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Dec. 11th, 2013

Title: A Friend A Friend Would Like to Have
Author: [personal profile] dragonbat2006
Fandom: Daredevil
Characters: Matt Murdock/Daredevil, Franklin "Foggy" Nelson
Rating: T
Genre(s): Hurt/Comfort, Angst, Friendship
Spoilers: Daredevil Volume 3, Issues 22—25
Warnings: Discussion of cancer and chemotherapy. Non-graphic vomiting.
Word Count: 6,351
Written For:[personal profile] muccamukk
Summary: Foggy's life has been turned upside-down. Matt is doing his best to help him cope.

A/N: Thanks to Kathy and Subwaywolf for the beta. The story title is taken from a lyric from the song “Live Like You Were Dyin’,” by Craig Wiseman and Tim Nichols, recorded by Tim McGraw on his Live Like You Were Dyin’ album (Curb, 2004).

A/N: Although this story is drawn directly from canon events, I’ve made a few minor changes to the timeline. Also, I wrote this prior to Daredevil 34 and certain plot points may be contradicted by subsequent developments.

Disclaimer: Daredevil was created by Stan Lee and is owned by Marvel Comics. I am receiving no financial remuneration for this work of fanfiction. However, a donation was made to assist with Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts in exchange for my writing this story.


A Friend a Friend Would Like to Have



He hated hospitals. He always had. But for the last ninety-six hours, he had spent as much time as he could at Sloan-Kettering, keeping an eye on his partner and best friend. Keeping an eye. Standing watch. When Matt Murdock had time to think about the intricacies of the English language—and with Foggy sleeping, he did have time—he couldn’t help but note how prominently vision factored into the vernacular. He knew that he wasn’t the only blind person to sprinkle his speech with phrases like “I see what you mean,” and “I’ll take a look in the morning.” See. It was practically a synonym for “know.” In point of fact, he hadn’t been able to see anything since he was fifteen years old—not with his eyes, anyway. But he had other ways of knowing.



For example, his ears told him that, even in sleep, Foggy Nelson wasn’t fully relaxed. Even when he wasn’t snoring, his breath hitched. Periodically, his heart rate spiked. Now and again, Matt caught the faint rustle of hands that clenched around a fold of blanket, twisting it this way and that.



Over the smells of disinfectant, hand soap (even though they called it ‘unscented,’ it wasn’t really), and medications, a faint trace of rose-scented moisturizer lingered. The nurse who’d been wearing it had been in the room for all of five minutes—just long enough to change the IV bag. Even with all those other smells in the room, Matt still knew that Foggy was sweating. The perspiration odor was concentrated on his hands and it was worse when he was awake, but even in sleep, his subconscious was aware of the situation. Or, if Matt were to avoid euphemisms, the diagnosis.



Ewing’s Sarcoma was a rare form of bone cancer, rarer still in adults over thirty. With early detection and prompt treatment, the survival rate was close to seventy percent. If it had metastasized, however, that rate dropped to less than ten. They still didn’t know if it had, though the doctor expected to have that answer tomorrow. Meanwhile, Foggy slept and Matt waited.



He’d been here as much as he could, though not as much as he wanted. Every so often, Foggy got sick of his hovering and ordered him to find something else to do. When that happened, Matt mostly went to the hospital chapel. One of those times, though, he’d surrendered to curiosity, gone to the library, and looked up (there was that ‘looked’ again) Ewing’s Sarcoma. That was when he’d discovered that—at least, according to one study reported in a respected medical journal—patients over the age of twenty-six who developed the disease stood a significantly lower chance of recovery. The article had been nearly fifteen years old, and the study had followed its subjects over a seventeen-year period, beginning in 1979. Matt knew that new research might have come to light in the intervening years. But if so, why had this study been one of the first things that the index had turned up? And why hadn’t he found anything more recent to contradict it?



He couldn’t sit still any longer after that. He’d needed to get out, burn some energy, fight something the way he couldn’t fight fate or Foggy’s cancer or… or… He’d had to get out.



Fortunately, Sloan-Kettering was only eight blocks away from Central Park. A stifled scream and the sound of a switchblade flicking open had been the only cues he’d needed to spot the mugger. By focusing on the situation at hand and sifting and filtering through the welter of sensory data flooding his brain so that he knew who to strike, and when, and how hard, Matt was able to lose himself in the moment and forget about Foggy’s situation. At least until the fight was over.



When he returned to the hospital, Foggy told him, in no uncertain terms, to get back to the office and get back to work. Matt had tried. He really had. But after an hour, he’d realized that he was still on the first page of the first brief and had no clue what he’d just read. And, of course, somewhere in there, Bullseye had attacked, too. Like he didn’t have enough stress in his life, without one of his foes choosing this week to try to enact a little vengeance. With Foggy sick, though, what might normally have been one of the highlights of his week—getting targeted by an old enemy—barely registered.



As Daredevil, Matt had handled the situation. Of course. He always did. And if this time, it had been a bit harder, it still hadn’t been anything he couldn’t deal with once he’d figured out what was going on. Then, with that particular crisis averted, he’d heaved a sigh, gone back to the office, gathered up the papers and taken them to the hospital, thinking that working on them with Foggy might be a welcome distraction for both of them—only Foggy was already asleep.





Now, paperwork forgotten, Matt hunched forward in his chair, rested his hands over the top of his collapsible white cane, and pressed his chin down on top of them. They called Daredevil “the man without fear.” They lied. Right here, right now, Daredevil was frankly terrified that he was about to lose the best friend he’d ever had.




The next thing he knew, he was feeling a shaft of warm sunlight on his cheek, hearing the faint squeak of a wheeled gurney on a limestone-tiled floor, the quiet buzz of conversation in the hallway… and realizing how stiff he was after sleeping in a chair. He felt his eyebrows rise. How long had he been asleep? He hated waking up in unfamiliar surroundings. It always took him more time to get his bearings and to determine which sounds and smells he could use to orient himself, while ignoring those which were mere distractions. That was probably why it took him a bit longer to register that Foggy was not only awake, but a good deal more relaxed than he’d been a day ago.



“Glad you’re up, sleepyhead,” Foggy called from the bed.



Matt smiled. Foggy sounded a lot more like his old self. His heart rate was steadier, although there was still some residual agitation. “Morning, Foggy,” he replied. “Hold on. Is it morning?”



“Yeah, for about another hour and a half. You slept through breakfast, though. Not that you missed much. All they gave me was—”



“Wait, don’t tell me,” Matt held up his hand as he smelled the air. “An egg-and-cheese omelet… croutons… and… orange juice?”



He heard a sigh. Then Foggy replied in an annoyed tone, “Do you have any clue how irritating that is?”



Of course he did. But he’d also caught Foggy’s increasing heart rate and he’d fallen back on the first thing he could think of to distract him. If Foggy was focused on Matt taking the wind out of his sails, then he wasn’t focused on what new tests he would be undergoing and what the doctors might tell him. For that distraction alone, it was worth stepping into the line of fire. It was the least he could do. Besides, it was part of the superhero code: draw enemy fire. Protect the innocent…



…Except he couldn’t protect Foggy. Not really. Not from the true threat. Keeping Foggy’s mind off of the current situation wasn’t just the least he could do; it was all he could do. Some superhero.



He heard footsteps in the hallway and recognized the tread as belonging to the doctor who’d spoken to them both yesterday. The steps approached, then stopped, and then there was a knock on the room’s open door.



“Mr. Nelson?”



The doctor’s pulse was steady, but that didn’t necessarily mean good news. A doctor working in this field, in this hospital, almost had to attain a certain level of detachment for sanity’s sake. Some managed it better than others.



“Right here, Doc.” Foggy’s voice rang with hearty good cheer. Daredevil wasn’t the only one around who could wear a mask.



“We’ve received the results,” the doctor stated. “First,” he continued, his voice serious, but still reassuring, “you have Stage Two Ewing’s Sarcoma. In other words, the cancer has started to spread from the initial site.” His voice grew gentler as he continued. “We’ve found a second, smaller tumor in your left lung. That’s not good,” he admitted, “but the prognosis is still a fair sight better than it would be had we found metastasis in your bone tissue or marrow. It’s only one other site. Although the news could be better, I still think we’ve caught this early enough that you stand a good chance of beating it.”



At that moment, Matt wasn’t sure if the warm sensation on his cheek was a result of a ray of sunlight, or the 1000-watt smile that he was positive was gracing Foggy’s face.



Foggy cleared his throat. “Okay,” he said, relief plain. “Okay. The last couple of days have been a real blur for me, Doc, so maybe you’d better refresh my memory. What happens now?”



“Chemotherapy to shrink the tumors,” the doctor replied promptly. “That may take care of the smaller one entirely. Assuming all goes as expected, once we’ve got the big one down to a more manageable size, we’ll go in and finish the job surgically.”



“How soon can we get started?”





“Soon,” the doctor said. “Once we’ve determined the proper level of chemotherapy for your case, Mr. Nelson, we’ll be getting started immediately.”




Once the doctor left, Foggy tried to make Matt go out and get some air, pointing out that after getting some good—or, at least, semi-good—news, he didn’t need a shoulder to cry on. “What I need,” he said, “is a pizza. Double cheese, double sausage, double pepperoni—”



“Um…” Matt coughed apologetically, “that would be a double ‘no’. Sorry, Foggy, but I don’t think I’ll be able to get that stuff past the front desk.”



“I’m not on a restricted diet,” Foggy pointed out. “C’mon, Matt. Once the chemo starts, they say it’s probably going to kill my appetite. That means that this might be the last pizza I get to savor for who knows how long.”



Matt sighed. “Foggy…”



“Matt,” Foggy’s voice took on a firmer note. This was the tone he used in court, when he was marshalling his arguments to persuade a jury. “Look. I’ll be the first one to admit that the way I eat, cancer prevention probably must have been the last thing on my mind. Maybe too much greasy food didn’t give me Ewing’s Sarcoma, but it sure didn’t help. But that’s not important. Matt, if I thought eating healthy from now on would cure me, I’d,” he made a face, “I’d be sending you to the grocery store for brown rice and bean sprouts.” He paused and then continued ruefully, “Well… maybe. But seriously, Matt, at this point, one more pizza isn’t going to make a difference. Here.”



Matt felt something flat and smooth slide into his hand. “What’s this?”



“Sample menu sheet,” Foggy replied. “Doc dropped it off for me to look at while you were sleeping. Sort of a ‘how to get the nutrition you need when you get full too fast’ guide. Here,” he repeated, “look. Let’s compromise. One of the recommended lunch options is half a cheeseburger with ketchup and mayo, fifteen fries and four ounces of double milk chocolate milk. How about just doubling that?”



“Foggy. I can’t—”



“Damn it, Matt, it says it right there in black and white! I can’t believe you’re—”



“No,” Matt interrupted. “It’s not that. I’ll get you the cheeseburger and fries. And the chocolate milk.” Whatever ‘double milk’ was, he hoped he’d find it in the supermarket. “Or even the pizza, if that’s what you want.”



Foggy was silent for a moment. Then, in a more subdued tone, he replied, “Well. Okay, then. Good. So… if that isn’t the problem, what is it?”



Matt sighed. “The menu sheet is laminated, Foggy. I can’t read it. That’s all.”



“Oh.” Foggy chuckled. “Oh...” He laughed harder.



A moment later, Matt followed suit. And then they were both holding onto each other’s shoulders as wave after wave of boisterous cathartic laughter washed over them.





“Well, in that case, it also mentions a foot-long three-meat, three-cheese sub with fried onions, mayo and guac!” Foggy gasped.



Matt hesitated. “You sure you want that? Because if you really do, like you said, you’re not on a special diet…”



Foggy sighed. “I’d better not push it that much. Let’s just stick to the cheeseburger trio.”




Matt returned a half hour later with a fragrant paper bag from a nearby fast food franchise. “They don’t actually sell ‘double milk chocolate milk,’ he announced apologetically. “Or even plain ‘double milk’. It took me some digging to find out that it’s skim milk powder mixed into two per cent milk. I figured plain, old, everyday chocolate milk would be okay, under the circumstances.”



“Thanks, Matt,” Foggy said, reaching for the bag.



He sounded preoccupied, Matt noted. “Is everything okay? I mean, besides the obvious,” he added belatedly.



Foggy took a bite of the cheeseburger, chewed, swallowed, and sighed. “Guess I’d better get used to that,” he said.



“To what?”



“Well,” Foggy said easily, “you don’t bite my head off every time I forget and ask you to take a look at something or wonder if you saw the latest film. We both know it’s just a figure of speech. I need to remember that when people ask me how I’m doing and stuff.”



There was an awkward pause. Matt broke it. “Um…”



“Yeah,” Foggy murmured. “Anyway.” He took a deep breath. “They’re going to administer the first chemo treatment here, where they can make sure everything goes according to plan. After that, they’ll keep me overnight and probably release me some time tomorrow morning. Thing is, they want someone else to be around in case I need help. Some of the side effects,” he hesitated, “aren’t… pretty. I want to think I can manage them on my own, but I don’t know if I can. I was wondering if you’d mind…”



“Me?” Matt gaped at him. “I-I mean, sure… if you want me to. But… why me? Wouldn’t your family…?”



Foggy took a second deep breath. “They don’t know.”



“What?” His jaw had to be hanging halfway to his knees.



“I haven’t told them. I didn’t want to worry them until I knew for sure, and then everything started happening so fast and…” His voice trailed off, then came back with more force. “I haven’t told them yet. I can’t tell them, Matt. Not over the telephone. I’d like to tell them in person, but if I can’t, I’ll… I’ll write to my dad. After this.”



Matt reached out and placed a hand unerringly on Foggy’s shoulder. “Would you like me to make the call? I could break it gently.”



Foggy shook his head. “Thanks but no thanks, Matt. It’s… I know my dad. He’ll be supportive. Incredibly supportive.”



“Then…” Matt frowned, “I don’t see—”



“And then he’ll tell me that I should really let my mother know. That he knows we aren’t exactly on speaking terms right now, but that even so, she’s my mother and she should be informed. And then, if I won’t, maybe he’ll tell her himself.”



Matt tightened his grip on Foggy’s shoulder. “Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. I mean, it might just serve as a wake-up call for her and she’ll realize—”



Foggy cut him off. “What? That she stabbed me in the back and hung me out to dry and maybe that wasn’t the best way to treat her son? Trust me, Matt, I think she’s aware. She’s never played the doting mother part well and I think the only thing worse than having her try now would be if I gave her that opportunity, and…” beneath Matt’s hand, his shoulder sagged, “…and she didn’t take it. Matt, maybe I’ll feel differently about this in a few days, maybe I won’t. But for right now, I don’t want anyone else hearing about what’s going on. I just need to know two things: will you respect that? And will you be there for me when they let me go home after chemo?”



Matt let out a long breath. Then he placed his free hand on Foggy’s other shoulder. “Yes. To both.”



Foggy sighed with relief. “Thanks, Matt. I knew I could count on you.”




“Watch your step,” Foggy cautioned as they walked into the apartment. “And before you ask again,” he added, “so far, I’m feeling fine. Let’s just head for the sofa and you can bring me up to speed on Mr. Khan’s file.”



Matt frowned. “Mr. Khan…?”



Foggy shook his head. “Matt, I thought I sent you back to get some work done yesterday. Mr. Khan’s hearing is coming up and,” he sighed, “I need to withdraw from representation. That’s something else I was putting off.” He sat down heavily on the sofa. “When I started noticing that something was wrong, when I started running to doctors, I also decided to stop taking new clients. Not that I had many coming in the door at that time, mind you, but I did turn some business away. As far as the clients already signed, though,” he sighed again, “I didn’t know. I figured, if this turned out to be nothing, there’d be no problem with handling them. And then, I... we got the diagnosis. And everything went on hold.”



Matt sank down onto the sofa next to him. “I thought that, with Kirsten McDuffie taking over for you…”



Foggy shook his head. “She won’t have had time to familiarize herself with this one. Mr. Khan’s court date is in four days. You, at least, know a bit about the case—we were dealing with it before you… left. Anyway, you’re going to have to work with him, if the judge somehow isn’t willing to grant a delay. We’ve got to be prepared for that possibility”



“Done,” Matt nodded. Khan’s case was a wrongful dismissal suit. He’d handled dozens of those. There were some unusual circumstances that made this one a bit more complicated. Still, it shouldn’t be too hard to win, so long as there weren’t any more surprises. Of course, there were always more surprises.



“Thanks. So, we need to make a list of... of...”



Matt heard Foggy clap a hand over his mouth and felt him bolt from the sofa. A moment later, loud retching and a foul smell told him that Foggy hadn’t made it to the bathroom in time. He forced himself to take a few deep breaths to get used to the odor. Once he was sure he was past the gag reflex, he called, “Foggy?”



“O-over here,” Foggy said weakly. “Sorry about that.”



“Not your fault,” Matt said easily. His radar sense told him that his friend was leaning heavily against the wall. “Where are your cleaning supplies?” He hesitated. “You do have cleaning supplies, right?”



“Funny,” Foggy muttered. “Yeah, under the sink in the kitchen.” He drew in his breath. “Matt... with your senses... I mean... you aren’t going to clean this up, are you?”



Matt was already on his way to the sink, but he turned back incredulously. “It’s got to be done and you’re not in any shape to do it. Now where’s your baking soda?”



“Fridge,” Foggy said. “Somewhere. Probably near the back.”



Matt nodded. “Thanks.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pair of nose plugs. “These don’t block everything, but they’ll help enough.” He frowned. Foggy hadn’t moved from the wall. “Do you need some help getting to the bathroom?”



“Matt...”



“Foggy, when you said the docs wanted you to have someone around for the next day or so, why did you think they recommended it?”



“I don’t know. I just... I didn’t think it meant...” Foggy’s voice trailed off. “I didn’t think I could feel that nauseous that fast,” he admitted. “Sorry, Matt. I hate to stick you with this.” He let out a long breath. “But you’re right. The way I’m feeling, I can’t even help you clean up my mess, much less do it myself.” He paused. “And, I guess I could use a hand.”



“No problem,” Matt said, crossing the living room floor to rest a hand on Foggy’s shoulder. “Can you walk?”



“Well, I can’t stay here forever,” Foggy sighed. “No matter how tempting it is.”



“Right,” Matt said briskly. “Let’s get you cleaned up and settled first. Then I’ll come back and take care of the floor. Actually...” he hesitated for a moment, “it’s a good thing you’ve got hardwood. Carpets are much worse. Maybe that’s why they didn’t have any in the college dorms when we were in school,” he added, as he bent down and draped Foggy’s arm over his shoulders. “All those pub crawls,” he sighed, “that I never went on,” he added in an undertone. He shook his head. “Okay. Ready to try standing up?” He waited for Foggy’s confirmation before carefully straightening. Then the two slowly made their way to the bathroom.



“Bed or sofa?” Matt asked, once Foggy turned off the water.



“Bed, I guess,” Foggy mumbled. “Thanks.” His voice was weary as he continued. “That pamphlet they gave me said that nausea usually comes about a week or two after the chemo. I wasn’t expecting it to hit now.” He sighed. “I don’t know if I’m glad you’re here or sorry that you’re seeing me like this.”



“Don’t worry,” Matt said, slowly steering Foggy towards the bedroom. “I’m not seeing you at all, remember?”



Matt wished he could tell if that had gotten a smile out of him.




Once Foggy was settled in the bedroom, Matt went back to tackle the floor. He found rubber gloves and paper towels easily enough. The baking soda took a bit longer.



It would have been untrue to say that he didn’t mind cleaning up. Even with the nose plugs, he found it hard not to retch. But, as he’d told Foggy, it had to be done and so, he did it.



When he was finished, he lifted his head and smiled when he heard slow, regular breaths interspersed with occasional snores coming from the bedroom. Evidently, Foggy was resting easier in familiar surroundings. Matt settled back on the sofa to review the cases. All told, there were three that needed his direct attention. The others either had court dates far enough away that McDuffie would have plenty of time to get familiar with them, or else, they had no court dates at all.



It might have been an hour or so later when he put down the papers and rubbed his forehead. His fingers had been over the words so many times that he wasn’t sure anymore if he was reading or stroking the page. He supposed he ought to call the clients. He didn’t really feel like talking to them, but he’d been ducking enough responsibility before all of this happened. It was a little after one. If he called the home phone numbers, he’d probably get voice mail, but at least, he’d be able to say he contacted them. He was just punching Mr. Khan’s number into his cell phone, when he heard Foggy calling from the bedroom. He set down the cell with relief.



“I’m right here, buddy.”



Foggy struggled to sit up. “Sorry, Matt. I’m just thirsty.”



“Sure. What can I get you?”



Foggy sighed. “Water, for now. But if you could pick up some ginger ale and leave some in a glass so it goes flat,” he took a breath, “maybe that’ll help keep my stomach under control.”



“No problem.” He poured the water, then frowned as he remembered something that had been in the book he’d been reading on cancer earlier and placed a drinking straw in the glass.



“Here you go,” he said, as he carried the water in and set it down on the night table. “Hungry?”



“Not really,” Foggy’s voice was pained. “I know, I know. I barely ate breakfast and I skipped lunch. Loss of appetite’s another side effect.” He hesitated and Matt heard his heart rate give a slight jump. “Matt… your sense of taste…”



Matt waited for Foggy to finish his thought. “What about it?” he asked after a moment.



“Just wondering, if it’s as strong as you tell me, does that mean you have to stick to bland stuff?”



Matt considered. “Well, I was never a big fan of spicy food, even before the accident,” he admitted. “Though, you’re right. Having super-keen taste buds doesn’t help.” He rubbed the bridge of his nose. “If I’m going out to eat, I guess I do stick to the milder menu options, but that’s not just an issue with spicy foods—it’s salt and sugar, too. Salt’s a big one. At least, most restaurants warn about the spicy options. Anyway, if I’m fixing something at home, I’ll use whatever seasonings the recipe calls for, but I’ll use a lot less. You like garlic bread,” he pointed out, “but you don’t crush four or five bulbs worth of cloves and spread them an inch thick on the baguette. You use the garlic in moderation. So do I; it’s just that what’s ‘moderation’ for you is a lot more than it is for me.”



“And I guess you weren’t carrying nose plugs on you just on the off chance I puked on the floor, either.”



Matt shook his head, smiling. “No, they come in handy, every so often. Like every time I have to walk past an open air fish market. Camphor works, too,” he added. “I needed that when I was taking down Mole Man’s grave robber operation a few months ago. Except that’s…” he frowned in thought for a moment. Then the smile returned. “Okay. If you’re going from a dark room into bright light, you have a few options for protection. You can wear sunglasses, or you can close your eyes. Or, I guess, wear a blindfold,” he added, “but that’s on a par with closing your eyes.”



“With you. So far.”



“Sunglasses filter the light. They’re not as powerful as a blindfold, but they let you see what’s going on. That’s what nose plugs do for my sense of smell: they block the worst of it, but let enough get through that I can do what I need to. Camphor works like a blindfold. It blocks almost all smells—except the camphor, of course. Now, if you’re chasing down an outfit that’s exhuming caskets and opening them, well, maybe camphor’s the way to go. Thing is, since I rely on my other senses to replace my eyes, going down from five functioning senses—counting radar—to four isn’t something I like doing without a good reason. I don’t even like using nose plugs more than I have to, but sometimes, I do have to.” Foggy’s heartbeat was steadier now. “Anything else you want to know?”



Foggy took a deep breath. “No. Well…” He started to say something, then stopped. “Forget it. I think I’ve asked you enough questions already.”



“I don’t mind.” Not when talking seemed to be doing them both some good. “Seriously.”



“Nah,” Foggy said with a slight wheezing laugh. “It’s dumb.”



“So?” Matt shrugged.



“No, I mean, really dumb. It’s just…” he hesitated. “Well, in the list of possible side effects for chemo, it mentions changes in the way things taste or smell. It also says I might become more sensitive to certain tastes and fragrances, and…”



“…And you wondered if it was going to be like having superpowers.”



“No!” Foggy snapped. Then, more sheepishly, “Okay, maybe it crossed my mind a couple of times.”



“Uh-huh.”



“Or more than a couple. I told you it was dumb.”



“No.” Matt thought for a moment. “No, it’s not dumb. Actually, in some ways, you might notice more than I do.”



“How’s that?”



“Okay,” Matt said. “We’re back to how I filter. Imagine you’re in a crowded room. Everyone around you is talking to other people, and at any one time, there might be twenty-five conversations going on. You’re concentrating very hard on a case, and you’re barely paying attention to what’s going on. You tune out the buzz as so much background noise. Until you hear someone mention your client’s name in the course of their conversation. And suddenly, you’re on high alert. Not only does every other sound in the room suddenly fade to nothing, but now every word of that conversation is that much clearer, because it’s suddenly gone from being so much static to ‘information you need’.” He paused. “I can zone in on multiple conversations for a short period of time, but I can’t stay focused on all of them for long. And remember, for me, whispering might as well be shouting. So when I stand in the middle of that crowded room, it’s like you standing in a mosh pit.”



“Following you so far,” Foggy said. “Though I’m not sure where you’re going with this.”



“Bear with me. You will,” Matt replied. “Okay. When I first lost my sight, I went to a rehab center at my doctor’s urging. I was still getting used to my enhanced senses at the time, and I was blocking out a lot more than I do now, just for my sanity. One day, I remember, I was outside, walking with a girl, when she suddenly stopped. I asked her why, and she said that she was listening to the music. It took me a minute to realize what she was talking about. See, there was this ice cream truck driving by, and…”



“The bells?” Matt heard the smile in Foggy’s voice.



He nodded. “The bells. Which I had already processed as ‘background noise. Pay no further attention.’ Sure, I heard them, but they were lost in the shuffle, until she woke me up to them. It’s the same with smells and tastes. Yes, I can isolate and identify each one, the same way I can pick up a strain of conversation in a crowded room. But keeping track of it all, every waking hour, gets exhausting. I might be more attuned to the sensory data around me, but there’s still a lot that I have to screen out. And every so often… I miss the bells. After years of sifting and sorting, I think that’s probably normal. But for you, if your senses get sharper, you’ll be getting a fraction of what I deal with. Maybe just enough to wake you up to what you missed noticing before.”



Foggy let out a long breath. “Thanks, Matt.”



“Of course, you might also find that you won’t be able to walk into a shopping mall without choking on perfume and aftershave fumes—OW!” Foggy had just punched him in the arm.



Thanks, Matt.”



Behind his sunglasses, Matt’s eyes narrowed. Foggy’s heartbeat was soaring again. “What?”



Foggy pulled back slightly. “What, what?”



Matt sighed. “One minute, I thought you were doing a little better and then…”



“Oh? You’ve suddenly developed an empathy sense on top of the radar sense?”



Matt waited.



“Sorry. I’m just…” he hesitated. Then, as though he’d flung a door wide, the words tumbled out as a rush. “It’s just that… this is all happening so fast. I’m trying to stay positive, Matt, really. But I’ve got this… thing inside me that might kill me, and I can’t forget it. I read over the list of possible side effects, and some of them sound worse than what the chemo is supposed to be treating. Who wants to be tired and nauseous all the time?” He reached up and clasped the hand that Matt had placed on his shoulder. “What happens if,” he continued, “the next time you and I have a fight and you want to make up, you buy me a bacon and limburger cheesecake, and I hate it?”



Matt sighed. “The world will keep spinning,” he said slowly, “you’ll remember that it’s the thought that counts, and we’ll figure out something else you do like.” His lips twitched. “What makes you so sure I’m going to be the one who wants to make up?”



“Precedent.”



He fought not to laugh at that, but after about thirty seconds he couldn’t hold back any longer. Foggy joined in.



“Of course,” Foggy said, when they’d both calmed down, “if, hypothetically speaking of course, it was me who messed up, or, let’s say I wanted to give you a little something to say thank you…”



“You don’t have to…” Matt started to say. Then he took a breath. “Music’s usually a safe choice, I guess. I’m waiting to find a style I don’t like. Although, I admit I need to be in a particular mood for heavy metal.”



“Ah.” For a moment, there was silence. Then Foggy ventured, “That particular mood… it wouldn’t happen to be ‘self-loathing,’ by any chance, would it?”



“Um…”



Foggy took a sip of water. “No heavy metal. Got it. Did you happen to call Mr. Khan back?”



“Not yet.”



Foggy sighed. “Fine.” He reached for the phone by his bed. “What’s the number?”



“No, I’ll call him,” Matt said. “Then I’ll get you that ginger ale.”



“Make sure it’s Schweppes, not Vernors,” Foggy grinned after his retreating form. “I don’t need enhanced taste buds to know the difference!”




Foggy was watching TV when Matt got back. “I don’t know if you’ll feel up for it,” he said, setting the shopping bag down, “but there’s going to be an international food fair at the South Street Seaport a week from Friday. I thought you might want to see if there’s anything out there that can replace your favorite cheesecake’s spot in your heart.”



“Hey,” Foggy protested, “we don’t know for a fact that I won’t still like it if I try it. Though,” he admitted, “the way my stomach’s acting up, I probably shouldn’t ask you to pick one up for me today.”



“No, but I stopped off at the deli on my way back,” Matt said. “If you don’t want it, I’ll eat it,” he said, pulling out a tall Styrofoam container. “I thought maybe you’d be able to keep some chicken soup down.”



“Maybe later,” Foggy said. “Hey. Thanks.”



“No problem.”



Foggy wasn’t done. “Not just for the soup. For dealing with all of this, without lecturing me about what I could have done differently or trying to pressure me into doing things I don’t feel up to, or talk me out of stuff I do.”



Matt sat down on the sofa. “Do you think I haven’t had to deal with a lot of that kind of thing, first-hand? And yes. It’s every bit as irritating as you think it is.” He started when Foggy clamped a hand firmly on his forearm. Then he relaxed and continued talking. “The worst is, that when you really do need help, it’s a lot harder to admit it, much less ask for it.”



“Because if you need help once, you worry that folks around you will see you as helpless.” Foggy nodded. Although Matt couldn’t see it, he felt the slight change in air current caused by the movement.



“So, you’re not the only one with stupid worries.”



“Maybe they aren’t so stupid, if we’ve both got the same ones.”



Matt smiled. “And maybe the only way to be sure of that is to actually discuss them, instead of assume that they’re so stupid that the best thing you can do is sweep them under the rug and try to forget them.” He placed his hand over Foggy’s. “You’ve commented more than once on my lack of openness. I don’t think that’s something that’s going to change overnight, but I’ve got to start somewhere. Even if it’s with something that really isn’t a secret, but just something I don’t like admitting.”



“Matt,” Foggy replied, “you do realize that I was never really irritated that you had secrets. I’ve got a few of my own. Things that aren’t anyone else’s business. Things I was told in confidence. And I get that there’re probably a lot of stunts you’ve pulled off as Daredevil that I might not want to know about. But keeping secrets just for the hell of keeping secrets, or worse, secrets that put the firm at a disadvantage…”



“I know,” Matt said. “Believe me. I’m working on that, but it’s okay to call me on it, if I forget, or… or seem to be falling back into the old patterns. Some habits are hard to break.”



“Yeah.” Foggy chuckled. “Thanks.”



Matt tilted his head, puzzled. “For…?”



He sighed. “For not grabbing the chance to point out that I’ve been keeping a pretty big secret from a few people who really should know.” He released Matt’s arm and reached for the telephone. “I need to call my dad.”



“Yeah.”



“It’s not going to be easy.”



“I know.”



“Sending a letter is just going to be stalling for time.” He took another breath. “I can do this. It’s my dad. There’s nothing to be scared of.”



“Which doesn’t mean you can’t be scared,” Matt pointed out.



“Says the Man Without Fear.”



“Says the man who hasn’t been living up to his hype for the last few days.”



“Yeah? What have you been… Oh.” He put a hand on Matt’s shoulder. “Look. You heard what the doc said. I’ve got pretty good odds of beating this thing. Now, depending on how the chemo goes, there may be some days when I’ll need you to remind me of that little fact, but you’ll see, Matty. I’m here for the long haul.”



Matt nodded. Then, as he heard Foggy began punching Edward Nelson’s number into the phone, he whispered, “Me too, partner. Me too.”



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