Chapter 1: Enter Rosalind Sharpe
When Angie, the secretary, tells Foggy there’s someone waiting for him in his office, Rosalind Sharpe is the very last person he expects to see when he opens the door. He’d have expected Wilson Fisk before her, honestly. Hell, Foggy might actually have preferred Fisk. But such is not his luck.
“Rosalind,” Foggy greets in the carefully neutral tone he’s been practicing for if he runs into Matt.
“Franklin,” Rosalind replies frigidly.
Her posture is understated but aggressive. It might be Foggy’s office, but there’s no mistaking who’s in charge. They stare each other down for several seconds before Foggy decides, to hell with it – he knows his casual manner irritates her more than some carefully crafted mask of serenity ever will. And Foggy doesn’t have the emotional energy left to play Rosalind Sharpe’s games.
“So,” he says, as he slips past her and settles into his chair. “Did you come here just to make sure we still remembered each other’s names or was there something you wanted specifically?”
The look she gives him is scathing, but not an answer. Foggy is used to waiting games, though, used to all his biological mother’s intimidation tactics. So while she paces a slow circle around the office, studying it absently, he waits.
“Subpar. Well, what can you expect from a middling firm like HC&B? It’s an improvement over that moldering closet you put your name on, at least,” sighs Rosalind, tracing a perfectly manicured finger across the desk as though assessing it for dust.
Foggy feels a protective, alien rage welling up in his bones. Nelson and Murdock crashed and freaking burned, yeah, ok, and it was a dump and they got paid in pie and casserole and fucking—paella, sure. Of course they did. It was an unmitigated financial disaster from start to finish. But it was theirs, Foggy’s and Matt’s, and even if it never meant as much to Matt as it did to Foggy, so what? They’d built it from nothing and Rosalind Sharpe had no right to even speak about that, let alone criticize it.
“My time is worth a lot more than your disapproval,” Foggy seethes at last instead of telling her to go choke. “So either tell me why you’re really here, pony up my hourly fee, or get the hell out of my office.”
There’s a soft noise of disapproval from Rosalind. Nothing so gauche as an articulated tsk, but something more refined with the same sentiment.
“Always so touchy. A measure of professionalism would serve you well, Franklin.”
“You first, Mom,” he spits, like the title is an insult.
She sighs, airily, but finally addresses his questions.
“An associate of mine, Tanner Burnett, is looking for a husband for his daughter.”
Foggy can see where the situation is probably going, but he’d rather play dumb than consider marriage prospects. Especially when he’s still struggling to burn Matt out of his heart and failing spectacularly. Ten years of embarrassing pining, two lonely hospitalizations, Elektra, and Matt’s compulsion for vigilante justice haven’t done the trick so far, but. Maybe now that they don’t see each other every day, it’ll get easier to stop loving Matt. Foggy doesn’t really believe that, but he tells himself he does for the sake of what little dignity he’s got left.
“And I suggested you might be a good match for her,” Rosalind says. “Her father wants her married before any of the little flings she’s had with other women become more… Serious.”
“Wow,” Foggy replies. “That sounds like something I want absolutely no part in.”
Figures that the first time Rosalind thinks he’s a good enough prospect to marry off, it’s in order to stifle a rich girl’s queer tendencies. Foggy feels a brief pang of bisexual camaraderie for her, whoever she is.
“There’s no need to be oversensitive about it, Franklin,” scoffs Rosalind. “Truthfully, you would make at least a passing match for one another. From what I understand, she’s always been a little softhearted as well. You could certainly do worse for a wife than Jolene Burnett. Moreover, if you did him this favor, Tanner and I would be more than willing to fund your interest into vigilante law however you see fit. Something to keep in mind for if your… Acquaintance, Daredevil, ever happens to need some legal assistance.”
Foggy doesn’t want to talk about that, doesn’t even want to think about it, so he deflects.
“And who says I’m not already in a serious relationship?”
“Oh, Franklin,” Rosalind sighs, shaking her head. “You know, ‘confirmed bachelor’ is a bit dated as a term, but the way the Murdock boy was stringing you along it might have been accurate. Now that the two of you are done with each other, what other prospects could you possibly have? At least you’ll be getting something out of it if you marry Jolene.”
Foggy takes a moment to seethe at that, to hate Rosalind for digging her fingers into the open wounds on his heart. To hate her more for even knowing those wounds are there to be exploited.
“I’ll meet her,” he agrees, matching her ice-cold gaze to make sure she knows he isn’t cowed, whether he really is or not. “That’s all I’m promising.”
“Saturday, 4:00pm at the Starfall. The reservation is under your name. Don’t be late. And at least try to look presentable.”
“Get out of my office,” he says, instead of bristling at the dig.
And, with only a single knowing glance over her shoulder, she does. Foggy manages to control himself for all of three minutes before he slumps forward onto his desk and buries his hands in his hair.
After a quarter of an hour of sulking, Foggy finally admits to himself that it’s gonna be a while before he’s in any place to get work done again. He slips out of his office, asks Angie to hold his calls for the morning, and heads outside in search of caffeine. He definitely needs some himself, but he’s buying double because he’s gotta make a caffeinated sacrifice if he wants to squeeze any emotional support out of Marci Stahl so early on a Wednesday morning.
Twenty-five minutes later, he shoulders his way into Marci’s office with two very expensive cappuccinos in his hands. The second she looks up at him, Marci’s expression turns suspicious.
“Rosalind showed up in my office,” Foggy tells her, completely without preamble.
Marci makes an unattractive hissing noise through her clenched teeth.
“Jesus Christ.” She waves a hand impatiently. “Give me my coffee.”
Foggy hands it over and slumps into the seat across from her desk.
Chapter 2: A Dinner Date With Destiny
Foggy and Jolene meet. Things are discussed. Feelings are admitted. There are lots of waiters.
I feel like it's important to say that the restaurant name is an attempt at an oblique reference to the movie Stardust, whose main character is played by Charlie Cox. Even while setting up a potential marriage with someone else, Foggy can't escape Matt. Because they're soulmates and I said so.
After talking things over with Marci, Foggy feels a little more settled about it all. He’s pretty pragmatic himself, but it’s harder to be objective when it comes to things close to him – and Rosalind had dug deep into several of the things Foggy’s probably too sensitive about.
“You might as well see what’s on offer,” Marci pointed out after Foggy had explained the entire mess. “If nothing else, you can get me her number and we’ll set up another sordid gay affair for her father to have a heart attack over.”
And she’s right, honestly. The worst that can happen is that Jolene turns out to be awful, but Foggy isn’t going into the meeting expecting to find a soulmate anyway and if things go pear-shaped they’ll never have to see each other again. At best… Well, Foggy’s not sure what. He’ll make a new friend to complain about Rosalind’s machinations with, maybe? In any case, he’s a man of his word and he’s going to go to the meeting whether he really likes it or not.
Foggy’s never been to the Starfall, but just by dint of Rosalind allowing it as a meeting place he knows it has to be nice. Google confirms that pretty quickly. At least, Foggy thinks, he’s got actually nice tailored suits now. He can’t imagine stepping into a place like that wearing the serviceable but slightly worn clothes that marked his days at L&Z or Nelson and Murdock.
Still, over the next three days, he probably spends more time than he should fretting.
The Starfall is twenty stories up and even the foyer has a view that makes Foggy think of tourists joking “I think I can see my house from here.” It’s lit by silver filigree chandeliers draped in crystals that leave rainbows streaking across the navy carpet. The chairs and tables look so expensive that Foggy kind of wants to puke from his fear of leaving a fingerprint smudge on them.
He forces himself to take five careful steps up to the open doors.
“Do you have a reservation, sir?”
“It… Should be under ‘Nelson’, I think?” Foggy says, fiddling with his sleeve.
The maître d’ looks a little unimpressed but knows better than to say anything rude to a customer.
“Right this way, Mr. Nelson,” he tells him instead, gesturing one of the waiters over.
The waiter then leads Foggy further into the restaurant. He tries not to let the tables of well-dressed, obviously-rich patrons rattle him but it doesn’t really work. Truthfully, Foggy’s real saving grace is that his suit jacket is dark enough that no one will be able to see if he sweats through his dress shirt. It’s… Not really much consolation.
The table the waiter gestures to is set in the corner, near one of the glass walls. It has an even more spectacular view of the city than the rest of the Starfall. Jolene, it seems, has already arrived, and Foggy takes a few seconds to study her as the waiter takes his leave.
She’s white, with a slender build, very short dark hair, glasses, and a slightly masculine cut to her features. For his part, Foggy isn’t sure whether to be angry at himself for being so predictable or angry at Rosalind for this very clear manipulation. He wonders uncharitably if Jolene’s father made her cut her hair, if Rosalind suggested it. And then he wonders if the way the fit of her crimson shirt shows off her cleavage is a further manipulation or if it’s her own rebellion against the Almost-Matt image. There’s a plastic cup of something – Frappuccino? – in her hand that’s pretty clearly from somewhere else. A brave, super rude choice. He’s not sure what to think of it.
She only looks up from her phone when Foggy sits down across from her. She’s startled enough to do something of a double-take.
“Franklin, I take it?” Jolene asks, holding out her hand.
Her nails are painted – red, gray, black, the design on them abstract enough that it’s not familiar but distinct in a way that makes him feel like it should be. Foggy shakes her hand, not hard enough to hurt but not as delicately as etiquette dictates he should.
“Foggy. And you’re Jolene?”
“Unfortunately for everyone,” replies Jolene.
Her smile looks like Foggy feels; uncomfortable, forced, full of wry humor.
“The hair’s a nice touch,” Foggy admits, deciding that he’s unwilling to dance around it.
Jolene’s eyes narrow as she cards a long-nailed hand through her hair.
“I’m not…” she says slowly, guarded. “I’m not sure what you mean by that.”
Of course what she’s really asking is if he’s insulting her.
“It really pulls the image together,” Foggy tells her blithely. “Not sure if you did your research or Rosalind just told you what to do to pander but either way the dedication is impressive.”
“Pander?” Jolene hisses tightly, her hand clenching around her cup. “Is that a dig? So sorry I look too fucking queer for you, asshole. You know they told me you were a nice guy, unpretentious – like it was a flaw, maybe, but they said it. If you’re gonna sit there and insult me, though, you and Rosalind Sharpe can go screw yourselves.”
As though sensing the growing tension in the air, a new waiter inserts himself placidly.
“Sir, ma’am. Are you ready to order?” he asks.
“The lobster. Please,” Jolene says tightly, handing the waiter her menu. “And no tomatoes in the salad. I’m allergic.”
She looks almost vulnerable admitting this, but there’s very little time for Foggy to notice that as he scrambles for his own menu.
“Steak and potatoes,” he decides on at last, feeling stupidly winded. “Er. Medium-rare. And maybe a glass of whatever wine you think would pair best with that.”
He needs some alcohol in his system, as soon as possible. He’s already put his foot in it for all the wrong reasons, and he’s reminded of arguing with Matt. In the worst way. Jolene honestly thinks he’s, like, mocking her because she looks too gay. Is that really how he comes across? Asshole straight guy? He never had problems like that in college. He also looked like a stoner in college but. Still. Maybe his bi-vibe is fading thanks to his brand shiny new well-off lawyer image. Not a fun thought.
“Listen, I,” he manages, once they’re alone at the table again. “Jolene. I’m sorry, I think there’s been something of a miscommunication here.”
Her brown-black gaze is still skeptical, wary. But she waves him on with her free hand anyway.
“What kind of miscommunication?”
“This isn’t about your sexuality. I’m. Actually bi, myself. It’s just I thought,” he finally admits, “they were trying to. That you were… You look a lot like the guy I’m in love with. Was in love with. Fuck, I’m still in love with him, I don’t know.”
Jolene nods. Her posture, which had been tense and rigid, relaxes a little bit.
“Why don’t you go marry him then?” she asks with a surprising lack of judgment.
“Straight as an arrow,” Foggy explains. “And even if he wasn’t, I’m not… He made it pretty clear I’m not a priority for him anyway. We haven’t… Spoken in a while.”
“Shit sucks, man,” she tells him, tipping her cup to point the straw his way.
Those words, juxtaposed against the elegant atmosphere of the restaurant, startle a laugh out of Foggy. He feels funny and wrong-footed afterwards, if lighter. He can’t actually remember the last time he laughed. Probably when he and Matt were still speaking.
Jolene’s cup is still tilted at him in emphasis and only then does Foggy realize she’s drinking a bright magenta smoothie and not some kind of coffee.
“Oh,” he says, without meaning to.
“It’s nothing. Just. I thought you were drinking, like, a Frappuccino or something,” Foggy explains, rubbing the back of his neck. “Surprised me, is all.”
“I hate coffee,” admits Jolene, taking another sip of her smoothie. “Don’t mind the smell though.”
Foggy laughs again – feels it, strangely warm, in his chest.
“How the hell do you stay awake without caffeine?”
“Trust me,” she says seriously. “I don’t.”
They smile at each other for a few seconds, before the mood fades to something more contemplative. Foggy isn’t quite sure how to bring up the reason they’re meeting.
“It’s funny, isn’t it,” Jolene says, fidgeting with the straw in her smoothie. “This whole thing.”
“A real laugh,” agrees Foggy, his tone a bit more skeptical than he means to be.
“No, I just… I guess I expected something different. Which I’m sure you could figure out, from uh. Well. How much of a dick I was. But you and I, we’re the same, aren’t we?”
They probably are, he thinks. If Jolene’s father is anything like Rosalind, then he gets it. He knows what it’s like, to hate someone and need their approval and then hate that you need their approval all at the same time. From what little Foggy’s gleaned about Matt’s crazy ninja mentor, Matt probably understands the sentiment too.
“Yeah. No, yeah. I… I see what you mean, Jolene,” he says.
They both cringe awkwardly at the rhyme.
“Just Jo is… Is fine. If you want,” she offers.
It’s another step, but Foggy’s not sure what direction they’re really headed. He’s still not sure what Jo was hoping to get out of this, or what Tanner Burnett and Rosalind are really planning. Maybe Jo doesn’t really know either. The two of them play at small talk, glancing out the windows, until they’re interrupted by their food arriving.
It smells… Really good. Thankfully, his stomach waits until it’s just the two of them again before letting out an embarrassingly loud growl.
“Same,” Jo mutters before stuffing a bite of salad in her mouth.
Foggy huffs in amusement, then digs in himself. The potatoes are creamy, the steak is tender, and he finally manages to get some wine in his system. Josie’s swill with the eel in it might be better for bolstering his courage, but Foggy can’t deny that the red wine helps. And pairs much better with his meal.
He’s just trying to decide where to start talking about the marriage offer and just what it entails when Jo speaks again.
“So. Tell me about this asshole straight boy I look so much like,” she says, but her expression is soft, supportive.
“Ah, man…” Foggy ruffles a hand through his hair. “Matt. Where do I even start with him?”
“I’d suggest the beginning,” Jo tells him between bites. “But if you prefer in media res, that’s fine too. I’ll catch up from context clues.”
“Ah ha!” Foggy exclaims, just to buy himself a little time, pointing his fork at her. “You were an English major. Don’t try to deny it, I know the signs.”
Jo grins at him, pleased.
“That’s the intuition that got you through law school, I take it?”
“Something like that,” Foggy agrees modestly. “Plus, uh. Matt was an English major in undergrad. And he studied incessantly. We, uh… We met at the start of freshman year – we were roommates. Pretty much right away we became best friends.”
Jo’s a great listener, and she seems entertained, so Foggy lets himself go. Lets himself think back to when things were simpler, when he thought he knew everything about Matt Murdock. With Jo across from him adding pithy commentary, reminiscing doesn’t hurt as badly as he thought it might.
“—assignment, and Matt got this weird look on his face when Professor Thorn gave him the Braille printout of it, so—”
“Braille?” Jo interrupts.
Foggy blinks a few seconds, not sure what the drive behind the question is. And then it clicks.
“Oh! Right! Yeah, he’s blind. Guess it kinda—” He taps his temple lightly with a finger. “Slipped my mind to tell you. Wow, that sounds pretty stupid, huh…”
Jo shakes her head.
“Nah, I get it. It’s just part of him; you’ve known him so long you don’t really separate it out, right? People don’t generally think to explain things that seem obvious or commonplace to them. It’s where a lot of cultural miscommunications stem from,” she rambles, looking a bit flushed. “Anyway. You were saying? The Braille printout?”
“Right!” Foggy can’t help but laugh, remembering the scene. “Right, so Matt’s all “Professor, I don’t think this is the handout you meant to give me” but she’s just so insistent it’s what he needs to read and eventually he just gives up, right? I tell him, “Look Matt, it’s fine, I’ll just read mine out loud for you” you know? But I’m curious. I mean, you’d have to be, right? The look on his face when he started running his feelers over it I swear to god—”
Foggy almost knocks his wine glass over trying to express the enormity of Matt’s mortification. Jo, giggling, catches his wrist in one hand and the stem of the wine glass in the other. The second both are stable she releases her hold, but Foggy’s arm still feels warm where she grasped it. Her hands are soft, aside from the slight writer’s callus on her middle finger.
“Did you ever find out what was on it?” she asks.
“Oh yeah,” Foggy tells her, grinning. “It was the first chapter of her Kirk/Spock fanfiction.”
“Oh my god.”
“It was, like, actually some pretty good stuff but. Can you even imagine? You mean to give your student a paper on divorce law and you print him out a story about two fictional dudes pining after each other? And then proceed to insist it’s the right assignment when you can’t even read Braille to check? The ultimate irony right there.”
He regales her with a few more choice adventures from Columbia, and then starts in on Landman and Zack. Their tiny closet office, the dinosaurs… And their final case.
“So I was like, “Well, you know I’m always with you, Murdock.” I mean, what else could I do? He was so torn up about that case, and he was right. L&Z wasn’t doing our consciences any favors. We ended up quitting right away after that,” he finishes. “Starting our own firm.”
“Oh! Nelson and Murdock,” Jo says suddenly. “I can’t believe I didn’t realize! I’ve heard about you guys. I mean, yeah, the Punisher case but. You worked with Daredevil to take down Fisk, right?”
Foggy tries not to wince, covers it with a sip of wine.
“Yeah. I mean, yeah. We did.”
“You could probably figure out from my…”
Jo trails off vaguely, and flutters her fingernails at him. Only then does the design click in Foggy’s head. It’s a very minimalist take on Daredevil’s costume. The angular black and red patterns that run across his chest.
“Uh,” Foggy stammers. “Wow.”
“Did these myself. He… He saved my best friend’s life,” Jo explains. “I guess… I’ve had a soft spot for him, since then.”
“Makes sense,” he tells her, doesn’t dare say he puts my best friend’s life in danger every day of the week. “That’s some artistic talent, though. Most people just get their nails done at a salon or something, right?”
That, thankfully, seems to derail Jo from the subject of Daredevil.
“Oh, yeah, that’s true. It’s just I find it relaxing to paint my own. And I’m always so proud to get them looking good. Started doing it with my roommates in college and just never stopped.”
She goes on to regale Foggy with stories of some of the other designs she’s done – an Avengers-themed set right after the Incident, a couple for different movies, the bi flag just for the hell of it. She kind of lights up talking about it, getting the details just right, figuring out which color to layer over another to get the design looking good, dealing with too-large brush sizes.
“I just keep coming back to this design, though, lately,” Jo admits in the end. “That’s why it looks so good, I guess. I’ve had a lot of practice.”
They’re interrupted again to be offered dessert, and when Jo goes right for some chocolate-smothered chocolate monstrosity, Foggy decides to hell with it and gets a slice too. He can afford nice things with the salary he’s making, and he’s about twelve years past being self-conscious about what he eats just because some dickhead out there will probably judge him for it.
As they wait for dessert, there’s pretty clearly something on Jo’s mind. It shows in the way she keeps organizing and re-organizing her silverware. Finally, Foggy just bites the bullet and asks what’s bothering her.
“It’s just, what…” Jo frowns. “I mean, you can tell me to shut up but. You work for HC&B now. Why did the firm break up? What happened to you guys, anyway?”
Foggy sketches out the Castle case, doesn’t fill in any of the incriminating details. What he says is enough for Jo’s mouth to tighten into something fierce and angry. It’s probably not nice to, but Foggy can’t help feeling a little vindicated by her response even though she doesn’t know the whole story.
“And it sucks. And I’m so… Ticked at him. But, even now… There’s really… Nobody else like him,” Foggy says, just to say it, just once.
“Yeah, I.” Jo nods. “Yeah. The way you talk about him… I mean, I get it.” There’s a slight pause, awkward. “Still though. I’m. You’re a great guy, Foggy. I just can’t see you getting talked into this stupid meeting unless there was something more on offer than marriage to someone you’ve never met before.”
Foggy thinks about lying, just for a second, but dismisses it. They’ve been pretty honest with one another so far, and anyway if she’s as invested in Daredevil’s wellbeing as she seems to be it’s not like she’d take offense. Before he can explain, though, their cake is brought to the table. Both of them smile and thank the waiter – the same one as the first time, maybe? Foggy’s not sure – and try a bite.
It’s good enough that Foggy can’t help a small hum of pleasure at the taste. Really classy stuff. Matt would like it, Foggy thinks, and then berates himself for thinking it. Finally, he tears himself away from the cake to give Jo her answer.
“Your father and Rosalind offered to help me prepare a defense and the funds for it. For if Daredevil’s ever put on trial. I thought with that incentive… Anything would be worth a look.” Foggy clears his throat. “So. We know why I’m doing this. But why are you doing it? What exactly are you getting out of this marriage?”
Jo grins, but Foggy’s seen enough of a similar expression on Matt’s face to know she’s deflecting.
“What, a studly bisexual husband with a brilliant mind and a great sense of humor isn’t enough?”
“Flattery will get you everywhere,” concedes Foggy. “Except out of answering. Come on, I rambled at you about my pathetic crush, you owe me some juicy details.”
Scrubbing a hand through her short hair, Jo sighs.
“Man… Alright, fine. But yours is so, you know, selfless. Makes me feel kinda stupid,” she explains.
“Hey, I can square with selfish motives,” Foggy says, spreading his arms wide. “Look at me, I’m a sellout.”
Jo laughs, tugs at the sleeve of her blouse, and then nods.
“I write poetry. I, uh. Lots of it,” she tells him. “But I’m not connected to my dad’s cash, I haven’t wanted to be, so I mostly do tech contract work. Data input, analysis, that kinda thing. It’s good enough, but I don’t have the money or the connections to publish anything. My dad, he told me… If I choose to settle down with a guy instead of a girl – because that’s, like, obviously how bisexuality works – then he’d help me get my stuff published.”
“That’s not stupid,” Foggy tells her. “It’s a dick move of him, though, because if he’s friends with Rosalind there’s no way helping you get published is even a drop in the bucket for him, but. You’re an adult, it’s your choice.”
“I mean, he still cares about me, obviously, and wants me to be happy,” says Jo, fiddling with her dessert fork and refusing to meet Foggy’s eyes. “It’s part of the reason Rosalind recommended you, actually. But. Uh. It’s… This part of me.” She gestures vaguely, to her hair and then her heart as if not sure which will best get her point across. “He likes to pretend it’s not there. We were close once, not so much anymore, so I. You get it, right? It’s tough because I want to hate him and just have nothing to do with all this but I can’t forget how it was before. Before I knew I…”
Foggy swallows sharply and nods.
“Yeah. I get it.”
“I wouldn’t give up my bisexuality for anyone, though, not even him,” she says firmly. “It makes me happy. I just wish that could be enough for him. That he didn’t have to qualify acceptance with an end result. But besides all that, I mean… Beyond all the promises and the, the emotional manipulation…” Jo takes a deep breath. “I guess… Well. Maybe I’m tired of being alone, too. Even if it’s not true love or anything, it sounds nice to have someone who’s always there for you. And if it’s someone like you, Foggy… I don’t know. That sounds pretty good to me.”
Foggy lifts his wine glass and tips it towards her. With a wry smile, Jo taps her empty smoothie cup against it. They finish their desserts in silence, digesting each other’s motivations. But Foggy doesn’t generally thrive well in silence, so when he finishes his slice of cake he can’t help but to bring up something that’s been on his mind for most of the meal.
“I gotta ask. Are you really allergic to tomatoes? Or were you just saying that to make sure they wouldn’t put any on your salad?”
“Yup,” Jo says, unimpressed. “I really am allergic.”
“Sorry—Just. I didn’t even know that was a thing that could happen.”
With a shrug of her shoulders, Jo offers him a wry smile again.
“Yeah, that’s fair. Neither did I, til I ended up in the hospital for it. Two decades of marinara sauce and too much ketchup, and then one day—wham.” She hits her fist into her palm. “It’s the most disgusting, awful experience ever, honestly. I would probably kill a man to make it go away.”
“As a defense attorney, it’s my job to advise you to not do that,” Foggy says, faux-sternly.
“Boo. No-Fun Nelson, that’s you.”
Jo slips a credit card in with the bill and Foggy pulls out his own to do the same. Might as well go dutch when he can actually afford it. The cards are taken and returned promptly. Food paid for, they’re pretty much at the end of the meeting. But Jo seems just as reluctant to leave as Foggy is.
“Can I ask,” Jo stumbles out finally, the braver of them. “Can I ask… Do you think you’ll say yes? To the proposal?”
“I’ll take some more time to think about it – big step, you know,” Foggy says. “But. Well… I think there’s actually a decent chance you’ve got a deal.”
“Judgmental, socially-conservative in-laws, and no pizza for the rest of your days? I dunno. It’s a pretty shit deal for you, sounds like,” Jo comments.
“Not all bad. I’d get you for a wife, after all.”
Jo scrubs at her cheek and looks away, but her smile is a little shy and the most genuine he’s seen all evening. Cute. He doesn’t feel so bad about his decision, not after that smile. It’s not the worst thing he could do with himself, honestly. Because that’s the thing, even though he kind of hates Matt’s guts Foggy will never, ever be over him. And not only does Jo know that, she doesn’t care. Or, well, she does care, but in the way that means she’ll commiserate with Foggy instead of resent him. That’s honestly the best he can hope for in a spouse at this point.
Jo wipes her mouth on her napkin one last time and then the two of them stand to leave. She’s ridiculously tiny, Foggy realizes with some surprise – even in heels, she barely reaches his chin. It’s kind of endearing, in a way he figures it’s best not to vocalize. He can’t imagine Karen or Marci would react well to being told something like that, and they’re generally a decent metric to go by.
Caught up in the spirit of a date, Foggy presses a kiss to Jo’s cheek. In return, she drops a peck on the back of his hand before guiding his arm to loop through hers. They make their way down to the ground floor just like that and part on the sidewalk after trading phone numbers.
Strangely, Foggy finds he has a spring in his step. It lasts for the rest of the weekend.
“How did it go?” Marci asks immediately on Monday, but in a tone that suggests she honestly couldn’t care less.
“It… It was good,” says Foggy, and means it. “Really good.”
Chapter 3: Interlude, Thy Name Is Murdock
Matt's fine. Really.
Daredevil overhears something interesting.
I was trying to push things along for the next chapter, but Matt was not content to wait his turn. So. Here he is, busting in with his subplot. The next time we see him won't be for another few chapters yet, and it'll be when we finally reunite our ridiculous boys and the true RomCom Shenanigans can begin.
Matt is… Fine. He’s fine. Really.
There’s nothing big stirring in Hell’s Kitchen, the Hand are gone for the moment. Matt’s managed to feed himself regularly, keep up his personal hygiene, actually do some work. That’s right, his work-life balance is finally swinging back into something resembling healthy. Vigilantism aside, since most people – Foggy – would not consider that anywhere close to a healthy component of a work-life balance.
And though he doesn’t have much of a social circle anymore – none at all, in fact – he goes to church more regularly and it helps him reorient himself. He’s dealing with his grief about Elektra almost successfully. Father Lantom is a pillar, as always.
He doesn’t even have any broken bones.
So, really, it’s fine. Everything is totally fine.
Just… Just, well… He misses Foggy. He misses Karen and Claire too, but he hasn’t known either of them as long or as deeply as he’s known Foggy, and Karen lets Daredevil drop her ‘anonymous’ tips even though she won’t answer the door for Matt Murdock. Claire, of course, has no patience for either identity because to her there’s never been a barrier between them. At this point, Matt has no idea which part of him Foggy hates more, and even he’s not brave enough to ask.
But it’s more than losing his best friend, his partner, his… Matt doesn’t dare think the words, put voice to the feeling, not so soon before letting the Devil out. But it’s not just the emotional attachment that’s the issue. His senses have oriented themselves around Foggy and withdrawal is a constant irritant, like sandpaper on his skin or the high-pitched ring of tinnitus. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, because the truth is that Matt’s so attuned to Foggy at this point that he can clock him from a significant distance. He can pick up Foggy’s heartbeat at four city blocks; sometimes five at night, when there’s less foot traffic.
But Foggy doesn’t live or work in the bounds of Hell’s Kitchen anymore, which tends to put him consistently out of Matt’s range.
Matt may or may not take semi-frequent detours past Foggy’s new apartment on his patrols.
It’s something he knows – knows, knows, knows – he should not be doing. But, like Daredevil, it isn’t a matter of wanting or liking to do something. Even if he does. It’s still more about needing to do it, having to, instead of for any particular enjoyment.
He tells himself this every time he goes out on patrol, although it doesn’t stop the slight prickle of guilt about both things.
“Head in the game, Murdock,” Matt mumbles, slipping on his helmet. “Head in the game.”
He darts across the rooftops, and the usual exhilaration washes over him. This is something Matt Murdock doesn’t get to do, and Daredevil takes full advantage – running, leaping, flipping. The city is quiet tonight. He loops over and across it in a Gordian knot, and is about to turn back for the night when a voice catches his ear from a warehouse that should definitely be empty.
“I’m telling you, Burnett won’t go for it,” a man grumbles.
Matt tilts his ear towards the sound and creeps closer. Five heartbeats, none panicked, although a few pound harder in anger. So. No victim to rescue, at least. No one in danger.
“He doesn’t get a choice,” someone else replies harshly – one of the angry ones. “Either he plays along or we wreck him – and don’t you think of backing out, either. I’m not paying you to try your best, I’m paying for results.”
As he makes his way to the warehouse roof, Matt catches a whiff of cigarette smoke, burnt rubber, metal. There’s the slight, irritating buzz of incandescent lightbulbs, just below the heartbeats and the voices and the shuffling that tells Matt one of the men has gotten up to pace.
“What d’you think we can do that your shitheads haven’t already tried?” mutters the one who’s pacing – different from either of the first two; his footsteps are heavy, and Matt estimates he weighs somewhere in the range of 250lbs. “You go after his reputation, he shakes you off. You go after his inventory, big deal, he’s got insurance. And we all know you’re too chicken-shit to go after his family. What exactly is your plan here?”
“You just let me worry about that,” the guy who seems to be in charge growls back. “You’ll get your money, and your product distributed, as long as you do what I say when I say it.”
Probably drugs, then, Matt thinks. Better than human trafficking at least, but insidious enough to merit further attention. Unfortunately, the men don’t offer up any more details. Matt makes sure to focus in on the ringleader, memorize his sensory impression. Then, as the group breaks up, he follows quietly along after one of the quieter members. Eavesdropping is well and good, but Matt has a simpler way to get his information.
He’s just about to drop down on his unsuspecting victim when he hears a scream three blocks over. He has half a second of indecision – can I incapacitate this guy before anyone gets hurt over there? – but then he hears the unmistakable sound of a gun being cocked and he’s off like a shot.
So. In the end, he saves a sex worker from being assaulted and murdered, but he loses his bead on the guy from the warehouse. A fair trade, one he’d take a hundred times, but still a bit disappointing to get a lead and then immediately lose it.
Matt punches the attempted rapist in the face a few extra times just for the hell of it.
“You got someone you can call?” he asks, very carefully not turning towards the woman he rescued, giving her an avenue to run if she wants. “To come get you?”
She obviously isn’t going to call the police. Matt can’t blame her.
“I’m fine,” she snarls, but Matt can hear that her legs are trembling by the sound of her heels on the pavement.
He doesn’t point this out, however. Instead, he hauls the unconscious attacker over his shoulder and nods. The guy’s heavy, but not as heavy as Frank Castle, so Matt manages pretty well. He dumps him outside Metro General - four broken bones, a probable concussion, two black eyes, and a dislocated arm - and pitches the gun into the river. With no one filing a charge, he knows it’s pointless to leave him at the police station, but Matt hopes, with a slightly bloody smile, that he’s learned his lesson about respecting the word ‘no’.
He keeps his ear on the woman for a while, just to be sure she doesn’t go into shock or run into any other trouble, but he hears nothing concerning by the time she's out of his range. Furthermore, the night is about as quiet as it’s ever going to be. Matt makes his way back home and slips into bed to scrape together a few hours of sleep.
If he makes a loop past Foggy’s on his way, well, no one has to know.
Chapter 4: The Deal is Struck
Foggy accepts the proposal.
There’s pretty much radio silence between Foggy and Jo until Monday evening, when Foggy texts, Is it weird I Googled u ovr the weekend? Also do friends get a discount on Blaze video games??
Because of course what Rosalind would have failed to tell him and what Foggy had failed to put together is that Jo’s father, Tanner Burnett, happens to be the same man who owns Blaze, an up and coming game designer. He feels a bit stupid for that, and for the text itself, and frets about it for all of the twelve minutes until he receives a reply.
I’ll give you a pass since I Facebook-stalked you. Nice college stoner goatee btw. Wrt discount games, only if I get discount legal advice.
Foggy’s typing up another text immediately.
Square deal. Txt me if u get arrested, he tells her.
With the electronic ice broken, as it were, Foggy and Jo spend the next week calling and texting each other. Some incident with Jones has caused a spike in Hogarth’s workload, which means a spike in Foggy’s workload, so they don’t set up another date. But he’d already been pretty certain of his answer by Monday night anyway, and when Foggy realizes that their dumb little text conversations – light, fun, with no mention of the proposal or pushes for an answer one way or the other – are the highlight of his days, that just clinches it for him. Until that moment, he hadn’t quite realized how much… Well, how much his life sucks without Matt. That subtle nagging feeling when he thinks of an awful joke and Matt isn’t there to listen, or when he discovers a great new turn of phrase and can’t use it to describe something to Matt, or when he sees Daredevil in the news and can’t call Matt up to see if he’s still alive. Only when lifted slightly out of his slump is it obvious how unhappy he’s been since Nelson and Murdock closed.
And it’s not that Foggy regrets the decisions that got him to where he is. He doesn’t regret ending a partnership that was becoming one partner and the frayed ends of a friendship. He’s not upset to be making real actual cash money instead of literal peanuts. It just… Well. It hurts. There’s no way around that, not unless Tony Stark builds a time machine and Foggy pulls a Back to the Future, although beyond yelling at Matt more Foggy’s not sure what he could do to fix things even with foreknowledge. You can’t make someone care about you, after all. You can’t make them put in the effort to care.
And the thing is, Jo is putting in that effort. Even with their busy schedules, she’s sure to check on him, tell him about her own day, debate stupid things with him. She’s interested in him, and his life, and she wants to share hers too. It soothes the part of Foggy that calls him worthless in Rosalind Sharpe’s voice. The part that tells him Matt didn’t think he was worth the effort of keeping around. Definitely not a healthy way to cope with his demons, Foggy’s at least self-aware enough to know that much, but… He and Jo are in this stupid thing together. She’s not going to resent him for using her a little bit, not when she’s doing the same. They’re holding each other up, he supposes.
It’s more than anyone else is going to do for them.
Saw this dog and thought of you, Jo texts Friday while on her lunch break. The attached picture is a grinning corgi wearing a pink sweater.
Marry me, Foggy replies.
His phone rings three seconds later.
“Do you mean it?” Jo demands without so much as a hello.
She sounds gratifyingly breathless.
“Yeah,” he laughs. “Yeah, I mean it. You’ve wooed me with cute dog pictures and Snapple bottle facts and dumb stories about your kid brother. Let’s get married.”
“Knew I’d win you over eventually,” she teases back. “Did… Should I call Rosalind? From what little you’ve told me about how she treats you I can’t imagine you want to talk to her much.”
Staring at his day planner, Foggy sighs.
“No, I’ll do it. But, uh. Give me until tomorrow morning, ok? There’s a few other people I have to tell first.”
“Yeah! Of course! Just… Let me know, I guess. How it goes.”
They say their goodbyes and hang up, and Foggy proceeds to spend the majority of his own lunch break re-organizing his schedule so he can take off early. He’d explained Rosalind’s offer to his family briefly, before the date with Jo. But… He hadn’t wanted to tell them anything else until he was sure what his decision would be. The Nelsons mean well, but with his biological mother already breathing down his neck about the whole thing, Foggy knows it’s good he did his thinking alone. His family loves him, and he doubts they’re going to agree that this is what’s best. Especially since they’ve all had a front-row seat to ten years of Foggy mooning over Matt freaking Murdock, most perfect human being in existence. His mom in particular had been rooting for him, and Anna Nelson is nothing if not a believer that true love wins out.
Even when he leaves the office, Foggy’s still not sure how he’s going to explain to her that he’s giving up on it. On Matt. But he knows he’ll figure it out, because he has to.
His mother is the only one home, so early on a Friday afternoon.
“Frankie!” Anna greets him at the door, a smile on her face. “What’s the occasion?”
Foggy tries to smile back but he probably doesn’t manage to make it convincing. It’s fine, she’s always been able to see right through him anyway.
“It’s about… You remember what we talked about last week? The deal with Rosalind?”
Anna’s expression goes dark. Foggy wants to hurry out what he has to say, try to alleviate that expression as soon as possible, but he can’t make himself say the words. And it would be stupid not to take his time, not to explain the situation as best he can.
“Yes,” Anna replies at last, leading them both over to the living room couch. “You told us you were meeting that girl on Saturday. We’ve… We’ve all been waiting for an update since then.”
Foggy flinches a little, guiltily, as he settles into the cushions. Looking around affords him a chance to stall. He doesn’t visit much, not since his parents moved out of the city, but everything is exactly like he remembers it. There are, perhaps, a few more pictures of his nephews on the wall, but that’s to be expected. There’s still a lace doily on the side table and ugly maroon carpet on the floor and the TV is still about five years too old.
“Sorry, Mom. I meant to, well… I just needed time to think.”
She pats his hand and nods understandingly.
“I take that to mean that you’ve come to a decision?”
It’s a simple yes or no question. It’s literally what Foggy came to say. He still has to take a few deep breaths before he feels confident he can say it while keeping his voice steady.
“I’m going to accept the proposal.”
“Sweetheart,” Anna says, soft and wounded.
Foggy can’t make himself meet her eyes.
“I’m sorry, Mom, I know you don’t approve but I’ve just… Gotta do this, ok?”
For a moment, Anna’s resolve seems to waver. Her hand, outstretched, pauses in the air. And then it clasps Foggy’s shoulder comfortingly.
“I know Rosalind is important to you, darling, but this…” She sighs. “You don’t have to hurt yourself for her sake. You don’t deserve that.”
Foggy smiles weakly.
“It’s alright, Mom. I promise. It’s gonna be ok. I’m… I’m happy with my choice, you have to believe that. I wouldn’t do this if I wasn’t sure.”
Her hand works its way up to Foggy’s cheek, and then strokes his hair. It’s the same thing she used to do when he came home after middle school – dry-but-blotchy-faced, refusing to tell her about the bullying.
“What about Matthew?” she asks him.
Foggy opens his mouth, closes it, considers all the answers he could give and how none of them are quite right. It was never gonna happen anyway is true but too much of a cop-out. He chose Daredevil over me is too revealing. Jo’s maybe I’m tired of being alone hits the sentiment just right, but Foggy has no way to explain why he doesn’t try to fill that loneliness together with Matt, like he always has, instead of giving up.
“He doesn’t love me,” he ends up choking out without even thinking.
There are tears dripping down Foggy’s jaw by the time he realizes what he’s said, and his mom folds him in her arms. They hug, tightly, and cry for a good long while. When they part, Anna brushes the last few tears from Foggy’s face with her thumb.
“Can… Will you tell the others for me?” he asks. “About the engagement?”
He doesn’t think he can stay, doesn’t think he can handle saying this all over again.
“Of course I will, sweetheart. Just… Can you bring her around sometime? At least let us… When you’re ready, we’d all like to meet her.”
“Yeah… Yeah, sure.”
Before Foggy leaves, his mother packs his arms full of leftovers. He doesn’t need them, not the way he did when he was working with Matt and living off rhubarb pie and green bean casserole, but his family’s home cooking is always soothing in a way no other food quite manages to be, so he appreciates it.
He gets a final, clumsy hug and a kiss on the cheek at the door, and then heads home – wrung out, but lighter.
Rosalind sounds knowing and a little too satisfied with herself when Foggy calls her up Saturday morning at 8am and tells her he’ll agree to the marriage. Apparently Tanner Burnett called her on Friday and told her that Jo was all for it. Rosalind’s attitude kind of makes Foggy want to back out on principle, but. He’s given the idea some thought and he’s made his decision and he’s promised Jo. Tearing up the opportunity and breaking his word to her just to spite his bio mom is stupid.
Called Rosalind, he texts Jo, knowing that she’s got morning hours on Saturdays and can’t pick up the phone. Ready 2 get hitched?
He gets his answer two hours later while weighing two potential Tupperwares of leftovers in his hands – chicken and biscuits, or minute steak? He sets both on the counter to snatch up his phone when it dings at him, and can’t help but laugh.
Only if I get to wear the dress.
Chapter 5: You're a Good Businessman, Mr. Burnett, But a Bad Father
Foggy Nelson meets Tanner Burnett. It's not a fun time.
Ok gang, this is the part where things start to get a little heavy. This part and the next will turn things a smidge political, if you want to call it that. Just let me know if there's anything you think I need to tag, or if you have concerns about the way I end up portraying a few sensitive subjects. I'm trying to be delicate with my writing, but we all make mistakes so...
They both have Sunday off, so Foggy agrees to meet Jo at her apartment in the afternoon, to start planning. He’s ready to settle in for a relaxing morning when he receives another call – this one from Rosalind. Of course.
“Tanner wants to speak with you about the marriage,” she says with polite disinterest. “Vet you himself, so to speak. I trust you can find the way to the Blaze offices? He’s working, this morning.”
If he wanted to talk to me, why the hell didn’t he call himself, Foggy wants to say. He doesn’t, though. HC&B has mostly cured him of his foot-in-mouth syndrome, at least in professional settings. And it’s not like he doesn’t know the answer to his question. Important people don’t make time for others, everyone else makes time for them. And like the regular jerk he is, Foggy makes time for Tanner Burnett.
“I’ll get there,” Foggy sighs.
Rosalind hangs up without even a goodbye. But whatever. Good riddance.
Foggy takes a cab to Blaze, since he can finally afford to do so instead of walking everywhere. He has to get out a block early, though, because there’s a pretty heinous-looking mob scattered around the front of the building. It’s an eclectic mix of middle-aged soccer moms with signs about how video games are ‘corrupting our youth’ and well-dressed Young-Republican-looking college dudes who seem to be calling the company cowardly for… Something. Foggy tries not to look to close, keeping his focus intensely on skirting the protesters.
He startles at the voice in his ear, and just about knocks into the woman behind him who’s trying to get his attention. She’s wearing a startling lavender pantsuit, and carrying a clipboard. Her smile seems to suggest she’s trying not to laugh at his jumpiness.
“Yeah. That’s. I’m Mr. Nelson. Did they… Send you down to meet me, or…?” Foggy stammers, jerking a thumb back at the towering glass building behind him.
“Yes, that’s right,” Lavender Pantsuit tells him with striking enunciation. “I am Eva Hernandez, one of Mr. Burnett’s personal assistants. When the… Crowd, began to gather, he suggested it might be more efficient if I were to lead you in. Less difficulties, you understand.”
They both glance at the protesters, briefly.
“That is probably a good idea, yeah.”
Ms. Hernandez leads Foggy in through a side entrance, and he finds himself studying the lobby of Blaze. It reminds him a little bit of Landman and Zack – lots of glass, ceilings way too tall – but it’s also got a bit of the colorful character that game companies are known for. Less white-and-chrome, more orange-red-yellow. There’s even some abstract decorative mosaics in fiery colors. Fancy. He supposes with the name of the company, a palette like that just makes sense, though.
“So, Ms. Hernandez, can I ask about… Uh. That, out there?” Foggy wonders. “Does it happen often?”
He receives a shrug as they make their way towards the row of elevators situated at the back of the lobby.
“Fairly often, I suppose. Mr. Burnett generally doesn’t pay them any mind. All publicity is good publicity, as they say,” Ms. Hernandez notes cheerfully. “But mathematically speaking, the thing is the protestors are way outnumbered by the fans, so it would be stupid to cater to them just because they’re loud.”
“Right,” Foggy agrees, although he’s not completely sure.
He’s played a few Blaze games before, but he’s never really jumped in to video games as a culture because… Well, for one thing, he’s spent most of his young adult life poor as hell. But secondly, he’s just not the kind of guy who’s into cooperative or competitive gaming, which are where there’s the biggest chance to form a community. He used to be, back in undergrad, but law school definitely didn’t leave time for keeping up with MMO-type stuff. Give him low-commitment single-player games he can fit around his schedule any day. More recently, Daredevil has definitely turned him off of fighting games, so that even now when he has the money and at least a modicum of time, it’s not the kind of thing that appeals to him anymore. Mostly he just plays the games he already has, if he plays at all. For the past month or two, it’s been Ace Attorney; after the crazy shit he went through with Matt, even Phoenix Wright games seem almost normal by comparison. Guilty until proven innocent? Put a parrot on the stand? Sure, why the fuck not, after all, Foggy’s blind best friend is a triple-flipping vigilante ninja and Foggy himself headed a defense for the Punisher, so is anything truly unrealistic anymore? No, no it is not.
“I have a few things to finish down here,” Ms. Hernandez says, pressing the up button on one of the elevators. “But you can find Mr. Burnett’s office on Floor 25 – just keep going straight until you reach the end of the hall, ok?”
“Sure thing,” agrees Foggy, but Ms. Hernandez is already striding away and the elevator doors are opening.
Foggy sighs and steps inside, pressing the button for the 25th floor. The elevator moves both too quickly and too slowly at the same time, and he’s left picking at nonexistent strings on his suit jacket because there’s not enough room to properly pace. The fidgeting is an unfortunate nervous tic he must have picked up from Matt at some point, and doesn’t that just burn.
Finally, the doors open to a long hallway of offices. The one at the very end of the hall has its door partially open, and as Foggy approaches, he’s able to hear inside it.
The first impression Foggy has of his father-in-law-to-be is a low, irritated voice. Through the open door, Foggy can make him out as he stares out his window, perhaps at the small mob below, with a sleek cell phone at his ear. He looks to be about Foggy’s height, with a stern face and white hair. Something in his features reminds Foggy of Jo.
“If you want productive employees, you need healthy employees,” Tanner Burnett says impatiently into the phone. “Honestly. How do you expect people to get decent work done when they’re half-starved or worried about clothing their children? If your workers are defecting to Blaze, Anderson, that’s why.”
It’s… Not really what Foggy had expected. He supposes maybe that’s unfair; Jo had certainly had a few complimentary things to say about her father, setting aside his pushy insensitivity for her bisexuality, but. That tidbit combined with the fact that he’s apparently friends with Rosalind Sharpe hadn’t combined into the best expectations, no matter Blaze’s reputation for creating diverse and accessible games.
Foggy waits out the argument, unwilling to knock on the door and make his presence known until Tanner Burnett ends the call with a click and an angry growl. The second their eyes meet, Foggy feels a chill. But he steps into the office anyway when motioned to, and closes the door behind himself.
“Franklin Nelson,” Mr. Burnett greets with a tip of his head.
Foggy does not correct him. He just nods.
“Please, call me Tanner. We’re soon to be family, after all, if things go well.” Though Foggy can’t think of a good response, he doesn’t need to because Tanner continues on without waiting for one. “I want you to know I’ve done my homework on you, Franklin. The kind of lawyer you are, the kind of man you are. Rosalind was prepared with information about you, of course, but I didn’t get where I am today by trusting a sales pitch, even one from a friend.”
“That makes a lot of sense,” Foggy ventures, not sure exactly where the conversation is going.
“There are a lot of things my daughter and I don’t see eye-to-eye on, but I won’t stand for any man who likes to knock women around to be anywhere near her. From what I’ve observed, you aren’t that kind of person.”
“I’m not,” says Foggy. “I am definitely, definitely not. Like, if we’re being completely honest here, Jo could probably take me in a fight.”
Tanner nods, and turns to walk back towards the window of the building.
“How about drugs, Franklin? You haven’t been charged with anything, but I admit your college photos give me a bit of pause.”
Stoner haircut strikes again, Foggy thinks, but he’s not sure if it’s more irritating that Tanner is making assumptions or that the stereotype exists at all.
“I can promise you I’m drug-free,” he says. “I’m sure Hogarth still has the mandatory screening from my hiring sitting around somewhere. I tried marijuana all of once and it was definitely not for me. If your daughter ever ends up in proximity to a drug den during our marriage, it will not be my doing.”
The last is said with a light, lilted tone – jokingly. Tanner Burnett doesn’t so much as crack a smile about it, though Foggy thinks maybe the corner of his mouth lifts a little. Finally, he turns back to face Foggy fully again with a much more serious look on his face.
“There’s one more large concern I have,” Tanner admits. “Your request from Rosalind and I, your former firm. How close are you with the Daredevil? Will your presence in her life put my daughter in danger by association? No matter what people say about the greater good, insane vigilantes and so-called heroes with strange powers are not worth their weight in collateral damage, and Jolene already has an interest in him. I want your guarantee you can keep that masked thug from interacting with her.”
Anger burns low in Foggy’s gut, a slowly boiling magma. He pushes it back down, locks it tight, and takes a deep, trembling breath.
“Daredevil and I have no contact,” he tells Tanner firmly. “With all due respect, the request I made was for my own personal convictions and I won’t be interrogated about it or this deal is off. Jo’s not going to be associated with Daredevil. You’ll just have to take my word about that.”
There’s a pause, then, and Foggy has the distinct feeling he’s made a mistake. A tight, smug smile crosses Tanner Burnett’s face.
“There it is. You were a little mouthy before but I wondered if you had any real teeth. That’s good. I don’t trust a person who doesn’t get angry about at least something.”
The comment throws Foggy off, cuts through the red he’s seeing. He’s reminded of how things were with Rosalind when he was younger. Constantly on his toes but still unable to shift with the seemingly inexplicable tides of her manipulations.
“So you were just trying to get a rise out of me?” he asks before realizing it’s probably not a tactful thing to ask.
“They were all legitimate concerns. But I think they’ve been properly addressed. Now then, as I’ve said, Jolene and I are not often in agreement, but this matter is of importance to me anyway, so I have one final question. You’ll look after her, Franklin?” Tanner demands, expression scrutinizing.
“Yes. I.” Foggy coughs, clears his throat. “Yes, sir, of course I will.”
“Good. Rosalind says you’re well-suited, and Jolene seems to agree, so I’ll accept your word on the matter for now. Do not disappoint me.”
“No, of course not,” Foggy stammers, and manages to stop himself from rambling anything else out afterwards.
There’s a nod of acknowledgment.
“I told Jolene she could find a decent man to marry if she just tried,” he tells Foggy, straightening the papers on his desk. “And with your salary you’ll both be able to afford to live somewhere nice, somewhere safer, instead of that crime-ridden ghetto she insists on renting in now.”
“Sure,” Foggy agrees, biting his tongue on any of the things he really wants to say.
He wants to ask some questions of his own, wants to know what Tanner Burnett thinks of the other people who live in Jo’s neighborhood, wants to know what he thinks of the people Daredevil has saved and the people he’s saved them from. Most of all he wants to know what Tanner Burnett thinks of his daughter’s poetry, of her aspirations. Wants to ask him if he tries to lock those parts of her away too. He doesn’t though, and he knows he never would with circumstances being what they are. Even as Jo’s fiancé, Foggy has no right to push these issues of contention into center stage. They’re between Jo and her father, and he hasn’t known either of them long enough to learn his place in their dynamic except that he’s going to stand by Jo no matter what. Silent and supportive if that’s what she needs, loud and argumentative if that’s what she wants. Her terms. The way she offered to call Rosalind for him but accepted his need to face her himself.
“That’s all I needed,” Tanner finishes dismissively. “I suppose we will see one another again soon, Franklin.”
Foggy nods, can’t make himself say anything and risk the escape of the words anytime would be too soon, clenched between his teeth. In utter silence, he makes his way back down the hall, through the elevator to the ground floor, and back out the side entrance Ms. Hernandez had brought him in. He’s so angry he doesn’t even have to try to ignore the crowd outside the building, though they haven’t dispersed or lowered their voices.
According to Foggy’s phone, it’s about lunchtime and he still has two hours before he needs to meet up with Jo.
He spends most of it stress-eating greasy vendor food.
Chapter 6: Chekhov's Maid of Honor
Foggy heads to Jo's apartment to discuss wedding details. He meets Jo's mysterious best friend, and considers the question of just who he's going to ask to be his Best Man.
This is... A very long chapter. I couldn't think of a place to break it up, so it's going all together. On the bright side, you will see Matt again immediately in the next chapter as Foggy gathers his courage to pop the (entirely wrong) question!
As for this chapter's contents... I hope you guys enjoy the introduction to our final main character!
Thanks to another taxi and the address Jo texted him, Foggy arrives at her apartment at 1:00 on the dot. By the address alone, it’s not what he would have normally expected for a CEO’s daughter – squarely in the boundaries of Hell’s Kitchen. That makes Tanner Burnett’s estimation of the neighborhood rankle even more than it already had. But when he reaches the building, it’s a little like coming home. The quintessential post-Incident Hell’s Kitchen apartment building. Old, beaten up, but still solid. Still standing.
Foggy’s avoided Hell’s Kitchen so completely after signing on with HC&B that he’s shocked how easy it is to cross that invisible border into Matt’s territory again. Maybe because the promise of Jo’s understanding is warding off the hurt. Or maybe he just misses Hell’s Kitchen – misses Matt, too – that much. Maybe both.
Jo buzzes him into the building, and Foggy makes his way to the third floor. As he steps into the hall, he sees her leaning in the entryway of an apartment two doors down. Dressed in a slightly oversized plaid shirt and jeans, Jo looks… Different. More herself, almost, though he hadn’t thought she looked unlike herself in a fancy blouse and skirt. Her fingernails are still painted a flawless Daredevil red-black.
“I didn’t realize this was a formal occasion, I would have dressed nicer,” she jokes instead of saying hello.
It dissipates the last of the bitter taste that the conversation with Tanner Burnett left in Foggy’s mouth.
“That’s where I have you fooled,” he replies. “I roll out of bed looking like this. This is some quality, grade-A movie star material you’re marrying here, Jolene.”
As he reaches her, she fidgets, indecisive, and then holds out her arms for a hug. And, well, Foggy is definitely a hugger. He sweeps her into his arms without hesitation. They both sink into it probably a little too much, considering they’ve only known each other like, a week. But Foggy needs the comfort and he suspects Jo probably does too. Whatever, the entire country is touch-starved so it’s not like it’s that weird.
“How was your morning?” he asks as they pull away from one another. “Better than mine, I hope.”
“If you’re hoping it was, then it probably was. I’ve just been home all morning, though.”
Another woman appears at Jo’s shoulder, suddenly. Foggy finds her face familiar, thinks he might have seen her in some of the pictures when he looked Jo up. She’s shorter than he is, but has perhaps half a foot on Jo. They take each other in silently for a few seconds. The mystery woman is black, with a soft, pleasant face, warm eyes, a wide nose, and a cascade of dark hair that reaches her waist, done up in tiny little braids. The dress she’s wearing is blue, covered with geometric designs and belted at the middle. A crystal bracelet sparkles on her left wrist. She’s gorgeous, and probably more stylish than Foggy has ever been.
After a few seconds of his gaping, Jo looks over her shoulder and smiles.
“Oh! Right. Foggy, this is Ivonne Williams, my best friend. She’s going to be my Maid of Honor. She’s… The one I told you about, before. At dinner. Ivy, this is my fiancé Foggy Nelson, formerly of the Nelson and Murdock.”
Foggy holds out a hand and Ivonne shakes it. Her smile seems somehow both genuine and forced and he has no idea how to parse that.
“I know wh-what you’re thinking and no,” Ivonne says, and her pronounced stutter catches Foggy a bit off-guard. “No re-rel-relation to Simon Williams of Williams Innov-v-vations.”
She laughs, then, brightly, and offers a fist to Jo, who bumps it with her own.
“Our longest-running inside joke,” Jo explains to Foggy.
“It’s nice to meet you, Ivonne,” he says, finally remembering his manners.
“You t-too.” She pauses, just long enough for the moment to read as odd, and turns to Jo. “I… I-I should r-really be g-g-going, Jojo.”
Jo’s smile drops off her face.
“Are you sure?” she asks Ivonne. “I thought maybe we could all… Is it work?”
Though he doesn’t have crazy heartbeat-hearing superpowers, Foggy is still a damn good lawyer, and he has his own way of telling when witnesses are lying. The way Ivonne’s gaze darts away from Jo and back again, paired with the subtle fidgeting she’s doing with her bracelet, doesn’t bode well for her answer.
“Y-yeah, j-j-just work stuff. Gotta work hard to i-im-impress Dr. Cho. I’ll cah-catch you later, ok?”
Ivonne heads straight for the stairwell and doesn’t pause for a response. For a moment, Jo deliberates, biting her lip. And then she starts rushing after Ivonne.
“You go ahead and make yourself at home,” she tells Foggy over her shoulder. “I’ll see her off, make sure she gets a cab, you know.”
So, Foggy heads into the apartment. It’s a little nostalgic, though certainly a bit nicer than his old one had been. The carpet is ugly and the walls are bare except for a few hastily tacked-up sketches of what Foggy’s hazy recollection of public school science leads him to believe are plant cells. Weird. There’s a date and a messy ‘IW’ scribbled in the corner of each one, and he wonders if Ivonne drew them.
Past the sitting area is a kitchen section with a tile floor. Jo has both an oven and a dishwasher, Foggy notes with some surprise. That practically qualifies the place as fancy. To the side are a couple of doors, one that leads to a bedroom and the other to a tiny bathroom. Well, bathroom is generous. More like a bath-closet, but he knows how that goes.
Foggy continues his exploration for several more minutes before he starts becoming a bit concerned that Jo hasn’t returned yet. He moves to the apartment’s front door, debating whether to head down after Ivonne and Jo, and nearly bowls his fiancée right over.
They steady each other for a second.
“Sorry about that,” Jo apologizes. “I just wanted to make sure she was going to get home ok, and…”
As she trails off, they step back into the apartment and Jo closes the door behind them. With a shrug of his shoulders, Foggy ruffles a hand through his hair.
“Nah, it’s fine. She’s your best friend, I get it. Plus, well… I understand if she’s got some concerns about our whole… You know.”
But all he gets is a shake of her head that sends dark hair fluttering.
“I didn’t tell her about…” Jo gestures vaguely between herself and Foggy. “Our. Deal thing. I guess I was too embarrassed to admit it.”
Oh. Well. There goes his primary suspicion for Ivonne’s odd reaction to him. Foggy nods anyway.
“I told my family about it. Anything else… I’m fine keeping the details to ourselves if you are.”
The relief that spreads across Jo’s face tells Foggy he’s made the right decision. Truthfully, he’s not that keen on telling people about the details of their betrothal either. Karen’s so independent and headstrong that he’s certain she wouldn’t warm up to the idea well, and Brett might play like he and Foggy hate each other but this is the kind of thing Foggy knows would worry him. It really is better for everyone to keep things on the downlow.
Jo settles onto the couch. There’s a moment where Foggy deliberates where he ought to sit, but then Jo pats the couch cushion next to her in invitation so he drops down beside her.
“So. Uh. What was all that about work stuff?” he asks.
The question elicits a grin.
“Ivy just got a job with U-GIN Genetics Infinite – they’re like, a medical R&D company,” Jo brags. “Crazy shit. Anyway, they’re trying to go global, just set up an office here in New York. She’s making the big bucks now, you should see her apartment. It’s got the best view.”
“So that’s what all the secrecy about her is about, huh? She’s working on secret government issued bionic legs and you have to hide her away to protect her privacy.”
It’s a friendly jab as much as it’s a genuine question. He’d thought it was weird that the best friend who’d been saved by Daredevil never came up in conversation even when he and Jo were in contact practically 24/7. And Ivonne seems perfectly lovely, if maybe a bit shy, so why…?
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to, well, to… It’s just I try not to talk about her much,” Jo explains, quiet and a little guilty, hunched over. “Not unless it’s with someone I really trust. Ivy has put up with—a lot, because of me.”
“Hey,” says Foggy, nudging her lightly with his shoulder. “You’re not so bad.”
It gets him a weak laugh, but no more.
“The press, the paparazzi, the internet, they say stupid things, awful things about people… Ah, god,” Jo hisses, tugging at her hair. “I’m skirting it. You know what I mean, right? It’s because she’s a black woman, because she’s a lesbian, because she likes to go to parties, because of her stutter. Anything they decided they wanted to pick at, just because they were mad at Blaze, mad at me. Some of the things they said about her—I wanted to kill something.” There’s a bang as Jo slams the side of her fist into the table in front of them. “She’s so soft, such a private person, I can’t even imagine how it all made her feel. I wanna protect her from that if I can, let her have as much privacy as I can give her.”
There’s something eerily familiar about those sentiments, especially when paired with violence. It strikes too much of a chord with Foggy, makes his pulse pound a little angry in his veins.
“You know pulling away isn’t the answer, though, right?” he demands sharply.
“Yeah. Yeah, I. Jesus. I got the memo about that years ago,” Jo replies with a self-deprecating smile. “But I’m still as careful as I can be. Try not to draw attention to her, to either of us.”
Foggy doesn’t know what he can say to that. It’s a little too much for him, if he’s honest. He doesn’t want to think about ways that Jo is like Matt. Doesn’t want to think about Ivonne having to go through what he’s been through.
“Why don’t,” he finally manages to say. “Why don’t you just tell me about her? Just her. I mean, I did spend an hour gushing to you about Matt so really it’s only fair.”
The tension drains out of Jo’s shoulders almost immediately.
“Ivy likes clubs,” she begins, “dancing, you know. Not really my scene but she’s gorgeous under the lights. Like an angel. I honestly think she has more coordination in her left foot than I have in my whole body.”
From there it’s easy, simple. Foggy learns that Ivonne minored in art, and that the cell studies on the wall are indeed her work. Jo explains the context of the Simon Williams joke; a preemptive, intentional misunderstanding to head off the inevitable ‘are you related to Serena Williams?’ Ivonne hears a thousand times a day. They’ve been friends since they were five, she tells him. Foggy has a brief flutter of longing at that – wonders if he and Matt would have gotten along well as children. Their friendship spanned a decade, but Jo and Ivonne have been friends over twice that long, and the realization is staggering.
After a while, Jo trails off, clears her throat.
“Ugh. I’ve been talking forever, my throat’s dry,” she complains. “You want something to drink?”
“Just water,” says Foggy.
“Yeah, sure thing!” As she makes her way to the kitchen area, Jo throws him a glance over her shoulder. “Can I ask about the suit? Did HC&B call you in to work this morning?”
Foggy clears his throat.
“Actually… Your dad wanted to talk to me.” As Jo begins filling two glasses from the sink, Foggy raises his voice to be heard. “I went down to Blaze this morning to see him.”
There’s an irritated ‘tsk’ as the water shuts off, and Jo makes her way back to the sitting area. The glass in her right hand is already half empty.
“He actually made you go all the way there? God, what a dick,” Jo sighs, passing him the full glass. “What’d you think of Blaze, though? Kinda Tron, right?”
“The evil computer program part or the clunky 80s animation part?” jokes Foggy as he accepts his drink.
“Both, obviously. They also have a laser in the basement, if you were wondering.”
There’s a pause, then, where Foggy sips at the water and tries to figure out how to say what he wants to say.
“I was surprised,” he finally decides on. “About what I could pick up regarding the way he runs his business.”
Maybe a bit of a vague way to word it, but it’s the most diplomatic explanation he can come up with. Jo makes a soft noise of agreement.
“It’s not his public policy that’s the problem,” she admits, beginning to pace with her own glass of water still in hand. “It’s his personal one. You know. The gays and the transes and ‘promiscuous’ women and people with superpowers are all fine out there in the workforce and Blaze’s games and the ether, out where it all means money, but try to bring any of that nonsense into the sphere of his actual life and whoa it’s just too much.” She sighs angrily and tugs at her hair. “I’m being judgmental. It’s. It’s not big things, just little comments here and there, little sparks that can billow into massive arguments. I never know what to say. And I’m glad that he keeps all that shit separate from the business, but it makes me so angry—so angry that he’s fine with everyone else existing in ways he disagrees with, but I’m the one who has to put up with that disagreement.”
“It’s not the oppression Olympics,” Foggy points out. “It’s ok to be pissed about that. Hell, I’m pissed off about it and I only had to talk to him for a few minutes.”
“The people who make the games, design the games, they’re earnest,” insists Jo. “They mean it. So usually I feel like I can’t talk about any of the at-home stuff because it’s those earnest people and the ones they’re making games for who’ll suffer for it if any of this gets out. So, I. Thanks. For listening.”
“Hey.” Foggy stands up and reaches out, taking Jo’s free hand in his own. “We’re a team now, you and me. I take that pretty seriously. So this is just… Par for the course. And besides, if you think I’m not going to complain to you about Jones’s crazy PI escapades getting me more work, then you are in for a great big surprise.”
That gets a laugh out of Jo, settles both of them back down to a point where they can discuss business. After all, Foggy didn’t really come over to pry about Ivonne or Tanner, he came over so they could start getting the wedding in order. With more difficult topics out of the way, they steer themselves back to silly details.
“Ivy and I were talking colors this morning,” Jo explains when Foggy admits he has no idea where to start. “How do you feel about purple and gray? At least one neutral tone should mean everyone will look alright, and it’s apparently one of the most popular combinations for wedding colors so it must look at least halfway decent, right?”
Foggy considers, theatrically, with a hand on his chin.
“I can rock purple.”
Neither of them know what the heck they’re doing when it comes to decorating, so they set it aside until they have more competent assistance. Flowers and cake and clothes will all require a more professional hand, but the two of them can at least start sketching out who they might want in the wedding party, so they do that.
Marci and Karen are obvious choices for Foggy, but for groomsmen he ends up drawing a blank. Aside from Brett, how many guys does he even know that well?
“If you wanted, we could trade a few,” Jo suggests. “Groomsmen for bridesmaids. It seems like you’ve got some pretty brilliant women in your life, and there’s a few guys I’d like in the wedding party, so.”
“I have way too many sisters to fit them all in the wedding party even if we reversed it,” Foggy laughs. “But, Candy will bawl her eyes out if she’s not in.”
“Candace has to be in on the action, huh,” muses Jo, shaking her head. “Alex is like that too. Want to put them both together in the lineup, then? My little brother with your little sister – should give it some nice symmetry.”
Interestingly, Jo seems to have an equal and opposite predicament to him. She’s got her brother, a friend from work, and a childhood buddy listed for potential groomsmen, but only Ivonne and a college friend for bridesmaids. In the end, they decide it’s best to split it that way just to save them both the effort of each coming up with a sixth person.
Not that that solves the real problem Foggy’s having with the lineup.
“God I don’t even know where to start for a Best Man,” he groans. “I guess I could ask Brett…? But then I’d still be down one groomsman.”
A slight movement in his peripherals makes Foggy lift his head. Across the room, Jo drums her nails on an end table.
“I know things are in a real rough place for you two,” she says. “But. I couldn’t imagine doing this without Ivy there. Do you think you’ll regret it if you get married without Matt?”
All of Foggy tenses at once, painfully.
“No. … Yes. I don’t know.” He groans in frustration, scrubbing a hand through his hair. “Won’t that just suck more for everyone?”
“I mean, maybe. But we’re going to be stuck in a church for three hours selling our lives away on the whims of my dad and Rosalind, so it’s going to suck anyway probably. You might as well bring someone you like along, even if you hate him.”
“That makes, like… Negative five sense, you know that right?”
“Yeah. I know.” She wets her lips and then speaks a bit more seriously. “I don’t wanna push you or anything, I know there’s a lot of reasons it’s a bad idea. Guess I just wanted you to know that you have the option. You don’t need to dismiss it out of hand for my sake or anything. Like you said, we’re a team now, and he’s your friend, so however you want to handle it is fine.”
Neither of them mentions it again for the rest of the afternoon, but the words linger in Foggy’s mind.
“Well,” Marci says, appraisingly, when he asks her to be a bridesmaid. “I didn’t think you’d actually do it. She’s right to snatch you up, though, you’ll make a wonderful trophy husband.”
It’s… Probably a compliment. Regardless of how little it’s based in reality.
“You know she’s not actually rich, right?” Foggy asks with a sigh. “Her dad is, but she’s not seeing any of his money except maybe in stupid-lavish wedding preparations.”
Marci waves her hand to dismiss the thought.
“Regardless. So, give me the scoop. I’m guessing Brett Mahoney is going to be the Best Man?”
And there it is. Foggy shuffles a bit, but… It’s got to come out, anyway, and he wants Marci’s opinion on it even though he can already guess what it’ll be.
“I… I thought I might ask Matt to be my Best Man, actually,” he mumbles.
Marci’s expression is less than impressed.
“Are you sure that’s such a good idea, Foggy Bear? You can’t even trust him to show up for a court case or visit you in the hospital and you want him to help plan your wedding?” she asks him. “Although if you do end up pulling a Runaway Bride, I suppose it would be useful to have your boyfriend on hand.”
The way she says it, without even a pause, stings. But she didn’t do it to hurt him, not really, and Marci’s always been good at pushing to the point of pain in the right way. If he wants to have Matt as his best man, he’ll have to face his own feelings for him at least in some small way.
“We’ll see, I guess,” he concludes lamely. “He might not even say yes if I ask him.”
Marci hums thoughtfully, but doesn’t offer any further comment on the matter.
Foggy meets Karen at an upscale café with an unpronounceable French name. They never go to Josie’s, not since they closed the tab, but they do meet up at other bars sometimes, to commiserate. This is supposed to be a happy occasion, though – hence the café.
Foggy ends up running a few minutes late, and by the time he arrives Karen is already seated with her coffee. Work at The Bulletin seems to be treating Karen well. She looks less afraid, less harried. Healthy, like she’s finally getting a few decent meals in her. Every time he sees her, she’s more confident and assured. Even now he feels a little twinge of guilt for his part in… Well, in the whole Nelson and Murdock disaster.
They’ve both had a chance to talk it out. The lies, the guilt, the blame, all that. It wasn’t easy, but it is over, they’ve both moved past it. But it’s made Foggy more determined to be a better friend to Karen in the future.
“You said you had news?” she asks as soon as he settles across from her at the little café table.
“Hi, Karen, how are you, Karen, isn’t the weather nice today, Karen?” he teases her.
Her frown is exaggerated, nothing like the real one.
“Alright, alright,” he concedes anyway. “I do have news. I’m…” He blows out a breath to steady himself. “I’m getting married.”
Silence. Foggy’s eyes dart down to his coffee cup and he takes a long drink. Then, there’s a nervous laugh from across the table.
“No, really. What is it?” Karen asks.
“I’m getting married,” repeats Foggy, and thinks maybe he sounds like he means it more this time. “And I’d like it if you were in the wedding party. As one of the bridesmaids.”
“Oh my god. You’re serious. Oh my god… Foggy Nelson!” she scolds. “You got engaged and didn’t tell me immediately?”
“Thought I’d invite you personally to my pending nuptials,” Foggy says magnanimously.
Karen smiles and shakes her head.
“Is it Marci?”
“No! No. Nope. Actually it’s.” Foggy sighs. “You haven’t met her. Her name’s Jolene Burnett. She’s a poet, but she mostly does temp work to pay the bills. Her dad knows my bio mom; they kinda set us up, and we really hit it off.”
It’s the truth, in the most basic sense. He consoles himself with that much, that he’s not outright lying to her. Still, it’s… He knows if she ever finds out, she’ll be insanely mad about it.
“Jolene. That’s Tanner Burnett’s daughter, isn’t it?” asks Karen.
She leans forward a little, and Foggy wonders if maybe she’s using her reporterly wiles on him. He starts to sweat a little.
“Yeah? I mean yeah. She is.”
“Hm. Interesting.” She leans back again, seemingly satisfied for the moment. “Well, if you want me to, I’d love to be a bridesmaid. Who were you thinking for Best Man, though? Since Matt’s…”
Karen seems to realize she’s overstepped a little and trails off. Foggy attempts a smile.
“I… I thought I might ask him anyway,” he tells her honestly. “There was something Jo told me that kind of… She asked me if I’d regret it, not having him there on such an important day. And the truth is I probably would. Matt and I have been best friends for ten years, of course I would. I’m just not sure if. I’m not sure what he’s… You don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to, Karen, but I… Have you seen Matt at all, since he, you know, told you?”
“I see him sometimes,” Karen admits softly, like she’s trying to cushion the blow. “For work. If he’s got information for me. Only. Only in the mask, though. I’m not sure I’m ready to look at him without it.”
“Yeah,” mutters Foggy. “Guess that makes sense.”
“I could do it, for you, though,” she offers. “If you want him there and you want me there, I can deal with that. I’m a big girl, I can handle ex-boyfriends and ex-friends and ex-bosses. I’m a champ.”
“You really are,” he tells her.
“Just. Just one thing, ok? I just want to make sure… With your biological mother involved… You do like Jolene, right? She’s a good person?”
“Jo is… She’s really great, Karen.”
“So you’re happy?” asks Karen.
He’s as happy as he’s liable to ever get again, so he nods. And anyway it isn’t like he’s particularly unhappy except on the Matt front. Everything else in his life is going great. Karen’s smile in return is too bright to bring her down with the one thing they both know neither of them can do anything about.
“I’m glad, Foggy,” she tells him, and squeezes his hand lightly in hers. “You deserve that.”
Personally he’s not really sure what he deserves, one way or the other. But the fact that Karen thinks so is more than enough.
Chapter 7: The Other Proposal
Foggy finally asks Matt to be his Best Man.
Finally, the chapter you've all been waiting for! Our boys in a scene together! Hope you enjoy it!
It’s stupid, Foggy tells himself as he stands in front of Matt’s door and knows Matt probably heard him coming from the moment he entered the building. Marci’s right. Best case scenario, Matt will spell it out for him, nice and honest – I’m not going to do it Foggy, I don’t care, you shouldn’t have even bothered coming. Worst case… He won’t even open the door despite the fact they both know he’s there and that he knows Foggy’s here.
But every time Foggy thinks stuff like that – which is often – some memory from college or L&Z or the early days of Nelson and Murdock will swim up from the back of his mind.
He still can’t decide which contradictory expression is the lie. Because Foggy knows, knew, Matt too well to think he would put up with anyone he didn’t actually like for an entire decade. Matt’s an angry, impatient man. And he loves way too easily and way too deeply. But… But would someone who cared really put everything else ahead of their best friend in priority?
Foggy doesn’t know. It’s what makes it so hard to rebuild his emotional equilibrium in Matt’s absence. Foggy is secure in his own worth, it’s why he was strong enough to walk away from Nelson and Murdock in the first place. But his worth to other people, to Matt? It’s all suspect now.
One more reason that accepting Jo’s offer is the best step Foggy can take. The two of them know exactly what they want from each other. Camaraderie, support, a listening ear. No mind games, no emotional fake-outs.
And no freaking ninjas.
Foggy takes a deep breath and knocks on Matt’s door.
It opens immediately, and there, after so many months, is Matt.
He looks… A little tired, a little grief-stricken, but unhurt. No gashes on his face, no evidence of broken ribs in his posture. He’s wearing his glasses, which Foggy knows must be deliberate. Matt’s expression is the most painful part – half wary, half breathlessly hopeful. What does he have to be hopeful about, when he’s the one who pushed Foggy away?
Foggy swallows down his anger and his nerves and as much love as he can.
There’s a few seconds where Matt’s mouth moves, but nothing comes out. Finally, he jerks the door open wider and takes a step back.
“Come in. I. I mean, if you. If you want to,” Matt stammers. “I don’t want to, to assume.”
Foggy steps into Matt’s apartment, for the first time since the Frank Castle case. He can’t help the way his eyes dart across the room, taking in little signs. No dirty dishes in the sink, garbage can empty, new table, bottom stair fixed. Like Matt’s appearance, it’s an encouraging sight – he’s at least taking care of himself. No matter how angry he’s been with Matt, Foggy would never want him to backslide into the kind of depressive cycle he went through once or twice in law school, days when he could barely pull himself out of bed. It’s… Relieving, to see that Matt seems to be doing well.
“Is there. Did you need something?” Matt asks, closing the door and following Foggy further into the apartment.
From anyone else, it would sound dismissive, insulting. But Foggy knows Matt, even if not as well as he thought he did, and the tone of his voice is wavering, uncertain. The hunch to his shoulders projects an intense amount of vulnerability. Foggy hasn’t had the sudden urge to swaddle Matt in a million fuzzy blankets for several months now, so its sudden resurgence is a little jarring. Good to know that’s still in full effect. It irritates a little core of guilt Foggy wasn’t even aware of, like a kid wiggling a loose tooth.
“There is, yeah,” says Foggy. “But I think first, I should… There’s some things I should say first.” Matt’s face pales, and Foggy hurries to reassure him, because that’s what he does. “Not like—I wanted to apologize. Not for everything that happened, because most of that’s on you, but I know I can be dick when my feelings are hurt. There’s stuff I’ve said when we were fighting that I never should have. And I know you can, like, smell lies or whatever, but I still shouldn’t have said things just to hurt you – said I pitied you, or, or called you crazy. That’s shitty bestie behavior, and that part’s on me.”
Matt swallows very visibly.
“I, I don’t—I’m not sure what… I don’t understand.”
It takes a minute for Foggy to gather his thoughts, to remember what it is he really came to say.
“Look, Matt. Things between us are… They’re shit. We can’t go back, and I don’t know if there’s much hope in trying to move forward,” he explains. “And I’m still mad as hell. But this is big and I want you there, even now, so… So here I am.”
Matt’s nerves are on full display in the way he fiddles with the cuff of his sleeve.
“Is something… Wrong?” he finally asks, hesitantly. “Are you sick, or, is something—”
“No, nothing like… It’s. My wedding.”
There are three long seconds of silence, before Matt stumbles over a few steps and drops onto his couch. Foggy stays standing.
“You’re getting married?” Matt croaks out, looking blindsided.
Foggy tries not to study the expression for hidden traces of disappointment. He’s not that much of a masochist.
“Since… Since when?”
“About a week now,” says Foggy, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Jo proposed and I said yes.”
A look of confusion washes over Matt’s face.
“Who…?” he asks.
“Ah, you… Wouldn’t know her. Jolene Burnett.”
There’s a slight pause.
“Burnett. Did you just say her name is Jolene Burnett?” Matt demands.
“Yeah. Her dad owns Blaze, you know, the video game company. What about it…?”
The look Matt gets is definitely Daredevil-adjacent. He seems to try and smooth it out of his expression, but it’s probably pretty hard when you can never see your face to know what it’s doing.
“Nothing,” Matt lies. “It. It’s nothing, Foggy.”
Foggy decides, irritably, that he isn’t going to push. It means that they stay in silence for several long moments. Foggy spends those moments rethinking every decision that put him here. Really should have become a butcher. If he’d opened a butcher shop with someone instead of a law firm, there’s no way his partner would have turned out to be a vigilante. There’s no way Rosalind would lower herself to showing up somewhere as unsanitary as a butcher shop. Plus, free ham. Yup. Life as a butcher would have been—
“How long have you known each other?” Matt asks at last with too much suspicion.
Foggy can’t outright lie, no matter how convincing his voice would sound, because his heart would probably give him away. So, evasion is the name of the game. He’s not ashamed of the choices he’s making, but like Jo, there’s something humiliating about admitting these circumstances to one’s best friend.
“Not long,” Foggy finally admits.
“But you agreed to marry her,” presses Matt.
“Yeah well.” The response, the proper sidestep, comes to him in a flash of brilliant inspiration. “I’m in love.”
Not with Jo, but that’s the implication and Matt won’t think to ask. Moreover, if he thinks Foggy’s moved on, that he’s in love with someone else, maybe Matt will be less likely to push him away.
“So you decided to invite your former partner to the wedding, despite the fact that we haven’t been on speaking terms for months,” says Matt with a smile that’s sharp enough to cut them both.
Their silence goes both ways, same as the dissolution of their firm, but Foggy knows his desire to point that out is just an impulse born of hurt. They’re both in the wrong, but if they keep arguing no one will get anywhere. He takes a deep breath, in, out, and lets the need to be right, to be vindicated, go.
“You’re my friend, Matt,” he says instead. “Or you were. And that means something to me. I’m trying to be mature, here, I know it’s a little new for me.”
“Kind of is,” Matt agrees, too bitterly.
Foggy’s hackles rise at the tone.
“At least I’m trying,” he seethes, “unlike some people!”
“Right, right, because marrying a girl you barely know is the height of maturity!”
“Oh my god, Matt!”
“You don’t think it’s a little odd, that you haven’t even been dating long but she suddenly wants to marry you?” Matt asks sharply. “You don’t think that’s a tiny bit suspicious?”
Another shot to the metaphorical gut. The way it winds him, though, it might as well have been physical. It brings Foggy back to middle school – to being asked out on a dare. It brings him back to Rosalind Sharpe, standing in his office like she owns it and asking him, what other prospects could you possibly have?
“Right,” he chokes out with an angry laugh. “Right. Obviously that’s what’s going on. Because no one could ever want to marry me without an ulterior motive.”
Never mind that it’s true. God, he feels just—humiliated.
What did you expect, Nelson?
He’s pissed at Jo and Matt and Rosalind and… And himself. For screwing up the courage to pull this dumbass move when he knew exactly where it would land him.
“Look,” he says evenly and as unhurt as he can manage, “I just came to ask if you’d be my Best Man, but that’s pretty obviously off the table so… I should really go.”
Foggy turns for the door, but he’s stopped by a hand clutching his arm a touch too hard.
“W-wait. I. Foggy. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.” Matt’s voice is earnest, guilty, and there’s a slight desperation to his face. “I’m just. I was just surprised. If you want me to, I’ll do it. Of course I will, Fog. You… You’re my best friend too. I’d be honored to be your Best Man. If you’re sure that's what you want.”
“I’m sure, Matt. I want you there.”
He’s not sure at all. But certainty comes to him shamefully easy with Matt touching him. It doesn’t even feel like a lie, because regardless of all the other crap Matt’s pulled, Foggy does want him there in whatever capacity he can be. This is the guy who talked him through like a hundred finals-related panic attacks, and got crazy drunk with him after the breakup with Marci, and built up their silly little law office together, and shoved him out of the way of a freaking bullet. He wants that guy next to him. Even though all they can ever be is friends, that didn’t stop Foggy before. He can deal with that, he’s been dealing with that. Like a total champ. But there’s that guy and then there’s Daredevil, to whom Foggy is just another faceless civilian, and Foggy has no way of knowing which one he’s going to get.
He’s still willing to play the odds though. Like a damn sucker.
“Then I’ll be there,” Matt says softly, slips off his glasses and turns his face towards Foggy’s in his closest approximation of eye contact. “I promise. You can—you can count on me.”
There are things Foggy could say about Matt’s promises, but spitting acid hurts himself, too, on the way out. He wants to believe in Matt again, even if it’s just for this.
“Thanks, Matt. That really… It means a lot to me.”
Matt’s hand slides down Foggy’s arm until they’re palm-to-palm and Matt’s lacing their fingers together. Foggy really wishes his heartbeat would shut the fuck up, because it’s going a little bit fluttery at the sight of their hands intertwined like that.
“Thank you,” Matt murmurs, drawing Foggy’s gaze up to his hazel eyes. “For—for asking me to do this. I know I haven’t—I know I’ve let you down.”
He has. But even just acknowledging it soothes the burn of those wounds, maybe more than it should. Aloe Vera for the Soul, Foggy’s mind supplies ridiculously. Too deep into the metaphors, there. Absently, Foggy squeezes Matt’s hand and receives an answering squeeze in return.
“If you mess this up, I’m making sure your suit is hideous and you’re wearing a Daredevil tie,” Foggy promises lightly. “One of the shitty-looking ones they sell out of those bootleg superhero merch booths.”
The threat pulls a quiet laugh from Matt’s lips. It’s nothing like the loud, unselfconscious way he laughed in college, or when he was particularly happy. But, to Foggy’s ear, it doesn’t sound fake either. Just soft, muted, like gemstones glittering in low light. He’s overtaken, momentarily, by the insane urge to lift their linked hands and kiss Matt’s split knuckles.
Foggy does not do this, because he does have at least a shred of impulse control left, no matter what anyone thinks.
Instead, he squeezes Matt’s hand one last time and pulls away.
“I… I’ve gotta go, for now,” he explains. “Still have to ask Brett to be a groomsman and all. But, I’ll call you soon with some details, ok?”
Matt’s back to fidgeting again, flexing his fingers against his side, fiddling with a loose string on his slacks, turning his glasses over and over by one arm.
“Yeah. Of, of course.”
He doesn’t sound forlorn or anything, but he’s putting on his brave little orphan face, the one he does when he wants someone to ask if he’s ok but doesn’t want anyone to know that’s what he wants them to do. Foggy sighs, and it’s probably too fond.
“I’ll… I’ll see you soon, Matt,” he says, half as a farewell and half as a reassurance.
For a second there’s no response, and then the corner of Matt’s mouth curves up and Foggy knows a pun is incoming.
“I won’t,” replies Matt lightly. “But I’ll definitely hear you.”
“Oh my god,” Foggy murmurs, the words instinct now after ten years of blind jokes; he’s grinning, though. “That was terrible.”
“You loved it,” insists Matt.
“I really did.”
There’s probably too much weight and too much meaning put into the words. An admission. Foggy clears his throat and tries to shake it off before his pulse starts racing with embarrassment. It probably works, since Matt appears fondly amused instead of vaguely uncomfortable.
“Good, uh. Good luck convincing Brett to join the wedding party,” Matt offers.
“Thanks,” Foggy laughs. “I’m going to need it. Bye, Matt.”
He exits the apartment, buzzing with energy and walking on clouds. A laugh, a joke, an earnest-sounding promise. All pieces of Foggy’s Matt, the one he’s loved for years. So. He’s still in there. Still cares enough to be a part of Foggy’s life, even if just this one small part of it. It’s… More than Foggy was expecting. And it’s exciting enough that he wants to share it with someone – though in all honesty, there’s really only one choice. One person who’s likely to share in his excitement wholeheartedly, the way he needs – who isn’t tangled up in Matt Issues of their own.
Foggy pulls out his phone and types a text to Jo.
Matt said yes 2 being best man!
The response is a row of exclamation points, followed by three thumbs-up emojis.
Chapter 8: Matt's Ears Have Been Burning for Four Chapters and He Doesn't Like It
Matt gets some advice, tracks down a few answers, and pines incssantly. Business as usual.
From here on out, the plan is to alternate between Matt and Foggy's PoVs, although it probably won't be in an ABAB pattern or anything. Again, if there's anything particularly ridiculous or cute you want to happen, let me know, and same for if there's something you think should be tagged or whatever.
Yes, yes, I lifted "If you're happy, I'm happy" directly from Made of Honor. Shhh.
As soon as the door closes behind Foggy, Matt slumps, trembling, back onto the couch. Every part of him is warring with itself. He’s hot and cold in turns. It would have been rattling enough just hearing, smelling, touching Foggy after such a long absence. The phantom feel of their fingers entwined keeps Matt’s right hand burning warm and his heart pounding like a snare drum in his chest. Fondness, fondness directed at Matt, a warm familiar laugh… That alone is almost too much.
But then to hear those words, “my wedding”, “I’m in love” … It’s enough to turn his blood to ice.
He is… Making a huge mistake, agreeing to be part of the wedding. Matt knows that. He’s always known this was going to happen; Foggy’s brilliant and funny and so intensely loving, how could someone not snatch him up? But then they’d graduated together and gone on to their internship together and started a firm together – and Matt had become, well, complacent. He’d pushed it away, that idea that he would one day stand next to his best friend and smile and wish him well and mean it, even if it crushed his own heart. To have that old fear realized again, out of nowhere, at a time when Matt and Foggy haven’t spoken in months… It’s gutting. Agreeing to be Foggy’s Best Man is just an exercise in self-flagellation. But. Foggy reached out to him, for this. He asked. And Matt couldn’t bear to say no. Plus, well… There’s a small, awful part of him that thinks…
Well. If they spend time around each other, preparing for this wedding. Maybe. Maybe Foggy will see that Matt would be a better match for him than this woman he barely knows, no matter how much Foggy is infatuated by her. And with that last name, Burnett, combined with her sudden proposal, the likelihood that she’s at least tangentially involved in the drug ring is high. If he’s closer, it will be easier to keep an ear on her and find out if she’s planning something.
Which is. Just. A terrible thing to think, really. For the city’s safety and for Foggy’s wellbeing, he has to think it. But it’s not true that he thinks only someone with an ulterior motive would want to marry Foggy. Obviously not. He’d marry Foggy himself in a heartbeat, if… Well. He just can’t. Foggy’s not interested anyway, and if he ever was Matt’s probably ruined it by being unreliable and lying to him. Not to mention that the reason he pushed Foggy away in the first place was that being involved with Matt is dangerous. He got Elektra killed, and she was a talented warrior. If Foggy is hurt for being involved with Matt… It would be unbearable.
He’s being selfish. And contradictory. But… But it’s Foggy. Matt can admit he’s always had… He’s always had trouble being objective, when it comes to Foggy.
Case in point, Matt stays up way too late after his patrol (one mugging, no further leads on the drug ring) reading everything he can about the duties of a Best Man. If he’s going to commit to this, he’s going to do it right. That’s what Foggy deserves from him.
The next day, Matt finds himself sitting in a pew, hands folded and head bowed but desperately unsure what to pray. He straightens up at the sound of familiar footfalls and the light shift of the pew as it accommodates a second person’s weight.
“Matthew,” Father Lantom greets placidly. “You seem troubled today.”
He doesn’t comment on the fact that it is actually day and not the middle of the night, but Matt can feel his curiosity hanging in the air.
“Something like that,” Matt admits, and he knows his smile must be bitter at the corners. “Not my usual troubles, though.”
A soft exhale, quiet understanding.
“I see. And would you like to speak about it?”
He would. They end up in the church basement, sitting across from one another at a table. Father Lantom offers a latte and Matt accepts, though he spends more time pressing his fingers to the cup than drinking what’s inside. Their silence lasts three or four minutes, until Father Lantom seems to determine that Matt will need more of a verbal prodding to speak his mind.
“If it’s not our usual, Matthew, I wonder what’s troubling you. Work?”
Matt shakes his head.
“No,” he admits, “it’s. My… It’s Foggy.”
“You reached out,” Father Lantom guesses, sounding quietly proud, and Matt’s shoulders droop.
“Not quite, Father. He… He came to see me. He’s… He’s getting married. To some woman he barely knows, they can’t have been together more than a few months, and I— He asked me to be his Best Man.”
There’s a contemplative hum. Father Lantom takes a slow sip of his latte.
“And did you accept?” he asks at last, setting his cup back down with a soft clack.
“I…” Matt nods. “I did. I can’t—I wouldn’t say no to him, not when he asked me. It’s just that I…” He laughs sharply. “What would you call this… I guess I covet him. He… I couldn’t make him happy even when he was only my friend, but now that he’s getting married to someone else…”
He’s mentioned his feelings for Foggy before. Once or twice, hesitantly. But it was never what concerned him most, never high up on the list of things he needed Father Lantom’s counsel on. Not with Daredevil’s constant high wire walk on the line between life and death. Nonetheless, the quiet understanding of his priest is a constant balm, whenever the subject comes up.
“Do you regret not confiding in him?” Father Lantom asks. “About these feelings?”
“I… I don’t know. And this marriage itself is… It’s complicated.”
Matt explains, loosely, the circumstances. His fears that Jolene and her family are tangling Foggy into something dangerous. The brief fight when he aired those fears to Foggy. His own worry that he’s losing the delineation between his legitimate fears and his own jealousy.
The surety that, somehow, some way, he’s going to push Foggy away again.
Father Lantom listens to it all, quiet and attentive.
“It seems to me,” he concludes when Matt is finished speaking, “from what you’ve told me before that what hurt your friendship so drastically was lying. Perhaps you should consider that hiding how you truly feel about him will only push him further away in the long run.”
Matt tries consciously not to hunch inwards, but can’t quite manage.
“You didn’t hear him,” he murmurs. “He… He told me he was in love. And he meant it, I… I could tell. How could I ruin it for him? How could I possibly risk putting him in danger just to air out my feelings? If I tell him and he asks me to leave, who’s going to be there to protect him?”
“Then let me perhaps offer one more suggestion,” Father Lantom sighs. “As you’ve told me, your friend reacted negatively to the insinuation that his fiancée was marrying him for the wrong reasons. If you keep pushing against this marriage without proof that something is not as it should be, you are not pushing only the fiancée away – they are a unit now, and you’ll lose your friend too.”
“I… I don ‘t want to lie to him about this, though, not outright. What could—what could I even say, instead of what I already have?”
With a shift of cloth, Father Lantom pats the back of Matt’s hand.
“You’re an empathetic young man, Matthew, and you care deeply about your friends. I should think that the words ‘If you’re happy, I’m happy’ would be honest enough.”
Matt repeats that to himself a few times. If you’re happy, I’m happy. It’s not, necessarily speaking, untrue. Matt’s got steady shoulders and he can bear pain and happiness at the same time. If the wedding works out, if Foggy is really happy with Jolene, then… Then Matt can be happy for him.
“Thank you, Father.”
“Of course, Matthew.”
Matt’s on his way to grab coffee when a shiver runs down his spine. Like one off-tune instrument in an orchestra, there’s a single impression that’s out of place. Doesn’t fit the rest of the world. Not inhuman, per se, not the way Stick or the Hand can come off – as voids, dark spots in the shifting fire. No, this is…
This is the leader of the possible drug ring.
A fierce Daredevil smile crosses Matt’s lips for all of an instant, and he continues on his way, sweeping his cane as he walks but with all his attention on his target. The man is heading in the opposite direction Matt is, so they’re on a collision course.
Quite literally, if Matt has anything to say about it. Which he does.
They shoulder into one another so hard that they’re both knocked to the ground.
“Watch where you’re going!” the man snarls.
“My—my apologies,” stammers Matt in return, fumbling incompetently for his cane to play for time and draw attention to his disability.
It’s not a ploy he particularly enjoys, but it puts people off-kilter, and he needs this man to be off-kilter. There’s a startled intake of breath.
“Oh—Er. Yes, well. I should have been a bit more. Ah,” the man fumbles. “Here you go, then.”
He passes Matt’s cane to him and helps him – a bit too forcefully, how irritating – to his feet. Holding out a hand, Matt smiles beatifically.
“Thank you. I suppose we were both in an awful hurry, Mr.…?”
Not all traps are physical. Matt enjoys the social ones like this even more sometimes. He certainly can’t see the man in front of him, and without supersenses would have no way of perceiving whether his hand will be shaken or not. And so, for his target to walk away would create a massive faux pas. It loops him into answering the question, too.
After a few seconds of waffling, the man clears his throat and accepts the handshake.
“Anderson. Eli Anderson. And you are…?”
“Matthew Murdock,” Matt replies brightly, without hesitation; Matt Murdock will never meet Eli Anderson again, after all, even if Daredevil most definitely will. “Well. I’m sure we’re both busy, Mr. Anderson, so I won’t take up any more of your time. Have a wonderful day!”
He continues on his way, keeping half his attention focused on Anderson until he passes out of perception. Matt could have followed him, perhaps would have if it were a few months ago, but his loss has taught him restraint. The importance of getting all the information you can before leaping into a fight. It’s unlikely the man will be doing anything suspicious during the middle of the day – the sound of his suit’s fabric indicated at the least a business-level professionality, and the scent of coffee on his breath was strong, recent. Likely on his way to or from a meeting.
So Matt feels secure in making his way home to see what he can find about an Eli Anderson that might fit the bill. It takes some doing, but Matt finally strikes pay dirt when he thinks to search the names Anderson and Burnett together. They’re owners of competing video game companies – which makes it all the more likely that the Burnett referenced in Anderson’s late-night meeting is Tanner Burnett, the father of Foggy’s fiancée.
The wedding, Matt thinks, is going to be a mess.
But, after all, isn’t that what the Best Man is for? Matt will carry Foggy out the other side of the disaster as unscathed as he can. He knows that with all certainty.
No, what really confuses him about the whole thing is what video game developers have to do with drugs. What he’d overheard had been vague enough that he still doesn’t even know what kind of drug, or even if that’s what’s truly being distributed. Not heroin, surely – since the death of the Blacksmith, Gao has been running the heroin scene undisputed, and she would probably have nipped any new operation in the bud before Matt even got wind of it. Her own operation has gone further underground, and though he knows it must be ongoing, Matt hasn’t caught more than a faint whiff of her presence in the city for months. It’s unsettling. But, again, she isn’t the priority here, Anderson is, because Foggy’s in the line of fire.
When he takes to the streets as Daredevil, Matt narrows his focus. Keeps his ears perked for any new word among the street-level dealers. There isn’t much. A ghost, a whisper. But enough to go on. If you can pick the right target to ask some questions.
Something new, something fancy. No one has any, but everyone seems to think it’ll be in distribution soon. It’s not everything he wants to know – he’s still not sure where the game companies fit into the plot, or what part Blaze plays in the scheme, and he’s wary of using the name Burnett when it’s now so closely tied to Foggy. Still, for one night’s work, it’s enough.
Matt drops by The Bulletin on his way home – can still hear Karen’s heartbeat in Ben Urich’s old office, hear her typing away on her next article. She lets him in through the window after a few quick raps of his knuckles on the glass.
“Daredevil,” she greets civilly.
“There’s something new,” Matt tells her without preamble – she prefers this, no attempt at pleasantries, and he’s done enough wrong by her to oblige without complaint. “Someone’s gearing up to sell cocaine, and a lot of it. Just. Can you let me know, if you hear anything about it?”
A swish of long hair as Karen nods.
Matt turns to go, thinking it the end of their interaction, but a hand encircles his wrist. It’s the first time Karen’s touched him since he told her about Daredevil. Even though the contact isn’t skin-to-skin, it still sends a zip rattling up the nerves of his arm.
“Matt, wait,” Karen says, and everything inside him stills.
“What is it?”
He’s not sure if it comes out in the gruff Daredevil voice on instinct or if he’s trying to hide something in his tone.
“Did Foggy ask you?” Karen wonders, releasing him. “To be his Best Man?”
Matt swallows, hard.
“He did, yeah. I… I said yes.”
Karen nods to herself, straightens a few papers on her desk noisily. Her heart is pounding in her chest, but none of it shows in her voice.
“You… You know you can’t pick and choose with this, right?” asks Karen sharply. “If you… You have to commit. If you let him down again, I don’t think…”
She sighs, can’t seem to find the words. Her meaning is clear, though.
“I know,” Matt says softly. “I know, Karen. I’m… I won’t let him down again.”
Her laugh is brief, bitter. But she’s kind enough not to point out the evidence of his failures.
“Goodnight, Daredevil,” she says instead, a professional.
Matt nods, and ducks back through the window.
“Goodnight, Miss Page.”
She settles into her desk chair and resumes typing. Matt makes his way home.
Foggy’s heart is steady and restful in the few beats Matt catches as he darts past the building. It’s enough to keep the nightmares at bay for a few peaceful hours.
He’s on a lunch break, still reading through a rental agreement for a client, when his phone begins to chime at him.
“Foggy. Foggy. Foggy.”
Matt’s heart might skip a beat, but he’s the only one who can perceive that, so it hardly matters. Instead, he fumbles to pull his phone from his pocket and answer the call.
“The one and only!” Foggy replies cheerfully. “Just thought I’d let you know, we’re having a little get-together for everyone in the wedding party. Just kinda to let everyone get acquainted. It’ll be at my new place on Sunday. 1:00pm, so you should have time to go to morning Mass or something if you want. Do you need me to text you the address?”
No, he doesn’t. Even if he didn’t already have it memorized down to the apartment number, he could make his way to the neighborhood and follow Foggy’s heartbeat right to his front door, like coming home. But that’s really, really not something Matt should say.
Instead, he tells Foggy, “Yeah. That’d be great, Fog, thanks.”
“No problem. I… I’ll see you then…?”
The uncertainty in Foggy’s voice convicts Matt. Makes a stone settle heavy in his gut. He can’t even muster a repeat performance of his blind joke. The phantom feeling of Karen’s hand on his wrist is startling in its intensity.
“I’ll be there,” Matt promises, pressing every ounce of certainty he has into his voice.
Chapter 9: More Nelsons Than You Can Shake a Stick At
Foggy meets up with Brett, has lunch with Jo and her brother, and introduces his fiancee to his family.
This chapter takes place over approximately the same time-frame as the previous chapter. We're just following Foggy around this time instead of Matt.
Brett meets Foggy at their usual street corner. Why they continue to do this, Foggy has no earthly clue – everyone in the Hell’s Kitchen PD knows they’re, uh. Well, you know. Not friends, really. Honest. But. You know, whatever they are. Mortal enemies. So it’s kind of dorky to meet up on the downlow like they’re a couple of kids playing super spy. But Foggy’s a good dude, so he capitulates to Brett’s need for plausible deniability.
“Figured that new job would mean you weren’t gonna bother me for favors anymore,” Brett says, instead of saying hello like a polite person.
“Different kind of favor, Brett,” explains Foggy. “This one does not require you in your professional capacity. Also, here: for Bess.”
Foggy holds out a paper sack which is, as usual, full of cigars.
“You serious right now, Foggy?” Brett demands with a well-worn tone of frustration that’s probably like seventy-five percent fake. “You’re asking me for a favor and you still won’t stop bringing mom cigars!”
Foggy shakes his head.
“I am not more powerful than Bess, Brett, and neither are you. It is better to appease her than to face her wrath, I stand by that.”
Brett doesn’t offer an argument on the point. He just snatches the bag of cigars.
“Alright, alright, what’s this favor anyway?”
“Well,” Foggy wheedles. “I… May or may not be tying the knot soon, and obviously when I was looking for groomsmen I thought, what man could possibly get married without his lifelong nemesis?”
There’s a long silence.
“You’re getting hitched?” Brett clears his throat, collects himself with an insult. “Who’d wanna marry you?”
“Uh, my fiancée? Obviously? Get with the program, Brett.”
The skeptical look he gets is kind of insulting, actually.
“Ok, there’s no way in hell Stahl agreed to marry you,” Brett says.
Which, alright, yeah, fair. Marci’s not really the marrying sort. Well, he could maybe see her marrying somebody for their wealth and murdering them in their sleep for the money and, you know, all those murderous widow fashions. But yeah, she’d never hitch her wagon to Foggy Nelson no matter how much she likes him and they all know it.
“Nah, course she wouldn’t,” Foggy admits. “But I’m not marrying her. My fiancée’s Jolene Burnett.”
“Tanner Burnett’s daughter?”
“Uh…” Foggy blinks, startled. “Yeah, actually, but how do you know that?”
But Brett just rubs his free hand over his mouth, looking troubled. It’s… Weird. Normally they’re pretty candid with one another, even about difficult subjects.
“It’s… Not really my place to talk about it,” Brett admits finally. “But. The Burnetts had some trouble a while back. They ended up needing police help with it. Can’t say much about ‘em myself, but I heard from Sinclair that the younger Burnetts were ok.”
Huh. Something to consider. It probably, Foggy thinks, has something to do with whatever incident drove Jo to try and separate herself from Ivonne. He wants to press Brett for details, the way he usually would, but it feels… Wrong to. So he lets the opportunity slide by.
“Anyway, you never really answered my question so… Groomsman? Yes or no?”
Brett scrubs his hand over his scalp and sighs.
“Yeah. Yeah, sure thing. God knows what my mom would say if I turned you down. She’d never let me have another slice of pecan pie.”
“I’ll have to thank Bess next time I see her then,” Foggy says pointedly, just to be a dick.
They part ways pretty quickly after that, though Foggy knows they’ll see each other again soon enough – one of the cases Hogarth has him on is gonna require a trip or two to the precinct.
Jo and Foggy meet Alex Burnett for lunch later in the week – at a burger joint, to cater to Alex’s picky taste buds and Jo’s desire for a casual setting. The man of the hour ends up a few minutes late, although he’s polite enough to call and let them know. On the bright side, it gives Foggy some time to pick Jo’s brain about wedding preparations and how to make a good impression on Alex.
“Engage him in something dorky and you’re good to go, honestly,” Jo says of the latter.
The former takes a bit more discussion. Not to mention there’s apparently been a bit of a new development. They put in their orders and Jo explains.
“My dad thinks we should hire a wedding planner.”
“A wedding planner, huh?” Foggy says.
“We probably need the help, but I don’t really like the idea.”
“No, me either.”
“And besides, like, if we want to keep this all hush-hush or whatever, adding another person to the equation isn’t gonna be great for that,” concludes Jo.
It’s true enough. And Foggy doesn’t want some stranger trying to come up with a theme based on their nonexistent love story or something. Anything that dorky and cheesy needs to remain firmly in Foggy’s daydreams about marrying Matt. Which he… Definitely does not have. Really.
Ok yeah, he’s not fooling anyone, he’s definitely daydreamed about marrying Matt. Like, a lot. They’d get a fancy organic cake to cater to Matt’s ridiculously sensitive tastes – Foggy had known that even before he knew about the supersenses. Matt would wear white. Definitely. They’d have to decorate with artificial flowers, or something pretty but scentless, because nobody wants a sneezing groom at the altar. Foggy’s dad would walk them both down the aisle, because Matt’s been a Nelson in all but name practically from the first year they met.
Their rings would be tungsten, because Matt definitely needs something durable. Before he’d learned about Daredevil, Foggy had pictured classic gold but… Nah. Tungsten is more Matt’s style anyway.
Their burgers arrive and that, thankfully, snaps Foggy out of his completely inappropriate musing on a wedding that will never ever happen. He stuffs his face a little to stave off any questions about what he’s been so distracted by, and that seems to work until Alex arrives.
“Hey, dude,” Jo greets her brother with a smile and a tip of her milkshake cup.
Alex heads up to order his own lunch, and Foggy gets a chance to study him. His hair’s a mess, unbrushed and a little curly, probably in need of a cut. Otherwise, he looks a lot like his father, though younger. And he’s tall. Taller than Foggy. Maybe almost six feet, which would put him about a foot above Jo. He’s wearing a jacket and sweatpants, despite the decent weather. When Foggy asks, Jo assures him that’s Alex’s regular look.
“He dresses like that when it’s ninety out, too,” she sighs.
It’s only a few more minutes until all three of them are settled in with their greasy lunches. But as laidback and dorky as Jo’s stories have made her brother out to be, he doesn’t seem all that thrilled to be eating lunch with them. The way Alex sets his jaw reminds Foggy of a stubborn ten-year-old. He wonders if that’s what Jo sees when she looks at her brother.
“I don’t like it,” concludes Alex, as though he’s adding on to a conversation instead of starting one extremely vaguely.
He pops a French fry in his mouth and chews mutinously, eyes narrowed at Foggy from beneath his thick brows – another feature he shares with his sister.
“You’re not the one getting married, Alex,” Jo points out. “Would you just keep an open mind?”
“You should be happy!” protests Alex. “That’s what you deserve! Not… Whatever this bullshit is.”
“I am happy. This is my choice, I asked Foggy to marry me, you know that. I wouldn’t let Dad or anyone make that decision for me. Can’t you just trust me? I asked you to lunch because I wanted you guys to meet.”
That at least seems to quell Alex’s bad temper. Not by much, but enough that he grudgingly participates in the conversation between bites. Turns out Alex used to play softball as a kid, the way Foggy did. Neither of them, if Jo’s input on her brother’s peewee athletic career is to be trusted, were that great at it. They shuffle awkwardly through a few other topics before Jo finally – with a look of extreme determination – nudges them in the direction of games, and Alex’s playtesting work for Blaze.
The moment they start discussing video games, Alex lights up. He’s got a strong opinion on everything, from gameplay to storytelling, and a gratuitous love of cheat codes and handicap mechanics. When Foggy mentions that he’s been replaying Ace Attorney, hoping to score a few points with him, Alex starts bragging about his supposedly foolproof culprit-guessing method – the character with the most bizarre outfit always commits the murder. That sounds a little farfetched to Foggy, but when he opens his mouth to dispute it he has trouble thinking of a counterexample.
“No, no, wait,” he says, holding up a hand. “Wait. What about… What about Dee Vasquez? There were definitely people with weirder outfits than her in that case.”
Alex is unimpressed.
“Sure,” he says, taking another bite of his burger. “Yeah, but. She smokes that pipe, that, uh… Kiseru. Yeah. So, obviously she’s in with the yakuza.”
There’s a beat of silence.
“What? But. That doesn’t make any…” Foggy murmurs at last, clutching his head in his hands. “What…? What…?”
Jo pats Foggy’s back consolingly.
“I know right?” she sighs, between sips of her milkshake. “It never makes any sense how he gets his answers, but he’s never been wrong. Not once.”
From there things settle down, and they start talking about Blaze games specifically. Alex isn’t allowed to discuss the ones he’s playtesting, but the already released ones dominate conversation for the rest of lunch. Alex is especially proud of the complexity of their character creator mechanics. Jo and her brother smile similarly, Foggy realizes.
When Jo finally broaches the subject of being a groomsman, Alex’s response is as direct as anything else he’s said.
“Of course I will. Duh.”
All in all, things turn out… Pretty good.
When it starts pushing towards an hour, they all have to get back to work, so they dump their garbage and walk out onto the street. Except, Alex grabs Foggy’s arm before anyone can part ways.
“Alex!” snaps Jo.
“I’m just gonna talk to him,” Alex protests, already dragging Foggy away.
For his part, he decides to just go along with it. As a general rule, Foggy makes sure not to try and piss off people taller than him. And in any case, Alex doesn’t look particularly upset or anything.
As soon as they’re out of earshot, he stops and turns to Foggy.
“Listen, man,” Alex says, brushing dark hair out of his eyes. “Jojo is the Eowyn to my Eomer, get me? If you do anything to hurt her I’m gonna kick the crap out of you. But…” Alex glances back at where Jo is tapping her foot impatiently. “This is the first time she’s talked about video games in years. After… Well, after, she clammed up. Quit playing, quit talking about it with me. So. I guess you’re doing something right. Don’t screw it up.”
“I’ll try not to,” Foggy promises, filing Alex’s words away as one more piece to the puzzle of Jo.
Watching Alex walk over to bid his sister goodbye, Foggy has a thought. He shoots of a text to his mom, then slips his phone back into his pocket.
Once the details are settled, Foggy calls Jo up. She answers on the third ring.
“Hey, Foggy. What’s up?” she greets.
Foggy takes a deep breath, settling his cell phone closer to his ear.
“Are you free Friday night?”
“Yeah, sure,” says Jo. “I’m free then. Why?”
“I’ve met your family,” Foggy points out. “I thought maybe we were overdue for you to meet mine.”
There’s a pause. It unsettles something in him, twists his stomach into knots. She’s going to say no.
“I… I’d like that.”
And Foggy might not have mystical lie-detecting powers, but her voice sounds warm and determined, if a little bit shaky.
“Hey. Jo?” Foggy says, thinking of Tanner Burnett again. “You know, uh. No pressure or anything, but. You can feel free to be yourself with my family. Jules and I are already out to them, and she’s got a wife to boot so… You know. Just. You don’t have to police yourself about stuff like that.”
“Thanks, Foggy,” Jo replies quietly. “I’m… Thank you.”
“Hey, no problem. Just thought I should let you know.”
The two of them hash out the details quickly and hang up, then Foggy makes himself return to the research he’d been doing on the Sokovia Accords.
“Honestly I’m kind of wondering how we’ll make time for wedding preparations with the hours we work,” Foggy admits on Friday, as he and Jo approach the Nelson home.
He can see that the lights are all on and it’s bustling inside, even from a block away.
“I can do some of the in-person meetings if Hogarth won’t give you the time off,” Jo offers. “I just finished my last day on Wednesday, and the temp agency hooked me up with a job I can do remotely. Should make life easier.”
She digs in her shoulder bag and pulls out a small tablet to show him.
“Oh, wow!” Foggy exclaims, turning the device over and over in his hands – it’s definitely nice. “I didn’t know you were almost done with your last job. What’s this new one that’s so flexible?”
He hands the tablet back and Jo tucks it away again, before adjusting the lay of her bag’s strap.
“Social media junk. I answer simple questions and direct people to the right support lines. Pretty lame, but the tablet’ll beep at me if anything’s up so I can honestly spend most of my shifts doing nothing,” she answers with a grin. “It’s a pretty sweet gig, aside from all the people yelling at me on Facebook. The truth is the temp agency ends up making a lot of concessions for me since I get such good work reviews. Because I’m, you know, brilliant.”
“So you are.”
They climb the porch steps together and Foggy rings the bell. Connie is the first to greet them at the door, one of her sons balanced on her hip.
“Frankie, there you are!” she says brightly. “And this must be Jolene!”
“I’m. Yes, I. It’s nice to meet you—”
“Ma!” Connie shouts back over her shoulder. “Frankie and Jolene are here!”
“This is Connie,” he explains to Jo, since apparently Connie won’t do it herself. “And her youngest, Charlie.”
Charlie, hearing his name, babbles a little and leans away from his mother, chubby arms outstretched towards Foggy.
“Hey, bud!” Foggy laughs, hauling Charlie up into his arms. “You miss me?”
He starts making funny faces at his nephew as they walk into the house with Connie, and Jo wiggles a finger at Charlie while making goofy cooing noises. Her nails are painted with simple horizontal stripes – pink, purple, blue – and Foggy smiles knowingly to himself.
From there everything goes nuts, the way it always does. Anna orders Foggy into the kitchen to help with the ham and he has to hand Charlie off to Tom, Connie’s husband. He gives Jo as many hurried explanations of relations as he can, but with nine adults bustling around the Nelson household it’s probably tough to keep everyone straight.
He turns, still donning oven mitts, to share the quip with Jo, but finds her getting her face squished between Anna Nelson’s floury hands.
“Hello, dear! Foggy hasn’t told us much anything about you, we’re so happy you came to meet us!”
“Mom, give her a little room to breathe,” Foggy scolds.
He doesn’t get much farther than that, though, because the oven timer beeps and he’s too busy trying to make sure the ham doesn’t burn to continue his tirade. The whirlwind of activity only stops when all the food is on the table. It’s a massive spread, reminiscent of the traditional Nelson Thanksgiving feasts Foggy remembers from his youth. Once people start sitting down, Foggy begins introducing Jo in a much less harried manner.
“That’s my mom and dad, Anna and Edward,” he says, pointing each person out in turn. “Connie, Tom, and Charlie you met, but sitting next to you here is Sam, their oldest. Then Julie, the super pregnant one—” He gets plonked on the head with an almond for that. “Ow, Jules, seriously— And her wife Tina, there next to her. And then there’s Candace on the end. Guys, this is Jolene, my fiancée.”
“I warn you,” Jo tells them all, “I’m bad with names.”
The food gets passed around as everyone dishes up their share, and then Edward folds his hands and says grace for them all. It’s not something Foggy does in his own home, but there’s something comforting about it when the whole family’s gathered around the table.
Finally, they dig in. It’s delicious, obviously, and Foggy enjoys the white noise of five conversations going at once. Tina’s been taking some local art class to learn how to make stained glass windows. Sam was just tested for red-green colorblindness. Julie’s prenatal checkups are still going well. Candace built a pie safe with Grandpa Nelson. Connie and Tom are considering getting a dog.
Jo adds to the conversation here and there, but mostly she ducks down towards her plate and eats. Even when she does speak, she doesn’t seem to get much of a response, especially from Foggy’s sisters. Part of Foggy wants to brag about her new job, or mention her nail art or—just, something, to make a conversation more relevant to her, to make sure his family knows he’s on her side, that he chose her – the way she did for him with Alex. But they’re not close enough yet that he can read the nuances of her body language the way he can Matt’s. Is that a ‘please include me’ shoulder hunch or a ‘please ignore me’ shoulder hunch?
The choice is taken out of his hands before he can try to compare Jo’s posture to their other conversations.
“So,” Candace says in the voice Foggy knows means trouble. “We heard you’re friends with Rosalind.”
Jo purses her lips, knows she’s being nudged in a particular direction but unsure to what end. Foggy kicks his sister under the table.
“I… Wouldn’t say friends, no. She’s helped my family out, professionally. But we’re not close. I know she’s Foggy’s biological mother, is she yours too?”
“Hell no,” spits Candace before stuffing an angry bite of mashed potatoes into her mouth, probably to stopper any further Rosalind-related expletives before the foul language can upset their dad.
The side conversations at the table fall awkwardly silent, and Foggy can see Jo’s eyes dart back and forth over her plate nervously. He’s about to step in when his mother speaks.
“I already had Connie and Julie from a previous marriage,” Anna explains gently. “And Edward had Frankie with… Hm. With Rosalind.” Her voice is admirably steady, without a hint of bitterness. “And once the two of us got married, we had Candace soon afterwards.”
“And that’s how we all became the Brady Bunch,” Foggy warbles, horribly off-key despite his best efforts.
Candy pelts him with a pea. But Jo laughs, so he counts it as a win.
“Would you like some broccoli, Jolene?” asks Anna, holding up the dish.
Her time-honored tactic of changing the subject. Foggy knows it well.
“Oh, I don’t—I’m not very fond of broccoli,” Jo admits sheepishly. “S-sorry.”
“Me too!” Sam pipes up, patting Jo’s hand in an uncoordinated but consoling manner that shatters the awkward tension immediately.
The whole table laughs. Foggy’s relieved to see that, after that, Jo’s nerves seem to be easing. His family is no Tanner Burnett, but they have their own issues and idiosyncrasies. And, well, to be honest… Jo’s starting a few paces back, just by dint of her association with Rosalind.
But she finally manages to get on her toes when she starts discussing poetry with Tom. They’re both fans of Joy Harjo and Mary Oliver, and both of them apparently have well-loved copies of Muriel Rukeyser’s The Life of Poetry sitting on their shelves. When they veer onto the topic of Irena Klepfisz, Tina joins in happily. Foggy recognizes some of the names, some of the poems discussed, from Matt’s undergrad assignments, but. Well, he was never an English major himself. A lot of it goes over his head. And Connie’s, apparently, because when he shoots her a clueless look she just shrugs.
Still, once she’s started talking, Jo doesn’t clam up again, and that’s what’s important. She chats with Connie about those new sunglasses-type things that are supposed to help colorblind people, and asks after Anna’s green bean casserole recipe, and commiserates with Sam about how Cheez-Its are better than Goldfish. She’s been, he thinks, fully assimilated into the Nelson conversation blob. So Foggy feels safe talking to his dad about his new caseload and asking Julie for a particular screwdriver she stole from his toolkit years ago that he now needs to adjust the angle of his showerhead.
They’re all picking through about twelve dessert options – pie, pie, cookies, jello, some strange marshmallow concoction Tina assures them is delicious, pie again – when Foggy finally remembers that he hasn’t asked Candace to be a bridesmaid.
“So, uh, about the wedding,” he begins, which is a mistake because everyone freezes in place. “Uh. Candy, do you wanna be one of Jo’s bridesmaids? Her brother’s gonna be a groomsman, so we thought maybe—”
He’s cut off by an outrageously high-pitched squeal of delight. Unsurprising, since Candy’s been coveting a bridesmaid position in any wedding since the day she got too old to be a flower girl.
“I see how it is, Fogster,” Julie complains, leaning sulkily against Tina. “We all knew you played favorites.”
It’s all an act, of course. Foggy’s sisters had given him his first experiences with bullshit-detection and he knows their tells well.
“Do you really want to be a bridesmaid, Jules?” he asks her, deadpan. “You’d have to have your dress taken out eight times before the wedding.”
“You still should’ve asked me,” Julie insists, rubbing her pregnant belly. “Rude.”
Connie’s at least mature enough not to try and make a halfhearted bid for a bridesmaid position. She does put Sam forward as a potential ringbearer, though, and then immediately glances pointedly at Jo’s bare ring finger.
Right. Rings. One more thing to add to their to-do list.
When everyone’s had their fill, Tina, Tom, and Edward insist on clearing the table. Anna bustles off with her grandsons, and then it’s just Foggy, his sisters, and Jo. They all stand, and there’s an odd silence for a few seconds before Connie puts a hand on Candace’s shoulder, who in turn nudges Julie in the arm. They bicker silently for a few seconds while Jo and Foggy look on.
Then Julie steps forward and scratches the back of her neck sheepishly. She’s apparently been nominated the spokesperson for his sisters, although Connie’s the oldest and also not currently full of weird pregnancy hormones.
“Listen, we’re. Sorry. About all the… Well. You know.”
It’s probably the most coherent apology she’s ever given in her life, at least to an adult human being.
“No, I… I get it. Really. I…” Jo turns to glance back at him and the fondness in her brief gaze makes him feel warm, known. “I have a little brother too. And he means the world to me. I know this arrangement must be a, a bit difficult to swallow. But Foggy and I will do our best to make each other happy. That’s… Really all anyone can ask, I think.”
Foggy knows enough about his sisters to realize they’re all a bit charmed by that. He’s a bit charmed too. They’ve got, all four of them, a weakness for earnest, well-spoken people. It’s part of the reason Candace had a crush on Matt for most of Foggy’s undergrad years. It’s part of the reason Foggy had a crush on Matt for most of their undergrad years.
Candace hurries off to help with the kids, and Connie bustles Julie along to the living room so she can sit down again. It’s at that point that Edward pops his head out of the kitchen.
“Fog, bud, don’t go off just yet, alright?” he says. “We’d all like to talk to you. … Alone, that is, if it’s ok?”
“No, no, that’s fine,” Jo says before Foggy can get in a word.
“You don’t mind…?” Foggy asks her.
“I can head home by myself,” Jo assures him, jerking a thumb over her shoulder. “If you want to stay a while.”
But Foggy shakes his head. It’s the usual family group talk, and they never take all that long. He knows Jo can probably take care of herself, but he doesn’t like the idea of letting anyone go home alone anymore. Not after the city was invaded by aliens and beset upon by ninjas. He thinks that’s a reasonable call.
“Nah, this’ll just take a minute. Promise,” he says.
So, Jo heads out the door and settles on the porch swing. He can see her rocking back and forth in it lazily as she watches the colors of the sunset flood the sky. After studying her for a second longer, Foggy makes his way to the living room and settles onto the couch between Candace and his mom. Connie and Tom are cross-legged on the floor with the kids, Julie’s settled in an armchair with Tina perched on the arm of it, and Foggy’s dad is sitting in the rocking chair.
“Alright, what?” Foggy demands, though there’s no heat to his words.
Everyone looks around at everyone else, as if waiting for somebody to speak first.
“You definitely could’ve done worse for yourself, big bro,” Candace concludes.
“Wow. A ringing endorsement of my future wife. Should I tell Jo you said that?” asks Foggy.
He finds himself pulled into a hug by his mom.
“Don’t be so argumentative, darling,” Anna scolds. “We’re all just… Relieved. Jolene is a nice girl and the two of you get along well. When you told us Rosalind had set the match up…”
“I wouldn’t pay that woman to matchmake my worst enemy,” Connie scoffs. “No offense, Dad.” Edward waves her off with a roll of his eyes. “Anyway, you can hardly blame us for getting our protective hackles up, Frankie.”
“That’s right, Fogster. We’re your family, it’s our job to make sure she’s not gonna hurt you,” says Julie.
He knows they mean well, and he’s touched, but he’s not going to let them know that. Give the Nelsons an inch and they take a mile – he doesn’t want them thinking he approves of their meddling in this particular matter. So he just rolls his eyes.
“She’s not going to hurt me. Seriously, why would she even want to?”
“But you will tell us,” Tom says seriously, “if she does hurt you? Right?”
And after that it’s too hard to ignore how concerned they all really are.
“Yeah, I. Of course I will. Obviously,” Foggy assures them.
But Connie looks away and Candace crosses her arms over her chest.
“You didn’t tell us about your law firm breaking up,” she says, facing her knees more than Foggy.
Going to. But he wasn’t. Because talking about it would make it real, right? Would make it more than a nightmare that buzzed around in his head. That moment when Matt finally ditched him, because when had Foggy Nelson ever truly been cool? He’d managed to stave off that voice for years, tamp down on the bullying and on Rosalind’s harsh words and on the way that the only characters who looked like him were stupid comic relief sidekicks. College had helped him shove aside those things, those words, like the bullshit they were. But they were still there, sometimes, under the surface. And he didn’t like to admit that. Foggy sighs.
“I should’ve said something,” he says finally, ruffling Candace’s hair. “But I… I figured I could handle it on my own. If you guys want in the loop, fine, you’re in the loop. Foggy Nelson’s roundtrip feelings train. But for now, I’m good. I really am. I… I even asked Matt to be my Best Man, and he said yes. So. It’s fine.”
That settles things. No one pushes any further on the subject, and after a round-robin of hugs, Foggy waves goodbye and walks onto the porch to collect Jo.
“How’d it go?” she asks him, standing and following him down the steps.
“Good, I think. They like you. So, uh.” Foggy clears his throat. “Hope seeing the whole Nelson brood didn’t scare you off.”
“Nah. It was… It was nice. They’re good people,” says Jo, patting his arm. “You’re the one who’s getting the short end of the stick, in-law-wise.”
“I dunno, you haven’t met my Great Aunt Marjorie. She’s still scandalized by the sight of bare ankles, and she hasn’t figured out Jules and Tina are married.”
They banter on like that for most of the trip, until Foggy thinks about how their wedding party is mostly in order but full of people who are complete strangers to one another. He offers up his apartment for a get-together, and Jo agrees to start calling her half of the guests in the morning.
Foggy drops her off at her door just as the stars are starting to come out.
It’s been… A good day. A really good day.
But that doesn’t stop him from peering up at every rooftop on his way out of Hell’s Kitchen. He’s not sure whether he hopes to see a flash of red or whether he hopes he doesn’t.
Chapter 10: Take a Crack at It
Matt plans to take the night before the party off, he really does. Hell's Kitchen seems to have other plans.
Remember kids, don't go jumping into burning buildings or running away from paramedics. We have firefighters and EMTs for a reason.
We'll see the boys together again next chapter! It's my absolute favorite so far so please look forward to it!
Matt plans to take the night before the party off, he really does. Hell’s Kitchen isn’t so hard up that he doesn’t occasionally do that. Nights he’s too injured, too compromised, nights that sound quiet enough that Matt’s content to let the police do their jobs. Burning himself out is a compulsion, but Matt’s learning to fight it for the greater good – if he dies, if he makes a stupid mistake because he’s worn down, then he can’t help anyone. And it’s not as though he’s the only vigilante on the streets of New York anymore.
So the plan is to go to bed early, sleep deeply, wake up refreshed, go to church, and then attend Foggy’s get-together with an unblemished face and a smile.
Hell’s Kitchen seems to have other plans for the night.
It starts, as it always seems to, with a scream.
Matt can feel the heat of the fire when he’s still a block out. As soon as the building’s directly in front of him, he already knows the fastest way to learn if anyone’s still inside is to ask one of the people milling around outside – all in various states of shock and hysteria. Someone down the street is calling the fire department. The building on fire appears to be a simple storefront with a single apartment on top, based on the way the fire roars through it, the way the heat catches glass and wood and brick differently.
Matt hits the pavement in a crouch and it startles a woman pacing back and forth across the street from the fire.
“Is everyone out?” he demands of her sharply, then again when she doesn’t stop crying. “Ma’am. Is everyone out?”
There’s a light brush of displaced air as she shakes her head.
“My son—Johnny, he came to check the pipes for me, they were making an awful racket and he, he’s still in there, he’s—”
Matt nods. And then he darts across the street and leaps into the open doorway. Into the inferno.
The heat of the flames garbles his perception of the world, their roar overpowering any sound he might use to navigate towards a person, and every breath pulls choking black smoke into Matt’s lungs. He can feel it burning him from the inside out, coating his throat and his nostrils. But there’s still one more man in the building, and the way the structural beams are creaking, it’ll have collapsed by the time firefighters make it to the scene. They’ll be able to do what Matt can’t and stop the blaze from spreading to the rest of the block, but this is the part only Matt can do.
He centers himself within the lick of fire against his suit and what little of his skin is exposed. Centers himself and turns the noise way down, sifts through every sensation he’s feeling for a hint of the other presence in the building. Finally, he finds it. Not a heartbeat, but the ragged gasping of labored breaths, interspersed with coughs. Matt darts towards it at full speed, dodging past the warmest spots in the building and anything that creaks loud enough to be heard past the fire. Finally, near a window in the back of the shop that, by the airflow, is webbed with cracks but not quite shattered, he finds the collapsed form of a man. Johnny, presumably. Matt snaps out with one foot and finishes the job of breaking the window, then hauls Johnny – young, short, probably around 150lbs – over his shoulder and leaps through. There’s no point going back the way he came.
It takes several long minutes to stagger back around the block, and by then the firetrucks are pulling up and each peal of their sirens rips into Matt’s head like the blade of a knife. There’s an ambulance, too, and Matt makes sure they take Johnny, press an oxygen mask over his mouth. One of the paramedics places a gentle hand on Matt’s arm, tells him he needs the same. He probably does. But the police cars are just around the corner, and while he might hold out a little hope that emergency services won’t take advantage of his smoke inhalation and general vulnerability, things with the PD are a little bit too personal for him to make the same assumption.
He darts into the night and, again, plans to go right home. Drink water, breathe relatively clean air, sleep. But then he hears something else that catches his attention.
“Does Anderson know we’re doing this?” an unfamiliar voice asks, a little scared and wavering.
The person that replies, however, is familiar. The big man from the warehouse with Anderson. The argumentative one.
“Anderson ain’t here. And if he thinks we can do business in the Kitchen without the Devil noticing, he’s dead wrong. There’s already a few guys who’ve been knocked around – he’s asking about the coke and I’m sure as hell not gonna wait for him to knock down the doors when we got our pants down like chumps.”
Matt’s sharp devil smile spreads across his face. He might not be able to see, but their pants seem plenty down to him right now. The two men are making their way towards the warehouses again. The nervous one, Matt thinks, is the one he was tailing the first time and lost. No time like the present to return to that loose thread.
But he waits until they get to their base of operations, because he wants to get as many of them as he can and because he has an itching suspicion that the trap they’re laying for him is similar to the one the Russians tried so long ago – and taking out a couple of guys is meaningless if an innocent person gets hurt.
As usual, Matt finds his intuition has led him correctly. There are five more heartbeats in the warehouse and one of them is fluttering anxiously. A woman, tied to a chair. The movement of the air and the smell of metal and gunpowder tells Matt that the kidnappers are armed enough that slamming through the door is not an option. He’s still a little off-balance from the fire, and people tied to chairs can’t exactly dodge.
The big guy hardly stops, just tugs briefly at his captive’s ropes to check they’re secure and keeps right on walking out the other end of the warehouse. The click of a lighter and the smell of cigarette smoke immediately follow. That leaves the jumpy one and four more guys between Matt and the hostage.
He makes his way carefully to a high window and climbs through – ends up on a sort of catwalk. For a minute or two he just tilts his head back and forth, listens to the sounds of the warehouse, gets a feel for it. Not completely empty. There are corners and blind spots he can lure them into one by one.
And so he does. Clambering down to the floor of the warehouse, Matt kicks over an empty crate. Two men come investigate while the last three continue to circle around their hostage. Guy number one takes a punch to the gut and a club to the wrist. Guy number two takes his partner’s gun to the head and gets flipped over Matt’s shoulder. That’s loud enough to draw more attention, although the man outside doesn’t seem to be able to hear it. Two more men go down without a hitch. The last one standing is the anxious guy. Matt doesn’t bother hiding from him – intimidation can be just as effective as stealth sometimes.
“I-I’ll shoot her!” he stammers frantically, and does point the gun at the woman’s head – but his heart gives the lie away.
Still, an innocent life is on the line. The gun is loaded, and even if the guy doesn’t intend to shoot it doesn’t mean he couldn’t do it accidentally. Matt lifts his hands in a surrendering pose and drops his clubs to the floor with a clatter. As soon as that’s done, the barrel of the gun turns on him.
With a stomp of his boot he flips one of his clubs right back into his hand and flings it at Jumpy Guy’s face. Perfect hit. The man and his gun go down like a sack of bricks, and Matt darts over to the hostage. Her heart is still racing, nervous sweat still clouding the air.
“It’s ok,” he tells her, hurriedly untying the ropes with his head cocked to keep an ear on the big guy still smoking outside. “I’m going to get you out of here.”
It’s here that Matt makes an unfortunate miscalculation. While he might be able to hear a panicked heartbeat, smell adrenaline and fear, in truth he has no way of knowing the cause of these things. His natural assumption had been, of course, fear of the kidnappers.
When the so-called kidnapping victim tries to jam a needle full of sedatives into his neck, at that slight vulnerable place between his helmet and his collar, the vigilante has to re-evaluate this assumption. He manages to shake her off and clock her in the jaw before she really doses him, but he can already feel chemicals itching through his veins.
There’s no one to rescue, here, and Matt’s torn between the knowledge that he should really get going before he’s too disoriented and the burning desire to finish the fight. The woman’s back up again, and a hazy scraping sound – door? – alerts Matt to the big guy returning from his smoke break. His heart doesn’t speed up even once Matt is surely in his line of sight.
“I figured we’d see you soon,” the man says with some amusement. “If you want to set up shop in Hell’s Kitchen, you gotta pay the Devil his dues.”
“What’s Anderson’s angle?” Matt demands, ignoring the jibe. “What’d he promise you?”
There’s no answer. Just the crack of a gunshot. Matt’s still coordinated enough to leap out of the way, but his head is swimming. The bodies littering the warehouse floor are starting to stir. Another gunshot, this one closer – Matt gets distracted by the waking thugs and almost forgets to dodge.
There’s no one here to save, the thought comes to him again.
No one but himself. Getting shot in this warehouse isn’t going to help anyone. He’s learning to realize things like that. And there’s no one to pull a bullet out of him anyway. So, although part of him bristles at the thought of retreat, the truth is that he knows discretion is the better part of valor, at least this time.
He’s back out the door of the warehouse by the time the third bullet cracks against concrete.
With his balance shot, Matt knows better than to go flying over rooftops. He darts through alleys, doubles back, carefully matching his sensory perceptions to his mental map – what little of it isn’t slipping through his tired fingers.
By the time he reaches his apartment building, no one’s awake to see Daredevil stumbling up the stairs. He left his keys at home, as always, so he has to take the stairs from the roof access. He’s managed it before while actually injured, he rationalizes to himself, so this isn’t so bad.
Dizzy and a little sick, Matt gulps down a glass of water and drops into his bed without even removing his helmet. He’s out in seconds.
When Matt wakes, it’s to a fuzzy mouth and the stale smell of smoke and the sound of cars and the sudden feeling that he’s probably missed Father Lantom’s sermon. On the bright side, whatever sedative they got him with seems to have worn off. Clumsily, he swings a hand over to the bedside table and pats the top of his clock.
“Twelve thirty-five PM,” it announces pleasantly.
Matt’s heart just about stops. He has twenty-five minutes to get showered, get dressed, and make his way to Foggy’s apartment.
It won’t be enough.
Rubbing a hand across his jaw, Matt decides his stubble is short enough he can afford to shave later. And he can probably take a shower later in the day, but his hair is a sweaty mess and he knows it’s got to be sticking up like crazy. So he strips off his Daredevil suit, runs his head under the shower spray without even waiting for the water to warm up and quickly scrubs shampoo through his hair. He rinses it out again just as fast.
It takes a few minutes of fumbling with the Braille labels on his hangers to find a suitable nice-but-not-too-nice dress shirt and slacks. Hastily, Matt buttons the shirt one-handed while brushing his teeth with the other hand. Stumbling back into his bedroom, he gives his clock another tap.
“Twelve forty-three PM,” it says.
A cab won’t get him to Foggy’s in time. Not during the lunch hour. But he can’t exactly run down the streets either. For the briefest second, Matt contemplates slowing down, getting back in the shower, and arriving late but well-pressed.
And then he imagines Foggy’s soft sigh of resignation.
No. Not an option. Not on the very first day. He’s been determined to prove to Foggy that he can handle this commitment, and he’s not going to throw it from the beginning.
Fine. He’ll take the roofs.
Stuffing his phone and his keys in the pocket of his slacks and shoving his glasses onto his face, Matt thunders up the stairs to his roof access and races off.
Chapter 11: If the Boot Fits
Matt arrives, a little ruffled, at Foggy's apartment. Foggy probably shouldn't be surprised.
The time is 12:57pm and there’s no sign of Matt.
It’s likely he’s caught in traffic – that’s where pretty much all the rest of the wedding party is, but they at least had the courtesy to text or call and let him know. There was a car accident several blocks down that’s holding the entire city up, apparently. Obviously there’s a reasonable explanation, and if everyone shows up at 1:30 instead of 1:00, who really cares in the end?
But with Matt in particular, there’s a part of Foggy that’s still holding back, still doubtful he’ll show; fool me once… And it’s not like Daredevil comes ‘round for a midnight constitutional or anything, so Foggy’s maybe a little startled when he hears a sharp rapping at one of his windows. He follows the noise to his bedroom with a vague suspicion, and yes, there’s Matt on the other side.
Foggy sighs, unlocks the window, and slides it open. Matt tumbles into the apartment surprisingly gracelessly.
“I’m here!” Matt gasps out. “I’m ready, I’m—”
“Still wearing Daredevil’s boots,” Foggy points out, trying his hardest to sound stern and exasperated despite the laughter building in his gut.
Matt is… Well, he’s definitely something. Two of the buttons on his shirt are done up wrong, there’s streaks of dirt on his sleeves and a dribble of toothpaste at his collar, his hair is dripping wet, his glasses are crooked, he smells faintly of smoke, and, yes, he’s wearing the blindingly red Daredevil boots instead of anything reasonably resembling normal footwear. The image together makes Foggy’s heart squeeze in his chest, because even though there’s bruises on Matt’s knuckles and a split in his lip, there beneath it all is the ridiculous dork Foggy fell in love with ten years ago. The guy who makes incessant blind puns and trips assholes with his cane and quotes Thurgood Marshall so earnestly that the very air sparkles with his desire for Justice.
“Shit,” Matt breathes. “Foggy, I’m. I’m sorry, I…”
He looks devastated. And as much as Foggy wants to give him a hard time, as much as this is just one more almost-misstep in their porcelain-delicate friendship… At least it’s an attempt. It’s Matt showing up – so desperate to show up, in fact, that he looks like a complete mess, which Foggy knows Matt hates. People always think it’s because of, you know, the blind thing, Foggy remembers him saying once. The second I look less than put together they think I can’t take care of myself.
So even if Foggy probably doesn’t rank up near Hell’s Kitchen in terms of priority, at least he’s on the list again.
“Come on, Dorkdevil,” he says, and realizes he’s got a goofy, smitten smile on his face that won’t go away – thank god Matt can’t see it. “Let’s get you cleaned up before anybody catches you red-footed.”
Matt stumbles further into the apartment after Foggy, his hair still dripping all over the carpet.
“I don’t think—I don’t think ‘footed’ is a word you can use like that.”
Foggy scoffs, dipping into his bathroom to snag a towel. He throws it at Matt’s head, but, like the insane ninja he is, Matt snatches it right out of the air.
“I’m marrying a poet, I can mangle the English language all I want,” Foggy insists, with as much faux-authority as he can muster.
There’s a pause, just slightly too long.
“Right,” Matt responds at last, ducking underneath the towel to dry off his hair.
Foggy tries not to read too much into it. Matt’s still uncomfortable with the idea of the marriage is all. He hasn’t met Jo yet, doesn’t know what she’s like. But he will soon. So Foggy bustles into his room to grab a clean shirt for Matt. He used to have some of Matt’s own shirts set aside – at first in case of impromptu sleepovers and later in case of Daredeviling, although in either case Matt always seemed to snatch up Foggy’s softest pajama shirts instead of his own clothes anyway so… Well. Anyway, the point is he’s not going to make Matt wear a dirty shirt to meet new people. He picks out one approximately the same level of formal as what Matt has on, though blue instead of white.
Foggy’s bigger around the middle than Matt, but the guy’s so jacked from fighting mobsters that their shoulders are approximately the same width. The shirt will be a little loose on Matt, but not as comically large as it would have been in college when Matt was a veritable twig and didn’t think he deserved to eat as many calories as he needed.
“Here,” Foggy says, handing it over.
Matt rubs the material between his fingers with that patented confused baby bird look he used to get when Foggy decided not to study for a test. It was always a point of mild, slightly pouty contention between them. Foggy’s memory for things he’s read is about as frankly fantastic as Matt’s senses, so sometimes it was just a waste of his valuable time to study. Matt, not having this advantage and also being a massive nerd, often bullied Foggy into studying with him anyway with that look.
“What…?” murmurs Matt.
“You’ve got toothpaste and god knows what else on your shirt, Matt,” Foggy explains. “I know you don’t want that in your life.”
A soft laugh. It pretty much nearly does Foggy in, but hey, he’s used to it. Even though his tolerance is like, way, way down from when he heard it every day.
Because Matt is a disaster and also an asshole, he strips off the shirt he’s wearing right there in the middle of Foggy’s living room with exactly zero shame, and then folds his shirt and sets it next to the towel on the coffee table.
That done, Matt sniffs the shirt Foggy handed him in what he probably thinks is a subtle way. It is not.
“Come on, man, it’s clean,” Foggy sighs. “I don’t care what you smell, I literally washed it yesterday.”
Caught, Matt’s entire posture tenses, and he clutches the shirt tighter in his fingers.
“N-no, I—I know that. I mean I. It. Um.”
It takes a few seconds for it to click, but the embarrassed pink tinge at the tips of Matt’s ears makes things clearer.
“Oh, is this a super-nose preference thing?” Foggy wonders.
“You.” Matt shifts from foot to foot. “You changed laundry detergents.”
“Shit. I didn’t think about that. Are you going to start sneezing?”
Foggy’s already halfway to the medicine cabinet for Claritin when Matt speaks up.
“No, no, it. It’s nice, Fog. Really subtle. Thanks.”
Matt smiles sweetly and takes another slight whiff of the shirt. Because they’re such great actors, they both pretend not to hear the drunken stumble Foggy’s heart does.
“Yeah, I. Sure thing, buddy.”
So they both just ride out the awkwardness, Foggy shifting from foot to foot as Matt slips on the shirt and buttons it up. Only when that’s done does Foggy realize Matt must have stripped off the Daredevil boots while he was busy finding the shirt – they’re set tidily against the wall by Foggy’s bedroom door. Out of the way, but not exactly inconspicuous.
Foggy grabs them and shoves them under his bed, then stands and brushes off his hands theatrically because at this point what else can he do?
Matt’s stomach growls loudly, and he claps a hand over it as though that would accomplish anything.
“Missed lunch?” Foggy sighs, hands on his hips.
“And breakfast,” admits Matt with a wince. “I was. Out late last night.”
“I don’t even want to know,” Foggy tells him, but is already heading for the fridge.
Matt shuffles after him with hunched shoulders and socked feet.
“Foggy— You don’t have to—” he protests weakly, already fidgeting with the cuff of his shirt.
“Yeah, Matt, I kinda do. Do we need to have the talk about how bodies require sustenance to keep functioning? You can’t meditate away the hunger, buddy.”
Matt pulls a familiar grumpy-stubborn face that tells Foggy he’s apparently game to try. Too bad for him, Foggy’s already pulling out a carton of eggs and cracking a couple over a bowl. Take that. Arguably, Matt makes better scrambled eggs than Foggy, but he’s just going to have to tough it out because Foggy is a man on a mission and that mission is getting his idiot Best Man fed.
“Thank you,” Matt offers quietly, and settles at last onto one of the stools at Foggy’s stylish kitchen island.
Foggy hums out a ‘no problem’ sort of noise, whisking the eggs together. He only pauses in his cooking when something occurs to him.
“Matt, did you seriously run across rooftops to get here? Dressed like that?”
Matt clears his throat uncomfortably and shifts on the stool like a kid who’s about to get detention.
“No one saw,” he offers with a not-very-reassuring amount of uncertainty.
“Oh my god,” Foggy sighs, dumping the eggs into a pan with some butter and flicking on the stove. “I don’t want to know. I don’t even want to know.” Plausible deniability is still a thing, even if it’s paper thin; Foggy tries not to think about it as he pours Matt a tall glass of apple juice and sets it in front of him. “Drink your juice.”
Matt complies meekly, his shoulders a little hunched. That… Kind of makes Foggy feel like a huge asshole. So he turns back to the eggs and continues cooking. When they’re finished, seasoned, and sprinkled with enough cheese to send a lactose intolerant person running for the bathroom, Foggy dumps them on a plate and slides them over to Matt, who – praise be to someone up there – starts eating without complaint.
“Sorry,” Matt apologizes after a minute, quietly, through a mouthful of eggs.
“No, it’s…” Foggy sighs and leans on the island; it’s not fine, but… “I’m not mad. I just, I worry about you Matt. I know you probably don’t want to hear that. But you’re here, and you’re safe, and you’re eating, so, I guess I can’t ask for anything more.”
Matt scrapes his fork lightly on the plate, takes a couple more slow bites with a troubled expression on his face. Then he seems to come to a decision, slides the plate aside, removes his glasses, and leans forward on his forearms with his hands clasped together.
But then he… Doesn’t continue. Stays leaning in with his mouth slightly parted and his unfocused eyes narrowed slightly in confusion.
And Matt’s lips are so, so red and they’re just—Right. There. Foggy breathes shallowly, has a distant thought that his heartbeat must be going crazy. He needs to stop. Really, really stop. Like with Daredevil, there’s plausible deniability here, even if it’s only paper thin, and Foggy needs to be careful not to rip right through it. Foggy’s, what, discretion – the thought’s laughable, nothing about his attraction to Matt can be remotely discreet with supersenses added to the equation – has apparently been enough to keep Matt from mentioning anything. But banking on that seems foolish, not to mention unfair to Matt.
No matter how many stubborn ‘no comprende’ signs Foggy’s lovestruck brain puts up to counter all common sense, the fact of the matter is that this can’t happen, is never going to happen, and fantasizing about Matt is just going to make things Bad and Awkward for everyone.
Shakily, Foggy pulls back and centers himself. Tries to breathe steady, breathe easy, muffle the sound of his heart cracking open again.
“Anyway,” he chokes out. “That’s. All I wanted to say.”
Matt’s mouth moves silently for a few seconds, and then he leans back too.
The way Matt returns to eating his eggs seems a little overly determined, the way Foggy feels when he shoves a pastry in his face to avoid talking to Great Aunt Marjorie at family reunions. So Foggy chatters to fill the silence, about Jo because he does want she and Matt to like one another and because maybe his heart needs a little reminder about who it is he’s actually marrying and who he’s definitely not.
Not long after Matt finishes eating and they get his dishes in the sink, there’s a knock at the door.
The first thing Foggy sees when he opens it is Jo. She’s got a cute flower clip in her hair, and a short silver dress with dark jeans underneath. Her dark hair is a little ruffled and her expression is bright.
“Hey, Foggy,” she greets.
“Hi! Come on in, Jo.”
He steps aside and opens the door wider. Oddly, only after she steps inside does Foggy notice Ivonne behind her.
“Nice d-d-digs,” Ivonne compliments with a toothy smile.
Her braids are twisted into a fantastic updo, and she’s wearing a loose white tank top layered over a black cami, with bright red jeans. The same crystal bracelet is still on her wrist, Foggy notices.
He follows the girls into the main room of the apartment, and sees Matt is standing, his posture formal. He doesn’t seem to know what to do with his hands, since he usually rests them on his cane when he stands that way and – hey, he didn’t bring it because he was running across the rooftops like a weirdo. Foggy moves to stand next to Matt, and finds himself startled but pleased when Matt latches onto his arm in their usual guiding position.
“Ivonne, Jo, this is my erstwhile law partner and current Best Man, Matt Murdock,” Foggy says, patting Matt’s hand lightly. “Matt, this is Jo Burnett, my fiancée, on the left here, and her Maid of Honor Ivonne Williams on the right.”
Before Foggy can say more, there’s another knock on his door. Matt releases him to continue talking to Jo and Ivonne – a good sign, he thinks – and Foggy opens the door to his apartment again. Marci and Brett are on the other side, along with two people Foggy doesn’t recognize. From Jo’s descriptions, though, he figures pretty quick that they’re likely Kim Satou, one of Jo’s friends from college, and Arjun Kumar, a friend she met years ago through her temp agency. Probably-Kim is carrying a plate of what looks like cheesy biscuits, and Brett’s got one of his mom’s pies in his hands.
“Hey there!” Foggy greets them all brightly, and opens the door wider. “Come on in!”
Things get a little crazier from there, with eight people buzzing around the apartment and a set of introductions that would make for a great Handshake Problem. When Karen arrives, it’s on the arm of Jo’s childhood friend Tyler Barr, who she is interrogating about his job as a paramedic. Candace arrives next, and Alex is last, though only a minute or so behind her – he’s still wearing way too many layers. Introductions go around again, and Foggy finds himself incredibly pleased to see how well the two halves of their wedding party are melding.
It feels like a puzzle piece clicking into place. Foggy might not get precisely what he’s wanted most in the world for the better part of a decade – for Matt to love him back – but this? An apartment full of friends old and new, a fiancée who’s brilliant and friendly, and Matt safe and charming and actually present? This is a very close second.
Chapter 12: Green-Eyed Monster
Matt's view of the wedding party get-together. He's not jealous. Really. And he makes some new acquaintances, so there's that.
This chapter starts at the same time as the last chapter, because I'm self-indulgent and I wanted Matt's PoV of the almost-kiss. It's also almost 5000 words long, so. Enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Matt’s surprised to realize that there’s no one else in Foggy’s apartment when he arrives. But it doesn’t slow him down – Matt has a pretty decent internal clock, and he knows he’s pushing 1:00. His mouth is already spilling apologies when Foggy opens the window to let him in.
The next few minutes are a gut-wrenching roller coaster of warring emotions. Embarrassment, at the realization of what a mess he apparently looks – the boots, really? How on earth did he miss that he was still wearing Daredevil’s boots? Then it’s a swoop of pain in his gut as Foggy jokes happily about his impending marriage. He’s knocked out of that by confusion at the shirt Foggy hands him. Only after Foggy points it out does Matt separate the smell of the toothpaste on his collar from the smell of it on his own teeth.
But then there’s Foggy’s shirt between his fingers and… And… It smells different, a fancier detergent, but it smells like Foggy, too. He fumbles through a verbal sidestep of just why he’s sniffing the shirt, and realizes the one he has on isn’t even buttoned correctly when he goes to take it off. Fantastic. He probably couldn’t have ended up looking like more of a mess unless he literally showed up covered in blood. And yet, Foggy’s still fondly teasing him and offering him clean clothes. It makes his fingers tingle with warmth where they’re holding the new shirt.
Matt has to force himself to suppress a shiver as he buttons it over his chest. It’s not as soft as the fabric of his own clothes, but it’s definitely nicer quality than Foggy’s old shirts. But really that observation is just an attempt to distract himself from the tantalizing thought that the smell of Foggy’s detergent is going to linger on him.
Of course his stomach has to choose that moment to announce that it hasn’t been fed in approximately twenty hours. And he doesn’t want to lie—ok, that in and of itself is a lie, Matt does want to lie about why he’s so hungry, but he’s also resolved not to do it, so. He mentions it as obliquely as he can.
And then Foggy makes him breakfast.
If Matt had ever fooled himself into thinking he was steeling himself against Foggy, it’s this moment that disabuses him of the notion. His heart is a puddle of besotted goo in his chest because Foggy is cooking for him and it’s sweet and domestic and—Jesus, Matt really wants this. All of it. Every day.
He stuffs those thoughts back down so he can speak coherently, can be at least a mostly-attentive conversation partner. The guilt, however, is not so easily diffused. He finds himself apologizing, again. But Foggy sighs, leans towards him across the kitchen island in a way that sets Matt’s heart pounding tellingly.
“I just, I worry about you, Matt. I know you probably don’t wanna hear that,” Foggy says, and it’s not… Entirely true.
Matt doesn’t want Foggy to worry, yeah, but if he’s worrying about someone, Matt kind of likes that it’s him. Because he’s an awful person like that.
Just—just let me, he wants to say. If you let me just a little closer, I can tell you what your heartbeat tastes like on your lips.
And Matt wants to do that. So badly. Bring Foggy’s pulse as close to himself as he can get it. He’s heard it every day for years, felt it against his cheek when they swayed drunkenly together in college, flushed and dizzy and not really trying to get home. But this compulsion is for something more. To taste that silver-tongued mouth and drink the familiar rhythm from it. Matt is sensitive everywhere, but like most people his lips are the most sensitive to touch. Feeling Foggy’s pulse against them – he knows it will add a whole new dimension to that beloved sound.
It just takes three words. I love you. Three words. If he can just force them out, and it doesn’t matter that it’s pathetic, doesn’t matter that what follows will be a plea of please love me instead of her.
But though he works his mouth, trying to push the sentiment into the air, no words emerge. Foggy pulls back suddenly, and reality crashes down on Matt like a concrete wall. Foggy’s getting married. To someone else. There’s no place in Matt’s role as Best Man for… Whatever that just was.
Maybe Foggy did lean in a little bit, and maybe it made Matt’s heart warm with triumph, but all that proves is that Matt’s a terrible person trying to seduce his best friend away from a supposedly loving fiancée. As if to confirm this, Foggy begins telling Matt all about Jolene. And, true to form, Matt muscles his way through the conversation. Foggy’s happy, and that’s what’s important.
But Matt’s not so committed to listening to his best friend wax rhapsodic about his fiancée that the sound of the apartment building’s door two floors down doesn’t catch his attention. Two people.
“Th-this is p-puh-pretty swanky,” one says to the other with a heavy stammer, but nothing in tone to indicate nervousness.
“Who even says swanky anymore?” laughs the other. “C’mon Ivy. Foggy’s a big shot at HC&B now, of course his place is nicer than mine!”
“E-everyone’s p-place is nicer th-than yours, Jojo.”
Matt’s gut churns. The second speaker, then, is Jolene.
Her breathing is too loud, he thinks uncharitably. Everything about her is irritating, from the cadence of her steps to the specific scent of her unobtrusive shampoo. Deep down Matt knows this is because he’s determined to dislike her, and not because any of these flaws are actually real. From what Foggy’s told him, Jolene is a perfectly nice woman with a pleasant voice. She’s pretty, too, apparently. He wonders where that ranks up against handsome, against really, really good-looking.
He's almost startled by the knock at the door, even though he’s been tracking Jolene and her friend all the way up the stairs.
Matt slips his glasses back on when Foggy moves to let them in. Maybe it’s petty or… Or something, but he doesn’t want Jolene to see his eyes. And not for the usual reasons – the questions, the discomfort, the vulnerability. It’s just a sort of, a rebellion maybe. The tiniest sign of his continued disapproval.
And then, there they are, in Foggy’s apartment. Matt stands, fumbles a moment for his cane before realizing with uncomfortable clarity that it’s leaning in his entryway. He has nothing to fidget with during the introduction. As though he notices – because he always notices – Foggy steps up to Matt’s side. Matt takes his arm and feels himself relax just slightly.
“Ivonne, Jo, this is my erstwhile law partner and current Best Man, Matt Murdock. Matt, this is Jo Burnett, my fiancée, on the left here, and her Maid of Honor Ivonne Williams on the right,” Foggy says, and gives Matt’s hand a subtle pat.
Foggy tends to ramble when he gets nervous, but otherwise his words are always thought through, intentional. Hearing him say Best Man instead of best friend twists something in Matt’s gut. There’s nothing so bad about the words themselves, but the infinitesimal stutter in Foggy’s heart makes Matt think that one phrase had been used because the other seemed like a lie. And that, that hurts.
Matt clears his throat uncomfortably, and is way too relieved when there’s another knock on the apartment’s door to distract Foggy. Matt takes in his rival. Jolene is small, her Maid of Honor is taller, and they both smell like the streets of Manhattan, a cocktail of scents that can only mean a taxi, and cream cheese danishes.
“So,” Matt murmurs, with no idea what to say.
He gets the strangest feeling that Jolene is studying him just as much as he’s studying her, and he doesn’t like it. What, he wonders, did Foggy tell her about him? Not about Daredevil, surely, but. There are any number of other unflattering comments he could make without betraying Matt’s secret vigilante crusade.
“So,” she repeats lightly. “You’re Matt Murdock.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” Matt tells her, even though it’s not, it’s really, really not.
The stifled laugh she catches behind her lips tells him she can probably tell that. He makes an effort to smile more charmingly and isn’t sure it works.
“Mm,” says Jolene. “Foggy was right, we do look a little alike… Just a little, mind you, but I can see why he thought so.”
“I can’t,” Matt tells her, still smiling, and taps the fingertips of one hand against the rims of his glasses. “Guess I’ll have to take your word for it.”
Normally, among friends, the joke would be warm, but he can’t seem to produce that warmth. So it comes out biting, the way it does when he’s reminding some asshole that yes, actually, he’s blind.
“Guess so,” Jolene manages at last, and there’s a soft flutter of short hair as she tilts her head. “He cares about you a lot, you know. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what to think. Not enough data. But… He’s happy you said yes. So. I’m… I’m glad you’re here, Matt.”
She means it. And he really, really hates that he knows she means it. It’s too… Nice. Funny, kind, pretty, reliable. If he could just find a flaw—but there just. Isn’t one, is there. Of course not. And Foggy deserves that, someone perfect, but it’s infuriating being confronted with his antithesis getting everything he wants.
“Right,” he chokes out, and only then realizes that Ivonne is watching them both quietly, thoughtfully.
Before he can worry about that, however, the nauseatingly familiar scent of Marci Stahl’s perfume hits his nose – setting off a deeply ingrained fight or flight response he’s been trying to suppress since freshman year of college – and four more people bustle into the apartment.
“Matthew,” Marci greets scathingly, true to form, and the way she says it sends a prickle of pain into his gut because it reminds him of Elektra. “I see you’re finally deigning to show up for things again.”
“Marci,” Matt replies, and says nothing else.
After an awkward beat of silence, Foggy and Jolene begin coordinating introductions between the guests. Along with Marci comes Brett Mahoney, and two people Matt doesn’t recognize. The first seems to be carrying what smells like a plate of biscuits, still clinging to the tail end of warmth. Foggy whisks the plate from her to set on the kitchen island, and samples a biscuit. By the sound he makes, they must be good.
“God, these are amazing! Mmh. Anyway, hi, I’m Foggy. You’re Kim Satou, right?”
“That’s right,” replies Kim, and the two shake hands.
“She’s got a very firm grip,” Foggy tells Matt, nudging him until he holds out a hand.
Foggy’s right. Kim’s got some strength to her hands that makes him wonder if she’s an athlete of some sort.
“Matt Murdock,” he greets. “I’m, uh, I’m the Best Man. Foggy and I were roommates in college.”
That startles a laugh from Kim – loud, but not loud enough that it drowns out Jolene and Ivonne meeting Marci and Brett.
“Wow, that’s kinda crazy,” Kim says. “You know, Jo and I were college roommates too!”
That segues briefly into a conversation about the colleges they attended, and Matt learns that despite getting her degree in Psychology, Kim is currently happily employed at a daycare in Brooklyn and sells hand-sewn dresses on Etsy. He’s finds he’s right about her being an athlete as well, when he thinks to ask; she weightlifts and plays around with mixed martial arts.
“Nothing competitive,” she explains when he makes an interested noise. “I’m not like, some secret underground MMA champ like that Daredevil guy probably is—” Matt chokes on his own spit, but recovers quickly enough that he thinks no one but Foggy – currently helping Jolene line up the guests’ shoes near the door – notices. “I just do it because it feels good.”
When Kim taps his bicep and tells him she’s heading off to say hi to Ivonne and Jolene, Matt finally gets introduced to Arjun Kumar. His name says probably Indian heritage and his accent – though well-hidden – says definitely New Jersey. His handshake is firm and his hands are callused.
They trade stories about meeting the bride- and groom-to-be, respectively. Arjun has known Jolene for five years; they met on a temp job doing data entry for a branch of Stark Industries.
“Six weeks,” Arjun tells Matt, “the only thing she says to me is ‘hi, Arjun’ in the morning, and ‘bye, Arjun’ when we clock out. Then one of the managers brings in cookies – and after that, she never shuts up.”
There’s a clack as Arjun stumbles under the weight of a smack to his shoulder and steps heavily on the wood floor to regain his balance. Matt smells Jolene’s shampoo again.
“Rude!” Jolene insists, though not angrily. “Don’t listen to Arjun, that’s not how it happened at all.”
In Jolene’s version of the story, Arjun offers her the last cookie in the box – after their superiors have mowed through the rest – and she takes it for the overture of friendship it obviously is. The two banter back and forth while they try to tell the tale, and Matt finds himself, unexpectedly, smiling.
“Are you still doing data entry?” Matt asks when there’s a break in the conversation.
“Nah, I’ve got a full-time job here in the Kitchen now. Mostly fixing up cars with computers in them but I do regular mechanic work too. Now if I could get my hands on one of Stark’s cars…” Arjun lets out a low, longing whistle. “You know he supes those things to hell and back.”
They talk for a while longer, and then Matt finds himself chatting with Brett. About work, mostly, and Brett’s at least tactful enough that he doesn’t mention that Matt’s firm is down to a single lawyer and no employees. The conversation proves professionally useful as well, since Matt’s able to mention that he needs the records of some harassment complaints his client has filed about one of their neighbors. Brett promises to look into it for him and set aside the file to get Matt some Braille copies of the correspondence.
“They sound like a good kid,” he says simply, when Matt thanks him. “And I know some of the guys at the precinct don’t always like to take the time to make things ADA-compliant for you. No reason for that kinda bullshit, even if you are a defense attorney.”
Matt’s legs are getting a little tired from standing so long, so he asks Brett to lead him over to the couch – with so much overlapping noise to sort through and without the familiar tap of his cane to focus in on, navigation through the crowded apartment is a little difficult. Halfway there, Foggy intercepts them and leads Matt the rest of the way, leaving Brett and Jolene to get to know each other.
“Is that Bess Mahoney’s apple pie I smell?” Matt asks lightly as the two of them settle onto the couch.
“All for you, buddy,” says Foggy, and then passes the plate into Matt’s waiting hand.
There’s a fork rested across the edge of the plate and Foggy’s handed it to him in such a way that the fork is pressed between Matt’s left thumb and the plate – so he knows it’s there and so it doesn’t fall.
“Getting a little frazzled?” Foggy asks casually. “Or just sore feet?”
Matt takes a bite of the pie – perfect balance of cinnamon as usual – before he answers.
“Bit of both,” he says more truthfully than he’s really comfortable with.
“Well, let’s just… Take a moment, then.”
And they do. With the familiar sounds and smells of Foggy, with that familiar warmth next to him, Matt finds that his world settles comfortably into focus. There’s still four different conversations buzzing through the apartment, a sickening myriad of colognes and perfumes and shampoos undercut with the smell of baked goods, but with something to focus on he’s able to tone it down. The migraine building in his temples eases away.
Settled, Matt manages to catch the next set of guests when they’re still a floor away. Karen, definitely, and a man with her. Matt’s nose catches faint traces of antiseptic, latex, and a subtle cocktail of scents that turns Matt’s mind to Claire. A slight pang of guilt hits him, and Matt shoves a forkful of pie in his mouth.
“It’s a good thing we ran into each other,” Karen’s saying brightly. “So, you’re one of Jolene’s friends?”
The man chuckles.
“Yeah, yeah, we’ve known each other since kindergarten.”
As Karen and Jolene’s friend continue up the stairs, Matt turns his attention back to Foggy, who’s talking to Arjun about what a pain the road construction is when trying to get places on time, and wondering at the cause of the day’s big traffic accident. Matt offers a few tentative comments on the subject, supplemented by what he can glean about the accident using his senses – mostly just the amount of people complaining about it. Odd that he hadn’t even noticed on the way over but—well, as usual, panic and Foggy are both distracting factors.
Soon enough, Karen and the man with her knock on the door and Foggy gets up to let them in. Another round of introductions ensues, and Matt meets Tyler Barr. Then Karen is standing in front of him. Matt can practically hear how tensely she’s holding herself. It’s the first time they’ve truly been face to face as Matt Murdock and Karen Page since he revealed his identity.
“Matt,” she greets stiffly.
He smiles, tries not to make the expression a sad one.
“You look good.”
Her tone isn’t especially kind, but it’s not hostile and she isn’t lying. Matt takes it for the olive branch it is and feels his smile settle into something a little more natural. In turn, Karen loosens up as well. Neither of them are quite up to a real conversation, Matt thinks, but thankfully they don’t need to be.
Everyone in the apartment sits in something of an oval – Foggy back on the couch with Matt and Jolene, the others pulling up chairs or stools from the kitchen island. A lot of the discussion is Jolene and Foggy fielding questions about wedding details —
“What about seating at the wedding? My mom’s never gonna let me hear the end of it if I don’t get her a good seat,” Brett warns.
“Hey, no worries, man, she’s going right up front with the rest of the family.”
It continues in that vein until Tyler lets out an extremely loud yawn that sends conversation scattering into laughter.
“Late night, Ty?” asks Jolene.
“Y-you look like sh-sh-shit, man,” Ivonne adds, and there’s a soft swish of fabric as she nudges him with her elbow.
Tyler laughs, shuffles a hand through his hair – Matt smells mostly-scentless shampoo, a soothing blank spot among warring florals and fruits – and sighs.
“Yeah, you could say that. I got called out to that fire in the Kitchen last night,” Tyler explains. “Daredevil saved a guy. Hauled him right up to us. I tried to get him to take some oxygen himself but… Nah. Dude just—Split.”
Foggy’s hand squeezes Matt’s forearm, and though it doesn’t hurt Matt cringes anyway. Across from them, Karen gives a quiet and very judgmental hum of surprise.
“Sounds irresponsible,” says Marci. “But those vigilante types do seem to be reckless with their personal health, don’t they, Foggy Bear?”
Matt tries very, very hard not to frown. He probably doesn’t succeed.
“Something like that,” Foggy agrees.
Matt’s a little startled he doesn’t recognize Tyler – he keeps track of sensory signifiers, especially when he’s Daredevil, and only rarely forgets a person. It was only a moment, of course, and Matt didn’t pay any particular attention to memorizing the paramedic, but there’s still something jarring about Tyler showing up again in this completely different context, about realizing they’ve met before.
The subject of the conversation lingers on vigilantes, and Daredevil specifically, much longer than Matt’s comfortable with. Jolene in particular is very complimentary, and it surprises him. It shouldn’t, really, because Matt knows that to her, Daredevil and Matt Murdock are two different people. But it seems wrong nonetheless. Tyler seems more worried about Daredevil’s well-being than approving or judgmental, and Matt is reminded again of Claire. Arjun is on the fence about the whole thing, and Kim just wants to know where Daredevil learned his moves. Matt wonders what she’d think if she knew he’d been taught by a blind guy from a cult of martial artists whose purpose is to fight evil ninjas.
They’re all interrupted by another knock. Candace Nelson, Matt can tell, because no one shuffles impatiently at the door quite the same way she does.
“I’ll get this,” Jolene says, placing a hand on Foggy’s arm and standing.
The moment Jolene opens the door, Candace does a little bounce on her toes, the sound of which gives Matt a detailed flash of the hallway’s dimensions.
“Jo! Look at you, that dress is so cute!”
They embrace briefly, and then Candace slips out of her shoes and comes skipping into the apartment. Foggy gets up then, and hugs her too. Matt… Lingers. Like with Jolene, he doesn’t know what Foggy’s told his family about the dissolution of their firm. And their friendship. He doesn’t want to assume.
Candace practically tackles him in a hug. It’s surprising, but… Nice. Really nice. He hasn’t been hugged like that in a long time.
“Hey Candace,” Matt greets her, folding his arms gently back around her to return the hug.
“I’m still mad,” she says into his shoulder. “You and Foggy didn’t tell us what was going on, I had to find out on my own that you guys… That your firm…”
“Sorry, I didn’t think it was my place to—”
Candace flicks his shoulder sharply.
“You’re family too, doofus,” she insists.
Matt’s heart squeezes in his chest. He could probably track the flood of dopamine through his system if he really wanted to – he doesn’t. Just lets himself sink into the feeling of belonging for a few seconds longer, before pulling away.
Candace charms the rest of the wedding party as easily as she charms everyone. Nelsons are good at that, Matt thinks to himself with a grin. She gets Ivonne in particular talking, about the new job she’s gotten. Candace is still trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life, so Matt’s not surprised that’s what she latches on to.
“I’m not al-aluh—allowed to di-discuss the details of th-the product but we’ve g-got a new partner, w-working with us on the pr-prosthetic. She’s in K-K-Kenya – her n-name’s Shana Hurin, and she’s b-been consulting w-with us about some m-mah-modifications on her o-own prosthetic de-designs,” Ivonne explains proudly. “Dr. Cho h-has let me h-ha-handle the cores—the c-cuh-cor—Ugh. The emails w-with Ms. Hurin. Sh-she’s brilliant, I’ve n-never seen anyth-thi-thing like her w-work.”
Ivonne is still in the middle of gushing over Ms. Hurin when there’s one more knock at the door, a rhythmic shave-and-a-haircut rap that has Jolene jolting to her feet immediately.
“Alex!” she exclaims brightly, flinging open the door.
When the man is introduced as Alex Burnett, Jolene’s brother, Matt takes particular interest. The Burnetts are mixed up with Anderson’s drug ring somehow, and even if Jolene herself isn’t involved, Alex might be. For all Matt can tell, though, he seems like a normal young man who eats too many French fries. Alex passes up on Bess’s pie because he doesn’t like pie – “Blasphemy,” Brett mutters under his breath – but shoves two of Kim’s cheesy biscuits into his mouth in quick succession, so he must be hungry.
Now that everyone has finally arrived – five bridesmaids, five groomsmen, and the couple themselves – they start exchanging contact information. They’re set to meet the caterers in two weeks, but Matt has a court date then so Marci offers oh-so-generously to fill in as Best Man for the day. Matt bristles a little at the way she says it, like he planned to be in court just so he could let Foggy down. He clenches his fists over the knees of his slacks and tries to calm down.
“Hey, no need to pout,” Foggy tells him gently, teasingly, nudging him with a shoulder. “I know you’re jealous you’re not going to get to taste all the fancy wedding food, but there’ll be other days.”
And he means it. He’s not hurt. A sick, acidic part of Matt thinks, is it ok because I’m missing it for court and not for Daredevil? But he shuts that part of himself up quickly and nods.
“You’d better not choose something terrible,” he manages to say, dredges up a smirk. “We both know your taste in food is less than sophisticated.”
“Ohh, that’s a low blow, Matt!”
“I’ll keep him in line,” promises Jolene, slinging an arm around Foggy’s shoulders.
Marci makes a thoughtful noise that would have less brave men running for the hills. Matt and Foggy both tense. No one else seems to catch the hint that something nefarious is probably about to come out of her mouth. She clears her throat.
“You know, we’ve been here all afternoon and I haven’t seen a single kiss from the happy couple. Are you or are you not getting married, Foggy Bear?” Marci demands, sharp but teasing. “Go on. Give us a show.”
Matt’s stomach swoops, and his fingers itch to grab on to Foggy. He doesn’t, though, because he’s not a complete idiot and because people are watching. Foggy and Jolene both laugh uncomfortably, but do go in for a kiss. It sounds… Nice. Like they enjoy it. Matt counts backwards from five. The kiss is over by the time he reaches one, but the chorus of clapping and wolf whistles doesn’t exactly make Matt feel better about things.
The kiss seems to be the climax of the party, because afterwards people begin trickling out the door. Brett gets a call from the precinct and needs to go, Marci declares that she’s got a date to get ready for, Tyler and Arjun head to a sports bar to watch a game, Karen insists she’s got a few sources to interview about an article. Ivonne and Kim leave together, though Matt doesn’t catch their conversation with Jolene at the door so he has no idea where they’re off to. When Candace and Alex leave, it’s just Matt, Foggy, and Jolene left.
It is, Matt figures, probably his turn to head for home. He just… Doesn’t want to. This is the longest he’s been in Foggy’s presence in months, and the idea of leaving it is supremely unappealing.
He also, he realizes again for about the fifth time, doesn’t have his cane. He can get back to his apartment without it, but it’s not going to be fun. Well. He could always go over the roofs again, he thinks with a sigh. But thinking about the roofs makes him think about his shirt, and more importantly, his boots. He doesn’t have any shoes. And even if he did, he’d still need to find a way to take the Daredevil boots with him – without Jolene noticing.
“I. Um,” he stammers, trying to come up with a solution.
And his heart turns to goo again when Foggy says,
“Right. Right, sorry, buddy. I’ve got you.”
Jolene shifts, tilts her head curiously.
“Something wrong?” she asks.
“I… I should help him get home,” Foggy tells Jolene uncomfortably.
But she’s totally at ease, and Matt can hear a smile in her voice when she speaks.
“Yeah, of course! I’ll see you tomorrow evening, then, Foggy?”
“Well then.” Jolene reaches out to rest a tentative hand on the curve of Matt’s shoulder. “It was good to meet you, Matt.”
“Yeah,” Matt replies weakly. “I… It’s a relief, I think. I wasn’t sure what to think when Foggy told me he was getting married, but you really do seem perfect.”
And Foggy deserves that, Matt reminds himself. Foggy deserves perfect.
“We’ve all got baggage, Murdock,” Jo points out, sounding wryly amused. “No one’s perfect.”
“True enough,” he agrees.
There’s a quick smack of a kiss against Foggy’s cheek, and then Jolene is out the door.
A slight tension dissipates from the air once she’s gone, and Foggy hurries to grab Matt’s boots from under his bed. He bundles them into a plastic bag with Matt’s dirtied shirt and loans him a pair of worn-out sneakers.
“Thank you,” Matt tells him quietly. “For… For covering for me. I know you shouldn’t have to do that, and you probably wanted more time with Jolene…”
“Hey,” Foggy soothes. “No, no. Look Matt, I’m not… You know me, I’m hedonistic to the max. If I didn’t want to be here with you, I wouldn’t be. Now c’mon.”
And though the distance is enough that they really should catch a cab, in the end, they walk – Matt’s hand curled around Foggy’s arm, just like old times.
If you're wondering, Shana Hurin is actually... Shuri!
Because you can't tell me she doesn't collaborate with other scientists under pseudonyms, before the press conference at the end of the BP movie. She's obviously on the internet as evidenced by her knowledge of memes, so I can't imagine she wouldn't use it for science too.
Chapter 13: A Sapphire By Any Other Name
Foggy and Jo go shopping for rings. Then, there's an incident during the visit to the caterer.
There's an allergic reaction in this chapter, which includes vomiting. I tried to keep the description as mild/non-graphic as possible but, you know, if that sort of thing bothers you, you can skip to: “Better...?” Foggy asks.
“I’m sorry about Marci,” Foggy says, the second Jo’s through his door the next evening. “That kiss—”
“It was nice,” replies Jo, squeezing his shoulder. “I mean—just, don’t worry about it. It’s not like it was exactly a chore to kiss you, Foggy.”
He laughs weakly.
Jo’s hand slides up to cup his cheek.
“Yeah. I wouldn’t mind doing it again, if you’re inclined. We are engaged, after all,” she tells him, earnest and warm. “But uh, either way, I promise not to expect anything – sexually or romantically. I know how things are for you, dude, I’ve got your back.”
“Look at us,” says Foggy, for lack of anything better to say. “Navigating this like adults.”
It’s meant as commiseration, but the way Jo’s expression falters tells Foggy that his meaning has fallen flat for her. She steps back from him, drops her hand.
“Sorry, did I… Did I make it weird?” she asks.
The fact of the matter is that, no, she didn’t. The thing about being surrounded by unfairly beautiful people on a consistent basis is that it means Foggy is very accomplished at finding lots of people attractive simultaneously, even if none of his relationships after the age of eighteen escaped the background radiation of his pathetically all-consuming love for Matthew Murdock. This isn’t like any of those other relationships, though – at its foundation it’s different, constructed. In a way, that makes it all easier.
“Nah,” Foggy assures Jo with his most disarming smile. “You didn’t make it weird. It’s probably smart to talk about this stuff. And I am definitely down for the kissing thing if you are.”
She’s right, after all – they’re going to be married. Staying celibate while he pines after Matt for the rest of his life would just be suffering needlessly. He’s had a healthy friends-with-benefits thing with Marci before, so he’s not opposed on principle or anything. It might just—take a while, in this instance, to build up to things, given the circumstances. They’re getting much closer, but they’ve still only known one another a short time. For the moment, though, kissing is what’s on the table. And he’s comfortable enough with that.
“Practice for the wedding?” Jo teases.
He kisses her just for that. It’s easy, nice, simple. There’s no huge meaning, no revelation to it. The smile she gives him afterward is sweet, but not lovestruck. Yeah, Foggy thinks, this just might work.
“So. You met everyone yesterday, what did you think?” he asks her.
“You mean what did I think of Matt,” Jo says fondly. “I thought you lit up while talking about him. But that’s nothing compared to when he’s actually in the room.”
“Oh my god,” groans Foggy. “Just kill me.”
Jolene backpedals immediately.
“No, sorry, that’s. I didn’t mean to… Pick at anything. It’s just, I’m glad that you two are kind of… Mending your fences. It’s obvious he’s your best friend, that you care about him so much. You seem happier when he’s around, so I’m glad he’s—you know, around.”
So much for not being completely transparent.
“Yeah… Me too.”
Foggy doesn’t know what Jo likes in jewelry, besides what little he’s gleaned from her clothing choices. It only makes sense for them to buy the rings together.
“You still gonna get down on a knee and put it on me?” she jokes, bumping his arm with her shoulder.
“Uh, I think that needs to go the other way around?” protests Foggy, faux-offended with a hand to his chest. “Are you not, after all, the one who proposed to me? That puts kneeling and ring-offering squarely in your court.”
They step into the store together, still smiling. It’s a much nicer place than Foggy could have felt comfortable stepping into before HC&B and the very nice suits he’s currently well-off enough to afford. The fact that he got the name of the jeweler from his biological mother kind of stings, but the look of admiration in Jo’s eyes as she gazes around washes it away quickly enough.
“Welcome, is there something I can help you with?” asks a man, rounding the counter to approach them.
“We’re uh, we’re looking for an engagement ring and some wedding rings?” Foggy says.
A bright smile crosses the man’s face.
“Of course! Mr. Nelson, Miss Burnett. Ms. Sharpe told us you’d be coming by. I’d be happy to assist you, I have a selection of rings here that you might like.”
He brings out a tray of engagement rings, but Foggy only needs a moment to realize they’re not right. They’re gaudy, with large stones that would look odd on Jo’s small fingers. Probably the most expensive rings in the store. A brief smile flicks across Foggy’s face at the hesitant, unhappy hum Jo lets out as she studies the rings. He likes the thought that he’s able to glean things like that about her, opinions, without being told.
“Something else maybe?” Jo says.
They look through a few more sets of suggestions, each time closer and closer to something to Jo’s taste – the jeweler is quick to adjust, Foggy has to give him that at least. Finally, there’s a positive reaction.
“Oh,” Jo breathes, her hand reaching out to trace the air and her eyes locked on one particular ring.
He’s never seen her look at anything like that. It’s… Well. He’s not gonna lie, it’s enchanting. There’s a blip where his brain imagines Matt with that expression, but Foggy shakes it off. It’s not fair to Jo or Matt or himself to dwell on thoughts like that. Things are what they are.
“That one?” Foggy asks her quietly, and Jo nods her head.
Carefully, the jeweler slips the ring out of the display and passes it to Jo to try on. The central stone is a sapphire so blue that it seems to glow, dappled on either side by small white stones that Foggy thinks probably aren’t diamonds. The setting is intricate, not quite floral but not quite anything else either, and silver in color. Though the ring band is thicker than Foggy usually thinks of women’s rings being, the swirling style still makes it seem delicate. It’s a perfect fit on Jo’s finger.
There’s a simple wedding band to go with the engagement ring, also a perfect fit. After that, they take a look at the men’s wedding rings. Foggy glances over them, idly, with nothing particular in mind. Then his eye catches on a ring and his breath catches in his chest. The ring is heavy-looking, a dark steel-silver color with a pair of diagonal grooves across the front. Between them rests a string of inset red stones that glitter like fire.
It’s exactly the sort of style Foggy would pick out if he were marrying Matt. He lets his gaze linger, just for a moment longer, but doesn’t point the ring out. Jo squeezes his hand anyway, cocks her head to the side when he looks at her.
“That one?” she asks, softly, a perfect mirror to his question earlier.
But it would be too painful to say yes. Foggy doesn’t want a reminder of Matt. He wants something to match Jo’s ring. If he’s ever going to get over whatever it is he’s feeling for Matt, or at least stifle it enough that he can maybe have a normal friendship with him again, that’s just what Foggy has to do.
“Something else, maybe,” he says, quoting her now, trying to keep his tone light.
They keep searching together, finally settling on a simple ring studded with small blue stones. Something so that they match. It eases Foggy’s heart to think about that. They pay and leave, Jo still with the engagement ring on her finger. The fact that she’s so enamored with the sparkle of the ring is endearing. He catches her tilting her hand this way and that so the sapphire will catch just right in the sunlight and glitter.
Over the two weeks after the get-together party, Jo collects a list of all the dietary restrictions for the wedding party and emails them to the caterer – to help them get an idea of what might be ideal choices to offer at the reception dinner. Finally, the day arrives, and Foggy finds himself standing with Jo, Marci, and Ivonne in a room filled with buffet tables of samples. Marci and Ivonne both fawn over Jo’s engagement ring appropriately, although again Foggy gets the feeling that Ivonne is holding something back.
Matt, of course, is in court like he said he would be.
It’s a little sad way deep down, in the way missing Matt always is, but Foggy’s honestly so relieved because. Matt has court dates. He’s taking cases. He’s showing up to those cases. He’s telling Foggy where he’s going to be, telling him beforehand that he can’t make it to things instead of trying to juggle everything by himself and failing because human beings can’t be in two places at once, Matthew. At the very least, it’s a sign of time management skills that Foggy wasn’t even sure Matt had anymore. At most… At most it means that maybe Matt’s placing importance on his not-Daredevil life again, placing importance on his legal career and maybe even his friendship with Foggy.
“Any preference on where to begin?” the catering employee asks brightly, tugging Foggy out of his thoughts.
“We Nelsons are blessed with abnormally hardy stomachs,” says Foggy, “and immune systems. We’ll eat anything you put in front of us. Ladies?”
“Appetizers first,” Marci suggests – the tone is authoritative, but the way she glances at Ivonne and Jo gives away that she’s willing to capitulate to their preferences.
“S-s-sounds good,” says Ivonne.
“Yeah,” agrees Jo. “Might as well go in order.”
And so they do. The food is all good, but some of is – as Jo murmurs to Ivonne – ‘unbearably fancy’, with a ridiculous amount of ingredients. Marci spends a lot of time bantering with the woman from the catering company about freshness, quality, shipping expense. She’s always had a head for economics in a way Foggy never did. She’s also viciously practical – flirting and talking business at the same time. It’s actually quite impressive, and he’s not the only one who thinks so.
“Sh-she works f-f-fast,” Ivonne says to Foggy, watching Marci with surprise and admiration.
“Always has,” he replies with a sigh. “Probably always will.”
After working their way through the appetizers, they start on the main course options, and Marci breaks from her newest victim to join the conversation on potential wedding guests. Jo, it seems, plans to invite several people from her temp agency and the various jobs she’s taken while working for them.
“Do I have to invite Hogarth to my wedding?” Foggy wonders, between bites. “Like, is that a thing I’m obligated to do?”
Marci rolls her eyes. It’s not really a concrete answer, so Foggy considers it a hard ‘maybe’. Between Hogarth and Great Aunt Marjorie, Foggy’s not actually sure which one would be more uncomfortable to invite. Their discussion on guests trails off as they finish trying samples, and returns to the matter at hand. That is, the food itself.
“The fish is good,” Jo concludes, “but I know not everyone likes that.”
“M-muh-maybe the ch-chicken?” suggests Ivonne, tilting her head.
They all debate it for a bit. Foggy himself prefers the beef, but that’s a given. And like he’s already said, he and his family will eat just about anything anyway. They’ve just settled on the chicken and the beef, with a few plates of the vegetarian option for some of their guests – Arjun, in particular, is apparently a vegetarian – when something goes wrong.
“I… Don’t feel so good,” Jo says uneasily, pressing a hand to her belly. “What… What was in that last dish? Were there tomatoes in anything we ate?”
There’s a slight pause as the caterer flips through her list of dishes.
“Yes, there was a bit of tomato in the pasta sauce for the chicken dish—”
“Are you t-t-trying to k-kuh—k-kill her?” Ivonne demands, suddenly sharp where before she was all soft edges. “She’s—she’s allergic to t-t-tomatoes! She s-sent you an email a-about it!”
“Oh—shit,” Marci breathes.
Having a deathly allergy to blueberries herself, she’s in a unique position to understand the urgency of the situation. Marci and Jo are both fumbling for their purses. Ivonne continues to berate the caterer, eyes never leaving Jo and hands twitching as though she wants to reach out. Marci pulls an EpiPen out of her bag at the same moment Jo tugs a sheet of pink pills out of her own. Foggy tracks them both from his peripheral vision as he snags a bottle of water off one of the tables. They juggle the two items for a moment, speaking frantically, before Marci puts away the EpiPen.
Jo pops two pills out and Foggy’s right there to hand her the water, cap already twisted off. She sets the pills on her tongue and swallows them down with a gulp of water.
“I’ll keep it on hand,” Marci says, patting her purse, and Jo offers her a weak smile.
“Thanks, Marci. I’ll just… I need a bathroom, I think.”
She seems incredibly calm about the whole thing, Foggy thinks, but his experience with Matt’s vigilante bullshit gives him the insight to see the way pain shows at the corners of her lips and eyes. She walks with fast, heavy footsteps after the caterer to the nearest bathroom. Everyone else trails behind her, silent and anxious.
When Jo slips into the bathroom, it’s only seconds before Ivonne stares Foggy down expectantly.
“Y-y-you’re her f-fuh-fiancé,” she insists, sounding strained, still prickly. “Some-someone needs t-t-to be in th-there with her to m-make sure she d-d-does—doesn’t p-pass out!”
And, well, there’s very little arguing with that. Foggy nods and enters the bathroom. It’s got three stalls, and the ones on either side are empty. The third, he can see Jo’s shoes sticking out from underneath.
“Do you need me to call an ambulance?” Foggy asks, and wonders when that question became a recurring part of his vocabulary.
“No, it’s—” Jo’s breath hitches in pain. “’s fine. My ear canals haven’t swollen shut by now, so it’s a pretty safe bet I got the Benadryl in time to head off anything hospital-worthy.”
She sounds pretty miserable anyway, but as someone who’s had tissue-thin health insurance for years he definitely understands avoiding hospital bills if at all possible. The stall door is closed, but not locked, he finds, and knocks lightly on it.
“Is it alright if I come in?”
“Mm. Yeah,” concedes Jo. “… Bring the trash can please.”
And that’s the sound of imminent vomiting if he’s ever heard it. He bustles into the cramped bathroom stall with the trash can in his arms and Jo’s puking into it almost the second it’s beneath her chin.
It’s probably a good thing Matt couldn’t make it, Foggy considers as he holds Jo’s sweaty hair out of her face. Puke doesn’t smell good with a regular nose, god only knows what it’s like for Matt’s supersenses. The thought of how truly hellacious their hungover Saturday mornings during college must have been makes Foggy cringe.
Only when the vomiting has stopped and Jo is rasping in breaths, tears and snot dripping down her face, does Foggy notice that she’s shucked her shirt and balled it up on top of the disposal box bolted into the wall. Her shoulders and brow are covered in a sheen of sweat.
“How are you doing?” Foggy asks quietly.
A ragged laugh falls from Jo’s lips. It sounds painful.
“Can you please just… I’m sorry, I. This is just so gross and I…”
She shouldn’t have anything to be embarrassed or ashamed about, but Foggy’s got enough self-awareness to realize that it’s not the time to tell her that.
“Would you feel better if I sent Ivonne in to watch over you?” he asks her instead, quietly.
There’s a soft sniff, a nod.
“Yes please,” Jo chokes out.
Foggy strokes a hand through Jo’s hair, and then stands. He groans a little as his knees crack, then makes his way to the bathroom door and opens it slightly. Ivonne is immediately on the other side, wringing her hands.
“H-h-h-how is sh-she?”
“Doing a little better I think,” Foggy tells her. “But she wants you in there with her, is that ok?”
Ivonne nods frantically and they switch places, slipping through the door. It closes with a snap, and Foggy is left on the outside with the sweating caterer and Marci, whose hands are white-knuckled around the strap of her purse.
It’s another forty-five minutes before Jo emerges from the bathroom. She’s pale and a little shaky, but the small smile of relief on her face is genuine. Ivonne is clutching at her arm as though to make sure she stays upright.
“Better...?” Foggy asks.
“Yeah.” A nod. “Yeah, I’m good now. But I think I’d like to go home.”
“Yeah, that’s understandable,” he agrees.
The three of them all escort Jo back to her apartment, no one willing to let her out of their sight after the scare. Marci, always eager to act like she cares about nothing, leaves Jo in Foggy and Ivonne’s tender loving care with a flippant wave.
“What I want to know is how a tomato dish got into the mix in the first place,” Foggy says suddenly, a frown on his face. “We sent in a list of dietary restrictions, that should never have happened.”
“Maybe we can sue,” Jo suggests lightly with a wry smile. “What good is a lawyer fiancé if I can’t sue people within an inch of their lives?”
Foggy can’t quite get out a laugh, but he huffs an exhale he can pass off as amused. It’s only then that he and Jo both realize Ivonne hasn’t spoken. They both look at her, and see the stern expression on her face.
“Th-th-there was a l-list,” she says slowly, meeting Jo’s eyes. “Your—your l-list, they h-h-had it. But there w-weren’t any t-t-tomatoes.”
“It was the first thing I put on the list,” replies Jo, troubled.
She tugs her phone from her purse and scrolls through it frantically for several moments. In the end, she holds it up for Ivonne and Foggy to see, with an email queued up. Jo’s email to the catering company. At the top of her list of restrictions is tomato, right there in black and white.
“Maybe someone copied and pasted the list wrong, or something,” Foggy suggests.
But there’s something in the back of his mind, some part of him that’s become wary and paranoid since Fisk. Foggy thinks about the way Matt said the name Burnett, about the expression on Matt’s face, that Daredevil-adjacent look, and he wonders.
“Yeah, probably,” Jo sighs.
She, at least, sounds convinced. Resigned and convinced. But, now unsettled, Foggy can’t quite bring himself to sit still. He presses a kiss to Jo’s forehead, bids her goodbye, and makes his way to the courthouse. Matt’s trial should still be in session, he thinks, and it’s absolutely the time for answers.
When Foggy enters the back of the courtroom, Matt’s in the middle of questioning a witness. He doesn’t falter, not verbally, but he begins to twist his cane in his hands, and his shoulders go rigid. Small tells, ones most people wouldn’t even notice. But Foggy’s known Matt for ten years. He waits until the cross examination is over, and then murmurs under his breath.
“I’m not here to corner you, buddy. I just want to talk. Once you’re done.”
Matt’s shoulders drop a little, eased, but the fidgeting continues. That’s fair, Foggy decides. The words ‘we need to talk’ are feared across the globe for a reason, after all. And in truth the topic Foggy wants to discuss is likely to be a stressful one.
He spends the remainder of the proceedings thinking about the right way to phrase his questions, doesn’t pay much attention to the trial. Court is adjourned at last, although it looks like the trial will take at least another day – no verdict is announced. Foggy waits until the courtroom clears, and he sees Matt walk his client out the door. By the time Foggy makes it into the courthouse’s hallway, Matt is alone and waiting for him.
“Hi, Foggy,” he says, head ducked.
Foggy makes a soft noise in greeting but doesn’t speak. Just offers his arm. They’re halfway down the courthouse steps when Foggy finally decides the way he’s going to approach things.
“Tell me about the Burnetts,” he says, firm and quiet. “Tell me what they have to do with Daredevil.”
Matt trips. On instinct, Foggy steadies him, holds him close until he regains his bearings.
“I don’t… Foggy, where is this coming from?”
Part of Foggy wants to call Matt out on dodging the question. The rest of him knows that Matt’s need to do the right thing will win out once the circumstances come to light.
“Jo had an allergic reaction during our visit to the caterer,” Foggy says. “Turns out that her allergy wasn’t on their list of dietary restrictions for the wedding. Even though it was on her email to them. Matt if the Burnetts are in trouble with someone, you need to tell me now.”
The set of Matt’s mouth tells Foggy that truth and lies are warring behind his teeth. Which will emerge is a tossup, but Foggy hopes for truth.
“I heard the name Burnett on patrol,” Matt admits in a low voice. “Not long before you came to see me. I wasn’t— I’m still not sure what it means. There’s something big happening in the Kitchen again, Foggy. But I’m looking into it.”
“There’s more. More you aren’t telling me about this. I can handle it, Matt,” insists Foggy.
“Foggy, I promise you,” Matt says fervently, even going as far as to remove his glasses, “I’ll keep an ear out for anything relating to Jolene’s family. I’ll keep you safe. Both of you.”
“Foggy.” He clutches Foggy’s arm tightly, desperately. “Please. Don’t try to look into this. If you—if you need to know something, I’ll tell you but I… I need you safe. Please. Foggy, please.”
There’s really no other answer Foggy can give to that, is there?
“Yeah, alright, Matt,” he agrees past the lump in his throat. “Just… Take care of yourself too, buddy. I, uh.” Foggy attempts a laugh, though it falls flat. “I can’t afford to go looking for a new Best Man on such short notice.”
“I’ll be careful,” says Matt quietly.
Foggy doesn’t really believe him, but it’s better than nothing.
They don’t speak about it again. Foggy tries to assume that no news is good news, but he’s much more careful when he’s with Jo. Helping her double-check her food, especially. He’s not the only one. Jolene doesn’t seem to suspect foul play, however.
“I always get a little paranoid, after an allergy attack,” she admits over dinner one night, dragging her fork through her food. “I always feel like… Like I never want to eat anything again, after one.”
“Can’t miss out on chocolate cake,” says Foggy. “We must dissent from the fear, as Matt and his hero Thurgood Marshall would say.”
“In the name of chocolate dessert foods?” Jo asks him with a laugh.
Soon enough, it’s time to start getting the wedding tuxes ready for the groomsmen. It’ll be the first real wedding errand Foggy’s done with his Best Man. It’s also the chance to see Matt in a very nice suit. Foggy tells himself that’s not the thing to focus on, as he dresses for the day.
As he steps out of his apartment building, he sees the very Devil he’s thinking of leaning casually against the wall looking well-pressed and too handsome to exist.
“Ready to go?” Matt asks, and there in his free hand is a cardboard cupholder with two coffees in it.
Foggy kind of melts a little inside.
He melts a little more when he takes a sip of the coffee Matt offers him and realizes it’s the sugary, too-complicated concoction that Foggy’s most fond of. The label on the outside of the cup tells him it’s from a marginally classy hipster place outside the Kitchen that Foggy used to waste his L&Z intern paycheck on, the kind he could no longer afford when he and Matt went into business together.
It’s a stupid thing to get all misty about, but Foggy does anyway.
“Yeah, buddy,” he says, clearing his throat to try and tamp down any loose emotion. “I’m ready.”
Chapter 14: Isn't It Fitting?
Matt and Foggy visit the tailor. Daredevil drops a few eaves.
You can consider this my obligatory Stan Lee cameo. The truth is I just got tired of trying to think up new OC names.
Foggy’s breath is sweet with the coffee, and he’s warm against Matt’s side. Matt can almost imagine his heartbeat sounds… Happy. Light. It’s that more than his own coffee that brings heat to Matt’s skin. They catch a taxi, and thankfully it’s easy to block out any of the usual unpleasant odors and overwhelming sounds with Foggy there next to him to tune in to and something warm to drink.
Traffic is actually moving at a pretty good clip, so it’s not long before they make it to the tailor. Foggy reaches into his wallet to pay the cabbie, mumbling the balance to himself, but Matt’s already got the fare ready in precisely folded bills.
“Matt, you don’t need to—”
“Come on, Foggy. I can afford a cab fare,” Matt insists, because, well, he really can.
With the absolutely obscene amount of money Elektra left him, it’s the least he can do for Foggy. A lot of it is tucked away for—
There’s little chance of a second iteration of Nelson and Murdock, ever, so it’s not really for that even if Matt wishes it was. For a good lawyer if he’s ever caught out as Daredevil, Matt supposes. He’s not idiot enough to try and represent himself. It’s the kind of thing he would want Foggy for – brilliant, detail-oriented, charismatic Foggy – but just by dint of their former business relationship and their former friendship, Foggy would likely have to recuse himself. It’s… Not something Matt likes to think about.
There are other things the money is good for, useful for. It lets him take a lot more pro bono cases than he could if he needed to actually earn money to live on. It lets him keep the lights on at the office, not that he really needs them, and pay rent on his apartment, and buy orchids for Elektra’s grave.
He visits her, sometimes. Probably not as often as he should. And he talks about everything he can think of. The squishy domestic feelings he’s been getting the more time he spends in Foggy’s presence, the cases he takes, things she would hate to listen to if she were alive. But also the bruises and the cuts and the concussions, the bones that break under his fists, the things she would have reveled in. He likes to think… Even when he hated her, he knew her enough to know the way her voice would dip if she could hear him – oh, Matthew…
But months have worn away the hazy desperation of needing her, just as they did in college. Guilt, he thinks, and understanding are what’s left behind this time, in place of anger and humiliation.
“-ey, you with me, Matt?”
Matt shakes himself from thoughts of Elektra to hear the worried tapping of Foggy’s pulse.
“Yeah, sorry, I—Just. Lost in thought,” he says hurriedly.
“Well, pull it together, I need a proper Best Man opinion on my suit, so you’re not allowed to slack off. I’m self-conscious enough about the purple, pink goes better with my complexion.”
Foggy’s tone is bright and soothing, and it allows Matt to relax a little as they step into the tailor’s shop. It’s large, probably quite quality based on the softness of the sounds against so much fabric.
“Helping with colors is… A little out of my wheelhouse,” Matt points out delicately. “So I’m not sure how much I can say about your complexion.”
Foggy laughs. Actually laughs, like he means it, and Matt’s cobbled-together approximation of the world dances with the sound. It lights up corners of the room Matt hadn’t even bothered with trying to parse, that familiar noise and the familiar vectors of its sound waves bringing an entirely new clarity to the shop that soft shifts of fabric and the quiet clack of dress shoes could never achieve.
“Yeah, I know,” Foggy says at last, a smile in his voice. “Jo already helped with the colors, and I trust her. But you are the Best Man, you know. Might as well put those super-feelers to work on the fabric. We don’t want your suit to give you a rash or anything. And since Jo’s crazy-rich dad is funding the whole thing, cost isn’t really a factor. Which is… Absolutely insane to say out loud.” Another laugh, this time slightly hysterical. “Holy shit.”
In truth, Foggy does sound overwhelmed but he’s not anywhere near a panic attack. Matt smooths a hand down his back anyway.
“Just breathe, Fog. Breathe.”
“Holy shit,” Foggy repeats, but he matches his breaths to Matt’s and his heart begins to settle.
They lean against each other, and Matt feels more grounded than he has in a long time. Finally, they’re approached by someone else.
“Ah, Foggy Nelson, back for the fitting?”
“That’s right!” affirms Foggy. “Matt, this is Stan, the genius tailor who’s doing the fitting for all the suits for the groomsmen. Stan, this is my Best Man, Matt.”
“Nice to meet you,” Matt greets, and holds out a hand.
The one that shakes his is wrinkled but has a firm grip, and matches the age Matt had ascribed to Stan by his voice.
“You too, lad. Now, Foggy, the Mahoney boy was in this week, I’ll need to alter the hem of his slacks but otherwise he’s good to go, and I just finished the alterations on your suit yesterday.”
“Thanks, Stan,” Foggy says, warm and sincere as usual. “Is it alright if Matt tries on a few pieces while we wait? I don’t think his will need much tailoring, to be honest.”
“Yeah, yeah, go ahead.”
Stan wanders off towards the back, and Foggy leads Matt through the shop, picking up articles of clothing here and there. They’ve done enough clothes shopping together – Matt preferring Foggy’s not unbiased but certainly not profit-motivated color commentary on the clothes to a store clerk’s – that Matt isn’t concerned about measurements. Foggy’s got a mind like a steel trap, so it’s not surprising he still knows Matt’s sizes. It still kind of makes his heart clench though.
When they’ve got everything, Foggy leads the way to the dressing area.
“Can you,” Matt starts, and almost thinks better of it. “Can you tell me what they look like? The—the colors?”
“Sure thing, buddy,” agrees Foggy as he hands over the suit to Matt. “The slacks and the suit jacket are both kind of a light gray – a lot like the kind you usually wear, actually. The tie and the vest are purple. Like… Hm. Not dark enough to be called plum, and maybe a little more blue than red. I guess you call that royal purple? If you ever saw a purple iris as a kid, it’s a lot like that.”
There’s no way for Matt to know if the color in his mind is the right one, but he does remember purple. Not from flowers or clothing or signboards, but from the cobbled-together sunset he keeps in the back of his mind – a gestalt of every sunset he saw before the age of nine, wavering and a little unsure but so saturated with color it burns. If red is the hardness of the Daredevil suit and the crack of knuckles hitting flesh and the singing of his blood in a fight, then purple is the cool breeze of evening and the rich taste of expensive chocolate and the way Jack Murdock said Matty.
“Hey,” Foggy says, a smile in his voice as he nudges Matt’s shoulder with his own. “No problem, man.”
A fizzy feeling bubbles in Matt’s chest, but he tamps it down and adjusts his hold on the pile of clothes in his arms.
Any other time, he would have changed right in front of Foggy – they’d been roommates for seven years, and Matt’s hardly self-conscious. But he’s got bruises mottled up and down his torso today, and from the way they hurt they must be particularly ugly. Black and blue, he thinks, contrasting it with the feeling of purple from before. He doesn’t want to remind Foggy what he’s been out doing at night. So he slips into one of the dressing room stalls and slides the curtain closed behind him before Foggy can get another word in edgewise.
The abruptness is a dick move, especially after the nice moment they just had, and Matt knows it, but he thinks it’s probably better than the alternative. Foggy wants Matt around for the wedding and he’s willing to accommodate him, but neither of them have high hopes for what things will be like after it’s over. If Matt only has a limited amount of time before Foggy leaves him again, he doesn’t want it filled with passive-aggressive fighting or the tense, stuttering beat of Foggy’s heart when he’s upset.
He dresses hurriedly, slipping off his own suit jacket to put on the vest and the jacket Foggy got for him, then switching pairs of slacks. The tie gives him a tiny bit of trouble, and when he steps out of the changing room he’s not entirely certain it’s straight. The way Foggy adjusts the knot with a few quick tugs answers that question for him immediately.
The admiration in Foggy’s voice is genuine, though, and that’s what matters.
“Wow. That fit is fantastic on you, Matt, it really doesn’t need any tailoring. You’re gonna upstage me at my own wedding, buddy.”
“And the color?” Matt asks, and can’t help fiddling with the soft fabric of the silk tie.
Foggy bats his hand away from it and smooths it down.
“Purple looks good on you, man,” he assures Matt.
“Doesn’t clash with my glasses?” Matt jokes as he fights desperately to keep himself from snatching up Foggy’s hands, from pulling him closer.
It’s a deeper question than it seems, though no one but Matt has the context for it. Not even Foggy knows enough to realize that it’s more than an aesthetic inquiry, it’s insecure, existential. Does Matt Murdock, does Daredevil, go with this moment? Does he fit here? Does his red clash with the purple of the life Foggy’s building? It’s not really a question he wants the answer to, though.
“Even if it did, you’re hot enough people would just assume it was on purpose – like some avant-garde high fashion thing. But how does the fabric feel? Good?” Foggy asks him, running a hand over the sleeve cuff, and it takes a moment to formulate an answer.
“Y-yes—Yeah, it’s. It’s good, Fog.”
There’s a concerned, skeptical noise at that answer. Something about it, coming from Foggy, makes Matt feel warm from his head to his toes. From anyone else it would make him feel chafed, annoyed, coddled – but Foggy’s always been the exception to the rule.
“And you’re not just saying that so you don’t rock the boat?” demands Foggy. “I don’t want you suffering through an itchy suit for god knows how many hours just because you think you can handle it.”
Matt can’t stop the smile that unfurls on his face. He’s got no idea what it looks like, but it feels damningly fond and a little stupid.
“No, I’m not,” he promises. “This is very high quality. It feels nice.”
“Of course it does. Only the best for my customers, who do you think I am?” Stan insists huffily, and Matt just about has a heart attack because he didn’t hear him come back.
Too focused on Foggy. Stupid, stupid.
“Sorry, Stan,” Foggy apologizes. “You know I didn’t mean it like that. He’s just got sensitive skin, is all.”
“Sure thing. Now put ‘em on.”
It’s Foggy’s turn to change, and he moves into a changing stall to do it as well. Meanwhile Stan looks over the fit of Matt’s suit – light, barely-there touches to wrists and ankles, a slight tug on the lapels of the jacket. Under Stan’s instructions, Matt takes a few steps, moves his arms, bends his knees. Anything to get an idea of the way the fabric looks in motion, apparently. After a little grumbling and the scratch of a pencil, he’s finished.
“Suit cuffs are just a smidge too long,” Stan determines, pinning them deftly. “But the rest of it’ll do.”
“He doesn’t have any unique weight distribution to deal with,” Foggy agrees, pushing the changing room curtain aside with a metallic clack of the rings on top. “Besides those crazy biceps, of course.”
“Look, Matt, just because you can’t see your arms doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t.” It’s then that Foggy’s breath catches, and his heart pings in his chest. “Oh… I look good. Like, really good. Wow.”
There’s a very slight squeak of dress shoes as Foggy turns on his toes, likely trying to get a different angle in the mirror.
“Anybody tells you they can’t make you handsome in a three-piece suit is a hack tailor, no matter what you look like,” says Stan with a derisive snort. “But, that is some of my best work.”
They’re interrupted by a light, inobtrusive tone, and Stan bustles off to see to the customer that just entered the shop. Foggy’s still admiring himself, judging by the sounds of fabric as he shifts and the nearly-inaudible pleased noises he’s making. A thought occurs to Matt, and as crazy as it sounds he can’t push it out of his head. Before he realizes he’s built up the courage, Matt’s hand is resting lightly on Foggy’s arm.
“Can I—” he says, and has to swallow, clear his suddenly dry throat. “Can I feel?”
Foggy’s heart kicks up into a rhythm that Matt badly wants to translate as for-you, for-you, for-you.
“I, uh. I mean, if you want to…?”
So Matt maps the suit across Foggy’s torso with the same care that he mapped Foggy’s face in college. The silk of the tie, the smooth buttons on the waistcoat, the shoulder seams even and perfectly in place… Matt traces up one sleeve and down the other, and then, daringly, brushes the pad of his thumb against the pulse point on Foggy’s wrist. The heartbeat beneath that soft skin ticks up for a fraction of a second and Matt smiles.
“Feels like a perfect fit,” he says to Foggy, trying desperately not to purr it in the low, warm tone Foggy’s always called his Flirting Voice.
“Yup,” Foggy agrees, a little too high-pitched to be unaffected.
And of course it’s in that moment that Matt’s perfect aural memory decides to play back the words – I’m in love – from the day Foggy told Matt he was getting married. This time it’s Matt’s pulse that goes uneven, but in a constricting, guilty way that makes his chest cold. He pulls away from Foggy hurriedly.
“R-right, well. I guess that’s… That’s all, then, huh?”
Matt rushes into a changing stall to get away from it all, and spends the entire time he climbs back into his own clothes berating himself silently. Foggy is his best friend, even if their friendship is technically over. His upcoming marriage vows aren’t a challenge or a dare. They’re a promise. A promise Foggy is making to someone he loves, and that matters way more than any inane butterflies he might get from being flirted with. Stupid, stupid.
By the time they leave Stan’s shop, Matt’s good mood has dissipated entirely, and he declines Foggy’s offer for lunch in order to snag his duffel from his apartment and go a couple rounds with the punching bags at Fogwell’s.
He really—should not be doing this. Matt knows that with complete certainty.
Unfortunately, even that knowledge isn’t enough to stop him from doing it anyway. So, dressed in his Daredevil suit, he perches on the rooftop across the street from Jolene’s apartment and keeps one ear on her bridal shower and the other on the city.
Truth be told, it isn’t much of a bridal shower, at least in comparison to what Matt’s gleaned about them on the internet while trying to figure out his Best Man duties. First of all, it’s evening instead of afternoon or midday. Secondly, there’s not a single in-law in the room, except for Candace, who’s there as a bridesmaid. But, Matt figures, more than six women would have a hard time fitting in Jolene’s cramped apartment. It’s practically a shoebox. Though, as he gleans from the exclamations and excessive tearing of wrapping paper, it doesn’t mean that only the bridesmaids had gifts to offer. Jolene reads the cards aloud to the group, and among the presents are ones from Foggy’s mother and older sisters, Jolene’s aunts, and even one from Rosalind Sharpe.
The heartbeats in the apartment range from calm to excited at any given moment, but the whole thing seems to be going pretty well, at least. Matt is once more hit with the desire to complain about the bride-to-be, but with no convenient reasons to. Even Marci, as grating as she can be, doesn’t seem particularly motivated to give Jolene a hard time.
The blare of an ambulance siren distracts Matt for a few seconds, but when he strains past the wail he realizes they’re headed to pick up an old man who’s having a heart attack. Daredevil might be useful even at the tail end of a fight, or to head off fleeing criminals, but he’s not a paramedic and he can’t punch a heart attack. He stays where he is.
By the time he focuses back in on Jolene’s apartment, someone’s cracked a window. The oversweet scent combination of icing, vodka, and an entire bouquet of floral perfumes wafts out at Matt, and he wrinkles his nose. From what he can hear, the bridesmaids are just beginning a game, the purpose of which seems to be to correctly answer the most questions about Jolene.
“I think this is rigged against us,” Candace jokes, upon hearing the rules. “Ivy and Kim have years’ worth of a head start!”
“G-g-get good,” retorts Ivonne.
“I know Karen’s been talking to Tyler,” says Kim in a sing-song voice, before taking a bite of something – cupcake, maybe? “So she’s probably got a better chance than the rest of us combined.”
Karen laughs, but doesn’t dispute this assessment. Matt listens idly to the game, lets his subconscious sort through the information for anything important and places more focus on making sure there isn’t someone in Hell’s Kitchen in need of his help. From what little he gathers of the game before it devolves into a round-robin of get to know you questions, Ivonne wins hands down.
It’s a quiet night for once, however, so Matt ends up paying attention to Jolene’s party again if only out of boredom.
“Celebrity crush?” Marci is demanding, though Matt isn’t sure who of.
“Lupita Nyong’o,” answers Ivonne without hesitation.
There are some contemplative noises of agreement made throughout the room.
“She was lovely in that blue dress,” Karen adds. “You know, the…?”
“Oh yeah,” says Candace, picking up the thread. “She looked just like Cinderella!”
“Fair,” Jolene concludes. “But you know, Ivy, I feel like maybe you’re shirking your best friend duties by not choosing me, even though Lupita’s objectively the better choice.”
Ivonne’s laugh then is boisterous and loud, but underneath it her heartbeat begins to race. Matt leans in to listen closer.
“Unfor—unfortunately, I just don’t l-luh-love you like that, Jojo,” she teases. “On-only Lupita has my h-heart.”
There’s nothing in her tone to suggest it, and even her stuttering is no different than what Matt’s observed when Ivonne tells the truth, but. Her heart. There’s no mistaking that uneven, nervous, lying heartbeat.
That’s… Interesting. The thought occurs to him – a soft, brief brush of tempting silk – but even Matt’s not Devil enough to collude with Jolene’s Maid of Honor to ruin the wedding. And Ivonne is a good enough person to keep her feelings quiet; the best way for Matt to honor that is to match her willpower.
Admittedly, the first step to that would probably be to stop eavesdropping on the bridesmaids. He’s not actually going to do that, though. Just in case. Besides, it sure seems like the Burnett family is smack in the middle of the mess Daredevil is chasing down, even if they’re victims instead of criminals, so it’s not like he’s spying just for selfish reasons. It’s for the sake of the city too.
Matt considers suddenly that he really needs to squeeze time to visit Father Lantom into his busy schedule. He’s racking up topics for Confession faster than he can keep track of them, since he started this Best Man thing. Probably a bad sign.
It’s at that very moment, like a sign, that his ears catch the strains of Eli Anderson’s voice, and priority shifts immediately.
“…hear your daughter’s getting married, congratulations,” Anderson is saying.
There’s a scoff.
“I sincerely doubt you asked for this meeting just to speak about my daughter, Anderson. Is this about the Living Wage Initiative?”
Anderson’s pause is long enough to tell Matt that it isn’t. He darts across rooftops and settles just across the street from where Eli Anderson and who Matt assumes is Tanner Burnett are speaking.
“… Something like that,” Anderson says finally.
There’s a shift of air like he made a gesture, but Matt can’t quite pick out what that gesture might have been.
“Oh? And what exactly is that supposed to mean?” probably-Tanner-Burnett demands.
“It means I have a business proposition for you.”
And then, with a surprising amount of candor, Anderson lays out the facts. The cocaine, the dock it enters the country at, and his desire for Blaze to be the means of distribution through the city.
“The cases of your games would be perfect for it, Tanner. I already have the managers of several game stores bought off to keep the games with the product in them in the storage room and—”
“Are you completely insane?” Burnett demands. “You want me to implicate myself in your cocaine smuggling by letting your drugs into my products? Absolutely not. My business isn’t the one crumbling beneath my feet, there’s no incentive for me to do this.”
“If you think it’s news to me that what happened with my daughter three years ago was partly your doing, you’re wrong,” says Burnett scathingly, not letting Anderson get a word in edgewise, and Matt wonders what that means, wonders if the incident from three years ago had to do with drugs or something else entirely. “I might not be able to prove it, and I don’t particularly care to go to the trouble of it, but I warn you that Rosalind Sharpe is a deadly enemy and so am I. We were friends once, Eli, even if it was decades ago, so I won’t say anything for now. But I don’t want any part of this. Unless you want to talk about the LWI, don’t contact me again.”
“Tanner! Don’t you dare walk away from me!”
But Tanner Burnett’s steps don’t even falter. Soon he’s gone, and even Anderson can’t deny it. With a snarl like a wild animal and the punishing crunch of wood against drywall, Anderson vents his frustration for several minutes.
“—thinks he can do this to me?” Anderson seethes as he steps out into the night, still practically vibrating with rage. “I’ll make him pay!”
There’s a part of Matt, the deepest, darkest part, that wants to leap down into the nearest alley and put his fist through Eli Anderson’s face. And it would be so, so satisfying. But that wouldn’t solve the long-term problem. It wouldn’t rip up the drug ring by its roots. It wouldn’t even guarantee Anderson sees prison time. No, for that, Matt needs evidence. Testimony. Needs Anderson and the cocaine in the same place. Needs to go down to the docks and learn more about who’s actually smuggling it into the States for Anderson, and how they plan to distribute it now that Burnett’s turned Anderson down.
So Matt curls his hands into fists, but he doesn’t use them the way he wants to.
The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen is going to bide his time, and then, when the moment is right, well…
The smile that crosses Matt’s face at that thought is the kind he knows sends people’s hearts stuttering with fear.
Chapter 15: The Crux of a Narrative
Foggy worries about Matt, and has some illuminating coversations with Ivonne and Jo.
Another chapter where things get a little "political". Also, mentions of past threats, harassment, etc. but no actual details. That said, let me know if there's anything you think should be tagged!
Foggy’s not oblivious, he can see that Matt’s gone distant after their trip to the tailor. What he doesn’t know is why. Is it a Matt thing or a Daredevil thing? Is it something else entirely? He tries to tread lightly and hates himself for it, because it feels like another capitulation to the part of Matt that seems determined to sabotage any and all interpersonal relationships.
But Foggy’s just… He’s not in a good place for confrontation, is the thing. HC&B is stressful – usually in a rewarding way, in a way that makes him feel like maybe he’s accomplishing something for someone, but with the added difficulty of planning a wedding it can be a bit too hectic. There just isn’t time to pluck up the nerve to sit down with Matt and have it out. Matt still shows up when he needs to, so it’s not like confrontation is really necessary, it’s just that Foggy’s kind of worried. Besides, Matt’s usual coping mechanism is jumping out a window to avoid his problems, it’s not like that’s conducive to talking seriously about what’s bothering him.
And, ok, Foggy’s self-aware enough to admit that he’s, you know, worried that maybe he’s the reason Matt’s pulling away. That whatever stupidly adoring thing his pulse did during their fitting was a little too telling – that even Matt, ostensibly the master at hiding how much he can really sense about people, couldn’t carefully pretend not to have heard it. So, basically, Foggy is a great big clucking chicken but his inconvenient feelings are pretty much the last thing Foggy wants to talk about with Matt, ever. So he just doesn’t.
He coasts along, tries not to rock the boat, tries to project an aura of understanding. Since Matt’s not taking Foggy up on any offers for meals – not even with other members of the wedding party – Foggy throws all his energy into getting to know Jo’s friends, into catching up with his own.
He learns from Karen that Jo’s found the wedding dress she wants. Karen, however, is a tight-lipped reporter type and also a big jerk, so she won’t show him any of the pictures Foggy knows she has on her phone. No, Karen is too hardboiled now, and he can’t crack her – so Foggy badgers Marci for details about the dress instead, over drinks, but all she’ll give him is,
“You’re a lucky, lucky man.”
He might’ve had a chance at convincing Candace to tell him more, but she’s been so busy with schoolwork that she hadn’t gone on the quest for Jo’s wedding dress. Which is good decision-making on her part, prioritizing her education, but Foggy’s still petulant enough to complain about it when the two of them get together to have lunch.
It’s the next week that Foggy introduces Jo to Josie’s – and Josie herself, who offers a slightly less misanthropic grunt than usual. Foggy tells Jo she should be honored, and gets a laugh. When they settle at the corner of the bar to drink, though, the first topic of conversation isn’t actually wedding planning.
“What’s up with Matt?” is, in fact, the first thing out of Jo’s mouth.
Foggy chokes on his beer. It takes a couple of coughs before he can rasp out a reply.
“W-what do you mean, what’s up with Matt?”
Jo tugs her glasses down the bridge of her nose to glare at him over them like an angry librarian.
“I mean,” she says, “something is capital-U Up. He always leaves like his ass is on fire the second everything official is over. Did you two have a fight?”
Knowing he’s beaten, Foggy slumps over onto the bar. He can feel the sticky rings on its surface catching at his sleeves, but he doesn’t even care.
“I don’t know what happened,” he tells her miserably. “Everything’s been weird since we went to Stan’s shop. Everything seemed fine, but then suddenly… I don’t know.”
Jo takes a gulp of her drink, looking a bit chastened.
“You can talk about it,” she says. “If you want to.”
And Foggy hesitates, but when Jo nudges his shoulder with hers and smiles, well… So he tells her. About how good Matt looked, about his worry that his big dumb bisexual crush is what’s causing Matt to pull away, even about that moment where Matt’s fingertips brushed his wrist and his heart just about stopped.
“Basically, I’m an idiot,” Foggy groans, pressing his face into his folded arms. “But we all knew that.”
“You’re not an idiot, Foggy, jeez,” says Jo. “He’s lucky you care about him so much and if he can’t see—Uh. Hm.”
Her faltering startles a laugh out of him, and Foggy feels suddenly lighter.
“Yeah, seeing things isn’t really his forte,” he teases as he sits back up. “But I’m pretty sure most people would take exception to you blaming him for it.”
“Metaphorically!” insists Jo, flustered, and he can see her cheeks go pink. “See metaphorically! It’s a, a common turn of phrase, you know what I mean! I can—Ugh. Words.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know.”
Jo continues to pout about it a little, but Foggy can tell she’s not actually upset. And finally, finally, he feels ready to tackle the details of the wedding again.
Jo’s multitasking while they do it, Foggy can tell, because even though she makes consistent eye contact, she’s set her work tablet in her lap and her fingers are flying across the keys. How she can do that without about a billion typos, Foggy’s got no clue. Matt’s got his VoiceOver stuff to tell him what buttons he’s pushing and read back what he’s typed but Jo’s going at a steady pace without any of that.
She’s gone casual again, for Josie’s, jeans and a distractingly low-cut gray tank top. She’s also wearing a pair of red knitted fingerless gloves that keep drawing Foggy’s eyes to her hands as they fly over the tablet’s keyboard. Every so often, the stones on her engagement ring flash in the murky yellow light of the bar.
“—Foggy? Hey, Foggy!”
He startles out of his train of thought to see Jo grinning at him in amusement.
“Oh, uh, sorry, Jo.”
“Did you get lost in my eyes?” she asks him in an over-the-top crooning voice.
“How could I not?” he fawns and presses the back of his hand to his forehead in a faux-swoon.
“I was asking if you’d be ok to go to the appointment with the bakery alone,” says Jo, past her laughter. “I can reschedule it if you want, but I’m honestly fine with anything that doesn’t have whip cream frosting. It’s just, the temp agency wants to do a review that day.”
“No, it’s fine,” Foggy assures her. “I can do it. I’ll see if Matt can come with me, he’s got one of those quote-unquote sophisticated palates so we’ll definitely pick something awesome.”
In return, Jo agrees to deal with the wedding invitations, which is honestly a huge relief. Foggy Nelson is a simple man who has no desire to pick between three hundred fonts ever in his entire life. When he expresses this sentiment, Jo laughs at him again.
It’s a good night.
The next evening, when Angie tells him he has a visitor, Foggy looks up expecting to see Karen or Jo. Instead, Ivonne is in the doorway, studying his office with interest. She’s wearing a vibrant yellow blouse – the kind that would probably wash out someone with a lighter skin tone but just serves to make Ivonne glow – and a skirt with zigzagging black and white stripes. Her bracelet, the one she never seems to take off, is glittering on her wrist as usual.
“Oh. Uh. Ivonne,” Foggy greets awkwardly. “Come in. Can I help you with something?”
“Y-you’re… Serious, about th-this, r-r-right?” she asks him.
Ivonne takes a deep breath and closes her eyes. Gathering herself. It’s the sort of thing Foggy used to do before debates in law school.
“A-about the w-w-wedding. A-about Jojo. If y-you’re really going to m-marry her, then—then we need to t-t-talk,” Ivonne insists, and her expression is uncharacteristically severe.
“Yeah, um, sure thing,” agrees Foggy. “I kind of have a case I need to finish something for,” he gestures at the avalanche of paperwork spread across his desk, “but is the day after tomorrow ok with you? Say, 7:00pm?”
A conflicted look flashes over Ivonne’s face, but she does nod.
“S-sh-sure thing. I’ll t-text you my address.”
Five minutes after she departs, Foggy’s phone pings with a text.
Ivonne’s apartment is just as nice as Jo said it was. Somewhere in the same level of high-end that Foggy’s is, but much more stylishly decorated. You know, abstract paintings on the wall, fancy pottery on shelves, that sort of thing. Ivonne even has a planter of colorful flowers sitting on her windowsill. Classy. It kind of makes Foggy afraid to touch anything.
Ivonne, understandably, has no such reservations. She invites Foggy in and settles at the kitchen table, even offers to make him a cup of coffee. It sounds really good, but Foggy declines anyway because he has the feeling he’s not going to need caffeine with whatever conversation Ivonne wants to have with him.
“So, what was it you wanted to talk about?” he asks as he takes a seat across the table from her.
It takes a minute or two to get an answer. With her hands folded and her eyes trained on the tabletop, Ivonne’s normally boisterous presence shrinks down to a ghost of itself. Even more uneasy than before, Foggy waits out her silence as she decides how to begin.
“Jojo is m-my best f-fr-friend,” says Ivonne at last, with a sigh. “Th-this all s-s-seems… T-too fast. E-es-especially for her. M-maybe this is… Sh-she… I’ve n-never known her to b-b-be certain about her r-ruh-romantic feelings f-for anyone.”
“I… I’m not sure what you mean,” Foggy admits.
Ivonne nods, sighs again, and unlaces her fingers to fiddle with one of her braids. A few of them, Foggy realizes suddenly, are dyed bright purple – the same shade as the bridesmaid dresses Marci had shown him pictures of. He’s fairly certain there wasn’t any purple in her hair two days ago, so it must be new.
“Sh-she’s the kind of, of p-person who always w-worries they’re nor r-r-really in l-love. Y-you know?”
Of course, they aren’t really in love and the two of them both know it, so it makes sense that it hasn’t come up.
“You’re worried,” Foggy surmises. “That’s understandable. Jo told me you two have been best friends since you were kids.”
A soft smile lights Ivonne’s lips, and she shakes her head.
“We were—weren’t always f-friends. Sh-she was, was awful when we met,” she admits freely. “We were y-young then, and w-with her old man… You, you, uh, met him, r-r-right? But the older girl who in-intro-introduced us smacked her around a bit, v-v-verbally, and damn she straightened up q-quick after that.”
The aura of solemnity is gone in an instant, and Foggy’s not sad to see it go. Instead, he leans forward intently on his forearms and grins back at Ivonne.
“Jo never said anything about that. Tell me more.”
And Ivonne does, eager and fond in a way that’s achingly familiar. Oh my god. Not everything, he tells himself sternly, is about you and Matt. From bad beginnings and awkward childhood friendship, the conversation winds to growing up, to coming out. Though it’s not something he’s shared with a lot of people, Foggy offers his own experiences. It’s not exactly a pretty story, or a nice one – how could it have been, a working class, queer, fat theater kid, outed by his bullies in an American public school? Really? – but he thinks Ivonne understands. She doesn’t spend much time elaborating, but Foggy gets that too. He’s heard some of the shit people have said to Brett. He’s heard some of the shit people have said to Marci. Ivonne’s heard bits and pieces of both, fused and twisted into an ugly knot. But both of them, it turns out, have supportive families – excepting Rosalind, who doesn’t care to trifle in the affairs of her idiot son except to insult him and belittle his life choices. It’s something of a relief to know that Jo has both the Williams and Nelson families in her corner on the topic of sexuality, since her father clearly isn’t.
Foggy’s interested in everything Ivonne has to say about Jo and about their friendship, but there is one thing she seems to have skirted.
“Jo told me people had harassed you, because of her,” he offers quietly.
And maybe it’s bad of him to ask, but… It’s been bothering him. Scraps of information here and there, from Brett, from Alex, from Jo herself… None of them creating a final coherent picture. And if anyone knows, it’s Ivonne.
“I-it w-w-wasn’t her f-fault,” says Ivonne immediately.
“Could you… Could you tell me what happened?”
“It was th-three years a-ago now. I d-duh-don’t know if sh-she ever t-told me all of it. But I was… I-it was j-j-just assholes. All th-the same sh-shih—” Ivonne takes a breath. “Shit I’ve h-heard before. G-got it from the a-assholes in m-my M-muh-master’s program too. J-just couldn’t s-st-stand a black girl sh-showing them up. And m-muh-maybe it g-got nasty. S-scary, even. I know Jojo and Alex g-got a police d-detail. B-but I could, I could take that sh-shit, y’know? Then she st-st-start—She.” Another breath, deeper. “Started p-pulling away from me. I’m almost grateful to those Ruh-Russian dicks. After that wh-whole ordeal, she c-c-course corrected real q-quick.”
A shiver works its way down Foggy’s spine.
“You mean when Daredevil saved you?”
“Mm. Y-yeah. When h-he was all b-back in b-buh-black,” Ivonne jokes with a slight grin, “and s-scary as h-hell. But th-th-those guys g-got what was c-coming to them.”
Foggy can’t really disagree with the sentiment.
“I bet they did,” he says, because he can’t think of anything else to say.
“I g-guess that’s why I… I w-wanted to talk to y-y-you. Alone. Sh-she always thought a l-lot of you, a-and DD, a-and Matt t-t-too. B-because of Fisk, b-b-because of what h-happened to me,” Ivonne explains, reaching out a hand to grab Foggy. “I j-just… I d-don’t want her to g-g-get hurt h-here. I’m—I n-need you to know how i-im-important Jojo is, t-to me.”
Ivonne’s grip on Foggy’s wrist is tight, but not painful, and her hand is trembling. He hesitates a moment, worried about being too forward, but finally places his other hand atop hers.
“Thank you,” he tells her. “For talking to me about this. I… I get it, you know? Having a reckless best friend sucks, and you want to know she’s going to be ok. I promise, Ivonne, I won’t let her go it alone.”
A tear slips down Ivonne’s cheek and she releases him to scrub it away hurriedly. Foggy pretends not to notice.
“Y-you can c-c-call me Ivy,” she says.
“W-would you m-m-mind if…?”
She holds her arms out for a hug, a weak smile on her face.
“Not at all,” Foggy tells Ivy warmly. “I come from a long line of huggers.”
So he moves around the table and pulls her into his best bear hug, and the way she melts in his arms reminds him of the way it was with Matt in college – holding someone who’s been tense for too long. From what Foggy’s seen of them together, Jo and Ivy are pretty tactile. And they’re close, they talk about things. But this, he realizes, is something Ivy can’t bring herself to talk to Jo about. Something she must have been worrying about this entire time. He gets that.
Foggy heads home to his own apartment for the night, and as they part ways he thinks maybe there’s a little less reservation in Ivy’s eyes. It’s not completely gone, but… It was only one conversation. And he understands Jo a little better, through Ivy’s eyes. Maybe he understands Matt a little better too. But more than that, Foggy realizes that he needs to know Jo’s side of this story. It’s clear that even Ivy was sheltered from things, kept in the dark a little.
Sitting on his couch, Foggy debates for a long time before he shoots off a text to Jo.
Ur place 2morrow nite?
The answer is almost immediate.
Sure. I’ll order Chinese takeout. :)
When he knocks on her apartment door, Foggy’s still having second thoughts about the locale. Is it going to come off like he’s cornering her? But for a conversation like this, isn’t it better that she’s on her home turf? He doesn’t want Jo to feel like he’s luring her into an interrogation, and—
Jo opens the door and derails Foggy’s train of thought neatly.
He puts off talking about it until after they’ve eaten, because it’s a delicate subject, and it might take a while to talk through, and the food is from that place a few blocks down that makes the most exquisite egg rolls Foggy’s ever eaten in his life. Also he’s a stress eater.
He’s a little tense through supper, but Jo lightens the mood considerably by showing him pictures of a Husky puppy Alex just adopted and jokingly considering hair extensions for the wedding.
“You don’t think Great Aunt Marjorie will be scandalized that your hair is longer than mine?” she teases.
“Nah. Just grow it out a tiny bit and you’ll have the ‘I Need To Speak To The Manager’ haircut. That should be het enough for her.”
“How… Dare you, sir!” gasps Jo. “I take offense to that! Now you’re going to have a bald bride, just wait and see.”
“You do that and she’ll ask if you have cancer,” Foggy says, pointing his chopsticks at Jo. “She’s got no shame.”
They continue the banter probably longer than it’s actually funny, but Foggy finds it a nice distraction while it lasts. When they’re both done eating, they each open a fortune cookie. Foggy’s says ‘Someone you care about seeks reconciliation.’ Jo’s is ‘Stop searching forever, happiness is just next to you.’ She grins and punches Foggy’s shoulder lightly.
“Guess things are looking up, then? The bakery trip should go well.”
“You know fortune cookies aren’t actually magic, right?” Foggy replies. “I need to know that you know that.”
And again they banter for a little longer, but now that he’s full Foggy is ready to get to the matter at hand. They settle onto Jo’s couch together, and Foggy clears his throat.
“Jo, I… Look, I didn’t ask before because I know what boundaries are, but. If you think you can tell me, I need to know more. About what happened three years ago.”
Jo’s mouth twists into a wry grimace.
“Ivy told me you two had a talk,” she says. “Even if she conspicuously left out what about. I figured this might be what came of it.”
Foggy wavers, a little.
“If you’re really against it—”
“No,” Jo cuts him off, shaking her head. “It’s. It just isn’t a nice story, that’s all. I admit it probably doesn’t paint me in the best light. But… Well, we are getting married. For better or worse, right?”
He urges her on with a nod.
Jo ruffles a hand through her hair, sighs, and begins.
“I loved video games,” she starts. “To me, Blaze was… A dream come true. I loved it like Alex loves it. I didn’t work for Dad the way he does, but I did work with him. I collaborated on a game with the team at Blaze. Sapphire Kore. It was my baby.”
The name rings a bell. Actually, more than one. Like, a lot of bells.
“Sapphire…” Foggy muses. “Oh! Dude! That was your game, you made that? Oh man, Tina wouldn’t talk about anything else for months after it came out. She and Jules would have adopted you immediately if they knew.”
The more Foggy thinks back, the more he recalls the game in question. An adventure game, with one of Blaze’s extensive character creators, but with a saturated, artsy aesthetic style where most of the Blaze games went for realism. He can’t quite call the plot to mind, something about dream worlds and magical gemstones, but he does remember how Tina had raved about the diversity of the characters and the romance options.
Jo chuckles quietly, shaking her head.
“They have good taste,” she jokes.
“They do,” agrees Foggy, sincerely, and takes her hand in his.
She clears her throat, a little flustered, but squeezes Foggy’s hand back.
“I think,” Jo continues, “more than anything people want to know that there’s someone out there like them that’s extraordinary. Maybe that’s why tabloids get so intrusive, why people still buy them, but invading another person’s privacy like that is wrong. When you create a world, you don’t have to worry about that. Well. I say this as if it was all selfless, but the truth is I wanted a story that could be about me. Or about Ivy.”
“Well, I can tell you from experience that a lot of other people wanted that too.” The smile slips from Foggy’s face. “But… What happened? What does all of this have to do with what Ivy told me…?”
“You remember all that—GamerGate bullshit, right?” Jo asks bitterly.
“Vaguely,” admits Foggy, tilting his hand in a so-so motion. “I guess I was kind of out of the loop when that started, with the L&Z internship and all. Not much time for feeding my gaming habit. A bunch of guys went nuts, that’s pretty much all I ever got about it.”
“Lucky,” Jo informs him with her mouth upturned in a wry smirk. “They, uh, they tried to couch it as some sort of crusade against ‘unethical gaming journalism’ as if anyone in the real world gives half a fuck about that – I don’t know a single real actual person that reads journalistic reviews of video games in the first place. Regardless, it pretty quickly devolved into harassing women. You know how it goes.”
And he does. Especially now. Hogarth has him on retainer for Jones’s fuckups and for whichever other Super Friends HC&B can charm into hiring them, but he’s handled a pretty heavy bundle of harassment cases and restraining orders too in the meantime.
“Yeah,” Foggy sighs. “Yeah, I do.”
“Well, I’d written a blog post about Sapphire Kore – not in any official capacity, you understand, but it was tangential enough that it put me in the crosshairs. Thus followed a deluge of—human filth. What have you. Slights against my character, rape threats, the works. They found Ivy by digging through pictures on my Twitter, and started sending shit to her too.”
“Jesus Christ,” he chokes out, cold all over.
“And it wasn’t just that,” Jo continues grimly. “New York’s a big place, but apparently not big enough. These guys would find us in real life. Post pictures showing where we were. Follow us into clubs. Constantly texting our cells from burner phones. Big time psycho serial killer stuff. But I got sick in October, with a bad head cold, and I noticed something. The nights Ivy went out and I wasn’t with her? No pictures. No stalkers. There wasn’t any stopping the creepy texts, not without getting new phones, but in real life they only recognized her when she was with me.”
Though he knew this part of the story was coming, Foggy’s heart still sinks.
“So you tried to push her away,” he says.
“Mm. I did. And at first it was a… A relief. I didn’t have to—By then, there was so much I was hiding from her. So much I didn’t tell her about. We’d shared everything back then. I would—I’d go to her online accounts and hide as many of the messages as I could. Switch out roofied drinks at the clubs while she was dancing. Make sure she never saw anything that was directed at me. There was no one else to tell, because Ivy was the one person I always told everything. But it was better for her if I was gone. Safer. I thought I was doing so well, and then…”
And then the Russians. And then Daredevil. And then Jo’s fantasy of protecting Ivy went completely down the drain. She squeezes his hand tighter, and he can see from the way she swallows that she’s fighting back tears.
“Ivy called me from the police station,” she explains. “God, she just sounded so—and all I could think was, why wasn’t I there? I was her best friend, why wasn’t I there?”
“But you went to her,” says Foggy. “Didn’t you?”
He tries not to think of lonely hospital stays, of waiting in vain to see Matt standing in the doorway.
“I did. I did, but… Things had gotten… Some asshole had gotten his hands on—you know, some stupid artsy nudes I’d taken years ago. It’s… I couldn’t fix things on my own. I didn’t have the influence. So I went to my dad and asked him to fix it for me. Begged him, pretty much,” Jo says with a self-deprecating laugh. “And he did. It took a hell of a lot of legal power to get it all taken down. The pictures, the threats. That’s… How Dad and Rosalind met, actually. She was just—vicious. It was amazing. Half these guys can’t step foot in the state of New York anymore, and the other half are in jail. I used to joke that the judges were too scared of Rosalind to not rule in our favor.”
Foggy’s a little startled to realize that this is the genesis of Rosalind’s ‘friendship’ with Tanner Burnett, but he’s not at all surprised at the viciousness. It’s kind of her specialty. He’d admired it as a kid. He still did admire it, professionally. The problem with Rosalind was that she didn’t turn it off. Ever.
Jo’s mouth twists into something troubled, as though she’s thinking the same thing. Remembering some of the things Foggy’s admitted about his relationship to Rosalind.
“I don’t like her,” she hurries to tell him, “but I can’t help but be grateful.”
Foggy huffs out a soft laugh.
“Yeah, that’s kind of the Rosalind Sharpe specialty. She… She did a good thing, helping you.” In the interest of delicacy, Foggy almost leaves it there, but he doesn’t. “So is this why… Alex told me, until our lunch with him, you wouldn’t talk video games with him anymore.”
The look on Jo’s face almost makes Foggy take it back. But before he can stumble through an apology, she nods.
“I… I don’t… They took it away from me,” Jo says. “The stories. The games. But I still have poetry. That’s what’s important to me.”
“You could have it all back, you know,” Foggy murmurs, running a thumb over Jo’s knuckles. “People like that, they aren’t worth losing the things you love.”
The smile Jo gives him is tender.
“I know they’re not. And maybe someday I’ll want more. But for now… What I have is enough.”
It’s not a sentiment Foggy thinks he’s ever truly felt himself – always struggling for more in a quiet war against his fears and the judgment of people like his biological mother and how much he needs Matt in his life – but the sincerity in Jo’s voice is warming. It fizzes in his chest and settles there. Enough.
Chapter 16: The Icing on the Cake
Matt and Foggy do some cake tasting. It's super platonic. Really. Afterwards, Daredevil gets a hot tip.
By the way, we're over the halfway point here, folks! By my calculations, we should have approximately eleven chapters to go after this one. The last three are pretty much done at this point, so it'll be a quick jaunt to the finish once we get to them.
Matt stakes out the dock Anderson’s cocaine is supposed to be coming in at every night for a week. There’s nothing. Not a whisper, not a whiff. He considers that Anderson might have been lying to Burnett, but discards the notion. He’d been too earnest, too sure of the answer he would get. But changing locations after being rejected… That’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility. Still, changing the method of entry altogether might be a bit too much risk, so chances are good that the cocaine is still going to come into the country by boat.
At least the rest of the city is relatively quiet. It gives him more time to dedicate to prowling the docks.
Late in the week, on an evening bright and sharp with the sound of rain, Matt hears a sound he’s been simultaneously hoping for and dreading in a constant cycle. His phone, repeating Foggy’s name. Matt scrambles for his phone, nearly knocking it off his counter, and answers it.
Even when it’s a little tinny through the phone, Foggy’s voice is so familiar it sends a shot of warmth through Matt, from his head to his socked toes.
“D-did, um. Was there something you needed?”
There’s the soft, low sound of a throat clearing. Matt can’t hear Foggy’s heartbeat over the phone to verify, but he sounds a bit nervous when he begins to speak.
“I mean, you can— it’s fine if you’ve got something going on or if you think it’ll be too much for your nose but… Jo can’t make it to the cake tasting. You wanna come with me?” Foggy laughs, but it’s not as light and sincere as usual. “Just don’t want to feel like a weirdo, trying cakes all by my lonesome.”
He’s trying to play it off, make it casual, but Matt can tell that Foggy badly wants him to say yes.
And he… He really misses Foggy. This isn’t a requirement for the wedding, it’s a request, but it’s close enough that Matt can sucker himself into going just because he wants to be near Foggy again, is tired of holding back. Like elastic, like a rubber band, they might stretch apart but they always snap back together in the end – and Matt can feel the strain of staying away thrumming beneath his skin.
“I’d love to go,” Matt says immediately, even though he intended to be a lot more casual about it.
His short-lived mortification is absolutely worth it, however, to hear the excitement in Foggy’s reply.
“Awesome!” he tells Matt happily. “I’ll pick you up this time, if you want. Bring you a cup of that fancy tea you like so much.”
“Foggy, that’s a mile out of your way.”
“Yeah. But you’re worth it, buddy. I—”
Foggy cuts off sharply, and Matt can’t interject with something to save the moment because his mouth has gone suddenly dry. They just stay in silence for a few seconds longer, all Matt’s focus on the slightly panicked breathing on the other end of the line.
“Thanks, Fog,” he manages to choke out, and his voice cracks a little.
“Yeah, no… No problem, Matt. Saturday, then?”
“Yeah, um. Yeah. Saturday.”
There’s an awkward shuffle as they try to say goodbye at the same time, try to determine who’s going to hang up first. For a few minutes after the call ends, Matt stands at his window, left forearm pressed between the glass and his forehead, and his phone dangling loosely in his right hand. Eyes closed and breathing slowly, he listens to the rain and the buzz of the billboard as it flashes unknown colors across his face.
Foggy does bring Matt his ‘fancy tea’, as promised. It’s still hot and pleasantly complex on his tongue. Foggy’s own drink is plain, medium-quality coffee, brewed at his apartment if the lingering scent on the travel mug is any indication. He didn’t even buy anything for himself, just went out of his way to get something he knew Matt would like.
“Thanks, Foggy,” Matt says, and hopes it conveys the words he means but can’t quite say – you’re the best friend I’ve ever had, I don’t deserve you.
“No problemo, Matt.”
Foggy’s heart is slow and steady and, Matt thinks, a little bit pleased. He really doesn’t think of it as an imposition, going out of his way to do something nice for Matt just because. That’s just how Foggy is. How he’s always been, really.
The cab Foggy caught over to Matt’s place is still waiting for them, so they get back in and Foggy rattles off the address to the bakery. It’s in another nice neighborhood, although not quite as nice as the tailor’s shop was. This time, Foggy pays the cabbie before Matt can so much as think about covering the fare himself.
He also offers Matt his arm, and Matt doesn’t hesitate to take it. Because he really, really wants to, yes, but also because it means he can finally relax his grip on his senses. Without Foggy, or anyone, guiding him, he doesn’t feel comfortable with anything but intense vigilance. It’s a strain, he can admit that to himself, even if he could never admit it to anyone else. Stick would hate that there even are circumstances where Matt’s not one hundred percent focused on the input he’s getting from his senses. But Matt’s not like Stick. He knows he’s a person, and he needs this. Needs to have moments that he can feel safe in, moments he can drop his guard. The times that Foggy guides him are the best of those moments. They allow him to turn his focus to other things – his own thoughts, a conversation, actually enjoying the sensory input that would otherwise just be information to him.
Together, they stroll into the bakery, which greets them with a tinkling bell that lights up the contours of the space in Matt’s mind.
The scent of sugar is a little overpowering at first, but soon enough Matt can sift through it to the nuances beneath. Vanilla and butter and chocolate, strawberry and raspberry, the light whiff of cream and an underlying counterpoint of flour.
“Kim recommended this place,” Foggy explains. “I guess they did the cake for her stepsister’s wedding or something? It’s called Take the Cake, can you believe that? The sign out front is seriously adorable, Matt, it’s got this bright pink tiered cake with little silver stars shooting off it, and the lettering looks like it’s done in blue frosting.”
“Cute,” Matt agrees, trying to picture it in his head.
He’s pulled away from the attempt, however, at the sound of loud, hurried footfalls.
“Hello, my friends!” greets a booming voice; Matt can tell from the slightest of accents that this isn’t a native English speaker, but otherwise he can’t discern much. “I am Enrique, the owner of Take the Cake. You must be here to sample the wedding cakes, yes?”
“Yes, absolutely!” Foggy answers. “I’m Foggy Nelson and this is Matt Murdock. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this, I know it must be a busy time of year for you.”
“Oh, it’s nothing,” says Enrique, waving Foggy off. “Weddings are very special, and since you are a friend of the Satou family, I insist on only the best for you! They were very gracious customers, especially when my wife took ill and I fell a bit behind on their order. If you follow me, I have the samples all laid out for you.”
Foggy guides Matt after Enrique’s confident footsteps, into what, by smell, must be the bakery’s kitchen. With Foggy watching their footwork, Matt opts to take in more about their host. By the weight of his footsteps, Enrique is a big man, both tall and wide. He smells mostly of the same ingredients his shop does, along with a slight undertone of lavender hand soap and, even further beneath that, cat. In the middle of the large kitchen, Enrique stops them at what Matt determines is the end of a counter lined with plates of samples.
“Here we have our standard chocolate and vanilla cakes, and then further down the more unique flavors,” explains Enrique.
Matt and Foggy try the vanilla and chocolate cakes first. Both are delicious, but the tantalizing smells wafting from the rest of the sample cakes make Matt eager to move on. The sight of them must be equally appetizing, because Foggy lets out a low, impressed whistle and says,
“Wow, those look fantastic. Do you do all the piping yourself?”
“I do, thank you,” Enrique says, sounding honored. “Please, help yourselves.”
Foggy guides Matt over to the table and helps him grab a little sample plate with a cake slice on it and the sample’s corresponding fork before picking up some of his own.
Matt takes a subtle sniff of the cake on his own plate, and gets a sharp sour-sweet tang of lemon. He’s not particular to lemon-flavored cakes, but chances a bite anyway. The cake is good, absolutely – like the first two, well-mixed, not too much of one thing, good-quality ingredients – but it’s also got whipped cream frosting, which Foggy told him on the cab ride over was Jo’s one caveat; no whipped cream frosting. It’s out of the running on principle, then. But personally, Matt had enjoyed the vanilla and chocolate cakes better anyway.
“Try this one next,” Foggy says, trading plates with Matt.
So, Matt accepts the plate with a shrug and doesn’t bother to sniff it before cutting a bite with his fork and putting it in his mouth.
The second the cake hits his tongue, Matt is sucker punched by sweetness. He swallows it down hurriedly, but can still discern the overpacked little bursts of sugar he knows are sprinkles.
“Oh my g— Mmh. That’s…” Matt coughs a little. “Uh, that’s really sweet, what was that?”
“That, my friend, was funfetti,” Foggy says, just smugly enough that Matt knows he’s been—poisoned by sprinkles on purpose.
“I hate you,” he mutters.
“No you don’t,” replies Foggy in a teasing, sing-song voice.
And, well, he’s not wrong. Matt tries to stifle his grin anyway, to stick to his guns. Because, seriously. You don’t just… Ambush a man with funfetti. Jesus. That’s— It’s at least a venial sin. At least.
“That is one of the more popular choices for wedding cakes, lately,” Enrique adds with some slight amusement. “But perhaps not what you are looking for?”
“No,” agrees Foggy, chuckling and patting Matt’s back. “Probably not.”
They continue on down the line of cakes, alternating and trading. Matt’s just finished trying a carrot cake when Foggy nudges him with an elbow.
“Oh my god, this one is amazing, Matt, you have to try it!”
Matt’s paranoia spikes for a moment – fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, and Matt’s no fool; he’s not going to get ambushed by sprinkles again – but then there’s the sudden heat of fingertips against his cheekbone, and the moist press of cake against his mouth.
Matt’s brain immediately crashes and then boots back up at half capacity. Foggy is feeding him cake. Foggy. Is feeding him. Cake. Foggy’s left hand is cupping Matt’s jaw loosely, and his right is holding a fork with which he is pressing a bite of cake against Matt’s lips to feed him like they are newlyweds at their wedding reception.
Matt kind of wants to cry a little bit. He’s so overwhelmed that he can’t actually determine the flavor of the cake as he takes a bite and swallows it past the lump in his throat, but it’s somehow still the best cake he’s ever tasted.
“Well?” Foggy asks expectantly, and his heart is pattering away in his chest.
Matt can feel it through Foggy’s hand, still pressed against his face. He’s probably never wanted to kiss Foggy Nelson more in his entire life, except for the moment he first ran his fingers over their sign, felt the words Nelson and Murdock beneath his fingertips.
“Good. It… It was nice.” When Matt takes in a ragged breath, Foggy pulls away hurriedly. “What. What flavor was that?”
“Um. Pink champagne,” Foggy answers. “The cake has this really pretty-looking gradient. Not sure it’ll go with the colors for the wedding, but still totally worth sampling, right?”
“Y-yeah. Totally worth it.”
Really, definitely worth it.
Foggy hurries a few feet down the counter to a different cake, and Matt just picks up the next one in line, dazed. He lifts the fork to his mouth on autopilot and takes a bite.
The subtle burst of citrus across Matt’s tongue is delightful, especially contrasted with the creamy not-too-sweet flavor of the frosting. He savors it for a few seconds, eyes closed even though that really doesn’t make any difference for him.
“Foggy, you have to try this one,” Matt insists.
“Yeah, sure thing. Which one was…?”
But instead of simply pointing out the orange-flavored cake to Foggy, Matt scoops another bite of it onto his fork and lifts it and his other hand up to Foggy’s face to feed it to him.
Foggy did it, so that means it’s probably fine and not-weird for Matt to do it too.
Which is just… Terrible logic, but Matt’s a little too compromised to care.
“W-wait,” he says, “um. Here, let— let me just…”
Matt fumbles a little, more due to nerves than for show. Gently traces his fingertips across the softness of Foggy’s cheek until his thumb brushes the edge of Foggy’s lips. Matt has to swallow down the reflex to wet his own, which are feeling very dry all of a sudden. Then he carefully guides the fork up to Foggy’s mouth. Even the small vibrations of Foggy taking a bite that travel down the fork and into Matt’s fingers send a zip of electricity up his spine.
“There,” he murmurs, probably too breathless. “How’s—how’s that one?”
Foggy swallows, places a hand lightly on Matt’s wrist and pulls the fork away from his mouth so he can speak.
“That, uh. No, that one’s really good, buddy. Yeah. I liked it.”
Matt is suddenly, ridiculously, glad that no one in the room can hear his heart the way he hears theirs. Then, there’s a big, boisterous laugh that startles Matt so badly that he jumps a little. He’d forgotten, somehow, that there was someone else in the room.
“I have baked many wedding cakes for many couples, but you two… I think you are the cutest grooms I have ever seen!” Enrique enthuses, clapping his hands together.
Foggy’s heart starts to race. In a cheesy romance novel, Matt thinks, this would be the part where Foggy would realize he loved Matt all along. Unfortunately, Matt’s life is not a cheesy romance novel, and Foggy is giving off a sharp tang of panic in his sweat instead of anything even remotely lovestruck.
“We’re. We’re not,” Matt says, to try and quickly salvage things. “We aren’t getting married. I mean. He is. He’s the groom, but I’m—I’m just the Best Man, so…”
There’s a long, troubled pause.
“I see,” Enrique says slowly, with too much conciliation in his tone. “My apologies for the confusion.”
“No, it’s… It’s fine,” Foggy tells him weakly. “Really. Um, what are the flavors of these last two on the end?”
There’s a soft sound – a nod by the baker, which Foggy quietly narrates for Matt.
“Ah, yes, those two. This one here is a spice cake, and the last one is my daughter’s personal favorite – my hazelnut-chocolate cake.”
The spice cake, like all the others, is delicious. But it’s the hazelnut-chocolate one that has Foggy making a truly debauched noise of pleasure. Matt, for his part, has to bite his lip and count down from ten in his head to fight back a telling blush. The mind controls the body, he thinks a little hysterically as he shoves his own sample of hazelnut-chocolate cake into his mouth.
He immediately understands the noise Foggy made. Matt’s tried Nutella before, but the mix of hazelnut and chocolate flavors added to the sheer quality of Enrique’s cakes takes the combination to an entirely new level. Matt’s besotted heart still holds up the pink champagne cake as the best, but objectively the hazelnut-chocolate is the right choice and Foggy clearly agrees. Though he runs through the line again one more time, taking little bites and describing the masterful decorating on each slice that Matt can’t see, it’s the hazelnut-chocolate that Foggy keeps lingering on.
“I’ll have to talk it over with my fiancée,” Foggy says to Enrique when he and Matt prepare to head out, “but I think the hazelnut-chocolate is a strong contender. We might need a small vanilla too, just in case any of the guests have nut allergies. We’ll call in our order by Monday morning, is that ok?”
“Yes, of course! I am closed Sunday, but I will be open at 8:00am on Monday and awaiting your call!”
There’s a slight slap of skin and a displacement of air as Foggy and Enrique shake hands.
“Perfect! Thank you for this, Enrique, we had a great time trying the cakes. You’re a master of your craft,” Foggy compliments warmly.
“Oh, well,” demurs Enrique. “I only do what I love. It was a delight to meet you both.”
When Matt offers a hand, Enrique shakes it firmly. Then Matt and Foggy are out the door and into the city again. With the return of the outside world, their equilibrium seems to be lost. Foggy offers hesitantly to get Matt a cab so he can go home. And Matt knows he should take that offer, that he’s not supposed to be tempting himself with Foggy’s presence, but… But he’s feeling warm and sugar-bright and he doesn’t want to go.
“I thought maybe we could get lunch together,” Matt says quietly. “If you want.”
“Totally!” Foggy pauses, and there’s a slight rustle of fabric as he rubs his stomach. “Maybe we should walk off some of this cake first, though, I can feel the impending sugar high in my bones, dude.”
Matt laughs, and his heart feels light. Together, they amble through the city, insulated in a bubble of Foggy’s commentary about the world around them. They pick up lunch from an Indian restaurant they both love, and by the time Foggy drops Matt back at his apartment door it’s late in the afternoon and Matt finds he’s had a categorically happy day. One he can file away and save for those nights when everything is fire and blood.
Once his door is closed behind him, Matt rests against it, head tipped back and eyes closed, and listens to Foggy – footsteps, heartbeat, happy off-key whistling – heading off into the evening.
You’re in too god damn deep, Matty, he can almost hear Stick say.
It’s true. But…
Matt wets his lips, can somehow still taste the lingering flavor of pink champagne cake and buttercream frosting.
Worth it. It’s so, so worth it.
That night, Matt doesn’t make it to the docks.
As he passes by The Bulletin, he hears the strains of “Sympathy for the Devil” playing from Karen’s office. Matt smiles. As far as codes go, it isn’t subtle. But, on the other hand, it’s playing so low that it’s not something anyone but he would be able to pick up on. And it’s funny.
Matt swings his way up to Karen’s window and knocks.
“You called, Miss Page?” he asks her when she slides the window open for him.
“You asked me to let you know,” replies Karen. “If I heard anything about cocaine in the city. A contact of mine told me something that might interest you.”
Matt slips through the window into her office and settles casually against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest.
“I’d be happy to hear it.”
Chapter 17: If There's a Prize for Rotten Judgment...
The cake tasting from Foggy's side, and the first sign of trouble.
Thank you so much to all my readers, especially those of you who have been leaving such nice comments! I don't always know how to respond to them but I'm seriously grateful for every one! I don't know if I'd be able to keep writing at this pace without you all encouraging me!
We're getting into the real conflict of the story now, so be prepared because there will be crying avocados in the next couple of chapters. Matt's gonna make his first real misstep, so we'll see how everyone handles it...
The thing is, Foggy’s not thinking when it happens. Which is really no excuse, but… He’s just so happy that Matt agreed to come cake tasting with him, and the pink champagne cake is crazy good, and the only impulse in Foggy’s head is, oh, Matt would love this. So he scoops up another bite onto his fork, with just the right ratio of cake to frosting, and presses it to Matt’s lips.
And then Foggy realizes just what kind of nonsense he’s doing, and he’s simultaneously kicking himself and trying desperately not to give off any weird vibes Matt can pick up on. Yeah, buddies totally feed each other cake, like, all the time. Definitely. There are no awkward mushy romantic feelings involved here, no siree. Really.
Also, only middle schoolers think about indirect kisses.
Matt, at least, is polite enough not to comment. Foggy kind of hopes maybe he was so distracted by the taste of the cake that he doesn’t even realize that Foggy was just a huge, weird creep about everything. But the truth is that Matt’s probably just trying to salvage a little dignity for both of them. Foggy attempts to facilitate that process by moving further towards the end of the counter. He is definitely not running away. Nope. Because Foggy Nelson is no coward, and—
Ok, yeah, even he doesn’t buy that one.
But he’s so busy trying to put his embarrassment out of his head that he’s shocked into silence when Matt… When Matt… Well. Matt feeds him some cake right back. And Foggy has to resist a shudder at the slow rasp of Matt’s callused fingers across his face. The way Matt leans in, just slightly, as he presses the fork to Foggy’s lips, the unfairly-sexy-but-still-somehow-tender look on his face, the way his thumb rubs just slightly back and forth at the corner of Foggy’s bottom lip, the way his mouth goes a little slack when Foggy finally takes a bite… It’s. It’s kind of a lot. That’s pretty much the only way Foggy can think of to describe it all. A lot.
He will probably never again be able to smell an orange without having Feelings, so that’s. Something.
Half of Foggy’s brain is running in circles screaming OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD and the other half is wondering if maybe he somehow got away with feeding Matt cake like some sort of tender lover in a French indie film just because they both ‘no homo’-ed so hard that the gesture was interpreted as innocently platonic.
But of course Enrique calls him on it – ok, that’s a little harsh, it’s not malicious, Enrique is a lovely man who would probably never purposely try to embarrass anyone, he just innocently mistakes Foggy and Matt for fiancés which is somehow a million times worse – and Foggy maybe panics a little bit.
It shouldn’t hurt, when Matt fumbles hurriedly to correct the misconception. But it still kind of does.
It’s a good thing, though, in the end. Because it forces Foggy’s uncooperative mind back on track. They finish trying the cakes. And wow, holy crap, the chocolate-hazelnut is a totally transcendent experience. Judging by the way all the tension drops out of Matt’s frame when he takes a bite of it, he agrees. And ok, that’s kind of hot too, but mostly… Mostly, it fills Foggy’s heart with warmth, because Matt, whatever his faults, deserves nice things. He deserves to be able to eat cake so good that it makes him almost cry, or whatever. With all the not-so-nice things he’s probably forced to experience every single day at an intensity most people can’t imagine – terrible garbage smells, the blaring of car horns, rough textures, everything his food has come in contact with, crying and screaming and fists to the face – it’s rewarding to see him having a wholly positive sensory experience.
So, even though his mind is made up the second the hazelnut-chocolate cake touches his tongue – it’s amazing, Jo and her chocolate addiction are going to love it – maybe Foggy goes back down the line and tries them all again in a bid to get Matt to do the same. The thing is, Matt doesn’t react well to outright suggestions, no matter how well-intentioned. So anything Foggy can do to give him tacit permission to indulge in a Nice Thing, well, he’s gonna do it. And it’s only on the second pass that it occurs to Foggy that even with his supersenses Matt can’t really see the awesome designs Enrique’s made on the cakes. He takes the time to describe them, then – the whorls of white whip cream frosting on the lemon cake, the splash of little dark pink circles on the outer edge of the pink champagne cake like bubbles, the intricate frosting flowers decking the edge of Matt’s orange-flavored cake…
When Matt takes another couple of furtive tastes – the pink champagne, the orange, the hazelnut-chocolate – Foggy has to resist the urge to fist pump.
Instead, he thanks Enrique, compliments his masterful baking, and tells him to expect a call on Monday.
The second they’re out the door of Take the Cake, though, Foggy’s heart sinks a little. Matt probably wants to go home. He’s been dodging invitations, and even if he agreed to the cake tasting he didn’t agree to anything afterwards.
“I’ll, um,” Foggy stammers, kicking himself for his obvious hesitation. “I’m sure you have things you want to do, so I can call you a cab if…”
But instead of agreeing readily like Foggy expects, Matt’s grip on his arm tightens just slightly, and he says,
“I thought we could maybe get lunch together. If you want.”
The way Foggy’s heart leaps is so dramatic he thinks even he can hear it.
“Totally!” he agrees immediately.
Except that now that he’s focused on anything but his ridiculous kicked-puppy feelings, Foggy realizes he’s not actually that hungry, and that his emotional fluctuations have kind of curdled the cake in his stomach. Absently, he rubs his belly.
“Maybe we should walk off some of this cake first, though,” he admits. “I can feel the impending sugar high in my bones, dude.”
The quip has the intended effect – Matt laughs. And so they take a stroll. Foggy describes what little greenery there is – flowers on balconies and in windowsills, planters in the lobbies of businesses – and picks out some particularly choice graffiti to tell Matt about:
“I swear, I have never seen a purple that vibrant in my entire life. It’s so vivid it could punch the bad guys for you, Matt!”
They also pass a few dogs that Foggy describes in loving detail because dogs are the best, no matter Matt’s protestations that he doesn’t want a seeing-eye dog.
The two of them are interrupted a time or two by acquaintances saying hello – a guy from HC&B that Foggy talks baseball with sometimes, a client Foggy helped Hogarth win a custody battle for, the person three doors down from Foggy’s apartment who swaps recipes with him sometimes – but Foggy tries his best to politely hurry them on their way. This is his time with Matt, and maybe that’s a little stupid or weird but Foggy’s been deprived of his best buddy lately and he wants to savor this. Matt hanging out with him not just willingly or even enthusiastically, but expressly because Matt suggested it.
When they’re finally both hungry enough, they hit up the Indian place they went to the night after their first day at L&Z. Matt orders the exact same thing he did then, and it makes Foggy smile like an idiot. The two of them take their time eating, and talk about whatever comes to mind – Karen’s latest article, Foggy’s recent visit to Bess Mahoney, Father Lantom’s sermon from last Sunday. Their world is so different than it was only a few years ago, but Foggy is comforted by the idea that in some ways it’s still the same. The two of them can still talk for hours about anything and everything. It’s like bundling up in a big fluffy duvet.
After lunch, they amble their way back to Hell’s Kitchen, and Foggy walks Matt to his apartment door. He tries not to think about how it feels a little like a date. He’d been having such a good time during their little outing that his dumb brain hadn’t bugged him with thoughts like that, but seeing Matt standing in his doorway it’s hard to fight down the urge to kiss him.
“Well,” Matt says lightly, “I guess this is me.”
“Sure is,” agrees Foggy. “Thanks, Matt. I… I had a lot of fun. Catch you next week, ok?”
The way Matt nods, eagerly and with a determined look on his face, makes Foggy’s heart melt.
“Of course,” says Matt. “Yeah. Next week. … Bye, Foggy.”
“See ya, buddy.”
Matt heads into his apartment, and Foggy leaves. But he can’t help the slight skip in his step or the jaunty tune he begins to whistle like he’s Don Lockwood or somebody, singin’ in the rain.
He takes a cab home, and spends the rest of the night on tedious but necessary research, which takes way longer than it should because he keeps getting constantly distracted by thoughts of Matt. Normally he’s pretty good about tamping down on Matt-related daydreams, but every time Foggy remembers the feeling of Matt’s thumb gently touching the corner of his lips – light as the brush of a butterfly’s wing – his heart skips a beat.
It’s always the little things, with Matt.
Foggy is used to hugs and fist bumps and arms slung around shoulders and the weight of Matt’s hand at his elbow. Not that he doesn’t appreciate those things, but he’s also adjusted to them. They’re a part of his friendship with Matt. It’s the quick, unexpected feather-light touches that set off Foggy’s traitorous heart every time.
He finally falls asleep at 2:30am and dreams about Matt, smiling shyly and fiddling with a ring that glitters with a row of red stones.
When Foggy reaches Jo’s apartment the next day for their semi-regular wedding-planning date night, he finds her already flipping through a binder full of floral arrangements. She waves him and his armful of Thai takeout into the apartment, distracted.
“About the flowers,” Foggy says hesitantly, when he sees her giving serious consideration to a bouquet with lilacs in it.
Jo blinks and glances up from the binder.
“Yeah? Did you have a preference?”
“Well…” Foggy wheedles. “Matt’s nose is pretty sensitive, so…”
“Right!” She flashes him the ‘ok’ sign. “Nothing with a scent, then? Wouldn’t want him sneezing his way through the wedding, as much fun as I’m sure that would be.”
Foggy laughs and agrees, bolstered by Jo’s easy acceptance of the request. The confusion in the bakery had definitely unsettled him, but somehow Jo seems to be able to bring the ground back under his feet again. It’s all normal, right, the adjustments he makes for Matt? Just things any friend who’s not a total asshole would do. In truth it’s probably just the stupidly besotted aura he gives off that gives people the wrong idea, more than any of the things he does to make his best friend’s life easier. Foggy’s never been able to hide anything from him because—hey, crazy supersenses! – but even after the fiasco with the cake Matt’s still playing along for the sake of Foggy’s dignity, and Jo is willing to cater to Matt’s needs without batting an eyelash. It gives Foggy at least the illusion that he’s not as transparent about his feelings to the rest of the world as he is to Matt.
They discuss flowers while they eat, Jo shows off the beautiful wedding invitations she picked out, and Foggy tries to put his dream about Matt from his mind. He’s mostly successful, and feels proud of himself for it.
At the end of the evening, Foggy kisses Jo goodbye just because he wants to.
It’s the next week before there’s another big gathering of the wedding party.
They’ve all come to take a look at the church, get a feel for the space. It’s not a rehearsal or anything, but the idea of knowing where everything is beforehand is appealing to most of them – and especially to Rosalind and Tanner, who make it their business to always be prepared. It’s also, very specifically, for Matt. Even with his crazy supersenses to rely on, Foggy knows Matt likes to get a sense of a building’s dimensions firsthand if he can. It’s going to be a little nuts on the day of the wedding, with so many people there, so it just seems like a good idea to let Matt have some time to get acquainted with the church.
When Foggy arrives with Brett after a visit to Bess for brunch, though, Matt isn’t there. Which is fine. Really, Foggy’s a bit early. And Matt’s made it to every single meeting and appointment for the wedding. He deserves the benefit of the doubt and Foggy is determined to give it to him, fragile self-esteem be damned.
But, fifteen minutes after the appointed time, Matt is the only one missing.
Jo squeezes Foggy’s hand in reassurance, and Ivy claps him on the shoulder. A few feet away, Karen looks sick and pale in a way that makes Foggy’s stomach lurch. Because Karen talks to Daredevil. And if she’s worried, it’s probably because Daredevil was out doing something dangerous. Part of Foggy wants to storm up to Karen and demand what she knows, but part of him really doesn’t want to know what kind of danger Matt’s been throwing himself into. He distracts himself by listening to Marci’s increasingly vitriolic muttering and trying to block out the unimpressed, calculating looks Tanner Burnett and Rosalind are shooting his way.
“He’ll be here,” Foggy says, more to himself than anyone else.
But after another half an hour, Matt still hasn’t showed.
The rest of them have milled around, checked out the space during the wait. Kim has to leave for work, and Arjun has a family event to get to, so they both head out. Candace is lecturing Alex on musical theatre near the doors. The coolly pitying expression on Rosalind's face is grating on Foggy's last nerve.
“I’m going to call him,” Foggy decides at last.
He knows before he even unlocks his phone that Matt isn’t going to answer. He’s proven unfortunately right. Five times, in fact.
Matt isn’t coming.
There’s disappointment and resignation at the realization, yeah, but it’s just peeling paint over the rotten wood that is his gut-deep fear for Matt’s life. Karen looks worse and worse the more time passes. Finally, he smiles weakly at Jo and Ivy’s concerned looks and takes Karen aside to talk quietly.
“Was it bad?” he asks, cutting straight to the point.
“It wasn’t—I didn’t think it was any more dangerous than what he usually goes up against,” Karen tells Foggy. “I swear, I… If I thought last week when I told him about it that it would be… I would have said something.”
But Foggy shakes his head and takes her hands in his.
“It’s not your fault, Karen,” he soothes. “Whatever it is. But I need to go check on him, now. And I need to know that no one else is going to even consider that this has anything to do with Daredevil. Especially not Jo’s dad or Rosalind.”
The look that comes over Karen’s face is hard, determined; she straightens up like a warrior going to battle, unshakable, and Foggy is hit with a sharp pang of love for her. A brief, confident smile crosses her beautiful face and she clasps his hands back tightly.
“Go,” she insists. “I’ll give you a good story. But… Call me, when you find him? Matt and I, we… We’re not each other’s responsibility, but I still…”
“Hey, yeah, I know. You’ll be the first one to hear,” he promises her. “Thank you, Karen. I really… Just. Thank you, so much.”
Foggy’s out one of the church’s side doors and hailing a cab right after. He doesn’t wait to hear what story Karen comes up with – she was always a more competent liar than he or Matt could ever hope to be. He’s got faith she’ll spin the right story, the way she always does.
Foggy spends the cab ride doing breathing exercises and imagining a hand rubbing circles on his back, to stave off a panic attack. He doesn’t have time for that. It’s simultaneously an eternity and no time at all when the taxi pulls up at Matt’s building. Foggy tosses his fare at the driver and doesn’t look back.
“If you’re dead,” he chokes out breathlessly, pounding up the stairs of the building, “I’m going to kick your ass, Matt.”
Chapter 18: Kiss With a Fist
Matt picks a fight. On the bright side, he gets some patented Foggy Nelson TLC. And then he picks more fights.
It’s probably an ill omen that the deal Karen’s contact tipped her off about is set to go down the night before Matt’s supposed to meet up with everyone at the wedding venue. But while he’s generally suspicious, Matt’s not one to indulge in superstition. And the chance is too good to pass up – especially when Jolene’s family, and by association Foggy, are in Anderson’s crosshairs. The sooner Matt wraps the drug ring up, the more time he’ll have to help with the wedding. Which, truthfully, he’s not very keen on, but it’s for Foggy, so…
He suits up that night and heads out to the meeting place, determination in every step. He gets there fifteen minutes before Karen said the deal was scheduled to start, and finds a hidden but comfortable perch on a nearby rooftop.
Both groups show up five minutes early. They’re four men each – two men in front, the leaders, flanked by three followers.
“Ajax,” one of the bosses greets.
“Russell,” replies the one standing across from him.
Matt recognizes the second man. His voice, and the smell of his cigarettes. The big guy from the warehouse. The one who hadn’t ‘paid the Devil his dues’. Ajax, he files away. Probably not a birth name, but then again, who knew? A pseudonym was more useful to Matt on the street anyway, if he wanted people to know who he was asking about.
“Hear you’ve got a new supplier,” Russell begins absently. “Some rich fuck from uptown.”
“Something like that,” agrees Ajax, tossing a small plastic baggie from hand to hand. “Yeah. He’s got something new. Thought we’d offer you a taste, see what your people think of it.”
The cocaine, then, Matt realizes. Just a little of it.
“And if we decide it’s good to sell?” Russell demands.
There’s a shift of fabric as Ajax shrugs.
“Shipment’ll be ready for you in ten days. Four kilos. Half a mil.”
“That’s too much,” spits Russell. “No way in hell am I gonna pay that.”
“Why don’tcha give it a shot before you write it off? This shit… This shit is special, Russ.”
Ajax sends the bag at Russell, light and underhand. Matt takes his cue. Flipping off the roof, he snatches the drugs from the air and lands on his feet – back to a brick wall with all the players laid out in front of him. A ripple of curses run through the gathered men, and Matt smiles a dangerous smile.
Then there’s the click of a gun cocking and a bang as it fires. There’s no time to think about it, but Matt’s unsettled – he hadn’t smelled or heard any evidence that anyone was carrying a gun. Still, he doesn’t let that feeling detract from his reaction time.
Matt spins out of the way and manages to use his momentum to kick the closest attacker in the face, but a searing pain burns across his left side. That, Matt can work through, push past.
What he’s not expecting is the explosion.
It tosses him five feet forward and out of his own head – his world on fire goes supernova, sound ringing in his ears so chaotically that his perception is nothing but pain and static. He loses his grip on the drugs. The last part of Matt that isn’t drowning has a distant recollection of rumors out of Harlem; exploding, armor-piercing bullets.
The crack of pain as something hits his back – crowbar? Maybe? – knocks Matt’s breath from his lungs. But it also centers him. He rolls to the side to avoid another blow, and kicks up at where the movement came from. There’s a cry and a snap – ribs? The attacker falls back with a scream.
Matt gets to his feet, and the fight becomes a blur of movement. Attack, defend, fall back, press forward. He goes through it on instinct, baring his teeth like an animal. He drops anyone who tries to make a run for it. One, two, three…
Soon, only one opponent remains. Ajax.
“Been wondering where you were,” Ajax says amiably, and Matt can hear the grin on his face.
He wants to wipe that grin off with his fist. It’s like a hunger, burning him up from inside. The Devil waiting to take his due, Matt supposes.
“I’m always around,” Matt says, dark and low.
“Yeah. I planned on that. Was waiting to see that Judas bullet rip through your fucking gut. Only had the one, you know, shit’s expensive. Got that one for a favor.”
“You keep that the hell out of my city.”
“Your city…” Ajax reaches down, Matt can hear his fingers close around something and darts forward to try and stop him— “There’s other demons in hell too, Devil.”
There’s a whistle of air through a glass bottle, and Matt crosses his arms in front of his face so they take the brunt of the impact when it shatters. He keeps running forward, though, through it, and rams his shoulder into Ajax’s solar plexus. The man’s heavy enough that he doesn’t go flying, but he does stumble. That’s enough.
Then they’re brawling, close-range. And his opponent might be bigger, heavier… Matt’s still better-trained. It shows.
The crunch of Ajax’s nose as Matt breaks it is music to his ears.
Matt can taste the blood in the air like it’s on his tongue, and it sends his heart racing faster. Sends his body into a frenzy of motion, an onslaught of violence that discounts – or maybe even feeds on – the pain coursing through his own body.
That, in the end, is what trips him up. He indulges the devil inside him, loses control, loses focus. One moment is all that’s needed. Ajax strikes out with a heavy, booted foot right into Matt’s knee, then hauls him up against the brick with a crash. Matt does manage to dodge the punch that follows, and he hears the sound of bones shattering as Ajax’s knuckles connect to the wall.
They’re chest to chest, about to deliver the decisive blow, when they both hear the sirens coming. The explosion, Matt thinks. Yeah, that would get someone’s attention.
There’s no time to tie anyone up, and Matt’s starting to feel his injuries.
He reacts first – jabs Ajax in the gut, in the shoulder Matt knows is close to dislocating, in the jaw, and drops him. Then he scales the wall as best he can. Doesn’t wait for the sirens to reach the alley because he isn’t sure he can outrun the cops without a head start.
Matt never heads straight home, even when injured. Just in case he’s being tailed. But he knows he can’t go as far out of his way as it would take to reach Foggy’s apartment. No matter how much he wants to.
Still, he circles the edge of Hell’s Kitchen, strains his ears until he thinks he can hear it, distant but steady. Foggy. Foggy. Foggy.
With that, Matt makes his way home, slow and careful and wincing.
Melvin’s going to have his work cut out for him patching the suit, Matt thinks foggily as he sheds it with clumsy determination and eases onto his couch. His bed would be more comfortable, but Matt really does try not to get blood on it, and also he’s not sure he could make it the extra ten steps to his bedroom.
That’s probably a bad sign.
Matt’s too exhausted to care.
His world is always dark, of course – aside from what his brain conjures to piece together his sensory input – but the way that sound and smell and touch blink out into a murky nothing can only be described as darkness.
Between one breath and the next, Matt's asleep.
The sound of his alarm going off is audible but distant beneath the rush of blood pounding in Matt’s ears and the ugly creak of his body when he breathes, like it’s someone else’s alarm going off in someone else’s apartment. He makes a token effort to move, to get up, but… Like the alarm, his body feels far away, all of it except the pain washing through him in waves.
The panic in that voice and the pat of a warm hand against his sweat-chilled face finally pulls Matt out of his haze enough to respond.
There’s a loud exhale across Matt’s face, then, and it ends in a quiet sob.
“Yeah, it’s me, buddy,” Foggy says thickly. “God, you look like shit.”
“Always know how to make me feel pretty, Fog,” Matt mumbles back, pressing forward to rest his pounding forehead against the softness of Foggy’s belly.
The hand that had been trying to rouse Matt cards gently through his hair and he lets out a pleased sigh. The pain isn’t gone and it’s not going to go away, but it’s so much easier to dial it down, to separate himself from it, with Foggy to anchor him. Instead of a mass of pain, Matt’s a person again, able to compartmentalize and categorize.
There are no broken or fractured bones, but there’s definitely something wrong with his right knee that’s going to give him a limp for a few days. His head is still pounding away like a snare drum, the pain localized sharply in a knot at the base of his skull – well, it’s not like a blow to the occipital lobe can make his eyesight any worse, at least – and less so in his temples, which is probably just a migraine from sensory overload. His arms are scratched to hell from the glass, but the cuts are shallow and they feel clean. His jaw is definitely bruised. His back is a mess of pain. And then there’s the single bullet graze along his ribs that probably should have been cleaned and treated last night instead of being left to air while Matt passed out.
The worst pain, though, is none of those things. The worst pain is knowing that he let Foggy down again. That he wasn’t there, again, when he said he would be. When his absences were the reason Foggy walked out on him before. Matt’s breath hitches in his chest, and he tries vainly to swallow past the guilt as he pulls back, tilts his head up to approximate eye contact as best he can.
“Foggy, I’m sorry. I’m so—”
But Foggy doesn’t yell. Doesn’t berate him for putting Daredevil over everything else again. He just sighs, resigned, and that guts Matt even more.
“How bad is it really?” Foggy asks, still stroking Matt’s hair. “As bad as it looks? Did you go see Claire?”
Matt opens his mouth, considers how the sentence Claire quit her job at the hospital months ago and won’t, can’t help me anymore will go over. He swallows the truth back down – almost chokes on it, really – and shakes his head.
“I’m. It’s nothing serious. Just a little banged up,” Matt croaks out. “I didn’t want to bother her.”
As usual, Foggy refuses to take his bullshit.
“You came in to work eight-hour days when you were a little banged up. If you can’t even get off the couch, I think it’s a bit worse than that. Don’t make that face, Matt.”
“I’m not making a face,” insists Matt, trying to keep his jaw from trembling.
“You are,” Foggy says. “It’s definitely a face. It’s the ‘I’m Matt Murdock and I can handle it’ face. That’s a lie face, Matt. There can be no lie faces between friends.”
Matt can’t stop the word, the implied questions behind it, from spilling out of his lips, no matter how needy and pathetic it sounds.
“Yeah, buddy… Friends. And speaking of friends, I have to call Karen and let her know you’re not dead. Scooch.”
With some gentle prodding from Foggy, Matt manages to wiggle closer to the back of the couch, leaving Foggy just enough space to perch on the edge. The heavy warmth of him is settled next to Matt’s middle in a way that makes Matt want to curl around Foggy like a cat. He doesn’t do that, though, because it would be weird, probably, and also it would hurt like hell. So he just stays as still as possible and tries to soak in the heat and comfort – revels in the feeling of Foggy’s hand still in his hair.
“Hey, Karen,” Foggy says quietly into the phone.
“You found him?” asks Karen hurriedly, and even through the phone she sounds concerned.
Matt’s torn between pleasure and guilt. It’s nice to know she still cares enough to worry, but Matt knows deep down that it’s wrong of him to be happy about that. To be glad that the people he loves can’t move on with their lives, that they’re hurt because of him.
“Yeah. He’s at his apartment. Still kicking; both metaphorically and literally, I’m sure.”
Matt can’t help huffing out an amused exhale at that, although it makes the graze on his side burn with pain.
“Good,” Karen replies. “That’s… That’s good. I, um. I told everyone you got a call from Jessica and had to go.”
“Ooh, that is a good one. Just don’t let it get around I used her as an alibi or Jones’ll start charging me in bottom-shelf whiskey for the service,” jokes Foggy.
His fingers absently stroke down from Matt’s hair to his cheekbone, which he rubs gently with his thumb. Foggy doesn’t even seem to realize he’s doing it, still talking intently with Karen. Matt, however, surrenders himself to the sensation – the feeling of being touched kindly – and loses the thread of their conversation.
“Hey. Matt. Still with me?” Foggy asks some minutes later, patting Matt’s cheek again to rouse him.
“Mm,” Matt mumbles in reply, turning to nose into Foggy’s hand.
He can smell Jolene on Foggy, beneath the remains of a panicked sweat and the cocktail of taxi scents and the mix of burning candles and old wood that Matt identifies with churches. Jolene’s scent is faint enough and light enough that Matt knows instinctively that she and Foggy haven’t slept together, at least in the past day or two – although he’s sure Foggy really wouldn’t appreciate Matt knowing things like that. Still, she was close enough to Foggy to be noticeable now.
And Matt, he… He hurts, and he’s tired, and no one but him will know. So he maybe just… Nuzzles a little bit closer to Foggy on the couch, presses into the hand that’s returned to petting his hair, hoping vainly that his own scent will block Jolene’s out.
But that doesn’t stop his brain from wondering, morbidly, if Foggy’s mouth would taste like Jolene. How much they’ve kissed. How much Foggy enjoys it, and if Matt could make Foggy enjoy kissing him more. Matt has to bite his lip to push those thoughts out of his head with the slight sting of pain.
“Shit— Sorry,” Foggy says softly and pulls his hand away from Matt. “Did that hurt?”
“No. No, it.” Matt gulps, swallows. “It felt nice.”
And it feels weak, embarrassing to admit it but… But it also gets Foggy to start petting his hair again.
“I know I was kind of joking around before because that’s a defense mechanism for me, but you really do look like shit,” Foggy admits with a hitch in his voice. “You need to… Just. Heal up. Don’t worry about the wedding or those guys on the streets for a week. None of that’s going to matter if you keel over, Matt.”
Matt shakes his head, and stops when it makes him dizzy.
“I—I can’t,” he says. “You know I can’t, it’s… I can hear when people are hurt, Foggy, I can’t just ignore them.”
He wants to reassure Foggy, he does, but he doesn’t want to make promises he can’t keep anymore. There’s a long pause, and part of Matt tenses, waiting for the sound of fading footsteps. For Foggy’s heartbeat to drift away from him again.
“Even beat to hell like this, you could probably take the average mugger,” Foggy sighs, tenderly brushing the hair away from Matt’s forehead instead of leaving. “That’s not an encouragement by the way, but. I guess I’m just saying, if you won’t stop altogether, at least let organized crime lie for a couple of days.”
There’s some wisdom in that. Anderson’s operation is nowhere near dismantled, but it’s definitely been set back a bit. Matt can afford to heal up, to get himself back in decent shape.
“Ok,” he agrees, and Foggy’s pulse spikes for a few seconds.
“Thank you, Matt.” And Foggy’s voice is filled with such relief, such feeling, that Matt can feel hot tears building behind his own eyes. “Now, from the look of you, you’ve gotten exactly zero medical treatment for any of this. So. I’m going to get your first aid kit and some water and some towels and then we’ll see how you clean up.”
And he does. The next hour is characterized by soft touches, the burn of peroxide, and sympathetic hisses under Foggy’s breath whenever Matt flinches. Dreamily, Matt wonders if this is how his father felt when he patched him up after a fight. Like he was burdening someone he shouldn’t, but also… Like he was extraordinarily loved. Cared for. Like there was someone in his corner. A reason to get back up and fight.
“Thanks, Foggy,” he says quietly when Foggy finally stands with cracking knees and a big sigh.
“I’d say anytime, but, you know, I don’t want to give permission for… All this,” Foggy says flatly. “But there’s… Karen didn’t tell me what she tipped you off about, but… Did this have something to do with Jo’s family? At least tell me that much, Matt.”
Matt opens his mouth to say no, but the lie won’t quite make it out. The truth won’t either.
“I… I promise I’ll keep you safe, Fog. I will.”
“That isn’t what I asked, Matt. You know keeping me in the dark isn’t going to make me safer, right?”
Matt knows that. He does. Foggy isn’t like Karen, he won’t go racing after danger head-on. But he doesn’t like letting this part of himself, letting Daredevil’s problems, touch Foggy. Doesn’t like the way Foggy’s heart sounds when he’s worried, upset. It’s part of the reason he still hasn’t told Foggy about what Fisk said.
The other part is that just thinking about Fisk’s mouth wrapped around the words ‘Franklin Percy Nelson’ like a noose makes Matt’s breath seize in his chest.
Probably not the best train of thought.
Matt’s ribs are—they’re fine, breathing should… Should not be this hard, it…
“—att. Matt! Hey! Come on, buddy, don’t space out on me, I don’t know how to check you for a concussion!”
“Foggy,” Matt wheezes, clutching for him desperately, refusing to settle until his hand is fisted in the fabric of Foggy’s shirt.
“What? Matt, you have to tell me what’s wrong,” Foggy says firmly, calmly even though Matt can hear the panicked patter of his heartbeat.
“Foggy,” Matt says again, and it comes out in a sob this time.
Tears start rolling down his cheeks before he can push them back, and he can’t. He just can’t let go of Foggy to wipe them away. He needs to feel Foggy’s warmth under his hand. Know he’s there. Right there.
“Hey,” Foggy soothes, pulling Matt gently into his arms. “Hey. I’m right here, Matt. I’m right here. Whatever you need.”
Stay with me, Matt’s traitorous heart beats out. Don’t leave, don’t ever leave. But Matt’s the only one who can hear it, and he swallows the words down, keeps them there in his heart. He can’t let them out in the open air. He can’t.
So he focuses on Foggy’s pulse instead of his own. Sets himself by it like he’s a watch. Finally, the world, tight and panicked, loosens again and Matt can breathe.
“Matt, please,” Foggy tries one last time. “You’re scaring me.”
They’re the right words. They ache.
So Matt tells Foggy, haltingly, about the cocaine, about Anderson. He holds Fisk back, banishes him to the furthest corner of his mind and tries not to even think about him.
“I’ll—I’ll protect you. Foggy, I’ll protect you, but be careful. I need you to be careful.”
“Hey,” Foggy replies, lighter, cupping Matt’s face in his hands. “I will be so careful, buddy.”
It sounds half like a joke, but Matt can tell Foggy means it and that’s what matters. They stay like that, pressed together, for a long time. Eventually, though, Foggy has to leave. He has to leave because he’s got a life outside of Matt, he’s got things to do.
Before he goes, he elicits a promise out of Matt to leave the cocaine ring alone until he’s healed. Matt can do that easy enough, even though he doesn’t like it. He has ten days to heal and figure out where Anderson’s next shipment is coming in. He can do that without straining himself.
The other promise is to not show up for any more of the wedding appointments for a week. Foggy promises to postpone the fitting for Matt’s adjusted suit. He’ll work everything else out with the other groomsmen.
But Matt’s already missed one thing. The idea of missing more, of letting Foggy down again…
“If you show up looking like you just got out of Fight Club, you will be letting me down,” Foggy tells him when Matt argues his point. “So just… Relax. Just promise me.”
So, he doesn’t like it, but Matt promises.
And this time, he keeps it.
It’s five days into Matt’s recuperation when there’s an unfamiliar knock on his door. He opens it wearing a long-sleeved shirt and sweatpants, with his glasses on.
“… Hello?” Matt asks, though he’s known who was coming to visit him since she entered the building.
“Hi, Matt. It’s Jolene. Can I come in?”
He kind of wants to say no, but that’s immature. So Matt nods and steps out of the way. Jolene enters slowly, and the light swish of her hair tells him she’s looking around the apartment.
“Was there… Something you needed?” he asks her when they both make it to the main room, not as politely as he probably should.
“I wanted to talk to you. Uh…” Jolene laughs softly, with little feeling. “Man to man, as it were.”
“Yes,” she agrees. “About Foggy. And about… You not showing up.”
Matt doesn’t want to dance around this. He doesn’t want to spend minutes carefully speaking with guarded words. They both know what this is about.
“You think I’m unreliable.”
This time, when Jolene laughs, it’s brighter. She actually sounds entertained, a bit surprised. There’s a slight click on the floor as she takes a step, and a soft rustle as she strokes a hand across the back of the couch.
“It keeps surprising me,” she says nonsensically. “Even after everything Foggy told me. But you really are sort of blunt, aren’t you? It’s true that this kind of… It worries me. I don’t care if the wedding goes off without a hitch or anything, but… But I’m worried about Foggy.”
The fact that she keeps turning him aside, refusing to engage in an argument, is unsettling for Matt. A verbal aikido, where his punches keep getting gently redirected, all his anger goes flying into open air with no target. He’s used to biting words, brutal estimations of character – he’s used to fighting Marci, when it comes to Foggy. Jolene is a different kind of opponent entirely.
“What do you mean?” he asks, reduced to playing dumb to try and get a glimpse of her hand.
“It’s his opinion that matters, not mine,” Jo says simply. “So if he thinks there’s a good reason you’re not showing up, there probably is. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t hurt that you haven’t been there, especially so soon after whatever happened at the tailor’s that made you start pulling away. Look, Matt, I don’t know your life, but you really need to make up your mind about what you want and let Foggy know because this push and pull stuff is just shitty. He deserves to know where he stands with you, because he really cares about you.”
Matt’s hands clench tightly at his sides, and he forces himself to loosen them, to slough off the tension.
“I… I know he does,” he tells Jolene. “And I care—I care about him too. He’s my best friend.”
Please don’t take him away from me, he wants to add. But that… That’s too much.
“I believe that,” replies Jolene, and she doesn’t sound surprised about it. “I’m not sure I believe you’ve told him, though. I think you should.”
“Anyway, that’s all I came here to tell you. I have a dress fitting to get to so... I’ll get out of your hair. But please think about what I said, Matt.”
And then she turns and whisks out the door, leaving Matt feeling as though he’s at the epicenter of a hurricane. Jolene has no idea what she’s telling him to do. Not really. Matt manages a smirk, but it feels empty.
She’d say something else entirely, if she knew how he really felt about Foggy.
He probably jinxed himself by comparing Jolene to Marci, Matt considers two hours later when he smells Marci Stahl’s perfume on the air and hears the clicking of her heels in the apartment building. Unfortunately, aside from literally jumping out the window, he doesn’t have much option but to face her.
“Marci,” he greets, not even waiting for her knock. “Your perfume is especially strong today.”
“Only for you,” she says without a hint of inflection. “… You know why I’m here.”
“Yes,” Matt agrees, and does not invite her in. “I do.”
“I’m technically a bridesmaid,” Marci sniffs disdainfully. “But clearly the Best Man is struggling with his duties, and I know Foggy Bear better than Jolene anyway, so I’ve been made an honorary groomsman. You won’t need to worry about all those pesky Best Man duties anymore.”
“I—I’m not… That’s…” Matt struggles angrily with his words for a moment, but it isn’t as though Marci’s wrong, exactly.
He has his reasons and they’re—they’re good reasons, he believes that. But they’re also reasons Marci can’t know about, which leaves Matt woefully unarmed in this argument. So, angry as he is, he’ll just have to square up and take it. Matt knows how to handle a hit, even this kind.
“Listen up, Murdock,” Marci says coldly, jabbing a manicured nail into Matt’s chest when there’s no response forthcoming from him. “Foggy could be happy, really happy, and I’m not going to let you sabotage it just because you’re such a flake. So unless you have a good reason that you haven’t been showing up, just back down gracefully.”
She doesn’t let him get a word in edgewise, doesn’t even bother to wait for a response – Marci’s already made up her mind. She strides away, heels clicking, and Matt’s alone again. Seething. Some dark, hated, paranoid part of him posits the theory that Marci didn’t come on her own inclination. Maybe Foggy changed his mind about Matt. Maybe he wanted to let go of him without the inevitable confrontation.
The part of him that always sounds like Stick says, what did you think would happen? You completely lose your shit, start bawling your fucking eyes out? Who wouldn’t bail after that?
Foggy wouldn’t. Matt knows him. Foggy wouldn’t do that.
They have a lunch scheduled in two days. Matt will clear things up with Foggy then. This was just Marci being Marci. She’s always been protective of Foggy, and she and Matt have never gotten along. That’s all it is.
But no matter what Matt tells himself, a dark seed of fear begins to grow in his heart.
Just you wait, folks. Next chapter... Hoo boy, next chapter is when it all goes down. I'm talking every point of contention left unspoken between these precious boys. We're gonna work through all of 'em. It'll be cathartic.
And yet poor Matty-Matt still won't find out Foggy's engagement is a business agreement... (Not until chapter 22 anyway...........)
Chapter 19: Bring It (Into the Ring)
Foggy and Matt air out their grievances. It's cathartic. Drops of Jupiter gets a mention.
This is the longest chapter to date at just over 6600 words, and boy did it take a lot out of me. Whew. But I'm pretty satisfied with it, and I hope you all are too!
It’s twenty minutes before the time he and Matt agreed to meet for lunch that Foggy Nelson arrives at the restaurant. It’s a low-key mom and pop Italian place, and the owner, Maria, leads Foggy to a table in the back herself. Maria had been one of Nelson and Murdock’s many for-food customers, and her meat sauce spaghetti is to die for. He’ll have to be more careful about things like that with Jo, Foggy realizes as his brain catches on the inopportune pun. He wonders if she ever had a chance, before the allergy manifested, to try Maria’s food. With her family, it’s pretty doubtful.
Shaking his head, Foggy spreads a few documents out on the table and begins to work. He can’t justify doing research for Daredevil’s defense on the clock, especially not when he’s ducking out so often for the wedding. So he takes a few minutes here and there as he can.
Foggy knows loopholes in and out and upside down. Obscure precedent is his forte. And he thinks maybe he has a little something; yeah, if he can piggyback off Stark’s lawyers, maybe he’s got something. But in all honesty, Daredevil’s best hope – Matt’s best hope – if he’s ever brought to trial, is jury nullification. Daredevil’s actions eclipse every loophole Foggy could ever try to find. They’re deliberate, premeditated, often part of a larger agenda than simply stopping a crime in progress.
But… Foggy’s good at swaying a jury. Good at swaying most anyone. And if it’s a fight for Matt’s life, for his freedom, Foggy will use every skill at his disposal to win. Whether he’s allowed to take the case or not, he’ll make sure he wins.
So caught up in his research, in the twists and turns of his own logic, Foggy doesn’t realize how late it is until his stomach growls at him thunderously.
He checks his phone.
It’s forty-nine minutes after he and Matt agreed to meet.
Foggy’s empty stomach swoops with fear. But… Then he reassures himself, reminds himself that he knows Matt is safe, knows it because he called this morning to check on him. Thinking back, however, the conversation had felt odd. Stilted. Foggy had, at the time, chalked it up to Matt chafing against his week-long house arrest, but…
An ominous chill goes down Foggy’s spine. He shuffles his papers together, shoves them in his satchel and strides out the door, forgetting his hunger entirely.
His first thought had been the apartment. The second had been their old office – he knows Matt still works out of it. But he doesn’t head towards either one. Instead, Foggy lets his feet carry him through Hell’s Kitchen. He wavers again on the sidewalk outside Matt’s church, but continues after only a slight pause. Maybe he’s wrong, but…
Foggy’s unsettled heart tells him there’s one other place that’s more likely than all the rest.
Fogwell’s Gym is dim, lights off, lit only by the ambient noonday sun. Anyone would think it was deserted. Locked up tight. But the doorknob turns under his hand, and when the rhythmic sound of punching reaches his ears, Foggy knows he’s made the right choice.
“Thought I might find you here,” he says too casually as he steps into the gym with his hands tucked in his pockets. “When you didn’t show up for lunch.”
Matt’s dressed in a tight-fitting white tank top and loose grey sweatpants. His feet are bare, his glasses and cane are folded next to one another on the bench against the wall, and his hands are wrapped in white cloth. He keeps hitting the bag, doesn’t even turn towards Foggy or cock his head to the side to listen.
“I’ve been reliably informed I have a competent replacement.”
“A competent—” Foggy cuts off, forces himself to exhale loudly, push all the stress and all the anger out of his lungs. “Dammit, Matt. Did Marci say that to you?”
“She’s not wrong. She’s a very competent woman.”
“But I didn’t choose her,” Foggy retorts. “I chose you, Matt. So if you don’t want to be part of this, then just tell me! Don’t use Marci as an excuse. You know she gets mean when she’s pissed off.”
“So you didn’t send her?” Matt asks snippily, but it’s not even a question.
It’s an accusation, a sharp one, like there’s proof behind it even though Foggy knows there’s not because he would never—
Foggy has to take another deep breath, but it doesn’t slow his racing heart any. He forgets sometimes, how biting Matt can be. The anger is never a surprise, because before he’s anything else Matt Murdock is an angry man. But the cold voice, that sneer, they’re a little startling because it’s not often they’ve been aimed in Foggy’s direction – the cruelty Foggy expects from Matt now is all inadvertent, about distance and lies and not showing up. This requires attention, a target. Part of Foggy wants this, is darkly satisfied that at least Matt’s focus is on him now. But the rest of him knows that’s stupid.
“No, I didn’t, and you know that.”
“Not looking to get rid of me the moment I mess up?” Matt asks, and again, it isn’t a question.
His ears may not be as powerful as Matt’s, but Foggy can still hear the teeth in the words. Razor-sharp and aching for blood. This is how Matt picks fights. And normally—
Well, this isn’t normal, not for them. But Foggy does try to keep things civil even in the mild disagreements that have characterized their friendship, usually over Matt’s client policy and his ridiculous, beautiful bleeding heart.
Today, though, Foggy’s not inclined to that. He’s hurt and exasperated and insulted and hungry. And though his usual response to anger is to storm out, today Foggy’s ready to pick a fight too.
“Of course I wasn’t! God, Matt, I just—thought she could help while you were recovering! And she did! What the hell is your problem today? Where is this coming from?”
Another few punches hit the bag, one-two-three, and it shakes on its chain from the force of them.
“I could ask you the same thing,” Matt says. “About, about all of it! This wedding—”
“We’ve already been over that,” Foggy says, to cut him off, because he knows he can’t hold up the lies under this kind of emotional strain.
“No, we haven’t! You got upset and tried to leave!”
And he did but that’s—is that seriously what’s bothering Matt? That Foggy’s relationship with, his engagement to, Jo is so totally inexplicable? He’s angry he didn’t get to finish interrogating Foggy about it? Really? With all the lies he’s ever told, all the things about himself that he’s hidden?
“You’re mad we didn’t finish that fight?” Foggy demands, incensed. “You seriously want to have it out, Matt? In the middle of this freaking gym? Fine. Fine, let’s have it out! All of it! I’ve got time! From the looks of things, you do too!”
Matt huffs out an angry breath and continues his workout.
“You got defensive, Foggy. Even if you—if you left the firm, you’re the one who asked me to be a part of this wedding! If you’re not telling me the whole truth—”
“Because you’re never anything less than completely honest, right? We’ve been friends for ten years, Matt, and you hid so much from me that even now I worry that our whole friendship was a lie too!”
It’s what Foggy feels, and in that sense it’s the truth. But it’s also just another distraction tactic to keep Matt away from the subject of the wedding. That burns, it does, because he’s being a hypocrite. But there’s no world in which Foggy is going to openly admit to Matt why he’s marrying Jo. And it’s not just about the plausible deniability, the open secret of his feelings for Matt. It’s that, like Matt, Foggy doesn’t enjoy being pitied. Especially when it comes to something like this, something so close to his heart. He cares about Jo, and she cares about him, and if that’s enough for the two of them to fool everyone into thinking they’re in love – if it’s enough to stave off the concerned looks, it’s fine with the both of them. Like Jo said before, it’s enough. What they have is enough. They can live with it, be content with it, even if it’s not everything they want.
The truth of the words seems to do the trick, Foggy supposes, because Matt takes the bait.
“I couldn’t, can’t, dump all that shit on you, Foggy,” he growls. “You think I wanted you calling me—crazy, sadistic? You were the part of me that was normal! That’s just how it was!”
It’s just such bullshit that Foggy’s not even sure how to handle it except to throw his hands up.
“And compartmentalizing like that works so much better, does it? Come on, Matt!”
Finally, Matt turns away from the punching bag after a punishing blow; faces Foggy straight on, rolls his shoulders like a predator. Normally, Matt looks softer, sweeter without his glasses. But right now, he just looks dangerous.
“You didn’t want to hear it, Foggy!” Matt spits back, fists clenched. “You never did, even after you knew about Daredevil!”
That, at least, is a proper punch. It hits its mark. But Foggy’s no slouch either, in this kind of fight. He knows how this works in a way that he’s never understood the acrobatics Matt uses to fight his way through New York’s underworld.
“No,” Foggy admits, because the first step is giving ground, making a feint. “I didn’t! I still don’t, for the most part! But I didn’t want to be left to make the opening statement in the Punisher case by myself with no warning and no notes even more!”
Matt falters there, even sort of stumbles physically as if he’s been shoved off balance.
“You—I’m sorry it ended up like that, Fog, but you did brilliantly—”
“Yeah, because I’m a badass! Good for me! But that’s no excuse, Matt!” Foggy argues hotly. “I shouldn’t have had to do that. And you had no right – no right – to tank our fucking case just to try and, what, make a point to me? You sure as hell weren’t facing the jury when you went off about how Daredevil’s such a hero and we should all be grateful! Is that what you call professionalism?”
There’s a full flinch at that, like a shot to the gut, and Foggy feels a little bad about it. His ruthlessly practical mind, however, reminds him that no matter how it hurts this is the truth.
“I didn’t—That wasn’t—It wasn’t like that, Foggy,” is Matt’s weak reply. “You know it wasn’t. I never, I never once asked for gratitude, yours or anyone else’s. I just.”
And though Matt can’t seem to get the words out, the choked, determined look on his face makes his meaning settle into Foggy’s bones.
I just wanted you to understand.
Foggy doesn’t understand. Not really, not on an emotional level. He knows Matt’s reasoning, knows Matt’s excuses, knows Matt feels like he has to go out there and fight. But… Foggy hasn’t really tried to feel it. Because he was already feeling too much. Too much betrayal, humiliation, devastation.
So, maybe it’s time for some tough truths of his own. Maybe it’s time for Foggy to make a decision. Because if he really does want to salvage his friendship with Matt, he’s going to have to go deep. He’s going to have to go beneath the surface of the problem and understand the place Daredevil comes from, to really accept that part of Matt instead of trying to ignore it or brush over it.
“It doesn’t matter,” Matt says at last, darkly, and returns his focus to the bag.
“It does matter!” Foggy shouts back at him once he’s found his voice again. “Don’t you get that by now? It all freaking matters, Matt! I know you don’t want to talk about this—I definitely don’t! But I am so—sick and tired of compacting all this bullshit! Just cramming it down to make more room for the next thing we never talk about! So just say it!”
“You’re tired?” Matt seethes, and instead of lashing out with a fist he knocks the bag with a powerful kick. “You’re tired, Foggy? Of what? Not bothering to listen? Because maybe you forgot but I’ve tried to explain things! And every time I do, you walk out!”
Foggy, of all people, knows Matt is tender there, when it comes to the idea of people leaving him. His mother, his asshole ninja mentor, Elektra… Foggy never wanted to be like them. And he’d fallen so completely in love with Matt – romantically, yeah, but also just as a person who was worth so much and deserved to be cherished – that he had never thought he could be like them.
No matter the extenuating circumstances, Matt’s right. Foggy’s walked out on him, twice now.
“I don’t… I…”
And there’s reasons, and they’re good reasons, ones that make sense. And Foggy’s entitled to protect himself first, even if it hurts Matt, he doesn’t have to break pieces off of himself for Matt’s sake. But… Still, he…
He knows Matt, better than he thought he did when stung by the betrayal of learning about Daredevil. The tension in Matt’s shoulders isn’t just anger, it’s Matt bracing for impact. For rejection.
“I won’t walk out this time,” Foggy says at last, and means it. “There’s—a lot of shit, Matt. It’s going to get ugly, because I’m still pissed and I know you are. But if this is what we need—I won’t leave. But that means I’m not going to cool off either. So talk.”
“You left when I tried to explain,” Matt repeats, but this time it’s an explanation, not just an accusation. “You left, both times, and I had nothing to— There was nothing, no one to anchor me. My senses. There’s so much, all the time, and without anything familiar to block it out… Full focus, 24/7, like you’re—like you’re standing on the edge of a knife, do you know how draining that is? Not just physically but mentally. Emotionally. It pulls you down like a weight, Foggy.”
“You could’ve asked me for help, Matt,” Foggy tells him.
The laugh Matt gives in response, paired with a particularly vicious swing at the punching bag, is not encouraging.
“Oh yeah, right,” Matt seethes. “How would that have gone, Foggy? Tell me.”
“I think the fact that I came to you first both times puts me squarely in the ‘care if Matt Murdock dies or not’ camp, which is more than can be said for you, usually. You think, what, I would’ve kicked you in the teeth because you dared to need something? God, Matt, I left because you made it pretty clear you didn’t want me around! That Nelson and Murdock, that everything we built, didn’t mean anything to you.”
Matt’s shoulders and his fists both drop. It’s like seeing a marionette’s strings cut, he goes slack and defeated from his head to his toes.
“It meant something to me,” insists Matt, fervent and pained and almost too quiet to hear.
“You sure had a hell of a way of showing it, Matt. Between the lies and the hypocrisy and Elektra—”
“Is, is that what this is really about? Elektra?”
He chokes on her name a little, and Foggy feels shame wash through his gut like acid. Elektra is a big part of things, that’s true enough, but. Matt doesn’t like airing his grief, and Foggy’s conflicted feelings regarding Elektra weren’t supposed to be the point of this. Wringing the strap of his satchel between his hands, Foggy swallows and purposely softens his tone.
“It’s…” Not fine, never fine. “Whatever. We don’t have to talk about that. You loved her.”
“But you hated her,” Matt reminds him sharply.
“Yeah,” says Foggy, because what’s the point of lying. “I did. And you know what? I’m not sorry. You didn’t see what you looked like when she dumped you in college, man. You were my best friend. Of course I hated her. And then she blows into town ten years later and fucks everything up again? I still kinda hate her. Doesn’t mean I don’t get it. I know you loved her, Matt. I never understood why, but so what? It’s enough that she was important to you. It’s enough. All that matters now is I’m sorry you lost her.”
Elektra’s dead, there’s nothing either of them can do about it. And Foggy never liked her, but he didn’t want her dead. He thinks she was a mistake, was always a mistake, but the way Matt was drawn into her orbit again and again makes him think she was the closest thing to a true love that Matt’s ever had. At least part of Foggy’s dislike is jealousy, he knows that about himself. But she was also—freeing. Apparently. When things were good with her, Matt had come back to their dorm room strung out and giddy. Foggy had thought it was the rush of dating such a rich, beautiful girl, but knowing that she was a part of all the ninja bullshit changes things. After all, if she knew, about all of it, the senses and…
If she knew, Matt never had to pretend. Never had to fake anything. She didn’t compress Matt into something small and normal and boring the way Foggy supposes he did, even if she did lead Matt on a merry hunt to implode his personal life. Twice. It’s not like Matt’s ever put great stock in his personal life anyway, right?
“Now who’s the one not saying everything?” Matt baits, and Foggy knows his heart has given him away again.
And he was trying to be delicate, about this. But he should’ve known not to be, because Matt hates being handled like glass and he’s not delicate about anything.
“Oh, screw you! Fine!” snaps Foggy, throwing his arms out in a frustrated gesture. “You want to know how it felt coming dead last to Elektra Natchios? Again? It sucked, Matt. A lot!”
And like flipping a switch, the second Foggy heats up, Matt cools off. Cocks his head the way he does when he’s listening, lets an icy, close-mouthed grin cross his face, and cools his tone to arctic levels.
“Well, you don’t have to worry about that anymore, do you, Fog.”
Direct hit. There’s a reason Foggy doesn’t enjoy arguing with Matt. Even before he knew about the supersenses, Foggy could tell Matt was always a little too perceptive. Always knew what buttons to push, how to turn someone’s clear, concise argument into a ball of knots. Unless he wants to say something truly disastrous, Foggy knows he needs to calm himself down.
“I—” he sighs angrily, rubbing at his eyes. “Ok, I deserve that. But come on, Matt. It’s not like I wanted—I’m sorry. I am. About what happened to her. The papers didn’t say much, but with all the… Whatever you two were dealing with, it can’t have been pretty.”
“It wasn’t,” Matt confirms.
His voice is still hard and cold, he’s still tensed like a bowstring.
“And that’s awful. But as much of a dick move as it is to say this, that’s no excuse for the way you acted. And not just with the firm, or the case. God, Matt, Karen found Elektra in your bed. I know you’ve never been really keen on serious relationships, but before Karen was your girlfriend she was our friend, and she deserved better than you cheating on her—”
“I didn’t! I, I didn’t cheat on her,” insists Matt, outraged. “I would never do that!”
“I know you, Matt. Maybe you didn’t do anything kinky with Elektra, but there was absolutely some emotional infidelity going on there because you were not putting Karen ahead of Elektra. Not at all, man,” Foggy says.
There’s more of course. Other reasons the whole situation rankles. But Matt can date whoever he wants. Foggy doesn’t have a claim on him, not like that. So he has no right to be angry about Matt dating Karen except on Karen’s behalf – that he ditched her for Elektra and built their relationship on a lie, agreed to date her and still didn’t tell her he was Daredevil. Foggy’s stupid decade-long feelings for Matt and his budding crush on Karen were Foggy’s own problem. There’s a lot of things he can blame Matt for, but that’s not one of them. It’s a Foggy-only issue. There’s no point bringing it up.
Besides. Matt already knows everything, doesn’t he? Every little white lie, every wavering supportive statement. Every weak encouragement. He’s always known, probably since before Elektra the first time. The way she smirked at him back in college, the very few times they met, told Foggy that Elektra knew, but there’s no way to guess if Matt told her or if she just figured it out on her own.
Maybe the two of them had a good laugh about it, Foggy thinks miserably, before shoving the thought in a dark corner to never consider again.
Matt’s kind of a jerk sometimes, but he’s not… Not like that. Even now, he isn’t bringing Foggy’s feelings up – and they’re the ultimate trump card, the ace in the hole. No, Matt is the good kind of jerk. All… Snarky sass-mouth and fond ribbing and playing innocent when he knows he’s being a shit. Like a cat.
That isn’t the point, though.
“I was doing what I had to, to protect the city,” Matt argues. “I’m not going to apologize for that, or for trying to keep Elektra safe. No matter what—what assumptions you or Karen made because of it.”
“And it has nothing to do with the fact that she egged you on, pushed you to do all the things I wanted you to stop? I have no idea what the two of you were up to in college, but I can make a pretty safe bet now it probably wasn’t safe or non-violent or even legal. I’m sure she was thrilled to meet Daredevil. It must have been such a relief, right? To get a positive reaction, to not have to worry about being judged—”
“It was,” snaps Matt. “You know what, you’re right. You’re right, Foggy, it was a relief. No matter how angry I was at her or how little I trusted her, at least I knew I wasn’t letting her down just by being myself! At least I knew she would never ask me to apologize for that!”
“Good for you!” Foggy shouts back, his breath burning-hot and suffocating in his chest. “I’m glad you found someone who gave so little of a shit about your wellbeing that she encouraged you to try and get killed by ninjas on a nightly basis! Thank god there was somebody out there to push you further towards unilateral decision-making and doing whatever the hell you want just because no one can stop you! If only we all had an Elektra Natchios to ruin our romantic relationships and tank our career aspirations and flout the law! I’m sure we’d all be so much better off!”
Matt’s fist flashes up, and for a split-second Foggy thinks it’s going right in his face. It’s what a lot of people would do, hearing someone talk shit about their dead girlfriend like that. But Matt has never hurt him physically. Matt would never hurt him, Foggy believes that wholeheartedly. Even knowing everything he does about Matt, about Daredevil, he believes that.
Matt whirls and his fist hits the punching bag, like it was always going to.
“Don’t,” Matt snarls, low, in the Daredevil voice. “Don’t talk about her like that, Foggy. She died to save my life. She died. And I couldn’t—”
Foggy knows in his heart he’s taken it too far. And Matt’s shuddering, trying to reel himself back in and failing. So it’s Foggy’s job to dial things back, to… This was supposed to be a fight, and it was always going to hurt, but this wasn’t what…
“I’m sorry. Fuck. I’m sorry, Matt. I was just so—”
Foggy runs a hand though his hair, agitated, and can’t find the words. Matt, apparently, isn’t having the same problem.
“She didn’t always do the right thing. I know that. But she was— We understood each other. What we shared… She agreed to fight with me, on my terms, to try and be better. And now she’s gone, and she can’t.”
There’s a flash of ice in Foggy’s heart as he realizes Matt will never love him like that. Whatever understanding Matt and Elektra had, it doesn’t exist in a place that Foggy can access.
Idiot, he tells himself, swallowing down tears. This isn’t even about you. And you already knew. You knew he could never, that he would never…
He can’t even finish the thought.
“It was never about you being yourself,” Foggy admits, because he can’t force himself to talk about Elektra directly anymore. “I knew, by then, who you were. But that part of you, the Daredevil part, it isn’t the only part of you that’s real. At least that’s… I mean, maybe it’s not, you’re really the only one who can say. The part of you that read ahead in the textbooks, the part of you that wanted to get into college to make your dad proud, the part of you that wanted Nelson and Murdock, isn’t that just as important as Daredevil? And you were throwing it all away.”
Throwing me away, he doesn’t say.
“What good is that part of me, what good would that life have been, if the Hand had won and killed everyone?” Matt asks, quiet, wounded. “They took Karen, they took people I saved, Foggy. And even before that, they…” He shakes his head and doesn’t elaborate. “The other parts of my life are important to me, but I would give them all away to keep this city safe. To keep the people I care about safe.”
Foggy swallows, sniffs embarrassingly loud and scrubs at his face to keep from crying.
“You shouldn’t have to do that, Matt. This shouldn’t be all on you like that.”
“Maybe not,” Matt agrees, the corner of his mouth lifting in a sad smile. “But that’s how it is.”
Foggy wants to argue the point, but swaying Matt away from what he thinks is his duty is downright impossible. Years of debate hadn’t softened his position on exclusively innocent clients or the number of pro bono cases they could afford to take, so it’s a safe bet to think Daredevil is the same way. Matt’s stubborn and infuriatingly virtuous like that. One of the many reasons Foggy loves him.
“So that’s it?” he asks. “That’s where you were all those times? You immediately went off to fight ninjas after that shooting at the DA’s office?”
Foggy expects a yes, firm and unapologetic. What he gets instead is Matt shaking his head no and turning away slightly, a ploy to avoid eye contact he can’t make anyway. Foggy’s heart sinks.
“Then what the hell were you doing?” he asks, pressing a hand to the ache in his sternum. “I was scared, Matt. I almost died. And you just left. I needed you to stay, and you left.”
“I had to confront Fisk,” Matt insists, “learn what he knew about Frank and— I had to protect you, Foggy.”
This time, it’s Foggy who shakes his head.
“That’s totally stupid, Matt! Not to mention dangerous! You—you seriously left me bleeding on a stretcher to try and interrogate Wilson Fisk? How is that protecting me!”
“I had to,” Matt repeats, a broken record. “I had to. What I found out—”
He chokes on the words, shakes his head sharply.
“Yeah, yeah, it was vital intel or something, but you never even visited me in the hospital, Matt. The night of the explosions I get, but what was stopping you after the shooting? I was waiting, and— and not even once…!”
Foggy has to cut off, press a hand to his mouth to try and stifle the sobs he knows Matt will hear anyway. The tears sting his eyes as they fall.
“I was there, Foggy,” Matt tells him gently, and Foggy’s heart squeezes in his chest. “I was up on the roof. I could hear you, I knew you were safe.”
Maybe Matt thinks that’s enough. Maybe it should be, on a purely pragmatic level. Matt was watching over him. But the feeling of lying in that hospital bed and waiting to see him, waiting for hours and never knowing why… The knowledge that Matt was so close and still so far away just makes Foggy angry.
“And that’s supposed to make me feel better?” he demands. “I had no way of knowing any of that! I was only a couple of floors away and you still couldn’t muster the energy to come see me? You literally could have just popped down to say you were keeping guard on the roof, or—or sent Claire to tell me, or something! Anything! Anything but letting me just lay there and think you didn’t care!”
“It was better if you did,” Matt says firmly.
“Better—What dictionary are you using, there? In what world is that better? In what world is thinking your best friend doesn’t care enough to come check on you in the hospital the better option! Better than what?”
Matt convulses at the tirade, but he stands his ground.
“Better than putting you in more danger! You want to know what I, what Fisk said to me that day? He said your name, Foggy,” Matt rasps darkly, and he’s trembling from head to toe in a way that reminds Foggy of his breakdown a week ago. “He said he would kill you. Even after I told him you didn’t have anything to do with it, he still…! Fisk owns that prison, all of it, it’s not an idle threat. Someday—someday, he’s going to— to—”
With a yell, Matt hauls off and punches the bag again. The impact is so forceful that the worn seams split open and sand comes spilling out like it’s a cracked hourglass. Foggy’s heart is pounding so hard in his chest that it honestly just feels like it’s vibrating. He wonders what it sounds like to Matt, focuses on that inane thought to push away the nausea building low in his gut.
“That’s why?” he chokes out. “That’s why you pushed me, why you egged me into closing the firm when everything started going downhill instead of just— I mean, come on, Matt, of course Fisk wants to kill us! He’s insane and we took him down! He probably already wanted to kill us before you went in there to pick a fight! Am I going to maybe piss myself about it later? Yeah! I really, really am! But so what! You could have told me, we could have, I don’t know, tried to figure out a contingency plan. Together! But instead you lied, again!”
For a moment, Foggy thinks Matt’s about to leap at the damaged punching bag, hit and kick and wear himself out until the frenzied energy thrumming beneath his skin finally dissipates. But he doesn’t. He holds back, clutches his hands tightly in his hair and heaves deep breaths in through his nose. Foggy counts ten before Matt has himself in check again, drops his arms and leaves his sweat-soaked hair a wild mess.
“That’s just it! You’re always in danger if you’re around me, Foggy. Always. So why? If it’s that horrible even outside the danger,” Matt grinds out, facing Foggy dead on even though his eyes track somewhere over Foggy’s shoulder, “if I bring you so much— so much misery, if I hurt you so much or so often, why even bother trying? Why are you here?”
This, really, is the crux of the thing. And it’s true that it’s something Foggy has asked himself, more than once. A quandary he thought he’d discarded by leaving Nelson and Murdock behind. But one Jo brought back with a vengeance in a single gentle, probing question.
Do you think you’ll regret it if you get married without Matt?
In the end, there’s really only one answer. And it puts too much of Foggy out there, makes him too vulnerable. But if Matt can be the Man Without Fear, Foggy can handle at least this much bravery.
“Thinking you were dead, Matt, that you were dying right in front of me… The night in your apartment and the morning on that roof, those were the two worst moments of my life. Bar none,” Foggy says, though the admission pains him. “And I know that someday, probably someday soon, you really will get yourself killed. But I’ve realized something. It’s gonna hurt the same either way, even if I distance myself from you, and it’s really stupid but I’d much rather be with you until then. Make that time… Worthwhile. Because you—you’re human like the rest of us, you know, Murdock. And yeah, you’ve hurt me, but you’ve made me happy too, and to me that’s worth it even when I try to convince myself it’s not.”
Matt falters at that, his face crumpling the way it does when he’s about to cry.
Foggy sighs, but oddly enough it’s not from exhaustion or exasperation or even the resignation of knowing he’s going to deal with Matt’s bullshit from now to eternity because he loves him that much. It’s more… Understanding. Of course, this is what the question would be. Of course Matthew ‘Abandonment Issues’ Murdock had actually wanted to mend their friendship but assumed Foggy didn’t.
“Really. You big idiot, who do you think you’re talking to? I was… I was just trying to do what I thought was best for me, because it seemed like you didn’t want to be friends or partners or anything anymore. You can’t have a relationship without both people invested in it, Matt, you’ve gotta know that much at least. Our friendship is one of the good things, for me. It’s always been one of the good things. Maybe it’s stupid to hope that means anything compared to… To Daredevil. Or what you feel you have to do as him. But, you know, call me an idiot then, because I still do hope that.”
Matt, crying in earnest now, swipes the tears from his face with the heel of his wrapped hand.
“It’s not, it’s not stupid to hope,” he sobs, his voice jagged and broken like shattered glass. “It’s one of the—of the good things for me too, Foggy. Please. I. I just, I…”
Matt shakes his head helplessly. There’s really nothing else to do, so Foggy opens his arms up wide.
“C’mon, Murdock, bring it in.”
With a wet, slightly hysterical giggle, Matt shoots forward into the hug, wrapping his sweaty arms tight around Foggy’s torso and burying his tearstained face against Foggy’s neck. Foggy exhales another deep sigh, but this one is pleased. Because things are… Because… Because it’s just such a relief, to have it all said out plain like that. To have let loose all the pain and the hurt and the anger they’ve both held onto for too long and find that on the other side of it they’re still Foggy Nelson and Matt Murdock.
“Foggy,” Matt sniffles, and then seems to get too choked up to continue.
“You better not be getting snot on my collar, Matt,” Foggy says lightly, because they’ve gone so deep already and if they stay in this heavy emotional place much longer Foggy is going to say something he can’t take back.
Matt, the little shit that he is, deliberately rubs his face against Foggy’s dress shirt, letting out quiet, huffing laughter as he does.
“Asshole,” Foggy murmurs, too fondly, the way he would say ‘I love you’ if it wouldn’t shatter everything.
Matt’s hug tightens.
“You love it,” he insists, voice still wavering with tears.
More than you know, Foggy thinks and doesn’t say.
“God help me, I do,” he decides on instead, though it’s not much less damning.
They stay like that for a long while, holding each other tight in the murky, mote-ridden air of Fogwell’s Gym. Foggy feels light and emptied out and hopeful, a weight lifted from him that he didn’t even realize he’d been carrying.
A few days later, there’s a little get-together at Foggy’s apartment to help decide a wedding playlist. Matt shows up. His smiles are bright and his posture is loose, even though Foggy can see the pink remains of a cut on his cheek and a bruise on his right forearm.
Jo and Tyler and Candace are the only others who can make it, but that’s fine. They all make do. And it’s probably a blessing in disguise, since large crowds can trigger Matt’s migraines. Not that he might not get one anyway, Foggy considers jokingly, watching Candace ramble away at him about her studies. She’s made it her mission, it seems, to integrate Matt back into the never-ending drama of the Nelson clan and prove to him he’s still part of the family.
Foggy loves his sister.
He’s startled from dopily staring at Candace and Matt out on the couch when Tyler prods him in the arm with a pen.
“Hey, you’re up,” Tyler says. “Next suggestion.”
“Drops of Jupiter,” Foggy insists with a firm nod, resting his elbows on the kitchen island because he’s an adult and his mom isn’t there to scold him for it.
Jo, sitting on his other side, laughs a little, but not meanly.
He grins back at her. Maybe it’s a silly choice, for wedding music. But… Though he’s not sure why, Drops of Jupiter has always made Foggy happy. Always brightens his day a little. If he’s going to get married, the day won’t be complete without that song, and Foggy knows it in his bones.
“Don’t make fun of Train. It’s a good song!”
“Objections?” Tyler asks Jo, solemnly.
She swats him in the shoulder.
“No, no objections.”
And so Tyler adds the song to their growing list, saying it out loud slowly as he writes it, in an obnoxious voice that convinces Jo to swat him again.
“Oh, I can’t write anymore,” groans Tyler. “I think you broke my arm, how will I save lives now—”
“You don’t watch out I really will break your arm,” Jo retorts, amused. “And then I’ll have my rich lawyer fiancé get me off on the assault charge.”
“Corruption and threats,” Foggy considers aloud. “Hm. Sexy.”
“This is why no one likes lawyers,” Tyler complains.
For a few seconds, everyone at the table waits for another rejoinder, but none are forthcoming. It’s Jo who starts laughing first, a snorting little giggle that Foggy will absolutely tease her about later. He and Tyler join in soon after.
If this is what the rest of his life is going to be like, Foggy thinks, watching Matt and Candace tilt their heads in identical confusion, it’ll be a good one.
Chapter 20: And I Cannot Compete With You, Jolene
Matt's emotions go on something of a rollercoaster. Daredevil gets a new lead. A teenage boy is almost shot. Religious guidance is sought. Matt tries to write his Best Man speech.
There is an attempted police-on-civilian shooting in this chapter. It's not particularly graphic and no one gets hurt, but if a depiction of that sort of situation is triggering for you or you'd rather not read it, please skip from "He goes out angry" to "There are no appointments". As always, let me know if there's anything you think should be tagged!
When he heads to Fogwell’s instead of to meet Foggy for lunch, Matt isn’t expecting Foggy to come find him. He isn’t—not expecting it, either, though. The point of going to the gym is that he doesn’t have to think. Just feel and feel and drive everything else out.
And when Foggy does show up, Matt thinks, well, it’ll be like last time but in reverse. Instead of coming to reconcile, Foggy’s coming to end things.
But he isn’t. And he doesn’t.
Matt finally gets all the words out, all the… All the pain and anger burning inside him, and Foggy stays. He promises to stay, to fight it out, and he does. There are places that hurt – jagged edges – but it’s a clean pain, a good pain; it doesn’t scar or simmer or rot.
Matt can hardly remember the words that pour out of his mouth during the argument, just that they’re raw and true, even if sometimes they’re defensive. Matt’s memory is a strong one, but what he remembers from the fight isn’t the way things are phrased, it’s the way it feels. The gutting ache as he learns all the ways he’s hurt the best friend he’s ever had, the hot flare of his own temper at their points of contention, the sweet, cool relief when Foggy says straight out that he wants to stay friends with Matt for as long as he can.
And it’s so, so freeing to finally speak about these things to Foggy. About the ways they’ve let each other down, about Elektra, about the choking fear that he’s going to lose Foggy to Fisk’s revenge. About that lingering thought, the one that’s stuck with him their entire friendship – why doesn’t Foggy just leave?
“You’ve made me happy too,” Foggy says, “and to me that’s worth it even when I try to convince myself it’s not.”
In that moment, with just those words, Matt feels bright and good. Feels it when Foggy opens his arms and invites a tight, needy hug. Feels it three minutes later when they’re still holding one another, when Matt can feel the itch of salt on his skin as his tear tracks dry, when Foggy’s stomach growls and Matt’s matches it for volume. Feels it as he follows Foggy to the restaurant for their belated lunch date. Like Foggy, the feeling stays.
He still feels it the next day as he stands at Elektra’s grave and breathes the clean air.
“He didn’t leave,” Matt tells her, though it’s not the sort of revelation she would have enjoyed or even understood. “This time, he didn’t leave.”
Melvin fixes the Daredevil suit up beautifully, even reinforces it, and chatters away at Matt about his newest inventions, innovations, designs. Aside from the night work he does for Matt, Melvin has been hired to add a new safety valve he invented to factory machinery by several companies, and been contracted for costume design by a theater. He sounds… Happy, in his work; talks brightly about the new friends he’s made, about how proud Betsy is.
Matt listens to it all with a smile.
This, he thinks. This is why it’s all worth it. Witnessing how human beings grow and thrive – feeling and hearing and knowing the vibrancy of them – when the ambitions of evil people aren’t smothering them is truly miraculous.
When Matt puts on the suit again for the first time since it’s been mended, he really does feel like a superhero. Like he can do anything.
It’s the tenth night since Matt’s fight with Ajax, so he makes his way down to the docks. And there, finally, is what he’s been waiting for. It’s a small group – five people, only one of which is armed. Matt singles that one out first. Gets in close where the man’s rifle will be useless except as a club. He has to block a swing at his head, and the barrel of the rifle hits his right arm hard, but that’s about all the resistance he faces.
After dropping her gun-toting boss with a pressure point, Matt has a very nice chat in Spanish with one of the other smugglers. Daredevil’s reputation precedes him, it seems, and the smuggler likes her teeth where they are. Matt thinks that’s a fair request, given the situation.
Also, he’s not actually that prone to knocking people’s teeth out – partially because teeth are bones and it hurts to punch them, partially because injuring someone in the mouth when you want them to be able to tell you things tends to defeat the purpose, and partially because knocking a person’s tooth out feels really gross.
In any case, she lets him know the location the cocaine is supposed to be delivered to, and Matt lets Brett Mahoney know that five hundred grand worth of cocaine is ready and waiting for Narcotics to pick up at the docks, courtesy of Daredevil.
He sticks around to make sure it’s all on the level, then takes a quick jaunt to the address he acquired. The place is empty of people, but it hasn’t been that way for long and it hasn’t been cleared out. Likely, it’s still in use. This, then, is the next place to stake out. Matt could trash it immediately, and he kind of wants to, but that would just ensure the operation inside would move to a different location. No, better to wait. As long as no one’s being hurt, he can afford to do that.
Besides, Matt’s planning to take an early night. Foggy asked him to come over in the morning to help with the wedding playlist. And Matt’s hearing is spectacular, after all. Foggy needs his help.
And his veto power, so they’re not all stuck listening to such wedding classics as the chicken dance, because Foggy would absolutely include it just to be funny.
Matt doesn’t run into any more trouble, and he’s able to fall into a surprisingly restful sleep. After making a loop past Foggy’s apartment, of course. He hasn’t been able to do it for over a week, but Foggy’s kept in contact enough for Matt to be relatively certain he’s safe. It’s just that…
This is better.
Matt drifts off with the soothing, phantom beat of Foggy’s heart in his ears. His dreams are warm and light in a way that reminds him of eating cotton candy with his dad before the accident.
The next morning, Matt wakes up invigorated. His good mood is startling even to him, and he has a much easier time reigning in his senses than usual. When he reaches Foggy’s apartment, Candace, Jo, and Tyler are already there. But before Matt can make his way over to the kitchen, Candace herds him onto the couch with a classic Nelson determination that makes Matt smile.
“Big bro can deal with choosing music without you for a little while,” she insists. “First, I have to tell you about this TA I have, he is the worst.”
So Matt listens to Candace’s story about her awful TA, offers some suggestions on the upcoming essays she’s struggling with, and doesn’t try very hard to keep from teasing her about a classmate she has a crush on.
“They’re just, like, so… So,” Candace insists, like that actually means something. “With the hair and the eyes and the—Ugh. And they wear this really subtle cologne that’s just…” She sighs wistfully. “You know?”
Matt’s mind turns to Elektra’s perfume, to Karen’s laundry detergent, to Claire’s lightly-scented body soap.
To Foggy’s shampoo.
He can smell it, faintly, even from across the room.
“Yeah,” Matt chokes out, then clears his throat. “Uh. Yeah. I know what you mean.”
He’s been so invested in his conversation with Candace that he’s tuned out what’s happening in the kitchen, but with the reminder of Foggy, their conversation becomes a point of focus again. Just in time to hear three words that make his heart and his good mood drop considerably.
“Drops of Jupiter,” Foggy says insistently.
Though Matt’s suddenly cold all over, he plays it off and tries to continue focusing on Candace. It works well for the most part. He even manages to pitch in a few song suggestions and, yes, make sure the dreaded chicken dance will not be making an appearance in the reception playlist.
But as soon as things are decided, he hurries home to his apartment, alone.
In the dorms, Foggy used to make them both hot chocolate after breakups, or failed assignments, or the days that Matt couldn’t drag himself out of bed. The smell of it is still linked to comfort in his brain, and Matt finds himself making a mug almost before he realizes it. There are no marshmallows in it, even though Foggy used to use them, because Matt doesn’t have any in his cupboards. He doesn’t really like the taste of them, anyway, except in Foggy’s hot chocolate.
Matt settles at his kitchen counter with a sigh.
“Drops of Jupiter,” he mutters to himself, squeezing the mug in his hands and not even feeling its heat against the pads of his fingers.
The truth is that, well, Matt’s always thought of it as ‘their song’, his and Foggy’s. He relies on his hearing the most heavily out of all his senses, so that moment – which had first seemed inconsequential and unimportant and later became the first seconds of the best thing that had ever happened to him – has always been gently draped in that song. Soft, low-volume, a little tinny out of the speakers of Foggy’s laptop.
To have that sensory touchstone stolen away to be used for Foggy’s marriage to someone else is—
Matt flings his mug at the wall. It shatters on the brick with an earsplitting crash. Afterwards, Matt buries his head in his trembling hands and gulps in one angry breath. Two. Three-four.
He doesn’t realize he’s crying until a tear hits his wrist and streaks down the inside of his arm.
He goes out angry, even though he knows he shouldn’t.
In the end, he tells himself, it’s a good thing he went out instead of wallowing. Daredevil only just barely manages to stop a police officer from shooting an unarmed teenage boy.
The encounter leaves Matt’s nerves shocky and off-kilter even into the next day.
It’s not that he’s put in opposition to a law enforcement officer that troubles him particularly – Matt’s senses have given him a visceral experience with corruption in places of authority, with wrongdoing on both sides of the law. And it’s not the gun itself, because he’s dealt with people using more intimidating weapons and come out on top.
What makes Matt’s heart stutter in his chest and his fingers skitter nervelessly as he tries to work the morning afterwards is how close he comes to witnessing a child die.
Antonio Clarke is nineteen, barely older than Matt was when he first met Foggy. He works in his mother Selena’s Jamaican restaurant and kept it running a year ago while she was in court with Foggy and Matt to contest a drug charge. According to Selena, he wants to be an architect.
The officer fires fifteen bullets at Antonio, at his back as he runs.
He dodges the first six while Matt is still en route, flying over rooftops as fast as he can to reach one rabbit-fast terrified heartbeat and one as horribly calm and steady as a drumbeat. Even with his hearing, Matt had heard, smelled, sensed nothing of note from the area they were in before the officer was shouting,
“Freeze! I said freeze! Get on the ground!”
What followed was the clap of ratty sneakers on pavement.
There’s only one weapon in play, stinking of gunpowder. From the sound as he runs, Antonio carries nothing – no backpack, no gun, no knife. There are holes, gunshot holes peppering his hoodie, but they’re not new. He can’t hear anything rattle in Antonio’s pocket but a cell phone and a handful of coins.
Matt doesn’t even take the time to consciously aim his baton at the officer’s wrist before he’s already diving at Antonio, just flings it as hard as he can. It connects with a crack the same instant Matt tackles Antonio out of the way of five more bullets, one of which skids along the edge of Matt’s body armor with a terrible noise but doesn’t penetrate it.
Antonio takes one look at Daredevil and his hyperventilation catches up with him – he faints. Six feet of dead weight in Matt’s arms, barely hidden behind a dumpster. The police officer is cursing loudly, scrabbling on the ground for his gun while clutching his fractured wrist to his chest. Matt takes the time to retrieve his club, but no more than that before he darts back, hauls Antonio into his arms again, and runs.
The roar of another gunshot has Matt’s senses fizzing and his instincts screaming at him to drop the extra weight and take to the rooftops. He doesn’t. Just tucks the kid tighter to his chest, blocks Antonio as best he can with himself, and prays very briefly that Melvin’s work will keep them both alive.
By some miracle, the last three shots all go wide. Matt darts as quickly as he can through alleys, side streets, anywhere that sounds empty and feels dark.
The devil in him wants to go back and impress the importance of non-lethal police work on the officer with his fists—
But with his arms full of an unconscious teenager two inches taller than himself, it isn’t an option. Returning Antonio to his mother safely is the priority. Teeth bared in a silent snarl, Matt stifles the rage coursing through his blood and soldiers on towards his goal, arms burning with exhaustion.
He has to set Antonio down on the steps of the building before he buzzes the apartment he thinks is the right one. It’s not, but the woman who answers directs him to the right button, and soon Selena Clarke is staring down Daredevil with what Matt thinks is a broom in her hands. She drops it upon seeing her son.
Matt helps carry Antonio up the stairs and lays him out on the couch per Selena’s instructions. By the slight shift in his heartbeat, Matt thinks he’s beginning to stir. Selena asks what happened to her baby, and Matt tells her in Daredevil’s rough, low tones. She cries. Offers him money, food—
Matt shakes his head hurriedly and darts out the window, back onto the rooftops because he can’t stand the thought of being—thanked for that. For coming so close to failure. Especially not when his stumbling mind conjures perfectly the smell of Elektra’s blood, and the slick hot feel of it on his gloves.
Matt spends an hour perched across the street from Foggy’s apartment building before he manages to drag himself home.
His alarm goes off before he can get to sleep.
There are no appointments the next day, and Matt makes very little headway on any of the paperwork he had planned to slog through. In the end, he closes the office early and goes to church. The familiar smell of it takes the edge off of the anxiety thrumming under his skin.
He must look as bad as he feels, because Father Lantom is at his side immediately.
“Why don’t you join me for a latte downstairs?” he offers gently, and Matt nods.
“That. That sounds… Yes. Thank you.”
The heat of the cup in his hands anchors Matt, even if it reminds him about the song, about the wedding. Before Father Lantom can conjure the words to ask, Matt is speaking.
“I almost. There was a boy, last night. I almost couldn’t save him.”
Considering these words with a slow, steady pulse, Father Lantom takes a sip of his latte.
“But you succeeded,” he concludes at last. “Did you not, Matthew?”
“I. I did,” Matt answers, nodding jerkily and tapping his fingers on the side of his cup.
“I’m sensing a ‘however’.”
It takes a few seconds to settle his mind, but Matt does. And he explains, as well as he can, what happened.
“He. He could have—could have died,” he finishes. “What if… I was so close to. I almost didn’t make it in time. Like—”
Matt can’t say her name. It feels like backsliding that he can’t. Father Lantom makes a soft, understanding hum, and doesn’t speak her name either.
“Matthew,” he says instead. “You are a man who cares very intensely, and who puts a lot of responsibility on your own shoulders. In some ways, that is very virtuous. But you are only one man, and success or failure are not always tied to how hard we try or how much we desire something.”
Matt, too, stalls by taking a sip from his cup. Though it warms his throat on the way down, chill sets in again almost immediately.
“So it’s, what, it’s—God’s will?” he asks finally, can feel the wry smile forming on his own face.
“Presuming to understand the entirety of God – of the One who created us all, who created this endlessly changing, endlessly strange universe – is not my place,” Father Lantom replies. “Nor is it my intention. I suppose what I mean is… You succeeded last night. You saved this boy, and he will be well. But that doesn’t mean you didn’t try hard enough to save Elektra. That thought, I think, is perhaps what is worrying you. But I know you, Matthew, quite well. You always do as much as you can.”
“Do I…?” Matt asks softly.
“Only you can decide if you believe that,” Father Lantom says. “We are none of us perfect, Matthew, but that is not what we are called to be. Your burdens are not ones that need to be carried alone. No matter how dark the path or how deep the fear, no matter how painful the loss or devastating the failure, we are never alone. There are millions of people in this city, millions of ways for God to reach out to you – and millions of ways for Him to reach out to them through you. The path you’ve chosen is not an easy one. But a young man is alive today because you decided to continue on that path, even with the threat of failure hanging over you. And that is truly admirable.”
They aren’t words to solve Matt’s problems. To fix him, to heal him. But they are a reminder. Antonio Clarke is alive. Matt is alive. And there’s a whole city of beating hearts around him.
He’s not alone.
That afternoon, Matt begins work – not on his cases, but on his Best Man speech. He’s been avoiding it, but his visit to the church makes him want to push through and accomplish something. Just sitting down in front of his laptop is difficult. This is one of the final steps in… In giving up on Foggy, or. Or it’s solidifying that friends is all they’ll ever be.
And Foggy’s friendship is a blessing, it is. Matt is truly awed to have it, especially when he hadn’t been sure he would have anything left of his former partner. But Matt knows himself, and he knows he wants more. More than Foggy can give him. He has for a very long time.
Foggy Nelson is the best person I know, Matt types. Jolene is a lucky woman to have him for a husband.
He has to stop after that. Take a few breaths. Re-center himself.
We met in our first year of undergrad, as roommates. He made me laugh, and we’ve been friends ever since. There have been some hard times, some divides between us, but despite them we always seem to come back together again. Foggy’s the kind of person who doesn’t give up on you. Once he cares about you, that’s it – he’ll do everything in his power to make you happy, for as long as he can. That’s how I know this marriage will succeed, and though we haven’t known each other long I can tell that Jolene is a wonderful, loving woman; because Foggy wouldn’t pledge himself to a person who was anything less.
Matt pauses. Takes off his glasses with a sigh. Rubs his eyes.
Then he erases everything he’s written and starts over.
A few times he indulges himself, types out lines more suited to a confession, a love letter. But, again, he erases them every time.
“Stick to the program,” he tells himself, frustrated. “Just… Stick to the program.”
I’m not sure where I would be, without Foggy. If you know him, you know he brings light to the lives of everyone around him. Even I can see that.
Backspace. Backspace. Backspace.
He’s my best friend. More than anything, I want him to be as happy as he can be. To marry someone who loves him as much as I
BACKSPACE. BACKSPACE. BACKSPACE.
After three more painstaking hours, Matt thinks he’s got the tone just right. Not too jealous or too admiring or, heaven forbid, too conciliatory. He smiles bleakly and has his screen reader play back the whole speech for him.
It reads like wedding vows.
Matt shoves his laptop off the table.
Chapter 21: Pining Like a Forest of Christmas Trees
Foggy Nelson tries to cheer up his best friend, reads some poetry, begins writing his vows, learns more about his finacee, and realizes there's only a week left until the wedding.
Things are finally drawing to a close. Next chapter, folks... Next chapter is where Matt learns The Truth.
At their next planning dinner-date, Foggy and Jo are both in much better moods than before. Jo and Ivy have gotten the flower arrangements settled, and most everyone has RSVP’d. Foggy’s heard back from Enrique that the design for their cake is complete and has okayed it – the outer layer of icing will be lavender, covered in swirling silver vines and violet flowers; beneath it, Enrique explains, and between the layers of the cake, is chocolate. In addition to his satisfaction about preparations coming together, Foggy’s still flying high from his and Matt’s reconciliation at Fogwell’s.
Jo seems to notice, and the look in her eye tells Foggy she’s been saving her curiosity since they worked on their wedding playlist two days ago.
“I take it you got things sorted out with Matt?” she asks, matching Foggy smile for smile.
Before he answers, Foggy passes Jo her order of sushi – just to stall a little and drum up the suspense.
“I did,” he tells her once they’re both settled at the table. “I think… I think we really turned a corner.”
Jo looks curious, but he doesn’t tell her about the fight – it’s too personal, and he’d have to leave out too much explaining it, because, well, Daredevil – but she doesn’t ask. Just studies him for a little bit and then shrugs.
“Good,” she says. “So, about the seating chart, I know we have it mostly finalized, but I was thinking…”
Foggy’s estimation of where he and Matt are emotionally is challenged the very next night. It’s the first time they’ve seen each other since the get-together with Jo, Candace, and Tyler. Foggy’s just gotten off work so he’s a little frazzled, even for Josie’s. And Matt looks… Not well. He’s not injured, not anywhere Foggy can tell, but the restlessness in his posture is easy to read under the low lights. Matt’s suit jacket is hanging over the back of his chair, his tie is loose, the sleeves of his white shirt are rolled up – if it weren’t for the way his shoulders are arched uncomfortably or the tight clench of his jaw, he’d seem relaxed. It’s hard to tell in the dimness of the bar and with Matt’s glasses in the way, but Foggy thinks he’s got bruise-like shadows under his eyes – and not the kind you acquire from getting socked in the face.
For a few minutes, they both fiddle with their beer bottles, having foregone Josie’s higher-proof swill.
“Is something wrong, Matt?” Foggy decides on at last.
And Matt’s mouth goes twisty and conflicted, the way it does when he’s debating whether to tell the truth or not.
“There’s… I had… A rough night recently,” he admits.
Ah. There’s the ticket. Night implies vigilante-ing. And what he’s heard about their local red-clad vigilante recently is…
“Anything to do with Daredevil saving Mrs. Clarke’s son a couple nights ago?” Foggy prods gently, careful to keep his breathing even.
Which means yes, Foggy knows. He reaches out, slow enough Matt will have time to sense it and move if he doesn’t want the touch. But Matt stays, even leans in a little, and Foggy grasps his shoulder lightly.
“You can tell me about it,” Foggy promises. “If you want. I’ll listen, whatever it is. But… If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine too.”
Just the offer seems to infuse Matt with a little bit of peace. He loosens up, smiles tentatively, and Foggy really hopes that whatever stupid acrobatics his own heart is doing in response to that smile, they’re covered up by the noise of the bar. He drops his hand from Matt’s shoulder, but doesn’t put any more distance between them.
“Thanks, Fog,” Matt murmurs, then takes a swig of his beer. “I… There was. A, uh. A police officer almost shot Antonio. I don’t know if he—profiled him, or. Or what, but…”
“Yeah, Selena told Bess and me about it yesterday,” says Foggy when Matt doesn’t show any sign of continuing. “But he’s not hurt, I mean… He’ll definitely need some counseling after something like that, but… You saved him, Matt.”
“I—shouldn’t have had to,” Matt insists; his voice is thick and clumsy, but the cadence of it tells Foggy that’s anger and not tears.
“No,” agrees Foggy, staring down at his drink. “No, you shouldn’t have had to. But you’re the one who said it, right? We don’t live in a world that’s fair, we live in this one. And maybe we don’t always see eye to eye on the best way to deal with that, but… I know you’re doing everything you can to balance the scales. And you can bet it sure as hell made a difference to Selena and Antonio. That kid is still alive because of you. You… You did good, Matt.”
When he looks up, Matt’s smile is a little sad, and it aches.
“Yeah,” Matt says. “Maybe.”
“No, buddy, no maybe.” Foggy shakes his head. “Now come over here and hug me, Murdock, or I’m going to give you and those dorky horns the biggest noogie of your life.”
That startles a laugh from Matt’s mouth. Success.
“You—you know they’re made of the same material as the rest of the helmet,” he warns Foggy. “You’ll just hurt your hand.”
“So be it,” Foggy dismisses.
Matt sidles closer around the table, and Foggy slings an arm around his shoulders, pulling them tight together, side to side. Tries to wring as much stress out of Matt as he can with physical affection. It doesn’t fix everything, no, but that’s not the point. The point is that Matt feels at least a little bit better.
When they part ways for the night, Foggy thinks he’s at least accomplished that much.
A few days later, Foggy’s finishing up a case with Hogarth – another one tangential to Jones, that she, er, ‘helped’ with. He notices Jo, briefly, as he makes his closing statement. Sitting quiet and reserved at the back of the courtroom in a flowy teal shirt. He registers her presence, but doesn’t let it distract him from the hard-hitting argument he’s making. He is a professional, after all.
And the verdict reflects it. A solid win. Hogarth even kind of smiles, which is pretty much her version of enthusiastically clapping someone on the shoulder and gushing about their performance. Foggy may or may not do a subtle little fist-pump when no one is looking.
He shakes hands with their client, tells Hogarth he’ll see her tomorrow, and heads out of the courtroom. Jo is standing beside the door, rocking back and forth on her feet with her hands behind her back like a kid. In addition to her fluttery teal shirt, she’s sporting an equally fluttery black skirt and flip flops with rhinestones on the straps. When she tugs nervously at the beads around her neck, her engagement ring sparkles merrily.
“Hello, fiancée,” Foggy greets in a faux-deep voice, then winks. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“A lady can’t come watch her man in action?” she jokes right back. “Uh. Actually, though… I’ve been working on my vows and… I’m just kind of stuck.”
Which makes a lot of sense, because vows are usually full of mushy romantic stuff or anecdotes about the history of their relationship. They’ve got none of one and very little of the other.
“At least you started them,” Foggy consoles her, hitching his satchel up further on his shoulder and starting to walk down the hall.
“I mean I guess that’s— Wait. You haven’t written anything yet?” Jo asks as she follows along beside him, sounding appalled and amused in equal measure.
“You’re the writer around here, Emily Dickinson. Can I help it if I’m bad at this?”
She just laughs.
“Well, if that performance in there is anything to go by, you’re a phenomenal speaker, regardless of writing skill. Maybe you can freestyle your wedding vows.”
“Don’t even joke about that,” Foggy warns Jo, shaking a finger at her. “I would choke so hard and my family would disown me.”
“My dad would disown you too,” she agrees.
“Oh no,” Foggy bemoans flatly. “Whatever will I do.”
It earns him a light punch in the shoulder and a smile. It also earns him the dubious privilege of being dragged to Jo’s apartment to at least start on his wedding vows. His fiancée herds him over to the couch and orders him to start thinking, then hurries off to the bathroom.
There’s a notebook on the table, Foggy notices idly as he waits for Jo to return. It’s open, and written in, and, well, sue him, he’s curious. So he leans over and begins to read.
The words take up the whole page, a numbered list that reads dreamy and ethereal. Images of sky and water and colors that swirl through a vibrant spectrum from blue to pink. It ends:
And in dreams, everything is liquid and everything is violet,
If only because dreaming and poetry and drowning
Are all the same thing.
He traces a thumb over the letters, like he can read them better that way. Only then does he notice Jolene at his shoulder, twitchy with nerves.
“This is one of yours?” Foggy asks.
“Yeah, that’s. I wrote that.”
“It’s great!” he enthuses, pulling her into a side hug.
Jo laughs, presses into the embrace. Her face is pink, and the color’s edging up into her ears too.
Foggy releases her and then fiddles with the corner of the page.
“Do you mind if I…?” he asks, lifting the page a little.
“Nah. No, I mean—go ahead. I don’t mind.”
Because she doesn’t sound completely sure. But when he glances over at her, Jo nods firmly.
“Gotta get used to it if I want to publish, right?” she asks. “I really don’t mind. It’s just… New, I guess. I haven’t shared my writing much since… Well. Since three years ago.”
The mention of three years ago sends a sharp pulse of anger through him, the way it has every time since he learned what really happened then. It’s changed a lot about Jo, altered her in ways that can never be undone. He tries to comfort himself with the thought that the people who hurt her got what they deserved, but…
He understands better, suddenly – an epiphany; feels for himself the kind of feeling that could drive Matt to draw blood in defense of the people of his city. When he can hear every hurt in Hell’s Kitchen the way Foggy hears the hurts of the people close to him, it would make not intervening pretty much impossible.
“Makes sense,” Foggy says quietly, to himself or to Jo, he’s not sure, and flips the page of the notebook.
The poems inside run the gamut of emotions and tones. Some read sharp and angry, an outlet for feelings with no other place to go. Some are soft and dreamy like the first, about image and sensation and feel more than a particular subject. A couple are whimsical, silly, play-on-words poems built around clever turns of phrase. Most, Foggy finds, are infused with a gut-wrenching sort of longing that he recognizes well. The same aching tone he heard when they first met, when Jo told him she didn’t want to be alone. It’s this, he knows, that’s at her core.
Somewhere near the front of the notebook, there’s a love poem. The wording is a little shaky, and the subject is nebulous – as if the poet is too ashamed or too shy to admit the object of their affection. It’s not, perhaps, as technically good as some of the others, but it strikes a chord.
The twist to Jo’s mouth as she reads the poem over his shoulder is enough to keep Foggy from asking. Instead, he closes the notebook, claps his hands, and says,
“Well, now that I’ve seen your brilliant writing, why don’t you write my wedding vows for me?”
“Oh, is that how it is?” Jo demands with a grin curling the corners of her mouth. “Think you can get away with flattering me so you don’t have to do any work?”
“How do you think I got through law school?”
Still trading silly, feather-light barbs, they settle down to write.
The next week, the wedding party and everyone with a major role in the ceremony meet at the church. They’re there to do little more than a brief run-through – not a full rehearsal by any means, but enough that everyone can feel comfortable with their part in the ceremony. It also doubles as a chance for Foggy to finally give Matt the tour through the church that he missed because he’d been busy recuperating from being kicked around by coke dealers.
“It’s… Beautiful,” Matt says softly, reverently, as they walk through the sanctuary.
What acoustics Matt might hear that are silent to Foggy’s ears, he doesn’t know. But the expression on his face is enough that Foggy wants to spend days just wandering the church’s empty sanctuary with Matt, only to see that look.
There’s more to do, however, so Foggy leads Matt to the rooms set aside for the bride and groom.
“This one’s mine,” he says teasingly, “and the one at the end of the hall is Jo’s. Don’t go getting them confused. We don’t want you giving your encouraging speech to ward off my cold feet to Jo by mistake.”
As if Matt even could enter the wrong room. Matt grins at the joke, and Foggy gives himself a mental pat on the back. They change clothes and make their way back to the sanctuary, where everyone’s returned after putting on their wedding garb and started taking their places. Matt heads on up to stand with the other groomsmen, while Foggy hangs back to see it all laid out.
Everyone looks… Fantastic. The bridesmaid dresses are all the same royal purple as the groomsmen’s ties, but the cut and style of the dress varies from woman to woman – based on what looks best on her, Foggy supposes. Candace, in particular, nearly brings a tear to Foggy’s eye – his baby sister, all grown up.
Alex in his suit is a level of spiffy that Foggy hasn’t encountered until now – finally out of sweatpants and into something tailored. Brett is exceedingly handsome, but Foggy’s seen him in uniform before so it’s not as shocking, experiencing him all gussied up. Tyler and Arjun look just as good as Brett, but where Brett is standing with perfect posture and chatting politely with Karen, they’re ribbing one another and grinning like fools. And then, of course, there’s Matt.
He’s so unfairly dazzling standing up there at the altar that at least thirty percent of Foggy’s brain is immediately overwhelmed with the urge to walk down the aisle and clasp Matt’s hands in his own like they’re the ones getting married. Foggy resists, obviously, in the name of not making a fool of himself and also because tripping so close to the finish line is for chumps.
He moves to stand next to Matt and stares back down the aisle instead. Finally, Tanner walks his daughter up to the altar. She’s not in her wedding dress – bad luck to see the dress, after all – but she’s wearing a white blouse and slacks that look very nice.
Rosalind is there, which Foggy hates, but she’s good at directing. She cues the flower girl – one of Foggy’s many baby cousins – and the ringbearer – one of Jo’s many baby cousins – perfectly. Jo’s vows are pretty much finalized, but Foggy’s aren’t, so Jo takes one for the team and tells everyone they’re both not ready yet. With the gaps and skips and no crowd and no wedding dress, it doesn’t feel real enough to induce any anxiety in anyone, but Foggy can feel his own lurking beneath the surface.
At the end of the ceremony, Ivy hands Jo her ‘bouquet’ – a bundle of origami flowers Kim put together to take the place of the real bouquet. The look on Jo’s face as she accepts it is achingly tender and Foggy—he wonders. There’s nothing saying it has to be romantic, but… Look, Foggy’s seen his own pathetic pining face in the mirror a few times when he got particularly misty about Matt while brushing his teeth. And the expression currently on Jo’s face is not dissimilar to it.
He sets the thought aside, tucks it away for later.
Foggy and Jo leave the church together, Foggy with his wedding tux zipped away safely in a garment bag held over his arm.
“You and Matt have always been pretty tactile, huh,” Jo comments as they make their way down the sidewalk.
Foggy thinks of their goodbye just a few minutes earlier -- a light fistbump, an arm around each other’s shoulders, Matt’s forehead pressed briefly to Foggy’s neck when he laughed at a horrible pun Foggy had saved up just for the occasion – and shrugs.
“I… I guess so? Yeah. Some of it’s the blind thing, but mostly I think we’re just like that.”
Jo nods and fiddles with her glasses.
“I thought so. That’s—that’s how it seemed, anyway, ever since I first saw you together. I’m kind of jealous you two have such an easy time navigating touch like that. Ivy and I…” she trails off, frowning.
“What?” Foggy asks, nonplussed. “You guys touch all the time. You hugged each other goodbye like three minutes ago.”
Jo waves him off.
“Yeah, but… It wasn’t always like that.” She sighs, runs a hand through her hair. “I guess I’m not really sure why. I was never all that touchy-feely, especially… After getting bullied a lot in school. You know?”
Foggy makes a commiserative noise. Oh yes. He definitely knows.
“So then what?”
“Well, then I ended up making a few friends who were touchy-feely. And hugging them felt good, you know. Nice. But it was just never something Ivy and I had done. And that’s…” Jo moves her hand in a seesaw motion. “Part of it, I think. But I mean, it was the same with Ty, too, and we did start getting more physically affectionate in and after high school. I think maybe I… I had feelings for her. Or, I was afraid to have feelings for her, even if I didn’t realize it.”
Foggy recalls suddenly his conversation with Ivy. That she’d never known Jo to be certain about her romantic feelings for anyone.
“You weren’t sure how you felt about her,” he deduces, and wonders if maybe that’s still true. “Whether you were really in love with her.”
Jo huffs out an amused exhale, shakes her head.
“It’s more than that,” she tells him wryly, then gestures at herself. “I wasn’t always the semi-functional, well-informed queer woman you see before you today. I didn’t even realize I wasn’t straight until college. And this was… A long time before that. But, on a subconscious level, yeah… Maybe I…” Jo’s shoulders drop, and she shakes her head. “There have been a lot of people I thought, you know, maybe I was in love with. But I always ended up getting bored of them in the end, and it’s. An awful feeling. It makes me feel like I’m… Well. I just, I would never want to do that to Ivy. She’s too important to me. Anyway, it’s not like she’s interested, so it’s a silly thing to worry about.”
Again, Foggy kind of… Wonders. But, it’s pretty clear this is something Jo doesn’t like talking about or considering. As someone on the other side of the equation – someone with the kind of friend who might plausibly trick himself into thinking he loved Foggy romantically, just out of guilt or something… He kind of appreciates Jo’s discretion, on Ivy’s behalf. Even if he thinks, maybe, she’d have nothing to worry about – that her feelings seem like they’d be pretty genuine. On the other hand, he also knows what it feels like to have an unrequited crush on his best friend, so he steers the conversation back to his original line of inquiry instead of digging.
“So then, when did you guys finally get your hug on?” he asks lightly.
“You couldn’t guess? The night Daredevil saved her, obviously.”
“That makes sense,” admits Foggy. “So after that, you both just…?”
Jo shrugs, makes a face as if she knows how odd it sounds.
“I guess it just felt… Natural, after. Grounding. If we were holding each other, we were safe,” she explains.
“Yeah,” Foggy says, because it’s all that comes to mind. “I get that.”
They continue on in silence for a few minutes, enjoying the sunshine, before Jo blows out a heavy breath.
“I’ll have to pick up the marriage license tomorrow. A week to go,” she murmurs, shaking her head, and Foggy suddenly realizes that she’s right.
They’re going to be married in seven days. In a real, actual, legally-binding way. Things are coming together. Slowly but surely. It’s really happening. Foggy takes a deep breath and tries to steady himself.
A week to go.
Chapter 22: The Truth Will Out
Daredevil saves Jolene, and learns a surprising and troubling truth about his best friend's engagement.
Matt finally finds out! And next chapter comes the argument at the heart of this whole fic -- the very first scene I wrote. We're almost to the end!
His talk with Foggy at Josie’s settles Matt’s nerves about the incident with Antonio more than he’d thought possible. But, Matt thinks, he should have expected that. So many of Matt’s broken pieces have been glued back together just with Foggy’s humor and kindness. No more sleepless nights follow their conversation.
But even Foggy can’t fix everything just by existing. That’s too much to ask of anyone, especially with regards to Matt’s pervasive issues. And so, to appease the paranoid itch under his skin, Matt adds the Clarke family’s apartment building to his nightly rounds – after the rest of the patrol, but before he detours past Foggy’s.
He catches arguments as he passes, once or twice:
“But Ma, Luke Cage—”
“You are not bulletproof like Luke Cage is, Antonio!”
But mostly, Matt focuses on the drug ring. He picks them off, hems them in – hoping they’ll draw closer to their base, draw together as their numbers dwindle so that when the time is right, Matt can finish them off in one fell swoop.
Matt is rounding past the docks and trying to forget that Foggy’s wedding is in two days when a sound three blocks over breaks the relative stillness of the night. There’s a sudden scream, sharp, and it cuts off halfway with a thudding noise Matt is intimately familiar with – skull hitting brick.
He vaults onto the next roof and sets off running, head cocked slightly to keep his ear pointed towards the action.
“Shit,” hisses a woman, the one who was screaming. “What—what the fuck is your problem?”
The closer he gets, the more Matt can smell trace amounts of blood in the air.
“My boss tried asking Burnett nicely for a favor,” the attacker grunts. “Got a rude rejection. We’ll see how daddy likes it when his little girl goes missing. See if maybe that’ll change his mind.”
One of Anderson’s, maybe, Matt’s mind pings at him, but he doesn't have time to seriously consider what that means when he's still trying to determine how big a guy he’s going up against by the weight of his footfalls.
“Your weird-ass kinks are showing, freak,” the woman mutters under her breath.
Only one attacker, though – whoever it is, they’re expecting one man to be able to handle her without a fight. A mistake, Matt considers when he hears a clatter. Takes him a moment to place it. Purse, she hit the guy with a purse. Slight scrape-thud as he stumbles back into the alley wall. Still, he’s not stunned for long, so Matt doesn’t slow his pace. There’s the sharp click of a knife being unsheathed just as Matt reaches the edge of the roof. He leaps immediately down into the alley between the woman and the thug. With a well-placed kick, the knife goes flying harmlessly into the wall.
He only realizes the woman he’s rescuing is Jolene halfway through punching her attacker in the kidney, and though the knowledge is jarring, Matt doesn’t let it slow him down. In close quarters, it’s a pretty rough fight – elbow to the shoulder, shoulder to the gut. Matt takes a fist to the cheek so he can score another gut blow. It hurts, but Matt can already tell nothing’s broken, so he ploughs on, lets his adrenaline wash the hurt away.
Distantly, he can hear Jolene hyperventilating in the background. It’s good he keeps tabs on her, because after a couple more punches traded between Matt and the attacker, she takes another swing with the purse. It hits the man’s spine squarely, a heavy weight, and he turns to focus on her again. But before one of those big hands can swipe out at Jolene, Matt lashes the wire between his billy clubs around the guy’s wrist and yanks him back. As a last-ditch attempt to get loose, he tries to tackle Matt, but Matt ducks down, releases the line and goes for his legs. He sends the man sprawling over his shoulder and onto the damp concrete. His opponent is big, though, and he doesn’t stay down.
Matt convinces him with a couple of very eloquent punches to the face.
When there’s no sign the guy’s getting back up, Matt lets himself breathe. He must make some sort of picture; blood dripping from his gloves, heaving like a bull, draped in the shadows of this grimy alley with no buzzing light to illuminate him. Jolene’s pulse is racing.
“You alright?” Matt growls, twitching his head towards her.
As he does, he catches a whiff of cocaine on the guy’s jacket – same kind Anderson and his thugs are peddling. Figures.
Idiot, Matt berates himself. He should have— He knows people are more dangerous when you corner them; hell, he’s living proof of it. But he hadn’t even considered that losing Ajax and the shipment, that being cornered by Daredevil, would lead Anderson to do something like this. He’d let his perception of Anderson be colored by Ajax’s estimation from the first night – that Anderson didn’t have the guts to go after the Burnett family directly.
“I’m fine,” Jolene rasps, but Matt can hear her sway a little and catch herself against the alley wall. “Is… He… He’s out?”
Matt doesn’t even realize how much he needs her question to not be ‘is he alive?’ until it’s something else. That she doesn’t automatically assume he’d kill a guy in cold blood eases something in his chest. The way she speaks, too, her tone… It’s full of a kind of implicit trust that chokes Matt up a little. He knows he’s dangerous, that he can seem scary – that’s the whole point of the suit, the horns, the motif. Let the criminals know the Devil’s on their heels.
But he knows it can scare other people too. Unintended consequences. And that seeing his handiwork can be disturbing for anyone not used to violence. There’s no hint of that in Jolene’s voice. Just… Trust. Relief.
“Yeah,” he tells her when he remembers she asked him a question. “Out cold.”
There’s a soft noise of understanding, and then Jolene takes a couple of stumbling steps closer. Now that he’s focusing on it, Matt can tell that the blood’s coming from a wound on her left temple – just a slight abrasion from the scrape of her skin on brick.
“Asshole,” Jolene grunts, giving the unconscious man a wobbly kick in the nuts.
Matt has a hard time forcing down the smile playing around his lips.
“You should call the police,” he says. “Get yourself some medical attention.”
She might not be bleeding much, at least for a head wound, but she still might have a concussion. And Matt would prefer to continue his patrol, to forget about this, but…
He can’t just… Leave her alone in an alley, especially if she might be concussed. He can’t treat her poorly just because he’s jealous. And letting her get hurt further would hurt Foggy. That’s the last thing Matt wants. So, as she fumbles her phone out of her pocket and dials 911, he settles in to wait with her.
The call is a short one, and as soon as she hangs up Jolene slides down the wall to sit beside Matt on the ground. The alley smells like a lot of things, but mostly peanut sauce and wet cardboard. However, Jolene is a small beacon of difference, a bright contrast to the low, wet smell of everything else – floral shampoo that would make Matt’s nose itch if he wasn’t using it as a counterpoint to dumpster smells, blood, nail polish, faux-leather – a jacket? – and just the slightest hint of Foggy. Though he keeps his ears focused on the unconscious man lying a few feet from them, Matt’s nose understandably prefers focusing on Jolene over the garbage.
“Thank you,” she says, reaching out slowly to squeeze his shoulder – her hand is warm, but not as warm as Foggy’s would be. “For saving my bacon, there.”
He doesn’t want her thanks.
“It’s… It’s nothing.”
“Maybe,” Jolene concedes, “but. You also saved my best friend. Back in 2015, she was almost trafficked. And you rescued her. I don’t… I don’t know what I’d do without her, so. Thank you.”
Ivonne. Like with Tyler, it’s odd to realize that his alter ego has met someone before and that he didn’t recognize them. But if she’s talking about the night he thinks she is, well… There were a lot of women there, all crowded together, and he hadn’t bothered picking out individuals because they weren’t the ones he needed to fight.
But learning this now, Matt feels a rush of relief. Relief that he was at the right place at the right time. That he was able to save Ivonne so that she could keep living her life. So that her best friend wouldn’t lose her. In the same way that Jolene doesn’t know what she would do without Ivonne, Matt doesn’t know what he would do without Foggy. Can’t even bring himself to consider it.
But that’s really why Matt does what he does. Because he can’t stand the suffering, can’t ignore it when it’s crawling under his skin, into his bones, seeping into him from the world outside. In that way, everyone he saves is important to him; because suffering is intimate, and Matt is privy to everyone’s. He can’t stop hearing it, and even if he could it’d just be an excuse – even if he could block it out, he would know the crying hadn’t stopped. So he goes out and he makes it stop.
“Really, you… Don’t need to thank me.”
“I do. I do because I… I wasn’t there that night, when she went dancing,” Jolene hisses, and Matt’s never heard hate in her voice like this. “I wasn’t there because I, because people were bothering her and it was my fault. Because the game was my brainchild and those—Gamergate fuckers thought, I don’t even know what they were thinking,” she rambles, and Matt begins to put together a picture of Jolene Burnett, begins to slot together the pieces that didn’t fit – Anderson and Burnett’s talk about three years ago. “That hurting her, hurting me, would—I don’t know, put me in my place? Make Dad drop the game? I thought I could protect her better by staying away in public, by making sure the target on my back didn’t follow her—And I wasn’t! Fucking! There! She could have—” A tight, painful sob spills past her lips. “She could have died or been stolen away to god knows where. And you… You’re the one who saved her. I can’t ever repay you for that.”
The familiarity of the guilt rolling off of Jolene makes Matt cringe a little.
“I just… I did what I had to,” he tells her.
“Take it from me, D,” Jolene says quietly. “You can’t protect people from a distance. Can’t love them like that either, not really. I… I fucked up, trying to do that with Ivy. And even if she forgave me, that doesn’t—it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It’ll always have happened. But at least thanks to you, we had the chance to move forward from it. If you hadn’t been— I wouldn’t have been able to tell her how sorry I was.”
With Foggy’s wedding in two days, this is something Matt absolutely doesn’t want to think about. The ways he’s like Jolene. His own regrets, the things he should have done to better protect his friends…
“How’s your head?” he asks instead.
“Think it’s ok. If this bruises, they are gonna have to cake so much makeup on me for the wedding,” Jolene giggles, a bit hysterical, crying and trembling as the shock of being attacked finally sets in.
Matt knows all this, of course, but Daredevil doesn’t. And he wants to see what she’ll say about it, about Foggy, with no one else around. A little masochistic of him, but, well. He’s Catholic.
“I’m getting married in two days,” she explains. “Oh my god, I’m getting married in two days…”
And that isn’t excitement in her tone, it’s panic. Cold feet? He kind of hopes so, for just a second, but then he thinks about what that would do to Foggy and hates himself for the impulse.
“Don’t get me wrong, he’s… Wonderful,” Jolene says with a tenderness that makes Matt’s heart squeeze in his chest. “But, well. We’re not in love. Not really. Maybe we could be someday, but not anytime soon. I’m… It’s a little nerve-wracking, yeah, but I’m ok with it.”
It doesn’t make sense. Her heart doesn’t hitch with a lie, even if it’s a little accelerated from adrenaline. They don’t love each other? But Foggy, he’d said… And so, is this just, what, Jolene fooling herself? Thinking that Foggy doesn’t love her when he actually does?
But even thinking that, she’s ok with it?
“You… Are?” Matt asks, trying hard to keep his voice level.
“We’ve got an understanding, I guess you could say.” A strange laugh spills from Jolene’s mouth. “We like each other well enough, but. We’re mostly dancing monkeys at the whim of our rich asshole parents. I guess we can both live with that, as long as we get what they promised us.”
Matt can barely hear Jolene over the pounding of his own heartbeat. Everything feels strange and out of focus. He wants to ask if what she’s saying is true but his lips are frozen, numb. When they do part to speak, it’s just a mindless, disbelieving repetition.
“What they promised you…?”
“You’ve got a really great friend in Foggy Nelson, you know that, D?” says Jolene. “The only thing he’s asking for is help creating a defense for you. A legal safety net. Never asked them anything for himself. He’s… He’s a good guy like that.”
“Yeah,” Matt chokes out. “He is.”
There’s a feeling itching under his skin, unpleasant, and Matt wants to be as far away from Jolene as he can possibly get. Or as close to Foggy as he can possibly get. Neither one is really an option, though. So he sits there, vibrating with—something, until the police and the ambulance arrive. Then he darts back over the rooftops.
A part of him wants to confront Foggy now. To crawl through his window and demand to know why, why he would—
But he can’t do that. No, he can’t do that.
Matt makes his way home, to his own apartment, and spends the rest of the night pacing. His thoughts are so loud, fill his apartment so thickly, that he can’t hear the world outside. It all slips away.
We’re not in love.
How? How did Foggy manage to lie to him about that?
A defense for you.
Why would he throw his own chance at—at happiness, true love, whatever, away just for that?
Never asked them anything for himself.
But the answers don’t come.
Chapter 23: One Last Fight
Matt confronts Foggy about the wedding. There are consequences. Marci is a good friend.
Four chapters to go, you guys... Wow. I think the last four are going to be relatively short, but then again that's what I thought about this chapter and it finished out with 3000 words, so. We'll see.
Foggy shouldn’t still be proofreading his wedding vows the day before the wedding. He really, really should not. He also shouldn’t have started working on essays the day they were due in college, but that had never stopped him, so this is just to be expected.
The irony of working on vows for another person with Matt, the one he really wants to write them for, totally sucks. But, well, that’s just how things have turned out. Foggy knew going in that some of this would hurt, but it’s worth it to have Matt back in his life again, honestly. He sighs, shakes his head, and knocks on Matt’s door.
As usual, Matt opens it immediately. His glasses are off and Foggy catalogues a small cut above Matt’s eyebrow and a slight bruising to his cheekbone. He went out last night. It takes Foggy a few seconds, distracted as he is by making sure his Best Man isn’t in need of a freaking hospital or something, to clue in to the stony expression on Matt’s face.
“Uh… Something wrong, buddy?”
“I rescued Jolene last night,” Matt tells him.
There’s something weird in his tone, but Foggy doesn’t have time to worry about that.
“Shit! Is she ok? She didn’t call me—”
“She’s fine,” growls Matt. “But she told me something interesting.”
It’s about all Foggy can manage to get out. His stomach drops, his throat goes tight. There’s only one thing he’s hiding from Matt. Only one thing Jo could have told Daredevil. Matt can probably smell the panicked sweat pooling at the nape of Foggy’s neck. Shit. Shit.
“She said your marriage is a—business arrangement,” Matt seethes. “Is that true?”
And this is not a conversation Foggy wants to have, like, at all ever, but he definitely doesn’t want to have it in the doorway of Matt’s apartment where Fran across the hall can overhear. So Foggy gently presses a hand to Matt’s sternum and eases him back, then steps into the apartment and closes the door. He considers his answer as he moves mechanically towards Matt’s couch. But really, once your living polygraph of a best friend has caught you in your lie, there’s nothing else to tell but the truth, right?
“It’s true,” Foggy admits, quiet enough that only Matt would be able to hear.
“You said you were in love, Foggy, you said— You weren’t lying when you said it, so why…”
And Matt sounds so gutted that another truth spills from Foggy’s lips, no matter how ill-advised it is.
“I said I was in love, Matt,” he explains with a shrug. “I didn’t say I was in love with Jo.”
“You didn’t say you were in love with—!” Matt repeats bitterly, cutting off with an inarticulate noise of anger. “All the, all the things you got mad at me for hiding, and then you turn around and— and lie right to my face?”
“Because I knew you’d react like this, Matt! I know what I’m getting into, ok, I know what I’m agreeing to!”
“And you’re—you’re fine with that? With just— She won’t make you happy, Foggy!”
And, god, even now, Matt’s just… So beautiful. The way he stands, how he holds himself, the expressiveness of his mouth, the color of his eyes. All of it aches to see because all of it feels like home. Even when Foggy’s sure that if he were the one with supersenses, all Matt’s heartbeat would tell him is not-yours, not-yours, not-yours.
Foggy laughs, but the sound is acidic, sharp. He can’t feel his own anger, but it seeps into his voice anyway, every terrible part of himself that’s tired of knowing he can’t have what he really wants.
“Oh, suddenly my happiness is so important!” he retorts, can see the words hitting their mark in the way Matt flinches. “I’m not like you, Matt. I—”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” demands Matt, throwing out an arm in frustration. “What, what does that even mean?”
“It means I can’t just go after whatever I want and damn the consequences, Matt! Sometimes, things just aren’t that simple! This is the best that I can do, with the situation I’m in. Jo is the same way.”
“No,” Matt insists sullenly. “No. Foggy, you’re—you’re wrong. You’re so good and you deserve someone you love, who’ll love you too. It doesn’t, I never asked you to make that deal for Daredevil, for me. I never would have asked you to do that!”
It says a lot about Matt, Foggy thinks, that he’s still so insistent on this. That Foggy’s a good person even when Matt was always their North Star, their moral compass. But Foggy knows the things about himself that Matt’s metaphorical rose-tinted glasses won’t let him see. And anyway…
“There’s only one person I could ever love like that,” Foggy says, wryly, the punchline to a ten-year joke they both know by heart. “And they’d never love me back. If I can’t have what I really want, I might as well get something out of it. That’s just how it is, Matt.”
There it is. All of Foggy’s carefully cultivated plausible deniability, out the window. Out a thirty-story window into heavy traffic, basically, because not only has Foggy admitted that yeah Matt’s super-secret supersenses are right on the money and Foggy is in love with him, he’s also admitted that he could never see himself loving anyone else like that. There’s no chance Foggy will ever totally move on, no chance for Matt to have the simple platonic relationship between them that he wants – one that isn’t constantly characterized by them both trying to ignore Foggy’s stupid lovelorn heartbeat.
Matt recoils at those words. The wounded expression in his sightless eyes tells Foggy he’s being cruel again, too cruel to this man he thought he’d never be able to live without. Who he’s currently failing to live without, if they’re all honest. Blaming Matt for not being in love with him is stupid. It’s… Best to just let it lie.
Because in the end… Matt’s his best friend. What Foggy wants more than anything, even more than for Matt to love him back, is for Matt to just be happy.
“Nevermind. I shouldn’t have… We’re still… I still want…” Foggy sighs, lets his shoulders sag. “Just. This isn’t me leaving you, ok, this isn’t—I’m going to walk out that door and I’m not going to hold you to anything, but I’m not leaving you. You don’t have to come to the wedding if you don’t want to, Matt,” Foggy tells him gently. “It’s ok. I’ll get someone else to fill in for you. But after it’s over, if… You’re still my best friend, man, you can always… I mean, I’m… I just… I need you to know that.”
Some small, weak, hopeful part of Foggy stalls him in the entryway, convinces him to wait. To see what Matt will say. But after a minute of silence, of looking at Matt’s painfully conflicted expression, Foggy can’t take anymore. If there is going to be an answer, he thinks, he probably doesn’t want to hear it. Whatever could possibly follow the look on Matt’s face, it isn’t good.
He strides for the apartment door, closes it softly behind him, and walks away from Matt Murdock one last time.
The first feeling to push through the numbness of having finally fucked up his friendship with Matt beyond all repair is anger.
Before he really decides on a destination, Foggy finds himself at Jo’s apartment building, slamming a fist against her door in what could only very loosely be called a knock. When she opens the door, her short hair is mussed and he can see an ugly purple bruise on her temple, not quite covered by a gauze pad.
“You told Daredevil about our deal!” he snaps.
Jo reels back a little, but the exhaustion falls from her face, replaced by a defensive fury that has her squaring her shoulders.
“Well you told Marci,” Jo argues bitterly. “And I was—concussed.”
“Marci already knew! And that’s another thing! You didn’t even call me! I had to find out from M—Daredevil that you were attacked!”
The stubborn set to Jo’s jaw reminds him of Matt, and that just makes Foggy angrier.
“I had— Ivy was there at the hospital with me, it was fine,” Jo insists. “I didn’t want to bother you so close to the wedding.”
“Well I’m plenty bothered now!”
Even as upset as they both are, they hear the sound of a door down the hall creaking open and startle into troubled silence. Yelling at his fiancée outside her apartment the day before the wedding is the opposite of ideal, obviously. But Foggy can’t seem to channel his destructive feelings into anything else. Which just makes him think of Matt, again, which makes him angrier still.
“I think,” Jo says through gritted teeth, “that maybe we both need to take some time to cool the fuck off.”
And at least Foggy has enough sanity left to realize she’s right. He nods stiffly and storms out of the building, headed nowhere in particular. Jo’s apartment door slams shut with ringing finality the moment Foggy makes it to the stairwell.
Did he freak? Jo texts him a couple hours later while Foggy’s stewing over his lunch.
He almost types out what do you think, but deletes it at the last minute.
pretty much, he replies instead.
Shit. I’m sorry. Make it up to you @ the reception? Let you smash cake in my face.
That actually pulls a laugh out of him – just a small one, but it’s something. He’s too worn out to sustain a fight with his best friend and his fiancée at the same time, anyway. It’s not like Jo knows Matt is Daredevil, and if she did then she never would have told him. Foggy knows that.
I’ll take it, he tells her, and receives a single cake slice emoji in return.
The text conversation is, apparently, enough of an olive branch between them that Jo feels comfortable actually calling. It reminds Foggy of the moment they first got engaged, an odd upside-down mirror of that moment.
“You… You know I wouldn’t have told him, if I knew you didn’t want me to, right?” she asks tentatively, instead of saying hello.
Foggy sighs, running a hand through his hair.
“Yeah. Yeah, I know. And I… I’m sorry I didn’t tell you Marci knew. That must have been upsetting, to find out.”
“Yeah,” says Jo. “It… It was. But I could have asked instead of assuming, too. So. So, let’s… Can… Are we good?”
And the peacemaking part of Foggy wants to just say yes and be done with it. But he makes himself slow down, makes himself actually think about it. About what her telling Daredevil means for him. About her injury. About the betrayal in her voice when she accused him of telling Marci.
And then he thinks about Jo’s smile. How attentively she listens, about her poetry, about the way she encouraged him to reconnect with Matt in the first place. About ‘enough’.
“We’re good,” he says at last, and hears her blow out a breath she’d been holding. “Just… Next time, let me know if you’re hurt, Jo. I know we’re not each other’s emergency contacts yet, but I do worry, you know.”
“I know. And… I promise. If it happens again, I’ll call you, Foggy.”
They hang up, and Foggy lets his head fall back so he’s staring up at the ceiling of his apartment.
Now he’s only got one ruined relationship to worry about, he supposes, but that doesn’t exactly make him happy.
There’s really only one thing to do. Foggy buys a couple of fancy cappuccinos and heads for Marci’s office at HC&B, the way he did so many months ago. The second he’s in the door, Marci is scrutinizing him, and it’s pretty clear she doesn’t like what she sees.
“You had today off, Foggy Bear. What happened this time?”
Foggy shuffles his weight from foot to foot, trying to think of the best way to phrase things. The deepening of Marci’s scowl, however, tells him he’ll be better off just spitting it out than making her wait.
“Matt and I… Had a fight,” he admits at last, sitting across from her at the desk.
“I’m going to need a lot of coffee,” Marci says, stealing both cups from Foggy’s hands. “Since I’m attending the bachelorette party and heading up the bachelor party.”
Foggy sighs and doesn’t bother to contest the coffee theft.
“Marci, I’m not really in the mood for—”
“Which,” she interrupts sharply, “is precisely why you need to do it. If Brett and I can’t get you drunk and happy the night before your marriage, even after your boyfriend picks a fight with you, we’re not succeeding as groomsmen and the whole wedding was doomed anyway.”
True to her word, Marci apparently marshals the groomsmen into order, and they all meet up at a nicer bar. It was Tyler’s suggestion, but they’ll be stopping at Arjun’s favorite place after, and Brett’s lame cop bar after that, and finishing off with the really fancy bar that the HC&B partners tend to frequent.
Alex meets them at the first bar, though he only orders Shirley Temples and heads home after an hour.
“I don’t drink,” he explains. “And I’m better off getting to bed early so I’m awake for the wedding. But you guys have fun, I guess. Not too much fun, though; I’ll kick your ass if you’re hungover.”
After exchanging high fives and hand clasps, Alex gets into a cab and heads home before Marci even shows up. Another forty-five minutes and she walks in the door covered in a frankly hilarious amount of body glitter and drinking something from a flask. There’s a plastic tiara on her head.
“Have fun at the bachelorette party?” Foggy asks, and finds himself actually smiling instead of moping over his beer.
“Those girls are wild,” Marci says drily, and orders a drink. “You’re damn lucky I like you enough to pass all that up to come here and listen to you bitch about Murdock.”
“What happened with Murdock?” Brett asks, frowning. “That why he’s not here?”
“Mm. Trouble in paradise again,” mutters Marci.
But Foggy really doesn’t want to explain this all to Brett, especially not right after fighting with Jo about spilling the beans on their deal. And he really, really doesn’t want to talk about it where Tyler and Arjun might overhear. But, like she always does, Marci gets the lay of the land almost instantly. She casually but firmly steers Brett over to the other guys.
“Foggy Bear and I need to have a little girl talk,” she says, smiling at them all, poison-sweet, and then leads Foggy over to a booth in the corner.
After all this time, she doesn’t even need to say the word ‘spill’ before Foggy’s admitting everything.
“Matt found out about the deal,” he says. “And he was, he got really upset about it—”
Foggy stumbles to a stop, confused.
He watches as Marci takes a long, long drink of her margarita.
“Wasn’t drunk enough. Ok. Go,” she instructs, waving him on when she’s done.
“He… He was just trying to be a good friend and I blew up at him,” Foggy confesses miserably. “He told me I deserved someone who loved me, that I loved too. But I—He’s the only one I… He looked so heartfelt about it, I’m such an asshole.”
Burying his face in his hands, Foggy talks it all out, as much as he can without mentioning Daredevil. Marci makes thoughtful noises so that he knows she’s listening but doesn’t offer advice or platitudes. When he finally stumbles to a stop, she slides him another beer and a glass of water across the table.
“You did good,” she concludes, trawling her straw through her drink with manicured fingers.
“I—I did good? Were you even listening?”
Her sharp glare cows him immediately.
“You didn’t just walk out. You left things open, told him you were still his friend. Not that I think he really deserves the privilege after all the bullshit he’s put you through, but I know how much Murdock means to you. You left the door open instead of slamming it. Put the ball in his court. Whatever lame metaphor you prefer. There’s not much else you can do, Foggy Bear,” Marci insists. “So. You might as well get drunk and try to enjoy yourself. No more moping.”
It’s easier said than done, but it’s good advice and Foggy tries his best. He actually does have some fun, because he’s a social guy at heart and the intersection of old and new friends keeps everything interesting. Arjun introduces Foggy to a new drink that he snaps a picture of on his phone so he’ll remember it in the morning. Tyler gets all five of them into a rousing argument about baseball. At Brett’s cop bar they all meet Officer Sinclair, one of Brett’s buddies on the force – and one of the people who’d been on the Burnett family’s police detail three years ago. Marci makes sure they all have water between every new drink because she’s organized and responsible like that.
At the end of the night, Marci and Brett escort Foggy home, ply him with more water, and get him to bed. He probably won’t even have much of a hangover in the morning, he thinks as he drifts off. A good thing, too, since he’s getting married.
Getting married, and Matt’s gone again, won’t be there. Foggy’s finally driven him away with his inconvenient feelings.
Maybe the hangover would be preferable.
Chapter 24: Dawn of the Final Day
Daredevil closes out a case. Matt Murdock gets a verbal smackdown from Marci Stahl and a dose of truth upside the head.
Here we are, folks, at the beginning of the end. I've just finished writing the last few scenes, so I'm going to be posting once a day from now on. That's right, this fic is gonna be completed before the end of the month! Hooray!
Matt just... Doesn’t know what to do. Thrown from one shocking realization to the next, he can’t formulate a response. So he just stands there. Like an idiot. And lets Foggy walk out the door again. Foggy’s all the way down the block before Matt can so much as take a step.
Fumbling a little, he drops onto his couch.
Foggy’s in love.
Not with Jolene, but with someone else entirely. Someone who doesn’t love him back. Matt wants to find whoever it is and—shake them, because, because how could anyone not be in love with Foggy Nelson?
Troubled and disoriented, Matt paces his apartment. He thinks of a million reasons to attend the wedding even though Foggy gave him an out, and a million more not to go. It’s going to hurt either way, because Foggy is determined to go through with it, with marrying Jolene even though they don’t love each other.
And even if Matt could get up the courage to confess, to ask Foggy to be with him instead because at least—at least then, he’d be with someone who… But it doesn’t matter, does it? Because whoever it is that Foggy’s in love with, it obviously isn’t Matt. And what benefits could Foggy possibly get out of a relationship with Matt, in comparison to what he’s been promised by Rosalind Sharpe and Tanner Burnett, who have influence and power and connections?
Nothing, he supposes.
And at least he’s lucky enough that Foggy isn’t completely cutting ties with him again. They’re still friends – best friends, Foggy had said. Even if Matt doesn’t go to the wedding, if he chooses to stay away.
It’s a relief, but not enough of one to ease the devil in his blood. As soon as he reasonably can, Matt dons the Daredevil suit and slips out into the evening.
The failure of the kidnapping plot has Anderson scrambling. He slips up. Goes to the base of operations in person to yell at his underlings about being careful, preserving the product they have left. Perched on the roof, Matt feels a devil’s smile creep across his face.
Matt spends his night productively, if not happily, dismantling Eli Anderson’s drug ring. Though Brett Mahoney would usually be on duty, he’s not because he’s attending Foggy’s bachelor party; so Matt just has to hope that the Hell’s Kitchen PD sends some clean officers to the address of his concerned anonymous call.
Then, sore and exhausted, Matt makes his way home and drops into bed.
When Matt wakes from his troubled dozing, it’s the day of Foggy’s wedding. Part of him wants to roll over and go back to sleep, to forcibly prevent himself from witnessing this new separation. But another part of him is stirring, digging past Jolene’s confession about the impending marriage, digging past his own anger and longing, to the other part of their conversation.
To what Jolene told him about Ivonne.
You can’t protect the people you love from afar. You can’t love them from afar, not really, not in a way that matters.
He gets ready slowly, showers and shaves and dresses in his groomsman tux with care. This is a different kind of armor than what he puts on at night, but it’s familiar nonetheless and he’s going to need it. He’s going into a battle, after all. The kind he and Foggy used to fight in court side by side.
He’s got one last chance, to… To convince Foggy to take a step back. Because even if he doesn’t want Matt, there’s someone out there he does want. And Foggy owes it to himself to take a chance on that person, to go after what will really make him happy.
But even if Matt can’t convince him of that, he knows he wants to be by Foggy’s side anyway. No matter how much it hurts, he has to be there.
When Matt steps out his front door and locks his apartment behind him, the click of the key sounds terrifyingly final.
Immediately after entering the church, Matt heads to the room off the sanctuary that’s set aside for the groom. Foggy isn’t inside.
“I see you decided to show up after all,” Marci greets him coldly. “If you’re trying to find Foggy, he’s in Jo’s room. I wouldn’t interrupt them if I were you, it seemed important.”
“This is important too.”
“Please, don’t insult me. With that look on your face, all you could possibly be here to do is destroy a happy wedding.”
“Happy? They’re not even in love,” Matt snaps, twisting his cane between his hands in agitation. “It’s a—a business deal!”
“I already knew that,” says Marci impatiently, and suddenly the pieces start clicking together.
Of course, Matt thinks. Because who else could it be? Who else but Marci Stahl? Foggy had talked about her endlessly in college when the two of them were dating. He’d sworn her off vehemently afterwards, but hadn’t Matt done the same with Elektra, only to get caught up in her orbit again when she pushed her way back into his life?
Or, even more fitting than that, didn’t Matt always keep coming back to how much he loved Foggy? Over and over again, no matter how true his feelings for other people are, it’s always Foggy that he can never let go of. That he could never even imagine fully letting go of.
So maybe… Maybe that’s how Foggy feels about Marci. And she knows, and she doesn’t love him the same way, and she’s… Encouraging this marriage because she thinks it’ll make Foggy happy to have someone to be with, even if it’s not her.
“And you didn’t even try to convince him not to marry her?” he demands.
“It’s not my job to talk him out of this. Foggy Bear’s an adult,” Marci says pointedly.
“How can you even say that,” Matt seethes, the words more an invective than a question. “How can you even—When, when you’re the one he…! How could you possibly not love him back?! Or even if you don’t, how could you let him make a decision like this knowing it’s because of you!”
Somewhere in the back of his mind he knows he’s being irrational, but he’s so upset it doesn’t even matter anymore. Marci’s heart is thundering in her chest, almost as tight and staccato as Matt’s own pulse, but when she speaks her voice is cool and flat.
“Because of me,” she repeats. “You honestly think he’s doing this because of me.”
Matt tightens his grip on his cane, if only to stop his fingers from trembling. He tries for something as cold as Marci’s voice but Foggy’s always told Matt his face is an open book and he doesn’t think he’s doing a very good job of hiding what the pointed brush-off is making him feel. The burning anger that anyone could have exactly what Matt has wanted for years and throw it away without a thought.
“Because he loves you and you don’t—”
“Love him back?” Marci cuts in and now her tone is heating with rage. “Even if that were true, it still wouldn’t make him my responsibility, he’s a grown man! And he’s decided he can be happy with Jo, even if they don’t love each other, so don’t you dare try and act like I don’t give a shit about his happiness! But then, your entire insipid argument doesn’t hold any water in the first place, does it, because I’m not the one who doesn’t love him back, Murdock!”
The words are vague and meaningless but they still hit him like a punch to the solar plexus. For the first time since he met Marci all those years ago, Matt finds himself floundering before her without a single lifeline.
“What?” he manages to wheeze at last.
“I said it’s not me. God, are you really that stupid? You can’t honestly think of anyone that he’s been in love with for literal years? Enough to pass up the chance for a six-figure position at a renowned law firm? Enough to go into business with despite being stupidly broke? Enough to accept food for payment instead of money? Enough to take on a PR disaster like the Punisher case? Enough to take a chance on as a Best Man even after all that?”
Each question gets sharper and sharper, and Matt can feel his face go cold as the blood drains out of it.
“I.” He gasps in a breath, trembling. “I’m…? I, but… But he…”
“Jesus Christ, Murdock. I know you can’t see the sappy cow eyes he makes at you, but get a fucking clue for once in your life. And get out of my way, I need to finish getting ready. At least one of us has to be a passing Best Man.”
She sweeps past him in a flurry of outrage, and Matt fumbles to find the wall, his entire world off-kilter. He thinks he might be hyperventilating. Or maybe not breathing at all. It’s probably bad that he can’t tell the difference.
Chapter 25: A Brief Panic Attack at the Eleventh Hour
What it says on the tin.
While Matt's busy over in ch24 having an argument with Marci and integrating a certain truth into his worldview, Foggy and Jo talk.
Foggy expects nothing, not really, but still finds a small and fragile part of himself disappointed when Matt isn’t at the church. He tries to push it down, away, as he gets ready. It’s Marci instead who helps Foggy with his collar and finds his shoes when he misplaces them and soothes him through his nerves by making him repeat his finalized vows until he can say them without stumbling.
Foggy’s still adjusting his tie anxiously when there’s a knock on the door. His heart leaps for a moment – Matt? – but when Marci crosses the room and opens the door, it’s Ivy on the other side.
“Y-you need to go s-see Jojo,” she insists before either Marci or Foggy can get a word in.
Foggy makes his way to the door, brow furrowed. Ivy’s hair is done elaborately, she’s wearing her crystal bracelet and her purple bridesmaid dress and some low heels. Nothing looks particularly out of place about her, but Foggy’s getting a weird vibe. He tries to ignore it, falls back on humor as usual.
“Isn’t it bad luck to see the bride before the—”
“Now! P-please. She…” Ivy looks desperate and a little hurt. “She asked f-for you.”
“Oh. Right, I. Yeah, I’ll go see her,” Foggy promises.
He steps out into the hall, and Ivy backs away to give him space. Her troubled expression is making Foggy more and more nervous about what Jo needs him for, but he hurries for the door at the end of the hall anyway; better to know the situation as soon as possible.
The first thing he sees when he enters the room is Jo’s dress. It’s glowingly white, with an off-shoulder neckline, a sparkling bodice, and a skirt that flows and swirls around her feet. With a glittering hairband and delicate silver shoes, she looks like the princess in a fairytale.
But when she turns to him, her face is blotchy, and her mouth is open slightly to let out stuttering little sobs. Tear tracks mar her cheeks. Slowly, carefully, Foggy steps into the room and closes the door behind him.
“F-Foggy,” Jo stammers.
He’s never seen one of his panic attacks from the outside, but the way Jo’s chest is heaving as she tries to get air seems like it might be close. The moment he opens his arms, she dives into them, and Foggy proceeds to rub her back the way Matt always did for him.
“What happened…?” he asks Jo quietly.
“I think I’m freaking out a little bit,” she admits between wheezing breaths.
It prompts more of a wry exhale from him than a laugh.
“Yeah, I can see that. Is it… Do you want to stop the wedding? We can do that, you know. I promise, if that’s what you want, we can.”
Is this, he thinks, what had Ivy so unsettled? Did Jo finally admit the truth to her?
Did Jo decide to back out, to take a chance at sussing out her uncertain romantic feelings? But she shakes her head no. Foggy’s too close to see it, but he can feel the movement against his shoulder. It’s another few minutes of slow breathing and holding one another before Jo pulls back to clarify.
“I, I don’t, I… But do you? Foggy, what if I’m ruining everything?” she asks.
“Everything seems like a bit of an exaggeration,” Foggy replies, trying to be blasé about it. “And a little narcissistic. How about twelve percent of everything?”
But she doesn’t take the bait, just shakes her head sharply.
“I’m serious, Foggy. I know you said Matt’s straight, but the way that he… I talked to him, after that day he didn’t show up, and… He cares about you so much, Foggy. So much. And what if you, if you settle for this when you could really have everything you want? What if…?”
It hurts, to hear her say that. People have speculated about Foggy and Matt before, have mistaken them for a couple. Because Foggy’s besotted, because Matt’s so tactile, because they were always together… But Foggy knows better than anyone that Matt’s an intense guy. He cares so, so deeply. About everything. Jo doesn’t know the things Foggy does – about Matt’s senses, about how Matt knows, has probably always known, the way Foggy felt about him.
There’s been so much false hope over the years, and even now he struggles not to read into it. Struggles not to hold on to that infinitesimal chance that maybe, maybe…
“You should… You should at least try. You know? I’ve never.” Her breathing hitches, but doesn’t catch into a sob – strong, so strong – “Never loved anyone that way. Never been sure of it like you are. And no one’s ever loved me. So I’ll still be here, if… But Matt won’t. So.”
It’s not so much about the words being true, whether they are or not. But it feels that way to her, Foggy knows. This isn’t the time to challenge her on her self-perceptions. Jo doesn’t need an argument, she needs support. To not be alone. He shakes his head, and the answer comes so simply.
He takes her hand in both of his own, stares down at it and rubs his thumbs gently over her knuckles.
“I… He’s not even coming, Jo.” And it guts him to admit it, but he has to – for both of them. “I love him but he’s never… I don’t think I could take another rejection, not after all this. And I made you a promise. We’re in this together, right? As long as this is what you want, it’ll be ok.”
Jo laughs wetly.
“You’re making such a fucking mistake, Fog. Alright. Shit, alright, yeah. We’re in this together.”
“Atta girl,” Foggy says fondly, and presses a kiss to her forehead.
They hug one last time, tightly, and Foggy gently scrubs the tears from Jo’s face. Then he leaves to make his way to the altar.
Enough, he tells himself with every step. This will be enough. It will.
I know, I know, you wanted the drama. It's coming! Next chapter! Matt's gonna bust in and object because This Is a God Damn RomCom. It'll be great.
Chapter 26: Speak Now...
Matt makes a decision, an objection, and a confession.
One more chapter to go!!
Actually, I had a joking little epilogue I was going to put in the final author's note, but it ballooned into a slightly longer little epilogue, so it's going to get its own chapter at the end of the fic -- but it's just a little goofy thing, so I'll post it right after ch27 tomorrow, no extra waiting required.
Matt doesn’t know how long it takes him to put himself back together, but when the world filters in again he can tell that the wedding has already started. Any chance to talk Foggy out of it is over. But he can’t, he won’t, just leave. Not when he knows—
It’s him. He’s the one. The one Foggy loves, that he thinks could never love him.
And that is so, so wrong. It’s… It’s wrong, and Foggy needs to know. To have the option, if he still wants it. If he still wants Matt.
So he squares his shoulders and hurries down the hall; pushes open the sanctuary doors and is overwhelmed by the sea of heartbeats, by the mosaic of perfumes and colognes, by soft whispers in the pews, by the priest’s words ringing through the air. It takes a few seconds to catch his breath, to speak, and when he manages it the word comes out too desperate and too loud.
“Stop!” The sudden silence is deafening, and Matt stumbles a few steps forward if only to let the tap of his cane illuminate the sanctuary. “W-wait. I, I object.”
A host of buzzing murmurs breaks out through the crowd.
“Isn’t that the Best Man?” Tanner Burnett demands from the front row of pews.
Further still, Matt catches Marci’s familiar, disdainful scoff and Candace’s startled whisper, one right after the other.
“For fuck’s sake, what took him so long?”
“Oh my god, he’s really gonna do it. Oh my god. Your life is a literal Lifetime movie, bro.”
But the only voice that sticks in his mind, the only one that matters, is that of the groom.
“Matt…?” Foggy asks, his voice wavering between fear and hope.
That familiar heartbeat is racing with anticipation, and Matt rushes to meet it, taking long strides down the aisle.
“I know I’m not—I’m no good at expressing myself, to you,” Matt says and he can’t even feel the other people in the church, it’s just him and Foggy and the things Matt needs to explain. “And I hurt you, and I made you think I didn’t care, but I do. Foggy. I care. So, so much. You’re the most important person—The most important to me, I. Foggy. I love you. Please. You can’t marry her because I love you and I know you love me too and I can make you happy. I swear. I know I hurt you and it probably won’t be the last time, but I can make you happy. I can. You… You said before that I make you happy too, that our friendship is worth the bad things. And I, more than anything, I want this to be worth it too. We’re always better together, aren’t we?”
There’s a laugh and it’s weak and wet and Matt’s nose is filled with the salt of Foggy’s tears.
“Shit. Matt, I. What the hell, Matt.” Another laugh. “Couldn’t you have said all that six months ago?”
“I should have said it six years ago,” Matt admits freely. “But I was always too afraid to lose you. And now I already have in so many ways, and I can’t— I can’t let you go like this. Not thinking that I could never love you back.”
“You’re the worst,” says Foggy, but he doesn’t sound angry or resigned about it.
“I know. I… I know I am. Foggy, I… I didn’t want to drag you down with me, I didn’t want to be the reason you got hurt.”
“You did a real great job of that.”
What he means is, you hurt me yourself. Matt gets that. He thinks about Jo in that alleyway, about how much she hated herself. How easily she could have lost her best friend. How that best friend is still standing with her now. Still loves her, despite everything.
“I’m. You know I’m bad at all of this,” Matt prefaces lamely, and he can’t find the right words, can’t say things well on the fly like Foggy can. “Being with other people. I can’t promise I won’t pull away again, I know that isn’t fair to you. I know you deserve better.”
“Wow,” Foggy says, when there’s nothing more forthcoming. “You are… Really selling yourself well, aren’t you, buddy?”
“It’s the truth, Fog. I… Jesus, I wouldn’t blame you for saying no. For going through with this wedding. If you’ve changed your mind, if I’ve hurt you too badly, I. I’d understand. But, I’m supposed to—I’m supposed to be brave, and I want to be, for you. I don’t want to let myself screw this up forever just because I know I’m not good enough for you.”
“It doesn’t—It’s not about being good enough or deserving it, Matt,” Foggy insists. “All I ever wanted was for you to let me decide if being close to you was worth it. And you wouldn’t. You never let me make that choice, not the whole time we knew each other. First you lied, and then you just pushed me away. I would’ve chosen you, you freaking idiot, haven’t I always chosen you?”
And… Well… He has, Matt realizes. With only two glaring exceptions, Foggy has always been with him, has followed him into the storm and back out the other side. And even those two times, he came back. Foggy’s always cared, always shown Matt that he matters. And Matt pushed him away.
Oh, sure, to keep him safe – and that’s still a concern – but… What did that really accomplish, pushing Foggy away, letting him think Matt didn’t care, except hurting the most important person in Matt’s life? Jolene is living proof that pulling away from the people you love to protect them only makes them more vulnerable to attack.
Matt certainly never felt better for it, not even after that fight in the courthouse, when he could feel Foggy slipping through his fingers and it seemed like maybe it would hurt less to leave him before he could leave Matt. To give himself some agency in this loss, the kind he never had with Stick or his father.
“You have,” Matt concedes finally. “I know you have. And I’m sorry that I… I was too afraid or too selfish to give you that choice before. But that’s why, I. I’m giving it to you now, and I swear whatever you choose I’ll… I will respect it. Because I owe you that much, because you’ve always been the best friend I could ever ask for, and because I love you.”
There’s really nothing more to say. Nothing more Matt can offer than himself and his acceptance of whatever Foggy’s choice will be.
Nothing to do but wait with bated breath for the axe to fall.
Chapter 27: You May Kiss the Groom
aka The Chapter With the Happy Ending
It’s… It’s everything Foggy’s wanted to hear, needed to hear, for a long time. And it’s not made of platitudes, not made of justifications – it’s a simple, concise proposal. Classic Matt Murdock. But…
“When you say things, Matt, I can’t know that you mean them, or that you mean them the right way.”
It’s a roundabout way to ask the question he really wants to know the answer to. Do you really love me, or is this just another attempt to save me? Matt’s the kind of man whose guilt runs so deep he might be able to convince himself he’s in love with Foggy just for… For Foggy’s sake, or for the sake of their friendship. And that would hurt more than any rejection.
“You know me though, Foggy,” Matt pleads, except that that’s the entire problem. “You know me. I wouldn’t—I wouldn’t lie to you about this, not this, I promise. Not about this.”
The words are a gut-punch, in the worst way. Foggy hasn’t forgotten a word of their fight, that day after Matt almost bled out on the floor of his apartment. Matt, it seems, hasn’t either.
“And this is what you want?” Foggy asks, taking a step – just one – down from the altar. “This, a… A relationship with me, you want that, for yourself and no other reason? Not because you think I want it?”
Matt’s mouth moves silently for a few seconds, and his expression is a little stunned. Like Foggy’s come at him with a blow he wasn’t expecting. Then he takes off his glasses, folds them up and slips them into his breast pocket the way he always does when he wants you to know he means something. It’s a move Foggy’s seen so many times that it really shouldn’t still work. It does, though – it makes Matt seem softer, more vulnerable. Earnest. Even though Foggy could easily gauge Matt’s emotional state from the trembling of his lips or the way his throat bobs when he swallows, seeing his whole face, bare of glasses or mask, raises Matt’s intensity to impossible levels.
“I know it’s selfish,” Matt says at last. “It’s not… Not fair to you. But I do want it. I, I have, and I do, and I will.”
It’s an understatement of what those words make Foggy feel, but he can’t seem to think of anything else to say. It doesn’t get much clearer than that, not for anyone but especially not for Matt. There’s questions burning on Foggy’s tongue, so many questions – when, how, why didn’t you tell me, weren’t you straight, did you really not know that I…? – but in light of this confession they can wait. It’s just…
Foggy glances back at his fiancée, standing at the altar, the corners of her eyes still a little red from crying. He made a promise. Not just by accepting the proposal, but right before walking into the sanctuary. He made a promise to forego his chances with Matt, to be there for Jo, and he…
“What are you looking at me for, permission?” Jo asks suddenly, blunt but not caustic. “He literally just confessed his undying love to you, are you seriously gonna turn him down for this utter farce just because you feel bad for me?”
There are a few gasps throughout the room, but the two of them pay no mind to them.
Jo’s right, of course. The marriage and its perks were better than being alone and gaining nothing, but having Matt is always the best deal. Still, he made a promise, and he cares about Jo, he does, and the idea of abandoning her, leaving her alone just so he can be happy…
“For fuck’s sake, kiss him!”
There’s not an ounce of hesitation in her voice. So Foggy stumbles down the stairs into Matt’s arms, and he does.
In terms of sheer technique, it’s downright awful, probably one of the top ten worst kisses Foggy has ever participated in. They’re both too eager and end up bumping noses like preteens, Matt’s lips are horribly chapped, and there’s way, way too much tongue. Matt pulls back, making a soft, embarrassed whine at the back of his throat, and then Foggy’s too busy laughing at him to properly make another attempt.
Basically, it’s perfect.
And that’s the moment that Foggy really feels it, really understands – oh, he loves me.
“Wait, let me—let me try again,” Matt murmurs, cupping Foggy’s face in his hands.
“Yeah… Go ahead, buddy.”
This time, they go slow. Matt leans in and presses his lips, still chapped, against Foggy’s with a kind of gentleness that makes Foggy think of the kiss at the end of The Princess Bride. Even then, light as it is, it sends a zip of electricity up and down his spine. One of them – Foggy can’t even tell – hums out a soft, sated sound. His hands are trembling a little, clutching at the suit jacket hiding Matt’s ridiculous biceps. Matt presses closer, stroking a thumb across Foggy’s cheekbone. Then he nips at Foggy’s lower lip gently to urge him to open his mouth, and uses just the right amount of tongue, and it’s basically every pathetic romcom fantasy kiss Foggy’s daydreamed about since he was eighteen but like a million times better because now Foggy knows what Matt tastes like.
When they pull back for air, Foggy thinks that he could probably stare at Matt’s stupid handsome face for the rest of his life. It’s not exactly a new sentiment, but the fact that it’s now filled with sparkling joy instead of shameful longing gives it an entirely new sheen.
Foggy’s jostled from his thoughts when someone up at the altar clears their throat.
“Wh-while we’re all up h-h-here making earth-shattering dec-declarations,” Ivy says, her bracelet glittering as she wrings her hands. “Jo, I. If you really aren’t in l-love with him, I. P-please. Choose—choose me instead.”
Jo blinks, staring back at her with her mouth soft and open in shock.
“I love you.” Ivy takes a fortifying glance at Matt, and Foggy thinks, yeah that’s about right; if you’re going to look to anyone for spare bravery, Matt’s got it in spades. “It’s ok if you d-don’t… Feel the same w-way, only. Please give me a cha-chance. We could be so good together, I— I know it.”
Foggy looks over at Jo again to see how she’s taking it. She has a hand clutched over her mouth and tears glittering down her cheeks. But Foggy’s seen her cry from just about every emotion under the sun, so it really is a tossup how any of this is making her feel.
Until she tosses aside her bouquet and flings her arms around Ivy, still sobbing.
“Yeah, ok,” she says, between hitched little breaths. “Yeah. Let’s do it.”
Ivy is still shaking a little with nerves, and it shows in her laugh – wavering and a touch too loud.
“Tha-that is the least romantic thing you’ve ever s-s-said,” she complains with too much fondness. “A-aren’t you suh-supposed to be a poet?”
Jo laughs back and starts reciting Shakespeare’s 18th Sonnet into Ivy’s shoulder.
With his fiancée cradled like a treasure in her Maid of Honor’s arms and Matt pressing absentminded kisses into his temples, it’s probably the best wedding Foggy’s ever attended.
Most of the wedding party looks either fed up or completely enamored with the drama; Brett and Marci in particular are shooting Foggy expressions that tell him he’s going to have to dig deep to pay for the bullshit he’s put them through. Candace is grinning like a loon and making motions towards Julie and Connie in the audience that indicate that they owe her money. Tyler is staring up at the ceiling with an exasperated look on his face, but he can’t fight the smile pulling at his mouth. Kim and Arjun have both pulled out their phones and seem to be taking pictures. Karen’s expression is startled but… Soft. Softer than Foggy’s seen in a long time, like maybe she’s found a moment worth living in for a while instead of pushing through with steel and determination. Foggy can see his mother watching him and Matt with a proud grin and tears on her cheeks. Bess nudges her and hands her a handkerchief to wipe her face.
The priest, poor guy, looks completely lost.
Rosalind’s shocked expression and Tanner Burnett’s dazed one are the icing on the cake.
Speaking of cake…
Foggy wonders if they can repurpose the reception dinner somehow. The cake had looked really, really good and it would be a shame to let all of Enrique’s work go to waste.
He presses closer to Matt and lets out a satisfied sigh when Matt tightens his hold in return. Well. They’ll have time enough to figure it all out. It’s not like this has magically fixed all their problems, and there’s years’ worth of issues to sort through. But, for the moment, Foggy’s content to just let himself enjoy the here and now.
Beneath all the hubbub it takes him a minute or two to realize Matt is humming something under his breath. The tune, though, that’s instantly recognizable.
Drops of Jupiter.
Hearing it like that, low and buzzy, makes his brain finally click the missing puzzle piece into place. The reason he’s so fond of it, the reason it brightens his day. It’s the song he was listening to on his laptop, that day when Matt stepped through the door of their dorm room for the very first time.
“Dork,” Foggy murmurs, although whether it’s to himself or the man holding him is anyone’s guess.
The laugh it elicits from Matt is the most beautiful sound in the world.
Here we are, at the end! Thank you so much to everyone who's kudos'd and commented, you guys really kept me going! This is my longest completed story EVER, and you were a huge part of making it happen! Be sure to click to the next chapter for the Optional Entertaining Epilogue, which is pretty much just Matt and Foggy having a silly argument about who should have discovered the other's Super Obvious feelings first.
Since we were following Matt and Foggy the whole time, I wasn’t able to flesh out Jo and Ivy’s equally ridiculous pining as much as I wanted. But you can bet your ass that wedding dress shopping was exactly as fraught with Sexual Tension as the suit fitting chapter. God only knows what the florist thought of these two Sapphic dorks when they were picking out flower arrangements. I’m sure she and Enrique are both shaking their heads somewhere.
Chapter 28: Optional Entertaining Epilogue, As Heard Through a Door
Footsteps ring softly from the other side of the door; even, repetitive. Pacing.
“Wait. You actually didn’t know? You’re telling me you were basically polygraphing me for a decade and you can smell my hormones or whatever and you still didn’t figure out how insanely gone I was for you? Matt.”
It’s Foggy’s voice, hopelessly besotted and a little exasperated. Then the slight tap of a cane, and Matt chimes in with,
“It’s not exact! It’s easy to misinterpret—”
“Marci has been calling you my boyfriend for seven years, Matt. My entire Torts class knew I was in love with you. My family knew! And they never shut up about it!”
An indignant huff. Could have come from either man, but probably Matt.
“Oh yeah, well, what’s—what’s your excuse? I flirted my way through your wedding preparations, Foggy! I compared opening a law firm together to a marriage!”
“The hot chicks, Matt! My excuse is the hot chicks, ok? The bevy of super-confident supermodel-level babes and no one else lining the pages of your love life!”
“Oh, come—come on! Really? And you haven’t been attracted to other people, people who are nothing like me? What about Marci? What about Jen, from law school? Or, or Frank Castle? You were churning out pheromones over Frank Castle, buddy, I feel like I get a pass here—”
A noise of startled outrage.
“No. No, nuh-uh, no way, dude. You can’t see Frank Castle, so you—I’m pointing sternly—you do not get to judge me, ok? You just don’t. That man is—” Foggy stumbles verbally, clears his throat and switches tracks; which is… Understandable, probably, given, the circumstances. “And also? He’s nuttier than a, a Froot Loop, ok, and of the two of us, me and you, I at least know where to draw the line when it comes to hot crazy people—”
A laugh, bright. Matt’s.
“Do you, though? I heard a rumor you were dating Daredevil.”
“Slander! Hearsay! Just because a certain vigilante may be hot for my bod does not mean we’re dating because I, for one, am happily attached to my best friend and the love of my life.”
There’s a sniffle, loud enough to just make out. Matt’s voice goes all choked and warm.
“… Love you, Fog.”
“… Yeah. I love you too, man. C’mere.”
A couple of footsteps follow, then the soft wet sound of a kiss.
Karen Page smiles, shakes her head, and walks away from the door. Questioning Matt about Eli Anderson’s drug ring can wait. There’ll be time for everything else later.