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The Ballad of Matt and Foggy

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It was a quiet, still Friday afternoon.

Franklin Nelson hated it. The air was humid and unrelenting stilted, there were no other kids around, and he laid out on his front lawn waiting for his inevitable death (via boredom). It was very dramatic.

The action crescendoed when the blanket of silence peeled back as a moving van and a tailing truck approached from the far end of the block. Franklin squinted to keep tabs on the scene using only his peripheral vision. He was still invariably doomed but his last moments may prove to be entertaining yet.

The moving van parked in the squat driveway of the house next door and the movers hopped out, rote habit having them going to the back of the van but as they drew up the door of the trunk, a voice called out for their pause from the truck. It had parked in front of the house and it's driver and passenger had exited in the meantime.

They were a man about the age of the Nelson parents and a young boy maybe a year or less around Franklin's age. He was wearing dark sunglasses and kept to the adult's side, his left shoulder firmly gripped by the man's hand. Franklin sat up at the newest revelation. He was tempted to wave to his new neighbors until they started walking.

The man led the boy up to the front door and Franklin saw the red tipped cane used by blind people. If he waved, only one of them could notice. He stood up to run inside for his new plans to introduce himself but paused long enough to watch them a bit more. The man had been describing the door and the boy reached out to feel the wrought iron decoration before gripping the handle and pulling it open. After unlocking the wooden entrance door, the man audibly warned of the step up and they walked into the house.

Franklin grinned as he ran into the house and made a beeline for his room.

"Don't run in the house! That's what I kicked you outside for," His mother called out to him.

Franklin was fervent as he gathered things off the floor and shoved them out of the way wherever he could.

He shouted back, "Sorry!"

After another inspecting glance, he rushed back out.

His mother’s admonishment ringing in his ears, he caught himself and made a quick but calm pace into the kitchen.

"Mom," he put on his most charming smile, "can I take a popsicle?"

She barely glanced at his face before deciding, "No. You had two yesterday for dessert, you can't have another one until after dinner. Ration them out, kiddo."

Franklin rolled his eyes, "It isn't for me - wait, ration them out? What kind of communist police state are we living in that I'm not aware of?"

Mrs. Nelson narrowed her glare, "Watch your tone, Franklin."

"But," he groaned and refocused, "Mom, Mother of mine, we have new neighbors and one of them is a young, vulnerable boy not unlike your own son."

Her face cracked an amused smirk against her will. Franklin went on.

"With the summer sun and stress of relocation, hasn't he earned a frozen treat? If it were me, wouldn't you hope someone would be generous enough to spare me one measly popsicle?"

She sighed deep and reached into the freezer.

As she handed it over she added, "But now you can't have one after dinner."

Franklin hesitated but took the wrapped popsicle.

"You drive a hard bargain, Mrs. Nelson."

She shook her head and exited the room, "So do you, Mr. Nelson."

Franklin was eager but tried to remain cool as he made his way over to the house next door.

The movers were speedy in their work as the man and the boy stood by; the adult describing the action for the child.

A few steps from them, Franklin stopped and spoke to them.

"Hi there."

They both turned to his general direction.

"I am Franklin Nelson. I live next door with my parents and annoying sister. I brought a peace offering popsicle."

He gestured more towards the boy and added on, "I'm holding out to you, just above your waist, about a foot in front of you."

The man was smiling down at the boys. The other child tilted his ear up towards his father, the question painted on his face.

"You can take it."

He took it with a cautious hand. But once he had a grip on it, he unwrapped in one go and snapped off his first bite in a flash.

The man lifted up his head to chuckle into the air. He looked back to Franklin.

"I'm Jack Murdock and this is Matthew, my son."

There was a prompting gesture made behind his back and Matthew drew a breath between bites of his treat.

"That's me."

He held out the unoccupied hand for Franklin to shake.

Franklin shook it and grinned. He felt a new pair of eyes on him and he turned his head. The wrought iron door wasn't open but he could just make out the outline of his mother standing just behind it in the doorway.

"My mom thinks I conned her out of a popsicle for myself. Wanna show her that her son is a man of his word?"

Matthew again lifted his head toward his father for permission.

"Go on, meet the neighbors."

Matthew took a step forward but paused. Franklin shuffled to his side and put his bent elbow out.

"I'm on your right and my arm is out if you wanna put your arm through."

Matthew’s hand rested in the crook of Franklin’s arm. They shuffled down the driveway and up the sidewalk and the Nelsons’ driveway as Franklin described their respective front yards. Franklin was the picture of politeness as he tapped the frame of the wrought iron door. Mrs. Nelson swung it open and stepped out onto the small porch.

“Mrs. Nelson, Mom to me, this is our neighbor Matthew Murdock. Matthew, this is my mother.”

She smiled as she greeted him and they shook hands though Matthew’s darted right back to grip Franklin’s arm.

“Just a suggestion but why don’t you boys stroll the yard a bit longer and when Matthew’s finished his popsicle, you can come inside and introduce him to your room?”

Franklin mocked a bow, Matthew a half second behind him doing the same and they walk across the lawn to the only bit of garden: behind a half foot tall wall are several bushes of varying flora in different shades of blush tones with fresh mulch covering the rest of the space. Franklin has no idea what any of them are so he pulled out every descriptive word he knew to try and paint the picture of how they might look without saying ‘You know the pokemon Dugtrio? They look like a green and pink version of that.’

“Um, Franklin,” Matthew chimed in after the third minute of an ode to the leaves’ shape, “I finished the popsicle already.”

Franklin noticed the dry stick and wrapper in Matthew’s extended hand, “Wow, sorry about that. Um, here I’ll take that.”

He grasped the other half but waited until Matthew let go before he twirled it around in his hand and crunched it into a ball with his fist.

“Onward, we go.”

Franklin kept his description of the house short and perfunctory until the pair arrived as his bedroom door.

“This is the inner sanctum. Must be less than 5 on the weird scale to enter.”

Matthew giggled, “What’s my score on that?”

Franklin hummed before replying, “A three at best. Not like popsicles would be at best, a 7.”

He opened the door and they shuffled inside sideways.

“Okay, so we’re facing with our backs to the door so the bed is directly ahead against the far wall and pointed to the window on the left, it’s not made - don’t tell my mom - and the window is open. The closest right is a wall with a nightstand up against it. The wall on our left has a dresser. Closet is the far left corner with the doors almost closed.”

He led Matthew in another few steps and they sat down on the floor facing each other.

“I also have a bookcase but it’s mostly empty because I only re-read the same few over and they’re print so . . .”

Where Franklin trailed off, Matthew picked up, “They’d be useless to me then.”

He shrugged, “I also have a scrapbook but only of really cool new stories - odd thefts, incredible random happenstances -”

As he said it, Matthew flinched and several off-collar facts clicked into place for Franklin.

“Holy hell, you’re Matthew Murdock.”

Matthew grimaced, “Don’t say the h word. And yeah, I am.”

Franklin promptly freaked out.

“But that’s - pardon my french - a hell of a big frickin’ deal! You’re a hero!”

He was. The neighborhood they were in was a miniature suburb outside the border of one of the country's largest cities much less across the Hudson river from Hell’s Kitchen; but the pure act of Good that Matthew committed was enough to make everyone in the Greater New York area proud for a moment. Franklin was still in awe of it. Pushing an old man out of the way of danger just to bare the brunt of it? Very much in the category of heroic to Franklin Nelson.

Matthew, however, had his head bowed and his cheeks were mottled with flush, “Anyone would have done it.”

But that’s the point of it. Franklin was not a pitying kind of kid, it wasn’t in the cut of his jib. The question was, knowing it would cost him his sight, would Franklin have had the courage to do it?

“Still, you did it. For real. Not theoretically.”

Matthew still had his head down.

“Fair’s fair though. I know your secret identity - you have to know mine.”

The other boy perked up.

“I have been introduced as Franklin but only to those closest to me am I known as Foggy.”

Matthew laughed, loud but not cruel, “Foggy?”

“My sister was bad with pronunciation as a toddler. Frankie became Foggy overnight and now she doesn’t even call me that. But you can.”

Matthew smiled, “I’m usually Matt. It’s not much but, it’s a nickname.”

Franklin - Foggy - nodded, “Foggy and Matt, the best of best friends.”

“You’re so overdramatic, Nelson,” comes from the window.

A girl with bouncy blonde curls jumped off the window sill and onto the floor of the room.

“Ugh, shut up, Marci! And you know you’re supposed to use the door.”

Marci shrugged, “If your parents really demanded I use the door, they’d have fixed the screen on your window by now.”

Matt was turned toward the window and Marci, confusion marring his face, “Uh -”

Marci cut Foggy off just as he’s introducing her, scooting into Matthew’s personal space but only laying her hand on his where it rests on his leg, “Marci Stahl. The neighbor living behind the Nelson house. And very pretty, in case you were wondering.”

“He wasn’t, Marci,” Foggy spat at her.

Matt took her hand and shook it properly, missing how she turned to Foggy and turned her expression from a coy smirk to a genuine smile.

“I don’t care how people look, really. If I did, it’d just be me driving myself mad.”

Marci pulled back her hand but didn’t move, instead her sharp eyes searched Matt’s face.

“You’re very cute though, Matt.”

Foggy glared her down.

“I care even less about that. Never have.”

Foggy almost blurt out, biting his tongue toward the end, “But you are really good looking.”

Marci’s eyes gleamed with delight, “It’s consensus, Matt. You’re handsome.”

She crawled over and threw her arm around Foggy.

“Too bad you can’t see Nelson’s face - all round and soft and currently extremely red.”

Matt wasn’t faring all well either, blush high on his face and almost crimson in shade.

“Marci, go, before I call my mom,” Foggy managed to get out before she could go on.

Marci rolled her eyes dramatically and sighed in the same way for Matt’s benefit before she hopped up and walked back to the window.

“Fine. Call me over when you’re done being dorks.”

She exited as quiet and swift as she had arrived.

Foggy made several attempts to apologize before settling for mentioning, “She’s right, my face is round and full. Also really really pink. Probably. I don’t know, I don’t have a mirror in here. ‘M not a handsome duck like you.”

He could not say why he felt the need to add the last part. Matt just shrugged.

“I told you, I wouldn't want to know or care if I did. But I bet you're wrong.”

Foggy scoffed, “How can you tell?”

Matt leaned in a bit, “Your voice. I’ve gotten much better at recognizing them since . . . well, recently. Marci’s voice is almost nice - it’s light and even but could be grating; like wind chimes that end up being too loud.”

Foggy nodded, “I just nodded. She is really pretty though. We even kind of dated.”

Matt’s face held a look of utter betrayal.

“We’re in the same classes but - see, she used to do the sneak in thing all the time to blow off her parents when they’d ask her to do stuff around the house. One time her dad followed her and asked her why - why here and how often. She kissed me on the lips in front of him and said we were in love. That’s when my parents asked her to use the door.”

Matt bit back a laugh, “And her parents?”

“Banned her from here. She started coming around a lot more. Then they un-banned her and she full on stopped. Hasn’t been back. ‘Til now. She’s one to talk about being overdramatic.”

After a short pause for chuckling, Foggy shifted in his seat, “What’s my voice like to you?”

Matt kind of worries his teeth at the corner of his mouth, mulling it over, “Like the popsicle - a good sort of cool and refreshing.”

Foggy’s face heated up again, “Thanks.”

They ended up talking so long that the boys had to walk back just to call Mr. Murdock over for a New Neighbor Celebration dinner with the Nelsons.

At the end of the night, Foggy and Matt hugged and made plans to hang out the rest of the weekend.

The weekend turned into the rest of the summer, and bled over into the next school year. They were nearly inseparable and ended up doing the most farfetched of things simply by turning to each other and going ‘Why not?’.

Within weeks, they had a reputation. Within months, it was generally positive. After almost three months, they were practically joined at the hip and referred to collectively as Foggy&Matt.

Matt turned to Foggy one afternoon when they were huddled on Foggy’s bed, as one read out loud to the other, “Foggy, what the best prank you could think of?”

“Nothing beats when I moved your whole room around.”

Matt shoved at his shoulder, “Not on me. On Marci.”

Foggy put a bookmark in the paperback and laid his head down.

“Oh - she won’t stop talking about that new trampoline they got. Jumps on it the minute I go out in the backyard. Makes face at me over the wall. Something to do with that.”

Matt nodded.

“Murdock, what are you planning?”

Matt shrugged, “Justice.”

True to his word, not a week later, Matt was leading him out to the back.

“Get on something where you can peek into the yard.”

Foggy pulled an empty crate for the gardening tools out and stood on it to get a glimpse. The trampoline looked okay from a distance but he could focus in just enough to notice something was off. But Marci was already headed towards it and without a second glance, hopped on - and got covered in the layer of dark muddy dirt someone had covered the canvas in.

She screamed and Foggy was too entertained to not laugh. She spotted him instantly.

“Franklin Nelson, you are dead!”

Foggy hopped off the crate, tossing it aside and pulled a still hysterical Matt around the house. They tumbled through his window and Foggy quickly shut and locked it behind them.

“That was classic.”

Matt kicked off his shoes and flopped onto the bed.

Foggy took a moment to catch his breath and make sure Marci wasn’t following them.

“It was, buddy. A+ and flying colors.”

He sat next to the other boy, toeing off his shoes with less finesse.

“She’s gonna get us back good. She’s great at that.”

Foggy frowned but didn’t mention it, “It’s okay. I’ll come up with the next one. Prank wars must be equal opportunity after all.”

Matt hummed and closed his eyes. He didn’t usually wear his glasses around Foggy and even in the quick chase, he had them tucked into the front of his shirt. He looked pleased and happy. It was a great look on him. As undefined feelings crawled in his chest, Foggy had an inkling to do something new. It was out of the blue but they were Foggy&Matt, predictable was not their forte.

“Hey Matt,” Foggy said, following his instinct and without giving the idea much thought.

Matt’s eyes opened and Foggy leaned over to press his lips against his best friend’s. It wasn’t bad but Matt didn’t do anything. He was frozen to the spot.

Foggy pulled back. He hopped off the bed.

“What should we read - where we last left off on or start another one?”

He didn’t face Matt, but kept his eyes on him through the edge of his vision.

Matt sat up, “Another one. Don’t want things gettin’ stale.”

They never talked about it. Through the rest of the year and high school and college and Columbia Law, they were still Foggy and Matt. That’s all.

But after Landman & Zach and meeting/hiring Karen and achieving the dream of putting up the plaque they’d had planned out on the floor of Foggy’s childhood bedroom, it wasn’t enough. Matt had one sole regret and the time was running out on getting a do-over.

They’re on the couch after a long day and Matt hands Foggy a cool beer. It’s a relaxed pose; Foggy with his arm draped across the back of the couch, Matt sitting next to him, their legs pointed toward each other and his head just rested on the bend of Foggy’s elbow. It’s reminiscent of the way they’ve always clicked and it prompts a memory in Matt’s memory.

“Hey, you remember that first popsicle you gave me when I moved in?”

Foggy snorts and Matt knows he has this sunny grin on his face, “Yeah. Best negotiated term I ever argued.”

Matt nods, “I still owe you for that.”

He does. He owes him a million, for all that they’ve done together and for each other.

“Matt, I think you paid me back when you covered the Stahls’ trampoline in gardening manure.”

Matt can just make out his opportunity, “That, is true. But I was laughing so hard I couldn’t move. If you hadn’t dragged back into your room. I. . . still think about what could have happened that day.”

Foggy tenses. It’s slight and Matt can tell that he tries hard not to let his breath hitch. Foggy relaxes after less than a second.

Foggy pats his shoulder, “I think we’re even, buddy.”

It’s the telltale brush off that happens every time they edge that which has never been mentioned. It’s time, Matt senses, for that to end.

Matt puts his bottle down and faces Foggy, “No, we aren’t.”

When Foggy turns toward him, he presses a kiss to Foggy’s lips. He can taste the beer on his lips and it makes him shiver. Foggy pulls him closer and it’s perfect this time around.

The first time she sees them in a public display of affection, Marci Stahl shouts at them, “You’re welcome.”

Well, yeah, maybe they do kind of owe her for that one.