"Matt Murdock." He takes a step closer to the other sources of sound in the room - a computer whirring away, muffled slightly by fabric in a way that makes Matt think laptop, a radio playing a nine year old song - or is that also the laptop? - and his roommate, climbing to his feet and crossing the space between them. A hand takes his in a solid, lingering shake.
"Foggy Nelson," his roommate says, and then, while Matt contemplates the possible origins of that nickname, "Holy crap, did that just... wait, Matt Murdock? Are you - you're not from Hell's Kitchen, are you?"
Not a question Matt had been expecting. "Yeah, born and raised."
"So am I!" That's a coincidence, Matt nearly says, before he realizes it's probably less coincidence and more Student Housing putting people together based on geography. Foggy goes on, "Yeah, I heard about you when you were a kid!" and Matt turns away, just the wrong side of flustered. Of all things to follow him to law school... he shakes his head and mutters something about doing what anyone would do.
"Bullshit, you are a hero."
Matt laughs halfheartedly, feels his way to the corner of his bed and sits down. "I'm really not."
"Whatever, you want to be humble too I'm not gonna complain." Foggy snorts out a laugh, almost hysterical at the edges. "Shit, I can't believe this is happening."
"W-what, meeting me?"
"Ooh, humble and vain simultaneously, I - oh, wait, shit, my bad. Come back here, or, no, I'll - " A handful of footsteps and a shift in the air tell Matt that Foggy's right in front of him. "Gimme your hand again?"
Matt sticks his hand out, about ten degrees to the right of where Foggy's standing, and lets Foggy pull it back to center. "Maybe I should've asked before letting you take my hand, but why do you need it?"
"You'll see," Foggy says. Matt raises his eyebrows, gives him ten seconds to realize what he's said. A short huff of a groan. "Or, you know, not so much. Just... here." One of Foggy's thumbs presses against Matt's palm, angling his hand up. The fingers of Foggy's other hand slip between Matt's, and for a second Matt wonders if this is an elaborate come on.
And then he feels it.
He'd thought Foggy's hand had been a little warm when they shook, but now, moving slower and with intent, it's obvious that the point of heat, of connection, isn't normal.
Matt pulls his hand free, too fast, too obvious, thumb rubbing at the burning sensation circling his third finger. Heart pounding in his ears, grateful that he's already sitting down, he says, "Is - was that a Ring?"
"Yup," Foggy says after a brief silence, popping the p pointedly. He returns to his side of the room, apparently oblivious to the panic going on in Matt's head. (A Ring, a connection to another person literally branded on your skin. What the hell, Murdock, how did you go from deciding Stick's "attachment is weakness" policy is probably bullshit to this?) "Ringmate roommates, there's a tongue-twister for you. We're gonna have to send Student Housing a bouquet or a fruit basket or something. I mean, what are the odds?"
"What are the odds," Matt repeats dumbly.
They - well, "they", it's all Foggy's doing - end up sending one of those fruit arrangements that are dipped in chocolate and come with marshmallows. Foggy moans and groans over how good everything on the website looks, and is only barely convinced not to get one for himself.
("Not just for me, man! It's for celebrating us, half of it's for you."
"I'm good, thanks." Matt's interest in celebrating aside, cut fruit displays taste too much like the citric acid preservative sprayed on them, and the chocolate's always subpar.)
Matt is less enthusiastic than his Ringmate about the whole thing, to put it lightly. Not that he thinks Foggy is naive to be as welcoming of the idea as he is, it's just... a Ring isn't a guarantee. It doesn't mean that a relationship's going to be healthy, just significant. Significant how? Best friends, lifelong rivals? Romantically, sexually? The old assumptions about location and composition were disproved in the fifties, but what if this guy expects more than Matt can give?
He doesn't even know what assumptions could be applied to their Ring. All he knows is that it's same-handed, right-handed, unraised. Is it bruise-dark, freckle-shaped? A thin white line cutting through already pale skin? He doesn't want to ask Foggy - not and risk getting an answer he doesn't want to hear - but asking someone else feels... wrong. It's a private thing, for all that it's on display for the world to see.
Time passes, and Matt continues to not ask. Eventually it's been so long that it'd just be too weird to ask, so... he doesn't.
He tries not to let it bother him that he's the only person who doesn't know what it looks like.
Rings indicate significance, and if there's one thing Foggy turns out to be, it's that. They're shockingly compatible friends, for all Foggy's extroversion and Matt's tendency to live in a study carrel at the slightest exam-related provocation. Their enthusiasm for the law is similarly intense, their trial skills complementary, and they have the same terrible taste in cheap alcohol. The compatibility only increases over time, as Foggy learns Matt's quirks, Matt learns his, and they adjust to each other.
It's all smooth sailing, really, with one exception: an awkward, drunken face-touching incident puts a silent moratorium on hand-holding and other, equally intimate ways of reaffirming a Ring.
After a week of uncomfortable silences and a loathsome distance between them, Matt starts offering fist bumps as a way to acknowledge the Ring instead, a brief flare of connection that says you're important to me, dumbass. Which is really all they need, if the upward tick of Foggy's heartbeat and the joy in his voice is anything to go by.
The things Matt worried about at first never come back to haunt him. Foggy doesn't ask too much, or expect things Matt can't give him. They don't grow apart, or resentful. Their significance to each other is never unhealthy or painful. The importance of their friendship never limits any other relationship in their lives... much. But other relationships hold such a low priority for Matt that he doesn't care.
No, it's something he never let himself think about, instead. A risk unrealized until it was almost on top of him, which was incredibly short-sighted of Matt. He'd already learned that everyone leaves him eventually. Stupid to think that couldn't apply to Foggy.
Matt keeps catching himself rubbing at his ring finger.
It's not like he's ever been able to feel it. It isn't one of those raised skin ones, there isn't anything he can detect, not even a barely-there change in texture or sensation. It's only when his Ring touches Foggy's that he feels anything from it at all.
He hasn't touched Foggy in a week. Hasn't spoken to him in days.
Hasn't dared ask Karen the question he's terrified of hearing the wrong answer to.
But it still plagues him, every time the quiet gets to be too much, the space beside him too empty. His thumb tucks into the space under his fingers, or he sets aside his cane and laces his fingers together and wonders.
Is it still there?
How much longer until it's gone?
He vaguely remembers reading up on the Kinsey studies during that first semester, when he hadn't realized how important - how essential - Foggy would become. They'd asked pairs of Ringmates, of various type and duration of partnership, to stay away from each other, report back at regular intervals until the Ring disappeared. It took a handful of weeks at best.
But Matt and Foggy haven't disappeared from each other's lives entirely. They still coexist, in passing at the office if nowhere else.
Is that enough to keep it going?
It's only been a week. Even utilizing a conservative time frame, it's probably still there.
But he's not sure, and the uncertainty burns.
Rejoining forces for the good of the case against Fisk is... good. It's important. The city needs this from him, from them. Matt can't let his selfishness interfere in something this much bigger than himself, so he does his best not to get his hopes up. Doesn't touch Foggy more than is necessary, doesn't talk about things unrelated to the case. Foggy returns the favor - though favor isn't quite the word for it. Being apart was bad enough, but being this close and still separate...
Matt's lucky to have this much. He grits his teeth and bears it.
Then, just as they've deluded themselves into thinking they've won, Fisk escapes. Matt's the only one who can stop him at this point, and he doesn't deserve it, but he begs for Foggy's trust on this.
Foggy's still for a long moment. Then, slowly, Foggy takes his hand, laces their fingers together. The connection burns through Matt, cleansing, purifying. Sucking in a sharp breath, he squeezes Foggy's hand. "What," he asks, stumbles over his words, "what does it look like?"
"It's... red," Foggy tells him. His voice is as shaky as Matt's, which is bizarrely comforting. "Really, really red."
Of course it is. How could it be anything else?
Another ten seconds of contact, then he breaks away, slaps Matt on the shoulder. "Go on, go be hero."
Matt does his best.
After Fisk is put away, the city certain now of his misdeeds, "Daredevil" (what the hell, Brett) no longer a person of interest, and Nelson & Murdock reduced to taking friends-of-Foggy's-parents cases again, a delivery comes to their office. Two vases of fruit, one with balloons tied to it that should, according to the website, have the words THANK YOU on them in large print.
"Sweet, I love these things!" Foggy says, pouncing on one in search of a card.
"Are they from a client?" Karen wonders. Matt stands just inside the door, waiting.
Foggy hums absently, passing Karen one of the cards. "The one with the balloons is for you, Karen. Other one's addressed to the firm as a whole." No Braille on the envelope, so Foggy opens it without thinking twice. Karen's the faster reader of the two of them - her breath stutters an instant before Foggy's.
"With undying gratitude, for keeping us together when we were falling apart," Karen reads quietly.
Foggy swallows thickly. "I've owed you one of these going on five years. Hope you don't mind that it's late."
They turn around - to face him, he assumes. He quirks a smile. "Surprise?" he tries, and when he's engulfed in a three-person hug he laughs and leans into it, more grateful than words - or fruit - can say.