September 28, 2018:

The fate of Luke Cage's former self as Carl Lucas is up for debate.

Nelson & Murdock

Where everybody knows your (pseudo) name!


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Owen Mercer, Jessica Jones, Frank Castle, Wilson Fisk, Barbara Gordon, Danny Rand, Six

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

It's very strange to do things the normal way. This isn't a secret clandestine meeting, there were no cryptic text messages or vague phone calls. Luke Cage made an actual appointment.

Thought he doesn't know Foggy well (hardly at all, to be honest), he requested both the partners of Nelson & Murdock meet with him to discuss the very personal legal matter of Carl Lucas. The big man arrives a little late, but the subways are still running slow into the Kitchen if you can manage to catch one at all. Opening the door to the office and giving a quick glance around, "Yo." The casual greeting comes. For once, he looks rested and the cast he was sporting after taking Fisk out has already been removed. God bless accelerated healing. He's got a back pack slung over one shoulder, the thing looking absurdly small on his large frame.


Foggy Nelson lives at Nelson & Murdock. While the rest of the Defenders are enjoying their downtime — maybe — this particular unofficial member of the group is constantly moving, constantly at work. He was supposed to be on vacation — Tahiti was the agreed upon destination. He would go, he would sleep, he would enjoy time far, far away from New York City. Then Hell came, and now he's not going anywhere. No one is.

So, he's pretending the idea of vacation was never drummed up, and instead he's doing what he can behind a desk, knee-deep in paperwork. In fact, Luke's meeting was considered to be part of his break, because it meant he was no longer surrounded by a haphazardous fortification of law books and paper pads, because with the chaos around him, he's decided he's not going to trust his laptop or the internet.

"Yo," Foggy says behind the bite of what appears to be a PB&J on wheat bread. He's wandering in from the tiny kitchen attached to the office, and gesturing Luke toward Matt's office. "Sandwich?" He offers. "Coffee? Maybe a little nibble of brimstone?"


Whatever may have been envisioned after Wilson Fisk's fall, whatever promises Matthew Murdock has made about chipping in more at the office, there's been no downtime for the Devil of Hell's Kitchen. Not with so many actual devils having descended on New York. There are people in danger 24/7, and so Matt has been forced to take up his costume beyond the nighttime hours. Ikari's katana in hand, Matt is almost constantly on the rooftops, in the allies, storming apartment buildings wherever he can catch sounds of people under threat.

But he'll make time for an appointment, not the least with Luke Cage. When Luke and Foggy arrive they'll find him seated behind his cluttered desk, dressed down: untucked button-down and jeans; brown, rectangular sunglasses and baggy, shadowed skin beneath them; a heavy five o'clock shadow. He's still missing a tooth — who has time for a dentist? — and he's got three ugly scratch on his lower left cheek from what must have been a claw. Fortunately, he doesn't have to explain away that one to casual observers — everyone's a target for attack these days, even mild-mannered blind lawyers.

He waves Luke in, smile wan but genuine. "Hey, man. Good to see you. Come on in."


If Luke has been fighting demons, he has the audacity to look none worse for the wear. Even his broken arm post Fisk-ing has healed to the point where the 3d printed cast has been removed. That's where being bulletproof comes in handy. His smile is broad as Foggy meets him in the common area, as if he has no cares in the world for once, "Hope you're brewing it with holy water these days." He tells the Nelson half of the firm name, clapping him warmly on the shoulder as they angle for Matt's office.

His first instinct is to call Matt out on the 'see you' part of that greeting, but that would totally be an Owen move. "Murdock. Looking…bruised as ever." He doesn't wait for further invitation before dropping his large frame into one of the client chairs, sliding his backpack to the floor near his feet.


"Ha. No." Foggy hesitates. "But now that you mention it…" He frowns thoughtfully as they step into Matt's office. The blond lawyer shuts the door after Luke is inside, and then he steps to an opened seat, settling himself down with a tired exhale. His eyes cut up to Matt, but then back to Luke at his casual comment. His smile is ghostly. "I keep telling him he needs to seriously consider better head gear."

Then he brushes his hand back through his hair — a haircut is on the same todo list as Matt's tooth, which means who has time for the barber? "How're things going, Luke?"


Between the war with Fisk and the demons Matt is wrung out and threadbare, but he still manages a rueful smile at his friends' quips. "We're not all lucky enough to have unbreakable skin," he tells Luke before angling his profile towards Foggy. "And yeah, any helmet at all would be good at this point. I need to get with Jane about that." His, of course, is at the bottom of the ocean with the ruins of Wilson Fisk's oversized yacht. Chalk it up to one more thing they've lacked the time to take care of.

Matt lets Foggy's question stand. Even if he can't 'look' at Luke in any literal or traditional sense, it's clear his attention rests on the larger man.


"You're not lucky enough to look this pretty either." Luke stretches his long legs out, leaning back into his chair. "But I'm pretty good, all things considered." Like a hellmouth opening up in Manhattan. "Got my girl back, got the bar open." The broad expanse of his shoulders lift and fall like tectonic plates against his neck. "But there's just one thing looming over me that I nee to get taken care of. The sooner the better. Because with the Kingpin behind bars, I don't see any reason why he doesn't just pull the trigger on my little Carl Lucas problem."


"Hey… some of us aren't lucky enough to have super senses, unbreakable skin, super strength, glowy fists of death, immortality, and whatever the hell Owen Mercer does." Foggy Nelson doesn't even miss a beat in that entire tirade, but he does look seriously between Luke and Matt. "Some of us are super good at nuking corner store burritos, though."

Then he turns to look toward Luke a bit more curiously. A frown settles into place. "Carl Lucas?"

Someone doesn't follow the Luke Cage VigiWatch coverage.


"He throws — boomerangs?" Matt says distractedly with a head-tilt of Owen Mercer. "He throws them really fast, though. And Danny isn't actually immortal, just F-Y-I. That's his honorific or something."

Distractedly because he's mulling Luke's astute flag. "Yeah, you're not the only one he has stuff on," Matt Murdock says dryly, his eyebrows lifting and dropping in a pseudo-shrug that's more flip than he actually feels. Wilson Fisk knows who Luke Cage was; he knows who Daredevil is. It's only a matter of time before he puts all that valuable knowledge to use.

But Foggy looks lost, and so Matt offers: "Before Luke Cage was Luke Cage, he was Carl Lucas. Imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit. Experimented on. He escaped and has been making a new life for himself. Fisk knows it."

The lawyer leans his scruffy head backwards against the headrest of his chair. "Seems to me there are two options, Luke. The first is that we come clean. Take you in. We've built up some good will with the Fisk case, so maybe we can cut a deal. Time served seems like a reach — but a year might be doable."

A beat. "The second is something no ethical lawyer would counsel," he says in tones as dry as any desert.


Luke shifts a bit uncomfortably in his seat, but it's when Matt mentions that Fisk has dirt on others rather than when the conversation turns to Carl. "I just want to point out I was talked out of ending his ability to talk." The words are said lowly like a mutter beneath his breath, but thankfully the darkness that was threatening to overtake him abated when Jessica came out of her coma.

His attention throws back to Foggy now, filling in more of the blanks. "It's why when my bar burned down initially I couldn't pursue an insurance claim. Because there would be an investigation, and all that would come to light. The problem is when I busted out of Seagate, I still had time on that sentence and then when you tack on escaping…you guys are miracle workers, but." His bald head shakes in a negative. "I can't go back there. So let's talk about the hypothetical option B. I need to know what it would take to make it official that Carl Lucas died in the experiment or during the breakout, drowning on the swim back to shore. And then what it would take to make Luke Cage official on paper, air tight. Because there's something I want to do that means Cage has to be a real boy."


"… but he says he's the Immortal Iron Fist."

Then his frown turns from Matt to Luke, because he's not going to get caught up on Danny Rand's false advertising. "Oh. Luke. Lucas. Got it." He looks at Luke. "Wait, you were experimented on? In prison?" He looks from Matt, to Luke, and then back to Matt. "And did we just not think we couldn't present a reasonable case to get Carl Lucas's name cleared? Do you think we spent all our karma on the Bucky Barnes case or something?"

Then he looks back to Luke. "I'm with Matt on this. We could definitely present a reasonable case to the courts… but I wouldn't even play with the time served thing. You were falsely accused, right?" Foggy hasn't grabbed for his yellow legal pad yet. This is all off the books. This is a good idea because when Luke makes his suggestion, his expression changes from one of dutiful dedication to a bit of uncertainty. He looks at Matt, and then back to Luke. "That goes wrong, Luke… we're going to be disbarred. And you're going back to jail. And I wouldn't be surprised if they make you disappear in the system, what with your abilities."


When Luke implies that the world would be a simpler place if Matt and others had just let him go down that dark road and crush Wilson Fisk's head like a melon, the lawyer offers the faintest of smiles and a shrug of his shoulders. He made his peace with that choice, and all it could someday cost him, on a rocky, windswept beach along the Connecticut shoreline. It is what it is.

But they still have to deal with the consequences. See how Luke veers towards Door #2. One of his stated reasons draws Matt's eyebrows subtly upwards, but otherwise the lawyer makes no comment.

Not until Foggy's finished, after wish he purses his lips. "We could try and make Luke Cage a real boy — Kinsey would help in a second, and her resources there are — " a slight, wry smile — "considerable. Here's the thing, though. We can erase every record that says there was a Luke Cage, but we can't erase people or their memories. There was a judge who sentenced you, a prosecutor who put you away, witnesses and family and friends who all remember Carl Lucas. We can't do anything about them, and if Fisk spins his story and gets the right people interested, it may not matter the story we fabricate. Maybe Foggy's onto something. We haven't even looked into trying to clear your name of the original crime. Your girlfriend happens to be one of the best P.I.s in the world, and Foggy's no slouch. If we get you off the hook for the original arrest, Fisk has nothing over you."


Luke cranes his neck to one side until it pops when they're done speaking. Clearly, he had his mind set on one path and they're making him back pedal all for considerable reasons that he hadn't really contemplated before now. "There was a bust when I was on the beat, and a key of heroin went missing. Someone tipped of IA saying that I was the one that took it. There was a raid and they found it in my apartment. Weighed, bagged and street ready. Not only did I get busted on felony drug possession, but also intent to distribute and tampering with state's evidence." If they're talking the potential of fighting the original charges, it's better to inform them now of what they're getting into. "And it's not like this happened yesterday."

He leans forward, rubbing his bald scalp with both palms in frustration. "This was much easier in my head. Kinsey would just delete some records and make some new ones. But that's why I came to you." He uses the royal you to include both Matt and Foggy.

"You won't be able to use the experimentation against Seagate. If you did, they'd want evidence and we'd have to produce the thumb drive. Which opens a whole other can of worms for others besides me." He leaves it vague in case Foggy doesn't know about Luke's connection to Matt and Jessica and their Meta abilities.

He sighs and leans back up, "I want to ask Jones to marry me. And I can't do that if I'm going back to the Penn."


Kinsey would just delete some records… Foggy really needs to find out just what Kinsey "Six" Sheridan is actually capable of. But that's another conversation for another time. Instead, he finally takes out his legal pad and pen, twisting off the cap. Now he's dedicated. "Matt's right. We need to actually get this all cleared, and not just try to hide you. That's going to backfire, and it will actually make Fisk's move on you all the easier. We need to clear Carl Lucas's name… and then you can be Luke Cage without fear of the past you've left behind."

He starts to write something on his legal pad, but then stops when Luke mentions marriage. He looks up, glancing toward Matt, and then back to Luke. "Dude, seriously?" He looks at Matt. "Who called it? I said this was going to happen. I should have put a bet on it. I could have been at least twenty bucks richer." Then he smiles good-naturedly to Luke. "Congrats, Man."

Then he sobers up a bit, shaking his head. "So, we don't get Seagate for experimentation… we leave that alone. We go after the false crimes instead. We can always come back around to Seagate later."


What Kinsey can do, and perhaps more importantly, what she does do, regularly, as Six, is definitely worth a longer conversation. But that, and the details of Luke's wrongful conviction will inevitably get lost in the shuffle when 'Powerman' drops a bomb on the two lawyers.

Who called it? boasts Foggy Nelson of Luke Cage's nuptials. "You said we were one more Armageddon away, as I recall," Matt throws back, and then with a rueful nod towards the literal hellishness outside his window outside adds: "So… yeah, you called it."

Then he turns his attention to Luke. "Jesus, Cage, way to bury the lede," Matt says. He flashes a tired but thoroughly sincere smile, and adds a quiet: "That's amazing. Congratulations."

On the matter of Seagate, Matt says nothing for now. It is, as Foggy says, a bridge they can cross when they come to it. "Then I guess the first order of business is to get your hopefully-soon-to-be-fiance in here and on the case. Too bad she hasn't moved downstairs yet."


"Save all the congratulations until after my girl actually says yes. I see the proposal going one of two ways, but I'm hedging it being the one where it ends with me having to chase her down." Luke says ruefully, "And I need to wait until I can find - and afford - the perfect ring for her." The big man shrugs again, trying to play it off, but Matt will no doubt hear the twitterpating of Cage's pulse and Foggy gets treated to the sight of him swallowing down his nerves. For such an 'unbreakable' man, emotions can get the better of him sometimes.

"You're going to have a hard time finding character witnesses for 'Carl'. My dad is convinced my 'criminal ways' caused my mom's cancer, my shrink in lock-up ended up being part of the experiment and died," As his wife, by Jess' hand, but he leaves those little unnecessary reminders out. "And I'm half convinced my partner was the one that set me up. After I went away, the boys in blue turned their backs on me." Luke reaches down to his backpack then, unzipping the main compartment to pull out a manilla folder. "I don't have much from back then, but here's the original police report I pulled up online. I also have a juvie record that was sealed for boosting a car, but that's how I ended up in the Marines. The judge gave me a choice between that or one of those scared straight facilities. I wrote what I remembered down."


Foggy looks rueful, and his smile is heard through his words. "I figured we were about due. I mean, who needs breaks around here? Anyone, anyone?"

Then he looks back to Luke, and he jots something down on his yellow legal pad. He nods slightly, but makes no comment about the nerves moving through him, save for a bit of encouragement. "I wouldn't worry too much, man… I think Jess would have sent a clear signal if she wasn't into you by now."

Then he settles back into his note-taking, pausing just once at the dad comment before he jots something in the margins. He looks up toward Luke. "We may not need character witnesses for Carl, because I think we can find a good amount for Luke. You've obviously decided to look after Harlem, and I think that's a good angle to go for." Then when Luke offers up the folder, he holds out his hand so he can look it over, and begin to tell Matt some of the information he sees on the written notes from Luke.


You can probably see Matt's eyes rolling despite the shades when Luke asks they not jinx his proposal, but at least his smile is good-natured. "She's crazy about you, Luke." The words are all warm, quiet conviction.

To the rest — the character witnesses, the sad tale of Luke Cage's shrinking circle of friends and family — Matt listens carefully. He nods to Foggy's point about Luke's recent acts of heroism giving him credibility and good will. Then his lips bend downward musingly. "Honestly, I think the next step here really is to bring Jessica into this," the lawyer offers after a moment's thought. "This isn't her first cold case, and she'll probably have a few dozen ideas about where to start. It'll probably mean a trip back home, or to track down your old partner if he's not there."

The next smile is slight, pained. "Savannah's probably a nice change of pace from everything going on here, anyway."


Foggy reads off Luke's military career, where he went to the police academy and his accommodations which are all pretty standard and generic. He only did his minimum tour in the military, not opting to re-up, but served his four and beat feet back to civilian life. There is also a list of his previous addresses and the name of his cellmate. Any little detail he could think of that would save them time on an investigation was jotted down and at least half-heartedly organized. He was really hoping for option B, guys.

"Until you meet my father. Then you might prefer the demons." Luke says dryly, capping his knees with his palms and rubbing the material of his jeans nervously. "Also, full disclosure, someone named Barbara Gordon asked me to protect a guy named Frank Castle, who's been splashed all over the news as the Punisher. So that explosion off Pier 41 in Gotham? I was there. But I think I got out before I could be identified." As, you know, aiding and abetting.


When Foggy finishes his recitations, he nods a bit. Then he starts to take some notes; his pen is moving across the yellow lined paper just as Luke says two names that strike very different chords with him. First, his pen scrapes across the paper at the name Frank Castle, and then he's going back to that Barbara Gordon person. He blinks, looking toward Matt, then to Luke, then to Matt.

"Uh." He hesitates, deciding not to mention Frank and instead asks — almost sheepishly, "Where have I heard the name Barbara Gordon?"


It was all going so well. Wedding bells were, if not quite ringing, readying to ring. The Scoobies — sorry, Defenders — with a case to clear the name of one of their own. No enemies on the horizon but an endless wave of demons — cathartic, somehow, after fighting monsters of the human variety. And then…

…then Luke says the name, Frank Castle. And worse, says that he'd been recruited to help 'protect' the Punisher, by…

Matt's quiet a moment, the only tell of the complicated swirl of thoughts and emotions underneath his placid, battered surface the crease in his brow and the forefinger and thumb he summons to touch the bridge of his nose. Foggy asks where he's heard the name Barbara Gordon. Matt says in hushed, side-bar-style aside: "Great Milkshake Attack of 2009."

A pause. "What were you protecting Castle from?" Matt asks. "And did you help him blow up that boat? Or — do anything else we should know about?" He tries to keep his voice even, neutral. Just a lawyer asking his client some baseline questions.


"Being blown to bits." Luke answers easily as to what he was protecting Castle from. Another hoodie was lost in the battle, adding to the growing monument of them in some landfill that are a testament to how many times Cage has stopped bullets recently. "Gordon got my name from Jones, what was I going to do?" Not about to disappoint his girl, that's what. His big shoulders shrug.

"Apparently the man's family was gunned down in the park and he was tracking down those responsible. Can't say I blame him." As Luke recently did the very same thing when it came to Kingpin. If you live in a glass house, don't throw stones or whatever. "The boat was blown up by some royal butt nugget," He has to get creative when trying not to swear, which he's gotten back into the really bad habit of lately. "Willing to sacrifice their own drug shipment to take us all out. Gordon took shrapnel to the gut, so we cut out of there after that. Castle went for a swim." He doesn't mention Owen. Because reasons.

"I knocked out a few guys, left 'em zip tied where I dropped them…" Which then blew up. So. Casualties, yes. And it's something that Luke grinds his teeth about.


"Ohhh, that Barbara Gordon."

Perhaps because they are talking all about Frank Castle now, but Foggy does not ask for more details about why Barbara Gordon is caught-up in all this — though he does blink when Luke mentions the fact that Gordon was at the boat with Luke and Frank. He looks ready to ask a question, but then stops himself with an awkward silence. Nope. He's not talking. He already got in big trouble when it came to Frank Castle, because… well… Foggy basically hired Frank to kill Fisk — a small detail he has very conveniently forgotten to bring up again. Nope. He's going to worry about the rip in his paper, which he patches up with a bit of tape.


Matt rakes a hand through his unkempt hair. His sightless eyes close behind his shades as he thinks through Luke's answer. He can almost feel the braille-bumps of the New York Penal Code like some kind of sense memory. He parses through every conceivable crime attendant to Luke's adventure. At the end he presses his lips together, as if he found some answers he didn't like.

"I know why Frank Castle is doing what he's doing," Matt says at last, schooling his voice to something quiet, careful, and conciliatory. "I understand it. Sympathize with it. Everyone who just went through — " a beat, a tightening at the hinges of his jaw. " — what we went through knows it too. We all felt that temptation. But if we're trying to clear your name, you can't be a part of his quest for revenge." And now some exasperation creeps into his voice. "Especially not if he's offing district-fucking-attorneys." The Reyes murder in Gotham has been all over the papers and the radio, all linked to Frank Castle.

He leaves the other stuff, Barbara Gordon and the sound of Foggy Nelson's nervous scrawl across the paper, by the wayside. "Just keep your nose clean, Luke, until we get this stuff sorted."


"I'll try." Luke rumbles, but doesn't exactly promise. "But you probably know how hard it is to just sit on the sidelines and watch shit go down. I'll try. Getting to be there for Jess instead of heading back up the river is great motivation. I'll let her know what we're up to, but if there is anything specific you need her to find, you might want to contact her too. Better than me going 'uh, find some stuff about how I'm not guilty'." Cage zips up his bag, "I think that about covers it, unless you gentlemen have any questions?" His gaze flicks between Matt and Foggy, "Otherwise, I really appreciate what you guys are doing. Especially talking me out of something stupid." Which thankfully wasn't the part about him proposing to Jess.


Foggy Nelson continues to very strategically say nothing about Frank or Fisk or anything else until Cage zips up his bag and starts to close-up. The lawyer nods soberly. "I don't have any, but I definitely will come by the bar for a beer and interrogation if I have something come up. I really think we can get this done, and get it done right, Luke." He sidelines a look to Matt — and blind, or not, there's no doubting the weight of that look and the way Foggy shuffles in his seat with a small tap of his pen against paper.


"I'll reach out to Jess," Matt assures Luke with a brief, close-lipped smile. "Honestly, though, I think she could find out a hell of a lot on that prompt alone." Luke asks if there's anything else, and Matt waves him off. "We're alright for now. And here any time to talk."

…you out of bad ideas.

That part he doesn't say, any more than he visibly marks any of the tell-tale signs that Foggy Nelson betrays. Soon enough for that.

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