Title: Crossroads of Life
Disclaimer: I don't own anything that has to do with The X-Men or Daredevil, their characters, Marvel comics, or the anything else that's related.
Author Notes: My many thanks to BleuUnicorn for taking the time to give me all of the wonderful insight into the world of the visually impaired. Also, thanks to Adri, Kuria, and Ellidyay for beta reading, providing excellent comments, and giving me a ton of wonderful ideas. This fanfic takes place in the movieverse of both Daredevil and X-Men. However, the novelizations of the movies were not taken into consideration.
Summary: Two unique teenagers traveling on different paths meet at the crossroads of life and discover a common destiny.
Matt groaned as he pulled his covers up over his head in an attempt to drown out the sounds that assaulted his sensitive ears. It was always like this in the mornings, when he was still half asleep and couldn't shut out all the noise. It was as if someone was taking a hammer to this head. Unfortunately the thin material did little to quiet the bombardment and Matt threw back the covers and crawled out of bed. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes before stumbling out of the room and down to the bathroom.
After relieving himself, he washed his hands and face then made his way to the kitchen. By now, he had managed to quiet the noises around him to the point where it was still loud but no longer pounding in his head. He sat down at the kitchen table, not quite sure what to do with himself. If he'd been at home, he would have fixed himself some breakfast and then headed out the door. But this wasn't his house, and he didn't feel comfortable rooting through their cupboards. So, he just sat there hoping that one of the Millers would wake up soon, preferably Frank or Zack.
Eventually, he couldn't stand it anymore. He got up from the table, went back to his bedroom, grabbed a pair of clean clothes, then made his way back to the bathroom. He figured that he could at least take a shower, while he was waiting for someone else to get out of bed.
He easily found a clean towel and washcloth in the closet Frank had showed him the previous day. The smell of soap and shampoo already radiated from the shower, so he pulled the shower curtain closed then turned one of the two nozzles. He let the water run for a while, before placing his hand underneath the running water. Matt gasped in pain and jerked back his hand when the hot water burned him. "Well, at least now I know which one's hot," he muttered as he turned down the hot water and turned up the cold.
He took his time showering, savoring the feel of the warm water running over him. He wasn't sure how long he was in there, but it must have been longer than he thought. The next thing he knew there was a quick knock on the door, which was followed by Suzan's voice telling him that he needed to hurry up because she needed to get in the bathroom so she could get ready for work.
Matt immediately shut off the water and climbed out of the shower as he called out an apology. He quickly dried off and got dressed before slipping out of the room. "Sorry," he told Suzan as he passed her in the hall away.
"It's alright," Suzan assured him as she hurried into the bathroom, though she sounded irritated.
Matt sighed in defeat. He'd been hoping that things would go a little smoother between him and Suzan, but it didn't seem as if that was going to be the case. Frustrated, he made his way to the kitchen, where he could hear Frank and Zack talking over the clatter of silverware.
"Morning, Matt," Frank greeted.
"Good morning," Matt replied as he sat down in the same chair he'd used last night. The clank of a spoon hitting a bowl and an almost continuous slurping, plus the smell of milk and chocolate told him that Zack was eating cereal. Possibly Coco Puffs or Coco Pebbles. The room also was filled with the strong smell of coffee, toasting bread, butter, and strawberry jelly. He could hear the hum of what he guessed was the toaster and the rumbling of the coffee machine, both loud in his ear. His heightened senses amplified everything, making it seem as if he were in a crowded restaurant rather than the barely occupied kitchen. He was so in-tuned with the faint din of the room that he became completely unaware of anything else, until a large hand clamped down on his shoulder.
"Matt?" Frank asked, concerned. "You alright?"
Matt nearly jumped he was so startled. "Sorry, I guess I kind of zoned out."
"As long as everything's ok," Frank said.
"Yeah, I'm good."
"Well then, have you eaten yet?" Frank asked, his voice fading as he moved across the room to the toaster that had just popped.
"No." Matt replied, as his stomach growled in agreement.
Frank laughed. "Well, we usually don't do much in the way of breakfast on weekdays. It's usually something simple like cereal or toast. We're not big fans of Pop Tarts or Toaster Strudels. But, if you like them just let me know and I'll put them on the grocery list. That goes for anything for that matter, not just breakfast food. However, as of this morning your choices are toast, Cheerios, Coco Puffs, or Fruity Pebbles."
"Toast will be fine, thank you."
"Grape or strawberry jelly?" Frank asked, as he scraped butter over a piece of toast.
"Strawberry," Matt replied, getting up from the table. "Can you tell me where the glasses are?"
"They're in the cupboard above the sink and to the right," Frank told him. "And as far as drinks go, there's milk and orange juice."
"Thanks," Matt said before scraping the legs of his chair hard against the floor as he pushed it in. Waves of sound radiated throughout the small room, allowing him to get a mental picture of what it looked like. He easily found the cupboard in question, and got down a glass. He then turned to the nearby fridge. He pulled open the door and almost immediately found the pitcher of orange juice simply from its smell. He took the pitcher from the fridge and turned towards where he could still hear Frank preparing the toast. "Is this the juice?" He asked.
"Right on the first try," Frank replied with a hint of amazement in his voice.
A loud slurping guzzle could be heard from the table, followed closely by the loud clank of a spoon hitting an empty bowl echoing through the room. "I'm done!" Zack announced.
"Well, put your bowl in the sink and go get dressed for school," Frank told him.
"I'm not going to school," Zack informed him. "I'm going shopping with Matt and Mommy."
"Yes, you are, but not until after school. Now go get ready."
Zack let out a short whine, as he dropped his bowl loudly in the sink before stomping out of the room.
Matt didn't comment on the exchange between father and son. He just poured himself some juice, hooking his index finger over the lip of the glass and stopping when the cool liquid reached the digit. After sucking the remaining juice off his finger, he put the pitcher back in the fridge, and sat back down at the table.
Frank sighed as he sat down beside Matt. "Here you go," he said, as he set a plate of toast down in front of the young boy. "Suzan's going to run into the office for a few hours, while Zack's at school," he explained as he ate his breakfast. "I figured you'd come to the shop with me, then Suzan can pick you up after she gets Zack. And the three of you can go from there."
"That's fine," Matt replied around a mouthful of toast and orange juice. "Did she call the school?"
"Yes she did. They're going to work on getting your transcripts from East Side then tomorrow you two are going to go down and fill out some paperwork. You'll probably register for classes as well. I figure you can start as early as Monday."
Matt nodded in response. "Ok."
"You know, Matt," Frank said lightheartedly. "You're allowed to give your own input. You don't just have to agree with everything we tell you."
Matt couldn't help but smile at that. "Yeah, I know."
Once they'd finished eating and cleaned up the table, leaving their dirtied dishes in the sink, Frank excused himself, his footsteps heading down the hallway towards his and Suzan's bedroom. Matt made his way into the living room and sat on the couch, waiting for the others to finish getting ready.
Eventually, Zack came and sat down beside him, his weight causing the seat cushions to dip slightly. "Are you gonna walk to school with me and Daddy?"
"Yeah, I guess I am," Matt told him.
"Are you gonna come in and say hello to my teacher and meet all my friends?"
"Well…" Matt began only to be interrupted by Suzan.
"Ok, Honey," she said to Zack. "Mommy's off to work. I'll be picking you up after school instead of Daddy, and then we'll get Matt and go shopping. Ok?"
"Ok," Zack replied, hardly containing his excitement.
Suzan laughed lightly, apparently at her son's antics. "Bye, Honey," she said; her words followed by the sound of a quick kiss. "I'll see you in a few hours," she called, her voice growing fainter as she left. "Bye, guys."
"Bye, Mommy!" Zack yelled back, as the door shut loudly.
Matt didn't return the woman's goodbye. One reason was because he wasn't entirely sure she was addressing him at all. But he'd also been stricken by the scene that had played out in front of him. His father had never been very affectionate. Jack Murdock had been more of the "pat on the back, slug on the shoulder, muss the hair type of Dad," rather than the hugging, kissing kind. But it still hurt when he ‘saw' that kind of exchange between parent and child.
Matt shook his head, clearing his mind of his melancholy thoughts, not wanting to dwell on things he couldn't change. So he just sat on the couch, once again toying with the strap at the top of his cane.
"You guys ready to go?" Frank asked, entering the room.
"Yep!" Zack replied enthusiastically.
"Matt?" Frank said expectantly.
"Sure," Matt said as he got up off the couch and slipped his glasses on. He followed father and son out the door, their combined footsteps easily letting him know where they were. They made their way through the apartment complex and then down the six flights of stairs to the street.
It wasn't until they were outside that Matt got a little disorientated. Being inside muffled things; walls, windows, and doors limited the volume of the sounds coming from the outside. It wasn't until those barriers were removed that he could actually hear sounds at their true intensity.
Matt paused for a minute, pushing the roar back into the background then focused on sorting through the mental images bombarding him. He quickly found a tall, thick form standing beside him, one he was beginning to recognize as Frank's, and reached out and grabbed a hold of the man's elbow.
It wasn't that he needed a guide. In fact, he'd gotten quite good at getting around, needing only to be vaguely familiar with his surroundings, relying on his senses for the rest. That was one of the reasons Matt wanted to stay in Hell's Kitchen. He'd lived there all his life, and knew the area like one would know their backyard. Still using his senses still required a lot of concentration, and sometimes it was easier to just let someone else be his eyes.
It only took them a little more than fifteen minutes to go the two blocks up 9th Avenue to Adolph S. Elementary, Zack's school. Matt let go of Frank's arm as the man kneeled down to say goodbye to his son.
"Alright, Zack," Frank said. "You have a good day at school, and I'll see you when your mom brings you down to the shop."
"Ok, bye Daddy. Bye, Matt!" Zack called back, as the sound of his footsteps went running towards the large building where Matt could hear the chatter and laughter of little kids.
Matt waved quickly then took a hold Frank's elbow once again.
They walked in silence for a while before Frank finally said, "Zack seems to be quite taken with you."
Matt couldn't help but grimace, wondering where this conversation was going to go.
"He can be a little overwhelming at times," Frank continued.
Frank chuckled at that. "Yes, I tend to think he's a pretty cool kid myself."
"That's not what I meant…I mean…" Matt tried to clarify, afraid that he had offended the man. However, his stuttering only made Frank laugh harder.
"It's ok, Matt," he assured him, humor in his voice. "I'm just saying that I can understand if you're going to want some time to yourself. Which, trust me, isn't going to be easy to get with Zack around. So, I want you to know that if you ever feel that he's getting to be too much, just let me know."
Matt wasn't sure how to reply to that, so he simply nodded. He'd never had a brother, and truthfully, he'd enjoyed the short amount of time he'd spent with the five-year-old. He'd liked showing Zack what it was like to be blind and telling him about car brands. It was a new experience for him, and he looked forward to teaching Zack more. But at the same time, he was used to being on his own a lot. He was used to having his time to himself, and being alone with just his thoughts. So he could understand why Frank thought that the young boy might be a little overwhelming or suffocating. And he appreciated the fact that Frank was willing to make sure that he had time to himself. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," Frank said before bringing them to a stop in one of the storefront doorways, his keys jingling as he pulled them out of his pocket. "And here we are, ‘Miller & Son Watch Repair.'" Frank released the metal security gate in front of the store, sliding it up and out of the way. He then unlocked the door and pushed it open, setting off the little bell that was above it.
Matt reached out with his senses as he entered the shop. The room felt large or empty, like it was just one big open floor. He waited for the bell to ring once Frank let the door close, using the sound of the three short chimes to map the room. There were three glass display cases, or so he guessed, making a horseshoe shape around the shop. The case along the back had a cash register setting on it, and there was a closed door on the far wall.
"This is the display room," Frank explained, before leading Matt towards the back. "But back here," he said as he unlocked the other door. "Back here is where I do most of my work."
Matt could immediately feel the difference between the two rooms. Where the display room was large and open, this room felt small and cluttered. It was almost enough to make him feel claustrophobic.
"Just be careful in this room," Frank warned. "There's junk everywhere."
"Ok," Matt replied, as he let Frank guide him over to a seat. Once he was seated, Matt tapped his cane against the wooden floor. The images he interpreted from the sounds showed that the room contained a single desk, cluttered with various shapes that he couldn't identify. Aside from the desk chair and the one he was sitting in, there was another setting in one of the corners. There were also two bookshelves piled high with books and boxes.
Along with the images he was able to construct from the sounds in the room, there were the smells. The thick smell of oil and grease filled the room, accompanied by a fainter musty odor of old worn books and the crisp scent of new ones. But beneath those, there was also the waxy smell of crayons.
"I used to sit in the chair you're in right now, across the desk from my dad, helping him repair and build watches," Frank told him. "Now, Zack usually sits there after school, coloring or playing with his toys."
"Do you think you'll pass down the business to him?" Matt asked, partially out of interest, but mostly because he didn't know what else to say. Frank always seemed to steer the conversation towards awkward or painful topics, topics such as the relationship between father and son, or simply family in general. They were subjects that most people usually didn't have to dance around. But Matt's father had just been killed, he'd never known his mother, and didn't have any other family left to speak of. He knew that Frank meant well, but that still didn't make talking about such things very easy.
"I would like to," Frank replied. "But Zack hasn't necessarily shown any interest yet. But then again, he's only five. So, I've still got some time to work on him a little."
A moment of awkward silence seemed to stretch between them, neither sure of where to take the conversation. Until, Frank finally broke it. "So…do they make special watches for the blind?" he asked.
Matt shrugged. "Yeah. When I was in rehab they showed me how to use a few of them."
"What are they like?"
"Well, some of them are audio," Matt explained. "You press a button and an automated voice will read you the time. The others are just like regular watches, but with a covering that you can open. So you can actually feel the hands of the clock and read it that way. Those usually have Braille numbers on them."
"Do you have one?" Frank asked.
Matt shook his head. "No. A lot of that stuff is pretty expensive, the watches and different encoders and stuff. So, me and my dad worried about getting the important things, like my walking cane and books to help me learn Braille."
"So, they're more like luxuries than necessities then?" Frank asked, seeming to be genuinely interested.
Matt shrugged. "I guess you could say that. I've gotten along so far without."
"I suppose you have," Frank replied, before pausing for a moment. "Well," he said, as if he'd just reached some decision. "I guess I should get some work done."
By the end of the day, Matt could understand why Frank chose not to go shopping with them. Between Zack's almost constant whining and Suzan's insistence that they go to every store in the Manhattan, he'd become quite tired and irritated. He wanted nothing more than to retreat to the rooftop. But he still didn't feel comfortable doing that, didn't think the Millers would be comfortable with it. So, when they got back to the apartment, he'd snatched up his bags and shut himself in Zack's and his room, putting in Fuel's latest CD and turning it up as loud as he dared.
He knew it was childish, running off to pout, but Matt didn't care. He just couldn't be around any of them right now, especially Suzan. They had practically been butting heads all day and he was beginning to think that the two of them were never going to get along. It was a fact that troubled him for reasons he didn't really understand. But that wasn't entirely true either. He knew why he so much wanted these people to like him. He was afraid, afraid that they would cast him away if he didn't measure up.
Matt had never known his mother, and it was all he could do just to get his father to talk about her. But he knew she wasn't dead; he knew that she'd left them. He'd discovered that much from his father's drunken babbling. It wasn't much. But it was enough to plant a small seed of doubt within him, doubt about himself and the real reason she'd left them.
There had never been any doubt, however, with his father. Matt knew that Jack Murdock's world had practically revolved around him. He knew that despite how hard his father pushed him to succeed that it would be almost impossible to let his father down. But now, that security wasn't there. Now, he was living with people who could choose whether or not they allowed him to stay in their home. He was afraid that he wouldn't measure up to the Millers, just as he feared he hadn't measured up in his mother's eyes.
Matt let out a shaky sigh as he took off his glasses and wiped his eyes and nose with the end of his shirtsleeve. He finished putting away the few new items he'd gotten that day, only leaving the clothes out so Frank or Suzan could help him keep his drawers and closet organized. When he was done, Matt opened the bedroom window and sat down on the ledge, allowing the cooler air of early September to come into the room, just as he did the night before.