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Law school was the last thing on his mind until he was sitting in the library during spring break, writing a paper at the last possible minute as per usual, and listening the gals behind him giggling and hiss-whispering about this kid in their class.

Guy’s name was Benson. His first name was Benson.

Foggy knew him. He had stupid, perfect chestnut hair and stupid, perfect full lips, and stupid perfect high cheekbones.

Foggy hated him.

Benson was, among many things, a fucking moronic, manipulative jerk who had cheated on his girlfriend more times than Foggy could count. He knew this because Bailey had been in his Intro to Psych class freshmen year and they’d hit it off right from the start.

Now Bailey was everything you could possibly ask for in a girl. Bright red hair, freckles, stunning green eyes. She was down to earth and had early fine lines around her eyes from laughing all the time. She was a hilarious mess of a person. She’d tried to fake-flirt with Foggy at the campus bar once to make him feel better about a test he’d flunked and had proceeded to knock a full beer pitcher over onto a table full of phones. A few days later, she tried to rescue a kitten in a tree for half an hour before realizing that it was, in fact, a squirrel.

They did a lot of service hours at the student union advice counter together, and Bailey had gone on for weeks and weeks about this guy Benson from their class and when she finally managed to catch his eye, she’d grabbed Foggy’s shoulders and jumped up and down screaming. Foggy loved Bailey with his whole damn heart.

If he’d been a little less shy and a little more upfront about how much he loved Bailey, he was pretty sure that Bailey would have reciprocated his puppy love, but things as they were, she was preoccupied sobbing her eyes out on his floor with Jane and RJ every other night. He was sure of the former because Bailey had taken the opportunity on Foggy’s floor a few nights earlier to straight up tell him that she wished she’d never met Benson because until then, she’d actually had a crush on him. Which was why she’d started working at the SU’s advice counter to begin with. And that just made things worse. Not only because Benson had ruined his chances with this beautiful, amazing, bubble of a human, but because Benson kept coming back to her, promising that he would change and just stringing her along. Time and time again.

Bailey was incredible and funny and amazing, but she gave her whole heart with everything she did and watching that little glass vial get smashed again and again was almost too much to bear.

She’d realized this and stopped giving details to people, stopped calling them and crying in front of them.

And that my friends, is how abusive relationships begin.

So yeah. Foggy fucking hated Benson and his pretentious-ass name and his big-money parents.

In that moment, however, he was sitting next to Bailey who saw these girls tittering and who then saw Benson lean back from his table in front of them and smile their way. That was the point when Bailey finally, finally threw down her books.

She stood up. She walked over to Benson in the middle of that library.

“I’m done with you,” she said, tears streaming down her face. “You’re a self-centered, manipulative piece of shit and I’m done with you. And I hope, for the sake of everyone and everything you ever touch, that you don’t get into law school. And I hope, for the sake of everyone and everything that I know, that I never have to see or hear of the likes of your pathetic, piece of shit, cheating ass again.”

The whole study room went dead silent and then watched her leave.

Foggy packed up all his shit as fast as he could and chased after her through the double doors.

 

 

He’d just caught up with her outside the library’s huge bulletin boards when she swung around as though she already knew he’d be there. With tears and mascara leaking rivers down her face, she told him, “I’m fucking applying for law school, Foggy. I’ll show him. Do it with me.”

Wait, what now?

“That fuckhead is going to get into law school,” Bailey snarled, “He’s going to get in some damn way or another and I refuse to let that bastard loose on the human population with another goddamn degree. He paid someone to write his last four essays, Foggy. He goes to maybe one class a week. He doesn’t deserve this degree, hell, this college, but he’s going to get it anyways and then his dad is going to set him up with a big fancy job taking the piss and money out of people like us, Foggy. Poor-ass nobodies. He wants to do criminal law, Foggy. Think about that—just think about it!”

Alright, alright, he was thinking about it, chill.

“But law school?” he asked. “I mean, girl. I whole heartedly support you, but law school?”

“What? Am I not smart enough?” Bailey demanded.

“More like, you’re not pink enough,” Foggy mediated, “This isn’t a movie, Bay. You can’t just click your ruby slippers and get into Harvard. Like, first of all, we, neither of us, currently have rich daddies or sugar daddies and girl, that shit is expensive.”

“They’ve got to have scholarships,” Bailey snapped. ]

“I mean, probably. But the applications alone are gonna be, god, one month? Two months of rent?” Foggy pointed out.

Bailey sucked in a deep breath that made her whole chest puff up.

“I’ve got some savings,” she said. “And I’ll get another job.”

“Great, let’s say that you do. Now, we can talk about grades,” Foggy told her.

“I’ve got a 3.8.”

“Yeah, girl. In social work. Law people, they’re all history majors, politics, poly-sci, philosophy, criminal justice, international relations—that kind of shit.”

Bailey stared him down.

You’re a criminal justice major,” she pointed out.

“Well, yeah. But I’m not in this for like, law school, girl. I just need a degree—any degree. After that, I’ve got the store and—”

No, Foggy. No. Listen. You care—you picked that shit because you care about the system. I care about the system, too. But listen, we can’t change shit if we’re always on the outside of it, just complaining about it. So let’s—let’s just do it. Try it. Not just to shove it in Benson’s fucking face, but to stop people like him from being the ones interpreting the law for normal people.”

This was ludicrous. Bat-shit crazy talk. It was beyond idealism, veering closer and closer into a pipe dream. But Bailey was staring into his eyes and she was leaking mascara down her cheeks and he just—he couldn’t leave her like this.

“Oh my god, fine,” he said. “We’ll apply to law school. What the fuck? Why not? We don’t have to go, and we’re not gonna get in anyways, so I guess it isn’t a big deal.”

Bailey screamed and did her bouncing, shoulder-clutching dance of happiness. People started staring at them all over as Foggy tried to shush her and move her towards the automatic exit doors.

 

 

The next thing he knew, they were studying for the fucking LSAT. He still hadn’t told his mom that he was doing this. All the others in their friend group told him, when Bailey wasn’t there of course, that he shouldn’t be using this as an excuse to get closer to her.

He told them he wasn’t. Had zero intention to. But the fucking problem was that now that he’d agreed, the guilt of backing out of it was actually going to suffocate him in the middle of the fucking night. The idea of Bailey’s face dropping as she realized that she was alone in this made him feel like the worst human on the face of the planet and besides, neither of them were going to get in. He’d at least be able to help her cope with the rejection.

Jane and RJ sighed and agreed that that was all kind of true. The important part was managing the rejection.

“But Fogs, like, what happens…” Jane trailed off.

“What happens what?”

“What happens if like, you get in?” she said.

Him? Get in.

Psh.

“Dude, you don’t give yourself enough credit, man. You’re the top of your class.”

No, he wasn’t. And anyways, even if he was, it was just because he picked the easiest classes.

“You’re such a fucking—Foggy, do you know you’re the only one who doesn’t read the professor reviews before picking a class?”

What? No. That wasn’t—hella people did that. Foggy just took courses he thought would be interesting that was all.

“Man, sometimes you’re like, embarrassingly stupid, you know that?”

Yes, yes, he was very aware. Hence why he was now applying to law school instead of just talking to Bailey like a moron.

“Seriously, Foggy,” RJ said. “What if you get in?”

“Well, I won’t go,” he said.

The other two stared at him with huge eyes.

“What?” he snapped.

“You’d just not go?”

“Yeah, man. Do I look like I can afford law school? Mom and Dad need me to run the store, Candace isn’t old enough to help yet and she doesn’t want anything to do with the place.”

More silence. More staring.

“Y’all got something to say or what?” he demanded.

“You’d really not go, man?” RJ said, sounding weirdly…sad?

“Yeah, that’s what I said.”

The other two looked down and then at each other.

“Well, okay. If you’re sure. Don’t hurt yourself, though. And, I guess, thanks for being a good friend to Bay.”

What the fuck? What was with that tone? What was with that walk?

He watched the other two leave the building and felt strangely pissed off about the whole conversation.

 

 

He took the damn LSAT. He wasted two hundred fucking dollars that he didn’t have to spare on the damn LSAT. Bailey took the damn LSAT too and gave him a huge thumbs up when she got out of her testing room.

“Damn, you’re fast,” she said.

Yeah, well. It wasn’t like it had been that hard.

“That shit was hard,” Bailey said.

Wait.

What?

Oh.

Oh, no.

 

 

“Guys, I fucked up so fucking bad. Oh my god, I fucked up,” he gasped, shaking Jane’s shoulders in the cafeteria because she was the closest object he could both get his hands on and talk about this to. No one else knew he’d taken the test.

“Jesus, Fogs, what happened?” RJ asked, prying his hands off a now thoroughly rattled Jane.

“I took the LSAT.”

“Right.

“And it was—”

“Fucking hard, yeah. That’s what Bay said.”

Foggy could only make a prolonged high pitched squeak at that. The others went still.

“Oh no, Foggy, no.”

“IT WASN’T EASY,” he clarified far too loudly, but he couldn’t control it anymore. The desperation was making him more jittery than a 5 hour Energy drink. “BUT IT WASN’T THAT HARD. GUYS WHAT DO I DO?”

“Foggy. Foggy, how could you?”

“I didn’t know it wouldn’t be that hard????”

“You fucking idiot. What if you score higher than Bay? What then, huh?”

He’d die, that’s what.

“Oh my god, no. Here’s what we do,” RJ said, “You just don’t tell her what you score. Just say you’re embarrassed, ‘cause you felt like you could have done better.”

“If she finds out that he did better than her, though, that’s gonna be fucking worse, RJ,” Jane pointed out, getting jittery alongside Foggy. He appreciated it. He didn’t like to be the only one panicking, that was no fun.

“Well, it’s that or making her feel like shit ‘cause you don’t care about this half as much as she does,” RJ hissed back.

God.

Goddamnit. Why did he do this to himself?

 

“We need a 174 to get into Harvard or Stanford, a 171 for Columbia and a 170 for NYU,” Bailey said to the others all gathered in her room. She held her envelope in her hands while she said it, ready to tear it open at any second. Foggy sat miserably on the edge of her bed holding his.

RJ and Jane looked over the heads of Haylee and Manny at Foggy very, very pointedly. He could just about cry.

This was not how this was supposed to go. He was supposed to get his letter on his own, tear it open, and then hide it for eternity or shred it immediately.

“Ready?” Bailey asked him.

No. Not in a million years. Not when worms were eating his body.

“Go!”

She tore her envelope open at the speed of light. Foggy looked down at his and sighed before following suit. He pulled out the papers.

Bailey said nothing. He glanced over to her.

“Bay?” he asked.

She looked down into her lap.

“165,” she said, tears in her eyes and throat. She tried to blink past them to smile. “I mean, high enough for Berkeley and UPenn, right? I mean, the other parts of my application are crackin’, so maybe I can take it again? What did you get?”

Everyone was now staring at Foggy.

He looked down at the paper in his hands and swallowed back tears of his own. He felt Bailey lean over to see more than saw her.

She gasped.

He wanted to burn the damn thing.

“Foggy—oh my god.”

175.

 

 

People would not leave him the fuck alone. He just wanted to be left the fuck alone. That was all he fucking wanted.

“Foggy, man, open the door. Listen, we need to talk—we need to talk.”

God, the three of them were like roaches. Inescapable. Unavoidable. Even the heat wouldn’t tire them out.

FOGGY.

“ALRIGHT, ALREADY. Fuck.”

He opened the door. The girls all stared back at him.

“You look like shit.”

Yeah, tell him something he didn’t know.

 

 

Foggy knew he was smart. He knew he was talented. He knew that he could do any damn thing he set his mind to and that he was more than a hardware store in Hell’s Kitchen, but still. He’d spent the last four years trying to come to peace with the store as the rest of his life. His mom—his step-mom who had treated him better than his own mother ever could have—and his dad had invested so much in him. They’d given him everything they could afford to. They’d made his life as comfortable as possible; he’d practically had a middle-class childhood, what with the museum trips and the occasional video game. They’d taught him how to manage money, how to inculcate kindness. How to be gracious and graciously broke. They accepted him for who he was when he came out. They’d accepted all his piercings and his general failure to be the hypermasculine son who would be perfect for their business.

He owed them for everything they’d done for him. For all the love and acceptance they’d poured out of their ever dwindling cup.

He couldn’t ask for more than he’d already asked for.

But.

In his hands there was proof that he could do better than a dinky hardware store in Hell’s Kitchen. In his hands was confirmation of the intelligence he told himself he’d successfully faked for his entire academic career. Proof of reasoning abilities his sister always screamed at him not to brag about.

In his hands was a way of giving his mom and dad everything they needed in the future, store or no store. If he became a lawyer, he could help them. They could expand the place. Fix the floors. They could hire another cashier if they needed to. They could go on vacation once a year or so.

Foggy could give that to them. He could give them what they deserved. 3 years and an internship and a few years to pay off the loans. In ten years, he could afford all those things. In ten years without a law degree, well. He could afford nothing more than what they already had and what they needed. Even if the store did well. They were just a small business. Business went in waves.

There was always work to be done in law.

Maybe it was a selfish reason to become a lawyer. Maybe it was a normal one. He didn’t know anymore. What he knew was that if he did this, he’d have to see it through.

 

 

“I retook the test,” Bailey said. “Got a 170!! Phew! That means that you and me, Fogs. We can apply to the same schools, now! So, Harvard, obviously. And—”

“Columbia,” Foggy said without looking up. The others went quiet in Bailey’s room. They peeked at him from their various textbooks. Foggy refused to look up from his own.

“Columbia?” Bailey asked. “Is that your top choice?”

Columbia had a scholarship that Foggy intended to get, come hell or high water. He’d play the low-income card. He’d play the under-served neighborhood card. He’d do whatever it fucking took. Columbia was close to home. Columbia was close enough for him to help out the store if they needed it. Columbia was close enough that Foggy could keep all his networks and references and find a job.

His parents, he’d decided, would not know of any law school applications or acceptances or admissions until he was damn sure that he was the one who would be paying for it. He refused to let them feel that obligation, like they had with his undergrad, to help him out financially.

No.

This was his bad fucking decision. He would pay for it.

Come hell or high water. He would do it.

“Okay, so Columbia,” Bailey said. “That’s where fucking Benson is going anyways, that’s perfect.”

 

 

The emotion that Foggy got when he got his admissions letter was less of a scream of joy and more of a scream of FUCK YOU to everyone who had ever bullied him in his entire education. Bailey screamed for both of them. He couldn’t stop smiling, but he couldn’t celebrate yet.

Not yet. He was waiting for his second letter, the one from financial aid.

 

 

“BAILEY.”

“FOGGY??”

“WE’RE GOING TO FUCKING COLUMBIA.”

Their study group’s three tables in the library erupted into chaos. Foggy couldn’t hide the tears this time.

Just wait and see, Mom and Dad. I’m gonna make you so fucking proud.

 

 

***

 

 

He was a grad student now. A grad student. A law student.

Bailey kept shrieking randomly as they finished up finals and he beamed at her because he knew exactly what was running through her head.

Grad student.

Law student.

Columbia law student.

“Oh my god, we just got dorm assignments. Who’s your roomie?”

Bailey was constantly on their new student emails. Foggy barely had to think about anything because she was so on the ball about everything that she was ahead of it. He laughed and opened his email after she shoved his laptop at him excitedly.

She needed to know, she claimed, because whoever it was, was going to be her competition in the best law buddy department. He didn’t quite know how that was supposed to happen, but sure. Whatever made her feel better.

A guy named Matt Murdock was his dormmate.

“Oh, you’ve got a note,” Bailey said, peeking over his shoulder.

And so he had. His roommate had a disability, it said. A physical disability. The emails said that accommodations had been made and would be made for his roommate, and so Foggy should please be respectful of these upon arrival.

“Maybe he’s got a wheelchair,” Bailey said.

Huh. Yeah, maybe. Matt Murdock, where had he heard that name?

 

 

Bailey insisted that they dress up for their first day. She styled herself in head to toe pink because, she said, Elle Woods’s crazy plan had gotten her where she was today and so respect needed to be paid. Foggy saw no less than five other girls wearing the same hot pink get up when he arrived to campus and thought that yeah, Elle Woods was really moving mountains in the legal community, even to this day.

His mom made a huge fuss about him making a good first impression. She begged him to shave and take out the piercings.

He said that he wanted his first impression to be a dirtbag hipster, mom. She told him that he better shave before classes started or she’d come into his dorm at night and do it while he slept.

It was hilarious.

Everything was too good to be true.

But before he knew it, the first day was mostly over. Orientations finished. Tours taken. Everyone was returning to their dorms now. The first years were all on the same floor in the dorms because they were grad students. They were a community. And they got privileges now.

Foggy noticed early on that his roommate wasn’t in any of his groups. Or maybe he was, and Foggy was just being hella ableist. He was definitely being hella ableist. Still though, his roomie was supposed to have a physical disability, but all the folks Foggy had encountered that day appeared to be able-bodied. He saw no wheelchairs or signing or dogs.

Huh.

Maybe it was a super-invisible disability.

“He probably got an individualized tour,” Bailey said on their way back to the dorms. She was rooming with a gal called Yumi. They were next door to the other Elle Woods of their cohort, Marci Stahl, and her roommate Anita. Marci Stahl was possibly the most attractive person Foggy had ever seen in real life.

Columbia, man. Best of the fucking best.

“Yeah, that makes sense,” he told Bailey.

“As soon as you meet him, you bring him over to make friends,” she made him promise. He promised and then waved at her and Yumi as they went to go explore their dorm.

 

 

There was no one in his dorm when he got there. He slung his dufflebag off his shoulder and looked around at the place. Tiny kitchen, check. Unspeakably small bathroom, check. Room with two twins—ah, just like freshmen year. Fun.

He sighed and decided well, he was here first. That meant he got first pick of the beds.

 

 

Foggy was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

Marci Stahl was the second most attractive person he’d ever seen in real life. The first most attractive was Matt fucking Murdock and his shy, perfectly white, puppy-face smile.

Foggy wanted to kiss him and he’d only known the guy for half an hour.

Goddamnit.  

Matt was gorgeous and soft and gentle and a hero. Foggy knew he’d known that name. When he was about nine years old, there had been a huge accident in the neighborhood involving a truck carrying several tons of acid. It had gone off the rails and nearly hit a poor old man in the middle of the crosswalk; it didn’t, however, because tiny, baby Matt Murdock, the nine-year-old son of the honest to god, real-life Battlin’ Jack Murdock, threw himself into that crosswalk and pushed the old man out of the line of fire.

Baby Murdock had been blinded for life from the incident. Rumor had it that Battlin’ Jack had gotten capped a year later because he couldn’t afford his kid’s hospital bills anymore and had gotten involved with the wrong folks for help.

Matt didn’t talk about his dad. He didn’t talk about much at all, actually. In fact, Foggy had yet to see him eat, shower, or sleep in the whole week they’d lived together.

Matt was too busy studying. He was barely home. He’d apparently already claimed a space in the library. He woke up before Foggy and went to sleep after him. The guy was terrifying in many ways. He was the type of machine-student that Columbia and Harvard lusted after.

Except.

Well.

Foggy had grown up in the Kitchen and he had learned a thing or two about poverty. Namely, that you do not ever fucking ask someone about that shit unless they bring it up first.

Matt was poor as fuck. Like, dear god. Foggy wasn’t well-off. He had his scholarship. He had his loans. He had a weekend job that the school had warned him against taking.

Matt, though.

Yikes.

TV told Foggy that professional boxers made enough money to afford fancy penthouses and all sorts of expensive food and gym equipment and women. If Jack Murdock had had any of that, it must have vanished with his life, but Foggy doubted that that had ever been the case to begin with. No, he got the distinct impression that the only time Battlin’ Jack had contact with that lifestyle was when he’d touched knuckles with it in the ring. Matt knew how to be poor better than Foggy did.

There was no glamor in watching Matt refuse to go for drinks or coffee or even just lunch with their cohort. There was no glamor in watching Matt not notice or maybe just pretend to ignore the holes in his collars or the thinness of his sweatshirts.

Foggy watched Matt work himself to death and starve himself to death, all for the sake of justice.

He told Foggy, when Foggy finally worked up the nerve to ask him why he’d picked criminal law, that he wanted to be there to prevent people like his Dad from going through what he had to. If someone had taken Matt’s case to court, they could have been reimbursed for his hospital bills. If someone had kept the man who’d killed Jack Murdock in jail for longer than 30 days, then Matt wouldn’t have gone into foster care. Jack Murdock would have gotten to see his son graduate college.

They could have been a family. A poor-ass, two-man family, but a family nonetheless.

Matt said that he would be damned before another blind kid like him was refused equal access to space and accommodations in public institutions like schools. He’d be damned before he’d let the people who brought murder and rape and cruelty into their community, into Hell’s Kitchen, get off with no more than a slap on the wrist.

He said this with shaking fists and then he smiled and told Foggy that he thought he was going to have a shower.

It made Foggy feel more selfish than he’d ever felt in his life. He didn’t ask again.

 

 

“Oh no, he’s hot,” Bailey said when Foggy had finally convinced Matt to have dinner with them in the cafeteria. Matt tended to cook all his own meals. He had a card for the cafeteria like everyone else did, though, so Foggy didn’t understand why he didn’t use it more, until Matt revealed to him that he did use it. He usually grabbed a meal when he was done studying late at the library, before he came back to the dorm.

Foggy felt a little like he was living with a ghost sometimes.

“Do we have classes together?” Bailey asked.

“Hmm?”

“Us. Do we have classes with Hottie McRoommate?”

Oh. Yeah. Foggy did anyways, they were both criminal law.

“Foggy.”

Nope. He did not like that tone.

“Foggy.”

Shut up, he didn’t like that tone.

“You like him, don’t you?”

No. They were roommates. Matt was hot. Foggy was attracted. But that didn’t mean that he was interested. Matt made him feel bad, if he was honest. Matt made him feel like he wasn’t doing this all for the right reasons. Like he wasn’t working hard enough. It had only been three damn weeks and he already felt like he was behind.

“Oh my god, it’s Benson,” Bailey said out of nowhere, grabbing Foggy’s arm to hide behind his shoulder. She squinted out over the top of it. “God, he looks like a dick. I bet that shirt’s tailored.”

Benson was talking to one of the cooks at the counter. Foggy thought he didn’t look any different from before. Once a dick, always a dick.

“Okay, we need to orchestrate an encounter,” Bailey whispered. “I need to run into him casually and say, ‘oh, you got in? What a surprise. I bet the admissions team really liked Ethan’s essay.’”

Bailey was so petty sometimes, Foggy lived for it.

 

 

Bailey came and pounded on Foggy and Matt’s door from down the hall a few weeks later in tears.

She’d decided that she was failing law school. Foggy opened his mouth to tell her that she was not failing law school, this was just their first midterm and everything was terrible when Matt laughed a little hysterically at his desk and called back, deliriously,

“Oh my god, me too.”  

Bailey shut up and blinked at Foggy in shock. Everyone in their cohort had to take some classes together and so everyone now knew Matt as the blind kid at the tippy top of their class, very sweetly handing all their asses to them. If Matt was dying and thinking he was going to fail out of law school, the rest of them were Fucked with a capital ‘F.’

Foggy (also with a capital ‘F’), however, had come to the realization about a week ago that he was going to school with an entire cohort of drama queens.

Matt was a drama queen. Matt functioned at a level of drama queen and imposter syndrome few could hope to ever attain. He told Foggy, fading in and out of sleep, that if he flunked out of law school, he was climbing to the top of his church and throwing himself off of it. He was sure Jesus would understand.

Foggy really, really liked sleepy Matt. He had maybe a fourth of Matt’s regular brain to mouth filter and zero shame about it. Sleepy Matt apparently liked Foggy, too, because he’d been coming home at night lately rather than staying at the library until 2am.

Bailey, however, was unaware of many of these facts. She was mostly aware of the fact that Matt was dying, ergo she didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell at passing this paper. Her tears ratcheted up to hiccupping.

Foggy sighed. He’d reached the ‘fuck it’ stage in his writing. ‘Excellent’ was no longer his goal here, passing was. He held his arms out and allowed the desperation hug to begin.

“We’re gonna be fine,” he said.

“We need an Emmett,” Bailey sniffed. “Now’s when Emmett is supposed to appear to help Elle.”

This was not a movie, honey. No one was coming to help them. They were in the shit now.

“Ask Marci,” Matt suddenly said from his desk.

Wait. What?

“Marci Stahl. Gal’s brilliant.”

At 1 in the morning?

“Oh, she’s up.”

How did he even know that?”

“I can hear her.

Foggy was…Foggy was going to leave that. Matt needed sleep. Matt desperately needed sleep, he was talkin’ crazy now.

 

 

Help came, not in the form of an Emmett, but in the form of their professor cackling at them all, ripping through the papers.

He allowed them all a chance to re-write.

He was a fucking dick.

 

 

They formed a study group because they felt like that’s what grad students were supposed to do, and surprisingly, it helped enormously.

 

 

“Hey, Foggy,” Marci said three weeks post-midterm, watching Bailey try to explain something to their new friend Sarah.

“Hmm?”

“Benson’s creeping on us again.”

He looked up through the library’s automatic doors and saw Benson sitting in the café space, sipping a coffee and pretending that he was being very cool at a plant.

“Should we like, invite him?”

Absolutely not.

 

 

“Hey Foggy.”

“What’s he doing now?”

This fucking guy would not leave them alone. He and Bailey had had a spectacular showdown in the cafeteria the other day and so he was now beyond aware of their presence on campus.

“I think? He’s watching? Murdock?”

Foggy’s brain ceased functions for a second before he snapped his head up and caught Benson, indeed, sipping a coffee, casually watching the back of Matt’s dipping and bobbing head at the end of their table. Matt was not a human being the day after papers were due. He stayed up all night, typing and typing and typing, until Foggy either told him to shut it or until he physically passed out on his keyboard. His nodding was giving their studymate Jia anxiety as she was terrified that he was going to drop his head right into the table. She kind of bobbed with him.

“What the fuck?” Foggy said.

“It’s fucking weird,” Marci pointed out. “Is he gay?”

Not that Foggy knew of.

“Maybe bi then?”

Could be. Matt was probably pretty enough for even straight guys to consider it. Especially when he smiled.

“Huh. Oh. He saw us.”

Yeah, that’s right. Look away, motherfucker.

 

 

It started with the staring, but then all of the sudden, there was bullying?

Weird bullying. Bullying Foggy hadn’t expected. It wasn’t just Matt, it was their whole study group. A bunch of second year students came over and told them that they were at their table, which was news to all of them since they’d been using it for nearly two months by then. Then a handful of other first years had a party and invited everyone in the cohort but their study group. And then one night, while they all went to get a drink, Benson showed up with a couple other monied students and got all up in their faces about how them poor folks needed to clear out, as they were poor investments of tax-payer money.

And then, in front of the whole damn class in the middle of debate, someone called Matt a cripple.

It was as though a switch had flipped in Matt’s head.

“Excuse me?” he said from the lectern.

The professor started to interrupt to mediate this.

“No, no,” Matt said, “I want to know what you called me, you wanna say it again?”

The guy, fuckin’ Taylor from Connecticut, proudly repeated himself. Matt smiled at him.

It was terrifying. The professor stood back between them and berated Taylor for being inappropriate. He went on a spiel about classroom rules and lost credibility with name-calling.

 

 

Taylor didn’t show up to the next class.

Or the one after that.

Or the one after that?

Then he dropped out.

 

 

“Jesus,” Bailey whispered, “Only a few months in and someone’s already dropped. I wonder what happened.”

Didn’t they all? Taylor hadn’t been like, smart or special or anything, but he hadn’t exactly been failing.

“Dude, I saw him a couple weeks back. Looked like someone smashed his fuckin’ nose in,” Anita whispered.

“Dear god. Who would do that?” Foggy asked. “Seems excessive.”

 

 

Bailey had become best friends with Anita over the last couple of months and while Foggy felt a little strange about that, he wouldn’t say that he felt overly bad. He himself found himself laughing more and more with Matt and his dry sense of humor and his dramatic prostrating of himself at every tiny inconvenience.

He thought, a little guiltily, that maybe Bailey had run off to be best friends with Anita because Foggy had run off to be best friends with Matt.

He couldn’t help it. The guy was so. So.

He didn’t know what Matt was, but he just fit. Like he and Foggy were meant to be locked arm in arm.

“Are you my Emmett?” he asked Matt’s sleeping face one night after their first semester of finals. Matt’s eyelashes gave nothing away.

Foggy grumbled and turned back over to face the ceiling.

“If we flunk out, you can be my Kyle,” he said. “I’d be a great Paulette.”

Matt made a soft noise in his sleep which sounded like a whimper. He did it a lot, that whimper. But only when he was out cold. Foggy couldn’t tell if it was a wet-dream kind of whimper, or a trying to talk in your sleep kind of whimper, or what.

He hoped a lot that it wasn’t an ‘or what’ kind.

“Or maybe you’re just my Vivian,” he sighed to the ceiling.

Matt was as straight as a goddamn board. He was beautiful and he was funny and he thought Foggy was hilarious and smart. And he told Foggy things he’d apparently never told other people.

He was so far out of Foggy’s league it wasn’t even funny.

“I guess I can live with a Vivian,” Foggy said.

 

 

Matt didn’t go home for Christmas like everyone else. He said he had to study. For what? Who knew. Matt always found something to study for.

Foggy came back at the end of the break and found him curled up in bed with a raging fever. He slept through the whole thing and made a whole lot of those horrible whimper sounds. By then, it had become clear to Foggy that there was only one kind of whimper that Matt made and it was the ‘or what’ kind.

Sometimes, Matt cried in his sleep. The fever made him sob in his sleep.

He called for his dad. He called him ‘daddy,’ because Battlin’ Jack had died when they’d still been young enough to call their dads that.

Foggy went to the library because he couldn’t bear to hear it.

 

 

Spring semester started and they all celebrated having survived so far.

“Only 5 more semester to go!” Jia cheered.

Only five more semesters to go.

Then only four.

Then only three.

Two.

 

 

Foggy woke up to Matt’s goddamn alarm clock and pounded on the wall between their rooms so that he’d wake up and turn the horrible thing off. He heard Matt throw something at it and miss through the wall. Then he heard Matt swear at the thing.

Then it turned off.

Blissful silence.

His own phone started screeching.

Foggy,” Matt groaned through the wall.

Ugh. Same.

He grabbed the phone and mumbled, “Hello?”

“Get your ass to campus.”

Hey, Marci, good morning to you, too.

“CAMPUS. UP. UP. UP.”

“Jesus, okay. I’m up.”

“Leave Murdock, he’s already got an edge on the rest of us.”

Well, if that’s how she wanted to be about it.

“Matty,” he called through the wall, “Get your pants on, we gotta go to campus.”

He could have sworn he heard Matt start to cry/whine in bed.

 

 

“I hate this. I hate you. I wanna sleep,” Matt whined into his shoulder.

If Foggy hadn’t been harboring a two-year crush on the guy, he maybe wouldn’t have shoved him off so callously.

“We all wanna sleep,” he said.

Matt tried to find him with his face to make sure that he got the full impact of the puppy eyes. It still worked, damn him, even now after all this suffering and after all the times Foggy had sworn he wouldn’t fall prey to them. This was how Matt sapped his heat in the winter. He’d whip out the puppy eyes and be all ‘Foggy, I’m cold. You are one degree warmer than me, please let me insert my infuriatingly heterosexual self into your bed to sap your heat.’

Foggy kind of hated Matt a little.

Mostly because of how fucking clueless he was.

Marci spotted them across campus and came jogging over to grab Matt’s other arm and make them jog with her. Matt was displeased to be touched, but boy did this guy love to run. Foggy thought that if they found him an equally fit guide, he’d be halfway ready to do the Olympic cross-country race.

Marci dragged them over to Professor Grimes’s office door and there upon it was their next professional milestone.

New goal: get this fucking internship.

 

 

“I don’t wanna.”

“Matthew, why are you like this?”

Foggy didn’t know when he became the one in this friendship with all the maturity, but he sure as hell had. Matt didn’t want to do anything which did not fit his very narrow set of requirements. They had to involve:

  1. A social justice-y cause
  2. An opportunity for Matt to yell at someone
  3. Virtually zero payment or reimbursement
  4. No less than 100 man hours
  5. No media presence whatsoever

Matt had worked three internships in the time that Foggy had known him. He’d managed to wheedle Foggy into working two of those with him.

They were horrible. They did not involve any time whatsoever in a courtroom. Foggy slightly wanted to murder Matt through both of them. They were exceedingly good for his resume, though, and Matt was unspeakably smug about this.

Foggy told him he wasn’t looking to become the next Mother Theresa and Matt told him that that was fine, there were plenty of other saints he could emulate. Foggy threatened to send him away to a monastery and Matt asked, far too earnestly, if Foggy thought he would cut it as a monk.

Foggy locked him out in the hall for fifteen minutes to think about what he’d done.

This time, they were doing things Foggy’s way.

“Matt, if you fuck this up for me, I will never forgive you,” Foggy threatened from his resume revising. Matt made his pretend-crying noises from the bed.

 

 

Foggy submitted his resume and harassed Matt to submit his and once that was done, he went out for a drink with Marci. Matt said he had a date.

Foggy hated his date already, but smiled and said that that was great, pal. Hope it works out.

Marci later watched him chewing violently on a tiny straw with an eyebrow raised.

“Foggy.”

No. He didn’t want to hear it.

“Foggy.”

Especially not from her.

Franklin.”

“What?” he snapped.

“There is a solution to this,” she said, stirring her mojito patiently.

“Yeah. It’s called repression,” he said.

“Right, my bad. Three solutions.”

Aigh. Fine. He already felt like shit for being jealous over something that was never going to happen.

“Go on, then,” he sighed. Marci hummed and took a sip of her drink.

“Well, one is to just ask him if he’s any kind of queer.”

“Nope. Next.”

“Uh-huh, that’s what I figured. Two is to go on a date yourself.”

“I will consider this. Keep going.”

“Three is to transfer schools and never speak to him ever again.”

“Oh, I like it,” Foggy said sardonically.

Marci laughed. And then leaned forward.

“Surprise extra option is to come home with me,” she said.

On a list of bad decisions to make with your ex, going home with them after a couple of drinks was probably in the top five. Well, whatever. If Matt was out getting laid, there was no reason Foggy shouldn’t be too.

 

 

He got back around midnight and stopped in the kitchen for a cup of water before bed. Then he stopped because there was movement in the living room. He peeked out of the door and then nearly broke his neck throwing himself out of view of the doorway.

That was.

Hmm.

Okay, so.

That was Matty on the couch, yes. Being felt up, yes. And making some very, very nice sounds—too nice of sounds for Foggy right now—with.

Hmm.

Now, Foggy couldn’t be sure. But he thought that he’d maybe just seen the jean-clad ass of their TA from last semester, who was very much not a woman. He was a six-foot-two-inch bear, if Foggy remembered right (and he fucking did) who constantly looked like he’d just come back from a camping trip. Refreshed and tanned. Marci and Jia had both decided that they needed to see him in a suit, pronto.

Said bear was definitely humming into Matt’s skin, calling him all kind of names. ‘Gorgeous.’ ‘Beautiful.’ ‘So fucking pure.’

One, gross.

Two, Matty did kind of have that sweet, innocent look about him, yes. But Foggy knew that the whole thing was a façade now. A cover up for his devious little brain and his wriggly satisfaction at getting his way.

Three, what the fuck was Foggy supposed to do now? His room was behind the living room. He needed to be there like, ASAP, in order to have a breakdown of the appropriate magnitude over this new information, but he’d have to walk past the couch to get there.

“Fuck me,” he heard in a raspy, very-un-Mattlike tone.

Foggy was going to die in this kitchen. If not out of horror, then out of jealousy.

“Yeah? How do you want it, sweet thing?” their fucking TA asked back in equally raspy tones.

“Hmm? Wait. Hey Fogs, is that you? Did you just get in?”

Oh, thank Jesus.

“Y-Yeah, are you guys, uh? Can I call a time-out for exactly fifteen seconds?”

Matt laughed. Foggy heard their TA get off him a bit.

“You live with Nelson?”

Foggy was insulted.

“Yeah, he’s my best friend. No, go ahead, Fogs. Shield your innocent eyes.”

He made a fuss over doing so to play off the fact that he was literally going to scream into his pillow for two million years as soon as he got into his room.

 

 

Marci dropped her drink when he told her.

“Are you sure it wasn’t just—”

“I’m so sure I want to stab myself.”

“Oh, shit.”

Foggy could not make himself flatter against the bar table.

“What did I do to deserve this? Has he been fucking with me this whole time?”

Marci cleared her throat and patted at his shoulder.

“Maybe this is experimenting,” she said, “Maybe he’s still working it out.”

The sounds that had come from Matt’s room, where he’d encouraged their TA to move the action to, suggested very much to Foggy that this was not an experimental phase. This was well worn behavior.

“The only consolation I have is that Matt slapped him halfway through,” Foggy sighed. Marci snorted.

“For what?”

“I dunno, but I heard that shit and Dreyfus say ‘ow, what the fuck,’ and Matty say‘don’t fucking do that.’ And it is literally the only comfort to me in this storm right now.”

Matt was a bossy bitch in bed. Foggy was going to die. He was so perfect.

“You’re a mess, Foggy-bear.”

“He’s my Emmett, girl, I’m telling you.”

“No, he’s fucking our Emmett, Dreyfus is the only TA out there who gives a shit if we live or fail.”

Foggy sat up in horror.

“Oh my god, what if Dreyfus is his Emmett?”

Marci sighed and hung an arm over the back of her chair.

“Foggy, don’t do this to yourself,” she said.

Nope. Too late. He was doing it.

“What if I’m just fucking Enid Hoops or something—just a supportive gay character in Matt’s rom-com?”

“Foggy.”

“I mean, you and Bailey are both Elle, so where else does that leave me?”

“Foggy. This isn’t a movie. Matt’s just easy, we both know this. He’ll sleep with anyone who’s pretty and willing. This is just an extension of that.”

It didn’t make him feel better. It just made him feel like he’d been strung along this whole time by a beautiful boy. Well, at least he and Elle had that in common.

“Foggy, seriously. It’s not a movie. And even if it was, you gotta focus on more important things. Matt’s your best friend, and whoo! Yay! He’s not straight! We are happy that Matt is not straight, we can finally make queer jokes around him without feeling weird about it. And on top of that, there’s the internship to think about. The paper for Ferns. The fucking bar in mere months, man. Stress about that shit, it’s the stuff that actually matters.”

Yeah. Yeah, she was right. It wasn’t a movie. Matt was a person, not a character. And it had to be something that he was comfortable enough with Foggy to be seen with a guy on their couch and not freak out about it. Saved them both the awkward coming out talk.

He could still do nothing but sigh, though.

Man, what a bummer.

 

 

***

 

 

Foggy needed a distraction and while the healthy side of his brain told him that he had plenty of distractions and they were called homework, the useless side of his brain told him that he needed to do two thousands things which would show Matt just how much he loved and supported him and his potentially new-found queerness.

Subtly was the key here.

Discussing the fact that Matt could take a fucking pounding (a literal fucking pounding) was inappropriate for these purposes.

Foggy settled on buying a bouquet of flowers for their apartment. They were nice. Matt couldn’t see them, but he’d be able to smell them, and Matt, despite his apparent interest in big burly men and razor sharp women, was a soft person deep down in his soul.

Foggy waited for Matt to come home and react to the flowers. He waited long enough that he got bored and actually did homework. Then he got sucked into homework and looked up and it was midnight. Still no Matt.

Weird.

Foggy was tired.

He sighed and figured that he’d hear Matt’s opinion on the flowers in the morning.

 

 

Matt didn’t come home that night. He was in and out for just a few times over the next couple of weeks, actually. The flowers rotted in the window until Foggy finally got sick of looking at them and threw them out.

Miraculously, it was as if their passing brought Matt back home.

Although, to be fair, he came home a mess of tears and snot and told Foggy resoundingly, that there was a fucking reason he’d sworn off dating men.

He locked himself in his room and left Foggy to chew on that for a while.

 

 

“It’s ‘cause men are the worst,” Marci said helpfully, as if Foggy hadn’t already figured this much out. She chewed on the tines of her plastic fork and then stabbed it back into her pile of fries. “Maybe he thought Dreyfus was his Emmett like you did?”

Ah. No, that made more sense.

“So we agree that Matt is still an Elle, though?” he said.

The current working theory among their cohort was that there were Elles, Emmetts, Vivians, and Warners and if you weren’t one of them you were an extra and you were doomed to fail.

“Yeah, no. He’s still an Elle.”

“Okay, so at the risk of sounding desperate, does this make me an Emmett yet?”

Marci gave him a pitying look. She reached over and squeezed his shoulder.

“It’s gonna be okay, Vivian,” she promised. “The plot will go on once we get our internships.”

 

 

Yeah, except the problem was that Foggy got the internship and Marci got the internship and fucking Benson got the internship, but you know who didn’t get the internship?

Matt Murdock.

No, he was busy crying his eyes out over a boy in his room.

Bailey got in, though, and was triumphant.

 

 

Foggy was just a little bit bitter that his role in this case was watching Bailey outdo Benson in everything he did. Marci told him that they all had to be supportive characters a few times before their time came. She was right, but that didn’t mean Foggy had to be happy about it.

He got home from the fourth week of it and found Matt studying in the living room. It felt like he hadn’t properly seen the guy in ages. He looked more or less fine.

Foggy scrubbed at his hair as he dragged himself by the couch and Matt shoved him off absently.

“Working for Grimes?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Foggy sighed.

“Is it riveting?”

“No. Corporate case.”

Matt made an unhappy noise in his throat. He then tipped his head back onto the couch cushion, empty eyes staring just past Foggy’s face.

“Are you upset with me?”

Wait, what now?

“Upset. Are you upset with me?”

Why would he be upset with him?

Matt cocked his head and then brought it back up so he could face his computer again.

He didn’t say anything else.

 

 

“Foggy? Do you want to go--”

He didn’t have time for this, Matt. He had research to do. Grimes had spent the afternoon shouting in his office and Foggy didn’t want to be the target of that tomorrow.

Matt left him to his research without saying anything. 

 

 

He only realized after the next day’s meeting what exactly had happened.

 

 

Matt was hard to find when you wanted him, but only when you wanted or needed him. If you weren’t looking for him, he was easy to pick out of a crowd or always at the library or sleeping somewhere weird in the apartment. But Foggy wanted him now, and so of course he’d dropped off the face of the planet.

He checked Matt’s room and then texted him and then went down to the library and then called him and went to check the school gym.

Nothing. Nowhere.

Matt wasn’t great about answering his phone, so it wasn’t anything too much to be worried about, but still. It was frustrating.

Foggy couldn’t do too much but wait for the guy to come back home, so he trekked back to their apartment and stayed up as long as was reasonable. When Matt still hadn’t come back by 1am, he called it a night. They’d talk in the morning.

 

 

He woke up late and panicked and practically ran downtown to Grimes’s firm office. He got yelled at. Not because he was late, but because things weren’t going well. He got yelled at again for similar reasons on top of a mistaken coffee order later.

He stayed late with a few of the others, trying to cobble together a new defense.

By the time he got home, he was exhausted. He didn’t want to talk to anyone for at least another 12 hours.

 

 

It was Saturday when he learned that Matt hadn’t been home lately because he’s started his own internship. Foggy hadn’t realized he’d gotten one.

“Me either,” Jia said, “Until I caught him on the way out. Said it’s for some firm called Burton & Seagel. They specialize in disability law.”

No shit? Why hadn’t Matt told him about it?

The thought that he hadn’t made Foggy’s stomach flop around a bit. Was that what he’d been trying to say the other day when Foggy had waved him off?

Oh, no.

Did Matt feel like he didn’t care? He’d spent so much time and effort trying not to do things which made Matt feel like no one was listening to him. People generally didn’t listen to him much. Like sure, they made a fuss out of hearing him, but when it came to actually listening to what he was saying and not just doing what they wanted to do with him, it was an uphill battle.

Foggy felt bad.

He texted Matt asking him if he wanted to have pizza for dinner. It was a Saturday after all. They’d had a busy week.

They had. As in, both of them.

Goddamnit, he was fucking this up without even trying.

 

 

The next time he actually saw his friend was around midterms. Matt wrote his paper at home this time. Foggy knew this because he could hear paper rustling as Matt worked through his textbooks. Foggy took a moment out of his own typing to knock lightly on the door.

Matt opened it wearing one of his enormous hoodies.

“Everything okay?” he asked.

No. They hadn’t talked properly in damn near a month.

“Yeah, just wanted to check in,” Foggy said, “Feel like I haven’t seen you in forever.”

Matt smiled and his permanent crow’s feet smiled with him.

“I haven’t seen you ever,” he joked. Foggy groaned. It made him smile harder.

“Jia said you got an internship, that true?” Foggy pressed a little. Awkwardly, but whatever. It was something.

“Yeah, it’s pretty good,” Matt said. “Lots of folks in and out. Lot of research.”

“Wanna trade?”

He laughed.

“Nah, Nelson. You got yourself into that one, you’ve gotta get yourself out.”

“Yes, but let’s consider the possibility that I don’t do that and Grimes sabotages the rest of my career, huh?”

“Well, if that’s the case, then you will always be welcome to join my rinky dinky future firm.”

“Oh, you’re owning a firm now, are you?”

Matt’s smile faded a little bit at the edges. Foggy panicked a little bit, searching his brain for something to bring it back.

“I guess,” Matt said. “I know it’s kind of a long shot, but I guess I just thought it would be nice not to be the ones being told what to do for once. What cases to take. Which ways to research. You know, that kind of thing.”

It would be nice. Oh, so, unbelievably nice.

He sighed.

“Matt, I’m sorry I blew you off a while back,” he said. Matt’s eyebrows jumped up.

“What? Oh, that? Fogs, don’t even worry about it. It’s not a big deal.”

It was though, it really was. He could’ve take the thirty seconds to congratulate Matt on getting his position.

“Well, regardless, I’m still sorry,” he said. “And I’m sorry for uh, not really being here with the whole Dreyfus thing.”

There was a long pause between them.

“Fogs, you’re really fuckin’ dumb sometimes, you know that?”

“Woah, out of left field there, pal. What’s up with the atti—"

Matt slammed his door in his face.

Foggy stared it at. Blinked a few times and then pinched himself once to make sure he wasn’t hallucinating. He wasn’t. He looked back up at the door and nervously walked away.

 

 

“What do you mean, he’s mad?”

“I mean,” Foggy griped to Bailey and Marci after a shitty day of getting yelled at for everything from the printer’s slowness to the lack of functional highlighters in the room. They were losing this case. They should just call it now. “He called me dumb and slammed a door in my face. Pretty sure that’s mad.”

The girls stared at him and then each other. Bailey sighed.

“Foggy, you are dumb,” she said. “You’re the dumbest smart person I know.”

What the fuck? Was it attack Foggy day or what?

“Foggy-bear,” Marci said patiently, “Why do people slam doors?”

Lots of reasons, mostly involving anger.

“Why might Murdock be angry with you?”

Because he’d been a standoffish dick for the last month.

“And why might he be upset by that?

Because he’d felt ignored and unheard. Because Foggy wasn’t paying any attention to him. Because Foggy had blown him off when he’d popped in to tell him some news that he was proud of.

“Nope, you’ve got too far, babes. Go back,” Marci said.

Ugh. Alright. Because. Well. Because.

“He missed you,” Bailey said softly. “I think he’s trying to tell you something, Foggy.”

Like what?

“You’re so fucking dumb, Nelson.”

“I know, Marci, alright?” he snapped with more force that he meant to. He sighed at her pissed off face. “Just fucking tell me, would you? I’m tired of people yelling at me and calling me shit without explaining what they fucking want.”

Marci sucked in a deep breath. Bailey did, too.

“He’s your Emmett, Foggy,” Bailey said.

He’s his what now? No, that didn’t make sense. Foggy was a Vivian.

“My friend, my dear, darling friend,” Marci said, “Only two of us sitting at this table are blonde right now.”

No. That didn’t—but the Dreyfus thing had happened at home. Matt didn’t usually bring his people home. And he’d heard Foggy come in and he’d—he’d broken up with Dreyfus and he’d—he’d been upset and Foggy had ignored him and then he’d been happy and Foggy had ignored him and now he was mad and—

Oh, fuck.

“I gotta go,” he said.

“Atta boy.”

 

 

Matt wasn’t home because he was never fucking home these days. No, instead, on the way out to find him at the library and, failing that, on his way to the firm he was interning for downtown, Foggy ran smack into Dreyfus. Crashed right into the guy’s enormous chest and started back in shock.

He looked up and things got immediately ten times more awkward.

Dreyfus cupped his elbow to steady him.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

He was holding a bunch of flowers.

“Yeah,” Foggy said, suddenly unable to look at anything but them. Dreyfus apparently picked up on that. He released Foggy’s elbow to blush and scrub at the back of his head.

“Your uh, roomie wouldn’t happen to be around, would he?” he asked.

Foggy could only just keep himself from saying ‘Oh no you don’t, pal.’

“He’s not,” he said instead. Then the mean part of him added, “Been pretty busy lately.”

Dreyfus’s face fell for .02 seconds before he caught it.

“That’s great,” he said, then looked at the flowers, “Well, uh. Do you think you could give these to him when he comes home?”

No. But Foggy could very well find a lovely dumpster to chuck them into on the way to the offices of Burton & Seagel.

“Yeah, of course. I’m sure he’ll love them.” Matt hated roses. “Here, I’m not that far from home, now. I’ll just drop them off.” Said they smelled like soap. Foggy had gotten a load of daffodils and tulips those few weeks ago because Matt had once told him that he knew it was spring when he could smell the bulb plants in the air.

Dreyfus beamed at him and handed over the blooms.

Foggy did not trash them. Foggy took them home and opened Matt’s bedroom door to leave them front and center on his desk.

He went back to the office to catch Marci and Bailey on the way out, seething.

 

 

He got in maybe a little drunker than anticipated and sighed upon seeing that the flowers had migrated into the kitchen. So maybe Matt really had thought Dreyfus was his Emmett. Maybe he’d just been bitchy to Foggy because he was feeling moody and irritable. Maybe he’d been depressed because he’d been pining for Dreyfus this whole time.

Uuuuuuugh.

“Fogs? You home?”

Uuuuuuuuuuuuugh.

“Yeah, buddy. Sup?” he slurred. Matt cracked open his door. He didn’t wear his glasses at home much and, even though he didn’t make eye contact, his crow’s feet and the hazel nests they held onto scrunched up at him in amusement.

“Couple of drinks with the girls?” he asked.

Duh, Murdock. Who else did he drink with these days? Who else was even worth drinking with anyways?

Matt’s smile faded a little and he nodded.

“Get some sleep,” he said, starting to close the door.

Roger that.

“Hey, did you like Dreyfus’s flowers?” Foggy asked because he hated himself. “He seemed pretty—”

“I don’t want to talk about it. Good night.”

The door closed.

Well fuck, then. What now?

 

 

***

 

 

The ‘well fuck, what now?’ phase stretched on for two miserable months before Foggy just sucked it up and accepted that he wasn’t Matt’s Emmett. He’d never be Matt’s Emmett.

He and the girls had misunderstood Matt’s irritation with him from earlier. He was upset with Foggy because he was going through a shitty break up and overworking himself and Foggy had been a bad friend, just like Foggy had thought. Did Matt ever explicitly say these things? No. But Foggy could take a hint. And Foggy could sit on the couch one night while Matt finally, finally broke down and explained exactly why he and Dreyfus had broken up.

Dreyfus claimed that he loved Matt from the moment he saw him, but Matt had heard Dreyfus’s friends talking about him like he was some kind of freshmen arm-candy once at a dinner thing he’d gone to with the guy. When he’d asked Dreyfus later if he thought of him that way, like he was some convenient, pretty, pity case to show off to his neo-liberal friends, Dreyfus had lied and said of course not.

“I know he was lying,” Matt told Foggy with a thick voice. He couldn’t bring himself even try to find Foggy’s face, just kept it directed at his right knee. “I know it. I always know it.” He finally sought out Foggy’s face and it was one of the first times that Matt had ever let him see his tears. “Happens every time, Fogs. They don’t care, they just want an easy fuck and to impress their friends with their fucking kindness.”

Foggy felt the urge to cry too, right there at the back of his throat.

Matt didn’t need a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Matt just needed someone who didn’t objectify him. Or infantilize him.

He needed a friend—a real one.

Foggy could be what Matt needed. Actually, he already was what Matt needed. And he was fine with that; that was better than turning into another bullet point on Matt’s list of pain and grief.

He wrapped his arms around his friend and promised him, swore to him that he’d never use him like that.

“I’m so sorry, Matty,” he said, “You deserve better.”

It seemed like that was the straw that really broke the camel’s back. Matt started full-body sobbing and trying to push out of Foggy’s arms. It only got worse when Foggy let him go. It was so fucking painful to watch that and to realize that Matt wasn’t crying, trying to hide behind his hands, because he’d had a brilliant epiphany that he really did deserve better, like Bailey had in that library all those years ago. He cried—he sobbed—because he truly, honestly didn’t think that that was the case.

That was the hard part.

That was the worst part.

“Matty—”

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Fogs. I’m such a mess, god,” Matt said as he scrubbed his sleeves against his face and tried to swallow down the pain. He then found the goddamn nerve to look up and try to find Foggy’s face and to smile. “It’ll pass,” he promised, “It always does.”

Foggy’s fucking teeth hurt.

“You—”

“God, I need a drink. Do you want a drink?”

“Matt—”

“Hey, let’s go get a drink.”

Matt stood up and wiped his cheek on his shoulder. He dragged fingers over the top of the couch and hunted down his cane, sniffing occasionally. Foggy watched him with a lead heart.

Matt, he wanted to say, I want to love you more than I want to breathe sometimes. I want to hold your hand more than I have ever wanted anything in my life. I want to watch you every moment I can and I want to hold in my hands the shards of your heart that you keep dropping.

I think you’re beautiful, and not because you have the most amazing smile and the sweetest crow’s feet, but because every morning, you stand up against a tide of doubt and every night, you find your way back to shore.

You are the only person in any room I walk into. You have the deepest heart of any I have every experienced.

I love you more than I can put into words, he wanted to say. And I would give anything right now for you to stop crying. For you to never cry again.

But all that he could say was, “Yeah, alright. Let me get my shoes.”

 

 

He told Marci and Bailey that he wasn’t meant to be Matt’s Emmett and at this point, he didn’t want to be. That would only bring more pain to both of them. Marci thought he was so full of shit that she couldn’t speak to him for a few days. Bailey sighed and said that he should follow his heart.

He did.

It cried with him again that summer, jumping up and down, bar results in hand.

We’re gonna be lawyers, it said. We did it! We did it!

Foggy, we did it!

Yeah, pal. We fucking did.

 

 

***

 

 

Matt proposed to him.

He proposed the craziest idea Foggy had ever heard in his life. A firm that would require him to take that reason—the main reason—he’d gone to law school to begin with, and to smash it against the floor like a glass snow globe. Matt asked him to throw everything away, all the internships, the being screamed at, the regular paychecks he now received, the occasional gifts that he could afford to buy his family.

Matt asked him to throw it all away and Foggy fucking did.

And it was the best thing that he’d ever done.

Until it was the worst thing he’d ever done.

 

 

Watching Matt bleed out slowly on his own roof and then standing there while Matt slurred and told him that everything between them was a lie was the worst punishment Foggy had never even thought of.

He loved Matt. He’d always loved Matt.

But now he saw that Matt had never loved him or anyone else. They were all a means to an end. A way for him to always get what he wanted, and he would always get what he wanted. Whether he got it through his pretty face or via the tops of his bloody knuckles.

There were no Elles or Emmetts or Vivians or hell, even Warners in this world of theirs.

There were only devils. Only demons.

Wolves in sheep’s clothing.

 

 

Foggy slowly came to understand that the body that he’d shared the last five years with was, indeed, a wolf, but not a good one. It was a wolf who had the all the potential to be soft, but who had been beaten, starved, and terrorized into both fury and submission. It didn’t trust food offered from human hands anymore, even though it was starving.

Matt was, above all else, hopelessly scared.

The man without fear, the newspapers called him. But everywhere Foggy looked, he saw a man trying to give everything he had away before someone else could take it from him.

Matty isolated.

Matty slept.

Matty pretended that everything was okay, that he was okay. That he was untouchable.

He was so, so bad at it. He was so bad at it that Foggy felt a responsibility to step back into the firm with him to finish what they’d started. To bring this horrendous story arc to an end.

But it didn’t end. It just got worse. And worse.

And worse.

Until Foggy had to step back again and end it himself. When the firm sign came down, he thought—he’d hoped--that this would be the best for both of them.

But that wasn’t how Matt’s life worked. Matt, Matt had told Foggy once with a heart-wrenching smile, wasn’t allowed to have a happy ending. Foggy had called bullshit and Matt had just laughed and swallowed down a shot.

But Matty, for all his rotten luck, was the smartest person that Foggy knew. Maybe Daredevil was wrong reliably often, but Matt Murdock was not. Matt Murdock knew the world better than most people who walked it, and he knew exactly his place in it, at least in the bigger picture. It was the little things that he couldn’t figure out. Like where his own happiness and worth came into the mix.

In the end, it didn’t matter what Matt or Daredevil thought or knew or pretended to think or know because Foggy made the mistake of taking another step in what he thought was the right direction for the both of them, mask in hand, and this time, Matty didn’t come home.

 

 

Foggy’s love was crushed, suffocated at the bottom of a sinkhole in Midtown.

 

 

And as soon as its embers flickered out, he got back everything he’d ever wanted. He got back the peace of mind, the regular paychecks, the ability to help his parents out. He got back good relationships with his friends, occasional nights out with his law school buddies. He got back Marci. Saw Bailey at a conference.

He got a fancy office and a beautiful apartment.

He got everything he’d ever wanted and dreamed of and more.

He was both Elle and Emmett. He had Marci and she had him. He was one of the most sought-after attorneys in New York fucking City. He was everything those damn pieces of paper in his office and in a box in his parents’ basement said he could be.

And yet.

Matty had died with no one to help him carry those pesky, always falling shards of his heart. Elektra had never cared about those. She wanted what was inside that glass. She wanted to bring the very base of Matt, him and all his animalistic hurt and awe and love, to the surface so that he and she could stand toe to toe. Equals. In pain and glory.

Foggy dreamed about those damn shards. He dreamed about Matt’s eyes closing for the last time, of his last moments. He must have been so scared.

He must have been so sad.

Even Matt couldn’t distance himself enough from the world to not want to say goodbye to it.

Marci told Foggy that he was a great friend, that he’d given Matt everything he’d had to give and more. She had no idea of what she was saying and even if she had and even if it was mostly true, Foggy knew that he’d had one more thing to give and it might have been the very last thing which could have saved Matt’s life.

But the opportunity to give it had come and gone in their third year of law school, when Matt was wearing a second-hand sweater with too long sleeves. Sitting on their apartment floor between the couch on the coffee table. Pushing Foggy’s hands away from him and his tears because the hurt that he kept deep in his chest had come bubbling up to the surface and he was too afraid to tell Foggy all the reasons why he thought that he didn’t deserve better than being an object for someone to parade around as a mark of their own false kindness.

Foggy dreamt of that moment and all the words he couldn’t say every night for months. He held Marci’s hand and they fucked hard and fast and long and slow and in every which way he could think of and yet, when he closed his eyes at night to sleep, it was Matty’s hand—the one he’d never properly held, which felt warm in his own.

“I love you,” he told Matt’s empty coffin. Then his empty apartment. “I love you more than I’ve even got words. I’ve loved you since the day we met. I loved you before I even knew that I did. And I’m sorry that you never understood how much I did.”

 

 

Fate is a bitch.

But she gave him another shot.

 

 

Matt slept like he hadn’t in years on Foggy’s sofa and Foggy could do nothing but watch him. He didn’t hear Marci come home. He didn’t hear her gasp until she was kneeling down next to his best friend and lightly brushing fingertips over his cheek.

Foggy had half a mind to tell her not to do that.

People had lost fingers for less.

But Matty was exhausted. He’d lived some fucking life. He’d fought and screamed and clawed his way back to the surface of everything, he’d soaked his fists in the blood of Wilson Fisk and he’d placed everything he had into the hands of a man who made a video on a camera phone, and he was still so fucking beautiful that Foggy was speechless.

Marci, as she always had, understood before he did.

“I don’t even know which of you is Emmett or Elle anymore,” she told Foggy later, after they’d broken up. After a few months of Nelson, Murdock & Page.

After he’d watched Matt and Karen fight over paint chips that Matty couldn’t even see. After Matt had taken several deep, shaky breaths and introduced Foggy to the woman who had brought him into this world and who had started his descent into terror and suffering. Who he said he thought maybe, one day, he might be able to call ‘mom’ without feeling like he was going to shake apart at any second.

Foggy hummed over a cup of coffee and stared at the café’s entrance without seeing it.

Then he tsk’ed.

“Girl, I’m Elle, come on. Duh. Matt’s fuckin’ brunet for crying out loud.”

Marci started cackling and half the damn restaurant leapt in their seats. She didn’t apologize to anyone. She just leaned forward onto their table conspiratorially.

“So, when are you gonna tell him?” she asked.

Oooooooooh, you know.

Never.

“Foggy-bear. Seriously?”

Yep.

Foggy. You left me to be a shithead? For real?”

Double yep.

“Fine. I gotta do everything my goddamn self, now don’t I?”

HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, NO.

Marci gave him a prissy look and tapped the call button on her phone.

“Oops,” she said.

Goddamn you, Stahl.

“You’ve been Brutus this whole time,” Foggy hissed.

“Hello?” Matt’s tinny voice said through the receiver. Marci didn’t answer him right away. “Hello? Marci? Are you okay?”

Foggy threatened his too-many-times-to-count ex with a finger. She batted her eyes at it and then him.

“Hey, Murdock,” she drawled. “I’m alright, just sitting here with your boy. The one you stole from me. Again.”

There was a pause and then Matt laughed.

“No one’s keeping him away from you, Marci,” he said. “Y’all are free to get back together at any moment. You don’t need my clearance for that.”

“Hmm,” Marci said.

Foggy tried to figure out if he’d be able to swing a life sentence with parole from behind bars. He was a bitchin’ attorney. He might even be able to get his future homicide charges dropped. Although there were a lot of witnesses in this room.

“I’m getting a very different vibe right now,” Marci said, watching Foggy as closely as he was watching her. “Anyways, that’s all I got. Talk to you later, Murdock.”

She hung up before Matt could say anything back. She set the phone down on the table with a clack.

“Ball’s in your court, Nelson,” she said. “If you fuck this up, I expect a fuckin’ public proposal in front of my door in exactly two weeks because I’m done playing monkey in the middle with you two boys.”

She stood up, tossed her bag over her shoulder, her hair to the side, and flounced out.

 

 

There was no question, then. Marci was the ultimate Elle.

And she ain’t need no man, but hot damn, would anyone be lucky to have her. Foggy needed to get his life together before he became Paulette’s shitty ex in this rom-com.

 

 

“Matty,” he said a few days later, watching Matt try and fail to open a plastic wrapped sandwich in every way possible. Daredevil was no match for clingfilm. Ah, if only his enemies could see him now.

Matt whined and held the thing out to Foggy insistently. He was sitting on the floor between the couch and the coffee table, wearing a long-sleeved shirt and the rattiest jeans he owned.

Foggy could think of no better moment. He took and unwrapped the sandwich but held it just out of reach. Matt whined at him again and tried to reach over him for it.

“Oh, did you want this?” Foggy said, shaking it a little from behind his head. Matt was displeased. He set a grumpy cheek against Foggy’s knee. Didn’t want to play this game, apparently.

He was so fucking cute, god.

“I will give it to you if you listen without interrupting what I’m about to tell you for two whole minutes,” Foggy offered.

Matt glared at him and lifted his head so he could rest his chin on Foggy’s knee instead. He said nothing. Well, it was now or never.

“I—”

“I love you, too you fucking dipshit, now give it here.”

Wh—

Wh—

That was not their agreement, Matthew.

“I didn’t agree to shit. Gimme.”

What the fuck? No. He’d had a speech. He’d been rehearsing it in his head for days.

“Why are you being weird?”

Because, Matthew,” Foggy snapped. “This was supposed to be our moment. This was supposed to be like the big reveal at the end when Elle proposes to Emmett.”

“You dumbass, Elle proposes to Emmett in the musical. Not the movie.”

How the fuck was Matt better than him at fucking Legally Blonde too?

Had he been--? No.

“Matt have you been Elle this who damn time? Did you know? Why the fuck didn’t you tell me, you asshole?”

Matt looked at him like a tiny alien had just landed on his head and started washing itself furiously like a mouse.

“Foggy. You are so stupid. You’re Elle. I’m Warner.”

This whole time. This whole goddamn time, Matt had thought he was a Warner.

“Matty, no.”

“You’re too good for me, Fogs. The universe has decreed it so. Now give me the goddamn—woah. Hey, easy pal. No need for the waterworks—”

He was going to kiss this fucking moron until neither of them could breath. He was going to wrap his arms around this guy until no one could tell whose skin was whose and he was going to let go when Hell froze over.

He was going to—

He was going to—

“Matty, I love you so much, so fucking much. I’ve loved you since we met. I’ve loved you since I first heard you cry in your sleep. You’re so fucking beautiful, it makes my chest hurt. I’ve wanted to hold your hand for seven years. When you used to mix up our sweatshirts, I never corrected you ‘cause you’re so cute in my clothes, I couldn’t talk.” Matt blinked up in his direction with his infuriating hazel eyes. Foggy realized that he was laying it on pretty thick, but fuck him. He couldn’t stop now that he’d started.

“When I first saw Benson—you remember Benson?—watching you in the library, I was so mad, I broke a pen. And after Elektra, I tried to get over you, but when you cry, I feel like I’m dying, Matty. When you broke up with Dreyfus and he brought you flowers, I thought about trashing them on the way home. I thought about telling him that you’d moved out of state, to fucking New Jersey. And then, when you told me that you thought you didn’t deserve better—”

“I didn’t say that,” Matt said defensively.

“Shut up. When you told me with your face that you didn’t think you deserved better than that piece of shit, I should have told you then—right then—that I loved you all the way through, top to bottom, shitty lying aside. I think I’ll love you until I die, Matty. I think I might love you more than I’ve ever loved anybody in the world. And I think that I’ve never met and will never meet someone even half as brilliant, beautiful, and kind as you are. Lack of self-esteem and common sense and goddamn self-preservation instincts notwithstanding.”

He was practically panting. It hadn’t sounded so angry in his head, or so frantic. But whatever, it was all out in the open now. All of it. Almost all of it, but he didn’t really want to continue quite yet. He was pretty sure he’d made his point.

Matt’s eyes flickered around him for a second and settled around his left eye.

“O…kay?” he said.

Okay???

Okay?????

“I mean. What do you want me to say, Foggy? I love you, too?”

“Well, yeah,” Foggy gasped. “I mean, I dunno. I didn’t get that far.”

Matt started laughing his heart out against Foggy’s knee. It was insulting. Foggy was insulted. Here, he’d been, all poetic and shit and Matt came over here with his—woah.

Alright, nevermind. Kissing was good. Matt had very soft lips. The fact that they were quirked up into a smile, an honestly happy smile, helped. Like, a lot.

Matt pulled away and left Foggy breathless.

“You’re so cute, Fogs,” he said, beaming. “I’ve loved you since year two. But you were fucking Marci and I didn’t know if you were queer yet, so I thought I’d keep mum about it until I knew for sure.”

Ho-ly shit.

“MATTHEW, I EXUDE QUEER.”

“Maybe you do? I dunno, Fogs, I’m blind and went to Catholic school for half my life. I dunno what queer people look like. I’ve just gotta give it my best guess sometimes.”

FALSE.

“WHY DIDN’T YOU SENSE ME?”

“Why are you yelling?”

“SENSE ME RIGHT NOW. TELL ME FEEL QUEER.”

“Oh, I’m feeling something.”

“YOU ARE SO FUCKING OBTUSE.”

“Yes, well. It is one of my better qualities. Hey, why don’t we play a fun game called ‘we have five years of sex to catch up on’?”

“I WOULD LOVE TO PLAY.”

“Kay, great. Stop shouting. Also, give me my goddamn sandwich already, Jesus fucking Christ.”

 

 

Marci stirred her mojito and pursed her lips at him and Foggy was thrown right back to that bar in law school.

“I am noticing a severe lack of proposing,” she observed.

“Marci,” he said firmly, “Matthew is unbearably good in bed and I have been blessed by the Lord God himself.”

Silence.

Marci sighed gustily.

“Well, this sucks,” she said, leaning on her elbow. “Tell me everything.”