De Facto Stupido
The bailiff lunges forward in a knee-jerk attempt to help him, but by the time he makes it from the witness stand Matt has already righted himself with that little lopsided smile of his and a polite hand raised to stop the bailiff.
Foggy feels a cold-seeping dread sink into the pit of his belly. It feels a little like wetting himself.
“As you can see from the evidence presented, the implied consent was clear, which validates Mister Clements’ reason for trespassing,” continues Matt, cool as a cucumber, and Foggy wants to sucker-punch the guy. As a district attorney he finds he wants to sucker-punch a lot of people these days, but it’s been a few months since Matt has made the top five.
For someone with the reflexes of a lynx, tripping is something Matt Murdock just doesn’t do. Sure, last year Foggy would have thought nothing of it, but he likes to think he knows a little better now, after deaths by bowling balls and car doors and ninjas with katanas.
Matt’s cane glints in the dusky light of the courtroom enough for Foggy to see his knuckles tighten around it.
When it concerns his blindness, Matt’s been more relaxed around Foggy ever since Fisk was put away. It’s little things, like walking faster. Not pretending to grope for things. Leaving the cane behind altogether. So unless there was a nightly venture gone sour or a recent drinking problem Matt’s not telling him about, Foggy thinks he knows the only other thing capable of making his partner in crime lose his balance. He’s seen it before.
“Dude, you’re sick.”
The sun is high and bright over the courthouse steps and brings out the red flecks in Matt’s hair. Matt shoots Foggy a look that is all eyebrows and skepticism. “What? No, I’m fine.”
“You looked like a ballerina in there,” says Foggy. “A drunk ballerina.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”
Foggy runs a hand through his hair with a sigh. “Can’t you just tell me when you’re not feeling well? I know you’re one of those people who can get away with the death flu and still look fine—”
“—It’s not a death flu, Foggy—”
“How do you know that? Remember that time you got pneumonia in junior year and passed out while taking your psych final?”
“That was one time,” says Matt, wrinkling his nose at the memory.
Foggy slings his leather bag over one shoulder. “Yeah, well I’d rather not wrap up this case on my own, so you better drink your juice and Dayquil over the weekend, buddy,” he says. “Don’t want to have to call your hot nurse friend again.”
Matt smiles, and in the sun where his glasses gleam it’s just a little too perfect. “Relax, Foggy,” he says. “I’ll be fine.”
“Okay, this, Matt? This is not ‘fine.’”
“I’ve had worse,” Matt croaks on Monday, leaning against the sad little Poland Spring water cooler they have in their office. Thin wrinkles striate his normally crisp-ironed shirt and today, the cane is not just for show.
“You shouldn’t even be standing,” says Foggy.
“We still need to find records of Clements’ finances over the past six months,” Matt replies, voice strained.
Foggy folds his arms. “Well if your germs are all over them no one’s going to want them anyw—” as if on cue, Matt turns away and sneezes about nine times, violently.
“Jesus, Matt.” Foggy realizes his word choice and winces. “Sorry.”
“Enhanced senses aren’t all that great when they’re compromised,” says Matt, hoarsely, looking a little embarrassed with a hand over his nose. “Foggy, do you have a…?”
“On it.” Foggy goes into the next room and tosses him a box of tissues, realizing his mistake a second later as it hits Matt in the shoulder. Matt gives a startle and drops his cane.
“Sorry, right, I—I should have handed that to you,” grunts Foggy as he bends over to pick up the box and the cane. “Now I know why colds hit you so hard. Matt, Karen’s going to be here any second and she’s—”
“I’m what?” Karen says from the door. Matt stands up straighter and sniffs hard, box of Kleenex vanishing behind his back.
“Going to tell Matt that he’s very, very, stupido.”
“First of all, it’s estúpido,” Karen replies. “And second, why is Matt being stupid?”
“Foggy,” Matt starts.
“Because he’s got the plague and still wants to work on the Clements case,” Foggy tells her. “I can’t seem to send him home, so it’s your turn.”
Karen peers at Matt. “Do you have a fever?” Clearing his throat, Matt replies, “No.”
“You should have seen him a minute ago,” Foggy says. “It wasn’t pretty.”
“If he can still help us with this case then I don’t see why he shouldn’t stay for a bit,” says Karen, setting her briefcase on the center desk and shrugging. Foggy gapes at her. He’d totally pegged her for the mother hen type. The tint of Matt’s dark glasses somehow looks smug.
Well, Matt isn’t going to get away with it this time. Time for retaliation. Mother hen style.
Foggy crosses his arms and exclaims, “Oh yeah? Ask him to walk to his desk.” Matt grimaces, or maybe he’s holding back a sneeze. Karen shares a look with Foggy and waves a hand at the door.
“She’s—she’s gesturing toward your office,” Foggy says, because he honestly doubts Matt can tell right now. He does not even think Matt is faking it when he promptly misses the door, shoulder ramming painfully into the archway. A snort escapes Karen before she can stop it.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to, um, laugh,” she says, fist covering her mouth to hide a grin. Looking resigned, Matt purses his lips.
“One hour,” he concedes, rubbing his shoulder. “After that I’ll leave. Deal?”
Either by the will of the gods or by some extremely effective self-control, Matt manages to avoid one of his alarmingly violent sneezing fits. However, Foggy does not need super hearing to pick up on the hollow, gravelly sound of Matt’s breathing. Matt himself looks about as happy as a kitten in a rainstorm, but he does his work quietly.
Well, semi-quietly. Forty-five minutes, one broken stapler, a sore-looking collision with the side of his desk, and a spilled coffee narrowly missing his laptop later, Karen practically throws him out the door.
“Clumsy is not a word I would ever associate with Matt, but wow,” she says after he’s gone, biting back a giggle.
“Yeah, colds fuck up his senses,” Foggy explains, playing along with a grin. If Karen only knew the half of it. “He didn’t look uncomfortable to you?”
“If uncomfortable is a nice way of saying ‘looked like he was going to sneeze his head off,’ then yes, a little,” replies Karen, tucking a strand of long hair behind her ear.
“But hey, kudos to Matt for rockin’ the bro code.”
Karen frowns. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means he’s a dude,” says Foggy, “and when you’re a dude there’s this unspoken code of manliness that you gotta put up a front so the chicks don’t think you’re wimpy.” He pounds his chest gorilla style, which makes Karen roll her eyes.
“Yes, I know all about the code,” she says dryly. “The one where you think it’s cool to go around half-dead with your spleen hanging out saying, ‘it’s just a scratch,’ right?”
“Right. I think I’m rubbing off on you,” Foggy exclaims. He squeezes his eyes shut a second later. “Not like that—I meant, I meant influence. Like, you’re starting to act like me a little.” Awkward. Karen raises an eyebrow and her lip quirks up in a smile that reminds Foggy of Matt (and if that isn’t disturbing Foggy doesn’t know what is).
“Why don’t you go make sure Matt’s okay?” she asks him. “Clumsiness aside, he practically gave us everything we need to wrap up the Clements case. Plus,” she adds, her smile now more of a Karen smile, “since I know you’re worried about him, that deli on ninth makes some killer vegetable soup.”
The sound of continuous, multiple sneezing greets Foggy as he lets himself into Matt’s apartment. He thinks he hears a low “Christ” afterwards, but it is probably his imagination since Matt has got the verbal vulgarity of a nun. At least compared to him.
“You know there should be a law for how many times you can sneeze in a row,” Foggy says as he sets the plastic container of soup on Matt’s table.
“Well consider me a criminal,” Matt groans, tissue covering his nose. After a blow he tosses the tissue halfheartedly into the garbage bin next to his couch, missing by a good two feet. Foggy glimpses several failed missiles of similar ilk surrounding the bin.
“I always thought you were exaggerating back at uni, but man,” snickers Foggy, “you’re a mess.”
“Sorry. You brought me something, but I can’t tell what it is,” says Matt, looking apologetic. His shin bumps into the edge of his kitchen counter as he makes his way toward the couch. “Ow.”
“Okay, one, a blind man shouldn’t apologize for not being able to see,” Foggy says, cringing as Matt rubs his shin. “Two, a dude with a cold shouldn’t apologize for not being able to smell. And three. Don’t even think about going Daredevil…ing tonight.”
Matt eases onto the couch and closes his eyes, hand coming up to massage his temple. “That’s not even a word, Foggy.”
“Nor is it an option. And why is it every time you’re sick you get on me about my grammar? I happen to be a rather proficient public speaker.”
“This coming from the guy who used to have me read pornos to him every time he had the sniffles?” Matt says, squinting, and Foggy snorts.
“Yeah, well you’ve got the vocabulary of an avocado.”
Matt chuckles. It turns into a cough, which makes Foggy frown. “But seriously, man. You’re not going out tonight,” Foggy says.
Matt smiles. “Never said I was.”
Foggy leans back, satisfied. “You’d be mucho stupido if you were. Do I need to fill in for you for Clements?”
“I postponed the hearing a couple of days,” Matt replies, shaking his head.
“What? And you were going to tell me this when?” Matt looks like he is going to answer, but half stifles a sneeze and pulls his fleece blanket up over one knee.
With a roll of his eyes Foggy gets up and rummages through Matt’s pantry until he finds a bowl. “Fine, fine. At least try this soup. Karen swears by it, and it was only two bucks. She kind of found it funny how you were bumping into things.”
“I noticed,” says Matt, rubbing his nose and looking amused. Foggy sticks the soup in the microwave and watches the bowl spin under the faded yellow light. For a moment, the only noise in the apartment is only the hum of the microwave.
“Are you ever going to tell her?” asks Foggy quietly.
Matt’s smile fades and he crosses his legs on the couch, sighing. “She doesn’t need to know yet, Foggy.” It is not the right time to share; maybe because there is no need to, or maybe because he is not ready to. He knows there are things Karen is also not ready to share, and even with a cold blunting his awareness he senses that Foggy knows this too and understands.
The microwave dings.
Gingerly, Foggy takes out the bowl of soup and drops a spoon into it. “Well then,” says Foggy, grinning, “since movies are out, let’s do what we always do when you’re sick: Landman and Zack-bashing and nun puns.”
Matt groans again as Foggy hands him the soup and plops onto the couch across from him, but this time he is smiling.