Pathways to Clarity

September 17, 2018:

Danny Rand and his seemingly perpetual house guest Matt Murdock are both trying to find their centers after the fall of the Kingpin. They talk about clarity, strategy, and a path forward for their ragtag group.

Casa Rand


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Wilson Fisk, Frank Castle, Luke Cage, Peggy Carter

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

It's been nearly a week since the Kingpin's fall, and the ensuing fallout. Every day it seems there's some new ripple or aftershock in the headlines. This financier or that city councilperson or that detective joins the ever-widening circle of individuals facing jail time for enmeshing themselves in Wilson Fisk's web.

For the men and women responsible for ending Fisk, though, it's been a stretch of unexpected quiet. There are press inquiries, sure, but Jessica Jones is in a coma and Luke's bar is closed for business. And Danny Rand? Despite the pivotal role he played in the final confrontation, there wasn't a single drop of ink liking him to the brewhaha below the subway.

Which was almost certainly by design.

It given them all a chance to catch their breath, take stock, find their footing again after a truly fucked up few months. For Matt, still homeless and living in his client's mansion, that means a session in the dojo downstairs. No need to worry about anyone stumbling in on him at this point. Everyone who lives and works here is in the know by now.

He's dressed in a t-shirt and an old pair of sweatpants, working his way through the ancient forms with care and grace that he never displays during his breakneck sessions with the punching bag at Fogwell's. That's partly a consequence of lingering injuries that still pepper his features and limit his range of movement, and partly a matter of preference.

There's something to be said for taking things slow for once.

Rand Industries may not have been in the news, but the company was a bit too close to the whole business to come off completely in the clear. The FBI haven't totally ruled out their involvement, even though it seems they were competing against Fisk's shell companies for control of the real estate. Everyone involved is confident that they'll be cleared, but it's still a bit of a headache in the meantime.

Danny has continued to be a bit scarce in the aftermath, partially to deal with aforementioned investigation-related headaches. But, he's also needed to do his own healing, even if physically, he emerged unscathed.

His approach probably absolutely screams to Matt's senses, given he's carrying a big mug of vanilla rooibos tea, and he pauses for a moment on the top stair which squeaks fairly loudly even to those without super-hearing. He pads down the rest of the way after a moment. He's wearing a t-shirt and a pair of drawstring pants. And despite the creep of fall, he's barefoot. "The stereo system kicks ass if you ever need some tunes," he says in a tone that's forced cheerfulness. "Or does that mess with your flow?"

Matt has some notice of Danny's arrival, but neither it nor Rand's first buoyant words stop him from continuing his way through the form. His lips twitch at the words. "Thanks," he says mid-motion, at that moment a left-handed punch into mid-air. "But I've got enough of a soundtrack going on most of the time."

Then he straightens and turns to face the arriving master of the house. It can't be said that he's watching Danny. Without glasses, it's clear as ever his unfocused eyes aren't up to the task. But his bruise-mottled face still has some quality of observation. Who knows what he's picking up?

"How's it going?" he asks. "Anything new to report?" Nelson and Murdock is a full service firm, especially where Danny and Rand Enterprises are concerned. He and Foggy have been deeply enmeshed in SHIELD and the U.S. Attorney office's investigation into the company, which Matt has already assured him they are only conducting for due diligence.

There's far more to fear from the Daily Bugle catching wind of it all and misrepresenting the truth than from overzealous law enforcement.

There haven't been too many instances where Danny has seen Matt both without his vigilante outfit and without the disguise of the red glasses. He watches him curiously, but not with the same curiosity someone else might regard a blind man. It's like he's trying to judge how Matt can sense by reading his body language and how he reacts to ambient sound. It's not a super obvious observation, but neither is it entirely subtle.

"Ward is losing his mind. He's worried that we're going to get implicated somehow or the investigation will uncover something else that might look bad. I think it's good we're getting raked over. I'm still concerned about people doing things they shouldn't because they're not confident in my leadership." He shrugs. "Maybe the authorities sniffing around will make them stop."

If Matt's ability does read chi in any way, the young CEO might look a bit like splintered glass. Not broken, but full of striations. Even if he can't, it doesn't take a martial arts master to know he's off his game. "How about you? How does it feel to finally drag Fisk into the light of day?"


There's a good reason Matt wears glasses. His features are guarded, their emotional palette muted, but his eyes are remarkably expressive. They convey at least some of the answers to the question Danny asks: weariness, relief, and something still unsettled — off balance.

They may have won, but it was a long fight, and it left scars on Matt as much as anyone.

"A little sunlight never hurt anyone," Matt offers dryly, and it's not clear whether he's speaking of Rand Enterprises or Wilson Fisk. Maybe both. It's also a neat way of sidestepping the unanswerable question of how it all feels to be done with it all.

He walks over to a wall and searches with one hand for a clean white towel to dab at his face. "Ward can worry, but you and I should be clear — SHIELD knows you weren't involved," Matt assures him. "Daredevil couldn't tell them why without outing you, but this will all go away soon. I promise. "

He turns back to Rand, eyebrows inching upward. "That fist of yours sure came in handy when it counted," he adds with a lift of his stubbled chin. "Without it, Fisk probably would still be holed up in there. Or worse yet, escaped."

"Something about sunlight being a disinfectant?" says Danny with a sort of sheepish grin. Of them all, he's probably the worst at quips - except perhaps Kinsey when she's in her robo-suit.

"I'm not worried," he shrugs. "We did everything on the up-and-up with the bids on the properties. Plus, I had already started the paperwork for the housing trust, so it should be pretty clear that we were buying up the properties to make sure they stayed affordable housing. It uh, doesn't hurt that it makes sense financially as a tax write-off for Rand. So they shouldn't be too suspicious about a big business being too altruistic." Though it's not like he cares about tax write-offs, but his board certainly does. And that's one of the reasons he's indulged.

He looks down at his hand and flexes his fingers. "I could have been more help in there if I had been stronger to start with. But I'm glad you're all all right," a pause, "I've been trying really, really hard not to tell Luke I-told-you-so about him telegraphing his punches."


"Yeah," Matt says with chagrin, a faint note of regret. "There are still ways to break an unbreakable man." And only few of them involve Aztec gods, as Matt learned on Danny's rooftop just a few nights before.

"Anyway," Matt adds with a roll of one shoulder. "You did good. Everyone did good. Owen, with the intel. Emery stopping that… whatever the fuck that was." The Catholic can't quite bring himself to say it was an actual angel. "Six, too. Felt like we were — I dunno." His lips curl at one corner. "A team? I guess."

"I know Fisk deserved it for what he did, but I'm glad he's not dead." Danny stops himself, backtracks. "I mean, I'm glad no one had to kill him. That would have been a harder injury to come back from than a broken arm and some bruised ribs." He means the psychic kind of injury.

Danny presses his thumb into the centre of his palm, like his unconscious tic is performing acupressure on himself. It might actually be the case. "You meditate, right? How do you…" he hesitates. "…in K'un L'un, my successes or failures only affected me. I either moved closer to my goal of becoming the Iron Fist, or I failed and paid for my failure. The right thing was always obvious, if only in retrospect. Some…mistake I made. Some time when I didn't heed the masters. When I forgot my teachings, or let down my guard. It made sense. Now…I can do what I think is right, what I still think is right, and end up hurting people. Not just…" he motions vaguely around to mean the people staying in his house, "…but as Emery pointed out, the people who work for Rand whose livelihoods are tied to the reputation of the company."

Matt's brow knits when Danny makes his commentary on Fisk, a pained look registers in those soulful, hazel-tinted windows into his inner life. "Yeah," he repeats quietly on the final resolution of their months-long debate over the Kingpin's ultimate fate. "This is harder, but better." He says it with more conviction than he feels. Matt, more than anyone, knows the pitfalls of the law — and how adept Wilson Fisk can be in exploiting them.

You meditate, right?

The question catches Matt by surprise, and without his glasses that surprise actually shows. He focuses on Danny again, listens as he talks about how the training and teaching he received in that mystical city of his hasn't held up as well as he might hope in the real world. His smirk comes curling back. "Yeah, I don't think any one system is built to handle the choices we have to face out there," he offers with a little shrug. "I know a Jesuit education sure as hell wasn't. Honestly I'm just — I'm just winging this shit, and cobbling together what I've picked up. Meditating helps, yeah. So does — "

A beat, a correction: "So do people. Connections. Loyalty. Like I have to my neighborhood, and you have to your company and the people who work in it. It complicates shit like nothing else, but it's also the only way we could have gotten through this."


"How do you find your centre when it's all so complicated?" asks Danny. The vulnerability in his voice is apparent even to someone not adept at reading the dozens of other subtle physical cues. "I used to be able to meditate and let problems, let challenges wash over me and come to some kind of conclusion. Whether that was…" he gestures, "…accept my failure and learn from it, or to reflect on my success and how I can sustain it. But now?" He shakes his head.

He leans against a support beam and picks at the wood where it splinters in places. "I worry that my inability to summon the fist means I'm on the wrong path. But I don't think my path is wrong. But maybe it is. Maybe I'm meant to give this all up and return to K'un L'un."

He shakes his head and chuckles awkwardly. "Sorry man. I'm sure you don't really need this right now. You've been through hell."

It'd be nothing at all if feckless, clueless heir Danny Rand were asking shrewd, circumpsect lawyer Matt Murdock for advice. But for the zen-as-fuck Iron Fist to ask the same of Daredevil, who has spent the last five months cracking up in spectacular fashion — it seems risible. And for a moment Matt really does laugh, even if it's seen more in the shake of his shoulders than heard in the breath it puffs out of his chest.

"I'm no sensei, Danny," he says tiredly. "My sensei was a piece of shit. But —" His brow knits, head dips.

"I know the answer isn't running away." That is said with a quiet conviction like nothing else Matt has offered tonight, or any night in the last five months. "Your gifts were meant to do good, and serve others. You can do that here — have been doing that here. The answer isn't to retreat, it's to throw yourself right back into it. To find the fights that will give you clarity of purpose and stakes. The fist'll come when you need it. Like it did in the subway."

It may be true that Matt has been struggling. But to Danny, what he sees is a man who keeps getting up, keeps fighting, and keeps landing hits even when he's not at peace. The zenmaster may be skilled, but punching his hardest when he's on the ropes is not something he's learned to do. Whereas Matt is the boxer, the man who keeps getting up even when the ground seems like the most comfortable place in the world.

"I've come to believe that the senseis that train soldiers are universally pieces of shit, because they have to be." A wry grin. "A sensei in a dojo teaching kids or even serious amateurs can afford to give their students time and kindness. A sensei training soldiers can't afford to do that."

He absorbs what Matt has said and takes a breath inward. "I can't imagine any scenario when you'd advise retreat, Matt. But sometimes it's the wise course." He ruffles his hair. "But maybe not this time. Maybe there's a way to the Fist rather than absolute clarity of purpose. If I'm meant to use it for anything other than guarding the way to K'un L'un, there has to be. Otherwise I'm the bearer of a weapon that only works when the fight is black and white. I've come to learn there's no such thing as one of those - only ignorance of nuance."

Because they have to be.

It sounds like something Stick would say, even if channeled through Danny Rand's mind and manners. This notion of masters being hard on their pupils — no, soldiers in training — rankles him. Matt smiles a little; it's more bitter than sweet but contains at least some of both. He shrugs a nod, noncommital. "Maybe," he says, but it allows for a maybe not. Imaginative space for a world where where father-figures don't have to abuse their sons to get them ready for the world.

Then Danny's referencing their weeks-old disagreement at his company headquarters. "You made the right call at the time," he acknowledges, refusing to beat around the bush or offer anything like defensiveness. "We'd be in a real mess right now if the company had been compromised."

The concession — apology? — is a rarity for Matt Murdock, who has a stubborn streak and a lawyer's tendency not to concede in an argument. He makes it forthrightly, and moves past it just as quickly. "Anyway, I think there must be a lot of paths to clarity. And a lot of them are in the mess and muck of the real world." Two beats, and then a wry: "I know it, actually. Better than most."

Another beat. "I think we ought to do this thing," he says, in what might seem a non sequitur. "The 'Defenders.' Make it as real as the ink they're giving us. You in, 'Iron Fist?'"

Or a world where senseis and father figures aren't conflated. A good sensei is a bad father, and a good father is a bad sensei. A sensei of a soldier has to think of his pupils as tools in a greater conflict. He can't get too close. And that attitude is the antithesis of being a good father.

Both devil and dragon have much in common. Both had imperfect fathers they idealized through child's eyes. Both had their fathers replaced with hard, uncompromising men who, although they had some affection for their charges, always had their eye on a greater conflict. And yet, despite this mirrored upbringing, Danny and Matt are different in many, many ways.

Case in point. Danny bows his head a little at the referencing of the old disagreement. "I didn't…I just meant, as a policy." He shakes his head. "And maybe we need to check each other. Because I have no doubt there will be hard decisions we'll have to face in the future. Maybe harder than Fisk."

The question makes his brows raise. The invocation of both their (un)official team name and his title makes it sound more formal than any of their conversations before. He steps forward, then reaches out to clasp Matt's forearm, in a more ancient sign of solidarity than just a clasped hand. "…does this count as the deal with the Devil?"

Yep. Still not great at quips.

Harder than Fisk? That sends Matt's unkempt eyebrows shooting briefly upwards. It's hard to imagine harder choices than the ones their fight with Fisk foisted on them. It seemed like every week brought some new ethical dilemma or test of will. But his mind flickers through the horizon: Frank Castle and his murderous one-man war, Fisk's own trial, in which one or more of them may be key witnesses. And beyond that, the things they can't foresee, but rest just beyond even Matt's formidable field of vision.

Chances are Danny's right yet again.

But they can grapple with those future choices — well. In the future. In the present, Matt just clasps Danny's hand as his offer is accepted. Though the solemnity of the moment may be undercut by an incredulous grin at Rand's bad joke.

"Maybe," Matt allows, wry. "But I'll try to make sure you don't regret it."

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