genesis: (n) the origin or mode of formation of something
Matt tilts his head as his ears pick up on the slight change in the breathing in front of him. A deeper inhale, a lingering pause, and then the quick burst of an exhale through the nose. It's almost comforting in its familiarity. Focusing on that helps him tune out the sting and pull of the needle dragging through the skin on his pectoral. It's hardly the most painful injury he's ever had - not by a long shot - but it doesn't make the experience any more enjoyable, especially with the significant amount of bruising that's already blossoming beneath the knife wound.
"Foggy," Matt prompts when it becomes clear his best friend isn't going to start the conversation. "Say it."
"You know that's really annoying," Foggy responds without much ire, most of his attention still focused on his hands. They've gotten steadier over the last few months so that they barely even tremble now. The first few times he'd shaken so badly the stitches had ended up crooked and haphazard, but now he only hesitates on the first stitch. Part of Matt feels guilty that his best friend has had to become so adept at first aid, but the other, most selfish, part of him is too grateful for his presence to care at the moment. Later, when all is said and done, that shroud of customary Catholic guilt will come back. Later.
Matt's lips quirk. "I'm sure it is," he agrees unconcernedly. "You want to say something. Say it."
Foggy makes a noncommittal noise as he ties a knot into the end of the thread and then cuts it. The tools clatter loudly on the wooden top of the new coffee table - solid oak, like the boxers his dad used to face, much less likely to shatter to pieces in the chance that a body gets thrown onto it - and then the crinkle of sterile gauze packs being opened flares like fireworks against the burnt ember background of his world. "I just can't help but wonder - " Foggy falters for a brief second as he presses the gauze over the injury and Matt instinctively puts his hand up to hold it in place as Foggy goes for the tape. "How did this all start?"
"Robbery, group of Russians broke into the apartment of some little family on the east side," Matt answers. "The man, he was a former boss of one of them, and it seemed they were out for a little payback so they - "
"No, not that," Foggy interrupts him, smoothing the tape over the gauze. "This, all of this," he says, and Matt can feel the air drafts, the coil and release of muscle, as Foggy gestures widely at Matt as a whole. "What makes the good little altar boy decide to start going out and beating people to a pulp at night?"
"Not an altar boy," Matt corrects him even though he's sure Foggy knows that. "Poor church like mine couldn't afford to risk letting the blind kid handle any of the important stuff. God doesn't appreciate it when you drop the incense or sacramental wine, and neither do the church's bookkeepers."
Foggy prods him pointedly in a bruise on his side that makes Matt wince. "Smart ass," Foggy says. "You know what I mean. How long have you been doing this? How did this happen?"
Matt drops his gaze to his lap, narrows his focus down to the apartment as well as he can. He's known this conversation would come sooner or later. Ever since he and Foggy agreed to move on and put the secrets behind them, Foggy has been more open to discussing his alter ego. He's still not happy about it but he's willing to listen, and that's the most Matt can ask for at this point.
That doesn't mean that having this conversation is going to be any easier.
"It wasn't like it was something I sat and thought about doing. I didn't plan it out," Matt explains in the direction of his knees. He can hear Foggy gathering up the used medical supplies and crumpling them into a ball. They sail through the air and miss the bin by a good four inches, but Foggy makes a triumphant noise anyway and Matt feels a fond smile twist his lips. "It just happened, once, and then I realised I had this gift - this ability to help people - and I couldn't just turn away."
Foggy grunts as he heaves himself off the floor and Matt tracks the sound of his footsteps as he heads into the kitchen. The pressurised puff of cool air escaping, the clink of glass and their textured bottoms grating against the plastic shelf, and then Foggy returns to drop down onto the sofa beside him. Matt's fingers twitch as the cold glass is pressed into his palm and he accepts it with a nod. He twists the cap off and flicks it at Foggy, pegging him dead centre in the forehead and making his best friend yelp petulantly.
They lapse into quiet for a minute as they both sip from their beers, and then the same little hitch appears in Foggy's breathing. "That first one," he says after a pause. "The one that started it all. You remember it?" Matt, his mouth full of the frothy German beer, simply jerks his head in agreement. "Tell me." It's meant to be a statement but it comes out as a question, taking some of the pressure off the request. "Was it the girl, the little girl with the dad?"
It would be so easy to say yes, to pretend that was the first time and let it all slide, but he can't. He'd made a promise that he wouldn't lie, wouldn't keep any more secrets from Foggy. Matt swallows deeply, feeling the muscles in his jaw clench and shift out of anxiety, and the answer finally comes out of him at barely more than a broken whisper. "It was you."
Foggy startles and Matt hears the sudden rise in his pulse, the catch in his breath. "Me?" he asks, trying for scepticism but not completely making it. There's more underneath; confusion, worry, uncertainty. "Somehow I think I'd remember if I'd seen you bust out your ninja skills. You made quite the impression on Karen, after all."
The upward slant of Matt's lips is almost reflexive and he slumps back into the sofa cushions with a slight hiss, touching his stitches. "You weren't conscious," he admits, settling the cool glass against the dull throbbing from a raised lump on the side of his head. "It was at Columbia. The night after we found out we'd passed Torts."
The sharp intake of breath, of comprehension, is loud in the quiet apartment. "When we got mugged."
Matt nods grimly as the memories bash themselves against the inside of his skull. The smell of damp, of filth, of cheap cigarette smoke; the crunch of heavy boots against gravel, the scrape of metal, the sickening crack of wood on bone. The crinkle of fabric and cut-off moan as Foggy collapsed, boneless, onto the damp pavement. The taste of copper, so much copper in the air and all coming from the direction of Foggy's shallow breathing. Matt takes several deep, steadying breaths through his nose to calm himself.
"I didn't mean - I was just gonna let them take our wallets and bail, but when they knocked you out..."
"I still have a scar from that," Foggy says, followed by the twist and scratch as his hand cards through his hair to run along the raised line on the back of his skull.
"Once I heard you go down, I just - It's a bit cliche, maybe, but I saw red," Matt says with a sardonic smirk. "More than usual, anyway. Different. Not just the twist of fire like normal, but genuine, real red. The one closest to you, I heard him draw a knife and I knew I couldn't just do nothing."
"Matty, there were like six of them," Foggy says in alarm.
"Hardly the worst odds I've had," Matt counters with a shrug, and then grimaces when it pulls at the stitches on his chest.
"I feel like I'm better off not thinking about that detail," his friend mutters, shaking his head. He takes a long draw from his beer. "If I remember right, you didn't exactly come out of that fight too well."
Matt tips his head in agreement. "I hadn't exactly been practicing with the intention of using it in a street fight," he points out. "It was really just a hobby before that, exercise and keeping my body controlled. My only concern was getting us out of there before you bled out all over. It worked."
In the back of his mind, in that dark corner where he's trying to force the reemerged memories, he can still remember that buzz. The rage, the righteous fury, the protectiveness, and, worst of all, the thrill. All of it thrumming through his veins like electricity and making him feel more alive than he ever had before. He hates to think about how much he'd enjoyed it, the feel of flesh and bones giving beneath his knuckles and the satisfaction of the grunts and moans each hit elicited. It was power, it was adrenaline - it was good.
Shoving those thoughts away, he finishes off the bottom half of his beer in one swallow.
"I never heard anything about the guys who mugged us though," Foggy says. He leans forward, hunkering his shoulders forward with his elbows resting on his knees. The sound of the bottle rolling between his short fingers is wet from condensation, the droplets spreading and coiling into ribbons beneath his grip.
"They were never caught," Matt says and he knows he doesn't do a good enough job of hiding his anger and guilt over that fact because Foggy tips his head to eye him critically. "It's my fault. I panicked. I knew if people saw all those guys laid out, they'd ask questions. Ones I couldn't answer. So I left them. I just grabbed you and dragged you to the nearest business - that pizza place with the really busty waitress, the one with the piercings you never believed me really existed - and had them call 911. By the time the police got to the hospital, got their answers, and headed back to the alley, those guys were long gone."
"Jesus," Foggy hisses under his breath and Matt can tell he's distracted because he doesn't even apologise for his language like he normally does. Not that Matt really cares, he's more than used to it by now, but it's funny when he does it. "Matt, that's - I can't-"
"I didn't ever intend to become this," Matt plows on, because now that he's started talking he can't seem to bring himself to stop. If Foggy is going to reject him, push him away for this, he wants to make sure he's at least heard the whole story first. He can feel the involuntary shudders of emotion in his jaw and lower lip as he pushes forward. "But I couldn't sleep for weeks after that. I just kept thinking, what if I'd lost you? If I hadn't been able to save you, I couldn't - It made me think about all the other people I heard screaming and crying in the night, if maybe they were losing people too - people they couldn't live without - and the criminals who did it just kept getting away with it.
"I just knew that if I had the ability to do something about it, to save people out there from having to go through what we did... I couldn't just sit back and do nothing anymore. I can't."
Silence falls heavily over the apartment, oppressive in the way it makes every other little noise suddenly a thousand times louder. Each little movement from Foggy is like a glaring neon sign, dazzling his senses. He shifts on the sofa, the scratch of fabrics - cotton on leather - against each other; he wrings his hands together in a familiar gesture, the way he always does when deep in thought, separating his hands only to comb his hair back behind his ear; the smell of musk and heat and salt from his hands where the friction had causes them to sweat slightly. His breathing is slow and steady but in an unnaturally practiced way betrayed by his slightly elevated heart rate, so clearly trying to maintain an appearance of calm.
"Jesus, Matt," he repeats mid-exhale and his voice sounds oddly thick.
A weak laugh bubbles out of him and Matt is surprised when it catches in his throat, and even more startled to realise that his eyes are moist. He carefully drags the back of his wrist across them, smearing the evidence away, and lets his head fall back on the sofa, his half-lidded gaze flicking up to the vacant maroon of the ceiling. He tenses, waiting for the dismissal, the anger, the rejection. Foggy inhales to speak and Matt stops breathing in anticipation of the blow.
"Fuck, does this mean I owe you my life?"
Startled, Matt lets out a huff of laughter. He can't stop himself from lifting his head to look over at Foggy, searching for any indication that something is wrong but there are no warning signs floating in the air around him. "Honestly, with the number of times you've patched me up in the last few months, I think we're definitely more than even," he says with an easy grin, reaching over to clap Foggy on the shoulder.
He senses the shift of muscles as Foggy returns his smile. They both jump when a mechanical chirp comes from the kitchen, indicating the change of the hour. "Ugh, what time is it?" Foggy asks rhetorically since Matt isn't wearing his watch, never does with his costume. The fabric crinkles slightly as Foggy pushes up his cuff to check his own watch.
"Four am," Matt answers anyway. When he senses Foggy's surprise he grins. "I heard the bell in the tower clock at the church a few blocks away."
"Show off," Foggy grumbles, shaking his head, and then adds, "We have to be at the office in three hours."
"Think I'll just stay up," Matt says and touches the aching lines of stitches in his chest gently. "Have a shower, meditate. Not really worth sleeping at this point."
"You have fun with that, sensei," Foggy says with a laugh. "I'm gonna go home and crash for a bit." He pats Matt on the knee twice, careful to avoid the bruising on his thigh, and then hauls himself up. He drops the beer bottle in the bin, grabs his jacket, and heads for the door. He's at the head of the hall when he hesitates, his shoes squeaking against the floor as he shifts his weight from his heels to the balls of his feet. Matt tilts his head just slightly in his direction, waiting without trying to show it.
"Hey Matty," Foggy says, not turning completely around, his hand braced against the wall. "You know I don't really agree with this stuff. I don't like that you're out there risking your life every day. But I think - I think maybe I get it, a little." The weight that lifts off Matt's chest is incredible and he feels like he can properly breathe for the first time since waking up with an angry Foggy in his kitchen, perhaps even longer than that. Some of his relief must show on his face because Foggy adds, "I'm still far from okay with this. I don't know if I'll ever be completely okay with it."
"I can accept that," Matt says with a short nod.
"Good." Foggy turns toward the door again and then falters. He clears his throat awkwardly. "And Matty? I know it's a couple years overdue, but thanks."
Matt grins, a genuine, full-blown smile that only Foggy seems capable of pulling out of him. "Yeah, you too, Fog."