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before we met, i was so afraid of dying. but if the end comes today, this will have been enough
A Softer World is ending, and what better way to celebrate it than with a ficathon?

HOW TO PROMPT:

1. Comment with a fandom, character, or pairing, and an A Softer World comic!
That's all that's required - feel free to elaborate (explanation of what you'd like to see) or to just leave it up to the author. Please include a link to the comic if you can! just so no one has to hunt around for "that one about photos and souls?"
If you like, you can link two comics, but please only do it if those comics are a sort of joint prompt - "I want to see X combined with Y for Sansa Stark" - and not as two separate prompts.

2. While you're waiting for your prompt to be filled, go fill someone else's!

HOW TO FILL:

1. Reply to the prompter's comment with a subject line stating title, characters or pairing, and rating! If there is potentially triggering content, please slap a "tw: [x]" in the subject line as well.

2. Reply to the fill thread with the same subject line and a link to your fic!

Feel free to prompt or write any fandom, any character, any pairing. Art is very welcome, as are fanmixes, poetry, or anything else you can think of.

OTHER RELEVANT INFO
1. Be nice! Have fun! Feel sad that this comic is ending D:
2. Feel free to be anonymous if you want to be, but it's not a requirement by any means!

FILL: trying to lose the world -- warnings

Date: 2015-05-07 03:18 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Okay look I don't know what you expected this prompt to get. This is like throwing a goat into a lake and being surprised when an aquatic T. rex or whatever comes up and eats your fucking jetty.

Anyway, specifics: warnings for general... fire... and also some pretty deeply buried suicidal ideation on Matt's part.

Essentially: it's like riding a bike but the bike is on fire and Matt is (not literally) on fire and everything is on fire and I'm definitely in hell.
From: (Anonymous)
There is, of course, some irony in it being fire.

He smells the smoke — of course he does — but this is Hell’s Kitchen, and there’s always the faint possibility of burning rubber or someone’s engine overheating, the sudden puff of grey from under the hood, and Matt has grown used to tuning these things out as he sleeps. He can hear the A train a few blocks over, right before he falls asleep, and the hum of the rails; he can hear late-night commercials two floors down, and the thump of newspapers being delivered at three in the morning, and the flapping applause of pigeons landing on his windowsill two hours after that. If he didn’t let these things become background noise, peripheral at best, then he would never sleep, let alone be able to focus on anything.

That means that, when he wakes up at one in the morning, he rolls over and thinks Maybe I should open the window, focused more on airing out the apartment before the smoke sinks into any of the fabrics — it’s acrid, some sort of mechanical fire — than anything else. Matt buries his face in his pillow and slips back into a fitful sleep.

At two in the morning, he’s woken by sirens, the sound ear-splitting even after two decades of learning control and making up stories in the dead of night, and the smoke is thicker than ever. Matt stumbles when he gets out of bed, flings his sheets back haphazardly and pads to the door. It isn’t warm, but the floor is, just barely, and Matt tilts his head to pick up the crackle of radios downstairs — voice pitched frantically high; something’s badly wrong — and pulls a crumpled shirt over his head.

Matt’s apartment fits him like a second skin. The couches are here, the counter here, the fridge handle just there; the only thing he forgets about is the light switch, but then the people who need that are typically okay to find it themselves. There aren’t a lot of things he needs out of here: his phone, his father’s box, his wallet and keys. By the time he’s finished listing the items he’s collected them in the pocket of his hoodie, and Matt knows that you don’t climb away from a fire unless you have no other options, but there’s something — not a sound, as far as he can tell, but then the sirens are drowning most of that out — on the roof, nagging at him like a splinter.

He takes the stairs up two at a time, feet still bare, and steps carefully before he shifts his weight, wary of broken glass. When Matt pushes the roof door open, he realizes he’s not alone — there’s a small, quick heartbeat somewhere up here. “Hey,” he says, voice quiet and calm. “I’m Matt, on the fourth floor; I think something’s going on. Are you okay?”

There’s a rustle of movement, and the timid thump of uncoordinated footsteps. “Are you the blind man?” says a small voice, pitched high.

“That’s me,” Matt says, in the same tone, soothing. “Are you — is your mom Ms. Vasquez, on the second floor?” Jeny Vasquez teaches elementary school, which Matt has picked up from the smell of acrylic paint and Play-Doh under her nails, as well as over impromptu meetings at the mailboxes to discuss the state of her bathroom ceiling (horrifying) and his junk mail (less drippy, but equal in magnitude).

There’s a pause. The sirens are very loud, up here, echoing between the buildings, and Matt can only imagine the flashing lights, visible on the brickwork for two blocks around. “You nodded, didn’t you,” he says.

The kid probably does it again, then realizes what they’re doing. “Yes,” they say, and: “Is everything going to be okay?”

Matt isn’t great with children. He never fails to be astonished at them — the ideas they come up with, their vitality and their lack of caution (the latter terrifying), their uncomplicated relationship with emotions — but he can’t shake a certain hollowness when it comes to things that he just quite factually never had. Matt Murdock was a Murdock boy through and through, still is, and Murdocks grow up fast and hard, growing pains and all.

Still, he goes to one knee, roof surface rough through his sweats, and says, “It’ll be fine, I promise — what’s your name?”

“Tammie,” says the kid, and Matt smiles.

“Tammie, everything will be okay,” he says. “Come downstairs to your mom now, okay?” He holds out a hand, and a second later, she grabs onto his fingers, and he stands, makes his way back to the door, and fights the urge to scrape the soles of his feet against the frame to brush away the paint chips and gravel specks that he feels every time he takes a step. The smoke is dissipating into the night air, still as chemical as ever, but not overwhelming.

The front door to his apartment — the one that leads into the hallway and not up to the roof — is a little warmer than usual, but nothing that Matt really considers worrying, so he pushes it open, Tammie’s hand still in his, and they make their measured, urgent way through the hall and down two flights of stairs. The smoke here is even thicker, and Matt thinks that he might be able to feel it swirling against his skin, sinking in.

“Mr. Murdock!” Jeny says, and Matt’s head jerks up in recognition. “Thank God, Tammie, come here, are you okay? Where did you go?”

“Up,” Tammie says, because she apparently considers that enough explanation, and Matt laughs.

“Found her on the roof,” he says, and Jeny groans.

“Looking for stars,” Jeny says. “Ever since Times Square, everyone’s saying we’ve got to keep an eye on the sky. Thinks she’ll see the next one coming.”

“Someone’s got to do it,” Matt says. “What’s going on downstairs? Is everyone okay? What about your others — Michael and—”

“Maddie,” Jeny says, “and they’re fine, Joseph’s got them outside, but we’re just waiting — the fire department won’t tell us anything, just that it’s something with the boiler — but we’re going to head out to the street anyway. I don’t want the kids in this smoke, you know?”

“Good idea,” Matt says. “I’m going to go check on Fran and knock on the third floor doors — glad everyone’s okay, though,” he says, and he waits until their footsteps have died away, not just down the hall but the nonrhythmic thump of their feet on the stairs, and the slam of the front door, before he turns and heads back upstairs.

The third floor is, as Matt expected, empty, since Fran is still trying to lease the apartments at market rate, which is not going to happen given the giant billboard across the street, but it never hurts to check. Unleased doesn’t always mean uninhabited anymore. Still, there’s no reply, and he can’t pick up any heartbeats, so he heads up another flight of stairs, and it’s when he’s knocking on Fran’s door that he realizes that his lungs are burning.

It isn’t just the discomfort he feels when there’s a subway fire, or when someone’s smoking outside, but something deeply wrong, which he realizes when he can feel his pulse in his skull — like someone knocking, or like the way he can feel his heartbeat in a bad bruise — and even that thought takes a moment. “Fran!” he says, and the sound almost seems to echo. “Fran?”

The door opens, abruptly, and there’s a silence, and Fran says, “For God’s sake, I hope you’re literally about to die, do you know what time it is?”

“The building’s on fire,” Matt manages.

“So climb out the window like a normal person,” she snaps. “Or wipe your feet on the mat before you use mine, or did you just want to let me know so I would know what it was when I died?”

Good old Fran, Matt thinks, because she’s been grumpy since he moved here and she’s only gotten crankier as they come up on the one-year anniversary of the time he accidentally barricaded her door closed with boxes. “I’m fine,” he says, “but you need to get out,” and he stifles a cough then, throat closing.

Fran says, “I’ll do whatever I damn like, kid, how do you know I don’t want to barbecue myself?” but he hears her step back. “You take care too,” she says, and she’s probably going for grumpiness still, but somehow she overshoots and ends up in anger, and it’s like an admonishment. “Walk yourself out that front door. Nobody’s dying on my watch.”

Matt smiles a little, and lets her close the door, and he makes it to the stairs, overwhelmed by the pounding in his head and the raw scrape of his throat. He feels like he’s swallowed crushed glass, or maybe as if his chest is lined entirely with barbed wire. Halfway down the steps to the third floor he stumbles, and slams a hand against the wall to catch himself. The floor is warmer now, and if he could focus enough — push through the layers and layers of cotton in his skull, scratchy and stifling — Matt thinks that he would be worried about that, but it doesn’t matter.

Matt can feel heat licking up the load-bearing walls, pushing up from the basement, but somehow that seems abstract, and he can’t remember what he’s doing, or what he should be doing, and the only thing left is the pain. He can feel the muscles in his neck beginning to seize, but it’s all right because the building is empty — no heartbeats besides his, hammering against his ribs like an alarm — and he’s so close, now, one more flight to go if he can just get up from the stairwell and drag himself down the hallway—

—and a treacherous whisper, the one he only indulges past midnight, one which he blots out with the clean, honest pain of cracked ribs and torn muscle, hisses in his ear, sibilant and seductive: why?

There are reasons, Matt knows. There are a hundred reasons, abstractly, but when he tries to pin them down, to take them in his hands, they slip away, and then there are four, and they all have names. One is the whisper of get to work, and that one — decades later, Matt thinks that maybe he’d be forgiven if he just stayed here, closed his eyes for a moment — didn’t exactly take its own advice. The other three, he thinks, could easily find new lives in a world without him, and they would have easier, happier lives without the complicating factor of Matt Murdock. Less bloody couches and early mornings and late nights and paperwork, at least, which are all the hallmarks of, in the end, better lives. They would be better.

It’s getting hard to think, now, in straight lines, beyond words and flashes of panic, and Matt feels as if he is being pressed flat by a great weight, pinned in place by the wood of the building, the fire seething below, and no offering of any value to show for it. He will burst into flame at any moment, thorns in his lungs, and dissipate into ash, dust swirling upwards with his final breath.

Matt didn’t lie — he isn’t afraid of dying; it’s something he made a worryingly easy peace with a long time ago — he just hopes that there isn’t anything afterwards.

There’s a child crying outside — maybe Tammie or Michael — and their misery, the tenor of it, cuts through the sirens and the unhappy creak of the structure, a thready sound in the clamorous night. There are boots on the stairs. This, too, will be grabbed from Matt’s hands, and it will find him again in the stillness of the turnover between night and morning, and it will curl around his heart and squeeze, but never tightly enough to finish the job.

The oxygen mask is purer than anything Matt has ever tasted, the way he imagines that the thin air at the top of a mountain must feel, and he is gathered up, newborn and numb, and when his chest loosens — the thorns releasing their grasp, the broken glass melting away — he listens to his pulse, still thunderous, and he begins to cry, smoke clearing from his eyes, and resigns himself, after all, to living.

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swanjolras

May 2015

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