The form, filled out in a pretty, flowing hand, says that Claire needs to do some stitches and check for concussion on a Mr Matthew Murdock.
She pulls back the curtain to discover there are far more people here than she was expecting, a cluster of noise and giggling.
“Mr Murdock?” she asks doubtfully, and the battered, dark-haired guy on the bed raises a hand.
“He’s the idiot,” the pretty blonde woman sitting in the chair says, crossing and recrossing her legs, plucking at the hem of her summer dress with thin fingers, “and the other one is the idiot’s boyfriend.”
“Hi,” says the other guy, climbing awkwardly off the bed and attempting vigorously to straighten his tie. “I’m Foggy Nelson, attorney at law.”
“Is he doing the tie thing?” Murdock asks.
“He is,” the woman confirms. “It’s awful. Like, the worst.”
“Hey,” Nelson protests, but moves back to let Claire get to Murdock when the blonde woman waves her hands at him.
“I’m Karen,” she tells Claire. “I’m the cat-herder.”
“I can see that,” Claire responds, but manages a smile.
The chart tells Claire that Murdock is blind, which rules out pupil response; he’s staring sightlessly at the ceiling, a sort-of smirk playing around his split lips.
“I walked into a file cabinet,” Murdock says loudly, when Claire reaches for his face, tilts it toward the light so she can check that nasty-looking cut on his cheekbone a little better.
“Oh my God,” Karen murmurs; in her peripheral vision, Claire sees her press her face into her hands.
“I thought we were going to come up with a better-” Nelson begins, visibly stops himself, and continues: “-explanation of that thing that definitely happened.”
“…you say you’re a lawyer?” Claire asks, doubtful, while Murdock winces under her gentle probing and then pretends he didn’t.
“They’re better at it than they look,” Karen says. “I mean, I know, they’d have to be.”
“Hey,” Nelson protests.
Claire’s seen all kinds of shit at 4 a.m. in this ER, but these aren’t her usual kind of people: they’re all sober, apparently validly employed, and aren’t screaming that a mugging took place. Inane comments aside, they stay quiet and let Claire get on with her job of stitching up Murdock’s face.
“Just as well you weren’t much to look at in the first place,” Nelson tells Murdock, though he’s been holding his hand for the entire time Claire’s had a needle out.
“Fuck you, I’m gorgeous,” Murdock replies cheerfully.
“You keep telling yourself that,” Nelson says, patting his knee.
Claire snaps her gloves off, glancing to Karen, who looks tired but fond. “He’s going to need observation,” she tells her, “and it’d be good if could keep the stitches dry.”
Karen nods, while Nelson complains loudly in the background that he should be getting the care instructions and Murdock reminds him of The Flu Saga of ’05 in a doom-laden voice.
“Thanks,” Karen says, giving Claire a startlingly lovely smile, and then she goes to call them all a cab.
Claire assumes that that’s going to be it.
It’s three a.m. this time, and it’s been raining outside, and Karen’s hair is plastered to her head while Nelson and Murdock vaguely resemble drowned rats, Murdock a pulverised one.
“I fell down some stairs,” Murdock says.
“Stop giving her shitty battered wife cliché excuses,” Nelson tells him. “You’re making me sound like the world’s worst boyfriend.”
Murdock seems to have some kind of stab wound, but Claire isn’t sure how to bring it up, what with Nelson’s pouting and Karen looking wide-eyed and innocent despite the blood on what appears to be a Hulk t-shirt.
“They actually put away a domestic abuser last week,” Karen tells her, “they’re not as awful as they sound.”
“If anyone’s the wife in this relationship, it’s clearly you,” Murdock says to Nelson, while Claire examines the – mercifully shallow – puncture wound above his left hipbone.
“Before you guys get into offensive gender stereotypes,” Karen interrupts, “I slept on your couch that time, Matt, you’re the wife. Also I’m going to get coffee, and when I get back, no one without medical training is going to be talking.”
She swishes the curtain closed behind her; Murdock and Nelson look like chastened schoolboys.
“Whatever you’re paying her,” Claire remarks, “it isn’t enough.”
“This is the fifth time in two months,” Claire says; it’s dawn outside, and Foggy and Karen both seem to be in their pyjamas. The other nurses have learned to come get Claire when her ridiculous regular patients trail in.
“Sixth,” Matt corrects her, “if you count that time you said Foggy was being melodramatic and sent us all straight home.”
Claire refuses to say that she’s getting fond of them, because she’s not. They’re idiots.
“Which excuse are you using this time?” she asks. “Anyone?”
Karen’s pyjamas are printed with Captain America’s shield; she shifts in her chair and says: “I wanted to say a grand piano fell on him, but then, where would we have got the grand piano from?”
“I can play the piano,” Foggy pipes up. His pyjama pants have little unicorns on them.
“You can play chopsticks,” Matt corrects him. “I thought we were going with the banana peel this time, Karen?”
“I’m pretty sure your knee was bent backwards for a minute there,” Karen responds, “we needed to up the slapstick stakes.”
Matt’s expression stays deadpan, because he can’t see her; the other two look at their feet as Claire glares at them.
“I have no idea why any of you think that I would buy this for even a second,” she says.
“Is it the implausibility of my injuries?” Matt asks. “I mean, you know, I’m blind, so, clumsy.”
Claire’s seen Matt walk out of this ER and be the most steady and competent of the three of them, so she’s not going even pretend to believe that.
“We’re a shitty Scooby gang,” Foggy mumbles, scuffing the toe of one converse against the lino.
“Speak for yourself,” Karen tells him, “I went on that first aid course.”
Well, that would explain the actually very neat and competent bandages that Matt’s started arriving in with, anyway.
Claire sighs, before they all get derailed into bickering. “You’re all aware that I know exactly who Matt is and what he’s doing with his evenings, aren’t you?”
Matt screws up his face, and then looks like he regrets it. “Is this where you call the police?”
“Please,” Claire says, “if I wanted to do that I’d have done it the third time you came in and tried to tell me you’d been trying to put up an Ikea bookcase and it had fallen on you.”
“I actually put all their flatpack furniture together for them,” Karen tells her, which doesn’t surprise Claire in the slightest. She’s pretty sure Matt and Foggy would be dead by now if it wasn’t for Karen, even with Matt’s weird night-time crime fighting.
Karen goes to get coffees while Claire examines Matt’s knee; this time, it looks like it’s going to actually need an x-ray, which was going to happen sooner or later, she supposes.
“This wasn’t how I pictured having a vigilante boyfriend, you know,” Foggy mutters. “I just wanted to live in a not-terrible apartment and maybe adopt some kind of rescue cat with a weird ear and one of us was going to learn to cook.”
“Well, that part was implausible,” Matt tells him, as Karen carefully closes his fingers around a paper cup.
“I bet Batman’s boyfriend never had to put up with this shit,” Foggy complains.
“Batman doesn’t have a boyfriend,” Matt says, “he just has a butler he emotionally torments.”
“I’m clearly Alfred in this situation,” Karen remarks, kicking her feet up on Matt’s bed.
Matt’s head tilts toward her. “I emotionally torment you?”
“You try to,” Karen responds, light, and Claire pulls herself away to find out when they’ll be ready to take Matt off for an x-ray.
It’s about eleven in the morning when Matt is cleared to leave the ER; he’s got a crutch, which Claire knows he’s going to abandon at an inappropriately early time, and she’s resigned herself to seeing him at some point in the next week or so despite everything.
“Shouldn’t you be finishing soon?” Foggy asks her, as they stop by the nurses’ station to say goodbye; Matt’s leaning on Foggy and looking exhausted.
“Another hour,” Claire says, and: “don’t think for one minute I’m going to branch into home nursing.”
“I’m getting pretty good at the sponge bath thing,” Foggy says.
Karen giggles, buries her face in her hands. She’s braided her hair at some point in the last couple of hours, and with that and the pyjamas she looks oddly vulnerable.
“Oh,” Matt says, like something’s only just occurred to him, and he’s holding out a folded post-it from the nurses’ desk; Claire didn’t even see him move, but from Karen and Foggy’s resigned expressions, this isn’t a new thing. “I wanted to give you this.”
Claire unfolds the post-it; it’s got a telephone number scrawled badly but legibly on it.
“Thanks,” she says, “but I’m really not feeling the offer to better acquaint myself with you, Foggy, and some kind of sponge.”
“It’s shaped like a duck,” Foggy provides, as Matt says: “it’s actually Karen's number.”
Karen flushes viciously. “I hate it when you do this,” she hisses at Matt.
“You’re an attractive woman who Karen is clearly attracted to,” Matt continues, pretending obliviousness, while Foggy mutters: “do not make this a repeat of the Marci Stahl Situation,” and jabs an elbow into the one place Matt’s ribs aren’t hideously damaged. “And your pulse picks up when Karen’s in the room, but not when it’s just me and Foggy. I extrapolated.”
“You can hear my heartbeat?” Claire asks, sceptical, but she does slip the number into her scrubs pocket anyway.
“He’s the worst,” Foggy says, cheerful, “and come on, Matt, let’s go before you make this any weirder.” He half-pulls, half-carries Matt toward the doors, where there will probably be a taxi already waiting for them.
“I’m… so sorry,” Karen says, still flushed and awkward. “He’s… they’re… it’s been a long night. Morning. Whatever. I think maybe I’ve been hallucinating everything that’s happened since about six-thirty.”
“That would suck,” Claire tells her, and Karen looks startled. “I mean, you know, I could do without some of the visuals Foggy’s given me, but, hey, I have your number now. I might get to find out what you look like when it’s not the middle of the night and you’re not covered in Murdock’s bodily fluids.”
“I’m not sure I even remember what I look like then,” Karen replies, but she grins, honest and real and so pretty, god, Claire can’t even. “Does that mean you’re going to call me?”
“I will,” Claire promises, and watches Karen walk out into the sunlight.
Karen yawns when she answers her phone, but sounds delighted to hear from Claire. “When’s your night off?” she asks.
“Tonight, actually,” Claire admits.
“Perfect,” Karen says, “there’s that coffee place like three blocks from the hospital, want to meet there?”
Claire blinks. “You want to meet now?”
“Well, I used this afternoon to get some sleep,” Karen explains, “but apparently Matt took Foggy to a shelter to adopt a cat, and now they have this tiny ginger thing with wonky eyes, and it’s lovely, but if I have to hear one more discussion of what they’re going to call it, or if Matt’s going to scare it in his, you know, crime-fighting outfit, I am going to scream.”
Claire tries to picture this series of events and then decides not to. She’s not sure she completely understands the Matt and Foggy relationship, but they seem happy enough, and that’s the important part. Well, probably.
“Sure,” she says, “I’ll meet you there in half an hour?”
“Perfect,” Karen responds, and hangs up.
“…huh,” Claire says to her living room, and then goes to grab her coat.