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some unreadable fate

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Foggy's sister's othername is in Chinese, when it writes itself onto her arm. She was already taking Mandarin at school, so when she meets Li Zhe during a college summer study trip to Beijing, nobody's particularly surprised.

Foggy doesn't have one, himself. Never has: not the slow washing-in of writing on his skin, first an itching and then a contrasting drag of text. He used to look at himself all over with a hand mirror, a few times a year when the longing got bad. Nothing on his scalp – he shaved his head once, when he was fourteen and hopeful, and Maggie was wondering who Li Zhe was and how she'd meet him – or at the back of his neck. Not in the creases of his armpits, the outsides of his elbows, behind his balls, or between his toes. Not a mark on him.

It's not that unusual. Between five and ten percent of the population don't, in the United States. Most get married anyway, usually to people without othernames, or people whose others have died.

 

Matt's – something else. His best friend, for all Foggy wishes they could be more than that, but Foggy doesn't have a name anywhere on him.

Matt definitely does, from the way he blushed and smiled awkward and shy somewhere in the direction of the window, and said, "I've never seen mine, but I know it's there."

Foggy can't get in the middle of that. Him with no othername and maybe no other to find for himself.

 

Marci doesn't have an othername, either, so they work, like that. Not enough to stick, but enough to have fun together when they both want.

"I like these," she says, tracing her fingers over his dick. "I mean, once I realized they weren't herpes."

"Um, what?" he manages, pretty intelligently for a guy who's getting what is definitely more tease than handjob.

"These little bumps," she says, and strokes in what's probably intended to be an indicative way. "It's like your dick comes with pre-made ribbing."

"Oh," he manages, closing his eyes. "Oh, yeah, okay."

 

He supports his dick with one palm and tilts the hand mirror, trying to see. He gets a great view of his thumb. Tilts a little more – nope, that's his stomach.

He can sort of feel the bumps, but they're definitely not ribbing or anything, no matter what Marci says. Maybe bigger than the bumps on other dicks he's seen, but it's probably definitely not herpes; he doesn't have any of the symptoms.

 

It's not herpes, he decides later, after a lot of googling and way too many images of herpes dicks. It's probably just unusually large versions of stuff that's totally normal. Natural human variation.

 

So: it's sort of rude to ask people what their othernames say, but there's a long middle school tradition of asking their best friends. Which is why girls are always looking at him funny when they say things like What's Matt's othername, Foggy? and he just shrugs.

"Never seen it, and he's never told me," he says.

Which really, makes him think. It's not like he's been looking on purpose, okay, but Matt is a pretty amazing human being, between his mind and his drive towards justice, and honestly Foggy would've been crazy about him just from that, but. He's also really attractive, and Foggy hasn't been looking, but it's hard not to notice when Matt only wears boxers to bed on really hot nights.

If Matt's got an othername, it's probably under those boxers. Or on his tongue, or under his armpits, or between his toes. Foggy doesn't know. It could be any of those places he looked on his own body, when he was hoping his othername was on his skin and he could find it if he just looked hard enough.

Foggy stares at the tattoo parlor's window. He could get something done – well no, he couldn't, he is way too broke for that, but he can think about it. Nelson and Murdock. Something like an othername, but what would be the point? An othername is to let your other know that they've found you. It's their name, written under your skin, the way their name is meant to be written.

(Languages with no written form, or where the other is illiterate, don't give othernames, but the likelihood of Foggy meeting someone like that is pretty small, he figures.)

 

He doesn't know what Matt thought was going to happen. Maybe that he could keep it a secret forever. Probably. Just bottle it all up, with all the rest of his secrets and his guilt and –

Fuck. He can't – and Matt's sorry, that's the kicker. Foggy's still mad – he'll be a little mad forever, he's pretty sure, because that lack of trust is really just, no. But Matt's trying, and that means something. Foggy's letting it mean something.

He wants, on a lot of levels, for it to mean something. He wants to be able to trust Matt again.

 

"You're not worried that your other will just leave if you tell them about the whole vigilante thing?" Foggy asks.

Matt swallows. Licks his lips. Shifts his fingers on the beer bottle. "I used to."

"Not anymore?"

"No," Matt says. "Not anymore."

"Why?" Because that's a pretty big bombshell to drop on someone who's got your name on them. Unless Matt's othername is, like, Tony Stark.

Matt tilts his head, consideringly, then starts peeling the label off the beer bottle. "Because they know."

"Oh." You can't be jealous about what was never yours. You can't be jealous about what was never yours. "I didn't know you'd met."

Matt picks wet shreds of label out from under his nails, shedding them onto the table. It's kind of gross, but weirdly endearing.

"Yeah," he says, very quietly. "We met."

Great. Another secret. "And you didn't let me vet them?"

"Foggy," Matt says, maybe a little warningly, but this is more of the secret-keeping, and maybe a little jealousy, and Foggy's not – he's just not.

"I'm not asking to be given hourly updates, here," Foggy says, trying for even and missing it by at least a kilometer, if not whole miles. "I just – this is big, okay? Meeting your other. And you hid it from me. What, did they already walk away?"

"Foggy," Matt says again.

"Was it someone you saved?"

"No!" Matt puts down the bottle on the table, his hands shaking, and starts opening his pants.

"What the fuck," Foggy says, just as Matt stands up and shoves his pants and boxers down enough that Foggy can see, scrawled on Matt's hip, some lines. A crabbed signature.

"What the fuck," Foggy says again, "Why are, what," but he's sitting forward pretty far, and the table isn't really that wide. He recognizes that F and the N and the illegible below-the-line twitches of ggy in the shifting blue-bright light of the billboard.

"What the fuck," Foggy says, again. He wants to touch it. He wants to move Matt's hand aside and get a look at his dick.

"But you don't have one," Matt says, like getting doused in cold water.

"No," Foggy says, and only realizes he should've said something else when Matt pulls his pants back up and closes them and –

"I don't have to," Foggy says. "I still." He needs to say something, something that Matt will believe, that's unambiguous. "That doesn't mean I don't want to. Have your name."

Matt's still standing there, breathing hard. Shirt rumpled, hanging out over his pants. His mouth is open, skin paler than usual.

Foggy adds, "Because I do," and Matt makes a soft noise very different from the kind he makes when he's in pain, and sits back down on the couch.

"I wish you'd said," Foggy says, after a moment. "Do you know how much I-"

"It doesn't matter," Matt says. "Sometimes people don't match." His shoulders hunch, hands on his knees, like he's trying to build himself back up.

"Matt," he says. "I have been crazy about you since L1, and if – if you hadn't had my name on you and let me think it was someone else's, I'd have asked you out as soon as I knew you swung that way."

"Okay," Matt says, but his shoulders don't straighten, so Foggy gets up, walks around the table, and sits down next to Matt on the couch. Their thighs touch, pressure, no warmth yet.

Foggy puts a hand on Matt's jaw and just leaves it there. "I'm not leaving," he says, and this time Matt does make a noise like he's in pain, and leans into him, face pressed to his shoulder.

 

"Foggy," Matt says sleepily, halfway through a pretty sweet return favor of a handjob, "you have bumps on your dick."

"I know," Foggy sighs. "It's not herpes, I swear."

"I know it's not herpes," Matt says, voice getting louder and a lot more alert. "I know what herpes smells like. Have you ever actually felt these?"

"Um, yes, masturbation is totally -"

"I don't mean jerking off, just, feel these," he says, flailing an arm a little in the direction of Foggy's hand before catching it, then dragging Foggy's fingers along his own dick.

"This is definitely the weirdest handjob I've ever had," Foggy says, before he realizes what Matt means, that now that he's actually hard when he pays attention to them, the bumps feel kind of bigger even than usual, and neatly in lines – "Holy shit."

"You never even noticed," Matt says, very smugly, definitely tracing his own name raised on Foggy's skin.

"Needed to meet you first, apparently," Foggy says, and then, because Matt's smiling maybe bigger than he did when Foggy agreed to go start a practice with him, "I hear they feel really good during sex."

"They do," Matt says. "I can already tell."