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July 24, 2018:

After shaking loose some news about Wilson Fisk's operations and potential whereabouts, three Defenders decide what to do about it.

Luke's Bar

Not quite open for business.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Six, Jessica Jones, Owen Mercer, Phil Coulson, Wilson Fisk, Tony Stark

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

It's been a night spent in some of the seediest places New York's far-flung boroughs have to offer, of roughing up drug dealers and confronting, eventually, one of the elusive 'Disney Princesses' who help make Wilson Fisk's new and improved drug empire run like a well oiled machine. At the end of it, for all that they got their hands a little dirty, Danny Rand, Luke Cage, and Matt Murdock return back to Luke's new bar with some answers.

With the doors and windows of Luke Cage's new bar locked and shuttered, Matt Murdock can allow himself to take off that godforsaken helmet. Underneath it he looks rough, hair unkempt and eyes shadowed, more than a bit like the homeless man he actually is.

Ragged, yes, but driven. Focused. "So," he says quietly as he takes a stool. "We've got the goods on this new drug plant, and have narrowed the universe of Wilson Fisk's hideouts to…" a flicker of a smile, sardonic. "Every ship on the eastern seaboard."

The tap cranks on in the bar sink, Luke running his hands out of the steamy water that pours out not needing to be mindful of the temperature. He's frowning as the drainage turns tinted pink as he washes off a crust of blood from one of his knuckles. It's not his, of course, but one of the dealers they had to throttle to finally lead them to the Princess. Luke didn't lay a hand on /her/ of course, but if she needed a little extra persuasion, he had no problem standing there and bending a metal pipe into a pretzel with his fists while Danny and Matt did all the talking. "I'm sure Six'll love us calling her up and telling her to start surveilling them all from her super mojo satellite helmet head."

This was one of the first times that Danny Rand went out in full persona rather than himself barely obscured (or obscured at all.) It was a strange experience - to be himself, but not. He can't quite understand how Matt does it - and he can understand why Tony Stark said 'fuck it' to the whole secret identity business.

He removes his helmet not long after Matt. His curls are mashed down and stuck to his forehead. If they had to form a new band right now, they'd be Luke and the Helmet Heads.

"There's gotta be some connection to the boat and his other assets. Maybe a shipping company or a private account." Danny's gotten half-decent at all of this 'assets' business as of late, purely out of necessity.

It's notable that throughout all their shakedowns, Danny didn't once do his glow worm routine - even when it seemed like a good time.

"Maybe," Matt says of Danny's ideas about boats and their potential links to Fisk's assets. "We ought to cross-check it against the assets we know about. The problem is " he adds with a dark little quirk of his lips " we probably don't know nearly enough about them."

He leans against the back of the bar, sightless eyes turned towards the ceiling as he considers it. "Six is the one to handle that one, though. She'll have ideas about how to search we could never dream up. I'll flag it for her."

A beat, before he adds: "My question is what we do about the plant, now that we know where it is."

"You mean besides blow the motherfucker up?" Luke flicks droplets of water off his hands before he grabs up a towel to dab off the rest. Out of habit, the cloth gets flicked over his shoulder like he's about to work a shift. "But demolition and explosives isn't really my strong suit." Cage, in his present mood, doesn't seem inclined to address anyone who might be /in/ said facility at the time of the explosion. But he seems serious about the notion, if the steady heartbeat is any indication. Glasses clink together as he sets them on the bar and pulls out a bottle of bourbon for a little post mission kick to their guts.

"I don't like the idea of some kind of showdown with Fisk on the high seas. Too easy to get boxed in. Plus…" Danny half-shrugs, half rolls his shoulders back. "…I'm not a very good swimmer." If his recent dip into the river when Claire had to rescue him is any indication. "And this is sort of, I guess, an important conversation. What do we do when we find him?" He side-eyes Luke, but doesn't comment on burning.

Matt listens to the back and forth with Danny and Luke, and offers little visible sign of his leanings one way or another, though he'll puff a little chuckle of a breath when Danny mentions he's not the strongest swimmer. But it's Danny's final point — about what they do with Fisk when they find him — that draws his attention, angling his head back up to reengage.

"I think we're asking the same question in both situations," he says, cradling that helmet in his lap, thumbing the sharp point of one horn with a red-gloved thumb. "Which is what are we? And what are we trying to accomplish here? We could blow up Fisk's operation, then hunt him down and —" his lips press together. "End this once and for all. Hard to argue Fisk doesn't deserve it."

He draws in a breath and lets it out. "Or we could go to the FBI or SHIELD," he says, tone weary. "Tell them we've identified an illegal drug operation we think is linked to the organized crime operation responsible for the Hell's Kitchen bombings. And then help them use what they find there to build a case against Fisk so that he can be tried in a court of law."

Two beats. "We went that second route the first time. It felt like the right thing to do back then. The no-brainer." But that was before the bombings. Before the fire set to Luke's bar. Before Fisk set an assassin to murder all those women in Daredevil's name. "We've got a choice to make," Matt repeats softly, without any clear indication about what he feels that choice should be. Perhaps because he himself has no idea.

Luke slides the glasses out to the edge of the bar, muttering, "Booze at your eight," for Matt's benefit before leaning against the back bar, his own glass disappearing into the wide expanse of one palm. "I don't think there's going to be a common consensus or a majority rules when the time comes down to it. The decision is going to be made by the person with their hands around his throat, and probably not until that very second." It's no doubt an inner struggle they're all facing, and Luke confessed his leanings to Jones the other day. Just the acknowledgement of his own darkness has been enough to face the past few days. The grind of his teeth is audible even to those without enhanced hearing. "You guys can use my showers upstairs if you want. Should probably start stashing street clothes for everyone."

"I don't think I should be the one to make the call, or even cast a vote," says Danny as he looks at a spot on the floor, eyes going unfocused. "He didn't destroy my neighbourhood, burn down my home or kill people in my name." Fisk could have had something to do with his recent PR problems, but that really pales in comparison even if so. He tugs off his gloves and reaches for one of the glasses.

"That depends," he says to Luke. "If we go in with a strong strategy and the upper hand, there might be that opportunity. But if the past has been any indication…" he sips and lets that thought hang.

Matt accepts the booze gratefully, catching it mid-slide and bringing it up for a long, slow sip. He listens to Luke, who makes the case for leaving it to what's essentially a coin toss: the feelings of the person who has Wilson Fisk in hand on the blessed day he's finally captured.

He listens to Danny say that, with proper planning, that kind of spur-of-the-moment thinking might be avoided. Regardless of whether Rand meant his last thought to be a quip, it spurs a dark, quiet chuckle from Matt. "Yeah," he says, worlds of wry weariness in that single syllable.

He takes another sip of his beer. "I vote we don't go into the plant guns blazing," he says, at last. And it might seem odd coming from a man who has been waging a one-man mission of vengeance against Wilson Fisk and his allied gangs the last few months. "That building in there and everything inside it is potential evidence against Fisk. So if we are ruled by the better angels of our nature, we at least have the choice to let him go to trial."

Another beat, musing. "I vote we go to SHIELD and lay out what we know. Offer the plant to them on a platter. Meanwhile, we keep looking for Fisk."

"You might not even know how he's affected you directly yet." Luke says with an apologetic glance in Rand's direction. "So don't think you don't have a say." The spitballing continues as Luke sips his alcohol. Danny's talk about a solid plan leading Matt into the comment about SHIELD and the warehouse. "At least then we'd be able to focus our efforts down to the one point." And also conveniently remove personal feelings from the takedown of the drug hot spot.

"Whatever injury he might have dealt me, it doesn't compare," says Danny quite pointedly. "Even if I lost the whole company, it wouldn't compare." He sips his drink, considers.

"How do we know that Fisk hasn't bought someone out within SHIELD? Someone who might tip him off?" For someone who talks a lot about honour, he's pretty okay with doing an end run around the proper authorities. See: superhero suit and ninja kicking. "I mean, we've seen how deep his roots go. I'd imagine a mole in SHIELD who just tips him off about things connected to his business would be something he'd pay for."

He shifts awkwardly in his body armor, then reaches back to start unclipping the outer layers. "I'm not saying we shouldn't, but maybe we should have some kind of contingency in case he gets tipped off."

"It's a good point," Matt says with a nod over to Danny. His beer's half-drunk already, and he chides himself. He's got to keep a clear head about himself these days, good as it feels to numb himself. "SHIELD seems like a tough nut to crack, but Fisk is — not your ordinary crime boss." That may just be the understatement of the century.

His jaw sets, and resets. "I'll keep a stakeout on the drug warehouse," he says finally. "If Fisk gets tipped off and something changes, I'll know it. In that case, one of you makes an emergency call to the FBI, saying whatever they need to say to get them there. I've got —" his lips quirk. "I've got an agent we can go to here, too. Maybe he's got moles everywhere. But a backup can't hurt. And we should probably have a few folks on call if we end up needing to take matters into our own hands, despite all our best efforts."

Luke's exasperation comes out in a full sigh, a hand rubbing at his bald head. All this conspiracy isn't something he's really used to, but up until recently he's dealt with street level thugs who can't think past the tip of their own nose. "Someone just call me when it's time to crack skulls." And with that, he downs the rest of his drink.

"And our mistake at first was treating him like an ordinary crime boss," says Danny as a statement of fact rather than a mopey self-condemnation. He nods at Matt's plan, then works his jaw to the side. "You guys just tell me where you need me to be, and I'll be there." He looks at both of them in turn. Luke gets pointed eye contact, while Matt gets a prolonged stillness of his head in the other costumed vigilante's direction that he hopes communicates the same. "And it goes without saying if you need any of my resources…"

And our mistake at first was treating him like an ordinary crime boss.

"Yes, yes it was," Matt quietly agrees, and it underscores his ambivalence about the very plan he outlined. For all that it's his goddamn plan, Luke's exasperation and some of Danny's caution are present in him too. They've been down this road before, giving the authorities a case after Monterary Shock. It was botched, and 8,000 people are dead as a result of it. Are they really going to try for more of the same?

For now, tentatively, the answer seems to be yes. Fuck it, Matt thinks as he takes another sip from his drink. "I'll let SHIELD know and keep you all posted," he says. He's been meaning to catch up with Coulson and brief him on all they've found anyway, and this gives him a reason.

The corners of Matt's lips twitch when Danny offers his seemingly limitless resources: gratitude, if muted. "Thanks, Danny. And you too, Luke. I've, ah, appreciated the place to crash every now and again," the hobo-lawyer-ninja-vigilante tells the men quietly.

"Hey man, for better or worse we're all family now. Even if some of us are distant black sheep cousins whose asses are going into rehab after this." Cough. Owen. Cough. "Belford," The doorman/security guard at the apartments, "Has the extra keys." But for Danny's offer of his resources, Luke just looks down at his boot tips. He's already taken enough from the Billionaire - the building around them and the new hideout in the waiting above - is testament to that. And still, with everything finished, Jess and Luke continue to stay down at Gramercy just to be close to the others.

"If nothing else, this will tell us if we can trust SHIELD in the future," says Danny. Because they'd all be delusional if they think their problems will be over once Fisk is dealt with. He pushes off and straightens. "Luke, I'm, uh, going to take you up on that shower. After I do and change, I'm going to head back." He runs a hand over his extremely mussed hair.

"Call me if you need anything." And with a nod to both, the billionaire ninja is mounting the steps two at a time.

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