Bender: Day Eleventy

January 20, 2018:

Matt Murdock invites Luke Cage to his office to discuss his future, and the blows just keep on coming.

Offices of Nelson & Murdock


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Jessica Jones, Owen Mercer, Danny Rand, Bart Allen, Bucky Barnes, Jane Foster

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Some degree of normalcy is returning to New York City following the snowpocalypse that put all of the forerunners of previous years to shame. The city is still gripped by freezing winds, the streets are still filled with inch upon inch of snow, but at least the lights are on and working again.

After days of paralysis in which all work was put on hold, the humble but busy offices of Nelson & Murdock should be abuzz. Foggy should be bantering with a client, Stephanie should be doing her fake-flakey thing, and the latest temp office-manager should be rolling her eyes at the cast of characters thinking: This is the crack team that got the Winter Soldier off for all those charges?

But it's not. At midday the office is quiet, sparingly lit, and nearly empty — save for Matt Murdock sitting in his chair, pouring over lines of braille on a page with single-minded intensity. He'll call in anyone who knocks, shouting the invitation from his glorified 'corner office' — but it's one man in particular he's expecting.


When Murdock called to check up on him, it's not like Luke had any place to be. All in all, he rode out the blackout in relative comfort at Rand's house because billionaires have generators. And booze. Lots of booze. Sure, he took a shower before coming over here, but that doesn't mean the smell doesn't still seep out of his pores. The big man's been pretty much on a liquid diet since his life went up in flames, like, actual flames. He's sure there is going to be some fall out with insurance and the estate of Reva Connors, so it was as good a time as any to meet with his lawyer. So here he is, lumbering in after the shouted invitation to find his way back to Matt's office with a muttered 'hey' in greeting.


"Hey, Luke," Matt says with a brief press of his lips that passes for a smile. It looks like the lawyer has seen better days too — his hair is even more of a mess than usual, his facial-hair situation has strayed beyond a sexy stubble and into something unkempt, and there's a bruise on his right temple. Normally Matt could be classified as 'scruffy-chic' — but at the moment he looks outright schlubby.

And tired. Bone tired. It scans across his entire frame, and suggests that if he took off those red-lensed shades of his, they'd reveal bloodshot eyes and deep half-moons of shadow beneath.

"Thanks for coming," he says, gesturing to a chair adjoining the desk. "I would have come to see you, but —" I didn't know where you were staying, with your home and business blown up? "Anyway, come on in, take a seat. Can I get you anything? Coffee? A beer? I think I even have some Jameson around here somewhere." It's enabling, he knows, but you'll never see Matt Murdock arguing against temporary bouts of self-medication in the face of trauma and loss — even if his process is a little different.


"I should be the one sending around 'Get Well Soon' flowers." Luke drops into a chair, normally cognizant of the size of his frame and the effect such things has on pieces of furniture, but he doesn't seem to express much care to do so now. "I'm fine." Although the hiccup in his pulse says Jameson wouldn't go amiss, he's at least trying to retain some slice of polite and propriety even in his general haze of the last few days. "Is that.." He gestures - not like Matt can see it - to the bruise. He seems to realize that faux pas and clarifies. "That knock on your noggin, is that from the fire still? I'm sorry man, I didn't mean to put anyone in danger."


"Oh, this?" Matt says with a nod upward and to his right, shrugging. "No, it's not from that night." A beat, and then a ghost of a smile touches his lips as he adds a dry: "There's been a lot going on in the city the last couple days."

He slumps back in his chair, and even if he obviously is not looking at Luke Cage, there's a quality of attentive watchfulness to the blind, bespectacled lawyer. "You don't need to send anyone anything, Luke. It wasn't your fault, and you lost more than anyone there. We're all so sorry. It's awful." He draws in a breath that flares his nostrils. "I do have some news we probably should discuss, though."

And from the apologetic tone of his lawyer's voice, it isn't good.


"Someone's running around smacking blind dudes? Point me in their direction. I'm pretty good at intimidating low level thugs. Were you mugged?" Luke sits up a little straighter in his chair, which is to say he's no longer sunk into it like a half-drunken puddle. But then Matt brings up News, which sounds of the capital 'n' variety. "Maybe a slug of that Jameson wouldn't go amiss." His half-joking in his grumble. "Let me guess, no insurance on the bar?"


Matt's eyebrows lift above his spectacles for a moment, and some tension leaves his body. Man, he really doesn't remember, the lawyer thinks to himself of that night, where he knew things he shouldn't have known and did things he shouldn't have been able to do. And this Owen really didn't tell him. And of course it makes sense. Everyone almost died, and Luke and Owen lost their livelihoods. Why would anyone spare too much of a thought about all the weird shit the blind guy did?

He digests that fact, lets it simmer for a bit, and shakes his head. "A lot of people see a blackout as an opportunity for bad shit," Matt says with a shrug as he searches for his lower cabinet drawer and pulls out… yes, a three-quarters full bottle of Jameson. He hands it to Luke. "There are two coffee mugs on my desk. I'll let you do the honors. Mine's the one with the lion on it." The Columbia lion, that is.

He grimaces a little. "Anyway, yeah, the news is not good on the insurance," Matt says with a shrug. "Look, Luke… there was evidence of arson." Matt knows it can't come as a surprise; he heard what he heard that night, and knows who is responsible. But he still says it with sympathy. "That triggers a whole other process — a major investigation by the insurance company, for one. You could still get your money, but not until they peek under every nook and cranny of your life to make sure you weren't the one that did it."


There is a little less guilt about drinking in the middle of the day when Matt subtly indicates he'll join him, and Luke cracks open the bottle and splashes an ample amount into both the cups and sets the lion one down in front of Matt like a good little bartender. "To your ten o'clock." He murmurs before he takes his own cup and melds back into the chair. "I guess even being under the umbrella of the estate can only do so much, but that means…" Shit. It hits him harder than a several story building falling on his head. There is the chance that if they start digging into who Luke Cage is, they'll find out there /is/ no Luke Cage. "Call it off. Whatever you have to do. Tell the insurance company we're taking the full loss. I can't…I need you to make this go away, Matt. And fast."


Matt nods in thanks to Luke before he reaches out and takes his afternoon drink like the good Irish boy he is. Hey, he justifies to himself. It isn't like the partners at Landman and Zak don't have three martini lunches. There's a slow sip of the stinging liquid and its light notes of honey and vanilla as he waits for the expected realization. It comes, and Matt nods a little. "Yeah, its ok, we'll take care of it," the lawyer says, offering far less pushback than any other similarly situated lawyer might. It's a lot of money Luke Cage is set to leave on the table, right?

But then again, through circumstance, Matt knows things about Luke and his life that very few people do. "Once we withdraw the claim the insurance company will stop caring. And if we don't file for insurance and keep our heads low, the police may not look your way either. They've got enough problems on their hands at the moment anyway."


Not only did Luke lose everything he had, now he's just been slapped with the realization that there's no getting it back. The swallow that follows stings harder than any pass of liquor will make on his throat, in fact he uses the latter to soothe it. Where Matt sips, Luke gulps. "Owen Mercer and Bart Allen. I need you to make sure they can claim unemployment. If they don't qualify," It hasn't been that long since they were hired on the up and up, after all, "I have a little bit of cash in a safety deposit box. Jessica has the key. Make sure it's taken care of for me."


Matt has, through various guises, seen Luke cage go through the ringer. He's watched the man take an unbelievable amount of punishment — whether it's physical blows that would kill or cripple other men without blinking… or psychological ones, like realizing the woman he loved and married was not necessarily the woman he thought she was. Each time, he's gotten back up, and kept moving. For a Murdock, there's no more admirable quality.

To see him, broken down as he is here, but still thinking first about the livelihoods of his employees is quietly moving. "Of course," Matt assures him with a brief nod, leaning back and letting the bottom edge of the cup come to a rest just above his sternum. He 'looks' at Luke critically, canting his head to the right, almost as if he were angling to get a better vantage or perspective. "Luke, you've been through hell. But have you given any thought to next steps?"


"Next? What's next." Luke's hand tightens on his cup a little more than prudent, causing little crackles in the shiny porcelain veneer. He plunks it down on the desk before he shatters it without thinking about it. "I become no one again. I've done it before, I can do it again. I was targeted, Matt, for something I did in the name of what's right. But what's /right/ if I so much as sneeze funny and the next place to go will be Pop's barber shop over on Malcolm X Boulevard. Then what? Danny's place? Jess's? Yours?"


After he nearly shatters Matt's coffee mug to pieces, Luke goes on to describe an impossible position: being drawn to do what's right, to fight terrible people, but being put in mortal fear of what happens when those terrible people decide to use those he loves as leverage. It's the superhero's dilemma, and Matt Murdock accepts its all-too-familiar refrain quietly while, internally, he makes arrives at a decision.

One heartbeat. Two. Three. And then it's done, punctuated with a slow, cleansing exhale. "This is on me," he says at last, because Matt's ability to take on the guilt and burden for other people's misfortune is limitless. What follows may seem like a surreal nonsequitur, coming as it does without preamble or explanation. "I should never have let you or Danny Rand go into Monterary Shock without a mask on. Fisk was always going to punch back hard. I thought — I guess I thought we had enough to put him away for good." The man slowly removes his sunglasses, setting them on the desk and leaning forward, elbows on knees. The dark brown eyes he uncovers are active, alive, intelligent — but without any kind of focus that would suggest they're any more capable of sight than he lets on.

"…but yeah, Luke, that's on me."


Luke makes a noise with his mouth, a click of tongue against teeth that's the nonverbal equivalent of 'lawyer, please' as some how Matt tries to take the blame. "Danny was a hundred miles away, signing some documents. It would have looked a little suspicious to show up in front of the board with a scarf tied around his head…" Wait. What? Luke looks at Matt when he removes his glasses. Really looks. How did the man know about the raid on Monterary Shock? And it's not like he's a District Attorney who was supposed to get Fisk locked up and the key thrown away. "Sorry, I'm on day eleventy of a bender here, friend. I need you to go ahead and spell some shit out." Luke, not terribly known for cursing, let's that one slide through.


"I meant more metaphorically," Matt says of Rand with a slight, wan smile and a shrug of his eyebrows. "He crossed Fisk in his own way. And it's very clear now that Fisk will be coming for him. For all of us. Maybe even Bucky and Jane, if they ever come back to us." The last is said with quiet but profound weariness.

Luke is understandably confused, but Matt is not inclined to spell it out. "You can understand why I do it the way I do it — put a scarf on my head, as you call it," he explains in his roundabout way, and with his characteristically quiet tone. "I've got a practice. A best friend. A girlfriend. A life. If the wrong people knew what I did every night — hell, even if they knew what I could do, it would all be in jeopardy."

Luke just falls still. It's that utter stillness that even a blind man could pick up on. He stops moving and for a minute it even seems as though he forgets to breathe. "Yeah." He finally says. "I had all those things too." His big palm slaps the edge of Murdocks' desk as he rises back to his feet. "So if you could take care of that one thing for me with the boys, and if there's a bill, send it to Rand's. I can't pay it, but he's helping me out with some of the particulars of, you know, being destitute." He pauses long enough to say, "You know, a lot of things make sense now. Huh. Of course, there is a whole host of new questions." Cue that thing people do with waving their hand in front of a blind person like they're calling a bluff.


Yeah. I had all those things too. "I know," Matt says quietly, and with genuine sympathy. He's often compared James Barnes to Job, with all his trials and tribulations — but Luke Cage has been, after a fashion, nearly as wronged by the universe. He cants his head ever-so-slightly to the right and allows himself a smirk. "First answer? Yeah, I really am blind. That kid on the thumbdrive. The one who got the IGH's goop in his eyes. That was me. It blinded me — but it did other things to me. Just like it did other things to you."

He sighs, and pushes himself to a stand, facing in Luke's direction. "Second answer? Fisk won't stop, not even if you keep your head down. He's moving something on Jessica — I don't know what, but I'm trying to get to the bottom of it. And he's sure as hell going to try to ruin Rand. And those are only the people we know."

The sightless, rumpled lawyer places his hands on either side of his hips; give him a clipboard and he'd look like a basketball coach. "Third answer: Yeah, I'll take care of your guys. And if you'll let me, Luke, I'll help you get out of this hole Fisk has dug for you. And deliver some payback in a way that, if we're smart, will keep your people protected."


The simplest way to put it is that Luke is uneasy. He's uneasy about looking at Matt in a new light, he's uneasy about looking at Daredevil in a new light, and more uneasy that those two are blending together in something that's nearly blinding (no pun intended) given the unearthly amount of things Luke's had to process in such a short time. "All the way back to Wakanda, man." Okay, so the first emotion he can process is a little bit of resentment that only now this is coming to light. Then, Jess. "Does Jess know?"


The resentment is natural, and Matt doesn't seem to begrudge him of it. He presses his lips together before giving one shrug of his shoulders. "Yeah, I've kept it a secret," he admits, and without apology. "Though for whatever it's worth? I think you're the third person in the world I've told willingly about the mask since I started putting it on a year ago."

The question about Jess wins a brief, weighing pause from the lawyer. "Jess found out about me eventually, yeah," he allows, seemingly striking her from the list of people he'd told willingly. "She's a good friend, which means she's good at keeping their secrets."


Luke backs up to the door, not turning to leave but a literal step backwards. "You know, I think I just need some time to …process." Not that he's doing a bang up job of it this last week, locked away in some billionaire's guest room and drowning out anything that remotely comes close to a feeling with an ample application of alcohol. "Thanks for the," He motions around with a finger, because sometimes gestures are hard to remember are lost on some. "Lawyerly stuff. Devil of Hell's Kitchen. I'll be damned." Though judging by the sound of things, he already has been.


Luke retreats to process, mull, and with any luck, begin recovering from a brutal trauma. Matt accepts it, pursing his lips and lifting his chin. "Alright," the lawyer says, softly and simply. "My door's always open, Cage. When you're ready, I could sure as hell use the help. And I think you could too. Take care of yourself."

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