A Thousand PagesAuthor: tartanshellCrossover:
X-Men/Daredevil (Scott Summers and Matt Murdock)Recipient: joanne_c
, who wanted slash or gen featuring Matt and Scott interacting.Rating:
6,250Summary: My brothers, they never went blind for what they did, but I may as well have/ In the name of the Father, the skeptic, and the Son, I had one more stupid question...
You know how those Catholic boys can be. Matt Murdock gets a pen-pal.Author's notes: joanne_c
, I'm so sorry this is late! This story plays fast and loose with comics canon, but since this is movieverse, I figured I could Make Stuff Up, Dammit. ;) Takes place pre-X1, pre-Daredevil. The summary is taken from "Forgiven" by Alanis Morissette.
The first, highly-anticipated letter arrived on a Monday in November, weeks after all of the other kids in Matt's class had heard back from their pen-pals, who were all from exotic places like Italy, or France, or Brazil. Matt's own pen-pal was "special," or so Sister Theresa had said. She whispered again what a special opportunity God had given him as she squeezed his shoulder and pressed a bulky manila envelope into his hands. Matt liked Sister Theresa, who smelled like spicy-dusty-sweet carnations and had a voice soft as mouse fur, but he didn't understand what she meant until that evening, in his room, when he finally had a chance to open the letter. It was the first one he'd ever gotten that was really for him
, not paperwork and legal stuff about his dad.
Digging into the envelope, he found a hard plastic edge, which he ignored for the moment in favor of the thick paper beside it. Special, she'd said, and Matt grinned as his thumb, pulling the sheet out, skated over bumps. Ohh. It was in Braille
His grin quickly became a grimace as he read the first line, wincing in sympathy. Oh. Bad
Braille. Bad, Grade 1 Braille. No wonder Sister Theresa had said this was a special opportunity. dear matthew'
hello my nanme is scott summers e sent you a tape)
hopeto hear from you toon.
Matt fished his walkman out of his desk drawer, popped the tape in, and hit 'play,' listening intently with his elbows on the desk. He didn't want to miss a word.
After a few seconds of silence, a boy cleared his throat. "Dear Matthew," he said, his voice quiet, but older than Matt had expected. Nervous. In the background, he could hear hard-soled footsteps down a tile hall. "I'm Scott Summers, and I guess we're supposed to be pen-pals. Though that's kind of funny, since we're not using pens...um." He swallowed, clearly audible to Matt, despite the tinny tape-static. "I'm twelve years old, and I'm, um, blind."
That 'um,' and the accompanying crack on it, told Matt everything he needed to know, even before Scott added, "I haven't been--I mean, it's only been a few months. Anyway. I live at Boys Town, in Nebraska. I like baseball, and I used to like playing it. And, um. I like cars and planes. What are your interests? It must be exciting, living in New York City. I've never been there. Have you ever been to Central Park? My favorite subject in school is math, and I'm pretty good at it. I took Algebra 1 last year. What's your favorite subject?"
Scott took a huge breath, tapping his fingers on...something. His desk, maybe. "I hope you'll want to be pen-pals with me, Matthew. Hope you'll write back soon. Sincerely, Scott." After a few seconds of crackly quiet, there was a clatter, a muffled, but heartfelt, "Oh, crap
," from Scott, and then some fumbling as he found the knocked-over recorder and stopped the tape.
Matt rewound the tape as he got settled on his bed, propped against the headboard with his knees pulled up. He hadn't changed out of his uniform after dinner, and the crisp fabric of his pants scritched against the worn cotton bedspread. The night chill was coming through the window glass, along with the usual neighborhood noises. Down the hall, Benny Hamilton was practicing the solo he had in choir, and Juan Ramirez and Sam Tyler were arguing about the Mets. Father Thomas was at the far end of the hall, talking with a new kid, but Matt tried not to listen to that. Instead, when the tape clicked, he pressed 'play' again.
It was after the third time listening to the letter, after he'd brushed his teeth and changed into his pajamas and prayed, that he realized. The reason he kept looking forward to the end of the letter was because that was real, not a script he'd memorized. The "crap," made him grin every time, and not because it was sort of a dirty word, but because he'd been
there. And he could be there for Scott.
Sister Theresa sure was smart, he'd give her that.***Dear Scott,
I am sending you the same letter on paper and on tape, so you can compare them, and maybe knowing what the Braille says ahead of time will help. It did with me. I started out reading little kid books I knew by heart.
I'm 14, and you know this, but I'm blind, too. I was in an accident when I was 12. My dad died eight months later, and I've been living at St. Joseph's ever since. I like it here, but I went to public school before (even though I've always been Catholic), so, it was weird at first. Do you have to wear a uniform at Boys Town? We do here, during the school day. Khaki pants, white shirt, and a green jacket or vest. At least I never have to worry that my clothes don't match.
St. Joe's is in Hell's Kitchen, which is in Manhattan. Which is in New York, I mean. New York City. Did you know that the city is divided into five boroughs? Five different areas. There's Manhattan, and that's what you probably picture when you think of New York. Then there's Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island. Anyway, the Kitchen is probably not what you think. It's sort of a tough neighborhood, but I love it. I've always lived here. Have you always lived in Nebraska?
I'll admit, I had to go to the library and look up Nebraska in the encyclopedia because I didn't know anything about it. Lots of cornfields, I guess! And they invented Kool-Aid there. What is a cornhusker, anyway? Some kind of machine?
I have been to Central Park. I liked the carousel when I was a kid, and you can get a great ice cream cone there, but my favorite place in the whole city is the gym where my dad used to train. He was a boxer.
I like pretty much every subject, but my favorites are English Composition and American History. I like music (all kinds), reading, and the mock-trials my Government class is doing. I'm thinking about joining the debate team. I want to learn karate or something, too. I've heard that you can do judo even if you're blind.
What do you look like, Scott? I'm five-foot-seven and on the skinny side, and I've got reddish hair. I wear dark glasses almost all the time, because--well. You know. I've got some pretty bad scars by my eyes from the accident, but Sister Mary Helen says they'll fade. I don't care.
What kinds of cars and planes do you like? Nobody in the city really drives, but I always liked Corvettes and Mustangs. My dad used to say that someday he was going to get a Cadillac.
I'm glad to be your pen-pal. Even without pens. Especially without pens. Write back soon.
thank you for your letter.
I have readthe Cat in the 'hat a lot. You are right, it has helped.
I sent you a tape again.
Thanks again for the letter. It was great. You sound older than fourteen, but it was...really good to hear that you only went blind--uh, I mean, lost your sight, sorry--when you were my age, and you're so good at Braille now. I hate not being able to read.
I was in an accident, too, last April. Since then, they've had to keep my eyes taped shut all the time, and I hate that, too. It itches. And yeah, I wear sunglasses a lot, mostly because I don't want people, you know, seeing the gauze and tape and stuff. Everybody knows anyway, though. They all think I'm...I don't know. Some kind of freak.
We don't have to wear uniforms, so I mostly wear jeans. I'm five-one, by the way, and I've got brown hair and blue eyes. My dad was tall, so I probably will be, too. He and my mom, um, died. In the accident. Dad was in the Air Force. I don't want to talk about it. Sorry about your dad, though.
Since Omaha's got Eppley Airfield and Offutt right here, I can hear planes overhead all the time. Maybe it's weird, but I like it. Makes me feel like I know where the sky is, you know? And it feels...I don't know. Like home.
I grew up in Alaska, but Dad got transferred to Offutt last fall. Mom drove the moving van out here, and you should've seen all the weird stuff out in western Nebraska! There's this mock Stonehenge, like in England? Made out of junk cars, and a national park with rock formations that look like something from Mars. We ate at this place where if you eat the five-pound hamburger, you get it for free for the rest of your life (but Mom wouldn't let me order it) and saw a coyote running across the road at night, and a bunch of deer.
I don't know what a Cornhusker is, actually. I think it's somebody who takes the shucks and tassels off of corn, maybe? Everybody's football-crazy here. I heard that on game days, the stadium in Lincoln becomes the third-biggest city in the state. A bunch of the guys here want to go to UNL and get on the team.
I don't know what I want to do. I wanted to be a pilot, like my dad. And I wanted to take shop, in high school, and architecture and-- You're lucky you like English and the debate team, Matt. At least you don't have to see to do those. It must be nice.
Talk to you soon. 'Bye."***Dear Scott,
This letter has to be quick and won't have an accompanying tape because I have a debate team meeting tonight. (I won't be on the team officially until next semester, but for now, I'm the alternate.) But I wanted to send this right away.
1. You're not a freak.
2. You're blind, not dead. You'll figure out other things you want to do.
3. I know exactly how you feel.
Before long, it was rare to go a week without a letter from Scott, to go more than a few days without adding another page or paragraph to the response he'd already started. The tapes became less audible letters and more halves-of-conversations, rambling thoughts and quiet confessions, and Matt learned to read Scott's tone of voice as if he were a real, flesh-and-blood friend. They talked about everything.
When Scott sent his first letter in Grade 2 Braille, along with a tape saying nothing more than, "Haha, told you I'd learn faster than you," Matt responded by sending a Hershey bar and a recording of the Hallelujah chorus, and that's when the sending of Stuff began. A subway token, a tiny plastic lion from the Henry Doorly Zoo, a paper napkin from Boys Town that reeked of meatloaf, some toilet paper from St. Joe's, just to prove it really was as stiff as cardboard...
They talked on the telephone for the first time at Christmas, a year after they'd begun sending letters. Sister Mary Helen told Matt he had a long-distance call and hustled him to the office after dinner, and he was so startled to hear Scott's voice on the other end that he almost dropped the receiver. They spent most of the call laughing, talking about nothing, but Matt could feel the difference in their letters, after that. They weren't just pals. They were friends
Scott sent an enormous card for Matt's sixteenth birthday, which, Sister Theresa helpfully told him, trying not to laugh, had a picture of Grover and the words, "HOORAY, YOU'RE THREE!" on it. But Matt could tell, even from a distance, that it was scratch n' sniff and smelled like strawberries, sort of, and Scott knew those were one of his favorite foods.
He sniffed it, later, in his room, and could smell Scott on it, too. The cotton/warm/fresh grass/cheap shampoo/sky blue Scott
smell that was just him. By now, Matt knew that smell as well as he knew anyone's, in the weird way he had that he never told anyone about. Not even Scott, but sometimes he wanted to. The way he knew by smelling (skin and ink) and then by grazing the inside of the card with his fingertips that Scott had scrawled his signature with a ball-point pen, even though neither of them could read it. Scott was thorough like that. And Matt could read it, sort of; could tell that Scott's handwriting was small and neat and angular. It made him want to sign a letter back, for some reason.
Weird to think that Scott was fourteen, now, as old as Matt had been when they met. He was a freshman, caught up with his schoolwork and fluent in Braille, reading The Catcher in the Rye
, the last Matt heard, and taking pre-Calc.
Matt was a junior, co-captain of the debate team, and he had a bit part in the school's production of Death of a Salesman
. He started going to basketball games and briefly went out with a cheerleader from Lincoln High named Cindy.
The other kids in Matt's class had long since lost interest in their pen-pals, but he and Scott talked about God and Jesus, and about their families, and even about girls, and sex. Matt called Scott at Christmas, this year, from the pay phone by Rosie's Tacos, down the block, dancing from one foot to the other with snow melting on his flushed cheeks.
They talked about visiting, someday, when Matt was eighteen and either of them could afford a ticket, by train, or plane, or bus. Talked about going to the same college, and Matt was pretty sure, by now, that he wanted to go to Columbia or NYU, and then on to law school. Scott mentioned MIT, Michigan, Harvard, and UCLA.Any word on the SATs?
he wrote, and Matt laughed when he got the note and his scores on the same day.620 math, 710 verbal!
he wrote back. I wish I could show my dad. Come visit this summer. I'll take you out for real NY-style pizza to celebrate. You'll love it. And you'll love the city enough to come to college here, I promise. I applied for an after-school job at the diner I told you about, and if I get it, I'll save up and buy your ticket. What do you think? I even asked Father Tom, and he said he doesn't think it would be a problem, getting permission for you to visit.
I'm grinning like a fool. I feel like things are finally coming together again. You better be suitably congratulatory when you write back!
It's been a week and a half. Did your letter get lost in the mail?
Talk to you soon,
Okay, you don't have to visit! I was...well. I wasn't kidding, but if you're this weirded out, we don't have to do it. I got the job flipping burgers, but I can save up for college. Or something. And you know I wasn't pressuring you to go here, right? I hope you do get into MIT.
You could've at least said "congratulations" about the SATs. Or let me know if something was bugging you, instead of this silence.
It's been a month. This isn't funny. I'm getting worried. Are you okay? Are we okay?
Please write back. Anything.
I called, and they said you're not at Boys Town anymore, but they wouldn't tell me anything else, except that they have been forwarding your mail. Where are you? Did someone adopt you? Did you even want to be adopted? I thought--I thought you would've told me.
If they're forwarding your mail, that means you're getting these, and you know my address, and the phone number here. I'm not the one who moved.
Did I do something to offend you?
Your friend, I think,
It's been six months. It's like you died. It's like my dad all over again.
Happy 15th birthday. Sorry there's not a card.
This is the last letter I'll be sending.
It was the signature that got to him, surprisingly fine, straight script written in black ink beneath the Braille. At least, Scott thought it was black. For all he knew, it could've been blue, on a page that definitely wasn't really light pink.
He ran his thumb idly over the dots, breathing hard, his mouth working. As always, he thought about taking the Brailler the Professor had bought him out of its box. Thought about going downstairs and picking up the phone.
And then, as always, he thought about walking downstairs without his cane. Thought about the games of basketball he'd played recently and the driving lessons he'd had with Dr. Lehnsherr. Reading print and looking in the mirror (even with the heavy visor, he could still see himself
) and opening his eyes, in the morning, and seeing dawn.
He thought about calling Matt and saying, "I'm not blind anymore, and by the way, I'm a mutant." And he put Matt's last letter in the drawer of his nightstand, with all the others.***Dear Scott,
I graduated today. I was the valedictorian. I got my acceptance letter from Columbia in April. I got a scholarship.
I've been working at Frankie's for a year, now, and have enough saved to buy my textbooks, and some clothes, and have spending money left over. And I know how to make a damn good cheeseburger. I'm quitting at the end of August, and Frankie knows this, but he says I can work over vacations, any time I need the money. He's a good guy.
I would've invited you to the ceremony, you know. Maybe, if you'd been in the auditorium, it would have made me feel it just a little less that my dad wasn't.
Still not sending these, and I don't know why I keep writing them,
Happy Birthday. Hooray, you're three! Do you remember that stupid (funny) card you sent when I turned 16? I still have it, in the box with all the other stuff you sent. I still have the tapes, but I don't play them. I don't need to.
I'm moving in to my dorm room next Monday.
I'd planned to do something really special for your sixteenth. Figured you'd be upset about not driving. Thought about sending you some Matchbox cars and something great, like a big gift certificate to Radio Shack or a bunch of albums you wanted. Thought about flying out there to surprise you.
But that was a long time ago. It's been a year and a half. And yet I keep writing. I keep these in the box with your letters.
One of these days, I should stop.
"So," Foggy said, sprawled on his stomach on Matt's bed, chewing on a Twizzler, "what about you? You have any good friends in high school?"
Matt was on the floor, leaning back against the side of the bed with his knees drawn up, and he shook his head as he felt behind his shoulder for the bag. Cellophane crinkled as Foggy jerked it away, and a second later, a licorice whip thwapped against his hair. Grinning, Matt grabbed for it. "Not really," he said at last, swallowing a rubbery, fake-strawberry bite. "Not like this."
Not anything like this. He hadn't written a letter in two weeks.***
As it turned out, it wasn't the Braille, exactly. The Braille contributed, but it was the Statue of Liberty wearing an I Heart NY t-shirt pencil sharpener that started it. Hank was sprawled on Scott's bed, ostensibly helping him and Jean study chemistry, but in actuality, it was late, it was Friday, and they were talking about comic books.
"I still maintain that Action Man would prefer--oh, my! What is that
?" Hank asked, and plucked the sharpener off the desk with his toes before Scott could scramble to his feet. Hank shifted it to his hand, staring over the rims of his glasses. "This is delightfully tacky, Scott! I wasn't aware you loved New York City or, indeed, had ever been there."
"I haven't," Scott muttered, fighting a weird urge to snatch it back. "It was just a stupid present."
"From who?" Jean asked, propped up on one elbow on the rug. Her hair was falling over her shoulder.
"Shut up, Hank."
"Nobody," Scott replied. "I mean, just my pen-pal, from a few years ago. Here," he added, holding out his hand. "I should put it away anyway."
But of course Jean saw the top letter, when she knelt up to watch him put it in the drawer, and she lunged forward before he had a chance to slam it shut. "Ohh, is that in Braille?"
"Such a fascinating method of writing," Hank added, and then of course he was sitting up and looking at the last letter, too. "I must admit, I've always harbored a secret desire to learn. It would be a terribly useful thing, to read in the dark."
"I've always thought it's sort of romantic," Jean said dreamily, and Scott stared at her. "So tactile..."
Problem was, Scott didn't need to touch it anymore to read it. This is the last letter I'll be sending
. "It's just writing," he snapped, causing Jean to look wounded, and Hank, dammit, to look thoughtful.
"Was Matt from New York, then?" he asked, and Scott cursed Matt for signing his stupid name.
"Yeah." He slid the letter back in the drawer and shut it. Hard. And now they were both
studying him. "He was an orphan at Saint Joseph's."
"And he was blind?" Jean asked, and Scott nodded. And co-captain of the debate team,
he added, glad her telepathy wasn't good enough to pick up quiet thoughts. And brilliant, and funny. And my best--
"You know," Hank said, "the Professor goes to the city fairly often, and there is a train from Westchester, regardless. There's no reason why you couldn't--"
"We weren't really friends." He resolutely didn't think of Hershey rectangles melting on his tongue, or the Hallelujah chorus, or the way he still hoped the phone would ring on Christmas.***Dear Scott,
It's been awhile. I'm 20 now, and a junior. I'm pre-law, and I'm going to stay at Columbia for law school, assuming I get in. Foggy and I have talked about being partners someday. I got a 3.8 last semester, and he got a 3.76. We're in a fraternity, if you can believe it.
A lot has happened since I last (didn't write) wrote to you. Remember how I told you about judo? There's something I wish I could tell you. I cannot even write it down, but somehow I think you'd understand.
Is it weird that I keep waiting to hear from you?***
"Thank you, Ororo," Professor Xavier said, pulling the wheels of his chair back and pivoting, ever so slightly, to face Hank. "Henry? Do you agree?"
"I do, Professor." Hank's mop of brown curls bobbed, and he shrugged, leather creaking over his massive shoulders. "After observing Daredevil in action, I believe, while he is indisputably a highly skilled martial artist, he is nonetheless baseline human. I saw nothing in his performance tonight to indicate that he is a mutant or, indeed, possessed of any superhuman abilities whatsoever." He spread his hands. "In short, while I am convinced that his intentions are good, and would argue against intervention, I believe him to be nothing more than a run-of-the-mill costumed vigilante."
"We need to get Cerebro up and running," the Professor said, and sighed, making them all too conscious of the empty chair at the other end of the table. "Thank you, everyone. That will be all."
"And Scott?" Hank asked, as he, Jean, and Ororo all stood. "How are you feeling?"
"The same," Scott muttered miserably, and punctuated this with a sneeze. As the supposed captain of the team, he knew he looked ridiculous, bundled in gray training sweats while the others were suited up. And he didn't care. He was freezing. "This cold is hell."
"Go on upstairs," Jean said, shooing him. "I'll bring you some chicken soup."
"No need to fret about missing this mission, my friend," Hank added. He tugged Scott to his feet. "As I said, he was just another costumed vigilante. Perhaps a potential ally, someday, but nothing more."
"I know," Scott said, and sneezed again.***
Scott took a year off, after high school. Most kids traveled, or went home, or worked retail. He formed the X-Men.
In September, he and Jean kissed for the first time.
In December, there was an explosion in Hank's lab, and he emerged from the mess furry and blue.
And, in February, twelve-year-old Bobby Drake joined the family, after turning his middle school gymnasium into an ice-skating rink during the Valentine's Day dance.
He ended up latching onto Hank, a relationship that was somewhere between hero worship and that of a kid with a favorite teddy bear, and it did them both a world of good. But that first night, which fell at the tail end of the six weeks where Hank wouldn't leave his room, it was Scott who found Bobby crying in the kitchen.
He made cocoa at the stove. And found marshmallows.
"Look," he said, sliding a mug across the table. "Bobby, there are two things you need to know: You're not a freak. And you're a mutant, not dead." He smiled, and if it was a little crooked, the kid didn't know him well enough to tell. "And one more thing. I know--we all know--exactly how you feel."***Dear Scott,
I'm starting law school tomorrow.
I don't think I would've joined the debate team, if I hadn't wanted to set a good example for you.
In April of his junior year at NYU, Scott went to Central Park for the first time. He thought about getting a chocolate ice cream, but bought a hot dog instead.
The next day, waiting to cross the street, a familiar motion off to the side made him turn. Sure enough, there was a blind man down the sidewalk, moving his white cane confidently from side to side. He was about Scott's age, with auburn hair, laughing at something the fat guy with him was saying.
Scott's right arm twitched as he stepped forward, off the curb. Funny how, some days, it still felt like something was missing from his hand. Felt like he was walking off-rhythm.***Dear Scott,
I got your first letter ten years ago today. I'll never forget the date, because it was the first real letter I ever received.
Your letters barely even smell like you anymore.
Foggy and I are going out for burgers and pool tonight--he knows I get maudlin in November, but not why--and I am going to swear, as always, this will be the last one I write. Maybe this time, finally, I'll be able to mean it.
My friend was twelve. You're twenty-two. I knew you when you weren't old enough to drive or vote, and now you're old enough to drink.
It's been a long time. Too long.
Goodbye, Scott. I hope you've found other things you want to do.***
Matt stiffened, nostrils flaring, and Foggy looked up from his latte, suddenly at attention. "What? Where? And is she single?" Matt's head was cocked slightly in that especially infuriating way of his, as if he could sense something Foggy couldn't. Which was B.S., he knew, but... "What
"No, it's not that." Matt shook his head slightly and took a drink of tea, frowning. "Foggy, is there--"
Foggy did a quick scan of Joe's, but the only person at the counter was a guy with sunglasses and a leather jacket paying for his coffee, and he was the only person who'd come in in the last few minutes. "Is there what?" he asked, truly puzzled.
"Nothing." Matt's self-deprecating smile was crooked beneath his shades. "Had a rough night. Guess I'm off today."
"Never thought I'd see the day when your booty-radar's on the fritz," Foggy teased. "Better watch out, our you'll end up dating a woman like...well, me."
"What, stacked and a salsa dancer?" Matt deadpanned.
"Asshole." Foggy 'accidentally' kicked him in the ankle, so course Matt just happened to whack him in the knee with his cane. Naturally, Foggy had to retaliate by moving tables and salting Matt's tea when he went to the washroom. And so on, ad infinitum
. They were laughing so hard they could barely breathe by the time they stumbled out the door, and the guy with the shades was staring at them from his table by the window, mouth set in a thin line.
"Apparently I don't know how to be kind to the handicapped," Foggy whispered.
"No shit, Sherlock." Matt grinned and squeezed Foggy's shoulder, letting him lead as they threaded their way through the sea of people on the corner. "Hey, don't look now. To the left--ten o'clock?"
Foggy looked, and let out a low whistle. "Smoking hot redhead in the most beautiful pair of tight jeans. Seriously, it is like God himself came down and handed this woman some mystical blessed Levis. Green and gold sweater, and...damn, Matt. I'd say the booty sensors are back online and fully operational. Want to go for it?"
"Nah." Matt shrugged. "The luck I'm having lately, she's probably not even my type."***
"'Afternoon, Nelson and Murdock."
"Hi. Is there by chance a Matthew Murdock working there?"
"Um...yeah. He'd be the Murdock
part of Nelson and Murdock. But he's not in right now. This is Franklin Nelson; is there something I can help you with?"
"Sure. Thanks. Would you please tell him that-- Actually, nevermind. I'll try again another time."
"You sure? It'd be no problem to give him a message."
"I'm sure," Scott said, and slowly, precisely, set the receiver down, disconnecting the call.***
It was well after dark on a muggy July night, and after the slime-spewing, fire-breathing, possibly-alien-possibly-robotic things
had been dealt with, a bunch of them hung around on a nearby rooftop, waiting for the authorities to arrive.
After a few minutes, Spider-Man stood up from the ledge where he'd been crouched, stretched, and sketched them all a wave. "As much as I hate to be a party-pooper, I'm gonna jet. Got things to do and bad guy butts to kick. Later, gators!"
The Thing and The Human Torch followed a few moments later, but Cap stuck around, standing back by the roof-access door with his hands on his hips, talking with Ororo, Hank, and Iron Man.
Daredevil was at the far end of the roof, in the shadows, head cocked to one side as he watched the robot things twitch and spark down below. Scott made his way over, rubbing a burn on his forearm where the slime had eaten away the leather and the fiery breath had singed him good. "Nice work tonight," he said, extending a hand.
With a nod and a half-smile, Daredevil shook it with a firm, gloved grip. "You, too. Cyclops, right?" Then he stiffened, and his fingers tightened around Scott's, just for an instant, before he let go.
"Yeah. Actually, Scott Summers," Scott replied. "We don't hide our identities from other superheroes, though of course we don't expect others to be as open."
Of all of the responses he might have expected, Daredevil bursting out laughing certainly wasn't one of them.
"What?" Scott asked, puzzled and smiling a little. Cap and the others turned to look at them, but Daredevil only shook his head, still chuckling too hard to speak.
At last, he cleared his throat and got ahold of himself. Looked at Scott for a long moment as the flashing red and blue lights finally blazed around the street corner, down below. "Scott Summers," Daredevil repeated. "Meet me tomorrow night at Carmello's, all right? Seven-thirty. Wear civvies."
Scott started to shake his head. "I don't--"
"Just trust me."
He spread his hands. "Fine. But how will I know you?"
"Trust me," Daredevil said again. "We'll find each other."***Dear Scott,
You son of a bitch. After thirteen years. God.***
Carmello's was a pizza and spaghetti place the size of a postage stamp, with checkered tablecloths and a mural of Venice painted on the wall. Scott arrived at seven-fifteen, wearing jeans and a black t-shirt, and he sipped his glass of water while he waited, watching the door.
The thing was, he had no idea what Daredevil looked like. That horned mask obscured everything but the lower half of his face. He definitely wasn't the big black man who came in at seven-twenty, built like a linebacker, nor his cute and tiny girlfriend. Nor was he either member of the gray-haired couple who followed them a few minutes later. With a shrug, Scott picked up the menu. This was Daredevil's thing. Let Daredevil find him.
Scott looked up sharply when something tapped his ankle. "Excuse me. This seat taken?" asked the blind guy at his side, clutching a manila folder in one hand and the handle of his white cane in the other. For some reason, he looked vaguely familiar. About Scott's age, with reddish hair, dark glasses, and a polo shirt.
"Sorry," Scott replied. "Someone sitting here. But there's a free table to your--"
"No," he said, lips quirking sideways, "I meant the other chair at your table."
"Actually, I'm waiting for someone."
"I know." The guy sat down and folded his cane, then looked up. "Hey, Scott. It's been awhile." His voice was hoarse, and he cleared his throat. "So. Cyclops, huh?"
?" It came out a whisper, squeezing past the lump in Scott's own throat. For a moment, he couldn't think straight. "I can't believe it! How did you--wait. You mean you're
"Yeah," Matt agreed, nodding. "Seems like there's a lot we didn't tell each other."
"I wanted to." Scott closed his eyes. "Matt, I--"
"I know. Me, too."***
They asked for a few more minutes when the waiter came, and declined to hear about the specials. When he'd gone, Matt turned to Scott again. "So. That's why?"
There was enough ambient noise, soft rustic violin though the speakers, voices, waiters' quick footsteps, for Matt to get Scott shaking his head slowly. Scott took a deep breath, and his heart rate spiked, apprehensive. "Matt," he said again, voice low, "I'm a mutant."
"You think?" He couldn't keep the laugh out of his voice. "I kind of figured."
"No. I mean, I'm not--that was the accident. My ability manifesting, but I can't control it. I'm not--I'm not physically blind. That's why they had to tape my eyes shut."
why? You thought I'd care
? Christ!" He frowned. "If I weren't so glad to see you, I'd be pissed."
"I was fourteen. Some people came and told me that they could help me, and they told me what I am. It was...not a great time, in a lot of ways. Finding that out."
"I wouldn't've cared." Matt swallowed, realizing how that sounded. "I mean, I would have cared
, of course I would have, but--"
"The truth is, I couldn't handle the idea of losing you, too," Scott said, so softly that a normal person might not have heard him.
"Never." Matt slid the folder across the table, sibilant slide on a polyester blend. "I've even got proof."
Scott huffed a laugh at the top one, the most recent, and his breath caught as paper rustled against paper and he read the next, and the next. Over a decade, as Matt sat silent, hands clasped loosely on the tabletop. By the time the last page flipped over (he counted), he could smell the salt warmth of tears.
Wordlessly, Matt laid his open hand on the table, and smiled when Scott's palm pressed against his. "You owe me years
of catching up," he said, when he could trust himself to speak. "And I believe I still owe you some pizza."
"I don't know where to start," Scott began, sounding twelve and at a loss again, and Matt laughed, squeezing his hand.
"Wherever you want. Whatever you want to tell me. We've got all the time in the world."***to: firstname.lastname@example.org
subject: Why didn't they have e-mail when we were kids?
It's summer vacation here, so, I've got some free time. Think you can take off for an evening sometime soon? There's something I didn't tell you at dinner the other night. I want to introduce you to my bird.
And there's a diner in western Nebraska where, if you eat the five-pound hamburger, you get it free for the rest of your life. Sounds like a challenge to me.
Write back and let me know, or call my cell. Regardless, we're still on for coffee tomorrow.