Foggy wiped his hands on the soft wool of his pants for the fifth time in as many minutes. "What did I get myself into?" he demanded of no one. "What deficiency in my squishy, addled, eager-to-please brain thought this would be a remotely good idea? What -"
"Is sir ready to order?" The waiter arched an eyebrow at him, as if to say, 'If you would be so kind, please refrain from ranting like a crazy person in full view of the other patrons. This is not that sort of place.'
"No, sir is, um, waiting for someone?" Foggy swallowed hard and buried his face in the wine list.
"Of course. I'll return in a few minutes once your...friend arrives." The waiter was gone in an instant, leaving only a lingering air of disgust and disbelief.
"This is ridiculous," Foggy announced, this time to the wine list. "I can't take it anymore."
He whipped out his cell phone, ignoring the glares he received from several nearby society matrons, and swiped until he reached Matt's number.
It rang what seemed an impossible number of times before Matt's baritone interrupted the pealing. "Nelson and Murdock, better half speaking, what have you done now?"
"Matty!" Should you sound this cheerful? Is it like guilty cheerful? "You are going to laugh."
"Well, you are always telling me I take things too seriously," Matt replied. His voice sounded a little muffled, a little far-away, but Foggy was far too preoccupied to wonder why.
"Yeah, exactly! Some people are too serious about every little thing - say, minor, minor infidelity - when they should loosen up and go with the flow! You know?" Of course he doesn't know, you idiot. You're raving again.
"This your way of telling me you went to a strip club without me, Fog?" Matt inquired lightly. He sounds so calm. How can he sound so calm?!
"No, nothing like that!" Foggy's laugh came out too high, too frenzied - several waitresses hovered on the verge of asking if he was all right. Idiot. Buffoon. Idiot. "Just...um...look, don't be mad, okay?"
"Now, what kind of lawyer would I be if I agreed to terms without knowing all of the facts?" Matt asked innocently. At least he hasn't hung up yet?
"Okay, see...that big case I was consulting on, Callahan Holdings? Sweet old lady, cleaned out crooked developers for half a million? She was so grateful for my help that she insisted on sending me a personal thank you." That sounded almost reasonable. Maybe there's a light at the end of this tunnel, after all.
"Why would I be mad about that? You know how much I enjoy a good fruit basket." Foggy could actually hear the smile in Matt's voice. "Or is it a wine and cheese plate this time?"
Annnnnnd, there it is. "Actually, and here's where the funny bit comes in, she thought that it would be more personal to, um, now get ready to laugh...set me up on date?"
"A date? That is funny." Matt's tone was utterly unreadable, damn him. "She must have been so disappointed when you told her you were unavailable."
"Ah, well, yes, I'm sure she would have been, and I was all set to disappoint her! But then I thought about you wanting to keep our personal lives private - which I've always supported! - so I couldn't say that I was dating you, and so I...just kind of panicked and said yes."
Well, there was nothing for it now. "There! It's out there! I've said it! I'm the worst boyfriend ever, and I'll be by in thirty minutes to pick up my stuff!"
Foggy nearly jumped out of his seat when a voice behind him inquired, "All right, if that's what you really want, but could we order first? I'm starving."
When he whipped his head around, sure that panic had him hearing things, Foggy was rewarded with a kiss on the cheek and a radiant smile from Matt. "But...but...but...how?" he sputtered, unable to remotely comprehend how even Matt had been able to pull this one off.
"I wish I could take the credit, but I'm afraid it all goes to Estelle." Matt deposited himself in the seat opposite Foggy, then waved over the waiter to request a Braille menu. He seemed bafflingly unconcerned.
"Estelle?" Foggy practically squeaked. Somewhere in his traumatized brain, the name was ringing a small bell. "Estelle...Callahan?"
"Lovely lady - good heart, suspect eyesight. Gone to St. Agnes with me for years." Matt's hands traced expertly over the menu. "So thrilled for me to meet the 'nice young lawyer I'd be just perfect for.' "
Foggy's hurtling train of thought skidded to a crashing halt. "Wait...you mean to tell me you're my date?"
"Small world, isn't it?" Matt grinned. Foggy sat back, speechless. The waiter glided by and inquired if sirs had sorted out what they wanted to drink.
Matt rattled off a variety of syllables in French - Foggy half-recognized "white," "friend" and "bus stop," although that one was probably erroneous - which sent the waiter on his way with something resembling satisfaction.
When he got his mouth working again, the first thing Foggy had to ask was, "But aren't you mad at me?!"
"What for?" Matt laughed. Foggy's face must have shown his dismay, for Matt leaned forward and laid a hand over his. "Tell me honestly - if someone who was not me had shown up for this date, what exactly were you planning to do?"
"Honestly?" Foggy let out the breath he'd been holding. "Turn bright red, apologize profusely, and probably trip over my feet on my way out."
"No temptation at all to...weigh your options?" Matt's expert poker face was at full display.
"No!" Oh God, he can't think that I would even consider... "Of course not! Matty, you know I'd never -"
"I do, actually." The fond smile returned to Matt's face as he squeezed Foggy's hand reassuringly. "So why should I be mad?"
"Besides..." He took a sip of the glass of wine the waiter had discretely placed at his elbow moments before. "I feel I was more than adequately compensated by the pleasure of watching you squirm for the past three days."
"Three days?!" Foggy was filled with unprecedented warm feelings toward their waiter as he took a long drag of his own drink. "You mean to tell me you knew the entire time?"
Foggy sighed. "Of course you did. Why I even try to keep anything from you anymore is beyond me."
"Cheer up, Fog." Matt brushed his lips over the hand still resting in his. "Can't have you looking so despondent all evening. Not on our first date."
Foggy flattered himself that only Matt's superhuman reflexes let him dodge the dinner roll he sent hurtling at his face.