Like most things in Matt’s life lately, it's Danny's fault.
Well, maybe that's not fair. He didn't exactly encourage every mystical whack-job in two dimensions to come after him trying to steal the power of the Iron Fist. But after they've managed to fight off the third evil wizard who's attacked New York—and Matt has confirmed that yes, he really does hate magic—they decide to go see that Dr. Strange guy in the Village to see if he can help mask Danny's presence in the city.
”Shroud my aura,” is how Danny explains it to Strange once they're there.
"Take him off the Hogwarts phone tree before I strangle him," is how Jessica puts it.
Luke and Matt are mostly silent. Luke doesn't like magic any more than Matt does. "I've been to K'un Lun and it's stupid," he offered once over a beer, and that seemed to be all he cared to say on the matter.
So Strange is hovering in the lotus position and doing something that makes all the hairs stand up on the back of Matt's neck—and which, judging by the gasps from the others, entails some kind of light show—when Danny starts poking around the objects in Strange's curio cabinet, which going by smell are very curious indeed.
"Are those dragon scales?" Danny asks, bending to look at them and knocking some kind of glass ball off its pedestal in the process.
"Danny, careful—!" Matt says, lunging to catch the ball. It lands safely in his palms, which are suddenly suffused with warmth, like he's stepped into a hot bath.
Strange freezes. "Uh oh."
Matt straightens up. "What uh oh?"
"Er. Did that just glow pink?"
Matt turns helplessly towards Luke. "As a little girl's lunchbox," Luke confirms.
"What does that mean?" Matt asks Strange.
"Well, that depends," Strange says, unfolding his legs and letting his feet touch the floor again. Matt gets the distinct impression Strange is hedging. "Are you currently suffering heartbreak?"
Matt very carefully doesn't think about Elektra. Or Karen. Or Foggy. "Let's leave my personal life out of this."
Strange clears his throat. "Yes, well, that option may no longer be on the table."
Matt really hates magic.
The first thing Strange does is order everyone out of the room. That suits Matt fine, if there's going to be talk of his heartbreak, the others don't need to witness it. The second thing Strange does is throw open a cabinet, reach for something round and metal, and handcuff himself to the radiator.
Matt puts the ball back on the stand and wipes his hands on his thighs.
"I assure you, this is only a precaution," Strange says, reaching a hand out to him.
"I'm not comforted," Matt replies. "What did that ball do to me?"
"I've heard it called many things. The Orb of Rejoicing, Love's Journey's End, and," he coughs, and it's an embarrassed sound, "The Plenty of Fish Ball."
"That tells me less than nothing," Matt grits out.
"In the coming days, you may be...inconvenienced...by a...certain...level of...amorous..."
Matt throws up his hands. "Stop pausing!"
"Attention!" Strange cries. "The orb seeks to heal your heartbreak by showing you other possibilities for love."
He could strangle the wizard, couldn't he just. "I didn't want that!"
Strange shrugs. "Magic isn't always considerate," he admits. "You know, you have..." Strange pulls at the cuffs, "beautiful eyes."
"I'm wearing a mask. You can't see them."
"I can see everything about you, Matthew. So much pain, so much love you're afraid to show. I could be of such help to you." His arm is twisted behind him and he's straining towards Matt, the handcuff clacking over the metal of the radiator.
The doorknob hits Matt in the back. "I think you're married."
"She's open-minded," Strange says. His voice has lost its booming gravitas. It sounds breathy and wheedling. It's so off-putting.
"I'm leaving. I'm just." Matt shakes his head. "Leaving." He throws open the door and shuts it on Strange's cry of, "but darling!"
In the large and echoing foyer of Strange's house, Jessica, Luke, and Danny are fighting. Not the sort of real fighting that ends up in concrete dust all over the floor and Claire sighing frustratedly into someone's head wound, but head-locking, rib-elbowing, hair-pulling stuff that makes Matt blink.
"I met him first!" hisses Jessica, her elbow braced around Danny's throat.
"I'll take better care of him!" Danny huffs, kicking at her shins.
"Neither of you understand romance!" yells Luke, prying them apart. His heart jumps when he sees Matt, standing slump-shouldered and bewildered at the Defenders rolling around on the floor like scuffling kids in the schoolyard.
"Hi, Matt!" he says, and Matt can hear the wide—oh god—lovesick smile.
Danny and Jessica clamber off the floor—Luke did throw them both several feet—and their hearts give happy little puppy-dog wiggles in their chest.
"Hi, Matt!" Danny says, like an excited little kid. Jess licks her lips at him.
Matt back hits the door. He's trapped.
"What's up, guys?" he tries, aiming for casual and missing by a mile.
"You could be," Jessica says.
"That is a terrible pickup line," Luke says.
"It worked on you, didn't it?"
"Look, this is just a spell," Matt says. "You're not really interested in me! We're just friends and teammates, remember?"
"Yeah," Danny says, "you guys are just his friends and teammates, so buzz off."
"He meant you too, genius," Jessica snaps.
They're all moving towards him, hearts racing, though it seems to be more of a giddy infatuation than anything else—Matt can smell adrenalin and dopamine, but not arousal. He thanks God for small favors.
Behind Matt, the doorknob starts to jiggle, and Matt takes back his thanks.
"Strange, how long until this wears off?" he calls.
"About a week, I think," Strange calls back. "Come in here and we'll test it."
"You're married," Jessica, Luke, and Danny snap in unison.
Matt's got to get out of here, but how? Danny's faster than him, Jessica can fly, and all three of them can get through any door he tries to hide behind. And frankly he doesn't know what Strange can do.
"Do you know what I would really love?" he says, trying to smile charmingly.
"To go get a drink?" Jessica asks.
"To beat up bad guys together?" Luke tries.
"To go on a romantic moonlit flight on dragon-back?" Danny suggests. "What, I can make it happen."
"So can I!" Strange calls.
"...Flowers," Matt says. "Uh, roses. I would love it if someone special went and got me a bouquet." He actually bats his lashes, hoping none of them will remember any of this too clearly, before remembering that he's wearing a mask and the effect is wasted anyway.
There's a poof! of perfumed air, and suddenly a bouquet is floating in front of him. "Oh, but, uh...it just means so much more when you pick them yourself," Matt calls back through the door. "You know, that personal touch."
Luke points at him. "I'm gonna pick you so many fucking flowers, baby. Just you wait."
"Not if I do first!" Danny cries, and jumps out the window. They're on the first floor, though, so it's not all that impressive.
Luke follows. Jessica does the same after blowing Matt a kiss, which is terrifying. And Matt can't hear Strange's heartbeat on the other side of the door anymore, which means he's probably in a meadow somewhere and Matt has at least a few minutes to get himself somewhere he can hide for a week without anyone trying to romance him.
Where the hell is he gonna go?
Matt ends up in Dr. Strange's coat closet.
The house is full of people, and even though Matt's fought his way through worse, that was with a chain in one hand and a gun duct-taped to the other. Beating up his staff would probably cure Strange of his infatuation, but no one deserves to get smacked in the head because Danny Rand has the hand-eye coordination of a toddler.
After a while, the voices recede. Matt slips out and zeros in on an open window, six floors up. He reaches for his leg-holster for his grappling billy-club.
He pats his other leg.
Oh shit. It seemed like every other week, he got a text from Melvin proposing some new improvement, and since this was supposed to be a milk-run, it had been the perfect time to let him tinker.
Sighing, Matt starts jogging up the stairs. Part of him is holding out hope that Strange and the Defenders were the only ones affected; the rest of him knows he doesn't have that kind of luck.
His phone vibrates as he's swinging one leg out the window.
"You wanna tell me why my boyfriend just phoned to ask if you prefer carnations or daisies?" Claire demands.
Matt freezes, straddling the windowsill. "No?"
"It's Danny's fault."
"Also Dr. Strange's fault."
"If you ever want so much as a piece of gauze from me again, Matt..."
There's a housekeeper closing in behind him, and her heartbeat spikes suddenly when she catches sight of him. Matt flings himself out the window and starts running. "I promise I'll tell you later," he yells over the rushing air. "Hey, um. Claire? On a scale of one to ten, how excited are you to be on the phone with me?"
The silence that comes after absolutely drips with disgust. "Modern mathematics hasn't found a number that small."
"Oh thank God. Listen, I might be gone for a while. Look after the others, ok?"
Half an hour later, he drops down into Melvin's workshop, out of breath.
"Melvin," he growls to the figure in the backroom. If Melvin doesn't see him, maybe he won't fall under the spell. "Stay there, ok? Don't come out till I'm gone." The benches are piled high with junk and he can't pick out the billy club amongst all the pipes and tools and comically oversized springs.
"Sorry?" A woman steps out. "Who are you?" Matt whirls around.
"Who are you?" he shoots back.
"I'm Betsy." Oh. Melvin's beloved Miss Betsy. She's taller than her boyfriend, and about as broad. Matt plasters on a smile.
"I'm a friend," he says, "just here to pick something up. Uh-oh." Her heart starts racing.
"Why don't let me make you comfortable?" she simpers, walking closer.
"Oh, gee." She's got him boxed against the workbench. "This is a bad—" She tries to kiss him, but he twists his face away.
From across the workshop, Melvin makes a surprised sound.
"Melvin, this isn't what it looks like," Matt says desperately.
"You don't even know Betsy," Melvin says, sounding hurt. "Don't I make you nice things? I make you nice things all the time. You never kiss me."
Oh no. Matt mentally adjusts the range of this stupid spell, and ducks under Betsy's reach. "Melvin, have you ever wanted me to kiss you before?"
That stumps Melvin for a minute, but not Betsy. "He didn't appreciate you," she says and Matt squirms away. "Not like I will."
"Sorry, I don't kiss on the first awkward meeting," Matt says, which is in fact a lie, but they can't hear his heartbeat. "I just came for my billy club."
"Is that all?" Betsy coos. "I could give you so much more..."
"Let's start with the billy club," Matt suggests. "Do either of you know where it is?"
He buys himself a brief respite as they fight each other for the honor of handing him his billy club, which gives him the idea for a slightly dirty trick. "This is great," he says as a slightly dinged-up Melvin hands him the club, panting a little. "You know what else I could use?"
"A hug?" Melvin suggests.
"A blowjob?" Betsy offers.
Matt will never be able to face her again once this wears off. "A socket wrench," he says.
"No, no, it's to fix a...chair? Yes. A chair." Matt has no idea what socket wrenches do, or what "socket" even means outside of the context of Claire popping his shoulder back into one. Foggy always fixed anything that needed fixing in Matt's life. "Do you have one I could borrow?"
Another scuffle erupts, this time over the toolkit, and the Man Without Fear flees.
He makes for the roofs, swinging his way towards home, where hopefully he can barricade himself in his apartment without Fran or the delivery guy trying to romance him. But when he's three blocks away he hears Jessica and Danny bickering, and realizes they're waiting for him, no doubt with bouquets of fresh-picked roses. He can't go home.
Where can he go? Not to Claire's. Definitely not to Karen's. She's barely speaking to him as it is, and it would be too cruel to both of them to put her through this. A hotel would be even worse, given the number of people he'd have to interact with just to get to his room. And seeking sanctuary with Father Lantom is a recipe for horrifying consequences.
That leaves one last option, and if he's honest with himself, it's not really the last. It was the first thing that came to mind; it always is when he needs help. It's a terrible idea, which is why he hadn't let himself think about it properly until now, when he's at the end of his rope, but it's his instinctual go-to after so many years.
After all, Foggy always fixed anything that needed fixing in Matt's life.
Matt's stomach ties itself into knots while he's crouched on the fire escape outside Foggy's apartment. He feels like he's holding a match over gasoline and it's burning down to his fingers, but what is going to do? Camp out at the cemetery with Dad?
He feels Foggy move around—typing on the laptop, lifting a wineglass to his lips, every line of his body sketching a sophisticated sort of pleasure. In an attache case by the door, a phone rings, and Foggy disappears around the corner to retrieve it. This is Matt's chance. He eases open the window, presses himself against the wall, and waits.
"What the fuck!" Foggy drives his elbow into Matt's stomach.
Matt grunts. "It's ok, it's just me, Foggy" He's got his hand plastered over Foggy's eyes. Please let this work, he prays, please be something to do with sight and not, I don't know, pheromones.
"Get your goddamn hands off—" he struggles, and Matt holds him tighter.
"Foggy, something's happened—ahhh!" Foggy's just stomped on his toes. "Goddammit, quit fighting! It's Matt!"
"I heard you the first time," he grits, almost succeeding in prying Matt's hand off his face.
"It's not safe for you to see me, Foggy," he catches both of Foggy's wrists in one hand, "I'll explain, I promise. First, how do you feel right now?"
"I"m pissed off, Matt!"
Matt sighs. "You have no idea how relieved I am to hear that."
"Great," Foggy spits, his shoulders tight. "Explain."
Matt knows how this is going to sound. "There was an accident. I touched a thing. It makes people...in love with me."
"Luke is out there right now picking daisies because I asked him to, Foggy. I've been sending people on quests just so I can escape!" Disbelieving silence. "I'll prove it to you later. This is good news, though. I just need to keep you blindfolded till this blows over."
"Foggy, people are getting mind-whammied when they see me, and it makes them act...not like themselves. I don't want you to go through that."
There's dark laughter from the corner of his mind he doesn't like to visit. Liar.
"You still wear a sleep-mask at night?"
"Ok, you're going to put it on and then I'll phone Jessica and prove it to you. Let's go."
They shuffle into the bedroom, towards the bedside table. When Matt releases Foggy's wrists to reach for the sleep-mask, he breaks out of Matt's grip.
Matt vaults the bed, hitting the floor just as he hears Foggy's eyelids open.
"Dammit, Matt, get out from under there."
Matt lifts his head over the mattress.
"You can see me?"
"How do you feel?"
"Still pretty pissed off, Matt."
Matt's heart plummets.
"So you don't..." Love me. The words stick in his throat, shame and relief and regret tangling together and holding them back.
"Don't what, Matt?" Foggy's rage is wearing off—his explosions never last long—and now he just sounds tired and sullen.
"You feel the same? Normal?"
"About as normal as I can be after my ex-partner breaks into my apartment in fetish gear and feeds me some cock and bull story about magic," Foggy snaps.
"Ex-partner" barely stings within the larger scope of what's happening here, which is that Foggy clearly hates him so thoroughly that not even magic can overcome it. Matt supposes there's a possibility that the spell has simply worn off, but Strange said a week, and Matt's luck can't be that good. No, this is the consequence of Matt's own actions, and he'll just have to deal with it, like he has been. Or like he's been failing to, as the case may be.
"It's true, Foggy, I swear it is," he says.
"Oh, well if you swear you're telling the truth..." Foggy drawls.
Matt's temper, already frayed, snaps completely. "Fine! You don't believe me? Call Jones, then, or Luke, or Danny! I know you know them and you don't care if they have powers. You don't care if they're vigilantes. Call any of them right now and ask them what they think of me, and then you can come back here and call me a liar as much as you want."
Foggy's jaw opens, then shuts with an audible click. He digs his phone out of his pocket and dials. Matt can hear a tinny ringing on the other end.
"Jones? It's Nelson. No, no, no case, I was just wondering...ah...what do you think of, um, Daredevil?"
There's a pause, and Jessica's muffled voice on the other end, and the creak of Foggy's jaw dropping. Matt tries not to look smug.
"He's...yes, okay, cherry red lips I'll sign off on, but I don't know if I'd agree that his eyes are limpid pools...I...yes, I...Jones..." Foggy sighs, turns slightly away from Matt, and drops his voice to what he must know is a pointless whisper. "Yes, I have seen his ass and it's very nice, look, I have to go, okay?"
The tap of his finger against the screen to hang up the phone seems very loud in the sudden silence.
"I was just trying to get her off the phone," Foggy says finally. "Your ass is regular." His heartbeat trips and stumbles in his chest.
"Sure," Matt says.
Foggy lets out a very long and tired sigh. Try as he might, Matt can't convince himself there's any yearning in it. "So...what happened, exactly?"
Matt tells him. It sounds even stupider when he says it out loud, but Foggy listens patiently, then crosses his arms when Matt's done and says: "So why'd you come here?"
Matt doesn't really want to answer that question, but he owes Foggy. "I needed somewhere to hide out. The others know where I live, but they don't know that we were...partners. I hoped we could find some loophole, the sleeping mask or something, something that would keep you from being affected."
Foggy gives a hollow laugh. "But if not, you figured you could use my sudden wave of romantic feelings to use my place as a safe house for a week?"
Matt looks down, gnawing his lip. He can't deny it.
"Unbelievable." Foggy shakes his head. "And for the record, don't think I didn't catch you accusing me of a double standard before. I don't care if Jones or whoever is a vigilante because she didn't use me as fucking cover for ten years."
"I didn't—" Matt starts.
"Yeah?" Foggy asks. "What are you doing now?"
Matt's hands clench into fists. "I'm asking for help." Words press against his throat, something about how it wasn't cover, it was just—too precious to risk with the awful truths about his life, but nothing else comes out. He raises his chin defiantly, because otherwise he'd not be able to hold up his head at all. "Do you want me to leave?"
For a long time—a long, long time, Foggy doesn't say anything. He picks up a shirt and throws it in a hamper. He squares up a book with the corner of the nightstand. Matt's insides go cold.
"Where else could you go?" he asks at last.
"Rooftops," Matt says shortly. Other options he's considered are in the bushes in Central Park, or breaking into an empty apartment, but he knows that admitting that his only recourse is breaking the law would be tantamount to guilting Foggy into letting him stay.
Foggy turns towards the windows, as if calculating whether it's warm enough to make Matt live outside for a week.
"Fine, you can stay," Foggy says heavily. Matt nods his thanks, not trusting his voice. Foggy nods back, his hair falling over his face. "Bathroom's to the left of the bedroom, towels in the cupboard across from the shower, the front door's halfway down the long end of the— fuck."
"Thanks, Foggy," Matt says, awkwardly ignoring Foggy's slip-up of describing a space for Matt like he used to do.
"Yeah." Foggy's voice is tight. He pulls some things out of his closet and strides past Matt. He tosses the items on the sofa and picks up the laptop. "I have to finish some things before tomorrow," he says, and shuts the bedroom door between them before Matt even draws breath to answer. Through the wall, Foggy's outline sits down hard on the bed and puts its head in its hands. His heart is almost arrhythmic with emotion.
Matt swallows. Starts stripping out of his gear numbly. Stands unmoving under the shower. He tries to listen to the drops hitting the tiles, but the sounds blend with other sounds, and suddenly he's listening to Foggy's fingers tapping at the keys. Another sonic blur, and he's listening to Foggy breathing.
He turns off the water and dries off, barely feeling either the floor under his feet or the plush towel against his skin.
Foggy's left him a pair of sweatpants and a pair of socks, plus a sweatshirt. He lifts it to his nose, touches the print worn almost all the way off the front. He used to "borrow" this one at Columbia all the time.
When he's dressed, Matt runs his hand over the sofa's thick upholstery. It's richly textured and inviting and Matt doesn't want anything to do with it, so he drapes the blanket Foggy gave him over his shoulders and sits on the floor in the hall, next to the bedroom door. He's quiet and careful, and inside the bedroom, Foggy's typing doesn't stop.
Matt rests his head on the wall and feels like every tap at the keyboard is being transmitted into the back of his skull, and it's oddly comforting. He needs to quiet his brain so he can make sense of the day—figure out a way to break the spell, or something—so he can leave, just go, get away from the living, breathing evidence of "yes, Matt, you ruined it all". And he will, he promises himself as he closes his eyes. He just needs a minute.
The next thing he knows, Foggy is shaking him awake. "Matt. Matt."
Matt blinks, and shakes his head to clear it. "I fell asleep."
"Yeah, I worked that one out," Foggy says dryly. "Why'd you do it on the floor?"
Matt's throat clicks. There's no answer he can give that Foggy will want to hear. "I didn't mean to," he says finally. "I just sat down and..."
"How much are you sleeping these days?" Foggy asks, then steps back and holds his hands up, palms out. "Sorry, I didn't—I know I don't get to nag you anymore."
"It's okay." Matt pushes himself to his feet, and doesn't say how surprised he is that Foggy's apologizing, or that he misses being nagged to eat, to sleep, to do something fun. He misses being fussed over. "Is it late?"
"Late enough," Foggy says. "Come on, the couch is on your three o' clock, about twenty paces—shit."
"You don't have to stop," Matt says. "Narrating, I mean."
"I guess it doesn't really matter either way," Foggy says. "You'll be gone in a week."
Matt turns so that Foggy can't see him flinch, and makes his way over to the couch. He lies down, curling up under the blanket. He's not sure what to do with the fact that Foggy is hovering beside him, his heart beating an anxious tattoo, so he just waits.
"Thanks," Foggy says finally.
Matt frowns. "For what?"
"You know. For not bringing up..." Foggy makes a gesture Matt can't parse. "The spell. Why it's not...why I'm not acting like Jones."
"Yeah, well, I guess there are some things even magic can't fix, huh?" Matt says with a sad smile.
"Wait, what?" Foggy asks. "I mean, sure, but...how does that apply here?"
"Well, you're...you don't..." Matt cuts himself off with a sigh. "There are very few people in this city less disposed to fall in love with me right now. It's fine." He gives a little huddled shrug under the blanket. "What's done is done, right?"
Foggy's silent for a moment, heart speeding up. Then he says: "Matt, what the hell are you talking about?"
Matt pulls the blanket up to his chin. "Nothing. Don't worry about it. It's fine."
Foggy snorts. "Something sure isn't," he says, and Matt rolls his eyes and sits up.
"Yeah, Foggy, the fact that people are losing their free will around me is not fine. The fact that I may have broken up two relationships on my way over is not fine. The fact that I had to choose someone to throw under the bus and expose to the spell in order to get to safety is not fine, and the least fine thing of all is that it's my own goddamn fault!"
His voice isn't a shout by the end, but it's certainly loud, and certainly upset. Foggy sits down on the coffee table, smelling tense and wary.
Matt puts his face in his hands. "I shouldn't have lost it. I'm sorry."
"Why is it your fault?" Foggy demands. This is new Foggy. Foggy from before Matt killed everything good between them would have said something like "Buddy, you're a magical little snowflake but unless you're the one who casted this stupid spell, it's not your fault." New Foggy cuts right to the heart.
"Danny knocked a...a magic ball into my hands. It sensed that I...wanted certain things."
"Did you want the whole world to be in love with you?"
"No! I—" Matt's heart seizes. He doesn't, and he didn't. Not consciously. But how much difference is there between wanting all the people in the world to love you and wanting the people in your immediate world to take you back? "No," he finishes lamely.
"Then stop beating yourself up. I don't know a lot about magic but it sounds like you're only guilty of having good reflexes."
Matt smiles grimly. "Shoulda let it smash."
"Yeah, but then it coulda turned you all into lovebirds or something," Foggy gives a little chuckle.
"I'd still have flown here," Matt admits with another small laugh.
Matt hangs his head. "Sorry."
"It's fine." Foggy coughs. Looks to the side. "I'd still have taken you in."
"You're the best, Foggy. I'm lucky to—" have you. Except he doesn't, does he? All of what made Foggy Foggy—his warmth, his affection, his (love, whispers the part of his brain that is cruel and truthful)—it's gone.
But the person who's sitting in front of him now, who didn't turn him away, Matt's lucky to have him too. It's better, he tells himself for what feels like the hundredth time since he realized Foggy was immune. Don't think about why he is. It's better than Foggy getting his strings yanked by a capricious magic, saying things he doesn't mean, letting Matt touch him, and kiss him, and hold him. How much worse would that have been when the spell finally broke?
"You're a good person, Foggy, and you don't deserve this. I'm glad you're not all over me like Jessica was."
Foggy's heart does something alarming, but his voice is calm and dead. "Is that so."
Matt knows he's misstepped, but he's still not sure which of the floorboards he's just rested his weight on is the treacherous one. "I mean...that wasn't a dig at you. It just...it was so unlike her, you know? She was out of her head."
"Whereas you knew I had plenty of practice restraining myself," Foggy says, voice clipped.
Matt frowns. "What?"
"Come on, Matt," Foggy says. "We both know that you came here because I'm a sucker, and we both know why."
His heart is beating absolutely true, so he must believe Matt knows what the hell he's talking about, but Matt is well and truly lost. "Are you...mad that I called you a good person?"
Foggy huffs out an annoyed noise and pushes himself to his feet. "You're nearly thirty, Matt. The innocent little Catholic schoolboy act isn't as cute as it was when we were freshmen."
"Wait, hold on." Matt tosses the blanket off his lap. "You want to yell at me or make passive aggressive snide comments, fine, but don't I at least get to know what I'm in the doghouse about this time?"
"God, just stop!" Foggy yells, rounding on him. "Stop pretending you don't know! I can't stand it, Matt, I can't, not after everything. Not after you left me. Not after this fucking spell."
And that Matt will not stand for, not when he's working every day with the ghost of Foggy at the empty desk across the office. "I left you?" he repeats incredulously. "Who's still at Nelson and Murdock, and who's pulling down six figures at a soulless firm downtown?"
"You told me to go!" Foggy snaps back. "You practically shoved my briefcase into my hands and kicked me out the door! And besides, I didn't mean then."
"You left me. On the sidewalk. With a bullet in my shoulder." From the way Foggy grits it out, he must be clenching his teeth. "You left me and you never came to check up on me, not once."
Matt's mouth moves soundlessly a few times. "I...I didn't...I was..."
"Save it," Foggy says, holding up a hand. "It's done. I'm over it." Lie. "We're talking about now, and how when everyone was falling all over themselves in love with you, you knew you'd be safe here."
"I didn't know the spell wouldn't affect you, Foggy," Matt insists. He'd hoped it wouldn't. He'd feared it wouldn't.
"Jesus, Matt," Foggy says, sounding deflated, "how could we even tell the difference if it had?"
How could we even tell the difference, Foggy says. This is the most I'll ever love you again, Matt hears.
"I get that you're angry," he bites out, "but you don't have to be cruel about it."
Foggy rounds on him for the second time that night. "Cruel? You want to talk about cruel? I'm coming around to the possibility you did somehow cause the spell to happen, Matt, because that's what you do. If someone has a feeling that's inconvenient, just pretend they don't! Why should I be surprised that you finally got the world the act the way you want it?"
"The world isn't the way I want it!"
"Yeah? How's that?"
"You still hate me!" He takes an aborted step towards Foggy, then away. His hands are so tightly fisted he can feel the tension in his teeth. "I may be ignorant and selfish and everything else you think I am, but you think I somehow can't tell the difference between someone who's magically in love with me and how you are right now?"
Foggy laughs bitterly. "I always did underestimate your acting skills," he says, which is neither here nor there, but Matt's brain is hurtling towards a cliff and he can't stop to ponder Foggy's meaning.
"How else can I prove it to you? I know. Here: Foggy, will you go pick some flowers for me? Feel anything? No? How about this: Foggy, do you want to get a drink some time? What does that do for you? I know: Foggy, I want to kiss you. Right now. Would you let me? I just want to kiss the hell out of you. Come on Foggy, tell me how much you love me—" Matt pulls up short.
Foggy's trembling with rage, tears slipping through his lashes.
When he turns away, Matt lunges for him. "Wait!"
Foggy's entire body locks up when Matt grabs his wrist, except for the way his shoulders are shaking. "Foggy, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," he whispers.
Matt pulls Foggy stiffly into his arms. "I'm sorry," he says it over and over. He's rich in sorries and he's got a lot to pay for.
He pulls the cuff of his (Foggy's) sweatshirt over his hand and wipes Foggy's face. "I'm an asshole," he says with a sad little smile, "You take care of me again and I go and be a total dick to you. I'm sorry."
"You're a jerk," Foggy mumbles wetly, and Matt smooths his hair back from his forehead.
"I know." Foggy doesn't say anything more, but he stays there, head against Matt's shoulder. After a while, his hitching breaths slow and he looks up. Matt's hands stop moving over his hair.
"I—" Matt starts, uncertain, miss you. I miss you.
"Yeah," Foggy says, as if he heard. He clears his throat. "Work tomorrow," he says, and it's a bit rueful. He pulls away.
Foggy doesn't fall asleep for a long time, and out on the sofa, Matt takes even longer. It's late morning when he startles awake, confused by his surroundings and headachy like he's been drinking. He reaches out towards a stack of objects on the coffee table. Foggy must not have slept very much at all, because he's gone to Matt's apartment before work and brought back his laptop, some files, his cane, and his glasses. There's also a note.
I'll bring some more on my way back.
He's pressed hard with the pen so Matt can read it. His lips twitch, and he sits down at Foggy's table to work.
Later that evening, Matt's phone beeps. It's a text from Jessica.
Why does my lawyer have a key to your apartment?
Matt's first reaction, he's ashamed to note, is a ridiculous surge of jealousy at Jessica's use of the possessive.
His second is alarm. The only way Jessica could know that is if she's still staking Matt's apartment out, and that could mean her following Foggy back to Matt—or worse, Foggy in danger. Matt's not sure how irrationally the spell will make people behave.
He decides to buy time by playing dumb. Hogarth? he directs his phone to text.
The answer's almost immediate: no nelson
nelson anD MURDOCK
i knew it sounded familiar
Well. That's not good.
Matt's phone starts ringing: "Jessica. Jessica. Jessica."
Screwing up his face, he answers it. "Uh...what's up, Jones?"
"So is this guy breaking into your apartment for your files or what? Ex-lawyerly espionage?"
A chill runs down his spine. "Jessica, what did you do?"
"Nothing!" she says. "Luke may be holding him against the wall by his throat, but you know Luke, he barely has to try for that kind of shit."
"It's all for you, Matt!" Luke calls, muffled through the line.
"Jesus Christ." That's Foggy's voice. Matt relaxes fractionally. Foggy's still talking, and he mostly just sounds annoyed. He's okay. "Luke, you know me, remember? Claire introduced us?"
"Doesn't explain why you're breaking into my man's apartment."
"He is not your man!" Jessica and Danny snap. Oh great, Danny's there too.
"Jessica— Jessica!" Matt says, trying to get her attention. "Let him go, okay? I know he has a key. I gave it to him. It's okay. Let him go."
Jessica sighs. "Luke, he says to let him go."
There's a distant groan, and then Foggy calls, "You owe me, Murdock!"
Like he doesn't know that already. Matt paces the living room. "What are you all even doing at my apartment?" he asks Jessica.
"Waiting for you," she says, like it's obvious. "We slept in the hall. I'm a little gross now, honestly, but we could shower together."
"Jessicaaaa, stop stealing my pickup lines!" Danny whines.
"Oh my god," Foggy says.
"So why was he here?" Jessica asks. "You two are splitsville."
Matt clenches his free hand into a fist. "He...needed to pick something up. An, an old case file. From before."
"Yeah? Because he's holding your clothes," Jessica says, and Matt's heart sinks. "So either he's a pervert sniffing your dirty laundry or—holy shit, you spent the night at his place! You two are together!"
"What?" Luke and Danny snap.
"We're not," Matt says, and hears Foggy denying it too: "Come on, Jones, you've seen him, you think I'm in his league?"
"It all makes sense now, all your sadsack pining," Jessica says. She is far too smart, even under a mind-altering spell. "All this time you were in love with him, and now you used this spell to get him back!"
Shit. Shit, shit, shit.
In Matt's apartment, the Defenders sit three in a row on the sofa, drinking his coffee. They all perk up when he thunders down the stairs from the roof. "Stay there. Don't even talk," he growls. It's his work-voice, and he doesn't mean the one he uses on juries.
Danny whimpers and fans himself with his hand.
Matt shucks his mask and falls to his knees in front of Foggy seated at the table, taking him gently by the back of the neck and feeling for damage to his throat.
"Are you hurt?"
"I'll live," Foggy says. He turns his head a little, takes in Luke, Jessica, and Danny openly watching, and drops his voice uselessly, "but we are definitely having words later, counsellor."
That sounds bad. "I'm going to take care of this. You should go."
"I might not be able to protect you if they get jealous."
"We won't hurt him," Luke promises. Danny elbows him in the side. "Again."
"But we could if you wanted," Jessica says earnestly, "he did break your heart, after all."
Matt whirls on her. "Touch him and you're going through the nearest wall," he growls, while Foggy sputters.
"Broke his heart? I have news for you, Jones."
Jessica scoffs. "He was an asshole when I met him, Nelson. Gave me a run for my money. Moping, sighing, the goddamn works. Now I see he just needed someone to mend his heart. You, on the other hand? You've saved my ass a few times now, Nelson, so I'm giving you the chance to surrender gracefully. You had your shot and you blew it."
"Or didn't blow it enough," Danny snickers. Matt's teeth grind, but at least no one's thrown a punch defending his honour yet.
"I'm starting to see why you needed to hide," Foggy says.
"Oh, look at the little crease between his eyes," Luke sighs.
"Quit making it worse," Matt hisses, and honestly he's not sure who he's talking to.
"Nope, I've decided." Jessica hops off the sofa. "Nelson's out, disqualified, whatever. The ex doesn't get another chance to hurt the future Mr. Jones."
"I'm not his ex!" Foggy insists, "and what do you mean, I'm disqualified?"
"Means he's got better choices than you, man," Luke says, and even with the love-spell, he sounds rueful, like he's actually sorry that Foggy's out of the running.
Danny joins in with, "yeah, Nelson. You're pretty cool and all, but Matt should have someone who's gonna take care of him like he deserves."
"Someone who'll protect him," Luke tries to tenderly smooth back Matt's floppy hair, and Matt flicks him irritably, "someone who'll walk the streets with him, who'll fight for the city with him."
Jessica picks Luke up by the armpits and moves him aside. "Someone to share your mission. Someone who understands you," she says breathily, draping herself over Matt's chest. "Someone who'll stick by you, no matter what."
Ouch. Matt winces. Jones for the KO.
Foggy makes a gut-punched sound and stalks towards the windows, shoulders up around his ears. Matt wants to go after him, but he's got to deal with this lunacy first.
"You all keep telling me what I want, but is anyone actually going to ask me?" Matt snaps. "Or are you going to walk all over other people's needs to get what you want—you know, like the kind of people we defend this city against?"
"Alright, Matt, you go ahead and pick." She runs her finger down his cheek. "Pick whoever's going to make you the happiest. I think we both know that's me."
Danny hip checks her out of the way and shoves a rose under Matt's nose. "No, me."
Luke spins him around by the waist and fucking dips him. "Matt, there's no question," he says, in a silky voice, "it's me."
"Luke, let me the hell up!"
They all start talking at once, promising outlandish and improbable things.
"Matt?" A quiet voice cuts through the clamour. By the windows, Foggy's standing with his head lowered and his hands in his pockets. He clears his throat.
Matt does his best to snap his head in Foggy's direction, even with Luke still dipping him. "What?"
"What what? What'd he say?" Jessica asks.
Matt swats uselessly at Luke's arms until Luke lets him stand. Pushing past Jessica and Danny, he joins Foggy at the window. "Foggy?"
Foggy sighs, then squares his shoulders. "You heard me," he says. He sounds terrified, and terribly brave. "Pick me. I know I'm not what you want, but God, Matt, don't I know how to make you happy better than any of them?"
"Hey now," Luke says.
"I don't...I don't understand," Matt says, and then he does, and his heart sinks. "Oh no. No. Foggy, I thought the spell didn't work on you!"
Foggy barks out a laugh. "Who could tell?" he asks.
It's not the first time he's said it, but Matt's not sure he means what he meant last time. "What?"
"Come on, Matt," Foggy says, and now he sounds sharp again. "You've been cool about this, but enough already. Stop trying to help me save face."
"About what?" Matt snaps, confused and annoyed because there's clearly something going on here that Foggy thinks he understands but he doesn't.
"About the fact that I've been in love with you since I was eighteen!" Foggy shouts. ("Ooooh," Danny whispers.) "About the fact that I'm still in love with you, after everything."
Matt sits down hard on the floor.
"I don't think he knew," Danny observes.
"I knew," Luke says.
"Everyone knew," Jessica says in a voice like an eyeroll.
"Oh come on, you knew," Foggy says, scornful. "You can...can hear heartbeats, and smell boners or whatever, and...you can hear lies, Matt!"
"I." Matt shakes his head. He didn't know. He didn't know. Distantly he glimpses the bright shores of a world where he'd known all this time, where he and Foggy could have been... "I didn't."
"But. But. Lies, Matt!" Foggy sputters.
"I don't recall you ever announcing categorically that you bore no romantic feelings for me whatsoever!" Matt manages to shoot back. "I can't hear a lie if you say nothing at all."
"I hit on you! When we met!"
"You what," Jessica snaps.
"So crude," Luke mutters.
"Yeah! And then you were like, ‘No homo,' and immediately started talking about girls!" Matt retorts. Danny tsks and shakes his head. "I mean, sure, yeah, I thought maybe you might have a little crush on me at first, but I wasn't sure. Blind teenage bookworms raised by nuns don't have the best gaydar. And then your heart calmed down, so I figured if you had, you just...got over it."
Foggy shakes his head, and then keeps shaking it. His heart hasn't exactly been steady since Matt arrived, but now it's racing full throttle. "You really didn't know," he says. "Shit. Shit. I'm just...I'm gonna...yeah, goodbye forever, I'm out."
He books it for the door. Matt scrambles to his feet, shaking off Luke and Danny's "help," and lunges for Foggy. "Wait!"
Jessica opens the door for Foggy and waves at him as he sprints through it. "Bye!" she chirps.
"Wait, Foggy, don't go. Godammit, come back!" Matt's feet skid as he tries to get up off the floor, but the door slams and Jessica walks back into the living room dusting off her hands in a self-satisfied way.
"Now that's taken care of," she starts, "let's get to the real fun."
Matt stands panting in the middle of the room, listening; Foggy's footfalls trip and tumble down the ancient stairs. He's running for his life.
Luke puts a hand on Matt's shoulder. "That was rough, but it's over now and you can move on. I'm here for you." Danny clears his throat. "Fine, we're all here for you."
But Matt's not paying attention. His ears are at street level. Foggy's on the sidewalk, head in his shaking hands. He throws himself along the sidewalk with a jerking, unstable stride, berating himself all the way.
Jessica touches his elbow. "Are you ok?" Her voice is reluctantly concerned. She sounds like old, un-magicked Jessica, and Matt hugs her. He needs them to stop this now, and what the hell, he should start getting some practice at telling hard truths.
"You're a good friend," he says affectionately, "you all are. You're my team. I never thought I needed one before." He transfers his hold to Luke, and then Danny. "But I did, and I'm glad I have you."
"But Foggy? He's—" There isn't a word big enough for what Foggy is, and Matt's a lawyer, not a poet. He's Matt's safety, his comfort. He's the sunrise. "He's everything."
Jessica steps back like she's been slapped. "I was right. You love him."
Matt nods. "I love him."
"Then there's really no chance for us?" Luke asks. He sounds devastated. Jessica curls angrily into the corner of the sofa, back facing him.
Matt shakes his head. "Only as friends, Luke."
"And you're going after him."
"Yes. I have to. I love him." Now that he's said it, he can't stop.
Danny scuffs the floor. "Can we stay here for a little while? Just, you know, till we feel better?"
"Yeah, of course," Matt says, but Luke starts pulling him to the bedroom. "Hey, what—are those rose petals on the bed?"
"...yeah," Jessica mumbles, lingering sulkily in the doorway.
"Never mind that, take this," Luke orders, handing Matt a bag and rifling through his closet. "Change your clothes before you see him. Don't do it in the armour."
Luke looks at his feet. "It's what I'd want, if you were coming to tell me you loved me."
So Matt lands on Foggy's fire escape in a blue shirt that Luke says brings out the rosiness of his lips and a pair of slacks that do geometrically impossible things to his behind, according to Jessica.
There's a suitcase open on Foggy's bed, and Matt gulps. Blows out a breath. Knocks softly on the glass.
Foggy startles and Matt's terrified he's going to run again, but then he takes a step, and another, and then he's opening the window.
"You're wearing your date shirt. That's nice. I know what you're going to say, and there's no use in—it's my fault," he says in a tight voice. "I was sure you were—sparing my feelings by ignoring it. I thought the spell made it so obvious, because you can't make someone fall in love if they did years ago," he gives a broken laugh.
Matt nods. "Are you done?"
"Yeah, Matt. I'm done," he sighs, resigned and obviously bracing himself.
"Good. Me too." Foggy hangs his head. "I'm completely done with this ridiculous story where I ignored your feelings for a whole decade. How could you think I was that perverse?"
"I dunno," Foggy mumbles.
"It's ok, it's not important. The important question—hey, are you listening?—the important question is how could you possibly think this would be bad news to me?"
"Foggy," Matt says, cupping his cheek, "don't you get it yet? I'm in love with you."
Matt leans in through the window and kisses him.
Foggy trembles at his touch, and Matt pulls back. He thinks this is good—he thinks Foggy will think this is good—but he has to be sure. "Foggy?"
"Karen, though," Foggy says, but he's not pulling away. He is, in fact, gently tugging Matt through the window. "Claire. Elektra."
"And you've never dated anyone else?" Matt points out as he steps inside. "I loved Elektra. I did." It still hurts. He swallows past it. "And I could have loved Karen, and Claire. But none of that changes the fact that I loved you first." He tucks a lock of hair behind Foggy's ear, and listens to his frantic heartbeat, and hopes. "Loving you has always been the best part of me."
Foggy's silent for a moment. Then he says, "Well jeez, Murdock, you could have said something," and surges into Matt with a kiss that tastes like tears. Matt clutches at Foggy like the anchor he's always been, and lets the rest of him get swept away.
Suddenly something buzzes against his thigh, and Foggy pulls back. "Either you were really optimistic about how this was going to go down, or your phone's ringing," he says.
Matt flashes him a smirk as he fishes into his pocket, and revels in the way Foggy's temperature spikes. "It can't be both?" he asks, and answers his phone. "Hello?"
"Matt? It's Doctor Strange."
Matt grimaces and puts the phone on speaker. No more secrets, at least not from Foggy. "What's up?"
"Well, I was doodling ‘MM + SS' in little hearts in the margins of the oldest and most irreplaceable tome in my collection when I suddenly realized I had no idea why I was doing that, so I'm wagering the spell is broken," Strange says.
Matt sags with relief. "You're not in love with me anymore?"
"I think you're a nice guy with a great ass, but probably more trouble than you're worth," Strange says dryly. "Plus, I'm married."
"Yeah, about time you remembered that," a woman snaps in the background.
"Is there anyone still hopelessly besotted around you?" Strange asks.
Foggy leans towards the phone. "Just me, but he's good with that."
"...Is that my lawyer?" Strange asks.
Matt frowns at Foggy. "Do you represent every superhero in New York?"
Foggy shrugs. "What can I say? I have a specialty."
"Yeah, well tell your boyfriend that he owes me seventy thousand dollars, a moonstone opal, and the first tear of a virgin's heartbreak for this book that I just defaced," Strange says.
"Uh, I think Danny owes you that, right, counsellor?" Matt says, turning towards Foggy.
"Office hours begin at nine a.m. tomorrow, Doc," Foggy says. "Right now I need to go make sure Matt can't provide you with that last ingredient, bye!"
He hangs up the phone before Matt can stop him. "I can't believe you just implied that I'm a virgin to the Sorcerer Supreme," Matt says.
"I can't believe you couldn't tell how gone I was for you for a decade," Foggy retorts.
Matt smiles, and hooks a finger into Foggy's belt loops to reel him in. "Likewise," he says, listening to Foggy's heartbeat pick up, and for the first time he realizes that double rhythm is Foggy saying love you love you love you without words. He knows there's still a lot to talk about—a lot he has to make up for—but as long as he can still hear that bass line, he knows they can make it through. "How about I make sure you know from now on?"
Foggy's arms twine around his neck. "Sounds good to me," he says.
("It's all so romantic," Danny gushes when Matt tells them the rest of the story a few days later.
"Oh my God, Rand, shut up," Jessica says.)