Shades of Broken

Written for 'Rith: "Nightwing and Daredevil, please, speaking of billyclubs. I will be content with gen. ;)"

No need to introduce Nightwing, Daredevil, or Foggy Nelson, methinks. There are two Batman/Daredevil crossovers, Kings of New York and An Eye for an Eye, both of which are entertaining in their fashion and the latter of which introduces the glorious backstory that Matt Murdock knew Harvey Dent (aka Two-Face) in their law school days. Kerithwyn has produced some fic about it.

For a longer story with a real plot, Nightwing is a little harder to bring over to the Marvelverse than Batman because it requires ignoring the fact that Dick Grayson lived and operated in New York City for a while during his New Teen Titans years and the Titans have always been based here (except for the brief time over in Jersey City). But for a longer story, it might be worth it - Daredevil is the Man Without Fear, but anyone who has seen Nightwing fling himself off a skyscraper to see if the fall is survivable (he takes a header off the top of the Waynetech building in Transference)... the two men have more in common than just being the orphaned sons of professional athletic sorts.

I stand in the doorway and watch, not approaching. Matt knows I'm there; I wasn't exactly sneaky on my way up. But he doesn't turn to wave me over and the other man has only given me a quick, sharp look before turning his attention back to Daredevil and it's clear that whatever they're discussing doesn't involve me. At least not yet.

It's pretty quiet up here, although a check of my watch before I came up here told me it's only the temporary lull between the end of the evening rush and the post-theater crowd. It's a clear, comfortable night out, not quite warm enough yet for the restaurants to have dragged out their outdoor seating but not so cold that I am uncomfortable standing here in only my suit. Standing and waiting and watching. And wondering.

The guy in the mask talking to Matt is not one I recognize and I take that to mean that he's not a local. You don't have to be best friends with a vigilante to be able to identify the resident costumes; they're like the starting lineup of the Yankees - forced into your peripheral awareness by sheer repitition, drilled into your subconscious like in 'Clockwork Orange' except without the toothpicks. They also have an amazing ability to turn up at our law office, both in and out of costume, but I don't think I've seen this guy there and I'd think I'd notice someone so pretty with our without the bodysuit - and I say this in a totally hetero-guy-commenting-on-another-guy way that would be jealousy if the differences between me and this guy were ones of degree and not ones of species. I could do eight hours a day in the gym and not look like Matt, so I stopped letting it bother me... sometime around my thirtieth birthday.

On the other hand, while I am not of the Studly Guy persuasion, I would like to think I have the edge in mental stability. I love Matt. He's my best friend in the world. But there is something fundamentally Not Right about someone whose demons can only be exorcised by running around in a leotard and a mask beating people up. Even if the beaten deserve it. There's something significantly lacking in the ability-to-cope department if you can't sleep at night without this. And the costumes here, they need it. It's not like a hobby or a phase they go through, the way you might obsess about Farrah Fawcett or get into heavy metal or start reading everything by Kerouac until you suddenly snap out of it and scale it back to something approaching normal. It's a need, an obsession, an addiction that can't be cured. The costumes, they don't retire voluntarily. They either die or something so awful happens to them that they have to quit or else they'll be dead. This thing, this need, it's like a juggernaut - it keeps going and doesn't get stopped or derailed no matter how much it costs you, no matter how much it costs everyone you care about. And the price has long ago ceased to matter to you; with each loss you mourn sincerely and in honest pain, but you also wear it like a badge of honor, like a war trophy that doubles as a hair shirt. And I say this as someone who has stuck with one of these disturbed people through a lot of crap. A lot.

I used to think that Matt was an exception, that one day, he'd wake up and realize that the time had come for him not to be Daredevil anymore, that there were others who could clean up the streets of Hell's Kitchen, that justice would be served without the need for his billyclub. But I don't think that anymore. I don't think that there are exceptions - anyone who stops doing the spandex thing is just in remission, not recovery, and they're all looking for a reason (any reason, no matter how pitiful) to hop off the wagon. Matt can't stop being Daredevil, not even if he wanted to. And he doesn't. Not even when his entire existence as Matt Murdock is on the line. I don't know what's going to happen when he gets older and his reflexes can't keep up with his senses, when even though he can hear the punch coming he won't be able to get out of the way. When it's not a punch, but a bullet.

(I'm going to be burying him, that's what's going to happen.)

I wonder if this tourist vigilante has someone waiting at home wondering when they're going to bury him, too. A wife, a girlfriend (a boyfriend?), a parent, a best friend, someone who wishes that they could have been the one to repair whatever fissure it was that caused this person to break into pieces that just can't be put back together. Because that's what this need is - a need to be whole again. (And just when Matt looks like maybe, just maybe, enough shards have been collected to reconstitute whatever got shattered that night behind the Olympia, something happens and they're scattered far and wide again. And most of the time, it's someone else's fault. But not always.)

Standing here, with my tuchis starting to get a little cold because while it's warm for late spring, it's still late spring, I wonder what broke this man. What unimaginable thing happened to him to make him like this? Because here he is, this good-looking guy (great-looking guy) and he's obviously got some sort of brains - Matt's got no patience with idiots no matter what he's wearing and they've been talking for a while - and why isn't he out there in the real world being successful instead of standing on a rooftop in fortified underwear? And if he is successful, why isn't that enough?

"Mr. Nelson?"

Matt's Daredevil voice and I try not to smile because I still find it really silly that here's my best friend and he's wearing a goofy outfit and pretending he doesn't know who I am and I'm supposed to pretend that I don't know who he is either. But I have to because this other hero-type could be visiting from very (very) far away and might not know that the papers have been announcing that Daredevil is Matthew Murdock, law partner of Franklin Nelson.

I approach and Daredevil does his introduction and now I know that this stranger is Nightwing and he's from Bludhaven and he's tracking down some kiddie porn distributors who may or may not be working out of an old Department of Sanitation garage over on 56th and 12th. Bludhaven is to Gotham what Newark is to New York - a crumbling offshoot made all the worse because it's geographically close enough to see what it could be but never will become - and I'm not surprised. I am surprised to see that he has come to ask Daredevil's permission first; most vigilante types are proprietary, but they don't seem to respect each other's territory very well. Nightwing mutters something about professional courtesy and it's really obvious there's something deeper there, but I've done my psychoanalyzing for the night and don't pursue it.

My part in this pow-wow is pretty small. I was still attached to the DA's office when the Fairchild Laws, a set of statutes governing evidence acquired in unofficial investigations (i.e., stuff dug up by costumes) for the purpose of criminal trials, were put into effect and am still considered an expert on how to maximize their use. Part of this is for the pretense - Matt will do the legwork himself, but Daredevil is not a lawyer - although I can expect to be grilled on the nuances of some of my journal articles and case history. Nightwing is concerned about how the Fairchild Laws will be affected by juristiction claims and asks me questions that seem a little too learned for an armchair lawyer, let alone for a vigilante who breaks a couple dozen statutes every time he puts on a mask.

Perhaps sensing that he has shown too much of his hand - or maybe I just answered everything he wanted to ask - the interview ends abruptly. Nightwing and Daredevil thank me and head west, towards Tenth Avenue, and I watch them go. As much as I hate (hate) the reasons why Matt puts on the costume, I will never tire of watching him fly. Tonight, he is matched by Nightwing as they race over rooftops and I can't help but feel the rollercoaster rush of fear and thrill as they both dive without pause over the edge of the last brownstone. With no villains in sight and with no neon reminders of their scars and their pain, I can appreciate, even envy, their freedom.


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