Normally it was hard to get Matt to go anywhere without being a bit of a grouch, so Foggy was relieved when he came to pick him up that tonight was an exception. Matt didn’t complain that he was tired, or that his new arthritis medication was making him dizzy, or that he was too old for any of this shit, even though it was true. He didn’t even complain about going to Josie’s and still calling it that. The daughter hadn’t changed the name, but he said it felt weird, made his opinions known to everyone but her – so, to Foggy, loudly and often.
It was also the only bar in Hell’s Kitchen not branded. They did a lot of film shoots there. Foggy had to call in advance about having a surprise party, however loosely-organized. They had no idea who would show up, and the surprise was on the crowd, not the organizers.
“So why are we here, Nelson?” Brett said with no malice in his voice as they talked in the door. Well, maybe a little bit of malice. He was Brett, after all.
“Nice to see you too, Commissioner.” Foggy gave him a friendly jab on the arm. “Thanks for coming all the way up from your fort at Police Plaza.”
“You’re lucky the beer is more expensive there,” he said. “And I’m not even supposed to be drinking.”
“We’re all on too much medication to drink!” Foggy said. “So join the club. Aren’t we, Matt? Thank G-d for automated pill dispensers.”
Matt had to agree. The old pill bottles always felt the same and never came in braille. But he didn’t want to say it out loud. “Whiskey,” he said to no one in particular. “Neat.”
There were a lot of people packed in between him and the bar, but a shot glass was dropped in his hand. There was very little in it, even for a shot glass.
“Be careful with that,” Thor said. “That’s not meant for mortal men.”
“He’s not kidding about that,” Steve Rogers said, sounding like his vigorous, forever twenty-something self. Something to do with the serum and MRA strands. Normally Matt was more nakedly jealous of him, but he was working himself up to a good mood. Steve added, “Drink it slowly if you want to make it through the night.”
“Maybe I don’t. I’ve got a CAT scan on Wednesday,” Matt said. He curled his fingers around the class but didn’t sip. “The kind where you have to drink barium.”
“Then you definitely want it,” Claire said. Matt frowned; it was too loud and the air too filled with intermingled scents for him to tell where all of his friends were so instantaneously in here. “Don’t make a face.”
He didn’t want to say it took a moment to recognize her because she didn’t smell like hospitals anymore. That seemed rude. She smelled like the beach, actually, but Mat knew she preferred when he didn’t make pronouncements like that. “Hi, Claire.”
“Hi yourself. Is it your birthday? I was never clear on when that was.”
He finally smiled. “I’m always giving out conflicting information to keep people on their toes.”
“If it’s not, you better hurry up and say it. You don’t want to deal with a group of angry drunks who used to call themselves your friends.”
“Ouch,” Matt said, and let Foggy lead him to the center of the room. Karen gave him a kiss on the cheek when he got there. “Hi.”
“Knew you’d show, old man,” Karen said.
“How’s the reelection campaign?”
“It’ll be better when I get your endorsement. Officially,” Karen said. She was one of the only ones who knew why they were here. “Unless you want to run against me.”
“I’ve never been to Vermont. I don’t think I would make a good governor,” Matt said as Foggy knocked on the table and climbed up on the chair next to it. Steve was very clearly pretending that he wasn’t spotting him.
“Everyone! If you’ll listen to your good mayor for a moment – “
“Former mayor,” someone shouted. It sounded like Peter.
“I was assured that when I took office it was like being President, and I could keep the title for life,” Foggy said, to some laughter. “I know you’re all wondering why you’re here and if I’m going to pick up your tab. The answer is no.”
There was a round of unsurprised boo’s.
“As much as I like hearing the sound of my own voice, I’ll keep this brief. We’re here to celebrate our good friend Matt tonight, because as of 5 AM, a certain statute of limitations officially lapsed on various acts of vandalism, assault, and any number of vigilante crimes of which said friend was certainly not guilty many years ago. So, Matt – do you have anything to tell us?”
Matt grinned and said, “I’m Daredevil.”
“We know that!” someone else shouted. “There’s no one in Hell’s Kitchen who doesn’t know that!”
“Because he’s saved all of your asses, Turk. And how are you even here?”
“You’re not the only one who knows about statutes of limitations!” Turk Barret shouted back from the corner.
“Weed’s on Turk tonight!” Foggy said. “We mean – “
“That I am officially Daredevil,” Matt said. Even though it was hot inside, he took out the beanie Jessica had made for him and put it on his head. It was red, she assured him, and had adorable little horns. “And you can quote me on that.”
“If that doesn’t deserve a toast, I don’t know what does.” Foggy clinked their glasses together. “Sláinte.”
The room was too noisy for Matt to talk for any longer. He wasn’t even sure who he was thanking when people congratulated him, but he decided to shut up and be nice about it. He could be a cranky old man every other day of the week. And he’d swallowed all of Thor’s liquor, which was about the smoothest thing he’d ever drunk, and tasted vaguely of peaches.
He wasn’t standing up straight for very long, and ended up in a booth, his Asgardian schnapps swapped out for non-alcoholic beer by someone who thought he wouldn’t notice (definitely not Foggy), but he was too drunk and too unwilling to try to get to the bar to complain. Danny was telling war stories, something he did even before Matt’s identity was public, and with his usual enthusiasm – and as usual, he got lost in the details because he was very stoned.
“I thought there’s a precept against intoxicants, Father,” Matt said.
“Abbots are not ‘Father.’ They’re Khenpo. Or Your Holiness, if you prefer.”
“We most certainly do not,” Jessica, who was now sitting next to Matt, said. “I can’t believe let my kid go to K’un-lun for her semester abroad. Why couldn’t she just drink in Prague like everyone else?”
“She turned out okay,” Matt said.
“Yeah, she doesn’t fight crime, like those Stark brats.”
“It’s good to see you haven’t mellowed with age,” Matt said. He would have slapped her on the back but, well – she was Jessica.
A lot of people stopped by his booth – more than he could keep track of. And a lot of people said, “You were Daredevil this whole time?!?”
“You’re like the tenth person to say that to me in the past hour,” he said to Sam Chung.
“Whatever. See you in the morning, boss. If you make it in.”
Matt grumbled good-naturedly and waved him away.
“Did you think you would make it this far, when you stopped being Daredevil?” Trish asked.
“I didn’t think I would make it to the point where I was old enough to have to stop being Daredevil,” he said. “I guess I just assumed I would be dead long before that.”
“Way to bring down the mood, buddy,” Foggy said, having reappeared next to him at some point. It was quieter now, and they could breathe in the room again between the heat and the pot smoke.
“You thought the same thing,” Matt said, even though it was a little rude to say it.
“Yeah, I did. The day you hung up that suit was one of the happiest of my life. I mean, if I hadn’t been sitting in the hospital for special surgery family waiting room at the time, it would have been. It was eventually a good day.”
“Funny, I don’t remember it at all.” But his back had, for a long time, when he had to go off painkillers. And still did from time to time.
“And then you moped around for about a year, but G-d damnit, you made it all worth it. Still being here.” Foggy clinked glasses again, even though they were both too full and too tired to drink.
That was what the celebration was about. Matt being alive. Old, increasingly crotchety, riddled with inflammation from old injuries that he treated with enough weed to put college students to shame, and with two marriages under his belt (and three engagements that ended with a battle with a supervillain), but alive.
“Foggy.” It came out as more of a statement.
“What is it?”
“I don’t want to be alone,” he said, as if he was newly divorced. “Come home with me.”
“Marci went home alrady. She’s going to be mad.”
“I have pizza rolls.”
“You don’t even – “ Foggy shook his head. “You’re trying to bribe me. You know they’re bad for my cholesterol.”
“I can smell your statins from here. Let’s blow off Marci and let’s eat pizza rolls and watch that Spider-man cartoon I’m in.”
“You realize if they made it now, you could collect licensing fees?”
“It’ll be like college, all over again.”
Foggy grinned. Matt was old and he needed hearing aids but he could always tell when Foggy was grinning. “That’s all you needed to say.”