This story takes place during the "lost year" in the current Daredevil story arc, when Matt Murdock was secretly married to Milla, before the split up. All characters copyright Marvel Comics.
Matt and Milla entered the brownstone in silence together, moving easily, familiarly through the dark hallways, upstairs to the bedroom. Still without speaking, Milla flung herself onto the bed, and with a sigh kicked off her shoes. They fell to the floor with a double clatter. Matt still stood by the dresser, fiddling with his cufflinks, or something, she wasn't sure. Milla rubbed her feet, sore from the tight high heels. She hated them.
Milla sighed again, more loudly, and leaned back against the wall. It had been an exhausting evening. The fundraiser for the Clinton Historic Preservation League had been a big success: lots of wealthy donors, political heavyweights, and even a few minor celebrities in attendance. The League had exceeded its goal for donations. Milla gritted her teeth. Think about the donations, she told herself. Don't get weighed down by petty personal concerns. But she couldn't shake her anger and frustration.
Almost as soon as they had entered the ballroom, Matt had drifted off to talk to first one acquaintance, then another, then another. Soon she couldn't even hear his voice in the crowd, while she was pushed further and further to the edge of the room. Not that she was angry with Matt for talking to people; he had probably done more than anyone else to increase donations. But while he worked the room, she was stuck on the sidelines, forced to make small talk with whoever happened to drift by her. At least two people who seemed to know her had started talking without introducing themselves, and she hadn't quite been able to bring herself to say she didn't know who they were. Also she was still hungry, because she hadn't managed to find the buffet table, and the waiters never stopped to ask if she wanted another glass of wine. If there even were waiters. She wasn't sure. She hated big parties, that feeling of drowning in a sea of white noise and anonymous, jostling arms and feet. She usually avoided functions like that, but Matt seemed to enjoy these high-profile events more lately, and she didn't want to discourage the changes he was making.
"Milla, I can hear you grinding your teeth. Please, just tell me what's wrong," Matt said as he hung up his tuxedo jacket.
"How could you be so inconsiderate?" Milla found herself saying, with more emotion than she had intended.
"What?" Matt laid his sunglasses on the dresser and loosened his tie. "Sweetie, I'm sorry, I don't know what--"
"You just...you just...abandoned me!" she burst out. "You left me standing in the corner all night."
Matt frowned with a sense of foreboding, suddenly feeling a huge gulf open between them, one that he couldn't even begin to cross. "But I thought you knew people there, I didn't think you wanted--"
"Of course I knew people there, but I wasn't going to ask the housing commissioner or the mayor's aide to bring me a plate of canapes or escort me around the room!" Milla paused to catch her breath. What is wrong with me? she thought. I'm strong and independent. I don't need anyone to take care of me. Even when I was dating sighted men I didn't... Silence yawned in the pitch-black bedroom for a moment, then suddenly, before she realized it, the words came tumbling out. "I thought it would be different with you! I thought you would understand, that we would be like equals, but we're not! You're not really blind at all!" She paused again, almost afraid of what she'd said.
Matt rubbed his hand through his hair, but couldn't bring himself to move closer to the bed. It was as if she had erected a wall of anger around herself. "Milla, you know that's not true--"
"But it is, Matt! I know, you can't see with your eyes, but you're not blind. Not like me. You don't know what it's like at all! You're not the one stuck on the outside, can't even move around the room on your own at a party. You've never walked into a half-open door by accident, or gotten lost because the bus driver didn't announce your stop, or been afraid to step off the curb because you weren't sure if it was a 6 inch or a 6 foot drop. I don't know why you even bother to carry a cane!"
"You're right, I don't need a cane, but it's part of my identity. When I'm not, you know, in costume."
"So you admit it's just a pose, being blind. You're just faking it! It's like another costume to you!"
Matt felt the heat rising in his face. "No!" he shot back immediately, but that voice in his head had started up again: But maybe yes. Who are you really? Which is the act, the blind lawyer or the superhero? Who is the real Matt Murdock? One voice, then more...he pushed them back down with an effort. "Milla, you know I am--"
"No! You don't understand. I thought you would but you don't." She heard her own voice as though it were a stranger's, whining, pathetic. She hated herself for even saying it, but from somewhere deep inside her, years of frustration came bubbling out. "You can even read print! You have no idea what it's like to walk into a meeting unprepared because you couldn't get a document transcribed fast enough, or to fail a course in school because you couldn't get your books, or your reader suddenly disappeared. Why do you even bother with Braille at all?"
Matt took a step back. It was a question he had never considered before, but now that he thought about it, he realized that over half of the books and documents he read were in Braille. "I don't know, it just seems more natural. I like Braille better than print. It's more regular...more organized. It's not as easy as you might think to read print with your fingers, even for me. It depends on the font, the type of paper...."
"But still, you can do it! I bet you could even drive a car if you wanted to!"
Matt gave a short, dry laugh in spite of himself. "Do you really think the DMV would give me a license? And for the record, I have driven a few times, and it didn't turn out well. I'd rather jump across a rooftop any day." Matt moved to the edge of the bed, testing the waters.
But Milla was not ready to give in so easily. "But still. Why even bother pretending to be blind? It's--it's insulting."
Matt sat on the edge of the bed, close enough to feel the heat she was radiating, and put a hand on her knee. Under his hand, she tensed very slightly, but remained neutral, neither encouraging nor pulling away.
"Milla, darling, I know we experience blindness differently, but you have to know it's not just an act. And I really can't drive a car. Lucky for us, we live in New York, right?" She smiled slightly. "And for all my powers, I still can't read a computer screen. I have to use the same software you use." Although he didn't add that she did a lot more paperwork for herself at work. He hadn't realized until he visited her office just how much he tended to push it off onto his secretaries and paralegals. "I can't even get money out of an ATM without using those stupid headsets. And my new cell phone is a pain in the ass."
He heard her give just the tiniest laugh. "Is that why you never use it?"
He smiled, and continued. "I can't watch TV."
She laughed more audibly. "Don't be stupid. Lots of blind people watch TV. You just can't be bothered. You probably don't even own one."
"That's true, there isn't much I would want to watch. But I really can't stand it, and I don't just mean the programs. I'm used to hearing everything, everything. Like right now, I can hear your voice, but not just that, also your heartbeat, your blood in your veins, your breath in your lungs, the echoes of our voices bouncing off each wall, the wind outside, the traffic, the people in the buildings around us, the rest of the whole neighborhood. But on TV, I can only hear the tiny amount that comes out the speakers. It sounds echoey and flat. Dead. I can't stand it. Movies are just as bad."
Milla was silent for a few moments, thinking. She knew about his powers, of course, but they rarely discussed it. "Can you really hear everything in the whole neighborhood?"
"Most of the time I block it out, but if I concentrate, yeah, just about."
Milla tried to imagine what that would feel like. It was staggering. Overwhelming. How could he ever concentrate on anything? Suddenly her own life seemed so much simpler by comparison. "That's quite a talent."
He took her hands in his, and moved closer, so their faces were nearly touching. "It is. Do you think I don't know how extraordinary it is? I know I've been given an incredible gift, and I have to use it. I have to try to make a difference. It's the only thing..." he broke off. The only thing that gives my life meaning. Being Daredevil. But now he had retired, put his costume away.
Milla knew what he was about to say, and she felt even more ashamed at her outburst. "Matt, I'm so sorry I got angry." She put her hand on his face, felt for his lips with her fingers, leaned in and kissed him. For a brief moment, there was nothing else between them. Then she laid her head on his shoulder, with her nose right in the curve of his neck, breathing him in. Was this how much he smelled other people all the time?
Matt stroked her hair. "It's all right. I'm sorry I left you alone at the fundraiser. Milla, I don't want my powers to come between us. We're not the same, but I am blind. It's not just a pose. I could never pretend to be a sighted person. For all the reasons I just said. And my eyes, they're not... I think... they don't look normal, I think people can tell."
"Really?" It wasn't something she had thought about.
"Yes, from the accident, they scarred over, and I still have scars around them on my face." He took her hands and guided her fingers over his eyes. She felt on his skin the fine tracery of scars, then pulled his mouth towards hers again and kissed him. They lay back together, arms twined around each other. She hugged him fiercely, and he did the same, for a moment holding her so tightly, it took her breath away.
"I'm sorry," she said again. "I shouldn't have said that."
He ran his hand over her face, feeling every curve, amazed by it all again, as he was every time. "It's ok. I won't leave you alone again."
They lay together in the darkness. The light from the street outside shone in through the half open curtain, unnoticed by either of them, illuminating their faces in the dark.
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