During Foggy’s first first-aid class he wanted to throw up. The Red Cross employee was efficient and competent. He didn’t think he could ask for a better. And yet. Foggy couldn’t separate the lessons from the reality of who he planned to practice on.
Two months ago Matt had looked so sad when Foggy found out what he was doing outside the office and Foggy felt rage rise like bile in his throat, tears of anger burn in his eyes. The anger settled around his shoulders and clogged his throat. ‘This’ Foggy had told himself ‘is not about me.’ He knew it, knew it, knew it. But it made his fingers itch, watching Matt hurt. He wanted to do something, make it better. He had always thought he helped Matt. And instead Matt was telling him that their entire relationship was something different, that Foggy had been a convenient cover. He seemed to believe that even now Foggy should stay back, stay safe, stay away. Foggy had to walk out before the bubble in his throat burst and he started screaming.
Time leaked down and into the sewers before Foggy could understand what this side of Matt’s life meant for him. He felt confused, but that was his fault. He knew he had defined himself against another person. He was a person who helped Matt. He hated that Matt had lied to him. But that he could have moved on from. If he was no longer the person who helped Matt, who was he? He had thought he made Matt’s life easier. Mitigated some of the horrific unfairness. He didn’t know if he was alright being a cover. It made him feel like a doormat instead of a cornerstone.
And that all aside from that lurking knowledge that there had been a long, endless moment, years ago, when Foggy had realized he was madly in love with his then roommate. It had been a moment of trumpets in the air and glimmering light, in part because Foggy had realized way back in high school that he didn’t love easily. He liked sex, liked physicality, but he rarely got emotionally invested. There had been Tyrone in high school, who Foggy had spent years loving. Probably still did. He hadn’t seen him in a long time, but his heart still rippled faster when thoughts of him surfaced.
And then there had been Matt. When he realized he loved Matt, they were already friends. It had made Foggy smile at the time. To think about Matt, about loving him. It was a warm cushion in his stomach. A soft, lovely feeling that made the few visible stars in the New York City sky shine brighter and his food truck meals taste better. Loving Matt made his life better, even without acting on it. Loving Matt hadn’t hurt because he was already Matt’s cornerstone.
As an added bonus, it had made his relationship with Marcy easy. So simple for both of them. Neither of them expected anything and the relationship had been fun. Respect and sex contrasted with respect and love. Marcy had been sharp and crushing, but the mere fact she looked at Foggy to begin with thrilled Foggy. He knew she had only ever seen him because he was that good at what he did. A curious confirmation that he was brilliant. He’d appreciated her brilliance in return. He had a very productive conversation with Marcy about it once. She’d mentioned that she didn’t love him and he’d answered that he didn’t love her either. She’d nodded, clearly pleased with his response. He liked their mutual acceptance that they could respect and enjoy each other without being in love. Which, he supposed, fit some definitions of loving someone anyhow. It was part of the reason they’d remained friends even though Matt clearly didn’t like Marcy. Foggy’d tried to explain to Matt once – not about loving Matt – but about his relationship with Marcy and their mutual respect. Matt had cut him off claimed not to need details.
But that was then and he lived now. He didn’t like the sour taste in his mouth and weights sitting in his stomach. He had to do something. Reshape. Partly because he did love Matt, he tried to understand what Matt was doing. He re-watched all the available footage of DareDevil. It made him feel a horrible ache to watch those cops and robbers try to hit, shoot, or stab his friend. It made Foggy feel useless. Foggy hated feeling useless. He had gone into law in the first place because he wanted to make a difference. Thurgood Marshall might have inspired Matt, but Ruth Bader Ginsberg had been Foggy’s idol growing-up. His mother had talked about women’s rights and how the great RBG had fought for change little by little by taking case after case to court and creating precedent even as she’d raised a family. A person, Foggy’s mother had claimed, could have it all. He had believed her.
Foggy’s mother may have wanted him to follow family tradition and become a butcher, but she had also raised him to look at the law as protection for the individual. In a democratic society, she told him, the law was here to make sure everyone had their rights. To flout the law was to put everyone in the community at risk. If something was unjust, then you worked to get the law changed.
Again, Foggy had believed him mother. He struggled through law school, picturing himself fighting injustice in the courtroom. Had been relieved when Matt had pulled him from their boring, lucrative positions to stand up for what they both believed in. He thought Matt believed too.
Now Foggy wasn’t sure what Matt believed.
Foggy listened though. He was a good lawyer. Not particularly socially adept, sure, but he was good with details and had a precise memory. He saw, watching Brett and the others, how the police force was so very corrupt. Too often looking the other way as people got hurt. How they so frequently walked away from or targeted the very lives who didn’t have the resources to protect themselves.
And Foggy asked what the point of the law was if those designated to uphold it refused. The investigations into the system following Fisk could take years. What happened to the people during that time? He hated what Matt did, but began to appreciate it.
The helplessness, Foggy decided to do something about that. If he couldn’t stop Matt from being hurt, he could do something about his care. That was why he was taking these damn classes in all of the extra time he didn’t have. It grated that every time he looked at a fake human body under the care of his Red Cross instructor, he could have been working for one of his clients.
Yet, as the instructor took the class step-by-step through treatment for burns and cuts, Foggy pictured the lacerations slicing open Matt’s skin. He hated to think about what a neck injury would do to Matt. He imagined what might necessitate CPR. He thought that those circumstance would likely kill Matt before Foggy found him. It wasn’t funny.
The instructor was a good one. She kept the tone light, implied that the class participants would be doing good in the world. Contributing to health and safety simply by knowing what they were doing and feeling confident. That confidence could, by itself, keep people calm until the ambulance arrived. Knowledge, she told them, saved lives.
Foggy agreed, but knew that if Matt actually let him help, he’d not be able to call an ambulance. His free evenings were taken up with more classes as he tried to learn sutures and how to apply pressure. He practiced his stiches on raw chicken at home. He told the instructors that he didn’t want to feel useless in another alien attack. They looked sad and believed him. Why shouldn’t they? It was a real concern. Just not his only one.
Foggy felt like he didn’t have time for anything else. Lawyer by day. Case after case fighting for the people who didn’t have the recourses and know-how to fight for their livelihoods and families. People loosing their homes, their jobs, their families because of small charges. Who didn’t have access to decent public defenders because the system was overburdened and didn’t hire enough to actually do their work. What, Foggy wanted to scream at times, had happened to the right to representation? He knew he was being absurd. That right had barely ever been a right because of faulty implementation.
Still. Even then he played the first aid student by night. So much time spent learning to reassemble people piece by piece. He’d never cared much about anatomy before, but now he knew what split skin looked like as well as how to sew it back together. He knew which muscles did what and what he could do when this or that pulled, strained, or broke.
Of course the first time Foggy tried to go to Matt’s place to talk and maybe even repair communications turned into the first time he ended up using those new skills.
He showed up at Matt’s place. He hadn’t called because he couldn’t seem to get himself to press the buttons and he thought, he figured, what he had to say would be better in person with Matt listening to his heartbeat and … whatever else Matt could do.
He’d let himself in to Matt’s apartment and found Matt with his body tilted toward him from the couch. A first aid kit spread out in front of him. Suit pealed part way off. Small gash oozing on his side. Foggy was aware of the spike in his heartbeat as he saw that scarred skin and the flecks of blood on Matt’s side. Matt looked defeated, as if he were exposing himself on purpose to get this over with. Given that Matt must have heard him coming, Foggy figured he was likely right.
And Foggy. He. Well. He swallowed and reminded himself of all of his training. He breathed in and out once and again as Matt sat still, dejected, his hand limp next to the gauze and head tilted. Foggy rolled is shoulders and decided the patching was now up to him, what with Matt frozen in guilt. Or maybe, Foggy wonder, he was wrong and Matt was listening to something far away.
Foggy stepped forward, knelt in from of Matt and took a few anti-septic wipes from next to Matt’s limp hand. Began patching him up. He wiped the scrapes, taped the small gash on Matt’s hand and used a rosemary salve for the bruising.
Matt didn’t say anything as Foggy moved. He shuddered when Foggy touched him the first time, but let him do what was needed. And Foggy felt so relieved. Felt his heart beat steady and calm. He finished and put his head against Matt’s thigh. Breathing in and out. A little giddy that Matt had let him help. The rosemary smelled so strong that Foggy wondered how much it clogged Matt’s senses, or if it made a difference to Matt’s abilities to sense the room.
Matt’s hand lifted and Foggy kept himself breathing. Counting in and out. Matt’s hand landed on his hair, stroking softly.
“I need this” Foggy finally said, thinking that, for all his horror at the splits and tears in Matt’s skin, helping made him feel like the world was righting itself. He was useful. Perhaps not a corner stone, but not trivial. His forehead pressed lightly down into the suit covering the scarred flesh of Matt’s thigh. He didn’t think he could explain Matt’s importance if he looked at him. He kept his head down and tried to find words. He thought about how much of his existence he had tied into Matt’s over the years. How much of his own identity he had wrapped around being the one who helped Matt. Now he could again.
Foggy was well aware that words could mislead, be misconstrued and misunderstood. When necessary, he could wield words against his opponents and make them perfect nets on paper.
This time, however, he hadn’t thought through from all possible connotations of his words. He had let them spill, incomplete and unqualified. It was somewhat of a surprise, distant in his head, when Matt exhaled sharply before pulling Foggy up and kissing him. Foggy hadn’t thought of this possible meaning until Matt pulled him up and in.
But then, Foggy had once imagined this possibility. Years ago. He’d let it go, but never stopped loving. And Foggy, he didn’t need this, but he could be this. Foggy didn’t understand until later what triggered Matt, what made Matt think that this was what Foggy wanted. But it didn’t matter because Foggy did want Matt kissing him and telling him he was wonderful. He’d figure out the rest later.
For now Matt was kissing Foggy so carefully, his breath ghosting against Foggy’s mouth, fingers gently across his face. And Foggy was happy.