When Foggy decided to check up on Matt that fine Monday morning, he expected to discover… well he was not sure what he had expected but it surely was not a young buck naked boy rummaging his wayward friend’s fridge.
He was not certain who was more surprised between him and the little one but his high-pitched shriek might have taken the trophy. It sent the child skittering backwards to a corner, like a deer caught in a headlight.
There was a moment of silence of just the two of them looking at each other. The boy couldn’t be anymore than five years old with a dark mop of hair and big hazel eyes. For some reason, he looked awfully familiar to Foggy.
“Who are you?” The kid demands, finally. “Where’s my da?”
Then it hit Foggy like a bus to the chest. “That bastard!” He hissed under his breath though it was not quiet enough because the kid piped in a, “Hey that’s a bad word!”
But Foggy was not paying attention. He would kill Matt. This was like the ultimate betrayal. After all they have been through with this Daredevil shit, his best friend still could not trust Foggy enough to tell him about having a son. The blonde started pacing the floor, thinking of ways of making Matt’s life miserable but he was stopped by something pulling his coat.
It was the boy, who was looking up to him. Still naked. (Really Matt? No clothes? No babysitter? This was like a social security case waiting to happen.) “Do you know where my da is? I want my da.”
Foggy sighed and crouched down to the kid’s eye level. “Look kid I don’t know where Matt, I mean your da is right now. But I will call him okay?” Hopefully the bastard was not half dead somewhere.
The boy glanced at him with a confused look on his face. “My da’s name is not Matt. I’m Matt. My da’s name is Jack. Jack Murdock.”
There was a three second delay before his brain caught up. “Excuse me?” He says with a chuckle. It was a nervous tick of his. The boy scratched his head as if bewildered with Foggy’s reaction. “Sorry I thought I heard you say that your dad’s name is Jack Murdock.”
He nodded. “Yeah,” he says in childish firmness. “Jack Murdock.”
Foggy licked his suddenly dry mouth. No way. He looked at the boy's face, chubby cheeks and button nose aside. He could see it. No way. But his mouth was already forming the question. “Is your name Matthew Michael Murdock?”
Hearing the boy’s answer was like watching a car crash in slow motion. He knew the ending but he couldn’t take his eyes off of it.
“Yeah,” he tilted his head, eerily like adult Matt. “How did you know?”
Foggy almost physically recoiled. He started pacing again. He was proud of himself for not fainting or throwing up.
"You look sick, Mister."
Well thank you Captain Obvious. He thought. At least Matt's ability to exasperate him did not diminish in this pint sized form.
Little Mattie --because Foggy couldn't for the life of him call the boy Matt-- was a well mannered enough child. Foggy channeled his inner tailor and had managed, using only a pair of scissors and a series of folds and knots, to transform some of Matt's clothes to fit a five year old. It looked like shit but it would do until he had the time to buy proper clothes.
He discovered Matt's red armor in the bathroom floating in the tub. What the fuck happened? He asked the imaginary Matt in his head. Did your water suddenly turned into the fountain of youth?
Mattie dogged his every step, asking about his dad. Aside from being endearing and smart the little boy was also single mindedly stubborn like his adult counterpart. But he was also just five years old, so the older man fixed him something to eat and gave him the age old instruction of eat more and talk less.
Foggy knew, he was just delaying the inevitable. He never liked lying to people he loved so he did not know how to tell a five year old that his dad had been dead for almost two decades. Lesser evil, he supposed. He was sure adult Matt would not begrudge him if Foggy told a little white lie to spare his five year old self.
But, of course, his little white lie of 'your dad is out of town and he asked me to take care of you' backfired. Now Mattie was crying his little head off, wanting to call his dad because apparently, Jack Murdock usually left a phone number his son could call whenever he leaves town.
Foggy was this close to calling the Long Island Medium but ultimately just decided to just call Karen. For one she didn't bring a camera crew with her.
The thing Foggy liked most about Karen was that she remains quite unfazed when faced with situations that would otherwise upset other people. Well he was about to test how tough her iron constitution was.
She arrived in Matt’s apartment with a shopping bag full of children’s clothes. Tapping her heel, expectedly on the floor. “Care to explain why I needed to buy these?”
Foggy cocked his head towards the bedroom. Karen lifted an eyebrow and followed him in. “Under the bed.” He instructed.
She threw him another look before she kneeled down and lifted the covers. She let out a gasp. “Whose kid is that?” She asked with this incredulous expression on her face.
He was too tired now to put it more gently so he blurted out, “Jack Murdock.”
“What? What the hell Foggy!” Karen all but shriek. “I-- I thought Matt’s died when he was nine. It’s not possi…” she trailed and Foggy could practically see the gears running in her head. “No. No. That’s Matt?”
He nodded and she smacked his arm. “Ow!” He exclaimed. “What was that for? I didn’t turn him like that!”
“What happened? He was fine last night.”
Yes. He was fine before he went to patrol, God knows where. Foggy thought. In front of him, Karen was pacing.
“Do you think this has something to do with his Daredevil stuff?”
It was a surprise that his neck did not snap with the speed he had whipped it to look at Karen. “What?”
She cocked her hip and placed her hand on her waist in a gesture that said, are you going to deny this? And Foggy sighed. “How long have known?”
“Long enough.” She said, flicking her hair over her shoulder. “I’m blonde but not that blonde. And besides, you two are the worst liars.”
He licked his lips. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
She glanced at him before turning her gaze to the bed. Mattie was a bit quieter now. Whimpering and sniffling. “It seemed important to Matt that I don’t know. So I just let him believe that.”
Foggy knew they had to coax Mattie out from under the bed. The kid had been crying in spurts and he must be dehydrated. Karen and he were on all fours trying everything and anything to get the child out. Soft words and cooing had no effect. Even a bribe of candies was ignored. It only made Mattie back up more.
“This is not working.” Karen said, with a huff.
“Tell me something I don’t know.” Foggy replied. At this rate, Mattie would languish under the bed. He clicked his tongue and ran his hand through his hair. They needed more reinforcement. But who else to call. Then it came to him. “Burner phone!”
“What?” Karen asked with a confused crease between her eyebrows but Foggy was already sliding his phone out of his pants and calling a well remembered number.
She picked up after two rings.
Claire was not even surprised this happened and on her day off too. Knowing Matt Murdock had detrimental effects on any attempt to broaden her social circle.
Foggy opened the door to Matt's apartment. He was not alone. After a quick introduction to the beautiful Karen, Claire asked some details. "Any ideas how he turned like this?"
Foggy shook his head. "I found him like that, this morning. He seemed healthy aside from the deaging thing. He can use his eyes."
"He can see?" Claire repeated, astonished.
The plot thickened. What were you playing at, Matt? She ran a hand through her hair. "We need to get blood samples to test." She stated, shifting to something that was concrete.
"We can't get anything unless we get him from under that bed. " Karen said. Sensible. Claire liked that. Matt needed as much sensible friends as he could make.
"How long has he been under there?"
Foggy glanced at his wristwatch. "About forty five minutes."
Claire licked her lips. "Give me two chairs," she told the blonde man as she moved her messenger bag over head. This called for some specialized method.
Claire shooed Foggy and Karen out of the room and closed the door behind them as soon as the chairs were set up at one end of the bed. This technique always worked with the children in the hospital.
She placed her weapons of choice, a couple boxes of apple juice and a three pack red Jello, on one chair and sat on the other. Then, she took out her ace in the hole. A well loved copy of Curious George. She opened the the storybook and looked at the first page with a fascinated expression. She took her time analyzing the page, reading each word without skimming and giving every impression that she was engrossed by the book. She mentally counted two minutes before turning the page.
Three minutes in, she peripherally saw a small head poke out from under the bed. She threw a side glance to see that Little Matt was observing her quizzically. She returned to the book.
She was about halfway through the story when the boy finally crawled out from under the bed. “Whatcha reading?” He asked, taking a tentative step towards Claire.
She put down the book on her lap and fought the urge to gush. Matt at five was completely adorable even in what appeared like rags. “Curious George.” She replied, softly.
“I like Curious George.” He said.
“Yeah? Do you want to read it with me?”
The boy nodded and Claire smiled. She stood up from the chair and moved to sit on the bed. She patted the spot beside her which Mattie promptly occupied. She flipped back to the first page and started again. Two pages in, she noticed him eyeing the Jello and the juice boxes.
“Want some Jello?” She asked.
“Yes please.” He replied in sweet voice and another smile bloomed on Claire’s face.
“You can have one or two. Go ahead.”
She watched him jump off the bed to the snacks. She helped him open the sealed container and he devoured the whole thing in one minute flat. He was halfway into his second Jello when she offered some apple juice. He did not say no.
When he had polished off all the food, he looked up to her in childish adoration. It was odd for Claire to be directly stared at by his eyes when she was so used to adult Matt’s gaze by her ear. “What’s your name?” He asked, with a tilt of the head.
“I’m Matt.” He introduced with an outstretched hand. She shook it. “Nice to meet you.
Fortunately, Mattie was highly independent for his age or it would have been an awkward thing trying to change his clothes. He was uneasy with Foggy so it only left her and Karen to help him. But the little boy was quite firm that he could do it by himself.
He asked Claire to tie the laces of his brand new Captain America sneakers though.
The three of the (still) adults agreed that they needed to figure out how Matt suddenly turned to this age and the first way to do that was to find what he had been doing the night before.
The thing about questioning a five year old about the escapades of twenty eight year old blind vigilante was that it left the boy all types of confused and tongue tied trying to explain.
Claire ran a hand through Mattie's hair. "It's okay sweetie, take your time."
"Just tell us what you remember, buddy." Foggy said, softly.
Mattie blinked a couple of times. "Bad men. A lot of them. I... I can't see them." He touched his eye and shook his head. "Nah, I can see them but it's... it's weird."
They all nodded encouragingly. There was a moment of silence as the little boy gathered his thoughts.
"They forced me to drink something that tasted bad. I think, I think I runned here," he scratched his head. “Then everything hurted.”
It was not much information but it was better than none. Claire turned at Foggy. “If they made him ingest something then we really need to get a blood sample for a toxicology report.”
“That would take a long time.” Foggy said.
“I have a friend that can help,” Claire replied. “but I have to grab some needles and collection tubes from my apartment.”
She made a motion to stand up from the couch but Mattie was onto her, clutching her hand and putting his full weight. She almost toppled down over him but stopped her momentum using her other hand.
“No!” The little boy exclaimed. His lower lip was quivering, looking up to her with wide puppy dog eyes that was even more effective than adult Matt’s. She thought that was physically impossible to do. “Please don’t go.”
“Matt, buddy, Claire is just--” Foggy started but his phone started vibrating in his pocket. He checked at its screen. “Ah shit.”
“Foggy!” Karen and Claire abomished at the same time.
He winced. “Sorry. Sorry.” He glanced at Karen. “I totally forgot about the client we’re supposed to meet today.”
Karen groaned out. “Mr. Takahashi?”
Foggy nodded, regret evident on his face. Claire knew it was going to be a long day.
Claire ended up taking Mattie with her. The little boy seemed content enough, chatting about his “Da” and swinging his legs atop her kitchen stool. One of his sleeve rolled up to exposed a chubby arm.
“Now this will sting a bit.” She said. “But it will help make you better.”
“Am I sick?” He asked, watching her tie the elastic above the crease of his elbow. “‘Cause I don’t feel sick.”
She was not sure how to explain to him that he was actually an adult. She rubbed the smooth skin, trying to find a vein. “Remember when you said that the bad men made you drink something?”
He nodded, watching her with wide trusting and fascinated eyes. She wiped the skin with disinfectant once she successfully found a vein and unwrapped the needle from its sealed packet.
“Well, by taking your blood we can know what it was they gave you. Now take a deep breath.” She quickly stuck the needle on. Mattie let out a quiet gasp. She snapped on the tube and watched the blood flow. It was done quickly and she was pressing down a cotton ball over the needle entrance. “Hold that down sweetie.”
She cleaned up, removing her gloves, and carefully labeled the test tube she would be giving to her friend in the lab. It was funny that at any age, Matt had never been in her apartment without his blood seeing light. She grabbed her box of band-aids and went back to her patient.
“There you go.” She said as she replaced the cotton ball with a Power Ranger band-aid. She mussed Mattie’s fringes a bit and he sniffled and tried to hold back his tears. “You’re a brave boy Mattie.”
He poked at his band-aid. “It hurts.”
Claire gently took his arm and placed a soft kiss on top of the adhesive. “All better.”
“How about some ice cream?”
She took him to her favorite ice cream shop near the park after she dropped off the blood sample to her friend, who promised her that she would work on it immediately. The ice cream server promptly thought Mattie was her son and it was too much of a hassle to correct them much so she just said he was her nephew. The weirdness of the situation just hit her full force then. An aunt to a guy she once macked faces with and still had unresolved things with. Only in the life of Claire Temple.
Mattie was completely oblivious. He grinned at her over his strawberry and chocolate sundae with extra sprinkles. She smiled back and took a quick picture. She wondered if he would remember when --if-- he returned back to his normal self. What would they do if he did not return back? She really did not want to think about it.
I guess I’ve been in worse first dates. She thought to herself as she wiped the smear of chocolate syrup off Mattie’s face.
Foggy rang her after they got out of the movie theater. Mattie picked Jurassic World and was pretending to be Chris Pratt’s character. The blonde man was just checking in and Claire appreciated that. She caught him up and he asked if he could swing by later with pizza. She realized it must have been hard for Foggy to have Mattie so skittish of him.
“Of course.” She said, glancing at the young boy who was still gushing about Jurassic World, tumbling over his words. She did not know Matt had this talkative side. “We’d love the company.”
Mattie was still a bit wary of Foggy and Karen when they arrived in Claire’s apartment. He clung to her leg as she invited them in but nobody could resist the allure of pizza. By the time dinner was done, Mattie and Foggy were roughhousing and pretending to be Owen and Indominus Rex respectively. Five year old Matt was very particular about hoe he wanted their pretend to play out and Claire could not help but laugh at the sight of a small child bossing a larger man.
They even dragged Karen in and Mattie had grabbed the blue washable marker Claire had brought him and drew streaks of blue lines along the length of other woman’s arms and a few on her cheeks, “Acause you’re Blue.” He said in a way of explanation. Claire did not waste time taking a video.
She thought Matt would choose to go with Foggy when the blonde man asked later when it was time to go. But the boy shook his head and looked at her. “I wants to stay here with Cwaire.”
She tried to apologize to Foggy as she told Mattie to get ready for bed but the blonde just waved her off. “I’m just happy he feels safe.” He said in a serious tone then his face turned pouty. “Though I’m disappointed that he had totally forgotten about the bros before hoes rule.”
“Really Foggy?” Karen said with a smack on his arm.
Mattie was jumping up and down her bed, making raptor noises when she finished her night time routine. Claire shook her head and put her hands on her hips. She had always wondered how she would get Matt to her bed. She did not think it would be this way. “Okay,okay little man. It’s time for bed.”
“No buts. Come now and I will read you a story.” She patted the pillow beside her. Mattie gave her a pouty look but followed her order.
He cuddled against her side as she opened the book and started the story about Peter Pan.. About halfway through the first chapter, Mattie was nodding on and off. She began rubbing circles on his back.
“Cwaire?” He said, quietly.
“Yes sweetie?” She murmured, pausing in reading.
“I love you.”
Her heart constricted in her chest at the tender words. True and sincere in a way that only a child could deliver. She looked down on the small child. “I love you too, Mattie.”
“When I grow up, I will marry you.” He glanced up to her with sleepy eyes. “Okay?”
A small smile stretched her lips. “Okay.”
Mattie gave her a satisfied smile before closing his eyes and surrendering to sleep.
The next day started with an icepack and tears before breakfast. Claire woke up to the sound of thumping from the other room. She slid out of bed and lifted an eyebrow at sight of Mattie using her living room furniture in what appeared like a five year old version of parkour.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The next day started with an icepack and tears before breakfast. Claire woke up to the sound of thumping from the other room. She slid out of bed and lifted an eyebrow at sight of Mattie using her living room furniture in what appeared like a five year old version of parkour.
She had to admit he was pretty agile for his age. Tumbling and rolling. Using her coffee table to propel himself up the armrest. It was disconcerting. Like adult Matt was trying to break free of the tiny and fragile shell he was forced into. He gave her a wide smile when he finally noticed she was there.
"Cwaire! Look! Look what I can do!" He said, clambering at the top of her sofa. Her heart stopped in her ribs as he executed a perfect flip before the word "no" could escape from her lips. He landed quite deftly on his bottom and giggled.
"Mattie," she said once she recovered from her mini heart attack. "don't do that. You'd crack your head open."
"I'm not going to get hurt!" He replied, cocksure which meant five minutes later he was bawling his eyes out because his head tapped the side of her side table.
Claire sighed and turned off the stove to not burn the bacon. She picked him up and cuddled him against her chest, making shushing noises and murmuring, “It’s okay… you’re okay.”
Once he had calm down enough, she sat him down on the kitchen counter. “This is why you need to listen when people tell you not to do something.” She said, part kindly and part reprimanding as she took out an ice pack from her freezer. “Understand?”
He wiped the last of his tears with the back of his hand and gingerly rubbed that hand against his shirt. “Yes.”
Now if adult Matt was this easy to talk to then that would probably eliminate half of Claire’s stress. She imagined Foggy’s and Karen’s too. “Let me check your head, sweetie.”
She found the sore spot almost immediately. She gave it a quick peck before applying the ice pack. “Now. How do you like your eggs?”
Claire had to go to work that day. She thought about leaving Mattie with Foggy and Karen in the law firm but the boy shook his head and insisted that he wanted to stay with her. Those puppy dog eyes would be the death of Claire because she arrived in the hospital with Mattie in tow. She had to beg to work the front desk but she managed to get it. (“I didn’t know you have a kid, Claire.” “He’s not mine, I’m just watching him for a friend.”)
She ushered the child behind the counter and sat him down on one of the ergonomical chairs.
“Sweetie, listen, I need you to be a good boy because I have to work now.”
Mattie smiled, patted her face and proclaimed proudly, “Don’t worry. I always go with my Da to his gym when he trains and I’m always a good boy then.”
“Okay, that’s good to know.” She replied, ruffling his hair.
The day was fortunately slower than normal. Mattie entertained himself by drawing dinosaurs using his washable markers and quietly playing with the clicker they bought together with the little plastic raptor figurines, reenacting some of the scenes from the movie.
He only tried to get her attention when there was a lull in patients checking in or out and that was to show his drawings. She praised each rendition of Blue, Owen and the T-Rex. She smiled at all of her portraits. All of them carefully and lovingly colored. He even managed the other nurses by drawing pictures of them too. They thought he was adorable and slipped him lollipops when they thought Claire was not looking.
At lunch, they went to a nearby sandwich store and met up with Foggy. Mattie was more gracious of the blonde man now and chatted him up and showed off his artworks. After they were finished with their food, they went to a small park with a play structure. A small smile pulled at Foggy’s face as he watched his best friend hang from the monkey bars, laughing all the while.
“He can grow up like this.” He mused. “Happy. No baggage.”
Claire nodded, absentmindedly. She thought about that too. A happy Matt. He could still be a lawyer when he grew up but most likely not the Devil that stalked the night. “Would he still be our Matt though?” She asked, waving back to the boy who was at the top of the slide.
“Probably not.” He sighed. "And I don't want to sound completely selfish but I kinda want our old Matt back."
Claire held Mattie’s hand as they went to the hospital labs. Her friend, Jessica, welcomed them with hugs and kisses that sent the little boy hiding behind Claire’s leg.
"I don't want you kissing me." Mattie said, petulantly, glaring at the lab tech’s direction. "I only like Cwaire’s kisses."
Jessica chuckled. "I see somebody likes you."
Claire rolled her eyes as she patted Mattie’s head. “Yeah. I feed him so, you know. Anyway, any news on the blood sample I gave you?”
“Ah yes.” The woman rummaged her organized desk and pulled out a sheet of paper. “That had been interesting.”
“Yeah? What did you find?”
“Well for one, a trace of a high concentrated dose of APTX.”
“APTX?” Claire repeated.
“Yep. It’s a recreational drug. Very popular right now with both the old and young crowd. Gives you a burst of energy. Makes you feel young. Highly addictive.” Jessica prattled on. “Usually people use a 0.01% concentration but your blood sample has a trace of a 100% concentration.”
Jessica looked at her. “Claire, whoever you took the blood from is supposed to be dead.”
Claire glanced at Mattie, who seemed to be trying to follow the conversation. "Mattie, sweetie, why don’t you draw me a picture over there at Jessica’s desk.” Mattie looked like he would like to disagree but like the good Catholic boy that he was, he followed. She turned her attention back to Jessica. “Dead?"
Her friend nodded. “There was a guy that was rushed in here like a week ago. Overdose. Seizures. He pumped himself up with a 100% concentration of APTX. It triggered rapid apoptosis throughout his body. His cells basically self destructed. It was not a fun way to go.” She paused, eyes shining with scientific curiosity. “Though this blood sample you gave me… it’s something else.”
“Am I going to die?”
Claire dropped the knife she was holding. It clattered loudly against her wooden cutting board. They were going to have chicken enchiladas tonight. "What?"
Mattie looked at her with solemn eyes, too old for a five year old.
"What?" She repeated again, wiping her hands on her apron and turning to face Mattie. "No. No. You're not going to die."
"I heard your friend say that I'm suppose to be dead."
"Oh sweetie..." She murmured as she knelt in front of him and drew him into a hug. So that was why he was so silent on their way home. "I'm sorry you have to hear that."
The little boy was uncharacteristically stiff in her embrace. "Listen Mattie," she said, voice firm with intent. "I won't let you die. Okay? I won't let that happen to you, not if I can help it."
He pulled back from her, his small hand on her cheek. His eyes stared straight through hers. "Promise?"
She crossed her heart. “Promise.”
Mattie nodded eyes bright with unshed tears. He threw his whole weight towards her and hugged her neck tightly.
For some reason this blood when it absorbed the 100% concentration of APTX, it didn’t trigger apoptosis. Instead, it activated and lengthened the telomerase. It’s like the fountain of youth to the cells. Just fascinating. Though I’m not sure how permanent the effects are. Not without further studies.
Claire’s mind was not fully on her job that morning. Jessica’s words were going in circles in her head. Mattie finally accepted Foggy’s invitation and the two and Karen were spending the day together.
She tried to keep it out of her head but she was so distracted that she did not see Roger approaching until he was already greeting her.
He was one of the new interns. Bright blue eyes and blonde hair. Claire was sure the extent of his nightly activities was the occasional clubbing and a few drinks in a bar. Maybe that was why she never found him that much attractive.
He was saying something about grabbing a drink together since both of their shifts were done when something barreled against her side. At a distance she heard Foggy's voice.
She looked down at the projectile who turned out to be Mattie. The boy clung to her waist, eyes narrowed and had this mutinous look on his face all directed at Roger. If looks could kill the intern would have died a million times already,
“Hey sweetie,” she greeted. “Did you have a good day out with Foggy and Karen?” Mattie merely nodded, not taking his eyes off the blonde man in front of them. She patted the boy’s head and apologized to Roger. “Maybe next time.” She said as she ushered Mattie away.
Mattie was pouty on their way to Claire’s apartment. Foggy found it all sort of amusing. The whole day they were together all the kid talked about was either dinosaurs or ‘Cwaire’. He ruffled Mattie’s dark hair. “Don’t worry buddy, she still likes you the best.”
That only seemed to make the child pout even more. It made Foggy chuckle. “Just give her the ring you bought, okay? Then not even that weird guy can take her away.”
Mattie perked up at that but quickly went back to being sullen again. “What if she doesn’t like it?”
“I’m sure she’ll like it.” He assured the boy. “It’s raspberry flavored.”
But Mattie continued with his little brooding session. Dinner was pasta. Karen and Foggy excitedly showed Claire all the pictures and videos they had taken on their day trip. The child pushed his food around his plate.
“Mattie, don’t you like your pasta?” Claire asked.
“What’s gotten into you? Did Foggy tease you again?” Karen inquired to which Foggy indignantly called out an “Hey! I resent that.”
“Then what is it?” Claire questioned again.
Mattie crossed his arms. “I don’t like that man from the hospital. He smiles too much.”
Foggy tried to cover his sniggers behind a fake cough.
Eventually Claire managed to break Mattie from his sulk using cookies and milk and a kiss on the forehead. Receiving and wearing the ring pop he had offered with a faint blush on his face seemed to help as well.
“He’s really adorable.” Claire said, once she had tucked Mattie in bed.
“Yeah. Yeah he really is.” Foggy wondered how long they had before this thing ends.
It turned out not too long. He woke up a couple of hours later to a call from a Claire. Matt was burning up with fever.
Mattie’s scream pierced the apartment. Karen almost dropped the cold compress she was holding at the sound of it. She glanced at the walls and wondered how thick they were and how long before the police was at Claire’s doors.
“What happened?” She asked as she entered the bedroom.
Foggy was there frantically patting down the sweat pouring off the small body. Claire was making comforting and shushing noise as the boy clutched her for dear life. He was moaning and calling for his “Da”.
“He’s in pain, I think.” Foggy replied. He was pale and shaken as he took the compress from Karen and placed it on Mattie’s forehead. They were trying to break the fever that had consumed the child.
The blonde woman licked her lips and surveyed the young boy. There was something different about him. “He’s taller!” She realized out loud.
“What?” The other two adults said, bewildered.
“This pajamas fit him perfectly but look,” she pointed at the hem of the flannel pants. A three inch gap that was not there previously.
“Oh my God.” Foggy slapped a hand over his mouth. “He’s growing.”
It was horrifying watching the change racked Mattie’s body. They decided to remove his clothes and just wrapped him in a large robe. The child groaned and moaned in a steady rhythm as years of growth was forced into minutes.
Then he hit nine.
He bolted up and screamed, trashing and kicking. Foggy, Karen and Claire jumped into action.
“Mattie, Mattie.” Claire murmured, touching his face. His eyes skittered over her, not focusing.
“I can’t see! I can’t. I can’t” He cried out. “Dad! Dad! Claire! Please. Please... I can’t.”
Her heart broke as she took his hand and placed it to her cheek. “It’s okay Matt. You’ll be okay. Just breath with me, sweetheart.”
Claire managed to calm Matt down. Karen was not sure how. She persuaded the other two to drink something while they still can. Matt looked like a twelve year old and, for the moment, was peaceful and curled on the bed, whimpering. Tear tracks stained the boy’s face.
Karen walked to the edge of the mattress and stretched a hand to brush the fringes out of Matt’s face. A death-like grip enveloped her wrist. She stepped back but Matt held on, his eyes open but unseeing. “Stick?” He asked in a scratchy voice.
She licked her lip and ran a gentle hand up his skinny arm. “No Matt. It’s Karen.”
His hold loosened. “Karen?”
“Yeah. Just relax.” She paused and took a deep breath and tried to reassure him.. “Everything will be okay.”
There was a moment of silence. “You don’t have to lie to me.”
Karen was not sure how to answer.
The calm did not last long and soon Matt was writhing again. Less screaming though and it worried Foggy. He was sure his best friend was still experiencing pain as his bones lengthened and his body changed. How can you stand it? He asked in his head.
Matt was still and quiet when his face changed to something that the blonde man recognized. Memories assaulted him. Matt at twenty, stepping into the dorm they shared. How naive they were then. Or perhaps it was just him who was naive.
He replaced the cold compress on Matt’s forehead with a new one.
Matt groaned as the chilled fabric hit his skin. “Fog?”
“Hey. Hey Matt.” He replied, relieved and surprised that he recognized him. “You had a rough night man.”
“Did you-- did you bring me to one those sorority parties again?” Matt asked haltingly and hoarsely.
A chuckle erupted out of Foggy before he could stop it. He opened his mouth to retort something but Matt was gone again. Consumed by the pain of his body’s growth.
The fever finally broke as the sun peeked out of the horizon. Matt was stable and was sleeping, appearing like his normal self. No more signs of aging or growing in the past hour. Foggy and Karen dropped like flies when she announced that Matt was okay and were using each as pillows. Claire sat on the edge of the bed and placed a hand on Matt’s forehead to check for his temperature.
Suddenly his eyes flew open and he gasped for air. The sound woke up Karen and Foggy and made Claire jump back in surprise. His shoulders were heaving as he breathed in deeply.
“Matt?” She ventured carefully.
His head tilted up. "Claire?"
She moved towards him again. “How are you feeling?”
“Like I’ve been through a taffy puller.” He replied.
She let out a sigh of relief, glad that he seemed to be back to his old self. “Do you remember--”
He nodded. “I remember… you.” He panned his head around the room. “All of you. Karen, you’re blonde. Foggy you have blue eyes. You’re both fantastic.” There were moisture forming at the corner of his eyes.
Foggy was already using his sleeve as a tissue. Karen has covered her face as sobs wracked her body. Claire bit her lower lip, trying to hold back the tears.
“Claire,” He croaked out. “You’re-- you’re more beautiful than I imagined you to be.”
She did not know who moved first. But soon all three of them had enveloped Matt in an embrace. Like little crazy children.Tears and laughter at the same time.
Matt slid out of bed in a pair of sweats and an old t-shirt courtesy of Claire. He was careful not to jostle the sleeping Foggy and Karen on the floor. He moved silently to the living room where he could smell fresh brew coffee and could hear the steady beating of Claire’s heart.
“You’re suppose to be resting Matt.” She said, sternly and he distinctly recalled how she reprimanded him as a small child. The purse of her lips and the crease between her fine eyebrows. It was fascinating having that context.
“I can’t sleep anymore.” He replied, walking closer to her. He rubbed the back of his neck. “Claire… I-- I want to thank you for taking care of me.”
He sensed her turn to face him. “I promised a small boy that I won’t let him die.” The memory hit him. The solemnity of her face as she crossed her heart. “And I promised you I will always be there when you really need me. I always keep my word.”
A smile pulled on his lips. “I’m quite lucky then.”
“Oh you have no idea.” She replied lightly. He could practically taste the mischief coming off of her even before she spoke her next statement. “How about you? Do you keep your promises?”
He lifted an eyebrow and she took his hand and guided it to something solid. A fragile type of crystal and it smelled sweet. Then he remembered. A ring pop. He felt his face burn and Claire chuckled.
“Should I throw it away?” Claire asked.
He turned their hands over so he was holding hers. “Maybe… maybe we should start with lunch.”
He heard her heart skip then even out. “Well, I turned down an intern’s invitation so I’m clear tomorrow afternoon.”
He smiled as he curled his hand around hers. “That sounds great. I know this ice cream shop near the park that has the best strawberry and chocolate sundae.”
Thank you youareiron_andyouarestrong for sharing this gooberness of this.