The thing about Matt was ... The thing about his friendship with Matt ... well, Foggy had always thought he was the caretaker. He was the one who offered his arm to Matt and guided him around potholes and things.
He'd spent their whole friendship thinking Matt was the one who needed taking care of.
And it was stupid, and he felt guilty about it sometimes, but Matt was ... Matt was ... Matt was blind, damn it, and sometimes he needed help that only Foggy could offer.
So then he found out that Matt was some kind of superhero and had never needed him at all, and that had been a blow he was still reeling from. He kept thinking he'd worked past it, and then it would rise up and bite him at the most unexpected times. It wasn't resentment, exactly -- or, well, okay, it had been, but he was pretty sure he was mostly past that. He didn't have a name for what it was. It was some unhappy, dark-edged emotion that jostled and bumped against the rest of Foggy's generally cheerful nature, poking a knife between his ribs when he least expected it.
Because ... of course it wasn't that he felt Matt owed him anything. That was unfair. And he knew, once he was past the initial anger, that it didn't mean their entire friendship had been a lie. That was unfair, too. And he understood why Matt had kept it from him, even if he didn't like it. He couldn't help wishing, sometimes, that he didn't know even now.
But he didn't know what he was to Matt anymore. If he wasn't the guy who guided him around obstacles and told him when people were smiling or shrugging -- if he wasn't the guy who picked up the loose clothes from around the dorm room or made sure the office chairs were always in the same place so Matt didn't trip over them ... if he wasn't the guy who did any of those things, then what was he? The mildly amusing best friend who made Matt look better for the girls down at their favorite bar?
He doesn't need you, said that dark, painful place, that unhappy whisper at the back of Foggy's brain that had never been there before. He never needed you. He could walk away anytime he likes.
And the subtle, ugly corollary that lurked underneath: If you only thought he stuck around because he needed you, what kind of friend does that make YOU, anyway?
But then there was that part of him that twitched every time an unfamiliar number came up on his caller ID -- the part of him that fully expected to be called to identify Matt's body in a morgue one of these days. And there was some bleak emotion about that, too, which bundled into that dark little ball he carried around with him.
And here he was, now, in a hospital room with blinking lights and softly hissing equipment all around him. It was after visiting hours, but there were advantages to being a lawyer and listed next of kin. Matt had been awake earlier, they said, and it had taken this long to contact Foggy because Matt wasn't carrying ID so they'd needed to wait until he told them what his name was.
The horrible thought skirted around the back of Foggy's mind that, if he had died, they would've had to identify him from ... from corpse things, fingerprints and dental records and so forth. And Foggy wouldn't have known for days.
He'd already woke up Karen by calling her, then talked her out of coming down to the hospital, because he'd pushed it enough already getting them to let him stay with Matt; he didn't think he could get them to go for another person. "Besides, he's asleep. He wouldn't know you were here."
"Tell him I'm thinking about him," she said, sounding near tears.
He wished he could call Hottie McBurnerphone -- Claire, Claire, her name was Claire -- because she'd probably want to know, too, but he wasn't sure how to get in touch with her.
"Why is your life so damn complicated?" he asked Matt, who of course didn't answer.
Matt was as pale as the sheets he was lying on, and without the dark glasses, his face looked soft and open. He'd always seemed younger without the glasses on. They were armor, Foggy thought, and now he didn't have them; he was stripped down to the bare core of himself. No dark glasses, no Daredevil suit, no weapons. Just a man, hurt and bruised and broken and so damn young.
The duty nurse told him Matt had been very agitated when he woke up earlier. That was one reason why they hadn't put up a fuss about Foggy staying overnight. He replenished his cup of coffee from the machine in the hall and went back to holding Matt's hand.
The cold fingers had been still in his for so long that when they twitched, he jerked and spilled lukewarm coffee in his lap. "Matt?" he said, leaning forward as he flicked uselessly at the stain with his free hand.
Matt's lashes fluttered and he turned his head intently to the side, doing what Foggy had always thought of as his "seeking" thing. Back in their college days, he'd thought Matt did that sometimes, when he woke up, because he'd temporarily forgotten he couldn't see. Now he understood that Matt was seeing, in some sense, but when he was sleepy and disoriented he would forget to hide that he was doing it.
I wonder if he even knows he does that, Foggy thought, and it was a startling feeling, that he might know secrets about Matt that Matt didn't even know about himself.
Matt was whispering something -- Foggy couldn't quite make it out, but it sounded pleading, and it made something in his heart crack wide open.
"Hey," he said. "Matt. Matt." He kept saying it until Matt oriented on him. Matt was breathing fast, and it was making the little lines on the monitors jump.
"Foggy," Matt whispered. "I didn't, I couldn't --" He swallowed. "Too much. It's too much. The drugs, I can't block it out."
"Oh," Foggy said, enlightenment hitting like a thunderbolt. The heightened senses thing. And Matt wouldn't have been able to tell the nurses -- of course not. A hospital must be the worst possible place for it. Walking back to Matt's room with the cup of coffee, he'd heard someone crying, smelled the cleaning chemicals covering up worse things ... No wonder Matt looked like a man being buried alive under an avalanche.
His breathing was picking up again, and he flinched, twisting his head to the side and trying to burrow it into the pillow. Foggy sat blank and helpless. His best friend was in desperate distress, with an affliction no amount of painkillers could help with, and there was nothing at all he could do.
"Matt," he said, because he had to say something, and Matt's face turned back towards his. "Uh, how do you normally block things out? Why isn't it working?"
Matt swallowed again, and flicked his tongue across cracked lips. "Mental discipline," he whispered. "I had to learn. I can't .... concentrate, can't think --" His face screwed up in pain or despair. "Keeps slipping away -- Foggy, please."
Please what? he wanted to say. There's nothing I can do, nothing anyone can do.
But maybe there was. In college he'd read articles on biofeedback (because of a girl, of course; a pretty massage student he'd been trying to catch the eye of) and it all came down to focus, didn't it? He rubbed his thumb across the back of Matt's hand. "Matt," he said. "If I talk to you, will my voice give you something to concentrate on? Does that help at all?"
Matt shook his head, but Foggy couldn't tell if that was a negation or just Matt trying to shake off the sensory input deluging him.
So he took Matt's hand in both of his, and massaged it like that girl had taught him all those years ago, rubbing the places where the joints connected and smoothing his fingers across Matt's skin. And he talked, not that he had anything to talk about; Matt had already heard most of his stories, and they worked together all day anyway, so it ended up being a ramble about his (mostly nonexistent) dating life and that absolutely terrible restaurant they'd gone to for lunch a few days ago and the time his cousins convinced him there was a pack of feral, flesh-eating dogs living in the stairwell of the family's apartment building.
It was stupid rambling, and he felt dumb, but he could both see and feel Matt slowly relaxing, the monitors calming down, Matt's rapid breathing evening out. Foggy talked himself hoarse, and he wasn't sure when Matt fell asleep, but when he finally stopped and tried a cautious, raspy, "Matt?" it didn't get a response.
Matt's cold fingers were warm in his now.
Foggy sat by the bed, looking down at his strong, capable superhero of a best friend, gone suddenly fragile. There was a bandage across the side of Matt's face and bruises on his forehead and under his eyes.
And he felt the dark twisted thing, that had been lurking under his ribcage ever since he'd found out about Matt and subtly poisoning everything between them, start to unknot. Matt wasn't invulnerable, no matter what he clearly thought. He was still the same guy Foggy'd had to point to the bathroom when he was too drunk to avoid walking into walls, still the same guy who'd helped Foggy avoid flunking that stupid philosophy elective and stayed up all night with him the night his favorite cousin drove into a bridge piling.
And Matt still needed him -- in a different way than Foggy'd always thought, but ...
He felt sudden tears sting his eyes, because if you looked at their dynamic from the outside -- well, how many times had some idiot told Foggy, or at least vaguely implied, what a nice guy he was for being friends with the blind guy? And he'd never quite been able to explain that it wasn't like that at all, it wasn't pity and it wasn't charity and anyone who thought that was basically a dick. Matt was just his friend, full stop.
"I'm sorry I didn't trust you enough to believe that it's the same for you," he whispered, looking down at Matt's pale, slack face. "I just wish you'd stop doing stupid things and getting yourself hurt, dumbass."
He leaned down and kissed Matt lightly on the forehead, then pressed his cheek against Matt's cool skin for a moment. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the soft tickle of Matt's hair against his ear, the quiet noises of the machines, the sound of someone passing by in the corridor.
He'd always believed this was what Matt's world was like. Sometimes in college he used to shut his eyes and walk around the dorm room -- not in a mocking way (he hoped) but because he wanted to get a feel for what Matt had to deal with. Now he knew it wasn't like that. Not at all. But there was still, maybe, a little truth to it. Being friends with Matt had, he believed, made him a better person, not in the "inspirational blind person" way that he and Matt had always made fun of, but because it had made him look outside himself a little bit, and think about things from a different point of view than the one he'd grown up with.
If he could do that when he thought Matt was blind -- truly blind, not weird-superhero-blind -- then it should work the same for ... well, for whatever this had turned out to be: for the superhero thing, and the weirdo-toxic-waste blind thing, and just the general Mattness of Matt being Matt.
"Get well soon, you jerk," he whispered into Matt's hair, and the soft brush of Matt's steady breathing, lightly ghosting against his collarbone, was a reassuring answer.