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As Meat Loves Salt

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Foggy looks up as the bell over the door jingles and suppresses a groan. Great, it’s the blind douchebag again. He thinks, as he always does, that he shouldn’t think of the guy as “the blind douchebag” because he’s sure he’s more than his disability or whatever, but the fact of the matter is that there are lots of douchebags that come into Nelson’s Meats and Poultry and only one blind guy. Which maybe means that he should think of him as “the blind guy,” but that’s probably worse.

And besides, he is such a douchebag.

He taps his way confidently through the store, greets Karen pleasantly when she says hello as he passes by the register, and stops in front of the counter.

“Morning,” Foggy says so that the blind douchebag knows he’s there, because he’s not a total asshole. “What can I get for you today?”

The blind douchebag - or TBD, as Foggy sometimes calls him, silently, to himself, because otherwise he’d have to explain it - smiles. There’s a cockiness to it, like he’s used to getting people to do whatever he wants when he smiles. He probably is. One of TBD’s most annoying qualities is that he’s, like, model-handsome. “How are the lamb chops?”

“Absolutely spectacular,” Foggy says. “Organic, grass-fed, incredibly tender. Made them myself the last time we got some from this particular farm, and let me tell you, these would make a Greek man weep for home.”

He braces himself. And sure enough: “Do you mind if I smell them?”

Yes! Yes, Foggy minds! It’s weird! But it’s also not the only time TBD has asked to rub his nose in the wares before purchasing them, so Foggy forces a bright tone into his voice and says “Not at all!” before picking a chop up with a piece of wax paper and holding it over the counter in the general direction of TBD’s nose.

It’s a really nice nose, he thinks before he can stop himself. There’s a slight curve to it, and a sort of flat bit just left of center, like he’s broken it at some point. It’s a good thing, though - it adds character to what might otherwise be a too-pretty face. Complexity.

Foggy catches himself and scowls. Keep it together, Nelson.

TBD sniffs thoughtfully like he’s inhaling the fragrance of a fine wine or a prizewinning rose and not a piece of raw meat. “Hm,” he says, which never means good things for Foggy. “Are you sure this is grass-fed?”

Foggy grits his teeth. “Yes, I’m sure,” he says. “I know this supplier personally. I’ve been to his farm. Lots of grass.”

“That doesn’t mean he’s not supplementing with something else,” TBD says. He’s still got that musing expression, at least on the parts of his face Foggy can see around his glasses.

“He wouldn’t lie to me,” Foggy says.

“You can’t always tell,” TBD says. Like you can tell what a lamb ate in life by sniffing at a bit of its shoulder like a disdainful cat in a Fancy Feast commercial.

Foggy pulls the chop back. This is stupid and his arm is getting tired. “Well, these are the chops I have. Should I wrap some up for you?”

TBD cocks his head. “I’ll take four,” he says finally, and smiles. “Thank you, Mr. Nelson.”

Foggy grumbles something adjacent to “You’re welcome” and busies himself with wrapping up the chops. That smile is a trap, and Foggy Nelson could’ve gone to law school if the Nelson family finances had allowed it. He’s too smart for traps.

TBD brushes his hand as he reaches for the meat, as he always does - probably a blind guy thing, figuring out exactly where Foggy is - and heads for the register. He exchanges some pleasantries with Karen that Foggy definitely doesn’t listen to, and then taps his way out the door, the bell above it ringing jauntily in farewell.

Karen turns towards the counter the minute he’s gone and gives Foggy a grin like a cat who just found herself in the middle of Canarypalooza 2015.

“What?” he asks.

“Oh, I’ve just never seen a mating dance from this close before,” she says.

Foggy does not splutter. It’s just that suddenly there’s a lot of spit in his windpipe for no reason and he needs to kind of cough it out. “What?” he says again, when he can talk.

Karen’s laughing at him. Karen’s an asshole. “You looked like you were about ten seconds from jumping over the counter and ravaging him. Which, don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame you at all. Hel-lo, Mr. Murdock.”

“I wasn’t going to - Mr. Murdock?”

“He paid with a credit card. His name’s Matthew M. Murdock. Very alliterative.”

Huh. That’s only marginally better than “the blind douchebag,” but it’s also not the most pressing concern right now. “Well, whatever his name is, he’s an asshole. That wasn’t an expression of lust you saw, it was loathing. I hate that guy. He’s a jerk and a total food snob, and I say that as someone who owns an organic butcher shop! I know from food snobbery.”

Karen presses her hands over her heart. “Oh, this is so romantic comedy. I hope Reese Witherspoon plays you in the movie.”

Foggy scowls and pushes open the door to the back room. “I’m gonna go grind some sirloin. You can stay out here with your delusions.”

She’s still laughing as the door swings shut behind him.

*

Matthew M. Murdock purses his lips over the hunk of ground beef that Foggy is diligently holding out for him. “You said this is an eighty-twenty blend?”

“That’s what you asked for,” Foggy says patiently. At least, he hopes he sounds patient, and not like he wants to wring Murdock’s neck.

Those lips twist again, distractingly. “It’s just, it smells a bit fattier than that.”

Heaven forbid an extra ounce of fat reach those trim hips. For a guy who buys meat every week like clockwork, Murdock sure looks like he spends his days doing nothing but eating salads and lifting weights. Of course, it’s not like it’s possible to smell the difference between fat and lean meat anyway, so this whole exchange is ridiculous.

“It’s eighty-twenty, sir,” Foggy says. “My hand to God.”

He could swear Murdock’s mouth goes smirkier when Foggy calls him “sir,” but Murdock just nods. “Well, if you and God both agree, I guess I’ll take two pounds.”

As Foggy weighs out the meat, Murdock runs a finger over the shiny silver edge of the counter. Great, Foggy just polished it and now Murdock’s grubby mitts are all over it. “You know, I don’t think that lamb last week was entirely grass-fed. You ought to have a conversation with your supplier.”

“What, you do a seance to quiz the thing on what it ate?”

Murdock laughs - actually throws his head back like they’re two buds bantering over drinks or something. “No, I just...it had that quality, you know.”

Foggy feels his jaw twinge as he grits his teeth. His dentist should be paying a percentage to this guy. “Oh, sure. A quality.” He wraps the meat and slaps a price sticker on it. “Here you go. Have a nice day.” As long as he has it anywhere but here.

“You too, Mr. Nelson.”

Murdock pays and leaves. Foggy immediately starts wiping the counter, trying to look very busy so Karen won’t start in on him, but that’s not the sort of thing that’s likely to deter her.

“‘Mr. Nelson,’” she says, and he can hear the delighted grin in her voice. “God, Foggy, he wants to tap you so hard.”

“Or he doesn’t know my first name,” Foggy points out.

She leans against the counter, ignoring his attempts to wipe around her. “You know he’s a lawyer?”

Foggy does not care what Matthew M. Murdock does for a living, but… “How do you know that?”

“I Googled him. You know that Urich guy who wrote the profile on us for the paper?”

“Who you bullied into writing the profile on us.” And probably saved the store by doing so, since Urich’s glowing portrait of a small, scrappy business owned by a local kid had brought the hipsters in in droves. Foggy could probably blame Urich for Murdock, actually.

Karen shrugs. “I just pointed him to a story. Anyway, he wrote an article on Murdock, too. Apparently he does all these pro bono cases, takes on any hard luck case. Sounds like a real hero.”

That rings a bell. “Wait...Murdock? Did he...holy shit, he’s that kid! Who saved that old guy!” Foggy’d clipped an article about the heroic blind Matt Murdock for Current Events back in fourth grade. It had stuck with him because he and Murdock were the same age. He’d always wondered if he’d have had the courage to do what Murdock had done.

Karen nods. “Yeah, there was a whole sidebar about it in the article. See? Your future husband isn’t all bad.” She grins. “Hey, when you’re married, are you going to keep working, or close up shop and live off his lawyer money? I want to know if I should start reading the want ads.”

“If he takes that many cases pro bono, he can’t have that much money,” Foggy points out.

“Good, I hate job searching.”

Foggy catches himself. “Oh, and he’s not my future husband!”

“You should hyphenate. Nelson-Murdock. It has a nice ring to it.” Karen ducks as Foggy throws his cleaning rag at her and laughs her way back to the register.

Hero Matt Murdock, though...Foggy never thought he’d meet him. He’s certainly heroic-looking, all right. And crusading lawyer, that sounds about right for someone who went around tackling old guys out of the way of trucks before he grew his first chest hair.

It’s too bad that the personality doesn’t match the legend. But that’s why they say you should never meet your heroes, right?

*

“Would you give it a rest, Karen? He’s just a customer.”

“He comes in every week to sniff your meat, Foggy.”

“If you think that’s foreplay, I don’t want to know what you get up to in the bedroom.”

Karen shrugs. “Look, all I’m saying is that if he made as many excuses to talk to me as he does to you, you’d be calling me Karen Murdock by now.”

“That’s not…” Foggy glances towards the door. “Okay, shut up, would you? He’s coming in.”

Karen winks and heads back to the register. The bell over the door jingles and Matthew Murdock walks in...on the arm of a beautiful woman.

Oh.

He’s got her hand tucked loosely, comfortably into the curve of her elbow. Their heads are close together and she’s murmuring something that makes him laugh, smile lines creasing deep enough to be seen past the edge of his glasses.

Karen shoots Foggy a sympathetic look, which he appreciates until he remembers that the Nelson-Murdock romance is entirely a product of her demented mind. He doesn’t even like the guy.

“Good morning,” he says what is definitely in his most normal voice as they approach the counter. “What can I get for you today?”

Murdock tilts his head. “Hmm, I don’t know. What looks good, Claire?”

She arches her eyebrows. “I’m sorry, didn’t you tell me you already had something picked out here?” she asks, a suggestive lilt to her voice.

Murdock chokes a little, a pink flush rising in his cheeks, and the woman - Claire - laughs. Foggy fights the urge to roll his eyes. It’s not enough that he has to put up with Murdock rubbing his nose all over the wares; now he has to watch him flirt weirdly via meat.

“Uh. I was thinking pork loin,” Murdock says, and Foggy’s pretty sure he sees him elbow Claire in the ribs. “I have this amazing spice rub you need to try.”

“Deal,” Claire says, and looks at Foggy. “He’s a really good cook.”

“Uh...great,” Foggy says, going for the pork to hide his expression. “This is a quality pig. It deserves to be treated right.” He doesn’t need to be part of whatever these two have going on. Next she’s going to tell him Murdock gives amazing back rubs and is hung like a - nope. Foggy shuts that train of thought down fast. He doesn’t need those mental images.

“Yeah, Matt’s, like, one of those super tasters,” Claire goes on as Foggy weighs the meat. “He has very discerning tastes.”

“I told my friend this place is the best in the neighborhood,” Murdock says. “She had to come see it for herself.”

If he thinks Foggy’s is the best, Foggy would hate to see how he complains at lesser establishments. “Well, we aim to please here at Nelson’s Meats and Poultry,” Foggy says, taking refuge in inane cliches as he wraps the pork and prices it. He holds it over the counter. “Here you go.”

He expects Claire to take it, as Murdock’s got one hand on his cane and the other on Claire’s arm, but Murdock lets go of Claire to fumble over Foggy’s hand before taking the package. “Thank you, Mr. Nelson.”

Claire gives him a radiant smile. God, they’re gonna have beautiful babies. “Yes, thank you, Mr. Nelson.”

“Come back any time,” Foggy says, because he’s an idiot.

“I’m sure we will,” Claire says. “Well, Mr. Foodie here definitely will, won’t you, Matt?”

“Ah. Heh. Yeah.” Murdock’s still pink. Foggy doesn’t like the guy, but he still wants to tell him to chill on his weird meat-shopping date. This is getting pathetic. “See you next week? Uh, in a manner of speaking.” He taps the frame of his glasses with his cane hand.

“I’ll be here,” Foggy says, because, well, he will.

Murdock gives him another smile and heads for the register, Claire following along behind. Foggy closes the case and doesn’t watch them go. After all, he has no reason to.

*

Foggy can’t even bring himself to sigh when Murdock comes in the next week. He’ll complain about the pork loin, he’ll smell something else, he’ll take it home and cook it for Claire, they’ll make love on a bearskin rug in front of a roaring fire. Probably. It all feels kind of inevitable.

Murdock taps his way over to the counter. “Mr. Nelson?”

“Morning,” Foggy says. “How was the pork loin?”

“Uh...it was good,” Murdock says. “It was very good.”

Huh, he’s not complaining about something. That’s a first. Foggy’s pleased until he realizes that pork loin probably got Murdock laid. That must’ve been a hell of a spice rub.

“Well, what can I get you today?” he asks.

He must not have injected enough false pep into his voice, because Murdock frowns. “Oh. Uh...I think just a couple of chicken breasts this week.”

“Just two?” Foggy asks. “You know, they’re not injected with hormones or force fed or anything, so they’re a little on the small side. Are you sure two’s going to be enough?”

Now Murdock just looks puzzled. “How much do you think I eat?”

Clearly just radicchio and moonlight, but Foggy’s not going to say that. “Well, you know, you and your girlfriend…”

“My girlfriend?” The line between Murdock’s brows is visible even with the glasses.

“Oh, uh, the woman who came in with you last week?” Thank God Murdock can’t see how hard Foggy’s blushing. Karen’s blatantly eavesdropping, of course, but Foggy’s embarrassed himself in front of her enough times not to care anymore.

“Who, Claire?” Murdock asks, and he sounds genuinely startled. “Oh, Claire’s not...I don’t...she’s just a friend.”

Foggy realizes belatedly that he probably shouldn’t be prying into his customers’ love lives. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to assume - ”

“I don’t have a girlfriend,” Murdock says before he can finish.

“...Oh.” That’s definitely relief he’s feeling, which is...an interesting thing to note. Stupid Karen putting stupid thoughts in his stupid head.

Murdock pauses, as if listening to something Foggy can’t hear. The corner of his mouth turns up. “I don’t have a boyfriend, either.”

Foggy’s vaguely aware that his mouth is hanging open, and that Karen is making a truly ridiculous face at him over Murdock’s shoulder. This can’t possibly mean what he thinks it means. “...Is that so?”

Murdock shakes his head. “Sadly, no. All I have is a habit of paying a ridiculous markup on meat at a specialty shop instead of buying it at the grocery store like a normal person, all so I can flirt with the butcher.”

And there it is, the complaining. He should have known. “My prices are not marked up!” Foggy says indignantly. “Everything I sell is organic, locally-sourced, free range...wait, what?”

Murdock shrugs one shoulder. Karen breaks into a silent but intensely aerobic victory dance behind that shoulder, but Foggy doesn’t have time to watch her, because the corner of Murdock’s mouth is turning up again, and it’s suddenly the most fascinating thing Foggy’s ever seen.

“Claire told me I might be going about this the wrong way,” Murdock says. “So, uh, here it is: you can tell me to get lost if you want, but you’re funny and smart and, I don’t know, you sound cute.” Foggy’s heart is beating a mile a minute. Murdock smiles, a proper one this time. “Are you cute?”

“Me?” Foggy glances at Karen, who stops dancing long enough to give him two very enthusiastic thumbs up. “I’m adorable.”

Murdock’s grin widens. It turns out Foggy really likes that grin. “So if I were to ask you to have dinner with me on Friday…”

“Do I get to pick the restaurant?” Foggy asks. “Because a lot of places around here get their meat from Fisk’s, and his stuff is full of all sorts of shady chemicals.”

“I’ll rely on your judgment, Mr. Nelson,” Murdock says.

Foggy can’t seem to stop smiling. He knows Karen’s going to “I told you so” him to death, but as long as Murdock keeps beaming that expression in his direction, he doesn’t particularly care. “It’s Foggy. Well, it’s Franklin, really, but everyone calls me Foggy.”

“Foggy,” Murdock says. Foggy might like the way Murdock says his name even better than the smile. “I’m Matt.”

It’s a hell of a lot better than “the blind douchebag.” Foggy’s eyes flit towards Karen, who’s now clapping silently like she’s at a show, and back to the handsome, happy face in front of him. Sure, the guy might be an overly-fastidious food snob - but he just might be Foggy’s overly fastidious food snob.

“Nice to meet you, Matt,” he says.