New Business

April 08, 2018:

Matt and Foggy discuss some incoming business — and the changing shape of their firm — over some beers at Josie's Bar.

Josie's Bar

A dive bar in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Danny Rand, Kinsey Sheridan, Jessica Jones, Tony Stark


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Another Friday at Nelson & Murdock, another Friday night at the diviest of dive bars that Hell's Kitchen has to offer: Josie's. The place stands athwart all the currents of gentrification sweeping the neighborhood, in stark defiance of the twee coffee shops and artisinal sandwich shops popping up in the last seedy holdout of Manhattan's bygone era.

The lighting is a low neon, the place is filled with the sounds of 70's rock, laughter, and alcohol-fueled arguments. It's been two decades since the city banned smoking in bars, and the place still smells of cheap cigarettes.

Matt Murdock is is returning to their table with a pitcher of some Long Island craft beer he'd finally convinced Josie to put on tap. No need for a walking stick in a space he knows this well — but he will reach a hand out for their table's rounded edge before setting the pitcher down on with an emphasis that sloshes the amber liquid in the glass. "Man, it's been too long since we've done this, you know?" Murdock says to his partner, smile slight and rueful as he reaches for the back of the chair on which his grey suit jacket is draped.

And it has been a while. The firm's workload has exploded in the new year, and even the industrious efforts of their law clerk hasn't allowed them to keep pace with the rising tide — much of it coming from one sparkling tower a few avenues over.

Foggy Nelson is managing himself as to be expected: not much sleep, too much take-out, and a constant dose of wry humor. When Matt finally gets them out of the office, it is like stepping out into the sun for the first time in so many years. It has taken Foggy a bit to get used to the old atmosphere, to not be constantly looking at his phone for the next notification.

He is thankful when Matt gets back to their table with the pitcher, and he's already helping with the glasses as his partner settles down into his seat. "I think I've forgotten what this feels like," he agrees to Matt wholeheartedly.

Once Foggy's done pouring, Matt claims his cup with two careful hands and brings one of them to hover under his stubbled chin; he'll listen for the sound of fizzing foam to fade before taking his first sip. And as he listens, he regards the harried, weary friend in front of him, who smells of take-out-Thai and whose blood pressure is just a little too high for his liking. Not that Matt is in great shape himself. Jane Foster's state-of-the-art suit is something else, but he still has a nasty bruise on side from Tuesday's tussle, and the crimson shades are the only things obscuring the deep half-moon circles under his eyes. But he's always been better at focusing on other people's state than his own.

"Yeah, it's been, ah, a crazy couple months," he agrees with a lift of his glass, equal parts commiseration and celebration. Because being this busy is a good problem for any fledgling startup, isn't it? A beat. "You holding up alright? I know you've been shouldering a lot of it."

"That's one way to put it. I was going to go with crazy ass shit personally, but sure… we can just go with crazy." Foggy only sounded exhausted, but his smile was also heard and seen through the words. Then he joins Matt in drinking, and he takes a deep pull from the foamy crown to the beer beneath. He breathes out a sharp exhale, relaxing into his frame.

"This isn't one of those get-togethers where I think we're just chilling and you suddenly drop a new giant client on me, is this?" He looks toward Matt, but his smile is a bit tight.

Matt chuckles silently into his beer glass, shoulders briefly shaking. "You take Tony Stark on as a client, you get crazy-ass-shit," the dark-haired lawyer ripostes — but the humor is gentle and good natured. He made his peace with the decision to take on Stark Industries months ago, and has even taken on a good amount of behind the scenes work on the ludicrously profitable account.

And then Foggy calls him out, reminding him exactly how well he knows his law partner and long-time friend, all his gambits and tricks. It's so spot on that Matt has the decency to blush, two spots of color forming on pale cheekbones. His smile takes a turn for the chagrined, and it's a quick minute before he replies. "I did want to chill," he insists. "But yeah, we do have a chance at some new business. Danny Rand came walking into the office looking to hire." It's said with incredulity: What billionaire executive wanders into a lawyer's office unannounced?

"Hey, you mean we take on Tony Stark. Let's not forget this was a group decision." Foggy is a bit defensive at that, because while Stark has definitely made their business very good, it also means he has been very busy.

When Matt reveals that Foggy is indeed quite smart — and knows Matt way too well — the Nelson half of Nelson and Murdock looks a bit exasperated. "Matt, I swear to god…" Then he stops, and blinks. "Danny Rand? For real?" He leaned back a bit, and whistles a low note. "Is there something I need to know? Why are all these billionaires suddenly sniffing around our doorstep? Did you summon a Genji or something?"

There are a lot of things Matt is itching to say about the onboarding of Stark Industries, but here at least the better angels of his nature win out. "We," he assents simply, and leaves it there.

Then Foggy is asking him if he summoned a — what? "God, you are such a nerd," Matt says with a stifled chuckle, before shrugging his shoulders helplessly. "And I don't know! Call it the Jessica Jones effect, I guess. She was a P.I. for Stark, which is I think how Potts got turned on to us. Rand is tight with Luke Cage." Also their client, fallen on hard times since his bar blew up with Matt and Kinsey inside it, and Jessica's relatively new beau.

"But yeah…" Matt says with the spread of the palm not currently holding his beer, "It's a big deal, obviously. I don't think it'll be a retainer on par with Stark. Smaller scope — but any engagement at that level is going to mean a lot more hours."

Very billable ones, though.

Foggy releases a heavy breath, and then rubs his hand through the thick mane of his hair. "Matt… shit." The lawyer takes another drink from his beer glass before he starts to tap the table top with the edge of his coaster. "We're going to need clones. There's so much on the table already, and I'm still trying to do closing briefs on the latest cases that's come in."

He sounds uncertain — an almost opposite of his usual go-get-'em attitude. He looks up at Matt. "We're going to need clones," he repeats.

We're going to need clones, Foggy says, twice, and Matt takes a long sip of his beer before his thick eyebrows lift and drop in mimicry of a shrug. "Or some associates," Murdock counters. He takes a slow sip of his beer before adding: "I mean, Steph has been great, but we may need actual lawyers to cover some of this work, especially if we get into real litigation." And after the high profile Winter Soldier trial became the talk of the town last year, there are probably any number of Columbia 3Ls who would leap at the opportunity to work at Nelson & Murdock after graduation.

He sets the beer glass down on the table, slides it until he finds his coaster and eases it on. "Look, Foggy, I have concerns too," he offers. "Being the law firm of record for billionaire heirs and multinational corporations is not what I got into this work for. But we're already knee-deep in work for one, and if taking on another allows us to grow and pads the budget so that we can keep on taking neighborhood clients and doing the work we care about? It may be the best path forward."

"Fine, we can hire people, too." Foggy only sounds somewhat disappointed. He was pretty convinced that he could get Stark to pull that one off for them if they went down that dark, dark path. But, here's Matt, offering more reasonable ideas… like always… "Lawyers," he agrees. "We've got to be cool enough to snag some associates to help out." He taps the coaster a couple more times before he takes a pull from the beer once more.

Then he looks at Matt with a more serious expression. His frown settles in. He had been having a lot of similar thoughts that Matt now voices, and he rubs awkwardly at the back of his neck. "Yeah… as long as we keep taking on those neighborhood clients. Those have been falling to the back-burner…" He knew of one case in particularly that still had his red sticky note flagged on the file — in need of a call back.

Matt puffs out a quiet laugh. "I'm, ah, going to go out on a limb and say that this world can't handle two Foggy Nelson's," he says of his friend with rueful affection before claiming his beer for another long drink that leaves it half-empty.

Matt's jawline sets and resets when Foggy says their Hell's Kitchen practice has fallen by the wayside, in part because it hits home for him too. How long has it been since he checked in with Vikram, who is still battling it out with his landlord and creditors even while his Midtown Indian restaurant thrives? He's been too busy chasing the Jessica's case against Councilwoman Dillard, or tugging on any of the other seemingly endless threads that could lead him back to one Wilson Fisk. Fisk may be a cancer in this city, but Matt has grown increasingly aware that his tunnel-vision fight against him is distracting him from helping everyday people with everyday problems — which was why he — why they — became lawyers in the first place.

All of which is fuel for the quiet, earnest words that follow: "We're not going to let ourselves lose that, Fog. I promise. No matter what."

"You're probably right… I am rather 'once in a lifetime.'" Says the man who hasn't been on a date in… he's lost count. There's another reason he's thrown himself into his work all the time. Foggy mirrors Matt, draining his own glass a bit, and letting the silence settle around them.

Then he looks back toward his friend. He can almost see those thoughts — the troubling look. He can't quite pinpoint all the directions those thoughts are taking him, but he can still tell it isn't to a good place. His words though draw Foggy's shoulders back a bit. "Alright, Matt… but then we got to do something about it. There's shit still going down that we're supposed to be helping with… not getting lost in Stark World." Or any other world.

Matt smiles at Foggy's joke, brightly enough to show some teeth, but there's still an undercurrent of concern for a friend who, not so long ago, threw himself at the world with gusto and a baffling, charming mix of overconfidence and wry self-deprecation. He doesn't want to lose that guy, any more than he wants to lose their vision of Nelson & Murdock to big headlines or big paychecks.

And so he shakes his head in agreement, once, emphatically. "One hundred percent," Matt says. "Look, the way I see it, we need to keep Steph and hire two associates. I'll handle client interaction with Rand, and you'll keep on with Stark. We'll put as much of the caseload as we can on our new hires, and refocus our attention on the community practice."

Is it an unrealistic plan? Perhaps. But so was two newly-minted lawyers setting up a shingle in the middle of the roughest neighborhood in New York City and expecting anything like success. And look at them now.

"And then we'll both become superheroes and join the Avengers." Foggy's reply does call out the possible unrealistic expectations there, but then he offers his friend a wry smile. "Alright, two associates… let's go poach them." He finishes off his beer and reaches for the pitcher for a refill.

"Then we can focus on the work we are really here to do… that's the problem, isn't it? There's all these eyes on the next big world catastrophe and no one is noticing that there's still bad things happening to good people every day."

Foggy must have had a seriously long self-reflection lately.

Let's go poach them, Foggy says of prospective associates, and Matt breaks into a rare unadulterated grin, a thousand crinkles raying out from the corners of his eyes. "Maybe we can steal some from Landman & Zack," he offers, the sound of a refill pouring into Foggy's glass signal for him to quickly down the remainder of his own glass. When he's done: "Probably a heavier lift than those bagels you swiped on our last day… but not by much."

And then Foggy is getting earnestly philosophical. It's enough of a rarity that Matt's eyebrows inch upward in surprise. "Now you sound like Father Lantom," he says wryly of his neighborhood priest, which is its own sort of rarity — he doesn't often allude to the fact that he's a practicing Catholic as well as a cultural one. "But you're right, you know. We may not be zipping around in the air like our big client, but in some ways that's an advantage. We're close to the ground, and we can hear what's actually going on in people's lives. We don't need to be Avengers to make a difference."

A beat. A wince. "I… sound like one of those Captain America PSAs, don't I?"

"Only if they bring bagels," Foggy retorts at the idea of poaching from L&Z. Though he does glance toward Matt at the sight of that smile, and it makes his own smile blossom. He takes another drink from his freshly-refilled beer. It gives him a moment before he responds to the idea of Foggy turning into Father Lantom. He's met Father Lantom. No, thanks.

"No. Well, yeah… but not in a bad way." Foggy sits up a bit then. "Look, Matt… I'm realizing real fast that there's always going to be another big damn crisis… our little blue-green marble is a magnet for big bad shit. But, there's always been little bad shit. I guess I just want to try to worry about the little bad shit for a while."

"Yeah," Murdock says quietly. "Yeah, I hear that." In fact, to a man who just helped save the world from being reshaped and enslaved by his soulless best friends, fought killer robots, aliens, and a goddamn dragon within the span of the last few months, and who is currently pulling his hair out trying to figure out how to sensitively and responsibly deal with a sudden incursion of mutant terrorists into his neighborhood, Foggy Nelson's appeal to step back and focus on the basics is music to finely-attuned ears. And it shows in the slight but honest smile that plays out on his features.

Matt pours a drink and lifts his glass up in a toast. "To sweating the small stuff," he offers.

"To sweating the small stuff," Foggy agrees and clinks his glass with Matt's. He takes a long swallow before he sets down the glass with a heavy sound against the wood. He's foregone the coaster at this point. He slips into an amiable silence now, breaking it only after a long pause.

"We still haven't finished the second season of Stranger Things."

Companionable silence gives way to Foggy's offer to, ah, Netflix and chill. After finishing that long swallow of beer, Matt's lips bend downward musingly. "Yeah, sure, why not?" he says finally, even if the current season's offering of a pre-teen boy who after a strange and harrowing experience can suddenly see a whole new disturbing world that no one else can perceive has struck him a liiiittle close to home. "Your place it is."

Because, as you might expect, Matt Murdock's loft is screenless.

"Though no spoiling Kinsey on the end," he adds through a slash of white. "She'll kill you — no joke."

"Fine, but I'm telling you right now… Bob dies and I'm absolutely done with that show." Which is totally not true at all because Foggy has been raving about it almost nonstop after each episode. Poor Matt. The things he endures. He finishes off his beer hastily, and sets it down on the coaster.

He hesitates just a heartbeat, and then nods. "Alright, no spoilers."

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