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Forget Me Not With Every Breath

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Matt lies to himself the way he lies to Karen. The way he doesn’t really even need to lie to Foggy at all because Foggy is completely unconcerned. Just a dry throat, just a little cold, Matt tells them and himself.

It’s not.

But of course it isn’t. Matt can hear the ambient noises of several city blocks and he can feel the foreign itch of growing things, of tendrils taking root in his chest. Digging deep, worming their way through his lungs millimeter by precious millimeter. A testament to his own idiocy in incremental growth.

He’s not in love with Foggy, he tells himself. He isn’t. He tells the plant this too, and when his heart squeezes with the lie — even he can only be so oblivious — it sends him into a coughing fit that produces a single minuscule blossom.

“It isn’t fair,” he says to the face in the mirror he can’t even see — instinctively, fruitlessly.

His mind produces a rasping, mocking laugh: Stick’s.

You made your bed, Matty, now lie in it.

The voice isn’t wrong. Matt had been afraid, but he’d also been cruel, and selfish, and so bullheaded that he hadn’t realized his own feelings when they could have actually been useful. Now all they’re good for is killing him.

Some macabre curiosity drives Matt to save one of the flowers. Most of what he coughs up is petals, leaves. Nothing with a full stem yet, which is some small relief.

Even more macabre, he takes the bloom in to a flower shop down the street for identification. The kindly shop owner tells him the blossom in his hand is blue when he asks, and then offers him a whole bouquet that smells so much like his own breath that it takes every ounce of control Matt has not to throw up on the spot.


The universe always did have a sense of humor, Matt supposes.

He needs to do something. But the what of it eludes him. His options slip past his grasping fingers like smoke. What’s necessary at this point is someone to talk to. Someone firm and decisive and hard.

Matt knows he can’t go to Karen for this. She can be sharp, sometimes, but she’s too close to the situation. He can’t speak to her about it without shame. No, he needs someone who flinches from vulnerability as much as he does.

He needs Jessica Jones.


Which is about what he expected. But Matt’s persistent.

“I’ll bring beer,” he offers.

“Still no,” replies Jess, but only after a second of hesitation.

“A six pack. And you can keep five.”

“Is that all you think I care about, booze?”

Fair enough. And despite her durability, Matt knows that enabling Jess’s drinking isn’t the kindest move. He wets his lips.

“Two beers — one for you, one for me. And I’ll owe you a favor,” he bargains instead.

“Seven-thirty,” says Jess. “My place. Don’t be late.”

She hangs up without a goodbye.

Matt arrives at 7:25 to be safe, holding two bottles in one hand and his cane in the other.

“Just like a Boy Scout to be early,” Jess greets him, and for a brief moment Matt laments that he has no third hand to give her a Boy Scout salute.

“You told me not to be late,” he says in lieu of that.

“Ugh. Lawyers.”

A coughing fit interrupts Matt’s next retort, and Jess has to catch him when he stumbles. Another flower dislodges, tickling Matt’s throat as he hacks it up.

“Jesus, Murdock, what—” She cuts off as she spots the flower, plucks it from Matt’s sleeve cuff. “What the fuck is this?”

“That,” Matt tells her, hoarse, “is what I’m here to talk about.”

They end up on Jess’s fire escape with their beers. Though it takes Matt a good ten minutes to begin speaking, Jess doesn’t push him. And when he does talk, she listens. Intently. Matt fills her in on hanahaki, on Foggy, the kiss, the surgery... And then on his own — quite literally — budding issue with the disease. She takes it all in, asking questions only where she needs to, and finally renders her judgment:

“So, get the surgery.”

Matt shakes his head.

He can’t. For so many reasons, he can’t.

Loving Foggy — not just being in love with him, but loving him — is the best part of Matt. The part of him that believes in people, that’s soft and warm and bright where so much else of his heart is hard and sharp. The part of him that rejects Stick’s teachings, that delights in friendship and small pleasures. Losing that would leave a hole only the Devil could fill.

More than that, if Matt gets the surgery... It really will all be gone. Foggy won’t care about him, and he won’t care about Foggy. They’ll be nothing to each other, and neither of them will understand what they’ve lost. He’s terrified of forgetting.

“So what are you gonna do, Murdock?” Jess spits at him. “Just give up and die?”

Matt takes another swig of the beer as he thinks about his answer. Jess’s grip tightens on her own bottle, tendons creaking with the strain, and a loud crack shatters the still air. There’s a slosh of liquid and the bitter smell of beer thickens in the air. Letting out a hiss of disgust, Jess flings the remains of her broken bottle into the dumpster below — perfect aim — and flicks her hand to splatter the remaining droplets of beer on the fire escape around them.

“You’re an asshole,” she growls.

“So they tell me.”

When Jess jams an angry finger into his chest, it pushes one of the budding flowers against the membrane of his lung, and Matt has to strain to keep from gagging.

“I’d kick your ass,” Jess says, her breath rank with alcohol stronger than the beer they’ve been drinking together, “if I thought it’d help. You’re always so fucking self-centered. What, you think it’s just you and Nelson in this whole wide world? You think no one else would be affected if you decided to up and croak? Again?”

Midland Circle rushes to the forefront of Matt’s mind. The decision to stay, to die, with Elektra seems like a lifetime ago. In some ways, he supposes, it was. And... It had been the wrong one. Wasn’t that what he’d learned, on the other side of their second battle with Wilson Fisk? It wasn’t so easy to cut yourself out of the lives of the people you loved. Doing it left scars and pushed you too far away to protect them.

“Then what should I do?” Matt asks, too exhausted now for sharpness. “How do I fix this, Jess?”

Her boots scrape the fire escape. She’s drawing her knees to her chest, he thinks.

“Nelson was in love with you,” says Jess at last, slowly. “Before. For some reason. He’s not anymore, but who says he never could be again?”

The words strike him like a hammer against a bell and vibrate all through his body. She’s right. Foggy’s old feelings for him are gone. But maybe. Maybe if he’s clever and charming, maybe if he shows Foggy how much he cares... Maybe he can kindle something new.

Mind already racing with plans, Matt grabs Jess and folds her into a hug.

“Thank you,” he murmurs against her hair.

She gives him two slaps on the back before pushing him away.

“Yeah, yeah, get off.”

Her voice is sour, but only performatively, and they both know it. Matt can’t stop grinning. The hopelessness has sloughed off him, now that he has a direction, has concrete action to take. The flowers won’t stop him, not now.

After all, Murdocks always get back up.

Determined and newly-invigorated, Matt begins to fight back. Leans into the pain of Foggy’s disinterest in the hopes of pushing through it and creating something new on the other side.

What he realizes is that it’s not true that Foggy didn’t forget anything. In fact, Foggy’s forgotten a lot. He knows who Matt is, but when Karen jokingly mentions Matt’s night job, Foggy makes a questioning noise. But it’s more than Daredevil. Foggy’s... Different.

He’s always had a self-deprecating sense of humor, but it’s sharper now — almost bitter. And sometimes it’s as if Foggy’s lost, not sure why he’s here in this tiny firm with Matt. Why his life didn’t take another path.

There’s a certainty that the operation has taken from him. Matt hates that. But he doesn’t have time to dwell on it. It’s something they can rebuild together. He just has to take the first step.

There’s a reason the adage ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’ is still in use. And Foggy comes from a family that shows their affection by feeding each other, so he’s particularly susceptible to good food. More than that, Matt realizes after three days of working up his courage, Foggy doesn’t indulge like he should anymore. He doesn’t bring in breakfast sandwiches, doesn’t snack in the afternoons, picks at his lunches. It’s disturbing. This, Matt decides, is what he needs to attack with first.

On the fourth day, Matt brings a box of donuts into the office, and one-third of them are Foggy’s favorite — raspberry filled and still warm.

“Here, Foggy,” he says, setting the box on his desk. “I thought we could all use a treat this morning.”

Foggy’s stomach gives the quietest of rumbles — he hasn’t eaten breakfast this morning, and Matt hates that. There’s a soft, wet noise, the swallow of a hungry man. Foggy’s heart races.

“I’m not really hungry,” he says at last, and begins typing, his fingers harsh against the keys. “But thank you, Matthew.”

You are, Matt wants to contradict. You are hungry. You haven’t been eating enough and I don’t know why. But he can’t air these thoughts to this man who still calls him Matthew.

With a sigh, Matt takes it as a loss and retreats after selecting a chocolate glazed donut for himself. Someone might as well get some enjoyment out of it.

He leaves the box on Foggy’s desk. Ten minutes later, it’s been relocated to the kitchenette, and

at the end of the day all the donuts are gone except for Foggy’s three raspberry-filled ones. Matt, who leaves last, slams the box into the trash.

His next attempt involves coffee. The good stuff, from one of the nice coffee shops. He knows exactly how much cream and sugar Foggy likes in his drink — a lot — and where eating still seems to be a troubled issue Foggy downs a terrifying amount of Karen’s awful coffee. Foggy won’t refuse free caffeine, Matt knows it.

“Coffee’s on me this morning,” he says, setting the travel mug down on the corner of Foggy’s desk with a smile.

“Oh.” Foggy sounds startled, baffled. “Uh. Thanks, I guess?”

“No problem.”

Matt lets Foggy alone, then, doesn’t linger. He doesn’t want to come off as creepy or overbearing. And anyway, he can still hear everything that goes on in Foggy’s office from his own desk. Which is not creepy.

“Thanks, Matt,” Karen tells him brightly as he drops her own coffee off on her desk — playing favorites in a three-person firm was never a good idea.

Satisfied, Matt settles behind his own desk, takes a sip of coffee, and leans back in his chair. He focuses, listens across the way. Foggy’s drinking his own coffee, cautiously.

“Mm. Wow,” he murmurs after a few seconds. “That’s good.”

But after another sip or two, his delight seems to fade. His heart stutters, stumbles. All his little nervous tics begin to appear one after another — biting his lip, tapping his foot. Finally, Foggy gets up from his desk. Opens his door ever so slowly and creeps over to Karen’s desk. His footsteps are light, slow, but Matt still hears them.

“Hey, uh, Karen?” Foggy whispers.

“... Yeah? What are we whispering about?”

“You didn’t tell Matthew how I take my coffee, did you?”

“Uh... No?” The silken slide of her hair tells Matt she’s tilting her head. “Why?”

“No, it’s nothing. I mean.” Foggy hesitates. “Nevermind.”

He hurries back to his own office and spends the next three minutes tapping a pen against his desk in an anxious rhythm. Matt loses track of him at minute four, too busy coughing into his sleeve. He has to brush a wave of petals out of the bend in his elbow.

“Matt?” Karen calls, and her voice rings with concern. “Are you ok in there?”

“I’m fine,” he manages to croak back.

It must be six flowers’ worth of blossoms, but there’s no relief to having dislodged them. Matt’s airway is still creeping with plant matter and he can taste it on the back of his tongue — phlegm and leaves and the faint metallic echo of blood. The petals go straight in the trash.

Matt dreams of Foggy more and more. Lush kisses that ease the roots out of his chest. Warm, thick fingers trailing down his belly, fearlessly traversing the maze of old scars.

But all he wakes up to is a pillow covered in petals, and the gashes and bruises he collects from his patrols as the disease slows him down. Murdocks always get back up, though. Matt keeps going out as Daredevil and he keeps trying to get close to Foggy again.

More food goes uneaten, attempts to bond brushed off as creepy, invitations declined. Karen tries to help as much as she can, but Foggy resists — deep, Matt supposes, in the throes of his disinterest.

Matt decides to turn up the heat to a low simmer. He can be charming. Suave. Confident. The crooked smile that sent hearts racing in law school. Pitching his voice a little lower. Lingering touches — long enough to make Foggy think , but not too long to be professional. It garners the desired reaction — a burst of heat, of pheromones. A pounding heartbeat. A flustered stammer that makes Matt hungry down to his marrow. After a week, Matt pushes his luck a little further. He asks to get dinner together. Again Foggy’s heart races, but this time—

“Fuck off, ok?” he snaps, and Matt jerks backwards, nearly sending himself into a coughing fit.


But already Foggy’s stalking back into his office and slamming the door.

“What was that all about?” Karen asks, but Matt doesn’t have an answer for her.

When Karen finally dares to knock on Foggy’s door, to go in and talk to him, Matt tries to tune them out. Focus on the work in front of him, all his hearing narrowed down to the screen reader voice coming through his earbuds. It’s a struggle — Matt’s never had as much patience as Foggy for research, and the case he’s reading through to potentially use as precedent is particularly dry. But, he succeeds. In fact, he succeeds so well that when someone knocks a familiar ratta-tat-tat on his doorframe, he jumps. One earbud falls out of his ear.

“Oh. Uh. Sorry,” Foggy says.

“No, it’s, um. I’m fine.” Matt’s instinct is to clear his throat to cut through the awkwardness, but the tickle in his lungs tells him that’s a bad idea; instead he removes his other earbud. “Did you need something?”

There’s a soft scraping noise — Foggy scuffing his foot on the floor.

“I wanted to apologize. About blowing up at you before.”

“No, I mean you seemed upset, so. Did I... Say something wrong?” asks Matt. “You don’t have to have dinner with me if you don’t want to.”

Foggy shrugs his shoulders, and the cloth of his shirt rustles.

“No, it’s not— I dunno. It just felt like you were mocking me,” he mutters.

“No! Never! I love—” Just in time, Matt cuts himself off. “I love eating together. With you.”

Foggy’s warmth concentrates upwards, in his face. Blushing, Matt thinks. It’s charming.

“Well... I guess dinner doesn’t sound too bad.”

Matt suggests a local little sit-down Chinese place that he knows Foggy used to love. He hasn’t come in to work with his breath smelling like their egg rolls since the surgery, but... Matt remains hopeful.

As they’re seated, Foggy sniffs the air and lets out a quiet hum of appreciation. That one sound, so long missed, loosens all the tension in Matt’s shoulders. He orders on autopilot, too busy savoring every positive cue he can sense from Foggy to worry about what he wants to eat.

The two of them discuss their cases, more awkwardly than normal, as they wait for their food. And of course, once it arrives they eat — Foggy with a kind of gusto that Matt’s missed immensely. He doesn’t want to interrupt what might be the first decent meal Foggy’s eaten in weeks, not even to talk.

But after the last wonton, when they’re waiting for the bill, Foggy’s breath hitches.


“Yeah, Fogs?”

Matt knows his voice is too fond, but he’s warm and hopeful and he just can’t help it. Foggy flushes warm across from him.

“I. I really am sorry, man,” Foggy stammers. “For thinking that you were mocking me, when you were just trying to be nice.”

“That’s ok. I’m told I’m kind of an asshole,” jokes Matt, grinning.

It earns him a deep, perfect laugh.

“Still. I wanna make it up to you.”

Foggy doesn’t owe him anything. Not ever, but especially not now, not when this entire situation is Matt’s fault. But he’s kind of a master at pushing his luck.

“Well... There is one thing. I’d like it if you called me Matt,” he admits, fidgeting with his napkin.

“Matt,” Foggy says, and his voice sounds like he’s smiling. “I can do that.”

Pissing off the kind of people they piss off, it was only a matter of time before Foggy would need rescuing from Daredevil again. Matt had just hoped this whole hanahaki thing would have been solved by then. Still, he’s not about to let his diminished lung function stop him from sending these hired guns packing. That would be unacceptable.

“Thanks, Daredevil,” Foggy says when they’re alone, and Matt’s heart skips a beat.

He has, he realizes suddenly, a chance to do it right this time, to tell the truth like he always should have. Knowing it’s the correct choice doesn’t make it any easier, though. What if Foggy’s burgeoning positive feelings towards Matt fade as soon as he knows he’s Daredevil? Can he risk that, with his own life on the line?

Then again, can he really call himself Daredevil if he isn’t willing to take the risk to do what’s right? No. He has to tell Foggy.

The universe, fond of irony, doesn’t really give him a choice.

As soon as he decides on a course of action, Matt hacks up a flower — two, three. He nearly unbalances with the force of the coughs, and Foggy braces against him.

“Whoa, hey, man, you’re not vigilante-ing while sick are y—”

Matt can feel the heat of Foggy’s hand through his glove as he grabs a forget-me-not.



After one quiet and terse confrontation in Matt’s office with Karen, there had been an uneasy silence on the topic of Matt’s coughs and the flowers they produced. Foggy had never asked. But he’s clever, and observant — he’s noticed.

“Yeah,” croaks Matt, then tries to clear his throat. “It um. It’s me.”

It doesn’t really help. A leaf tickles low in his windpipe. Logically, he knows the alley they’re in reeks of trash, but it’s like his nose has been stuffed with flowers.

“I.” Foggy pauses. “I feel like I should be more surprised. But it makes sense.”

They talk more than they have in weeks as Matt walks Foggy home. Eventually, twirling the little forget-me-not blossom between his fingers, Foggy says:

“About the flowers...”

Matt cringes. Wonders if he should explain, can explain. He bites his lip.

“It’s, uh.”

“Hanahaki,” says Foggy, sounding a little puzzled. “Yeah, I know. I’ve... Heard of it before.”

What Foggy wants to know, what his real question is... Well, it’s the same as everyone else’s. If things are getting worse — Matt fights this categorization, but Foggy’s been paying much more attention than he realized — why not get the surgery? It’s an odd feeling, trying to explain it not only to the object of his affection but to the very person he himself pushed to get the operation previously. But it’s not as difficult as Matt expects. This is still Foggy, after all — the best listener Matt has ever known.

“You’re going to try and get them to fall in love with you,” deduces Foggy, with a note of his old fake-put-upon fondness in his voice that makes Matt’s heart skip a beat.

“I’m working on it,” Matt agrees, and offers a smile he knows is too tender.

They part ways at the steps of Foggy’s building. For several long moments, Foggy stands on those steps, breath catching on his inhales the way it always does when he has something to say.

“Just. About this hanahaki thing. Don’t... Don’t let it go too far, ok, Matt?” He orders at last, and the concern in his voice is a balm to Matt’s aching heart. “I... I’d miss you, if you were gone.”

It’s working, Matt can tell, slowly but surely. Even starting completely from scratch, Foggy’s beginning to warm to him.

In fact, Matt finds himself almost... Hopeful. Until he wakes one morning and retches a full stem of forget-me-nots into the bowl of his toilet. Throat scraped by foliage, he calls Claire. 

She’s a saint, and she hurries over, but even she can’t save him from the truth. Even if Matt’s making headway with Foggy, it’s not fast enough. There’s not enough time for the slow burn of a decade of friendship to bloom into something romantic. He has a month left, if that, according to Claire.

The truth, cold and disheartening, settles in Matt’s gut.

There’s nothing more to do. There was never any reason for Foggy to love him, he just had, by some miracle that Matt knows now it’s vain to try and recreate in the limited time he has left.

The flowers are growing too fast in his lungs. There’s a field of them in there now, swaying in the breeze of his labored breaths. They’re not heavy, like Foggy’s Leucadendron salignum. They don’t wrap thick shrub roots around his ribs and threaten to crack them. These flowers are nothing like Matt’s sharp edges and heavy, unmanageable need. They’re like Foggy — gentle, slow and steady, softly overwhelming.

When he thinks of them like that... Maybe it’s not such a bad way to go. Foolishly, his tongue expresses this sentiment. It earns him Claire’s ire and the rapid tattoo of her heart as it slams out the sound of her anger against her ribs.

“Don’t you dare,” she orders. “Don’t you even think about it.”

“I won’t,” Matt says.

He’s becoming very experienced at lying.

Claire and Karen and Jess team up to schedule a surgery for Matt. It’s the right thing to do. He knows that. He won’t fight them on it.

But he needs to fight someone.

The night before the operation, Matt pulls on the Daredevil costume. It’s slow, labored. His body keeps trying for rapid, shallow breaths even though Matt knows he needs the slow deep ones — no matter how uncomfortable they are, or how they make the flowers brush against the inside of his lungs. But Matt refuses to be deterred. He needs to bloody his fists, to find a battle to fight.

The city doesn’t disappoint him — it rarely does.

And when Matt’s fighting, the flowers don’t matter. He can barely even feel them. The crack of his fist, the blood in his mouth, all of that matters so much more than not having air in his lungs. The fight itself is his breath.

But then the fight is over. The focus it gives him departs. And Matt is left to make his way home with burning lungs and too much adrenaline.

He stumbles on the ledge of his own roof, falls to his knees and ends up crawling to the roof access stairs. The railing allows him to get to his feet as he descends, but he sinks back down to a sitting position at the bottom.

Matt’s world closes in around him, squeezes him tight to the beat of his pulse as he tries to gulp air into lungs too full of forget-me-nots to hold more than half a gasp. His head spins. All he can taste and smell is the grassiness of the flowers. All he can hear is his own thundering heartbeat. His cheek hits the floor with a rattle that vibrates through his whole body, but that’s inconsequential compared to how cool the concrete is on his skin. Matt wants to lie here forever.

Hs body musters the energy for a single weak cough before everything fades out.

Matt wakes, which is a surprise. He wakes to a thinned cluster of flowers in his lungs, which is even more of a surprise. For the first time in months, he doesn’t feel the stretch of something foreign and alive burrowing inside him. In fact, as he pulls in a breath, the flowers feel— brittle.

They’re dying.

But why...?

“Welcome back to the land of the living. You’ve been coughing up potpourri in your sleep for hours,” notes a familiar voice laced with exhaustion.

Matt jerks forward, claps a hand over his suddenly racing heart. Jesus. How had he not noticed Foggy across from him? It’s just like that horrible day, the first time Foggy found out about Daredevil — Matt lying in the couch and Foggy in the armchair across from him, radiating a cold frustration.

“The flowers, they’re. How,” rasps Matt. “How did you...?”

Foggy takes a deep, unimpeded breath. In, out.

“It’s a funny thing.”

He doesn’t continue after that, like he’s lost in thought. Matt clears his throat, coughs out more crumbling petals.

“What is?”

“I had a jar of leaves on my desk,” Foggy says, slowly. “But I couldn’t remember when I put it there, or why.”

The jar. Matt had nearly forgotten it. Its grisly presence had loomed over the office while Foggy was sick, but after the surgery, after Foggy was no longer adding to it, that presence had faded.

“And when I opened the jar and held one between my fingers,” says Foggy, “I felt helpless, and angry, and hurt. It clogged up my whole throat, until I almost couldn’t breathe. And I knew in my heart that I’d loved someone so much it nearly killed me.”

Matt chokes up too, and it has nothing to do with the few flowers that still remain in his lungs.


“I looked up the name of the plant,” Foggy continues. “Took a little while, but I found it. Red Devil. Kind of distinctive. Maybe even melodramatic, kind of like a certain someone I know.”

Matt cringes.

“Foggy, I’m sor—”

“Shut up, Matt, I’m not done.” Foggy takes a shaky breath. “The thing is, for months now, I’ve felt like something was missing. And I finally realized, it was you. There was pieces of you missing from me. Our memories. Things we shared. But they were there, in that stupid plant, all of them. It was like I could feel them, once I opened the jar. For like a minute I thought it was going to start growing back. But then I remembered what a special little emotionally repressed snowflake you are, that you of all people would be the kind of idiot to push someone pining for you into getting that surgery and only afterwards realize that you loved them too. So I ran right here to yell at you, and I found you on the floor. Just like that night. Just like the rooftop.”

Matt’s heart twists and squeezes behind his ribs. Foggy remembers everything now, and the joy of that is overwhelming. But knowing he’s inflicted this same kind of fear and pain on Foggy so many times now makes him ache.

“Will you let me apologize now?” he pleads.

Foggy groans, and the sound is muffled by his hands.

“The one time you actually want to apologize.”

“Foggy, I’m sorry,” Matt presses, forcing himself to sit up — the movement jostles the last of the flowers in his lungs, and he spends a good minute coughing them up before he can continue. “I, I’m so sorry. For what I took from you by asking you to get that surgery. For not realizing how I felt sooner. For scaring you, again. I never wanted any of that.”

Foggy takes in an angry breath— and then he lets it out in a sigh that tastes like coffee and the raspberry filling of a donut Matt bought him that he’d finally, finally eaten instead of ignored.

“Thank you. For apologizing. I just...” Another sigh. “How could you let it get this bad?”

Matt cringes.

“I... I didn’t want to get the surgery,” he tries to explain. “I put it off as long as I could. Not to be reckless, I just didn’t... I didn’t want to forget you.”

The answer seems to hit Foggy suddenly, and he barks out a sharp laugh.

“So you tried to woo me instead. In the most roundabout, tentative way possible. I was right there , Matt,” Foggy points out. “I already loved you, even if I’d forgotten. Why didn’t you just tell me?”

It sounds so obvious when Foggy says it, but... How do you tell someone who doesn’t remember it that they used to love you? How do you ask if they will again without it being wrapped in the pressure to say yes?

“I didn’t want to manipulate you,” Matt offers weakly.

Manipulate me? You almost died! God you are so— stupidly self-sacrificing, Murdock.”

Something about Foggy’s tone, about the way that both of them are breathing clearly and easily now, makes Matt want to push his luck. He reaches out for the welcoming heat of Foggy’s body, tracing a hand up his arm.

“I’m told it’s part of my charm,” he tells Foggy with his most earnest expression.

“Wow, what conman told you that?” says Foggy.

Even so, his tone is sweetly teasing and he cups Matt’s face in his hand. Matt leans into it, inhales deeply. Foggy smells like good things, like sunshine, and neither of them reek of the damp rot of plant life and unrequited feelings.

“I love you,” Matt breathes, because he can’t possibly keep it in any longer.

“I love you too,” Foggy tells him right back, achingly tender with his solid hand curved against Matt’s cheek.

Matt feels clean, bright, like there’s a light inside him that’s banished every dark thought, every painful feeling. It’s a short-lived kind of euphoria — but he has a hunch it’ll settle into a warm, persistent happiness.

He seals that hope with a kiss.