That was the name of the man who owned him.
Matt scowled in the vague direction of the dorm room door, shifting his duffel bag to a more comfortable position over his shoulder. Technically speaking, Franklin didn't "own" him. It was closer to a rental, or perhaps indentured servitude. The Program referred to it as "a mutually beneficial partnership agreement," but the Program had also acidly informed him that he was lucky to have been selected by a Patron at all, since he was blind and therefore defective, so the Program could go to hell as far as Matt was concerned.
They'd actually used the word "defective." Matt knew it was a technical term and that he'd rated high on most of the Program's other grading matrices. He'd still broken a chair when he'd gotten off the phone with them.
But there weren't many options for a blind orphan from the wrong end of Hell's Kitchen. The money from his father's last fight wouldn't get him far enough. If he wanted to be a lawyer, the Program was his best - maybe his only - choice.
The nuns hadn't liked it, but he was eighteen and old enough to apply. He wasn't sure who would want a blind Companion, but he'd been told by enough people that he'd grown up to be handsome that he’d thought he might have a chance of being selected. And if he ended up with someone who was specifically looking for a particularly vulnerable Companion, well...
Matt's frown gave way to a predatory smile. If Franklin Nelson tried anything Matt didn't feel like putting up with, he'd learn the hard way that "blind" didn't mean "helpless."
He could hear Franklin inside the room: a steady heartbeat, even breathing, the brush of long hair against his shoulders. There was slightly tinny music coming out of his computer speakers, and he was mumbling to himself, or maybe to the computer: "Come on, come on..." He smelled like nice shampoo and cotton and the faintest whiff of French fries.
Matt added it to the pitifully small mental file he had on Franklin: eighteen, from New York like Matt, a fellow freshman. It wasn't a lot, but it was enough to build some assumptions. Matt was probably a gift from Mommy and Daddy Nelson, there to write Franklin's papers for him and perhaps occasionally provide some...additional stress management assistance. Matt could write papers like a pro, and as for the rest...well, he'd handle that when it came up.
Of course, Franklin was probably also an entitled prick. But Matt wouldn't find out for sure by standing out here all day.
He knocked, then pushed the door open. "Excuse me, is this Room 312?"
"Yeah, who you looking for?"
Matt winced. An inauspicious start, to say the least.
He sensed Franklin looking up and an uptick in heart rate and body heat - attraction or embarrassment, Matt wasn't sure. "Oh, uh...sorry."
"What for?" Matt wasn't going to make this easy for him.
Huh. Maybe he hadn’t been chosen for his blindness; maybe it had been an oversight, no pun intended. "Yeah, so they tell me." Matt made a show of feeling for the bed before dumping his bag on it. "I hope that won't be a problem."
"Why would it?" And there it was, the beat of realization. "Oh, you're - you're my Companion! Matthew Murdock, right?"
And Matt waited. There were three options here:
1. Franklin would stammer uncomfortably that there must have been some mix-up, that he was sure Matt was very nice but that he needed a sighted Companion for...well, whatever he wanted a Companion for, from running errands to writing Franklin's papers for him to spending the next seven years on his knees. There'd be a hasty call to the Program and Matt would be quietly switched out.
2. Franklin would throw a rich boy tantrum amounting to essentially the same thing. Either way, there went Matt's Patron, and with him, Matt’s degree.
3. Franklin would be a little too excited about having a blind Companion, and Matt would see how well he could smile through his revulsion. For seven years. If he didn't snap and break Franklin's nose first.
"Oh Jesus, this is so embarrassing," Franklin said. "I can't believe my parents did this to me."
Matt blinked. Apparently there was a fourth option.
Franklin sighed. "I told them in no uncertain terms that I didn't want a Companion, so of course what do they do but announce right before they drop me off here that they've hired one for me? I mean, no offense. I'm sure you're very nice..."
And there it was.
"...but the whole thing's kind of gross, I mean, don't you think? There have to be better ways to make the system work for everyone than basically selling people."
Matt couldn't really stare, but he was pretty sure he was gaping.
"Oh man, I'm sorry!" Franklin said. "That was super rude, wasn't it? I mean, what the hell do I know, right? Your life, your choices." Matt sensed him shrugging. "But you hear about the sort of things that happen to Companions and...I don't know. I feel kind of weird about being part of the Program. But my parents and I don't really see eye to eye on politics."
Matt tried to process this. Franklin’s chatter was quick and bright, even faster than the average New Yorker’s - but it was hearing Matt's own opinions out of the mouth of someone raised in the lap of luxury that was really throwing him for a loop.
He also wasn't quite sure what Franklin's distaste for the Program meant for him. "So...you're dismissing me?" That was no good either. He wouldn't owe the Nelsons any money yet, since he hadn’t actually started the classes they were paying for, but he'd never find a new Patron in time to start school this semester. He'd be a year behind - if he found another Patron willing to take a chance on a blind Companion.
"No, no!" Franklin assured him hastily. "I mean, that's no fair to you, right? You got into Columbia under your own steam, you should get to earn your degree. You're pre-law, right?" Matt nodded numbly. "Me too! That must've been why my parents liked you, they probably think you'll be a good influence on me."
Franklin moved, and the springs of his mattress bounced as he sat on his bed. "Come on, it's your room too, you don't have to just stand there." Matt sat down gingerly on his bare mattress and waited. "Here's what I'm thinking, and you tell me if this is totally dumb because I've only known you were coming for like an hour and I didn't have a lot of time to plan: you stay in school, we let my parents pay your tuition and everything, let them think you're Companioning up a storm, but really, we're just roommates. You don't run errands for me, do my schoolwork for me, do..." A squeak of springs as he shifted uncomfortably. "...you know, anything. It's like we're not in the Program at all. I mean, you have to pay my parents back eventually regardless, so it's not like you're cheating them or anything. Just think of it like an interest-free loan from the Bank of Nelson and Nelson. How does that sound?"
Like heaven. But Matt had twelve years of Catholic school under his belt, and he knew you had to earn heaven. There had to be a catch. "And you don't want me to do anything for you?" he asked, and couldn't keep the skepticism out of his tone.
Franklin hesitated, and Matt braced himself. "Well, okay, this is going to sound totally pathetic, but it would be nice to be friends. I mean, we are gonna be stuck living together, probably for the next four years if we want my parents to think you're, uh." A sudden flush of heat; Franklin was blushing. "But again: totally not necessary. You don’t have to invite me to your birthday party or whatever if you don’t want to. I just like being friends with people, you know?"
Not really. Matt had found that most people weren't really worth being friends with once you got to know them. But maybe Franklin was different.
"Okay," he said, nodding. "Let's try it. Thanks, Franklin. This is really..." He didn't want to say 'nice'; refusing to take advantage of someone else's financial desperation was basic human decency. But he didn't want to be rude, either. "...something."
"Oh, actually, there is one requirement," Franklin said, and Matt tensed again. "Call me Foggy, please. I hate 'Franklin,' it's so stuffy and dead-president-y."
"Long story. And...do you go by Matt or Matthew?"
"Matt Murdock, cool. So - " Franklin - Foggy - paused. "Wait. Matt Murdock? Are you...you’re not from Hell's Kitchen, are you?"
Matt could already tell he was going to have to stay on his toes to keep up with Foggy's rapid changes in subject. "Yeah, born and raised."
"So am I! That must be why my parents picked you! I followed your story obsessively in the papers when I was a kid. What you did, saving that guy crossing the street? You were like, my tiny fourth-grade hero." The warmth in his voice was genuine, and Matt squirmed a little, uncomfortable.
"I'm not a hero," he said, with the bashful little smile that usually made people agree to change the subject.
But Foggy continued to be full of surprises. "Bullshit. Come on, you got your peepers knocked out saving that old dude!"
Matt couldn't help it: he laughed. He'd never expected his Patron to be funny. "They didn't get knocked out."
"Oh, good, because that would be...a little freaky," Foggy said, then, quickly, "No offense."
"Please, none taken," Matt assured him, surprised by how genuine his smile felt. "Most people dance around me like I'm made of glass. I hate that."
"Yeah, you're just a guy, right?" Foggy said. "A really, really good-looking guy." His heartbeat picked up again.
Matt froze, smile fading.
"I mean, uh, girls must love that, you know, the whole wounded handsome duck thing," Foggy said quickly. He prattled on about being Matt's wingman, and Matt smiled and nodded and let Foggy frantically backpedal, even as his stomach went cold. He said the right things in the right places and laughed at Foggy's jokes and let Foggy drag him to an overcrowded, overpriced coffee shop that turned out to have the best baklava Matt had ever experienced in his life.
Maybe Matt really had fallen on his feet for once in his life. Maybe Foggy was just as clever and decent and honest as he seemed. Maybe he'd offered Matt the chance to go to college without paying for it with his body out of the pure goodness of his heart.
But he was attracted to Matt, that much was certain. And that meant that eventually, he was going to remember what Matt was really there for.
Matt just wasn't sure what he'd do when Foggy did remember.
It would probably be a blowjob.
It was one of the most common requests for a Companion, since Patronage skewed about seventy percent male. The Program's website even had a page called "Fellatio Tips." Matt hadn't read it; he'd given blowjobs before, though not frequently, and more importantly he wasn't particularly interested in becoming the Dicksucking Champ of the Tri-State Area. He hadn't even been sure he'd be willing to comply. He'd figured it would depend on his Patron, and how he was asked.
When he found out his Patron was an eighteen-year-old guy, the chance of being asked for blowjobs went from a probability to a near-certainty. Hell, if Matt could get his dick sucked whenever he wanted...well, he wouldn't, not like this, but he could understand the temptation. And once he met Foggy, and heard that aroused heartbeat spike, well...
He waited all day. All week. All month. He smiled politely and laughed at Foggy's jokes and changed in the bathroom and never took his glasses off until the lights were out.
And he braced himself for it. The hand on his shoulder or his elbow. The shuffling of feet. The too-casual request:
"Hey, buddy, I'm having a hell of a time concentrating on this paper. I think I'm too tense. You think you could...help me out?"
Matt would hesitate.
"Sorry, I don't want to push or anything. It's just, you know, my parents are paying for you to be here...I thought you could, you know, do me a solid in return?"
It would sound so reasonable. So little to ask of a Companion. Matt was allowed to wear clothes in their dorm room and talk to strangers and sleep in his own bed - what was one little blowjob?
He could go along with it. Or he could refuse and get dismissed, which would set him back in more ways than one. A Companion who was dismissed by his Patron was required to pay back everything that had been spent on him - immediately. If he failed to do so - if he defaulted - he went to jail. It was part of what made the Program so open to abuses; the threat of defaulting left Companions forced to go along with whatever their Patrons demanded, whether they wanted to or not.
Matt’s father’s money would cover the non-refundable tuition for one semester, so Matt wouldn’t default, but he would lose an awful lot of money. And good luck finding a Patron who wanted a blind Companion who’d already been dismissed once. Refusing Foggy would cost Matt thousands of dollars, and possibly his only chance at a diploma.
And Foggy would be a gentleman about the sex itself; Matt knew that within a day of knowing him. He wouldn't choke Matt, or pull his hair, or call him nasty names. He'd warn him before he came, and thank him after.
Matt might even enjoy it, in a purely physical sense. Foggy smelled nice and his voice was pleasant. He was big and solid, which was probably the case everywhere, and well, it wasn't like Matt didn't like dick.
He'd probably hate himself more for enjoying it. He'd definitely hate Foggy more. Which was really a shame, because if he wasn't so busy preparing himself to have to hate Foggy, he'd probably really like him.
But the first month slipped by and the request never came. Foggy was warm and friendly, but he never asked Matt to do anything more arduous than pass the salt or tell Foggy when Matt needed something described. He never even touched Matt, not once, though Matt could tell he was a tactile kind of person - he was always reaching out for other people's shoulders, bumping fists, cheerfully accepting hugs from the many friends he seemed to have made while Matt was still trying to figure out where the dining hall was.
Matt kept waiting, though. He admired Foggy's ideals, but seven years was a long time, plus however long it took Matt to earn enough to pay the Nelsons back and settle his account. He'd give in to temptation sooner or later.
Matt just wished he knew when.
Matt was pretty sure Foggy had no idea how the Program was supposed to work.
The concept was simple: a Patron paid for whatever a Companion had requested when they'd signed up - in Matt's case, all expenses for undergrad and law school, at the best university he could get into. The Patron had to feed, clothe, and house the Companion, and pay for medical care if necessary. The Patron could not make the Companion commit a crime, or physically injure or alter the Companion in any significant way, from tattoos to pregnancy.
In exchange, the Patron got whatever he or she wanted.
Foggy, apparently, wanted Matt to be happy.
"Mail call!" Foggy sang out as he let himself into the dorm room, and Matt heard the rustle of envelopes. "Oh, my parents sent me my allowance for the month. Ugh, I sound like a douche, don't I? A nine-year-old douche who gets an allowance for taking the garbage out without complaining too much. Sorry."
Matt shrugged. He didn't have much of a leg to stand on when it came to judging people for being financially supported by Foggy's parents. "Lots of students get money from their folks."
"Speaking of which." Foggy flopped onto his bed; Matt heard the springs squeak and felt the displacement of air, the way the movement exuded a wave of Foggy's sleep-smell from the mattress. "What if I just set it up so that my bank sends you a check for half of this every month? That way I won't forget and you'll have money for books or whatever."
Matt paused. Most Patrons used money as a simple way to control their Companions: choosing their meals, buying their books and clothes for them, parceling out pin money at random as rewards for good behavior. Matt had never heard of a Companion being allowed to make his or her own financial decisions. "Your parents won't mind?"
Foggy shrugged. "Oh - I just shrugged, sorry. I don't think they're looking into it that closely. If they ask I'll just say you're sleeping pretty on silk sheets, and it won't even be a lie."
"I...sure, Foggy, thanks," Matt said. He would prefer to handle his own money.
"Nah, you're doing me a favor," Foggy said. "This way I don't have to think about it. I'll set up the automatic payment online right now." He hummed an offkey rendition of "Modern Major General" as he sat at his desk, and Matt heard his fingers clicking over the keys.
Foggy was lying, Matt knew. He had thought about it, thought about the best way to make Matt feel comfortable with the Nelsons' financial support, and he'd pitched it like it was some kind of favor to him.
Matt wondered what Foggy's parents would think if they knew.
Foggy also clearly didn't understand that a Companion was supposed to be a status symbol.
For many Patrons, that was the whole point, even more than the sex - a pretty young thing hanging on their arm; a living, breathing testament to their wealth and power. There were a fair amount of Companions at Columbia, but very few Patrons - usually Patrons were older. Foggy would be courted by the most elite social groups, fraternities, even secret societies if they knew he was a Patron as a student.
But… "What if we just don't tell anyone about the Program?" he’d asked Matt on the second day, voice pitched low over a bowl of Froot Loops. Not that many could hear him over the noise of the crowded dining hall - certainly not anyone who didn't have hearing like Matt's.
"What?" Matt asked intelligently.
"Well, you hear stories. I don't know. People can be dicks to Companions."
Foggy was putting it lightly, and from the anxious skip in his heartbeat he knew it. Companions were considered second-class citizens by most people, who judged them and wanted them in about equal measure. Companions caught without the protecting presence of their Patrons were mocked, harassed, and preached fire and brimstone at. They were frequently assaulted, both sexually and otherwise, if their Patrons weren't feared enough to keep others from touching their “property” - and no one would fear gentle, funny Foggy. Of course, Matt could defend himself, but Foggy didn't know that.
"I mean, you're only a Companion in name anyway," Foggy said. "Why complicate things, right? As far as anyone outside of the administration building knows, we're just roommates. Deal?"
Matt dragged the tines of his fork through the forgotten eggs on his plate. He was positive Foggy's parents wouldn't like this; there was little point in paying for their only son to have a plaything at college if Foggy couldn't show him off.
But Foggy didn't seem to care.
"Okay. Just roommates," Matt said, and wondered how long it would take for Foggy to drop a quiet confession to someone he was trying to impress. "It's a deal."
But Foggy never missed the point of the Program more than when he first met Elektra.
She was in Matt's Spanish class. She moved like a dancer and smelled like hyacinths and steel. The day Matt met her he thought about nothing else for three days straight.
"She likes you," Foggy said when he and Matt ran into Elektra while trotting up the stairs of Lowe Library. "You should ask her out."
Matt fumbled a step and nearly fell. Only Foggy's grip on his arm saved him. He'd asked Foggy to lead him two months into the semester - he didn't really need it, but it helped with the "normal blind person" charade...and maybe he'd been wondering if permission to touch would finally trigger Foggy asking Matt for what he was owed.
It didn't. Foggy's heart had raced when Matt first curled his fingers around Foggy's elbow, but other than asking how many verbal directions Matt needed, he hadn't said a single additional word about it.
But Foggy had taken to leading like a duck to water - and apparently to catching, when necessary.
"Whoa there," he said with a chuckle, one hand steadying Matt's back, the other on his wrist. "There are steps on these steps, buddy."
"I...thanks," Matt said. "You want me to ask her out?"
"I don't want you to do anything," Foggy said, which was a lie, but such a gentle one it barely pinged on Matt's senses. "But you want you to ask her out. Don't you?"
"Well...yes," Matt admitted. "But you...I mean, I'm your..."
"Oh, pish tosh!" Foggy scoffed, like that was a thing people actually said, especially eighteen-year-old people. "In name only, remember? Go get 'er, champ."
There was a waver of something in his voice, the faintest hint of uncertainty...or reluctance. He didn't, actually, want Matt to ask Elektra out. But he wasn't going to stop him. Not even if legally, Matt's body and loyalty were supposed to belong to him.
Foggy was a terrible Patron.
Matt had never been so lucky in his life.
Foggy had to snap eventually. A man had needs, after all.
Matt knew Foggy still wanted him. He could hear it; he could smell it. And after three months, the frustration had to be reaching a boiling point. It wouldn't be just a blowjob anymore, requested easily and casually. No, Foggy would need something more.
Maybe Foggy would be coming home from a party just a little bit drunk; maybe Matt would be coming home from the gym just a little bit flushed and sweaty. Maybe he'd be bending over to empty his gym bag when he'd feel Foggy behind him, hot and wanting.
"I can't do it," Foggy would say, his voice as low and thick as it got when he was sleepy - but darker, rougher. "I tried, but I can't. I need you now, Matt."
Matt wouldn’t be able to stop his shiver as he contemplated his options. He could refuse. Foggy would never force him, but he’d probably dismiss him for failing to accomplish the most basic part of his job. He’d dismiss him, and Matt would be sent away - away from school, away from Foggy, away from his future.
Or Matt could go along with it.
"...All right," he'd say, and swallow hard.
There'd be no time for getting into bed or even getting undressed; Foggy'd have Matt bent over his desk in a heartbeat, his pants tangled around his ankles. When he opened Matt up with the lotion he kept in his nightstand he'd be rough, rushed, impatient. It would burn a little when he pushed in, but Matt could take a little pain. Matt could take so much more than a little.
He'd bend low over Matt as he fucked him, his breath hot against the back of his neck, his ear, murmuring excuses. "I tried, but fuck, Matt, you're so damn hot...wanted you so much, right from the minute I met you...God, you feel so good..."
And Foggy wasn't selfish. He'd jerk Matt off too, matching his rhythm with the hand still slick with lotion, making Matt smell like him, inside and out. Like his property. He'd hold on until Matt was coming with a wordless cry on the desk, and then he'd follow him over the edge.
He might pat Matt on the hip as he pulled out, like a dog, like a good boy. "Just this once," he'd say as he stumbled to bed, leaving Matt to sort out the kinks in his spine and the tremble in his thighs. "Just this once, Matty."
But it wouldn't only be once, not after Foggy knew how easy it was to give in. It would happen again and again, and it would ruin everything they'd built - their tenuous friendship, their even more tenuous trust. Matt hated the thought of it.
The only thing that worried him more than the inevitability of it was how hard he always got thinking about it.
"Matt, you look terrible."
Matt stopped trying to untangle his shirt so that he could put it on, and turned his head in Foggy's direction. He hadn’t heard Foggy come back from the bathroom. How had he not heard Foggy come back?
"I'm fine," he said, or at least, he thought he did. His ears felt clogged; his nose felt worse. The world was far away and hard to make out. But he had class.
"Bullshit. You were coughing all day yesterday, and now you're all pale and blotchy. You're sick, buddy."
He didn't have time to be sick. "Allergies."
"In December?" Foggy pointed. "I'm pointing authoritatively right now, just so you know. Bed."
For a confused, feverish minute, Matt thought this was finally it; this was Foggy breaking down. Then he realized that Foggy was pointing to Matt's bed, and fetching the extra fleece blanket from the foot of his own.
"I have to get to class..." Matt protested.
"You can take a sick day," Foggy said - cheerful, but firm. "You'll probably have to take a bunch, the way you look. Don't worry, between us, me and Elektra can get the notes for you. I'll record Pol Theory and Criminology on my phone so you'll even have the lectures," he added, listing the two classes they shared.
Matt pushed himself away from the wall - when did he start leaning against it? - and shook his head. "I can't..."
"You can and you will," Foggy said. "Look at you, you can hardly stand. Come on."
He led Matt to his bed. His hand was cool on Matt's elbow and his heartbeat was the only steady thing in Matt's world.
Matt flopped back against the cool sheets. "Gotta tough it out..." Matt said, thinking of Stick. "Mind over matter. He always said mind over matter..."
"Who did? Because frankly, they sound like a lunatic," Foggy retorted. "Dr. Nelson says plenty of sleep and fluids over matter." He pulled the sheets up over Matt. Matt's feet were cold and Foggy must have known, because the fleece blanket was suddenly a comforting weight around them.
The mattress dipped as Foggy sat next to him. "I'm gonna run to the store and get you some juice and NyQuil before my next class. You need anything else, buddy?"
Matt shook his head. He wasn't sure what he was saying no to. "Not supposed to be...I'm the one who's supposed to be taking care of you."
"Nonsense." Foggy's hand stroked Matt's hair back from his forehead. Matt was clammy and hot at once, but Foggy's hand was cool. "This is what friends do. Make a note, because the next time I get the sniffles I want alphabet soup and the softest tissues they make, okay? I'm talking blowing my nose on the wings of an angel."
He'd have to use his own. "...Thanks, Foggy," Matt managed. He felt like he was always saying "thank you" to Foggy, and never paying him back. Foggy wouldn't let Matt pay him back.
"Any time, Matt," Foggy said, and pet Matt's hair again. Matt was half-asleep already and he didn't want to be; Foggy's touch felt too good to miss. But he was fading, and Foggy's voice was just a distant hum in his favorite key. "Any time."
By spring semester, Matt couldn't believe how stupid he'd been.
This was Foggy. He'd never guilt Matt into sex; he'd never demand it. He'd never rush through prep and risk hurting Matt.
No, it would be something like an accident, when it finally happened. Foggy would trip over something he'd left in the middle of the floor, shoes or something, and Matt would catch him. Or they'd be crammed in on Foggy's bed watching a movie on his laptop, with Foggy narrating. Or they'd ace another test and Foggy would hug Matt - he did that now, relaxed enough to touch him, though it was always chaste and friendly.
And then he'd just…look at Matt, and his breathing would change, and he'd kiss him.
He still wanted Matt. Matt knew. He tested it sometimes, just to be sure. Pressing unnecessarily close when Foggy led him somewhere. Leaning over Foggy's shoulder when he studied to feel the book in his hand. Coming back from the shower and taking his sweet time changing out of his towel, drops of water falling from his tousled hair to run slowly down his bare back and chest.
And then there was the time he'd talked Foggy into letting Matt touch his face, into letting Matt add a picture of a charmingly upturned nose and soft lips to the warm voice and tapestry of familiar scents that meant "Foggy" to him.
It still happened, every time. That uptick in Foggy's heartbeat. That catch in his breath. A shift of pheromones in the air.
Foggy never did anything about it, but someday he would. Someday he'd kiss Matt, and he'd catch himself, and he'd say, "Is this okay?"
"I'm your Companion, aren't I?" Matt would say.
And Foggy would press him into the bed, heavy and warm as his hands mapped out Matt's body the way that Matt had mapped out Foggy's face. He'd scramble out of his own clothes, but he'd take his time undressing Matt, like he was unwrapping a present he'd waited a lifetime for.
And he wouldn't rush - God, what had Matt been thinking? No, he'd work Matt open slowly and carefully, checking in with him after every added finger. Is this okay? Is this okay? Is this okay, Matty?
And Matt would say yes.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Foggy would kiss him once he was all the way in, big and hard and trembling inside of Matt, his pulse beating its way up Matt's spine. He'd kiss him and kiss him again with every thrust, still moving so slowly, so gently, until Matt was begging for harder. Faster.
But Foggy wouldn't give him harder or faster. Foggy would hold him like he was something precious. And he would be, because he would be Foggy's.
When Matt came it would be long and drawn-out, a slow fire burning through his nerves. He'd be too sleepy and content to do much more than pet Foggy's hair as he kept going, rocking hard and hot into Matt, drawing a chain of kisses up Matt's throat and finally muffling a cry beneath Matt's chin as he spilled himself deep inside. It would be Foggy who cleaned him up, who shut the light and pulled the covers over them, because that was the kind of person Foggy was.
"...Was that okay?" Foggy would ask in the dark, arms around Matt, and Matt would nod against his shoulder.
"I'm your Companion," he'd say again. "This is what we're supposed to do."
Matt took business classes, econ classes. He found an affordable, discreet financial advisor and invested his father’s money in some steady, dependable companies. And he watched as his assets grew, slowly but steadily.
He wouldn’t use it to pay the Nelsons back once he graduated. It wouldn’t be enough, not in that short a span of time - his father had left him a tidy sum, but Columbia was expensive.
No, he’d make sure he did well enough in law school to get a job at some flashy firm after graduation, somewhere he was raking in a ridiculously overinflated salary from day one. He’d make his money fast and pay the Nelsons back as soon as possible. His father’s money was for his own firm, once he was free.
Maybe Foggy would put him aside after law school - or, rather, his parents would. It was common enough, keeping a Companion around while they were young and pretty, and then putting them aside to let them concentrate on earning enough to settle their account while the Patron found a newer, younger Companion to entertain them. Some older, wealthier Patrons might have half a dozen Companions put aside at once, all working on their accounts.
Foggy would have no interest in picking a hot young freshman out of an online catalog, Matt knew that. Even if he didn’t have a moral opposition to the Program, it wasn’t like he had any trouble getting dates - Foggy thought Matt was the irresistible ladies’ man, but Matt knew all too well the scents of brilliant, charming boys and girls alike lingering on Foggy’s skin.
But that didn’t mean that Foggy’s parents wouldn’t decide that a new Companion was a perfect reward for passing the bar. And surely Foggy would be just as kind to that new Companion as he’d been to Matt. He’d offer them the same deal: autonomy, support, a place to live. His friendship. His focus, because his parents would expect it, while Matt was shunted off to the side.
Matt’s stomach churned at the thought.
And the years went by quickly. They got each other through four years of undergrad, through excruciating finals and nasty professors and painful breakups. Matt got his acceptance letter to Columbia Law and waited with bated breath until Foggy got his, too. He suggested they find an apartment together for the next three years - to convince Foggy’s parents, of course - and Foggy readily agreed.
They learned the law. They studied and drank and planned for the future. Matt’s nest egg grew.
Graduation - and the bar exam - loomed. Foggy made himself tense and sick with worry, studying late into the night, and Matt took to offering him backrubs just to get him relaxed enough to sleep. He listened to Foggy’s heartbeat slow as he worked the knots out of his shoulders and wondered if he could get him more relaxed by moving lower, by coaxing him onto his stomach and working his hands all the way down…
Foggy wouldn’t put him aside then, no matter who the Nelsons pulled out of the Program. Matt could make Foggy keep him. He knew he could.
Matt kept his hands to Foggy’s shoulders, and tried not to think about tomorrow.
“Hey, they coming to graduation? Your family?”
Matt didn’t know why he asked it. He didn’t particularly like Foggy’s parents, even though they’d always been pleasant to him, and he wasn’t particularly interested in seeing them. And besides, it wasn’t the question he really wanted the answer to.
Are they picking out someone new for you? Are you getting tired of me?
“The whole extended brood,” Foggy said. “I think they need to see me walk across that stage to actually believe I did it.”
The faint whiff of self-deprecation in his voice made Matt sling an arm around his shoulders, or maybe that was the alcohol. “Franklin Nelson for the defense, Your Honor,” he said, beaming into Foggy’s face. He could feel the heat of Foggy’s breath on his skin, smell the admittedly pretty beery fumes of it, and he tilted his head, listening for it. That rapid heartbeat, that spike in arousal. His favorite song.
Nothing. Foggy’s heart thumped along, drunk and content.
Matt pulled back, giving Foggy’s back a few friendly rubs for good measure. Still nothing. Had Foggy not noticed how close Matt was, or did he just not care anymore?
“Defense! I like that,” Foggy said, and Matt could hear the grin in his voice. “There’s money in that.”
“Oh, come on, is that all you care about?” Matt asked. It wasn’t fair, he knew it wasn’t fair, but he hated hearing Foggy sound like this - like a typical rich Patron, only concerned with money and the things it could buy him. The people it could buy him.
“No!” Foggy said, and the indignation in his voice soothed Matt. “No. Truth, and justice, and all of that.” Then he shrugged, the movement pressing him up against Matt. “Couple of bucks?” he wheedled, and Matt couldn’t help his chuckle.
It didn’t matter, he told himself. It didn’t matter if Foggy only wanted someone pretty who he didn’t have to feel bad about having sex with; it didn’t matter if his parents found the most stunning potential Companion in the whole damn Program. Matt knew Foggy better than anyone, and that meant Matt knew how to hold on to him.
He’d do it tonight, he decided. When they got back to their apartment. He’d lock the door, push Foggy against it, and kiss him stupid. Foggy liked kissing, Matt knew that; he’d certainly spent enough hours locked in his room making out with Marci. Matt would make Foggy forget all about Marci. He’d make him forget about everyone but Matt.
Or maybe after graduation would be better, when Foggy was sober, but high on the triumph of the day. It’d be hot, sitting there in the June sun wearing a cap and gown over a nice dress shirt; Matt would have a good excuse for requesting a shower before meeting Foggy’s family for a celebratory dinner. Foggy would wait for him on the couch, and if his heartbeat didn’t pick up when Matt came out of the bathroom, clean and damp with a towel around his hips, well, it would once Matt let the towel hit the floor.
“Uh.” Matt would be able to hear Foggy licking his lips. “Matt, what are you doing?”
“Celebrating,” Matt would say. He’d walk closer and hear Foggy’s heartbeat pick up with every step. He’d straddle Foggy’s lap, feel the wale of their raggedy old couch cushions pressing into his knees. “Congratulations, Franklin Nelson, Esquire.”
“I...uh. Haven’t passed the bar yet,” Foggy would say, and Matt wouldn’t be able to keep from smiling, because it would be so Foggy.
“You will,” he’d say, and undo the top button of Foggy’s shirt. “Then we’ll have something else to celebrate.” Another button. A wave of heat coming off of Foggy with each slip of plastic through cloth.
“Matt…” Foggy would say, a little strangled, and then he’d look down and see how hard Matt was, and that would be it, he’d crush Matt to him, one hand on the back of Matt’s neck and the other on his ass, and they’d be late to dinner but neither of them would care because they’d be too busy going up in flames...
Matt shook his head, then regretted it as the spins got worse. “Whoa. What?”
Foggy chuckled. “Where’d you go, buddy?”
“Uh…” Maybe Matt should tell him. Maybe it would be more effective if he let Foggy linger over it, if he let him marinate in what Matt was going to do to him. What Matt was going to let Foggy do to him. “Nowhere. What were you saying?”
“I was saying, me and you, pal,” Foggy said, elbowing him gently. “We’re gonna have big, fancy offices one day, with steel and glass and chairs you don’t even know how to sit in. Murdock and Nelson, attorneys at law!”
Me and you.
Foggy still thought of their future as a shared one. Matt didn't have to sleep with him to keep him, didn't have to act like a Companion at all; Foggy would still stick around.
The tight feeling in Matt's chest was relief, of course, and not disappointment. There was nothing to be disappointed about.
"Nelson and Murdock," he corrected. "Sounds better."
“Yeah?” And Foggy sounded so damn touched that Matt’s throat locked for a minute.
“Yeah,” he assured Foggy, leaning in again. “I can’t see worth shit, but my hearing’s spectacular.”
And God bless that hearing, because there it was, finally, finally. Foggy’s heart beating faster, just for Matt.
Matt breathed out. Who cared about the bar, or the Nelsons, or what would happen to them after graduation? As long as he had Foggy’s heartbeat, everything was going to be okay.
Matt hated Landman and Zack.
He hated the building, cold and industrial-smelling with almost no handicapped accommodations. He hated the sneering voices of the partners, and the other interns desperately trying to sabotage Matt and Foggy and each other to get ahead. He hated the long hours spent looking up loopholes to help their repugnant clients weasel their way out of any wrongdoing.
Most of all, he hated the way most of the clients and some of the partners had Companions trailing after them like silent, spiritless shadows, and the way the other interns talked about them when they thought no one could hear.
He stuck it out as long as he could. His father’s money was growing, slowly but surely. And the salary he made at L&Z, even as an intern, was incredible; if he got offered a full position, which was looking more and more likely every day, he could pay the Nelsons back in a few years. Then he’d be free: free of the Program, free of Landman and Zack, free to use his dad’s money to start his own firm, a decent firm that actually helped people.
“As long as he could” turned out to be less than a year.
Unfortunately, the day he decided to tell Foggy was the day Foggy found out they were going to be offered jobs. His voice was giddy and his heartbeat was excited and Matt’s stomach was in knots.
Foggy could make him stay, technically. Matt was living off his own salary now so as not to compound his debt to the Nelsons, but he was still Foggy’s Companion. Foggy couldn’t prevent him from working - that would defeat the whole purpose of putting a Companion through school so they could eventually pay off their debt - but he could tell him where to work. Foggy could decide he wanted his parents to get their investment back sooner rather than later, and keep Matt at Landman and Zack until his account was settled.
Or Foggy could let him go - let Matt find a job on his own somewhere else while Foggy concentrated on making partner. It probably wouldn’t even take that long. They loved Foggy at L&Z; he was brilliant and charming and could pull obscure precedents out of nowhere at the least likely times. He had a bright future with them, and there was absolutely no reason for him to sacrifice it to go tilting at windmills with Matt.
Matt wasn’t sure which thought made him sicker: the idea of staying at Landman and Zack with Foggy, or leaving without him.
But he couldn’t stay here. So he made his case, and he waited.
Foggy sighed. Matt’s heart squeezed painfully tight inside his chest.
Then Foggy got up and took a box off the shelf behind Matt. “Foggy, what are you doing?” Matt asked.
“Well, I’m gonna steal as many bagels as I can fit in this box,” Foggy said. “With you as my partner there’s no telling when I’ll be able to afford a real meal again.”
Partner. Nelson and Murdock. Matt laughed so that he wouldn’t cry. “We will get by.”
He could sense Foggy shaking his head - and then Foggy paused. “But Matt, buddy - what about settling your account? I mean, it doesn’t matter to me, but it’ll take you that much longer this way. You really wanna be stuck with me for another decade?”
Another century, if he could swing it.
But Matt just shrugged, and hoped it looked casual. “I guess I’ll have to put up with you getting drunk and singing Gilbert and Sullivan just a little while longer.”
He could feel the smile in the warmth of Foggy’s voice. “You love it.”
“Don’t oversell yourself,” Matt said, but he couldn’t help smiling back. He held out his fist, and Foggy laughed as he tapped Matt’s knuckles with his own.
“Come on, Mother Teresa,” Foggy said. “Let’s go save the world.”
The girl was crying again.
Matt pressed his shoulder blades into the mattress and gave up trying to sleep. He never could, on nights like this. Not even when she sobbed herself into unconsciousness, because he knew what was happening to her. He knew what she went through.
He knew he could stop it.
She lived two buildings over, on the fourth floor. She was a Companion, a young one, probably not even nineteen yet. And her Patron was into pain.
That wasn’t, on its own, forbidden - Patrons just couldn’t leave any lasting damage, and, at least theoretically, they weren’t supposed to do anything that wasn’t consensual. But there were lots of ways to hurt someone that wouldn’t show a week later. And this Patron only seemed to be interested in doing things he knew his Companion wouldn’t like. That seemed to be the whole point.
Matt knew it was only by the grace of God that he wasn’t in a similar position. He’d been lucky to have his other senses heightened in exchange for his sight. Lucky that Stick had taught him to defend himself against anyone who might want to take advantage of his supposed vulnerability.
Lucky to belong to Foggy and no one else.
He’d made a promise to himself when he signed up for the Program that he’d use it to put himself through school - and then use that knowledge to start dismantling it, or at least working towards greater legal protections for Companions. He was on the right track now at last, now that he and Foggy were opening their own firm, and he knew Foggy would happily help him champion Companions’ rights once they started getting some clients.
But that didn’t help the girl, right here, now.
Matt got up.
He moved automatically, like he was sleepwalking, as he pulled out clothing he knew was black from the careful way he organized his drawers, as he wrapped his hands and tore a strip out of another old black shirt to hide his eyes.
Violence didn’t solve anything, he told himself as he tied the cloth - the mask - in place. He could lose the fight. He could get caught. He could go too far.
He slipped out the window. Just this once, he told himself.
But later, with blood dripping hot from his knuckles and thrumming loud in his ears, he knew he wasn’t going to stop. Not any time soon.
Matt sat back in his chair, coffee mug warm in his hands, sore and content after a productive night of busting up gun runners. With one ear, he listened idly to Foggy puttering around in his office; with the other, the text-to-speech voice in his earbud as it rattled off the contents of his email inbox. An ad, an invitation to an alumni event from Columbia, a Change.org petition, an update from his financial advisor…
He paused. Sat up straight, put his coffee down. Replayed the email from his financial advisor.
No, he hadn’t misheard. His current net worth was now, for the first time, more than he owed the Nelsons.
He could pay them back.
He could settle his account.
He’d never planned to use his father’s money for that - that was his savings, his start-up capital - but now, now that he had his own firm anyway, he could. He and Foggy had used their earnings from Landman and Zack to start Nelson and Murdock, because Foggy didn’t know about Matt’s nest egg, but that meant that Matt’s savings weren’t earmarked anymore. He could do whatever he wanted with them. Sell out, write out a check to Foggy, and be out of the Program.
He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t - there was something wrong with him, he couldn’t breathe, like something was sitting on his chest and wouldn’t let it expand. Had he gotten hurt worse than he thought last night? He’d taken a kick to the chest but he hadn’t thought it had left anything more than a bruise. Was there something wrong with his ribcage?
His breathing was noisy in his ears, too fast, a clogged whistle of air. Karen had to be hearing it, with his door open; Karen would see the way he’d gone all clammy and shaky.
He stumbled out of his chair, not bothering to make a show of feeling for the edges of the doorframe as he bolted towards the bathroom.
“Matt? Are you okay?” Karen asked, and sure enough, there was concern in her voice, but he couldn’t stop, couldn’t speak long enough to reassure her. He hurried into their office’s little bathroom, slammed and locked the door behind him, and sank down to lean against it. The tile was cool beneath him and he pressed his hands flat against it, trying to ground himself.
He could hear Karen and Foggy talking outside, but his brain was whirling too fast to make out the words. Then Foggy was there, on the other side of the door. “Matt? Uh, not to pry, but are you okay in there?”
He tried to answer, hiccuped a breath instead.
“Buddy? Karen said you looked sick, do you need me to hold your hair back?” Foggy knocked gently. “Karen, close your eyes, I’m gonna try the door.” The handle jiggled. “He locked it. Matty, come on, you gotta give me something.”
He had to answer Foggy. Foggy was worried, Foggy was worried about Matt, he had to tell Foggy that he was fine, he was okay, it was just that he couldn’t breathe, he had enough money to pay Foggy back now and that meant that Foggy could leave, that meant Foggy didn’t have to stick around to keep Matt from defaulting, he could leave…
“Matty, please, talk to me,” Foggy said. “You sound like you’re hyperventilating. Do you need an ambulance?”
Matt tried to focus on his breathing, to force it to slow, but every time he tried it skipped and caught and sped up again.
So he focused on Foggy’s instead. Quick, because he was worried, but steady. Warm. Even.
“Matt.” His voice was so gentle. “Come on, don’t make me break down the door, you know I’m gonna be the one who has to fix it.”
His heartbeat, light and quick; his familiar smell, aftershave and coffee and mint. The shape of him, mapped out clearly by Matt’s senses even through the door, solid and warm. The concern in his voice.
Matt dragged in a ragged breath. “I’m,” he managed. “I’m fine.”
He could feel Foggy leaning against the other side of the door, he could feel Foggy’s warmth through it, like they were pressed together. “You realize that’s less than convincing after five minutes of terrifying silence, right?”
“I’m okay,” Matt said. Talking was easier, the second time. “Just...just a headache.”
It was a terrible excuse and he knew it, but Foggy didn’t push. “Do you want some aspirin?”
“No, I just…” Matt breathed in again, so loud and strangled Foggy could probably hear it. “I just need a minute.”
There was a pause. He could make out Foggy’s hand flat on the door, warm, like he wanted to reach through and touch Matt. “...Okay, buddy.”
“Can.” Matt swallowed. “Can you just. Stay? Right there?”
Another, longer pause, and when Foggy finally spoke there was something in his voice that Matt couldn’t name. “Yeah,” Foggy said. “Yeah, I can stay.”
Matt closed his eyes and tried to make his breathing match Foggy’s. In and out. In and out. Foggy didn’t move, even as he murmured something to Karen and Matt heard her footsteps recede.
He had to tell Foggy. There was no reason to hold on to the money; he made enough to live on now, he didn’t need the nest egg. It wasn’t like he’d cut Foggy the check and Foggy would vanish in a puff of smoke; they were friends, they were partners. If he asked Foggy to stay, Foggy would.
Matt leaned his head against the door and lost himself in Foggy’s breathing. He’d tell him about the money, he really would. He’d pay him back. He’d leave the Program.
Matt had known Foggy nearly a decade now. He’d never heard him this mad before.
“You ever stop to think what would happen if you went to jail? Or worse?” he demanded. Matt tried not to cringe visibly. Everything hurt and he was so tired. They’d been here so long. “You really think that anyone would believe that I didn’t know what you were doing? You’re my Companion, Matt. I’m responsible for you.”
Now Matt really did cringe. Foggy never pulled the Companion card; most of the time he acted like they weren’t in the Program at all. Why was he bringing it up now?
But Matt had already made his choice. “The city needs me in that mask, Foggy.”
Salt in the air again. It wasn’t the first time Foggy had cried since Matt had woken up. That didn’t make it hurt any less. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe it does. But I don’t,” Foggy said. Something raw and wild was clawing at Matt’s throat, working its way out. “I only ever needed my friend. I wouldn't have kept this from you, Matt. Not from you.”
“You don’t know that,” Matt stammered. “You don’t know that.”
“Yeah,” Foggy said, and the ring of finality chilled Matt to his core. “I do.”
Footsteps. Foggy was leaving. Foggy was leaving. Maybe he was going to call the Program right now to dismiss Matt, to end it, end everything they’d built together.
Matt couldn’t let him do it.
Foggy didn’t stop. Matt tried to stand and fell back against the couch as pain shot through his abdomen.
But Foggy was still moving towards the door, and Matt’s terror was stronger than the pain.
He lurched off the couch, stumbled the few steps to Foggy and dropped to his knees in front of him, hands fisted in the hem of Foggy’s shirt. “Foggy, no, no, please, you have to stay.”
“Matt, get back on the couch.” Foggy sounded so tired.
“Please.” Matt allowed himself the infinitesimal relief of pressing his forehead to Foggy’s hip, just for a second. “Don’t dismiss me, please, I’m sorry.” Everything hurt; his knees hurt, his side hurt, his head hurt. He didn’t care. “Please, I’ll be good.”
“Jesus, Matt, stop.” Foggy’s hands closed around Matt’s wrists and tried to tug them away from his shirt, but gently, carefully. “You’re getting back on that couch, and I’m leaving.”
“No.” Matt shook Foggy’s hands off and took a tighter grip. “Please, I’m sorry, I promise, I’ll…” He wasn’t going to stop fighting. He couldn’t stop. He had to offer something else. “Let me...please. I’ll show you I can be a good Companion. I know you want me, Foggy. I can...you can have me.”
Foggy made a noise like someone had let all the air out of him. “...What?”
“I can...here.” Matt let go of Foggy’s shirt and fumbled at his fly. “Let me...I’ll show you. Please, I’ll be so good for you.”
Foggy didn’t move, apparently stunned, and Matt got the button open and the zipper down with trembling fingers. He nuzzled against Foggy and Foggy let out a sudden, sharp hiss. His heart was racing but he wasn’t hardening, and Matt didn’t smell the cocktail of body chemistry that meant arousal, just exhaustion and worry.
“Please,” he said again, and reached for the waistband of Foggy’s boxers to push them down, but Foggy grabbed his wrists again, more firmly this time.
“Matt, what the fuck?” he asked. He didn’t sound turned on at all. Why didn’t he want this?
“Do you want to fuck me?” Matt asked, aware that his voice was bordering on hysterical but unable to stop it. “Please, you can, I’ll do anything, just don’t dismiss me.”
Foggy recoiled, and Matt felt it like a slap in the face. “Jesus fucking Christ, Matt, no,” Foggy said. “Now get back on the fucking couch.”
Heart sinking, Matt let Foggy lift him to his feet and help him back to the couch. Foggy zipped up his pants and a wave of heat rolled off of him, a palpable blush, but no arousal. Matt didn’t understand. Did Foggy not want him anymore? Had he finally ruined it for good?
He could sense Foggy standing over him - staring at him, probably, not that Matt could tell for sure.
“I’m not going to dismiss you, Matt,” Foggy said finally. “I would never do that to you. You’re as broke as I am, you’d default and end up in jail.” He shook his head. “Shit, maybe I should. Maybe you’d be safer in jail, where you couldn’t do any of this.”
Matt wasn’t broke - yet another secret, one he didn’t dare spill, not with Foggy so angry about all the others - but even if he had been, he didn’t care about defaulting. He didn’t care about jail. Didn’t Foggy know that?
He swallowed, and didn’t say anything. Foggy sighed.
“No, you’d probably come up with some way to get yourself half-killed even in solitary,” Foggy said. Matt heard the soft rustle of Foggy raking his fingers through his hair. “I don’t...God, Matt, I’m not going to dismiss you, okay? You don’t have to…” His voice was tight again. “Is that really what you think of me? That I would cut you loose unless you let me fuck you? Is that what you think we are?”
“I...no,” Matt said. He didn’t know what they were. They weren’t Patron and Companion, but they weren’t just friends either, not with this between them. “I’m sorry.”
Foggy sat down on the arm of the couch, the one by Matt’s feet. “I guess it was naive of me, hoping you didn’t know that I...how I felt about you,” he said after a long moment. “I always thought, you know, maybe someday when you’d settled your account, when we were on an even footing, if I told you, maybe you’d…I don’t know, maybe you’d trust me enough to know I meant it.” He paused. Matt wished he could see his expression. “But you were never going to trust me, were you? Not with your senses, not with the fighting. Not with anything.”
“I do trust you,” Matt protested, but it came out weak.
Foggy shook his head. “No,” he said. “If you did, you’d have told me. Like I’d have told you.” He stood up. “It’s fine. I guess it wasn’t fair of me to expect it, not with the Program and all. How can you trust someone when they have all the power?”
“Foggy, don’t…” Matt started as Foggy drifted towards the door.
“It’s okay, Matt,” Foggy said. “I’m not dismissing you. I’m not...we’re still Nelson and Murdock. It’s okay.” He gave a weary shrug. “But I need sleep, and so do you. I’ll...I’ll see you in a couple of days, buddy.”
And Matt listened to him leave.
They tried to fall back into their old routines, after Fisk.
It wasn't the same, though. Sure, some of it was easier - Matt didn't have to lie to Foggy anymore about where he was going at night or where his latest bruises had come from. But there was a distance there, an uncomfortable tension that made it clear that Foggy couldn't forget that night any more than Matt could. He didn't tease as much, or argue just for the sake of arguing, or invite Matt over for no reason at all.
He never touched Matt anymore.
A week went by, and another. They hung the Nelson and Murdock sign, and Matt's injuries from his battle with Fisk healed. And he kept playing that conversation with Foggy over and over again in his mind.
Foggy hadn't smelled like arousal, and he hadn't taken Matt up on his desperate offer. But he had talked about...how he felt about Matt. He'd said he'd been waiting, waiting until Matt settled his account.
Matt could do that at any time now.
Foggy had promised never to dismiss Matt, and Matt believed him. As long as Matt didn’t settle his account, he could keep Foggy as his Patron - but only as his Patron.
But if Matt paid the Nelsons back…
Foggy wouldn’t feel obligated to stay with Matt anymore. But maybe he would stay anyway.
It was a risk. But the media was already calling Matt Daredevil, now that he’d taken down Fisk. Maybe it was time he lived up to the name.
“Matt? What are you doing here?”
Matt shifted the bags of food in his arms so he could shrug. “I thought we could have dinner. I picked up Indus Valley for us.”
"You went all the way uptown?"
Matt shrugged again. "It's your favorite."
Silence. Foggy had showered recently; Matt could smell damp hair and the faint chemical echo of conditioner and soap.
Matt squirmed. "Can I come in?"
When Foggy spoke, his voice was very soft. “Yeah. Yeah, come on in.”
He stepped aside and let Matt find his way to the battered kitchen table they’d dragged home from a stoop sale three years ago. Foggy’s feet padded bare against the floorboards, and there was the swish of cotton as he walked - pajama pants. He probably planned on a quiet night in, going over case files on the couch while a black and white movie played in the background.
Matt wanted to be on that couch with him so badly it hurt.
“What’d you get?” Foggy asked, pulling plates out of the cabinets.
“Little bit of everything,” Matt said as he unpacked the containers from the bags. “Samosas, chicken tikka masala, shrimp vindaloo, saag paneer, vegetable biryani, naan…” Not garlic naan, though it was both of their favorites. That might defeat his purpose.
“Holy crap, Matt, this is a ton of food. Is there a blizzard coming or something? Ten blizzards?” Foggy’s voice took on a mock-suspicious tone. “Are you fattening me up to eat me?”
Matt couldn’t help laughing. “No,” he said. “No, I just...wanted to do something nice.”
“Why?” Foggy asked, and now the suspicion in his voice was a bit more real.
“You say that like I never do anything nice for you,” Matt said, a little stung.
“No, no, I didn’t mean it like that,” Foggy said quickly. Matt sensed him tilting his head, quizzical. “But...there is a reason, isn’t there?”
Matt finished collecting all the plastic silverware from the various bags into one neat pile on the table before he answered. He'd wanted to do this later, after dinner and maybe a couple of beers, when Foggy was full and content and hopefully more receptive to possibly friendship-shattering revelations. But he was done stalling, and he was done lying.
"Yeah," he said. "There's a reason."
Foggy pulled out a chair, sat down in it, and waited. Matt took his wallet out of his pocket and jiggled it in his hands as he took the other chair.
"Do you, uh, remember that night you found out about my, uh. Nocturnal activities?"
"I'm assuming you don't mean the time I walked in on you and Sara Michaels making out in our dorm room," Foggy said dryly. "Yeah, Matt. I remember."
Matt flipped the wallet over in his hands a few times. "I, um, might not have had just. Just two big secrets."
Foggy's heartbeat sped up a little, tense and anxious, but all he said was, "Oh?"
"I might. Might have had four."
Foggy waited. Matt took a deep breath and opened his wallet.
"You know how I told you my dad left me a little bit of money when he died?" he asked. Foggy nodded. "Well, it wasn't just a little. It wasn't enough for Columbia, but I bought some stock a few years back and, well."
He found the check by feeling for the corner he'd turned down and handed it to Foggy. "That's the total balance, everything I owe your parents. I'm." He swallowed hard. "I'm settling my account."
Foggy took the check and, Matt guessed, stared at it for a long minute. His heart was drumming fast, but that told Matt nothing. "How long have you had this?" he asked finally.
"A few months."
Foggy's voice was very quiet, so quiet Matt might not have heard him with normal hearing. "Why are you giving it to me now?"
Matt took another steadying breath. This was it. "So that you'll know I mean it when I do this," he said, leaned forward, and kissed Foggy.
Foggy drew in a sharp, startled breath through his nose, but otherwise didn't move. His lips were soft, and even with them closed Matt picked up the faint flavors of coffee, mint, the bagel Foggy had had for lunch. His heart was the fastest Matt had ever heard it.
So was Matt’s.
He pulled back, enough to give Foggy space if he wanted it, and said, “The fourth secret is that I’m in love with you.”
“...What?” Foggy said. He sounded like he might cry, and Matt had to, he just had to touch him then, to cup Foggy’s cheek in his hand and let Foggy’s still-damp hair fall between his fingers.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, I should have paid you immediately, as soon as I could, so that we could...so that I could...but I was so scared you’d leave. I was so scared you’d leave if I you thought I didn’t need you.”
“Matt,” Foggy said, broken, and then he surged forward to kiss Matt, he finally kissed Matt, and Matt hadn’t realized quite how much he’d been waiting nine years for this until it happened.
He tightened his fingers in Foggy’s hair, trying to catalog all of it - the taste of Foggy and the drum of his heart and the feeling of his hands on Matt’s shoulders - until Foggy pulled back. “Never,” he breathed against Matt’s cheek, and it took Matt a minute to remember that Foggy was talking about leaving him. “Never, never, never.”
His heartbeat was still racing, but steady - truth - and Matt peppered his face with kisses, tracing out the shape of it with his mouth. “You’re,” he said between kisses, breathless, “you’re not...mad? About the money?”
Foggy laughed, and the sound was like sunshine filling Matt’s ribcage. “Furious,” he said, and proved it by tugging Matt closer, until he was in Foggy’s lap and Foggy could skate his hands up and down Matt’s biceps, little petting motions that made Matt wish he was capable of purring. He settled for kissing Foggy breathless, like he’d planned to do to make Foggy stay, so long ago. But now he knew he didn’t have to do it to trick Foggy into sticking around; he could do it just to reward Foggy for being the world’s most perfect human.
Matt’s own reward was the ragged hitch in Foggy’s breath when they broke apart, the way he traced Matt’s cheekbone with a thumb like he couldn’t quite believe Matt was real. “I thought,” he said, and Matt didn’t deserve the sheer wonder in his tone, “that maybe after you settled your account, if I asked you out, if I did a really good job of it, you might consider giving me a chance. Just once.”
Matt couldn’t help his grin. “You wanna try your luck?”
He still had his hand on Foggy’s face, so he could feel his cheeks move into a smile. “Hey Matt, would you like to go out to dinner with me?”
Matt leaned his forehead against Foggy’s. “Sorry,” he said. “I’ll have to take a raincheck. For one, we already have plenty of food, and for another…” He tilted his head, mouthed at Foggy’s jaw until he felt a fine tremor running under Foggy’s skin. “I’m busy tonight.”
“Matt.” Foggy’s hand running up his back was so warm. “I don’t...I don’t want to rush you, or pressure you… Companion or not, you never have to do anything you don’t want to. You know that, right?”
“I know,” Matt said, and bit lightly at Foggy’s earlobe. “But...do you have any idea how long I’ve been thinking about getting you naked?”
This time he got a full-body shudder out of Foggy. “...Do tell?” Foggy asked, a little faint.
Matt smiled against his skin. “Years,” he assured Foggy. “Years and years. I thought, all this time…eventually you’d remember what Companions were for, and just...do what you wanted with me. What I could smell you wanted.”
Foggy pulled away a little. “I would never,” he said, and he sounded a little upset. “I...Matt, I would never.”
Matt leaned in, closing the gap again. “I know, and I love you for it. I didn't..." He paused, trying to work out what he wanted to say. "I didn't want you to, because I didn't want to be just a Companion to you, just something you used...but oh God, I wanted you.” He slid his hands up Foggy’s chest, over the thrum of his heart. “I wanted your hands on me...your mouth...your tongue…” His lips brushed against Foggy’s, not quite a kiss. “So many years, Foggy...I used to dream about you bending me over your desk in college. Freshman year, Fog.”
Foggy made a strangled noise and kissed him, fierce and wanting like Matt had always dreamed. "I would have," he said when they came up for air. "If you hadn't been my Companion, God, Matt, I would've done anything you asked." He stroked a hand through Matt's hair, and Matt pushed into his touch. "You know, I hated my parents so much sometimes for doing this to me, for putting you so close but out of reach. But then I would think, well, at least I know you. At least I get to have you in my life, even if I can't have you."
Matt smiled, and loved the way it made Foggy's heartbeat sing. "You can have me any way you want me."
Foggy swallowed. "Right now? I want you in my bed."
Matt scrambled to his feet so fast Foggy laughed at him. He didn't care; no, he did care, he loved Foggy's laugh, even when it was at him.
"Food's gonna get cold," Foggy said as Matt all but dragged him towards the bedroom. He didn't sound particularly worried about it.
"You have a microwave," Matt said.
"You hate microwaved food. You say it tastes wrong."
"I'm only really interested in tasting one thing right now."
"Oh God." Foggy sounded torn between laughing and something much lower, something that made Matt go tingly and hot. "That is terrible. Are these the lines you use to get all your girls in bed? Am I finally seeing the famous Murdock charm?"
"There weren't as many girls as you thought," Matt admitted, dropping Foggy's hand as they reached the bedroom.
"Because you were actually fighting crime, not hooking up," Foggy said. Matt recognized the carefully neutral tone in his voice and tried not to wince. Not a good conversational road to go down.
So he took his shirt off. As a distraction technique, it had pretty good odds. "Yeah," he said. "And because all I really wanted was you."
He smiled at the hitch in Foggy's breathing. "Okay. Much better line. Well played."
Matt sat on the edge of the bed and kicked his shoes off, then slid back over the mattress. Foggy's sheets were flannel, which was better than cotton, but Matt was going to buy him silk. Matt planned on spending a lot of time in this bed. "How do you want me?"
He sensed Foggy pulling his own shirt off, felt the dip in the mattress as Foggy knelt beside him. "You said you dreamed about me bending you over a desk."
"Among other things."
Foggy's hand slid up his thigh, warm even though his jeans. "Tell me."
Matt swallowed. Oh. "Blowing you," he said. "Just you...you pushing me to my knees and, and tugging on my hair while I sucked you off. In the worst places, too. The stacks at Butler Library. Our broom closet at L&Z. The men's room at Josie's, which would be gross but I didn't care." He tried to think. Foggy's fingers drawing gentle patterns on his thigh were distracting, as was the thickening smell of arousal in the room. "You taking me in those horrible twin beds in the dorm, this bed, the sofa bed we use at your parents' house. Mostly my bed." Foggy's hand was on his hip now, fingers tracing the edge of his waistband, making him shiver. "The first week we had our own office I could barely concentrate because I kept picturing you pulling me into the kitchenette and just...shoving me against the counter. Grinding on me until we both came in our pants." His cheeks were burning, but Foggy had asked and he wanted to make Foggy happy. Didn't want Foggy to stop touching him.
"Matt," Foggy said, and his voice was thick and sleepy with palpable lust. Matt couldn't stop his hips from arching into Foggy's touch. "I mean, yes. Yes. Make a list, put it all on the agenda, we will sneak into L&Z if that's what you want, but." He drew a finger down over the fly of Matt's jeans and Matt gasped. "Do you know what I always dreamed of?"
Matt shook his head. Foggy's finger traced his inseam slowly, down the inside of one thigh and then back up and over. "Nuh. No."
He could hear the smile in Foggy's voice. "Well, lots of things, but mostly? Spreading you out in my bed and being very, very nice to you." He trailed his finger back up over Matt's fly, a little more firmly this time. "Would you like that?"
"Yes," Matt breathed. His hand latched around Foggy's wrist. "I can..."
"Shhh." Foggy took Matt's hand off his wrist and kissed the pads of his fingers, one by one. "You don't have to do anything. You just lie there and let me take care of you. Is that okay?"
Matt nodded, and Foggy kissed the center of Matt's palm before putting his hand down...on the pillow over Matt's head. Matt paused, then brought the other hand up so that his wrists were loosely crossed, and smiled when Foggy's breath caught. "Like this?"
"Just like that." The mattress dipped as Foggy moved, and then he was kissing Matt, soft and sweet. "Do you have any idea how beautiful you are? You're perfect, Murdock. Absolutely perfect."
Matt pushed his lips out, wry. "I'm okay."
Foggy laughed and kissed him again. "Perfect," he insisted, lips moving warm over Matt's jaw, and down. "Gorgeous. Wonderful."
Matt rolled his eyes. "You know me, Foggy." Better than anyone. Foggy knew all his secrets and all of his faults; Foggy knew he was so far from perfect it was laughable.
"Yeah," Foggy said, and the joking tone was gone, replaced by something very sincere. "I do."
"...Oh," Matt said, and blinked rapidly.
Foggy kissed the center of Matt's chest, right over his heart. "You know I love you too, right? Did I say that yet?" One hand slid up over Matt's ribcage; a thumb stuttered over Matt's nipple and he gasped. "Because I do. Always have."
Matt turned his head so he could press his cheek into the pillow, trying to get control over his breathing. "Foggy..."
"Always, Matty," Foggy said. He dragged his tongue over Matt's other nipple; slow, calm, like his words weren't taking Matt apart and putting him back together. "Since I don't even remember when, it's been so long. Until I die. Maybe after, but you're the one with concrete ideas about the afterlife, not me."
"Foggy," Matt said again, because it was all he had. Part of him wanted to bring his hands down, to bury them in Foggy's hair and haul him back up and kiss the hell out of him, to roll him over and ride him until they were both boneless and aching.
But most of him wanted to see what Foggy planned to do with him.
So he left his hands up, and he let Foggy tease his nipples with his lips and tongue and fingers until he was panting with it, painfully hard against his zipper. He let Foggy move lower, hands and mouth everywhere. Foggy kissed him worshipfully and in no particular order, in places Matt would never have thought of as special; the ridge of his floating rib, the soft skin on the inside of his upper arm, his navel. He tugged Matt's pants and boxers off and murmured silly, affectionate things to his ankle bones and the sides of his knees.
He called Matt beautiful, and precious, and good, and the love of his life.
He nudged Matt's legs apart.
By the time his tongue dragged hot and wet over Matt's hole, Matt was white-knuckling the headboard, wood creaking minutely beneath his fingers, and he was weeping softly. "You okay, Matty?" Foggy murmured against the curve of his ass, nose brushing his balls.
Matt nodded frantically. He'd never been more okay, or less. "Yuh, yes, Foggy, don't. Don't stop. I need...please. Please, I need you."
"You've got me," Foggy said. His breath was hot on Matt's too-sensitive skin. "Anything you want."
"I want you to keep. To keep doing that. To...you pick," Matt managed. A tear trickled down the side of his face, into his hair. "Whatever you want. I'm. I'm yours."
"Oh, sweetheart." Foggy's heart pounded in Matt's ears, fast but steady. He kissed Matt, spread him open with his thumbs and licked him again, and Matt writhed and let out a noise that wasn't words.
"Beautiful," Foggy murmured, a vibration through Matt's whole being. He dragged his tongue over Matt again and again; traced the tight ring of muscle with the tip of his tongue and pushed inside; hot, insistent, perfect. Matt was gone, Matt was floating. For the first time since his accident he wasn't consciously blocking out stimuli, because his world had narrowed to Foggy: The sound of his heart and his breathing and the slick sounds of his tongue on Matt's skin. The familiar scent of him, aftershave and toothpaste and sweat entwined with the musky, entrancing thread of his arousal, sharp enough that he must have undone his own fly at some point. The taste of him hanging in the air, salty and bitter and mouthwatering.
The feel of him hot against Matt. Matt couldn't even feel the bed anymore; just Foggy. Fingers and tongue and lips and oh, Matt loved him so much.
Foggy's laugh rumbled through him. "Love you too, buddy," he said, and dragged his tongue over Matt's perineum. Matt hadn't even known he'd been talking out loud.
Foggy's mouth was on his balls then: licking, sucking, teasing, little light touches that left Matt gasping, his fingers clenching in empty air. His wrists were still crossed above his head. Foggy had told him to leave them there; Matt would stay like that if it killed him.
"Foggy," he hiccuped, breathless, desparate. "Foggy, Foggy, Foggy..."
"So beautiful like this," Foggy murmured. His mouth moved slowly up the underside of Matt's shaft, lips brushing over him as Foggy spoke. Matt was aching, cock steadily dripping on his stomach, too far gone to even beg coherently. "You have no idea, Matt...I knew you'd be gorgeous but God..." A wet slide of tongue. "There aren't words."
No, there weren't words, not plural. Just one - Foggy's name - and Matt sobbed it as Foggy licked his stomach clean; as he swirled his tongue around the head of Matt's cock; as he took Matt in and sucked and Matt couldn't hold on, couldn't begin to formulate a warning before he shook and arched and spilled himself down Foggy's throat.
He was dimly aware of the mattress shifting again as Foggy pulled his own pants and underwear the rest of the way off; of Foggy stretched out beside him, wiping his tears away and kissing his cheeks. Foggy was saying something but Matt couldn't make it out. He pressed his face into Foggy's shoulder and let the words be a low, comforting rumble until they slowly, slowly started to make sense.
“...make you so happy, buddy, I promise. I’ll let you take all the pro bono cases you want and stop eating salt and vinegar chips in the office. I’ll even polish the stupid little horns on your costume if you want me to.”
Matt’s laugh sounded rusty and far away to his own ears, but it made Foggy pull him closer and kiss his temple. “That won’t be necessary.” He pushed himself up on his elbow, bracing himself with a wobbly arm stretched across Foggy. “But I would like to suck you off.”
The shiver that ran through Foggy’s body was absolutely delicious. But he patted Matt’s arm and said, “Really not necessary, buddy. I can take a raincheck until you’re less, you know, Jellylegs McGee.”
“I want to,” Matt insisted.
“I want you to too, but you’re barely awake right now and - ”
Matt poked him in the chest. “Franklin Nelson, I have waited nine years to get your dick in my mouth, and I am not waiting any longer. Got it?”
He could hear Foggy swallow. “Yeah. Yeah, got it. Go to town, man.”
“That’s right.” Matt dampened his own triumph by letting out a huge yawn as he scooted down Foggy’s body, but Foggy just chuckled and pet his hair. And kept petting him as Matt got comfortable between Foggy’s legs and breathed deeply. God, Foggy smelled even better from down here.
When he finally got his mouth on Foggy, Foggy gasped and the hand in Matt’s hair started trembling. “Matt,” he breathed as Matt licked along the shaft and around it, exploring Foggy, memorizing him. “Oh, fuck, Matt, please…”
Matt aimed a sleepy smile in his direction and then took Foggy in his mouth, relishing the taste of him and the way Foggy’s dick twitched hot and heavy against his tongue. Admittedly it wasn’t his best work; Foggy was right that he was tired and dazed, and he had to get his hands in on the action too to make up the difference. Someday very soon - some hour very soon, even - he was going to have to pin Foggy down and try to dismantle him as thoroughly as Foggy had just dismantled Matt.
But Foggy still sighed and whimpered and begged, a symphony in Matt’s ears, hips pulsing gently upwards. “Fuck,” he groaned when Matt settled into a rhythm, fist pumping the part of Foggy’s shaft his mouth couldn’t reach. “Like that, Matty, yeah, just like that, please…”
Matt hummed in satisfaction, and then again when it made Foggy moan and twist beneath him. “Please,” Foggy begged, “please, please, Matty, don’t stop,” and Matt didn’t stop, and ignored Foggy’s garbled warning, and let Foggy come in his mouth. He choked a bit, tired, and the end of it caught his chin, but he didn’t care, and from the beautiful sounds Foggy was making, Foggy didn’t either.
Matt managed to fumble for the tissues on the nightstand and clean himself up before flopping back down next to Foggy. Foggy slung an arm across his stomach and pulled him close. “So,” Foggy said, voice soft in Matt’s ear, “don’t take this the wrong way or anything, but I really like not being your Patron anymore.”
Matt laughed. “How dare you. I was an excellent Companion.”
“You were a terrible Companion,” Foggy said. “You argued with me all the time.”
“I debated you.”
“You have a sass-mouth, is what you have, Murdock,” Foggy said. “Sass-mouth and you made me fall in love with you, which you were not supposed to do. Just an awful Companion. I don’t think I’ll ever use the Program’s services again after this experience.”
“You’d better not,” Matt said, and he hadn’t meant to put a growl in it, but there it was.
Foggy chuckled. “Don’t want some pretty eighteen-year-old horning in on your turf, huh?”
“That’s right,” Matt said. “You’re mine.”
He was only about ten percent joking, but he still hadn’t expected Foggy’s fingers to tighten on his side or for Foggy to press his face into Matt’s hair. “Damn right I am,” he said without a hint of laughter, and Matt’s heart swelled bright in his chest.
“Well,” he said. “Good.” He didn’t bother to say that it went both ways - he knew that Foggy knew. He might have settled his account, but he was still Foggy’s in all the ways that counted.
A memory struck him, suddenly, of standing in front of his dorm room door, bracing himself to meet his Patron for the first time. He’d been wrong about almost every one of his assumptions about Foggy, wrong for years, but there’d been one thing he’d gotten right from the start.
Franklin Nelson was the man who owned him. And Matt couldn’t be happier about it.