Disclaimer: the characters and concepts in this story are the property of Marvel and their related affiliates. This is an amateur writing effort meant for entertainment purposes only.
Chapter Summary: It's been a while since the devil came calling. Long enough that Foggy Nelson isn't sure what he's going to do when it happens.
Author's Notes: I debated how this fic should end for a while before committing anything to paper. Part of me wanted to ignore the second season, write something happy and funny from Matt's perspective that framed the story perfectly with the first chapter. Another part of me was stuck on the trajectory of season two, and inevitably, that's the part that won out.
Once written, I was stuck between a happy ending and a tragically ambiguous one, an internal debate that was settled by the incomparable MomentumDeferred (thank you!).
This installment is set post-season two, so major spoilers ahead if you haven't seen it yet. I know that makes two of the installments in this fic blatantly AU (I'm looking at you, "…of Evil Ex-Girlfriends" and "Of Punishment"), but I wrote around those while producing this chapter. I pretended they didn't happen in this chapter; apologies if this causes any confusion!
Readers, I know I write this every time, but I'm writing it again because it has to be said every time: I couldn't have made it this far without you. Thank you for your support, you kind readership. Thank you for sharing in this fandom with me. I'm so happy to get to participate in it. I'm so glad you enjoyed this wild collection of h/c. You have yourselves a wonderful, wonderful time! Please, enjoy!
…It's Not Over
Foggy wakes to his cell phone clattering on the nightstand. He buries himself into pillows, the ones wrapped in thousand-plus thread count cases, and a plush duvet that cost more than rent on his previous apartment. He is lying in the collective earnings of Nelson and Murdock, and it feels magnificent. He is not leaving the safety of creature comforts for a late-night phone call. The last time he answered past midnight, Foggy had to mediate a pointless argument between Jessica Jones and Jeri Hogarth because, "You understand her type, Franklin," to which he had to admit that he did speak fluent selfish-dick-vigilante.
He is not going to make that mistake again, so he lets the phone ring. Jeri can clean up after Jessica Jones by herself for once. "Let me sleep!" Foggy slides deeper under the covers. As if in response, his phone stops vibrating, and his voicemail does the rest of the work.
The silence is such that Foggy drifts off, but he's woken a few seconds later by his phone. He finally springs out of the blankets and nabs it. Not Jeri: Unknown Number. Foggy switches his phone to silent and shoves it in the drawer of his nightstand.
Under the covers again, surrounded by blankness and the heavy sound of his own breathing, Foggy resists the urge to reach for his phone again. He goes numb all over; he shuffles the covers into a more secure cocoon. Breathing ought to warm him up, but it doesn't. Friction doesn't help either. He tosses, he turns – he is not picking up the phone. He is not picking up the damn phone. He is rolling as far away from the nightstand and wrapping himself up so tightly in his Egyptian cotton sheets that he can't escape if he tries.
Not that Foggy's going to try, because he is not picking up the phone.
"We agreed. We agreed!" his pillow is unsympathetic and uncomfortable. Foggy uncovers himself and sulks, not picking up the phone. They agreed not to be friends anymore, and Foggy has kept up his end of the deal by not calling or texting or thinking about his ex-best friend. Matt has clearly been doing the same until tonight. Until he needs something. Always until he needs something. That's when he wants friends again.
"It's probably nothing. It's probably nothing. He's probably…he's probably calling for directions…" Foggy mutters, trying to convince himself. Because he is not picking up the phone. He is not. "Calling to rub it in, remind me that he doesn't need anyone…" That's how it's been, after all: after Punisher, when Matt tumbled down the rabbit hole, when being friends turned into being nothing at all, it's been like they'd never known each other. One minute, Matt is clinging to his hand against the cold pull of death, confessing to love the way only a dying man can; the next, he's dismissing Foggy for his mask and his city, claiming it's best they both walked away.
So Matt's definitely calling for some stupid reason. From his burner phone. In the middle of the night.
Foggy picks up his damn phone. Well, he swipes to connect, but he doesn't say anything. He doesn't switch to speaker. He sits with the line connected, with the faint, ragged sounds of, "Foggy…Foggy…" rising from his open palm.
They are not friends. Foggy Nelson doesn't have a friend named Matt Murdock. He never had a friend named Matt Murdock, only some unmasked version of a psycho vigilante who did a poor-ass job of pretending to be a human being. Who is calling about nothing, speaking in a voice shredded from blood loss and pain and, Foggy. Foggy, please. Please. I'm sorry, Foggy. I'm sorry.
Foggy is not sorry. About as not sorry as he is not picking up the phone. His hands shake. The words bubble in his throat; he holds them tightly in his teeth. Hang up, he thinks, then lifts the phone to his ear and states flatly, "I'm hanging up now."
"No, you're not," Matt huffs, but he's not convinced. Not totally.
Neither is Foggy, though he is pissed right the hell off, "I'm not your God damn medic, Matt! I'm nothing to you! You're nothing to me! Go to a hospital. Have your precious city take care of you."
"No!" he feels the tear inside him, the snap of old wounds reopening. Of Matt dismissing him. After everything he'd done: the late night phone calls and DIY medical procedures and keeping a huge, life-threatening secret from the people he loves. "You don't get to throw me out of your life and then come crawling back when you need something!"
"It's bad, Foggy…"
"Good! Good, I hope it's bad! I hope it's awful!" Foggy throws the tears out of his eyes across the bed, but there's too many. He stops, lets them come. His voice twists into a sob. "It's been great, you know? Not having to worry about you? Not having to treat every conversation like it's the last time I'm going to talk to someone!"
They don't say it, but this is sounding like the last time Foggy's going to talk to Matt. For real. Not like all those other times that come rushing back to him, gigantic reminders of why this friendship ended. Why it had to end. Why he shouldn't have picked up the phone.
"Where are you?"
"So you can send the cops?" Matt scoffs. Spits. Blood, probably. "If I wanted them, I would have called them."
"I'll see you in hell, Matt," Foggy moves to hang up. His finger stalls over the big red icon, the one that looks an awful lot like a bloodstain in the darkness of his room. When he doesn't hear any protesting from Matt, he hits it.
The phone screen cuts to black. He tosses it to the foot of the bed and leaves it. The silence in the room is deafening. Foggy breaks it with, "God damn you, Matt."
Sleep no longer an option, he tears himself out of his blankets and marches into the kitchen. His new apartment catches the glow of Hell's Kitchen through wide patio windows, and everything is awash with a faint gold hue. The shadows of curtains and furniture are well-defined across the floor. Foggy stubs his toe on the boxes he hasn't dared unpack, the furniture he can't bring himself to arrange. He never felt crappy in his old bachelor pad; now he senses phantoms looming over his shoulder, ready to pull the new job and new apartment from Foggy's hands with a laugh.
He drinks water straight from the tap because the cups are still in boxes. That's where the human-shaped silhouette on his balcony finds him before it collapses in a limp heap.
The words, "Call Claire," flash in bright, neon letters through Foggy's brain, a holdover from the bad old days, followed quickly by, "Actually, the Police?" He's disconcerted that the second plays like a question, like he isn't sure even though it's what any normal, sane person would do. Unfortunately, Foggy isn't normal or sane, not after everything. The sutures, the mini mentals, the ice packs, the Aspirins; the maggots, the gunshot wounds, the head injuries, broken ribs, blood loss: they play through Foggy's brain on repeat. His response is trained, conditioned. Go to the balcony, grab the Devil of Hell's Kitchen by the armpits, and drag his sorry, bloodied ass into the apartment.
Again, Foggy finds himself consumed by the thought, "The Police?" He is a lawyer for a major firm on the fast-track to making partner, and there's a bleeding, unconscious vigilante squirming on his apartment floor. The bad old days are here again, but the consequences are so much worse.
"No…no hospitals," the devil rasps. "No police. Please, Foggy. Please."
"Climb back out onto the balcony then, because I am calling all the ambulances," Foggy stalks into his bedroom. He can hear Matt scrambling across his hardwood floor to escape, probably. Cell phone in hand, though, Foggy dials the three digits he should have dialled way back when he found Matt dying for the first time.
He is about to hit Send, the scuffling still audible in the living room, when he notices the rumpled strap of his duffel snaking out of the closet. The sack lies under a pile of old band tees and shopping bags of new clothing Marci insisted he buy, one more thing he didn't unpack when he moved in. Foggy can't help but wander to it, tugging the strap until the duffel emerges. Old blood leaves a dull gleam on the fabric. The smell of antiseptic and alcohol is unmistakeable. Foggy digs a hand inside and finds his Saving Matt Kit. An errant strip of gauze appears in his grip.
The fabric hangs in his one hand as his cell phone waits in the other. Foggy's heart sinks into the floor. This isn't how it's supposed to be. He needs to call the police and get the last of Matt Murdock out of his life. No more playing medic and buffer and whatever the hell else to a vigilante. Foggy throws the guaze down and storms back into the living room, phone intoning his connecting call to the police.
Matt stares at him through the darkness. Matt. Not the devil. The devil stares up from the floor where his face has been discarded. Matt remains, seated with his back to the closed balcony door. Familiar in a disquieting way. Foggy thinks it's the blood smeared on his cheeks until he realizes there are tears on Matt's face cutting through the red.
"Please, Foggy," he begs. "Please, Foggy…I'm…I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
"9-1-1 – what is your emergency?" the dispatcher says.
Foggy releases the breath he's been holding. He is not telling them he has the wrong number. He is not going to do that, because they aren't friends. They're not even enemies. They're nobodies. He is not going to hang up and run back to the room for his duffel bag. He is not going to drag Matt to his new, plastic-wrapped sofa and patch the lad up.
He is not doing any of those things.
…except for the part where he totally is. All of it. Grabbing the duffel from his closet. Depositing Matt on the sofa. Grumbling the whole time under his breath, telling Matt to STFU when the lad won't stop talking, stitching up the hook-shaped wounds roving the front and back of Matt's shoulders. "Take these," Foggy shoves some Aspirin into Matt's palm. The lad swallows them dry. Then it's back to work with ice packs and a damp rag until Matt looks like a pale, ragdoll version of himself draped over the plastic.
Matt isn't unconscious. His eyes are closed, but the way he breathes takes effort, as if he forgets that he needs to inhale. No better time than the present to ask. Actually, the best time would have been when Matt was slumped against his balcony doors, but they're way past that now. "Why did you come here?" Foggy asks. "What the hell are you doing, Matt? I thought we weren't friends anymore."
There's no response to the question that won't destroy what little peace they've cultivated here. That doesn't stop Matt from trying to find one though. He is quiet for several moments before admitting, "I wanted to see your new place. It's nice. I mean, aside for the boxes. And all the plastic." His lifts a sweat covered arm up off the sofa covering. It snaps unstuck from his skin.
Foggy rises, packing up his duffel. He has no use for their banter, not anymore. "I want you gone as soon as you're able," he says, meaning it. A look of hurt crosses Matt's face from more than the knife wounds. Foggy is glad to let it. Well, not glad. Vindicated is more like. "I meant what I said, Matt: we don't get to be friends again whenever you need something."
"So why help me?" Matt asks. "Why patch me up? You could have called an ambulance, Foggy. You could have…you could have handed me over to the cops."
"Do you want me to?" go ahead, Matt: triple-dog dare me.
"No. I just want to know why you're not. Is this for me or for the devil of Hell's Kitchen?"
Foggy can't believe they're back to this again. He almost throws the duffel into Matt to wipe the oblivious expression off his face. As it stands, he chucks the duffel into his unpacked boxes. The box containing his glasses hits the ground and most of the contents audibly shatter. It's the perfect accompaniment for Foggy's nerves.
"FOR YOU, MATT! This has always ever been for you! God damn it…" he storms around the apartment, thankful that he sprung for the extra square footage now that he fumes. "I have spelled this out for you, Matt. I have literally done everything I humanly could to tell you, over and over and over again, that all this – all this –" he picks up the duffel again and shoves it in front of Matt's dumb face so the lad can hear the smell of it or whatever the fuck his senses do, "ALL THIS is for you. My friend. My ex-friend. And not because you were out saving the city, though who am I kidding? That was certainly a perk until Frank Castle showed up. NO: I did this because I hated seeing you hurt. Because I hated getting those phone calls in the middle of the night and thinking it was the last time I was going to see you. Because I love you, Matt Murdock. I care about you. Even if you don't care – or only care – about yourself."
Foggy tosses the duffel aside again, this time to an area where he won't damage more of his belongings. He stares at the unzipped pockets, the strand of gauze retched out between the zippers, because he can't bear to meet the sight of Matt on the couch. Staring, sad Matt. The one who looks like all he's lost is finally catching up to him. Thank goodness and good riddance, Foggy sighs. He waves, "You can crash on the couch or hop back out through the window, but I want you gone before the sun comes up."
He heads back to the bedroom, but not before Matt can chime in, "You going to unpack that duffel bag when I do?"
"Take it with you when you go. It's yours anyways."
"Why'd you keep it?"
Foggy shrugs, "Just in case."
"…I got my ass kicked?"
That used to be the answer. Now, the line doesn't do. Foggy's lower lip twitches in anger and pain. He makes it to the safety of his bedroom and fires back, "Just in case you wanted to be friends again."
He slams the bedroom door shut behind him and dives under the covers, not so Matt can't hear him but so he can't hear Matt.
When he wakes up several hours later, Foggy charges into the living room. Sunlight reveals no trace of the night's excitement save for the toppled box of glasses. The duffel sits abandoned by the couch. The balcony door is shut. Daredevil is gone.
Foggy feels something. He wants to call it happiness: wants to, but can't.
Work is a blur. Foggy's short excursion into Daredevil-world makes the everyday seem bland, banal. Free bagels, comfortable chairs, and classy office drama befitting a Shonda Rhimes series fade into a blur. He disengages from banter with Jeri, takes a long lunch by himself, dodges Marci's insistence for a date that night, and gets back to his apartment as soon as he's able.
Once there, he dismembers the duffel bag. He arranges the contents into new quarters: pieces go to his first aid kit, others into the trash. The movies take their place next to his new television. For the first time in almost a year, Foggy doesn't have a private life stashed in a bag, ready to don at a moment's notice. He's Foggy Nelson, plain and simple Foggy Nelson, attorney at law.
He's motivated, so he heads to the kitchen boxes after. Weird, the glasses box he knocked over it on the counter now. Foggy can't remember moving it this morning, nor does he remember the outside looking so new. No matter: he gives it a cursory shake to gauge the damage. The tinkling of shards doesn't meet his ears. He slashes open the tape and checks inside.
The glasses are fine. Beautiful, intact…hell, they look brand new. Foggy inspects the box and finds their newness makes sense given that they are brand new. The same fucking glasses he's owned since law school replaced after he broke the bunch last night.
Livid doesn't begin to describe it. First the phone call; now, Matt's breaking into the apartment like they haven't been staying out of each other's lives. Foggy grabs his cell phone and fires off a text: If you ever break into my apartment again, I'm handing your ass over to the NYPD.
Matt responds quickly: Won't happen again. Promise.
The message jabs at Foggy with such finality. God, he can't believe how many break-ups they've had. They're a Taylor Swift song. With that in mind, Foggy is civil: Thank you for the glasses. You didn't have to do that.
It's the least I can do, Foggy. And then, after a slight pause, Just in case.
Foggy thinks he knows where this is going, but he needs to read it to believe it. Just in case what?
Matt takes his sweet time with the response. When it comes, Foggy stands for a long time looking at the balcony. The sun is hanging low in the sky. There's no way anyone's scaling the building to get to his floor. Yet he can't help but watch the city expectantly, as if the devil is going to come knocking again.
Especially after rereading, for the zillionth time, Matt's text:
Just in case you wanted to be friends again.
Foggy debates responding 'yes' or 'no' or with nothing at all. He could let the message hang there in cyberspace so they spend the rest of their lives with a Schrodinger's relationship. That seems like the most appealing option of the three, honestly, though Foggy is fairly confident he should text no. Matt isn't going to get better; he can only get worse from here on out, crawl further into that devil of his until there's nothing left of him.
But before he can hit the letters, Foggy hears his own voice in his head. All the pep talks he gave to Matt when the nights were at their darkest, when the devil had crawled out of hell with some wicked new tale of the world's propensity for evil. He has to hope. He has to try. He has to believe that people can change, otherwise why do it? Any of it? Why patch up vigilantes or defend them in court? Why crawl out from under the covers to answer phone calls in the middle of the night? Love and trust might feel stupid sometimes, but Foggy has to admit they're the best weapons he has against hate and fear.
"Should have kept my big mouth shut," Foggy grumbles, typing. He punches the three letters into the message and sends it off, followed by a, Use the front door next time. He hopes Matt understands that to mean Show Up Without Your God Damn Mask.
No sooner has he sent off the message than his buzzer sounds. Foggy doesn't bother with the intercom. He hits the button and lets Matt into the building.