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(Smile) Like You Mean It

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The first time it happens, Matt tries not to read too much into it. He's pretty banged up, which always upsets Foggy, and also, he's pretty banged up, so maybe he heard it wrong. Somehow. (He's pretty sure he didn't.)

“Just... Just be more careful, Matt,” Foggy is saying, his voice traveling with him as he paces. There is no anger in his words. Frustration and worry are both present in large amounts, but no anger. Foggy doesn't often get truly angry at him about Daredevil lately, and it hurts Matt to think that he's put his friend through so much stress that maybe Foggy is too tired for anger anymore.

Speaking is difficult; Foggy has confirmed there's a ring of bruises around his throat that Matt still doesn't know how he's going to hide. He opens his mouth and croaks, “I do try not to get hit, you know.”

“Could've fooled me – and do not come to work tomorrow. Turtleneck sweater or no, you're like, stuck in Daredevil voice, there's no way Karen won't hear that.”

“This is not my Daredevil voice.”

“So you admit you do have one.”

Matt grins. Foggy sighs, and stops pacing back and forth in front of the couch; the sudden absence of his footfalls leaves Matt dizzy. Foggy takes a breath like he's going to speak, and then doesn't. He does it again and his heart starts to speed up. Finally he says, “Just... rest for a while at least, okay? I love you, I worry about you, my hair's turning gray and I can assure you it's very unattractive.”

Matt manages to keep smiling at him, somehow, in the wake of the yawning vacuum that has just opened in his chest. “I'll sleep this one off, I promise.”

Foggy's heartbeat is perfectly steady as he heads for the door, muttering, “You absolutely will, because I'm coming back here tomorrow morning to yell at you if I find any new bruises. I memorized them, Murdock!”

The door shuts behind him. Matt clenches his hands into fists and lets them go, exhaling carefully, doesn't let himself get too caught up in any kind of emotion. His ribs and throat are still aching and besides, maybe Foggy's heart sped up because he was worried, or because his hair isn't actually going gray.

(Foggy is always worried about Matt, nowadays.)

(Foggy's heart does not speed up when he is joking.)


The second time is only a couple weeks later, and it's funny, really, that it's this that makes Matt realize (again) just how often Foggy actually says it. He's just... become accustomed to it, over the years. (It used to hurt for a different reason.)

(He got used to that, too.)

They've won a case, an innocent woman has gone free, and there is a small celebration going on inside the walls of Nelson And Murdock, Attorneys At Law. It's all pleasant and not too overwhelming; Karen is demanding a play-by-play of the courtroom events, which Foggy is happily providing.

“And then Matt – Matt is like, hey, asshole, we disproved that piece of so-called evidence yesterday!”

...with perhaps a hint of dramatization.

Then Foggy's arm is around his shoulders – a sudden move that, enhanced senses or not, only Foggy has standing permission to make without warning. Matt can't focus on everyone and everything at all times and he has plenty of reasons to be especially wary of unexpected physical contact.

(Right now, though, victorious and safe in their office, Karen laughing and Foggy spinning stories, Foggy's arm around him, Matt feels warm. Content. He feels like maybe he can file this moment away, something good to think back on when he needs it.)

Foggy's heart rate is up, has been for a while now in the excitement of winning the case, but the rhythm suddenly shifts – picks up just a little bit more, and Matt knows what Foggy is going to say, for one frozen instant before he says it:

“I love this guy!”

Matt smiles, and says nothing. He keeps his jaw clenched, to make sure it can't shake.


The third time nearly breaks him. Because now he's sure: Foggy is just trying to be nice. Matt can't detect a lie that someone doesn't know they're telling; there is a reason Foggy's heart speeds up when he says those words. He's overthinking them, worrying about them, making a conscious decision to say them where before they would have fallen easily into the conversation; I love you, buddy, but I told you that class would be boring as shit.

Matt clambers in through his own window, soaked to the skin with rain and surprisingly little blood, all things considered. Foggy is waiting in his living room, and Matt smells the cheap beer he stole out of his fridge; hears the deep breaths he takes to keep himself from yelling.

“You didn't answer your phone. So I figured you were... out, in this, and, I don't know. I was worried. Lot of lightning and shit and I never know when you're fighting ten guys on top of a building.” Foggy's heartbeat is perfectly steady. His hands might be shaking, Matt isn't sure. (He's pretty sure.) “Mind if I crash on your couch tonight?”

“All yours,” Matt says. “Sorry,” he adds, and he knows how... insufficient it is. Sorry you were worried. Sorry you're always worried. Sorry I'm a worrying person to care about. Maybe you should stop.

(Maybe you're starting to.)

Foggy laughs, a little breathlessly.

His heart speeds up.

“I love you, buddy, but you scare the hell out of me sometimes, you know?”

Matt smiles. It feels brittle. “Love you too, Foggy.”


The fourth time, he snaps.

He's tired, he's sore, he's bleeding and mostly annoyed about it, he's got a steadily building headache and Foggy won't shut up.

“You have got to give yourself a break, dude! When was the last time you slept?”

“I sleep.”

“That's not an answer!”

“Foggy, I'm fine. It's just a busted lip.”

“No, it's not! It's the busted lip and the five hundred other things that you still haven't let heal, and if you start talking about meditating the pain away again I will kick you. Then I'll call Claire, and she'll come over here and kick you, and then she'll tell you exactly how many stitches you've popped in the last month.”

Foggy's heart rate is climbing, reaches a plateau safely in the territory of fear and frustration, and Matt grits his teeth and resigns himself to the fact that Foggy isn't going to leave: they are both in this argument for the long haul. “Two. I've popped my stitches twice this month, Foggy.” He heads to his bedroom to get the rest of the body armor off, and calls out the doorway, “I'm taking things slower, you know I am!”

“Slow is good!” Foggy calls back. “An actual break would be better! Take a week off, Matt! A week! One teeny tiny week of not punching anyone and not getting punched. Think of it like a vacation.”

“I don't need a vacation,” Matt growls, pulling armor off and pajamas on and – actually, yes, being very careful not to irritate any stitches, so shut up, Foggy.

“Well maybe I do!” Foggy snaps, and Matt... stops. And listens. “Maybe I need one fucking week where I don't have to worry that you're – being tortured, or torturing somebody, or getting shot at, or stabbed, or punched, or thrown off buildings – if you won't do it for yourself, just –” a split second of hesitation, Foggy's heart rate spikes, please no, “I love you, Matt, I'm worried, do it for me!”

Half-dressed in pajama pants and no shirt, Matt throws himself out of his room and shouts: “STOP SAYING THAT!”

Foggy is very still. His heart is beating very fast. “Stop... saying what?”

Matt is breathing too hard and it hurts. “Stop saying you love me! I can hear lies, Foggy, you know I can hear lies, did you forget? Did you think you could trick me?”

“Woah, woah woah – lies, what do you mean lies, I haven't –”

“Every time you say it! Your heart speeds up, you're thinking about it too much, you're worried about it, you don't want to say it but you do anyway because you're so – you're so damn nice, but I can hear it, I can hear that you don't mean it anymore and I would rather you just – just stop saying it, because it's killing me!”

There is a long stretch of – not silence, never silence, but Matt can't seem to hear anything outside of the pounding in his own head, his own heart hammering in his chest, his own breathing, too fast and too ragged, there is still blood on his lip and the iron smell, the taste, it's cloying, overwhelming, his ribs are aching and his hands are clenched into fists but he can't hold them still and he should never have done this, should never have yelled at Foggy for being kind enough to try and let things be normal, let him believe they were really going to be okay after Matt ruined everything.

“...Matt? Maaaaatt. Earth to Matthew Murdock. MATT. Buddy. I think you need to sit down.” Foggy's voice is far away and swimming, and there is a safely familiar hand on his arm, leading him somewhere.

Couch. Good.

He sits. He breathes. The world expands just a bit, beyond himself, beyond the blood and beyond the awful, nameless clawing in his chest. The couch is rough against his back and the floor is cold under his feet. The air is dusty, and just beginning to still now that nobody is shouting into it or walking through it.

“Okay,” Foggy says quietly. Matt cannot hear Foggy, but his voice projects far enough, into the tiny world Matt is struggling to keep from exploding outward into crying infants down city blocks. “So, shit, I definitely should have thought of this, that's, uh, this is on me. I haven't... been lying, exactly.”

“What –”

“Let me... Just let me explain, okay?”

Matt hunches over himself, trying to keep the bare skin of his back from touching the couch any longer and trying to process the entire situation. He yelled at Foggy and Foggy is still here. “...Okay.”

Foggy takes a deep breath. “What, uh, what does my heart sound like to you right now?”

Cautiously, Matt lets his bubble of sensory input expand a little further, cocooning Foggy into it with him. “It's pounding. Fast. Could mean a lot of things.”

“It means I'm nervous. Can you just – can you just trust me, just, believe that I'm really, really freakin' nervous right now?”

Matt's answer catches in his throat. He wants to say yes, wants to not even have to consider that question(because what right does he have), but it takes him a few seconds to nod, and mean it.

Foggy exhales and Matt realizes he was holding his breath. Waiting for Matt's answer. Matt's hands are starting to shake again and this time he's sure that Foggy's are, too(and this time, there is no beer).

“Okay.” Foggy swallows, breathes again. “The thing is, I... I sort of realized something, a while ago. Like maybe a couple months after the whole... After I found out, about you.”

Matt opens his mouth and can't think of anything to say, is struck again and just as hard as he was the first time by how wrong it all is, that Foggy found out, wasn't told but had to find out. He shuts his mouth. Words aren't going to fix that. Nothing is going to fix that.

Foggy continues.

“I don't... Ugh, I'm like, trying to find some way to explain it without explaining it, that's literally lying, I'm just gonna. Fuck. Okay: I'm in love with you.”

Matt... was so, so very not expecting that, it takes him a second to even understand it. “...You're what?”

Foggy immediately starts babbling. “Plus side: the actual opposite of what you thought it was! Down side, still probably not what you were hoping to hear. Sorry, I can just. I'm fine, okay?” Foggy's heart speeds up and so does his speech, and Matt does, this time, put it down to nerves. Mostly. “I know it might be weird but, just, literally everything about our lives is weird, I can handle being your friend if you can handle knowing I'm in love with you, please tell me you can handle that, I really still want to be your friend, I can definitely stop saying I love you though because it might be kinda creepy now, I thought it was getting creepy for me to keep saying it, that was why I kept overthinking it, I can–”

“Foggy.” Matt is laughing, doesn't mean to be, but the relief is making him giddy. “Foggy, Foggy, relax. I... I mean, if anything, now I want to hear you say it more.”

“You – what?” Foggy's voice actually squeaks.

Matt takes a deep breath of his own and tries to sound casual. “I've been in love with you forever, I kind of assumed you either didn't notice or were just being nice.”

“I hit on you!” Foggy is nearly shrieking in indignation. It hurts Matt's head but he can't bring himself to care, because this is actually happening to him right now. “The literal, actual first time we met, I hit on you! And you got all – all weird and freaked out about it!”

“Because you hit on me! The first time we met! I didn't know you!” Matt tries desperately to sound sternly disapproving as he continues: “Foggy Nelson, are you telling me you based your conclusion that I couldn't possibly have feelings for you on one single interaction between two awkward college kids? You are a terrible lawyer.”

“I hate you.”

Matt smiles.