It was the afternoon after the breakout and Ross’ response, and Foggy was still feeling shaken to the core. She doubted she was the only one. She and Matt were with the reporter in her office, and she thought it would’ve been easier to do this interview if the world had started feeling real again.
Or if Karen had been the one doing it. But she’d explained over again how journalists had their ethics, just like lawyers did, and so someone else had to do this one. Foggy wasn’t sure exactly how well Karen kept to those ethics, but hey, she almost certainly did more than Matt did to theirs. They understood, of course, but it still made this a lot harder.
She also wished Marci was there to do that question proper justice. But she was off doing her first interview with a Harlem reporter, her client’s mother alongside her. So she and Matt touched each other’s hands, and he flicked his fingers, and tilted his head when she looked at it.
She briefly considered just how vicious she wanted to be, and settled for, “Well, I’ve always thought our current President was a bit of a coward, but I would’ve thought he would’ve done the right thing in this case.”
Many honestly looked a little shocked when the word “coward” came out. It wasn’t really the done thing to use it to describe Matthew Ellis anymore. It had been used all the time during his first term, but after he’d nearly been dropped into flames on live TV, there’d been the feeling the insult ought to be retired.
But Foggy continued, “I’m sorry, but I can call him nothing else. This situation should be in black and white. Ross should’ve been out of a job before midnight last night. He should have been out of a job as soon as that footage leaked, and the President should be before a Congressional committee right now, answering questions about how he let one of his men imprison four people, three of them American citizens, without trial, lawyers, or even disclosure to the public of where they were. That they haven’t called him before one is cowardice on their part too.”
“Ms. Nelson,” said Many, now looking all too intrigued, “are you insinuating that there was a conspiracy within the Ellis Administration related to this?”
“Well, there had to be,” said Matt. “An operation like the…like what’s been exposed takes the coordinated effort of a lot of people. It’s possible, maybe that President Ellis was not aware what was going on, but if they were keeping this from him, then there is even more question about why he hasn’t disowned the Secretary of State yet. There are a lot of questions we don’t have answers to.”
“Are you hoping to achieve that as well for your clients?”
“It would be nice if we could,” said Foggy. “I think they’d like to know, although of course since we can’t get into contact with them right now, we can only guess at that. Our priority, of course, is getting them able to come home without their being locked up in a secret hole out in the middle of the ocean.”
“Aren’t you worried they might refuse to come here?” Many asked. “After all, there’s little dispute they’ve violated international law themselves, and while certainly it should be lawfully, and fairly, they may still find themselves under arrest.”
“If we are satisfied that their lives will not be at risk,” said Foggy, “and we get the chance to communicate with them, we will of course urge them to turn themselves in. And I think they themselves would willingly come back and do so if they were convinced they would be treated fairly, though I don’t know how the government could get them to believe that as long as Secretary Ross remains part of it, especially when the Attorney General is oddly silent. And even the Secretary of Defense is; if this was truly a war situation, one would expect him to speak, after all.”
“Are you worried their lives might be at risk, then?” There was the kind of glint in Many’s eyes that made Foggy think she was hoping for a yes.
Which got her to stop and think, before Matt ended up answering first. “I don’t think at this point anyone actually wants them dead. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have to worry. One thing we’ve noticed in general in recent months, and the Sokovia Accords reflect this, is a general disregard for the basic safety and wellbeing for superpowered individuals. There seems to be an assumption they can stand any abuse thrown at them, and no thought of how those abuses might interact with their gifts, and when in most case no one knows much about how those powers are affecting their bodies and their health. That straitjacket was obviously suppressing Ms. Maximoff’s powers, and we have no idea what even the amount of time she spent in it did to her.
And of course in recent weeks we’ve started to see a group of armed terrorists roam the streets and murder Inhumans, and nobody seems to be doing much about that even when they blew up a government compound. Imagine what would’ve happened in response had an Islamic group done such a thing. Even a more normal white right-wing group doing it probably would have resulted in arrests. There is a clear message being sent that anyone can do anything they like to someone superpowered without consequences. Consequences exist only for them.” By now Matt was speaking with a passion that made Many look a little surprised. Well, she couldn’t know this was personal for him.
And Foggy very much wanted to lead the conversation away from that vein, so she said, “And in this case, given what kind of rhetoric is being spoken by Ross against our clients, and the fact that it will probably be military people sent to capture them if they’re found, we are worried, yes, that they won’t see taking them alive as the priority. Especially if they’re convinced a fight is inevitable, which of course it might not be. I do hope the government realizes, of course, that if any of our clients is killed by soldiers, and their families wish it, we will pursue redress through any avenue we find open to us.”
There was a knock at the door, and Marci’s voice called, “Foggy? You’ve got a visitor, and one of the type I’m not sure you want to keep waiting too long. Your PA’s entertaining her right now.”
Matt rose very fast to let her in, fast enough that Foggy thought he’d heard and recognized the visitor in question. But Foggy couldn’t think it was any of the Avengers, and surely if it was one of Matt’s newer more local superhero buddies Marci would’ve identified them.
Marci took a look at Many, then said, “I think you might want to finish the interview before she comes in, though.” Definitely someone they didn’t necessarily want the press to know about, then.
There was a moment where Many seemed to consider her options, and what kind of reporter she wanted to be that day. Then she stood up and said, “I actually would like to talk to you, further, Mr. Murdock, of waking up to discover the Black Widow had broken into your apartment, when I understand your wife was at work.”
“Well,” said Matt, “Foggy actually woke me up with the papers; I’d slept a little longer than I’d intended to that day.” He was already walking towards the door, Many following.
“Do you think there’s any chance Ms. Romanov had something to do with that?” Foggy heard her ask as they passed out the door. If Matt had identified his wife’s visitor, he’d no doubt casually stroll the other way.
“I’ll go give her the all clear,” said Marci, and from the way she was now grinning, Foggy was pretty sure she’d recognized the visitor too. As she took her place at her desk, Foggy wondered if it was Vision.
But really, she thought, when Pepper Potts came through the door, that one should’ve been obvious.
“Ms. Potts.” Foggy couldn’t help but smile. All the Avengers had spoken highly of Pepper, and Wanda believed she’d played a huge part in her being admitted into the country even after the Avengers had initially spoken to the U.S. government about how dangerous she was. She knew meeting her just now had probably made Marci’s month, and Foggy couldn’t say she didn’t have some admiration for this smart, powerful woman herself.
She closed the door behind her and said, “I’m afraid the official reason for my being here is currently in dispute. Tony keeps thinking up more and more creative ones to give to the press if we’re ever pushed to. But since you could never give it to them anyway, that’s not your problem, right?”
“Right,” Foggy agreed, but it was harder to keep the smile on, hearing her tone as she talked about Tony Stark. It made her think they had broken up, and it certainly hadn’t been because of her not loving him anymore.
“So,” she came over to Foggy’s desk, grabbing a chair and bringing it over herself before Foggy could get up to do that. “I do have to ask this first: do you have anything to do with what your friend Karen Page has written?”
“Not about Stark, and we’ve got no control over that.” Foggy hastily put up her hands. “Karen does what she wants, writes what she wants, ventures into dangerous places and risks her life for what she wants, and you should see how upset Matt gets about it every time he hears about the last.” The hypocrite, she didn’t add, because she wasn’t one hundred percent sure Pepper knew about that.
“All right, then,” she said. “I thought as much anyway. I mean, I’ve met her.”
Then she said, “So the actual reason I’m here is because I didn’t want to risk putting this conversation on any phone or email lines. I’ll understand completely if you don’t want to tell us this, even if he won’t, but Tony wants to know how much your husband’s likely to go out as his alter ego.”
So she did know. “He doesn’t want any of his help,” Foggy told her. “I don’t think he would, honestly, even if I was inclined to advocate for it, and right now, I’m sorry, but I’m not.” She turned stern on the end of that.
Ms. Potts’ lips didn’t even twitch. “Understood. Though I can’t promise he won’t try to give it, anyway.”
Foggy actually had to chuckle at that. “Do you have any idea how much Stark’s likely to even be in New York City?” she asked.
She shook her head. “I should tell you about that too, because he’s actually been talking about moving upstate completely. Selling the tower, the whole works. I mean, it definitely wouldn’t be tomorrow, even if he did do it. So if you were hoping we’ll get out of your hair fast, sorry.” The smile was weak, but Foggy was impressed she even tried it when her voice was so heavy. “One thing he does want to do, though, is he wants to make sure you both are always able to contact him no matter what. Allow me to point out to you that you can take that means of contact and never use it.”
“I’m willing to take it,” said Foggy. “Can’t speak for Matt, but I’m smart enough not to turn down the immediate means to a powerful ally when it’s offered. Never know when you might need that, especially when suing the President.”
She thought about it another moment, then decided to go forward with it: “Also, Ms. Potts, I would like you to know, if you yourself ever want to talk to me, for any reason at all, I will be happy to make myself available.”
“Thank you.” Her voice was unexpectedly soft, a hint of vulnerability. She bent down to reach into her purse, and took possibly longer than she needed poking about in it before pulling out a card. “He gave this to the other Avengers right after the Incident. The number is one only we’ve had, mostly. You call it, our current system will make sure we both know as soon as we can without anyone else finding out.”
It was a pretty innocuous-looking card for Stark. Foggy carefully put it away in her desk. When she looked up after doing so, Pepper Potts was just looking at her with an unreadable expression, and she found herself saying, “For the record, ‘ever’ includes right now.”
“I don’t want you to ask me any questions.”
“No problem,” said Foggy. “I won’t.” After hearing her tone there, she didn’t have to anyway. “I don’t promise I’ll answer yours, but you can ask them.”
“You really might not on this one,” and she let what was left of her composed face fall away completely as she asked, “Did you ever consider leaving him?”
“Sure,” said Foggy. “When he decided to start running around at night in his black pajamas less than a month before our wedding date.” She tried to keep her own voice steady, and hoped dearly Pepper wouldn’t ask if there had been any other times. That one she would have to refuse to answer. Besides, there had been further circumstances the other time she’d been considering it.
But the next question was, “And have you been sorry you didn’t? At times? For long lengths of time?”
That was a surprisingly easy one. “For moments, mostly. The hard ones especially, including the ones where I was convinced he was going to die, and a tiny bit of me was a little relieved at the thought.” Pepper looked shocked at that, but said nothing as Foggy pressed on. “And telling myself he needed me didn’t even help those times. There’s a point where it won’t anymore, once you realize you’re not going to save him.”
“It’s not our job to save them.” She said it as if she was confirming it to herself.
“Exactly. Even if they try to let you, and I think Matt genuinely did try once.”
Ms. Potts closed her eyes. The tabloids had once told a story about how her boyfriend had retired, or tried to anyway, because of her, and Foggy suspected the basic details of that had been true. He’d given her too long to hope, perhaps.
Then she asked, “Does it get easier? Or harder?”
Foggy had to think about that one, and eventually, she just shook her head. “I can’t answer that one when you’re not me, and the man you’re in love with isn’t Matt. When it comes down to it, my answer as relates to Matt and myself varies by day.” She thought about it a little more, then said, “I don’t think the bad nights get worse, but I don’t think they get better either. Maybe there are less of them, though, once you start figuring out your coping strategies. Though I would think…” She stopped herself; that might qualify as a question.
“I would’ve figured them out already?” Ms. Potts finished; thankfully she didn’t sound bothered. “I had ones that used to work better, which, honestly, mostly involved more CEOing. It’s just that…” She seemed to catch herself, unwilling to admit more to someone who was still pretty much a stranger.
Foggy rescued her as best she could with a gentle, “If it’s you that’s changing and feeling different, well, that’s probably a different problem all together, and one I’m not equipped to give you advice on at all. Sorry.”
Would she herself ever change like Pepper Potts might be changing? Maybe she was a little already. Half a year in this place had rubbed off on her vocabulary and way of approaching things; Karen had made her aware of that a few times. She didn’t think Matt would ever stop loving her, or even wanting her, really, and she couldn’t imagine she would ever stop loving him, but could she turn into someone who no longer wanted him?
She had to suppress a shudder at the thought.
But meanwhile, Ms. Potts had managed a smile, one that looked very real and honest, and she said, “Thank you, Ms. Nelson. You’ve helped me a lot.”
“My friends call me Foggy,” she said. “And I think we really should consider each other friends, even if maybe we don’t see each other too often, Ms. Potts. Not that I’d mind if we do, but even if we don’t.”
“Pepper, then.” And they reached out and shook hands on it. “I’ll get back to you if and when I get a better idea of what Tony’s planning to do about the tower. Or anything else happens you two should probably know about.”
Foggy poked her head out the door first, but Cheryl had already been standing watch. “I think Matt got her into Nick Stoll’s old office,” she said. “He looked like he could keep talking for a long while, too.”
Matt, of course, would know once Pepper was safely out and away from the building, so once Foggy had seen her out without incident, she expected him to be done talking soon. Sure enough, ten minutes after she’d returned to her office, she heard their voices in the hall. But they didn’t come in, but instead headed upstairs together, and twenty minutes after that Matt still hadn’t come back.
Had he been listening in? That wouldn’t have been right of him, especially when it had come to Pepper and her privacy, but maybe he hadn’t been able to stop himself.
She was considering calling him, just to make sure he hadn’t gotten distracted enough to step into an open manhole or something, when Karen called her. “I think you should know,” she said. “Jennifer just got back here, and now Ellison’s offended at you on the President’s behalf. I assume you’re smart enough to know that’s a very bad sign.”
“What did she say that got him offended, exactly?” Foggy asked, telling herself she didn’t care either way.
“Just that you’d called Ellis a coward. I’m allowed to tell you off the record I agree with you there, right?”
“Absolutely, only I have to watch what I say around you.” Foggy didn’t mind; it was comforting to hear someone agree with her on a comment she’d known already was going to provoke some anger. “Look, I know Ellison’s been good to you and everything, but remember he did originally side with Fisk.”
“He wasn’t the only one,” said Karen. “To be fair, most of the men who voiced their agreement with his outrage, well, they were all men for starters, and also, that type of man. The kind I try to avoid being alone with in the break room, and not even because I think they’ll make advances on me, necessarily, but simply because they might go belittling me.”
“So the guys who were going to throw bullshit at three of the four of us anyway, then,” said Foggy, trying to make herself sound completely relaxed, because she’d need to do that even more than usual in the coming days.
“You’ve never gotten hate mail, have you?” Karen’s voice was tiny and sad, the voice of someone who had.
Foggy's first thought then was, Oh God, Matt is going to lose his shit. Out loud she said, “It was probably inevitable anyway. Any tips for coping? For all four of us?”
A pause while Karen thought about it, then, “Try to read as little of it as possible, for starters. I actually don’t even see all of it anymore.”
“You mean leave Cheryl to deal with it? I don’t know if I want to do that, Karen. Also, I don’t know if we can get Marci to leave it be, if she starts getting it.”
“It might not have to be her, especially if Marci does start getting it too. Also, remember you can report death threats to the police, though I don’t always. Hell, there was at least one letter I fear there was a cop involved in. That’ll be your call.”
Just then, outside the door, she heard Cheryl saying, “Mr. Murdock, how long are you going to just stand outside your wife’s door?”
Matt’s response was very soft, a, “I think she might be on the phone with someone?”
Very considerate of him, Foggy supposed, except for the part where he was probably now shamelessly listening in. He had to be listening to her responses to Karen, at least. “Matt’s lurking around outside my door,” she informed Karen. “I don’t know whether or not I want him to participate in this conversation or not.” More quietly, she added, “Although if you don’t, Matt, could you at least excuse yourself or something?”
“All right, all right, I’ll go in,” he said to Cheryl in response. She should’ve known better than to think he’d be willing to walk off.
To the casual observer, Matt as he walked in might have looked a little tired. Foggy knew him better. “Karen,” she said, “can I call you back in a few?”
“Absolutely,” said Karen. “Remember, you don’t have to be nice to him.”
Matt had been listening to that one; she could tell. “Thanks for the reminder,” Foggy said to her lightly. “Bye.” She stood up as she hung up.
“I didn’t hear most of your conversation with Ms. Potts,” he said. “I was able to focus on talking to Many, which helped. But…well, I heard enough to make me think too much, I suppose. I don’t know if there’s even anything to say, I just...”
“Wow,” said Foggy. “Okay. I think we need to keep you out of the vicinity for any further talks I have with Pepper, for your own sake as well as both of ours. Maybe in the future I’ll ask her to meet me somewhere outside of Hell’s Kitchen? I mean, she knows about your hearing, so I’m sure she’ll understand. Though maybe too much; I’m sure those computer systems of Stark’s hear everything in his various properties. Unless they have privacy settings?” Something to ask her about, maybe.
“So you think you two will be talking again?” Matt asked softly. “And not just about whatever Stark’s next up to?”
“Does that bother you?” Foggy asked, in a tone that she hoped conveyed that this wouldn’t impede her.
“No,” Matt said. “In fact, I…I’ll be glad if you have someone to talk to. I know it’s helped you to talk to Karen, of course, but maybe… maybe Pepper Potts can understand things Karen can’t. At least if she takes Stark back.”
“So you think they have broken up?” she asked, then, carefully, “did you hear anything else?”
Matt looked appropriately uncomfortable as he said, “Not exactly. But she just…I don’t know. I could tell from the moment she mentioned his name she was in great pain over him. Then again, so could you, I imagine. And I…well I did keep track of her after she left the building, though she summoned her car on the way out and it arrived before she’d been out there very long. And she was pacing the entire time. Loudly, and that wasn’t just because of her heels. You got to her, probably more than she’ll ever admit to you.”
“And we have to end this conversation now,” Foggy cut him off, but much as she probably shouldn’t know what he’d just told her, she wasn’t sorry to learn it. “Though you know,” she added as she thought of another thing, “do you think maybe we should introduce her and Claire?” Or even Colleen, but of course she fought alongside Danny, so that was kind of a different situation.
“Maybe talk to Claire first,” said Matt. “I mean, Luke Cage is a bit more…” He trailed off, embarrassed.
“Sensible?” Foggy offered.
“Yeah, that. I think, in the end, there are things Claire’s willing to get herself dragged into, and there’s drama maybe you really shouldn’t bother her with. Like me. Definitely like Stark.”
And that, the thought that yes, Tony Stark probably was even more of a headache than this crazy husband of hers, caused the giggles to start to bubble out of Foggy. Matt took his glasses off and did his best to give her a pointed look, which was a bad idea, because it just made her laugh harder. “Like you too, I think,” Matt told her, which did nothing decrease her mirth.
When she had at least calmed down, Matt mused further, “Maybe have Karen talk to Claire with you. After all, she’s actually met Ms. Potts. I’ve never heard her speak badly of her, and when know you she’s the sort of woman Karen doesn’t go easy on.”
“Well, I have heard her criticize her words once, in relation to that whole think that happened in Sokovia, but maybe she’s forgiven her on that…” Maybe it would even do Karen and Pepper good to talk to each other. Of course, their situations remained different for the same reason Karen and Foggy’s situations were different, because Karen had never had to opportunity to be involved with the superhero she loved. Foggy supposed that did make her life easier in one way.
“Anyway,” Matt said, “I should probably also tell you; I got out of Many that Mr. Pulworth is staying in town for at least a couple more days, and that he’s probably going to pull Mrs. Wilson in for an interview after she refused to talk to anyone last night, and I just heard Marci tell her PA she’s headed for to Ft. Hamilton. I’ll try not to get too close to the premises…”
“Wow, you’re actually telling me this.” That by itself pleased Foggy so much she was willing enough to overlook the whole stalking dangerous people in broad daylight thing. Her standards had dropped so much. “Don’t suppose you’ll be able to get much of the guy’s reaction when Marci kicks his ass? You really shouldn’t tell me how she does so after all.” Which was a pity, since Marci no doubt had been spending the hours since their last meeting thinking of ways she could’ve done so already.
Matt smiled, and when she leaned towards him, he took the invitation to lightly kiss her. “I’ll see what I can do.”