There was a history of Sentinels in the Murdock family. Aggressive, powerful Sentinels. Half-feral Sentinels. Sentinels who protected the tribe with their fists and their barred teeth. Even when the Sentinel didn’t manifest, all Murdock men were at least latent. Matt’s dad was that way—driven to be strong, to protect the tribe, but with no real outlet. He took to boxing because of it and the image of his dad’s bloodied face is one of the few sight memories Matt has.
Matt, too, was born a latent Sentinel. No surprise to what remained of his family. Until the accident that made him blind. Until he noticed the man and the truck and acted with pure Sentinel instinct to protect.
In that moment, as Matt shoved with the whole weight of his body behind him, he felt something in his mind whirl to life. Something great and ferocious. Something magnificent and terrible. A little devil howling.
Then the acid hit his face and Matt the little devil paused, whimpered, twisted in confusion instead of rage.
“Dad, I can’t see,” he said. “I can’t see.”
Foggy was born to the name Franklin, but when he was three declared loudly in front of the whole extended family that he preferred Foggy, thank you very much. Such was his way from them on out. Foggy was stubborn, pragmatic, and intelligent. Curious but only when it suited him and brave but only when the rewards were clear.
He was diagnosed as a latent Guide by his third cousin, who was the only Sentinel in the family, and his family was overjoyed to have such prestige.
“You’ll go places, Foghorn,” his mom gushed. “You’ll get yourself a Sentinel and they’ll take you places the rest of us won’t be able to go. How wonderful is that?”
His dad was much more serious about the whole business. “You’ll need to be everything they need,” he said. “That’s what Guides are, they’re support. Keep your interests open. You’re smart, but most Guides are. It’s so they can follow their Sentinel’s passion, ain’t it?”
But Foggy was bored with the lectures he got at home, at the S-G Center, at school. Sure, it’d be nice to have a Sentinel one day, but everyone made it seem like the right one would just sweep him off his feet and decide the rest of his life, so he should settle down and wait like a good boy.
Fuck that, Foggy thought as he ripped open his acceptance letter to Columbia. He was going to make his own life. And no Sentinel was going to tell him what he could and couldn’t do. He was Foggy Nelson, first Nelson Guide as far as anyone could trace, and he wasn’t content to just follow the rules. He was going to make his own way and his Sentinel, whoever they were, would have to deal.
Matt’s dad took him to the local S-G Center—outside of Hell’s Kitchen because their community had never been offered one—and asked to see one of the assessment agents.
Being in that space, Matt found that he could relax for the first time since the accident. The air was clean, even the whiffs of people coming through were filtered out quickly by the system. Every room had white-noise generators, creating a soft lull for his newly sensitive hearing to focus on. Even the chairs and tables were smooth and clean, easy on his skin as he ran his fingers across the edge to figure out which direction to sit down. He wondered, somewhat bitterly, if the lights would have been soothing to his eyes—had he been able to see them.
Matt heard the soft footsteps of the agent from down the end of the hall. The white-noise generator almost made it easier to focus on one thing like that. He could just block out all the buzzing and concentrate on the important information. As the man neared, Matt sniffed and noticed that he was strangely clean smelling. Mostly people smelled like their latest meal or a store they’d walked through. Sometimes, if Matt was really close, he could smell the particular musk of someone underneath all their clothes and food breath.
This man, though, smell strongly of clean laundry and that was it.
“Mr. Murdock, I’m Derrick Camberwell.”
“Nice to meet you,” his dad said and Matt heard him stand. There was a soft slap of skin as they shook hands and then they both sat back down. Derrick across from Matt and his father.
“I pulled up Matthew’s file. I see he was assessed as latent at this Center about five years ago now.”
Matt’s dad was stiff beside him. Matt could tell because he could usually feel the soft hints of breeze as his dad moved around, stirring the air between them. Not now, though.
“And then… there was an accident. Is that correct, Matthew?”
Camberwell spoke a little louder as he addressed Matt. Matt wasn’t sure why. Wasn’t it obvious that he could hear even better than his dad? “Yes, sir,” he said. “I think I came online.”
“I know I’m really young for it, sir,” Matt said. “But… I can hear a lot more now. And smell things. And my skin’s gotten really sensitive.”
“How about your taste?”
“That too. When I smell something really strongly, I even feel it on my tongue.”
Matt heard Derrick jotting down notes with the quick swish of a ballpoint pen. He enjoyed listening to ballpoint pens. They were so smooth across the paper, in comparison to the tap tap of a pencil.
“Mr. Murdock, if you’ll step aside with me for a moment.”
“You’re not going to take Matt for assessment?” his dad asked.
“If we could have a private conversation first, Mr. Murdock,” Camberwell insisted. “Matthew, if you wouldn’t mind waiting here?”
Matt wasn’t sure why Camberwell thought the conversation would be private. Even two rooms away and through the white-noise generators, he was too attuned to the particular beat of his dad’s heart to not listen in on the discussion.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Murdock,” Camberwell said once he’d closed to door, “but whatever your son thinks he’s feeling… he can’t be an online Sentinel. Sentinels have all five senses enhanced. Now, it’s not uncommon for individuals who are blind to find their other senses growing stronger as a result. I’m sure that’s all there is to it.”
“It’s not just a little sensitivity,” his dad growled. “He’s got… he talks about this thing in his head. I think he’s got a spirit animal.”
“Kids imagine things all the time. I’m sure you know this, with your family history, but Sentinels are usually incapable of sensing their spirit animal until they find their Guide. Outside of a few hints in stressful situations, of course, but Sentinels don’t connect empathically with their own mental space that way.”
Matt pulled his legs up so he could bury his head in his knees. The edges of his dark glasses dug into his face. In his head, the noises he’d been hearing, the presence he’d felt there, was curiously gone.
Matt’s dad took him home that night in silence. Matt couldn’t help but think his dad was disappointed in him, though he wasn’t sure why or how.
“Listen to me, Matt,” his dad said finally. His hands were warm and strong on Matt’s shoulders. “You’re smart, you’re so fucking smart. I don’t care if you’ve been cursed with the Devil like all Murdocks have been. You can do something more with your life. Even if you’re not a Sentinel, you can help people with that big brain of yours. Will you do that for me?”
“Of course, Dad,” Matt promised.
And inside, that little devil began to roar again.
By the time Matt fingered the braille of his Columbia acceptance letter, he’d mostly learned to ignore the growling in his own mind. Except on dark nights, when there was nothing but sirens and people screaming. Then, the only thing he learned to do was cry.
Foggy got to arrive on campus a week earlier than most everyone else. He was newly eighteen and brimming with independence. There was a small S-G Center at the university—headed by Dr. Jepson Lincoln, who graduated from Columbia thirty years ago with a doctorate of Sentinel and Guide Studies. He was a calm man with spindly grey hair and crinkled brown eyes. Foggy liked him at once.
The first Sentinel-Guide mixer happened a couple days after they’d all arrived and settled into their rooms. It was the logic of the university that if any pairs ended up meeting and bonding immediately, better for it to happen while it was still easy to move them into the bonded suites that existed in the special Sentinel-friendly dorm.
Foggy made friends with his fellow Guide freshman and made sure to make himself known to the upperclassmen Guides too. Most had bonded, but a few, like him, were pursuing their own career paths. Two were in school for Criminology, because of the high rates of police work done by Sentinels, and one was Biology Pre-Med because she figured that’d be useful regardless of the situation.
When Foggy said he was doing Political Science for the Pre-Law track, the Med student smiled at him. “They told me it was likely I’d find my Sentinel before I finished all my schooling, but I think that when I do find him or her, they’ll understand why it’s important. Of course, there’s also the chance I’ll be in my thirties before I run into them, so why put my life on hold until that point? I’d rather find them while working surgery in the ER then at a Starbucks.”
“That’s all well and good,” one of the Criminology students said. “But why Law? You know that our empathy makes it hard for us to work in that kind of environment. You’ll burn yourself out and even if you don’t, most clients won’t trust someone who can read their emotions.”
“Or they’ll trust me even more for it,” Foggy countered. “After all, the ones who wouldn’t would be actually guilty, right? Besides, there’s a lot more to being a lawyer than what you see on T.V.”
That seemed to pacify them, which was all Foggy wanted. He was at the mixer to make friends, but he didn’t need them to try to steer him off his path.
Foggy allowed himself to be introduced to various Sentinels as well, though he was hardly looking for someone to bond with so quickly into starting his life. Most Sentinels took one looked at his long hair and goatee—facial hair was big turn off for people who had such sensitive reactions to touch—and ignored him. One, though, seemed to find him interesting. She was tall with platinum blond hair and nails painted silver.
“I overheard your conversation,” she said, because of course there was no such thing as privacy when Sentinels and Guides were involved. “I’m Pre-Law as well. Marci Stahl.”
“Foggy Nelson,” Foggy said. He didn’t offer his hand to shake and Marci didn’t offer hers. Though Foggy was a strong Level 2 Guide and could feel her emotions without touch, it was the principle of the matter. Common Sentinel-Guide courtesy.
Marci was definitely interested in him, but Foggy didn’t feel any sort of ferocity about it that would indicate she was going into a bond rut over it. He found her attractive, which he was sure she could smell, but wasn’t otherwise drawn to her. His spirit animal, a large African elephant who spent most of his time staring up at the sky of Foggy’s mindscape and flicking his ears, raised his trunk just a little but otherwise didn’t react.
“What classes have you signed up for?” Marci asked.
Foggy considered her for a moment. It was an unspoken rule that Sentinels and Guides weren’t really supposed to be friends. Sentinels were territorial around their own and if one day Foggy bonded, any friendship he and Marci might have started would create tension. But then, there was a reason Foggy was here and having someone in the community doing the same major and track as he was would be helpful…
“Come on, Foggy,” she said, smiling. Foggy had a sudden flash of her spirit animal, a large snowy leopard. “We can study together.”
“Yeah,” Foggy said, because he did agree. “I suppose we can.”
He’d found a kindred spirit in Marci Stahl. He only hoped the fangs of her spirit animal didn’t bite him in the ass one day.
In his mind, his elephant snorted and laid down in the grass. Bolstered by the complete unconcern, Foggy let himself be drawn into animated conversation with Marci over what they knew and didn’t know about the professors at Columbia.
It was the start of a beautiful, if mutually selfish, friendship.
Matt asked for a single room, but Columbia was in the middle of New York City and had limited dormitory space. They sent him back his assignment a couple weeks before the start of school saying he’d been paired with one Franklin Nelson. A registered Level 2 Guide—just barely below a Prime in strength.
Matt let out a shaky breath. He should have expected. Of course they’d put the visually disabled guy with a Guide—Guides were supposed to be helpful and nurturing after all.
He wondered how the Guide would react to him. He wasn’t a Sentinel after all, but he did have some of the characteristics. He was glad Stick had found him, because without Stick he would have still fallen under the delusion that the Center had just made a mistake.
But Stick was like him and had informed him of the truth. They weren’t Sentinels—they were something else, something better because they didn’t need Guides for control. Matt had learned how to affect his own senses, how to dial them up and down as he wanted. He didn’t need to depend on anyone else.
He’d just have to work hard to make sure the Guide didn’t realize what he was. Stick had warned him how dangerous that’d be. How Sentinels and Guides would reject his presence as something abnormal. How they might try to control him or cull him because of it.
Just for a semester, he told himself. Then he could request a room transfer. Surely he’d be able to make it? He could spend most of his time studying in the library or something.
Matt rubbed his forehead. His little devil let growl—upset like it always was. Matt had given up trying to understand his own delusions and ignored the sound as always.
Foggy read through some pre-texts for one of his classes, waiting for his roommate to arrive. It was move-in weekend and he wasn’t quite sure when the other boy would show up, so he’d rejected hanging out with Marci. He wanted to be there when his roommate arrived. Wanted to be the first impression, not the room he’d already started redecorating for them.
There was a cacophony of mental noise around the dorm as people met their roommates and saw where they’d be living for the next year—excitement, disappointment, anger, lust… it all blended together. Foggy winced and tried to concentrate on the words of the page in front of him.
The door to his room opened and Foggy looked up. There was a small tap and a metal cane proceeded his new roommate into the space. Foggy looked up from the cane to the long legs then the compact torso and finally to the all-too-attractive face.
“Oh,” Foggy said. His mind was still, all his mental energy focused on the man in front of him. The rest of the world faded. He felt only his new roommate’s emotions—annoyance, confusion, exasperation. Foggy wondered if he smelled his sudden attraction.
“Did you just come online?” Foggy asked, a little breathless. He scrambled off his bed. “You weren’t at the mixer and they wouldn’t put a Sentinel in the same room with an unbonded Guide anyway. You should have told the university. Not that… I mean, I’m not against…” He felt himself blush. Shit, he always thought he’d be smoother. Or maybe even angrier, when he met his Sentinel.
But the world looked different, clearer somehow. The colors of their room were sharper and his brain worked faster. No one ever said that getting a Sentinel would be like this. They all talked about what Sentinels got out of having a Guide, not the other way around.
“I… what?” his roommate, Sentinel, stuttered. “I’m not a Sentinel.”
Foggy’s elephant stumbled and fell to his knees. “Bullshit,” Foggy said. “Of course you are. I can feel you.”
“I’m not. If you can’t tell, I’m blind. I can’t be a Sentinel. You must be feeling one of our neighbors or something.”
There was a nervousness to the man’s mental state now, a sudden desperation for Foggy to believe him. Foggy hesitated. Was he wrong?
His elephant blew his trunk angrily.
No, Foggy wasn’t wrong. But his Sentinel was hiding and pushing him wasn’t going to solve anything. Foggy was smart, he was patient, he could wait.
“Yeah,” he let himself say and focused on keeping his heartbeat steady so the Sentinel wouldn’t detect his lie. “You might be right. Sorry, all these emotions, you know? It’s kind of chaotic.”
The Sentinel relaxed. “Of course. I’m Matt. Matt Murdock.”
“Foggy Nelson.” He itched to touch his Sentinel, itched to draw him in, but he resisted. Maybe he was wrong. At least, his Sentinel didn’t seem to recognize him as his in the same way he was. Shouldn’t he be going into a bonding rut?
His Sentinel was an enigma. Good thing Foggy liked figuring out mysteries.
“Nice to meet you,” Foggy said. “Want me to walk you through the room? Audibly, I mean? Your bed is just to your right.”
“Sure,” Matt agreed.
If Foggy watched Matt a little too closely, well at least Matt wouldn’t be able to tell.
Besides, he told himself that night as he fell asleep listening to Matt breathing in the same room—hadn’t he wanted this? Hadn’t he wanted a Sentinel who wasn’t going to push him into bonding immediately, who would respect his choices and give him time to figure out his own career? They had time, four years of the same college. He’d figure out his life and his Sentinel.
He’d have his cake and eat it too.
Matt was determined not to like Foggy. The Guide had only just been convinced to let the whole Sentinel thing drop. And Matt knew Foggy still didn’t believe him when he said he wasn’t—his breathing had changed just a bit as he told that lie. Not as much as most people’s would have, but that just showed that Foggy was dangerous.
Matt was glad Foggy thought he was a Sentinel instead of something else, but it was still dangerous. If he pushed the matter more, dug into it at the local Center, he’d learn that he was wrong—after all, someone who has a completely dormant sense couldn’t possibly be a Sentinel—and then he’d start questioning things.
So Matt willed Foggy to drop it and willed himself to stay far away from the Guide to decrease the interest.
But it was hard. Because while Matt was determined not to like Foggy, his body wasn’t listening. Foggy’s scent—roast beef, engine oil, and toffee—was utterly enticing. Matt had never been so drawn to the smell of another person before. It made him think of his dad, how he’d buried his nose into his dad’s sweater until the scent faded from it. His dad’s scent used to calm the little devil inside him, and now Foggy’s seemed to have the same effect.
It wasn’t just Foggy’s scent, either. Matt didn’t quite know how it had happened, but by the end of the first week, he was attuned to Foggy’s heartbeat, the cadence of his breathing, even his footsteps along the floor of their dorm.
To Matt’s senses, Foggy became as much a fixture of their shared room as the furniture. Not because he was still, but because he belonged there.
The first time Foggy stayed over at one of his friends’—and how did he have such good friends already—place overnight, Matt couldn't sleep. He lay awake on his bed and listened and listened, but Foggy’s heartbeat was buried underneath too many thousands. Eventually, he gave it up and went to study instead.
So despite his determination to avoid Foggy, Matt couldn’t quite manage it. His little dorm room, Foggy and all, had rapidly become a safe space for him and the chaotic mess of the library couldn’t get close to replacing it.
And despite his determination to hate Foggy, Matt couldn’t quite manage that either. Because Foggy was too good for him to hate. Running his fingers across his study notes, Matt came to the terrible realization that, Guide or not, he preferred Foggy being around where he could keep his senses locked on him.
He heard the first students, the early risers, begin to wake up across the dorm. He bit his bottom lip and hoped that Foggy got back soon.
Foggy hadn’t meant to stay the night at Marci’s, but they’d been studying late for the first test in their Ligature elective and by the time they finished, Marci had convinced him to take her extra blanket and just crash on the floor.
He couldn’t sleep well, and not just because the floor was hard. Marci’s mind—beautiful but cold like the Alps—rubbed against him and he couldn’t block it out. Not like he’d been able to do with Matt’s. Matt’s mind was hot and dry, a desert on fire, and it had warmed Foggy from the very first night they slept in the same room.
By the time dawn’s light started peeking through Marci’s shades, Foggy figured he could be excused for leaving. So he slowly got up and gathered his things. He’d didn’t try to keep quiet, knowing the Sentinel would hear him regardless.
“Leaving so soon, Foggy Bear?” Marci said, using her annoying nickname for him. She hadn’t like that he’d refused to tell her his spirit animal and so had taken to guessing. Her current hypothesis was a polar bear. Foggy didn’t know how to tell her that he wasn’t nearly so cold-weathered.
“Yeah, I want to look over my notes one more time before breakfast,” Foggy said. It wasn’t a lie, though he planned on crashing in his bed back home for at least a couple more hours before then. “Thanks for letting me sleep here, Marci. I’ll see you later for class.”
Marci sniffed, obviously not too impressed, but she rolled over and went back to sleep. Foggy escaped the room and walked across campus back to his dorm.
The university looked different in the early morning light. There was something ethereal about it. Soft and magical, a busy land devoid of people. Foggy gazed up at the pink and orange clouds and wished he could share this sight with Matt.
But, of course, Matt wouldn’t be able to see it.
Foggy frowned and refocused back on his walk. He finally got back to his dorm and walked up three flights of stairs before turning left to his room. Like with Marci, he didn’t attempt to be quiet. Matt would wake up regardless.
But Matt wasn’t asleep. He was sitting as his desk, reading his braille notes. Foggy’s mental energy reached out for him immediately, without his conscious decision. Like usual, the edges of Matt’s mindscape were hot, almost blistering in their defense. It was obvious that he wasn’t ready to let Foggy in, wasn’t even considering it.
But there was a comforting warmth to that fire and Foggy’s elephant basked in it happily. It hadn’t liked being stalked by Marci’s leopard all night.
“You’re back early,” Matt said.
“You’re up late, or is it early also?” Foggy asked. He stepped forward. Matt’s shoulders were tense and Foggy wanted nothing more than to run his hands along them, loosen those muscles. Matt had forgone his glasses and Foggy could make out the dark bags under his eyes. “Did you sleep at all?”
Matt didn’t answer. The sudden flaring of his mental fire was enough.
“All-nighters are really terrible for you,” Foggy said. He couldn’t help his tone dipping into what was commonly referred to as the Guide voice. “Please take better care of yourself.”
“You don’t need to worry about me.”
“Sure,” Foggy said, though that was a lie. “But I’m going to anyway.”
Matt couldn’t control his emotions fast enough and for a split second his mental defenses opened up—like he was honestly surprised Foggy cared so much for him—and Foggy caught a glimpse of a shiny black nose and two pointed ears.
Then Matt shook his head and his defenses shot back up like a raging inferno. “Do what you want,” he said. “But I make my own schedule.”
“Of course,” Foggy murmured. He was strangely hurt and didn’t like it. He’d just seen a glimpse of Matt’s spirit animal! Shouldn’t that be a success?
But Matt was closed off from him again, both with his physical and mental body language, and Foggy couldn’t help but take the rejection as a personal one. Because it was, wasn’t it?
His elephant tooted sadly and retreated under the shade of a sparse tree.
“I’m just going to go back to bed,” Foggy said. “Not that, you, uh, care. But I won’t be bothering you, so… don’t worry?” He winced at his own foolishness and stumbled to his comforting mattress—at the very least his back would thank him, even if his roommate would have preferred he stayed at Marci’s.
Matt stood an hour later. His head hurt and he wasn’t quite sure why. There was a dull ringing in his ears, a familiar angry howling. It was harder to block out this time than usual.
His bed seemed inviting. He really hadn’t gotten much sleep… he walked toward it, fingered his sheets.
But those weren’t his sheets. They were too cottony. He was touching Foggy’s bed. How had he gotten so disoriented?
No, he hadn’t. He’d been drawn to Foggy’s steady breathing, the pumping of his heart.
Matt ached to climb into bed next to him, to curl up around him and wash away the pain he knew he’d caused. He’d smelt it, the sudden flash of salt as if Foggy had teared up—quickly fading away like Foggy was better at holding back his emotions then he seemed. But the extra gulps and the shaking breaths hadn’t helped.
Matt had hurt him and he shouldn’t feel so bad about it. He should want Foggy to avoid him, should want Foggy to dislike him.
But just as he couldn’t make himself avoid or dislike Foggy, he didn’t want Foggy to do the same. It was entirely irrational, but Matt couldn’t deny it.
Matt sighed. Everyone told him college would be a big change. That it would be confusing. They just didn’t mention that confusion would come in the form of one Foggy Nelson.
After several minutes of feeling the air move as Foggy breathed into it, Matt made himself pull away and stumble to his own bed.
He did sleep a lot better with Foggy in the room.
Foggy and Matt’s only class together was the required Freshman writing course. Foggy knew they’d probably end up in more classes together as they went on in years and took the smaller advanced courses, but for now there were too many large lectures options that they hadn’t ended up together except for Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5-6:30pm.
Foggy came to the class from another lecture across campus, so he always made it just on time. Up until that point—now nearly a month into the semester—the seats on either side of Matt had always been taken. Foggy was too intelligent to consider it to be a coincidence.
Especially because that Tuesday both seats on either side of Matt were empty. Foggy stared at them for a moment, then at Matt, then back at the empty seats. Matt didn’t physically react to him, but from his inferno of a mind Foggy caught the hint of anticipation and maybe nervousness?
Foggy rallied himself and took the seat to the left of Matt. There were a couple inches between their arms—lecture hall seating never left much room—and Foggy was hyperaware of Matt. But he wasn’t going to push it. He was still wary of rejection, his elephant still sulking in his mind.
Matt had made the first move, supposedly, but it was the kind of move that could be easily brushed aside as nothing. Foggy had just now met him, making the second move by sitting down next to him. But he wasn’t going to take it further than that. It was Matt’s turn.
They sat through the lecture in silence. Their professor was the rambler-type and Foggy had given up trying to take notes in his class weeks ago. Now, he just parsed through what information he could and found the rest in the textbooks. Matt, he noticed, wasn’t taking notes either. But then… did Matt ever take notes? Foggy wasn’t sure. He knew Matt was a good student, he certainly studied enough, but he didn’t have a clue if those braille sheets he saw were Matt’s own creation, or printed out for him by the professors.
Finally, the lecture ended. Foggy made a show of slowly putting his backpack on and straightening his shirt. Matt stood—far more gracefully than Foggy, and sighed. “You usually go to dinner after this, right?” he said.
Foggy paused. “How’d you…” he cleared his throat. But of course Matt would know. If not by smell of the food after, then by hearing the direction in which Foggy walked. The only thing that half-question meant was that Matt had been paying attention.
Foggy’s hope swelled. “Yeah,” he said. “Wanna come?”
Matt nodded, a little hunched in on himself like he was embarrassed.
Something had changed, Foggy realized as they walked to the dining hall. Matt wasn’t putting up as many walls anymore. He wasn’t… he wasn’t actively shutting Foggy out. What was left now, Foggy thought, were just his natural defenses.
And if there was one thing Foggy was good at, it was wrecking through propriety. If Matt was going to give him an inch, then he’d take the mile.
Matt knew it was all his fault, but he couldn’t regret taking the step that resulted in him and Foggy becoming actual friends. When winter break rolled around and the email came with instructions for how to request a room switch, Matt just deleted it. Because Foggy Nelson had won him over, there was no doubt.
Foggy was a considerate roommate. He didn’t treat Matt like glass, but was good at audibly pointing things out that he thought Matt wouldn’t be able to otherwise sense out. What was more, he actually knew—or still guessed—how enhanced Matt’s other senses were so Matt didn’t have to hide as much. He’d still never admitted to Foggy just how much he could hear and smell, but Foggy hadn’t pressed either.
When it came time to sign up for the next semester’s courses, Matt didn’t protest Foggy helping him with his schedule—even if it meant more classes together. It was nice, walking across campus with Foggy. He didn’t have to attune himself to his surroundings quite so much, because Foggy always told him when they were coming up on stairs or a street crossing or if there was an errant biker.
Foggy was… well, guiding him just without the touching and without the capital ‘G’. Matt wondered, sometimes, just how much Foggy was able to pick up from his mind, but then he could still smell how attracted Foggy was to him every time he peeled off his shirt after a run at the gym or came back from the shower in only his towel. They invaded each other’s privacy every day and it made Matt uncomfortable how they existed on some strange silent precipice while doing so.
Matt longed to touch Foggy, to get a physical sense of him. He already knew his smell and sound so well. He wanted to lick Foggy’s skin, see if his sweat tasted like he smelled or was somehow different. He couldn’t deny anymore that he was attracted to the other, because he dreamt in strange foggy half-remembered colors about what Foggy might look like. He wanted Foggy to be by his side always, wanted to hear his laughter forever, and that was… that was so foreign a feeling that Matt didn’t know what to do with it.
But Matt contented himself with spending time with Foggy. They ate almost every meal together now and stayed up late in their room talking about anything and everything they could think of—well, everything except their abilities that was. One night, Foggy asked if he could show Matt his favorite movie and spent the whole time narrating the action in such a comedic way that Matt was in stitches before they even got to the climax.
Matt was happy and he prayed that this silent peace could remain. The thought of it was all that kept him going over the holidays.
To Foggy, the winter break was torture. Being away from Matt was like losing an arm. You don’t realize how much you use it until it’s gone. But he’d gotten so used to Matt, so used to his mental presence and his physical. Matt’s smile was infectious, his laugh still made Foggy’s knees weak every time he managed to pry one out of the reticent man.
Escaping from his boisterous family to his quiet childhood bedroom, Foggy realized without a doubt that he’d done the one thing he shouldn’t have. He’d fallen in love with his college roommate. Who just so happened to be his Sentinel, but who was just as determined to ignore that fact.
“Fuck,” Foggy whispered and dropped his head to his knees.
His phone chirped with a text and Foggy reached for it.
Merry Christmas, Foggy, it read. The text was from Matt, the first text Foggy had ever received from him that wasn’t for a specific purpose (where are we meeting for dinner? and did you move my Intro to Poly Sci notes?).
Foggy smiled and texted back, Merry Christmas, Matty. He paused, screwed up his courage, then sent, I miss you.
The reply was almost immediate, considering Matt’s phone had to read the text to him. I miss you too.
Foggy groaned with disgust and happiness.
“You were right, Pops,” he said the next day. “Once a Guide meets the right Sentinel, they are willing to drop everything just to be anything they can be for him.”
His dad gave him a shrewd look. It was obvious to Foggy even as a kid where he’d gotten his intelligence from. “When are you going to bring him to meet us?”
“Honestly, not sure I’ll be able to. You might just have to wait until graduation.” Foggy grinned, though he knew it came out a little crooked. “You’ll like him though. And Mom will want to feed him.”
“Hmph.” His Dad went back to peeling potatoes.
Matt arrived early on Saturday. There was snow on the ground, but the campus was good about plowing the sidewalks and he didn’t struggle with navigating the cold too much. Inside the warm dorm, he unpacked the few belongings he’d brought with him and set about waiting for his roommate to arrive.
It took Foggy four hours and twenty-two minutes. Matt heard him walk down the hall and realized that he should probably get something out, a book or something, just to look like he’d been doing more than just sitting and waiting.
But then Foggy walked into the room and it didn’t matter anymore.
Matt stood, leaving his cane aside, and crossed the small space to stand in front of Foggy. He heard Foggy’s sub-vocal gasp of shock, feel the tremors in Foggy’s body.
Matt folded his arms around his roommate and gave him a tight hug. “Welcome back.”
“You too,” Foggy mumbled into his shoulder. He hugged back just as tightly.
They were too emotional, too needy, but it was the first time Matt was holding Foggy in his arms and he couldn’t… he needed to let go but…
“I really did miss you,” Foggy said. “Are you, are we…?”
Matt buried his nose in Foggy’s neck and breathed deeply. Foggy smelled different, a little more like engine oil and a little less like toffee. Matt wondered how his visit with his family was, wondered what Foggy’s family was like.
“Yeah, okay,” Foggy said, though Matt didn’t know what he was okaying. “Take your time, Matt. I got you.”
And so Matt held Foggy and breathed.
It wasn’t until three weeks into their second semester at Columbia that Foggy realized Marci and Matt had never met. He realized this because Marci and Matt were currently meeting and he wasn’t quite sure how he felt about it.
Because while he acknowledged Matt as his Sentinel, Matt still hadn’t taken that final step. They touched more now, significantly more after that welcome back, welcome home, hug but Matt hadn’t fallen into bonding rut even after grounding himself on Foggy’s scent for an hour and that was that.
But Marci was also a Sentinel and his friend, however mutually selfish their friendship was, and the terrible part of Foggy wondered if this would be what pushed Matt over the edge. Except, he hadn’t wanted to do it that way, hadn’t wanted to use such cheap tricks.
Here they were now, though, outside the dining hall and Marci had just come up and put her arm around Foggy’s shoulder.
“Good evening, Foggy Bear,” she said. “Are you free to come over to my place and study this weekend? I know we don’t have any classes together this semester, but you’re in the B lecture for Henderson’s course, aren’t you?”
“Hi, Marci,” Foggy said. He was hyperaware of Matt standing on his other side. “I, uh, already have plans this weekend.”
“Oh, going to visit your family?” Marci pulled back and flipped her hair.
“No, hanging out with me.” Matt stepped forward, right up against Foggy’s side.
Foggy watched Matt and Marci regard each other. His elephant pawed the ground, anxious.
Finally, Marci laughed. “I see.” She glanced at Foggy. “You haven’t bonded.”
Matt stiffened. Foggy felt his heartbeat accelerate enough that he could hear it, let alone the two Sentinels.
“We’re taking our time,” Foggy said, because he wasn’t sure why but he could feel that Matt was scared—though scared of what, he wasn’t sure. He didn’t delude himself into thinking Matt was scared of Marci stealing him away or something stupid like that. There was more going on here than typical Sentinel possessiveness.
“Are you?” Marci was curious, Foggy could feel it. Her snow leopard crouched down, stalking them. “Whatever for? And… why have I never seen him come around the Center? Surely you don’t think you can just keep him for yourself?”
Matt started to hunch in on himself, the fear in his head climbing.
Foggy stepped forward. His elephant’s tusks gleamed, protectiveness surging over him. “Back off, Marci,” he said and he surprised himself with the harshness of his own tone. “You’re my friend but you are not my Sentinel. Back off.”
The warning was clear and, surprisingly to the back of Foggy’s rational mind, Marci held up her hands and physically backed off.
“I’ll catch you later then, Foggy,” she said and walked away.
Matt wasn’t quite sure how he got back to the dorm. Foggy’s arm was linked with his, his presence a comfort, but still the howling in Matt’s head threatened to overwhelm him.
“Will she report me?” he heard himself say.
Foggy paused and then pulled away from him. “For what?” Another pause. “Oh, you’re not registered, are you? It’s not like it’s a serious crime. All they’ll do it force you to put your name in the system.”
Somehow, despite everything, Foggy still didn’t get it. “I’m not a Sentinel, Foggy! Surely you can tell by now. I’m… I’m something else.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m blind. Sentinels have all five senses enhanced. How could I be a Sentinel?”
“The same way a man who’s missing a leg is still a man. Because humans are bipedal, but that doesn’t mean someone who only has one leg isn’t human anymore.” Foggy’s voice rose in response to his.
Matt shook his head roughly. The howling was only growing worse. “Look, I was training by someone like me, someone who was other like me. We’re not Sentinels. We don’t need Guides, we can’t even bond. I don’t zone, either. I can control my senses.”
“Bullshit, you can’t bond. Who was this guy? Because it sounds to me like he was deluding himself and you. I can feel you, Matt. I can feel our compatibility. You can bond, you can bond with me.”
Matt smelled the sharp salt of Foggy’s tears begin to brew. Foggy’s breath hitched. “That is,” Foggy continued. “Only if you want to. I don’t want to pressure or presume.”
“I want to,” Matt said, because he couldn’t lie to Foggy. Not now, not about this. He couldn’t hurt Foggy again. Already, the scent of tears was making him angry, utterly focused to the extent where he forgot about anyone else in the dorm, ignored the other heart beats and conversations and the squeaking broken faucet upstairs.
“Then, please, Matt, please bond with me.”
The growling in Matt’s head stopped. For the first time since the accident, Matt’s mind was totally clear. It was almost as if the little devil inside him agreed with Foggy.
“But what if I can’t,” Matt said. “Stick said–”
“All you can do is try.” Foggy stepped forward and put his hands on either side of Matt’s face. “Will you try for me?”
Matt bent down to tuck himself back into that safe place at Foggy’s neck, to breath in Foggy’s scent. The scent of tears was stronger now, and Matt felt the wetness spread over his shoulder as Foggy buried his face there. He couldn’t stand Foggy’s tears, couldn’t handle them. The salt was overwhelming, was too sharp, too bitter, too…
“Matt, Matt, come back, please.”
Matt took a shaky breath. They were on the floor. When had they sat down?
Foggy stroked his arms, his neck, his face. He still murmured, “Matt, come back to me, it’s okay, Matt.”
“I, what happened? I don’t…”
“You zoned.” Foggy’s breath was hot against his cheek. The smell of tears was gone. “What did you zone on?”
“You were crying and I fell into the smell, I think.” Matt rubbed his face. “Was that really a zone? I’ve never lost control like that before.”
“Every Sentinel loses control sometimes, no matter how good they are at controlling their senses.” Foggy’s voice was small, hesitant. Matt didn’t like it. “Look, Matt, we don’t have to… if you’re not comfortable bonding with me…”
“If Stick was wrong about that, maybe I can bond,” Matt interrupted. “With you. If you want me.”
“Of course I do. I would have let you bond with me the moment we met and I used to think I’d never want a Sentinel to take over my life like that. But you’re different, Matt. You’re you. You’re mine. At least, I want you to be.”
“Yours,” Matt said, because he’d never had anyone want him like that. “Yes, I want to be yours.”
Foggy laughed. “Then, take me to bed.”
Foggy still couldn’t believe it was happening. A part of him, the cynical part, had expected it to take years. But here they were, crammed together on Matt’s small dorm bed with Matt hovering over him. Their shirts had already been thrown aside and Matt had stripped off his jeans, but Foggy hadn’t had time to divest himself of his sweatpants before Matt had prodded him onto the sheets.
Foggy’s elephant flicked his ears, impatient. Foggy held his breath.
“I’m still not sure,” Matt began, but Foggy could feel the bonding imperative taking over his mind. His inferno faded, leaving an opening for Foggy to slip in.
“Just let yourself be, follow your instincts,” Foggy murmured. “I think you’ve already imprinted on my smell and probably how I sound, right?”
“I want to touch you,” Matt said. “Can I?”
“Whatever you need, Matt.” Foggy spread his arms wide.
Matt’s rough fingers began to parse at his face. Foggy closed his eyes and just breathed. Matt was meticulous as he touched every part of Foggy’s skin, the width of his nose, the shells of his ears, his lips and teeth even. Foggy shivered through it, uncertain by the strange intimacy.
Matt moved onto his chest, thumbs brushing over nipples, nails scrapping his arms. His pulled off Foggy’s pants without hesitation and rubbed Foggy’s thighs, down to his feet, then back up his calves. He stroked Foggy’s half-hard cock and Foggy shouted a bit in surprise.
“You’re beautiful, Foggy,” Matt murmured, but then words seemed to escape him.
Foggy reached forward mentally as Matt began to imprint on him with taste, licking and biting across his body. He pushed himself into his mindscape and appeared next to his elephant. He always felt dwarfed by his spirit animal, as if the expanse of his mind was too powerful for even himself to understand.
His elephant wrapped a trunk around his arm and pulled him. Foggy laughed and walked across the dusty path with the creature until they reached the burning sands. Small fires still scattered across the ground, but when Foggy touched them, they tickled him instead of burning. He picked up a playful flame and let it run through his fingers.
A soft growl, more inquisitive then threatening, reached him. Foggy’s elephant stepped forward then lowered his head to the ground to greet the tiny creature. It was black with one white stripe across its chest. Its ears pointed straight up and its eyes and nose were also black. It looked cute, but when it opened its mouth, huge disproportional fangs gleamed.
“What is it?”
Foggy turned to see that Matt had joined them. Matt’s eyes were wide, as if he could see. Foggy wondered… “Can you see it?”
“Yes,” Matt whispered. “This is my world of fire, shades of black and red, but I can make out its shape.”
Foggy grabbed Matt’s hand and entwined their fingers. “This is your mental space. And that, Matt, is your spirit animal.”
“The other one… elephant? That’s yours?”
Matt took a shuddering breath. “I used to call him my little devil. He always growled at me, was always so upset. He’s calm now.”
“He probably hated that you were ignoring him, ignoring your legacy as a Sentinel.” Foggy looked between the two spirit animals and smiled. “I think he is a devil, though, Matt. A Tasmanian devil.”
And Matt laughed, though it was half-choked by tears. “Of course he is.”
Matt came back to the real world, his visual fire fading so that all he saw was Foggy in a soft orange hue before him. He wondered if this ability, the heat-sense he could sometimes turn on to study the world, was actually his Sentinel powers reacting to his blindness and compensating for it.
He could feel Foggy, feel him in a way he hadn’t been able to before. They were connected now and the growls of his little devil made sense like they never had before. Foggy was his, he knew it and Foggy knew it.
“We gonna have sex now?” Foggy asked, a teasing lit to his tone.
Matt bit the edge of his jawline and then moved up to suck lightly on his earlobe. Foggy gasped and Matt cherished the sound. “Yes,” he said finally.
“There’s lube in my desk,” Foggy said, still slightly gasping, but Matt had his own bottle of lube half stuck under his mattress and he reached for that instead.
He took his time preparing Foggy, spreading his fingers in Foggy’s ass. Foggy was warm, so comforting. He wanted to suspend this moment forever, to be connected like this as long as they could.
But Foggy writhed and begged and finally Matt couldn’t hold off anymore. He thrust into Foggy, rocking them both back on the squeaking dorm bed. Foggy shouted—loud in sex like he was in life—and Matt soaked up every sound. He held Foggy down with his hands, teased his nipples with his mouth, and thrust and thrust.
Finally, Foggy came and the shuddering was enough to push Matt over the edge too. He spilled into Foggy even as Foggy’s semen smeared across their abdomens. They lay there together, panting, in wet, sticky warmth.
“I love you,” Foggy said.
Matt felt his heart stutter. He hadn’t– Foggy was his but–
“Shush,” Foggy added. “You don’t need to say it back. It’s enough to know you’re my Sentinel, that you’re mine. But I wanted you to know, so I said it. That’s all.”
Matt buried his face in Foggy’s neck, his new favorite spot. “Okay,” he said. “I’m yours. And you’re… you’re my Guide.”
Foggy’s happiness at the simple acknowledgement pulsed through their fresh bond.
By the time graduation rolled around, Foggy and Matt were comfortable in the way all bonded pairs were comfortable. They moved around each other easily, and though Foggy still narrated things for Matt, he could also give non-verbal warnings through their bond.
The Center hadn’t been pleased about accepting Matt as a Sentinel—“He’s blind!”—but Dr. Lincoln went to the wall for them and that, combined with the simple truth that they were bonded, made the Oversee Committee cave. Matt was registered as a level 3 Sentinel, which Foggy thought was bullshit. But the rules were rules and at level 2 or 1, all senses had to be highly enhanced. Still, they made it on the books as a bonded pair and that’s what mattered. They’d both been accepted into Columbia’s Law program, so they remained at the university in one of the bonded suites, but Foggy hoped that the Committee would allow them a territory in New York City when it came time for them to move on.
That was years in the future, though. Now, they stood together in their caps and gowns waiting on Foggy’s family to converge on them. Despite Foggy’s prediction, he had managed to get Matt to meet his family over their first summer and subsequent breaks, because like most bonded pairs they couldn’t stand to be apart that long. But like Foggy’s prediction, his dad did like Matt—“He’s a solid man, got a strong sense of justice. If you’re still determined about this law business, at least you’ll have each other.”—and his mom did keep pressing food on him—“You’re too thin, Matt! Here, I made very plain pastrami this time so it shouldn’t bother your sense of taste too much.”—and Matt liked them back, which was all Foggy could ask for.
“I know they have bonded suites for grad students,” Matt said suddenly, “but I think we should look for an apartment this summer.”
Foggy shrugged. “Sure. I wouldn’t mind a little more space.” He paused and looked at his Sentinel. “Why though?”
“I want a place we can call ours. That we can stay in the entire year round.” Matt pressed his hand against Foggy’s wrist, their arms linked as usual.
“And where you don’t have to deal with Marci coming over to hang out all the time,” Foggy teased. He was still surprised with how okay Matt was with his and Marci’s relationship, but that didn’t mean Matt like Marci intruding on his space.
Matt just smiled. “So?”
“Sounds grand.” Foggy caught sight of his family and waved to get their attention. “I love you,” he added, because he made a point of saying it often, because it slipped naturally off his tongue at the end of every conversation now.
“I love you too.”
Foggy’s family was blessed to see the look of utter shock and happiness on Foggy’s face as they walked up. Matt, smirking, greeted them with an easy hello.
“You bastard,” they heard Foggy mutter. “You timed that on purpose.”
“Foghorn! Don’t call your Sentinel such rude names!” his mother scolded.
Matt laughed. After a moment, still shocked and extraordinarily happy, Foggy joined him while their family watched on in cheerful confusion.