“You are the Bermuda Triangle of weird shit,” Foggy Nelson observed as he held open the diner’s door for Matthew Murdock.
“I mean, not really,” Matt replied, though he sounded amused.
“Not really?” Foggy echoed as they headed back toward the office. “Freak accident when you’re a kid gives you superpowers that you don’t even bother to tell your best friend about for years -"
“In my defense,” Matt interrupted, ever the lawyer, “That happened long before I met you. It was kind of old news by then.”
“Not to me.” Foggy managed to keep the edge out of his voice, but sometimes it still bothered him.
Matt must have heard it anyway, or maybe it was Foggy’s heartbeat going weird, or he’d sighed without knowing it, or - who the hell knew what else Matt could tell about him? Speaking of weird shit, the ninjas, they had been weird. And Foggy wasn’t even going to mention Matt’s zombie ex, who - at least in theory - was permanently dead now. No need to go there, but it was definitely off the weird shit scale.
Matt pulled him out of the foot traffic and into the shelter of a doorway. “Look, I’m sorry about that. I should have told you. I just… wasn’t sure how to bring it up.”
“I know. You’ve apologized before.”
“Yeah, but…” Matt sighed and dropped his head, and Foggy let himself just look at his friend. He wasn’t sure why he felt like he had to be subtle; it wasn’t like Matt would see him gawking, after all. “It feels like you haven’t accepted the apology. Not all the way.”
Foggy shrugged. “Some days I have, some days I haven’t. But that’s more your problem than mine, right?” he added. He punched lightly at Matt’s bicep, or at least he tried to; Matt immediately dropped the cane and brought his hands up. “Dude, that was me. I’m not going to hurt you.”
“I know. I… sorry.”
Foggy bent down and retrieved the cane, pressing it into Matt’s now-open hands. “You have to stop throwing these things. I’ll bet they’re not cheap.”
“I buy them in bulk,” Matt deadpanned, and Foggy wasn’t sure if he was kidding.
Foggy tried to come up with something, anything to say to cover the fact that his hands had brushed Matt’s when he returned the cane and, shit, there went his heart again, probably. But if Matt could hear that and he wasn’t saying anything, he probably wasn’t interested.
Matt was Catholic, after all. Foggy didn’t know the exact rules they had about guys liking other guys, but he figured Don’t covered it pretty well.
“Uh, when did this bookshop get here?” Foggy managed, gesturing pointlessly at the shop whose doorway they were borrowing. “I don’t remember seeing it before,” he observed.
“Blind jokes are a coping strategy.”
Foggy rolled his eyes, not that Matt could see, and went back to the topic of the bookstore. “It’s like it just sprung up overnight. I definitely don’t remember passing it when we went to the diner last week.”
“New York,” Matt replied with a shrug. “At least it’s not a Starbucks.”
Still, the bookstore was a puzzle, and Foggy liked puzzles. Well, not sudoku, but other puzzles. “How do they make any money?” he asked. “It’s never open.”
Matt asked, sounding amused, “How do you know? This is the first time we’ve noticed the place.”
Foggy warmed a little at the we, but said, “There’s a sign on the door. It doesn’t say they’re never open, but it’s strongly implied.”
“Huh.” Matt seemed to focus a little more, his attention shifting to the bookstore, and then he reached for Foggy’s arm, pulling him away from the shop. Startled, Foggy looked at him; he’d gone pale. “We’re going,” Matt insisted. “Now.”
He didn’t say another word, but half-dragged Foggy back to the office, not stopping until the door was firmly closed and locked behind them.
In hindsight, Foggy felt like an idiot for not realizing that Matt could see, kind of. When he did stuff like that, it seemed kind of obvious, but most people didn’t look past the glasses and the cane.
“Our clients,” Foggy began, reaching to unlock the door, but Matt waved him to silence, still looking more than a little freaked out. He folded his cane in a quick, automatic move and dropped it - on the desk this time, where he wouldn’t lose it - then raked a hand through his hair.
Foggy tried very hard not to appreciate how Matt looked with his hair like that.
“Just give me a minute.”
Foggy nudged Matt backward until the backs of his knees hit a chair and he sat, then carefully extracted his arm from Matt’s grip. He considered the coffee pot, then decided not to traumatize Matt any further with that morning’s pitiful attempt at coffee and reached for the bottle of whiskey in his desk.
“What?” Matt asked when Foggy opened the bottle.
Even Foggy could smell it, so he didn’t ask how Matt knew, but instead explained, “Karen left it there when she took that full-time job with the paper. Said I might need it, dealing with you.” Foggy didn’t point out that the bottle was already a third gone, consumed after Matt had left for the night. From that knowing look Karen had given him when she’d handed over the bottle, she’d guessed how he felt about Matt.
That drew a wry smile from Matt, but he took the glass Foggy pressed into his hand and drained it in one gulp.
“So what happened?” Foggy asked, when it seemed like Matt wasn’t going to explain.
Matt didn’t answer, frowning over the empty glass.
“I’m not giving you more booze until you talk,” Foggy joked, trying to lighten the mood.
“There was something in there.”
“Some thing. Not some one?”
“Two somethings. One was… all fire.”
“But isn’t that how you see everything? World on fire?” Matt’s face twisted in frustration, and Foggy said, “I’m trying, buddy, but you’re being weirder than usual. And that’s saying something.”
Matt took a deep breath. “Yes, that’s how I see things, but this was different. It was… concentrated flame. It was - don’t laugh - it was threatening. Ominous. Like… like that feeling when you wake up in the middle of the night and realize you forgot something important. But there was also a flicker of bright light, but it was… comforting? Comfortable? Like… a hot drink when you come in from the cold. I know I’m not making sense. And the light was kind of hidden, like the flames were wrapped around it.”
Foggy nodded as he attempted to come up with a sane and normal response, trying to pretend that Matt was not scaring him just a little. Was he hallucinating again? How could he see the feeling of a hot drink? “Okay,” he said, looking for the right tone to soothe Matt without making him feel like that was what Foggy was trying to do. “What about the other one?”
Matt didn’t quite smile, but a look of wonder crossed his face. “It was mostly that bright light. Incandescent. And it had a bit of the flames, though not as much flames as the fire-thing had light.” His face twisted, and he shook his head. “I’m not explaining it right.”
“That sounds pretty intense.”
Matt nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, it was.”
“And I can see why you’d want to get us out of there.” Foggy paused a beat. “Can we still eat at the diner? You know they’ve got the best fries for ten blocks.”
Whatever he’d seen had shaken Matt enough that he didn’t answer right away, which concerned Foggy; and not just because of the fries, which were, admittedly, amazing. “Yeah,” Matt said finally. “Gotta have those fries.”
Good to know he had his priorities in line.
“Okay. We can walk on the other side of the street, if it helps.”
Foggy wondered if Matt was now planning a new route to the diner that made sure they didn’t go anywhere near the bookstore.
“All right. I’m just going to unlock the door so Mrs. Ramos can get in, if that’s okay?”
A look of irritation crossed Matt’s face. “You don’t have to… coddle me, Fogs.”
“True,” Foggy agreed, taking Matt’s reply for a yes and moving to unlock the door. “I’m not. I just want to make sure you’re okay.”
“I am. I’m -”
“Fine,” Foggy said in unison with Matt.
Matt made a face, and Foggy couldn’t help but grin.
“I am fine.”
“Sure you are.” Foggy studied Matt; his hair was still disheveled and he was still pretty pale. “Are you? Really?”
Matt managed a smile that didn’t look too fake. “Yeah.”
“What do you think those things were, in the bookstore?”
Matt shrugged, finally setting down the empty glass. “Honestly? No clue. And I’m in no hurry to find out.”
Foggy, while not specifically in a hurry, was curious about who - or what - had managed to scare Matt. He didn’t go back to the bookstore that day; it wasn’t until several days later that he noticed that the shop’s door was partly open when he walked past it on his way to work.
He eased the door open a little further, and was embarrassed to realize that his heart was beating faster. It was a store. Presumably, people were supposed to come in and buy things. He wasn’t going to get in trouble with whatever it was that lurked inside.
Foggy was kind of hoping for aliens as long as they weren’t, you know, the Ridley Scott kind. He’d watched Aliens with Matt back in college; some school group had done a retrospective and Foggy had never seen it. Well, Foggy had watched and Matt had laughed at him for wanting Matt to go with him to watch a movie - and he’d never entirely recovered. During the movie, when he hadn’t been thinking about how he was never going to sleep again ever, Foggy had been half-wishing Matt would hold his hand. That was why you took somebody to a scary movie, right? But Foggy hadn’t tried, and Matt… had been Matt.
So not the Ridley Scott aliens, but E. T. would be okay.
The bookstore itself was…. incredible. Foggy wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, but definitely not what he saw: rows of bookshelves taller than his head filled with all kinds of books. It even had one of those rolling ladders on a rail that seemed to go throughout the store.
Foggy had always wanted to try one of those ladders. He had even taken a step toward it when the voice came from across the room.
Whoever it was sounded British and kind of pissed off. Foggy looked over to see the guy, who was inhumanly skinny and had a shock of dark red hair. He also wore sunglasses. Inside. Was he blind?
A blind bookseller? Well, Foggy was best friends with a blind lawyer; he knew it took all kinds.
Realizing that the man was waiting for an answer, he replied genially, “Yeah, sorry, the door was open.”
“Well, that didn’t mean you were meant to come in, did it?”
“I, uh, thought it was a bookstore?” He stepped closer, extending a hand. “Foggy Nelson, nice to meet you. My partner and I own a law firm, office is around the corner.” When that drew an utter lack of response, he gave himself a mental kick. All these years around Matt, and that was how he acted? “Sorry, I’ve got my hand out. Uh, to shake.”
“I can see that,” the man replied, apparently looking down his blade of a nose at Foggy.
“O… kay then,” Foggy replied, lowering his hand. Not blind. Feeling like an idiot, Foggy was about to depart when another man came into the room. This man, who seemed flustered by Foggy’s presence, was shorter and rounder and had very light hair.
“A customer?” he asked, though he looked more concerned than excited. He, too, had a British accent, though his sounded different than the redhead’s. Foggy knew there were different British accents, but he couldn’t keep them straight, so he just went with British and left it at that. The newcomer stepped between Foggy and one of the shelves. “To buy a book?”
“Calm down, angel,” the redhead drawled, though his manner softened a little. “He was just leaving.”
“I’m sorry, do you not want to sell the books?” Foggy couldn’t help but ask.
“Not particularly,” the light-haired one replied, though not without a sheepish expression.
“Then why have a bookstore? And how long has this place been here? I definitely don’t remember any construction or anything.”
The two exchanged a look that Foggy could only describe as shifty, and the thin one drew in a breath to reply something undoubtedly witty and cutting when the door flew open, revealing Matt in the doorway. His hand came up to shield his eyes, but he strode toward Foggy, demanding, “What are you doing here?”
Foggy must be late to work, and Matt had come looking for him. As one does for a friend, Foggy reminded himself, trying not to read anything into it.
“Hey,” barked the redhead. “What’s wrong with here?”
“We do want them to go,” the light-haired one suggested.
“Right,” the redhead agreed, flicking one hand toward Matt and Foggy in a shooing motion. “Off with you, go on.”
Matt grasped Foggy’s arm and seemed more than ready to drag him out of the shop, but Foggy dug in his heels. “No.”
The word seemed to come from all sides.
“No,” Foggy repeated. “Look, whatever these people are, they’re freaking you out. Don’t you want to get to the bottom of it?”
Matt didn’t even consider the question. “No. Let’s go.”
“People here are so odd,” the light-haired one observed, his forehead wrinkling in apparent distress. “I thought you’d like it, because of the name - Hell’s Kitchen and all - but maybe we should have gone to Los Angeles instead.”
The thin one grimaced. “Los Angeles wouldn’t have worked, angel. There’s someone there I’d rather avoid, and the people are odd everywhere.”
Foggy, still resisting what must be a halfhearted attempt on Matt’s part to pull him from the store, asked, “Are you people?”
“Why wouldn’t we be people?” the redhead demanded, coming closer. “Don’t we look like people?”
Well. Not when he moved like that. The way the redhead walked, it looked like he hadn’t always had legs, though Foggy wasn’t sure why that thought had occurred to him. Of course the man had always had legs.
The word sinuous slipped into Foggy’s mind, and he found himself wondering just how the redhead got into his pants, they were that tight.
“Uh,” he began.
“Yes, you look like people, and we’re going.”
Matt finally exerted himself and pulled harder on Foggy’s arm.
Foggy exhaled a frustrated sigh, but let himself be dragged from the shop. Matt pulled the bookshop door closed behind them, and Foggy heard the snick of a lock turning. He tried to push away the fact that the shopkeepers hadn't actually been that close to the door. Maybe they had hurried to lock it.
“I’m - Matt, let go. I’m coming.”
Matt released him and made his way to the office ahead of Foggy, the angry staccato of his cane signaling nothing good to come.
“What the fuck were you doing in there?” Matt demanded.
“Look,” Foggy began, after closing the door to their office. He half-expected a blind joke, but Matt didn’t say anything. He just stood there, his hands white-knuckled around his cane, so Foggy tried, “They did look like people.”
“They’re not.” Matt’s voice was lower than usual and held a gravelly edge that made Foggy think both Batman and oh, shit.
“They’re not… people?”
“… how do you know?”
“I … Foggy, can’t you just trust me on this one? It’s how they look to me, the way I see them.”
“Yeah, but…” Foggy hesitated. “You also said once that you talked to your dad, and he answered. Like, after he died. Maybe this is something like that.”
“I shouldn’t have told you about that.”
“No, I’m glad you did.” Foggy remembered that conversation, late at night at Matt’s place after a little too much celebrating over a win in court: Matt fumbling over his words as he explained what he had experienced, Foggy trying desperately to find the right thing to say to make him feel better. In the end, Matt had fallen asleep with his head on Foggy’s shoulder, and Foggy had sat there for hours, afraid to breathe too loudly, and had thought hard about being a good friend.
He gave Matt a look-over. Matt looked better than he had the night he’d talked about the hallucinations, but not great. Still standing too straight, his jaw clenched, and nobody was getting that cane out of his hands. “Look, they were freaking you out, and I saw the door was open and thought I could go see that they were just people. And then I could tell you, and you’d be…” Not okay. Matt would never be okay. “Better.”
“They’re. Not. Just. People.”
Okay, Foggy couldn’t hear heartbeats or anything like that, but he could see the vein pulsing in Matt’s neck and was pretty sure this was going nowhere good. “Okay. Not people, I got it, but I still don’t see why you’re upset that I went to check them out.”
“Because they’re dangerous. Anything that feels like they do has to be.”
A too-skinny guy in impressively tight pants and another guy who looked, well, kind of like the human equivalent of Foggy’s nana’s sofa? Foggy couldn’t see it. “I’m fine.”
Matt snorted, and Foggy could tell that he had noted Foggy’s use of his own favorite phrase. “Yeah, because I got you out of there.”
“They seemed… I mean, the skinny guy was kind of a jerk, but I think they wanted me to leave, that’s all. I really think it wasn’t that big a deal. And if things had started to go badly, I would have just left.”
Foggy thought he was being completely reasonable. The way Matt’s face twisted in frustration suggested that he was feeling otherwise.
And then, before he could react, Matt had him pinned against the wall. Foggy vaguely registered the clatter as Matt’s cane fell to the ground, but was too startled to comment that he’d dropped it again.
“Hey,” he protested, though more out of the feeling that he should. It didn’t hurt; Matt had moved quickly but apparently carefully as well. And, well. Matt had him pinned against the wall.
“Just leave,” Matt said through clenched teeth. “Go ahead.”
“Matt, come on.”
“Just. Leave.” Matt eased in a little closer, and just then Foggy wasn’t thinking about leaving or, really, much of anything. Not at all. He was suddenly, horribly grateful that Matt’s blindness meant that he couldn’t see the expression on Foggy’s face.
He probably looked like an idiot, but he couldn’t stop staring at Matt’s lips and the little divot thing above them - shit, what was that called? He’d look it up later - and think what it would be like if Matt got just a little bit closer, and the far more interesting places he could find for Matt’s hands than Foggy’s lapels.
But then Matt’s brows lowered, and Foggy couldn’t help but panic a little. Was it his heart again? Did he smell differently when he started thinking about lips and hands and… well, to be honest, Matt’s ass was amazing, not that he could see it from that angle.
Foggy suspected that Matt would let him go if Foggy reached around and grabbed his ass, but that would kind of be tipping his hand. And if he ever touched Matt’s ass, he didn’t want it to be a surprise, or to escape, or anything like that.
Besides, it wasn’t like he really wanted Matt to let him go.
“Foggy, you have to do something.”
And, damn, if Matt had sounded even a little bit like that was an invitation, if this had been a Nicholas Sparks book - not that Foggy read them, but Marci had before they had broken up last year, and, okay, maybe he’d glanced at them - Foggy would have absolutely used that as an opening line to lean in and kiss Matt. It would have been epic, a story for the grandkids. But Matt looked pissed off, and Foggy was pretty sure this wasn’t one of those situations where they were going to fight and then realize that they had fallen for each other.
Foggy already knew how he felt. And Matt… was Matt.
And he still hadn’t done anything, and Matt was doing that thing where he was inhaling sharply through his nose, which never meant anything good, and -
“Uh. My appointment was for nine, right? I can come back later. You guys look, uh, busy.”
Matt let Foggy go, already putting on his let’s make the client happy face as he turned toward Mrs. Patel.
And of course it had to be Mrs. Patel, who would no doubt tell his mother exactly what she’d seen in the law office.
Not that Ma didn’t already know about Foggy; that wasn’t a big deal. No, but Ma would give him a hard time next time he visited. “Why don’t you just tell that Murdock boy how you feel?”
Yeah. Because it was that easy.
Foggy sighed and went to his desk for Mrs. Patel’s file, scooping up Matt’s discarded cane along the way.
He shouldn’t have done it.
He wasn’t even sure why he had. Foggy had just seemed so earnest and nice and… clueless. Despite being a lawyer and dealing with wronged people for all these years, Foggy really had no idea what was out there.
Matt did, and he didn’t want Foggy putting himself in harm’s way. If something happened to him… Matt couldn’t even imagine his life without his best friend. So he hadn’t even thought; he’d acted, hoping that maybe Foggy would realize that things could happen to him, that there were things that he couldn’t just leave and get away from.
He’d snapped, and he should have had more control over himself, and now he felt like the world’s biggest asshole.
Matt had made excuses about filing papers at the courthouse after they’d finished with Mrs. Patel, and Foggy had nodded and acted like everything was fine.
Of course it wasn’t fine. Matt had gone too far. He’d tried to be gentle when he’d shoved Foggy against the wall, but he’d heard the way Foggy’s heart had raced.
Matt had scared him.
But Foggy had scared Matt, too, going to the bookstore where those things were, whatever they were, and Foggy hadn’t seemed concerned at all.
He hadn’t believed Matt.
Sure, Matt hadn’t told Foggy the whole truth about his blindness, and he’d let Foggy believe he was dead, and he’d taken Foggy’s wallet to borrow his identity, and…
Okay. Maybe Matt could understand Foggy having some trust issues. But this was different. This was important. Matt didn’t know what the hell those things were, and he didn’t want Foggy anywhere near them.
If something happened to Foggy, Matt would… he wasn’t sure what he would do. He’d lost Elektra - twice - and it had nearly destroyed him, but Foggy? Foggy had been a constant in his life since Columbia, barring that time right after Midland Circle. Whatever else had happened, he’d always known that Foggy was there for him. He couldn’t imagine Foggy not being part of his life.
Matt couldn’t handle losing him.
He turned in the papers to the clerk - he hadn’t been lying about having to file them, even if it hadn’t been as urgent as he’d implied - and then left the courthouse. Instead of going back to work, he turned right and headed down the block to the church.
He went in the main entrance and lit a candle for his father and thought about praying, but wasn’t sure he could find the words. Hi, dad, I’m pissed off because my best friend is being reckless? Yeah, no.
Instead, he slipped through a side door and then over to the orphanage. It didn’t take him long to find Maggie in the kitchen, mainly because he asked Sister Constance where she was; she was doing something involving chopping, from the sound of it.
Matt stood in the doorway and waited for her to notice him. The chopping paused, and he imagined her looking him up and down. Well, at least this time she wouldn’t see any blood.
“Aren’t you supposed to be at work?”
No point in prevaricating, after all. She could tell time.
Maggie made a short sound that could either be amusement or annoyance - Matt was still figuring her out - and said, “Make yourself useful. There are some carrots on the table that need to be washed.”
Matt hadn’t come to do kitchen work, but it beat going back to the office and feeling awkward around Foggy. Maggie tended to put him to work when he visited, and he found he didn’t mind. It felt good to be useful, even if it was just scrubbing vegetables. He found the bag of carrots after a moment of searching, then took it to the sink.
“There’s a vegetable brush on the shelf. It’s up and to your right.”
Matt took a moment to think, There are brushes just for vegetables? but nodded and hung his jacket on the back of a chair before he found the brush. It fit nicely in the curve of his hand and he put it to good use, scrubbing the carrots until each one felt right.
It took him a while to realize that the chopping sounds had stopped, as he had been trying unsuccessfully to focus on the carrots and not on Foggy. He didn’t look over, but tipped his head in invitation as he rinsed the brush and put it in its place, then scooped up the carrots.
“Bring them over here,” Maggie prompted. “Can you chop these, or will I end up needing to reattach your fingers?”
“Blind people can still chop vegetables.”
“Sister Bernadette can see better than any of us, but I wouldn’t trust her with a knife.” Still, Matt felt the nudge of a knife handle against his hand and moved the carrots onto the cutting board.
“Sister Bernadette is, what, a hundred and two?”
“She was always going on about diagramming sentences,” Matt remembered as he took up the knife. “Didn’t seem to care that I was blind.”
“Well, you figured it out, as I recall.” Matt readied the carrots and Maggie added, “Just round is fine. Bite-sized. And remember that this is for children.”
“So their mouths are smaller, got it. Wouldn’t know it, loud as they are.”
Matt heard a sound that wasn’t quite a laugh come from Maggie, and smiled as he began to chop the carrots. He was careful. After all, he knew he’d never hear the end of it if he so much as nicked himself.
“So.” Maggie paused, and Matt braced himself, thinking, Here it comes. “You’re supposed to be at work, but instead you’re here chopping carrots.”
Matt paused in his efforts before replying; this was not a good time for multitasking. “Yeah.”
“Any particular reason?”
Matt hummed an affirmative and went back to chopping, but he could still hear Maggie’s sigh over the noise of the knife against the cutting board, maybe because he expected it.
“Sometimes dental surgery is easier than our conversations.”
Matt set aside the knife. He took a deep breath. “Remember, you asked for this.” But, really, that was why he had come. He had known she would ask, and he wanted to tell someone. He wanted to tell her. He’d found himself wanting to tell her things, which was strangely pleasant.
And so he told her about the odd things he’d seen in the bookstore, and Foggy’s refusal to see any danger in them. He stopped before he got to the part where he shoved Foggy against the wall, still a little ashamed of himself.
Maggie just listened, without any judgment that Matt could sense. Her heartbeat remained steady.
“And I tried to make him understand, but I think I just scared him.”
“Tried to make him understand…?”
“He’s…” Matt took up the knife again finally; there was just one carrot left, and he could talk and chop if he went slowly. “Foggy’s great.”
“He is, from what I’ve seen,” Maggie agreed, when the silence had stretched too long. “You really seem to care about him.”
“Yeah. But he’s a lawyer.”
“… like you?”
“Well, yes. But no. He doesn’t have a gun, or a Kevlar vest, or a shield, or a suit. He’s just… a guy. And he was putting himself in danger.”
“And that upsets you?”
“Of course it does! Foggy’s my best friend.”
“Best friend,” Maggie agreed, and there was something odd about her tone: not quite laughter, almost a sigh. She asked, “Are you done with the carrots? I’d like to grab them, if you are. Preferably at a safe distance from that knife.” Matt nodded and set down the knife, and he could hear Maggie sweep the carrots into a metal bowl, each piece making its own individual ting. There were some more vegetable-type sounds - lettuce, maybe, and those little cherry tomatoes - and then a soft thunk as Maggie set the bowl aside.
“Matthew, you do realize that you don’t have a Kevlar vest or a suit, either, right? I’ll admit that a shield wouldn’t work for you, and I’m glad you don’t use a gun, but some sort of protection would be a good idea, if only to cut back on my first aid budget.”
Matt started to say something about giving her money to pay for supplies, but Maggie steamrolled right over his words. “The way you worry about Foggy? That’s how people worry about you.” She didn’t say which people, but Matt guessed that she was talking about herself and was touched.
“But I’ve had training.”
“And yet somehow you still end up here more often than you should, needing me to look after you. I don’t mind,” she added, her tone gentler than Maggie usually used with him. “But I hate to see you hurt, son.”
It was the son that did it. Immediately, guilt twisted his guts into knots.
Damn, she was good.
“The… the Daredevil suit, it doesn’t feel right. Especially after Poindexter…”
The things that man had done in the name of Daredevil still made him feel sick to remember. Fortunately, the people who mattered knew the truth.
“Okay,” Maggie replied, her voice quiet and thoughtful. “I get that. But can’t you come up with something else? And Matthew, you need to protect your head.”
Matt didn’t answer. Part of him thought she was probably right, but he didn’t want to admit that. The other part of him wanted to come up with a smart-ass comment about where her concern for his head was when he was a kid.
But neither of them needed him to say those words.
Maggie sighed. “You’re as stubborn as your father.”
Matt nodded. Privately, he thought the stubbornness didn’t just come from his dad.
There were more sounds: the creak of the refrigerator door, Maggie putting the bowl in the fridge.
“Why do you think you scared Foggy? What did you do?”
Matt hesitated. “Things got physical.”
“Matthew Michael Murdock.”
Maggie continued, “Do not tell me that you hit your… best friend.”
“What? No! I wouldn’t.”
“Well, what did you do?”
“I just… I scared him. I could tell. With his heartbeat.”
And the guilt twisted inside him again.
Matt could hear the soft sound of Maggie inhaling through her nose, and he heard her murmur, her voice quiet but intense, “God give me strength.”
He hoped it was a prayer, not a threat.
“Let’s go back to whatever is at the bookstore.”
Matt nodded, relieved. “They were different from each other, but the same, kind of.”
This time, Maggie sighed outright. “All right, come on.”
“It’s not far to the bookstore, if it’s where I think it is. I'll have time to get back before dinner.”
“I can’t take you there.”
There was a pause from Maggie that felt significant, and then she said, “All right.”
“… all right?” That felt far too easy, so naturally Matt was suspicious.
“Shouldn’t you be going back to work?”
“So you can go to the bookstore by yourself?” Silence. “M-Maggie?”
“Lying is a sin, Matthew.”
Which meant yes.
Matt sighed. Why did people keep insisting on doing what was obviously the wrong thing? But he couldn’t let her go alone.
When she got up to leave, he grabbed his jacket and followed her.
Foggy set down his phone.
Philtrum. That was what the divot above Matt’s - well, anybody’s - lip was called, though he felt a little ridiculous for looking it up.
Matt had looked guilty when he left, which was nothing new. And it wasn’t like he’d never made excuses to be elsewhere, but he didn’t usually do that specifically to get away from Foggy, and that’s what it felt like he’d done this time.
Foggy really liked Mrs. Patel, but in that moment when she’d come to the door, he would have happily doomed her to Matt’s hell for five more minutes with Matt standing that close to him.
Who was he kidding though? It wasn’t like he would have done anything. He had kept to himself back in college - well, mostly. There was the occasional arm around Matt’s shoulder, and those times when he’d offered Matt a hand to help him get to his feet, usually when they had been drinking. And if it took him a little longer than was strictly necessary to take his hand away, he just hoped that Matt was too drunk or too oblivious or too… Matt to notice.
Foggy didn’t know what to do. Matt was his best friend despite everything, and he didn’t want to fuck that up. And Matt was too Catholic to ever consider a relationship with a guy. That’s what Foggy kept telling himself, at least, carefully ignoring the fact that he was pretty sure that Catholicism frowned upon the sort of violence that Matt was enacting on the regular. Sure, Matt didn’t kill them, but just because thou shalt not maim wasn’t a commandment, that didn’t make it right.
He picked up his phone again and sent a text: Drink?
The reply came back quickly: Right now?
If you can.
There was a pause, just long enough that Foggy suspected that the answer was no. Sorry. Had to rearrange something. Usual place?
Yeah. You’re the best.
Foggy smiled as he tucked away his phone and got to his feet. Matt, he knew, wouldn’t be back for a while. And even if he did get back before Foggy, well, wouldn’t it would be nice for him to wonder where Foggy was for a change?
He locked the door behind him and left, walking briskly but not really paying any attention to the crowd. When he got to the bar, he saw that he was not the first to arrive.
“Hey, there,” he greeted, leaning down to kiss her cheek.
“Foggy Bear, what’s wrong?” Marci asked, patting the seat next to hers. She’d already ordered for them both, and he took his drink with a murmur of thanks.
She shook her head, tucking a lock of hair behind one ear in a gesture he still found endearing, even though they hadn’t been together in a while. “Foggy, just talk to him. Tell him how you feel.”
“Everybody says that, but it’s not that easy. And even if I could find the right words, what if he has some sort of Catholic freakout at me? I don’t think I could take that.”
Marci shook her head. “Matt wouldn’t do that. He cares about you too much for that.”
Foggy didn’t say anything. He and Marci had been having this discussion ever since that first time, when they both had acknowledged that being in a relationship while he was pining for his best friend was not really great for either of them. Once, when they’d had maybe a little too much tequila, Marci had threatened to call Matt and tell him everything, but thank goodness that had never happened. And Foggy had replaced her phone.
Marci put up with him despite all that. She was the best.
“How’ve you been?”
Marci sighed. “Well, don’t know if you noticed the zit in the middle of my forehead. There are those helpful wrinkles pointing right to it, if you didn’t. So that’s my life.”
“You look beautiful, like you always do.”
That got him a smile. “Thanks.” Marci took a drink, gave Foggy an intent look, and then asked, “What happened, really? I mean, leaving work in the middle of the afternoon? It’s not like you moping about Matt is something new.”
“There wasn’t a whole lot to do, and -” Foggy saw the way Marci’s eyebrows lifted and went directly to the explanation, “I, uh. He was trying to make a point, and had me up against a wall. I mean. Not had me. He was just really close, and -”
Fuck. He was tripping over his words like an idiot, and she was obviously trying not to laugh at him.
“And you kissed him?” Foggy’s face must have given the answer away, as Marci sighed. “This is getting ridiculous. Look. Go back to work and tell him how you feel. Or get him to pin you to a wall again, and this time kiss him.”
“Marci, we’ve been over this.”
“Too many times,” she agreed. “Look, I get that you’re scared -” She paused when he straightened in umbrage, waiting until he sighed and nodded his agreement. “Do you want to be… pining for him? For the rest of your life?”
Foggy considered the fact that pining for Matt for the rest of his life would mean that Matt would live as long as he did. “I could deal with that.”
Marci lifted her hands as if to tug at her hair in frustration, then visibly remembered her hairdo and smacked the table instead. “I’m not sure how much more of this I can do,” she admitted. “Foggy, I really care about you, and I want to be supportive, but when we broke up, I thought it was so you could pursue something with Matt. And it’s been how long now, and you still haven’t told him? We can’t keep having this same conversation. At this point I feel like it would take a miracle to get you to talk to Matt.”
Foggy nodded. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I can’t keep putting this on you. That’s not fair, especially with our history.”
“Oh, don’t think I’m waiting around for you to come to your senses,” Marci teased. “That ship has sailed. Your loss, Foggy Bear.”
“You’re seeing somebody?” Foggy managed to dismiss that brief surge of dismay. Marci deserved someone who would commit fully to her, if that was what she wanted. Maybe in the back of his mind he had kept her as a fallback, which was, now that he thought of it, kind of an asshole move.
But Marci was shaking her head. “Not yet. Maybe I still haven’t found the right person.”
“Well, whoever it is, I hope you find ’em soon.”
“No rush. And no distracting me!” Marci chided. “We’re talking about your lack of love life, not mine. So how do you want to tell him?”
Foggy inhaled, then paused to grin as Marci added, “And don’t even think of saying, I don’t.”
“I’ve never really…” Foggy cut off his words, not wanting to lie to Marci. Of course he’d thought about it. He’d dreamed countless ways of telling Matt how he felt: saying it casually, at the office; leaving a note on Matt’s desk, though that felt a little juvenile and also would involve finding someone with a Braille printer. And then there were the other, less PG-rated ideas: the ones that would occur to him just before he fell asleep at night. “… settled on anything,” he finished, aware of Marci’s keen gaze.
Why did he always fall for the smart ones? He didn’t stand a chance.
“It doesn’t have to be some big thing,” Marci encouraged. “Just speak from the heart.” She got to her feet and smiled down at him her expression warm. “You’re good at that. But go find him, okay?”
Foggy nodded. “Okay. Thanks, Marci.”
“Good luck, Foggy Bear.”
Foggy watched her go, then finished his drink before heading back to the office. Matt wasn’t there, and a quick call to the courthouse told Foggy that he’d filed the papers some time ago.
Foggy was pretty sure where he’d gone and so dialed the phone once more.
“Saint Agnes Orphanage, Sister Constance speaking.”
“Hello, Sister. This is Foggy Nelson. I’m trying to track down a friend of mine and thought he might be there.”
“You’re friends with one of our residents? How old are you, Mr. Nelson?” The nun’s tone was one of careful neutrality, but Foggy could feel her judging him. Maybe it was a nun thing.
“Oh, no. Not one of the kids. My friend is Matthew Murdock, and -”
“Oh, Matthew. Of course. I’m sorry, but he’s not here. He and Sister Maggie just left. I think they said something about going to a bookstore.”
“I’m sorry, did you say bookstore?”
Foggy managed to bring the conversation to a polite conclusion, even as he seethed.
Matt had gotten pissed off at him for going to the bookstore, but now he was going there himself and taking along his personal nun, who, for the record, was a lot smaller than Foggy. Though, now that he thought about it, Foggy wasn’t entirely sure who would be better in a fight. That nun was little, but she looked tough.
Son of a bitch.
“You don’t have to do this,” Matt said, catching at Maggie’s arm a block away from the bookstore. “I don’t need my -” He faltered, then, and turned his head toward the street, the noises of traffic and pedestrians a welcome distraction.
“What?” Maggie prompted. Her voice held an odd gentleness, one that seemed to pluck at his memories.
“I don’t need my mom to stick up for me.” He’d meant it to come out as defiant, but somehow his voice had gone soft, too.
Even over the traffic noise, her heard her quiet exhalation and that uptick in her heartbeat.
Maggie covered his hand with her own and gave it a squeeze, but she was back to her usual bracing self when she replied, “Maybe not, but now I’m curious about just what is in this bookstore.”
Matt shook his head. “It’s not worth the trouble,” he tried.
But Maggie ignored him and kept walking. When the bookstore’s door failed to open, she rapped on it.
“Oh, no answer. Too bad. We should get going. Don’t want to keep the kids waiting for their dinner.”
Maggie made that sound that meant nice try, and knocked harder.
Maybe it was the sound, but a memory teased at the back of Matt’s mind.
“Here. Feel that?”
Matt took the object that Stick shoved into his hands. It felt like a wooden rectangle and seemed to have a leather cushion on one side.
“What is it?” Matt was curious, of course, but still felt a rush of nervous anticipation. Stick’s gifts sometimes ended up being, well, no fun.
“It’s a tool.” Stick knocked lightly on the block, and Matt felt the vibration up his arms. “To train your hands. Toughen them up.”
“Do I squeeze it?” Matt suggested.
“Nah, Matty, you knock on it. Use your knuckles. Now, some people, they start with the leather pad on it, because it’s softer. Easier. That what you want?”
Matt straightened. He knew the answer. “No way!” He pulled off the cover and threw it to the floor.
“Good boy, Matty.”
Matt felt a rush of pride, and asked eagerly, “Like this?” He rapped firmly on the wood with one hand.
“Almost. You gotta set it down on something. If you hold it, it’ll move when you hit it.”
Matt folded himself to a seat on the ground and put the block on the table. He knocked again. “How much?” He knew, of course, that just knocking once or twice wouldn’t do it.
“Start out with fifty knocks. Each hand. You’re gonna do this every day, work your way up to more. This will teach you kokoro. Remember what that means?”
Matt’s brain groped for the word. Stick had taught him so many things that sometimes they got a little jumbled. “Heart!” he announced, relieved.
“That’s right. Warrior’s heart. Does a warrior quit just because things get hard, maybe hurt a little?”
Matt knew that one. “No way.”
“Good boy. Get started.”
Matt shook out his hand and then started knocking.
The creak of the door opening startled Matt back to the present. It was the being of light, just on the other side of the barely-open door.
Sometimes when Maggie was particularly lost in prayer, Matt would see a bit of that light in her.
He honestly wasn’t sure if he should be afraid or not. Foggy had reacted as he would to an ordinary person, but there was nothing ordinary about these two.
“Ah, yes, so sorry. We’re closed. Oh. Ah. Wait. Sister? Would you care to come in?”
Matt made sure to plant his foot in the gap left by the open door, just in case the being might have some notion of not letting him in after Maggie. It didn’t seem to mind, though, and didn’t even bother to close the door all the way behind them. Matt kept an eye out for the other being, the one with the fire. It set him a little more on edge.
“Could I have your name?”
“Maggie. And this is Matthew.”
“So nothing, ah, not Sister Logorrhea or somesuch?”
“… no? Were you expecting her? I don’t know anybody by that name.”
“No. But I haven’t seen one of your people in a while, and you do look very similar. It’s the headpiece, I think.”
Matt tried very hard not to sympathize with the being. Before he’d lost his sight, he’d struggled with telling the nuns apart.
“And you are?” Maggie prompted.
“Aziraphale. So…” He hesitated, then asked, “You’re on God’s side, yes?”
Matt could hear Maggie’s puzzlement as she replied, “Yes. I don’t believe there are any, ah, Satanic nuns in New York.”
“Shame,” Aziraphale replied. Maggie made a noise of inquiry, and he added, “Only there was a bit of an incident with a baby some years ago, and I always wondered what happened.”
“An incident with Satanic nuns and a baby?” Matt asked, trying to wrap his head around that mental image.
“Oh, yes. The order disbanded around the same time as the incident. Oh, I do like your glasses,” he added, sounding like he’d turned his head towards Matt. My, ah, partner would appreciate them."
“Thanks.” Matt cleared his throat. “He the one who looks like he’s on fire?” Well, more on fire, but Matt wasn’t about to explain that. He also wasn’t going to point out that he knew the creature of fire was in the other room and drawing closer. They smelled a little differently, too, though it was hard to distinguish. Maybe it was because they were in close proximity, but the smells seemed to have blended, the sickly-sweet aroma melding with something herbal and earthy that Matt did not want to recognize. And… chocolate? Suddenly he had a hard time sorting out all the scents.
“But he hasn’t walked through fire in some time,” Aziraphale replied, sounding a little perplexed.
“He may be referring to our essential nature, angel.” That was the fire-creature, now standing in the doorway.
“Your essential nature is fire?” Maggie asked. “And his is light?”
“In a manner of speaking,” Aziraphale replied. “Crowley, do you really think…”
“What I want to know,” the fire-creature - Crowley - drawled, “Is how this human can see that.” Crowley moved closer, and Matt stepped forward to meet him, making sure to place himself between the beings and Maggie.
Matt took note of the phrasing; if this Crowley was referring to him as a human, it might suggest that Crowley wasn’t, not that Matt didn’t know that already. Nothing that felt like either of them could possibly be human.
Of course, he didn’t answer the question; he really didn't feel like giving these two creatures the details of his life.
As it turned out, he didn’t have to.
Later, Foggy blamed the drink he’d had with Marci, but the truth was that he was pissed off and frustrated and looking for an excuse to do something.
After leaving the office, he would like to have said that he strode to the bookstore with dignity and grace, and that he absolutely didn’t stomp. That, however, would not be entirely accurate.
He did pause to listen at the partially-open bookstore door, and so knew they were talking about the fire and light that Matt had seen. Then he heard the red-haired guy sneer, “What I’d like to know is how this human can see that.”
Well. Foggy had the answer to that one, and he knew a cue when he heard one. He shoved the door the rest of the way open, burst into the bookstore, and announced, his tongue loosened by alcohol and anger and maybe a little bit of jealousy that Matt had brought Sister Maggie and not him, “That’s because he’s the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.”
The resulting silence was profound.
Four heads turned in his direction. Four. Shit, did Sister Maggie know? Matt was never going to forgive him if not, though she didn’t seem particularly surprised by Foggy’s revelation.
The light-haired bookseller turned to peer at Matt, looking a little baffled. “He’s not the devil.” His gaze slid to the red-haired one. “Right, Crowley?”
“Of course he’s not,” Crowley replied, all disdain. “The devil has much better taste in suits.”
Foggy and the nun exchanged a look of confusion, and Foggy almost asked, “Are the devil’s clothing choices in the Bible?” He honestly wouldn’t be surprised. There was some pretty weird shit in the Bible. Matt had told him about Ezekiel 23:20 back when they were in law school, and he still hadn’t recovered.
“What does that even mean?” Crowley continued, scoffing, “The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.”
“It’s just… I didn’t call myself that. It was the papers, I think, or maybe somebody on TV.”
Matt actually sounded a little flustered. Foggy somehow managed to feel both guilty and pleased.
It felt a little strange to be the asshole, for once.
“Really, you shouldn’t call yourself that, though,” the light-haired one advised. “Might, ah, cause some upset.”
“He’s not paying attention to this place.” Crowley observed, moving to lounge in a chair.
“Yes, but now we’re here?” the light-haired one suggested.
“He doesn’t know we’re here.”
Sister Maggie stepped forward. Turning to the light-haired one, she asked, “Aziraphale, wasn’t it? Who are you talking about? Who might get upset?”
Aziraphale, as that was apparently his name, looked a little like he didn’t want to answer.
“The devil, of course,” Crowley replied, and Foggy took a moment to appreciate the sheer bonelessness that he had achieved in his sprawl. “He’s been topside for a bit, wanted to go on hols after the incident. Los Angeles.”
“But the devil isn’t real,” Foggy protested.
Again, four heads turned in his direction.
“What?” Foggy said. “I mean, God, I guess, but the devil? Isn’t he just to scare kids?”
“No,” Crowley said, and for once his manner seemed serious. “No, he is not. You don’t want to attract his attention.”
“Hey, that’s not funny. I mean, Matt isn’t challenging supernatural beings when he’s being Daredevil.” He shot a look at Matt. “Uh, you’re not, right, Matty?”
Matt pursed his lips and shook his head, and yet Foggy was not reassured.
Maggie turned to consider first Aziraphale and then Crowley. “Setting aside what Foggy does or doesn’t believe in, you sound like you’re an authority in the matter.”
“He certainly is,” Aziraphale agreed. “Top-notch.”
“So what you’re telling me is that the devil is real?” Foggy asked. Again, Crowley nodded. “And you know this because?”
Crowley studied Foggy for a moment and then pushed down his sunglasses, showing Foggy yellow, reptilian eyes that he felt in his spine were decidedly wrong. “Because I’m a demon.”
Foggy felt a jolt of something like panic at the sight of those eyes. Not real, some small, terrified part of his brain assured him. The other part of his brain wondered why this guy just happened to be wearing snake eye contacts just to hang out in his bookstore, but he tried to ignore that thought.
All hell, so to speak, broke loose after that. Matt, in some way that Foggy didn’t quite remember later because it happened so quickly, got Foggy and Maggie on the same side of the room and put himself between them and Aziraphale and Crowley, fists upraised.
Crowley, still sprawled in the chair, watched all of the ruckus and just laughed.
“Crowley, I know you’ve been a bit bored, but was that really necessary?” Aziraphale’s tone wasn’t quite scolding, but he did seem a little exasperated. “We do have that reservation for One If By Land, Two If By Sea this evening and I’d hate to get caught up here and miss it.”
“Relax, angel,” Crowley replied, sounding unconcerned. “We’ll get there, once this lot clears out.”
Foggy, with some deep breaths and repeated assurances that those eyes were absolutely fake, managed to get himself under control.
That seemed to help Matt, who looked tense, but gradually lowered his hands. “What did it do? Your heart rate went up.”
“It, uh, he showed me his eyes. Weird. Are they contacts?” Crowley ignored him, so Foggy turned back to Matt. “You don’t really think he’s a demon, do you?” Foggy asked, sotto voce. “I mean, they’re talking about dinner reservations.”
Matt, his focus still on the bookstore owners, nodded. “I… yeah. Maybe I do. But you’re not a demon,” he added, his head turning toward Aziraphale. He lowered his chin a little and walked toward Aziraphale. “You’re… different.”
“Hey, now,” Crowley protested, eeling to his feet and rushing to his associate’s side. “Leave him be.”
Despite the fact that he was still a little annoyed with him, Foggy didn’t want Matt to face them alone, and moved to stand next to him.
“He’s an angel,” Maggie said, though her tone would have been more appropriate for saying, What the fuck?
Foggy wondered if nuns said fuck sometimes, just for kicks. It wasn’t blasphemy, after all. And if any nun was going to say fuck, it would definitely be Sister Maggie.
“Are you?” Foggy asked, studying Aziraphale. Somehow it was easier to wrap his head around the thought that this was an angel.
“Well, we’re not exactly supposed to spread it around.”
Matt shook his head. “An angel and a demon running a bookstore in Hell’s Kitchen?”
Maggie observed, her tone dry, “A vigilante and a human teddy bear as law partners makes more sense?” Foggy turned to look at Matt, startled. He must have told Maggie about Marci's nickname, but the nun didn't seem fazed by, well, any of it. “Come on,” she added. “I can’t be the only one seeing this. It’s like you’re two matched sets.”
Matt eased a step closer to Crowley and Foggy had kind of a moment as he considered them, both with their glasses and their black clothes and their bravado. And then he cast a glance at Aziraphale, and back at himself. Huh. He’d worn a light-colored jacket and that plaid tie Marci had gotten him, and the similarity was a little unsettling.
Wait. Did that mean that Foggy looked like his nana’s sofa? Fuck, he was never wearing this outfit again.
The bookstore owners had apparently been making similar comparisons, and then it was as if they’d planned it in advance, everyone shaking their heads and speaking over each other.
“I really don’t see what you mean.”
“Enough with the blind jokes, Matt. But no.”
“No resemblance at all, really.”
Maggie lifted her eyes skyward in a truly epic eye roll, then turned to Crowley. “Are you here to corrupt anyone? Cause chaos, that sort of thing?”
“Have you read the news lately?” Crowley sneered. “You lot can manage all that without my help.”
“True,” Maggie agreed ruefully. “But I’d appreciate an actual answer.”
“You want me to say the words?” Crowley asked, looking perhaps unwillingly impressed. “It’s not binding or anything, but no. I’m not here to incite terror, cause chaos, any of that. Those days are behind me.”
“There was that incident, you see,” Aziraphale explained. “And then the consequences. Nearly apocalyptic, you might say. We, ah, went away for a bit, and when we came here we thought, Hell’s Kitchen, why not? And the restaurants here…” He actually bounced in place.
Still, he shrank back a little when Maggie turned her gaze on him. “And you’re not here to cause miracles? Not bringing divine messages or starting a new religion or anything?”
“Don’t you have plenty to do with the religion you have?” Aziraphale asked, sounding honestly confused.
“Well. Yes.” Maggie looked like she was fighting back a smile. “So you’re just here to sell books?”
Aziraphale turned to consider the rows of shelves. “Well, ideally nobody will want to buy them. We’re more here for the restaurants, walks in Central Park, that sort of thing. Oh, and the theatre! We finally got tickets to Hamilton.”
“I thought you said you weren’t doing miracles,” Foggy quipped.
He caught sight of Crowley looking at Aziraphale, and the way his whole manner softened.
Aziraphale must have felt Crowley’s gaze, as he looked up and eased a little closer, and for a moment it was like they were the only two in the room.
“Oh, you’re a couple,” Foggy realized aloud.
Aziraphale smiled, which seemed to be answer enough.
“What, like you’re not?” Crowley retorted.
“Crowley, being in a relationship isn’t an insult,” Aziraphale observed, but Foggy was too busy trying to remember how to breathe. Sister Maggie was looking at him, her expression oddly compassionate, and Matt?
Matt wasn’t looking at anything, obviously, but he rocked back in place a little, his expression stunned.
“We’re not.” Foggy sounded unconvincing even to himself, which was pretty impressive considering he was telling the truth. He just didn’t want it to be the truth, that was all.
Matt pressed a hand against the wall behind him, as if grounding himself. “He’s my best friend.”
Sister Maggie cleared her throat.
Foggy felt a little twist in his heart. Of course Matt was his best friend. It wasn’t Matt’s fault that Foggy wanted more.
Well, it was kind of Matt’s fault.
Aziraphale’s expression softened a little. “Oh. Is that how it is?” He looked over at Crowley then back to Foggy. “Just see that it doesn’t take you six thousand years to sort it out, yes?”
“Um. Okay.” Foggy wasn’t sure what to say or where to look or, well, anything.
Sister Maggie murmured something that sounded like, “Idiots, the pair of them,” but surely that couldn’t be what she said. More loudly, she said, “We’ll just be on our way, so you can get to your dinner.”
She turned to leave and Matt and Foggy followed, because what else would they do? They came to what was for Foggy, at least, a confused halt outside the bookstore.
“Fogs,” Matt began, and suddenly it was just too much: Matt using his nickname in that voice that Foggy was pretty sure meant no, and the fact that he had a weird semi-doppelganger who was apparently an actual angel.
Foggy didn’t say anything, just turned and walked down the street, away from the office, away from Matt. He decided to find a bar. Alcohol was probably the last thing he needed just then, but he couldn’t bring himself to care.
Of course, they didn’t talk about it. What would their relationship be without a healthy dose of avoidance?
The next day, Foggy showed up late to work, a faint alcohol scent clinging to him beneath the shampoo and the soap.
“Hey,” Matt greeted him.
“Hey. Sorry I’m late. I overslept and -”
“Yeah, no, don’t worry about it.”
The awkwardness permeated the room and stayed there for a week. They tried to pretend that everything was normal, but it really wasn’t.
A few times, Matt considered asking Foggy what he thought about what the demon had said, even as his mind shied away from the idea of an angel and a demon just a few blocks away.
By mutual, unspoken consent, they avoided the bookstore. They didn’t eat at that diner, but there were plenty of other places in walking distance, so maybe that was a coincidence. Matt wanted to ask if Foggy walked to work a different way, but wasn’t sure he’d like where that conversation would go.
Or maybe he’d like it too much.
So he sat at his desk and pretended to review briefs while Foggy shuffled papers a little too ostentatiously, but really just tried to keep his mind from going in circles.
Foggy’s heart rate had spiked when the demon had said they were a couple. But what did that mean? Was he upset? Offended?
And if he was interested, what did that mean?
Matt hadn’t lied when he’d said that Foggy was his best friend. He couldn’t imagine his life without Foggy in it. Did he love Foggy? Well, of course. But what kind of love was it?
Matt had loved Elektra. He was certain of that. But his feelings for Elektra were tangled up in what Stick had done to them both, and in the battles they had fought together.
His feelings for Foggy were both simpler and infinitely more complicated.
He tried to ask Maggie about it, coming at the conversation sideways in the hopes that she wouldn’t know what he was talking about. He was pretty sure she did, but she let him talk around the situation.
It did occur to him that his mother the nun was maybe not the best person to ask for maybe-relationship tips, but who else was there? Usually he would ask Foggy for advice, if he asked anybody, and that was clearly out. Karen would listen, and maybe even offer advice, but Matt knew she would file that information away for later, and he wasn’t sure he could take that.
“Follow your heart, Matthew,” Maggie said when he’d stammered out his end of the conversation, which was great for greeting cards and after-school specials but didn’t do Matt a lot of good when he didn’t know what his heart was doing. And his brain seemed to be stuck in an endless loop of Foggy and love and isn’t this supposed to be a sin? and how could love be wrong? and it didn’t feel like this with Elektra.
That was what he kept circling back to. Elektra had been fire and excitement and danger. Foggy was none of those things; he was comfort and familiarity and ease.
Elektra had accepted Matt for who he was. Foggy still seemed to struggle with that, but he tried, and Matt appreciated the effort.
Maybe if Matt had been able to be honest with Foggy about everything from the beginning, the truth would have been easier for him to take. Elektra had always known who Matt was, after all. And she had had secrets of her own.
Foggy, on the other hand, was an open book, or so Matt had thought. The way he’d reacted to those demon’s words made Matt think that maybe Foggy had a secret of his own, that maybe he actually wanted… him. But how could that be true? And even if it was, what would Matt want to do about it?
Well. And then he was back in that circular thinking again.
Matt, not for the first time, wished that he could look at Foggy. Sure, the enhanced senses were useful, but… eyes. He had looked at people’s eyes, back when he could still see. Dimly, he remembered the way his dad’s eyes would crinkle a little at the corners when he smiled, how Father Lantom’s had been serious but kind. If he could just see Foggy’s eyes, he would know what to do.
But he couldn’t.
Foggy occasionally moved some papers around so he would sound busy, even though he wasn’t getting any real work done. He hadn’t been able to focus for the last week, not since everything went down at the bookstore. Work had been light; that was simpler with Foggy so distracted but would also mean less money, which was always fun.
Matt had his head tucked over a brief and his fingers were moving so at least one of them was getting some work done.
Foggy tried to keep his breathing steady. Maybe that would keep his heart beating whatever was considered normal, and not tip Matt off to anything. He’d seen a sign for a new yoga place around the corner from his building. Maybe he’d try that. Maybe there was some sort of meditation that would help him keep his cool.
No. Nothing in the world existed that would help him keep his cool. Matt was acting like nothing had happened, when all Foggy wanted was to know what Matt thought.
Of course, that was setting aside the whole thing where supernatural creatures were running a bookstore and the devil was real and apparently living in L.A. Because if Foggy didn’t set that aside, he was going to lose his mind, so he’d stick with the nice, normal problem of wanting something he knew he would never have.
Foggy hadn’t called Marci, first because he didn’t know how to explain the bookstore situation, but also because he didn’t want her to have to deal with his shit. So when she texted asking how he was, Foggy pulled a Matt and said he was fine, and got an eye rolling emoji in response.
Foggy was briefly tempted to go ask Sister Maggie for her read on the situation, since she had been there and all, but it felt a little like it would have been going behind Matt’s back. Well, that and Foggy was pretty sure the nun would not pull her punches, and he wasn’t sure his ego could take whatever she would say.
No. Foggy would just go on as he had been. Matt wasn’t going to say anything, so there must not be anything for him to say.
Foggy looked over at Matt once more; his hands had stopped moving and his head was lowered.
What the hell, Foggy thought.
“You’re not sleeping on me, are you, Matt?” Matt’s head lifted, and Foggy suddenly heard his own words. “I mean. Not on me.”
Matt smiled and shook his head. “No. But my focus is shot. Let’s go get lunch. It’s a little early, but… are you hungry?”
So Matt was just going to ignore Foggy’s words. Okay, Foggy would, too. “You know me. I can always eat.” Marci’s words echoed in his mind: Speak from the heart. “Actually,” Foggy said, “what I really want is…”
His heart raced. Was he actually going to say it out loud, after all these years?
Matt looked a little uncertain but nodded. “Fries. Yeah. Okay. I guess that means the diner.”
Foggy just nodded, thinking, Stupid, thinking, Idiot, thinking, You missed your chance. Numbly, he let Matt lead the way down the stairs and out of the building.
Was this how it was always going to be? Dancing around things he wanted to say? Marci’s question about spending the rest of his life pining for Matt echoed in the back of his mind.
“No,” he said, coming to a halt.
Matt must have heard him, for he turned. “No?” he echoed.
And then for once, Foggy was the impulsive one, pulling Matt into a doorway. “No,” he repeated, sounding breathless even to himself. “This is probably going to mess everything up, and I’m sorry, but I can’t do this anymore.”
“I thought the job was going okay,” Matt said tentatively; Foggy’s attempt at figuring out what to say next must have taken too long.
“I’m not talking about the job. The job is great. Our client base is growing and -” Foggy shook his head, impatient, and moved further into the doorway when a delivery van pulled up and the driver started unloading an assortment of large boxes. It put him closer to Matt, but Foggy was frustrated enough not to care. “And that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about us.”
“Yeah, I know, there is no us. I’m your best friend.” Foggy stopped, miserably glad that Matt was his best friend, but wanting… more.
“There’s an us,” Matt countered. “I’m with you every day, just about.”
Foggy closed his eyes. Matt couldn’t possibly be this dense, could he?
“Yeah,” he agreed, his voice low. “You are.”
He opened his eyes, and Matt was there, taking up his entire field of vision. He was going to die right there on the street. “Uh, Matty?”
“I know what you’re saying, Fogs.”
The delivery person piled up still more boxes, forcing Matt and Foggy even closer together. He tried to be annoyed or maybe grateful, but was too busy trying to remember how to breathe.
“Okay. Well. What do you think?” He tried to laugh, but the sound that came out of him was definitely not mirthful. “Stupid, right?”
“No. It’s not.”
It occurred to Foggy that maybe even though Matt said he knew what Foggy was saying, he didn’t really know. “Because I like you.” He’d said it. He could feel his heart pounding; he took a deep breath and tried to calm down a little. He knew that like was too small a word for how he felt about Matt, but at least saying that much was progress. “As a best friend, and as more. I mean, isn’t best friend a good start for something more?”
Matt’s brows lifted and his breath caught. Foggy wouldn’t have noticed if it weren’t for the fact that they were standing so close.
“Yeah,” Matt said, sounding a little surprised. “Yeah, it is. Fogs, I’ve been thinking about that since, well, everything at… here, I guess.”
It hadn’t even registered to Foggy that the doorway they had ended up in belonged to the bookstore. “Yeah?”
“I’m still figuring everything out.”
Of course. It couldn’t be simple and easy where Matt was concerned, but that was part of what Foggy liked - okay, loved - about him.
“Okay,” Foggy said, now painfully aware of how close Matt was. Seriously, what was that delivery guy’s problem? “Well, it’s, uh, not like I’m going anywhere. We can just keep on the way we’ve been.”
“Yeah,” Matt agreed. “We could.”
Foggy tried not to be disappointed. At least he’d said something to Matt. Marci would be proud of him.
“We could… not.”
For a moment, Foggy thought Matt meant that was it: no more law firm, no more friendship, nothing. All the things that had kept him from confessing his feelings, all these years. But if that was what Matt meant, why would he be smiling?
Matt eased closer, which was impressive considering how close the boxes had already gotten them.
Foggy made a noise that may have been, “Yeah.” It was all his brain could manage.
He had never expected gentleness from Matthew Murdock, and so the tentativeness of his kiss was a surprise. When Matt pulled away, maybe to check on Foggy or maybe to regroup, Foggy leaned in after him, pulling him close with a hand to the nape of his neck.
The second kiss? It was better. As he felt the scrape of Matt’s stubble against his mouth, Foggy’s heart seemed ready to burst from his chest.
Yeah. He was definitely going to need that yoga.
“Looks like they’ve figured it out,” Crowley observed, though from the relative privacy of the other side of the shop. Wouldn’t do to distract the humans, after all.
“Oh, really?” Aziraphale asked, tucking a bookmark in his book and peering over. “So they have. Clever of you to send the delivery man.”
“Well, they certainly weren’t going to get to it on their own,” Crowley drawled. He pulled out his phone and placed a call. “Yeah, you can take the stuff back. Oh, but give them a few minutes first. Seems like they’re working on their technique. Right. Thanks, Lesley.” He put the phone away and came to lean against Aziraphale’s chair. “Humans, right?”
“Oh, they would have got to it eventually. You just made it happen a bit faster. Ready for some lunch?”
Crowley smiled. “If you like. Let’s take the back door, though.”
“Oh. Quite right.” Aziraphale took one more look out the front window and smiled as he and Crowley made their way out. “And this way it didn’t take them six thousand years. Nice work.”
Crowley scoffed, but deep down he was pleased. It was nice work. What would the humans do without Aziraphale and Crowley to look after them?
He and Aziraphale did well together. These lawyers would, too, he thought. And if Crowley thought it, and Aziraphale thought it - which he did - it was as good as done.