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“Mr. Murdock,” says the woman on the phone, who sounds more chipper than even someone trying to sell him something would, almost on the verge of manic. “I'm so happy I caught you. This is Shelley Donaldson in the Housing Office at Columbia Law, and I have wonderful news for you.”

Matt pauses in the middle of feeling around in the mostly-bare shelves of the fridge in the apartment he's subletting for the summer, thrown. “News?” He can't think of anything he should be hearing from the Housing Office of all places that he would categorize as “wonderful.”

“Your betrothed is also coming to our law school this fall, and you'll be able to room together!”

Matt very carefully straightens and shuts the fridge door. He already knew he was going to have to order delivery. “I'm afraid you're mistaken. I was never betrothed.”

“The contract was marked as lapsed, but we run searches as a matter of course, in case any of our students don't think to disclose their statuses.” Some of the cheer is leeching from her voice. “Mr. Murdock, is there a reason this contract is lapsed that would require us to make sure you and Mr. Nelson don't room together? Otherwise our software will automatically place you together for ease of transition to married student housing.”

Mr. Nelson. Now Matt knows two things about his betrothed. Three, if he's counting the fact that he's engaged at all. “I'm—I was unaware of a contract.” He clears his throat. “There wasn't a reason, but maybe you could tell me the date it was ratified? And, perhaps, Mr. Nelson's first name?”

“Franklin,” she says, and the less happy she sounds, the more pity there is in her voice. “Franklin Nelson.”

“And the date? I'm sorry to insist, but it's that … my father passed away unexpectedly when I was young and the foster system doesn't have the rights to initiate contracts.”

Even more pity, but she names the date. Two days before his father died, and Matt isn't sure what to do about that. Shouldn't he have known? Wouldn't his father have told him? “It's like your very own Cinderella story,” she says, voice warming again. “The contract must have been stuck in bureaucratic purgatory between the contract office and the foster system, but it was never canceled despite there being grounds. Franklin must have wondered where his future husband was, all that time.”

Matt feels sick. “Is he aware? Franklin?”

“No.” She's hesitant now. “Your last name came first alphabetically in the sorting. This is really an incredible coincidence. Must be fate! Your parents chose well, both of you wanting to go into the law.”

“You … you can understand that this is a shock. For me, and probably for him too. Can I get back to you on rooming with him? I'd like to find myself a copy of the contract, and perhaps contact him. Neither of us has been expecting any of this.”

“Of course, Matthew.” Her cheer is picking up again. “I'll let him know, and no doubt you can find him on the student e-mail once the news has sunk in! It's really just like a fairy tale.”

Matt isn't much of a handsome prince, and he doesn't know anything about Franklin at all, why he and his family wouldn't have canceled the contract when Matt went into the system, when no doubt any financial parts of the contract were voided. “Thank you for letting me know, Ms. Donaldson. I have the Housing Office's number if I have any more questions.”

“Of course. You have a great day, Matthew!” she chirps, like anyone could have a good day when their whole life has been turned down.

“You too,” he says, and hangs up.

Within seconds, he's searching for the number of the contract office in New York City so he can ask for a Braille or screenreader-accessible version of his contract.

*

It seems his father specified that at least one of the paper copies of the contract on file should be Braille, so when Matt calls the office, they have it messengered over within twenty-four hours, and he's left with fewer pages than he'd expected spread out on his bed.

It's not a standard contract. There's nothing about finances in it, beyond a stipulation that in the event of them choosing to break the contract there should be no monetary penalty, although it does say divorce shouldn't be sought without at least ten sessions with a marriage counselor. It names the Nelsons as potential guardians for Matt and Jack as a potential guardian for Franklin, a standard clause in contracts that somehow never came to fruition, given where Matt spent his teen years. They were supposed to have a chance to meet with contract advisers at age eighteen to decide how to proceed, and to have the chance to get to know each other before that. Franklin has the legal right to visit Matt in the hospital even before marriage, as did his parents until Matt's eighteenth birthday, and the right to be consulted on medical decisions. The rights are reciprocal, of course, but Matt thinks his father is the one who chose to put them in.

Most contract marriages are a means to an end. They ally two families financially, or allow a pool of resources or a steady inheritance for a business, or provide financial assistance for one partner and possible prestige for another. Almost everyone tries to make sure their children are happy with their partners, but it's business.

Matt's father seems to have just wanted to make sure that Matt had somewhere to go. Someone to go to. He wanted for Matt not to be lonely. Matt has no idea what that says about Franklin Nelson or his parents, and he hates that it makes him curious.

*

Matt gets an e-mail to his Columbia student account about two days after his call from the housing office. So far, most of the student e-mails he's received have been from clubs and societies recruiting, professors discussing reasonable accommodation for Matt's blindness, and information from the administration. This e-mail, though, is from Franklin Nelson, and when his screen-reader reads the name he's so shocked he almost doesn't give the command to open the message.

Dear Matthew, says the screenreader. Housing called me the other day and I think we both got a surprise. I haven't known how to contact you for years now, and I'm pretty sure my mom started crying while I was telling her over the phone. But do you want to meet up? Talk about things? Shelley in Housing said you weren't aware of the contract, so I'm guessing maybe you want to discuss it. It can be like a warm-up for law school, working out terms. Looking forward to meeting you, Foggy.

He sounds nice enough. A little awkward, a little hopeful. Either his autocorrect is out of control or he prefers a very odd nickname, but the e-mail is careful enough that Matt thinks it's the latter.

Matt's return e-mail takes longer to phrase and rephrase than he wants to admit, but he's fairly happy with it by the time he's finished, other than having to omit a greeting because he's not sure what name to use. I received a call as well, obviously, and as you said, I didn't know about the contract. We should discuss whether we want to keep the contract as soon as possible. Can you meet up tomorrow afternoon, any time after four? Let me know if you have a preference for where to meet. Alfred Lerner could work, if nothing else.

It's another hour and a half before he gets a return e-mail. I know a coffee shop nearby that's going to be a lot quieter, plus with better coffee, and which also does not require us to be those sad students on campus a month early without the excuse of summer classes. I could get to Morningside Heights for four thirty after work, it's not that far from Hell's Kitchen. See you soon, Foggy

Matt shouldn't be shocked that he's from Hell's Kitchen. His father loved the neighborhood, and knew that Matt did too. He would have looked for someone close. He almost writes back to tell Foggy he'll just meet him there, but his sublet isn't in Hell's Kitchen, and a coffee shop near campus makes more sense. Four thirty sounds fine, he sends back. Send me the address and I'll get there. And then, somewhere between a white lie and not a lie, I'm looking forward to meeting you.

*

Matt makes sure to get to the coffee shop early, to find a quiet table and a drink and stake the table out. Foggy didn't offer to send a picture, though given the timing of the contract he probably knows a picture wouldn't do Matt any good, and he didn't ask for one. Though, again, chances are when he sees the cane and sunglasses he'll have some idea of who he's here to meet.

The footsteps that approach Matt's table approximately two minutes before they're supposed to meet are hesitant and a little heavy. He's probably wearing jeans, from the rub of the fabric, and his hair is long enough to be brushing his shoulders, and his heart is beating fast, palms sweating, everything about him radiating nervousness.

“Matt Murdock?” he asks after standing there for five seconds, long enough to make Matt uncomfortable.

He has a nice enough voice, light. It sounds like he's used to smiling. Matt tries a smile in return. “That's me. And you must be Franklin—Foggy? I wasn't sure what you would rather—”

“No, yeah, Foggy's great. Foggy Nelson. But you knew that from the e-mail thing.” The chair across from Matt scrapes a little, pulling back, and then Foggy freezes. “Do you mind if I sit down? Or do you need, I don't know, a refresher on your drink or something before I sit?”

“No, sit down. Unless you want to get a drink. I can wait.”

Foggy sits down in the chair by way of answer. “I'm pretty sure that if I eat something right now, I will actually throw up.” He makes a pained noise the second the words leave his mouth, and Matt tries not to gape, feeling a little caught out. “Wow, that was smooth, go me. Sorry. Just. This is kind of a lot? You've been missing for a really long time and now I'm sitting across the table from you and you are, uh, not eleven anymore.”

“What?” Matt hasn't had the time to make many preconceptions about Foggy, but he remembers his father, and Foggy doesn't seem like the kind of person he would have gravitated toward. Matt isn't even sure why he decided to find Matt a husband instead of a wife.

“Oh. I had a picture? Your dad gave it to me. I think it was your fifth grade school picture, one of those stupid backgrounds with the lasers and stuff, you know? And I knew you had to be getting older but I didn't know what that would look like or anything, so you were always kind of eleven in my head. Like—not when I was thinking about consummating or … oh God. Can we just do this again? I'm Foggy Nelson. I brought my family's copy of the contract and hopefully you've got a Braille one.”

“It's nice to meet you, Foggy,” says Matt, because there's too much to address in the rest of that speech. “Yes, I brought my copy.”

“Okay. Okay, great.” Foggy heaves a big sigh that shakes at the end. “Sorry. This is probably weirder for you than it is for me. I at least knew that you existed.”

Matt pauses in the middle of getting his contract out of his bag, because that brings up a question he's been wanting to ask, since he found out. “Did my father—do you know why he decided to contract us? He never mentioned it to me, and it was right before he died. I don't know anything. About you, or the contract, or any of it. I feel like I should.”

Foggy's heart rate spikes, and he fidgets in his chair. “I don't know if you knew, or remember, or whatever, but sometimes when we got in a big shipment he'd help out, lift stuff and stock shelves, stuff like that. My family has a hardware store, back in Hell's Kitchen, and I don't know how they met your dad, but yeah, sometimes he'd work a day or two for us, when matches were thin.”

“I remember he had a few jobs like that,” Matt offers. “I was always in school while he worked, though. I didn't know where. That's how he knew you?”

“Yeah. And I knew about you. I mean, I'd read in the news about what you did, so you were practically Batman for me, and when he was working, I badgered him about you some.”

Matt takes a sip of his coffee while he tries to think of how to respond to that. If this were the fairy tale the woman from the housing office wants to make it into, or if he'd been waiting for Foggy the way it seems Foggy was waiting for him, he would be honored, flattered. He even is, a little, but along with it he's uncomfortable and awkward and he wants to walk away right now. Foggy has built him up into something, apparently, while Matt never knew he existed. “So he decided we should get married?”

“I guess. It had been a while since we saw him, and he came and asked my parents if I was contracted and said that …” Foggy coughs. “Jesus, this is going to sound awful. Tell me to stop if you want me to stop. He said that his job was dangerous and he wanted to make sure you had someone good to go to, and he couldn't offer a lot, financially or whatever, but that he thought we would get along.”

There's no possible answer to that. “And?” Matt says, because there must be more.

“One of my older sisters was already contracted, to one of the guys in our building who wanted to get an MBA and help her take over the family business. So it's not like there were a lot of other family assets they might have wanted me to contract for. They asked me, my parents and your dad.”

Even though Matt wasn't asked, because then Jack would have had to say why it was suddenly so urgent, would have had to say he was going to be leaving Matt. “You said yes?”

“Dude, of course I did! You were my hero, remember?” Matt tries not to flinch, but there must be something on his face, because Foggy leans forward and lowers his voice. “And your dad asked to talk to me. He said that … he said, if he couldn't be around, he wanted someone like me in your life. That even if we decided to cancel the contract when we were of age he hoped we could be friends.”

Matt surprises himself by wanting it to be true. He would rather have his father back than a husband, but at least if Foggy is telling the truth he can imagine that his father thought to provide more for him than money. He had to have known Matt would be on his own, with him gone, and it makes sense, then, why he wouldn't tell Matt he was arranging a marriage. Matt would have been suspicious. “I'm still amazed your parents said yes.”

Foggy's shrug makes his hair brush his shoulders. “Well, I begged a little. But honestly I think they would have done it either way. One look at your bowl cut in that picture and my mom was done for, and like I said, our dads knew each other.”

“Do you ...” Matt takes a breath, and then another sip of his coffee when he can't quite form the words and Foggy makes an encouraging noise. “You never canceled the contract even though you had grounds. Would you like to keep it?”

“If there was someone else I wanted to marry, I would have canceled it. I almost did once in undergrad, talked to Mom and Dad about it when I was pretty serious about someone. But that didn't work out, and I don't know, I always thought you might show up out of nowhere and ask why I suddenly decided not to marry you.” His laugh isn't very amused, though it's still a nice laugh. Foggy may be making confession on embarrassing confession, but he's light and unselfish about it, even when he's awkward. “Would you like to get rid of it?”

Connections are dangerous. A marriage should be out of the question. It's been ten years since Stick walked out but the lesson has stuck with Matt, and if he'd known he had a contract before Columbia contacted him he might have canceled it years ago. If he'd just found it under his name in the city registry, though, he wouldn't have heard from Foggy that it's one of the last things his father wanted for him, that he wanted Foggy in Matt's life. “I don't know,” he admits. “It's still mostly a theoretical concept for me.”

“I get that.” Foggy taps his fingers a few times on the table. “So maybe we re-negotiate it. If we're back in contact and both aware of the contract then keeping it in the lapsed file is only going to last so long before they haul us in for breach. But there's a pretty long courtship phase outlined in the contract. We can argue that we were deprived of the one we should have had when we were minors and give it … I don't know. The length of law school? We can break it off before then, obviously, but we definitely won't discuss marriage until we've taken the bar.”

That seems reasonable. And much better than Matt was expecting, considering Foggy sounds as though he wouldn't mind marrying Matt tomorrow. “I think I'd be willing to agree to those terms.”

“Awesome.” Foggy sticks a hand out, and then huffs a little, probably at himself. “Sorry, I'm holding my hand out for a handshake. I'll get better at saying stuff like that, I swear.”

For one wild second, Matt thinks about saying that he knows exactly what Foggy is doing, that he's still nervous and sweaty and that his heartbeat is tripping along faster than he should and that most people would have lied more by now. No one would want to keep a contract after that. He holds his hand out instead, and lets Foggy shake it. “You don't have to inconvenience yourself or—”

“Maybe married people should inconvenience themselves a little for each other,” Foggy says, quietly, almost a mutter. “Honesty, helping each other out when you need it … kind of comes with the territory, right?”

Matt swallows and hopes his smile doesn't look as fake as it feels. “Right.”

*

“Matt, hey! Welcome! Home sweet home, and … all that.” Foggy clears his throat. He's stopped halfway across the room after almost bouncing out of his chair the second Matt opened their dorm room door. “I am feeling the weird urge to give you a tour. Do you need help bringing anything in?”

“I've got a few more days where I'm technically subletting and house-sitting, so I'll bring my things gradually.” Matt hefts his bag. “This is just sheets, a change or two of clothes, things like that.”

“Right. Makes sense.” Foggy gestures aimlessly around the room. “I picked the bed farther away from the windows but if you want to switch I don't mind—and they actually gave us two beds, which is kind of a relief after the treatment we've been getting.”

Everyone, it seems, thinks their story is romantic: Shelley Donaldson from housing continues to send the occasional message making sure they're well, and the employees at City Hall cooed over them when they went to change their contract status and put in their negotiated updates. Matt doesn't know what to do with it, but at least Foggy doesn't seem to either. He's been more hesitant about bringing up how the contract started since that first conversation. “Are you trying to give me the view?” he asks, because it seems the thing to do.

Foggy laughs. “Mostly I just hate getting sun in my eyes first thing in the morning and our blinds look pretty shitty, so it was a self-protection measure. I am taking shameless advantage of your disability.”

Matt puts his bag on the floor and tests the space with his cane. He has a good picture of it already, but Foggy needs to see him learning it, and having a feel for the space isn't the same as knowing where all the squeaky linoleum is and how much he can really fit in his part of the closet. “At least I'm warned ahead of time,” he says. Foggy's headphones are still on his desk, playing something filled with lots of painful electric guitars. Matt really hopes that isn't demonstrative of his usual musical tastes.

“Hey, honesty, remember?” Foggy takes a step in his direction. “You good on your own, or do you want a rundown of the basic amenities?”

If Matt isn't going to give this a chance, he might as well break the contract now. “Show me around,” he says.

From the obvious relief in Foggy's voice, it's the right call.

*

“So, my parents invited us over for dinner tomorrow night,” Foggy says sometime in late October. “I don't think we've got any tests or anything next week that would require staying in the dorm for the weekend, so do you want to go home with me?”

Matt, thrown, pauses his screenreader in the middle of an interesting discussion of precedent for breaking off contract marriages in the case of implied breaches. Most days, it's very easy to forget that he and Foggy are contracted, and he thinks that's how they both want it, right now. Foggy is friendly, easy company and a thoughtful study partner. They're something like friends, but not much more, and it takes a moment to remind himself why visiting Foggy's family shouldn't be that odd to consider. “I suppose that makes sense,” he says slowly. “Just your parents?”

“Rule number one of the Nelson family is that I really cannot promise that. At the moment, my parents are the only people living at our house and no one else has said they're coming home for Friday dinner. However, if it is made known that the famous Matthew Murdock is coming over, you might find yourself overwhelmed by siblings, extended family, and maybe even family friends.”

“Am I that famous?”

“Kind of, yeah, dude. In my family anyway. One of my sisters wrote some kind of horrible purple-prose romance based on it for her high school creative writing class.”

Foggy always seems to have some way to catch Matt off guard. “I would think they would have … well, that they might have resented me for disappearing.”

“Oh, jeez. Matt, no. My parents were so worried. I told you Mom cried, right? When we found out about you coming here? Those were happy tears. She wants to smother you with affection, and my dad will probably offer you a cigar, which you should say no to because we are trying to make him stop with those.”

It already sounds like nothing Matt has ever experienced, but he promised himself he would try this. His father wanted it for him. “I'll come,” he says.

He doesn't realize how nervous Foggy must have been until his relief becomes a sudden and nearly-tangible presence in the room. “Hey, awesome. I'll let Mom know. We can leave late afternoon, once we're done with classes? I figure we can stay the night, get a nutritious breakfast too. If you don't mind, anyway.”

Staying overnight seems like too much, but Foggy is reaching out. “Sure. I could use a night off-campus.”

“Awesome. Maybe Dad will make omelets and you will know true joy.”

It's easy to pick up the cues on that, to tease a little about that, get on less dangerous conversation, conversation that makes them more roommates than betrothed again. That's hard enough to get used to.

He certainly isn't treated as Foggy's roommate when they arrive at the Nelsons' apartment the next day. Foggy's mother, who seems to be a short comfortable woman, drags her son into a hug, asking about the trip over and classes and a hundred other things faster than Foggy could possibly answer them, and then she turns to Matt and stops with her hands just a few inches from his chest, close enough to feel the heat from her body. “Matt, honey.” She has a warm, high voice and the edge of a Brooklyn drawl Foggy doesn't share. “Can I give you a hug?”

“Mom,” Foggy says in a tone that's usually, on campus, accompanied by Foggy following it up with a low-voiced “I just rolled my eyes” for Matt's benefit.

Matt can smell the salt of tears blinked back, and her heart rate is up. She's nervous to meet him, just like Foggy was. This is, he tells himself, another way of trying to do what his father wanted, and he puts his overnight bag down and opens his arms. She's wrapping hers around him in a second, warm and smelling like cinnamon and some kind of floral shampoo that makes his nose itch and the rich smell that must be their dinner, and Matt isn't quite sure what to do, but he hopes he's hugging back well enough until she releases him. “Thank you for having me over,” he says once she's stepped out of his space and picked up his bag for him.

“Of course, sweetheart. Foggy wanted to give you time before springing family on you, since you were so surprised—oh, I could just sue the state.”

“That is, of course, the exclusive reason why I've decided to be a lawyer,” says Foggy, and taps Matt's elbow. “I'll give you the tour. Dad's in the living room, right?”

“Yes. Only so many people can fit into this hallway, and I won the race.” She kisses Foggy on the cheek. “You go say hello to your father, I'll put Matt's bag in your bedroom and then go check on dinner. Matt, sweetheart, I hope you like roast beef, I thought I'd go with something you probably don't get often in the dining hall.”

“That sounds wonderful, Mrs. Nelson.”

“Anna, please. I would tell you to call me Mom if I thought I would get away with it,” she says, and retreats down the hall before Matt can come up with a response to that.

“Come on,” says Foggy. “All the way down this little hallway and then to the right, there's a couch in the way pretty quick once we get to the living room, don't run into it.”

As it turns out, Matt doesn't have to decide whether to stop short of the couch or run into it, based on Foggy's variable definition of “pretty quick,” because someone is standing in front of the couch and clears his throat, and that gives Matt the excuse to stop short. “Glad you could make it home, Foggy. And you must be Matt Murdock. Can I shake your hand, son?”

That's much easier to prepare for than a hug, and Matt puts his hand out without hesitation, to receive a hearty shake that doesn't feel condescendingly gentle like so many do. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Nelson.”

“Good to see you here. Your father was a good man, and we were sorry we couldn't adopt you, after everything.”

Foggy steps forward and gives his father a hug with a few slaps on the back from each of them. “Maybe save the emotional apology conversations for after dinner? Speaking of which, is anyone else coming?”

“We warned everyone off. Wanted to meet our future son-in-law.”

“Only maybe,” Foggy mutters, but he doesn't fight too hard on it and he lets his father leave an arm slung around him. “Matt, you can probably call him Edward, he just likes feeling important.”

The conversation is easy enough to deal with, after that. Anna and Mr. Nelson, who Matt insists on calling that until he breaks and says Edward is fine with a laugh after half an hour, are both glad to have Matt there, and they ask him about his classes, tease Foggy gently about family memories, act like it's any other dinner. “We'll tell you all of Foggy's childhood stories when his sisters are around to contribute,” says Anna at one point, dishing more green beans onto Matt's plate, like it's a given he'll be back and that he has a right to hear the stories. Probably he does.

He sleeps in Foggy's bedroom, on a sleeping bag on the floor, and Foggy falls asleep almost immediately, sighing happily in the familiar sheets and mattress softer than the one in the dorm, where the two of them sat to drill some for an upcoming torts test before Foggy started yawning.

In the morning, he wakes to the sound of voices, Anna and Edward talking quietly in the kitchen. He's used to more noise, from the dorm, but he heard his name, and it's hard not to listen after that.

“—doesn't seem very sure,” Edward is saying. “I can't blame him, this is all new to him, but Foggy thinks he's the best thing since sliced bread.”

“He likes Foggy. You can tell he does. Foggy makes him laugh, and when he doesn't know his way around he can ask him, and that's a good starting point.”

“And if Foggy gets his heart broken? It was one thing when Jack was making the contract and Foggy got his hopes up, but after two years of no chance at custody or even a meeting, maybe we should have let the contract cancel, not just lapse. He would have been mad, but it would have given him a chance—”

“To decide that he was Romeo and Matt was Juliet and make things even worse?” She sighs, and Matt clenches his fists inside the sleeping bag. It must be almost eight, and the apartment smells of coffee and shampoo. He slept through them showering. “I like him.”

“You like everyone.” Affectionate, teasing. And then, more serious: “I like him too. I just worry.”

“Of course. I do too. But Foggy said he's happy with the new terms, they aren't rushing into the marriage, and they're friends already. There are worse starts for a marriage.”

There are. Matt takes a deep breath, and he's startled when Foggy rolls over in response to the sound. He hadn't heard him wake up. “Morning, buddy,” says Foggy, whispering like it's a secret. “Want to go see if my parents want to treat us to breakfast? And someone usually comes over for Saturday lunch, so we should decide whether we want to get out of here before then or not.”

Matt sits up and feels around by his head for his sunglasses, a little more steady when he has them on. He doesn't want to interrupt Foggy's parents, who are still talking about them out in the kitchen, but there's no way to say that without admitting what he can do to Foggy. “Sure. I want to wash my face, though. Do you mind if I take the bathroom first?”

“Sure, sure, leave me to beg my parents for breakfast alone, that's great guest behavior,” says Foggy, but he's laughing, and rolling to his feet while Matt struggles to his.

Edward Nelson's omelets do turn out to be the best Matt has ever tasted, and he and Foggy are still studying on the couch when Foggy's oldest sister and her husband show up for lunch with a little girl in tow who immediately launches herself at “Uncle Foggy” and talks them into staying through lunch.

Matt is tired on the way back to campus, but Foggy is humming happily, talking about how much his niece has grown since the last time he saw her (which Matt is very sure is less than a month). He goes quiet, though, when they start climbing the stairs to their dorm room. “Sorry for springing extra family on you. You were great about it, though. Have we scared you off forever?”

“No. Not at all.” Matt frowns and chooses his words carefully. “It was a little overwhelming, but that's not bad. It may take some time to get used to, but you have a great family.”

“Cool. Great. Maybe you can spend some time with us over Thanksgiving or Christmas break? Mom said to invite you to stay for the whole break both times, but I figure we can start with a few hours or a night.” Foggy lets them into their room and shuts it behind them before he says anything else. “If I push too far you can say so. You know that, right? We're engaged, it's not like you're my prisoner.”

“Thanks.” Matt clears his throat and puts his bag down on his bed. “I'll keep it in mind.”

*

“Okay,” Foggy says at the tail end of a sigh a few weeks into their second semester. It's been a quiet evening, both of them studying, and Matt has noted that Foggy's distracted. Distracted is one thing, though, and Foggy says the word like someone dragged it out of him. “Awkward conversation time.”

Matt puts a marker in his book. “Have I done something?”

“No! No, sorry, this is not an ominous conversation, just a weird one. Ominous conversations usually start with 'we need to talk,' the syntax is totally different.” Foggy grabs something off his desk, tosses it, and catches it again. He does it when he's thinking, usually with a stress ball, and Matt lets him have the time. “So, fidelity.”

Matt tilts his head. “What about it?”

“We didn't negotiate that. And when we're married is one thing—I would really hope that if we decide to take the contract up instead of canceling it after law school we would be faithful, but I figure now is kind of a gray area. It's not like we're dating, we're just … engaged.” Whatever Matt's expression is, it makes Foggy snort a little. “See, I warned you this would be awkward.”

After a second, Matt turns fully away from his book. This conversation is going to take his full attention. “I thought you were going to tell me I snore or something.” His voice isn't light enough to carry the sentence, and they falter into silence while Matt thinks of a better response. “Do you have someone you want to date? Or … sleep with?”

“Ah, no. I was kind of thinking you might want the opportunity. In the library the other day, I heard you and that Greek girl arguing about jurisprudence. And she seems pretty interested. So if you are too, I guess I'm saying it's okay.”

Elektra does smell like arousal around him. He likes her company. She's smart and sharp and moves like she's trained and treats him like he's anyone else. Six months ago, he would have slept with her, and maybe taken her on a date or two. It hadn't occurred to him that he could now. “It seems like a dangerous precedent to set,” he offers. “If we can sleep with people, can we date them? How serious can we allow it to get?”

“True. But we're also not having sex and I don't want to cockblock you for three years if we never go there. Though I guess if we're not going there before marriage that doesn't say great things about our potential marriage, does it? Not that I'm asking you to have sex with me. Just so we're clear.”

“Do you want to be free to have sex with other people? Maybe we should make a rule that we tell any potential partners up front that we're contracted, keep each other updated … I don't know if I'm going to sleep with anyone, much less Elektra, but it's good to have the ideas in place.”

Foggy tosses his stress ball up in the air again. His temperature and heart rate have both gone up—embarrassment, probably. Matt feels fairly mortified himself. “Okay, that's fair. If we want to sleep with anyone, we tell each other, and then we tell the person we might sleep with. If we fall in love, want to get serious, then we can break the contract.”

“I can agree to that.” He wants to turn back to his book, but they can't end the conversation that abruptly. “I don't think I'm going to sleep with Elektra. But you're right, it's a conversation we needed to have regardless.”

“Okay. Awesome. We've survived our first horrible relationship talk, buddy, we are handling adulthood very gracefully.”

Matt laughs. “I suppose we are.” He doesn't turn back to his book, and Foggy doesn't either, and when the silence stretches out, he sighs and asks a question he's not sure he wants the answer to. “Should we try sleeping together?”

Foggy's laugh is a sharp bark, and his heartbeat jumps a few times. “Jesus. Definitely not if you're going to ask me like that. Let me know if you have any me-related boners and we'll discuss the issue again. Definitely tabled until then, though.”

Matt doesn't ask Foggy if Foggy wants to sleep with him. It seems cruel. “Agreed, counselor,” he says, mock-solemn. “Now, can we get back to studying, or did you want to have another awkward discussion?”

“No, this one has pretty much cleared us out for the foreseeable future. Go back to your studying and we will only speak of this again if we have reason to.”

*

Foggy meets Marci two days into summer session. Matt is spending his summer doing grunt work at legal aid and trying to get a few pro bono hours done, but Foggy is taking a class on family law and Marci, it seems, is taking it with him, transferring from Cornell and catching up on credits. Foggy comes back two hours late from class smelling like perfume and sounding sheepish.

“So, I might sleep with someone. I don't know,” he says when Matt asks what's on his mind. “I told her I was betrothed when she said she was interested and she asked if there's a fidelity clause.”

“And?”

“I told her that we'd talked about it and I had to talk to you, and also that I'm not an easy date and she's going to have to do some wooing.”

Matt only keeps his hands still by sheer force of will. He knows that sometimes fidgeting gives him away, when he's trying to figure something out. “Do you want to sleep with her?”

“Like I said, I don't know. She seems pretty cool so far, really smart, great hair—name's Marci.” Foggy's hair is a little shorter for the summer, but it still brushes his shoulders when he shrugs. “I just thought I should bring it up.”

“Well, thank you.” Matt sighs. If he doesn't say something now, they'll have to have this conversation again, and that's the last thing he wants. “If you want to sleep with her, consider this permission. Let me know if you want me out of the way or anything.”

“She's got a single for the summer, if it comes to that. She sort of made a point of telling me that.”

“Good. Don't … I don't mind meeting her, if you like. Or not meeting her, if you don't like.”

“Thanks.” Foggy coughs. “And, you know. If you want to, with anyone, remember the whole thing is reciprocal. As long as we keep on trying with each other too, I guess, or what's the use?”

Matt frowns a little at the uncomfortable echo of his own thoughts. “Dinner at least once a week, just us?” he offers, and is glad when Foggy is obviously relieved about it.

Foggy does sleep with Marci—at least twice that Matt can tell, probably more, and they spend time together studying for their class, arguing about minimum contract age and custody on the phone even when they aren't together. Matt doesn't meet her until he's having coffee off-campus halfway through the summer and a woman with familiar perfume walks up to his table.

“You're Matt, right? Foggy's Matt.”

Matt could object to the phrasing, but it's not inaccurate. “You must be Marci.” He likes her voice more in person than he does over the phone. It's throaty, the words a little clipped off like she's suppressing an accent, and all her movements are quick and sharp. “Do you want to sit down?”

“Sure.” She sits down across from him. “I'm not here to size you up or tell you to breach your contract. That's nothing I'm interested in.”

“Of course. You know, Foggy's more than capable of telling me that himself, if he wants to.”

She laughs. “I guess that leaves us without much to talk about.” She settles more comfortably in the chair. “But, correct me if I'm wrong, you're his betrothed and his best friend, and I'm his friend with benefits. Maybe we should see if we can get along.”

Best friend. It's nothing Foggy has ever said, but it's an easier label than betrothed, considering how things are between them, and Matt thinks it's even true. He hasn't had one in a long time, not since his father died. “It would make Foggy happy,” he offers.

“Exactly,” says Marci, on the edge of smug, and starts talking.

Things are a little easier for the rest of the summer. Foggy and Marci still spend time alone studying and talking, but Matt doesn't think they sleep together again, and the three of them spend time together too.

Shelley Donaldson calls him two weeks before classes start again, full of her usual cheer. “Are you sure the two of you don't want to transition to married student housing? It's allowed for anyone contracted whose wedding date falls during the school year, and the amenities are really—”

“Not yet,” says Matt, and decides not to tell Foggy about the phone call.

*

Someone is screaming.

It always bothers Matt, when he can hear a siren or someone being hurt, but this scream is grating on his nerves, because it's the third time in two weeks and it's the same people, a couple in married student housing fighting about contract terms that aren't being met. The woman always sounds scared, and he thinks she's being hurt, but two anonymous calls to campus police haven't helped her.

Matt could.

He knows it all the time, that he's a weapon walking around hidden, but he knows how to hide, and he's becoming a lawyer in hopes that someday that will be the easier way, the more effective way, to change what needs changing. For now, it's tempting to go outside, to go in through the window that must be open despite the autumn chill for the sound to be carrying like it is, and to tell the man that a contract doesn't give him the right to his wife's bed, clauses about children notwithstanding.

“Matt, are you okay?” Foggy sounds a lot more awake than Matt was assuming he was, at this time of night. He should pay better attention. “You're all tense and kind of pointed at the window like it's doing you wrong. Can you hear something out there or something?”

Foggy is Matt's best friend. Marci isn't the only one who's used those words now—it's a shorthand around campus when they don't want to explain their circumstances, and when Matt used the term once as half a joke when Foggy brought cookies from his mother back to their dorm, Foggy adopted it immediately. Matt could tell him. Foggy might have a solution.

“Someone yelling.” He takes a breath, almost says all of it, but he doesn't know how to start. There has to be some magical combination of sentences that will tell Foggy what he can do without implying that he doesn't trust Foggy, hasn't trusted him. It will have to be as well-crafted as a court argument. He can't do it like this, unprepared. “I think it's a couple fighting.”

“Huh.” Foggy moves a little closer to the window. “I can't hear it. You've got ears like a bat, though, so that makes sense. Do you think it's a bad fight? Any idea where it's coming from? If someone isn't safe, we should call it in, right?”

“I think it's carrying pretty far. It's a clear night. I don't know from where, though.” If it would help the woman, Matt tells himself, he would tell Foggy right now. If he'd never told campus security and they hadn't dismissed him, he would tell Foggy and they would figure it out. “It doesn't sound good, though.”

Foggy moves back and sits on Matt's bed, between him and the window. The shouting and screaming quiets, and Matt knows it has nothing to do with Foggy being between him and the fight, but he's grateful anyway. “I'm sorry. That really sucks. Do you want to call someone? Campus security, I mean. Or we can go out for a walk and get a better location and then call them.”

“I think it stopped. I don't know if we could find them.”

“Okay.” Foggy squeezes his arm gently and then lets him go, but he stays on the bed. “Let me know if that changes, okay? We'll do something about it.”

“Thank you,” says Matt, and clears his throat. “I should get back to studying. Sorry to interrupt you.”

“It's fine, Matt.” Foggy stands up. “That's what friends are for, right? Listening when things are shitty and you can't change them yet? Even setting aside anything else, we're friends.”

“Yes, we are.” That's enough to make Foggy happy again, let some of the tension out of him, and Matt turns his attention back to his studying.

A few days later, he recognizes the woman's voice in the library, and he slips the links to a few resources about voiding contracts in case of abuse on her table as he passes.

There's one more screaming fight a week after that, but it's both of them screaming, and then he doesn't hear it again. Matt's glad, and proud of himself, and thinks about telling Foggy some version of the story, but then he would have to explain how he recognized her. It's best just to take the victory as it is, he decides in the end.

Someday, he's going to hear someone else screaming and he's not going to be able to solve it with calling campus security or slipping someone the means to get out of a situation. Someday, someone is going to start screaming and the only way to fix it is going to be to fall back on Stick's training.

He doesn't know what he's going to tell Foggy, when it happens.

*

The sky splits open during their Constitutional Law final, when everyone is already nervous about the news out of Germany, a man with a horned hat, Tony Stark, and someone wearing a Captain America costume all mixed up in something. The screaming starts outside the classroom, and Matt straightens up, listens, as what seems like the whole of Manhattan screams in terror. Foggy, a few desks away, must notice, because his pencil stops scratching in the middle of what must be an essay outline. He always writes his essays first and goes back to the easier questions later.

An alarm starts wailing, and then another, and then another—not sirens, not even fire alarms, but the eerie alarms that should never start going off in New York, the ones for big storms and disasters, and they're loud enough that Matt can't hear anything else, and other people are starting to murmur, twisting in their seats, as Professor Schmidt types something quickly and then gasps, shouts for attention.

“Everyone put your work down and get away from the windows,” he yells, and there's panic. “Stay in the room, don't go outside—the sky's opened up.”

The sky is falling, Matt thinks nonsensically, but Foggy grabs his arm and pulls him out of his chair, and Matt shakes off the noise enough to say “What does he mean, the sky opened up?”

“I don't know but I am going to figure it out away from the windows,” says Foggy over the sounds of a dozen phones being turned on and put to use, all the screams from all over campus and all over the city overlapping into something about a fissure in the sky, about aliens, or robots, or the end of the world.

“Don't make phone calls,” Professor Schmidt is already shouting. “Leave the lines free for emergency services. Let me get information.”

“It's an alien invasion!” someone shouts from the front of the classroom, and Foggy finds somewhere that he seems to deem safe enough, because he's sitting them down again, on the floor. “There's pictures, it's aliens on hovercraft, coming out of the sky, it's some kind of wormhole!”

Foggy is very quiet, and his heart is beating very fast. Matt reaches for him, finds his arm and holds on. “What do you think it is?” he asks, and tries a smile. “I can't see the pictures.”

“Looks pretty much like every summer blockbuster about alien invasions you've ever seen, buddy.” He's still holding his pencil, somehow, and he taps it against the floor, a tiny sound in the middle of a city full of alarms and sirens and screams. “People are going to die. A lot of people.”

“We're going to be fine.” He's not sure if it's true, but he has to say it.

“I'm not worried about me, Matt.” From the sound of his voice and his hair on his shoulders, he's looking around the room, and after a few seconds he pauses and then pulls away from Matt a little. “Hey, are you okay on your own here for a minute? I'm going to check on something.”

“You can't leave the room, not if—”

“Hate to break it to you, but I am pretty sure evil aliens could smash through the wall. But it's okay. I'm not leaving the room.” Matt lets him go, and Foggy gets up and moves across the room, Matt tracking him until he sits down next to someone, a woman from their class who's crying quietly. “Hey, it's going to be okay. Let's look at your phone—Tony Stark and company are already on scene, right? They've got the devil's own luck, it's going to be fine.”

Matt sits where he is and listens to the world fall apart outside and listens to Foggy work his way around the most distressed members of their class, talking to them until he gets a reluctant laugh. Professor Schmidt updates them with the news every five minutes (superheroes, a battle at the top of Stark Tower, the appearance of a green monster that tore apart Harlem years ago fighting off the aliens, things Matt can't begin to believe or understand yet), and Matt listens to him and to Foggy, who seems to have gathered the whole room around him like he's telling the best story at a sleepover. The illusion only gets more pronounced when Matt hears the power cut almost twenty minutes in, only emergency lights humming and everyone swearing and switching to data on their phones.

In the end, it's a little more than an hour before the reports start coming in that all the aliens stopped dead where they were at the same time, that the sky is closed up again and that Tony Stark fell out of it, and no one knows what happened, a reporter's voice shrill with fear streaming on Professor Schmidt's laptop and the government conspicuously silent.

It's a little more than an hour and the world changes completely, the kind of change no one can come back from. Professor Schmidt calls the all-clear, tells them to keep an eye on their e-mail inboxes for word from Columbia about rescheduled finals, and Foggy is at Matt's side again, letting Matt take his arm again.

“You okay?” Foggy asks, like he doesn't reek of stale fear and his hands aren't trembling, like anyone in the city is okay.

“You were wonderful in there,” says Matt, because he can't answer that. It's inadequate, but the more serious praise is the less Foggy likes it.

“I needed to keep busy.”

Maybe he did, but he did it in a way only Foggy would, and that's why Matt loves him. He was a calm center in the middle of chaos and terror, and Matt listens to his heart when the world is too loud for him to sleep, and they're betrothed. Matt has assumed for a long time that they're going to get married, if only because he doesn't know how to break the contract without losing Foggy. It shouldn't be terrifying to be in love with him too, but Matt feels like there's a hole in the sky again, and all the oxygen in New York is escaping through it. “What are we supposed to do now?” he asks. It's the only sentence that seems to encompass everything, and he winces, because he sounds destroyed.

“We're New Yorkers, buddy,” Foggy says after a long pause. “They're still serving coffee somewhere. We get some and then we figure it out from there.”

Matt nods and holds on.

*

Nothing really changes. Matt spends the summer taking an extra class and working pro bono hours in legal aid, and Foggy spends the summer doing an internship and working as an unpaid handyman for everyone he knows in his time off, fixing plumbing and heating and cracks in walls left behind by the aliens.

“I like being part of a neighborhood,” he says with a shrug when Matt asks why he's not taking more time to concentrate on the law when it could impact his class rankings. “That means when the bad shit happens too, not just when little old ladies make me muffins. Brett's putting off the detective's exam for a few months to make sure Bess is okay, I can fix Uncle Mark's sink.”

“We'll be part of one someday,” Matt offers. “Hell's Kitchen, even, I hope. A few years of paying our dues, building our reputation, and we can do that.”

“You really want me to be broke for the rest of my life,” says Foggy, but it's well-worn at this point, not resentful.

“Nelson and Murdock. You can't say it doesn't sound good.”

Foggy swallows, and abruptly it's not a friendly argument at the end of a long day anymore. “I've been kind of wanting to ask. It's not in the contract, and maybe you don't want it, but if you don't want to be a lone Murdock anymore, I could change my name.”

That's a tempting offer, and it's as shocking as a slap. Foggy loves his family, loves being a Nelson just as much as Matt loves being a Murdock, but he's still willing to offer. Matt can't begin to deserve any of this, his friendship and his consideration and the attraction Matt is so used to ignoring that sometimes he forgets about it. “I hadn't thought about it,” he says, which is true. “Believe me, the offer is amazing, but I know how you feel about your family.”

“Matt, you're my family. Whether we get married or not, at this point.”

“I don't know. I wouldn't … I'd like to make the same offer, but I can't.”

“I would never ask you to. Look, I don't want to spring this on you, Nelson and Murdock is great. Just think about it, if you want to. Or not, if you don't want to.”

“I'll think about it. I will, I promise.” He coughs. “If you want to share one, though, maybe hyphenating would make the most sense.”

“Nelson-Murdock rather than Murdock-Nelson, I'm guessing,” says Foggy, his voice warm, and he leaves the subject be.

That's good. Matt can't stop thinking about it, but at least this way he has time to consider.

*

There's a girl screaming in the middle of a noisy night, on a quiet side street full of businesses that are already closed, and Matt is on his way home from a study group.

“Jesus Christ,” Foggy breathes when Matt walks through the door of their room. “Are you okay? Did you get mugged or something?”

“Yes,” says Matt, seizing on the excuse. The woman he saved was being mugged, anyway, and he doesn't think she went to the police while running from a robber who was being attacked by a man with a scarf tied around his head. “Unfortunately, I didn't get a description.”

“Do you need a doctor? Jesus—did you punch the mugger, Matt? Your knuckles are a mess.”

He didn't take time to wrap his hands, and he's out of practice punching anything but a bag. His hands hurt, but it's distant, behind the thrum of blood and adrenaline and the satisfaction of a job well done. “A little. My dad taught me, and I remember, even if I can't see what I'm hitting.” He can hear it, smell it, sense it in ways most people don' t have the vocabulary for, but Foggy doesn't know that. “I don't need a doctor. I'm fine. He didn't even get anything.”

“Yeah, because apparently you went Rambo on him.” Foggy's hands are gentle uncurling his fists, and he hisses between his teeth while he inspects Matt. Matt can't blame him. He can smell the blood, and feel it slipping across his skin. “We should at least call in a location to the cops later, if you've got one, but for now, let's get you cleaned up.”

Matt thinks of his father while Foggy cleans his fists and his face. Matt isn't as hurt as Jack used to get, sometimes, but Foggy's gentleness, the way he cringes more than Matt does at the touch of disinfectant, makes Matt wonder if this is how his father felt. If this is what Matt was supposed to have, betrothed to Foggy. He wasn't ever supposed to fight, wasn't supposed to give in to the devil like the men in his family always did, but maybe, just in case, Jack wanted him to have someone gentle waiting for him at home.

“You look serious,” says Foggy, shutting the lid on his first-aid case. “Sure you're okay?”

“Yes. I was just thinking about my dad.” Foggy's breath catches, and Matt leans back a little and feels at the inexpert gauze Foggy put on his hands. It will have come off by the time he wakes up in the morning, but he's glad to have it now. “He would have been glad that I have you here to help me. He would—I think he'd be glad he made that contract.”

“Of course he would, I'm amazing,” says Foggy, but there's a catch in his voice. “Just don't do it again, okay? I'm a lawyer, not a nurse.”

“You did fine. And I won't.”

Of course he will. Now that Matt knows how it feels to go out and solve a problem as it happens, not just to wait and try to see justice done when it's over, he's not sure how long he'll be able to resist doing it again. The only thing that makes him worried is Foggy. There are only months left in their third year of law school, and the summer will bring the bar and the negotiation of their contract. If they're married, living together, sharing a bed, Matt can't do it.

Matt could almost wonder if his father wanted that, someone to restrain Matt just in case, if that's why he picked someone gentle and funny who always makes Matt want to listen to his better angel.

“I can see why my dad liked you,” he says, almost without thinking.

It's the closest Matt has been in two and a half years to telling Foggy that he's glad about the contract, that he's paying any attention to it at all. It's stupid to give in to temptation when very soon he's going to have to make a choice between marrying Foggy and making a difference the way he's beginning to suspect he can.

“Yeah, yeah, butter me up, why don't you,” says Foggy, but his voice is soft, and he doesn't retreat back to his own desk the second he's finished patching Matt up.

*

“So, feel free to tell me no, if … whatever reason you've got to say no, but I've got an idea.”

Matt turns away from his studying. It's only a month away from finals, their last set of them, but Matt is more worried about studying for the bar, a month after that. “If this is the kind of idea that leads to spending the weekend hungover instead of studying—”

“You consistently underestimate me, buddy. One night, maybe some wine because we're adults now.” Foggy sighs, and now that Matt's screenreader has been silenced, he can hear Foggy's heart, a little fast, and connect it with the smell of nervous sweat and the sound of him tossing his stress ball in the air. Nervous again. “I think we should go on a date.”

“What?”

“Awesome. Off to a rousing start.” Foggy sighs. “We negotiated the terms for six weeks after graduation, so we could get to know each other. And I do know you! You're my best friend. And friends is pretty much the best basis for marriage. But maybe we should at least try for other things too?”

Foggy hasn't slept with anyone since Marci, but Matt hears him in the shower sometimes. It's a dorm, so he never talks, never says a name, but Matt can hear his heartbeat and smell his arousal when Matt has his shirt off, or when Matt smiles just the right (or wrong) way that he's already there. He knows Foggy doesn't want their marriage to be a friendship with paperwork. Matt thinks about laughing over dinner with Foggy, both of them on their best behavior in a restaurant instead of a bar, thinks about kissing him at their dorm room door and then Foggy laughing and saying something about Matt not being able to appreciate his etchings, but maybe he should come in anyway. Matt hasn't slept with anyone either, but he would, if Foggy asked. That's a dangerous thought. “We should,” he says anyway, and can feel the tension leak out of the room.

“Great! Awesome. As long as I'm not pressuring you?”

“You're not.” He swallows. “I should have brought it up before. But we've been so busy with studying, and it's easier to not take chances when we're such good friends.”

“That's not going to change, Matt. Even if we go on a few dates and decide that the thought of kissing each other is weird, I'm still going to be your friend. Hell, we can still open up a law practice together if you want.”

It's an out. A tempting out, no less. Matt could bruise both of their hearts a little, keep Foggy and protect Foggy and protect his secrets at the same time. Have his cake and eat it. “So instead of getting married,” he says instead, “we would just pool all our financial and professional resources and become partners. That doesn't sound familiar at all.”

“Law partners don't make out, as a general rule. Unless they're holding out to tell us some glorious and slightly weird news after we pass the bar.”

“I would say very weird and only slightly glorious,” Matt argues. “You had your own interview at Landman and Zack, I couldn't see the partner in charge, but just from his voice, I can't even imagine—”

Foggy starts laughing, the warm sound Matt's gotten used to over the last few years. “That's just—that's below the belt, that's what that is, ugh, thank you for ensuring that I never get a boner again, what will we do on our marital night, Matt?”

Apparently that line is erased, now—they can joke about that, the wedding night. Now that they're making an effort. “I think we'll figure it out,” Matt says, a little too low, a little too serious, and across the room, he can hear Foggy's hair move as he nods slowly. Contemplative, not decisive. “Over dinner?”

“Over dinner,” Foggy confirms, quiet and happy. “And maybe even some good wine. Marci has given me recommendations.”

“I can't wait,” says Matt, and wishes he were lying.

*

Matt hears Foggy on the phone with Marci, pacing across the common room on the ground floor of their dorm, on the night of their date. “I left it way too long,” he's saying when Matt starts listening, and then “No, Marci, I am not—I just don't know how to be romantic with him! Should I be romantic with him?”

This isn't Matt's conversation to listen to, but Matt can't say that good impulse control is one of his virtues.

“Come on, you know why.” It's too far for Matt to hear the other side of the conversation, and he hates it. “I know I should have asked this pretty much as soon as I stopped sleeping with you, okay? My life would be so much easier. But Matt's too Catholic to sleep around once we've settled the contract, and I'm sure not going to, so if we're going to get married we've got to try this. Better late than never, I guess.”

It's going to be awkward. Matt doesn't know how to make it not awkward. He's not sure if he's more glad or worried that Foggy apparently feels the same way. He finishes settling his jacket on his shoulders, and finds his keys, his phone. Foggy said he would come back to the room after class to pick Matt up for their date, but Matt can meet him in the lobby.

“Not really. Or all the time,” Foggy says, in response to a question Matt couldn't hear, and he sounds quiet and a little upset and Matt really wishes he knew what Marci just asked. “But it's going to be fine. If Matt and I are friends and just friends then I guess I'll cut him loose. Or renegotiate the contract again so maybe he'll feel okay about sleeping around.”

Matt is coming down the stairs, now, going a little faster than he should, and he catches the end of Marci's response to that. “—should be able to sleep around too.” Matt's stomach pitches.

“Yeah, but who says I want to?”

“You know I'm available until I find a contract of my own,” says Marci, and only the fact that she sounds affectionate instead of seductive keeps Matt from turning around and going back out of hearing range until Foggy hangs up and comes for him.

“You are the only adult I know who is actively seeking a contract instead of a marriage,” says Foggy, but he sounds fond. “I've got to go, or I'll be late, but I'll text you about how it goes.”

“Do that. And I've got a bottle of Bombay Sapphire from my grandma if it goes horribly wrong.”

“You have the weirdest relatives,” says Foggy, but it's lighter than before. “Okay, really going now.”

Matt concentrates on getting to the bottom of the stairs on his own while Foggy and Marci say goodbye, and he's just coming into the lobby when Foggy comes out of the common room on the other side and says his name, sounding startled. “You aren't late,” says Matt, because he can feel the question coming. “I just thought I would come down and meet you.”

“Well, thank you very much. I am all ready to take you out on the town. Want an arm?” Matt reaches out, and Foggy takes Matt's arm and tucks it in the crook of his elbow the same way he's done a thousand times before, except now it means they're on a date.

Everything is exactly the same and so different that Matt can't keep himself oriented. Foggy talks cheerfully about his day, prompts Matt to talk about his, complains about his professors and the same dick in one of his classes that he's been complaining about all semester, and tells Matt when to avoid a puddle, when to step to the side, when someone's coming, and Matt's heart almost pounds itself right out of his chest.

“You said you had wine recommendations,” Matt says when they're at a table at a little Italian restaurant that smells both delicious and like a host to a hundred small health code violations, the best kind of family restaurant Foggy loves to go to. Matt hasn't been on a real date since undergrad, but he knows how this works, how to flirt.

Foggy laughs. “I said Marci had wine recommendations, I'm pretty sure. But yeah, I'll pull one of them out and you can pretend to swoon.”

Matt knows how to date and how to flirt, but he doesn't really know how to do it with a friend. Isn't their conversation supposed to be weighted with something different? Aren't they supposed to hide the annoying sides of themselves they don't want to show? “You'll have to forgive me for not swooning, I don't think I ever learned how.”

“Yeah, you probably didn't have sisters who had a weird thing about Gone With the Wind at a formative age.”

Somehow, Matt hasn't heard that story before, and he lets himself relax. “Oh?”

As always, Foggy doesn't need much encouragement to settle into storytelling mode, and it's easier after that. Even if it doesn't feel like one of the dates Matt remembers, it's still them, talking about anything but their finals coming up, drinking the wine that both of them admit they wish were something stronger at Josie's. They talk about Foggy's family, some of the endless stories he hasn't managed to hear over years of holidays, and they talk about Matt's boxing, when a silence crops up around the waitress asking them cheerfully if they're celebrating an anniversary and Matt blurts something out.

“I'm paying,” Foggy says like it's obvious at the end of the night, and it makes the world spin around Matt again. “You can … next time? If you want?”

If Matt wants there to be a next time, he's implying, and Matt lets his hand slip out of his pocket. “Sounds great,” he says, and it's a stupid promise, but he can feel Foggy brighten up just from two words.

They take their time walking back to campus, Matt's hand in Foggy's arm just like always, curled tight in his jacket while Foggy makes elaborate gestures with his free hand, trying to describe some heroic adventure involving three undergrads and one of the campus pigeons. Matt grins while he talks about using a stick as a rapier to defend the students and eventually Foggy stops himself in the middle of a sentence to say “Excuse you, Murdock, you cannot laugh through the tale of my epic battle, I am offended.”

“Hey,” says Matt, and he knows exactly what to do with the momentum of their bodies, just where in his stride to pause and force Foggy to swing around to face him, and it's easy to skim his hand from the crook of Foggy's elbow up to his face, to give himself an anchor point when he leans in and kisses him.

Foggy's breath stutters out against his lips and his chin is scratchy with the beginning of stubble and his hair is soft sweeping against the back of Matt's hand. Matt pulls back but doesn't let him go, and they stand there a little too long, Matt's hand on Foggy's face, Foggy—watching him, probably, with his breathing sharp and shallow and his heart pounding. Matt hopes he doesn't look as overwhelmed as he feels, and after a few seconds, he tries a smile. It's successful, from the way the tension leaves Foggy's shoulders. “Okay, that's one way to get the elephant out of the room,” says Foggy, and there's a smile in it.

“It's been a very nice date,” says Matt, and steps back.

They get back to the dorm in contemplative silence. They don't kiss again, not even at the door as a joke, and Foggy squeezes Matt's hand before he keys them in, like he's setting some kind of boundary, making it okay to be just roommates again inside their room.

“Again next week?” Foggy asks once the light is off that night, both of them doing a terrible job of pretending to sleep, and Matt agrees.

He wakes up in the morning to the sound of Foggy on the phone in the bathroom, his voice hushed, saying “I don't know, but I think—I think we're going to be able to do it,” and it's terrifying even while he's smiling.

*

Two nights after their third date (they did kiss at the door this time, a longer kiss, and Foggy's hands were trembling on Matt's forearms before someone came out of a room down the hall and snorted at them), two nights before they're supposed to move out of their dorm, Matt hears screaming.

Someone's being threatened for money, there are professionals, and Matt—Matt should call the police. They would make it in time, and Matt would keep himself safe, keep Foggy safe, for a little longer. But Matt and Foggy are in the middle of something now, and Matt itches under his skin with the knowledge that he's going to fuck it up sooner or later, that someday his anger is going to be too much. It's not there this time. It wouldn't be enough to push him over the edge, any other time. If he didn't have a decision looming over his head, he would wait.

Matt puts on comfortable clothes that he knows are dark and sneaks out of the dorm. He finds a tree to duck behind and ties a black scarf around his head.

Twenty minutes later, his blood is singing with the fight, and his face and body are a mess of bruises he won't be able to explain away.

Matt spends the rest of the night wandering the rooftops of the city, learning the territory from above, learning just how much power he needs to jump from building to building, ignoring the pain in his ribs and face, the exhaustion that makes him want to go back to his dorm and climb into his bed. But his face is bruised and bloody and his ribs are almost as bad, and Foggy will notice. Foggy will know. And he should, it's the right thing to do, but Matt doesn't know if he can open his mouth and say the words.

Foggy calls a few hours past dawn, when Matt has gone to ground on a rooftop. “Buddy, where are you? You must have left before I got up, and Mom and Dad are coming for the first load of my stuff today.”

“Something came up.”

“You realize that sounds suspicious, right?”

Matt winces. “I do.”

“Okay, just checking.” Foggy sighs. “Are you coming home today?”

“Probably not.”

“Fine, whatever.” Foggy's only been really angry at Matt a few times, and it's always been more at circumstance than at Matt himself, but Matt recognizes the tightness in his voice. This anger, moving in the wake of worry, is all for Matt, and it's only a shadow of what he's going to get if Foggy finds out what he did last night. “Sow your wild oats or whatever.”

“This isn't—I'm sorry, I know this timing is terrible, we're taking the bar in less than a month—”

“And we're supposed to have our contract sorted out before we go to Landman and Zack, yeah, I know, and you are pretty much exactly on time for the attack of cold feet I have been expecting for three years.” His voice is even, now. He's not going to argue, like he does with his sisters or his parents when something is wrong there. This is a courtroom voice. He's going to win. “Do we need to talk about our fidelity clause, Matt?”

“That's not what this is,” Matt says, miserable.

A pause. “Okay, so tell me what it is. I'll listen.” Matt opens his mouth, and his breathing must be audible across the city, Foggy has to be able to hear it shuddering in and out over the phone, must be able to hear the way it rattles in his chest. “I guess I'm kind of glad you're at least not actively lying to me,” Foggy finally says. He's been so happy, since they started dating. Matt hates hearing that drained out of his voice.

He has been lying to Foggy, for years now, and at that length of time, the magnitude of the secret, a lie of omission is just as bad. “I'm sorry. I might—I'm taking care of something, and it might take a few days before I see you. Don't worry, I'll get the rest of my stuff out of the room.” They're supposed to be hunting for an apartment soon. Foggy is moving in with his parents for a few months and Matt has a room with a few people from one of his longer-lasting study groups while they wait to find a place they can afford to live together. As newlyweds.

“Christ.” Foggy ices over again, pulls on the persona that Matt knows from moot court where he's defending someone he doesn't want to defend, making a good argument that he hates making. “Fine. If you're not going ask, I'll just tell you. If you want to have sex with someone, Matt, do it. Get it out of your system, or—figure out if you really love whoever it is, if this has been going on for a while, I don't know. But you've got my permission.”

“Foggy, I'm not—”

“Just stay safe, please?” says Foggy, voice finally trembling across it, and hangs up before Matt can find the words to make them okay.

*

Matt is going to tell him. His secrets aren't worth Foggy upset with him, Foggy closed off and angry and thinking Matt could be in love with someone else. Maybe his secrets will make Foggy even more angry, but at least he'll know. At least Matt will have done everything he can (not everything he could have done, of course, because that would have meant canceling the contract as soon as he found out about it, or as soon as he started caring about Foggy, or as soon as he realized that he loves him).

Matt avoids Foggy for four days. It's not hard. Foggy moves out of their room a full day ahead of schedule, and Matt gets a worried e-mail from Anna and an angry voicemail from Marci and nothing at all from Foggy as he moves his own things over to his new room. The whole apartment smells wrong, feels wrong, nothing like the homes their dorm rooms have been.

At night, he goes out. He finds the sirens and moves along New York's rooftops and just listens, hears all the crimes the police miss out on, and twice more, he gets into a fight. He wins both times, but the second time, the fourth night, he comes out with a knife wound on his forearm that he puts clumsy stitches on back in his own room.

The next day, Foggy shows up at his door when his roommates are both out, and he's angry, geared up for a fight, but he makes an upset, punched-out noise when he looks at Matt standing in the doorway. “So, does you being an asshole have anything to do with your shiner?”

“Marci didn't punch me, if that's what you're asking.”

Foggy brushes past him and heads right for the couch. “I was asking if it was a cause, not a symptom. Marci doesn't punch people. She got me very drunk the night before last and came up with elaborate scenarios to make you fail the bar so she could be my co-intern at Landman and Zack instead of you.”

Matt follows him. “Are you here to enact one of those plans?”

“I was here to ask you what the fuck your problem is, but my priorities got kind of derailed when I saw that you look like you went five rounds with a jackhammer.”

“I can't look that bad.”

“I am really not sure where the circles under your eyes end and the bruising begins, and you are moving funny.” Matt winces. “And there's the guilty face, right on cue. Did you get beat up or something?”

“Or something.”

“Great, because that's not cryptic at all. Matt, I know you've got secrets, okay? I figured that out about ten minutes into meeting you, once I got over freaking out because you were there.” Foggy sighs, settling more comfortably on the couch, and Matt dares to sit down on the other end of it instead of standing there waiting for the shouting to start. “I didn't like it, but whatever. We were in a weird situation, and I got it, and I ignored the secrets after that because I didn't want to screw things up.”

“I'm sorry. There's—it's safer for you not to know,” says Matt, and he's always been a liar, but he knows it's stupid to touch his own arm right after saying that.

“So, not just the shiner?” Matt doesn't answer, but it seems Foggy doesn't need an answer, and Matt can almost hear the anger buzzing under his skin. “Here's what I think. I think you probably haven't spent the last four days at an orgy, and this wasn't a cold feet thing the way I thought it was. I should have guessed that before, but in all fairness, you were acting really weird.”

“I haven't slept with anyone else since I found out about you,” Matt offers. It's not much, but it's the best he can offer.

“Amazingly, not as comforting as you want it to be. I would way rather have you cheating on our nonexistent romantic relationship than … whatever is going on. I don't know. Fight club? You owe money to the mob?”

Neither of the answers is close to right, but Matt still squirms. “I don't know what to tell you,” he says, miserable.

“The truth would be nice. The truth is kind of necessary at this point, actually. I don't—I don't want to make an ultimatum, because the person who makes the ultimatum pretty much always loses, but if you don't trust me with whatever this is, can you trust me enough to marry me?”

“Of course I trust you. But this is—this isn't … it's not safe.”

“Right. So you're breaking the contract?” Matt flinches. “Or you're trying to get me to do it, or something. Have you considered if it's a danger to me as your betrothed it would be a danger to me as your business partner too?” This isn't a voice Foggy has used in a courtroom before, but he can just imagine it in a client meeting, Foggy trying to get someone to trust him with the information necessary to defend them. “Is it dangerous enough for us to stop being Nelson and Murdock and start being … God, I don't know. Drinking buddies?”

“Not yet. But it could be. I don't know.” He hopes not.

“Then explain it.”

Foggy doesn't bluff. He hasn't said that if Matt doesn't tell him he'll cut him off, or that he'll do the same if the secret is too dangerous or too much, but the possibility is there, and Matt isn't going to ignore it. Foggy is loyal, but he has lines.

“I'm sorry,” says Matt, because it turns out losing Foggy, turning into just Foggy's college friend he might go out with on a weekend if Matt is lucky, is his line, the scenario so horrible that it outweighs his need for secrecy. “This is going to be a lot, and I won't blame you if you leave.”

Foggy must understand that this is Matt offering him an out, but he doesn't take it. Instead, there's the unmistakable sensory impression of him leaning forward, ready to listen to whatever Matt is going to say. “Talk.”

Matt tells it backwards. He hasn't dared to let himself practice telling Foggy, so it all spills out in the wrong order, too fast and patchy and wrong. It starts with saying that he's bruised up because he's been helping people, fighting people who are hurting others, that he's trained and he can do it, that he knows how to use the rest of his senses even if he can't see, and that his senses are different, strong.

Foggy is unnaturally, horribly silent other than the occasional prompt to keep going, and when Matt sputters his way into silence, Foggy doesn't fill it for a long minute. “So you decided that the best thing to do with your shiny new law degree is to engage in a spate of vigilante justice that would make Tony Stark feel a little uncomfortable?”

Any other day, Matt would joke and say that he suspects very little makes Tony Stark feel at all uncomfortable, but Foggy's heartbeat is erratic and his voice is rough like he's been shouting or like he's going to cry and Matt feels abruptly like he's going to cry himself. “I can't just ignore what I can hear, and sometimes the police can't do what I could. Can.”

“This is going to get you killed. You get that, right? That sometime I'm going to get a call to come in and identify your body because of this. And that the best-case scenario here is jail, which is not exactly a great best-case scenario.” Foggy is crying now, or on the edge of it, closer and closer every second, and Matt has to blink, because Foggy has a right to this, and Matt doesn't. “And that in either of these scenarios, if we're pretty much anything to each other, people are going to figure out that I knew. Know. You decided this for both of us.”

“I'm sorry.” It's all he can think of to say. “If you do want to just be … if you want to stop everything, I won't contest it.”

Foggy runs a hand through his hair. “I don't know, that's not—this is kind of a lot to take in. When we're done with the whole arrested-and-killed thing we need to have a long conversation about how embarrassing my whole life has become in light of this whole heartbeat thing. Jesus.”

“I thought you would be more angry about that,” Matt admits. “But it's not something I could tell a stranger, no matter if there was a contract. My dad didn't even know. And then ...”

“That happened to you. And it's shitty and you're officially giving me weird senses amnesty for the last three years of our lives, so we are never going to talk about lies or heartbeats or whatever the hell else you can hear or, God forbid, smell, but it's not like you asked for it. This vigilante thing, you're choosing that, and it's bad.”

Matt swallows. “I wouldn't blame you if you decide we're done.”

“What is your deal? Yeah, I wouldn't blame me either, but unfortunately I seem to be invested in making sure we're not miserable.”

“We?”

“I love you, Matt, which is kind of pissing me off right now.”

As friends, as family. It's not a lie, but it doesn't have to mean what Matt wants it to mean. It's probably better if it doesn't. “I'm helping people.” He has to stick to that, or he'll have nothing to cling to if Foggy decides it's too much. “But I love you too.”

“Jesus. Not enough to stop if I ask you to, I'm guessing.”

“I would.”

“Yeah, you look like you're up against a firing squad right now, so I'm not completely sure on that one, I just—I don't know what I'm supposed to do with this. Did you have to do this right when we were starting to figure things out between the two of us?” Foggy huffs before Matt can get an answer together. “Don't answer that, of course you did, that is pretty much a self-answering question.”

All Matt can think of to say is that he's sorry and that he really does think he can make a difference this way, but Foggy has heard both of those sentences already. The first one he might want to hear again, but Matt isn't willing to push his luck. He waits until he can think of something else, and Foggy waits too. “What do we do now?”

“Yeah, that's the question, isn't it?” Foggy sighs, long and slow, and leans back on the couch. “You're fucking us up a little bit on purpose, which means you don't want to cancel the contract but also that you kind of do, and I don't really want to make any decisions until I've figured out which of those things you want more.”

“I don't want to end it. But I don't know if it's good for you, either.”

“It's clearly not, considering you're out to get me arrested.” Matt flinches. “Okay. We've got a few weeks till the bar, and two weeks after that before the contract comes up. I can't pretend none of this is happening, but can we put it on a back burner until we are officially lawyers? And then we can decide whether we want to get married or not.”

Matt nods. It's fair. It's more than he was expecting. It's a reprieve. He still has to swallow so his voice doesn't shake when he speaks. “Do you still want to study together? Or ...” He's playing with fire, but it's something they have to talk about. “Or go on dates?”

Foggy moves, and his voice comes out muffled—his hand is over his face now, holding in tears or exhaustion or something else. Matt's too upset for his senses to give him as much information as he wants. “I'm not sure my commitment to putting off my freakout stretches that far.” A pause. “Studying, maybe. Mom still wants you over for a celebratory dinner, though fair warning my dad has read between some lines and he's kind of pissed off at you.” Edward cares for Matt, but he doesn't trust him either, even after years of Matt and Foggy being in contact again. Probably he's right not to trust him. “Dates … I don't know, buddy.”

“Dates are for getting to know people,” Matt blurts.

That startles Foggy as much as it startled Matt, but his hand drops into his lap again, and he seems to think about it. “And I haven't had the chance to get to know the real you—okay, that was unfair, I can tell from your face that was unfair. Get to know all of you, I guess. And if we do dates, you're going to be honest? You're going to tell me when you hear something weird or smell that the waiter just spit in our food or whatever else you can do?”

“Yes. It might take time. I've had twenty years to train myself not to talk about it, but I will. If you want.”

“I have a feeling that I don't really want, because I'm going to find out way more embarrassing things about myself than I really want to, but I definitely need to.”

Matt nods. Foggy won't have the references he does, won't know that Matt finds the way his heartbeat jumps when Matt laughs sometimes comforting, won't know that Matt doesn't mind smelling his shampoo across the room or knowing what he ate for breakfast when he shows up at dinnertime. Matt doesn't want to tell him, take the chance on chasing him away, but apparently he needs to. “Okay.” He clears his throat. “I go to the gym where my dad used to train after hours. When I need to. You could come with me?”

“If you think we are going to do the boxing lessons thing like we're in a romcom—”

No,” Matt says, too quick and too loud, so much so that Foggy reels back a little, probably hurt. “I shouldn't teach anyone that. I just … if you want to see some of what I can do. So you can see I'm maybe safer than you think I am.”

“I'll think about it,” says Foggy, and it's better than Matt was expecting. “For now, though, I need to go over to Marci's and get really, really drunk and figure some things out. I'll call you, okay?”

Matt can't ask for more. “Okay,” he says, and tries not to look too pathetic as he follows Foggy to the door.

*

They don't exactly date, over the next few weeks. For one thing, they're too busy for that. They're both smart, top of their classes, but that's not going to make the bar exam any easier, and half the time when they see each other it's just to study. Most of the time, Marci is with them, a silent frosty presence, and Matt tries not to chafe at that.

“So, the gym?” Foggy says after one study session, about five days in, once Marci has packed up and left Matt's apartment.

“They don't close for a few more hours. Do you want to stay until they do?”

For a second, he thinks Foggy is going to say no, but then he sighs and relaxes back on the couch. “Sure. I could use some more drilling on MBE topics.”

Matt wants to talk about anything but the bar exam, wants to shout and ask if Foggy has any questions, if this is what they are now. He talked to Anna two days ago, accepted her congratulations on graduating and told her he'll come over for dinner when he isn't drowning in law textbooks, which are heavier in Braille than they are in regular print. The fact that he and Foggy are fighting was a silent presence through the whole conversation, a question she refused to ask, and Matt hates it. “Of course. Let's talk about common law.”

Things are a little easier without Marci there, but Matt is still glad when he checks the time and can say “If you still want, we can go to the gym. It should be closing when we get there if we leave in five minutes or so.”

Foggy tenses up again, but then he shakes it off, starts putting things away. “Yeah, I want. Unless I'm interrupting plans or something.”

Matt frowns. “Plans?”

“I mean the whole Batman thing, Matt. Am I keeping you from going out and enacting vigilante justice on every mugger out for a score?”

That stings, but Matt deserves it. “If I do it every night, exhaust myself that way, especially when there are other things in my life, I really am going to get hurt. I know you hate this, that there's no way for you to agree with it, but I'm taking precautions.”

“Sure you are,” says Foggy, but there's at least some affection in it, and that's what gets Matt through the awkward, mostly-silent walk to Fogwell's. Foggy snorts when he sees the name of the gym, when Matt hadn't even considered the coincidence of the name before, and they get in just in time for Matt to make his usual arrangement for his time.

“You can just watch. I wouldn't recommend getting close—I'm used to doing it without someone bracing my bags, and I don't want to risk hurting you.” Matt drops his bag on the floor and starts stretching, his usual routine. Foggy is still standing in the doorway, but he'll decide whether to sit down or not on his own time. “If you get bored, or something, just tell me to stop.”

“Right.”

Matt doesn't see much use in pretending Foggy isn't there, but he does his best to put the knowledge in the back of his mind. He has a routine, and it's easy to fall into the rhythm, warming himself up, letting his frustration and his worry out on the bag, practicing his form. He doesn't stick to pure boxing, which he often does, when he comes in. He shows off some of what Stick taught him too, some of what he uses on the streets, and he's not sure if he's doing it to show off or to let Foggy know what he's getting into.

“Okay,” says Foggy when Matt starts cooling down. Matt can't begin to interpret all the emotions in his voice. “I'm not sure if I'm more or less terrified, honestly, but thanks for showing me that.”

Matt swipes some of the sweat off his face. “Like I said. We're getting to know each other again, or more. You may not like this side of me—I may not like this side of me, but it's here, and you deserve to know about it. If we're going to get married.”

“Sometime when I'm not this tired, we're going to have a conversation about how you only started saying that you want to marry me out loud when I stopped before sure.” Matt winces. He knows he's inconsistent, that his worries about Foggy's safety and Matt's inability to make anything last have skewed things for both of them. “Not tonight. Possibly not soon. But just, you know. Put it somewhere on your list of conversations we need to have.”

“Noted.” Matt swallows. “Do you want to do something else? Or would you rather go home?”

“I'll go home. It's pretty late and I'm supposed to be babysitting in between studying tomorrow.” Foggy sighs, and then his hand is on Matt's bare shoulder, squeezing. “I'll see myself out. You clean yourself up, do whatever you need to do. And I'll see you in a couple days for more studying. And maybe dinner with my parents.”

“Okay. Thank you.”

“Thank you,” says Foggy, already stepping away, heading for the door. “Night, Matt,” he says, and lets himself out.

Matt stays for ten more minutes, breathing in the familiar scent of the gym, listening to Foggy's heartbeat fade in the distance and then listening to the sounds of the city around him, before he packs up to go back to his apartment.

*

Matt sees Foggy fairly often after that, while they study, but they don't talk much about Matt's secrets. It's there at the edge of every awkward moment in their conversations, but they're worrying about the bar, and everything that looms after it, at Landman and Zack and in the rest of their lives. Matt spends less nights out while he tries to cram information in his head, and during the days he only gets out to change locations to study or, sometimes, to help Foggy babysit or hand him tools while he fixes an aunt's sink or does one of the other hundred things he seems to do.

Then there's the bar, and it's two days of overwhelming exhaustion, racing against time even with the accommodations made for his blindness. Foggy spends the night on his couch in between the two days of the test, both of them talking about anything but the bar, to the extent that Matt even dares to talk about his training with Stick when Foggy asks after his roommates have left them alone.

Foggy shows up at Matt's door two days after they finish the bar exam. “Hey. I have an apartment for us to look at. Let's walk and talk.”

“Okay,” says Matt instead of asking any of the questions he wants to ask, and gets his shoes on and follows Foggy out of the building. If Foggy says he wants to talk, he has an agenda in mind, and it will no doubt involve answering some of the questions. “How have you been since the exam? I didn't want to bother you.”

“Probably wise. I slept for most of the first twenty-four hours and then yesterday Marci and I had one of our sessions where we analyze the test to death, which I know you hate.”

“How is Marci?”

“Moving back to Jersey and her fallback firm until she can find a job in the city. So not great. I'm pretty sure she was only halfway joking about murdering you for your spot at L and Z.” Foggy is silent for a few steps. “How about you?”

“I slept a lot too.” Matt hesitates, but he's trying for honesty now. “I did go out last night. There were a lot of sirens.”

“So of course you went out into the night full of cops.” There's some sting in that, but not as much. Either the weeks of studying for the bar have given Foggy space to forgive him, or his anger has been worn down into weariness. Matt hopes it's forgiveness. “Everything okay, though? I see that you look like a respectable citizen today, let's keep that going.”

“I'm fine.” Matt could leave it there, but he suspects the truce depends on real honesty, right now. “A few bruises, but nothing bad.”

“I'm going to have to get a lot better at makeup if you're going to get all beat up before we go in for our internship.” Foggy taps his arm, turning them. “Now, I'm going to tell you about family dinner last night, because some of the nieces decided they wanted to play lawyers with me as the judge and we put a teddy bear on trial, and it was adorable.”

That story lasts them through their walk to the apartment Foggy wants to show him—it's a long walk, all the way into Hell's Kitchen proper, and then up an old, musty elevator in a surprisingly nice building. “There's no way we can afford this,” Matt says before the elevator door opens.

“Just wait, it could work.” There's a woman waiting at the top of the elevator, and Foggy offers his hand to her as soon as he's ushered Matt out of the elevator. “Hi, Foggy Nelson, we spoke on the phone. This is Matt, I think I mentioned he would be coming.” No mention of what Matt is to him, but that might be because Foggy still isn't sure.

“Of course. Mr. Nelson, Mr. Murdock, it's right this way.” She walks down the hall with a click of heels, unlocking a door.

“We're on the top floor of the building,” Foggy says. “There's rooftop access, I thought you might like that.”

Matt could cry, or kiss him. He doesn't know what Foggy wants this marriage to be, if he wants it to be a marriage at all, but he accepts Matt far enough to at least look for rooftop access, to make it easier for him to get in and out unseen, when he goes out at night. “Yes, that sounds … that sounds good, thank you.”

The real estate agent clears her throat. “You can come on in. It's empty in here, but you'll be able to get a feeling for the space.”

It's big, Matt discovers when he steps inside and listens to the way his steps echo. Windows on the far wall, a small kitchen, a few doors leading off and a set of stairs that must go to the roof. It's certainly too big for them to afford. “Foggy?” he says, since he can't say that with the real estate agent standing there, starting to talk about the amenities.

“Sorry,” says Foggy. “You can tell us about the appliances in a minute, I just want to give him a feel for the space. It's pretty big, Matt. Use the cane, floor's not totally even in a couple places. Lots of windows, and it is in our price range because we get a really great view of the world's most obnoxious LED billboard.” That explains the vague electrical buzzing under Matt's perception.

“Wouldn't that get tiring for you after a while?” Matt asks. The real estate agent is shifting, impatient, from where she's standing by what must be one of the apartment's better selling points.

“Thus the tiny second bedroom, which I hereby claim as mine, because there are zero windows.”

“As your bedroom?” Matt asks, too quiet, too hurt, and there's a frozen moment of silence. Even the real estate agent stops fidgeting, though she seems to be listening for gossip.

“Tour! Let's see all the glorious amenities, of which there are many.” Foggy is too cheerful, but Matt can't blame him. They shouldn't be discussing anything about their bedrooms in front of strangers.

It does sound like a nice apartment. Foggy makes disapproving noises about the industrial feel of the place, and the fact that some of the windows aren't properly insulated so it will get cold in the winter, but Matt recognizes Foggy bargaining when he hears it by now and leaves him to it. He maps out the apartment himself, mostly, tuning out the real estate agent talking about ceiling heights and amenities and how cost-effective it would be to get a lot of thick curtains that could double as insulation.

“I'll leave the two of you to talk about it a little,” the agent finally says when Matt is feeling the dimensions of the second bedroom (small, smaller than a cramped dorm space by far) with Foggy standing in the doorway, probably watching him.

“I could sleep in here,” Matt says. “I won't care about the size or the lack of windows, and it's closer to the rooftop access, so I wouldn't … bother you.”

Foggy breathes out, hard, like he needs completely new air in his lungs to say whatever it is he's going to say next. “I was kind of figuring it would be an office, after a while. Or right off. I don't know.”

Now Matt exhales, not because he needs the courage to say something but because the air feels like it's been punched out of him. “You still want to marry me? For real?” He winces at his own phrasing, but at least the words are out there now.

“That's pretty much never been the question. You can't tell me that you've spent three years listening to my heartbeat and don't know that I've been up for a real marriage since day one.”

Of course Matt knew it, in the beginning. He didn't want it to be true then, though, and by the time he wanted it to be true, he wasn't objective enough to know if Foggy's hero-worship for a picture of him as a kid had turned into something more solid. “That was before the past few weeks, though.”

“A few weeks of finding out about secrets doesn't negate planning my life around you since we were pre-teens.”

“That's what I'm afraid of,” Matt blurts, and Foggy makes an inquiring noise. “You thought I was a hero, you built your life around me, but you know what I am now, Foggy, you know me better than anyone else. I don't want to do this because you wanted to when you were twelve.”

“Jesus. My feelings for you have kind of evolved, in case you hadn't noticed. I wasn't exactly in love with a picture of you with a terrible bowl-cut looking sort of underfed and buck-toothed by the time I was in law school, what kind of creep do you think I am? But you were hot and I wanted to give it a shot because yeah, the thought that I was going to marry you had always been around. And then you turned out to be great.”

“In love?” Matt says, his voice wavering.

“What?”

“You said you weren't in love. Are you in love now?”

Foggy throws his hands up. Matt can feel the rush of air as he does it. “I'm not the unknown quantity here, Matt! I never have been. I have always wanted to marry you, maybe not in the romance of the century kind of way, but the only time I thought we shouldn't was after I found out you'd been keeping secrets, and clearly I'm a sucker because we're standing here and I'm thinking my Nana's old writing desk would look great in that corner and our bookcases could fit in here too, and maybe you could get an easy chair so we could work together.”

There are no possible answers to that, or a hundred, or just one, but Matt doesn't get to decide which of those it is, because the real estate agent walks back into the apartment, shoes clicking against the floor. “Any questions I can help you with, gentlemen?”

“I think we need to talk it over in private, thank you,” Matt says. He sounds like he's underwater. “We're definitely interested, though. We'll try to get back to you by the end of the business day.”

She seems to have enough tact to realize that she walked in on something private. “Please do, this area is in high demand. Mr. Nelson, you have my number. I'll just show you out and let you get to your conversation.”

There's a bustle of polite conversation, but Matt mostly ignores it other than to smile and thank the woman for helping them before they part. Foggy sounds increasingly worried, and he grabs Matt's arm the second they're on the street. “Are you just freaking out here, or is there some kind of Batman emergency?”

“There's no emergency. Can we continue this conversation in private?”

Matt doesn't know what Foggy hears in his voice, mostly because he's not sure what he's thinking or feeling himself right now, but whatever it is, it makes his voice gentle in response. “Yeah, buddy. We can.” He clears his throat, and when he speaks again it's the studied light tone he uses when he's trying to cheer someone up or ignore a situation. Matt has a flash of memory of a classroom and the world feeling like it was ending. “So, what do you think about some classy burgundy curtains to save me from the horrible billboard? I know you don't care that much about color, but I figure you should at least get veto rights.”

Matt swallows. “I like red.”

“Of course you do. So we'll see what we can find for cheap, or maybe I'll ask some family members if they want to do it for a housewarming present. Or some other kind of present.”

Foggy talks about the apartment as they walk, furnishings and whether Matt thinks it's a waste of money to get some art to go on the apparently very gross walls, wondering aloud if maybe they should grow a few plants on the roof, since they would have access.

Matt lets Foggy carry the conversation, just listens and thinks while they walk.

They're lucky. None of Matt's roommates are in when they get back to his apartment, and Matt can relax when the door closes behind them and put his cane to rest next to the doorway.

“So,” says Foggy, and then stops.

“You should sit down,” says Matt. He thinks he knows what he wants to say now. He's not sure it's a good idea, but it's Foggy's choice too, and Foggy almost said it.

“Great, news I need sitting down.” Foggy doesn't sound unduly worried, but he seems a little anxious, from the beat of his heart and the sweat on his palms.

Matt trails him over to the couch and hesitates when Foggy sits down. There's plenty of space to sit next to him, but that doesn't feel right for what he wants to say. He kneels instead, in front of Foggy, and does his best to ignore Foggy's intake of breath. One knee is more traditional, but he wants the support. He's seconds from shaking. “Will you marry me?”

A long silence. He's not sure if Foggy is even breathing, though his heart starts hammering. “I hate to break it to you,” he finally says, “but we're already betrothed.”

“I know that,” Matt snaps, and then winces, although his annoyance seems to make Foggy relax. “But I didn't know as soon as you did. About the betrothal, or that I wanted it. I said yes because it was what my father wanted for me, so this is my way of saying that it's not just that, I want to.”

“You can come up and sit here next to me now,” says Foggy, and Matt would be worried, but his voice is warm. Whatever is coming next, it's not bad news. “You've made your point, and you don't need to get your knees bruised trying to propose to someone who's already engaged to you.”

Matt wants to argue, wants to say that they're betrothed and not engaged, legally, but Foggy will just laugh at him for splitting hairs and tell him that either way they're supposed to be getting married. He levers himself to his feet instead, and sits close enough to Foggy to feel his body warmth but not close enough to touch him. “Before you should answer, I'm not—I'm not going to stop. I don't think I can, now that I know what kind of good I can do.”

“I know that.” It's not understanding or angry. Just a fact. Matt is grateful for that much progress. “We're going to need ground rules. About your safety, about how often you do it, I don't know. We'll figure some rules out.”

It's not much to concede. “We'll talk about rules.”

“Damn right we will.” Foggy reaches across the space between them and taps the back of Matt's hand. Matt turns it over and tangles his fingers with Foggy's. “So we're doing this? We're getting married? No backing out, and … no one using the second bedroom?”

Matt wants to push. He wants to make Foggy say something first, or do something first. Foggy has been reaching out for three years, though. Matt can reach back this time, and he does it by leaning forward and pressing his lips to Foggy's. It's not a long kiss, but he hopes it says at least some of what he can't manage to phrase out loud. “I want you,” he says when they pull apart. It's not a graceful sentence, but it's easier to say than the thing Foggy wants to hear most.

Foggy clears his throat. “Okay. Apparently the dating plan worked. Or the yelling at you for endangering your life worked.”

“A lot of things worked. I haven't … this isn't new. I didn't know what to do about it before.”

“Most people would be jumping for joy if they fell in love with their betrothed,” Foggy says, wry, “but not Matt Murdock. You've always got to second-guess the good things, don't you, buddy?”

Matt squeezes his hand. “Maybe not anymore.”

It's not a lot, but it's enough to make Foggy relax, to make him laugh, and then to make him lean in and kiss Matt again. There are more conversations to have, Matt knows that, but for now he's more than willing to let them wait.

*

They set the wedding for two days after they can move their belongings into the apartment. Foggy spends the two days fighting with curtains while Matt tries to deal with putting the furniture in an arrangement he won't trip over, and the nights at his parents' place. “We waited this long,” he tells Matt with a shrug when Matt says that he doesn't mind sharing the bed. “At this point shouldn't we try holding out for the wedding night?”

It's hard to take that seriously when Foggy kisses him a few seconds later and they don't come up for air for twenty minutes, but it's a good idea. Matt doesn't ask him to stay.

Matt meets Foggy and his family at City Hall on the day of the wedding. He's half an hour early, knuckles tender from spending too long in the gym the night before, needing to vent some steam and unwilling to put himself in danger and risk new bruises before his first night with Foggy. The Nelsons are only ten minutes later than he is, though, and immediately Anna and Foggy's sisters are next to him, Anna fussing with his collar and all of them telling him that they've been working on preparations for a wedding dinner all morning.

“Give the man some room,” says Edward. “Foggy, you go let reception know that you're here for your appointment in contracts. Anna, his tie is fine.” Everyone is still bustling while Foggy leaves (reluctant, and he's been silent so far, Matt hasn't even had a chance to say hello), but they part enough for Edward to get in and shake his hand. “Glad you're finally joining the family, son.”

“Me too,” says Matt. “Thank you.” Edward likes him, but he can't forget the first morning he was at Foggy's parents' house, the conversation he overheard. It lets him breathe a little easier, knowing that despite their recent fight he's still accepted.

Foggy comes back, after a low-voiced conversation with the receptionist, and elbows his way through his family to Matt. “Hey,” he says, quiet, and Matt does his best to isolate his heartbeat, listens to how fast it is. He's nervous.

“Hi.” Matt reaches out and lets Foggy grab his hand. The Nelsons continue to bustle, because that's what Nelsons do, but they remove themselves by a few steps without even commenting on it, though one of Foggy's sisters giggles. “Are they running on time?”

“About five minutes behind. Want me to go find us some coffee?”

“I've had plenty. Do you want some?”

“Not really. I mostly want something to do.” Foggy squeezes his hand. “We're getting married today. I haven't got rings, we hadn't talked about them and the contract ceremony doesn't leave space for it, but I thought maybe sometime in the next couple days we could find some.”

Matt swallows. The Nelsons are still close enough to listen, but Foggy is nervous too, and his family won't tease them much. “I'd like that. I thought about getting some, but I have no idea what your ring size is, or exactly what I'd be getting.”

“Maybe tomorrow? It's not like we're doing a honeymoon or anything.”

Anna sweeps in then, when Matt can't find an answer for that, and starts talking about trips they could take in a year or so, after they've paid off some of their loans and when they're making good money at Landman and Zack, who of course will want to hire her boys on in permanent positions once they see how wonderful they are. Matt doesn't have the heart to tell her that it isn't his life plan, and that he hopes it isn't Foggy's either, because she's happy and telling him about the documentary on Italy she saw on late-night television and how she thinks he would like it.

“Murdock and Nelson,” the receptionist calls seven minutes after their appointment is supposed to begin, cutting off Anna in wondering whether Venice would be too dangerous for Matt.

“It sounds wrong to me in that order now,” says Foggy, and offers Matt his arm. “Mom, Dad, assorted hangers-on, we're going to finalize the contract. We'll call you in for the wedding part.”

There's a flurry of hugs and kisses on the cheek until the receptionist makes an impatient noise and Matt taps Foggy's arm, the two of them fighting their way out of the knot of people and to a small, musty office down the hall.

“Welcome,” says the woman inside. She has the same tired tone Matt has heard in a hundred bureaucrats, but she's making some effort at warmth. “Mr. Murdock? Mr. Nelson?”

“That's us,” says Foggy, leading Matt over to a chair. He sounds like he's smiling, but his heart is still beating fast, somewhere between nervous and excited from what Matt can tell. It makes sense. Matt is hovering between the two himself. “He's Murdock, I'm Nelson. And you are ...” He leans forward. “Cindy? Nice to meet you.”

Matt laughs. “Foggy, you shouldn't be flirting with the woman who's going to marry us. Ms. … Cindy, what should we do?”

When she speaks again, the warmth sounds more genuine. Foggy has that impact on people. “It's very simple, gentlemen. I have a copy of your contract here—including the braille copy specified to be on file for you, Mr. Murdock, if you want to revisit terms. I'll verify that both of you feel the terms of the contract have been fulfilled, you'll sign, and you can call your witnesses in to sign and watch you be married.”

“Great. Matt, here's yours.” Foggy moves some papers around, pressing Matt's copy into his hands and shuffling through his. “We renegotiated terms after a lapse a few years ago, so everything should be pretty current.”

Matt runs his fingers quickly over the terms. An adequate courting period, willingness to pool resources, an agreement to prioritize marriage counseling over divorce, all the scant terms his father negotiated for him. He's not sure Jack Murdock would be proud of everything he does, but he hopes that he would be happy about Foggy. “It is. I'm satisfied with all terms and willing to sign. Foggy?”

“I don't know, buddy, I'm thinking maybe I should add a term about you making me scrambled eggs at least once a week. I won't even stipulate breakfast, I'm just that—fine, fine, see if I try to make jokes,” Foggy says, breaking himself off when Matt reaches out to swat him gently in the arm with his papers. “Yes, satisfied with all terms.”

Cindy's voice slips back into a practiced bureaucratic drone. “You're both aware of your rights as regard this contract and contract law in the State of New York?”

“I am,” says Matt, along with Foggy saying the same.

“You're willing to fulfill all terms of the contract until such time as you choose to terminate it, of your own free wills?”

“I am,” says Matt again, and Foggy's answer is strong, like he's never doubted it at all when Matt knows that isn't true.

“You understand that after signing these papers it will be considered a breach of contract by the state if you refuse marriage and that the state has the right to prosecute for waste of resources?”

“Yes,” says Matt, and he knew there was no turning back a long time ago, but it's odd to know that's true legally now as well. Judging from the beat before Foggy's response, he feels the same.

That's the last question she's required to ask, Matt remembers that from contract class, and he taps the papers in front of him. “Should we sign now?”

“Pens are on the desk,” says Cindy, who seems to have moved right from warmth to dry amusement in the face of Foggy. “Which copy would you like to sign, gentlemen?”

“Foggy's copy will be fine,” says Matt. “I imagine that will make it easier on the office if there's ever a problem with it. Foggy, show me where to sign?”

They've done this before, when Matt needed to sign something, and Foggy knows to make a deep X on the paper next to the line so Matt can feel it and put his signature next to it. A second after he does it, there's the scratch of another pen, Foggy signing with a flourish and then handing the contract to Cindy, who scrawls her own signature. “Congratulations, gentlemen. I'll mark the contract as complete in the system. Would one of you like to call the witnesses in for the final term?”

“I'll grab them. You sit tight, Matt, tell Cindy whatever she needs to know for the ceremony.” Foggy stands up and disappears out the door, down the hall to his family, who all greet him with cheering even though they aren't technically married yet.

“We don't have rings,” Matt blurts before she can ask any questions. “In case that impacts the order or the script you use.”

“There's an optional section in the ceremony, I'll omit it. There's nothing in the contract that stipulates anything about your vows. Nothing the two of you have agreed on verbally?” Matt shakes his head. “Then you'll be out of here and off to your wedding dinner in ten minutes or so.”

As though that's a cue, the Nelsons all squeeze into the office, making it seem a tenth of its already-small size, and Matt reaches out and waits for Foggy to grab his hand to pull him to his feet while Cindy stands too. “Here we go,” whispers Foggy, and Matt swallows.

It's simple. There aren't any trappings or romantic promises the way there are in the standard non-contract marriage ceremony City Hall performs. In the end, after the preamble, there's not much more to it than the question: “Matthew Michael Murdock, do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded spouse?”

“She's nodding at me,” Foggy stage-whispers, probably with a wink, and Matt laughs around his “I do.”

“Franklin Philip Nelson, do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded spouse?”

“I do,” says Foggy, warm and sure, heartbeat finally steadying and slowing down.

It's not in the contract marriage ceremony to kiss, but Matt doesn't want to wait. He tugs on Foggy's hand, pulls him in to kiss, and listens to Foggy's family laughing and cheering around them, and Cindy saying “Then by the power vested in my by the state of New York and in accordance with the contract you have both signed, I now pronounce you—you need to listen to this, I need legal verification that you and your witnesses have heard the words.”

Matt pulls back, and he can't stop grinning, but there are just a few more words to hear.

Cindy laughs a little herself, and he can hear her hair brush her shoulders as she shakes her head under the sound of the Nelsons' premature celebration. “I now pronounce you married in the eyes of the law,” she says, and this time Foggy kisses Matt.

*

It's late before they get back to the apartment. Foggy's family (Matt's now, they've told him to consider them his family for years now, but now it's official, legal, and it doesn't feel real yet) kept them for a long time—there was supposed to be dinner for the immediate family, but Matt is pretty sure every Nelson cousin in the city stopped by to congratulate them, and every family friend in the area as well, even Brett Mahoney, who's studying to take the sergeant's exam and who Foggy adores and dislikes in equal measure.

“Getting married is exhausting,” Foggy says, collapsing onto the couch and then making a displeased noise and shifting. Matt suspects the curtains aren't doing as good a job of blocking out the light as Foggy wants them to. “Isn't the point of contract marriages to not have to do the big family affair?”

“The point of contract marriages is to manage assets.” Sometimes it's a comfort to fall back on pedantry. “Some of the most lavish weddings in the country are between people who are contracted, because they have the most assets to manage.”

Foggy snorts. There's silence while Matt takes his shoes off and puts his cane by the door, shedding his suit jacket and rolling his sleeves up and finally folding his sunglasses and putting them on the counter, until he feels more comfortable in his home. Their home. “Do you want to come over here?” Foggy asks at the faint click of the glasses against the counter, like he's been waiting for it.

Matt goes over. “You're still wearing your shoes and everything.”

“Yes, and in the morning my nicest suit is going to be hung up and wrinkle-free and I am going to have to iron your sad wrinkly jacket the next time you decide you want to wear this suit, so who's really winning here?”

“I can iron my own clothes.” Even if he hates it.

“I'm pretty sure I just signed on for a lifetime of ironing your clothes. You didn't even have to put it in the contract, I just know it.”

Matt laughs. “And you didn't add any terms about spiders, but I know what my jobs are.”

“Can't you hear them skittering around with your freaky super senses? You should be more scared of spiders, not less.”

“They can't surprise me.” Matt shrugs and holds out his hand, leaving it in the small space between them until Foggy reaches back. “How do you want to spend our first night as married men? We can watch a movie, or ...” He flounders. He and Foggy know how to keep each other entertained by now, but every possible activity has suddenly left his head. “Whatever else you want.”

Foggy squeezes his hand. “Are you asking if I want to have sex with you, buddy? Because yeah, I do. But I'm also happy to just sleep in the bed. Or in the study. Though I'm kind of guessing that you want to have sex given the hint of tongue in City Hall.”

Of course Foggy is going to make this easy. That's what Foggy does, like it's as natural as breathing to adapt around Matt, to say the things Matt is avoiding and expand on and understand the things Matt can't quite verbalize. He's so lucky, that his father found the Nelsons years ago. He's luckier that Foggy is who he is, and never canceled the contract, no matter how many reasons he had to do it. “I'd like to have sex,” he says, and Foggy's hand twitches in his. Matt smirks. “I have wanted to. I'm glad we waited, but I want to tonight.”

Foggy breathes out hard, and then he's tugging his hand out of Matt's so he can twist, put both of his hands on Matt's face and pull him in for a long, slow kiss. “Okay. Now? Or do we sit around feeling awkward and pretending we're not heading in that direction for a few hours? I'm cool with either one. It's a little early for bed, but I guess traditionally the wedding night isn't for sleeping.”

Matt stands up and stands there, expectant, until Foggy does the same. “We can come back out for a snack later if you like, but now that we've mentioned it ...” His blood is singing like it normally only does before a fight, and Foggy's heartbeat is picking up beat by beat. “Do you want to take a shower? Or just go to bed?”

“You know what my hair does if I shower at night, Murdock. Are you implying that I smell?”

“No. Just that it's been a long day and you might want to relax.” Matt wants to laugh, wants to kiss him again, because he hadn't considered that this could be easy too, their usual rhythm asserting itself even when this should be awkward and strange. “Do you want to come to the bedroom, then?”

Foggy starts walking, catching Matt's elbow on the way. He helped Matt set up the bedroom just like he helped with the rest of the apartment, helped put the sheets on the new bed, put a poster from their dorm room on the wall because he claims a home doesn't look lived-in without some art (one of Foggy's sisters gave them a little sculpture to put on a bookshelf, art Matt can appreciate, made of cool smooth stone that feels good to touch, and it's going a long way to convince Matt that Foggy has a point), put his clothes in the closet and dresser himself. Matt still feels like he's the host, waving Foggy toward the somewhat rumpled bed.

“We should maybe deal with clothes now,” says Foggy, and it's very quiet and intent enough to make Matt want to shiver.

Instead, he moves instantly to Foggy's side, reaching out to loosen the knot in his tie and pull it over his head. “Aren't you glad I already took my jacket off now?”

“I am, but that doesn't mean I'm going to let you strip me right now, because I lose the moral high ground if I leave my suit on the floor all night. Sorry, Matty, you're going to have to be patient. Too bad you can't enjoy the striptease.”

Matt backs off, because that's an interesting thought. “I can,” he offers. “I can hear the cloth moving, feel the air move. I can smell the layers of scent from the dry cleaners and your parents' detergent and your soap and just … you.”

“Wow, okay.” Foggy's heart trips, and there's a smell Matt knows and recognizes and is glad to have now, the smell of late nights when Foggy thought Matt was asleep. “When we had the whole excruciating no-privacy conversation with the senses, you should have led with the sexy stuff. It's really selling me on this whole deal.”

There's no verbal response to that Matt can make that will keep the conversation light. He smiles instead, and reaches for the top button on his shirt, listening to Foggy's breath catch when he undoes it. Matt raises his eyebrows. “Perhaps we can see who enjoys it more?”

“Sucker bet, I've got your abs to appreciate.”

Matt laughs and reaches for another button, and Foggy makes a cut-off noise before continuing with his own clothes, backing off a few steps to put his shoes against the wall and shrug off his jacket, reaching for a free hanger in the closet for it.

With Foggy watching, Matt makes a deliberate tease of taking his clothes off. He lingers on his shirt and drops it to the floor, ignoring Foggy's snort, and takes his undershirt off quickly, listening for Foggy's heart and the sharp sound of his breath when he realizes Matt is shirtless.

Across the room, Foggy is deliberate and careful, enough that it's a tease of its own. Everything goes in its proper place, just like it did in their dorm room, the suit hung up neatly because Foggy says his grandfather taught him how to treat a suit, and everything else tossed haphazard in the laundry hamper, until Foggy is stripped to his boxers and Matt realizes he's stopped with his hands on the button on his fly, mouth open, so caught up in Foggy's movements that he forgot about his own.

“May I?” says Foggy, and there's a smile in it.

Matt moves his hand. “Be my guest.”

Foggy is exactly as warm as he always is, but it feels different, with him standing close enough to undo Matt's fly and push Matt's pants down until he can step out of them. That leaves both of them standing there in their underwear, standing too close to do anything but kiss, so Matt leans in and does it. He starts with his hands safe on Foggy's shoulders, but there's new territory to touch, to explore. He can sense a lot, but there's nothing quite like touch, and Foggy is all skin and interesting shapes and warmth, so Matt touches him and is touched in return, gentle touches that avoid old bruises. Foggy somehow memorized them in just the few minutes Matt's been without his shirt.

“Can I?” Matt asks when they come up for air, and when Foggy makes an inquiring noise Matt tugs at the waistband of his boxers.

“Oh, sure. Should I do you?”

Foggy is nervous again. It's a relief. It's easier to concentrate sometimes when putting Foggy at ease is part of the concentration. “Yes.” Matt leads by example, telegraphing every movement as he gently eases Foggy's boxers off. His wrist bumps up against Foggy's erection as he goes, leaving a smear of precum on his skin and Foggy hisses in air as Matt breathes out, shaky. “Now me,” he says, and he's surprised at the depth of his own voice.

Foggy isn't shy about it. He taps Matt on the hip, letting Matt get oriented the way he always does, their language of touch translating easily to this, and then he helps Matt out of his underwear, until they're both standing there naked. “It occurs to me,” says Foggy, “that we have a marital bed with clean-ish sheets awaiting us. Shall we?”

Matt laughs, but he fumbles a hand out, latching onto Foggy's wrist and pulling him to the bed, barely taking the time to shove the covers out of the way. “Condoms and lube are on this side of the bed,” he says, pointing. “Just so you know.”

“Just so I know, huh?” Foggy flops on his back just left of center on the bed, like an invitation for Matt to climb up over him, to straddle his hips and bend to kiss him and press their chests together. He almost regrets not making sexual compatibility part of their courting period when they renegotiated, if only because it would have meant having this sooner.

He has it now, though, and Matt takes advantage of it, kissing Foggy until their breath is coming short and sharp and in rhythm, until Matt is sensitive and Foggy is twitching, little movements of his hips he keeps cutting off.

It would be so easy to keep kissing Foggy and to rub against him, press down until they both come. The idea is appealing, and any other night, Matt would do it. This is their wedding night, though. Even if it's a contract marriage, even if the traditions surrounding that are different, it means something important. Important enough for Matt to pull away despite Foggy's protesting noise, anyway.

“What can I do?”

“That is a question with a lot of long, pornographic, lovingly-thought-out answers, but the short answer is that I trust you and you're not going to go too far and if you do I reserve the right to kick you right in that bruise I'm pretending not to see on your side.”

Matt laughs and buries his face in Foggy's neck, allowing himself a long, indulgent inhale. Foggy smells like arousal above all, and like nervousness and excitement still fading from earlier. He smells like his family and the dinner they had and faintly of some new brand of scented soap from his parents' bathroom, and Matt centers himself on the smell. “I'll blow you,” he offers, without bothering to move. Foggy's pulse jumps against his lips.

“I would have to be dead to turn that down, I'm pretty sure. What do you want for—”

“We'll figure that out.” Now that Matt has a purpose in mind, he can drag himself away from Foggy's neck to start kissing down his body. Matt is good with his mouth, even if he hasn't had sex since the summer after undergrad and mostly had sex with women then. He assumes at least some of the skills will be transferable.

Foggy swallows down a noise when Matt puts his lips around the head of his cock, but he's freer with sound after that, while Matt explores and Foggy does his best to hold himself still, if trembling. “I should probably—condom,” says Foggy after a minute, voice a little choked.

Matt lifts his head. “This tastes better. If you don't mind—if it's safe. But you said you were tested after Marci, and you haven't mentioned since ...”

“Yeah, it's—I'm clean. I was mostly thinking about the mess, but I guess we can haul ourselves out of bed to do laundry in the morning.”

That, Matt decides, doesn't require more conversation yet, and he goes back to what he was doing, wringing all the pleasure out of Foggy that he can, listening for what makes his heart trip, feeling for what makes him twitch, wanting to buck up into Matt's mouth. Sometime, he'll tell Foggy that he doesn't have to be gentle with Matt, that sometimes Matt thinks he'll want Foggy to fuck his mouth until his eyes are watering, but for tonight, he's happiest like his, so he keeps a hand gentle on Foggy's thigh, steadying both of them, and takes his time.

He doesn't know how long it is before Foggy twists away, and Matt couldn't control the inarticulate, unhappy noise he makes at that even if he wanted to. Foggy laughs a little, breathless, and rolls to his side, opening a drawer—condoms and lube, and Matt said he doesn't really want a condom. “I'm having a brilliant idea, hold on one second,” says Foggy, and then there's the sound of the cap on the lube. “What do you say, want to use your fingers?”

Matt does, now that Foggy has mentioned it, so much that he has to bury his face in the covers and take a few deep breaths before he can answer coherently. “You've done it before?”

“I've done a lot of things before. This, not with a guy, but Marci was inventive.”

Matt doesn't really want to know anything about Foggy's relationship with Marci, but he can shove aside the jealousy enough to admit that it's useful information. “I'll go gentle. Can I have the lube?”

“Romantic,” says Foggy with a snort, but when Matt turns his palm up, he presses it into Matt's hand. Matt spills some of it in his eagerness to get it open, but he slicks his fingers and goes back to sucking Foggy off, until he's relaxed enough that Matt can start using his hand, slow and gentle until he can slide a finger inside.

“Tell me to stop if you want,” says Matt, because Foggy is panting, breathing so hard there's a little rough noise on every exhale, but he's still so hard, leaking a little now, and Matt bends again to lap it up.

“Definitely no stopping.” Foggy's voice is thick now, and Matt wants to keep him talking until he's memorized the sound. “Keep going, come on. I'll let you know if it hurts.”

Matt's going to make it not hurt. He's going to make this as good as he can, because it's their wedding night and he's lucky and Foggy isn't, really, not half as lucky as Matt is, so Matt can give him this. He can move his finger, careful and curious, until Foggy arches against Matt's mouth before he gets himself back under control, swearing an apology. “It's fine,” says Matt, pulling off. “I can take it.”

Foggy doesn't have an answer for that beyond a noise, but he moves his hips again, an acknowledgment, and Matt goes back to work, pressing Foggy slowly open, trying to drive him to the edge—adding another finger when one doesn't seem like enough anymore, and then another when Foggy has moved into a litany of curses and promises and endearments above him that Matt only half-hears until he focuses in on the sound of Foggy saying “Damn it, you had better be planning to fuck me after all of this.”

Matt pulls off and wraps his free hand around the base of his cock—he's not quite going to come, from Foggy offering that, but it was closer than he was expecting. He gulps air, feeling a little giddy with the oxygen when he's been depriving himself. “You want me to? We can just do this.”

“Yeah, but you're on a mission to melt me like the proverbial snowball in Hell, I'm pretty sure, so at least if you fuck me I can blow your mind while you blow mine.” Foggy shifts, props himself on an elbow, reaches until he can cup a hand around Matt's face. It can't be pleasant; Matt knows exactly what his face is covered in, after what he's been doing. “If you want to, I want to. Remember those lovingly detailed fantasies? I've imagined pretty much everything, this included.”

Foggy knows him well. Of course Matt wouldn't say no, knowing that Foggy's imagined it, imagined the way their bodies might fit. “I want to,” says Matt, and his voice is a wreck. “Please. I want to take a little more time with you, but I want to.”

“Okay, then let's do that.” Foggy has been keeping his hands to himself, clutched in the sheets, but now he reaches out, not to tug Matt's hair, but just to touch it while Matt goes back to opening him up with as much consideration as he can, trying to make sure it won't hurt at all, that all it will be is good. They're both so hard that Matt thinks all it would take is a little increase in speed or pressure for either of them to come, but he doesn't want that yet, so he grits his teeth and keeps the pace steady, and even slows down until Foggy finally lets out an impatient noise. “I'm ready, I'm ready, okay? Please come up here and fuck me before I explode.”

“Explode, melt ...” Matt can't hide his grin. “You're mixing your metaphors.”

“I am not going to withhold sexual favors because you're being an asshole, but imagine me looking very disapproving. Please come up here and let me lube you up.”

That's too tempting for Matt to resist, and he finds the lube in the sheets and hands it to Foggy, lines up their bodies and their mouths again even though his own must taste like Foggy right now and most people don't like that. Foggy doesn't mind, though, kisses him open-mouthed and hot until he pulls away, Matt chasing after him. “Are you ready?” Matt asks. “How do you want to do this?”

“Like this is good.” Foggy runs his hands down Matt's sides, indicating the way Matt is settled between his spread legs, and then he's putting lube in his palm, reaching down to take hold of Matt, slick him up. He doesn't linger, and Matt is grateful even as he wants more, wants to try everything. He'll come, and he doesn't want that yet. “Okay.” Foggy wipes his hand on the sheets and spreads his legs a little more. “Let's do this.”

“Romantic,” Matt teases, echoing Foggy's choice of word from earlier, but he does as Foggy asks, fumbling around until he can find a comfortable position, encouraging Foggy to move his hips until Matt can press slowly, so slowly, inside.

Both of them are shaking, Matt knows that, and he presses his face into Foggy's shoulder until he's used to it, used to Foggy hot and tight around him, heart beating fast and hard below him, a symphony of familiar sounds mixed in a new way. “Come on,” says Foggy after a few endless moments, and it's soft, not challenging, and Matt rolls his hips and has to search out Foggy's mouth with his when he's done just that.

It's messy (their mouths don't quite catch and lock right, with both of them open-mouthed and panting, and it makes them sloppy and desperate) and it's erratic (Matt can't come so soon, wants to do this for hours, so sometimes he has to stop), and Matt almost can't breathe with how he amazed he is that this is Foggy underneath him, with how much he loves him.

Foggy comes first, and Matt can't help the curl of satisfaction that comes when Foggy tilts his face away far enough to gasp out a warning, as though Matt couldn't tell from his heartbeat and the way he arches against Matt. Matt stills, and lets him get through it. “I can stop,” he offers. “I know it can be uncomfortable, after you've already—”

Foggy hitches a leg up over Matt's hip, keeping him in place. “Don't you dare. Just don't take forever about it and we're good.”

Much as Matt wants to linger, he's glad to listen to Foggy. It's easy to speed up his pace, and it proves how close to the edge he's been for so long, because it barely takes more than a minute before he's gasping out his release into Foggy's shoulder, both of them wincing as he pulls out and rolls away. The bed is a mess of sweat and lube and come, but Matt can't bring himself to care about it. He finds Foggy's hand with his instead, and holds on.

Foggy's breathing is just starting to come back to its normal cadence, and Matt tries to match his to it. “I hope you don't fall asleep,” says Foggy after a minute of silence. “I'm really looking forward to round two.”

Matt laughs and rolls over to kiss him. He's too spent to be thinking about it yet, but he's sure they can manage it given a little bit of time.

*

Matt wakes up first. His circadian rhythms have been a mess since the accident, and they're even worse now that he's going out some nights, and he's always been more of a night owl than Foggy anyway, so it's rare, and he enjoys the relative quiet inside their apartment even in the bustle of the city below. Foggy is snoring softly like he only does when he's either very tired or sick, and Matt reaches out to run his fingers through Foggy's hair. Both of them are a mess, and Matt is pleasantly sore when he shifts to get out of bed and start his morning.

They only have a few days to themselves before their internship orientation begins, and Matt is looking forward to taking advantage of them, but he doesn't want to have sex now. He gets up instead, finds a pair of sweatpants and a shirt from a drawer and starts his morning routine, washing his face and brushing his teeth and keeping one ear on Foggy, still asleep.

Foggy doesn't wake up for almost an hour, and Matt listens for the change in breathing and starts scrambled eggs just in time for Foggy to stagger out of the bedroom, mostly dressed and yawning and, when he sees Matt, heart skipping a beat. “Morning,” Foggy says, and Matt can hear the pause where he runs through everything he usually calls Matt, wondering what fits best, before he finally adds “husband.”

“Morning.” The eggs are fine for the moment. Matt abandons his spatula in order to kiss his husband, and pulls away smiling. “Is that what you're going to call me now?”

“I don't know. Working my way up to honey and sweetie, I guess. Plus it's a great way to remind myself of reality. I'm about ninety percent of the way to being a lawyer. I'm covered in enough fluids that my fragrance is grossing me out. I'm finally married to Matt Murdock. It's kind of a lot to take in.”

Matt smiles and kisses him again before he goes back to the eggs, which are almost done. Foggy taps his shoulder and moves past him to start making toast. “I'm sorry I made you wait,” Matt says, because it's worth saying.

“Yeah, but I woke up to my trophy husband making me a delicious breakfast,” Foggy replies, shrugging it off like it's just that easy, like he doesn't have years of lingering wanting behind him and one big recent hurt Matt still can't believe he's being forgiven for. “Speaking of which, I talked to my parents a little about the name thing when I was staying with them. I'm not going to change it while we're still interns together, in case that impacts us getting offers to stay, but sometime ...”

He doesn't have to finish the sentence. Matt swallows. “I'd like that. We'll talk about it more later.” He turns the heat off on the eggs. “We'll let these cool down while you make toast. I thought maybe a shower after breakfast?”

“Both of us? Murdock, you're insatiable.”

And someday, Matt is going to be able to say that right back to him, same words. He waits for Foggy to put the toast in the toaster and then pulls him into another kiss. “Thank you for waiting for me,” he says, and he means it in every possible way, from the ten-year wait between contract and meeting to how long it took Matt to figure out what he wanted and then to let it happen to the wait for honesty and even to future nights Foggy might spend waiting up for him.

“Hey, it's—well, it's not in the vows. But it might as well be.” Foggy leans against him like a thousand times in law school, when they were tired or drunk or just relaxed. “You got there eventually, Matt. That's what matters.”

“Good,” says Matt, and clears his throat when it comes out rough. And then, testing out the word just like Foggy did, “Husband.”

Foggy laughs and turns to kiss him. “I could get used to that.”

Matt grins and moves to start dishing up their eggs. “Well, you're going to have the chance to.”

“I'm looking forward to it.”

Lucky. Matt's never going to be able to thank God or his father or Foggy enough for the contract, the chance that led him back to Foggy and the time he's had to come to want all of it. “Me too,” he says, and adds on a quick “Mr. Murdock” just for the way he knows it will make Foggy's breath catch before he reels Matt in for another kiss.

Matt is lucky, and he's going to make sure that Foggy feels lucky too, for the rest of his life.