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Down to the Bone

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Everyone wants to know why Amala isn’t a bat. Which is, well, it’s not fine. But it’s something that Matt is used to, has ready answers for. Yes, she settled after his accident. Yes, she can see. She’s not a bat because she isn’t a bat. She’s not a guide dog because she’s just Amala, because she isn’t a pet or a tool.

Foggy is something different, something new. Even from the first day, he never asked about Amala, draped over Matt’s shoulders as he nudged his way into 312.

And even when he recognised Matt’s name, knew his story from a newspaper that Matt had never gotten to see himself, he still never asks the questions that Matt has come to expect.

“Foggy Nelson,” he said, holding out a hand the way that everyone does, because it’s hardwired into American culture to the point that even if Matt couldn’t hear the rustle of sleeve against torso, he would still know to expect it. “And yes, I’ve heard all the jokes.”

Matt tilted his head. “Jokes?”

Foggy jolts, he can hear him jolt. “Oh, right, of course. This is Darius. He’s a frog.” His arms shift, both this time, something cupped in outstretched palms. A croak echoes through the room. “You know- Foggy, froggy? Apparently it’s funny.”

“It is kind of funny,” Matt replies, not trying to hide his grin. He’s relieved when Foggy starts to laugh, rich and full.

“Yeah, it kinda is.” Foggy admits, and Darius gives a croak from his hands. Under Matt’s ear, Amala chirps in amusement. Matt holds out his arm for her to scamper down it, stretched out from his wrist to the tips of his fingers, scenting towards Foggy and Darius.

“This is Amala.” He doesn’t usually introduce her to strangers, but it only seemed fair. He waits, tense, for Foggy to ask if she is blind, or why she isn’t a bat. Foggy just sucks in a breath.

“Oh man, is that where, you know, the chemicals?” Matt can hear him gesture, but he knows what Foggy means. The splash of white fur across Amala’s back, discolored no matter what form she had taken, even before she settled. Matt doesn’t even have a chance to reply before Foggy sucks in a sudden breath.

“Sorry, am I not supposed to mention it?”

“No, its fine.” Matt almost laughs, it’s so fine. Not even a question about who, what Amala is. No expectation that she should be anything other than herself. “I hate it when people dance around the subject.”

“Oh yeah, of course. You’re just a guy. A really, really good looking guy.”

Matt can hear Foggy’s heartbeat pick up and he falters, an awkward silence falling between them. He opens his mouth, but doesn’t have anything to say and closes it again. Between them. Darius croaks, the sound echoing. Amala chitters nervously and skitters back up his arm, ducking her head under his ear. Stick’s words seem to stretch between them. No friends. No connections. Nothing but you and your daemon. He doesn’t know how to reply to Foggy.

“With, you know, a totally awesome daemon,” Foggy adds, clearly trying to rally, and Matt feels struck dumb. He knows that Amala is amazing- Amala is all the best parts of him, but no one ever seems to see it. They get so caught up on everything that she isn’t.

“I, ah-” Matt falters. His own heart is racing and he is so, so glad that Foggy can’t hear it. He can’t tell if his face is flushing, but he feels warm.

“It must be great around girls!” Foggy says. It’s not a lie, but it feels like one. Matt doesn’t have a reply, so he agrees. That feels like a lie too.

--

He gets used to the easy way that Foggy fits into his life, to the smell of cheetos and coconut shampoo and the warm feel of Foggy’s arm under his fingers. He hasn’t touched anyone but Amala this much since his father died. He gets used to way Darius sings in the night, a low croaking croon that helps Foggy sleep. After awhile, it helps Matt sleep as well. He even gets used to the smell of damp, cool air that seems to cling to Darius, like a forest or the night after a rain.

“He gets sick if he dries out,” Foggy explains, misting Darius with a spray bottle he keeps in his bag. A year in, Matt realizes that he keeps one too, just in case.

Amala likes them, will curl up around Darius when Matt and Foggy are studying, or scamper back and forth around Darius while he flicks his tongue out, playfully trying to catch her.

“I like them,” Amala whispers to Matt, curled up on his pillow. He can hear Darius saying something to Foggy and tries to shut it out. What a daemon says to their person is private.

“I like them too,” he whispers back. More than like, he can’t bring himself to say. But Amala knows that.

--

Even in 2015, there are superstitions about a person’s daemon. People will judge you if your daemon is too big or too small or too loud. Even with all the evidence against her, the police wouldn’t have been so quick to prosecute Karen if her daemon wasn’t a cobra, curled tight around her arm and shoulder as she faces them in the interrogation room.
Matt can hear it, the smooth sound of scales on skin, the rasp of its tongue scenting the air, the way that Amala goes tense on his shoulder. He puts a hand to her, stroking down her fur.

Karen’s breathing is shaky, her heart racing. She is scared, but her daemon is steady, calm.

“We found traces of snake venom in his daemon,” the sargent hisses, and Foggy demands that they run a full check first.

“We of the non-mammal daemons have to stick together,” Foggy says cheerfully, and Matt has to stop himself from touching Amala. She nudges her nose under his ear anyway. He doesn’t begrudge Karen this comparison. It’s one of the things he likes about Foggy. Even half convinced that this woman killed a man, he is still finding common ground.

Matt wonders if people have asked her about her daemon, like they always ask him. Wonders if she hears “Wouldn’t it be easier if,” and “don’t you ever wish that,” like he does. It can’t be easy.

The tests come back- the venom is from a coral snake, not an indian cobra. It’s not enough to get her off completely, but it’s reasonable doubt. The case is dropped, and suddenly Nelson and Murdock have a new receptionist.

--

“There is something really weird about this,” Foggy says. Matt tilts his head, inviting Foggy to continue. “This, you know, this!” Foggy gestures with his hands towards their daemons, then adds “I just gestured towards our daemons.”

Our daemons. There is something intimate in the phrasing, and it makes Matt fight to hide a smile.

“We did live together for years.” It’s actually harder now. Harder to get comfortable without the smell of coconut oil and the snack bars that replaced the cheetos, and that undefinable smell that says Foggy and home and safe. It’s harder to get to sleep with just the irritating buzz of the electric billboard, without Darius’ soothing croak.

“No, with Karen. It’s like, snakes eat frogs, ferrets kills snakes. And frogs can’t even fight against either! It’s like the worst game of rock paper scissors ever, except I always lose!”

“Mongooses,” Matt replies.

“What?”

“It’s mongooses, that fight snakes. Not ferrets.”

“Shouldn’t it be mongeese?” Foggy asks aloud, and Matt can hear his hair against his shoulders when he shakes his head. “Nevermind. You know what I mean, Matt!”

Matt grins. “Jasper isn’t going to eat Darius. Karen likes you, remember?”

Foggy’s heart skips a beat, and Matt tells himself that he doesn’t care. Amala jumps down from his desk and skitters around Foggy’s feet, demanding attention. Matt can feel heat building in his ears and hopes that Foggy won’t notice.

“You think?” Foggy asks, playful hope in his voice. Matt’s smile is steady and warm, and Amala chitters louder.

“I know.” Matt replies. It isn’t even lie.

--

The newspapers report that a severed man in a mask is terrorising the city. Matt doesn’t care. It’s easier, that way. He’s never thought of Amala as a liability, but she could be, in this. The wrong person could make the right connection about the daemon of a vigilante and that of a oft-bruised lawyer.

She wasn’t always able to go so far from him. Even after the accident, she clung tight to him, never leaving his side, warning him about upcoming rocks and flicking through her shapes- moth, kangaroo, cat, ferret. It wasn’t until his senses started building, pressing into his head like mallets and anvils, weighing him down with all the things he doesn’t want to know, that they started to realize.

Stick was the one who pushed him. Stick and his mole daemon, who would grab Amala tight in clawed hands and walk her further and further away, until Matt cried out from the pain of it. The amount of space between them, the furthest away from one another they could go, had grown along with his senses.

Amala follows along behind him on the nights when he goes to fight, running along behind him, staying in the shadows. Sometimes, he’ll send her ahead, heart in his throat the whole time, in case there is anything he’s missed. It’s rare, but it’s happened.

She’s almost as bruised as he is, and out of her mind with worry, on the night that he staggers into his own apartment, half dead with open cuts and still shaking, to be found by Foggy and Darius.

Amala runs over to Foggy as soon as the door opens, and if Matt were more awake, or Amala less frightened, than they would both know better than to be seen so far apart. Amala chitters around Foggy’s legs, running over his feet.

Even half-dead and in pain, he can feel it down to his bones when Amala anxiously noses up Foggy’s pant leg like she does with Matt, brushing her nose against bare skin, than twining around it, pressing as much of herself as she can to him.

Stick had touched her before. Nothing was off limits to him, nothing out of the question if it would make Matt stronger. He had to be prepared, Stick said. The enemy wouldn’t care about daemon etiquette, Stick said.

This is nothing like that. The touch of Stick’s hands on Amala had been an invasion, a dousing of cold water, a paralytic shock that Matt had learned to work through. Amala’s contact with like Foggy is like wakefulness, like caffeine first thing in the morning. Like warm sunshine on his skin.

“Amala?” Foggy asks, low and scared. “What’s wrong, is Matt ok?”

“Over here,” she says, and that’s another shock. Amala almost never talks to anyone but Matt. Not even Claire, when she and Barham had fished him unconscious out of the garbage.

Then everything goes hazy, lost the shadow sounds of Foggy moving closer, of Darius’ low croaks, and Amala chittering around his head.

--

It’s no surprise that Matt can’t find the right words to tell Foggy about his abilities. It’s no surprise that Foggy leaves. Everyone always does.

Amala curls around his neck, her nose tucked comfortingly behind his ear as Matt follows Foggy’s heartbeat down the street. The sound is angry, disjointed and fast. He listens until he can’t hear even that anymore, stroking Amala’s fur and pretending he hadn’t seen this coming.

“I’m here, Matt,” Amala whispers, over and over. “I’m here.”

--

Karen and Jasper are acting strange. Jasper, usually playful and bold, stays curled into a tight ball. His hood comes out even if it’s only Darius and Amala approaching him. Karen hides it better, but she smells like salty tears and bile. Matt doesn’t know how to help her.

Amala goes to curl up against Jasper and he hisses, hood fully extended until she leaves again.

--

“The newspapers have been saying that you’re severed.”

Matt tilts his head towards Foggy. Amala is curled up his lap, pretending to be asleep. Foggy has already opened his third beer, but Matt can hear it against the glass, he’s barely had a few sips.

“I’m not,” he says, careful. He strokes a hand down Amala’s back. He remembers the terrible tearing aching feeling he used to get, before their bond started to stretch. He can’t imagine being severed. He never wants to. Not ever.

“I can see that.” Foggy’s tone is flat, but he doesn’t sound angry. Darius croaks, and Matt hears the wet slap sound that he’s come to associate with Darius jumping. From the noise Foggy makes, he thinks that Darius is on his head. It’s one of his favorite places. “But you’re not normal. Are you?”

It’s barely even a question, but Matt can still feel his heart trip over. Even in her feigned slumber, Amala makes a pained noise. Darius makes one in reply.

“No,” Matt admits heavily. “No, I’m not.”

“Are you a witch?” Foggy demands. “Is that another secret you’ve kept from me?” Now his heart is racing, heat building in his voice. He wants to be angry again.

“No, that’s not.” He closes his eyes. “It’s not just one thing. It’s what I told you. It’s like my senses. Me and Amala, we stretch. Sometimes.”

“Sometimes,” Foggy repeats. Flat.

Matt shakes his head. “It’s just, it’s just something we can do, Foggy.” Please, he wants to say, please.

“You can’t train yourself to be away from your daemon!” Foggy snaps. Matt must flinch, or his face does something, or maybe Foggy knows him too well. “Right, Matt?” his voice is softer now. “Tell me this isn’t something you trained for.” Matt shakes his head and keeps shaking it. The sense-memory of Stick’s hands on Amala, of Sticks’s words in his ears, is strong.

Fabric rustles. The couch creaks. Foggy’s beer splashes in the bottle. Foggy moves closer. His hand lands on Matt’s knee, close to where Amala is still curled up. For one crazy, heartstopping minute, Matt wants Amala to press up against Foggy’s palm like she does for him. He wants Foggy to stroke down her fur, want him to erase all traces of Stick on his soul.

“Your crazy mentor dude, Rock-”

“Stick.”

“Whatever. Was that part of it? Did he-” Foggy trails off, like the thought is too hard to vocalize.

Looking away has no effect for Matt, he knows where Foggy is either way. But it means something to Foggy. It means he can’t see Matt’s face. It’s a nonverbal cheat code- it means ‘stop,’ it means ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’

Matt looks away.

“I’m going to touch your face,” Foggy says, in that same voice he has always used, to tell Matt about the world around him. His fingers, strong and too gentle, turn Matt’s face back. “If he did, then that’s really fucked up Matt.”

Matt laughs, and it sounds strained. “A lot of things are really fucked up.”

Foggy lets his hand drop. “No shit, Murdock.”

The laugh feels torn out of him in pieces, but it’s good. It helps.

Foggy helps.

--

 

The mistake that most city-dwellers make is assuming that deer are harmless. Matt leans his mistake about the same time that Fisk’s sweet-natured looking daemon rams into his chest and he can feel two ribs crack.

He gropes around for her, trying to push her away, trying to ignore the shuddery, wrong feeling of touching someone else’s daemon. Of touching Fisk’s daemon. She rears back and flails at him with her hooves and Matt can only barely dodge in time.

Matt is pretty sure that he saw Bambi when he was a kid. He doesn’t remember it going like this.

Amala, who is supposed to be staying out of the way, staying safe, climbs up onto Fisk’s daemon’s back and sinks sharp teeth into her neck. Fisk roars and makes another charge. Fighting him is both easier and harder than fighting the ninja. Fisk is stronger, yes, but he is so much louder. So much easier to place than the slight whisper of fabric and the smell of expensive cologne.

Matt has enough thought left to hope that Fisk and his daemon would have been too distracted to see what form Amala took before Fisk hits him, all the rage and form of a charging bull. His daemon is bucking and thrashing her head, trying to dislodge Amala, who only digs her teeth in harder.

When Fisk goes down, it doesn’t feel as good as he thought it would. As he hoped it would.

--

The dual heartbeat of human and daemon is waiting in Matt’s apartment when he gets back from his patrol. Familiar, steady. He would know the sound of Foggy and Darius anywhere, down to his bones. He sometimes thinks that he knows their heartbeats as well as he knows Amala’s.

A year ago, the thought might have scared him. Now, he wants to hold it close and never let go.

He’s left one of the windows unlocked, but he knocks to let Foggy know he’s there, and Foggy opens the window for him. He slips in quietly, giving Foggy what he hopes is a pleased smile. He has no idea if it works in his mask.

“It’s really freaky when you do that,” Foggy says, and the smile slips off of Matt’s face.

“Sorry.” He yanks at the mask, trying to get it off quickly. The leather is harder to work with than the old mask, and it catches on his sweaty skin.

“No, not that,” Foggy says, and his hands are gentle when he helps Matt take the mask off. It feels like a metaphor. Foggy helps him stop being Daredevil and start being just Matt again. “Where’s Amala.”

“Behind me. She’ll catch up.”

He can hear Foggy shaking his head. “Freaky.”

Matt hunches his shoulders in. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry Matt, jesus.” He really wasn’t going to say something, but he must make a face because Foggy says “I know, I know. Don’t use his name in vain. I just rolled my eyes at you.” He hesitates. “Could you see that? Or hear it?”

Matt crosses to his bedroom. Amala is getting closer, almost there, and it’s comforting. He strips out of his suit without thinking about it. “I can’t hear you roll your eyes, Foggy.” His sweatpants are in the third drawer down, and he grabs them absently. “But I do know you, and I can usually guess when you want to.”

Foggy makes an irritated noise under his breath. “Cheater.”

Matt huffs a laugh. “And you can’t tell what my face is doing, even though I’m not facing you?”

It’s dark enough in his room that he feels ok changing. It’s fine, they changed in front of each other in college. A few more scars, a couple more bruises, it shouldn’t matter.

“Yes, you’re making your ‘Foggy is overreacting and I, Martyr Matt Murdock have to deal with it’ face.”

Matt turns to face him, and Foggy points at his face. “That! That face right there.”

“So are you willing to admit that it maybe has nothing to do with what I can hear, and just a little bit to do with the fact that you’re my best friend.”

Amala climbs in through his window and leaps for him. Matt catches her gladly. Being apart on patrol is a necessity, but there is nothing like the joy of reuniting.

“Am I?” Foggy asks, his voice soft. “Your best friend, I mean.”

Matt’s heart drops into his stomach. He steps out of his shaded bedroom, into the living room. His lights are on, he can hear them buzz, feel their heat. He wants to put his hands on Foggy’s face, just to make sure he understands.

“If I’m sorry for anything, Foggy, it’s that I ever made you doubt that.” He swallows, and it’s painful. “I don’t even know what I would do without you.”

Foggy’s heart is racing. Matt doesn’t know what that means right now.

“I don’t have your ninja powers. I can’t hear your heartbeat. I don’t know if you’re lying to me.”

“But you know me, Foggy. You know me.” It sounds like pleading, and Matt hates it. Pleading has never helped anything. More than anything, he fears that Foggy will reject even this, this fundamental truth. Foggy knows him better than anyone but Amala. More than Matt ever thought was possible.

Then Foggy sighs. “Yeah, I guess I do.” He steps closer and pulls Matt into a hug. “Stop looking so scared, Murdock. I’m not going anywhere.”

Matt buries his face in Foggy’s shoulder and breathes. Foggy smells like home. He’s not sure when that happened, but it was too long ago for him to do anything about it now.

--

Amala is restless. Restless in a way that has nothing to do with how Matt is restless. This isn’t something that can be fixed with a trip to the gym or a night on patrol, and they both know it. He wonders, sometimes, if other people, normal people, have these problems. If they have moments where they want to scream at their daemon, if they have terrible fights and sometimes don’t speak for days.

Probably not.

Between the two of them, Matt is probably the more patient one. Amala is cautious with the body, with danger and Russian mobsters and rich crime lords. Matt is cautious with his heart, and Amala is tired of waiting.

“If you would just tell him,” she whispers, and Matt flinches because he can still hear Foggy’s heartbeat, threading in with his own as familiar as breathing.

“No.”

Amala bites his ear, hard. He swats at her, absently, not trying to connect, and she dodges his hands, jumping down to the floor. Foggy is only in the next room, but even that is far for most people. He can hear Amala’s tiny paws on the hard floor, tied in with how he can feel their bond stretching between them. He bites down, hard, on the urge to follow her. She is being a brat, and it’s what she wants.

“Oh hi there,” Foggy says, sounding pleased and surprised. Matt keeps his head pointed at his desk, for all that the doesn’t matter. “What are you doing here?”

Amala doesn’t answer. At least she isn’t acting out enough for that, though he wouldn’t put it past her. Amala had been the one to say that he should tell Foggy about his senses, and then later about the mask. She always wants him to bear his soul to Foggy, as if he doesn’t always feel stripped open and raw in front of him anyway.

She chitters around Foggy’s feet, and Matt knows what that means. She wants Foggy to pick her up. Foggy won’t, Matt is certain. Foggy would never. Even if Matt asked, offered. It’s too intimate. Too real. Too revealing. And Amala wouldn’t force herself against Foggy’s skin, not without permission. Foggy’s permission, at the least. She hardly cares about Matt’s when she gets like this.

“Loose something, Matt?” Foggy calls, raising his voice, though he hardly needs to. He hears paws against wood, then a rustle of papers. Amala has climbed up onto Foggy’s desk, and Matt forces down a blush at her forwardness. At her neediness. Everything that he’s too afraid to show and everything that they both want.

“I think she likes you better,” he jokes, and he can hear Foggy swallow, his heart skip. It makes Matt swallow too, reflexive.

Amala scampers forward again, and he can hear Foggy jerk back. She would have almost nosed his hand, at that distance.

“Don’t joke about that, buddy,” Foggy replies, and his voice is strained.

Matt closes his eyes, and takes a breath. He’s jumped off buildings, he’s taken bullets. This can’t be the scariest thing he’s ever done. Amala isn’t the only one who wants. “I’m not joking.”

Foggy shakes his head, the sound of hair against fabric and skin familiar. “Matt,” he trails off, and Matt clenches his hands to stop them from shaking.

“Would you,” he sucks in another breath. “Would you bring her over?”

Foggy’s gasp rings loud in his ears, Darius’ startled croak no less so. His own heart is racing, but so is Foggy’s.

“I can’t- Matt. I can’t just- that’s for-”

“Please.” It comes out as a whisper, and Matt has to make himself raise his voice. “I want you to. We both want you too.”

Amala chitters in easy agreement, and then- then Matt has to close his eyes against the sudden surge of warmth and pleasure. It’s nothing like when Stick had clutched Amala in cold, tight hands.

He can feel Foggy’s hands on Amala’s fur, soft and careful, as though she is going to break, but part of him feels like Foggy has reached inside of him. It’s like drinking hot chocolate in winter, or the first sip of good wine. Warming and rich and something a lot like home.

He’s so caught up in the unfamiliar feeling- so pleasant but not at all sexual, that he barely hears Foggy actually moving until Foggy stops right in front of him. Then Foggy swallows and holds out his hands. Matt holds out his own and Foggy carefully puts Amala inside his cupped palms.

“Thank you,” Matt whispers.

“Yeah,” Foggy says back, just as soft. “Would you, would you like to hold Darius.”

Matt lets Amala climb back up his arm to her habitual place around his neck before he nods carefully. “If that’s ok.”

Foggy gives a little laugh, nervous and high. “Yeah of course,” he clears his throat. “I mean, yeah, that’s fine.”

Matt can’t help but grin, charmed all over again. God, will Foggy ever stop having this effect on him. He holds out his hands again, waiting.

“You shouldn’t look at me like that,” Foggy says.

“Like what?”

“Like you never want to look at anything else. Uh, figuratively speaking, I guess.”

Matt swallows. There’s no way to say how true that is. If he could have sight for a minute, an hour, a day- he’d be happy to spend it all looking at Foggy.

“I don’t,” he says.

“Oh.” Then Foggy drops Darius into his hands, hands made clumsy with nerves and emotions. Matt can hear how his heart races. And then his thoughts are caught up in how Darius feels in his hands. Cool, of course, but not slimy. Damp, and smooth against his fingertips. Unbearably fragile, for all he knows how tough Darius can be. He strokes a careful finger down Darius’ back, and Foggy inhales sharply.

Matt stands, and if he were holding anything other than Darius, anything other than Foggy’s daemon, he would have dropped it. Instead, he sets Darius gently down on the desk, and raises his hands to cup Foggy’s face.

Kissing Foggy isn’t fireworks or lightning. It’s like coming home, the familiar smell of Foggy’s shampoo and soap and the clean musk that’s just Foggy.