April 30, 2018:

Hours after Foggy's encounter with Daredevil and his doppleganger, he goes to his best friend's apartment to confront him about his suspicions.

Matt Murdock's loft in Hell's Kitchen


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Six, Trish Walker, Tony Stark, Jessica Jones, Azalea Kingston, Luke Cage

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

However quickly or slowly Foggy makes his way across the streets of Hell's Kitchen after escorting Trish Walker safely away from that harrowing encounter with Daredevil and his budget-level doppelganger, it makes no difference. Matt Murdock has still beaten him to the loft, running and leaping and flinging himself over rooftops in ways that his partner in law and many other things could have never, until this night, imagined him capable of.

The door to Matt Murdock's ridiculous bachelor's loft is unlocked. Who — blind or not — leaves the door to their Hell's Kitchen apartment unlocked? A man without fear, or a man with nothing to lose. Or a lunatic. Take your pick of the three.

Inside it's dark, as might be expected. Matt only ever turns on the lights as a courtesy to guests, and any entrant will find the sheen of neon from the giant electronic billboard on the opposite street as the only guidance as they make their way through that foyer hallway. That and the voice that sounds from around the corner.

"Hello?" It's Matt's voice, unmistakably.

Foggy Nelson delays his arrival by dragging his feet, perhaps starting to second-guess himself, or believe that he has jumped to an unlikely conclusion because, well — fuck — it is unlikely. He has known Matt for years, and has always thought he knew him. But if all the pieces were fitting together the way he saw them, then he has no idea who Matt Murdock really is.

He slows in his ascent to the apartment’s floor, lagging on the last two steps as if he could easily just turn back and hustle his way home. But when his scuffed, dirty loafer alights on that landing step, his gut tightens and his jaw sets and the stern will to figure out what is going on propels him forward the rest of the way.

Finding the door open gives him only a moment’s pause before he creaks it all the way open, stepping inside just as Matt’s voice calls out. He frowns slightly, and then shuts the door quietly behind him.

“Hey, Matt.”

"Hey, Fog," says the tired voice from right around the corner, before Foggy’s steps carry him into a line of sight that brings Matt into view. He's reclined, man-spread, on one of the upholstered chairs near the window, a shadowy silhouette against the billboard's pink-and-purple light. If he was wearing a devil suit just an hour ago, it's been discarded in favor of a black t-shirt and gray sweatpants. There's a beer in his hand, freshly opened and largely undrunk.

And then there's his face: for once without those custom-made, red-tinted shades he likes so much. Even in the light, the blotchy bruises are easy to spot: there on his temple, there underneath his jaw. There's another on his left tricep, a third on his right elbow. His hair is disheveled, his facial hair even less kempt than usual.

But it's a face without expression one way or another: opaque, ungenerous. The sort of face he'll wear in a courtroom, or a negotiation with an ADA. He lifts the beer upward. "Come on in. You want one?"

The bruises all make sense now, just another little piece of the puzzle clicking into place. Foggy hesitates there, just in sight of Matt. Then he sighs, ducking out of the strap of his messenger bag, and dropping it heavily onto the floor. He starts to loosen his tie, pulling it free from his neck and balling it up to shove into his pocket. He shakes his head, stops, and then changes course with a nod. “Yeah.”

It’s a distraction — something to slow his mind down, let him think. He steps to the fridge to get himself a beer, using the church key in the old familiar drawer to pop it open, and then he takes a long sip. He stands there, looking at Matt from the line of the kitchen.

Then he can’t hold it in anymore.

“What the fuck is going on, Matt?”

Foggy goes to get a beer, and Matt… stays where he is. Feet planted on the floor, barely drunk beer in hand, sightless eyes staring forward while he waits for the question that was inevitable.

If he'd wanted to avoid it, or delay it, he probably could have. There was no need to come home. The bed beyond that sliding door is clean and neatly made, because he hasn't slept in it in more than a week. He could have stayed another night at Fogwell's, or if his confrontation with Kinsey put it at risk just found some other place to camp — Claire's, maybe?

No, the fact that he's here signals that he's made a choice to confront the barely-veiled suspicions Foggy has formed and gave voice to in that alleyway head on. The expression that greets it when it comes is subtle but complicated: it's rueful, wry, filled to the brim with regret. Even if he's chosen not to avoid, he could at least deny. He's blind, for God's sake. How could he possibly be some superhero or vigilante or mass murderer or whatever the press is calling him these days? He has the world's best alibi, and has used it to great effect.

But there are reasons to hew to the truth, he's found. When clueless, hyper-privileged Danny Rand somehow managed to guess at his secret identity, he chose to disclose rather than lie in the moment, because lying would trample any chance at trust if the truth did eventually come out. Here… that calculus is different. The chance to disclose early and preserve the relationship long-term has, in Matt's mind, fairly well sailed. They've been best friends for ten years. Law partners for two. Foggy is the closest thing he has to family. Matt fully expects that revelations of this magnitude will kill all of that.

And for varying reasons, he's seemingly willing to do it anyway, from the way he offers a quiet, wry: "You've got a mean right hook, Fog."

That acknowledgment of the truth Foggy has ferreted out can't stand on its own. Foggy's asked for answers, not just confirmation that he isn't crazy. And so Matt murmurs: "Where do you want me to start?"

He expected denial. He expected Matt to dance around it, make him needle and interrogate. They both know how good Foggy actually is at that — relentlessly pushing for answers until he gets them. The fact that Matt just sits there and gives in so easily disarms the Nelson half of Nelson and Murdock so precisely that Foggy actually stops, staring.

The beer is held loosely at his side by the neck in his fingers, and silence stretches on until finally Foggy starts to laugh — a low, uneasy chuckle as he turns away, running his beer-free hand back through his hair. “Shit,” he says to no one in particular before he finally takes another pull from the beer.

He looks back to Matt, rubbing his hand across his mouth and chin in an obviously restless gesture. “How about you just tell me why you’re been lying to me? To everyone.” Or at least, Foggy assumes that Matt’s been lying to everyone. Maybe learning that isn’t the truth will hurt worse than being lied to in general.

How about you just tell me why you've been lying to me? Foggy asks after the initial shock passes, and Matt can hear the worlds of hurt in those words with his ultra-sensitive ears. Something pained flickers across his bruise-mottled features. "I never even told my dad what I could do, Fog," Matt begins, though quickly stops himself when he realizes that he needs to give some sense of exactly what he can do for context.

"Which isn't seeing," he adds, his fingers absently — anxiously — turning that beer bottle in his grip. The line of his jaw is tight. Some would say the worst part of what he's done is mislead about his handicap; to pass as the ordinarily blind. There are reasons — good reasons — he made the choice to maintain that fiction. But it's a choice he still feels he has to justify. "The accident that took my eyes gave me a, ah, different way to make sense of the world. My sense of hearing, smell, taste, touch — even balance. All heightened. It took a long time to get the hang of it, but eventually… that old lie about blind people compensating with other senses?" He smirks, shrugs, suddenly achingly uncomfortable. "I guess I was the exception."

A beat. "You should sit down," Matt says.

Which really only begs the question: How the fuck does he know Foggy is still standing?

Foggy is barely following as Matt starts to explain; it would have been easier if he had been lying about being blind. Now he is trying to make sense of what Matt is saying, biting back more hurt at the confirmation that — yes, indeed — Matt has been lying to him. About something big.

“You’re trying to tell me that your accident made you super… Parkour Man?” It is a tight, and humorless question that may have been delivered differently if circumstances were different. He takes another deep pull from the beer, as if compensating for the fact that Matt has barely touched his own bottle.

He steps forward at Matt’s words, not yet ready to process the reason why Matt even knows he’s still standing. He instead takes a seat in one of the chairs, dropping heavily into it. He did need to sit, and now he sinks into the leather easily, looking abruptly tired. Sounding it, too.

“And you decided to go all Batman of Hell’s Kitchen… when?”

Foggy can bite back all the hurt he wants. What he doesn't know yet is that Matt can still sense it through a million sensory cues, from his heightened heart rate to the trace scent of cortisol in the air. "It wasn't that simple, Foggy," Matt says of his accident turning him into Parkour-Man. He's usually pretty slow on the uptake when it comes to television-rooted pop culture references, but his friendship with the man sitting diagonal to him is one of the things that has kept him marginally in the loop. "There were a lot of steps between being the kid in that hospital and — and this."

What is this? Batman of Hell's Kitchen, Foggy names it, hitting disturbingly close to the truth. He will know just what a Batman fan Matt was; in their confessions of geekdoms in college the following of Gotham's caped crusader ranked among Murdock's first and foremost. There's absolutely no question that Batman inspired Matt, right down to his final, theatrical choice of outfits.

Matt's brow knits. Because even if he feels confident in his choices to hide his abilities — even from those close to him — it's the adoption of his life as a vigilante that Matt has more trouble justifying. Especially these days. "A, ah, year and a half ago," the blind lawyer says before bringing that beer to his lips to knock some of it back. "Around the time we started N&M, I guess. I just —"

He lets out a pained breath as he closes eyes he has no use for. "I can hear them, Foggy," he says. "Someone screams for help in an alleyway six blocks away, and I know it. A man's beating his wife in an apartment building across the street? I can tell you which room on which floor, and his brand of cologne. To me, ever since I was ten years old, New York has seemed like one giant ER unit. You don't want to know the things I pick up. People at their worst. People who needed help. And I knew — I thought — I had the power to do that. Help."

“Well, damn, Matt… I didn’t think any of this shit was going to be simple,” Foggy says, his words biting. He only feels a bit apologetic, but stuffs that emotion down hard to not get caught up in apologizing to a friend who should be responsible for the apologies in this conversation.

He grips the bottle tightly in his hands, scratching slightly at the glass with his forefinger. He knew the Batman reference would hit home, but he hadn’t really put all the pieces together on just how much it would hit home. Though, it does bear the question: how in the hell did Matt afford to upgrade his suit from the budget costume he started with?

His mouth tightens when Matt mentions it was around when they started their firm. He tries to think back, tries to decide if that’s when Matt started coming in more bruised and tired. His shoulders slump a bit when he goes on, and he rubs a hand across his mouth and chin again before scratching up into his hair. “So… you became the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.”

He looks steadily at Matt now. “Why didn’t you tell me? Were you ever going to tell me? Would I not figure it all out when someone finally killed Daredevil and, poof, my best friend was gone, too? Fuck, Matt… we’re on retainer with Tony Stark, and he told the whole goddamn world.” And all Foggy is asking that, maybe, Matt have just told him.

Foggy, from his slumped pose there on the chair, lets loose just a fraction of the frustration and anger that's been building inside of him, and Matt takes it. He accepts it without an ounce of defensiveness, because he's one-hundred-percent certain he deserves all that and more. Much more.

But Foggy needs more than just to vent. He needs answers, and those are harder for Matt to give. Matt Murdock is reflexively secretive, and unused to speaking about himself or his motivations at any length and with any real level of candor. Still, Matt realizes Foggy deserves those answers too. And so:

Were you ever going to tell me? Matt briefly flinches before leaning forward, elbows on knees, beer bottle clasped in both palms. "I was — I'd been thinking about it. About how to. At first… at first I thought I was keeping you safe, Foggy. Keeping you out of all this craziness. In my time as Daredevil I've angered a lot of horrible people. Like the person, —" his jaw tightens, his nostrils flare, and a flicker of anger sparks in his sightless hazel eyes — "like the person who sent that man after Trish Walker tonight, and who murdered all those other women I've saved in the past just to get to me. I've been worried from the start about something like that happening to you, and it seemed like the cleanest way to maintain that sharp division if I didn't tell you."

He lifts one hand from the bottle to put it up. "That was wrong," he says with a jut of his chin. "And I'm — I'm sorry, Fog. It was stupid of me to think that I was protecting you by keeping you in the dark. All I was really doing was keeping you in the dark to the risk that I'd put you and our business in."

The beer is empty, leaving him to roll it between his palms in an unconscious fidget. He hasn’t looked away from Matt, watching his face with his instincts wide open. He hates thinking he has to catch Matt in a lie now, that he has to wait to see if he believes him; he has to trust that little knot in his gut that tightens when someone is trying to mislead him. Matt’s his best friend, and his jaw tightens a bit as the next thought flashes across his mind. But is he Matt’s best friend?

“That’s an idiot’s justification.” He doesn’t safeguard his words from Matt. No point. They both need him to say it. “If you had told me, I could have been in the trenches with you, being someone you could trust. You could have told me about that dude when he started killing people. Is that why you’ve been MIA?” He doesn’t pause to let Matt answer, barreling on. “In fact, is this whole thing why you’ve been going MIA for the last year?” More? Foggy could no longer remember how long Matt has been spontaneously disappearing for days, or weeks, on end. He is pretty sure that if he thought back far enough, he could link it to when the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen started making his mark around the neighborhood.

“You’re a moron, Murdock. I’m your friend. Your best goddamn friend. If you told me you were going to do this, I would have backed you.” Eventually, with some convincing that it was the right thing to do, but Foggy doesn’t say that aloud. “This isn’t even about protecting me anymore, Matt. In New York City alone, we have like fifty vigilantes running around. Hell, Jess has had my back without hiding who she is.”

Finally — finally — he gets back to the fact that Matt apologized. It hadn’t gone unheard, just ignored. He frowns then, his whole expression darkening into the angriest sad puppy ever seen. He ducks his chin, a thick blade of blond hair falling out of his slicked back forelocks to cross his brow and closed eyes. “Yeah, alright. You’re sorry. Now what?”

It wasn't the reply Matt expected. Especially not in his current doldrums, where he expects the worst possible outcomes at all times and from all corners. For all the 'idiots' and 'morons' peppered into Foggy's rebuke, there are even a few glints and glimmers of acceptance. I'm your friend. Your best goddamn friend. And: I could have been in the trenches with you, being someone you could trust.

Murdock lets out a breath he didn't even realize he'd been holding in his chest. Of all the possible reactions he expected if the day ever came when Foggy Nelson learned the truth about him, acceptance — even of the grudging and wounded sort — was never really one of them.

All of this relief is complicated by the fact that there is a part of him that balks at even the prospect of reconciliation — the same part that forced Kinsey Sheridan from Fogwell's Gym on the verge of tears just last night. It's the part of him that cloaks its need for isolation and self-recrimination in all sorts of noble talk about protecting his loved ones from danger. The part that says: They're better off without me. And right now? That part of him is ascendant.

"In the trenches with me?" Matt says, grim but slightly wry. He can't manage a smile, not in his current hangdog state, but it approaches one. He imagines that for a moment before shaking his head. "Fog, look, I know I said you had a mean right hook, but those are some dangerous trenches. I've had training — and I know I'm no, uh, Superman — or even Captain America — but my abilities do give me a leg up out there."

In fact, is this whole thing why you’ve been going MIA for the last year? He swallows. "Yeah, sometimes when I've dropped off it's been because of the mask," he admits, a tinge of regret in his voice. Not that he needed the excuse; Foggy's friend had a history all through school of suddenly dropping off and away from everything during black moods. The almost-crippling episodes could last weeks, or in the case of his ugly breakup with Elektra Natchios, even months.

But his more recent, comprehensive drops off the radar apparently weren’t driven by black moods — or at least not entirely so. "My vacation after the Barnes trial wasn't a vacation,” Matt elaborates in his quiet, careful cadence. “Or at least it wasn't until the very end. King T'Challa lifted Bucky off the streets of Brooklyn a few nights after the acquittal for some kind of crazy trial by combat in Wakanda. I — went over with a few others to bring him back."

Which, obviously, they did.

"As for now what?" Matt sighs, weary, pained. "Foggy, what I'm doing — what I've done. It's just made things worse. I wanted to make this city a better place, but now people are dying because of me. And the things I've got to do to fix it?" He draws in a breath, shuts his eyes tight, and nods once, firmly. "You should take the Stark account. Start up your own shop. Or go work for them as in-house counsel and spare yourself the headache of running a business. Pepper would hire you in a heartbeat, and you know it."

It was as if Foggy could almost follow the pathways that Matt’s mind was taking. He has seen him self-sabotage like this, but usually with the opposite sex and not with Nelson. They are supposed to be untouchable by the passage of time — but even Foggy knows that is a rather immature perspective of friendships. Wasn’t the first cardinal rule of middle school that, as people mature and change, friendships change, too?

“More dangerous alone,” Foggy quips back quickly, instinctively. “Doesn’t matter how much training you have — you go at this without people to back you up, you’re going to end up dead, and probably half or more of those you are protecting through ignorance.” Then Nelson frowns, rubbing at his jaw again before he leans forward, elbows pressing into his knees, and hands folding together.

“I’m not a sidekick.” Foggy stares steadily at Matt, knowing he can see him now. “Not like Robin, or Supergirl, or whoever else. I’m… like Pepper is to Stark, or Trish is to Jess. Hell, how fucking everyone is to Jess — people she likes and trusts at least.” And Foggy thinks of himself as part of that Jessica Jones inner circle. “I’m a friend who wants to help support you however I can, but not if you continue to lie to me, or try to protect me through withholding the truth about what the shit is going on.”

He appears to not even hear the suggestion that he should just take the Stark account and book it, because he doesn’t even acknowledge it is said. Maybe Matt just said it in his own head with how little Foggy reacts to the mere idea of breaking up Nelson and Murdock. He’s not ready for that, not yet.

"Wait, you… want to be my Pepper Potts?" Matt says, brow knitting. Even in the dark emotional pit he's found himself in, the comparison provides some glimmer of humor. "No offense, but I bet she looks better in heels." But beyond that, the offer — friendship, even partnership in Matt's other life as well as his law practice, moves him — and it shows on features that are ordinarily subtle, circumspect.

But it can't be that easy, can it? Because for all that Foggy ignores Matt's sensible suggestion that they sever their ten-year-old connection so that Foggy can live out what would probably be a wildly lucrative and professionally rewarding life on his lonesome, his friend won't let him get away from the proposition so easily. At the very least, Matthew Murdock will force Foggy to examine the pitfalls and likely consequences of staying attached to him, knowing what he does.

"And what if the danger isn't what they could do to me when I'm out there on the streets, but what I could do to them?" Matt asks as he reclines back into the sofa chair, boneless. The half-drunk bottle of beer rests on one knee, secured by a bruise-knuckled hand. "I mean, I go out every night and commit assault and battery, give or take a few affirmative defenses. And I — " his expression tightens, his voice lowers a decibel or two. "I think I have to do worse than that, to beat the man behind all this. At the very least, my keeping you in the dark protected you in the eyes of the law. Now that you know? Stick with me and you could be disbarred. You could go to jail."

A beat, a swallow. "Or, if the wrong person finds out who I am — you could die."

“I didn’t mean literally,” Foggy replies with a slight grunt, though he demeanor shifts slightly as too much talk about Pepper incites a faint shyness — awkwardness. He moves on from talks of Pepper quickly, and thankfully Matt helps move the conversation along by getting into the nitty gritty of the conversation. He narrows his eyes slightly, starting to chortle with a bit of a dry smile tugging at one corner of his lips.

“That defense is weak, Matt. The legal definition of vigilantism is changing, Matt… Tony Stark set that whole thing in motion, and it only kept spinning out as aliens and inhumans and other weird shit gets thrown in. I can build a case for vigilantism in this world.” He leans back in his own chair, but not as boneless as Matt. There’s still enough tension in his shoulders to keep him from totally relaxing into this conversation. “Oh, and one more thing? I’m an adult, Matt. I get to decide if I take a risk that could leave me disbarred or jailed.” Or dead.

“You’re Daredevil. I figured it out. And I have every fucking right to be so pissed at you, that I should take all our clients and cut you out completely. I’m instead, sitting here, offering to back you up. So, if you can get passed this part of the conversation, you can start telling me about what the hell is going on. Why did that guy try to kill Trish? Why was he dressed up like Thrift Store Daredevil? And who the hell is this man behind this all that you’re probably going to end up going after?”

Even though he's in the midst of an out-and-out mental health breakdown, there's still a detectable a glimmer of humor from Matt at Foggy's brief bashfulness about Pepper Potts. They know each other too well at this point.

But Foggy presses past all that, telling Matt that his concerns about vigilantism are, if not misplaced, at least overstated. And he articulates a theory rooted in the very same principles Kinsey articulated at their fight in Fogwell's: that Matt's friends are adults and able to make their own choices, judge and gauge risks for themselves. As it did in the gym, some measure of Matt reflexively balks, but for now it remains silent.

Still, Foggy asks, can they move on to the details? It's almost certainly not that easy, but here Matt seems to be willing to at least give Foggy a rough outline: "That guy was hired by a crimelord I've been tangling with since last year," Matt finally says quietly after he's finished weighing his words. "He'd bought the R&D company that made the chemical that… uh… made me." Discomfort briefly flickers across his battered features. "And he was trying to turn that stuff into a… boutique drug? Instead of getting high, you get temporary metahuman powers. He was experimenting on mutants, inhumans — dozens of them. Maybe hundreds. We shut down his plant last December, and he's punching back."

Matt's adam apple bobs in his throat after he takes a hard swallow. He's never seemed more miserable. "Trish was attacked because Daredevil had saved her once last year," he whispers. "That's what this guy is doing. He's sending someone who dresses like me to kill every woman I've ever… ah… helped. To make the police think I've cracked and turned, uh, serial killer or something." It's no easy thing for him to admit, and Matt struggles with each word, though there's a brief puff of dark humor at the end. "I don't think the FBI is sold, but J. Jonah Jameson sure seems to be."

Foggy catches the look — the vaguest hint that Matt would dare deny him the rights that come with adulthood… like making his own damn stupid decisions. If Matt wants them to break up, he’s going to have to be the one who does the breaking, because Franklin “Foggy” Percy “Faithful Hound” Nelson is not going to be backing out of this so easily. Oh no. Now he’s dug in his heels and Matt can see it by the way he sets his jaw a bit.

That stubbornness settles around him while he listens to Matt provide somewhat vague, but still helpful information. He frowns at the mention of the drug engineering, and even more when it sounds to be used mostly on mutants and inhumans. He tries to recall where he was last December, trying to map Matt’s mysterious life with his own, but he had been so busy with family stuff that he was hardly around. Easy to not pay attention to any oddness. Then something catches his ears, and he backtracks. “Whoa, wait. We? Whose we, ke-mo sah-bee?” He hesitates, frowning. “It’s going to be Jess, isn’t it? You’re going to tell me you’ve been tapping Jess for help, which means… does Jess know who you are?”

Does Jess know who you are?

“More people know who I am than I would like,” Matt says with a twitch at the corners of his lips, though his aspect is too glum for anyone to fairly call it a smile. “Including Jess.” That remark requires elaboration, and so: “I… was — I was fighting some Aztec murder-god on a rooftop. Don’t even ask. She ripped my helmet off in front of a group of… people, let’s call them. Jess included. Some other people have found out too, under other circumstances.”

His eyebrows lift and drop before he winces. “Including Kinsey, who I think —” his jaw tightens. “Who I think I just broke up with.” Which is a dramatic pivot, all things considered. On-again and off-again for the better part of a year, they solidified only recently — after Kinsey took a turn for the sick in January and Matt spent several weeks caring for her. Since her recovery, they’ve been together more evenings than not.

“But yeah,” Matt offers with a little lift of his chin. “A few of us were taking this guy on. Me, Jessica to some degree, Luke — that’s why his bar got blown up.”

When he mentions Kinsey, the lawyer frowns with a bit of disapproval sneaking into his eyes. He shifts slightly in his seat, continuing to roll the empty beer bottle between his hands. He sighs heavily, shaking his head. “I’m sorry, man.” The apology is said earnestly, with a hint of slack coming into his shoulders as he slumps in his seat. “She’s probably just mad.” He hesitates a moment. “Want me to talk to her?”

There’s a long pause after that question, letting it hang there before he clears his throat. “Matt, who is this guy? You’re not saying his name, but if you told me who he is, I can help.” His eagerness to help is perhaps a continued positive sign that he has no intention to be added to Matt’s shitty social consequences list.

Matt sets his empty beer bottle on the floor next to his boot with a casual assuredness he’s never, ever demonstrated before — all pretense of the blind boy dropped. But it’s only so he can bring his palms to his face and give his face a thorough rub. Does he want Foggy to talk to Kinsey? “No,” Matt murmurs after he’s done. It’s said unequivocally, but there’s at least some appreciation for the offer in his tone.

That can’t be said when Foggy pushes him on the identity of this ‘crime lord’ Matt has been chasing. He rakes a hand through unkempt hair, exasperation plain on his face. The offer underscores for him, if anything, exactly why he shouldn’t let his friends get wrapped up in the matter of one Mr. F. “What kind of help did you have in mind, Foggy?” he asks. There’s no mockery in his voice, but there is skepticism, and weariness.

The simple rejection of his offer is met with a simple, understanding nod. He continues to rub the bottle between his palms. A sigh loosens his shoulders a bit more, and then he looks up at Matt. There’s a long pause when his friend’s weariness and uncertainty punctuates the silence that comes from Foggy.

He rubs at his mouth and chin again in a tired, thoughtful gesture. When he looks back up at Matt, his expression is serious. “I’m not going to start swinging around the rooftops with you, Matt. Sorry. You want that, you better go figure out who that Spider-Man dude is in Queens. But… let me see if I can find out some information on this guy, or find some connections to shit that’s going on around home. You said you shut him down back in December, and he’s coming after you out of revenge, right? That means he’s still using resources. I got some contacts I can tap. Let me do that much.”

If anything can break through the bleakness of Matt Murdock's state of mind right now, it's the idea of Foggy Nelson swinging across the Manhattan skyline in tights. Even then, the chuckle comes out sounding something like a sob is yet another tell of his straits. Matt may have been hiding a lot from Foggy for a long time, but whatever it says about their relationship, Foggy still knows some core truths about Matt Murdock. And it should be clear enough that Matt is on his last legs.

His brow knits, deep furrows in fair skin as he considers Foggy's request, before shaking his head roughly. "His name means more than you think, Fog. This guy has gone to extraordinary lengths not to have it out there. You start throwing it around with your — your contacts, and it's going to get you killed. I — " he pauses, clasps his hands together so tightly his bruised knuckles blanch. "I can't let that happen to you."

I can't have your death on me too.

Matt takes in a breath. "There are other ways you could get at him, though. There's a lot we've put together over the last year. For one thing, Jessica's lawsuit? He set it in motion. This — councilwoman that's suing her for harassment. Mariah Dillard. She's in his pocket, and ten kinds of dirty. So is the nonprofit director that put Jessica up to following Mariah Dillard in the first place. Which means this guy orchestrated the whole thing, for his own reasons."

A beat. "Following that thread won't raise suspicion, since you're Jessica's lawyer anyway, and may let you get a line on him," Matt says with a shrug. It's not approval. It's not permission. Hell, it's not even his name. But it's as much as he's willing to give at the moment. "There may be other stuff that makes sense for you to track down. I'll think about it."

“Well, considering you haven’t told me his name…” Foggy lets the words taper off as he looks at Matt across the length of the sitting room. Then he releases a slow exhale, nodding a bit. “Alright. But, that’s just something I can help you out with, Matt.” He lets the rest of the suggestion drop. For now.

“Yeah, I know about Dillard.” Foggy frowns after a heartbeat. “I’ll talk to Jess, then.” Which will probably also include him needling the woman about what the hell he’s supposed to do now that he knows his friend is a superhero. “And then figure out what I can unearth about Dillard.” He takes what he can get to help out, though there’s an unspoken turbulence still there, in the slight fix of his shoulders and jaw.

Whether or not Foggy and Matt are still the same friends they were yesterday that they are today is still uncertain.

Their friendship isn’t the same. It can’t be. Because for all the joy and solace it brought them over the years, it had up to this night all been predicated on a lie.

Now, it was a lie Matt spun for arguably good reasons, and he sold it to everyone — friends, family, and strangers alike.He’d even let his own father believe it until the day he died.

But it was still a lie, and its undoing has consequences. The scales of their relationship have been thrown irrevocably out of whack, and if they do find a new equilibrium, it will be different.

Not that Matt holds out much hope of finding that new footing, given his current frame of mind. Neither defeating his doppleganger, saving Trish Walker, nor his friend’s discovery and tentative and grudging forgiveness are enough to pull Matt Murdock free from the traps his own mind has laid. The darkness has him right now, and it won’t allow him to see promise or possibilities.

The truth is that he would, should, drive him off like he did Kinsey. But he’s too tired — and too guilty — to summon the bile necessary to make it happen. Instead, Matt will settle for letting his friend nibble around the least perilous edges of this very perilous project, hoping that, when Matt is inevitably captured or killed in the crucible of the next few weeks, Foggy will forgive him.

Matt’s eyes roll upward slightly when Foggy speaks of Jess, a fond but weary expression. “Just… be careful, Fog,” he says softly to his partner, bare feet still planted on the floor, almost-finished beer still in hand. “Okay?”

Foggy finds himself pulled in two directions: the first to make his friend get past the gloom that has settled over his head like Eeyore’s cloud, and the second to give Matt a bit of space — and Foggy a bit of space, too. The lawyer tugs himself up to his feet, finally setting down the bottle on the coffee table with a soft clink. He looks down at his friend, eyes somber and shoulders a bit heavier.

“Alright… I will.” The words hang there between them for a heavy moment, and then he starts to take a step back. “Been a long night. I’m going to head home, get some sleep. You should rest, too, Matty.” He rubs a bit at the back of his neck through the thick fall of unruly hair. “I’ll see you sometime soon, alright? There’s a lot of messages for you at the office.” The bait is dangled there, but Foggy doesn’t wait to see if Matt actually goes for it.

Instead, he starts to turn toward the door, meaning to make his exit before more can be said to shatter the already tremulous state between the two best friends.

There’s a lot of messages for you back at the office, Foggy tells him. It’s the most innocuous of invitations, but it still sends Matt’s strong-boned features briefly crumpling. It’s the most off-hand and lightest of reference to a life he’d almost forgotten he’d had.

Truth is, Matt hasn’t been this deeply burrowed in his costumed life since Wakanda, where he’d spent the better part of six-weeks in a devil suit, stalking jungles, plains, and science-fiction city-scapes under cover of night.

And it is an invitation that Foggy offers, back into his life as a lawyer with a burgeoning practice and a small group of people who care about him. Foggy’s struggle in making that offer isn’t lost on him — can’t be with all his sensory sensitivities — but that makes it all the more meaningful. After all the bullshit Matt has foisted on him, his friend still has the generosity of spirit to offer an olive branch.

I don’t deserve you, he thinks.

Matt closes eyes that can’t see; his brow creases down the middle. “Yeah,” he says softly, through the ghost of a smile as his friend retreats.

“See you.”

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