Matt couldn’t say when it all started.
Maybe when Foggy finally walked out the door, smelling of tears and deep sedated sadness, breath itching in his chest at every sob that never made it out his throat.
Maybe it all started years back, when Foggy opened his heart to him and let him in without a second thought, and Matt still decided to lie to him.
Maybe it all started when he dragged Foggy out of a brilliant career and a future of not being broke to go save the world, and then slipped behind Foggy’s back with a mask and all the rage that finally broke out the place he had been keep sealed deep inside his darkest corners.
Maybe it all started when he slowed his punching down, breath heavy and knuckles hurting, listening to the sound of Foggy’s heart beating madly outside the gym’s door. He waited, and waited, and waited.
Foggy never stepped inside.
Matt couldn’t say when everything started, but he could say that that was the moment his heart started to crumble down, piece after piece.
He didn’t quite realize that, at first.
There was still Fisk to think about. Fisk, dangerous and merciless, a dark shadow hanging over everything Matt cared about.
He went to speak with Brett, hoping to find something, anything, that could put him on the right track. The conversation he heard from the cops walking by them, talking about Hoffman, was a good start, but not enough.
He and Karen were working non-stop, trying to find something, anything, that could shuffle the odds in their favor.
There was so much to do, how could Matt waste time thinking about his hurt feelings when every seconds passing could’ve made the difference between life and death?
So they worked, and worked, and worked, and when Foggy entered the office, tense and closed off, carrying a stack of paper between his arms, Matt stopped only for a second to tap at his braille display, before resuming his work.
Karen stared at him, instead, and Matt felt the quiet rage bubbling in her. Foggy made no apologies, but handed her the paper.
“We should go through these.” He said.
“What are these?” Karen asked, voice low and even, the voice of someone trying their best not to growl.
“Marci had been slipping me info on Fisk from her office.” Foggy said, voice neutral. It was a tone that didn’t fit him. “She’s risking her job for these. I say we take a look and see what pops up.”
Matt heard Karen blink repeatedly and a small hitch of surprise in her breath. When she spoke again, kinder, Matt could tell she was already half-way forgiving Foggy for not being at Ben’s funeral.
“Ok, yeah, let’s look at these.”
Matt wished he could say that Foggy was half-way forgiving him, too, but he knew there was simply no hope that would happen.
Foggy was here because Foggy was a good man that still wanted to help take Fisk down, despite having all the reasons not to.
Matt wasn’t gonna held his breath waiting for a miracle that won’t come. He had dug the hole himself. He might as well get cozy in there.
When he went out, praying that Fisk’s men hadn’t found Hoffman yet, he felt Foggy’s eyes burning on his back.
Matt let himself imagine another universe were Foggy would tell him to be careful, his voice kind and worried.
But only for a second.
They had won, but it didn’t felt like a victory at all.
They took the case together, as Nelson & Murdock, and Karen smiled at them like she was glad they finally stopped fighting. They drank together when Fisk was finally thrown into a cell.
The sign went up outside their building, and Matt touched it forcing a smile out of himself.
They had won, and Foggy was, amazingly enough, still there.
Matt acted as if he never started counting the days until Foggy would finally get tired of pretending and just get his stuff and leave.
The Fisk case had the news talking for weeks, and that was good enough publicity to bring plenty of clientele at their door. Matt let himself get lost into work and use the suit hidden in his closet every now and then, more carefully.
But the satisfaction of being finally able to do his job in his firm had been short and weak, like the flame of a match.
Because working also meant staying at the office, where he had to play along with Foggy acting as if nothing was wrong.
It meant hearing him and Karen joking and laughing, and pretending that it was ok.
It meant wanting every second to get up his chair and step into Foggy’s office, to fall at his feet and beg for forgiveness, and never doing it.
It meant facing the fact that they both knew all of this was a castle made of cards, ready to crumble at the first breath of air.
And Matt wasn’t ready to open that can of worms quite yet.
He would never be.
Because for how much it hurt to hear Foggy laugh and knowing he would never be the one to make him laugh ever again, it also meant being able to still hear his voice.
For every time Foggy talked to him about work in that neutral tone, it meant being still able to hang on his scent a second more.
For all the “My firm Partner” that hurt like a knife in the guts, it was a day he could still spend at Foggy’s side.
And Matt was a creature born of egoism and lies. It didn’t matter how much every word, every smile that wasn’t meant for him, every time he had to play the act, hurts. Because if that meant being able to hang onto Foggy if only for a minute more, Matt would endure.
But working started to feel empty, fast. And one evening, when Karen had left slightly earlier than usual, Foggy stepped into his office, put a cup of coffee on his desk and said “I’m glad to see there hadn’t been new bruises on your face for a while, now.”
He was calm, his voice was calm, his heartbeat was calm, and he sipped at the cup he made for himself right after with a smooth and delicate gesture.
Matt’s stomach dropped down, and he croaked a “yeah” and a “thanks” as he grabbed the cup trying to don’t let his hand shake too hard. He took a small sip, and the coffee was just the way he liked it. A hint of fresh milk, sweet enough to create a contrast with the bitterness of the coffee without covering the taste.
He heard Foggy’s face muscles do something, before he left.
If this had happened weeks ago, Matt wouldn’t have to think twice to know that Foggy had smiled at him.
Now he didn’t know anymore.
He didn’t know what to think and hearing Foggy talking about his other activity, even if only tangentially, had felt like being punched in the guts.
Was it the first sign that the castle was about to crumble? What was Foggy trying to say?
Matt had no idea. He came home that night with the coffee sitting like a poison in his stomach. He run to the toilet and thrown up as soon as he stepped in his apartment.
Then he put on the suit, and went out.
He got back hours later, tired and trembling on his legs, stripping and discarding pieces of the suit leaving a trail to his bedroom. Matt fell on the mattress heavily, his breath ragged and uneven.
He couldn’t even remember what he had been doing for hours already. His mind had been running in circles endlessly, like a dog unable to stop chasing his tail. He wondered what all that had meant. The coffee. The comment. He wondered, over and over and over as his fists moved on they own and criminals ran away from him.
He wondered and wondered and wondered.
He wondered enough to let himself be hit. A punch, weak and uncoordinated, but strong enough that Matt felt his right cheek slightly swollen.
It was nothing.
It would probably bruise.
He wondered if Foggy would see it the next day, and if that would be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
He wondered if he would take a box to fill with his stuff, like he did when they left Landman and Zack.
He wondered if he would walk out the door and never come back in ever again.
And it would be Matt’s fault. Only his, and no one else’s.
A small, infinitesimal part of him registered that he wasn’t breathing properly. The beads of cold sweat collecting on his forehead. His heart racing madly.
Panic attack, that part helpfully pointed out.
He panted heavily into the silk sheet that felt like sandpaper.
Surrounding yourself with soft things isn’t life, it’s death. Stick had said that, one time, somewhere.
But nothing was really soft anymore.
A broken sob broke out his throat between a heavy, short pant and the other.
Then another one. And another.
He pressed his face against the mattress, wailing like an abandoned child.
He felt Foggy roll his eyes and sigh when Matt entered in the office with what he knew was a small but visible bruise.
Matt realized in that exact moment that he had been living the past weeks in a sort of emotional numbness, because something came crushing down on him and suddenly everything was three hundred percent more vivid in his senses.
He could hear every single thread of the rug in Foggy’s office bending down his steps when he retreated from the doorway to got sit at his desk without saying good morning to Matt.
Living in fear wasn’t cut for him.
He couldn’t sleep, nor eat. There was always something clawing at his chest, that constant sense of impeding doom, and the pain that had take permanent residence in a point between his heart and his lung.
Living in fear wasn’t for him. But here he was, every morning, containing his trembles while entering into the office expecting to feel the echoes of Foggy’s emptied office.
Here he was, forcing food down every now and then knowing his body needed it, but unable to taste anything over the loud white noise of blood running too fast in his veins.
Here he was, incapable of not hearing the constant ticking of the clock in his brain, reminding him that every second might as well be the last one.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Incapable of dislodging himself from the obsessive thoughts that ran over over into his brain, as part of him worked out of habit, keeping up the act of a normal person and not someone that was slowly losing his mind alongside pieces of his heart.
He worked hard and hit harder, going out every night until his muscles screamed at him and his head felt heavy with tiredness.
He went out every night, and every night he hoped that this time he would be tired enough to just fall asleep the instant his head touched the mattress.
But it never happened.
Alone in his apartment, the billboard outside buzzing sounded like a monster roaring into his ears.
He would slid into bed praying for mercy, that one time, just that one time, trying to force himself out the obsessive circle.
And the he would hear the clock.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
He’s gonna leave. He’s gonna leave. He’s gonna leave.
He would fight and fight, tossing and turning and then a sob would break out and he had to muffle his cries against the pillow.
Small and pathetic, egoistical Matt Murdock, praying for mercy after having betrayed over and over and over the trust of the one only good thing in his life.
“Matt, are you ok?”
Karen sounded broken. She did, sometimes, saying that she had a bad night. Nightmares.
It was understandable.
But this time it was a different kind of broken.
Matt stopped his hand on the sheet he was reading. He was tired. He had a headache starting from behind his useless eyes. He hadn’t sleep that night, at all. But he had cried.
He always cried.
He searched himself for what felt like the first time in ages, surprising to find his breathing weak and uneven, his ribs pressing against his skin like they were trying to escape. His beard too long.
He realized how he must look. Pale. Unkempt. Not healthy.
The act was starting to slip. Maybe he missed a couple of cards falling down the castle.
“I’m just tired. Didn’t slept well, last night.” He answered, slow and careful, to make sure his voice won’t break.
He berated himself. He had been stupid. He needed to be more careful. Taking better care of his body.
The act was all he had left and, if only, he owed Karen and Foggy that much.
To be normal for them. Don’t let the madness slip out. Don’t let the pain in his chest dictating what he could and could not do.
They didn’t deserve to be dragged down by his shit, really.
And Karen didn’t deserve to lose an amazing friend just because Matt was too stupid, unable to keep playing the part for Foggy.
Or maybe he was just afraid that Karen would leave, too, when Foggy finally found a better place to stand on.
A place that wasn’t the one Matt was standing on, crumbling down the depths of hell.
He tried to get up, that morning. He really, really tried.
But his limbs felt like they were made of lead, and his mind buzzed in a pleasant nothingness when he rolled over in a cocoon of sheets. He even managed to forget the pain in his chest for some seconds every now and then.
He really tried to get up. Really tried.
So he did the next day. And the one after.
Opening his eyes, as useless as it was, was natural response to someone gently shaking his shoulder.
“Matt. Wake up. Please.”
But his eyelids were so heavy, and his breath hitched in his throat.
“Matt. If you don’t wake up now, I’m calling an ambulance.”
No. No hospitals.
He forced himself to open his eyes again and slowly turn on his back. He groaned, the pain in his chest heavy.
He blinked a couple of times. He felt slow, as if he was taking a walk through a field of honey. His senses buzzed uselessly, informing him of his stomach painfully empty and his throat parched and dry, and nothing else. His lips split and started to bleed when he tried to talk.
“Jesus-“ the noise of steps reached his ears. Something took him and dragged him up into a sitting position. His head lolled uselessly over his chest.
He was very tired.
Something cold pressed against his lips.
“Here- drink. Slowly. C’mon, buddy.”
Something slid down his throat. Water.
He suddenly realized how thirsty he was.
“Slow down! You’re gonna make yourself sick!”
He obeyed, even though he didn’t want to, taking small sips and enjoying the feel of the cool water sliding down his throat, bringing relief.
“Matt. It’s me. Do you know who I am?”
He scrunched his face in concentration. His senses were all over the place and numb at the same time. The voice seemed to come from far, far away. It took him a long while to remember he could sniff the air.
Scent-free soap. Bagels and coffee. Worry. Dust that won’t leave their clothes alone even after they cleaned the office one thousand times.
“What happened?” Matt said, surprised to hear his voice so scratchy. “Foggy?”
Things were starting to get back into focus. The sheets on his bed stenched of stale sweat. He heard Foggy shift and sigh in relief.
“Matt, you’ve been gone for three days without a single call!” Foggy said, his voice breaking towards the end. “I- I thought you needed some space after- I don’t know you’ve been looking restless lately and I thought that you- but then you won’t even answer our voice mails. Not even a peep. And I called Claire, but she said she hadn’t heard from you in weeks and I don’t know- I got scared. I called you one thousand times today and your phone was always turned off-“
Matt was confused. By Foggy’s voice, and Foggy’s worry, and Foggy’s arm around his shoulder, gently keeping him upright. It was strange, and Matt didn’t know what to make of it, so he latched on the one thing he could understand.
“Three days?” He asked, his voice still weak and scratchy.
“Three days!” Foggy repeated, snappy, and Matt flinched. “Sorry, I- Matt, what happened?”
He tried to recall what happened, but all he could remember was waking up at some point, unable to tell if it was still morning or not, shuffling into the kitchen to drink half a glass of water and eat an apple. Going back to bed.
He’d take that one day off, it was no big deal-
“I slept.” Matt said, slowly. “I just- It can’t have been three days.”
His chest hurts.
Foggy stopped breathing for a second, and a heavy silence fell between them. Matt knew Foggy was eyeing him. He could feel his burning gaze.
“It’s been three days, Matt.” Foggy said, voice low and gentle, after what felt an eternity.
Foggy made him a soup. Nutrient, but easy to keep down.
Foggy pulled the sheets off his bed, put them into the washing machine and replaced them with fresh, clean ones.
Foggy put a blanket around him when he noticed Matt shivering on the couch.
Foggy chewed on lower lip violently and insistent enough to draw blood.
“Matt. Have you been talking to… Someone?”
Matt blinked, confused. He felt numb and slow, unable to wrap his mind around the concept that he had been asleep for three days. Unable to understand why Foggy was here, taking care of him, worrying for him.
“About- this.” Foggy said, making some kind of gesture. He sounded uncomfortable. “I- I thought you- I don’t know.” He sighed, scrubbing his hands on his face.
Foggy heavily sat at his side on the couch, and Matt felt the scent of tears, but Foggy’s voice was firm.
“Matt. I’m sorry.”
He blinked again. It was as if he couldn’t do anything else. “About… What?” He asked, weakly.
“About everything. I should’ve realized that you-“ Foggy’s voice broke. He took one, two, three deep breaths. Calm again. “For how long has this been going on?”
“You!” Foggy snapped, a tear dropping down his cheek. “You, torturing yourself! Not eating, not sleeping, not saying anything about the fact that you’re a goddamn depressed mess! Why haven’t you told me anything?!”
Matt flinched. He wasn’t-
He wasn’t a depressed mess-
“What?” He whispered, again.
“Matt, Jesus, if you could look at yourself in a mirror you’d understand what I’m talking about.” Foggy said, voice broken and muffled, probably by his own hand. “Oh, I fucked up, I fucked up, I fucked up…” He murmured, hiccuping.
This didn’t made an ounce of sense.
What the fuck was Foggy talking about? He fucked up?
“What are you talking about?” He forced himself to say, because this was so wrong on so many levels, and Matt’s world had just been flipped upside down. And he couldn’t find a place to stand. “You didn’t- This is on me. It’s all on me.”
“No it’s not.” Foggy replied weakly, sobbing. “I should’ve- I should’ve done something. Said something. I know you, I know how you act, what you do, this way you have to keep all your cards close to your chest.” Foggy’s hand was warm and soft when he found Matt’s “But I was hurt, I was hurt and I thought that I could take the time to put things in order, all the time I needed and- I didn’t notice.”
Matt gaped. He knew he was supposed to say something but everything was crumbling down around him.
The castle was down, and Foggy was still here.
“I’m so sorry, Matt. I’m the worst fucking friend in the world.” Foggy whispered, broken and self deprecating and sobbing as tears rolled down his cheeks.
“No.” Matt replied, voice surprisingly strong. Enough to make Foggy jump. “You are not- you didn’t-“ Matt felt his lower lips tremble and his eyes fill with tears. “I’ve basically stabbed you in the back, why are you apologizing-“
“I’ve betrayed your trust over and over and over and you’re still here-“ Matt kept talking, unable to stop himself. “I don’t deserve you and I kept hanging on because I’m a disgusting egoist and I didn’t want to let you go despite knowing how much I hurt you-“
“And- and I kept hanging on you instead of letting you go, forcing you to stay, and why the fuck would you even apologize to me-“
“Why are you even here-“ Matt’s voice broke, and he sobbed, tears finally spilling over. “Why are you here, you should’ve left me to die-“
Foggy’s hand covered Matt's mouth before he could continue, muffling his voice. Foggy was panting, heavily, and trembling. His heart was beating so hard it was like hearing a drum concert up close.
“Don’t you ever say that.” He whispered, voice low and broken and full of rage and pain. “Don’t you say that. Ever again.”
Matt heavily panted against Foggy’s palm, hot tears spilling over his fingers, realizing how hard he’s been shivering-
“C’mere.” Foggy murmured, slowly guiding Matt’s face against his shoulder, circling him with his arms. “C’mere. Let it out.”
Matt’s resistance was short lived, weak. Foggy’s shoulder was nice, and it smelled like Foggy, and he was so warm-
Matt padded at Foggy’s chest, fingers weakly clutching on the fabric of his shirt. Foggy was rubbing slow circles on Matt’s back with an hand and petting his hair with the other.
“It’s ok.” He murmured, and in that second everything was alright again in the world. “It’ll be ok. Let it go, Matt, you’ll feel better.”
Matt wanted to ask what he had to let go. He hiccuped instead. Again. And again.
A sob broke out, followed by another, and then he pressed his mouth against Foggy’s shoulder and screamed-
“I’m sorry, Matty.” Foggy whispered. “I’m so, so sorry.” He kissed his forehead, three times. His right eyebrow, two. His temple. His cheek. “I’m sorry. I love you.”
Matt knew it would come a time when he’ll find himself question it. When he will doubt, and he will hate himself.
But for now, he believed in Foggy.