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in need of guidance

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"Hello?"

Matt intends to ignore this voice, like he's ignored all the other voices. There have been a lot? Of voices. He thinks. A lot of voices.

None for a long time, though.

How long has it been?

"Uh. Hi. I, uh, know this is weird. You don't know me from - well, you don't know me."

That's certainly true, Matt thinks. The voice is unfamiliar, the heartbeat the same, and the scent -

There's no scent.

That's odd, isn't it? There should be scent. People smell. Unless he's hearing this voice from the other side of a door, or over the phone, but... there's none of that here. Just trees.

Empty, but for Matt and the lion, and now this person. And... he cocks his head to one side, listening for another. They always come in pairs.

There it is. Definitely something four-legged. A wolf, maybe? Matt doesn't know why that's what he jumps to, but it feels right. Matt and the lion, and this person and the wolf.

The lion gets up to investigate the wolf.

"But I know you, kind of."

Does he? The others had, so Matt supposes that's only right.

"When you were a kid, and saved that old dude from being hit by that truck? I loved that, I read all about it - about you. You were kind of my elementary school hero."

An old man and a truck. When...?

Oh. Yes, of course. That was before the lion, though. Before the forest. Such a long time ago, Matt had almost forgotten.

When he could still see, before he could hear. (And smell and taste and feel and - )

"I didn't know what happened after your dad died until today, though."

Dad?

Dad.

Battlin' Jack Murdock takes home another win! The man cannot be beat lately -

Boxer Dies in Suspected Mob Hit

dad, daddy, no

The lion pushes a cool nose against Matt's cheek. Brings Matt back. From... wherever he'd gone.

"I mean, a Sentinel from my home town would've been cool enough, but you? That, like, quadrupled the coolness factor. At least."

Sentinel?

The lion butts its head against Matt's shoulder, and he remembers. (He's forgotten a lot here, hasn't he?) The sensitivity he couldn't control anymore, after Dad was - after. One of the nuns recognizing the signs, calling some government agency.  And then. Sentinels. Guides.

Training.

You going to spend your life crying and rocking yourself to sleep at night, or are you going to dig deep and find out what it takes to reshuffle those cards life dealt you?

"Can't believe Brett never told me." The wolf huffs, and the voice says, "Okay, yes I can, we're not exactly friend-friends, but still! A Sentinel! Our age! From Hell's Kitchen!"

Brett?

Matt uncurls from the lotus - not going to do that again, lion. He stands, winces; he's not as quick on his feet as he should be. His muscles are stiff.

How long has he been sitting?

The lion approaches, persistent, on feet made of fog. No, that's wrong. Backwards?

Fog comes on lion feet?

No, cat feet.

A poem.

Poetry, Sentinel training, Dad. It's too much, he shouldn't - this isn't a place for remembering. It's for... not that.

Forgetting? No, not that either.

(What else did Matt forget?)

He backs away from the lion, only to find the wolf at his heels. He flips over it (ow) and starts running. Where doesn't matter. There's nothing here but trees, on and on trees.

He runs, runs, never tires. This isn't a place for being tired. It's for... not. That.

Becoming untired.

Recovering.

The other voices had said that, hadn't they? They'd told him he was done, that he should come back.

Back where?

"I'm still kind of pissed he only told me because he needed a favor, but whatever. I'm stuck here until my cousin's done giving birth anyway, might as well do something instead of listening to my great-aunt reminisce about my birth. Again. So... here."

Matt stops.

There's something in his hand.

Cool, smooth. Glass? Stone? A solid weight, but not heavy. Glass. Round, uniformly. Beads. Various sizes, strung together in a pattern.

A rosary.

"Brett said you used to use this instead of a guide. Sounds kinda suicidal if you ask me, but what do I know? He found it in your stuff at the precinct, thought it might help."

Yes, it does. The texture, familiar as his own skin, cuts through everything else. Draws Matt's focus, reminds him of his purpose. Keeps him from zoning.

"Anyway, it was... uh. Nice to meet you? Sort of?"

The lion rubs against his legs and he remembers. Not keeps, kept him from zoning.

Until.

Something wrong in the air, an unnatural hum, an inhuman screech. People shouting, panicking, gunfire? Not normal guns. Police trying to keep order, but - too many, there's too many of them, and they sound wrong. Invading, destroying, killing his city, his city

Get him out of here!

a quick, sharp pain in his neck

And then nothing but trees. Trees and the lion.

Matt sits up, breathing hard.

"Jesus Christ!"

He needs to breathe. He - he needs to breathe.

He can smell: hospital-typical scents, bleach poorly masking blood and urine; his own sweat, old and sour (how long has it been?); a trace of incense clinging to the rosary, as familiar as the glass under his fingers; something strange.

Not strange.  New.

The person who's been talking to Matt.

The lion and the wolf are gone. Matt's not in the trees anymore. He's... back.

"Oh my God, that was terrifying." The heartbeat that goes with the voice is thundering in Matt's ears. Monitors are blaring in the distance, alerting staff that he's awake. Someone will be here soon to answer his questions.

Soon's not soon enough.

"How long has it been?" Matt asks. His voice is hoarse, rough with disuse. His stomach churns, empty. His fingers, twisting around the rosary, feel weak.

He has a bad feeling about this.

"How - how long? Since what, since..."

"Since I went under. How long?"

"I don't know, a year, maybe?"

A year. Matt groans, lets his head fall back. Who knows how much filth will have crept into his city in that time? At least it wasn't longer, he tells himself. It could have been worse. "I don't know who you are, but... thank you."

"For what?"

"You pulled me out." Matt licks his lips. "No - no one else was able to do that.  And I... I remember a lot of people trying." A lot of people. Some of them well known, practically famous.  Someone at the Fifteenth must've called in some big favors, for all the good it did them.

"Oh." He shuffles. "Uh. You're welcome? Foggy Nelson." He holds out a hand, then drops it, saying, "Wait, sorry, I'm a dumbass - "

Matt grabs Foggy's hand before he can get too far away. (Foggy? Seriously?) "Matt Murdock," he says, adding with a grin, "but I think you already knew that."