Claire doesn’t even have to look at the Caller ID to know who’s calling her. Who else calls her at 3:38 in the morning? It’s not like this happens frequently because it doesn’t. It’s just happened enough. As she grabs her phone to answer it, she can’t even find it in herself to feel tired or annoyed over being taken out of her sleep like this. She’s worked back-to-back shifts for what feels like a week, and she’s been looking forward to some much needed sleep, but now that her burner phone’s ringing, she knows she can kiss any sleep she was planning on getting goodbye.
“What do I need to gather?” She doesn’t even say hello anymore when she answers Matt’s calls.
“Nothing. I’ll be there shortly.”
“…ok.” Claire wants to ask questions, but she knows it’s better to wait until Matt gets there. He’s always dodgy about questions on the phone. Hell, he’s dodgy about questions in general, but she’s gotten to the point where she accepts that about him and doesn’t think too much of it. With heavy limbs and scratchy eyes, she manages to drag herself out of her bed and out to the kitchen. If Matt’s coming, and she’s going to be awake for a while, she might as well make some coffee. God knows she’ll need it, and Matt always likes the smell of it in her apartment. He swears he can smell the jungle the cacao beans came from, but Claire’s sure he only says that just to make her laugh instead of frown when she’s stitching him up.
True to nature, it doesn’t take him long to show up. He’s there within 10 minutes after they hang up. The coffee isn’t quite ready, but it’s close, and Claire’s put on a sweatshirt that may or may not be dirty. When she hears him open the front door as if he owns the place, she isn’t surprised. He knows she unlocked the door for him, and she knows he’s grateful she does that instead of making him come in through the window. He could easily climb in through there, but it’s more socially acceptable to use doors, so that’s what he does when he can.
He walks into the kitchen without making a sound, but Claire knows he’s there. She knows what it feels like when he enters the room. She knows how his presence changes everything, though she’ll always deny it to his face if he ever asks. Even though she knows he’ll hear her heartbeat jump every time she denies, every time she lies. She glances over her shoulder at him, and she notices that he’s wearing those awful sweatpants that kind of scrunch at the bottom. If she’s being honest with herself, she only thinks they’re awful because they look good on him.
“You look pretty steady for someone who needs medical care at 3:46 in the morning,” she drily remarks. His mouth quirks up into a half-smile, and he tilts his head a little bit.
“I’ll try to look more injured,” he replies.
“I’m just saying that you don’t call at this hour unless you need to be bandaged up, and you look ok to me. You hiding your injuries somewhere? Or is this a booty call?” She pulls the pot of fresh coffee out from the maker now that it’s done, pouring it into two mugs she already has set out on the counter.
“No, Claire. This isn’t a booty call. And I’m not injured.” Matt leans forward against the counter and keeps his face turned towards her as if he’s looking at her. “I called because—“
“Because you couldn’t sleep? Is that the next cliché answer you’re going to give?” she asks with amusement laced throughout her voice. Matt gives her that same half-smile, and he nods.
She lifts her eyebrows in surprise, and she glances back over her shoulder at him again. “You woke me up after I’ve worked back-to-back shifts for two days because you can’t sleep?”
“No. Well, yes. Well…no.” Matt frowns as if he’s just now realizing that this might not be a good idea.
“That sounds an awful lot what it’s like.” She holds both of the mugs in her hands and eyes him up and down. He really does look like he hasn’t gotten much sleep recently. She can’t really see his eyes behind his sunglasses, but if she could see them, she’d bet that he has dark circles underneath them; she bets that his eyes look every bit as exhausted as his body language insists he is.
“Forgive me if I’ve gotten used to coming here at strange hours of the night,” he jokes, but his tone doesn’t quite get across the joking intention she thinks he’d originally planned.
“So you miss me,” she says. She also means her statement to be a joke, but Matt doesn’t answer after she says it. Staring at him, she waits for a reply. He doesn’t answer, and she sighs. “Matt. You know that you’re the worst person at this kind of thing, right?”
“So I’ve been told.” He looks a little nervous but also less anxious than he did a second ago. “Honestly…Claire, I don’t know what I’m doing here.”
“You’re really good at making things really difficult. You do know that, right?” Claire tightens her grip on the mug she means to give him as if she’s holding the coffee hostage. Matt seems to sense her gripping the mug a little tighter because he turns his head towards it just a fraction.
“I’ve also been told that as well.” He nods towards the mug. “I like these grounds. They have lots of flavor in them.”
“Yes, that’s exactly why I made it,” she replies. Finally, she steps forward and hands it to him. “Because I knew if I didn’t, you’d complain about how it wasn’t the right kind of coffee.”
“You make me sound high maintenance.”
“It’s because you are.”
Matt opens his mouth to protest, but then he shrugs. He’s quiet for a few seconds, and Claire leans back against the counter opposite him, watching him. She’s seen him in so many states, so many varying ways. She’s seen him bloody and beaten, almost dead. She’s seen him dressed in the most expensive suits and shoes to boot. She’s seen him as Daredevil in that safe, protective armor he’s just started wearing. She’s seen him shirtless. Her mouth twists distastefully as she remembers that part, and she lets her eyes trail up and down his body to take in how he looks now. He looks like…Matt. He looks like sleepy, rundown Matt in his sweatpants, sneakers, and a hoodie. Jesus, he’s almost 30, and he’s in a hoodie like a college kid.
Tentatively, he takes a tiny sip of the coffee but then winces when he realizes it’s too hot. “Dammit.”
“Too fresh,” she says in a flat deadpan. “Gotta wait a bit.”
“But some of the flavor is lost after it cools.”
“Pick your poison, Daredevil.”
He smiles again as she uses his superhero name, and she finds herself smiling back at him. “Don’t give me the choice.”
“You ever gonna tell me why you called?”
“Still trying to figure that out. You mad I woke you?”
“Still trying to figure that out.” Claire wants to shake him and yell at him, tell him that he’s messing everything up. They’re supposed to be friends. He’s only supposed to call her when he needs her to heal him. But this…this is like they’re hanging out. She’s hanging out with Matt Murdock, the man she’d seen herself potentially falling in love with had she kept up whatever it was they’d done before. “So you can’t sleep?”
“I’m sure we can find a boring documentary about soil on TV. You can’t see it…but that might be the very thing that does the trick.”
“I’m game if you are.”
Claire crosses into the living room with him trailing behind her. She notices that he now knows exactly where everything in her apartment is. He’s never really needed to hold onto things to navigate his way around since he’s got those senses of his to compensate for his sight, but he walks with ease and confidence in her apartment. She sits down on the couch and turns the TV on. The documentary she finds isn’t about soil, but it’s about sharkskin. Matt sits beside her and keeps his face turned towards the screen, again as if he can see it.
They sit quietly together as they watch and listen to the documentary. Several times throughout the documentary, Claire finds herself nodding off despite the caffeine in the coffee, but she manages to stay awake. She doesn’t want to fall asleep before he does, and she’ll be damned if she gives in first. However, after 25 minutes or so, Matt’s breathing goes steady, and she sees him lean his head back against the couch. He’s asleep. She doesn’t know just how much sleep he’s been losing, so she doesn’t understand the importance of this moment, but she goes with it. She goes with it and curls up on the opposite side of the couch, finally closing her eyes, too.
Matt starts coming over a little bit more after that. Claire doesn’t like it, but she doesn’t dislike it. He never tries anything with her, but he’ll do things like help her make coffee or move near her. It’s not that he touches her because he doesn’t really touch her—he doesn’t touch her at all. But Claire wants him to. She wants him to touch her the way he did in his apartment when he kissed her, and she knows by the way he’s so careful around her that he wants it, too.
It isn’t until three weeks later when they’re on the couch with a movie plugged in—they somehow went from boring documentaries to actually entertaining movies—that she mentions it. Matt’s wearing work clothes, and he looks like he’s been in them all day. His suit jacket’s a little rumpled, and Claire’s pretty sure the bottom hem of his left leg is dirty, but he won’t say where he’s been or what he’s been up to. Typical. When she glances down at his tired clothes, she’s again reminded of why she broke things off with him the first time.
“How are things at the office?” she asks. “Foggy? Karen? All of that going well?”
“Yeah. We finally have a client. So that’s good,” Matt answers.
“Sounds it,” she agrees. “How are things on the streets? Keeping the bad guys locked up in jail?”
“Something like that.”
“You’re so vague about what you do as Daredevil. I see it all over the news, Matt.”
“I’m vague about my work because I have to be.”
“No, you don’t.” She frowns and looks over at him. He keeps staring straight ahead, his eyes turned towards the TV behind his glasses. “You choose to be.”
“I don’t choose to be—it’s just the way things are, Claire.” He sounds exhausted when he says her name, but she doesn’t confront him on it. She just lets the sound of his voice vibrate through the air and go slightly dead as it envelops the syllables making up her name.
“It seems like you might be able to sleep more if you got things off your chest more. Foggy knows about you,” she points out.
“Foggy isn’t thrilled about what I do. He goes along with it…but he’s not thrilled.” Matt adjusts himself on the couch, and even though he’s a decent distance away from her, she notices how he keeps his hand very close to his body. It’s as if he’s afraid of touching her, something he’s never been before.
“Why don’t you touch me anymore?” she asks suddenly. Matt turns his head towards her, surprised.
“You act like you’re a dog who’s going to get punished if you touch me. Don’t think I haven’t noticed that you try to stay away from me on purpose.” She tries to keep her voice light because if she doesn’t make a big deal out of it, then it won’t be a big deal. Matt frowns, his eyebrows drawing together as he processes her question.
“I’m not staying away from you. This is my seventh time here in three weeks,” he argues.
“But you’re avoiding touching me. Everything you do…it’s too careful,” she argues back. Recognition flickers over Matt’s face, and she knows then that he knows what she’s talking about, even if he’s going to pretend like he doesn’t.
“Oh,” he says after a few seconds. “I…didn’t want to make you uncomfortable. You were pretty clear about how our relationship was supposed to be.”
Touche, she thinks.
“I think that whole speech I made might have wound up being shot to hell the first night you showed up here.” She reaches up and tucks a piece of dark, dark hair back behind her ear as she surveys him. He looks slightly trapped, like he’s been caught and doesn’t know where to go.
“I don’t know. I sleep better here. I don’t really get much sleep at home,” he says, his voice thoughtful and concentrated. “And it’s not the documentaries. I tried putting those on back at my place.”
“But that doesn’t explain why you’re going to such great lengths to avoid touching me,” Claire points out. Matt turns his face away from her and tilts it down towards the top of his coffee mug—it turns out he has a coffee mug now since he’s been staying over so often—with a quiet sigh.
“I like the way your skin feels,” he says after a few silent moments. “It sounds stupid. God, it sounds worse out loud than it did in my head.”
“You’re not touching me because you like how my skin feels,” Claire slowly repeats. Matt snorts a little and nods.
“Yeah. I like how your skin feels. I noticed the feel of your hands the first time you touched me, and then after that…” He lifts his shoulders and shrugs a little as if to apologize. “You said you didn’t want anything with the way things are in my life, and I don’t blame you for that. God…Claire, I don’t blame you at all. I…I want to respect that. I respect you…everything you do, and you don’t know how grateful I am to have you in my life.”
Claire swallows and looks down into her mug. “Why do I feel like there’s a ‘but’ coming along?”
“But…” he says slowly, “if I touch you…it’s going to be hard to stay away from you. So if I touch you, I know I won’t want to let you go.”
In that moment, Claire hates that he can hear her heart. She hates that he can hear it skip and jump and probably break a thousand times over inside her chest. She manages to look at him to see if he’s reacting to it, but he still looks calm as can be. “Matt…”
“I should go,” he says, suddenly apologetic. His tone and his face are formal. “I should—I should go.”
“Matt, can you not be so damn dramatic for once?” she sighs without realizing her feelings are stemming from a place deep within her until her words are out. Matt looks somewhat surprised by her outburst, but he stops trying to leave. “Jesus. Can’t even have you over for coffee without you making it into a damn soap opera.”
“You wanted to know,” he points out.
“Just…” Her voice trails off as she realizes she has no idea how to respond. Matt’s just admitted to her that he doesn’t touch her because he wants to. He doesn’t touch her because he doesn’t want to make her decision more difficult. “Jesus, Matt.”
“Yeah,” he sighs. “So. You’re right. I’ve been purposefully avoiding touching you. I’m sorry for hurting you.”
“Don’t think so highly of yourself,” she murmurs, but she’s smiling. Matt’s still for a few seconds as he tries to read her tone, but then he seems to realize that she’s smiling because he does, too. “You might be terrible at a lot of things, Matt…but you‘re very good at making things complicated."
“Seems to be a habit.”
“I’d say so.” Claire sits still on the couch, her eyes glued to him. She hates surprises like this because they always complicate things. And Matt has definitely complicated things with this confession. They continue to sit in uncomfortable silence for a few seconds, and then Claire starts laughing, breaking the silence with the sound of her laughter.
Matt turns his face towards her when he hears her laughing. “What? What’s so funny?”
“What are we doing?” she asks, and she laughs even harder. “What is this? A—a nurse and a vigilante who’s a lawyer during the day called it quits, and now we’re having weekly sleepovers? More than once a week?”
“Because I can’t sleep,” Matt adds, his lips pulling up into a smirk.
“Because you can’t sleep,” she repeats. She glances at him and finds herself smiling back at him—finds herself unable to keep from smiling back. “I don’t know what we’re doing, Matt. It’s stupid and crazy and everything I don’t want. I mean, what is this? Sleepover time? What is it?”
“I wish I could tell you. I just…know I sleep better here?” Matt says, his statement coming out more like a question than anything else. “If it’s too weird, I’ll go. I can go back to only calling you whenever I’m hurt. That was the deal, and I was the one who broke it, so—“
“No, that’s not what I want.” Claire frowns now as her laughter dies away. She doesn’t know what she wants. She wasn’t sure before he started showing up, but now she really doesn’t know, and her confusion is just messing her up even more. As she looks at Matt, she tries to remember what her life was like before she knew him. She can remember it easily—she doesn’t have to struggle to remember satisfying sleep-filled nights. She doesn’t have to fight to recall what it’s like not to feel afraid that more people might figure out who she is and track her down. It’s so easy to remember her life before him. The question is would she change it. Could she give up knowing Matt so she could go back to her life before? It was certainly a lot easier, but she was also a lot less alive.
“What do you want?” he asks her. His voice is soft and warm, and she thinks he sounds like what it’s like to sleep with the window open during a summer rain. That’s what he sounds like to her.
And when she speaks again, her heartbeat doesn’t waver once.
“I don’t know."
There’s a certain amount of awkwardness that exists between them after that night. Matt tries to stay away from Claire’s apartment more, but his lack of sleep makes him reckless and wired. So of course, the next time he shows up at her place—a week later after almost no contact from him, which doesn’t surprise Claire at all—he’s actually hurt and needs her help. He gives her a brief description of what happened while she gets him onto her couch. He’s already got most of the top part of his costume removed, but he’s kind of stuck in a few spots because his injuries hurt too much to go through the movements of removal.
Claire has seen him in worse condition. She’s seen him when he was steps away from dying. She’s saved him when he’s been like that. Yes, he’s banged up, and he’ll be in pain for the next week or so, but it could have been a lot worse. She repeats these words to herself as she examines the nearest wound. “Better be glad they didn’t get that knife a centimeter deeper.”
“I figured as much,” he replies, wincing and shutting his eyes. His red helmet’s off, and she can see his hair sticking all up. It’s sweaty and darker than usual from being wet, but it’s also strangely adorable and child-like. “Feels like it was a close one.”
“Understatement of the century.” In the back of her mind, she remembers his words about how he likes the feel of her skin. She thinks about that as she reaches for her supplies to take care of him. She wonders if touching him now will do anything, or if he’s in too much pain to really notice. When she looks back up at his face again, his brow is knit with concentration, and she decides he’s too far gone to pay attention. Silently and slowly, she cleans his wounds and gets him patched up. He’s quiet and gracious about all of it, letting her work until she’s done.
By the time she’s done, his breathing is slower, and he’s looking much better than he was looking before. By the time she’s done, he doesn’t seem to be in as much pain. By the time she’s done, his eyes are open again. “Thank you, Claire.”
“You’re welcome,” she answers, and she starts to clean up. “So. You notice me touching you or no?”
She means the question as a bit of a joke to try to clear the awkwardness, but Matt’s face is genuine when he smiles back at her. “Yes. I did.”
She pauses for a half-second, trying to think of something to say back. “Had I known that, I would have just sent you to a hospital.”
“You wouldn’t have done that.”
“I know. It’s a joke. It’s supposed to be funny.”
“I know.” Matt grins at her through the pain, and he manages to sit up a little. “But I mean it. Thank you.”
“Are you sleeping here tonight?” she asks, hoping she doesn’t sound too hopeful.
“I can leave. If you want.”
“You can stay.” She catches Matt’s smile, and she smiles back. Even beaten and bruised, he’s beautiful. She slows her movements until she’s not moving at all, until she’s looking at his face and only his face. It’s clear to see that he’s still in pain, but he’s putting on a smile. He’s trying hard to look like he’s ok, and she doesn’t know if her heart swells for him or breaks for him. She just knows it wants to ease his pain. Carefully, she reaches her hand out. “May I?”
“Touch me?” he asks, sounding as if he doesn’t really believe that this is what she wants to do.
“Yeah.” Claire stops her hand just in case he says no. Matt’s quiet for a few seconds, his face blank, but then he nods.
“Yes,” he answers. His voice is warm and soft again, and Claire is once again reminded of summer rain. For a man who sees a world on fire, he has a voice like water, she thinks. She reaches out and places her palm on his cheek. When her heart jumps, she doesn’t hate herself, nor does she wish he can’t hear it. She just lets it happen. She watches his eyes flutter and his breathing quicken, and for a brief second, she thinks he’s going to pull away.
But he doesn’t. Instead, he does the opposite. He leans into her touch just the tiniest fraction. He does it so carefully and so controlled that she almost misses it, but he does it all the same.
“This is so stupid,” she murmurs, unsure to what she’s referring.
“I know,” he says back. “I’m sorry.”
She laughs quietly and shakes her head. “Don’t be. I’m a willing participant. I don’t have all the answers for this.”
“Neither do I.”
“Well. We can be equally confused together.” She brushes her thumb over his cheek and watches his expression change and mold with each passing second she lets her hand remain in place. She doesn’t know what she’s doing, but neither does he. She doesn’t know what she wants or what she wants to want, but she knows in that moment that she wants to touch him. “Hey, Matt?”
“Yeah?” he asks, opening his eyes at the sound of her voice. She carefully takes his hand and brings it up to her face. Her voice is a whisper that slides into his heart and takes hold of it, making it impossible for him to erase the sound of her now.
“Touch me,” she whispers. Despite the pain he’s in, despite everything he’s feeling, Matt somehow manages to sit up. He props himself up against the couch, and he turns his face towards her. He can feel her face, her cheekbones, her chin, her nose…he can feel all of her. However, he knows that’s not what she means—that’s not what she wants.
So he gives it to her. He leans forward, and he kisses her. He kisses her and listens to both of their hearts react. After several moments of just touching him and kissing him, Claire pauses. Her heart flutters, and she takes a small breath. When she speaks, his world isn’t quite so fiery hot.
“Thank you, Matt.”