Damage Control
Roleplaying Log: Damage Control
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Nelson & Murdock gets an unexpected new investor.

Other Characters Referenced: Warren Worthington, Alison Blaire, Kiff Kassmeier, Foggy Nelson
IC Date: November 07, 2019
IC Location: Offices of Nelson & Murdock, NY
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 10 Dec 2019 01:42
Rating & Warnings: G
Scene Soundtrack: None
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

Any other circumstances, and she wouldn’t be here.

When the black sedan pulls up to the curb in front of Nelson & Murdock, it idles there for a long moment as the occupant decides—this time in the most meaningful way possible—whether she is going to get out of the car. The most meaningful way being, of course, actually getting out of the car.

After one last look at the delicate bracelet timepiece on her wrist—an actual watch that quietly ticks away, not a modern technological monstrosity, Emma Frost sighs and says to her driver, “Yes, I suppose it’s time.”

Because she has an appointment; the latest she could muster.

The younger man briskly pushes himself out into the cold afternoon drizzle, popping open the umbrella he has on hand in order to quickly race around to her side of the car and open the door for his meticulously kept employer.

She slips out of the car in her stiletto pumps and beige Louis Vuitton trench coat, nestling down into the white mink collar at her neck as she makes her way to the door under his protection from the elements and then lets the man—two inches shorter than her once she’s got those murderous heels on—race back to the car before he gets caught standing where he’s not supposed to.

She slips inside the building, wrapped in the scent of Dior perfume and an ‘its five o’clock somewhere’ cocktail poured on the way over and heralded by the vaguely militaristic clack of her Saint Laurent shoes.

To her credit, she mostly fights a sigh as she makes her way into the office and gets a first glance at it from behind the completely gratuitous sunglasses she’s presently using to hide her eyes.


I knew she was trouble from the moment she stepped into my office, the hard-boiled P.I. says in every hackneyed noir novel Matt Murdock has ever skimmed over with his hyper-sensitive fingers.

But, being Matt Murdock, he knows it well before then, as he sits there in his office with a giant stack of briefs, an open braille display, and a cooling cup of tea. He knows it from the first tick of that timepiece, heard three floors down, and a quarter of a block away. He knows it from each click of the stiletto heels that stride purposefully towards Nelson & Murdock's suites.

And he knows it, truthfully, from six months ago, when a heartbroken Jessica Jones relayed the latest case she was working on: a cadre of kidnapped telepaths.

"Emery's in a froth over it because I guess Emma Frost is one of his clients, and she's been taken too."

He debated the wisdom of this meeting. Matt is in the habit of knowing other people's secrets, often obtaining them by osmosis rather than intent. The prospect of those tables being turned sends a gnawing feeling right to the pit of his gut, sets his jawline on edge. He could pawn the meeting off on Fog — but he's done too much of that already, what with the gradual renewal of his extracurricular adventures in the aftermath of Wilson Fisk's release.

And besides. Emma Frost is not the only person in unusual circumstances. So there he sits and waits in his courtroom best: slim-cut charcoal suit, white button-down, a slate-grey tie. And, of course, his own entirely gratuitous sanguine-lensed shades.

(It's probably not like many Manhattan law offices she's visited. No sleek array of glass and steel, no posh lobbies. Nelson & Murdock is necessarily expanding, what with the caseload they've taken on lately, and the new arrivals have done their part to spruce the place up. Wires and cables have been tucked away, plants and knick-knacks strategically placed. Framed headlines of storied victories mount the walls: saving Bucky Barnes, jailing the Kingpin.)

The receptionist offers her a choice of coffee, tea, or water before ushering her into Matt's office. He pushes himself to a rise from his leather seat, letting five fingers linger on the edge of the table as an anchor point as he rounds the corner and extends his right hand.

He smiles briefly, close-lipped. "A pleasure, Ms. Frost. Won't you sit?"


She asks tea from the receptionist, and expects little of it.

Emma removes her sunglasses as soon as someone begins speaking to her, and tucks their silvery blue lenses into her bag.

The same incident that worked Emery Papsworth into a frenzy and sent him to Kenai—twice—is the one that has eroded whatever small modicum of trust Emma had in the humans around her. In the void of that trust, natural suspicion stretches its protective wings and fills its natal space. She doesn’t know, of course, how far her butler let her dangerous secret slip. After all, Murdock wasn’t in Alaska. He didn’t see her brought low and carried back above ground. Else, he might appreciate more the art of artifice that she has perfected: the costly cosmetics and their masterful application, the exorbitant designer thread, the immaculate blonde curls.

Or he might not.

But he’s definitely right about one thing in particular: she is absolutely listening to every stray thought that flits across the surface. She restrains herself to it.

Her right hand—wrapped in creamy, soft lambskin leather—stretches out to meet his with a grip that balances needs of the moment, neither a CEO’s obsessive need to dominate nor an adopted feminine fragility. Its significant and responsive, ready to meet Matt’s own.

“Thank you, Mister Murdock,” she replies with an enigmatic turn of her rose-colored lips. “I appreciate you carving out a time to see me. I promise to make the most efficient use of the time I take.” Her ice-pale eyes pierce in a way that Matt likely won’t fully appreciate, seeing and seeing through.

And then she takes the seat that he offers, settling fully into it so that she can begin removing her gloves and revealing the pristine French manicure beneath. Those will be hung over the edge of her bag.

“If I may begin?”


The tea, for what it's worth, isn't just good. It's exceptional. The loose-leafed blend is aromatic, dark, and full-bodied. Apparently someone in the office likes their teas.

That someone is Matt Murdock, of course. For all his hardscrabble, working-class background, Matt's abilities have inevitably made him a sensualist and an unlikely epicure. Which is why, even blind, he can and does appreciate her pains at presentation, from the feel of delicate lambskin that greets his hand to the whisper of fine fabric when she moves to the waft of her perfectly calibrated fragrance. That appreciation is not unalloyed. In fact, it meets with a jolt of obstinate resistance and wariness; a backlash every bit as powerful as the initial shock of attraction, if not moreso.

He could try to shield those surface thoughts and reactions, some of which he's honestly embarrassed by, if he chose. Stick taught him how, so very very long ago. Even now, he's strangely aware of her sifting through his reactions, panhandling for nuggets of gold in the currents of his thoughts. He could resist, or try to. Put that meditative bag of tricks to use.

But doing so, attempting to shield himself, would give away that he knows what he knows, and knowledge is power, as Emma Frost knows well. So he lets her look, steels himself in case she decides to delve deeper, and instead of shielding, tries to manage what comes to the surface as best he can. A powerful will can work wonders there too.

None of that internal conflict is visible on his aspect. After all, she isn't the only person who knows how to present. See how his handshake is sure and brisk. His stubbled features are arranged into something attentive and consummately professional. Indeed, her piercing gaze will find little more than her own self reflected back in blood red, there in the twin circles of his shades.

"Of course," he says easily when she thanks him taking the time, lips bent musingly downward while he uses that anchor point of his hand on the table to guide himself back to his seat. "I have to admit, I'm a little curious about what brings you to our humble shop." He sits back in the leather swivel chair, with a brief but affable smile.

"So. What's on your mind, Ms. Frost?"

—-

“I’m coming as damage control.”

Emma tries to not let surprise take her features after that first inhalation of the tea, but her eyes do close after it so that she can properly appreciate it. The exhale that releases finds some measure of the tenseness of her shoulders release. At least one worry down; she won’t have to politely choke down a cup of badly brewed Lipton.

Cheap orange pekoe is a travesty.

“I have been working with Mister Kassmaier on a few matters regarding Mister Worthington’s affairs,” she continues, deciding to not yet sip of what is in her cup as it cools. But she does cradle the mug to warm her hands and continue to enjoy its balanced perfume. “Needless to say, things are a bit on the…”

Her eyes lift as she searches for the word.

“…complicated side.”

There’s not a beat of her heart nor breath of her lungs to betray her shameless snooping. She’s really been doing it for far too long for it to really have an impact, and perhaps it’s all sign that Matt’s polished veneer—inward and out— is sufficient for the moment. She doesn’t dive further, but does keep that running monitor for any warning signs that should concern.

“Particularly in the realm of his finances.”


Those initial words — damage control — fail to get a visible rise out of Matt, or even ripple the mostly placid waters of his thoughts. But when she mentions Kiff Kassmaier's name, and Warren's right after it, the lawyer's bushy eyebrows do drift upward over the round rims of his spectacles.

Beneath his aspect, that subtle undercurrent of wariness only strengthens. And with it, a grace note of concern, muted sorrow, perhaps most predominantly of all, anger for the fate of Warren and Alison. More than merely benefactors: he liked them both. His feelings towards Worthington seem uncomplicated by the grisly public details surrounding their deaths. Perhaps this Catholic has a particularly beneficent view towards the perpetrators of murder-suicide.

"I hadn't realized you had a hand in Warren's affairs," says just one of Warren Worthington III's many attorneys, folding his arms across his chest as he leans back into the plush leather of the chair, canting his head to one side. For all that subtle interplay of emotions he registers, he speaks as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. "He'd never mentioned any association."

There's a beat, a pause of consideration, before he voices what she probably already heard echoing in his head. "Look, our conversation may be limited here, Ms. Frost," he cautions, like any lawyer worth his salt. The tone comes in the man’s even, smooth, soft-spoken cadence. "Attorney-client privilege continues after death. But why don't you tell me what you've found, and how you propose to help."


“I don’t want any information that should violate that, so no need to worry on that front. Nor do I have a hand in Warren’s affairs, but Mister Kassmeier does. And he’s a little out of his depth. And thus…” Emma’s one hand releases the mug of tea she holds and then spreads out to one side. She smirks and chuckles at an unspoken joke, and then continues for the blind man before her. “And thus, me.

Her hand comes back.

“What I found is an unbalanced state for Mister Worthington and Miss Blaire’s foundation and a number of things stacked up for a takeover. So, while I can only do so much while the powers that be sort out the corporate side, the philanthropic end is a place where there is a little more control to be had. Namely, in over out.”

She takes another deep breath of the tea’s steam as it wafts up from its place near her breast, and then continues.

“Here’s the crux of it, Mister Murdock. I actually don’t want a thing out of you, except for you to quietly take my money—which will conveniently have my name in no way attached—until Mister Kassmeier can finish working his magic with the executive director and board at Aegis. The money from Aegis will ebb, and mine will flow. Once the situation has stabilized, things will return to normal.”


Matt can't see the casual gesture Emma makes with one elegant hand, but he can read a lot into the gaps between words. When you have ears like him, silence speaks volumes.

He doesn't make any attempt to conceal the suspicious sentiments that bubble up to the surface of his thoughts. Warren Worthington and Alison Blaire are dead, and new forces are swirling the wreckage they left behind. To what end? Any mind — especially a lawyer's mind might well wonder.

But other sentiments also arise. Concern, at the prospect of the Aegis Foundation being in a state of disarray or even endangerment. Nelson & Murdock's lawsuit has multiple backers. Still, the Foundation remains the principal lifeline for the Metahuman Legal Defense Fund established to support this whole mad endeavor. Losing it would be a catastrophe.

And so, with suspicion, and the concern, comes a twinge of hope. And more suspicion: beware immaculate ice queens bearing gifts. Or just beware ice queens in general. Matt Murdock has learned that lesson the hard way.

All of these competing reactions war briefly with another for a long beat, but it's pure pragmatism that wins out.

"That's a very generous offer," Matt says, spreading one calloused hand as the other reaches for his cool cup of tea. He takes a slow sip, and then: "We do accept contributions to the legal defense fund established to support the lawsuit. Aegis is not the only funder, though it's a significant one. The defense fund is a 501(c)3, so your gift will be tax-deductible."

He doesn't bother to ask her why she'd make such a generous offer, even though it is remarkable. Emma Frost is essentially offering philanthropic triage for a firm she's never dealt with, over a cause that is controversial at best. He keeps his meditation-honed mind blank of tells — memories of old conversations, words like telepath or metahuman — but that there's not even an internal question or blink at her motives here may be remarkable enough.

There's another beat before Matt sets that coffee cup down and goes in a different direction entirely. "What did you mean, 'stacked up for a takeover,' Ms. Frost?" he asks with a little nod of his stubbled chin. "A takeover by whom?"


Suspicion is good. Suspicion is healthy. Suspicion-laced pragmatism makes Emma Frost feel a little bit better about the investment. After all, altruism has never precisely been her strong suit.

“What I mean, Mister Murdock,” she replies, tone altogether even and unbothered, “is that the executive leadership right now is temporary until a formal vote is had on a successor. And you should very well know that a change in leadership can mean a change in funding priorities.”

Lifting the cup to her painted lips, Emma sips primly. She takes in another deep inhalation of the tea’s aroma, and then continues.

“Until that succession is safely secured with someone who will continue obediently along Worthington and Blaire’s trailheads… Well. Suffice it to say, Mister Kassmeier and I have a plan, and that we each have our part to play. You’ll see a new name appearing very soon with no restrictions or reporting requirements. And you can trust the funding to remain stable, at least until other things stabilize and Aegis can reinvest at its prior commitment. My funding will serve as a stopgap, not a replacement.”

She shrugs airily. “You can speak to him about it all if you’d rather, but I did think that you’d at least like to set a face to where the money is coming from if I can’t give you the benefit of a name on paper. Clearly, I would very much prefer that this conversation stays between us.”


Two years ago, Matt's partner Foggy made a forceful case to take on Tony Stark as a client. Matt was adamantly against it, arguing it would change the whole tenor and mission of their firm, but Foggy was persuasive. He's not a billionaire; he's a superhero who helps people.

Matt grudgingly assented.

Months later, the partners agreed to a retainer for Danny Rand. He's not a billionaire; he's a puppy dog. A year after that, Warren Worthington and Alison Blaire. They're not the idle rich; they're allies in the fight for metahuman rights.

Each new opportunity found some excuse, some loophole, some wriggly course into client list of law firm ostensibly established to serve the poor and beleaguered of Hell's Kitchen.

And now, Matt finds himself sitting across from this perfectly appointed woman he's fairly sure is far more mercenary and cut-throat than any of the clients Nelson & Murdock has taken on to date. Everything she says — about susceptibility to takeovers, about stopgaps — raises alarm bells.

…and yet. There's too much riding on us. Everyone is counting on us. And so Matt makes his decision, the internal shift punctuated by a slight, visible nod of the head. As if she needed the cue.

"I'm not great with faces," Matt says dryly, lips a-twitch. "But I still appreciate you stopping by." A beat. "And of course I'll be discreet."

I'll also check in with Kassmeier myself, the blind lawyer thinks from his repose in that leather seat. Because she isn't the only one who considers suspicion a virtue.


Emma allows the man his considerations with no evidence upon her features whatsoever that she is privy to the inner churnings of his brain.

Honestly, it would serve her better for everything to be done through Kassmeier, but here they are.

She sips her tea. Lets him think.

And when he comes to his conclusion, her silence comes to an end with an appreciative chuckle. “Excellent,” she says, the sentiment applying to all dimensions of the conversation… Whether Murdock can appreciate it or not.

Her half-empty tea cup, with its faint trace of lipstick on its rim, is set down on the edge of the desk, and she rises to her feet in a smooth movement and then extracts her gloves from her purse. Her gaze drops as she pulls them on.

“I know Aegis’s level of support. Until everything is resolved, just let my foundation know if there are other incidentals that need funding. We’ll see what can be done about it.”


Matt brings himself to a rise when he hears the whisk of fabric that accompanies her own. As he does, one hand thoughtlessly buttons the top of his suit jacket. It's the sort of rote, almost reflexive action that's all too necessary for a man who can't make use of mirrors.

She pledges to match Aegis' (considerable) level of support, at least for now, with a suggestion that she'll go further if necessary. "Appreciated," Matt says, pursing his lips. And it is, for what it's worth. Whatever her motives, Emma is engaged in philanthropy that will keep the lights on, and their quixotic venture moving forward.

He rounds the desk again to close the distance between them, summoning a quick, close-lipped smile. "It's been a pleasure," he says, hand extended once again for a closing, officiating shake.

And then there's a ripple in the otherwise smooth-running current of his thoughts. He hears something, or thinks he hears something: a scream. Is it a woman's? A child's?

Hard to say, especially for Emma, because she can hear no such thing. Just the bustling of a tightly packed office outside, and the dull cacophony of street-noise in the Manhattan streets outside.

Matt, for his part, cants his head ever so slightly, very much like a cat that's heard some far off and vaguely threatening noise. The outward facade more or less holds; the smile falters only a very little. "Sophie will see you out. Take care, Ms. Frost."


Fortunately for her, Matt will never see the way that Emma’s lower lids lift just a fraction as her shameless spying exposes his sensitive hearing. Her smile holds, and her voice has all the bright tint of it.

A pleasure, he says. “Likewise, Mister Murdock.” Not really. But necessary, and not overtly painful. So, as much as one can hope for. “And excellent choice in tea,” she praises as she shakes his hand once her gloves are tugged back in place, as though he needed her affirmation. “Thank you for it and your time.”

His sensitive ears will hear her on the move again as she does indeed move to slip out of the office with her long, measured stride. And for Sophie’s attempt to escort, there’s a lift of her hand to stop the other woman’s rise from her desk. “No need.”

And with that, the blonde is to her car and away. Because who wants to linger? It leaves Nelson & Murdock to its peace once more with no evidence that she was ever there, save a half-empty tea cup still warm and a kept appointment on the books.

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