spent in a tentative détente between the two law partners as Matt attempted to clear the air about his sudden and unannounced six-week vacation abroad in the aftermath of their shock-the-world victory in the trial of James Barnes.

Like most of what Matt tells his friend and the rest of the world, it was a combination of truth and fiction:

He wanted to get away and go someplace where no-one knows his name and or would recognize his face — which was true enough, as far as it went. What he left out was how that 'someplace' was the secretive, Afrofuturist nation of Wakanda, or how he spent the vast majority of his time there in a devil-suit trying to save the aforementioned Barnes from another round of wrongful captivity.

Foggy, for his part, seemed to take Matt's redacted explanations as well as one might expect. It ended with an outright apology from Matt for skipping out of town with little notice, much less invitation — and a reaffirmation that they're in it together, the two of them against the world. It was a fraught moment that ended on a hopeful note. But based on a recent and awkward exchange at their office, Matt Murdock has a feeling round two of their talk will offer its own challenges. He swallows a sip of his beer.

"So… Lydia seems great," he offers in dry understatement, spreading the hand not holding onto his sweating glass. The fact is that she's too good for their scrappy venture, polished and professional and ready for a white-shoe law firm or pedigreed investment bank. "Where'd you find her?"

Foggy is rolling his half-drained pint glass between his hands, the reproachful look not quite melted away despite the silent agreement to move on, get past it all, and resume things as if the abrupt Disappearance of Matthew Murdock never occurred. Which means it will just be a few days before Foggy is casually bringing it up again in hopes of learning just where his friend had gone.

As the conversation eases into Lydia, the Nelson half of Nelson and Murdock swallows another mouthful of beer, coughs a bit, and nods. "Um. Yeah. She kinda… showed up… I don't think she's from the temp agency, but she's spot on. She doesn't even get a paycheck from them… but… I did a bit of snooping because, well, that's how lady assassins kill you in the night… she appears to be on the Stark Industries payroll." Foggy feels a bit awkward — or more awkward, as the case may be. "I think Ms. Pott's sent her over after seeing the state of the office while you were away." He now waits, brows a bit drawn over his eyes, because he knows there's two possible reactions coming his way. Okay, maybe three.

Which of the three broad categories Matt falls into may not be readily apparent at first. Not with the hanging pause that follows, or the way he brings his forefinger and thumb to pinch the bridge of his nose, just below where the curved wires of his glasses rest. Well, maybe that slightly pained gesture might give Foggy Nelson some sort of hint of his leanings. "Foggy," Matt begins, and stops, seemingly at a loss. He knows he has very little footing to stand on, gone as he was for weeks, but —

"Foggy, we've got to be paying her," he says, his voice somehow gaining emphasis even as it lowers to a hush that barely sounds above the 70's rock on the jukebox. "Or we've got to be paying the firm that employs her. If she's not our agent, then what she sees and hears while she's at Nelson and Murdock isn't protected by client privilege. So if it is — " a tight swallow, "— if it is Ms. Potts and Stark Industries who sent her, we need to write either Lydia or them a check for her back pay."

That said, he tips his head backward, drawing the beer up to his chin. "Where'd you leave it with Potts?" he asks, trying mightily to keep his tone casual, neutral.

"I know that," Foggy says, his voice a touch defensive. "But, she was doing such a good job, and it isn't like I was able to work many cases by myself, so not having to pay the temp agency seemed like a total win in my mind." He rubs his hand back through his hair, scratching a bit at his scalp. Then he sighs. "I know we have to pay her." He flinches. "Back pay, too, huh?" He says that while also knowing that Matt is right and he is stupidly wrong.

Rounding back toward Pepper Potts leaves Foggy's throat a bit dry. "Well, um… look, she just wants us on for the employees… I don't even think Stark is on our docket. It would be steady income, and Stark Industries isn't bad… I mean, not since the whole Iron Man thing."
Back pay too? Foggy asks. "Yeah," his partner says flatly, though Matt pairs the reply with a brief and commiserating flicker of a smile. "Look, it's fine. And I know that even with the Barnes trial off the docket it must have been a struggle to juggle everything." He won't belabor the point, moving on quickly from Lydia to the looming matter at hand, though not before he takes a long drink of his beer and sets it down on its coaster with a minimum of searching and fumbling.

Matt listens to Foggy's explanation of Pepper's offer. His features have always been hard to read — especially when they're partly obscured by those shades. "I hear you on Stark Industries' general direction," Matt allows at first, though he can't help but quip: "But even if Phillip Morris told us they were moving from cigarettes to cancer research, I might say we want to think twice about taking their business."

It's tempting to leave it at that gentle barb, but the conversation's too important for that. "We've got to consider it, but I'll admit to feeling a little cautious right now," Matt admits, before leaning in. "I mean, God, Foggy. We just had a win for the ages. But I feel like if we use this moment to go corporate, we'll have left Landman & Zack just to start the same firm in a shittier office. Know what I mean?"

Foggy sighs heavily and takes another deep drink from his pint glass. He's going to need a third round at this point. When Matt offers his own sympathy, that's when Foggy nails him with a sharp look. "Yeah well… someone took six weeks vacation, so." Okay, so it only took him ten minutes to bring it all back up again. He does release a heavy breath, hands curling around his glass.

"Alright, engage me in this discussion then. Why?" He gestures slightly. "Why shouldn't we just take it? It's steady income, and it would be pretty straight-forward cases, and it would give us the income to chase down other angles. Why do we have to just assume that we land a big client and we become Landman & Zack? That's a total false comparison. Those dudes were assholes."

Foggy digs at him again for his leavetaking, and the strain that put on the partnership. There's not much Matt can — or at least will — do aside from shrug and nod: guilty as charged.

"I don't think Landman & Zack were assholes," Matt says of their old employers with a musing bend of his lips. A beat, and then he amends: "Or at least, I don't think they were just assholes. They were chasing the big corporate clients, and doing what they had to do to keep them, even if it meant screwing over some guy their clients pumped full of carcinogens. You go into that sort of business… you probably end up with that sort of work."

Matt sits back in his chair, brow furrowing. "And I'm sorry," he says, tone quiet but baffled. "Do you really blame me for being wary? We take this on, Stark Industries becomes our biggest client by a factor of ten. It could radically change the direction of our firm. Make us beholden to some playboy whose fortune is built on blood money from bombs that ended up getting lobbed at villages we've never heard of, in countries we've never been to." For all that Matt is even-handed and thoughtful, with a quiet compassionate streak a mile-wide, the derision is plain in his voice. He is not a fan of Mr. Stark, no matter what kind things Jane Foster has to say about him. "That's not what I got into this for, Fog."

"Dude, I stole all their bagels on our last day. They were assholes." Because that is apparently a sure sign from Mr. Nelson that he hates you if he steals all your baked goods on his way out the door.

Then Foggy sighs and drains his glass, now rolling it between his hands. There's a bit of a cloud around his head, darkening his features a bit. "I don't know, Matt… I don't know why I want to do this… or if it is a good idea. But what are we going to do next? Do we go back to working the cases around Hell's Kitchen?" That's when the man confesses, voice a bit small as he does. "I'm just afraid all we're going to be known for now is the lawyers who got Bucky Barnes off the hook…"

Matt offers a rare, audible chuckle when Foggy talks about stealing L&Z's bagels on his way off the job, prelude to him downing the remainder of his second beer in a smooth gulp. He can't very well catch Josie's eye, but from past experience a refill is likely on the way — just one more in the over-sized N&M tab.

To the rest, Matt nods a little in understanding. It's a question he's been wrestling with for weeks, even distracted as he was by his side-trip to Africa. It's not hard to imagine how much the question of Nelson & Murdock's future post-Barnes must have weighed on his friend. "Look, not going to lie, I'm skeptical of Stark and his business. But I'm not saying no," Matt assures him. "I just need to talk to Potts — either myself or with you, and get a few more answers about what the business would be and what it would mean for us. Then we can decide together."

But there's that broader question, more searching question from Foggy. First Matt, because he's Matt, offers bravado. "Hey, I think we've got at least three more trials-of-the-century in us," he says to Foggy's fears, with a slash of a smile across his stubbled features. "I'm committed to the Hell's Kitchen work," Matt adds, more seriously. "It's important. But I agree we ought to be thinking big. I mean, in some ways the Barnes stuff opens whole new fields for us. There's tons of exciting law around mutant rights, and I'm sure there'll be litigation around the Inhumans, or Nuhumans, or what not. And there's the intersection of the law and costumed vigilantes — lots of good opportunities for a firm trying to make its mark."

Foggy gestures slightly slightly toward Josie, signaling both are ready for a refill. He sets down his glass with a light thunk and then looks back up toward his friend with a small, rueful smile. He then puffs out his cheeks, sighing out a breath. "We should talk to her together… united front. It would make my ego feel better." Confessions amongst friends.

Then the Nelson half of the N&M considers the angle that Matt is taking this whole thing, and he frowns slightly. "Mutant and Inhuman rights? I don't even know what Nuhumans are… what are Nuhumans?" He doesn't even let the question rest before barreling on in Nelson fashion. "I'm not… opposed to it… as long as it doesn't get either of us killed."

"Together for sure," Matt says of meeting with Pepper Potts, right as their beers are delivered. "Thanks," he says warmly to Josie, before lifting his glass to his partner. "I'm actually heading to the Stark Expo charity ball next week. Kinsey got tickets through work."

There's a name he hasn't mentioned much recently. Kinsey Sheridan, genius engineer slumming it at her garage in Gotham, and sometime person-of-interest for Matt Murdock in the first half of '17. She lasted longer than the six-week lifespan of most of his flings, and Matt even brought her in to Josie's to meet Foggy back in May — right before the Barnes trial consumed both Nelson and Murdock's personal and professional lives. She'd send the occasional spread of sandwiches or snacks to the offices while they were working, but seemed to have faded into the background.

As to the rest, Matt shrugs. "Nuhumans are new Inhumans, I think," he clarifies. "Those Terrigen Mist accidents created a lot of them." The other point — about the danger of that particular tack, has Matt quirking his lips. "I know the Barnes trial got a little intense, but they won't all be like that — at least I don't think so. We're the lawyers. It's not as if we'd be on the — ah, front lines."

Foggy arches his brows when Matt mentions Kinsley. It actually takes him a moment. "You and Kinsley are still…?" He then shakes his head, smiling a bit before he rubs at his jaw. "Stark Expo though? Good time to talk to people then… and realize that we're really broke." Because what's the point of going to a super tech expo without feeling like there's no way they will ever be able to afford anything.

Foggy starts in on his third pint, which means that he will soon lose the ability to really be serious. At least he's stopped tying his tie around his head in recent years. "Yeah, I know… I mean, it's good to hear that. I would like to only have one James Barnes case in my lifespan, I think."

"Yeah," Matt says, with a slight smile and a shrug of his shoulders. "Trying to pick up where we left off before all the crazy started. I dunno. I'd — ah." A beat, and then a quizzical: "I'd like to do it right this time." Whether that's doing it right with Kinsey this time or doing it right with relationships more broadly he leaves unsaid. He reaches for his beer and takes a second swig. "But yeah, I'll try to chat some people up."

(That will not end well, as it happens.)

When Foggy says he'd prefer just one Trial of Two Centuries in his life, Matt rolls his eyes behind his glasses and shares a smile. "Hey, I'll drink to that any day." And for any number of reasons, not the least he hopes for a quiet life for Bucky and Jane going forward. "We can no longer say they'll never see us coming," Matt says with wry warmth. "Because, you know. Now they have. But we're still going to take the world by storm." And with that, he'll lift his glass in his friend's direction.

"If they offer some sweet swag, sneak me some." Foggy is of course talking about Stark Expo swag.

Then Foggy raises his own glass toward Matt's own and clinks them together lightly. "I'm okay with just taking New York City by storm, if that's cool with you…" Says the guy who was about to jump onto the Stark Industries offer like a starved dog. Then he settles back into his drink and more comfortable conversation with his friend, avoiding those hot-button topics like vacations, tropical destinations, and possible clients that make them uncomfortable.

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