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Bless Thee, and Keep Thee

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Matt’s a nice young man, a quiet young man, a handsome young man (or so he’s told), a model inhabitant of St. Agnes ever since Stick left him and he had to find his way back there with nothing but a cane and senses confused by grief.

Matt’s sixteen years old now and nobody knows that sometimes he trains by himself, hones all of the skills Stick taught him because he spent years of his life with that man, with his skin perpetually bruised and his muscles strained and his bones fractured, and he’s not going to let himself get lazy. He’s not going to let himself get complacent.

He’s docile, though. Agreeable Matthew Murdock, that’s him. Agreeable about bedtimes and curfews and the way the other kids spit cruel words at him and shove him into walls. That’s how he keeps himself from actually getting hurt, or from hurting somebody else. He’s obedient, and people don’t notice him except to target him for their silly games, but they get bored after a while because he doesn’t fight back and their fists don’t hurt, he’s hurt so much worse before.

(Murdock boys can take a beating.)

So Matt’s docile, and he’s invisible, and he’s aware.

He’s always aware, except for when he sleeps, and that’s why Matt tries not to sleep too often. When he sleeps, he has nightmares. When he has nightmares, he screams.

When he screams, he wakes people up.

When people get woken up in the middle of the night, they’re not happy.

Matt doesn’t want to be noticed. Not for reasons like that. Not for anything, really.

If people are noticing him, if lots of people are noticing him, it’s harder to exist as he is, harder to just let himself read or rest or breathe.

Besides, he doesn’t like it when he makes other people unhappy. If other people are unhappy they’re more likely to be angry. Matt isn’t a fan of angry people. He’s been around them his whole life, but now when people yell at him or at others he feels a sharp edge of panic, of something terrible is going to happen and I have to stop it. Besides, when he makes other people unhappy, even when it’s not anger, the guilt threatens to eat through his body and splinter his bones.

Matt doesn’t want people to get hurt, so of course he doesn’t want to hurt people, doesn’t even want to inconvenience them in any way.

Matt’s not afraid of other people, not exactly. He’s afraid of the infinite number of ways other people can hurt him, and the infinite number of ways that he cannot hurt them back, not even if he wants to. He can only hurt back the people who really deserve it, and the people who really deserve it aren’t the ones who use younger kids (or Matt himself) as punching bags, though Matt will certainly step in, will say, “If you do anything else I’ll call one of the sisters.”

(If it’s him he’ll just wait until they get tired. He doesn’t care enough to make them stop. It doesn’t really hurt, it doesn't really hurt, it doesn't really hurt.)

The people who really deserve it are bad people. Evil people, the people who do the kind of things those that killed his dad did.

So really, in the end Matt’s afraid for other people. There are people out there who aren’t as good at defending themselves as Matt is. Some of them aren’t particularly nice to him. Actually, not many of them are particularly nice to him. Matt still worries for them, because other people are his responsibility, or they should be.

He hears them being sick, hears them crying and panicking, and he can’t do anything about it because he can’t think of anything to do.

He can’t just beat away people’s demons, just like he can’t beat away his own (the ones he swears to himself he doesn’t have, but who’s he kidding, he’s got the devil inside of him).

And he’s still not sure if he can just beat other people, no matter how bad they are. He has to defend people who are getting hurt, though, who are really getting hurt, more than just a bruise here and there because as much as he hates to say it the kids at St. Agnes are all used to that.

He has a responsibility, and someday when he’s not so constrained by the walls of this godforsaken place, when it isn’t so easy to get noticed, he’ll defend people like he’s supposed to.

He’s a Murdock boy.

He can sure take a beating, and he can sure give one.

(God is merciful, but the Devil has a hell of a right hook.)

+

Matt’s tired of this place. He’s tired of the other people around him, of the way the walls close around him and all the rules.

He’s been sixteen for a month, and he made a deal with himself when he came back here.

He told himself that at sixteen he’d get out of dodge, he’d make a life for himself outside of St. Agnes, far away from the sharp voices of the sisters and the monotonously mean words of the other children.

(He’s not a child anymore. He hasn’t been one for a very long time. In fact, he doesn’t know if he even remembers ever being one.)

Far away from the people who take away his cane—and he can get around without it most of the time, especially since he knows the layout of St. Agnes by now, but it doesn’t mean he wants to, it doesn’t mean it’s easy—for kicks and who break his sunglasses and make fun of him for not knowing what’s written on signs or…well, he wants to go far away from the people who think that they’re better than him because he can’t see.

He’ll show them.

Someday he’s going to be a lawyer. Someday he’s going to defend people who need defending. Someday.

(Maybe in another world.)

But for now he’s going to leave St. Agnes, he’s going to take on the world, he’s going to make it.

(He’s an idiot, he knows it, but he pretends not to. He tells himself he’ll get by, he’ll get a job, but he knows no one’s going to hire a blind sixteen year old and he’s going to end up dying young and dying on the streets, but honestly he doesn’t mind that much. He wouldn’t have any money for college even if he stayed at St. Agnes, and if he leaves he can at least escape the suffocation, the muffled agony of the orphanage. He needs that. A year or two of freedom sounds good. Maybe he can even use his skills for some good before he’s brought down.)

Honestly, Matt mostly runs away from St. Agnes because nobody thinks he’s going to run away, and there’s this pulsing angry feeling inside of him that says, I’ll show you.

I’ll show you what Matthew Murdock can do.

+

Matt leaves at night. Most people in the building are asleep, and he’s able to step around those who aren’t very quickly.

He steps lightly, opens the back door as quietly as he can, and he feels a breeze hit his skin.

Good.

There’s a wall, he knows it. He’s run his fingers over it more than once. It’s brick, and it’s old, and he’s sure he’ll be able to climb it like it’s nothing.

He had some cash, has been stealing money for years, a dollar here and there from the nuns or the kids he doesn’t particularly like. He knows it’s a sin, but he thinks God will forgive him for this at least. He thinks that God will understand his need for freedom, his restlessness, his loneliness.

He doesn’t think about the loneliness, though, because he’s going to be lonely for the rest of his short, short life. It’s better than getting close to people, though. People leave, they always leave.

They’re there, and then there’s only the memory of heat where their body used to be.

Matt climbs up the brick wall just as easily as he thought he’d be able to, finding footholds and handholds and moving with a grace that he knows people think he shouldn't have. He’s gotten tall enough to reach handholds that he has to stretch for, has gotten almost as tall as he’s going to be when he’s fully grown, most likely. He’s growing into himself, he’s been told. He’s pretty good-looking. He’s heard people talking about it.

(Sometimes he runs his hands over his face, tries to make a picture of what he looks like now in his head. Sharper cheekbones, fuller lips. He still can’t quite fathom how much he’s changed since the last time he could see himself in the mirror.)

Matt gets to the top of the wall and almost yells when his hand grips something sharp. He gasps in pain instead and withdraws his hand, almost tumbling to the ground.

Barbed wire.

Damn it, he didn’t consider barbed wire.

His hand is bleeding. This can’t be good. The barbed wire can’t be clean.

Matt hoists himself up so that he can feel around the top of the wall. It’s pretty wide. The barbed wire doesn’t cover it completely.

Matt takes a deep breath and decides to get it over with, like ripping off a Band-Aid. He’s gotten this far, and he never gives up.

He throws his duffel bag over the wall and listens to it thump against the ground.

Matt tries his best to put his hands somewhere behind the barbed wire—his skin still gets stuck and tears on some sharp points, but he expected that—and he hoists himself onto the top of the wall.

Below him, he’s fairly sure there’s only ground. No people, no objects to get in his way. Good.

He climbs down the other side of the wall as fast as he can, and then he’s home free. His hands are cut up and bleeding, especially the one that got a handful of barbed wire, but he just rubs his hands on his jeans to wipe off the blood and ignores the pain.

He feels around for his bag on the ground and then grabs his cane and unfolds it.

He pushes his now-crooked glasses back into place and hoists his bag onto his shoulder as he taps his cane on the ground.

He has a basic idea of where things are. Things sound different at night, not quieter, but different, and if he tunes in, if he focuses, he can clearly hear the city's screaming and he can figure out where the objects around him are.

He takes a deep breath and gags. He should’ve noticed that there was a dumpster right next to him.

He starts walking, taking notice of his surroundings. He knows where he is, he’s right outside of St. Agnes, behind the wall. He’s been here before, in the daytime when the gates of the orphanage aren’t locked up. The buildings near him are shops and apartment buildings, but after that he doesn’t really know what they are because he’s not—he wasn’t allowed to go very far past St. Agnes, even though some of the younger kids are.

“I’m blind, but I can get around fine,” he always wanted to tell the nuns, but he didn’t.

Wouldn’t do to get a reputation as difficult, especially since he already had one from his earlier days in St. Agnes.

He walks until he doesn’t know where he is, and then he keeps walking. Buildings, alleys, sidewalks, Matt maneuvers over the pavement with grace. It’s morning and the sun will be out soon, he knows it because he can hear and smell the early risers getting up, getting to work and eventually he’ll perceive the warmth of the rays of the sun, no matter how faint they are. He stays close to walls, ducks into alleys when he hears people near him.

He’s going to have to stop moving for the day, most likely. He tilts his head towards a building that he’s fairly sure is abandoned, probably condemned, and he can hear people inside, but he’ll avoid them easily. Other people without homes, most likely.

He heads into the building and winces when the smell and taste of dust and dirt and long-dried lead paint hit him, and when the taps of his cane echo in the room. Good acoustics, the bane of a blind man with a cane trying to stay incognito.

He goes over to the nearest wall and tucks his cane close to himself, no longer using it. Now he’s running his hand along the wall, feeling his way down the room. He makes a clicking sound with his tongue and it bounces off of the wall in front of him. He makes a sharp left and runs his hand along that wall until he finds the door.

Unsurprisingly, it’s the thing that smells like old paint. Gross.

He opens the door and finds himself in a stairwell.

The talking is coming from the basement and there’s no human or animal sounds in the upper level and no human or animal smells either, so Matt carefully heads up the stairs.

He feels around one of the rooms that he enters and is satisfied to note that there’s no window.

He’ll rest here.

He sits down against the door and stretches out his aching legs. He wonders how much he’s walked. He estimates a good few miles, and he’s pretty confident about that. His grasp of distance is pretty excellent.

He sticks his hand under his sleeve and checks his watch.

Still morning. It’s fall and getting closer every day to winter—Matt mourns the fact that his winter coat is so threadbare it barely even protects from the cold, especially considering how easily he gets cold—so it’ll be dark by seven at the latest, and then he’ll head out again.

He knows where he wants to be, he wants to be in Hell’s Kitchen, in his home, and he’s sure he’ll recognize it when he gets there, he certainly lived there long enough to memorize it as long as it hasn’t changed too much, and he doubts it has.

Hell’s Kitchen. Just the right place for the Devil to reside.

+

Matt gets to Hell’s Kitchen within three nights of walking—St. Agnes isn’t far, that's why it’s where all the Hell’s Kitchen orphans go—and then he finds an alley and makes his home there behind a dumpster. He curls himself up and nobody notices him, not even the people who go to throw out trash. He gets used to the stench of it, gets used to the constant nausea, turns the focus on his sense of smell down as much as possible. It doesn’t entirely work, but he manages to at least rummage through the garbage for food without throwing up.

The food that’s left in the trash usually has too much taste for him, though. The other kids at St. Agnes complained about the bland food, about how the menu never changed, always cycled through the same dishes every week, but Matt was always relieved by it, the only good thing about that place. Matt can’t stand too much flavor. He tastes everything, and too often it makes him sick.

He does his best to choke the blandest food he finds down. Pizza works best, he just strips the cheese and whatever else from it and scrapes off the sauce and it’s more bread than anything. He still gets thinner, but he expected that, though he doesn’t have much weight to lose. Most of his weight is muscle after all.

He walks around the neighborhood and inhales the familiar scents and the familiar sounds, and at the edge of the neighborhood finds town houses. These people must have a lot of money, he thinks, to live in such comfortable houses.

He can hear voices coming from inside, the voices of families. He doesn’t spend too long around there, the better off part of Hell’s Kitchen. That’s never been his place.

He lurks in alleyways and walks into stores and tries his best to get around without his cane when he knows there are people who can see him, because he knows he looks different now but some people may well remember little blind Matt Murdock.

Getting around without his cane is hard. He sticks close to walls, leans against them and focuses only on getting around, on not running into people and not tripping over curbs.

That’s why he likes his cane, it’s so much easier to get around with it. It’s also a dead giveaway, though. Sunglasses in the winter is eccentric, a white cane is disabled, and Matt’s sixteen and homeless, he can’t afford to be disabled right now, never mind the fact that he can’t see.

His cane stays in his duffel bag. He stays close to the dumpster at night and tries his best to block out the sounds of Hell’s Kitchen, the yelling and the screaming and the horns honking and motorcycles revving, the drunks laughing and singing.

And then somebody stumbles into his alley. He hears crying and he tunes in. A woman, her heart beating erratically, her face smelling of salt and copper. She gasps in pain as something in her arm crunches.

Broken arm.

Matt stands up. He knows he doesn’t exactly smell good and a sixteen year old boy doesn’t inspire confidence, but he has to help.

He tenses as he hears men running from approximately a block away, getting closer, turning into the alley.

The woman sobs and takes a deep breath, ready to scream. Her hair is long, Matt notes idly. He can hear it brushing against her back.

A man snarls something and the woman’s breath becomes panicked and irregular. Matt can relate, but right now his breathing is steady and so is his heartbeat.

The men say something, get closer, and the woman whimpers and then Matt can hear her fight-or-flight response kick in, can hear it in her heart.

Her response is fight, and she lunges at the men. Matt hears the tearing of skin and tastes the tang of copper in the air.

She clawed a guy’s face. Good.

The guys get angrier, snarl cruel words at her, and she snarls back wordlessly, growling low in her throat, ready to fight again, but Matt can hear a knife getting drawn and the guys getting closer to her, and she’s tough but it’s three against one, and Matt steps in.

He takes them by surprise, aims a kick at one of the guys and sweeps his feet right out from under him. The guy lands hard.

“What the fuck?” the man says.

Matt kicks him in the face and he’s down for the count.

The other guys turn towards him and he punches one, hears the cracking of a jaw as a hairline fracture forms.

He turns to the panicked beating of the woman’s heart and says, “Run, I’ve got this.”

She runs.

Matt ducks to avoid getting hit from behind and levels a hard kick at whoever tried to hit him’s knees.

Down he goes.

Another kick in the face, another unconscious asshole with a broken nose.

The last one is much bigger than him. All of them were bigger but Matt figures this one's got at least a head on him. He’s the one Matt punched, but he guesses the punch didn’t bring him down.

He takes a swing at Matt and Matt folds himself backwards and then gets himself on balance again and kicks the guy in the stomach, and Matt hears the whoosh of the guy’s air being knocked out of him.

He levels a kick at the guy’s head, but the guy backs up and then manages to punch Matt in the face. It’s going to leave a hell of a black eye, Matt thinks bitterly, and now his glasses are broken too and there's a cut on his face from where the lens was driven into his face and broke skin. He’s glad he thought to bring extra glasses in his bag.

He’s hit in the shoulder and stomach in quick succession. Without thinking about it too much, Matt pops his shoulder back into its socket and lunges at the big guy again.

This is something Matt can do.

He gets in a couple of hits before he ends up getting pushed into a wall. Skin scrapes off of his cheek. It burns.

The guy's taken his knife out again, but it’s only a pocket knife, Matt could hear the snick of it opening.

Matt ends up getting a cut on his shoulder—not a big deal, won’t even need stitches—before he manages to punch the guy in the throat and kick him in the face and the big guy’s down too.

Matt listens to heartbeats, to lungs expanding, and knows that all of the unconscious men are going to live, they’re going to be just fine.

Matt would call 911, but he doesn’t have a phone.

So he just ends up stumbling—he didn’t notice he’d been hit in the back of the leg and now he’s limping, what a drag—out of his alley, vaguely confused and feeling like he should get somewhere safe even though there's no such thing as a safe place because he’s pretty sure he can hear these guys’s buddies a few blocks away.

He walks away from their voices, holding onto his now painfully swollen shoulder. He’ll be fine without a doctor, though, because he’s been through much worse without a doctor. When it rains, all the fractures he has that were never treated ache, but he can ignore it. He can always ignore it.

The cut on his other shoulder is bleeding through his shirt. He should change his clothes at some point, he hasn’t in days and these ones stink.

His focus is all over the place and he can barely breathe, partially because his stomach still hurts every time he inhales and partially because everything’s loud and he’s gotten a block away from his alley but the smell of the dumpster mixed with all of the other smells and tastes of Hell’s Kitchen now finally make him double over and throw up bile. At least now his mouth tastes disgusting and is burning, but he can’t taste everything else nearly as much.

He winces and wishes he could cover his ears with his hands, at least give himself that, but his arms hurt too much to move them that much, and he’s still gripping his swollen arm anyway.

He can’t think of anything. He needs his cane, he keeps tripping and falling, he doesn’t know where he’s going, he just knows he’s going forward.

At least this place is familiar to him. He trips over a curb and bangs his knee. He stands up again, keeps going.

He always keeps going.

He ends up at the townhouses, reaches out a hand and can feel the familiar brick walls. He stumbles over to the back of one of the houses and everything in the world is screaming right into his ears and he can’t hear any signs of life from one of the houses, he thinks, so he ends up putting on a pair of sunglasses—they’re like a security blanket now, honestly—and doing his best to scale up a wall and haul himself through an open widow (who leaves a window open in this weather?). He doesn’t even know how he does it, considering the fact that his injuries are screaming at him to give them a break.

He ignores them. He’s really, really good at ignoring pain. It’s kind of a point of pride, honestly.

He lands on a carpeted floor, right on his swollen shoulder, and he groans.

And then he notices it.

Things have gotten at least slightly more muted, almost bearable, and Matt’s hearing a heartbeat. A fast heartbeat, a scared heartbeat, a surprised heartbeat. Lungs expanding. A heat signature from the other side of the room, slightly elevated, the other person must be on a bed.

Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, Matt shouldn’t have done this. Matt is not usually this incredibly stupid. He’s usually only a little stupid.

“What the fuck?!” somebody asks. A male, most likely. Longish hair, Matt can just barely hear it sweeping against his shoulders.

He's a bit bigger than Matt, at least, the heat signature shows that. Matt’s still not sure about his muscles, can’t get a good read on that.

Matt lets his head fall back against the carpet, groans, and regrets all of the life decisions that got him here, except for most of them.

“Hi,” he says, trying to sound friendly. Mostly he just sounds like he’s being choked.

“What's even…? Why are you…? Who…?”

The other person—Matt would bet anything that he’s also a teenager, considering the pitch of his voice, probably around Matt’s age, which he really hopes will work to his advantage—doesn’t seem particularly coherent right now. Matt doesn’t blame him.

“Please don’t call the police,” he says.

“Dude, you’re lying on my carpet. You just came in through my window. You have bruises and you’re bleeding.”

“All good reasons to call the police,” Matt says, breathing painfully and wondering if maybe he has a cracked rib from something. “Please don’t call the police.”

The guy makes an agitated motion, Matt can hear the rustling of clothes, and he flinches. He doesn’t like agitated motions from people he can’t beat up.

The guy gets up and then walks over and kneels next to Matt. “You don’t look good,” he informs him.

“No kidding,” Matt says, valiantly trying to sit up.

The guy pushes him down again and Matt bares his teeth threateningly. He doesn’t really know why. It doesn’t seem to work anyway, since the guy leans over him, Matt can feel the heat getting closer.

“Get away from me,” he says.

“No, I’m not letting you die on my carpet.”

“This is not dying,” Matt says, chuckling. “This is not even life threatening. This is something I’ll shake off in a day.”

“Dude, your arm’s all swollen.”

“Dislocated my shoulder, but I popped it back in. Not a big deal.”

“Okay, like, there were so many things fucked up with that sentence that I’m not even touching that.”

“Fair enough.”

“So, mysterious dude bleeding on my carpet—”

“There’s not even that much blood,” Matt protests.

“What’s your name?”

“Uh…” Matt tries to figure out a fake name to give the guy. “Mike?”

“Yeah, the fake name would’ve worked if it hadn’t sounded like you were asking a question.”

“Fuck,” Matt says eloquently. “Fine. It’s Matt.”

“Really? Like, really, really?”

“Yes, really, really. Matt.”

“Okay, cool. I’m Foggy.”

“What kind of name is Foggy?”

“My name.”

“I didn’t think there was anyone home.”

“Dude, the light in my room was on.”

“Oh,” Matt says. “I didn’t think there was anyone home.”

“Okay, whatever, you’re lucky I’m home alone, I don’t think my parents would be as cool about this as me.”

“And I thank you for that.”

“Whatever, weirdo. I’m getting the First Aid kit so you don’t die.”

Matt can hear Foggy walking away, and he calls out, “I’m not even close to dying!”

Foggy comes back with the First Aid kit and kneels next to Matt again. “How’d you bring a duffel bag with you when you climbed into my room? How’d you even climb into my room?”

“I don’t even know, so it must’ve been easy,” Matt says.

Foggy sighs, sounding put upon. Matt hates making people sound put upon, and he immediately feels guilt turn over his stomach. “Sorry,” he says quietly.

“I don’t know, better my room than like, the streets. Should I call the hospital?”

“No!” Matt says, reaching out and managing to grab Foggy’s arm. “No hospitals.”

He hates hospitals. Besides, they’ll just take him back to St. Agnes, and Matt’ll just run away again, and so on and so forth.

“Okay, okay, dude, fine.” Foggy lets out a dismayed breath. “I shouldn’t be this calm.”

“Probably not,” Matt says easily. “But let’s not analyze it too much.”

“You should take off your shirt.”

“Nope.”

“Then I’ll take off your shirt.”

“Ugh, fine,” Matt says, actually managing to sit up through sheer force of will. Sheer force of will is also needed to take off his jacket and t-shirt.

“Dude, it’s winter. What the hell are you doing dressed like this? Also, you stink.”

“I’ve been living next to a dumpster,” Matt says.

“…So there’s an injured homeless guy in my room. Cool. Totally doesn’t make me feel like a serial killer.”

“It’s fine,” Matt says, reaching out and just barely patting Foggy’s shoulder. “No one’d miss me anyway.”

“That’s not actually comforting.”

Matt shrugs with the arm that probably isn’t beginning to turn lots of interesting colors that he can’t see.

Matt figures Foggy’s finally managed to get a good look at his torso, because Foggy sucks in a pained breath. “Ouch,” he says.

“Yeah,” Matt says mournfully. “I guess.”

“Your arm doesn’t look great.”

“The swelling’ll go down soon.”

“Your cut up arm doesn’t look great either.”

“It’s not that deep. I should probably clean it, though.”

“Yeah, cool. I’ll help.”

Foggy’s surprisingly gentle as he cleans up Matt’s wound and clumsily tapes some gauze over it. He then cleans up a cut on Matt’s lip and the scrapes on his cheek. “How’s your eye?” he asks. “Looks like you’ve got a real shiner.”

Matt chuckles. “My eyes are my eyes.”

“Hey, dude, you think if I shine a flashlight into your eyes I’ll be able to tell if you have a concussion?”

“Definitely not. Also I don’t have a concussion, trust me.”

“You’ve sure got lots of scars.”

“Yeah.”

“And bruises. Are all these bruises from whoever beat you up?”

“Nah, probably not.”

“You get beat up a lot.”

“Less, lately.”

“Doesn’t look like it.”

“Yeah, probably doesn’t. I’m fine, though.”

“…Yeah, sure.”

Matt goes to stand up, but Foggy asks, “What are you doing?”

“Um…leaving?”

“I don’t think you should do that.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“Well, like, I guess, but you’re kind of beat up and it’s starting to snow and—”

“It’s snowing?” Matt asks. He tilts his head and there it is, the faint sound of snow falling gently. “Oh, fuck me.”

“Trust me, I would if I was like, into the whole handsome wounded duck thing.”

“…What?”

“You’re a good-looking guy, if you haven’t noticed.”

“That’s what they…tell me…” Matt says, still confused.

“It’s cool, I’m bi but I’m not, like, putting the moves on you.”

“Putting the moves on me?” Matt asks as he hauls himself to his feet. “Are we in the fifties?”

Foggy laughs. “I don’t know, I kinda like you, dude.”

I like you too, Matt doesn’t say, because it honestly kind of freaks him out how comfortable he feels around this guy so quickly. High alert, he scolds himself. He might be nice, but you can’t get too comfortable.

No one’s ever nice without a reason, not unless they’re family.

Matt lists to the side and Foggy grabs him and leads him over to a bed.

Matt sits down with a quiet, “Oomph.”

“You should sleep. Just stay here, okay?”

“You’ve gotta be kidding me. I could kill you in your sleep.”

“Okay, ignoring how fucking creepy that was, I don’t think you’re going to.”

Teenagers make friendships quickly, Matt thinks, and then he remembers that he’s a teenager too and decides he’s fucked, because the truth is that he can’t afford to not take this stranger’s offer. He can’t afford to go out again, he’ll freeze to death or he’ll get beaten to death or something, and he was ready for that, he really was, but this is a better deal.

Except Foggy’s a stranger, and Matt doesn’t trust strangers. Not anymore.

But Foggy’s heartbeat is steady and true, and he’s so genuine. He really is. “Who lives with you?” Matt asks.

“My parents.”

“How old are you?”

“Sixteen.”

“So am I.” Matt pauses. "You can’t tell your parents about this.”

“Dude, I can’t just hide you in my room.”

“Then I’m leaving.”

“No!” Foggy says. “Fine. I won’t tell them, just stay for a while, okay? If you go out there and go to sleep next to a dumpster again you’re really gonna die.”

“Yeah,” Matt says. “Just don’t tell anyone about me, you have to promise. Adults learn about this, they’ll send me back to the orphanage.”

“You mean St. Agnes?”

“Yeah. Shitty place.”

“Looks like a shitty place.”

“I’m sick of it. And I’m sick of the people there. Adults in general.”

“Okay, I can see you’ve got lots of feelings about this, but first you have to change into something that doesn’t stink and, like. Sleep. And not die while you’re sleeping.”

“I’ve told you, I’m not even close to dying.”

“Still freaks me out. You have any clothes in that bag?”

“None that aren’t just as dirty as these.”

“You can borrow some of my clothes while I wash yours.”

“Fine,” Matt says, because he’s starting to get tired. He’s starting to get so tired that he can’t even think. He just changes into the clothes Foggy throws at him—and Foggy is bigger, the clothes hang off of Matt's frame—and ignores the fact that he can hear Foggy rummaging in his duffel bag as he lies back on the bed. He should be sleeping on the floor, but he hasn’t slept in two days and he’s exhausted and in pain and he can’t bring himself to care about anything right now.

“Dude, you have so many sunglasses. By the way, you should probably take those off.”

Matt gropes around and takes his sunglasses off and drops them onto the floor while his eyes are still closed.

“That’s one way to do it,” Foggy mutters, before Matt’s pretty sure he takes something out of the bag. “Dude, what’s this?”

“What’s what?”

“This!”

“What?”

“The white folded up…stick thing.”

“It’s my cane,” Matt mumbles. “Helps me get around.”

“Your cane? Like…holy shit, like the cane for blind people? You’re fucking blind?”

“As a bat,” Matt mutters and he drifts off to sleep to the sound of Foggy quietly freaking out.