Matt should have known not to trust a quiet night.
He’d been floating around Hell’s Kitchen for a couple of hours, and the worst crime he’d encountered was a couple of tourists deciding to go to Pizza Hut when San Antonio’s was right there, making the whole block smell like oregano. He was just about to head back to his apartment and get a whole six hours of sleep for once when he heard a familiar voice.
“...just reaching for my wallet, okay? No need to get jumpy.”
Foggy, his brain told him helpfully, and then a mugging, and then Foggy being mugged, and then he stopped breathing.
Apparently his body had decided that oxygen was unnecessary, though, because he was moving anyway, hightailing it over the rooftops probably faster than was strictly safe, but that didn’t matter because Foggy was in danger. As he honed in on him he could hear the mugger responding.
“Get your hands where I can see them! I said get your fucking hands where I can see them!”
“Well, how am I supposed to give you my wallet if I can’t take it out of my pocket?” Foggy said, his tone pleasant and reasonable. Only Matt, who knew him better than anyone, would’ve been able to detect the tremble of fear in it.
Only Matt could hear his heartbeat as he got closer, pounding like a drum.
“Don’t you fuck with me, man!”
“Buddy, I can think of few things that sound less appealing. Trust.”
Jesus. Of course Foggy was going to antagonize the guy. If the mugger didn’t kill him, Matt might.
But the mugger wasn’t going to kill him, because Matt was at the alley, and ricocheting down the fire escape, and dropping into a crouch between the two men. Foggy gave a startled yelp, and the mugger yelled “Shit!” and jumped back.
“You want to back away,” Matt told the mugger, his voice low and dangerous. “Right now.”
“Ma--Daredevil,” Foggy said quickly. Matt could hear his heartbeat, rabbit-quick; his sweat was sour in the air. “He’s got a gun.”
Of course. Because why would Foggy take the trouble to piss off a mugger armed with just a knife when he could really risk his life? Matt tilted his head, taking in the unmistakable scents of oil and gunpowder. He’d missed them before, too focused on Foggy. “He’s not going to get the chance to use it,” he said.
“Daredevil. I knew it,” the mugger said, which made no sense, but people tended to babble nonsense when they encountered Matt in dark alleys - if they could muster up the ability to speak at all. “I fucking knew it! You’re done, shithead.”
He cocked the gun, loud as a church bell in Matt’s ears, but Matt was already moving. He snapped a roundhouse kick into the mugger’s wrist. The gun went flying. Matt turned into his spin and leapt, his left heel slamming into the mugger’s chin.
Thud. The asshole and his glass jaw dropped. Matt swallowed his disappointment; anyone who went after Foggy deserved worse than being kicked twice.
“Holy shit,” said Foggy.
Matt froze. Foggy’s heart was still jackhammering, and Matt suddenly remembered that he’d never seen Matt fight before, not in person. What if he was pissed again? What if he was afraid of Matt?
“That was.” He heard Foggy swallow. “That was pretty fucking cool.”
Matt let out the breath he’d been holding. “Uh...thanks?” he said, turning to face Foggy.
“No, I mean, I knew you could, you know…” There was a blur of movement; Matt knew Foggy well enough to guess he was probably karate chopping the air. “...but that was. Wow. Like. Really fast? And. Shit. I don’t know.” He was babbling; his heart still racing, his body temperature spiking. Probably the adrenaline, although Matt couldn’t taste the particularly sour tang of fear in the air anymore. “Maybe I should get mugged more often.”
“What? Are you insane?” Matt snapped. The fury that had bled out of him when the mugger dropped blazed up again, roaring in his ears.
“Whoa, Matt, I was kidding…”
Matt stepped into his space. “It’s not funny. Do you know what I thought, when I heard your voice and…” He cut himself off with an angry noise. “And what is wrong with you, mouthing off to someone with a gun? Did you want him to shoot you?”
“I was nervous, I…”
“Why are you even out here this late?” Matt demanded. “You know better than anyone that it’s not safe. What if I hadn’t been close enough to hear?”
“I was just coming from the subway,” Foggy protested. Matt heard him swallow again. “I had dinner at my mom’s, you know that...”
Matt took another step closer, close enough to feel the heat radiating off of Foggy’s skin. Maybe if he got right up in Foggy’s face, Foggy would understand that Matt needed him safe. “Then you take a cab, Foggy. You don’t wander around Hell’s Kitchen in the middle of the night and practically get yourself killed! You can’t...I need you to…”
“Matt, come on...” Foggy said weakly, and put his hand on the leather over Matt’s chest. The air was thick with that smell, the one that wasn’t fear.
The mugger groaned.
Matt and Foggy froze. “Do you think he heard me say your name?” Foggy whispered.
Matt stepped back. “Call the police,” he said. “I’ll wait until they come, and you better have them escort you home.”
“Yes, Mom,” Foggy said, reaching into his pocket for his phone.
“Please. Your mom’s way scarier than me.”
“Ain’t that the truth.”
They waited in silence once Foggy was off the phone, just in case the mugger was playing possum. Even with one ear tuned to their new friend, Matt could tell that Foggy’s heartbeat was settling back down to normal. Which was good - even if Foggy wasn’t scared of him, Matt could do with his best friend never having a reason to be scared at all.
When he heard sirens approaching, Matt cocked his head at Foggy. “Cops are almost here,” he said, and headed for the fire escape.
“Okay,” Foggy said. “Hey, listen, M--Daredevil? Uh...thanks.”
Matt paused in reaching for the ladder. “Any time,” he said softly, and was glad that Foggy couldn’t hear his heartbeat.
Then he sprang onto the ladder and up over the fire escape until he reached the roof.
The cops got to the alley a minute later; Matt waited out of sight, listening, as they roused the punch-drunk mugger and listened to Foggy’s story.
“...and then Daredevil came out of nowhere and saved my sorry butt,” Foggy said.
“Yeah, you guys are tight, right?” one of the cops asked.
Matt could hear Foggy’s panic ratchet up. “What? Me and Daredevil? No! I don’t know who he is!”
“No, I mean...didn’t he help Nelson and Murdock on that Fisk case?” the cop said, confusion clear in her voice. “I should know. Because of you guys, a third of my precinct is doing time now.”
“Oh! Ha ha! Right! Yes!” Foggy’s voice was too high, too fast. Matt resisted the urge to groan out loud. “Yes, yes, he’s been very helpful! With. That. Yep. But I don’t know who he is.”
“Not a clue. Toootal stranger. Heck, he could be you!”
“Well, I just got here, so…probably not,” the cop pointed out. “Also, I’m a woman.”
Matt dropped his face into his gloves.
“Right, right, I know you’re a woman. Obviously you’re a woman. You’re a very attractive woman!”
Foggy must’ve finally registered Matt telepathically beaming SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP at him, because he gulped and said, “You know what, I’ve just got a lot of adrenaline in my system right now, so I’m gonna go ahead and stop talking. Please don’t arrest me.”
And that was Matt’s cue to exit; Foggy was safe, and as long as Foggy kept his promise to stop talking, so was Matt’s secret identity. With a final rueful headshake - of fondness or exasperation, he wasn’t sure - he took off back across the rooftops, headed for home. It was time to call it a night.
“I’m just saying, you could have been more circumspect,” Matt said.
“I was caught off guard!” Foggy protested. “I wasn’t at my best! So sue me.”
“Don’t sue him,” Karen said quickly. “We can’t afford ourselves.”
They were in Foggy’s office, going over some paperwork for the Gomez case and squabbling over the still-warm muffins Foggy had picked up at the Little Pie Company. Karen had gleefully claimed the lion’s share of the cinnamon crumb muffin and was savoring each morsel of streusel as Foggy regaled them with his version of the previous night’s events. Factually, it was accurate, but he didn’t seem too concerned with the part where he had almost gotten shot, so Matt was having trouble being as amused as Karen was.
“I’m not gonna sue him,” Matt said. “I need him to defend me when they arrest me for being Daredevil. You think you could’ve used my name a little bit more last night, Foggy?”
Foggy pshawed around a mouthful of banana nut muffin. “The guy was unconscious. Probably.”
“And what about the ‘Oh, no, Officer, I definitely don’t know Daredevil, he definitely doesn’t work with me and have the spare key to my apartment’ bit?”
Karen chuckled. “Smooth.”
Foggy made an offended little noise. “Excuse you, I am an attorney, professionally trained in the art of misdirection. She has no idea who you are.” A touch of smugness crept into his tone. “Plus, I got her number.”
“Oh, smooth!” Karen said again, this time sounding much more impressed - though no less entertained.
Matt scowled into his coffee cup. “Could we get back to work, please?”
There was a moment of silence, and Matt knew he was mildly paranoid, but he was also pretty sure Karen and Foggy were exchanging glances. “Okay, sure,” Karen said, and the office fell silent except for the rustle of turning pages. It wasn’t that complicated of a case - a landlord trying to oust a local bodega owner from his building on the basis of some trumped-up health code violations - but for some reason they were having trouble getting enough material to make a solid case for their client.
Karen tsked to herself as she read through the various statements they’d collected. “Let’s hope they don’t put Mrs. Gomez on the stand. She’s all over the place in here.”
“They can’t,” Matt said. “At least, not if she doesn’t want to testify.”
“Why not?” Karen asked.
“Spousal privilege,” Foggy said.
Oh, right. Karen caught on to everything so quickly that Matt often forgot she had no actual legal background. “It means you can’t force someone to testify against their spouse,” he explained. “At least, not about things that have happened during the course of their marriage.”
“What?” Foggy asked. “You’re smiling. Matt, she’s smiling.”
“No, it’s nothing,” Karen said, and now Matt could hear the smile in the warmth of her voice. “I was just thinking it’s too bad you guys aren’t married, in case Daredevil does get caught. Or that there’s no, I don’t know. Partner privilege. College roommate privilege. There’s not, right?”
Foggy laughed. “Considering that Matt totally narced on me about having a hot plate in our room sophomore year, no, there’s not.”
“I did not narc on you! The RA just figured it out.”
“Because you have no poker face.” Matt heard the swish of hair against Foggy’s collar as he shook his head. “I guess I can’t expect you to keep me in the lifestyle to which I’d like to become accustomed on the competitive card sharp circuit.”
Matt found himself smiling despite himself. “Are you saying you won’t marry me, Foggy?”
“Not unless you can smell aces, buddy.”
Foggy gave a gusty sigh. “Then I remain tragically single, and doomed to sell you up the river the minute they put me on the witness stand, Murdock.”
Matt snorted. “Keep your mouth shut around your new cop girlfriend and you won’t end up on the witness stand at all, Nelson.”
He felt Foggy’s foot connect with his ankle, not hard enough to hurt. He rolled his eyes behind his glasses, but didn’t bother to try to hide his smile. Okay, so they should be more careful in the future. Fine. For now, Foggy was safe, business was good, and he had a freshly-baked blueberry muffin wafting the scent of butter and lemon zest up towards his nose.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough.
“Congratulate me, Matty, for I am become the latest hipster food sensation,” Foggy declared grandly, hoisting the bottle of scotch aloft. The little liquid that remained sloshed against the glass.
“How so?” Matt asked, tipping his face up towards Foggy from where he sat slumped on the couch. Any more movement than that was really asking too much right now.
“I,” Foggy proclaimed, “am a pickled avocado. El Grande Avocado Pickleoso!”
Matt snorted a laugh. “How have you managed to live nearly three decades in New York and learn this little Spanish?”
“Talent, mi amigo. Ha!” Foggy crashed down onto the couch and waved the bottle in Matt’s face. “You just got Spanished.”
“That I did.” Matt plucked the bottle from Foggy’s hand and put it safely on the floor. “And I think you’ve had enough.”
“You’ve had enough. You’re drunker than I am.”
“Oh yeah? How many fingers am I holding up?” Foggy waggled a hand in his face.
Matt grinned. “You’re changing them, you filthy cheater.”
“Ah, nuts.” Foggy flopped over. His head landed in Matt’s lap, a warm, heavy weight. “Thought you’d be too drunk to tell.”
“Never.” Not when Matt’s senses were full of Foggy; his relaxed heartbeat and slightly sluggish breathing; faded aftershave and fabric softener and breath that was admittedly probably flammable right now; the flushed-drunk heat of him and the way each shift on the couch cushions moved Matt too. He’d know if Foggy so much as winked.
He should be sober right now, he knew, and out keeping watch over the city. But Foggy had turned up on his doorstep with mouth-wateringly aromatic falafel and his most plaintive voice, and Matt had been talked into skipping a night. Right now, full and warm and well into the spins, he couldn’t bring himself to feel more than thirty percent guilty about it.
Foggy suddenly groaned into Matt’s thigh, and Matt snorted again as the vibration tickled through his pants. “What?”
“I’m too tired to walk all the way home.”
“You live four blocks away.”
“That’s so many. Carry me, Daredevil.”
“No.” Matt prodded Foggy’s cheek idly. “You can have the couch.”
“Couch sucks. I can see that billboard even if you can’t. I want the bed.”
“No way. I paid a lot of money for those sheets.”
“You’re the worst. I’m so glad we’re not married. Silly Karen.” Foggy wiggled, getting comfortable. It hurt a little, actually, as his head bore down into Matt’s thigh for a minute, but Matt didn’t bother saying anything. “Although if we were, I’d already be home.”
Foggy laughed again. “Would we have to change the name of the firm? Nelson-Murdock and Murdock-Nelson?”
Matt grinned. “Who says I’m gonna hyphenate?”
“That’s right. You just take my name, baby.” Foggy paused. “You know, my mom would be thrilled.”
“Are you kidding? She loves you. You as a son-in-law would be the next best thing to straight up trading me for you.”
Matt had apparently started petting Foggy’s hair at some point. It was soft. “Your mom’s the best.”
“See? That’s why she wants to trade.” Foggy snickered. “You know what we should do? Just, just get the marriage license and see how long Karen believes that we’re actually gonna do it.”
“Haha, yes,” Matt said, picturing her reaction. “Just leave it on her desk and don’t say anything about it.”
“Exactly! Wait, no, I’m doing this. We’re doing this. We’re.” Foggy took a deep breath, then heaved himself up out of Matt’s lap. Matt’s thigh was cold where Foggy’s head had rested. “Where’s your laptop?”
“Over…” Matt pointed vaguely at his dining table.
The couch cushions shifted as Foggy sprang up. “Whoa. Spins.” His footsteps tottered away and then back, and the cushions shifted again. “Okay. City clerk dot NYC dot gov. Doo doo doo...marriage license application. Spouse A. I get to be Spouse A because I’m typing.”
“That seems fair.” Matt angled his head at Foggy. “Wait. Are you really filling it out?”
“Hell yeah I’m really filling it out!” Foggy’s fingers clattered over the keys. “Nelson...Franklin...yadda yadda yadda...no, I will not have a new surname. Nice try, Murdock.”
“You don’t think ‘Franklin Murdock’ has a nice ring to it?” Matt asked. “‘Foggy Murdock.’ Perfect.” He knew he was pretty drunk, but the name suddenly sounded great to him. Or maybe it was just how amused Foggy’s voice was as he typed. Foggy sounded tired and stressed so often these days, especially since he’d found out about Matt’s vigilantism. Matt liked him sounding like this better.
“‘Foggy Murdock’ sounds like the name of a swamp in a children’s book,” Foggy said. “Occupation…avocado.”
Matt snorted. “Don’t put that.” Distantly he thought maybe he should stop Foggy, but playing along was more fun.
“You know I know all these answers for you, Spouse B?” Foggy said, nudging Matt’s foot with his own. He was warm. Matt kind of wanted to put his head on Foggy’s shoulder and go to sleep. “Parents’ info and everything. This is probably a sign that we spend too much time together.”
“Or that our marriage is blessed by the patron saints of New York.”
“Are there patron saints of New York? Wait, Daredevil, duh.”
Matt elbowed Foggy in the side, touched. Foggy squeaked and arched away, still typing. “This is easy. Marriage is fun!”
“Well, we’re not actually getting married,” Matt pointed out. He meant for it to be funny, but he just sounded tired to his own ears. Maybe he was getting too old to be drinking this much. There was a headache building behind his right eye and he kind of wanted Foggy to stop making such loud typing sounds.
“True.” Foggy hummed low in his throat. “Pranking Karen is fun!”
“You’re not wrong there.” Matt settled back on the couch and closed his eyes. Foggy was having fun. Matt wasn’t going to stop him.
“If you fall asleep, I get the bed.”
“No you don’t.”
“You’re the worst spouse ever.”
“I can live with that.”
Matt snuggled into the couch, sliding down on the cushion until he was leaning against Foggy’s side. At some point he was going to have to kick Foggy out and go to bed, but right now he was drunk, and Foggy was warm and soft, and the bed was very far away. Even the typing didn’t hurt so much anymore, not with his temple pressed to Foggy’s shoulder like this. For now, as he listened to Foggy’s breathing and felt Foggy’s arms shifting beneath him as he told the city clerk’s office Matt’s life story, Matt was content.
Matt was miserable.
He’d thought that sometime after college he’d learned not to give himself a hangover this bad, but apparently not. Somehow he dragged himself in and out of the shower and into a set of clothes, and tried his best to tune out the cacophony of sounds turning his brain to jelly as he made his way to work.
“Yikes,” Karen said when he walked in the door.
“Somehow I don’t detect all that much sympathy in your voice, Ms. Page,” he said, and even managed to pitch it above a whisper, like a hero.
“You go drinking without me, you deserve the consequences,” she replied. “Anyway, the other jerk brought you coffee, it’s on your desk.” Foggy gave a low groan of protest from his office and the vague Karen shape in front of Matt did something that was probably a shrug. “I call ‘em like I see ‘em, Nelson.”
“I brought you coffee too,” Foggy mumbled.
“And that’s why I’ll forgive you before I forgive Matt.”
“This favoritism is outrageous,” Matt said as he made his way into his office. Now that he was paying attention, the smell was unmistakable. “Is this Blue Bottle?” he called, then winced.
“It’s weird that you can tell that,” Foggy said, not bothering to raise his voice. Matt heard it anyway.
He sank into his chair and curled his hands around the warm paper cup, breathing in the smell of it - their darkest roast, one sugar, no milk, just the way he liked it. As he sipped it slowly - it was still bracingly hot, so Foggy couldn’t’ve gotten in much earlier than he had - he felt himself gradually come back to life.
Eventually he made his way back across the office to Foggy’s door, considerably more human than he’d been when he’d walked in. “Thanks for the coffee,” he said, leaning against the doorframe.
“I figured if I felt like shit this morning, you probably felt worse, with your mutant powers.”
“They’re not mutant powers.”
“Sure.” Foggy leaned back in his chair. “So, uh, I got something interesting in my inbox this morning.”
Matt waited. “I hope you’re not turning your screen around for me to look at, for obvious reasons.”
“No, no. It, uh.” Foggy clicked something on the computer and lowered his voice to read out loud: “Dear Franklin Nelson and Matthew Murdock: Your marriage application has been approved. Please report to the Office of the City Clerk at 141 Worth Street to receive your marriage license.”
Matt blinked slowly.
“How drunk were we last night?” Foggy asked.
“Uh.” Matt screwed up his face, thinking. He remembered Foggy digging the scotch out of his liquor cabinet, and Foggy stumbling sleepily out the door...and somewhere in between, Foggy typing something and giggling. “I think we were...pranking Karen, maybe?”
“Did I just hear my name?” Karen called.
“No,” Foggy said. “Matt, close the door?”
Matt slipped in and shut the door against Karen’s annoyed noise, then took the seat across from Foggy’s desk. “I…” He started, and shook his head. “What…” He stopped again. “Are we on the hook for anything? Do we need to send in a cancellation? Did you pay for anything?”
“Thankfully, no,” Foggy said. “I’m pretty sure we can just ignore this. Even if we’d actually gotten the license, it’d expire in sixty days if we didn’t, you know.”
“Get married,” Matt supplied. The words felt weird on his tongue. It had been funny last night, and even yesterday when Karen had suggested it; now he wondered why they’d ever thought it was something to joke about. “Okay, good. So as long as we don’t do anything with this, we’re in the clear.”
“Right.” Foggy’s hand moved in front of his face, probably pinching the bridge of his nose. “Also we should probably drink less.”
“That, too.” Matt tapped his finger on the side of his coffee cup. “So we’re good.”
“Good.” And then Matt’s voice said, entirely without permission from him: “Unless you think we should just do it.”
Foggy went impossibly still, which was impressive considering how fast his heartbeat had gotten. “What?”
“I mean, it’s not like Karen didn’t have a point yesterday,” Matt’s voice said. Matt wasn’t sure how to wrangle control of it back again. “You know more about...what I do than anyone. Even Claire, now. If I ever...if I get arrested, or...I mean, you said it yourself. Everyone will know that you know. You’re the first person they’re putting on the stand.”
“I would perjure myself,” Foggy said quietly, and though his heart was racing, Matt didn’t hear a lie. “If it helped. You know that, right?”
“I don’t want you to have to,” Matt said. He knew what lying under oath would cost Foggy. “I don’t want you to have to make that choice at all. Why not just eliminate it from consideration entirely?”
“By getting married.” Foggy’s voice was still very quiet.
“Just legally,” Matt said. “I’m not saying we should pick out china patterns or anything. I’m just saying we go down to the City Clerk’s office for a couple hours, pay the twenty-five dollars or whatever it is, and keep you from having to testify.” He let the corner of his mouth quirk up a little, barely a smile. “I mean, hell, we already share debts.”
He waited. He might be a relatively new lawyer, but he knew how to use the power of silence when addressing a jury; to make his point as if there was no other way to look at the issue and let them convince themselves. Of course, he knew that Foggy knew perfectly well what he was doing - but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t work.
He wondered why it was so important to him that it did work.
Finally he heard the hitch in Foggy’s breathing that meant he was about to talk. Matt pressed his fingers against his coffee cup.
“I suppose it would be good to be able to visit you in the hospital, if you ever actually let someone take you there,” Foggy said. His heart was still racing, but his tone was even.
Matt made himself smile as if all this didn’t matter very much. “Who knows? Maybe you’ll get lucky and I’ll get bronchitis or something.”
“Ah, yes, my fondest dream,” Foggy said. Suddenly he laughed. The familiar sound broke the tension in the room and filled its empty spaces with a feeling like home. “Are we really doing this?”
“It just makes sense,” Matt said. He felt like he was floating, weightless; there was probably too much caffeine in his coffee or something. “Spousal privilege, like we said. And the hospital thing.”
“I have time.” If they didn’t do it now, they never would. “Do we need a witness?”
“I’m sure they can provide one downtown,” Foggy said, standing up and moving past Matt to open the door. “But I’m also pretty sure I just figured out how to make Karen stop being mad at us.”
The wait wasn’t as long as Matt would’ve expected, only about an hour or so. Apparently not that many people applied for marriage licenses on a Wednesday morning. He sat in an uncomfortable plastic chair and tuned out the angry sounds and stale smells of a government building, focusing in on Karen and Foggy instead.
“You sure you don’t want me to run out and get flowers or something?” Karen asked, her voice sharp with teasing. “I mean, this is a festive occasion, after all.”
“It’s not a real wedding, Karen,” Foggy said, voice low. “Besides, you bring flowers and Matt’ll just make his wrinkly too-many-smells face all the way through.”
“Excuse me, my what face?” Matt asked.
“It’s a face, you make it,” Foggy said as if that explained anything. “It’s like…” He paused, presumably demonstrating the face, because Karen burst out laughing. “Right?”
“Sorry, Matt, he’s right. It’s definitely a face you make,” she agreed.
"Well, you..." Matt said, and stopped. Somehow he didn't think "You breathe funny when you're trying not to laugh at the joke you're about to tell" would go over well. "Never mind."
Foggy patted his knee. "Don't worry, Matty. It's still ludicrously handsome, just like all your other faces. Your milkshake will still bring all the girls to the yard."
"Huh. That's a question," Karen said. Matt tilted his head towards her, and sensed Foggy doing the same. "What if one of you wants to get married to someone else? For real, I mean?"
Foggy scoffed playfully. "For that, Matt'd have to date a girl long enough to learn her last name."
"I know their last names! Most of them, at least," Matt protested. Not that Foggy didn't have a point - he couldn't actually picture himself married to anyone. For starters, they'd have to know his secret - well, secrets, plural - and that circle was already too wide for comfort.
But Foggy…that was easy to picture. Foggy was a charming, intelligent lawyer with his own practice, rinky-dink though it might be. He was gentle and funny and honest, and he loved children and dogs. He'd make some lucky girl an amazing husband someday, and Matt could only hope that whoever she was, she'd put up with Matt circling somewhere in the outer orbit of Foggy's life.
Matt suddenly felt the headache that had been pushed at bay by the coffee starting to creep back.
“Anyway, don’t worry,” he said. “When Foggy finds his one and only, we’ll just get a quiet divorce and that’ll be that.”
“You’re not too Catholic for divorce?” Foggy asked.
“Considering I’m not too Catholic for a sham gay marriage for the purposes of protecting testimony, no,” Matt murmured back.
“Darn,” Foggy said. “And here I thought I could leave my dirty socks any old place and you’d still be stuck with me.”
“I mean, you probably can, since you live in different apartments,” Karen pointed out.
“Hmm,” Matt said.
“Oh no, what’s that face for?” Foggy asked.
“Now what face am I making?”
“The ‘I’ve got an idea and Foggy’s not going to like it’ face.”
“Do you name all my faces?”
“Spill it, Murdock.”
Matt took a breath. Foggy probably wasn’t going to like this. “I was just thinking...maybe we should move in together.”
And there it went - Foggy’s heartbeat, off to the races. Matt knew he wouldn’t like it. “I...why?”
“Well, look at it this way,” Matt said. “You’re trying a case against...against Karen, let’s say, and you think her best friend knows some incriminating secrets. But a month ago, she and that totally platonic friend got married. But they didn’t have a ceremony, they don’t live together, they haven’t changed their lives in any way. Now, you can’t put that friend on the stand - but are you telling me that you’re not going to point out to a jury that the timing of this apparently platonic marriage looks very suspicious?”
“Who exactly am I marrying in this scenario?” Karen asked. “Are we all marrying Foggy?”
Foggy didn’t speak for a minute, but his heartbeat was as loud as a drum. “You make a solid argument, counselor,” he said finally, and Matt tried not to look too relieved. He didn’t want to put Foggy through all the trouble of marrying him as a favor to Matt if it would only make the hypothetical case against Matt stronger.
Plus, if they moved in together, Matt would always know where Foggy was. There’d be no more sending him home late at night; no more risk of Foggy being held at gunpoint without Matt there to protect him. He could keep Foggy safe.
“So what you’re really saying is, we should make it look convincing,” Foggy went on. Matt was usually good at interpreting people’s tones of voice, especially Foggy’s, but right now he couldn’t tell what Foggy was thinking.
“Just for show,” he said quickly. “At least for a few months.”
He sensed Foggy’s nod, and heard him take a breath. “All right,” Foggy said - and then he startled Matt by picking up his hand and laced their fingers together. “Your place or mine, snookums?”
Karen laughed. “Okay, ‘snookums’ is definitely grounds for divorce.”
Matt let himself grin. This was going to be okay. He opened his mouth to say something -
“Nelson and Murdock?” the woman at the front desk called. “Nelson and Murdock, you’re up.”
Foggy’s hand tightened on Matt’s, and Matt’s mouth snapped shut. This was going to be okay. It was.
The process of getting the actual license was relatively painless, after spending over an hour in uncomfortable plastic chairs - they just handed their photo IDs over to the clerk and signed a piece of paper. The worst part of it was trying not to laugh as Foggy extra-carefully guided his hand to where he was supposed to sign and said, “Right here, lambkin.”
There was supposed to be a twenty-four hour waiting period between getting the physical license in their hands and the actual marriage ceremony, but they could get a judicial waiver to circumvent that. Luckily, they knew a lot of judges.
“Got it!” Foggy announced triumphantly, trotting back down the hall and waving a piece of paper. “Judge Schwartz says congratulations, and, uh.”
“What?” Matt asked.
“She always knew someday we’d work it out.” Matt sensed Foggy’s shrug. “I guess we won’t have to worry about convincing people.”
“Yeah, you guys know you’re going to get a lot of that, right?” Karen asked.
Foggy gave a breezy sigh. “The burden of being irresistible, I’m afraid. Everyone speculates about my love life. Enough, you gossip harpies! Get your pound of flesh elsewhere!”
Matt laughed. “It’s tough to be you, huh, Fogs?”
“You have no idea, buddy.”
“Nelson-Murdock?” a clerk called.
Matt found Foggy’s arm. “Right here,” he said as they headed towards the clerk’s voice.
“License?” the clerk asked.
Foggy presented it. “Here!”
“Here!” Karen chimed in.
“Okay,” the clerk said, sounding unimpressed by their enthusiasm or preparedness. “Let’s get this over with.”
Matt hadn’t been to many weddings - one of the minor consequences of being an orphan whose acquaintances were mainly coworkers, criminals, and nuns - but when he thought of weddings, he thought of church: of organ music and incense, of kneeling in pews and of his memories of the way stained glass cast patterns of colored light along the floor. He thought of something important and holy, even after the disastrous divorce cases he’d sat in on as an intern - something heavy with significance in God’s eyes.
This wasn’t that.
The clerk mumbled his way through the rote and very brief civil ceremony; Matt could tell he was staring straight at the book in front of him, though he’d probably read the words a thousand times before. They didn’t have rings, so they skipped that part. Karen fidgeted behind them.
“Franklin Nelson, do you take Matthew Murdock to be your lawfully wedded husband?” the clerk droned.
Matt heard Foggy take a breath. His heart was racing, which was fair enough. If they got caught with this sham of a marriage, not to mention the reason behind it, Foggy was probably protected from being charged as an accessory - but his career would be in the toilet.
“I do,” Foggy said, and Matt swallowed around a sudden inexplicable lump in his throat.
“Matthew Murdock, do you take Franklin Nelson to be your lawfully wedded husband?”
There was a feeling Matt got sometimes, when he went leaping off rooftops into the darkness of Hell’s Kitchen. He knew his trajectory, knew there was a flagpole or fire escape waiting for his outstretched hands, knew what his body could do. He always knew, deep down, where he would land.
But for a moment, before gravity seized his body, he hovered weightless in uncertainty, in the possibility that this time, he might fall to his death. There was fear in that possibility, and a fierce, reckless joy. Sometimes Matt thought the only reason he did any of this was to chase that high.
He felt that way now.
“I do,” he said, and felt Foggy’s hand tighten in his. His safe landing.
“Hooray!” Karen cheered behind them, and Matt couldn’t help smiling.
“Ahem,” said the clerk, and Karen quickly shut up. “By the power vested in me by the State of New York, I pronounce you legally married. You may kiss.”
“Uh,” Matt said, but Foggy was already moving, wrapping an arm around his neck and laying a loud smacker on his cheek.
“Can you believe it, pumpkin?” Foggy asked as Karen moved to sign the form the clerk held out for her. “We’re married! Till death do we part, just like we always said.”
“Um,” Matt said. “Yep.”
They were married. Legally. And had to pretend to be in love for the foreseeable future, just in case.
And Foggy was pressed up against Matt’s side, his arm a heavy weight around Matt’s neck. His conditioner and aftershave itched in Matt’s nose and his heartbeat was a steady - if speedy - counterpoint to Matt’s own, racing like it was out to win the Triple Crown. His kiss was still warm on Matt’s cheek.
Matt swallowed hard and thought that maybe he hadn’t reached a safe landing after all.