Requiem for a Dive Bar

July 01, 2018:

Matt and Foggy share a final drink at Josie's to think about how it all came to this. They arrive at some surprising answers.

Josie's Bar in Hell's Kitchen

It's seen better days.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Kinsey Sheridan, Jessica Jones, Wilson Fisk

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Two days. It’s been two days since Hell’s Kitchen’s catastrophic collapse. Car traffic is still blocked, the A train is down. It leaves the whole battered, rubble-strewn neighborhood looking like a ghost town, or the abandoned ruin of some long-dead civilization.

Even to Matt Murdock, who can’t see it. The echoes as he taps his cane down the sidewalk are all wrong, sound waves striking catching solid objects at the wrong angles or else heading off into empty, limitless space. Even to a nose not as sensitive as his own, the air still reeks with ash pulverized concrete and stuff that’s sure to give them all cancer in twenty years.

Is this even home anymore?

He thinks it as he taps his way down the sidewalk towards his appointed meeting, and feels limitlessly guilty for the thought. He’s certainly acting like it’s home, and still the place he’s put under his protection — even if said protection has proved dubious at best. Twenty of the last twenty-four hours have been spent in his Daredevil costume, assisting with the last hail mary passes of rescues, seeking people buried deep in the rubble. It’s backbreaking work, so different from his high-flying escapades.

But then, Hell’s Kitchen has fewer roofs to leap from these days.

Still, now he’s dressed as Matt Murdock, even if he’s in an old stained T-shirt and a grimy pair of jeans, with off-brand sunglasses — his round reds lost in the inferno like nearly every single other physical possession he had. He’s got a cane in one hand, a brown paper bag in another, and he’s making his way towards the bombed out ruin of the dive bar that was his third home, right after that absurdly swanky apartment that’s gone and the run-down law office that’s somehow, improbably, still standing.

Foggy Nelson has not slowed down in these last two days. He has been working tirelessly with the local neighborhood, throwing all his frustration, anger, and fear into being a helper. After all, that’s what Mr. Rogers always said: look for the helpers, and you needn’t look further than Foggy to find one of those.

He’s finally been literally shoved out of what is passing for a soup kitchen just a few blocks down from what had one been Josie’s. While they could still use his help, he’s doing zero good almost being asleep on his feet while ladling out soup to the new homeless of Hell’s Kitchen. He needs sleep, a shower, a change of clothes, and a good meal himself, and they aren’t going to let him back in the serving line until he’s seen to those crucial things.

He gets his bearings out on the corner, looking around the destroyed landmarks of the Kitchen with a grim expression. He looks up along the facet of the building whose basement is now a dedicated homeless shelter. Despite being the few last standing, it still carries all the marks of the explosion, and Foggy touches a black scorch mark that scars the exterior brick as he walks past. He walks on instinct, too tired to make a decision of where to go, or how to get there. His sneakers carry him down the sidewalk on autopilot, and he doesn’t realize where he’s going until he’s making the last turn toward Josie’s.

No longer in the brown suit he had been wearing the night of the explosion, but instead in jeans, a t-shirt, and a zip-front hoodie, he’s almost nondescript in the remnants of similarly-dressed people moving precariously around the kitchen. He recognizes the figure just opposite him on this block though, and his smile turns into one of grim relief as he starts forward.


For all that the radically altered scheme of Hell's Kitchen has upset Matt's finely attuned read of the land, he still sees Foggy coming a full minute before the man calls him out. It may be why, even before Foggy speaks the words, Murdock's features are a marked by a complicated cocktail of emotions. Meeting Foggy Nelson here, outside the wreckage of the watering hole where they've spent too many nights, brings out too many the the feelings swirling just under his shell-shocked surface.

This was their home. They were both born and raised in this ten-square block stretch of Manhattan, outgrew it, and then came back to it to try to fix it, protect it, make it its best self. Serving the Kitchen was the original mandate for Nelson & Murdock, before the Barnes trial and the billionaires. Of course we're both sons of Hell's Kitchen, Matt thinks. We're brothers, aren't we?

"Hey," Matt says, his voice uncharacteristically shakey. The smile is grief-stricken, quick to crack, but genuine. "Good to see you." He lets that statement, wry but suffused with emotion, stand for a moment before he adds. "I, ah, was gonna call you, actually. Thought we'd have one more drink here." He lifts his chin towards the burned out remains of Josie's bar, and his hand that carries the brown-bagged bottle.

Carried forward on the soles of street-weathered sneakers, Nelson continues his advance toward his friend unconsciously. What he is conscious of is the emotions that muddle Matt’s features, and how his own emotional collapse begins with that tremulous greeting that his friend returns.

Foggy keeps stepping forward until he embraces his friend in his unabashed hugs, still propelling onward an extra step so they kind of thump together. He squeezes Matt, words and emotions conveyed silently through the hug. When he finally steps back, he sniffs hard and wipes the cuff of his sweatshirt across his nose. “Yeah, well… I just figured I’d follow my feet, and here I am. Been a long ass day.” He turns slightly toward Josie’s as he gives Matt some room, and his whole body sags down into the soles of his feet.


It’s a simple statement that seems to encapsulate the entirety of the explosion, and the hours that followed. He looks up at the ruined remains, police and caution tape crisscrossing any viable opening and the large HAZARD sign across the doorway making the fate of the bar quite clear.

He glances back to Matt and the paper-bagged bottle, and a heartbroken smile cracks his pale, sallow face. “One more drink.” He gestures a bit to the heavy cement of the stoop, giving his friend’s shoulder a squeeze before he starts to lead him in old, unbroken habits by Matt’s elbow.

Matt's whole frame shakes with a barely stifled sob when Foggy grapples with him in that hug. His balance and stability are better — far better — than you'd expect from a blind man, but he's also reeling from a night of horrors and the exhausting days that followed.

Fuck, Foggy says, eloquently, of the devastation around them. "Yeah," Matt says softly, thick with emotion. "Yeah, I know." Because he does, better than anyone else in the world.

He chuckles when Foggy takes his arm out of old habit. It recalls nights spent drunkenly cavorting on the Columbia campus, stumbling on the steps of Butler library, talking about what amazing avocados at law they'd one day be. In it together, taking on the whole world. It's the spirit of those warm old memories that allows Matt to be led and lowered to the sooty stoop of the blackened bar.

He unscrewed the bottle, and the air fills with the sharp stinging smell of hard liquor. Basil Hayden bourbon, because as Foggy well knows, for all that Matt drank in a dive bar and plays up his everyman, working class background, he's never gone for rack-shelf liquor a day in his life. Expensive tastes.

He hands the bagged bottle over to Foggy to let him have the first swig. "To Josie," he murmurs, tone wreathed in warmth.

Foggy joins him in a heavy slump on the stoop. He runs his hands through his hair, pulling it back in a shaggy mop behind his ears. He looks around the empty street, the darkness deeper without the flood of apartment lights from above and streetlights from below. He draws up his knees, leaning his elbows onto them as he watches Matt see to the bottle.

The scent makes him smile in a half-hearted way, it barely touching his eyes. He’s too exhausted to take much joy in the simple act of imbibing with his friend. He takes the bottle from Matt when offered, and he doesn’t even take a moment to sniff the fragrance of the bourbon before he takes a long pull from it.

He coughs just slightly at the initial burn, and then passes it back to Matt. “For Josie,” he replies hoarsely.

Matt takes an equally long swig of bourbon, and there's something reverent in the act. This is what the Irish do when someone dies, after all. They drink. And there are an ungodly lot of someones out there buried amid the rubble of their neighborhood.

"God, how much do you think that tab was at this point?" he asks with a puff of gallows humor — Josie had gruffly given the hard-up, do-gooder lawyers extensive leeway even after they'd become minor celebrities. But then his forehead crinkles in consternation. "We should. I don't know. Do something for her family."

But helping one person, one family, seems so small compared to the enormity of all this. Eight thousand. Even though Matt knew better than most just how tightly packed this city was, the death toll jarred him. There's a tightening in his chest, and he takes another swig before he passes it back to Foggy.

The liquor gives him the courage to say, softly: "Fog, I'm afraid that I — that I set this in motion somehow. That it's this tit for tat that's just… spun out of control." He's not sure if he believes it, but he honest-to-god fears it.

“Millions of dollars,” Foggy intones as he takes back the bottle, pulling a second deep gulp from the bourbon. He stares ahead at the fire-torched lot across the street. It had been a bodega just two days ago. It knew how to run a business. Pierre — a Cajun-American with a serious definition of spicy food — would always stay open just an hour or so past Josie, and feed the staggering drunks who were not quite ready to go home yet. In a half distracted thought, Foggy wondered if Pierre was okay.

He isn’t able to speak that thought aloud though as the Catholic Guilt™ rears up in the man beside him. He turns slightly back toward Matt, hand wringing around the bottle neck. He starts to look around the battle-torn remains of Hell’s Kitchen, gesturing around it as he speaks.

“That’s insane, Matt. Look at this. You tell me how any of this is justifiable.” Then he turns back to Matt. “Better yet, you tell me how you could have stopped yourself from helping people. You said it yourself… you couldn’t stand to hear the voices of all those people who needed help, and so you answered it. Now you’re telling me you think that helping people has consequences?”

He barely pauses, the words spilling out at full-speed Foggy Nelson. “Well, hate to be the bearer of bad news, but… of course it does! That’s how it works, man. That’s how they try to get you to step aside… they target everyone and everything you love, because they know it’s the surefire way to gain power over you. That’s what bad guys do… they seek to control everything — every person, every situation. But the fact that you have people you love is why you’re a hero, Matt. It’s because you know what it means to love someone.”

Once you get Foggy going, it’s definitely hard to get him to stop. But he has this closing argument down. He stops, offering the bottle back out to Matt in a meaningful punctuation.

Foggy cuts straight through Matt’s Catholic guilt cycle, short-circuiting the process before it fully completes its loop. And he does it by waxing poetic about both the inevitable consequences of vigilante justice and the need to help people who need helping despite those consequences. Even more, he says the fact that Matt’s heart is big enough to encompass his circle of friends and his community is fundamental to his heroism, despite the liabilities that brings to friends and community alike.

A few weeks ago, Matt might not have listened to a speech like that. He would have heard it. His hearing is impeccable. But he wouldn’t have internalized it. That he can now owes itself to three things: continued outreach of that aforementioned close circle of friends, a minor but powerful moment of clarity while meeting with some incestuous mutant twin terrorists, and a final reckoning with the consequences of failure.

Still, a speech won’t fix a person. It won’t undo learned behaviors or change the warp and woof of a man’s personality. But it’s a good speech, and he receives it, and it matters.

"Man, you should have given the closing in the Barnes trial, not me," Matt quips with a twitch of his lips before he takes a long swig of the bourbon. He hasn't had a drink in months; not since the madness with those girls started. Perhaps he abstained because he knew how easy it would be to spiral downward that way, instead of turning whatever darkness was inside him outward towards more (debatably) useful ends. Still, in this particular moment it feels not just good but necessary to numb some of that aching loss.

Despite the buzz, he knows he can’t just pass Foggy’s speech off with a wry retort. The moment calls for sincerity, and although that’s far from his second nature, he summons the will. “Thanks, Fog,” Matt says with quiet warmth as he passes the bagged bourbon back. “For sticking with me when I don’t deserve it, and for kicking my ass when I need it.”

There’s a long beat while he feels the lingering burn in the back of his throat and listens to the new, alien soundscape of his city. It’s not a passive silence. He’s struggling with what he feels, and how to communicate it to a friend he’s only recently brought into his strange new life.

“It isn’t — it isn’t just the cycle that I’m talking about, though,” Matt finally says haltingly. “I think — I think this gangster we’ve been fighting was behind this. I don’t know it, but I feel it. We knew he was escalating, between Luke’s bar and those women he murdered. Retaliating. And —”

He grimaces, pained, as he adds: “And my instinct was to push people away — get them out of the line of fire. I actually thought I was helping by being cruel to Kinsey, by refusing Bucky and Jane’s help and by just sidelining Jess and Luke and Danny. But — but while I was pummeling a bunch of fucking Russians, I was missing the big picture and the real stakes.”

The lawyer’s big hazel eyes are soulful when he’s going to get a cup of morning coffee. Right now, they’re positively haunted behind those off-brand shades that don’t do nearly as well at hiding them from scrutiny. “Maybe if I hadn’t tried to lone wolf it, this would have gone down differently,” he murmurs, ever the overthinker and self-blamer. “Maybe I — we — could have stopped this and saved them.”

The cords of his neck tighten, his jaw shifts left and right. “I know that even if that’s true, raking myself over the coals doesn’t change anything. I know that.” It’s an open question as to whom he’s offering that assurance: Foggy, or himself. Both.

And then comes the crucial and crestfallen admission, the one he’s maybe been building up to this whole time in his very roundabout, very Matt sort of way: “But I also know that… what I was doing isn’t working. I — I need help, Fog.”

Foggy just listens. It’s a dutiful listening, too — his head half-cocked to one side, leaning into his knees through the weight of his forearms. He doesn’t look away from Matt as he lets it all flow out, and his expression never transitions out of the earnest affection he has for his friend. Then he breathes out a heavy, slow breath.

“You’re right.” Beat. “I really should have given the closing arguments at Barnes’ trial.”

Then he smiles slightly, taking back the bottle from Matt. He doesn’t pull from it, but instead just lets it dangle between his fingers. He looks out across the burnt remains of Hell’s Kitchen, still seeing fragments of his childhood home in the wastelands.

“Well, my guess is that your circle of friends isn’t going away any time soon. I’m sure as hell not. You’re stuck with me. Like superglue.” He looks back to Matt, his expression serious. “Danny, and Jess, and Luke — they are all going to step up the moment you need them, man. That’s what friends do. And whatever’s going on between you and Kins — you owe it to her to figure it out and patch it up. I got your back there, too.”

He shifts his shoulders a bit beneath the loose fall of his hoodie. “As for the real shit… if this gangster guy is behind this, we gotta figure out why. I don’t think we’re just dealing with escalation here. You don’t blow up an entire neighborhood just to get back at some vigilante. Gangsters are about territory, maintaining particular revenues. They occupy places, not destroy them. So, time to figure out what this guy’s play actually is, because I’m pretty sure it’s bigger than just trying to burn out Daredevil.”

There’s an unspoken sentiment there as Foggy goes into investigation mode despite the warm buzz in his nerves. He’s Matt partner — in all things.

Matt’s shoulders shake in a silent, unvoiced chuckle when Foggy agrees with him about who would have given the better close in People v. James Buchanan Barnes. Touche.

He feels powerful currents move in his chest at what Foggy says next, and they run the emotional spectrum from profound gratitude to abject fear. Matt has been a pretty shitty friend, all told, and is fully cognizant of the fact that Foggy doesn’t owe him a damn thing — much less the devotion he just professed. But all that also plays on some very old but still tender wounds Matt carries with him, and has only recently begun to recognize for what they are.

Matt’s features are awash with these two conflicting sentiments. He’s clearly moved by the words, but in which direction? “Thanks, man,” is all he says, worlds of emotion in those two simple words.

Foggy’s bringing it all back to the practical is helpful, though. It helps Matt escape the navel-gazing and the wallowing in misery and self-recrimination that he’s aware of but can’t fully help; it’s inextricably linked with the deep depression he is only slowly starting to claw his way out of. “Yeah,” Matt says at Foggy’s analysis. “I was saying the same thing — this guy isn’t some maniac. He’s a mastermind. He wouldn’t kill eight-thousand people just to reach eight people, he would — he has — attacked the things those eight people care about most.”

He tips his head backwards, almost as if he were looking at the haze-obscured night sky — but of course he can’t be. “Which means, like you said, there’s another angle. Figuring that part out will help us predict his next move.”

There’s a moment’s clear trepidation, an inward wrestling the nature of which is only revealed after he makes a decision: “Maybe it’s helpful for you to do a little digging on him yourself,” Matt suggests quietly, bringing his head back down and angling it towards his friend beside him. His voice lowers, even though he’s fairly well sure that no one is listening to them.

“His name is, ah, Wilson Fisk.

“No problem.”

With two, simple words, Foggy has forgiven his friend for all his missteps and poor choices. It’s all he can do for Matt — he’s got enough shit to deal with. He finally takes another sip from the bottle, this time just a maintenance drink to keep up the buzz.

Now that they are talking about their next steps, and the Nelson half of N&M falls easily into this conversation. It’s using thought and reason and logic, and he thrives there. He offers Matt over the bottle as he speaks. “And you know there’s going to be a next move. This is just the opening number… we’re nowhere near the epic finale.”

He frowns slightly when Matt finally gives the name of this masterminding gangster that has haunted his friend for the last few months. “… His name is Willy Fisk? Jesus Christ, Matt…”

He shakes his head, looking out at the street. “Yeah, alright. I’ll start quietly digging into what’s goin on. I need an in with SHIELD. I wonder if I can nudge Mahoney… I saw him loitering around with some of the SHIELD agents when I was on lunch break.”

His name is Willy Fisk? Foggy asks incredulously of the boogie man who has assaulted his friends, his neighborhood, and the whole of New York City at this point. Under other circumstances, Matt might chuckle. As it is, Foggy will have to settle for a rueful exhale.

"He doesn't look like it," Matt says of Wilson. "Six and a half feet tall? Three-hundred-and-thirty pounds, maybe. It looks like fat — but it's not. His heart beats like a gong at a Buddhist monastery."

The idea that this devastation around them, the ruin and wreckage of their home and their community and their childhood, is just the opening sally from their opponent should horrify him. But a combination of booze and lingering shock have Matt nodding ever so slightly to Foggy's words. "Yeah," he murmurs. "Yeah, I get that feeling too."

Foggy should find a contact in SHIELD, he says. Matt's eyes drift upward. "We were working with SHIELD to shut down that drug lab of his. An Agent Coulson. I'll reach out. You — I don't know. I feel like we've done all kinds of fancy hacking and surveillance, but we haven't done the basics. The guy is scrubbed clean on the internet, but go to the Department of Records downtown. Look for everything. Date of birth, place of birth, family, marriage certificate — all of it. It all matters."

He surveys the scene around him and looks briefly pained; he swallows a lump in his throat. "It all matters," he repeats, in a different context entirely. Then he clears that lump, banishing the sudden prickling in his useless eyes and changing the subject.

"Your family's okay," Matt repeats, attempts to verify. "Are they gonna skip town for a while, or stick it out in the red zone with the rest of us?"

Foggy grumbles to himself, “I really liked the initial picture I got, but now you’ve ruined it.” He tries not to seem disquieted by the way Matt describes Fisk. But, the mental picture that forms is a human bulldog — something large, tightly packed, and terrifying.

It works.

He breathes a nervous exhale.

“Department of Records…” His brow furrows deeply, and he gives Matt an incredulous look. “You hate me. After I professed undying love for you, you send me to the deepest depths of librarian hell — the Department of Records. Some friend you are, man.”

He then rubs at his jaw, feeling a bit of stubble there from two days of no shaving. It scratches against his finger pads. He finally gets back to questions about his parents, and he sighs heavily. “Dad’s taking Mom to Jersey for a few weeks. You remember that Aunt Doris moved there last Summer, right? I think they’re going to just wait out some of the clean-up.”

His nerves show. “I said he should. I suspected this was bigger than just a few bombs. I wanted to get them out before your gangster friend realizes that Foggy Nelson is involved in this whole thing… because he’s probably going to find out.”

Matt dips his head and chuckles quietly. “Yeah,” he says ruefully, “I guess I forgot how much you hated law library.” But he won’t take it back. It’s both important work and work that is likely to —

Well. To keep him out of harm’s way. Which is exactly what Foggy narrows in on after talking about how his parents are holed up with Doris in Bergen County until they are no longer living in a disaster area.

A sudden pang of equal parts guilt and fear seizes Matt’s chest again when Foggy tells him of the danger he and his family will soon be in. But this time Matt recognizes that pang for what it is, and the recognition provides him with an increment of distance. He draws a very important breath, and places a hand on Foggy’s shoulder. “We’re going to work out a system,” he says. “For you to get in touch with me right away if there’s a problem. Anywhere in this city? I can be there in minutes. You don’t even know.”

He draws in a short breath through his nose. “Come on, give me that,” he says with a tilt of his chin towards the bottle. “Before I change my mind about all of this.”

“You forgot?” Foggy sounds bitter, but at least it’s a short lived frustration for his friend as he knows just how urgent this is. He sobers a bit as he snares the bottle once more, taking a drink to settle his nerves.

Now they are back to talking about secret signals, and he arches his brows. “I have been working on my coo-coo call. I think I’m pretty darn good at it by now.” Again, he takes a deep breath before drinking at the bottle. “In all seriousness… what kind of Bat Signal do you want, Matt? It’ll have to be something I can do real easily.”

Then he finally hands his friend the bottle once more, letting him settle into the bourbon. He knows his friend needs it; they all need it.

“Figure of speech,” Matt says of forgetting, his tone quiet, wry, and at least a little apologetic. It feels as good or better than the liquor, this banter back and forth. It provides some normalcy in this surreal, post-apocalyptic landscape they call home.

What kind of bat signal do you want, Matt? “Oh, I meant more like — you know, a beeper,” Matt replies with a puff of breath, still slightly awkward about being compared to the Batman. “Maybe something more high tech than that. There are a few people I can talk to about it.”

Of course, one of those people is Kinsey, but he won’t go there yet. First because things with Kinsey are as hard and as fragile as glass right now. Second, because while Matt may slowly be getting better about sharing things with his friend, he doesn’t know how much she shared with Foggy after that reveal with the coffee-cup, and he still has to protect other people’s secrets.

Matt accepts the pass-back of the bourbon with a faint nod of gratitude. He draws in a breath through his nose and lets out a long exhale. “We’re going to rebuild it,” he says of the ruin around them, with quiet conviction — that obstinate Irish pluck. And, with some similarly Irish fatalism, he adds a wistful: “But it won’t be the same.”

“A beeper? How very 90s of you, Matt.”

Then he folds his arms across his knees once more, leaning into them as he looks out across the ruins of Hell’s Kitchen. When Matt mentions rebuilding, Foggy rocks back a bit to glance over at his friend. There’s a hint of dubiousness on his expression, but he nods slightly.

“Yeah… won’t be the same. Nowhere near. But, a little dirt, a little grime, we’ll get pretty close.” Despite his humored response, there’s something deeper there — a bit of pessimism that tries to hide behind the mask of wry wit.

Foggy isn’t sure there’s any possible way for this to be the same. But, he’ll try.

“Yeah, well, I’m not that good with touch screens,” Matt quips back, though without much in the way of humor. The topic they circle around was the one he was grappling with when he first approached the bombed out skeleton of Josie’s Bar.

This was home. Is it still? Can it ever be again? What will take the place of all the dive bars and bodegas, the tenements and hundred-year-old churches?

Foggy says they’ll get there with a little bit of dirt, and Matt just shakes his head. “Nah,” he says with a musing dip of his lips, a shake of his head. “This place — God bless it — this place somehow skipped the 90s, Fog,” he says with rueful affection, like he was speaking of a lost loved one at a wake. “The rest of the city became a playground for the super-rich, but we kept the dive bars and the bodegas and the tenements. Now there’ll be no stopping it. We’re looking at trendy coffee shops, vintage record stores and juice bars. High-rise condos and ‘New American’ bistros as far as your eyes can see. They’re going to remake this city in their own —”

He stops himself, jaw tightening. Some uncomfortable thought seems to pass over his features briefly, but then it’s gone and he’s taking another swig of liquor. “But I guess let’s just — focus on the things we can fix,” he says after a swallow. “Right?”

“Silence your blasphemy, Murdock.” Foggy sounds outraged by the mere idea of the gentrification of New York City spreading into their precious Hell’s Kitchen. But that’s the consequences… no, the results. His brow furrows as he starts to get an idea.

“Yeah,” Foggy says distantly. “The things we can fix…” Then he furrows his brow as that idea starts to settle into his brain in a disquieting way. “Hey… Matt… why do we knock buildings down?” The question is asked in a kind of vague disconnect, like he’s trying to put something together in his head.

And then Foggy gives name to, or at least hints at, the very uncomfortable thought that had just passed through Matt Murdock’s mind moments before. At first Matt is dismissive — that communicated by a long stretch of silence. And then: “Because they’re old, dangerous, decrepit,” he says finally, grudgingly.

It is not a line of thought he likes following, for all sorts of reasons, but it’s the one in front of them. “Because you want to build something new in its place. Something better.”

One hand holds onto the bottle while the other reaches around to rub behind his neck. “To do that, you need capital, though,” he says, with a tone of bitter and knowing resignation that compliments a sinking feeling in his gut. “To buy the property, pay for construction, maybe even grease the bureaucratic wheels. You need mountains of money. Especially if you want to do it on your own, without partners. So — you spend a year, more, working to raise it.” Another long beat. “Maybe in some unsavory places.” Like designer street drugs, guns, and human trafficking.

His brow knits. “Fuck me,” he breathes, with all the force of revelation.

Foggy arrives there just a heartbeat before Matt does, and he reaches for the bottle in his friend’s hand. He takes it silently, tipping it back to take a deep pull. Then he breathes out a slow exhale that sinks him down into the step.

“Mountains of money… or mountains of explosives.”

He offers back the bottle, his expression now grim — or more grim. “What’s a few thousand lives when you get yourself some cheap demolitions. If your gangster is really behind this, Matt… Willy Fisk is one serious piece of shit.”

“The description fits,” Matt says quietly, both about Wilson Fisk’s relative shittiness and the whole theory itself. Murder eight thousand people and make a proverbial killing off the real-estate market. Remake Manhattan as you see fit. Mass-slaughter as a function of capitalism, not nationalism or religion or terror.

He thinks about Josie, eating into her nightly profits so that two do-gooder lawyers can blow off steam and drink for semi-free. He thinks about Sal and his deli and the pride he took in every lunch he made. He thinks about Father Lantom, one of the few and first to know he’d put on a mask, who tried to navigate him through treacherous moral waters — until it became clear in the last few months that Matt had decided to strike out into the deep sea on his own.

All of them had lives of their own, in his mind God-given and precious, and all of them acted, in their own way, with the recognition that they were a part of something bigger — a community. Matt closes his eyes tight, and his brow knits.

“We gotta go,” he says as he stands, shakily, the buzz giving him a headrush as he rises. Alcohol has always messed with his equilibrium. But he still extends a hand down to Foggy to help him up from the charred stoop. “Come on, Fog. We’ve got work to do.”

Nelson takes a heartbeat longer to be drawn up to his feet at Matt’s encouraging. He had been lost to the same introspection as Matt — and it angered him. He could see why Matt would turn toward this life — this vengeful vigilantism. He finds himself almost wishing he was more than just Foggy Nelson.

Finally, he looks up to the hand and takes it. He pulls himself upright, stumbling a bit before anchoring with Matt by looping his arm across his shoulder. He breathes out a slow, steadily breath. His own buzz still blurs the edges of his senses, but there’s a sharpening clarity there. Purpose does that.

“Yeah,” he says, jaw tight. “We do.”

Then he starts to lead his friend back toward his own apartment, because Foggy was apparently one of the lucky few to still have a place to live.

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