“Really, Matthew, I don’t know why you’re so upset,” Wanda said as she handed Matt the soft, warm bundle. “He’s perfectly fine.”
“Fine?” Matt echoed. “He’s an infant!”
“A happy, healthy, contentedly sleeping infant,” Wanda said. “And he’s alive. Isn’t that the most important thing?”
“Well, yes, but…I can’t take care of a baby! I don’t know how to take care of a baby.” Matt directed what he hoped were convincing puppy dog eyes in Wanda’s direction.
She was unmoved. “From what I can tell the spell was only temporary. He will age rapidly until he’s twenty-eight again, with his memories intact. Look, he’s already gone from newborn to…” She made a contemplative noise. “Three months, perhaps?”
“See, you’re better at this than me! You can look at a baby and tell how many months old it is. Can’t you help?” Matt pleaded.
“Matthew.” Wanda crossed her arms. “He’s your law partner.”
Matt sighed and heard a tiny, answering sigh from his arms. Foggy snored even as a baby, apparently - a faint, high-pitched drone. He didn’t smell or sound right, not at this age, but that snore was familiar.
He touched a finger to Foggy’s cheek, which was round and impossibly soft. Foggy didn’t stir. “Yeah,” Matt said, relenting. “I guess he is.”
He was never helping the Avengers fight sorcerers ever again.
Foggy was screaming.
“I don’t know what you want! Use your words!” Matt said. He jounced Foggy on his hip as he walked slowly around his apartment, like he’d sensed parents doing with crying babies out in the wild, but it didn’t seem to be doing any good. Natasha had taken pity on Matt and made a call to Clint, who it seemed was the only Avenger past or present with any experience with babies; Clint had drawn up a shopping list and now Matt had formula and baby food and toys and blankets and every possible size of diapers, which the Avengers had thankfully paid for. But Foggy didn’t want the bottle Matt had warmed for him, and he wouldn’t go back to sleep, and his diaper was clean and dry, for the moment at least. (Matt was not looking forward to when Foggy got old enough to realize Matt had changed his diaper. Multiple times.)
“Use your words” was a pipe dream; true to Wanda’s words, Foggy was growing quickly and was already old enough after a couple of hours to pull himself up on Matt’s furniture and take a few unsteady steps along it. But he hadn’t made any vocalizations other than incoherent babbles so far.
Well, and the screaming. Matt could usually hear a baby crying somewhere in the distance at pretty much any time of the night or day, but it was much worse right up close to his ear. Foggy didn’t seem to need to breathe anymore; he just kept up a constant, high-pitched wail that rattled inside Matt’s skull and threatened to completely liquefy his brain. Every instinct Matt had was to put this impossibly loud baby down on the floor, lock the apartment, and flee somewhere out of range until Foggy was old enough to drink again.
But Foggy was crying, and that meant he needed Matt.
Matt made another circuit of his apartment and wondered if his neighbors had any earplugs he could borrow.
“Mah.” Foggy bounced on the couch cushion, standing next to where Matt was slumped, more exhausted than if he’d just spent the past hour in the ring. He patted Matt’s face with a chubby hand. “Mamamamama.”
Matt gave a tired laugh, even though it wasn’t really funny. “I’m very much not your mother, Foggy.”
“Mah!” Foggy insisted, and then, “Maddy.”
Matt lifted his head in surprise. “What did you say?”
Foggy climbed up to stand on Matt’s thighs, which actually kind of hurt, and braced both of his hands on Matt’s face. He sounded like he was smiling. “Maddy Maddy Maddy.”
Well. Maybe this wasn’t so bad after all.
Matt had never needed a nap so badly in his life. In desperation, he called Karen to come over and watch Foggy for a couple of hours while he passed out. He was glad now that he’d listened to Foggy and told her he was Daredevil; he wasn’t sure how he’d have explained this otherwise.
Unfortunately for him, Karen was smitten, and intent on telling Matt all about it.
“Oh my God, Matt’s, he’s so cute,” she gushed. “You have no idea. I wish you could see this.”
“Well. I have some idea,” Matt said, and wondered why he felt so sulky about it. No, he couldn’t see Foggy, but his little baby voice and milky baby smell were plenty cute. “…Tell me?”
“Okay. I mean, Foggy’s better at this than I am,” she said. “I mean, usually. You want to tell Matt what you look like, Foggy?”
“Matty!” Foggy crowed in answer, and hugged Matt’s leg. Karen let out a muffled squeak.
“Oh, I could just eat you up,” she said, squatting down by Foggy.
“Eat up!” Foggy said, and bit Matt’s knee through his jeans, then giggled at his own joke.
“Oh my God,” Karen said again.
“Karen.” Matt was so tired.
“Okay, okay. So I think Foggy’s about two right now? Two and something months, maybe? Not preschool age yet.”
“No, school done,” Foggy said. He sounded displeased. “I no like finals.”
“Oh, he’s wrinkling up his face, it’s so cute, Matt,” Karen said. “That’s so weird, that he remembers. You remember Columbia, Foggy?”
“Matty,” Foggy said again, and hugged Matt’s leg tighter.
“I guess that answers your question,” Matt said.
“Wild.” Karen settled on the floor. “His hair’s much lighter right now, like white blond, and it’s in this adorable little bowl cut. I wonder how that happened? He’s gonna be pissed if it still looks like that when he’s an adult.”
“Watch your language around the baby, please, Karen.”
Foggy waggled a chubby finger at her. “Watch you language Karrie.”
She giggled. “Okay. He’s got this little snub of a nose, and the chubbiest cheeks, and huge blue eyes, and a round little belly, and oh, I just love him so much!” She tugged Foggy off of Matt’s leg and squeezed him. Foggy gave a delighted laugh and yanked on her hair like it was a bell pull. “Okay, ouch, though.”
Matt rubbed a weary hand over his face. It was stupid to be jealous that he couldn’t see two-year-old Foggy, just like it had been stupid to be jealous that he couldn’t see eighteen-year-old Foggy, and nineteen-year-old Foggy, and twenty, and… “Well, I’m glad you enjoy Foggies of all sizes. I need to go pass out now.”
He turned towards the bedroom and Foggy let out a noise of protest. “Where go?”
“Just the bedroom, Fog. I need a nap.”
“Just for a couple of hours, Foggy,” Matt tried to explain. “I’ll be back when you’re three.”
“Matty, Matty, Matty…you are my big best friend…Matty, Matty, Matty…I want a giraffe!”
Matt chuckled as he cut the crusts off a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Foggy was about five now; he’d finally let Matt go take a nap after lengthy, earnest promises to return, and Matt had woken up to find Foggy speaking in full sentences and tearing around the living room. He’d sent Karen home and now they were having…some kind of lunch-like meal. Matt was barely sure of his own name anymore, let alone what time it was.
He did, however, know that Foggy had been singing the Matty Song for about twenty minutes now. The last line was always different, and never rhymed.
“Sorry, I don’t think I can get you one of those,” he said. “And where did you even learn the tune to the Dreidel Song? Your family’s Protestant.”
“In school. It’s not fair to just sing Christmas songs, Matty. Not everyone b’lieves in Santa,” Foggy said wisely.
“Well, that’s very egalitarian of you,” Matt said, putting the plate with Foggy’s sandwich on the table.
“Yeah. I like eagles,” Foggy agreed as he climbed up onto a chair.
“That’s not…okay. Yeah. Me too.”
Foggy’s grandmother always said that Foggy could talk the hind leg off a donkey, and Matt had always laughed and agreed, but adult Foggy had nothing on eight-year-old Foggy.
“…and I like criminal law best I think but sometimes it’s scary or sad. But leases and contracts and things are boring. But I like helping with adoptions because it’s nice and kids get a family, but then there’s divorces and those are also sad,” Foggy said as Matt helped him roll up the legs of his pants. The Avengers had provided him with a few sets of kids’ clothes but not every size; every few hours Foggy outgrew another outfit and Matt would put him in new clothes that were way too big on him.
“But I’m never gonna get divorced, know why?” Foggy went on, flapping the long end of his sleeve around.
Matt bit back a smile. “Why?”
“‘Cause I’m gonna marry you.”
“Uh.” It was stupid to be blushing. Foggy was eight. Kids said they were going to marry random people all the time, probably. “You are?”
Foggy nodded. “Yep,” he said confidently. “When I get big again. And when you’re ready.”
“When I’m ready?” Matt repeated.
“Uh-huh.” Foggy reached out and patted him on the arm with a sleeve-covered hand. “Don’t worry. I can wait.”
“Foggy? You want breakfast?”
Foggy let out a muffled groan from under the blankets. Matt sighed. They were on the second day of this; he’d given the bed to a ten-year-old Foggy who insisted between yawns that he wasn’t “tired at all, really, let me stay up, Matty, we both know I’m really twenty-eight” and woken up to find a surly fifteen-year-old who didn’t seem to plan on getting out of bed ever.
“Come on, you can’t sleep all day,” Matt said, then cringed at how old he sounded.
The blankets shuffled; then Foggy pushed the covers back and lifted his head enough to look at Matt. His heartbeat picked up. “I’m tired.”
“You slept nine hours.” Matt cocked his head. “Are you okay? Your heart is racing.” Foggy seemed fine, if cranky, but he’d also aged fifteen years in a day, so it was possible the unwillingness to get up was something more than just being a teenager.
Foggy clutched the covers tighter and his temperature picked up. “Stop listening to my heart, Matt, God!”
Matt frowned. “What happened to ‘Matty’?”
“Ugh, just leave me alone!”
Matt shrugged. He probably hadn’t been much more pleasant in the mornings himself when he was a teenager, though he’d known better than to talk to the nuns that way. “Fine. There’s cereal when you’re ready.”
Half an hour later Foggy shuffled out of the bedroom, sat down at the table, and ate three bowls of cereal without saying a word. Matt kept his fingers on his screen reader and ignored the way Foggy’s heart skipped every time he looked up at Matt.
Matt figured Foggy was somewhere around seventeen now. His mannerisms, the way he smelled and cadence of his voice, even the brush of his long hair against his shoulders kept taking Matt back to the early days of their friendship, when they were still getting to know each other. He was surprised by how often it lodged in his throat, not unpleasantly.
Luckily, Foggy had also gotten past the mood swings; ditto the acting like he wanted to die every time Matt entered the room. Although he had been uncharacteristically quiet for most of the movie they were watching, even when he wasn’t making his way through the better part of a pizza. (Matt was glad adolescence was only going to last another few hours. They couldn’t afford to feed a teenager on the kind of money their firm pulled in.)
“You okay?” Matt asked finally, and braced himself for a possible explosion.
It took Foggy a minute to answer. “What if…what if I don’t stop at twenty-eight?” he said finally. He sounded so young, and it made Matt realize anew how young they’d been when he’d first - when they’d met, and how long it had been. “What if I just keep aging fast, and then I - ?”
“You’ll stop,” Matt said, even though he’d been worrying the same thing for two days now. “And if you don’t, we’ll call Wanda and she’ll figure something out, or Stark will, or, or something. I have connections now.” He reached out to rest his hand on top of Foggy’s. “I won’t let anything happen to you, Foggy. Anything else, I mean.”
Foggy swallowed. He was radiating warmth again, like he was blushing. “Yeah,” he said. “Okay. Yeah.”
By late afternoon, Foggy seemed back to his old self. No pun intended.
“Yep, looking good,” he called from the bathroom, where he was angling his head this way and that, presumably examining his reflection in the mirror. “No new crows’ feet to speak of in the past couple hours, so I think we’ve slowed down to a walking pace here. I’ll miss the boundless energy of youth, though.”
“You’re not even thirty yet, Foggy,” Matt said, and yawned. He hadn’t really gotten a lot of sleep during all of…that.
“Being the best friend of a superhero gets very weird sometimes,” Foggy said. He turned and Matt could sense him leaning in the doorway of the bathroom, evaluating Matt. “Dude, you look dead on your feet. Why don’t you go to bed?”
“It’s not even dark out yet. We haven’t had dinner.”
“I can scrounge something up. You need sleep. Come on, get.”
Matt thought about arguing, but he was exhausted - and honestly after the past two days it was nice to have Foggy chivvying him to bed instead of the other way around. “All right,” he conceded, and headed for the bedroom.
Foggy stopped him as he passed the bathroom door by grabbing his hand. “Hey, Matty?” he said, and squeezed it. “Thanks for taking care of me.”
Matt smiled faintly and squeezed back. “I figured it was my turn,” he said, and then, “Thanks for waiting for me.”
Foggy’s heart raced.