Compliance, Defiance
Roleplaying Log: Compliance, Defiance
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Matt and Foggy talk about how to respond to New York's new metahuman registration law, and make some big plans.

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: November 21, 2018
IC Location: Law Offices of Nelson & Murdock
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 25 Nov 2018 22:58
Rating & Warnings: PG-13
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

There's a soft repetitive noise coming from inside Foggy Nelson's office. A low thh-wump-whack that resonates over and over again behind the closed door. It's precision to timing is almost perfected save for the smallest, tiniest hint of human error. Whoever is making the noise is just slightly — barely — off its timing. But still it goes…

Thhhhh-wump-whack.

Thhhh-wump-whack.

Inside, Foggy is hurling a rubber ball up against the wall, having it bounce up off the short bookcase just beneath a recently taped poster of Senator Kelly. The rubber ball bounces up from the shelf — wump! — and then smacks right into the guy's face — whack — before ricocheting back into Foggy's hand. There's some definite frustration behind that constant barrage, and the poster is looking like this is not the first dedicated abuse session it has endured.

Matt doesn't need supersenses that can tell what Foggy had for lunch on Monday from two rooms away — incidentally a steak sandwhich with Robiola cheese from the family butcher's shop, packed in foil by Mama Nelson — to know just who is furiously bouncing that rubber ball.

All he really needs to know is Foggy. And he does.

"Ah, hey buddy," Matt says as he opens the door to Foggy's office. He's in his after-hours uniform: suit jacket cast off, tie loosened, sleeves rolled.

The paralegals and associates — two of them, now! — have all headed home, so there's no pretense of searching and fumbling when he slips into the room. Abandoning that kabuki didn't come easy, even after Foggy learned the truth about his friend. Matt spent his whole life hiding what he can do from the world, making the blind man's play-acting almost second nature to him. But six months in, he's finally…

…well, being himself. Whoever that is.

"You're going to put a dent in that bookshelf you keep at it," he says. It's a joke, but the humor is muted. Even without eyes he knows Foggy's target, the whys of it, and all their deadly serious stakes.

"Hey," Foggy says in automatic reply. He flings the ball again, and it thhh-wump-whacks up the bookcase and into the poster. Then he catches it, stopping and planting the ball firmly on his desk. He turns slightly toward Matt, eyes stern and mouth set. He has just enough forethought to scrape back the tumbled fall of his (not-so) cowardly mane. He gestures to the picture, hand waving a bit manically.

"This is bullshit, Matt. This guy? I want to punch his nose in. I hate this guy."

Then he gets out of his chair, the springs and wheels squeaking and complaining audibly. He's up, and he walks toward the bookcase so he can tear Kelly's ugly mug off the wall, taking a bit of paint residue with it. "How did we not see this coming? Why weren't we on it? Injunctions, lawsuits, press releases… I should have been Dear-Editoring the shit out of this."

But there was bigger stuff going on… Hell's Kitchen's bombings, Fisk, Frank Castle, Rand Industries, Stark Industries, Hell On Earth 2018… he was everywhere else but focusing on what bigger legislature was being pushed around. And now here they are. Fuck.

Matt quirks a world-weary, melancholy sort of smirk when Foggy asks how they didn't see this coming. Everything Foggy thinks is true, and Matt's thinking it too, but there's one addendum: "I spent most of 2018 in my suit, Foggy," he admits as he plops into a chair against the wall. "Not on Lexis-Nexis or Twitter."

It's something they've talked about before. It's even been a point of tension. Between the harrowing crucible Matt went through in the fight against Fisk, and the ensuing demonic invasion of New York, he spent more of the last year as the vigilante Daredevil than he has as lawyer Matt Murdock.

And now that Matt is back, and starting to feel something like his old self again, he finds that —

"Kinsey told me once that people move together like fish," Matt offers with a tired little roll of his shoulders. He takes off those red-lensed spectacles, dropping them in the front pocket of his oxford-cloth shirt. "Action, reaction. Mirroring. Enough weird happens to New York, and New Yorkers will do anything to regain some control. Feel normal again. I'm guessing the demon army put it over the top."

Matt 'looks' to his friend, takes in all the little biometric stress cues, and feels a wellspring of helpless affection. "A million LTEs or cable talk shows wouldn't have stopped this, Fog," he says, his tone gentle and wry. "Don't beat yourself up."

Says a man who has made self-flagellation an art form.

"Yeah, well… time to get into your other suit, man." Foggy doesn't sound frustrated or annoyed that Matt has been Daredevil more than Matt Murdock lately. Maybe he's gotten over it, maybe he's just been doing this without Matt for long enough… for better, or for worse.

He crumples up the photo in his hand and drops it into the nearest waste bin, letting it get lost in the throw-away cups and napkins. He looks up toward Matt after a heartbeat, frowning slightly at the bits of Kinsey wisdom. He hadn't heard much from Kinsey lately, but the casual way that Matt speaks of her at least affirms that the two are still… Kinsey and Matt, whatever the hell that is.

"Yeah, well… that's no excuse." Even if it is. "We shouldn't have let this happen."

There's a distinct I that resonates in that We. He's not blaming Matt. Oh, no. He's blaming himself.

Time to get into your other suit, man.

Matt flourishes one hand downward, from his stubbled jawline to his silver-buckled belt, as if to say: Voila. Matt Murdock, esquire, at your service. It's a gesture without defensiveness, just more of the same sad, weary humor with which he's met this entire debacle.

He has to laugh, or else he'd cry. Or, more likely, punch something unwisely.

"What matters is what we do now," Matt says, dropping any humor in favor of quiet conviction. He knows a feedback loop of blame when he sees it. Foggy has gotten to be a deft hand at cutting his short, and it's only fair to try to return the favor.

The lawyer leans forward in his seat, elbows on thighs, hands clasped between his spread knees. "I'm sure a few thoughts occurred to you while you were pelting Senator Kelly there."

"Time to wash your other suit, man. You look like you recently went dumpster diving behind a Men's Warehouse."

Then Foggy is smiling a bit more gently toward his friend. Then he slumps back down into the edge of his desk, arms folding at his chest. He's not exactly looking much better than Matt, truth be told. His sleeves are rolled up, tie loose, and he's pretty sure that he hasn't sent these pants to the dry cleaners since last week. Matt doesn't have to know these things, even if the super-smeller probably does.

"First, we need to make sure that our friends are protected… there's this interview process that happens. We got to be there, Matt." Then he frowns, and his expression tightens. "And we need to get Luke's case figured out… Power Man is going to get registered, and if we haven't gotten this Carl Lucas shit figured out, he's going back to jail, too."

Matt ducks his head and swallows a laugh when Foggy tells him he looks more like a hobo than a successful attorney. Touche. "Yeah, I'm, uh, working on that whole living situation thing," he assures his partner. Because for the last four or so months, the homeless lawyer has been laying his head either in Danny Rand's mansion or the basement under Fogwell's Gym.

He listens to Foggy outline tentative next steps. We've got to be there for their metahuman friends during the registration process. Especially for Luke Cage, for whom telling the truth about his powers and how he got them will mark him as an escaped convict.

"Now that things have calmed down in New York, I think Jess and Luke are going to head to Savannah to open that cold case," Matt says, brow knit has mulls the matter. "You're right, though. The sooner the better on that one." Luke Cage, the superhero formerly known as Carl Lucas, has a ticking clock counting down to March 1, 2019.

Matt slumps against his chair, dips his head back and allows himself a long, deliberative pause. "I think that's all right, Fog," he finally says, tone soft and grim, sightless eyes searching upward. "People are scared. They don't know their rights, and they need a champion when they talk to the AG or the state police. It's important, and we should do it, not just for our friends but for other metahumans."

There's another pause, and another unspoken question couched within its span. Is that really enough?

"You know you can always crash at my place." The words are offered quietly — if not a bit reproachfully. Some hurt that perhaps Matt hasn't considered reliving their college dorm life. But, well. He also gets it. Mostly.

"I would rather get this done before that deadline. There's no telling if that might change, for better or for worse. Enough shit goes down, and that deadline is going to get moved up… fast… and it's already open season on metahumans now." There's some seriousness in his tone, the way his voice shifts. Foggy is looking at the worst case scenario — where suddenly metahumans are viewed as the other and all the civil rights issues that come with that.

When Matt pauses, Foggy seems ready to jump in with more reasons why this is what they got to do — only to have Matt agree. His shoulders relax, and he exhales slowly. "That's my thinking… which is why I think we need to start advertising for that kind of legal service. People got to know that they can come to us."

"Thanks, man," Matt says of his friend's offer, and seems to mean it to judge by that flicker of a smile. He shrugs his shoulders helplessly. "I appreciate the offer. But it's time. I need to be able to stand on my own two feet. And to do it under my own roof. I'm pushing thirty now, right?"

Matt clasps his hands together on top of his stomach as Foggy elaborates on his thinking. There's one short, sharp nod of agreement that the Lucas business needs to he handled before the March deadline.

The rest doesn't get anything like resistance either. "Never saw us as the billboards and subway signs law firm," Matt quips, "but agree, it makes sense." A beat, a breath. "Alright, let's do it. Let's put the word out there that Nelson & Murdock is the go-to for — ah, registration compliance."

Those last words rankle even as he says them. He winces visibly, hating everything about this brave new world they've landed in. His forefinger taps lightly, pensively, on his dark-grey tie. "And what about registration defiance?" he adds softly.

"Oh god, are you? If you're pushing thirty, that means I am, too." Foggy grimaces. "Shit."

Then he rocks back in his chair again, rubbing his hands back through his leonine mane of dark blond hair. He's done this enough lately that it kind of sticks back in that slicked repose. He's going to need to cut his hair soon, because he's been on that chant for the last couple months and haven't acted on it. It's getting out of control. He's going to look like a law student soon if he doesn't get his ass to the barber shop.

Didn't Luke know a barber?

He could have been in that circle of thoughts for a while until Matt gets back to it, and he looks up at his friend across the messy width of desk. "I was thinking a commercial, actually." He looks seriously at Matt. "And social media advertisements. I think this is bigger than hoping that someone catches the right bus or subway."

His mouth settles into a hard frown at Matt's more personal addition. He rubs slightly at his jaw before he hooks a hand across his mouth, frowning into the web of his thumb at the work he's done on the yellow legal-pad in front of him. When he looks up again at Matt, his gaze is serious. "You register, Matt, every government and law enforcement agency will know that Matthew Murdock is Daredevil. All it would take is an intelligently argued suit under the Freedom of Information Act, and then newspapers might print it. Hell, man, they won't even need the suit. Someone slips that info to the Bugle, or the Bulletin, and then that's it. That's it." He shakes his head. "No matter how many assurances that there might be to protect someone's secret identity, that's just an empty promise."

"Never saw myself as the type of lawyer who advertises on television either," Matt throws back ruefully, but there's no real resistance there. If they want to help people, it means meeting them — finding them — where they are. And if they'd wanted to be above all that, they should have taken the job offers from Landman & Zach.

Matt's hazel eyes tick downward when Foggy tells him the risks of registering, whatever they might reveal about his thinking suddenly obscured by a heavy fan of lashes. "I know," he murmurs, one hand clenching and flexing at the admission. "I also know that my coming out now puts our firm at risk. They could disbar me for what I've done as Daredevil, and disbar you for knowing about it."

A beat, and then a wry: "On the other hand, if I don't register, Wilson Fisk has me on a felony any time he wants. And you on aiding and abetting me. Register, don't register — either way there's a Sword of Damocles hanging over us."

Welcome the wonderful world of being Matt Murdock's friend, Franklin Nelson, where every corner is filled with danger and nothing but bad choices abound.

"So it seems to me we only have one way to keep ourselves safe," Matt says after a pause. His eyes tick back upwards: glinting, and somehow still sharp despite being perpetually unfocused.

It's the way they tend to get before a fight.

"We've got to get this law thrown out," he says with that quiet, understated brand of confidence (hubris?), eyebrows lifting and dropping in the semblance of an offhand shrug. "We find the right client, who will refuse to register. We sue saying the new law violates the U.S. Constitution, and we take this all the way to the Supreme Court."

And they said the Barnes trial was the trial of the century.

Foggy hadn't thought about Fisk.

In fact, Foggy has been trying very, very hard not to think about Fisk. The Kingpin. The real Devil of Hell's Kitchen. It has been better to just pretend that is all behind them, but it isn't. It's just now harder to know what might come next. Mentioning that now Fisk has substantial more firepower against Matt, and him, has the lawyer rocking forward and resting his elbow on his desk, mouth once more caught against the web of his thumb.

His brows are heavily furrowed, expression thoughtful. He stares at his desk for a long moment until Matt offers up what they gotta do, and his brows arch high over his eyes. He drops his hand just enough to say, very clearly, "You want to take this to the Supreme Court? Holy Shit, Matt." He flops back in his chair, the springs squeaking loudly as if to make up for the smaller sigh from the lawyer.

He taps his pen against the desk, and then says plainly, "Well. Shit."

It's been nearly three months since the Defenders sent Wilson Fisk to the Raft, where he now awaits trial. And into that void created his departure has sprung any number of crises, including an outright demonic invasion of New York City and the advent of metahuman registration.

For all that, the Kingpin has rarely been far from Matt's thoughts. It may be that the man-in-white has won himself a permanent place in Matt's mental landscape.

But if he has, at least now he's spurring Matt to arguably constructive action, and not a widening gyre of depression and crippling self-loathing.

You could even say it's Matt at his best. Confronted with two impossible choices, he rejects both and audaciously selects door number three. That said choice may also be impossible is almost incidental, really. After a year of metaphorical and sometimes literal hell, Matt Murdock is back.

"I'm not saying it'll be easy," Matt says, in what's surely in the running for understatement of the year. "We've got to find the right client. We've got to set up a legal defense fund and find donors with pockets — none of this half-assing with loans and creative financing like we did with the Barnes case. And both of those things will require networking, leveraging our contacts with allies in the metahuman and mutant communities."

One corner of his lips curls into a knowing smirk. "And that's just the start, right? Legal research. Mountains of briefs. A civil trial, and then the circuit court appeal. The government will put its best and brightest behind this. And even if we win, it could be months, years before we get where we want to go."

Matt shrugs his shoulders gamely before adding a quiet, "But honest to God, Fog, there's no one I'd rather have with me."

"It's not going to be easy." There's a frank, matter-of-factness to that, that Foggy isn't going to avoid. He knows it isn't going to be easy. Bucky's case was going to be a cakewalk compared to this. He's going to want to relive the Buchanan case when this is all said and done.

He sighs out a slow breath, deflating a bit with thought. He taps his pen rhythmically against the desk, letting it fill the silence of Foggy thinking and Matt just being. He looks up after a heartbeat, and then a small smile starts to break across his face. "Yeah, well… I'm not going to do this by myself, Matt. If you're in, that means you're in… and the Devil is going to have to take a backseat."

He says it with a smile, but he's also serious. He's been pulling so much weight that he's tired, and he needs his partner back. His friend.

Matt absorbs that reply, its not-so-suble critique, and the weary sentiments behind it. The latter he accepts: Matt Murdock has not been the best of friends or law partners this year, to put it lightly.

"Look, I can't promise to retire the suit," he begins, opening his hands. "People depend on it. And if demons or aliens or HYDRA attack the city — I can't just sit it out."

That might pushes himself up from his seat and walks slowly over to Foggy. "But people will be depending on us, too. Hundreds of thousands of people." A beat, a twist of a smile. "Including my best friend. So while I can't promise to put Daredevil away, I can promise to put our work on this first."

He puts out his left fist. Bruise-knuckled, because of course it is.

"I'm in."

"I'm not asking you to retire, Matt." Foggy dunks his pen into the cup on his desk. It's so he can bump his fist into Matt's, careful with the bruises and marks. "I'm asking for just that… that this time around… you put this first."

Then he starts to stand, chair squeaking a bit more with the relief of weight. He steps out from behind his desk, running his hand back through his hair wearily. "Well, if we're going all the way to the Supreme Court, I really need a haircut… and maybe a new suit."

He sighs heavily. "I have something else I need to tell you." The Nelson half of Nelson and Murdock tilts his head slight, rubbing at the back of his neck. "You know all that money we got from the Stark retainer? And, you know, Danny?" He hesitates. "I, uh… spent most of it." He looks down. "Helping the displaced people we got in Hell's Kitchen. I didn't check with you, but… um. We should probably go back into saving mode."

Matt grins. "Yeah, you do need a haircut," he says, offering no explanation whatsoever for how the hell he could know that. You're in on Matt Murdock's inner life now, Foggy. Just roll with it.

The last part does send Matt's eyebrows shooting upward. "You mean the share that was supposed to go back into the firm?" he asks, jerking his head back. "Fog, I gave a big chunk of my profits to relief efforts too, but the firm revenue could have gone into hiring associates and paralegals for this. I get it, but —"

But you can't do something like that without telling me.

He bites it back, collects a breath, and places a hand on Foggy's shoulder. "Look, forget saving mode," he says with a shrug. "For something like this, we're going to have to go into raising mode. We need to set up a legal defense fund. Go back to Potts and Rand and get them to contribute to it — they both have a stake — and hopefully they can re-up us on the standard retainer for 2019."

His brow knits. "And we need to see who in the mutant community might be willing to fund something like this," he adds, leaving out the fact that his only contacts are with the terrorists. "Our office is going to get crowded if we want to do this right, Fog."

I would have, if you weren't killing demons every night, would have been his reply. But, alas… that's just going to be conveyed in body language and logical inferences at this point. There's still tension between this BFFs — and probably will forever be. It's complex… being Matt Murdock's friend. It is only fair that it is maybe complex by Foggy Nelson's.

"I'll talk to Pepper." He's lost some of his fluttering resolve when he says Pepper's name. A crush that's cooling off. "And maybe you can talk to Danny?" He tucks his hands into the pockets of his slacks, leaning back into his heels slightly. He starts to glance around, and he frowns a bit.

"Yeah. Isn't there an empty unit next door? Think we could expand a bit?"

Matt's first reaction to Foggy's news was more of a cousin to surprise than anger. It fades quickly, his aspect settling into something affable and relaxed. The truth is that this feels good, despite the high stakes and long odds of their new venture. Even if this isn't a 'return to normalcy' — impossible to achieve — he senses that they may be on the cusp of a new equilibrium.

Also safe to say he notes the subtle shift in how Foggy talks about Pepper Potts. Ah, well. RomCom opportunity missed!

"I think Freddie's officially retired to Florida after the demon business," Matt says of the insurance agency next door. "I'll check with the landlord about whether we can rent it."

He finds himself smiling a little — a rarity in the no-good, very bad year of 2018.

"But yeah, buddy. That sounds like a plan."

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