Foggy is as open about it as he possibly can. Like, he gets it, he can pass, and there's a lot of people that'd kill to pass as well as he does. There are a couple that have, but he tries not to think about them — like, some were his literal teachers, jesus — as much as possible. Anyway, the thing, the openness thing, is why when, on that first day, Matt asks:
“Did you go to high school in New York?”
Foggy replies: “Not in the city until my senior year. Xavier’s before then. It’s up in Westchester, it's a private school,”
“For mutants,” Matt finishes, or interrupts, whatever, Foggy was going to let the implication hang but it's cool. Or at least, he hopes it’s cool and that the downside of awesome, hot, funny, hot, new, hot roommate isn't going to be an assful of prejudice. Or, you know, any body part. Although, that ass being bigoted would be particularly tragic, like, philosophically speaking.
Matt looks sort of excited though. “Do you have superpowers?” he asks with a smile and, woah, that is brilliant, all teeth and cheekbones, damn.
Foggy laughs. “No way, man. I am level one. I'd be, like, level zero if Professor X got to use British numbers. Did you know that's what English people call the first floor? Which is totally weird because zero is technically an imaginary number, or something, and the first floor is definitely real.”
Matt tilts his head. “Do you not like talking about it? Please, I don't want to make you feel uncomfortable.” And, aw, bless him, he looks guilty. If the name Matthew Michael Murdock hadn’t clued him in, Foggy would have picked up on the Catholicism right there, thanks.
“Naw, dude, it’s cool. I babble, you’ll get used to it.” He can feel his heartbeat slowing now that the scary bit is over. No immediate loathing, awesome, definitely a point in the great roommate column. “Or not, it’ll keep happening. But, uh, the mutant thing I’ll talk about, sure. Most people don’t want to talk about it at all, like they think I’m going to go Magneto on them, superior race blah blah. Or, you know, pull some metal through them. I can’t do that, by the way. I’m an empath. Lowercase e. A very low level empath.”
“You can… feel other people’s emotions? Or change them?” Matt says and hey, empath is a high level SAT word, so Foggy’s clearly snagged himself a smart cookie for a roommate. At Columbia. Okay, maybe that was a given.
“That sounds suspiciously superhero-y. Or villainy. No, I can’t tell what you’re thinking or feeling. Not emotionally. I can feel pain. Physical pain, not emotional, or I would never have survived my sister’s break ups.” Matt winces and Foggy chuckles again. “Yeah, it’s not the most helpful. And I can only do it when I’m touching people. So if you stub your toe, grab my hand, I’ll swear like a bitch and tell you exactly where it hurts.” He doesn’t mention that he could feel whenever his mom burnt her hand on the oven from upstate because, like, that’s his mom and he met Matt a whole thirty minutes ago.
Wait. He checks the clock. More like, two hours ago. Huh. Foggy thinks over what he knows about Matt now: childhood heroics, his dad, how to charge the screen reader, the name of his church, priest and favorite nun, his gpa, his debate record… okay, yeah, two hours seems plausible. Which means it’s time for orientation, because that wasn’t enough fun in undergrad.
“Look at the time, it’s already two! Oh, wait, shit, I, didn’t mean look-”
“I feel your pain,” Matt deadpans. Foggy stares for a moment and then he cracks up. Fuck it, he thinks. Med school was almost as bad an idea as butchery. Law school is going to be sweet.
That’s sort of it on the whole mutant thing for a while. Well, they talk about it all the time, but nothing dramatic. Matt makes mutation and pain jokes, Foggy makes blind jokes, everyone around them is not sure who to be more horrified by. But Foggy’s got Matt’s back when accessibility issues inevitably slam right into their peaceful perusal of the world, and Matt… well, the first time he’s asked to discuss registration laws, he makes three of their classmates cry. In a discussion. Also Foggy, but he brushes it off, pretends he’s a crier.
Some antis try to fuck with him occasionally. Again, he passes, but it's his responsibility to fight stigma as much as his old classmates fight off literal apocalypses on an increasingly frequent basis. Foggy mostly stops Matt tripping them with his cane. Mostly.
There are a few… odd moments. Like when Foggy avoids touching Matt whenever he’s been with the Greek chick, because he does not want to confirm his roommate is as kinky as that damn morning-after smirk suggests. Cause he’s pretty much over the crush, Matty’s almost suspiciously heterosexual, but he doesn’t need the mental images to send him back under.
Then, of course, start of second year, there’s the face touching, which would have been way, way too intimate even if he hadn’t been able to register that Matt had a paper cut and a blister and a bruise on his upper thigh, like come on.
The really unnerving part of that, though, is the fact he feels Matt’s various aches before his hand touches his face. Like, a split second, but for a moment Matt’s the only thing in his head, pushing everything apart and clearly his psionics kick into gear, or whatever, he really should have paid attention in school.
When he tries to talk to Matt about it though, it gets a little weird. Which is weird in itself because Foggy’s an oversharer and Matt has never seemed anything other than keen to ride that out. But whenever Foggy starts with, “Hey, so my ‘powers’ — I just made bunny ears,” Matt gets this look on his face, like guilt and fear wrapped up in a huge ball of, like, rage, and Foggy is not going near that with a bargepole.
He’s not sure what it is, if it’s jealousy or disgust or, hey, maybe it is really insensitive to talk to a blind guy about your literal sixth sense, no matter what Matt’s said, but. Well. Foggy’s been lonely before, through no fault of his sparkling personality and devastating good looks, and he’s not going to risk it again by poking whatever massive wound this is.
So the powers chat is instead had with his mom. Inadvertently, but still.
“Well, I hope you're practicing your Punjabi, dear, I'd hate for that to be a complete waste of your time. But I'm glad you got all your classes sorted early. Is Matt coming for Thanksgiving this year? You tell that boy he needs feeding, Marley agrees with me and she’s a doctor now.” A sigh. Marley, the girl next door that his mom alternately wants him to marry or become, has been a doctor for four years. “You could have made a marvellous doctor, honey.”
“I know, mom. I’ll ask him.” When one Nelson babbler speaks with another, protocol dictates that seniority grants babbling rights.
“You better. I was talking to- oh, Franklin, hold on, your pop’s just come in-” there’s the usual fumbling as she puts her cell phone down — the hold button is something that happened to other people — and Foggy is just about to start humming tunelessly into the speaker when someone slaps his ass.
Which is pretty fucking disconcerting in his empty dorm room. He leaps about for a second, wonders if he should call in a wizard or a ghostbuster and then he hears his mom pick up again.
“Franklin? Honey, you there?” Her voice sounds a little higher, a little warmer.
Well, shit, kink is inherited, who knew?
Foggy buries his head in his free hand. He has to ask. Blunter is better, he decides. “Mom, did dad just spank you?”
Anna Nelson is speechless. For about a second, but still. It's historic. “Franklin Teddy Nelson, just what do you think you mean by tha-”
“Mom, I felt it.”
“Oh sweet Jesus, Foggy.”
Because the thing is, Anna and Edward Nelson aren’t home. They’re in California, on a wine tasting anniversary trip, because the kids are finally out from underfoot, and they've been talking about it, and the sun and sea air would blah blah. Almost 3,000 miles away.
“This isn’t going to be a problem,” he says quickly, which, wow, the law degree must be working cause Foggy can pretty much never lie to his mom and that was a solid B+ lie.
“Foggy…” Okay, a B-. “You should call the professor.”
“Mom, seriously, they have way more important things to do. Like… saving the world. And, I don’t know, I’ll check the school newsletter, but-”
“Call the school, Foggy, or I’ll do it for you.”
So Foggy makes the call.
Going back to Westchester is nerve-racking. Foggy’s well aware that most of Xavier’s pupils either just never leave or graduate to superhero teams. That's not even really a secret now, post-Incident. Post-Avengers. Harvard and Columbia don’t really compete.
He sees no fewer than eight former classmates and teachers on the short walk from the hallway to the professor’s office, and god love them all but Foggy does not want to feel their pain. Like, at all.
Especially not Logan’s.
Professor X is unerringly calm about the whole ‘feeling his mom’s ass in California’ thing. (Wow. Phrasing, Foggy.) It is apparently not unheard of for those of the mutant persuasion to develop or grow their powers, and the fact that Foggy couldn’t do that at all in the four years he spent at the academy is seemingly not a problem.
“The only thing we need to worry about is the risk to you,” Professor X says. “We cannot be sure that you are built to withstand the pain you might be forced to feel, although by and large, I have found our kind to be more resilient than we appear. How many people’s pain have you been able to feel without touching them?”
“Just my mom. Although, there have been these twinges at other times, but that could just be me. Oh, and my roommate once. I think-” and Foggy is really aware that he’s in the room with the most powerful telepath on the eastern seaboard “-I think I have to be really, um, focussed on the person to feel it without touch.” He kind of doesn’t want it to stop either. He’s not sure how knowing those closest to him — family, he is thinking about his family, definitely not Matty there, whatever the circumstances suggest — are in pain is helpful, but it doesn’t feel like something he should block out.
“We can work on some shielding techniques if you find the intrusions get any worse,” the professor says, and that sounds like a good compromise. Telepathy must rock, except in all the ways it is exactly like Foggy’s problem, he realises belatedly.
“Do I need to… come back here?”
“We can have our chats remotely,” Professor X says with a smile, and man, that must have seemed so much cooler before cell phones. Foggy does not say that out loud, of course, but the man’s smile gets wider, so. Telepathy fun.
Anyway, he doesn’t have to go back to school five years after escaping it, so big sighs of relief all round.
“Foggy, do you know why I was happy for you to leave us before you had graduated?” Professor X asks in that genial, comforting way not even Mystique can mimic.
“Uh, because I was an incredibly persuasive teenager?” Foggy asks hopefully.
“Because you have an incredible capacity for love and affection, Foggy. Many who come here need time to learn to love themselves, and others like them. You arrived here willing to befriend every mutant under our roof-” Foggy objects to that, Bobby is an asshole “-and it seemed cruel to keep you from exercising that inspiring affection in a wider environment.”
“The fact that I look like your average stud and couldn’t exactly, you know, X-men it up, didn’t hurt though?” Foggy responds, and the professor twinkles at him. It’s cool. Foggy looks terrible in yellow.
“I would not be surprised if it was love that brought on these developments. You feel very deeply, Foggy; it is entirely possible that it has opened your power to deeper perception.” How very Hallmark. But Foggy hasn’t fallen in love with anyone new since high school. Definitely not in the last year. Definitely not in his dorm room.
“Professor X? I love you man, really-” okay, possibly not the best way to make his point, “but you need to lay off the Harry Potter books. We all liked you more than Dumbledore anyway.”
You’re our favourite gay wizard, he doesn't say out loud but, hey, once again, telepathy. He gets a laugh anyway and it’s almost like being a kid at school again, trying to get anything from the teachers that wasn’t control yourself.
They work out a schedule and a system for meditation which, wow, that’s going to be a fun one to explain to Matt. Still, he’s pretty sure he bought the whole Punjabi is the language of the future thing. Maybe. For like a whole four seconds. But hey, what was a little meditation between buddies?
He doesn't mean to tell Matt when he gets back to Columbia. He manages “oh, so I went back to Xavier’s for a day,” before Matt starts getting that angry-guilt look again, only even sadder, which makes Foggy’s insides ache of their own accord.
“Why?” Matt asks, and then, worried: “You're not in pain, are you?”
“What? No, no, I'm fine, I'm fine. It was more like a school reunion thing.” It's not quite a lie. “I'm maybe a smidge more powerful than I was in high school, but it's all normal and I'm not, like, feeling pain all the time. It's still mostly touching that clues me in.”
“Mostly?” Matt sounds guarded, maybe frightened, Jesus, does he think Foggy’s going to feel every time a fly is swatted on campus or something?
“I can feel my family, I guess, if I'm really really focussed on them?” The prof had said ‘loved ones’ but that's a little heavy and British for Foggy’s liking. “It's fine, Matty, the Nelson clan is notoriously robust and have mostly gotten over the whole hitting themselves with hammers thing. And I should be able to block it out, with the ancient art of, um, crossing my legs and trying really hard not to think.”
“Meditating? I can help with that,” Matt says, sounding almost relieved. The man is a goddamn saint for worrying about Foggy so much.
“Really? That’d be super cool, man, I kinda have no idea how to do it. Is yoga involved? Because I am surprisingly supple as long as no actual bending is required.” Matt laughs, so, score one for mutantkind.
“It’s mostly breathing, Foggy. Come on, I'll show you now. Bed or floor?”
Foggy swallows. Phrasing. “Uh, floor. Gotta be better for posture, right?”
Matt slips to the floor easily, his back against his bed and Foggy follows opposite him. It’s nice, really nice, as Matt shows him how to sit and talks him through the breathing. It’s not easy, his mind keeps slipping to his family members, like he’s trying to feel his dad’s ulcer, but about ten minutes in everything’s very calm, and kind of washed out, like driftwood. He can’t feel pain, at least. Matt gives one of his dazzling smiles and says softly, “There you go,” and Foggy smiles back, sort of dopey.
“How can you tell? My posture’s probably way off.”
“I can hear your- breathing. It’s good. Deep,” he adds with a swallow, and okay, it just got a little weird, so Foggy says,
“Give me your hand,” cause, like, in for a penny. Matty does, instantly, and Foggy gets the familiar rush of feeling someone else’s skin. “So, looks like touch overrides zen, or whatever. Well done on being remarkably contusion-free. You should get that tooth checked though.” He’s still holding Matt’s hand and poking at his own molars with his tongue before reality intrudes. “Oh, shit, man, sorry, should have asked.”
“No, it’s fine. I like it,” Matt says, which is nice of him. ”I wouldn’t touch you if I didn’t want to.” Foggy’s subconscious is going to have some fun with that one later, he can tell. “Can you, um,” No, no, Matt, no stuttering, that is too adorable, not fair, “feel me without touching?”
“What? Uuuh,” and his first instinct is lie, lie through his teeth, but he has to be a good mutant, a responsible mutant, and it’s Matt, so, “maybe once? Definitely once. But man, I get it, it is super-invasive, I am going to work on the inner zen thing, and I have to concentrate really hard so I shouldn’t, uh, do it inadvertently, or whatever, I hope.”
“Foggy, Foggy, relax, it’s okay. It’s good.”
“Matty, it’s like an illegal search. But, like, internal.”
“I like the idea of you checking up on me,” Matt says and Foggy’s sweet liquid centre just melts. “But, uh, maybe check before you do it?”
“What, in case you’ve let a girl get a bit too frisky with the cane?” Jesus, why, mouth, why? Foggy is horrified by his brain. He wants to be a lawyer, he should probably stop incriminating himself. But, Christ, Matt his blushing and chuckling, so he just adds, “Maverick and Goose, man, you have to start helping me out there,” and it’s fine, it’s all fine.
Well, if not then, it is all fine pretty soon, because Foggy meets Marci Stahl. Marci is incredible. She already has his shirt and pants off by the time Foggy gets to choke out “By the way, I’m a mutant,” — which, he did not stall on this one either, she moves fast — and she just rolls her eyes, gestures to his dick and asks:
“Am I going to catch anything? Mutant or otherwise?” Foggy shakes his head emphatically and it’s not three minutes later before he’s on his back and she’s sliding down his dick and he can feel the stretch, the twinge and ache of it, and see how much she’s enjoying it in the way her smirk falls off her face for a second and, god, he might fall in love a little bit right there.
A little later — not that long, Foggy’s not a god and Marci is insanely hot — she rolls over to look at him and quirks an eyebrow. “So, was that your mutation, or what?”
Foggy laughs, explains, and goes down on her again, because that’s not his damn mutation, that’s his superpower.
Being with Marci is great. She calls him out when he’s still wearing gloves in May: “Other people can deal with it, Foggy Bear, just don’t run around touching car-crash victims, okay?” She sends him links about diversity programs which he really wants to leave be, until she railroads him for trying to hide behind his non-blue skin. She’s kind of problematic about the whole thing, but Foggy gets a couple of great summer internship offers and fuck it, he earned them.
They experiment (choking; bad when he does it and can feel his own hands cutting off his throat, fucking brilliant when she holds him down, smirk replaced by a grin; spanking, great all round, totally fucking genetic; everything else a bit too labour-intensive for them).
She’s rude, and honest and she can’t seem to decide if she hates Matt or just everything he stands for, but she’s nice to him anyway and tells him to his face it’s because he’s better at debate and she’s a climber. Matt is civil back, because he’s a saint. Foggy loves them both and keeps them far, far apart.
Marci’s also in pain, most of the time. Foggy never would have guessed, he’s totally dependent on the ‘power’, can’t read hidden pain on people’s faces after years of feeling it. But he spends a lot of nights skin to skin with Marci, and not all of it in a sexy way.
One night he wakes up and she’s curled in on herself and, with her back pressed warm against his chest, he can feel the burning ache and stabbing pains across her belly. He feels her tense when she realises he’s awake, and she turns around with a smile, starts running a hand down his side with a ‘Hey baby,’ on her lips before he cuts her off.
“Hey, hey, I’d love to, but you need Tylenol, and sleep, and maybe surgery, what is that?” Foggy wants to rub her back and tell her it’ll be okay, but it is so much pain and her breathing isn’t even laboured.
She looks at his chest for a moment, then his face, before rolling over to look at the ceiling. Intimacy, right, Foggy should have some boundaries. Like, any boundaries. “I don’t know,” she says softly. Like it’s a secret. “I’ve had my appendix out, I’ve had tests, different meds. They want to do exploratory surgery but my dad’s insurance is shit, Foggy Bear, and they don’t even know what they’d do in there, it’s just to find out what’s going on. It took me four doctors to even convince them it wasn’t cramps, or growing pains or-” she almost sobs, which, no, that is so wrong, and she seems to feel the same way because she inhales fast and deep and is silent.
“Okay, one, those doctors? Are some hypocritical hippocratics. That is painful, Marci, Jesus.” He hasn’t let go of her, he can still feel it like hot needles, because it’s the least he can do to suffer with her. “You should get the surgery when you can, this isn’t okay.”
She laughs, a little brokenly, but snuggles up to him. “Are you sure you’re keen on some other guy getting his hands on me?”
“Hey, he might find your soul in there.”
“If he does, I’ll have him take it out,” she shoots back, and then she starts snuggling with intent and and Foggy has to lay down the law. Instead of, you know, laying the law student. Nice.
“Tylenol. Bed. Maybe a back rub. Mutant’s orders.”
“You’re too sweet and kind for this world and it will eat you up,” she says, but she saunters across her room to get a couple of pills and some water. “I’m just taking the first bite.”
It doesn’t work out. It should, really. She doesn’t mind sharing pain — “I have to deal with it, I don’t see why you shouldn’t, fairness isn’t an option” — and she brings out a ruthless streak in his law work that has him seeing dollar signs, but, well. There’s a reason it’s a streak and not the whole of him. Foggy’s been a softy from day one, quite literally when it comes to his wonderfully conditioned hair, and he can’t think like her. He can feel her pain, but he can’t react like she does.
Matt is a fantastic bro about the whole break-up thing. Foggy barely notices all the free time not spent with Marci anymore because Matt has endless suggestions for stuff to do together. A lot of them are studying, because he is a nerd of the highest order, but there’s really dodgy restaurants and terrible dive bars and walking, so much walking, Foggy can’t even put on break-up weight because Matt’s hooking his hand into the crook of his elbow and demanding to be taken to the park like a frigging puppy.
Foggy seriously starts thinking about checking for a pair of rooms in a nursing home cause he and Matty? Friends to the grave, man. Avocados at law.
More time with Matt means more meditation, it turns out, because while Foggy had gone with an orgasms=inner peace philosophy for his seven months (and two weeks) with Marci, Matt believes in training the mind. He and Matt spend a lot of time cross-legged and breathing together, and honestly, it probably should be awkward, or maybe sexy, but it's just… nice. Comforting. And Foggy, against all his expectations, becomes actually pretty nifty at meditation.
It’s really helpful, not just at blocking out his mom’s many, many baking accidents, but also focussing when he wants to feel someone’s pain.
He only checks in like that on his family with their permission. Cause, hey, it might not have been legislated against, but it feels like breaking privacy laws. He’s finding ways to fudge it though, like asking the old guy at the bodega if it’s alright to check up on his health, without specifying a method (his ID literally has an M on it though, thanks to some shitty laws, so the dude could work it out.) And whenever he gets a bit wobbly about it, Matt’ll squeeze his shoulder and tell him he’s doing the right thing and Foggy could live on that alone, so, yeah.
The first time he realises he can in fact feel bodega-guy’s pain from his dorm room with just a little meditation and focus, he does a little dance round the room, narrating to Matt: “Okay, now it’s kind of the macarena, but double time, and yep, I’m going to attempt a superman, like woah.”
The second time he checks in on bodega-guy, he becomes intimately familiar with what a heart attack feels like and has to get Matt to call an ambulance while he fucking shakes and tries to snap his mind away. As soon as the call is done Matt’s kneeling beside him with a hand on his chest, counting out Foggy’s heartbeats to reassure him it’s still there, still working, still healthy.
Bodega-man lives. His name is Pedro, and Foggy starts buying all his cigars to stop him from smoking them, which greatly improves his relationship with Bess Mahoney.
He dates. (Not Bess Mahoney. Not Brett Mahoney either, more’s the pity.) He parties. He studies, a little. He graduates Cum Laude to Matt’s Summa. And he calls ambulances for two heart attacks, a stroke and also the police when his Ohio cousin’s husband starts hitting him. Every call is hard, especially the last, but he gets a burner phone that can’t be traced and Matt, when he’s about, or the next day, squeezes his arms or touches his chest or once, memorably, cups his face to keep him grounded and remind him he’s only feeling the pain, not living it.
And if he feels a little more than pain when Matt touches him, that’s his business.
There’s a dickhead at Landman and Zack who calls them the ‘Diversity Duo’. He’s a killer shark of a lawyer, though he’s not made partner yet, so Foggy sucks it up and grumbles about it in their storage cupboard/office, and Marci occasionally sends him texts that detail exactly where she’s going to ram her Laboutins, once she can afford Laboutins.
Matt gets angry. Really angry. Foggy thinks it’s on both of their behalfs, but most of his rants are about mutant rights and while it’s super flattering, Foggy has to step in occasionally and remind him that hey, it’s kind of only his business who suffers ‘the consequences of their actions’. Oh, and maybe God’s, because the Catholicism has gone up like three notches since they started at L&Z, and Foggy hadn’t realised that was possible.
Things are good, though, for all that they are in many ways terrible. Hell’s Kitchen is home again, though his parents moved upstate yonks ago to run a hardware store frequented by actual carpenters, with etsy accounts and unkempt plaits. It's changed a bit, since that six months it spent underneath a giant space worm — lotta weird smells now — but there's still a sweet bakery on the corner of the street where his mom’s store was, and he manages to insinuate himself into a shitty apartment above it without destroying his credit.
He’s a perfect New Yorker above 59th and below 34th, but in Hell’s Kitchen he’s home, and he doesn’t mind striking up a conversation with anyone unlucky enough to share a bar with him. Half of them remember Nelson’s hardware, and the other half know a cousin or twenty, and it’s comfortable in a way Landman and Zack just can’t be. He balances the two, and it’s enough.
They are both deemed rising stars, which is great, and the internship gives them a crack at a bunch of different specialisms. Foggy contemplates going into real estate law — not just because there are a couple of stone cold foxes in that department, Rebecca and Audra, so what if he only knows their names, thanks Matt — but he keeps coming back to defence. He also keeps getting Thurgood Marshall quoted at him, which he basically memorised in law school from Matt repeating it in his sleep.
So it's not exactly a surprise when Matt wants to leave. And here, here Foggy is an idiot, a blissful idiot. He's been so happy, working with Matt every day, feeling out his potential, earning actual money and eating all the free bagels he desires, he doesn't think it's possible that it'll all disappear. Happiness has become routine, and hey, leaving with Matt and the box of bagels also feels like happiness. The only thing he's losing is the money, and he knows he's a good lawyer, that Matt’s a great lawyer, that fame and fortune are just around the corner.
So, yeah. Idiot. He really regrets that one.
Because things get weird almost immediately. They meet at Josie’s, and Matt laughs off a split lip from putting out the trash like it's nothing. But when their glasses clink, their fingers touch, and Foggy can’t stop himself from feeling a bruise on his chest, a strained ankle, aching knuckles. It's a lot for a fall.
Matt would tell him, though. If something was up. They've told each other everything from day one.
Except, okay, Foggy doesn't mention the night pains right when they start.
It's maybe a week after they leave L&Z (with 32 bagels, most of which are in Foggy’s freezer to this day). They've got plans to start looking for office space, fill out paperwork, whatever, Foggy imagines the whole 'starting a firm’ thing can be stretched out to about a month of meetings in Josie’s before they’re both too poor to eat.
Anyway, Foggy comes back to his crappy apartment after one of those meetings and flops, fully clothed, onto his bed, expecting to wake up around two in the afternoon. Instead, at two in the morning, he wakes from a very nice dream about Nelson and Murdock being awarded the Nobel Prize for Lawyering to the feeling of his chest being kicked in.
Christ, it hurts. But he knows, immediately, instinctively, that it's not his — he's bigger than whoever is getting the shit kicked out of them. His hands ache, his ribs feel cracked, there's a burning slash across one arm that he can't quite figure out through the fire until he remembers that knives are a thing.
It's terrifying to feel pain he hasn't sought out. For a second he looks around his tiny bedroom to see if some wounded felon has broken in and, what, touched him for the giggles? One deep breath, two, three, up to a count of ten and he can pull his mind away, but he's shaking.
He almost calls Matt, but it's two in the morning, he is not a child.
Nah, he does the mature adult thing and drinks until he falls unconscious. In the morning (aka, four pm) Matt is happy to let him postpone their next meeting when Foggy’s hangover won't let him leave bed.
“You don't sound so hot either,” he grumbles down the line as Matt chuckles, and it's not until he hangs up he remembers he meant to tell him about the intrusion.
Eh. It'll come up. It always does.
It happens twice more before they set up the firm, once literally the day before they get their office. Twice more to Foggy, that is — he’s pretty sure the guy’s getting more punishment than that, because once he gets over the shock of sensing a stranger, he can distinguish between old wounds and new. That’s how he can tell it’s the same guy, the twinge of his ribs is familiar, which is all kinds of horrifying. It's not as bad as the first time, but Foggy gets seriously worried about whoever’s broadcasting their pain like a foghorn. The guy (and one precise nut-shot Foggy gets to feel confirms it's definitely a dude, though probably a dude wearing a cup, which is this guy's only smart choice) needs help.
He can’t throw his sixth sense back to ‘the guy’ once he breaks the connection though. It’s like trying to search for a siren that’s gone silent, there’s nothing doing. He does what he can to improve his shielding between, you know, setting up a (soon-to-be, maybe) prestigious law firm and trying to argue Matt round to taking clients, plural, not just the innocent one he’s sure will stumble into their waiting arms.
Speaking of innocent clients stumbling into his arms, hello Karen Page. Granted, at first she dings every guilty bell in Foggy’s…. Belfry? That metaphor got away from him. Also, she seems to want to stumble more towards Matt’s arms, which Foggy can’t fault her for, she has eyes and ears and, hey, for that matter, a mouth and nose, all facial features present, correct and very, very symmetrical, if you’re into conventional beauty standards. Which, um, yeah. Foggy’s with convention there.
Anyway, she stumbles back to Matt’s apartment, which is fair because he has a couch and not a fold-away ironing board like Foggy offers his guests, and Foggy gets to sleep uneasily hoping he doesn’t wake up with his partner and only client murdered by shadowy forces.
What he actually wakes up to is a feeling like he bruised every bone in his body. “Seriously, dude?” he asks his ceiling. “I have a case! An important case! With a very attractive client who needs me to be well rested and fresh faced when I sue her employers and the NYPD for everything they have, can you not for one night?”
There is no response, and the pain continues until Foggy focusses his breathing and pulls away.
The next day Karen is not dead, hell yes, although not for lack of trying. Still, Foggy gets to taste the best ratatouille of his life and gets a free secretary, and the only price he has to pay is hearing the story of the nut in a mask about a dozen times. It takes him a dozen times to join the dots though, so maybe that’s a good thing.
“Wait, did you say jumped out of a window? Several stories?”
“Onto the road, yeah, but he got up and it was- it took me a while to get down there, but the way he fought was incredible. Unbelievable.”
“Hell, I bet this is my guy!” Karen looks at him blankly. Matt just looks blank. “Oh, right, that only makes sense to me, sharing time. Karen, I am a mutant.”
She bursts out laughing, but stops herself quickly when Foggy just keeps smiling at her. “You’re shitting me.”
“Nope. Also Matt is blind, and a Sagittarius, I hope that’s cool with you?”
“I- yes, god, yes, sorry, I thought. Um. Can I ask you kind of a personal question?”
“I use conditioner, yes.” She smiles, yes, one point for Foggy getting the normie onside. Matt frowns like he can literally hear Foggy think the word normie, or maybe he thinks Karen is too recently traumatised for teasing, whatever. “I’m an empath, I can feel other people’s pain when I touch their skin or if I focus a lot.”
“Wow, that’s, uh-”
“It’s super lame for anything other than a cheap party trick. Speaking of which, you wanna see a cheap party trick?”
“Sure, do me.” To which Foggy can only waggle his eyebrows.
“I’m waggling my eyebrows, Matt, because Karen wants me to do her.”
“Workplace harassment, counsellor. I hear Ms Page has a very good lawyer.”
“ Two excellent lawyers, Mr Murdock. Okay, okay, Karen, give me your hand?” He could do it by thinking about her, she’s so close and so vivid in his mind it’d take barely a second, but one thing he’s learnt is that powers with obvious physical limits are much less disconcerting. She puts her hand in his like a lady would and he holds it lightly, almost no grip, in case she wants to pull back.
“So your head hurts, which would be a more impressive diagnosis if you hadn’t told us the story of last night in graphic detail. Bruising on your wrist, hasn’t shown up yet but it’ll be a good one. You cut yourself shaving before all this shabang, on her leg, Matt, I’m so sorry, his face is just like that, can’t take him anywhere. See?” he adds, after a beat. “Pretty useless.”
He can also feel how her cuticles are bitten to the quick, and how her chest is tight from constant panic and how she’s scratched and picked at her heels so hard they’re bleeding but, hey, boundaries.
Karen smiles, and she looks actually a bit relaxed for, like, the first time since Foggy’s known her.
Matt, on the other hand, tenses up and leans across the remnants of the delicious ratatouille. “You said something about your guy?”
“Oh, yeah, right! I’ve been getting weird episodes from some guy — I’m pretty much sure it’s the same guy — waking me up over the past couple of months. I think he might be Tyler Durden, he gets beat up a lot. I did not mean that in a way that implies I’ve had a psychotic break, just to be clear.”
Matt starts doing concerned face. And guilt face. At the same time. “He’s hurting you?”
Karen makes a little noise and starts clearing their plates as Foggy leans closer to his friend.
“No, Matty, he’s hurting himself. Or other people are hurting him. I mean, I’d like to help the guy if I could but I can’t reach him, he’s a blank. He just gets me when I’m sleeping sometimes. Maybe I’ve got a sneaky secondary mutation in here somewhere, or he does. C’mon, Matty, no pouting, we are celebrating a successful case AND Karen’s new job, be of good cheer.” He goes to ruffle his hair, because nothing distracts Matt like screwing up his perfect do, but he flinches back and Foggy has to settle for a shoulder pat.
(It doesn’t cross his mind until later, the big significant Later that signifies all has changed, how Matt knew to flinch.)
“I have a theory,” he confides, because Karen is still busying herself with plates and saran wrap and praise Jesus, there are leftovers. “I think he’s a mutant, and he’s, like psionically broadcasting and I’m picking him up. It’s a terrible theory, because I asked the Professor if he’d felt anything and he’s the most powerful telepath on the continent and he felt nothing, but I thought, maybe it’s empaths only. I’m probably the only empath in New York State. And an X-gene helps with mad fighting skills — not for me, but, you know, it heightened my charm and good looks.”
Matt still looks uncomfortable, but he nods. “That sounds plausible.”
“And it’d be cool to be linked to someone like that. Like a matched pair. Like us, but with superpowers. Or, the useless powers of being hit in the face a lot and being able to feel that. Karen, IS THAT A CAKE?”
The Friday night of drinking the eel is historic for two reasons. One, he and Karen DRINK THE EEL. This will undoubtedly turn out to have imbued them with superpowers, he confides in her. Karen giggles and points out he already has powers, though she drops the super so no one’s fooled.
Second, Foggy realises he is still, still, in love with Matt. Yeah, yeah, slow on the uptake there, Nelson. But the thing is, Karen is amazing. She’s funny and principled and she mocks him mercilessly, which is an excellent quality in literally anyone and pretty much guarantees that Foggy will adore her and yet- he goes all platonic.
Sure, it’s not a date, or at least, if it is it’s a date with New York, with Hell’s Kitchen, it’s about showing her the streets he’s loved since before he could totter down them. It’s not until they’re outside Matt’s door, banging and hollering, and the man is blind, not deaf, and Foggy is drunk with eel, and drink, and power, he realises, there, like everything and nothing at once.
It sort of hurts like it did the first time, in college, when Matt shot him down faster than Foggy could awkwardly no homo his way out of it, but maybe he’s grown since then, or felt a lot more pain, or both (or maybe the eel really does have magic powers) because he doesn’t panic. Things will continue as they always have. He’s just glad he got to skip, like, four years of pining.
He’s gone quiet and stupid, and Karen flicks him on his forehead. “Earth to Foggy! Are you using your mutant powers? Cause that’s not a game we can both play.”
He shakes his head, and smiles, and tries not to think about the fact that Karen is an astonishingly beautiful woman, and so will in all likelihood date Matt, as every beautiful woman (bar Marci — and Karen’s no Marci) in his life to date has done. “I am hunky dory peachy pie. Possibly allergic to eels, but that is further proof we need to go to the fish market and test that theory!”
God bless her, Karen is drunk enough to take that as the truth. Sorta. Amazing. She takes his arm when he offers it and Foggy leads her through his city and makes it safe, and loved, and light again. Because, he can be honest here, sometimes Foggy Nelson is a saint.
So he watches Karen watch Matt in the office, and does a fair bit of Matt watching himself, and it’s kind of like college, with the banter and the terrible food and the paperwork they somehow generate despite having clients in the single figures.
Only this time, there’s a difference, and it weighs in Foggy’s gut like a rock. Matt knows.
He doesn’t come out with them at night, even when it’s just a quick drink at Josie’s. Way too many calls go unanswered, like he’s afraid of what Foggy’s going to say if he picks up — to which, pah, he has drunk the eel and kept this secret, no amount of drunk dialling is going to get him to spill his guts. He’s not there anymore, late in the mornings, early to leave. Foggy tries not to notice but it stings.
Also, Matt starts dropping Catholicism into his conversations again. And nothing says ‘Please don’t with your bisexuality’ like mentioning your priest.
Worst of all, though, Matt stops touching him. Not entirely — there’s the odd back pat, now and again, but the fist bumps, the hugs, Jesus, Foggy thinks he’s been without a Matt hug since L&Z. Which sounds weird, and potentially stalkerish, like he keeps charts of contact like Matthew Broderick in that one Meg Ryan movie, which, no. But. He notices. He's allowed to notice.
Matt has to know, it’s the only explanation.
Fortunately for Foggy, no one says anything. Karen gives him looks sometimes, because she’s smarter than both of them and has taken to investigation like a bloodhound. Foggy definitely doesn’t say anything — his thesis was literally about self-incrimination and he’s not an idiot. And Matt — Matt’s not even really there to say something.
Which sucks, because life suddenly gets a lot faster, and Foggy could use someone to hold onto for the ride. Two of their first clients are dead within a week of taking on their cases, which, Christ, Hell’s Kitchen was kind of a shithole, but never that much when he was a kid. (Except, well, he knows the story of Matt’s dad, so maybe it always was, just out of sight.) There is a point where Karen is the only Nelson & Murdock client still alive, and even that’s in jeopardy because the woman has 1) a serious death wish and 2) the aforementioned bloodhound instincts. All Foggy has is a baseball bat and a growing pain tolerance.
(Also he has the X-Men’s phone number, which he thinks of calling precisely once after the Kitchen gets its own costumed Cirque du Soleil act. But ‘Hey, I might be murdered by the mob, or maybe a vigilante’ doesn’t scream superhero team after, you know, aliens raining from the sky. Also, he would rather call Brett over Bobby any time. Bobby’s an asshole.)
Then Foggy has his second big realisation. Again, Matt’s front door is involved — Foggy really needs to get a key for that thing, because the roof workaround is a doozy. He’s running up to said roof access when he reaches for Matt’s pain — without his permission, sure, yes, bad, but it’s the first time and there were noises in that apartment and people keep trying to kill them — and he has to stop on the stairs, double over. It’s honestly a miracle that all of the booze from Elena’s wake stays inside him.
Matt is dying. Sliced and diced and Foggy’s crying and running and through that door in record time. Down the stairs, in the knowledge that this cut is this close to an artery, that slash could have taken out a tendon, and he doesn’t really care if whoever came to kill Matt is waiting for him too because there’s no more pain to feel.
He doesn’t need to take off the man in black’s mask to know, but hey, it’s a pretty face. He usually likes looking at it.
The blood does make him vomit. Neatly, into the sink. He can’t stop shaking, and he can’t pull his mind away from Matt’s pain, can’t find his zen, for, like, the obvious reason of his traitor best friend man of his dreams vigilante dude dying on the rug.
Hottie McBurnerphone leaves a bottle of painkillers on the counter and gives Foggy a look when he palms two of them, but clearly decides that a burgeoning pill addiction is the least of her problems and scuttles out before Matt regains consciousness. Foggy keeps the pills, rolls them in his hand through every word, every lie, every shitty moment of that exceptionally shitty conversation.
He sits, stands and shouts his way through it, and he can feel every twinge, every sting, every time Matt moves too fast for his stitches, or pokes his wounds, or moves his face. They’re equal in that, and it feels bitter, and victorious, like the pain is giving him the higher ground. It’s very Catholic. Matt hasn’t taken any of the damn painkillers, so neither will Foggy, even though mortification of the flesh sounded sexier in period movies.
And Matt says:
“I know when you’re in pain. I know when it’s not yours.”
And Foggy asks:
“Do you know when it’s yours?”
And then Matt takes the pills.
Foggy waits until he’s walked out the door to take his, and they’re warm, and his palm is sweaty and chalky, but he washes it down with beer and whisky and Marci Stahl, so all in all, probably only the worst night of his life.
His mouth still tastes bitter when he takes out his phone to call her, and he can't tell if it's the drinks or the pills or that final exchange (You don't know that! Yes I do, Yes I do, I did. On day one.) He can't remember how much of it he said out loud now, what he left unsaid. Now he can't lie.
“You can’t have your job back,” Marci says when she picks up, on the second time he’s rung because she is busy and important but she hasn’t sold her heart yet. “It’s mine now, and I am better at it than you.”
“I don't want it.” He really should, what with his lying partner going all extrajudicial on him, but Elena Cardenas isn't even in the ground yet and he'd never have been able to help her — or fail to help, yeah, that stings — at L&Z.
“So, are you calling for a hook-up, Foggy-b-?”
“Don't call me that. I'm looking for comfort, for a friend, can you do that?”
“Foggy, this is Marci. I think your thumb slipped trying to call Matt.”
“Really, really no. Nope. Nu-uh. No.”
There's a pause. Anyone else, she'd have hung up, but Foggy’s earned that pause. “Oookay, we're going to do this my way then. You're going to leave whatever shitty bar you're in, come to my apartment, and you better be able to get your dick up when you get here or I can't help you.” She rattles off her address and hangs up without a goodbye.
When he knocks on her door, she opens it in her underwear — great underwear, really 10 out of 10, matching and soft-looking and almost no concealed spikes. It helps to counter the alcohol in his bloodstream. “If you cry, I'm kicking you out,” she warns when he steps inside. But she kisses him like it’s three years ago, like he deserves it, soft but fast, curling a hand in the shorter hair at the back of his neck and tugging when he gets distracted.
Putting his hands on her skin is bliss, is a revelation, and not just because her moisturiser regime is top notch. “You feel better,” he murmurs into her neck.
She preens, presses her breasts, still in silk, against his now-bare chest. “Better than who? I wanna know who doesn't measure up. Well, everyone, but specifically.”
Urgh, he adores her, they could have been epic sharks together, why- no, distractions. “No, I mean you feel better. Well, you feel well.”
She stills in his arms. “The job has great insurance.” She sighs, not in the sexy swoony way, which, okay, he hasn't pulled out his moves yet, but there is no need to sound exasperated. “You don't need to look after me, Foggy. That's the very opposite of what is happening here. Pain or no pain, I'm sucking your dick tonight, okay?”
He struggles to explain with three whiskies holding back his tongue. “I like that you're not in pain, though,” and he means it's helping, that it's clearing his mind and relaxing his muscles from hours of pain-stoked adrenaline.
But Marci just assumes he's a good person, mutters, “And that's why I'm blowing you. Take off your pants.”
So there's really no time for a nuanced discussion of selflessness.
In those brief few days when Nelson and Murdock is just Nelson, ambling from bar to bar in a pathetic — yeah, he knows it, he owns it — attempt to not think of Matt’s crying face — and hey, also pathetic, snap — Marci is the best thing to happen to him. Everything else breaks down.
Matt is everywhere, for all he doesn’t see him. Hell, he literally could be, lurking in shadows or flipping off buildings, whatever he has to ‘for the city’. Three days is probably the longest he's gone without seeing him bar the holidays, and even then, Matt's come to his more often than not in the past five years. But now, instead of seeing his friend he sees the Bush bobble-head Matt got him when Foggy ran for law soc president, and remembers the red-lipped smirk. He sees the extra beer in his refrigerator. (He drinks it. Doesn't help).
And, of course, he feels the pain. That one he finally figures out — he dreams about Matt and wakes up feeling his pain. Now, though, they're not so much happy dreams, or happy dreams, but bloody, wounding nightmares of death and destruction, so he wakes to sweating through his sheets before he feels whatever injuries Matt’s picked up on his quest for fist-based justice.
Time, he tells himself. He needs time and distance and a shit tonne of meditation without thinking of Matty’s chest rising and falling in time with his own. He almost calls the professor for help with a block, but even as it crawls under his skin, he needs to keep Matt’s secret. Loyalty has never felt quite so shitty, even if there's a kind of bitter delight in being the better friend. Not-friend. Whatever.
So instead he tells himself time and distance. He gives himself neither.
Putting this one up a little early 'cause... well, it's been that sort of week.
Matt in so much pain it’s like the city is trying to scream through his skin, and for the first time since he was a kid Foggy hates his mutation. He hates his power more than he can bring himself to hate Matt, and that’s the beginning of the end, really — he’s stretched and pulled as far away as he can, but he springs back like rubber. Sticks like glue. Textbook love. Playground, even.
They settle some things in the gym. Not Foggy’s heartbeat, rabbit-fast in his chest, but the questions that he forgot to ask, the doubts that needed time to grow.
(“Definitely not a mutant, then?”
“No. I would have told-” A lie, maybe, probably, but at least Matt doesn't finish it. “Sometimes I wish I was.”
“Fuck off,” he has to reply, but he doesn't mean it as much as he could. As he should.)
Moving forward is so much easier said than done, though, and even then sometimes Foggy has to spend a minute or two reciting it into the mirror, between brushing and flossing, until it sounds like a possibility and not another lie.
Because it's not that easy. They ride the high of Fisk in jail for a few days, maybe a week, but it’s a veneer.
Holding Karen’s hand and feeling the way her eyes sting and her throat aches after screaming through panic attack after panic attack, her wrists aching from all the shaking she's been doing, her lungs burning. Foggy starts getting acid reflux like he had during finals, every night. It keeps him up until the early hours of the morning. It helps cut down on the dreams — can’t dream if you can’t sleep — but also turns him into the most irritable man alive, and he’s got an easygoing, joyous, playboy philanthropist rep to maintain.
He puts up a sign, he smiles and jokes, but Marci drops him as kindly as she can (“This is a job hunt, not a date. Unless you get a new job, then we can date. But not while you’re sticking to Murdock like the saddest limpet in all of Hudson Bay.”)
So they’re two weeks into the new normal, with clients who have cases instead of a massive organised crime conspiracy stacked against them — it’s weird, but hey, paycheck. He files paperwork, Karen goes through depositions, Matt does the charm thing with a steady stream of visitors and it should be nice, but the bile is still rising in his throat every day, Karen’s still shaking and Foggy knows, with perfect, horrible clarity exactly how many bruises his partner is sporting under suits that hang a little looser than they did.
It’s five on a Friday, and Matt’s already headed through the door when Karen hesitates her way into Foggy’s office.
“Oooooh, boy,” he says when he looks up and sees her hovering, “are we doing this? Are we talking about it?”
“Ben’s funeral. You were out of line. You should have been there.”
“Yep.” He’s not proud of it, but it’s also embarrassingly far down his list of issues to deal with.
“And things are still weird between you and Matt.”
“Just between me and Matt?”
She sidesteps that one. They’ll make a lawyer of her yet, if she stays long enough. “You should talk to him. Figure it out.”
“We did. This is us now.”
She slams her hand down on his desk. “Jesus, Foggy, what happened? You were a team, you were happy. Were you- I thought, at the start, you were together, and then I guessed not, but you’re not with Marci and I thought, maybe after the hospital, and Elena-”
“Okay, nosy Nelly, let’s pull back from that line of enquiry. I have not made Matty sad with either the presence or lack of my big bisexual dick, okay? Not his boyfriend. Never been that. Never will.” But, damn, his guts are twisting on that last part, because it was fine, when they were friends, best friends. Unrequited love was easy when he thought Matty deserved all the love in the world, when he thought Matty was, ahem, blind to his feelings. Instead though, he’s been lied to, hurt, put through the damn wringer and this is what he gets? Karen’s resolve face?
“Okay,” Karen says, in a way that suggests total indifference to Foggy’s opinions on the matter. “Okay. But it’s on you to fix it.”
“Why? Why is it always on me to fix it?” He’s a little loud, indignant, but Karen stands her ground, lays out her case.
“Because I don’t think Matt can. When you le- when you weren’t here, he acted like he deserved it.” He did, Foggy lets himself think, a brief vicious vindication that dies almost as soon as it occurs. “And that meant not even trying to make it better. He takes whatever he’s given. He’ll take what you give him.”
“Stop trying to bring this back to my dick, Karen.”
“Really wasn’t.” But she smiles back at him, and some of the tension leeches out of the room. “You wanna claim the moral high ground, that’s fine. But you have to be the bigger person.”
“Pretty sure I am,” he says, gesturing — with perfect jazz hands, thank you theatre camp — to the broad expanse of his shoulders. “Or was than also about my-”
Half a laugh. “I am not talking about your dick! You have to talk to him!” Resolve face is back. “Foggy-”
“Right, fine, okay, this is me packing my briefcase, this is me ending my day, and yeah, okay, I will talk to Matt, tomorrow, but only so he can clarify to you that this is 110 per cent his fault. 98. 95, and that’s really as far as I’m going on this.”
“Okay. Okay.” He leaves her in the office, crosses the street, and hours later, when he heads to Josie’s for bottled courage, the lights are still on, bright and cold in the dark.
Matt’s front door is as implacable as ever. Foggy’s really hoping there are no more revelations lurking behind it, because the first two hurt enough. He hammers for long enough that Fran starts grumbling about her dentures being knocked out.
“It’s open,” Matt calls from inside, and it’s unreasonable, but it sets Foggy’s teeth on edge, just one more moment of putting up with Matt Murdock and he’s gonna-
Well. There’s the problem. Can’t give out ultimatums willy nilly when he’s not willing to follow through.
“We need to talk, Matt, because Karen is judging me, and I only deserve, like, 10 per cent of it-” The Ben stuff, he deserves the Ben stuff, maybe it’s more like 12 per cent “-and it turns out I-” the billboard outside lights up just before Foggy puts his foot in a pool of something red.
Without a thought he reaches for Matt’s pain. He knows his every ache by heart now, it feels. This is his life now, huh?
He’s not on the couch, so Foggy storms towards the bedroom. “Were you just going to lie there dying and let me yell at you? Don’t answer that, that was a stupid question, I don’t know why I asked, because of course you were, see, this is why Karen thinks I’m an asshole!”
“Foggy,” is all Matt says, like it’s a surprise. There’s an open first aid kit on the bed and a needle in his hand, and Foggy despairs of this man. He goes to take it away and Matt flinches back. “Don’t touch me.”
Foggy knows that Matt can’t see his face fall, but maybe his heart does something as his stomach flops, because Matt whines almost immediately: “No, no, don’t want to hurt you.”
“Buddy, if you think I can’t feel you right now, you’ve had some IQ points beaten out of you.” It’s a distinct possibility.
Matt frowns through the blood on his face and then, at the edge of his perception, his sense, his power, whatever, Foggy feels the slightest nudge. For a moment he stands there, confused, before he realises what it is. A shield. A really shitty shield, but it’s there, and Foggy’s heart sort of breaks, or maybe flowers , because he’s pissed, he’s really pissed, but he’s had years to love and learn Matt Murdock and he recognises an act of self-sacrifice when he sees one.
“Don’t you fucking dare, Murdock,” he growls, and then he dives for Matt with everything he’s got, mind body and soul — grabs his hand, grabs his pain, hugs it to his chest, and honestly, he can’t even tell if it’s a metaphor because his head bursts with Matt .
For a moment he loses track of his own body completely, stuck in Matt’s bones, in his laboured breath, in the scabs on his knees and the scars on his back. It’s just a split second, though, because then it’s definitely his shoulders heaving, his hair brushing his cheeks as he shakes his head.
He drops Matt’s hand, takes a few steps back, and tries to pull his mind away, but the pains remain.
It’s mighty strange, because the pains are all the same, but somehow different — not less painful, if anything, a little more, but altered. A stab wound on Matt’s arm feels a little shallower, not so close to the bone, like Matt suddenly grew an inch of fat, and Foggy wishes it was lighter so he could see if it’s changed on Matt, and also why his stomach feels wet-
The billboard lights up again.
“Hey, would you look at that,” he murmurs, as the red blooms through his shirtsleeve. “Secondary mutation. I wonder if they’ll bump me up a level for it. That’d be neat.”
He punctuates the thought by passing out.
When he comes to, Matt’s nurse friend is glaring at him. Hot people are always mad at him, it’s unjust. He can’t see much beyond her, but he can hear the bustle and bleeps and smell the industrial bleach and faint taint of urine that means hospital. “What’s wrong? Is Matt hurt?”
It takes him about half a second to remember he was the one bleeding and passing out, and realise he’s the one in a hospital bed. Oops. Claire rolls her eyes.
“Matt is fine. Matt is, in fact, in peak physical condition. Never better. You, on the other hand,” the glare gets worse, Foggy briefly thinks it might be physically painful before he registers that, no, he’s just in pain, ow , “you have picked up three stab wounds, chemical burns, a cracked rib, more bruises than I can count and a probable concussion that you didn’t even get from Matt, but from when you collapsed and hit your head on his stupidly hard floor.”
Foggy grins dopily. “Aw, Matt didn’t catch me when I swooned?”
“I tried!” comes a protestation from behind Claire. Foggy’s in too much pain to crane his neck, so he lifts his arm — ow — and flips him off. “I’m fixing the floor problem, that won’t happen again,” he adds, which, okay, even Foggy can see that the floor is not the problem, and he’s apparently severely wounded.
“He’s buying rugs on ebay,” Claire tells him. “He keeps asking me if they look soft enough.”
“Amazon!” Matt corrects. “They’ll get here faster.”
Foggy groans. “You can’t fix every problem with internet shopping, Matt, we went over this in college.”
“I can and I will!”
“So what are we buying to fix the stab wounds?” Foggy asks. He means it to be funny, but the silence that follows is distinctly guilty.
“I mean, if you want to buy gauze and needles, that could be helpful. Your home kit is running low,” Claire volunteers after a moment or two, and the plastic taps of Matt’s Amazon addiction resume.
“Can I ask why I'm in the hospital? None of the previous Da-” Claire clears her throat, loudly, and Foggy makes it past the wooziness to realise that, yes that was a bad idea to say out loud “-um, bizarre steak knife noodle incident woundings have generally meant hospital.”
“It’s different,” Matt mutters, and Claire snorts.
“I was on shift,” she explains, before adding, “and our mutual friend is apparently much more confident at stitching his own wounds than yours.” She pitches a glare towards where Matt is still solving concussion with his credit card. “Although you might have survived it, given how fast they’re healing. As much as I would like the credit, that’s probably why you’re still alive.”
“Healing factor?” he asks, brightly. Then: “I’m not going to develop immortality, am I? Cause I know a guy, and that’s really not for me.”
“Maybe don’t test that one,” Claire advises. “Visiting hours are over in twenty minutes, Matt,” she adds, before she glides out. She’s got a damn fine glide, and it’s not just the drugs saying that. (It might be the drugs that make him say it out loud.)
Matt doesn’t leave. Despite Claire’s diagnosis of perfect health, to Foggy he looks pale and wan and his knuckles — admittedly unbroken — are clenched white around his laptop. The noises and smells and sights are enough to keep Foggy up some of the night, so he can’t imagine what it’s like for Matt, but he stays.
Well, at one point he jumps out of a window to avoid being seen by a security guard, but Foggy can see him gripping to the side of the building from his bed. He’s pretty sure that was real life, not the drugs.
In the morning the doctors are happy to let him leave. Well, not so much happy as intrigued, offended, and murmuring about vivisection, at which point Matt starts lawyering hard. It’s impressive how well he lawyers, given he’s in sweatpants and a t-shirt and is not supposed to be in the building. At one point he claims to have the mutant division of the ACLU on speed-dial. Foggy tries valiantly not to find it hot.
Claire grabs him as they head for the door, tells Matt to go buy coffees because “Foggy’s going to need the sugar, okay?” Matt scuttles, and Foggy barely has time to protest that he feels fine, in a multiple-stab-wounds kind of way, before she’s lowering her voice and getting all, well, vigilante-y.
“Are you going to do this again? Cause you don’t seem stupid, but I had a reasonably high opinion of myself before I got tangled up with him, and all the others-” All the others is a line Foggy would very much like to hear more on, but she hustles on. “And I want to point out now, if you start helping him, helping anyone, you’re probably not going to stop.”
He nods. Slowly. “Probably not.”
“Yeah, I thought so. You prepared to end up blind? Dead?”
“Not remotely. Could happen anyway though.”
“Right.” She scrawls her number across the back of his hand. Her arms and the bottom of her feet ache, and her stomach is twisted with hunger, but Foggy keeps schtum. “For the inevitable emergency.”
“Thanks.” She’s still stunning, but Foggy’s not under the impression she wants him to call any other time. “Matt heard this whole conversation, you realise,” he adds, in case the flippy ninja bastard had been cagey on the details.
“Oh, I know.” She looks him dead in the eye, and there’s a certainty to her he can’t help but envy. “But I don’t think he would have started it himself.”
On cue, Matt returns, spine stiff and clutching two coffees fit to burst them. “We’re going.”
“Yep, sure, yesiree, right after I thank Claire for the part where she probably saved my life last night and has generally been an all around swell person on the life-saving front and probably also in her varied personal life, which is why we are polite, Matthew. Thank you, Claire.”
Claire has exceptionally eloquent eyebrows, but she adds anyway: “Maybe you’ll be okay.”
They make it maybe half a block before Matt growls, “You're not doing that again.”
Foggy takes a long sip of his coffee. It's just as he likes it, too sweet by half for anyone else. “Great, glad to hear it. What are we doing with the Double D costume? Burning it? Semi-Satanic ritual?”
“It's different. I have to do what I do.”
“Not seeing the optional nature of keeping you healthy, Matt.” He forces himself to keep it light and breezy, because of a dozen things: Matt’s hand on his arm, like he still needs leading; the twinges with every step that tell him he’s in no condition for yelling; the sunlight, sharp through the city’s glass; everything that says not now. Not again.
“You'll hurt yourself.”
“...I literally don't need to respond to that, but just so we're clear, pots and kettles are occasionally more than kitchenware.”
Matt's fingers tighten on the elbow of Foggy's coat. “I won't let you.”
“Mmm, no. Look, I just did this with Claire, and I know you heard that, and we’re overdue like four or five difficult conversations, so why don’t we skip this one? If you get hurt, I’m going to heal you, you don't have to like it, but hey, I'm still not exactly thrilled by how you get hurt either.”
“I've caused you enough pain.” Foggy’s not looking at him but he can picture Matt’s martyrdom face all the same.
“I'll be the judge of that,” he says, lightly, though he can't help but wonder which Matt means — physical or emotional. Probably both. He was always an overachiever.
“Seriously, Matt.” It’s a strain, but he keeps his voice from cracking. Makes his closing statement. “This is my compromise on all your… stuff. Some of your stuff.”
They walk on, and if Matt’s fingers dig a little harder into the crook of his arm, that's all the argument he presents.
Of course, Foggy doesn't actually think he's won. Matt's far too sneaky and sacrificial for that. It becomes a matter of picking up on Matt’s tells. ‘Getting an early night’ means ‘backflipping into danger’, so Foggy’ll work for an extra hour or two, amble over to Matt’s, and be ready with gauze and many soft rugs when he gets back. (The rugs are helpful for the meditation, which turns out to be the key to slow healing, rather than steal all of Matt’s injuries at once, pass out, call Claire, be eyebrowed healing.)
‘Hitting the gym’ means ‘punching a bag or maybe a criminal until my hands bleed’ but tends not to bring stab wounds, so Foggy sleeps those nights. Sleeps badly, but hey, what’s new there? In the morning he’ll pass Matt a coffee with a friendly, bro-ish brush of fingers and leech away the split knuckles, just enough so that by the end of the day they’re both sporting new pink skin and not a trace of scarring. (He lets Matt touch his hands to check. Yeah. That’s the only reason. Sure.)
‘Staying late to work on a case’ means ‘jumping out the window as soon as you leave’. That one’s pretty easy to solve — he stays late too, sits by the window, and when Matt gets too antsy, when even Foggy can hear the sirens, the suit comes out and Foggy waves him off, with Matt’s spare key cold in his hand. It’s the closest either of them get to asking permission, instead of forgiveness.
The only problem with getting wise to Matt is that Matt gets wise to him. Case in point, the next Friday, when for the first time in forever Matt comes down to Josie’s.
There's not a hint of awkwardness, no suggestion that Karen and Foggy have been left to prop up the bar solo for months. Matt gets the first round in, and the second. He challenges Foggy to pool with shots as forfeits, with Karen to guide his aim, and it's only when they pot the black, Matt’s fifth ‘fluke', that Foggy twigs.
“Oh my god,” he mutters, wrapping an arm around Matt’s waist to walk him back to the booth as Karen gets victory eel, “You are trying to get me drunk.”
“No!” Matt half-laughs, a second too late and an octave too high.
“Yes you are! And not even for a fun reason, that's the worst part. You're trying to get me drunk so I can't heal you when you-”
Matt pushes a finger against his lips. It's the sensation of touch rather than the gesture that has the intended effect, but Foggy’s voice dies in his throat. “Shhhhh.”
He swallows. Okay, he might be a little drunk. Nefarious devils. Still: “It's not going to work.”
Matt looks smug. “Isn't it?”
Behind him, Karen holds aloft a rack of eel shots like a holy relic.
“Nope. ‘Cause you are also gonna be wrecked, Matty.” He knows he's made his point, because Matt’s face goes slack and a hint of a shudder passes through him. Hah.
Karen sets down the rack. Foggy smirks, wide as he can, and hopes Matt’s world on fire picks up the spark of his teeth. “Drink up, buddy.”
He lets Matt foist off one of the shots onto him, because he’s developed a taste for it — a taste for eel , his mom must be so proud — but Karen forces enough into him that they end up near closing time, a cosy cuddle puddle in the back booth. Matt’s head ends up tucked underneath his chin, and he’s stroking through Karen’s hair as she snoozes on his shoulder, and it’s just… perfect. Painless. Content. The haze of alcohol helps him forget the awkward conversations they haven’t had yet, the dozen or so things Karen really needs to know, all the odds stacked against them.
He nudges the side of Matt’s face with his nose, ignores the giggle it raises. “Missed you, Matty.”
“M’sorry,” Matt says, wrapped round a yawn.
“No, no, my fault. Although,” he frowns. “Huh. I guess it was your stuff, not the feelings. Thought it was the feelings.”
Matt sits up too fast, accidentally elbows Foggy in the chest. Karen, eyes still shut fast, pulls a face and tries to cuddle them both closer again. “The feelings?” Matt asks.
“Why you stopped hanging with us. Left me and Kare-bear to Josie’s wiles. The feelings, Matt, you know.” There’s a niggle at the back of his brain, like he had in logic classes. All the pieces are there, he just has to do more with them than he has. But the eel makes him floaty, calm, where Matt’s rapidly becoming… not so.
Matt pulls away from them entirely, in fact, sits back against the booth. “Right,” he says, and his voice has dropped, low and worn. “The feelings. You thought I stopped coming because of the feelings. The-” and then his waves his hand towards Karen, from her head on Foggy’s shoulder to her feet tucked up on the booth “-feelings.”
The bottom drops out of Foggy’s stomach. Karen snuffles and starts snoring on his shoulder, which is great because he’s not sure he could deal with the mad flash of jealousy if she was being a little less adorable and a little more stunning.
He saw this coming, he reminds himself. Matt Murdock + beautiful woman. Tale as old as time. Hey, Matt even has horns now. Christ, he’s become Mrs Potts. (Fuck that. He’s Lumiere.)
“Exactly,” he whispers, because his voice can’t crack on a whisper. “But I was- I was wrong, right? It was other stuff?” God, he sounds so fucking hopeful, he can hear himself and he hates it. The pleasant haze of booze turns nightmarish, a cold fog that licks at his lungs.
“Yeah,” Matt says, and his voice does break, how far gone is he for her? “It was the other stuff.”
The lights come up before Foggy can tear his heart into smaller pieces. Matt looks washed out and... sad, but Foggy can’t bring himself to play the wingman, give him the encouraging speech he needs. Besides, Matt’s a hero, right? Heroes don’t need help to get the girl. It’s a rationalisation that sits uneasily in his gut as they put Karen in a cab.
He turns his feet homeward without another word to Matt. Vomiting his emotions into a toilet is a much more pressing concern.
In the morning it’s much easier to put together a coherent pro/cons list.
Pro) Matt didn’t stop hanging out with him because of Foggy’s cow eyes
Con) It was because of Double D shit, which requires a whole separate list
Pro) Matt doesn’t know about Foggy’s cow eyes, so no need to find a dark painful hole to die in
Con) Matt likes Karen, so for all intents and purposes the office is about to become a dark painful hole Foggy will have to live in for eternity
Con) Fucking eel hangovers are the fucking worst.
Karen is face down on her desk when he gets in, groaning lightly. A quick check confirms that yep, she’s suffering the same symptoms he is, so he puts the coffeemaker on. He reaches for Matt’s pain next and- oh.
Oh that little devil .
He thumps his way, loudly, into Matt’s office. He’s got one hand propped on his chin and the other resting on a braille textbook from college. It’s a pose Foggy recognises from hundreds of cat naps Matt snuck in class, the glasses and his perfect sinuses an excellent cover for catching up on sleep.
Not today. Foggy shoves his cold hand down the back of Matt’s neck and wrenches away the boot-shaped bruise on his back before he has time to ninja out of it. Unfortunately, he’s not exactly zen, and he takes the hangover too, even though Matt totally deserves that. Still, Matt’s gasp is totally worth having to be sick into the trash can.
Karen wobbles to the door and her look is equal parts sympathetic and green. “Coffee?” she offers, and Foggy retches again. She turns a little greener and makes a quick exit to the bathroom. It’s all to the good, because that’s far enough away that Foggy can feel comfortable hissing:
“I cannot believe you went out last night. You were wasted.”
“It was on my way home.” Matt sounds confident, even a little angry, and Foggy regrets picking this argument when he’s carrying the eel headaches of two people, even if he can feel Matt’s ebbing away. (His stays firmly in place. An empathetic healing factor is fucking balls.)
“So you weren’t in the suit?”
“I doubled back. It wasn’t anything big, Foggy, you didn’t need to- to worry.” Ah, Matt remembers the no arguing with healing rule, but he is not off the hook, and Foggy’s got the perfect response, any second now.
He just needs to vomit into the trash again. Matt starts stroking the back of his head, keeps his hair off his face, and honestly, it’s more effective at cooling his temper than any of his defences. Karen comes back with two cups of the tar she calls coffee and Foggy tries not to wail.
“How are you okay?” she asks Matt. Yes, thank you, Foggy wants to crow, but then he realises she means the hangover, not everything else. Cause she doesn’t know, because Matt is a shitlord and dragging Foggy down with him.
Okay, Foggy’s a shitlord too. Wow, this hangover is killing him.
“I- uh- water and-” Right then and there Foggy decides Matt can never be allowed on the witness stand, ever, or they’re all in jail for the rest of their lives.
Besides, he’s sick of secrets. “Me. It’s me. I am a sponge, Karen.” Coherency is an issue. Thank fuck he doesn’t have court today. “A sponge of pain. A pain sponge. I suck up- hand? Give me your hand?”
She does, without hesitation, and he pulls away the worst of her headache, slowly. Lets it rest against his temples and feels it drain away. Some of the colour returns to her cheeks and she sways on her feet. “Oh my god. Foggy! That’s amazing.” She bends to kiss the top of his head.
Matt reaches for one of the coffees and she whisks it out of reach, puts both cups in front of Foggy’s nose, which sends him back to the trash can. He doesn't understand, he put the machine on, how has she made it crunchy? “No, no, your suffering is over, these are for Foggy, my hero.”
As soon as she’s back at her desk, Matt drinks them both, skulls them like his life depends on it. “My hero,” Foggy echoes weakly.
Get your tropes, lovely tropes, get em while they're hot!
So, difficult last chapter turned out to be difficult penultimate chapter, and hey, why not throw in a MISUNDERSTANDING.
I'm so sorry.
Matt stops trying to slip past him after that, but he does enforce some rules, and Foggy can’t keep extolling the virtues of compromising without actually practising it. Foggy’s not allowed to take all the pain at once, ever. Claire, or 911, must be an option when guns were involved. At least three rugs must be in play at all times.
All sensible measures to prevent the worst from happening. Of course, you can’t plan for everything.
Foggy knows it’s a bad night from the sound of Matt’s feet on the stairs — uneven, heavy footfalls. “Matty?”
“M’alive.” Always so reassuring. Foggy piles up the rugs and blankets in front of Matt’s couch into what is definitely not a nest. Just a safe, comfortable place for meditative healing. With cushions. And silk.
A tentative push at the edge of Matt’s sensation sends Foggy scurrying to help him across the room. Once he drags him into the light, helps him take off the horns , he can see the problem.
The back of the helmet is cracked, a smooth line maybe a quarter of an inch wide. Foggy’s played with the stupid helmet, teased Matt about the idiot horns with more than a hint of malice. He knows how strong it is.
“Jesus, what happened?”
“Lucky shot. Baseball bat. Bats,” Matt amends, stripping off his gloves, and he’s slurring slightly, still off balance, as he sinks to the rug pile. Clearly, it’s not a great night for conversation. There's not even token resistance which is… not good. Foggy slips down to sit opposite him, closes his eyes, waits for his breathing to even, and takes his hand, interlocks their fingers.
He goes slow. God, nothing pisses Matt off more than rushing it, and he suspects Matt has a point, since those are the worst nights. But it’s hard when there’s so much pain — their heads are pounding, from the base of their skulls to their sinuses. He pulls and pulls and pulls, and Matt hasn’t stopped him yet, which is terrifying in itself, because Matt never lets him take more than half, so how much pain is he in ? But just as he opens his mouth to ask, Matt drags his hand away and Foggy’s left with just his own share. It’s heavy on him, he can’t really speak through it, a reminder again that Matt is friggin’ superhuman, even without the X gene.
He hears Matt swallow, loud in the quiet of the apartment. “Thank you.” It’s the first time he’s said it.
Foggy opens his eyes. Blinks. Wills his heart to stay steady and firm.
He can’t see.
It's dark, he tells himself. (It's not that dark.) He blinks again. Nothing changes. For a wild moment he wonders if he’s done it. Cured — not even cured, that’s not the right word. Made Matt unblind. Except, he realises just as quickly, Matt would probably have mentioned that by now. Unless, of course, he’s been struck dumb by Foggy’s ethereal beauty- God, it almost hurts too much to be self-deprecating, this is a new low in so many ways. Slow down . Calm. Keep breathing.
Besides, Foggy’s definitely not feeling a world on fire right now, and he can’t hear Matt’s heartbeat. Can’t hear much at all, really, except his pulse, loud and clear in his ears.
“Matt-” and speaking is like wading through treacle ”-call Claire for me?” His own phone is in his pocket, but it’s a touchscreen, he won’t even be able to put in the passcode- Heartbeat, he reminds himself. Slow, steady. Inhale.
“I am, can’t you see th-” The problem is, see, ( see ), Foggy really likes smart guys. Matt’s too smart, too smart to miss the hitch in Foggy’s breath and the stutter of his heart. “No.”
“I’m guessing I haven’t- haven’t helped you out in that department either. Sucks.” Has his voice always echoed in Matt’s apartment like that? Or is he talking too loud? He can't remember, was he facing the door or the window?
Matt makes a noise like — well, honestly? Kinda like a cow without her calf, low and long and raw. But he muffles it — with his hand, maybe? Wow. Between the head wound and the, uh, problem, figuring out what's going on around him is a doozy.
“Loudspeaker?” he asks before the call connects.
Claire sounds tired. “What is it?” Foggy holds up a hand and Matt stays quiet.
“You know you mentioned two things I should prepare for? Not the dead one.” He can't make himself say blind. God, he can't say it. So many years with Matt, the smartest, most competent guy he knows, but fuck, that's Matt. He's Foggy. He can't be blind.
“Shit,” Claire says. “What were you healing?”
“Head injury,” Matt replies, thick, because of course, he's just as bad. Foggy half wonders if he should keep going, heal him up fully, so Matt can handle this. God knows he can’t. (The want and the doubt both surprise him. He wants Matt to fix it, to make it go away, and yet part of him is certain he's heading for the window as soon as Claire gives her diagnosis.)
“Are his pupils- fuck, you can't check. Head injury, okay, that's bad- could be detached retinas. Could be brain damage.”
Inhale. Exhale. His heartbeat’s a lost cause.
“Matt, keep him alive, okay. Keep him still. He heals like nothing I've seen- Foggy, you'll be okay, I'm due a break, I'll be there soon. Ten minutes.”
They all three know the fastest she can get there from the hospital is twenty.
The click as she hangs up echoes so loudly for a moment Foggy wonders if he's picked up Matt's powers but, no, that's it. His head starts spinning, and he has no idea if it's the shock or the pain or maybe blood pooling in his brain, killing off his nerves, killing him-
“Shhh, shhh, breathe, please breathe, Foggy. Don't cry.” There's a rustle, a shift of heat, a sense of sudden closeness, and Matt wipes at the dampness on his face with his thumb. He’s put his gloves back on — to shield him from the pain, Foggy realises.
“I’m okay,” he says. He’s not. Matt’s still moving round him, and all at once he’s a little enveloped: Matt to one side of him, one arm braced against his back, between his shoulders, his other hand on his chest. On the other side the couch cushions keep him propped up, help with the worst of the balance problems. But if it’s that bad for him, then Matt… Jesus, there’s not enough headspace for him to keep all his worry quiet. “Stay still, Claire said stay still-”
“Shh, shhh, my head’s okay, Foggy, you- we need to work on taking a little of everything, not all the-” he swallows “-head wounds.” Brain damage , he means. “I should work on that. Not getting- Head stuff. I’m so sorry about this.”
“Not your-” No, wait, it totally is. “My choice though.” His voice sounds so odd, and he knows he doesn’t have Matt’s senses, but he never realised all the shit he could hear until he has no way to comprehend it. There's a buzzing, somewhere, and something rattling, and a loud banging that at first he assumes is construction work before he remembers it's the middle of the night and-
And there's Matt's breathing, quiet and slow, and he can feel it against his side, the gentle press of his chest with every inhale. And there's Matt's voice, murmuring comforting nothings like he's a spooked horse.
“You're gonna be fine, Foggy, I promise. Just keep breathing, nice and slow, Claire will be here any moment. Just focus on me.” When does he not, Foggy wants to ask, but he can feel Matt’s breath against his temple, a cold spark against the pain inside his skull, and his lips are almost on his ear, and it's easy, to focus on Matt to the exclusion of all else.
Not so much the words — it becomes a bit repetitive, a lot of Foggys and sorrys that he’ll have to argue with later. Shhing too, when he loses focus on the soft grit of Matt’s voice, loses his grip and starts keening through the pain.
God, it hurts.
He tries not to move. There’s a tingle of warmth where Matt’s face is close to his, almost but not quite touching, but the rest of the suit is cool to the touch and kinda terribly uncomfortable. He keeps sagging into it whenever the spinning in his head gets too much to bear. It doesn't give beneath his weight, which is a slight consolation in the grander scheme of things, when he remembers Matt used to fight in black pyjamas.
Still, resting against Matt in pyjamas is an idea with its own appeal.
Matt’s arm tightens around his back and he stops talking about half a minute before Foggy hears someone running down the hallway.
“How is he?” she asks as soon as she comes in, and it's more logic than recognition that tells Foggy it's Claire. He's much more of a matching names to faces guy. Christ, he always knew Matt had it hard, but he's clearly fucking marvellous, super senses or not.
“Alive,” Matt says. He's never heard him sound so sad.
“You gonna let go or? No? Okay, sure.” The sound of a tap running, and before he can register the rest, Claire's voice is coming from just in front of his face. She smells like lemons — disinfectant, maybe, or shampoo. Matt will know. “Hey Foggy, open your eyes.” He does and there's a gentle heat on each one that drops away quickly.
A flashlight, he realises dully. Claire just shone a flashlight in his eyes and he didn't see a thing. His throat constricts.
“Okay, your pupils are reactive, which is good, you're one up on Matt there. Take these now.”
She presses two — no, three — pills into his left hand and a glass of water into his right. He's shaking a bit, enough that Matt puts his fingers to his elbow to help him drink.
“What are- what-”
“Pain killer, anti-inflammatory. Just to help you get through this. I'm counting on you only getting better, not worse, okay? Don't let me down.”
He tries to nod, which, no, major error. It takes about five minutes of swaying gently and trying not to be sick, but he does start feeling fuzzier, a little less there.
At one point he realises, quite suddenly, that Matt and Claire are talking, in the middle of a conversation he can't remember hearing the start of.
“Look, I can tell you weren't in your right mind because look at him, he's out, but that is why you call me and we work out a plan.”
“I didn't think it was that bad. I kinda missed the obvious symptom.”
Foggy laughs and they both startle, jostle against him. “Double blind, Matt. You were double blind. We shoulda had you test M&Ms.”
“The yellows are the best, Foggy, we don't need any damn science to prove it,” he replies, as fond as he ever was, like it’s Columbia all over again.
Claire takes his hand, and it's hard not to flinch away from her sensations as they flood into him. “Try to rest, Foggy. It'll help.”
It feels like it takes forever for one sort of darkness to give way to another.
When he wakes, it's to light and Matt’s face, angled towards his via what looks like a terrible crick in his neck. But Foggy’s fingers are resting against a gap between Matt’s glove and his undershirt, against bare skin, and there's not a twinge of pain to be felt. There’s a slice of sunlight falling across the bridge of his nose, and his brows are slightly furrowed. God, he’s pretty.
“There's a sight for sore eyes,” he murmurs, and Matt's eyes snap open. They don't find his, but hell, it's good to see them.
“Oh thank God,” Matt breathes. He probably means it. Foggy briefly indulges the thought that Matt’ll get on his knees for Foggy in one sense, if not the ideal.
Hah, take that, possible brain damage. The innuendo is back online.
“Thank you ,” he says instead. “You took care of me.”
“Ahem,” Claire says from the kitchen. She's towelling off her hair and dressed in one of Foggy’s old sweatshirts. He can't even remember leaving it at Matt's. Anyway, Foggy raises a hand in apology and she nods. “It's okay. Matt exceeded expectations. I thought he'd be a nervous wreck but he even managed to take painkillers, it was very moving.”
She sounds amused, and Foggy's sure he's missing something, but it dances out of reach. Matt's mouth sort of wobbles.
Claire runs him through a few cognitive and sight tests — who's president, how many fingers, what colour is the couch — and he passes to her satisfaction because she doesn't push any more pills on him. (She does kibosh his breakfast beer suggestion. Health professionals, he can never win with them.)
“How’s your arm?” she asks, and Foggy frowns. He doesn't remember his arm hurting. He doesn't remember long stretches of the night, but hey, from what he does recall that's no bad thing. “Not you. Matt.”
“What,” Foggy says, flat as a pancake. He remembers being — okay, so the idiomatic word would be cradled , but Foggy’s fully working, definitely not damaged brain is not going there at this time of the morning, so let’s say — held by Matt for what felt like hours. A broken arm should have been obvious-
The gloves. Matt put the gloves back on. He stiffens, panics about jostling the arm any further — he's a wriggly sleeper, Matt knows that, heard him fall off his dorm bed in the middle of the night enough — before he remembers his fingers resting on the skin of Matt’s wrist.
Still resting there, in fact, warm and steady against his pulse.
“It's not broken,” Matt says quickly, and he's not lying.
“You had a- no, you know what, I'm not even mad, that's just. Huh.” His arm does feel like he slept on it funny. Not broken . Not even achy. Pins and needles. “Maybe we should sleep together more.”
It's out of his mouth before he can think. Maybe he should revise that whole not brain damaged theory. He sits there, opening and closing his mouth like a fish, not really registering that Matt is doing the same six inches away. That the pulse under his fingers is almost as fast as the one roaring through his ears.
“The silk sheets are a bonus,” Claire muses, and Foggy is glaring before he even has time to realise that of course that’s where she slept tonight, Jesus, calm your tits Nelson. (Although there’s a hint of colour to Matt’s cheeks, clearly there has been a thing .) Matt’s eyes are shut, wince-tight, but his pulse is still quick — embarrassment, probably, or horror, or, hey, maybe Foggy should stop touching his skin like a creeper . He snatches his hand back, stares at his knees.
The silence stretches out. “Right, well, as fun as this was, I have to pull a double shift to make up for my family emergency last night and you have no edible food, so. Bye.” Claire’s eyebrows are judging the fuck out of him as she backs to the door, Foggy can tell. Still, at least he can see them.
He turns to Matt with a sigh. “Great, now I have to get Claire twice as many apology flowersmmmpff-”
Matt pounces. With a kiss, not any violence-related activities, and Foggy’s honestly not sure which would’ve been more surprising. The kiss is definitely more welcome . Once Foggy stops trying to talk his way through the it, it's rather lovely too. Almost loving. He has the rather bright idea of kissing back and Matt sighs into him, pressing their chests together.
His hands on are on either side of Foggy's face, cool leather against his warm cheeks. That's- well. Um. Leather has never been a thing before but- Matt promptly pulls back and tugs off his right glove with his teeth and yeah, that's definitely a thing, seared deep into his psyche now.
It’s Foggy who pulls Matt back for a second kiss. They should talk, they should definitely talk, but Foggy makes the mistake of shutting his eyes as he coaxes Matt’s mouth open and his heart slams into his ribs so fast and so hard he almost chokes with it. So. Talking seems like a risky option.
Also, he talks to Matt all the time. He’s literally made it his living. Kissing Matt? That’s never been on the table before.
Matt’s stubble is a little rougher than his own, from the feel of it against his palm. He hooks his fingers into the hollow behind Matt’s jaws and it changes something — everything — the whole cadence of the kiss. Matt rises on his knees, presses Foggy back against the couch, and Foggy doesn’t exactly mean for his legs to fall open either side of Matt, but he’s not doing anything to change that now. Not when Matt’s licking into his mouth, plastered against him from shoulders to thighs.
They only break off when Foggy tries to run his fingers through Matt’s bedhead and gets stuck on all the blood that’s still in it. There’s a brief flare of pain as his fingers snag that he honestly can’t tell if he shared, or healed, but Matt makes this small, aborted sound and hitches his hips in a way that suggests hair-pulling is not off the agenda. If there is an agenda, a later, an anything, because now their foreheads are pressed together and they’re sharing breaths but there is no more kissing and instead there’s the building silence that precedes talking .
“You really need a shower, man,” Foggy blurts and, shit, yep, that’s it, ruined forever, time to start work on turning his office into a cave of despair, or, hey, there’s always New Jersey-
“Yeah,” Matt says, but he’s laughing, pressing his smile against Foggy’s temple. “I love you.”
Man without fear, they call him. They’re right. Foggy can’t breathe . “What?”
He can’t actually process that, slot it into his worldview, it’s entirely unreal. And Matt lies to him, a lot , about important stuff too, but- but not with a hand on Foggy’s stomach, rubbing tiny circles that inch lower and lower, not with a voice that’s light through the gravel of morning, and definitely not after several long, college-expertise-meets-high-school-enthusiasm, feel it in your veins kisses.
“And I think,” Matt continues, as if he hasn’t spoken, lips against the shell of Foggy’s ear, “that you like me too.”
Foggy’s not sure anything below his chest exists any more. He manages a shaky breath. “Well, duh.” He can feel Matt’s teeth against his skin as he grins and then -oh!- nips. “I adore you.” It’s still gutting to say it, out loud, with sincerity scraping at his lungs. He’s not ready. Matt’s dragging them forward, fast, and god help him, but he doesn’t want to let go. “You knew that. You’ve been listening to my heart for the last-” Forever? He doesn’t finish. Matt gets it anyway.
“Your heart beats, Foggy, it doesn’t talk. But-” his voice softens, oh god, “-but you went blind and asked me if I was okay. I know my hearing’s superior, but that spoke volumes .”
Oh, that’s terrible. Here Foggy is, freaking out about feelings and Matt’s making puns. The world is topsy-turvy. “Speaking of speaking, could we not? Just right now. And get back to the-”
He’s really becoming a big fan of the Matt pouncing aesthetic. The lift of his cheeks as he smiles, the flutter of his eyelashes as he shuts his eyes — it’s all fantastic, all great, and if it gets a little unbelievable Foggy can deal. Probably.
God, he’s gonna need so much time to process this. But it also sounds like… he has it? If he wants?
Matt pulls back and stands up, the bastard, and Foggy can only respond by whining and making grabby hands. “I’ve been reliably informed I need a shower, so…” a beat “...you coming?”
“Yes and hopefully, yes .” Matt laughs and offers a hand to help him up and drags him to the bathroom door. Then he kinda stops.
“Two things,” and come on , Matthew, no more talking, they agreed no more talking. “One, I feel I should confess-” of course, confession , because now is soooo the time “-that water helps me perceive things a lot better, and since we shared a bathroom I’ve kind of already heard you naked.”
“You’re an ass and I hate you.”
That smirk is going to be the death of him. “Second, this is- I know this is fast-” oh god, they’re talking about feelings “-and I know I should slow down, but I can’t , Fog, Claire said you could die and- This is real, right?”
He’s not sure he’s ever heard Matt speak so many sentence fragments in his life. Dude is the king of subordinate clauses and appropriate conjunctions.
“This is real,” he affirms. “This is it.” There’s a swell of fear and joy in his throat that stops him swallowing; Matt’s eyes are shiny. “Look at us, communicating. Karen will be so proud of us. Well,” he amends, “she’ll call us idiots and question that we ever went to Ivy League schools but, after that, pride.”
Matt sets the water going and takes off his shirt and, yeah. No more talking.
Well, he makes one pun about showerheads, but that’s it.
Foggy’ll be the first to admit there's a special kind of confidence from having a smartass, love of your life, enforces justice with fists and tuck flips boyfriend. He stands a little taller, walks a little jauntier, and his smiles are a whole new wattage.
Still, all the confidence in the world can't prepare him for the motherfucking Phoenix in the conference room.
“Hey Fifty Shades,” he hollers, just about managing not to choke on his tongue as he enters the room. Jean looks… unimpressed, but does not disintegrate him into individual atoms, which is great. Karen coughs loudly from the doorway, presumably to let him know she's listening to every word and judging him.
“Franklin. You've grown.”
“Thanks? What can I-” he realises he's shuffling back and forth from foot to foot and sits down instead. It doesn't ease his nerves. “Is this business or pleasure?”
She almost smiles. “Business.”
Foggy’s got a passing familiarity with the concept of the multiverse. He can't help wondering if in some other reality Franklin Nelson is having a consultation with Jane Green, a suburban real estate agent with one too many parking violations.
“What can we help you with?”
“I've come from the Professor. We want to offer you a job. Well, a retainer. Two, in fact.”
“One for me and one for my partner?” Matt knows almost as much about mutant law as Foggy does. Foggy had written it off as adorable commitment to friendship, and maybe it was.
Maybe the love thing came into it too. It’s tricky to get used to the idea.
“The first is for your firm. We anticipate anti-mutant legislation will be put to the state soon, and possibly also at a federal level. A homegrown, mutant-friendly law firm would be a powerful asset. And while we have other methods of persuasion available,” she lets the idea hang for a second, “your discussions with the Professor have convinced him we might as well try courtrooms and oratory first. Mutantkind can't weather a disaster like the Sokovia Accords.”
She pauses, looks at him. He can't feel her in his mind, but he knows how powerful she is. She could be in and out without so much as a whisper.
“The second retainer would be for you.”
He frowns. “I mean, the firm is half me, you really don't-” She gives him a look. “Holy shit, you mean for the team.”
Karen does not stifle her gasp very well. The typing from Matt's office stops.
Jean leans back, gives him an assessing look. “Xavier says your power has grown exponentially. He believes it could grow even further. I'm more than familiar with the concept. You could find it helpful, testing your limits, reaching them, with us. We know what it’s like.”
“And you guys could always use another healer on side. Balance out the tanks.”
She inclines her head. “There are benefits on both sides.”
Foggy hems and haws for a bit. “I'm… Look, it's flattering, and you know- every Xavier’s kid wants this offer.” Even him, he realises with a start, a scab of long-forgotten hurt uncurling and lifting off to leave something new and shiny pink behind. Behind Jean he sees Matt leave his office and cross to join Karen with quick, sure steps. He's lucky she's too busy staring at Jean to notice.
Foggy clears his throat. “I’m not an X-Man. Or a reserve X-Man, or an honorary or- I'm a lawyer. I'll be your lawyer, definitely, at a very reasonable rate. But I really don't look good in yellow. And Bobby’s-”
“An asshole, I know. He had a crush on you a mile wide, you know.”
Oh god, it explains so much and simultaneously nothing at all. What an asshole. Foggy sputters. “You can't just out people, Jean!”
She shrugs. “That doesn't sweeten the pot?” Foggy sputters again, and then a little more when he catches sight of Matt's smirk. Okay, Foggy's as whipped as fucking cream and they're only three weeks in, but he doesn't have to be so smug about it.
Jean gathers herself. “I'll settle the details of the retainer with your secretary.” Karen almost falls over herself and Matt to get back to her desk as fast as possible. “The second offer stands, obviously.”
“Yeah, um. No, but, I guess tell the guys if they're ever in the city and, you know, bleeding profusely, I'm around.” His stomach sort of flops nervously at the prospect, but it's the right thing to do.
“Thank you, Foggy. I look forward to working with you.”
Matt, somehow, manages to make blatantly eavesdropping look casual, and is sipping his coffee like butter wouldn't melt as Foggy shows Jean the full five feet from the conference room back to Karen.
When Foggy leans against the wall beside him, brushes their shoulders together, Matt mutters “Iceman, huh? Should I be worried?” But he can't even get through the question without grinning, and it's only the presence of a client — a paying, professional client who just happens to have witnessed Foggy's awkward phase from 2004-2007 — that stops him doing something drastic, like thumping him.
Or maybe kissing him. Kissing is good, and officially on Karen’s list of office-approved activities.
“Mr Murdock, I presume?” Jean’s finished with Karen, whose eyes are bugging out of her head in a way that spells many zeros.
Matt turns up the charm to like a 14. “Ms Grey. It's an honour to be working with you.”
“Oh, call me Phoenix in the field,” she replies, and Foggy lets Matt hang there with his mouth open for a moment or two before saving him with a laugh. “Nice glasses, Foggy always did like that look. Red’s a good colour on you.” She sweeps out, sweepingly, with great sweep, considering she's in civvies and not some sort of magnificent cape.
“What was- wha-” And oh, Matt speechless is a definite thing for Foggy, so rare and so much the better for it. He turns his face into Matt's shoulder and huffs out the nervous laughter he's been holding back for twenty minutes.
“So that was definitely a comment about how I had a raging, uh, attraction to her boyfriend in high school. When he was sorta a teacher. Oh my god, light me on fire.”
“That look- Cyclops? With the lase-”
“Concussive! They're concussive beams. Oh, god, it's a whole thing, but his visor is red and-” he drops his voice so Karen, busy with the ancient photocopier, can't hear “-and also she almost definitely knows about your Double D shenaniganning cause she has no boundaries. So. Yeah. Sorry on behalf of all mutantkind- actually, just her. And Emma. And the professor, a bit.”
“Oh my god.” Karen, loudly. Foggy’s heart plummets for a second. What a way to give away Matt’s secret, apologising for the total inability of mutants to keep secrets. What a terrible irony. But then: “Sorry, sorry, I’m just processing. You just turned down a team , Foggy.”
Phew. The tension drops from his shoulders. Matt tilts his head, adopts what Foggy has come to recognise as a minor guilt face, and that must be stopped, so: “Yeah. Well. Already got a team, haven't I?” One step takes him to the middle of the office for the most expressive gesture he can make without hitting the walls or his colleagues. His friends. His team .
Karen is looking at him like he's a three-legged kitten. “You're the corniest person I've ever met. We're not a superhero team, Foggy.”
He has a joke ready for this, he does, but Matt pushes off the wall and steps past him. Runs his knuckles across the back of Foggy's hand as he does so, lets him feel — nothing. The painlessness is oddly like gratitude.
And then Matt says: “Actually, Karen-”
I meant to get this up sooner but life did some life-ing at me. Thanks for sticking with me :)