"Coffee's getting cold, Matty."
Matt lifts his head from his paper, distracted. "Hm?"
Foggy rolls his eyes but smiles affectionately. Matt knows this because he still narrates it.
Time hasn't done a thing to diminish Foggy’s cheer despite the stress of years of kidnappings, court cases, marriage, divorce, faking his own death, helping Matt fake his death, and a terrifying battle against cancer. In fact, Matt knows there are two more branches to Foggy's laugh lines than there had been the last time he touched his face, a once-awkward activity that they now both indulge in whenever Matt has a particularly rough night and needs to ground himself.
He sort of completely loves those laugh lines.
"Earth to Matt," Foggy teases, and Matt realizes that he missed something. "Boy, you're really pensive today. Everything alright in there?"
No. No, everything's not alright. But it's been so long since everything was alright that Matt can't even remember that baseline anymore. Still, things are far from bad.
"I'm good. Just tired," Matt confesses. He can admit that much, even if he doesn't want to elaborate on exactly how tired he really is.
He isn't sleeping well, but it's been years since he has. His mind is as sharp as ever, but his spirit is exhausted. His body is still fit - he still works out religiously and does his patrols - but he can't move like he once did, can't leap and dodge like he once could, can't stretch like he once enjoyed. His left shoulder has been popped in and out so many times that it's permanently stiff, both of his knees and his right wrist ache days before a cold spell hits, and his ribs have been bruised, fractured and broken so often that breathing is always a bit of a chore.
But he's alive and well, and Foggy is alive and well, and that's really more than he used to believe would happen. They’ve both lost people along the way - he’ll never stop aching over Karen, and he knows Foggy won’t, either - but they’ve still got each other from start to finish.
Tomorrow, Matt will be forty-five. He's already well over the hill. And he's here to experience it.
"You know what helps with that? Caffeine," Foggy reminds wryly. "Seriously, buddy, drink up. I want to get the dishes done before I go, and you’ll bitch if your coffee’s too cold."
"Go?" Matt asks, confusion startling him out of his thoughts. Did he miss something on their calendar? "Go where?"
Foggy snorts, amused. "Home?" Matt is silent. "I do have a very nice brownstone, you know. Even if I'm starting to forget what it looks like." Matt furrows his brow. "Oh my god, did you even notice I've been here for like a month? And two months before that?"
"Of course I noticed," Matt replies, stung. "I just... For some reason, it didn't really occur to me that you go back there when you leave for a few days. You're always here."
"Well, if that's your unsubtle way of indicating that I'm overstaying my welcome..." Foggy jokes, knowing Matt well enough to know that he is not, in fact, saying anything of the sort.
"I get used to having you around," Matt admits softly. It's law school all over again, except twenty years later. Living together, reading together, working together - only now with more bruises and broken bones.
God, he's tired.
"I'll be back tomorrow, you know," Foggy reminds in a gentler tone. "You're not getting out of a birthday booze binge." Except they're respectable now, so it's good scotch at home instead of bar hopping at the shittiest, cheapest dives they can find. "Prepare to be drunk under the tables once more, Murdock!"
"Are you still twenty-two?" Matt drawls.
"And getting younger every year," Foggy nods cheerfully, so cheerfully, improbably cheerfully. More cheerfully than anyone who’s been through the last two decades with Matt ought to be, and how does he deserve this?
“Do you remember,” Matt begins.
“Oh, no,” Foggy laughs.
Matt scoffs, whacking his leg lightly with his cane. He still keeps it nearby even at home, in part just in case someone shows up unexpectedly and in part to do exactly what he just did. “Do you remember when we were twenty-two, and we thought exams were the end of the world?”
Foggy sits down across from him, and Matt hears the scrape of him pushing something across the table to his two o’clock. He obligingly reaches out to pick up the coffee cup and take a sip. “Yeah, of course. I still maintain that the bar exam is the worst thing I’ve ever sat through, including that time with the Hungarians and the cattle prod.”
Joking about the shit they’ve survived is a thing now. Matt’s not sure if he’s entirely keen on it - he still errs on the side of self-flagellation - but he’s not going to take that away from Foggy.
“No, but,” Matt continues, “after the first semester of our last year, we were drinking and talking and you were streaming some show on your computer…”
“That successfully describes all three years of law school,” Foggy teases, a casual addition slipped in to encourage him to keep going rather than interrupt him to a stop. “Yeah, I remember. Friends, wasn’t it? Or How I Met Your Mother?”
“The first, I think.” Matt shrugs. “Do you remember what we talked about? You were pretty drunk.”
“I was not!” Foggy protests with faux-defensiveness. “I was a little tipsy at best. Maybe meandering toward a nice buzz. You were the lightweight between us then, Mr. Skin-and-Bones-and-Secret-Muscles.”
“I walked around the room half-naked after showers,” Matt reminds with a smirk. “And dated a lot of girls. They weren’t that much of a secret.”
“Okay, Public Muscles and Secret Ninja Skills,” Foggy compromises. Matt suspects that he’s rolling his eyes and stays silent. “Yeah, I remember. If we weren’t married by some arbitrary age, we’d tie the knot. It was when all of that marriage equality stuff was starting to get heated up, but I can’t remember if it was legal in New York yet.”
“It was,” Matt confirms. “… Why didn’t we do it?”
The beer is shit and the laptop’s audio quality even worse, but Matt wouldn’t trade this for the world.
”Matt,” Foggy slurs. “Matt, Matt, Matty-Matt!”
”Mm?” Matt hums back, sleepy and pleased. Exams are over, they’re on break, their bellies are full from wonderfully terrible Chinese food, and his senses are muted from the alcohol in his system. He’s warm and cozy and lazy, slumped against his bestest best friend in the world. Foggy is great. This is great. Everything is wonderful.
Foggy snickers and pats his head. Matt suspects that he probably means to aim for his hair, but he misses and sort of slaps Matt’s cheek a few times instead. “Love you, too, man.”
”D’I say that out loud…?” Matt wonders.
”Yup,” Foggy teases, popping his ‘p’ obnoxiously. “But keep stroking my ego, please. Wait, no, I’mma say somethin’.”
”You’re sayin’ somethin’ now,” Matt points out, snorting against his neck.
“Another somethin’,” Foggy retorts. “Hey, Matt, hey. Let’s get married.”
That wakes him right up. Matt’s head lifts so fast his head spins and the cheap beer sloshes around in his stomach. He also possibly headbutts Foggy a little. “What?”
”The - Chandler, and Monica,” Foggy explains unhelpfully. “I mean. I mean. I don’t know if I want a kid. But it doesn’t sound bad, dying with you.”
”I - no, why - no dying,” Matt manages to get out, preoccupied with trying to process Foggy’s suggestion. He turns his head toward the laptop, focusing on what the characters are saying. “You want to get married?”
”Not now,” Foggy scoffs. “We’re busy. But if we’re 40 an’ single? Yeah, man, let’s do it. We’re gonna be business partners ‘nyway, yeah?”
A happy feeling starts burning in Matt’s chest. It seeps into his blood, circulating around his body, leaving him tingling and pleased all over. Laughing, he bumps Foggy’s temple with his own. “Yeah. Okay. Let’s do it.” He could think of much worse ways of living than sharing his life with Foggy, after all.
Foggy goes still. “Why didn’t we… what? Get married?” Matt nods. “I don’t know, we never even dated. I didn’t think about it. You had Karen and then Milla, I had Marci and then Deb… does it count to be married and divorced?”
Matt doesn’t answer.
“Do you want to get married?” Foggy asks after a moment. “To me?”
“I don’t know,” Matt admits. “We’re good as we are. I just. I think...”
“Coffee,” Foggy reminds when he trails off thoughtfully.
Matt sips his cup again on automatic while going through his thoughts. “I think I’m going to hang up the suit.”
He isn’t sure what he expected from Foggy. Surprise, maybe. Joy? Relief, for sure.
He doesn’t expect the easy, “I know.”
His head snaps up, and he peers at the contours of his best friend’s face, wishing he could make out his expression. “You know?”
“I know,” Foggy repeats with a nod. He reaches over, pries Matt’s fingers from his mug, and cups his hand. His thumb strokes over the tender, reddened skin of Matt’s damaged knuckles. “I know you, man. I knew you before you put on the horns. You’re not as young and whole as you used to be. The strain is getting to you, body and mind.”
“How did you know?” Matt whispers, age-old guilt filling his chest. “I didn’t even know, not really.”
“I know you,” Foggy says again, voice immeasurably fond. “It’s harder for you to go out these days, and you come home earlier. The streets are quieter, and when they’re not, New York is crawling with so many other damn superheroes lately that you’re not the only local defender anymore. Our case load’s been pretty nuts, too.”
“I feel like I’m giving up,” Matt confesses, lowering his head. He focuses on the feeling of Foggy’s skin against his, noting the papercut on his left thumb and an ink stain on his right index finger. There’s a little bit of coffee on his sleeve cuff. He moisturized recently.
“You’re passing the torch,” Foggy corrects. “You’re not immortal, a demi-god, or a supercomputer. Spider-Man’s not going to be fighting forever just because he has spidey sense, and neither are Barton or Wilson or the Maximoffs, and neither are you. It’s okay to shift your priorities and focus on non-vigilantism.” He swallows, and his voice comes out rougher. “At least you made it to retirement.”
So many others didn’t. So many others won’t.
It’s not retirement. Not really. Matt won’t give up Nelson & Murdock until he absolutely has to. He loves his job, he really does. But focusing all of his energy on the courts, defending folks who need help with Foggy at his side, they way they’d planned since all those years ago? Without needing to worry about hauling on the body armour and dragging himself into the streets every night? Without making Foggy worry whether he’d be back?
Yeah, that sounds good.
It could sound even better.
“We made it,” Matt amends. “You’re… you’ve been with me nearly every step of the way. Sometimes I think my life started when I met you. I don’t…”
“Yeah, Matt?” Foggy coaxes.
Matt closes his eyes. “I don’t want you to go back to the brownstone.”
Foggy squeezes his hand before letting go. Instead of pulling away, however, he simply turns Matt’s hand so that they can grip each other, wrist to wrist.
It’s another trick they use to ground themselves, like the face touching. It lets Foggy hold onto him, and it lets Matt feel the heartbeat he’s been listening to for so many years, pumping life and health throughout his body.
“We don’t have to be married for me not to go back,” Foggy reasons cautiously. “I can sell it and move in here, if you’d like.”
“You don’t want to anymore?” Matt asks, fearing the answer. Fearing a rejection. A withdrawal. Change.
He never asked to be called the Man without Fear. There are so many things that scare him, every damn day.
Foggy lets out a small huff of laughter. “That’s not it. I’m just not sure you really want to. I’m not going anywhere - we don’t need a ring and paperwork to prove it. You’re stuck with me, pal.”
“I know,” Matt argues. “I know, and I’m glad. I’m grateful. But that’s not all of it. I just… it feels right, coming back around to who we were then. That through all these years, all the shit, we’re still - we’re us. We made it work.” Another thought occurs to him, and he frowns. “I’m not going to push you. This isn’t important. It won’t really change much. I just...”
Foggy’s heart starts to beat faster. Matt rubs a finger over that beloved rhythm. Foggy makes a small, encouraging noise. “Yeah?”
“I want to marry you,” Matt finishes in a rush.
He can’t make out the smile that breaks out on Foggy’s face, but he feels his heart skip a beat. He can’t see his expression light up, but he feels the very air in the room warm. He can’t look him in the eyes, but he feels Foggy lift their joined hands and brush his lips over bruised knuckles.
“Okay, Matty.” Foggy murmurs the words against his skin. “Let’s get married.”
And they do.
And it’s great.
And everything is wonderful.