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𝐵𝑖𝑔 𝑁' 𝐵𝑎𝑑

09/19/2022 03:22 PM 

Guidelines

⬛ What I seek--Literacy- Proper Punctuation and grammar- Random/ spontaneous Starters that aren't fetishes/s m u t/ e r o t i c (I'm NOT here to be fetishized.)⬛ I do NOT-- interact with minors-Write with Minors- Write with adults that are in child bodies (S h o t a/ l o l i t a)- Tolerate Hate (LGBTQ+ Phobia, Sexism, Ageism, Racism, Bigotry) so if you're here for it, sit on my middle finger.- Tolerate Theft-Take Requests for layouts or edits (one of my My S/O’s does all of my stuff unless I have the time to do it myself. They don’t take requests either. )- Write exclusive ships with people.-Enjoy a good RP Via statuses and Private Messages/DMS. I'm NOT Picky where I write as long as my writing partner is comfortable.⬛ I DO however-- Multi-ship (as long as there is chemistry)-Delete mutes-Block Immature and entitled writers-Expect common sense and civility- Elaborate and answer questions in regards to my rules and often add more rules and aim to be fair.⬛ I have-- A life outside of roleplay as this is a hobby for me- Am Not interested in giving you information about my personal life⬛ I am-- 29 years old-Not on all the time⬛ Disclaimers-- Since everyone seems to be doing this, I am Not The Character I portray, They are NOT real, the account was created for the pure intention of text role-playing online.-These guidelines go across the board for all of my accounts. - If you didn't like me then, you probobly don't like me now, and this account wasn't made for you; it was made because I happen to love the character and want to write them. 

Dᴇᴠɪʟ Bʀᴇᴀᴋᴇʀ

09/18/2022 09:48 PM 

Guidelines

⬛ What I seek- -Literacy - Proper Punctuation and grammar - Random/ spontaneous Starters that aren't fetishes/s m u t/ e r o t i c (I'm NOT here to be fetishized.) ⬛ I do NOT- - interact with minors -Write with Minors - Write with adults that are in child bodies (S h o t a/ l o l i t a) - Tolerate Hate (LGBTQ+ Phobia, Sexism, Ageism, Racism, Bigotry) so if you're here for it, sit on my middle finger. - Tolerate Theft -Take Requests for layouts or edits (one of my My S/O’s does all of my stuff unless I have the time to do it myself. They don’t take requests either. ) - Write exclusive ships with people. -Enjoy a good RP Via statuses and Private Messages/DMS. I'm NOT Picky where I write as long as my writing partner is comfortable. ⬛ I DO however- - Multi-ship (as long as there is chemistry) -Delete mutes -Block Immature and entitled writers -Expect common sense and civility - Elaborate and answer questions in regards to my rules and often add more rules and aim to be fair. ⬛ I have- - A life outside of roleplay as this is a hobby for me - Am Not interested in giving you information about my personal life ⬛ I am- - 29 years old -Not on all the time ⬛ Disclaimers- - Since everyone seems to be doing this, I am Not The Character I portray, They are NOT real, the account was created for the pure intention of text role-playing online. -These guidelines go across the board for all of my accounts.  - If you didn't like me then, you probobly don't like me now, and this account wasn't made for you; it was made because I happen to love the character and want to write them. 

KNIGHTHOOD.(Taken/Busy IRL)

09/17/2022 03:09 PM 

I Found You Missing

Summary: 'They're asking us because these soldiers have absolutely no one left to write home to,' Sakura thought with a frown. So she signs up for the Shinobi Letter Exchange, not realizing how large the consequences would be. - AUish one-shot [KakaSaku]   A KakaSaku AUish one-shot where more is exchanged than just letters. . "As you are all aware, proud men and women from our village are fighting in a war that's been going on for quite some time now," Iruka said to his classroom of students. 'Four years, three months and two days,' Sakura clarified in her head. "Some of these brave shinobi have been there a long time and need reminders of home and what they're fighting for," Iruka continued on. "As such, the Hokage has implemented a new volunteer program. Anyone who wants to can sign up with me, and you'll be assigned a soldier. While there are a lot of regulations and you can't talk about everything in case the letters get intercepted, and you won't know his or her real name for their safety, it's a rare opportunity to directly help in the war." 'They're asking us because these soldiers have absolutely no one left to write home to,' Sakura thought with a frown. 'There're away from home fighting for their lives and they have no one.' "For those of you interested, please come up to me after class. Now, for today I thought we'd work on…" Usually the studious Sakura listened to Iruka-sensei with acute attention, always eager to learn more about the glamorous shinobi world. Yet today his special announcement had caught her off guard and Iruka's voice drifted into the background. Were there really lonely men and women out there who did not realize just how amazing they were? Just how heroic the sacrifice they were making was? Coming from civilian parents, Sakura knew how hard it was to believe in something strongly and to not receive the reinforcement and praise she always desired. Her parents understood on a fundamental level why she wanted to become a shinobi, but did not sympathize when she got home dead tired. Why would she want to purposefully throw herself into something that would no doubt kill her? But Sakura was stubborn, and she thought those soldiers who refused to leave or die at the front lines must be as well. They deserved to have someone to hear from, to know there was one individual out there that cared about if they lived or not. Feeling full of self-righteousness, Sakura strutted up to Iruka's desk after being excused for the day. "I had a feeling you would be interested, Sakura," he said with a kind smile that Sakura easily returned. "And I know just the person to assign you to. They're being a little stubborn, and a lot of people have quit since they didn't write back. But I think this person needs a pen pal the most out of anyone else, and you're just the equally-stubborn individual for the job." "Is there anything you can tell me about him or her?" "Well, like I said, everything is going to be strict and regulated. I'm sorry to say I can only give them the number they're assigned to. You'll have to wait to get their return letters to know anything about them." Sakura looked at the slip of paper he gave her. It only had a four digit number: 2284. She frowned, thinking it odd that a person had been reduced to a number. Maybe it was for safety, or consistency. Or maybe it was easier to organize people if they were just numbers. "Whenever you want to write a letter, put the number on the envelope with 'Shinobi Letter Exchange' underneath. Don't worry about the postage or address. Others will take care of that." "Ok," Sakura said, suddenly feeling very small at the responsibility. "And Sakura?" Iruka asked as he reached over and put a hand on her shoulder, "Thank you." Sakura found herself grinning again from the sincerity in her teacher's voice. . Sakura sat at her desk, short legs swinging under her and toes wiggling. She pulled at her hair and nibbled on the end of her pen, wondering what she should write. She had written a very select few letters in her life. She had grandparents that lived in the country and a few times a year she sent them a letter. And of course she signed her name on their christmas cards. But this letter was entirely different. Not only was this to a stranger, but it was to someone who needed a little support in their life. And they were probably at least double her age. Yes, she felt proud for finally turning past ten into eleven last year, and Iruka said she was quite intelligent for her age, but they were more than likely way smarter than her. It was more than a little intimidating. "Well, I bet their handwriting isn't nearly as good as mine," Sakura muttered to herself before she put the pen to the paper. Dear 2284, She crumpled up that piece right away and resisted the urge to tear it to shreds. If she did not like the idea of referencing people as numbers, she was sure her mystery person would hate it all the more. She started again and only got one word in. Dear... But then who did she address it to? Soldier? Fellow shinobi? Stranger? All these options sounded empty and weak in her head. She wanted to inspire happiness in this person, no matter now small. She crumpled up that piece of paper as well. Sakura took a deep breath. Yes, this was a war-aged shinobi, but they were just a person. Just a human like Sakura, with the same organs, bone structure and senses. And once she thought about it, it was almost comforting to imagine just writing without trying to actively impress this person. And writers had always said to start with what you know. What did Sakura know best? Well, herself she supposed. And she thought that introductions would be a good place to start if any. So Sakura took a deep breath, counted down from ten, and started writing. . Hello. Unfortunately I'm not allowed to tell you my name or anything that might give me away. You may address me as anything you prefer, if you so desire and it makes you feel better. Although, it's probably best that you wait a little bit to get to know me more before choosing a nickname suddenly. I will do the same. Honestly, I don't exactly know what to write to you. I cannot empathize with what you're going through. My daily life probably seems inconsequential to the amazing heroics you preform daily. And even if you're not fighting every minute of the day, you're still putting your life out there. The person who assigned me to you told me that others have given up on you, and I am sorry that happened. I hope you don't hold it against them. I don't think they stopped writing because they disliked you, but people really like positive reinforcement and when they don't get it they probably get a little surly. I'm mad that I can't ask you what it's like out there in the front (it's a strict rule on the regulations page given to gave me). I just hope that while you have no one back here in the village, that you have people you care about out there with you. Although, I'm sure that's very frustrating. Being thankful that there are people you can connect to out there, but that you don't want to get hurt. What I'm trying to say: is I hope that you have friends out there. I hope you're not alone. I really only have one friend, but she's been there my entire life and she's amazing. One time when I was younger some classmates were picking on me because of my unusual hair color and she stood up and defended me. I hope that nothing bad ever happens to her. Friends are very important, aren't they? I hope maybe one day you can think of me as a friend. I wish I had more to say, but I think this is enough. I hope that you write back soon, so I can have more points to talk about with you. It will get awfully boring if it's just me talking all about myself. Stay safe. . Hello again. It's now been a week since I sent you your first letter. Maybe you never got it? I don't know if it's a lot quicker to send mail out there than to get things imported into the village. I was asking my school instructor about the process, and it seems really extensive. I'm a little embarrassed that not only you will be reading these letters, but also the person who screens them. (Greetings to you, too, second mystery person.) Then they pass or send it back, or black out certain names or whatever, and send it on its way. I will try my hardest not to break any of the regulations so that my letters will be able to get to you as soon as possible without any omissions. I don't know about you, but sometimes when I'm reading an old book, and a worm has eaten away a word and I'll never know what it is, I get really mad at everything. And then I wonder about exactly what those words could be for much too long. Usually I can do with the gaps, but just the fact of not knowing makes me very irritated. I would hate it if I made you go through that. Anyways, not much has changed since my last letter. School has been going alright. I got the highest score on the test again, but still the boy who I think is the cutest won't bother looking at me. I'm sorry, that was probably really boring and sounded like I was bragging, but it's simply fact. I am definitely the smartest, and arguably the prettiest, girl in the class. Aren't you lucky you have me as a pen pal? You should really show your gratitude by writing back. Have you ever been in love? I'm sorry again, that's very forward for only a second letter. I really should start over again, but I've already gone this far. I might as well keep going. I only have one more year in the academy before I'm assigned a new teacher. That is, if I manage to pass. My teacher says that I have nothing to worry about, and that if I try really hard I'll be able to get a really good teacher. Also if I begin to think about what exactly I want to do I'll have a better match and won't end up good at something I'm not naturally proficient in. I do like genjutsu, but other than that, I don't know. I wonder what it was like for you, who probably was taught in a group of three. Since so many shinobi are away, it's more beneficial just to have individual pupil-to-teacher ratios. While it's more intense, this way we get more time to study with our teachers, and we can become more specialized. Dad says that it's just a quicker way to teach us so that we can be shipped out into the war faster. But he's just a civilian, like my mom, and while he is very smart, I don't think he really understands our world somedays. If anything, we're getting better training so we can better protect ourselves. This is all just a very roundabout way of me saying I hope I get a good teacher so I can do well. Unlike the last letter, this one has gotten quite long suddenly. I eagerly await your response. Until next time. . Good morning. Or, at least it's the morning here. I have no idea when the mail comes in for you. Yesterday I went to the Cherry Blossom Festival with my best friend I mentioned earlier (let's call her Sunflower) and it was very fun. The flowers were very pretty. I could watch the petals fall all day and be perfectly content. Are you happy that winter is so far behind now? I bet the winters out there are really bad, if it's so cold here in the village. At the festival it was really nice to see our village come together, shinobi and civilians alike. But I wished people wouldn't get so publicly drunk. I bet if you're off duty you're allowed to drink. My parents say that it's relaxing after a long day, and I think you guys have the longest days without a doubt. I don't care what anyone else says, I hope that our taxes go to those sorts of comforts. I bet you and all your friends at the front would've enjoyed the festival. Maybe you did your own thing? Probably not. I just hope that you didn't have to fight a lot of people yesterday. Everyone deserves some type of peace, no matter how brief. On other news, I just finished reading this great book about the Sannin. Apparently one of them wrote it, so there's the problem of bias. But he didn't hold back on disgracing his friend for his betrayal. Some days I wonder if I'll even be able to stand in their shadows. I know that I'm still young, but I feel that I want to do a lot. Did you feel like that when you were younger? It was the reason why I became a shinobi. Did you have a reason? Or are you part of a clan? Hah, that would be funny. Me, writing dribble to someone from one of the four honorary clans. Or even one of the lesser ones. It'd make me all the more embarrassed about this. Anyways, I'm going to start reading more non-fiction. There have been so many famous shinobis from our village, and I know that I can learn at least one thing from each of their lives. I'm just having a hard time determining if I want to go back into the more obscure, older accounts or into the more contemporary ones. Maybe I'll switch back and forth until I meet in the middle. Do you read a lot? Maybe sometime I'll send you a book. Right now not a lot of books are printed, since the materials go to scrolls and explosion tags and everything. War really does change everything. I hope that you are still looking out for your health and safety. Until next week. . At first Sakura had not been overly concerned by the lack of a return letter. Iruka had explicitly warned her when she volunteered that this person had been abandoned before because of his habitual lack of response. Still, after she had sent out her twelfth letter and she still had not gotten anything in return, she began to feel concerned. After the sixteenth letter that went unanswered she just felt angry. But surprisingly, even to herself, she sat down and wrote a letter to this person every week. It was therapeutic in how every Saturday morning she would sit at her desk and write. Sometimes Ino wanted to go out and play on those mornings, but Sakura held firm that she wanted to stay and write her letters. Ino's dad was out there as well and the blond girl wrote letters to him almost daily. "He calls me his little piglet as my codename. I have no idea why, considering he could have just called me 'Blossom' or something actually flattering," Ino had complained about it to Sakura one day. "I named you Sunflower for my code," Sakura shared. Ino answered her with a wide, toothy smile and a tight hug that Sakura eagerly returned. So even though she was writing to a complete stranger, Ino understood that Sakura just wanted to keep writing. And keep writing Sakura did. She was fueled my a mixture of long standing annoyance that this person had not responded and that she would keep going until something finally came in her mailbox. Iruka called her one of the most stubborn people he had ever met, and also said she had probably been a little hardened by the war prematurely. But Sakura still found the time to coo after Sasuke between her studying. Sakura still somewhat resented this person from never writing back, but soon she envisioned that maybe they just physically or mentally could not do it. Yet at this point, Sakura would be happy about getting an abstract splatter ink drawing. But her annoyance became slowly eroded by the simple monotony of writing. It was relaxing and freeing in a way, knowing that the other person would not respond, no matter what she put in the letter. So she vented, shared and talked about anything that struck her fancy. Her days of intimidation by this mystery person were long gone. Despite this, Sakura hoped that whoever this was read her letters. They probably were bored with them, but Sakura had started this and she was going to keep going with them. . Good morning to you on this fabulous day of personal accomplishment. Remember how I wrote to you all that while back about getting a new teacher? Well, guess who I got? TSUNADE. (To the person screening this: it is very old information that Tsunade is Hokage. This is not new information in any way, so I request that you do not black out the name. There is no way, even if this letter is intercepted, that the enemy can glean any new information from it.) You read that name correctly (because there really is no reason to black it out). I got the honored Hokage as my new teacher. Let me just write that again- the HOKAGE. I'll call her the Slug Queen in future letters. Apparently she was there when we were screening us for abilities and she noticed my 'exceptional chakra control,' as she said so herself. I never thought that I was particularly good at that, but apparently I use the exact amount for my jutus. My training starts this week and I'm so nervous I feel that I may throw up that morning. Or even now. Really, any moment lately. While I know she's beautiful and really accomplished, she's very harsh on those around her. She demands that everyone around her live up to their full potential. I'm sure this war would have ended a long time ago in our disfavor if she wasn't our leader. I wonder what it was like living under the past Hokage like you did. It's crazy to think that the assassination of him and his wife was the tipping factor for why we started planning for war. I've read all about him, but did everyone really love him as much as all the literature says? Do you know about the myth that they had a child but hid it away because they knew war was coming and they didn't want him to be in danger? But that's just what the younger kids at the Academy whisper about, so it's obviously bogus. Anyways, back to myself (since you never respond). It's kinda sad graduating and knowing everyone's going their own separate ways. I'm really going to miss the boy I like, and even that annoying blond kid. Even the kid with all those bugs. Especially my Sunflower friend, even though she's still mad and won't talk to me anymore because I like the same boy as her. I've already been missing her for a while now. It just really feels like everyone is growing up. I just hope that we don't grow apart. Please keep yourself hydrated through this warm summer and be careful. . Sakura's training was tough, but she pushed herself through it daily. She thought about Naruto and Sasuke and how well they were advancing, and how there were rumors that maybe they could finally end this war through their raw talent and power alone. It made Sakura envious, which made her angry, which made her a little reckless. "What were you thinking trying my taijutsu like that already?" Tsunade snapped as she wrapped up Sakura's left hand. The right one was already done, and Sakura was staring at it morosely. "You could have done much worse than breaking all those bones." Sakura winced as Tsunade unnecessarily tightened the bandage; it hurt plenty enough already. As if sensing just how down and useless Sakura was feeling, the pig-tailed woman sighed and sat down beside Sakura. Tsunade wrapped her hand around Sakura and pushed her comfortingly into her impressive bossom. "I know you're seeing your friends Naruto and Sasuke succeed by leaps and bounds. But they're not learning what you are: which is how to save and protect everyone else. Without medics, and people like you who can think and make plans and then actually execute them on skill and not just raw luck alone, this war would have been long gone." Sakura sniffled pathetically. "I know it's hard, but you're doing great. I already know you're secretly doing my Strength of a Hundred Seal. And it seems unlike my ability to create valleys with my fist, you're getting that jutsu down just fine." "Really?" Sakura asked with a hiccup. "Sakura," Tsunade said with a sigh before pulling back and looking into her tearful green eyes. "Despite you being my only student I've ever had, you're also my best." The girl frowned at that. "But still, I'm not going to fully heal your hands or give you medicine to take away the pain. You need to learn your lesson about being impatient." Sakura huffed before saying: "Fine." . It was not like Sakura was helpless with two broken hands, but it was still frustrating. It allowed her to focus on strategies if she ever did get her hands incapacitated, and working on taijutsu with her legs, but it was mostly just a pain. Even little, simple tasks took four times longer than usual. She had to struggle to turn the page on her books. Sakura was forced to drink a lot of her food now. Most times she just lied around moping and storing up energy for her seal. She wondered what color it would be. If it would be the same shade as Tsunades or maybe something entirely different. Sakura did not even realize she had not written her weekly letter until her mom told her she had gotten something in the mail. "For me?" Sakura asked, a bandaged hand scratching her head confusedly. "Well, it had our address and your name, so that's what I naturally assumed. It's up in your room." She looked at it for a long time as it just innocently sat on her desk. It was a little battered, and it seemed that at one point it had gotten waterlogged, but she opened it with the excitement of a shiny, perfectly wrapped present on Christmas morning. Because it had finally happened: her mystery soldier had written back! Before she took out the piece of paper, she closed her eyes and dreamed about what she might read. Maybe there was even a clue about who they were? A fun, silly anecdote about when they'd been her age? Not being able to take the anticipation anymore, Sakura pulled it out. Why did you stop writing? She turned the page up and over, but that was it. The person had not even really signed it, and had only drawn the crude face of a scarecrow at the bottom corner on the sad. This almost entirely empty piece of paper with five scrawled words and a cartoon face did not constitute as a true letter in any way or form. Well, if anything, at least she finally had a nickname to call this person by. . Dear Scarecrow, Your first attempt at a letter was the antithesis of pathetic. But I finally have something to make a nickname for you. I did not know I was corresponding with such an obviously skilled artist. I want to thank you for finally responding back. I do not know if you have read my letters, and if so, why you have decided to remain silent for so long. First, I thought it might be because you were injured and recovering. I imagined that you had cut your hands while saving your friend from a katana, funneling chakra into your hands to stop the blow. But still you got your hands cut deep in the process, making it impossible for you to hold a pen or pencil. Then I thought that maybe it was too wet where you were stationed, as it was typhoon season and apparently the front lines were heavily hit. Didn't people nearly drown from refusing to move from a strategic river spot? Don't respond to that, they may burn your letter. Or maybe it was the winter, and you were shivering too badly that your handwriting became illegible. I imagined that you were just too busy with a war going on to write back to a silly little girl. And I realized that this was the most viable option. There was recently the Cherry Blossom Festival here again. I wrote to you about it last year. I almost can't believe it's been over a year and a half since I started writing to you weekly. No wonder I'm still in shock of your lacking response. I forget to write one week and you call me out on it while you haven't done it this entire time? Hubris: look it up. I've written you almost seventy letters and you can't even manage to give me seven words. Congratulations. Clearly you're a genius among us mortals. To show just how frivolous I am, I have included a flower I pressed at the festival. I hope that some of the sweet scent manages to stick around when you receive this. Even if you don't deserve it because it was kinda rude to make me wait that long. Fun fact: the petals are nearly the same shade as my hair. Please stay safe. . I have never had any family or friends to write back to. They are all either dead or here. Excuse my inability. . Dear Scarecrow, I apologize for my lack of finesse in my last letter. I didn't even bother explaining why I didn't write for a week either, the sole point in your own letter. I tried doing some secret, personal training of something I'd seen Slug Queen do, and ended up shattering the bones in my hands. Slug Queen healed some of the breakage, but only enough that it would heal correctly. So for the past few weeks I've been learning how to live without hands for the most part. This was actually the main reason why my letter was so aggressive. It's very painful to move my hands, but I really wanted to write a letter to you. I could have just written a bereft thing like you have the clear skill of, but I was just very excited about finally getting a response from you. Please don't feel guilty. I could have just asked someone else to write down what I said if I really needed them to. But I really don't want to do that since (even though those screeners read these before you) I feel that this a very personal endeavor for me to you. As for your lack of experience, it's really not that hard. Obviously you're able to write, and that's the biggest hurdle. The second is being able to read, but that usually goes hand-in-hand with writing. Although I honestly have no idea if you read my letters, or just simply cast them aside for another time. Yet judging by how you immediately realized I'd missed a week, I think you're more than just aware of them. Other than that, you write about anything you want. At first I was nervous, but eventually I didn't hold back. I think since you're older, you should share some anecdotes about when you were a kid. Despite our age difference, maybe we grew up with similar fashions or sayings or favorite foods. What are your happiest memories? Again, I'm sorry for my lack of sympathy in my last letter. I think I've almost fully healed my hands, so I should very soon be back to writing you novella length letters. Until next time when you respond with that scratching you call handwriting. . When I was promoted to jōnin I took on a mission that got my teammate killed. My happiest memory was realizing, as he died, that he was my best friend. I had not realized how much I loved and appreciated him until that moment. My second happiest memory was realizing I loved the girl who had made herself die at my hand. She was the girl my best friend loved and who I'd promised to protect right before he died. Please don't ask about my parents. I warned you I was bad at this. . Dear Scarecrow, I do not know what to say. I have known pain (my hands are all healed now), but I cannot even begin to imagine what that must be like. But surely those aren't your happiest memories. If not, I hope that someday you'll be able to replace them. That's not to mean that you should forget about your friends. And I don't mean to insult you by saying I don't think they want you to remember them like that. I'm supposing they were part of your three-genin group and I'm sure you went on better missions and had better days than their deaths. Apparently there was a cat that always got loose- did you and your friends ever have to chase it down? I heard the cat burned in the great fire. I had been very young during that fire, but I can still remember the heat. I wish you could tell me their names so I could go put some flowers on their graves. Maybe I'll try and research it, but it would be impossible to know if instead their names are on the cenotaph. I'm guessing your best friend is. I should go and do that always. A lot of people visit there now and there's always flowers. Maybe this will make you feel better: I saved my first life today. A boy had been training and had cut his leg clean off, and the Slug Queen let me try and reattach it all by myself before he bled out. The bone was a little tricky because the cells are more complicated, but I managed it all the same. He didn't even have a scar when I was done. Slug Queen said I did a really great job and soon I should be able to lead more surgeries so she can focus on other things. It's now been almost a year since my training began. The Queen says it's a waste of my time since I'll obviously pass, but I need to sign up for the chūnin exam. I know the usual age of passing is thirteen now. Before it used to be fifteen, but the war speeds things up I suppose. I bet you were much younger than me when you made chūnin, if you were already a jōnin still in a three-man team. I want to apologize if the beginning of my letter seemed preachy, or if I overstepped my boundaries. I have not lost any close friends to the war. I lost relatives in the great fire I previously mentioned, but I was too young to really remember them. I wish I could think of something better to cheer you up with than my own accomplishments. But it probably helps to know that the next generation has not been weakened by the war. If anything, we've become stronger. What do you do with your friends over there to kill time? Like I've said in past letters, I read a lot when I want to relax. Do you do the same? Maybe your short responses are hiding your literary prowess. They probably hide a lot. You took two weeks to respond this time. Is everything alright? I hope it is and I will be able to hear from you promptly. Farewell for now. . I can't write as fast as you, and there's not much I can tell about here other than the food is horrible. I do enjoy reading, but all my books are ruined by the rain and mold. He'll like getting flowers from a girl. He also would have been the one needing his leg reattached like that boy. Congratulations on that. . Dear Scarecrow, First, I want to thank you for responding so quickly. I asked the postman the other day how long it usually takes for a letter to get to the front lines, and it can be as quickly as two or as long as four. Sending back letters is usually quicker, only one or three days. Since your latest response arrived five days after I sent my letter, I can safely assume you dedicated yourself to a speedy response. And now you get to have a letter from me all the faster. Aren't you lucky? I'm sending you a book with this letter, if they haven't confiscated it. I don't think they would, unless the saga of 'The Dragon King' is illegal. It's really just about love, so I can't see how it would be taken away. I hope that you'll enjoy it, as I've loved it ever since I was very small. I enjoy the simplicity of the story: that not all guys who are bad have to be, that anyone with a strong, sure heart can make it through anything. The postman also said that if it fits in an envelope, he'll mail it for me. I plan to bribe him with fresh baked goods so he'll pass along larger envelopes. (Maybe even large enough envelopes that I can fit some cookies into it for those who screen it.) I will also try and find some yarn so I can knit you a scarf. It must be getting really cold out there, and it wouldn't do good to let your face get cold and for your senses to dull because of it. Do you have a color you'd prefer? I might not be able to get it, but Slug Queen does owe me a favor for attaining some more sake for her on the side. Everything over here as been fine for me. Slug Queen has put me up for more hospital shifts. At first I was a little worried about working there because I still am fairly young, but everyone there is very friendly. Also, most nurses are my age and the doctors are very old. Anyone in between is already out there with you guys, or out at neighboring villages offering aid. Also, I've started working on identifying poisons and learning how to remedy them. Apparently Slug Queen is second to none in making them, and that she says I'm fairly good at them. Not as good as my natural affinity for chakra control (I can now create an earthquake with a punch- how cool is THAT?) but if I practice and work enough I can learn how to be better. I hope that you're still trying hard out there as well. Again, I hope you enjoy the book. I know it's small and a fast read, but please enjoy. Also please be careful with it and keep it safe. It was the copy from when I was a girl. I know you're not allowed to send anything back but letters, so you'll have to keep it safe until the war ends and I can pick it back up. (Yes, this is me giving you another reason to make it through if you didn't already have enough.) Maybe you'll start responding faster and we can correspond every five days instead of seven now. Wouldn't that be nice. Goodbye for now. . It's really dreary around here (the mushrooms love it) so something bright and soft. Yellow if you can manage it? I enjoyed the book. . Dear Scarecrow, I hope you like the yellow I picked out. While I like this goldenrod shade, I think it's a little darker than what you were imagining. All the same, it is the color you requested so I'll count it as a victory. Don't you dare get blood on it! Just kidding, I can just make you another one now that I have finally gotten the hang of it. The stitches are still a little bulbous, but I like the way it looks still. I made an infinity scarf so you don't have to worry about an enemy grabbing hold onto one end to pull you down. This way it can sit quite snuggly around your neck and shoulders. I hope it's not too bulky. Last winter I tried making you a scarf, but I was not confident enough in my ability. It's a sad excuse of a thing, bright red with way too many holes and misaligned lines. You and no other will ever see just how badly I failed at my first attempt. I pride myself in being a fast learner, but this took a lot of patience. I have leftover yarn from the scarf and I tried to make you matching gloves, but like the first scarf, it did not turn out well. Although, I don't think you would cut a very intimidating sight to the enemy dressed in matching, obviously homemade knit articles. Yes, I can see through you fishing for more books. Try working on your stealth more. I'll send you another one from my collection next time, since the scarf took up all the space in this envelope. I hope that you're doing alright out there. I know that the weather is soon going to change for the worst. In my haste to finish the scarf I had to omit taking time to write up a nice long letter to go with it, so I'll try and sum up what's been happening quickly. It's flu season, so of course the hospital is in total disarray. I assisted Slug Queen in some complicated, experimental surgeries I wish I could tell you more about, but it seems I have some secrets to keep on my side as well now. I moved out of my parent's and into a quaint, old apartment closer to the hospital. I really like it so far. I got a plant. I still do not have a name for him. Any suggestions? I think that's it. Please stay warm and hydrated, remember to wear layers. During seasons like this, more soldiers die from exposure than enemies. And remember most of all: don't get sloppy or careless and get yourself killed. . Sakura's warm breath crystalized as she waiting at her mailbox, large envelope held tightly against her chest. It was snowing, but the snow simply brushed off the clear tape she had wrapped the envelope in to avoid just this occurrence. It would not do good to have her newly made scarf get soaked and then freeze. She was sure her scarecrow would not appreciate a gift to warm him coming in a block of ice. She eyed the postman coming around the bend and jumped to grab the thurmous. She poured a cup of hot chocolate and offered it to him as he approached. "Ah, good afternoon yet again, Sakura. I see you have quite a large letter for me there," he said, gratefully taking the offered cup with a smile. "If it wouldn't be too much trouble," she said hopefully. "Maybe… if you give me the rest of this delicious hot chocolate," he said with a chuckle, smile widening behind the curling steam. Sakura felt her shoulders straighten in pride before passing over the envelop and beverage container to him wordlessly. "Thank you," she said as she watched him put the package in his satchel. His smile turned a little sad for a moment before he reached forward and ruffled her hair, causing the snow that had accumulated there to drift down onto her jacket. . The scarf is perfect and all my comrades are envious. I suggest Mr. Ukki. . Dear Scarecrow, I thought about knitting you a hat, but stopped. For one, because of my inability to do so, and two, because just like the mittens, I think it would clash horribly with your cool-guy reputation and that you wouldn't wear it. Although, if you're so tickled-pink about showing up your friends, you probably would wear it just to spite them. The book I included are some old histories of the four noble clans of Konoha. I thought it was a little dated, and obviously biased in some aspects, but interesting none-the-less. I just wish it had better information on some of the newer clans and bloodlines. Slug Queen is making me do research on bloodlines and such, so I can better understand all types of patients. I'm a little fearful that all this extra assignments outside of training and the hospital is her preparing me for her position, or at least for the next Hokage's assistant. While it would be amazing to be so high-up, I mostly enjoy the hospital. I wonder what it was like to do missions outside of our boarders. I've done a few missions, but they were all safely in the village. Slug Queen says I shouldn't bother myself with such stuff when other younger, less specialized kids can do it. But I like them, and some days I dream of begin able to leave the village to travel. I cannot believe that in a few years the war will be over a decade long. Yet I believe it will not go on that long, and soon I will be able to travel. Did you travel a lot before the war? I feel that you have a lot of fun stories to tell, and probably a few are from abroad. Speaking of stories, you have never commented during the entirely of our correspondence about the war before. Maybe you think a higher-up will see your lack-luster opinion and criticize you? Although, you must have one dumb general if he thinks this war is still glorious. More likely, no information about the war can be given. Or you're thinking about it so constantly you don't want to have to write it down. Regardless, I still hope you're doing alright out there after being gone for so long: both mentally and physically. I cannot even imagine the homesickness you must go through. Although maybe it's been so long you're just numb to it all. In case you're wondering, the village has barely changed at all. Yes, people are growing up, but the buildings and businesses are nearly all still here. And they'll stay here waiting until you return. I'm sorry for feeling so nostalgic today, and if it's painful for you to think about, but I realized the other day that it's now been about three years since that first letter to you. It's hard to believe, but the drawer full of your sparse responses is evident of it. And if I have such a collection, I can scarcely imagine the horde of my letters you have. Or maybe you don't have room to keep them. I won't blame you if you didn't. I really can't wait to meet you after the war. It's happening, don't argue. We'll figure it out somehow. Also, I appreciate how your responses have become speedier. Thank you. Until my next letter. Oh, and before I forget: I told Mr. Ukki all about you and the name you gave him. He seems very happy, and similarly cannot wait to meet you. He seems a little lonely all by himself though, so I think I need to go get a Mrs. Ukki now. . I have never written about the war because there is nothing to say about it. I grew up into the beginnings of it and I'm just living through it. I will be fine. I always have been. . Dear Scarecrow, Alright there, man with a heart of immovable ice. I thought I told you to stay warm during this winter. And it's pretty obvious to nearly anyone that only those who say they're fine really aren't. But I can tell that you don't want to talk about it (or for me to try and talk about it and you just ignore the heavy hints). I did get another plant, and she is quite lovely. I think that Mr. Ukki is very happy with his pretty, young new wife. It helps him get through this cold winter, since I don't want to waste money on heating my one-room apartment. Maybe I'm being thrifty, but I'm trying to save money for when I can travel, or really just for a better time to spend it at. I have so much to do at the hospital that but the time I get back I'm dead on my feet. Recently Slug Queen started this charity program for the hospital. It takes possessions from dead shinobi, stuff their families don't want or need, and then sells it off. The money generated goes to funds for more medicine and supplies for soldiers still fighting. Anyway, there's was this fairly large section of books and I bought about eight boxes, nearly all of it. Slug Queen though it both odd and hilarious that I spent nearly an entire paycheck on dusty old books, but then she spends hers on illegal sake so whatever. She can mentor me on some things, but others I don't trust her on. What this all means is that I can now send you a book with every letter for a bit now! I know, it's exciting, calm down. Cool guy reputation right? Heart of ice that you can't allow to crack? I realize you probably won't be able to keep so many books, so you should just hand them over to your friends once you're done. I can't knit them all their own scarves, but at least this way you can help share. Although maybe they get much more than you. My Sunflower friend sends her father stuff nearly daily. It must be nice to be that loved. I wish I could send you more things. I expected to be more lonely living by myself, but it's actually not too bad. Friends come and go, and I can always just write to you if I get lonely or bored. And now the lovely Mr. and Mrs. Ukki are here to keep me company. I hope that your friends take up a ridiculous amount of time to distract you from everything. My opinion all those years ago about taxes being used to get you all properly drunk sometimes still stands unmoved. This is somewhat embarrassing, and I wasn't thinking of adding this, but I can't help it. Sometimes when I'm bored at work, or I just need to relax, I draw really bad renditions of what your face may look like. I know it's ridiculous, but I'm stupidly envious of everyone who knows you. I admit, I have always been curious. The fact that I can write to you about anything except who know who you are is infuriating to me. Anyways, I'm never including one of those doodles. Ever. No argument. For your response I eagerly await. . I wouldn't dare to share the books with the others. It's good that you can't send more than you do. I'm already indebted to you as it is. To be honest, I enjoy your words just as much as these published verses. Yes, that even includes the one time you wrote about that new flavor of yogurt you loved for two (very lengthy) paragraphs in vivid detail. You must realize you don't need to see my face to know me. . Dear Scarecrow, So I think maybe you're just acting like a petulant child unwilling to share rather than actually worrying about how your friends treat literature. You must have been an only child. It's so obvious. Onto more important matters: a seal I've been working on for the past three years has finally shown up. It's on my face, and I can't tell if I like it or not. It's a little disconcerting to suddenly have something new and obvious on your face, directly in the middle of your forehead. I didn't get to see it manifest, but when it did Slug Queen suddenly stopped and gaped at me when she was lecturing me, so it probably looked at least a little cool. And the Queen says it doesn't matter if I like how it looks or not, because it will probably save me and all my comrades lives one day. In classic mentor fashion, she told me not to get full of myself and to put even more chakra into it daily. I agree with her like almost always, but it's hard not to care about your appearance when one of your best friends is the town beauty queen. Yes, the Sunflower friend. By the way, did I ever tell you we've made up? It's extremely rewarding to see such long term investments finally begin to pan out. Sorta like your letters. I think you beat your record in that last letter. Four paragraphs, twenty sentences in total? Don't strain your hand too much now. Maybe this is as boring as when I used to droned on about my Moon friend, but boys are starting to notice me. I know that I'm older now, and my body shows just that, but it's still a little odd to feel that sensation of being watched to turn around and see guys staring at your behind. Tsunade says not to worry about it, and that if they really annoy me I can just break their ribs. There's a lot of valuable organs around there that would be a shame to get ruptured. In a way, sometimes it's fun to flirt with them and get them flustered, only to leave them just as they finally remember where their tongues are. Maybe it's cruel, but it's still entertaining. Oh god, I'm such a jerk, aren't I? This brings me back to that letter I wrote that was all about my hair routine. Maybe initially my letters had a serious tone and a vocabulary that made me seem like a stiff grandma. I don't know whether to be happy or sad that I've loosened up my writing style. Like always, stay safe mighty guard. . I admit: I thought you were a forty year old mother from your first letter. Imagine my shock finding you were an Academy student. Don't be too cruel to those poor boys. I'm sure many are falling over themselves, and they just don't know how to spot danger and and run from it just yet. Good thing they aren't out here, else they would have been gone within hours. Forget about breaking their ribs, those heal quickly enough. Break their hearts if they really bother you. That pain will last much longer. . And so the letters continued on for months and then years more. Sakura realized in utter dread that her scarecrow's letters became increasingly depressed and clipped. Sometimes she could get him to write more than a few sentences, but it kept getting harder and harder as time wore on. Yet he still made every effort to write back, and Sakura continued to gather his letters carefully in a drawer. Before she had just put them in randomly, but one day she took time away to organize them into a photo album. The responses were usually just slips of paper and easily fit into the plastic squares. Some days when she felt down, like when a patient could not be saved, or a young widow came in from malnutrition caused by heartache, Sakura flipped through them. She had not yet gone through them all individually. She was saving that for a special day. Maybe they could go over them together? Sakura had thought that she loved Sasuke, and her feelings she felt for this mystery person was akin to that, but not identical. Was it even possible to feel so strongly for a person she had never met? Not to mention she did not even know who this person even remotely was. She had only decided this stranger was a man because of his messy handwriting and clipped tone. It was a little biased based on gender, but Sakura had seen enough handwritings from doctors for some semblance of reference. Their correspondence still covered everything and anything, and always nothing about the war even if Sakura burned to know about it. To know her scarecrow faired in it, and if those enemy creatures were as horrible as soldiers said they were. But the rules were strict, and he never offered anything. Then something seemed to have recently switched for the man. Because in the past few weeks her scarecrow was channeling all that anger and aggression towards the war into his writing for her. While before Sakura had been lucky to get a few sentences, now he wrote pages. Just the other day Sakura had gotten a three-page long letter from him. True, nearly all of it was describing his ninnken and how each one was special (although all equally amazing). She had enjoyed the attached sketches of the dogs the most, which were a lot better than any of the doodles Sakrua had ever made of his imaginary face. It was a clear bribe to get one of those, but she was not giving in. He also demanded that if anything happen to him, she would have to take care of them. Right now they were still out on the field with him, but because he had no one else to fall back on, she would have to take custody of them. He even made her sign a contract in blood, which she sent back with mixed feelings of honor and worry. He assured her that his dogs already adored her on her lingering scent on the letters alone. Sakura wrote back about her life as well. Some days she could barely put a pen in her hand, when her fingers were stiff and shaking from half-day long surgeries, or had just done hours of taijutsu training with Tsunade. But she just mercilessly cracked her knuckles, bit down the grunt of pain, and filled up at least a page with her neat handwriting to send off. Her scarecrow was the same in his resilience to write no matter what. Apparently one time he got his entire right hand severed, and barely an hour after the reattachment surgery he had written her a letter. It had threatened the delicate restitching and his medic had yelled at him for a five minutes. Sakura would have yelled at him for a good hour. She stomped around her apartment yelling for that long, until a neighbor came and asked her politely to please stop making it sound like the village was being invaded. Sakura worried that her scarecrow was writing so much and so frequently because he was worried he would not be around much longer. That he had to get things out, to tell her silly things and stories, before he physically could not anymore from passing on. Still, the war carried on and his letters gave her an equal amount of hope as well as trepidation. Lately there had been a lot of soldiers brought in from the front who were too severely injured to be treated adequately there. Apparently the creatures were getting more active; Madara seemed ready to unleash himself on the world. Infiltration attempts to find his lair failed each time, only resulting in losses. Sakura watched as Tsunade became increasingly stressed; she was sure if not for that jutsu her Slug Queen would look much older than her actual age. Sakura had mixed feelings about the soldiers coming in. Half of her wanted her scarecrow to come, but the other half wanted him to remain strong and steady as he had all these days, months and years. Eventually she realized it silly to think that he would come back to get healed; he would die out there trying before abandoning it. So every time Sakura got a letter, reaffirming that he was not dead and very much alive and fighting, she felt not just a wave, but a tsunami of relief pass over her. . Dear Scarecrow, I turned sixteen today. Apparently I'm a full fledged adult in the shinobi world now. I don't feel like it. It's just all very surreal. My blond friend (or my Sun friend) gave me a gag gift of some porny literature that his mentor apparently writes. I read it, and it doesn't seem too bad despite the gratuitous descriptions at the sex scenes. I've never heard so many inaccurate nouns for 'penis.' Sun's mentor gets points for creativity at least. I thought that you might like it, so I've included it for you. Not to say that you're a pervert, but I feel that you're a romantic in some ways. And while there are sad parts in the book, overall it's uplifting. I know you'll appreciate that. And not to get sexist, but in my experience a lot of guys like porn. Anyway, it's small but I bet it'll really pack a punch for your overgrown love of romance. I hope you enjoy it. As always, please be safe. . The book was amazing. The best by far. Send more if at all possible. . My Scarecrow, I know it's impossible to miss the presence of someone you've never met, but I still cannot help but feel that with you. I wish you could have been here today for me to see just how far I've come. Anyways, I made jōnin today, and so did my Sun and Moon friends. My Sunflower friend only got a partial advancement, but she's ecstatic all the same. For entertainment to the public, they had us compete against others and the person I went against made fun of my hair to try and break my moral. I kicked him out of the stadium, and he had such grievous injuries that Slug Queen had to personally heal him. I thought she would be mad, but when I explained what he'd said about me, she laughed so hard she cried. Then she gave me a whole bottle of sake and we drank it in celebration. I don't think she should help foster my temper that has gotten a bit drastic lately. Maybe that's why I said that convoluted sentence as a start. It's kinda weird and funny being drunk. I like it. I approve. Is my handwriting different? Am I not using as many big words as usual? I wonder if you thought it weird when I was beginning to write and already knew so many. I really pride myself over my vocabulary. And I was really trying to impress you because I was so scared that you wouldn't respond or would think me stupid and hate me. But I know that you don't hate me. Maybe you even like me in some sort of way. I like you quite a lot, when I think about it. I'm getting pretty sleepy suddenly. I should metaphorically sign off before I embarrass myself even more. I really wish you were here. And again, I miss you. Until next time when I'll be sober again. Maybe. I really do like this feeling. Why aren't people drunk ALL the time? Goodnight. . They'll try sending you out here now. Promise me you won't go. Hope the headache wasn't too bad. . Dear Scarecrow, The headache wasn't the best, but it also wasn't the worst. After you've dealt with woman in labor screaming for hours, you get used to a ringing in your ears and an inability to feel like yourself for a bit. I don't know why you're so worried. I'm just a medic so even if I am involved in the war, I would just heal people in the back lines. Not that I can't take care of myself. Didn't I say I explain how I punted a guy out of an arena just for making fun of my hair? I can take care of myself. I see that you're back to your small responses. Do you not have a lot of time anymore? I enjoyed those times when you sent me long letters. Did I ever tell you I keep all your old slips of responses in a photo album? Some of your letters were too long to fit in the small plastic squares, so I keep them in their original envelopes. I'll hopefully find some larger plastic sheets soon enough. I also want to frame those sketches of your lovely ninken. Say hello and give them a nice long belly-rub for me. I'm sorry I similarly can't write as much lately. The hospital has been overrun, and Slug Queen has been stepping up the training. I feel that something is really starting to form. Until another day and letter. . You need to promise me. . Dear Scarecrow, Since you're clearly ignoring everything else I'm saying, I promise that I won't volunteer to go into the war. The Hokage says I have way too much to learn anyway before I'm remotely ready to head out there. I could make a difference if I went now, but I can change the war if I stay and continue working. But, again, you must know I'm strong and able to protect myself. I think she's planning something with my Sun and Moon friends, though. But there is no use in worrying, and I'll just have to wait. I just wish she would include me more on her plans. Did you know, I've been calling you by the same nickname this entire time because of your funny little signatures, but you have never given me one? I would be a little disheartened that you did not care if not for your speedy responses. Can you believe it's already almost winter again? I wonder if your scarf has kept up over all these years. I bet it's pretty dismal despite how well you might've taken care of it. Also, Mr. and Mrs. Ukki now have five lovely children! They were getting a little big, so I cut them back, and then thought I might try to propagate some of the clippings All the cuttings took, and now there are small little bits of themselves growing. You will obviously get one when you get back, as it is your right as their godfather. Don't argue, it was decided the moment you named him. Just think: after this war is finally done all you'll have to worry about guarding is a small plant. You can finally live up to the full potential of your nickname from me! Hopefully you can think of another winning name to give to the little tike. Me and the lovely Ukki family await for your response. . The scarf is still well, as am I since you finally agreed. I apologize, as I cannot write much but this today. Even though I know you will, do not worry. . Sakura hummed as she arranged paperwork on Tsunade's desk. She could feel the older woman's eyes on her. The full sake cup in her hand sat forgotten. Finally giving in, as she felt she may instantaneously combust any moment now by Tsunade's intense gaze, Sakura turned to her with her eyebrows furrowed in silent question. "Sakura, I need to talk to you about something," her blond sensei said with a sigh, suddenly not looking like the pillar of strength and ability she was known to be. This must be really serious if she was looking older than she liked her jutsu to show. Taking a seat in one of the chairs in front of the desk, Sakura crossed her hands atop her lap and waited patiently for her mentor to speak. "As you're aware, Madara is nearing an end to his hibernation. Soon he'll stop with his defensive warfare and start wiping out all the villages, picking them off when they are weakened by physical separation." At the idea of her entire world disappearing, Sakura shivered. "In that vein, I have decided that we're going to do one last, final push. Naruto and Sasuke are ready to face him. I recognize it's a risk allowing Sasuke to get close to the other Uchiha, that he may be converted. But it is a risk we have to take." Sakura looked down at her lap and counted her breaths up to ten before she trusted herself with speaking. "Naruto is going to be estatic about being a hero," she said as she stood with a start, willing her tears to not fall. "No matter how much I tell him that war isn't glamorous, he is set on the idea of becoming a hero." "He's going to be alright, Sakura. You, and everyone else now, need to trust that he's ready to do this." "I'm coming, obviously," Sakura said with a huff, green eyes flashing with more than just unshed tears. "I would never leave my favorite apprentice behind when I need her the most."  

KNIGHTHOOD.(Taken/Busy IRL)

09/17/2022 02:56 PM 

Humus

Summary: “What’s your name?”“Red.”“No,” the man - Frank - shakes his head. His heart beating a symphony of unease. “That’s not it.” Notes: SEE END NOTES FOR TRIGGER WARNINGS! (Contains Spoilers) Poems and excerpts taken from (in order of appearence):Unlocking, Alice B. FogelDeep Red, Kevin KillianThe too late poem, Albert GoldbarthBalance, Alice B. FogelBilly-Ray Belcourt  Altrno. 6 "Head injury" and no. 21 "Bleeding through bandages". Happy reading     Humus; a brown or black complex variable material resulting from the partial decomposition of plant or animal matter and forming the organic portion of soil.   Trees are born and die, bones turn to humus, glacier to meadowland.     RED   I’m living in your disgrace deep red hatched cells a doll with hands scuttles across the face of the sea for you come and get these memories   He wakes up and he’s nothing but the pounding ache, hammering a hole through his brain and out his skull. Nausea plays with his stomach in flips, bitter acid splashes at the back of his tongue, scorching his taste buds in white-hot sting. He swallows convulsively - he’s numb from his feet to his waist and it recedes like the tide. Feeling returns like glass shards stabbing his thighs, knees, calves, feet. Abdomen flutters with the need to be sick, heat replaces cold and cycles back to heat all over his sweaty skin. Glass shards turn into pins and needles, he finds that moving is possible. Hands scramble to get a purchase onto something real, scratchy cotton scrapes over his palms as they shake, muscles pulse as if trying to melt right out of his skin. His fingers feel anesthetized, skin tingles all over, merges at the right side of his face. Tingling- Getting up makes blood rush to all the places that hurt, his perception flickers and darkens in a world that’s already painted in black and splashes of red. Maybe his knees hit the floor, he’s not sure. He’s up again - holding himself tightly to the wooden headrest of a bed before the pain converges to one place; his head. It sharpens into a ringing over his right ear, splitting him open, brain turning into static mush. He’s being taken apart from the inside out. There are words trying to tumble their way out of his mouth, but he can’t remember how to move his lips, curl his tongue. Knows that M feels like pressing his lips, knows that L gets his tongue to dance in the cage of his teeth, but nothing moves, nothing works. Nausea swirls around once more, doubles his body weight. He’s oddly aware of his own shaking, then. How his hands tremble and tremble as if convulsing. Moving gets the blood to pool on his legs and the throbbing muscle flares like fireworks under the skin. He takes a step - falters. Nothing works as it’s supposed to and he pushes. When his knees fail he pulls himself up, his head feeling like an overfilled balloon, brain liquid and heavy. He smells soap and he follows it, follows the only thing that’s not hot-cold pain and the clash of lightheadedness and heavy, pounding ache that tears from his spine, to his neck, to his head and behind his eyes. The world flickers as if it’s own fire. And then he’s falling, knees collapsing like a house of cards. He’s unable to keep going - still, he crawls. Shoulders shake in a dance of giving up and giving more, his elbows bruise with the number of times it falls to the ground. He can’t remember half the crawl when he finally reaches the smell of soap - a bathroom. He has to stand up, so he does. Body begs him to stop, flares in his own perception like lightening. His muscles quiver and crumple, pain screams a high-pitched agony song on all of his limbs. Even as he manages to stand up, he’s still falling, getting pulled into the ground. He doesn’t know, but it’s not the first time he awakens in the unfamiliar place. Cold porcelain meets him in a shock of cold and he’s vomiting before he can process the feeling of knees hitting the tiles once more. Barely registers the vile taste coating his tongue for it feels thick and tingling with palpable static as if anesthetized. His head throbs, brain pulses against the cage of his skull. Drills from the center to find surface - he’s a hollow tunnel collapsing inwards. He vaguely registers he stopped vomiting when vertigo thickens the weight of his head. Digs through his brain on how to make his limbs move, how to get his muscles to work, so he stays slumped in the ground, a pile of failed meat. Feverish eyes scream a bright sting when he blinks - maybe he’s shaking from it, from the pain. Maybe it’s the cold from the tiles under his naked knees. He tries to come up with an answer to questions he doesn’t know how to formulate - to where he is, why does everything hurt, why can’t he see, why is he alone - but nothing comes. Only the ringing in his right ear and the impermeable fog on his head, cut through only by needle-sharp pain. Where. His breath hitches and even the slight movement of his throat feels exhaustive. He forgets mechanics and only focuses on pressing his hands to the floor, finding something solid under his feet. Tries to get up, tries to get ready. Head screams threat even when all he can perceive is soap, his own sweat, copper and the ringing in his ear. Needs to locate the threats. Find escape routes. Head pulses, throbs- Where? The unfamiliarity of the place feels slightly less daunting when he manages to stand up. He doesn’t recognize the cold feeling under his feet, doesn’t recognize the smell of soap or the coppery aroma that gets more noticeable every second that he balances precariously on his legs. He can’t see but he knew where the bathroom was - followed the scent of soap and bleach. There’s something he has to do. The thought comes unbidden, penetrates through the fog like knife cutting through cloth. And then it’s all he can think of. There’s somewhere he has to be. Someone... someone was waiting. Someone needed him. Needed... who. The thought disappears like smoke with the next pulse of pain against his bone, overworked muscles shake and falter as he grips onto the sink. Swaying side to side, again and again. A swirl of nausea his body mimics from his stomach. And then it’s back. Someone, someone, someone. Fingers curl around the faucet. He can’t open it. Right hand refuses to cooperate. His head hurts and the ringing won’t leave. He tips it slightly to the right side only for it to scream bright-white-red pain and his knees try buckling once more. Someone waiting ( someone needed him) . He’s there, holding himself to the sink, convinced he’ll fall to the ground again. And this time, he won’t get back up. The world is a black hole but for the fire thickening around him, a botched perception of a sink, a toilet, a shower - but it’s dull and thick like spilling ink. He’ll fall and sink into the nothing underneath. Melt into insubstantial liquid. He hurt his head. He hurt something else too. His head is hurt - how, when, why - doesn’t know. Why is his head hurt? He finds the stitches like a rupture in the embers painting the perception of his own body. Follows the sutures with his fingertips, feels the swelling threatening to pull the threads apart. Almost faints from the pain when he tries pressing lightly into it. His right ear rings - someone - and keeps ringing, it won’t stop - someone needed him. Who? (Get to work). The erratic thinking is cut through by rhythmic thumping approaching - and then, the world rushes in. A heart, breathing, creaking wooden floor, birds, a deer far away, rustling leaves. Something is missing and he doesn’t know what. Someone needed... Open the faucet. He can’t open the faucet. Thought turns to mush and disappears into nothing, he has one job, he has to open the faucet but he can’t. Fingers fumble but can’t hold a grip. A solid wall of thumping heartbeat, inflating lungs and straining muscles carrying the smell of rain, smoke and antiseptic clots the doorway, the only escape route. A large hand suddenly intrudes in his space, takes the handle and twists it for him. He stumbles away from the oppressive, undefined form. Too much battles with his perception - the worms crawling and squirming under the house, the creaking wood, the loud, thunder-like heartbeat, the choir of birds and deer and coyotes and a large, shapeless body of leaves and trees and roots. It takes the form of a man as he concentrates, limbs sluggish where he tries to protect himself. Maybe he falls, maybe he’s still up. He’s upright, he’s upside down - his head hurts. The man, for now he’s sure it’s a man, closes the faucet then. Tries to focus on some kind of noise that may or may not be coming out of his mouth, but is deafened by the too-fast sound of his own pulse, loud ringing and the rhythmic war-drum behind, framing the bathroom with its sound waves. He whimpers, tries to press a hand to his right ear only to yelp at the pain, the sound echoing and stabbing his eardrums viciously. What’s happening? What the hell is happening? Why does everything hurt? What happened to him? Too late, the fog whispers back, too late. “Where am I?” He doesn’t recognize the voice that leaves his own throat, uncertain in its candor. Weak. A simple thought of what would Stick think? passes through his head before disappearing into the fog, lacerated and torn apart by the sharp ringing. Like everything else - insubstantial. He can’t reach it but it’s there, trapped in the haze. If he could just reach it- God, his head is killing him. “Red,” the gruff voice saturates the room and paints it bright. “Can’t be walking yet, go back to bed.” The sound helps him make a picture of himself - the embers lick at the heat gathered tightly in a straight line across his lower abdomen, in a circular wound in his right leg. Hot-white pain brings the nausea back the moment he attempts touching the sutures in his belly and he’s falling again. The man’s arms are curling around him firmly before his knees manage to hit the ground, a solid weight trapping him and he fights the nausea if only to push the man away with a disgruntled shout. His tongue is thick and dry in his mouth when he makes a second attempt at speech, limbs heavy and unable to come up to protect himself from the stranger. “No!” His own voice hits the tiles and echoes loudly against his eardrums. “Where am I? W-who are you?” The man’s heartbeat slows right down, the image of him flickers and he tries to grab onto it so he won’t catch him off guard should he attempt to attack. The man’s breath rumbles like the growl of a bear in his chest and he stumbles another step back at the disappointed, choppy rhythm of the man’s pulse. “You’re in a shack,” he relays carefully, tone neutral and giving him nothing to analyze. “Outside the city. It’s me, Red.” “No, why... Who, who are you?” He’s barely there when he asks again, mulls over the name again in his head. He’s called him that twice. Tries to savor it in his tongue as if it’ll get it to make any sense, but it doesn’t. He doesn’t know. Something’s wrong, missing. He tries to reach for anything that makes sense. Anything at all. The fog sits there, unreachable, unperturbed. He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know. “C’mon, Red. You need to sleep the meds off for a while longer.” A hand approaches him, cutting through the haze. “Don’t!” Red jumps away a few steps from the solid wall of a man, hands reach for him again once his knees try buckling for the second time. “Why do you have me? Let me- let me go-” The tinnitus in his right ear rises to that of a bee hive and he whimpers, head falling forward only for it to pulse dangerously, throbbing in so much pain that he barely registers it. “It’s Frank, Red.” It still doesn’t make any sense. Nothing does. “Why do you keep- ah, God,” the skin at the side of his head seems to swell, tries to pull at the stitches when it’s only the pain, bloating larger than life and playing with nausea settling deep in his bones. Adrenaline pulses hot, burning through it, keeping him no his feet. “Why do you keep calling me that?” The man’s - Frank’s - answer is deliberate when it comes, deceivingly patient. “What else should I call you?” The air leaves him in a sharp exhale, sutures pulling at the side of his head, right over his ear. Can hear it like bending wires, metal against bone. He uses it to center himself, tries to work through the haze with trembling fingers and weak knees. Finds nothing. “I don’t-” Too late, the fog repeats, you’re too late. His eyes sting but he refuses to acknowledge the heavy heat when it fills his eyelids with salt, burns at them. His head pounds as if protesting against it too. “Red is... fine.” He chokes out, his whole frame shivering as if his skeleton was attempting to jump out of his skin. The man - he forgot his name again, what was it? Grant, Dent, no - steps closer again, palms turned up to show he’s not a threat. He’s the only real thing he can track, the only thing that makes sense in the midst of all the input. Untouched by the fog even while he’s surrounded by it. Red can make out arms, fingers, a torso, a heartbeat, organs, bones - can’t make sense of his face, not yet. It gets lost among all the flames. Trying to work through the scents only proves him in worst shape, the sound of the man’s stomach digesting coffee and oatmeal almost deafens him. “Hey,” his voice booms around the room and Red’s knees weaken, the man is there to touch him lightly, callouses meeting elbows. “Hey, I’ll just take you back to bed, c’mon.” The words make sense until the point that they don’t. His brain grabs at what he can; the quality of the man’s - Fred, Frank - voice, deep, stoic and unperturbed. The warmth of his palms, every single ridge of a scar and a callous. His limbs are heavy by the time they stop moving, knees touching something cushy but coarse. Cotton. Doesn’t want to come anywhere near it, but he can’t fight the pull of every single muscle in his body. “I have to get back,” he slurs. “You’re in no shape to do sh*t, Red.” But he has to get back before curfew. Sister Augustine uses the ruler on the disobedient ones and Matt doesn’t want- He needs to get back before curfew. The man is there. Hovering just at the edge of the fog, fingers digging into it and keeping it away from him. Molding his body just right so it doesn’t escape it completely. He feels larger than the world, surrounding him from all sides - mountains surrounding a forest, forest surrounding a cabin... “It’s okay, kid.” He lets the tide take him. Large palms pressing him down to sandpaper, the church bells ringing in his ear.     His head is splitting open. Red cries out as soon as he wakes up, his brain pulsing against the sutures at the side of his head, throbbing. The pain radiates like lightening from it’s roots, an intricate web-patterned mesh of agony right over his right ear, extending to his temple, all over the right side of his head and the back of his eyes. The skin of his right arm feels numb and prickling, his ribs burn and splinters every time his chest rises with a breath. His lips feel dry and cracking when his parched tongue traces the edges, a foul taste lingering in the inside of his cheeks, over his teeth. His saliva feels thick with dehydration. “Open,” the gruff voice startles him to action. A rib shifts and another creaks and Red feels another cry dig its nails inside his throat. A large, sunken ship groans in his thorax and his chest stutters up and down with the new ache. He tries to feel for the coarse fabric irritating his skin - tries to fight, to get the offending hands away, but it’s useless. There are birds chirping outside, loud enough that it feels like their beaks and too-fast-too-loud heartbeats are pressed right against his eardrums. The large, indistinguishable body of roots, dirt and trees extends for as far as his senses can go. But the birds, they’re everywhere, occupying his insides like their own little cages. “It’s just water, open up.” Water. Water sounds good. Hands falter and fighting becomes pulling. Opening his mouth takes a surprising amount of strength. A rough but surprisingly careful hand tilts his chin back, supporting his head and helping cool liquid slide down his throat and quench the desert-like aridity. Stray drops run down his lips and neck, a stark difference with his slightly overheated skin. Tries to reach up his right hand to steady the man’s wrist only to find it uncooperative, lifting his left one instead. Red keeps on pushing until the right one eventually joins its twin, grip weak around a thick, scarred forearm. He holds it tight. The man's not getting his arm back until Matt is finished.  “Slow down, Red, you’ll choke.” He responds to the command automatically, guzzling down gulps of fresh water in a slower rhythm until he finishes what’s left in the bottle. All strength leaves his muscles when he finally lets go. The man’s hands are stop him from falling down abruptly against the mattress. This man. The man from before. Before... how long ago? Hours? Days? Some time before. Some time. Red doesn’t linger on it. Cotton sheets catch on the bruises in his skin and he hisses. “Hey! Stop f***ing moving around!” The man’s voice is pleasantly rough and Red stops, tilting up to hear it more closely, how it caresses the shell of his ear with a deep, gruff timbre. He’s locked in a more gentle, subtle kind of haze, then. The void doesn’t seem as terrifying as it feels inviting. “You had your skull open three days ago. Take it easy, Red.” He giggled. It was funny. Skulls weren’t supposed to be open, and people weren’t supposed to be named after colors. Red doesn’t know what colors looks like. It’s funny. “I’ll call you Black, then,” it feels funnier, still, because he isn’t sure he knows what black looks like either. “Dunno what it looks like but errthing’s burning-” The tingling feeling from before traveled up all the way from his legs to his shoulders and the world went out of focus. He’s oddly aware of his body moving before he went out again. Moving and moving and he couldn’t stop. Muscles tightening and loosening and tightening again. And then he was melting into the cotton sheets, skin feeling oddly detached of his flesh, hanging of him. Curt... back... seized again, just, come back here. He feels two powerful arms holding him sideways, a palm cradling his head. His head is overstuffed with cotton balls until they too dissolve, and Red’s drained. He isn’t sure when he manages to move. When reaching out feels like something possible, but it happens before he’s ready for it. He carefully explores the man’s face, the heavy stubble around his jaw and lips. The tight coiling heat of a bruise under one eye. He smiles. He’s home? “Dad?” “Sh*t-” the man, he didn’t sound like Dad, holds his breath before letting it get punched out of his chest. Like he’s in a ring with himself, or maybe with Red. “No, kid, just... Hang in there. Just hang in there.” The man doesn’t make much sense. Red feels around for him, for a proof of Dad. Feels the thick neck and strong shoulders. The pain coils tightly around the grinding above his right ear. His right arm feels too heavy to keep moving. Too heavy to do anything. He groans, hands coming to protect his head from the hellfire blazing within, hold it together so it doesn’t get ripped apart from the inside out. Hands appear out of thin air and Red can’t track them fast enough, hear the whistling of nails through air when someone forces something down his throat. Red fights. He has to find his Dad. He needs to find him or it'll be too late. The hands press him down against sandpaper sheets, feels it scrape at his skin, take a piece of him with it. Red fights it, with everything he has in him. “What did you do to him? Where’s- where’s-” Limbs loosen even when he tries to tense them, tries to fight. The need to sleep comes so suddenly his brain barely catches up to it, fingers still twitching, attempting to grab at something. The world is black, black, black and Dad’s face disappears with the sky when he hears the bullet. He lays down beside dad’s body in the alleyway, blood dries in the concrete.     “Eat.” His eyes open like the fluttering wings of the bird right outside the window, picking at its own feathers with its beak. Everything smells of wood, grass, gunpowder and soil, it impregnates every inch of his skin as his eyelashes disturb the air around him. Moves dust particles in a dance of fairy lights he’s not privy to. He’s not sure how long it’s been since he last woke up. It could be hours. It could be weeks. The fog is easier to navigate through, this time. It’s thick and omnipresent in every pulse of blood rushing through his body, but Red finds a way around it - can make the picture of his own body in his mind, how it inhabits the space, how it’s positioned in relation to the wooden walls. He can trace his pains back to their sources, although the fatigue stops him short of it. Every muscle in his body screams of exhaustion. The man - Frank, he recalls - is there once more. The fog battles the fire as Red unravels the enigma of the heartbeat poised right beside him. Listens to the rush of blood and oxygen to track the edges and contours of the man’s frame. Frank’s big, a shifting solid wall of trained muscles and a too-steady pulse. There’s a certain unwavering confidence in the way his chest expands with every inhale. A man unafraid of anything. Smells tell him more - gunpowder, gun oil, coffee, nicotine, blood, a lot of antiseptic, enough that it tickles his nose. He’s soon interrupted when a bowl of oatmeal is shoved in his face, struggling to curl his right hand around it as easily as he does with his left one. He winces once more when a head movement makes agony strike like lightning, rooting from the cloudy epicenter of the wound by his right ear and spreading over the curve of his skull and side of his neck. “Here,” the man turns to his left, feeling for something in a small fold-up table that smelled strongly of rust. A rough hand reaches for his, dropping two pills inside the shell of his palm. “It’s paracetamol. Curt said I can’t give you NSAIDs.” Red just nods sluggishly, realizing his mistake when the pain flares - whatever Frank says, he has other things to worry about. Why am I not in a hospital? He wants to ask. But doesn’t. Not yet. “Why do you smell of guns?” He asks instead. Red’s voice is only a thin thread of what it had been moments earlier. The fatigue is catching up to him quickly - too quickly. The man only snorts and Red tilts his head in slight confusion. For some reason he can’t fathom, that gives Frank a stop. Heartbeat falters before speeding up imperceptibly. “What’s my name, Red?” His voice catches on gravel and tar as he speaks, thick and filling the whole room with a sense of foreboding Red can’t help but mirror. “Frank.” “Frank what?” Red frowns, works through the exhaustion to keep upright, oatmeal balanced precariously in his hands. “I don’t know, you tell me.” “Sh*t,” the man shakes his head, pulse slightly faster still. “What’s your dad’s name?” Red’s eyebrows furrow closer together, analyzing a catch, some kind of implicit cue that he isn’t getting. Sees Dad’s face in his head, bruised and smiling at him. “Why do you want to know-” “Just answer the damn question.” He breathes a bit deeper. “Jack.” Red offers, calmly. Tries to remember his surname but can’t for the life of him form a single letter in his head that feels right. Just Jack. Battlin’ Jack. “Your mom’s?” “Dunno. Never met ‘er.” Something clicks, right at the back of his head. A noise. Doesn’t know what it is, doesn’t know where it comes from. Another click. He shakes his head. Frank is quiet. A void where Red’s perceptions usually would reach him - read his heartbeat, the pulling of his muscles, the steadiness of his breathing. He leans with his elbows to his knees, shifting dark smoke against the flames and the fire. “What’s yours?” The noise clicks again, his stomach goes cold. Eyes shift uselessly around as if to look for those embers, that bright fire. “What’s your name?” “Red.” “No,” the man - Frank - shakes his head. His heart beating a symphony of unease, of disappointment. A stark contrast to Red’s derailing one. “That’s not it.” “Does it really matter?” He begs in a breathless voice, heartbeat erratic where it pulses like a drum against his broken ribs. Soft tissue pressing against splintered bone. “You got yourself in some sh*t, Red,” the fog and the smoke envelop the man and he can barely track him but for his breathing, his heart, his stoic, unperturbed voice. “Some bad guys, they hit you in the head pretty bad. I could see part of your brains when I got there. Have no f***ing clue how you’re alive.” Frank’s heartbeat changes - accelerates just for a moment, snapping his body to life before he sinks back to the controlled ease. Red feels the pull of sutures on the side of his head. The grinding of bone on bone right over his ear, the feel of metal holding them together. “Is that why-” “Why what?” “I can’t see. Is... no,” no, he remembers Dad fading from his sight. The sky a far away dream. Dad promising it would be okay. “I’m blind.” The man’s chest stutters in a breath before measuring itself once more. In his slip of control, Red sees him clearly. Smoke fades in the face of the impressionist-like strokes of scent, sound, taste, touch. Can feel the heat as it leaves his body, the bruises blossoming all over his skin, the gunpowder stuck under his nails. “Yeah, you are.” The fatigue weights on him, seeps the energy out of his bones like a quiet stream. The oatmeal cools off. “Why is everything so loud?” Frank sighs, the air leaves him like a prisoner breaking free. Red feels it permeate the air. “I don’t know how you work, Red, really don’t. Just eat and go back to bed. It’ll get better, yeah?” A skip. Barely there. “Lie,” he mumbles. Frank’s heartbeat is a war-drum, a march of soldiers across no-man’s land. He sounded almost worried. Family? No. Red only ever had his dad. Friend? Unlikely. Red's no good at friends. “Are you my boyfriend?” Frank snorts without humor. “Nah, Red. You don’t like me very much. Just eat your food.” He stands up, footsteps fading where the fog dampens the fire. The noise rises in his right ear as he eats, spoonful by spoonful of lukewarm oatmeal. He can’t keep it in his stomach for long.   CONCUSSION   Nothing in the room can go back. The ashes couldn’t be paper again, the paper couldn’t return to its parental linen rags.     3 days earlier;   Frank can’t find a pulse. He curses, fingers slides wetly and slips in blood, presses them deeper into the same spot. The puddle keeps growing, nothing thrums under his digits - there’s no f***ing pulse. And he was too goddamn late. He keeps his hands close to the absence of a heartbeat and hangs his head. Sh*t, this wasn’t supposed to happen. It wasn’t supposed to go down like this. He lets go of the cold, progressively colder neck and curses at the sky, gathering the strength to face Red. He’s still mumbling, lips twitching and moving uselessly, crimson-tinted. His eyes are huge and dazed as if drugged, eyelashes clumped together with dried blood - he’s covered in it. Envelops him like a second skin, a sick kind of clothing. He stands up from the wet puddle under his feet, stains the few parts of gray concrete ruby where he steps and crouches by Red’s shivering figure, tries to find the source of the blood dripping down heavily over the side of his neck and painting his dislocated shoulder the color of his old suit. “Ah f***!” It’s small, can’t be wider than three, maybe four inches and a half, but the broken, elevated bone in Red’s skull gave way to his brain, hidden among tufts of auburn blood-soaked hair. Frank curses and steps back - has to work through his mind on what he knows of head injuries, anything from boot-camp to his experience on the field. Files the do’s apart from the don’t and what he’s equipped to deal with on his own. Goes through the information with single minded focus as he motions to the side and rips the shirt of a twitching, dying man in the warehouse floor. The bone hadn’t pierced the brain and there didn’t seem to be any parts pressed inwards, which counted for some measure of relief. He was extra careful moving him even then, supporting his neck. Red was still mumbling, huge eyes blind and lost to the tar-like emptiness surrounding him from all sides. “Sh*t, Red, work with me. C’mon, kid, work with me.” “Ahn- mhn- nnn-” “No,” Jesus Christ, he’s not doing this. He is not going to do this, not here. “No c’mon, kid, you don’t die here.” Frank holds on to a lifeline, attempting to press the cloth to stop the bleeding without disturbing the bone. Shifts his body to wrap a tourniquet around the bullet wound in his thigh, the knife slash across his stomach bleeds freely and gets the too-thin scrap soaking wet. He takes his own jacket off and presses against it, one hand still holding his nape to keep his head off the ground. It starts off like a twitch before Red’s whole frame seizes. Muscles contract and loosen, Red’s body snaps alive and deteriorates at the same time. Castle uses his whole weight to press his chest down to the blood-stained concrete and keep his neck still so he won’t hurt himself further. “Come on, Red, hang in there.” The gunshot to the thigh, the broken ribs, the dislocated shoulder and the slash to the stomach Frank can deal with. Sh*t is way less concerning than the piece of brain he could see and the seizure. Red is a live, pulsing wire in his arms until it seeps off him like an ill-fitting suit and he goes limp in Castle’s arms. He makes sure to put the shoulder back in place, secures the crimson-tinted wraps around the kid’s right thigh and lower stomach. Shifts him in his arms to brace his neck as best he can without proper equipment and holds the cloth to the bleeding wound. Thick ruby liquid drips on the ground and splatters his combat boots when Frank gets Red up. He checks the unconscious and dead bodies around them - some mangled to some degree, others beginning to wake up and shook his head. This wasn’t his goddamn mess. He gets moving. Calculates next steps. If Frank takes him to the hospital, Red was as good as dead. Whole city would be looking for him, morning came. He sifts through the possibilities in his head before finding the only truly viable solution. This day couldn’t get any worse.     “Does he need surgery?” “I don’t know, I-” Frank’s got no time for this bullsh*t. Much less the kid. He takes one careful, deliberate look around the room before slanting his head towards the bloodied threshold; the dead bodies piled outside. “Your bosses are dead, Doc. You only get out of this alive if I let you, got that?” The wiry man couldn’t be older than fifty, but the severe lines of fear distorted his face, made him look older. Frank studies exit points lazily - he had them memorized by now. “You told me you needed the portable CT. You have it. Does he need surgery?” “Man, look, I dig bullets out of people, close up stab wounds. I’m not a neurosurgeon!” Frank looks around, stuck between the restlessness and measured composure. He rubs the handle of his colt at the scar in his head, presses the cold metal against the skull until it stings. He wasn’t a neurosurgeon, no, but he had good equipment. Everything a mob doctor could need to patch up sh*tbags, including some things Frank was sure was alien tech. The Italian family Frank had been planning on hitting before this whole mess started had a whole hospital fit in a room so they could keep out of sight, out of record. “See, Doc, people say you’re the best. If they’re wrong, I got no use for you.” Frank clasps his hands in front of his body, feels the tackiness of Red’s drying blood in his palm and presses them more viciously together before loosening his muscles by sections. “Do you know how to do this or not?” The man’s lower lip trembled, muscle caught in the limbo between giving in and giving out, dark skin shining bright with sweat in the artificial light. “His dura looks intact. Little extrusion of brain matter... I can,” doc sighs shakily, “I can make a wound debridement, put the bone back in place with some wire and stitch it together. But if his brain starts bleeding or if there’s any internal damage we didn’t see, there’s nothing I can do.” Frank chances a look at the kid, sprawled out in the metal table. Still mumbling - awake, and still fighting to live with every inch of strength he could gather beneath wax-like skin. The house, painted crimson in blood as it was now, stank of death and piss. His eyes meet the doc’s again, there’s no understanding or truce in the gaze, but acknowledgment. They’re doing this. Frank has no f***ing choice. “Get ready, doc.”     0500 hours sees the sun far from fully setting in the horizon but the cold is already creeping into Frank’s bones. He abandoned the van he had stolen from the Italians in a ditch far enough away from the forest so it would keep them from looking, although Frank seriously doubted there was anyone left after the bloodbath he left behind. Wheeling a stretcher through the woods is a challenge on its own but it’s good quality stuff and he makes do, shoving bigger rocks and rotting branches away from their path when necessary, covering his tracks when needed. Red is passed out in between the flimsy see-through sheets, head bandaged neatly with only a few bloody stains seeping through. The trees eventually give way to his cabin and Curt’s car. He checks the plaque twice, makes sure the numbers are ordered correctly, focusing on details that would give away anything other than the expected. The beehive eating away at his brain settles, if only just as he mulls the numbers over in his head. Details get past him, sometimes. Spill like water from his grasp, like Red’s blood from the fracture in his head. Splattering in no distinguishable pattern, thick like overheated jelly over Frank’s boots. Can’t help looking at the gauze holding Red’s head together and feeling the tingle over his own scar. The one Bill left him with. Curt is draping new sheets over the creaking, old bed on the corner when Frank bursts hurriedly through the front door, eyes checking the perimeter, counting the booby traps surrounding them in a backwards order. Tree branch, leaf pile, can grenade, bamboo whip, trip wire, nail spikes. The room had been scrubbed within an inch of its life and Frank can’t exactly put to words any kind of gratification as he undoes the latches holding Red to the stretcher. He had been up and moving since four in the morning, since the phone call and the warehouse and finding Red mumbling gibberish with his head open and covered in blood that wasn’t only his. “Curt,” his voice is thick with gravel and tar-like saliva when it croaks out of him, “gotta take a look at that wound.” “Slow down, Frank, we’ll get to that in sec.” He shakes his head but doesn’t protest further, he won’t interfere with a corpsman’s f***ing work. Never had before and won’t start now. The unease trickles to his jumping fingers and settles in the pit of his stomach like a reassurance - he’s left two battlefields, welcoming a third one. Red, Curt and him and making sure that Red’s brains stayed where they were supposed to. Curt puts a thermometer in the kid’s ear and holds it with one hand while he carefully untangles the end of the gauze with steady fingers. “Hold this for me,” Frank’s already moving, taking hold of the device and leaving Curt to his work. Had never been this close to the kid without gearing up for a punch and the wrongness is another poke at the wasps’ nest in his head. “Did he do it right?” The uneven tan of his forearms next to Red’s waxy parlor makes him look fragile like china. “The surgery, he got it right?” The corpsman exhales a huff - neither a put upon sigh nor a simple breath, something trapped in the mingling lines. “I’d need a head scan to know that.” Wants to say something useless, waiting for the temperature to stop rising and the thermometer to finally shrill out a warning, if only to see if that would get Red to wake up and stop looking like a corpse. Say something like he’s good. Because he’s an idiot and a sanctimonious a**hole but Red’s good, can’t argue with the truth of it. “Does it look right?” He doesn’t trust a mob doc to have done it right as he trusts Curt and he certainly didn’t trust one not to give Red’s identity in exchange for safety from the other gangs, and that’s why his body is cooling off with his bosses’ back in the Costa family mansion. “Doesn’t look infected but it could take a while to set in,” the thermometer beeps. Curt checks it and nods in passing. “Not high enough to be a fever, probably from the shock.” An open palm is presented to him and Frank doesn’t ask him what, just handles Curt the improvised head scan the doc had taken after Frank shoved a gun in the back of his head. His face twists in all kinds of complicated expressions before sighing heavily. “Was he unconscious after the hit?” “Was awake when I found him. Mumbling sh*t, wasn’t making much sense. Passed out right after I got him to the doc’s table.” “How long?” “Two hours maybe.” Isn’t sure, even when he says it. The details get lost in between bracing Red sideways in the table and watching the doc put the fracture piece of bone back in place after dosing him with something, wiring it up together precariously and pulling the torn up skin over it, knitting it together in the shape of a crescent right above Red’s right ear. “The surgeon got the place clean, put that piece of bone back in place and closed it.” Curt nods, frowning for a different reason entirely as he works the flashlight back and forth over non-responding eyes. “His pupils-” “He’s blind.” “Alright,” he took it in stride. Curt’s good at playing civilian but he’s still a soldier. Still trained for the job first, any and everything else later. Frank can't begrudge him for the shake of his head. Frank himself still found hard to believe the sh*t Red pulled without functional eyes. “At least they’re even.” Mumbles offhandedly, barely parting his lips as the slurred words work through the cracks. The blooming bruises starting under Red’s eyes were small but starting to spread. A mock-mask. Frank remembers it vaguely. Seeing the same bruising under his own eyes in the mirror back then, when that bullet shattered inside his skull and lodged in the soft tissue of his brain. Curt stands up from his looming, turning the flashlight off and sighing heavily, his whole frame moving with the weight of it that hangs oppressively in the air between them. “Fracture’s not the problem, Frank. They mostly heal on their own. Docs call it a compound fracture.” Curt snaps the gloves off his hands, throwing them over to Frank when he offers his palms. He sees it coming, sees how the situation downs on him - Curt prepares to fire the big guns and Frank fights the urge to square himself back against it, keeping his pose neutral. “If he has brain damage, though? He could bleed internally, Frank. His brain could start swelling, he could paralyze, stop breathing. If he gets an infection, the chance of saving him, Frank, Jesus.” Curt shakes his head, every motion a forewarn. “Risk is already high in a hospital, let alone in the middle of nowhere.” “What do I gotta do, Curt?” He cuts to the chase and the ex-corpsman is none too happy about it, pressing his lips together in silent disapproval. Frank could almost taste it in the air in the way he could still taste the sterilized surgical tools. A stench that wouldn’t go. “For at least six days, if you’re keeping him here,” he exhales, all the contents in his lungs leaving in a single heave. “You gotta sterilize the room. Clean it at least two times a day. His sheets will need to be changed everyday, his wound cleaned, the bathroom scrubbed every time you use it. You can’t touch him without washing your hands, can’t open the windows or you risk letting in dirt and bacteria.” Frank rubs a palm through his eyes until the skin around it stings and he moves to pressing his knuckles against his eyeballs, feeling the pressure build up, dark and bright spots dancing at the edges before he lets up. “Think I can do it here?” Curt turns to him, eyebrows raised in something that looked like resignation but Frank wouldn’t be all that sure. “You have any other choice?” It’s a fair question, one Frank would’ve answered truthfully, should’ve gotten the chance. He was nothing if not practical - if there was anywhere else he could’ve safely taken Red to, he would’ve. In a f***ing heartbeat. But there’s nowhere and here they are. Movement stops them both short of continuing the questioning: twitching fingers sing a prelude to wakening muscles and a dragged out, weak groan. Red moves subtly under the thin stained sheet, left arm fumbling for a grip before he lets go. Frank watches it, taking an involuntary step forward when it twitches again, fingers attempting to hold the fabric before eyes flutter open. “What’s his name?” Curt’s voice brings him out of the brief uncertainty and Frank’s eyebrows furrow down to meet at the bullseye between them. “Matthew.” Curt nods, pulls himself a rickety fold-up chair and sits closer to the bed. “Alright, Matthew,” he starts, his voice dropping to that soothing tone Frank had heard one too many times. “I’ll need you to stay still, you’re really hurt.” He’s dazed, still. Less so than when Frank found him, but his eyes won’t still quite stop moving around lazily. Every single movement too slow, as if limbs were being weighted down to the mattress. “Mhn,” sounds wrong coming off the kid. Too vulnerable, lacking a fight. Frank clenches his jaw and works his trigger finger against his upper thigh before taking a step to the side. “Eye response is good, that’s a four.” Frank’s gaze flickers from Red’s frame, coming back and forth from Curtis and settling back again. “Hell’s that?” “I need to know his level of consciousness. There’s a scale the docs use to track that. Might need to check it a few times. It usually gets better, but he could also step into a coma.” Frank frowns at the thought of it; locks his stare to Red’s owlish, blinking eyes and lets the severity of the situation wash over him like a wave. “Matthew, can you move your left fingers for me?” The silence drags viscerally in the wake of it and Frank feels each second like a brand searing into his skin. Numbers lining up at the seam of skin over his vertebrae. “Matthew,” Curt tries again, “Can you please move your left fingers for me?” Absence of movement takes a space bigger than Frank would’ve once thought it could. He waits for it - he and Curt hanging onto the edges as they swell, separate the before from the now and all its meanings. The cabin feels larger, all the empty spaces consuming the occupied ones. “Alright.” A sigh, Curt fumbles for his first aid kit and pulls an unopened suture needle from it. The sheets get pulled from Red’s blood-stained feet, stainless steels puncturing through dermis. Red’s leg jerks away from the pain like a snapped rubber-band. Curt’s assessing eyes drag to meet Frank’s gaze in doubt. “Looks voluntary, that’s a five. Not too bad. Matthew,” no response. No head tilting, at least not towards Curt. Red’s a blank sheet with nothing but bruises and stitches holding him together - every inch of him looked wiped clean. “Matthew, can you tell me how you’re feeling?” “Mhn, mhn-” “Sh*t,” the curse leaves him in a huff of breath, his eyes go up in useless search of something he wasn’t quite sure he ever fully believed in. Guy upstairs was either very fond of Red or not at all. “Matthew, can you tell me your name?” “Mmm, mmm.” Nothing more than sounds. The echo of Red’s words over the phone crackle like static around the shell of his ears, the ghost of his speeches and admonishments like a half-forgotten story he heard from someone else. “Verbal response is not good, that’s be a two.” Curtis stands up from the chair, flimsy legs creak and cry with the movement, slanting towards the slightly smaller leg precariously. Gloves get pulled off again, thrown to the side. “He’s got moderate TBI at best, Frank. These kinda injuries either get better or they don’t. He could be talking tomorrow and then falling into a coma the day after and there’s not a damn thing you can do here to stop that from happening.” Frank turns his gaze away, locks onto Red’s dazed form instead. “This guy should be in a hospital, Frank!” “Jesus Christ,” fingers find a thread to pull before ripping it out in a single tug. Frank interlaces them behind his head and he steps around Curt, pacing into the room. There was no doubt before, when he dragged Red away from that warehouse and brought him here. There isn’t going to be any now. He drops his arms. Turns back to his brother. “How do I know?” Curt sees it. Knows him long enough to know when he’s got his mind made up about something. “Bleeding,” he offers, an exhausted drag of his consonants, “from the ears, nose, eyes. Pupils dilated unevenly. Fever, seizures, loss of motor function.” Frank commits it to memory like he once committed the names and addresses from the Cartel, the Irish, the Dogs of Hell. Paralysis, fever, seizure, blood - abort mission, find Red a hospital. “Any of those happen, I go to the hospital,” turns his eyes up to meet Curt’s, “they’ll be able to help ‘im?” Curt’s shrug is every inch as tired as his voice had been moments before. “With any luck, maybe.” He turns to sit back down, fingers tracing the rusty edges of the fold-up chair. “You mentioned a mob surgeon?” “Yeah, was planning on hitting their headquarters a while back,” he scratches at his stubbled chin, eyes fixed on the grime stain on the window pane right by Murdock’s bandaged head. “Guy took a portable scan, ain’t sure if it was any good.” “Jesus, Frank,” words are just that now; words. No turning back from this and Curt knows. Frank’s gotta do his thing but that won’t stop Curt from doing his - from trying to knock some sense into him. He’ll push and Frank won’t buckle and Curt will eventually fold, if only for the time being. “He’s had head surgery, he should be on a ventilator! Of all the impossible things!” A hysterical, put upon breath breaks out of him as he sits down. Frank doesn’t offer him anything - it’s not the first time he’ll disappoint him and most certainly not the last. Frank will do what he gotta do and Curt knows that. Knows him. The taller man shakes his head once more, fingers rubbing at his eyes. “I’ll take a look at his wounds, make sure they’re clean.” The ex-corpsman dropped his hands from his face, right elbow leaning his weight into his thigh. “You sure you can’t take this guy to a hospital? There’s a serious chance he won’t make it, Frank.” Unprompted, his mind makes its way back to the bloody two-floor warehouse. The man in the stairs. “Yeah,” voice leaves in a wisp, barely there, shredded at the end. He clears the thick feeling bloating around his throat, perched under his Adam’s apple. “I’m sure.”     Frank thumbs the edge of the crumpled piece of paper, following Curt’s scrawl with a gunpowder blackened index, dried blood stuck under his short nails. Searches through the sh*t he had raided from the Costas. A bunch of drugs Curt advised him against using, some others that’d come in handy. Paracetamol, broad spectrum antibiotics - some sedatives, should they need them. A whole bag of cleaning products he had scrounged for and some he had bought. Supplies for his dressings, antibiotic creams and Vaseline, so the bandages won’t stick to the sutures. Red’s still deep asleep by the time he gets back, Curt reading one of Frank’s books absent-minded in a corner. They’ve been checking him from hour to hour. Nudging him awake and testing his reflexes. Taking his vitals, his temp, making sure his pupils were even and there was no bleeding. Frank scrubs the whole place down. Makes sure there’s plenty of antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer around, specially when he changes his bandages. The sutures over Red’s ear were reddish and still swollen and the dressings come out slightly damp with serous fluid and some bleeding, but Curt tells him it’s normal and Frank doesn’t overthink it. He’s got a job, he’ll do it. And he damn well trusts Curt to do his. By the time he’s done cleaning, the place doesn’t look the same, something odd creeping through the wooden floors. It’s not even about the stench of cleaning products or the lack of dust settling over furniture, but a presence hanging over the space. Red is a stain making itself known - and even small as he is, kid's got one hell of a presence. Doesn't demand attention but once you see it, it hooks you in and by God it won't let you go. Twenty-one hours later, Red wakes up on his own for the second time. At first, he’s twisting the sheets in pale, ghostly hands and making sounds leaden with fatigue. Frank has no idea how he does it. One second he’s pale and slumped in the clean sheets; the next, he’s jumping to his feet, swaying precariously over his toes, breath straining and erratic - shallow, panicked puffs of air leaving him as if he was being punched repeatedly over his ribs. “Red, calm down,” his voice makes him cry out in shock, which surprises Frank in turn, heart jumping and body gearing up. “Hey, quit it, you gotta lay down.” “No, no, I have to go, lemme go, I have to-” Frank attempts an approach, only for the younger man to jump a step back, knee bobbing underneath him like a spring, caught in the limbo between giving in and holding up.  “Red, it’s Castle-” his attempts to appease only serve to incense him more, and Frank can’t say he’s surprised by that. “Let me, I need to go, I need to, I have to- ” “Red, you can’t move yet!” Trembling, almost convulsing fingers close tightly around the hilt of a fire iron, dazed, panic-blown eyes jumping from one nothing to another. Curt is a new presence at the threshold when Red unsteadily brings the weaponized tool up to his chest, sweat gathering around his waxy features with the effort of pointing it towards them. If not for the dressings and bruises and the overall beaten down appearance, Red would look every inch the dangerous fighter Frank knew him to be. “Where am I?” He asks, a quiet choke of a sound. The bandage around his shot left thigh starts pinkening before the color darkens to ruby red that starts seeping through the gauze. “What’s- I need to go,” his voice wavers again. “I need- let me go.” Blood drips on the floor from the ruptured stitches. “Can’t do that, Red.” “Who are you?” Murdock interrupts again in a burst of sound, shaky as it was, it still echoed around the four old walls. Frank hands it to him, he’s got a lot of fight. Can see the recognition in Curt, too. Red was barely keeping himself together, but still he stood there, holding that fire iron up and displaying every intention to use it if necessary. “It’s Frank, Red.” He tries a step forward. “Frank Castle.” “Get away from me!” The marine does, palms up to the opposite wall, suspended in the air with all the things he had no idea how to answer. All the question he’d need to face once- “Where’s... where’s...” Frank sees it happening in those sightless eyes and looks away. Recognition comes and goes but it always, eventually fades. Only serves to allow the question a repetition. “Where’s...” “Hey, Red, you got your head hurt pretty bad. A lotta sh*t’s gotta be confusing right now, but yer safe here-” “No no no don’t come any closer!” Can barely recognize the Devil’s voice, the way it splinters in fear and disorientation. The shaking only gets harder, his joints seem to stretch against his skin, limbs jumping away from his torso as if needing to run away. “There’s something wrong-” a sob, broken as anything Frank had ever heard. “There’s there’s something wrong, I can’t- I can’t-” words mingle and turn to mush, consonants get eaten and mixed into an auditory scrawl. Slurring the middles and catching at the end on hitched sobs. Was a wonder that Murdock still managed to keep standing, the bandage around his leg darkening further into crimson. “There’s something- please, please take me home.” The distant ringing on his ear turns into a hive, the numbness of the swarm’s fluttering wings. Take me home, he had said years ago. Head bandaged, no wife, no kids. Dead even if he still didn't know it. “Take me home, please-” Murdock’s knees finally give in and Curt steps into the room, the mid afternoon sun painting a dream-like haze over them - over Red’s open sobbing and Curt’s mumbled, comforting words. “Please, take me home.” Frank dodges his gaze to the ceiling and leaves the room.     “He doesn’t know his goddamn name, Curt.” The man sighs dispiritedly in response and Frank wonders if this is where Curt will finally stop indulging him. No such luck. “You don’t know that.” “Did you see that? Huh? Did you see what I just saw?” The incensed tone barely registers over the ex-corpsman’s features, eyes lazily following the movement of the blunt kitchen knife cutting through the apple in his hand. Curt shakes his head, drops the fruit on the table. “It’s been barely a day, Frank. He’s been beaten half to death, shot at, stabbed, brained. You’d know something about it?” “What, you think I did it?” Deep black eyes search over his face, eyebrows slightly curved upwards, betraying the worry Curt couldn’t keep bottled up. When he finally gives in, he does so with a heavy, exhausted exhale; his whole frame moves with it. “I think you wouldn’t torture someone you think is worth saving, it’s what I think.” Curt shakes his head once more, eyes pressed closed. Frank’s seen it a million times before. Patience runs right out of him even while Curt tries to hold it as tightly as he can. “Why is he here, Frank? Who is this guy?” The question should cut or maim or injure something in him, the way it sounds like a shriek cutting through his eardrums. Slicing through them like butter. No such thing happens - he’s a man sitting by a window with all his systems geared up for a fight and nothing left to face but his friend. “Have nowhere to send him.” “That’s bullsh*t, Frank!” He wasn’t denying it. “All I can give you.” He shrugs, rolls his shoulder back when he feels a healing cut pull at the edges. Curt steps back from the conversation at the movement and so does Castle. Takes the time to observe the other, how he prepared for another approach, how he studied his angles the way Frank would always study a building’s layout and exits before stepping inside. “Look, I ain’t asking why a blind man got hurt the way he did,” it sounds like it’s exactly what he means to ask. Frank doesn’t give him anything. “But whoever had him wasn’t a fan. He has broken ribs, his lower abdomen is slashed, his left thigh shot through, his shoulder was clearly dislocated-” “What do you want, Curt? What do you want me to say?” “I want you to tell me you’re not neck deep in something too big again, Frank!” His exasperated tone turns desperate, the thick lump of worry suffers metamorphosis, hatches out of its chrysalis like hopelessness, resignation. “You don’t die on me, not again.” He presses his palm against his head, rubs a the tight shaved hair on top. “Sh*t, Frank, what happens when this guy goes into a coma, huh? What happens then?” “I take him to a hospital.” Frank closes his eyes, lets a long exhale flow out of his system. “Just gotta postpone that sh*tshow as long as I can.” Curt only stared, dismay a permanent fixture in every pulling, twitching muscle of his face. Frank thinks again about disappointment and bringing Red here. The warehouse and the phone call and the man in the stairs. “What have you got yourself into, Frank?” “Got no idea what’s going on, Curt,” not yet. He’s nothing if not tenacious and thickheaded. He has a goal in mind. He’ll achieve it. “No goddamn idea.” The Lieutenant’s eyes find Red’s sleeping figure as if on a whim. The kid was twitching in his sleep, hands moving from time to time. “Is he the one neck deep-?” “It always is,” Frank interrupts, pressing his knuckles to the scar over his head. A mirror of Murdock’s. “It’s always a sh*tstorm around Red.” Curt is silent for a long moment. Long enough that the skin of his palms go numb with the force of his fingernails pressing deep into the meat. “You’re not responsible for him.”

𝕄𝔸𝔻 𝔻𝕆𝔾

09/17/2022 03:01 PM 

Guidelines

⬛ What I seek--Literacy- Proper Punctuation and grammar- Random/ spontaneous Starters that aren't fetishes/s m u t/ e r o t i c (I'm NOT here to be fetishized.)⬛ I do NOT-- interact with minors-Write with Minors- Write with adults that are in child bodies (S h o t a/ l o l i t a)- Tolerate Hate (LGBTQ+ Phobia, Sexism, Ageism, Racism, Bigotry) so if you're here for it, sit on my middle finger.- Tolerate Theft-Take Requests for layouts or edits (one of my My S/O’s does all of my stuff unless I have the time to do it myself. They don’t take requests either. )- Write exclusive ships with people.-Enjoy a good RP Via statuses and Private Messages/DMS. I'm NOT Picky where I write as long as my writing partner is comfortable.⬛ I DO however-- Multi-ship (as long as there is chemistry)-Delete mutes-Block Immature and entitled writers-Expect common sense and civility- Elaborate and answer questions in regards to my rules and often add more rules and aim to be fair.⬛ I have-- A life outside of roleplay as this is a hobby for me- Am Not interested in giving you information about my personal life⬛ I am-- 29 years old-Not on all the time⬛ Disclaimers-- Since everyone seems to be doing this, I am Not The Character I portray, They are NOT real, the account was created for the pure intention of text role-playing online.-These guidelines go across the board for all of my accounts. - If you didn't like me then, you probobly don't like me now, and this account wasn't made for you; it was made because I happen to love the character and want to write them. 

𝐃𝐚𝐫𝐤 𝐒𝐥𝐚𝐲𝐞𝐫.

09/17/2022 02:57 PM 

Guidelines

⬛ What I seek--Literacy- Proper Punctuation and grammar- Random/ spontaneous Starters that aren't fetishes/s m u t/ e r o t i c (I'm NOT here to be fetishized.)⬛ I do NOT-- interact with minors-Write with Minors- Write with adults that are in child bodies (S h o t a/ l o l i t a)- Tolerate Hate (LGBTQ+ Phobia, Sexism, Ageism, Racism, Bigotry) so if you're here for it, sit on my middle finger.- Tolerate Theft-Take Requests for layouts or edits (one of my My S/O’s does all of my stuff unless I have the time to do it myself. They don’t take requests either. )- Write exclusive ships with people.-Enjoy a good RP Via statuses and Private Messages/DMS. I'm NOT Picky where I write as long as my writing partner is comfortable.⬛ I DO however-- Multi-ship (as long as there is chemistry)-Delete mutes-Block Immature and entitled writers-Expect common sense and civility- Elaborate and answer questions in regards to my rules and often add more rules and aim to be fair.⬛ I have-- A life outside of roleplay as this is a hobby for me- Am Not interested in giving you information about my personal life⬛ I am-- 29 years old-Not on all the time⬛ Disclaimers-- Since everyone seems to be doing this, I am Not The Character I portray, They are NOT real, the account was created for the pure intention of text role-playing online.-These guidelines go across the board for all of my accounts. - If you didn't like me then, you probobly don't like me now, and this account wasn't made for you; it was made because I happen to love the character and want to write them. 

𝚉𝙰𝙳𝙳𝚈.

09/17/2022 02:53 PM 

Guidelines

⬛ What I seek--Literacy- Proper Punctuation and grammar- Random/ spontaneous Starters that aren't fetishes/s m u t/ e r o t i c (I'm NOT here to be fetishized.)⬛ I do NOT-- interact with minors-Write with Minors- Write with adults that are in child bodies (S h o t a/ l o l i t a)- Tolerate Hate (LGBTQ+ Phobia, Sexism, Ageism, Racism, Bigotry) so if you're here for it, sit on my middle finger.- Tolerate Theft-Take Requests for layouts or edits (one of my My S/O’s does all of my stuff unless I have the time to do it myself. They don’t take requests either. )- Write exclusive ships with people.-Enjoy a good RP Via statuses and Private Messages/DMS. I'm NOT Picky where I write as long as my writing partner is comfortable.⬛ I DO however-- Multi-ship (as long as there is chemistry)-Delete mutes-Block Immature and entitled writers-Expect common sense and civility- Elaborate and answer questions in regards to my rules and often add more rules and aim to be fair.⬛ I have-- A life outside of roleplay as this is a hobby for me- Am Not interested in giving you information about my personal life⬛ I am-- 29 years old-Not on all the time⬛ Disclaimers-- Since everyone seems to be doing this, I am Not The Character I portray, They are NOT real, the account was created for the pure intention of text role-playing online.-These guidelines go across the board for all of my accounts. - If you didn't like me then, you probobly don't like me now, and this account wasn't made for you; it was made because I happen to love the character and want to write them. 

KNIGHTHOOD.(Taken/Busy IRL)

09/17/2022 02:46 PM 

White Noise

Summary: “Why didn’t you tell me you were hallucinating?” Frank asks in an undertone. Something somber in his voice. Laying low isn’t as fun as it’s cut out to be, Frank thinks, specially when you have a TBI patient whose lawyer brain and sheer stubbornness won’t be hindered by his memory loss, someone dead set on killing said patient and your own internal crisis going on. Notes:  TRIGGER WARNINGS (which are potentially spoiling)!! Be safe y'all. Poems and excerpts taken from (in order of appearance):Symbol for static grief, Gilbert MaxwellSwift shot, Kynafrom Bodies of water, T. GreenwoodMake me human or give me death, May Yangfrom Flux, Afaa Michael Weaver no. 23 "pursuit", no. 24 "flashback" and no. 5 "misunderstanding". Happy reading!     White noise; a constant background noise that drowns out other sounds.   No color and no wonder... Wanting no end at all, yet vaguely seeing Something of peace in breathing and not being.   PAPERCUT   tragedies become memories, living, dying. Sound is dead. Breathing is only a feeling.   Frank finds the edge of the tattered fleece blanket and pulls it over Murdock’s shoulders for the fourth time since dawn before going back to his research, hands flying over clacking plastic keyboard, faded white letters and stains roughly the shape of his digits. Possible Punisher sighting. He reads the article quickly - lacks evidence besides a female eyewitness claiming she recognized his silhouette from the news and the fact that bullets where found on scene. The address isn’t mentioned, neither is Murdock’s name. No news of six dead mercenaries found at the wanted lawyer’s flat. No police report of shooting. Nothing. FBI agent investigated. Albanians killed. Fisk’s transport detail ambushed. FBI agents injured and dead. Nothing pertinent, not now. Besides the guy’s face - strangely familiar. The same that has been going through his head since the attack on Murdock’s house two days before returns in a loop, running useless circles around his brain: Fisk makes a deal with the Feds, gets shanked in supermax. Transferred to the Presidential hotel, ambushed by Albanians, saved by one lone FBI agent. Red calls him, Frank finds him brained in a warehouse covered in blood, dead guys all around them. The moment Red steps back into his flat, Fisk sends mercs on broad daylight to take him out. He either wanted to get back at Murdock for putting him there, or- Or he knew he was Daredevil. Mercenaries on broad daylight, though? It either showed desperation or a man who had nothing to fear from the police or the Federal Bureau itself. Frank digs his digits into the corners of his eyes, thumb and forefinger holding tight to the crooked bridge of his nose. An exhale, and his large, aching palms snapped the laptop shut. Murdock shifts at the sound, a tiny jump of his shoulders indicating the startle. The covers shift with his squirming, fall again to expose a pale shoulder prickled like a Braille page from the chill. He had spent the day before in some kind of dissociative state. Obeyed commands sometimes, but mostly just lied there, eyes open and body completely still. Except when he did talk, but then it was just one word, caught in a loop: “Danger.” “Nobody is in danger, Red. We’re okay.” “Danger.” “You’re okay, nobody’s hurt. Go back to sleep.” Frank stands up - takes the corners of the blanket again with a sigh and tucks them back around Red’s neck. Out of habit more than necessity he checks the sutures for any sign of bleeding, plus or serous liquid. He had cleaned them, checked the scarring over Red’s lower abdomen and thigh now that the sutures were out. Didn’t touch the ones in his head, though. He was due a check in with Curt, anyway. The bandages around his hands were still pink. One of the cuts hadn’t been deep enough for stitching, but it was in a bad place: every little twitch of Red’s knuckles got it bleeding again. Nicks and shallow cuts surrounding it, framing them like a halo. Nothing Murdock hasn’t survived before, which isn’t saying much. Last he heard of the Devil before this sh*t show, he had been trapped under a collapsed skyscraper in Hell’s Kitchen. Had the whole thing fall on top of his head. Figures that wouldn’t have taken him down. Frank is tempted to say nothing can by this point, but circumstances have changed. Only takes one wrong move, Frank, Curt would say, tearing the wrong ligament, severing the wrong muscle, and you’re down. For good. Murdock’s breathing changes like an omen moments before he awakens. Frank’s been getting used to the sound of it - deep, relaxed breaths turning choppy, shallow - and hadn’t noticed. He listens to the change, the shift of ribs allowing lungs to expand full of air, for the tell tale- There. Abrupt inhale, a pause and then a long, carefully measure exhale. Frank sits back against the creaking old chair and watches Red twitch under the sheets, back turned to him. He moves, the blanket falls from his right shoulder again. Frank doesn’t try to straighten it back this time. “Hmm.” He meets Red’s first words with a grunt of his own, brings restless fingers to scrape over smooth wood, catches the splintered edges with his nails, digs them into the hollowed out nicks - carved again and again with fingernails until he couldn’t wash out the dark stains anymore. He stands up once Red turns, pushing the blanket down his torso and staring up at the ceiling. Heads to the kitchen. The whole emotional trauma sh*t and activity from two days before hadn’t done him any good and he was clearly still out of sorts. Eyes lethargic where they oscillate from the ceiling to the wall, sunlight reflecting dully on the damaged retinas. He peruses for a clean glass - one thing he’s come to realize about Red the last twelve days, you can fool his ears if you try but you can’t fool his nose. Or tongue for that matter. Unwashed cups gets him the disgruntled, pissed off face; anything he doesn’t like eating gets Frank the puppy dog f***ing looks. Shoves the glass of water into Red’s hands as soon as he’s up and leaning against the headboard, peeks over his shoulder at the sound of rustling sheets and fleece blankets before getting one for himself. Gets back only to see Red doing his smack-of-lips routine, tongue working over his teeth with that puppy look again, forefinger twitching along the hem of his sweatpants, scratching at the skin under it. His right hand is unsurprisingly uncooperative on the task of getting a proper hold of the cup. When Murdock fails a third time, Frank throws patience out of a window and sits down by the bed, enveloping a cold, shaky hand with his and helping him find a grip around the cup, clenching his fingers forcefully over Red’s. “Thanks,” barely loud enough for his ears to catch. He ducks his gaze in favor of missing that ridiculous look Red puts on his face when he’s thanking him, catches glossy red paper from the gift half-hidden under the pillow. Looks away. Matthew drinks slowly, blinking sluggishly through each gulp. Frank gets tired of the f***ing creaks of the chair and brings one from the kitchen, straddles it at a reasonable distance from the redhead - close enough to jump in should he let go of the glass. There’s been enough broken glasses around Red recently for him to know it’s not safe, should that cup break. With his head messy like it is, Frank isn’t sure if he would jump away from it or clench his palms around the shards until it bled. “Headache?” “No,” a frown. “Why can’t I move my hands right?” Frank squints at his face; every inch as clueless as he had expected. He had been doing it a lot, recently. Having episodes and forgetting about them afterwards. “A window broke. You got hurt.” Murdock’s head snaps up, eyes big when they land between his arms and torso. “You’re lying.” Yeah. Frank ignores it. “Who am I?” Matthew’s eyes go up to the ceiling in what Frank recognizes now as an attempt to roll in disdain. “Do we really have to-” “Yeah, we do,” kid almost gets himself shredded in a broken window and he wants to know- “F***ing hell, Red.” Shoulders go back, his spine straightens, chin goes up. Sh*t, and it’s not even a fighting stance. Frank had seen that in the hospital room, yeah. But mostly, he saw that one in court. Kid’s geared up. “You’re Frank,” a shaky right hand pulls the fleece blanket away from him, exposing his naked upper body. “You have military training but apparently doesn’t answer to anyone. You don’t have a job or a license, but you carry a lot of guns. You killed people yesterday and yours vitals kept steady like you were washing the dishes or doing your laundry. You’ve had me for almost two weeks and you somehow failed to mention that I’m a target for someone powerful enough to send armed mercenaries after me in the middle of the day.” Murdock takes a long breath, lets it out with a defeated sigh. “Who are you, Frank?” Can’t lie, right then. Not with those eager, desperate eyes stripping him bare. “A while back,” voice goes low, Frank clears his throat, “there was a shooting at Central Park. Three gangs.” He can almost smell it, the stench of death when it started creeping up on him. When he woke up and realized- “They killed my family,” a whisper: “all of them.” Matthew turns to him, then. The same attentive, considerate gaze Frank recognized from the graveyard. Willing to carry a few more burdens, a few more pains. Like he didn’t have enough of them. Gets him remembering that this is the man that cried for his daughter, for Frank. Frank who had bounced a bullet off his head not a week before, who had terrorized him into killing, taped a gun on his hand and chained him to a chimney. And now Red was here, with a whole less baggage than he had the day the met - all those years wiped clean out of his head -, and still willing to hear it. Share that burden again. “Got shot in the head,” a flinch, “but I survived, Red. Went after them, took all of them down.” He lets go of the wooden backrest once it protests against the strength of his grip. “You were my lawyer, when I got caught.” A head tilt. “I got you out of prison?” He asks in a small voice, slightly odd. “Nah,” he fixes his eyes back on Red, “that was me.” He frowns, considering the new piece of information. Maybe putting more questions in his head than answering them. He’s a lawyer in the care of a wanted murderer. “You helped me then,” he offers, it’s barely consolation but it’s all he can give. “Even when I didn’t want you to.” He’s waiting for a lot of things. A speech about revenge not being the same as justice. About second chances and life is sacred, Frank. He’s certainly not expecting what he gets: “I’m sorry.” A pause. Frank lets it stretch until it snaps too thin. “What?” “About your family,” a flicker of pain through his eyes, “I’m sorry you lost them.” Nausea hits Frank hard. Maybe it’s something about hearing it coming out of Red’s mouth - the raw truth of something morbid, horrifying coming from someone... sh*t, someone good. The type of good you don’t believe when you see it. Looks unreal. “Yeah,” he looks at him. Really looks at him. “Yeah, Red, me too.” The silence grows but it doesn’t offer much more than an attempt at catharsis; maybe an understanding. Facing a shared loss, loss of loved ones, of memory, of control. Seems like hours later, maybe, when Murdock finally speaks up again. “What do we do, now?” He asks, voice cracks into a whisper. “What do they want with me?” “See if we can wait the dust to settle. Head back to the cabin if we can, get ya out the city.” Although Frank seriously doubted it. This whole thing smelled of Fisk - of power and manipulation and well thought-out plans. Smelled of him past the point of pulling strings - a**hole’s running the whole show. “This place...” “It’s a safe house,” Murdock nods. “Might keep us out of trouble for a while.” Frank sighs, stands up with his trigger finger jumping against his upper thigh. Talking of them got his whole skin creeping, stress building up, muscles tensing. The carousel song going round and round in his head. “How’s the head, Red?” As if on cue, Red reaches to touch the sutures. Frank snatches his wrist, avoids pressing into the bandages. “Hey, don’t touch it.” Doesn’t let go, for some reason, calloused fingers tight around the shivering skin. “It’s... it’s fine.” His voice goes tight, breathing goes odd. He does that thing again, spilling out of himself like a broken cup, head flying miles away from his body. Or at least, he attempts to. He’s back in the room soon, flinching at sounds Frank can’t hear. Hyper-alert, goosebumps rising in cycles all over his arms. Frank sighs, leans back while slowly letting go of Murdock’s wrist. Frowns when Murdock flinches, hand slamming down against the mattress and immediately clenching around the fleece, bunching it and letting it spill from the cracks between his fingers. He worries the fabric between his palm and the bed until his breathing evens, his shoulders stop jumping and muscles coiling at everything. “You know, you’re gonna have to tell me sometime, Red.” Murdock either does everything he can to avoid his eyes landing on Frank or he has no clue where Frank is in the first place when he responds. “Tell you what?” Frank sits back down. Cocks his head back. “Com’on,” he chides in an undertone, “Don’t do that.” Murdock deflates with a shaky sigh. “I know,” he scratches at his neck gingerly. Frank eyes the scrapes on his forearms from jumping that building. “But I didn’t lie, the pain isn’t too bad.” “Right,” he sighs softly. “Hey, Red?” Matt turns to him, eyes lost somewhere on his neck. Chest going up, up and down in stutters. Up, up, down. “Breathe.” A flush rises up to his cheeks and colors his neck pink too, but Red tries. He’s been needing that a lot - someone to remind him to eat, breathe, take a break. “C’mere,” Frank stands up once more, sits down on the edge of the bed. Leaves plenty of space for Red to retreat away if he needs to. Can feel him reading him before he makes a decision, curious little head tilts before deciding and inching slowly towards the marine. Frank is mindful as he traces the sutures, checks for the third time for any signs of infection. The sickly red is down to a less concerning shade of vermilion - the wound didn’t close as quickly as the gunshot to the thigh or the slash on his stomach, but it was scabbing. “Should pay Curt a visit, to be sure.” He grunts, presses his palm against Red’s forehead before making a sound to indicate the movement. Red reacts better to it when he knows something’s coming. “Can’t tell if it’s healing as it’s s’pposed to.” “Who’s Curt?” “A friend, helped me when you were hurt.” Matthew smiles softly and Frank stops where he’s moving, drawn back to the slight push of lips. His whole face lights up with it. “I thought you were the one who put my head back together.” Frank can’t help a snort at the quip. Shakes his head. “Let’s go.” He walks up to the closet first, perusing for something Murdock could use. It was a fierce cold outside and winter was approaching. Grabs a pair of black wool gloves, threadbare and probably smelling like all the years it spent on the bottom of Frank’s bags. Forages for a scarf and a thick sweater to go with the coat he had brought from the kid’s place. “Put that on,” Murdock cocks his head in that ridiculous way of his before taking the offered items. Frank frowns at the pouty, plush mouth when the redhead licks over the chapped lower lip. He finds that he can’t look away. Red suddenly goes still, straightening up subtly. Frank clears his throat and turns away, feeling see-through. “I’ll get you a goddamn chapstick on the way back, yeah? C’mon.” Ding ding , he lost that round. Red stays still for a moment longer in appraisal and Frank feels like an a**hole who just handed over ammunition to the enemy. He strolls towards the door, ignores the nagging chip on his shoulder until he can’t: “And drink some f***ing water, Red.” He opens the apartment door after checking his handgun, shoving an army knife in a holster and extra ammo on the inside pocket of his jacket. Leaves Red’s cane and glasses where he can find, although he doubts he’ll be taking them. Keys. Burner. Money. Curses himself as he reaches for some paracetamol, in the likely event that Red’s headaches make a come back. Murdock shouldn’t be moving half as much as he is but this sh*thole has not elevator, which makes getting him a wheelchair to avoid stairs useless. Waiting for Red to get on with it, Frank leans against the door frame, eyes casually sweeping his surroundings. There was the possibility that Army lady and Knee jerk were alive, if they were, they either recognized Frank or they didn’t. If they did, there’s a small chance Fisk has people trying to find where he is. He had nothing but contempt for the son of bitch, but there was something about the immediacy with which Fisk established his control. Managed to get himself out of supermax, put the FBI after Matt Murdock and sent someone to kill him the very second Red stepped inside his apartment. Trigger finger taps, taps, taps against his thigh. He knows the layout of the Presidential Hotel by now. Frank could drive Red to Curt’s and go there, end this. But that meant leaving his one-legged friend and the concussed, amnesiac idiot on their own to fend against more mercs. And then the guy from the warehouse shows up and what in the world are they supposed to do with that? Murdock steps closer as he hides a reddening nose under a dark, coffee-colored scarf. The threadbare fabric probably had some stains from when Frank had to use it as a tourniquet, but it was functional. Walking down the stairs, Red misses some steps, fingers digging on Frank’s biceps the first two or three times his knees decide to buckle out of nowhere. From there on, the marine manages a subtle grip on his upper arm, steering him close so he can guide him properly and keep him from keeling over if he can. If Murdock is confused about the different car and the blood under the back tires, he doesn’t mention it. By the time Frank drives away from his building, Red’s already asleep, face nestled in Frank’s scarf.     Frank notices them when it’s almost too late. He keeps his eyes open and alert all the way to Curt’s place. It’s half an hour from East Harlem to Midtown, give or take, and low blues rock filled the car from the radio station he had settled in when Red kept flinching from every horn in his sleep. Taking the FDR Drive had been a bad idea. They’re just driving past East 59 th street when Red suddenly jumps in his seat, sluggishly fumbling for Frank’s arm, blinking in sporadic, forceful motions. “Something isn’t right.” Someone blares a horn, a loud screech of tires and two black cars flank them from both sides. A woman in a red Bentley just behind them screams when the left car forces her to move out of the way, Frank immediately spins the steering wheel right, stabs his feet down against the accelerator. There’s too much traffic. A car tries dodging out of the way and loses control. Left car can’t avoid crashing against the lower part of the vehicle. A silver Honda crashes against a truck on his right, a man screams, Red’s fingers dig into his forearm and pulls him away from the window when the first gunshot flies over their heads. The silence precedes the telltale drop of a canister outside the van. Frank can’t recognize its shape, can’t see where it landed. Unbuckles his seat belt in under a second before throwing himself on top of Red, covering his whole frame with his at the same time he pulled his head closer to his chest, making a shell out of his hands to protect his break. Instead of exploding, smoke bursts up into the air and keeps spreading high. His visibility will take less than a minute to be shot to hell. Another canister, he uses the little time he’s got to shove Red in the floor between the passenger’s seat and the dashboard, under the glove box. “You stay there, Red, don’t you goddamn move-” Another canister, this one hits the window before it falls to the asphalt. A symphony of horns not far behind them work in tandem with screams, people running, another car crashing. Frank pulls his AK from under the back seat with a painful tug, two mags. “Frank, there’s too many-” “You don’t move from there, Red, you hear me?” “Frank, you have to listen to me!” The gunfire starts. He manages to open the backseat door and jump to the ground, crouching low and squinting through the smoke. The worst of it gathers in front of the car, wind blowing west and taking the fog with it. Frank looks back to Red, curled up impossibly small under the glove compartment, breathing hard with each gunshot and shattered car window. Sh*t, he can’t- he can’t leave the car. Can’t force them back and take them one by one as he’d usually do. Can’t leave Red unguarded and helpless in the f***ing van and- Frank takes his eyes away for just a second. Crouched low and waiting for a reprieve on the bullets to return fire. Just a second and it’s long enough for Red to shout out and Frank’s finger to twitch violently against the trigger. When he turns his gaze back, Red has his face splattered with blood, an assault rifle in his hand and a guy shouting, holding a broken nose, bleeding profusely all over his fingers. Red’s relentless, Frank had forgotten. He doesn’t give the blonde bearded guy a second to as much as step away before he’s driving a powerful kick between two ribs once, twice, three times until Frank’s sure he heard one of them break. Still manages to shove the butt of the gun to Blond Beard’s mouth and finish him off with a kick to the throat. “Jesus Christ, Red,” he turns away and stands up. The smoke finally dispersing enough for him to spot heads and weapons. At least five from the left, another three from the right. He points and he shoots two down before they notice where the bullets come from. A man screams, getting out of his car with a kid pressed tight to his chest, scrambling away from the black-clad, armed mercs approaching Frank’s van. He drops into a roll, throws a look over his shoulder. “Keep your head down, Red!” Gunfire starts again. Frank curses under his breath. There’s heat coming from both sides, Red is already spent from a few kicks and looks ready to pass out. Got not time to kill them if he wants to keep Red from getting shot again, for good this time. “Frank, there’s more-” He sees it before Red’s finished speaking. A third car approaches from the other side of the road. No identification plaques, black. “F***’s sake,” voice gets lost in the roaring gunfire, Red screams out some kind of warning seconds before another smoke grenade is thrown at his feet. He takes it and flings it as far as he can before jumping up and returning fire. Another goes down, he narrowly misses a bullet coming from the right. But the mission is change, his focus another: maintains shooting until he’s safely back inside the van. Thinks he sees another come down before slams the door shut and keeps firing. “Put your seat belt on-” “Frank-” “Put your goddamn seat belt on now!” Red jumps back to the passenger seat and buckles himself in with shaky hands. He drops the AK with the empty clip down and takes his handgun with his left, the right hand grips at the steering wheel just as he presses down the accelerator. At the sound of the gunshot, Red goes from erratic to completely still, freezing against his seat. That same panic again. “Just hang on, Red,” he maneuvers between two crashed cars forgotten in the middle of the road and drops the handgun as soon as he gains just enough speed to get the others running towards them. “Just hang in there.” He stops. Matt’s breathing is still too quick. Frank uses the time it takes for four remaining bad guys and the other two joining the party to circle the car. The moment three of them step in front, he shoves his feet hard against the pedal. One barely manages escaping. The van jumps when it runs over his legs, and everything else from the other two. The shock of it seems enough to startle Red out of his panic. Ragged breaths turning shallow and angered turn towards him as he manages a hasty escape, lowering down his head from time to time when stray bullets manage to hit the back glass. “What the hell , Frank?!” Doesn’t offer anything in return but a look that Red, somehow, manages to hold. Frank hasn’t apologized for who he is in a long time, he won’t start now. WATER   This is what I know: memory is the same as water. It permeates and saturates. Quenches and satiates. It can hold you up or pull you under; render you weightless or drown you. It is tangible, but elusive.   Murdock is barely coherent by the time they find a place to ditch the car. Frank has to drag him and sit him in the cold grass by the roadside and get him to breathe properly. Waits at least twenty minutes until he’s sure the younger man can manage to move. It’s not news - Red seemed to have some delayed responses sometimes. Pushed through the trauma to get through the fight and crashed right after. He can’t be picky and there’s no other illegal stolen cars around that he knows of to rob from bad guys so Frank goes with the least worse option: take from one of the local gangs he knows off. It’s risky, some of those guys have friends in high places, but he’s got Red to think of and dangling him around security cameras is a bad idea, so no walking. “You stay there, stay hidden.” Frank orders, eyes all the while jumping from Matt’s face to his surroundings, to every car that passed. “I won’t take long, I’ll stay close, yeah?” Red nods with a heavy shrug, whole body drained. Frank nods, attention orbiting the redhead’s face again. The blood splatters dusting his right cheek, his eye, his neck and jaw. His lips. The muscles around his wrist and forearm tense and ripple with a spasm, fighting the urge to reach out and clean the dark-red dots. “Stay safe. You notice something, you run.” Matt nods through a sigh, whole body deflating as he finds somewhere to sit and wait, out of sight. Frank’s footsteps take a while to move out of his hearing range. The attack in the middle of FDR Drive, in plain daylight, opens his eyes to the severity of the situation. Someone is desperate to either kill him or take him and Frank knows who it is, Matt wasn’t fooled by his routine for a second. He has a feeling Frank knows that too. The shameless, unapologetic way the man presents himself as nothing else than Frank is somewhat fascinating, even if Matt isn’t sure he has the time to dally over it. The marine had been nothing if not a solid beacon of composure and steadfast single-mindedness through the whole time he’s had him in his care. If Matt shivers, Frank brings him a scarf. If he has headaches, Frank gives him his meds. The car isn’t safe, he finds another one that is. Mercenaries came after Matt to kill him, Frank killed them instead. No second thoughts, no regrets. He thinks of it while feeling oddly out of his own body, resting his head against... something. Isn’t sure what. Something solid, cold, echoing the vibrations coming from the ground. Reality downs on him at the same time it feels far away, held distant from his own body. Maybe it’s the physical exertion or the rapidly building migraine. Maybe it’s because he’s been in his second gunfire in under three days and feels oddly unafraid of the fact. Maybe it’s because he’s already witnessed Frank Castle kill ten or more people and he still feels safest with him. He wonders if it’s because Frank’s the only person he remembers and knows clearly, untouched by the fog circling thick around his mind. Or because, even terrified at the prospect of a man that kills so easily, so efficiently, Matt can still identify a slight thrill of the simplicity of it. The finality. It horrifies him and settles him, too. Knowing that those people can’t come after them, can’t hurt anyone else ever again. “Always had the dark inside,” he whispers, isn’t sure why but can’t feel his lips moving, only his voice. “Murdock boys.” What was it Grandma used to say? He remembers sitting by her feet in the living room, drinking something pleasantly warm. His reflexes aren’t exactly a surprise. He remembers Stick training. Remembers getting ready for the war - a voice like that of a drill Sargent: it’s time to stop taking a beating and start giving one. Stick knew. He smelled it in him, the day after. The tears in his face. The other man’s scent. He reeked of it, couldn’t get it out of himself. Milk? Something. She’d tell her neighbor sometimes, a punishing strong hand clamped around Matt’s shoulder. He wasn’t sure what happened, but she said Matt did something wrong. That something was wrong with him, inside him, just like his Dad. There’s something wrong with me, he remembers thinking, gritting his teeth because his wrists hurt and his back did too. God is punishing me for being bad, like Grandma said. Sitting on the breakfast table, the nice nun who smelled of black tea and antiseptic asked what was wrong. Why did Matt cry all night long, and he couldn’t answer because- because- Because he doesn’t think about it. Because he couldn’t say it, she’d see it like Grandma saw it. The bad thing inside him. The dark. But Stick knew it the moment he went down to the basement. He smelled it in him and for the first time, Matt heard his heartbeat skip in surprise. And then anger, and something he wasn’t sure of that he later learned to identify as sadness. Sh*t, kid. And then he had nodded, hadn’t he? He nodded and for the first time, didn’t tell Matt off for crying. I’m gonna teach you to defend yourself first, he said, fancy kicks later. If you can’t use your arms, use your legs. If you can’t use your legs, bite that f***er’s throat out and make him bleed. And Matt did, not a month later.     The headache hits him hard when the hazy, floaty feeling dissolves, sitting on the passenger seat of a car. And with it, the sense of danger, of not being safe. Of having eyes all around him. Doesn’t remember Frank coming back, now that he thinks of it. But Frank’s heartbeat pulsates in steady, strong thumps by his left side, one hand in the steering wheel, head leaning back against the back rest. They’re moving - car, Frank came back with the new car -, the noises of the city considerably less grating with the closed windows. He thinks about asking Frank if he had slept, but it wouldn’t do to give it away that he had no idea what happened in the time span between sitting in the cold grass thinking about his childhood and being in the car. Last time he could properly recall being conscious it was still afternoon, maybe close to sunset, but now the car roof was cold and so was the asphalt. The air lacked the heat sun brought with it. Frank opens a crack of his window with a sigh and the rush of smells makes Matt suddenly dizzy. Mexican food (a block away), car exhaust (everywhere), sweat, garbage (garbage truck few yards behind them), dogs (several, park), Hudson (to the right), cheese (pizza? No, Italian place), alcohol (a bar, cheap beer). Hudson. The same scent he smelled on the clothes in his kitchen floor, the day before. Or what Frank said was his kitchen floor. Everything smelled of him although dust had settled in the place. It didn’t feel lived in. But the clothes, the river had washed away a lot of the smells and covered others, but there were some Matt could pinpoint clearly: blood, a considerable amount of it, gunpowder, smoke and leather. Car seat leather. His chest hurts. Matt hears his own pulse stutters before it quickens, the throbbing pain climbing up his neck and reaching the fracture tearing at the right side of his head. Panic builds in his throat and he doesn’t know why. The smell of the Hudson clogs his nostrils, mixes with the scent of military-grade smoke bombs that he remembers from earlier. The handgun and the sound it made when it went off. Somehow so much worse than the assault rifles and shotguns. Terrifying in a way being attacked hadn’t been. He clenches his fingers around his knees. He can’t do this again, he’s been panicking over nothing all the time now and he needs to tell Frank to shut the goddamn window but the words can’t seem to come and his voice is lost somewhere, buried deep- Drowning. Matt remembers drowning. In the river? He couldn’t breathe. The car went deeper and deeper, water broke the front windows and cracked the windshield and he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t find a way out- His breath leaves in a ragged cough before he remembers how to breathe, inhaling brokenly and having his whole frame shudder with the strain of it. Fingernails dig deeper in his legs, enough to sting. The pain isn’t enough to snap him out of it. Isn’t enough, he needs- ”...Red, Red,” doesn’t sound like the first time he said his name, “Red, goddamn it, open your hand.” He flinches away from the knuckles resting against his forearm before registering the heartbeat against the skin - Frank. He tries to tell him, tell him he can’t breathe, that there’s no air, that his chest feels too tight and he’s scared, and doesn’t know why, that he was drowning and he needed help- “Open your hand, Red, com’on. You’re okay.” He does as told, fingernails unlocking painfully from the skin above his knees and the fabric of his pants. Two small pills get dropped on his shaky left palm. “Just swallow ‘em, it’ll make you better.” Frank seems to take his hesitation as stubbornness which works just as fine for Matt if it covers for the fact that he can’t remember how to move without panicking more. “What is the other one?” His voice is embarrassingly small and choked up - no air left in the room for the words to come out completely formed. Chest goes up and down too fast. But he doesn’t recognize the chemical smell coming from the second, oval-shaped pill, compared with the capsule-like shape of the paracetamol. Frank nods softly in acknowledgment. Of what, Matt’s not sure. “It’s Xanax, just take it, Red.” He drops the pills in his mouth with trembling hands and struggles with pushing them down his throat enough that Frank feels the need to check him before hissing out an alarmed sh*t. Matt startles, body straightening up in his seat, muscles tensing around his arms and shoulders as he hones his senses outside, one arm coming to grab Frank and pull him back, away from the windows. He isn’t sure why but they stopped and all the other cars around them did too. Spot the threats, tame the pain into submission. Has to protect Frank, cover the car, find the threats, make sure no one is hurt. He’s gotta make sure no one gets hurt- “Hey, hey, it’s fine,” spot the threats. Three teenagers laugh in the car behind, a dog barks, someone blares a horn, a motorcycle drives past them, a glass breaks, sirens far away. “Red, it’s fine, there’s nothing there-” Matt presses Frank back when he tries to move, away from the windows. Away from the shooters and the bullets. Has to find somewhere safe to hide him, has to spot the threats before they- Hands close around his wrist. Matt flinches away with a cry before recognizing the heartbeat pressed against his own pulse. Frank. “Red,” heartbeat too fast, thundering over his ears, how can he spot the bad guys if he can’t hear them over his own heart? “Red, calm down. There’s nothing out there.” Nothing? No, that’s not right, Frank was surprised by something, he saw something that alarmed him. Has to find the air so he can fight and protect him, keep them away from the car, buy Frank time to escape and- “Red. We’re both safe, listen to me, do that ninja thing you do. I’m not lying, am I?” Matt tilts his head towards him, every breath burning in his chest. No. He’s not lying. They’re safe? “C’mere,” Frank’s hands direct him to turn his body towards his left. His voice is surprisingly soft. He thinks it’s the first time he heard it like that. “Your nose, s’bleeding again.” Oh. But why was Frank scared? He sounded alarmed, worried maybe. Frank takes something out of the glove box in a movement that, in his drowsiness, Matt can’t track before the marine’s leaning closer to him. Letting Matt get a whiff of his scent before blood drips over Frank’s shoulder. His blood. He wants to apologize. He should apologize. But breathing is still difficult and Matt can’t figure out the words. “Why-” words. Words, he needs to find the words. Frank presses a cloth against his nose, a palm cradling the back of his skull and helping him tilt back. “Why were you scared?” “I wasn’t scared,” a pause. Frank presses slightly harder before letting go and checking his nostrils, using the cloth to wipe the blood staining his lips and chin. “Just, shouldn’t be bleedin’ like that. It’s the third time already.” Oh. Worried. About him? The bleeding seems to have stopped, but Frank doesn’t let go immediately, no. Cloth-covered fingers rub at the bridge between his lips and nose, as if wiping a particularly nasty stain. “Did it... stop?” He asks partially because he wants to know if he should worry and partially because he isn’t sure what to think of Frank’s intense focus zeroed solely on him for such a length of time. Skin prickled with the idea that it felt like Frank had found something he really liked and it was either the sight of Matthew bleeding or his lips. Or both. Matt isn’t sure which one he prefers. Not for the first time, he speculates on which kind of relationship Frank and him had before... whatever happened to him, happened to him. A friend? A colleague? A father figure, a lover? Maybe Frank just felt the need to take care of people or maybe he got stuck in this situation without wanting to. Maybe Frank, under all the crassness and walls he built to keep people away, felt the incessant need for connection too. Maybe Matt was projecting. He could live with those three possibilities. Anything else was too much right now. Puts the control of their relationship on Frank’s hands and not on Matt’s lacking memory. Frank clears his throat before letting go of the cloth, dropping it carelessly over the gear lever. His heart does something odd when he turns to look at him again and finds Matt staring right at his eyes, where Matt can hear his eyelids move. Not the usual telling sign of pity or discomfort drawn from his dead irises, but a falter. Like surprise. “We’re clear,” he says and Matt comes to realize they’re moving again, just pass a heavy buzzing he came to recognize as streetlights. “I’m taking you to Curt now.” “Who’s Curt?” Frank’s heartbeat does another surprised little jump. His voice sounds oddly monotonous when he answers. “A friend that helped me when you were hurt.” Matt smiles softly, slightly confused at Frank’s forlorn tone. “I thought you were the one who put my head back together.” Frank’s heart stutters again but not in amusement at the quip. Something farther away from anger and closer to dread that Matt couldn’t quite figure out.       He hated swimming. Specially after he went blind and his senses started developing. He couldn’t say his childhood had been sheltered in any way - Matt had learned to take care of himself from a young age and he remembered that particularly well, even a few gaps and chunks were missing. His clearest memories were from his nine to twelve years old, although the chronology had a tendency of getting lost on him. Matt didn’t have many friends when he was younger. His Dad worked a lot most of the day and Matt spent a lot of his time alone at home, forbidden from going out. That is, after Grandma died and he couldn’t stay with her. He did remember Lindsey Shelton from school. One Matt met only months before the accident - her appearance comes to him so clearly, then. Long, thin braids that went all the way to her waist, thin eyebrows, dark skin like chocolate, yellow hair clips over her year. Remembers how a lot of older kids picked on her because she was so much smaller than the other kids their age. Her and Matt, also scrawny for his age, quickly became acquainted. Remembers almost drowning in the public pool, the one day Dad managed to take them both, and drowning in the Hudson with so much clarity that, when they’re closer to Curt’s place and rain starts pouring down, his heartbeat doubles. He doesn’t panic, not this time. Maybe because he’s too drained or maybe because of the Xanax. It makes him loopy, weird. He’s in the car sitting by a man he barely knows but feels he can trust with his life, but he’s also hearing Dad’s alarmed shouts and Lindsey’s scared, distant shrieks. A car honks past them, Dad pulls him out of the pool. Frank says something, Lindsey’s tears fall all over his face when she cries over his chest. He doesn’t tell Frank what’s happening, is not sure of it himself. A flashback? No, he knew where he was. He was in the car with Frank. They just parked outside of Curt’s building. It’s raining. And Matt’s friend is scared, because she thinks it’s her fault he can’t swim. Stepping out of the car makes the ghost touch of her small, childish fingers disappear. Raindrops make the world around him come around in a myriad of bright, tonal reds and flashing embers and Matt has to breathe deeply several times before closing the door. Frank looks different than what he had imagined. Matthew can’t exactly see in the rain, he has zero light perception, his sight extends like an endless void in front of him. It’s just that the radar sense works perfectly with the tiny sound waves each drop create. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming, depending on the rainfall. But if he focuses, just like this, he can hear the symphony of drops falling over Frank’s face and body and outlining every curve and edge instead of his impressionist-like blurry picture from before. He can see. Matt sees his deep set eyes, the strong eyebrows curved over them and the beautifully well-defined jawline. He follows the raindrops to a Botticelli-worthy upper lip, sculpted into a curve just bellow a crooked nose, the bridge healed unevenly from too many breaks. His hair was kept buzzed at the sides and slightly longer on top. His ears were... endearing, to say the least. Matt can’t help a small, tired chuckle. Frank’s heartbeat falters and he turns to stare, his puzzled expression makes Matt turn up to the sky with a free laugh. He didn’t know his senses could do that. He can see. “You have ridiculous ears,” Frank’s pulse indicates surprise, once more, and something like disbelief. “And you broke your nose at least eight times.” Frank doesn’t snort but there’s something like amusement in his tone when he speaks: “How in the hell would ya know that, Red?” Matt only offers him a small smile in return, the exhaustion sank deep in his bones but standing in the rain there, listening to how Frank looks like, it feels like he can keep going, if only for a bit. “I just do.” He thinks Frank scoffs bullsh*t under his breath, but the raindrops like thunderclap hit the shell of his ear and Matt flinches. The sudden interference with his hearing throws him off balance, which is maybe why Frank is suddenly there. Just distant enough not to crowd him, but at a distance that allows him to catch Matt, should he take a tumble. Curt lives in an apartment and he doesn’t appreciate the stairs. He’s had more than enough panic attacks and commotion for the day. Frank doesn’t reach out to steady him until it becomes clear he can’t keep going on his own and, even then, he doesn’t ask if he needs a break. So Matt keeps walking when his head starts throbbing, he keeps walking when his shot leg protests fiercely against the steps, keeps walking when the pain builds up so high that he feels like throwing up and almost faints. And when he gets his feet under him he walks some goddamn more. Castle is a steady, solid presence through it all, if not for the grumbled curses of almost there and goddamn it, breathe, and keep going, soldier and Matt wants to tell him that he’s wrong, because he wasn’t a part of Stick’s war, because Stick left him, because Matt wasn’t good enough. Or was it Dad that left? No. No, Dad died. He found him dead in the alley with a gunshot to the head and a stab wound to the stomach. No - no stab wound. Who died with a stab wound? Who- “Get in,” an extra heartbeat among the myriad of others in the apartment complex gets Matt jumping. “Sh*t, Frank, he looks like a ghost, he was supposed to be resting, not walking around like-” “Yeah, yeah, place to sit him down?” “For the love of- His head was open a week ago!” “Curt.” “I found you a wheelchair. Why-” Frank’s trigger finger jumps against his thigh. “You try and make him stay still, Curt.” The man, Curtis, sighs before guiding the both of them towards a kitchen table and Frank finally gets Matt to sit down. The reprieve should feel like heaven on the overworked muscle of his left thigh, still recuperating from the gunshot wound, but his body is too out of it to register. He isn’t sure how much time passes from the moment the second heartbeat (not Frank, slower, two inches taller, broader, antiseptic and good coffee, metallic sounding leg) leaves the room to when he comes back. He digs his fingers into his healing thigh, the pain makes him sharper. Needs to stay alert, needs to- Flinches away from foreign fingers attempting to touch his hair, his hand forms a fist, his leg muscles tighten. The fingers go away, familiar ones close around his wrist. “Hey, take it easy,” bad coffee, gunpowder, smoke, Frank. “Easy,” danger. Needs to- “There’s no danger. It’s my buddy, Curt. He’s a medic. Take it easy, Red.” “I just wanted to take a look at your head wound, if that’s okay? If you don’t want me to touch you, I won’t.” Matt waits for the tell-tale skip of his heartbeat, the proof of a lie, nothing comes. His body is still hesitant to trust, muscles tense and about to snap even when he slowly nods. The fingers come back. Matt feels the foreign pulse through the skin as it prods around his scalp, feather-like touches tracing the scabbing wound. “Alright, Matthew, how’s the pain?” “I can take it.” A skip of two heartbeats, Matt tilts his head, smells the air. No anger, although Frank’s heart speeds up slightly before he forces it back down. Curt’s stays slightly faster. “Right, but is it bad?” What does it matter if it’s bad if he can take it? “Sometimes.” “Alright,” the man slowly tilts his head against the light, “it looks clean. Healing slow but well. Did you have any fever?” He realizes he doesn’t know the answer to that question just before Frank catches on to the same. “He didn’t.” “Ringing in your ears? Deaf episodes? Alterations in taste or smell?” “Ringing,” he mumbles, “sometimes.” Hands move to check his pupils, the man takes a flashlight, switches it on. “How’s the nausea?” “Hm.” “Throws up from time to time,” Frank answers for him. “Think it’s that Post-Concussion syndrome you talked about?” Curtis makes a vague sound in consideration. “Could be,” the flashlights are switched off, the man leans back against his own chair. “How’s your appetite?” Frank grunts from his place, arms crossed over his chest like a guard. “Eats like a goddamn bird.” Matt ignores him. He eats what he can keep. He’s not supposed to waste food, the nuns said... or was it Dad? No, he’s quite sure he heard something in the orphanage, too. And Stick said differently. Food is fuel, you’re not supposed to enjoy it. “How is your sleep?” “Uh, it’s okay.” Curt must see something in his face because he turns to Frank for confirmation and Matt does a poor attempt of hiding his scowl. He’s not a child, goddamn it. “Sleeps most of the day sometimes, but it’s fitful. Still having those episodes I told ya about.” He snaps his head towards Frank, frowning. He didn’t have any episodes, did he? He’s about to refute that statement out loud before remembering the day he woke up with glass shards all over his hands and a broken window. “Have you had any bleeding? From the wound, ears, nose?” “I don’t think-” “His nose did for a bit,” Frank mentions, and it’s the first time Matt catches something akin to reluctance in his voice, “after some running.” “Jesus Christ, Frank.” The man in question only shrugs in response. Curtis seems to shake his head before turning to Matt again. “It could be post-op hypertension. Blood pressure goes up, capillaries can burst inside your nostrils, causing the bleeding. Which is why you need to rest, as much as you can. Stress when you’re recovering from head injuries can be really harmful.” Another sigh, exuding barely contained disapproval. “Any numbness in your extremities? Motor impairments?” Silence stretches thin before Matt raises his eyebrows pettily. “Oh, I can answer for myself, now?” Curt snorts as Frank huffs through his nose. “No numbness, my right hand is getting better.” “That’s good to know, squeeze my fingers please.” Matt does as told, squeezing as hard as he can with one hand and then moving on to the other. “It’s improved, but the muscle is still weak. Are you doing the exercises Frank’s taught you?” “Yes.” “Good, you’ll probably regain full function, but I can’t be sure, it’s not my specialty.” He lets go and Matt’s go back to his lap. “Any periods of confusion, lost time or hallucinations?” He freezes. Immediately tries to conceal it with a careful shake of his head, pressing his lips thin. Frank’s gaze burns at his skin. “No,” Matt answers in an undertone, voice coming off too weak and little convincing. “None.” He doesn’t need eyes to notice Frank and Curtis exchanging a cryptic glance.   CHILDHOOD   This matters because I’ve lived on that side of life that you all have made for me partitioned the orphaned one   The itch under his skin spreads until it takes over; an unrelenting pressure at the back of his head. Fingers open and close around the steering wheel, he gazes at the new bottle of painkillers held tight in Red’s hand before his eyes stray towards the reflection of his sutured skull on the foggy window. Frank’s geared up. Every muscle is ready to act and he has to fight every single impulse that tells him to do something. He has nowhere to go, nothing to fight, so he clenches his fingers harder over the wheel and stays put. Heart pounding like a freight train that has got to be pissing Red’s sensitive ears off but he keeps quiet, and so does Frank. Glancing from time to time at raindrops reflecting in sightless eyes that can’t appreciate the beauty of it. Goddamn it. He abruptly changes course, turning left when he was supposed to go straight, finding a spot by Ruppert Park, empty. It’s a few minutes past midnight already and the roar of traffic in the 2 nd and 3 rd avenue are far away enough that Frank can just barely make it over the rumble of the engine. He takes another look at Red, then, whose head is slanted slightly towards him in silent acknowledgment of the detour. Frank sighs heavily, lets all the air leave his lungs before turning off the car and leaning against the back rest. “You gonna talk?” He drawls, left hand joining the right over his thighs as it drops off the wheel, trigger finger twitching restlessly. Nothing to fix, nothing to do. “Talk about wh-” “Cut the sh*t, Red.” Murdock’s jaw works. Frank considers him with creased eyebrows before angling his body towards him, his face set in the beginnings of a scowl to the point he carefully schools it into nonchalance. “I don’t know what you mean, but I do know that we can’t stay here. So if you will-” Frank’s scoff interrupts him before it turns into a derisive laugh, only serving to get Murdock worked up. Good. Let him burn along with Frank. “Better keep that bullsh*t o’yours before you run out of it, Red.” Matthew turns away from him and the sutures reflect in impressionist-like strokes of dull color on the window, the picture forming poorly on the droplets merging together to form bigger ones and collecting at the frame. The lamppost light catches on shaking hands. “Why didn’t you tell me you were hallucinating?” Frank asks in an undertone. Something somber in his voice. Murdock scoffs but there’s no humor in it, no real reaction besides a bitter, forced indifference. Or resignation, who knows. Red presses his knuckles against his teeth as if about to tear it off in frustration, turning to stare out of the window in a world he can’t see. Maybe it’s the realization of how vulnerable he must feel and how much he must hate it that Frank lets the accusation fall from his voice. “Hey,” when softer doesn’t work, he turns sterner, “hey.” It feels like calling Junior out on lying. Like telling Lisa she can’t get into fights, even if he was proud of her for protecting her friend from bullies. He shakes his head out of the thought when his guts twist and turn over themselves. Reaching out to tap Red’s upper arm, Frank reminds himself to do it slowly - first touch soft, showing he’s not a threat. The words in the crumpled paper inside his pocket burned in the back of his eyelids: Gunshot, touch, name. Nudges with a little more pressure behind it when Red doesn’t flinch, calling his attention back to the car - the present -, away from the rain or whatever was happening in his f***ed up head. “Red,” now gentler, coaxing him out of his shell like he used to do with his kids, when they cried. Back when he had people to hold on to, people he hadn't held strong enough. It doesn’t surprise him that it works and Red deflates, angling his head towards Frank, eyes staring vacantly while his lips twitched from time to time, fingertips playing with the hem of his sweater. Frank notices the little blood drops caught in the wool. His left knuckles are reddened by the jab he threw at Beard guy earlier, his right ones are soft. Long healed over from the warehouse fight. Frank suddenly wants to press his lips against it, against proof that Red maybe has a lot in common with Frank, but he’ll always be different. Better. Innocent. Wants to taste that innocence in his lips - the light Red had inside, that spark of wild fire he couldn’t erase. “Talk to me, Red.” “I don’t know,” he says, and it’s clear it kills him. Either the admitting or the pain of not knowing, swallowing him up. “Sometimes it’s like a dream. The world feels weird, there’s noises coming from nowhere and smells or tastes that I know aren’t there. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning.” Frank waits him out when he suddenly stops, allows his own knuckles, scarred and layered with bruises, to graze over the skin of Red’s forearm briefly. He was still losing a bit of weight, the marine noted vaguely. “The devil,” Frank’s heartbeat jumps like a bull against a cage before he forces it down. “I know it sounds.. ridiculous. But I know it’s him. Sometimes he’s just there and sometimes he talks and I don’t know why, I-” Words die before they make it out. Red shakes his head before turning to Frank. “I doesn’t happen often now, just sometimes and briefly. It’s fine.” Frank wants to laugh. Wants to do something with his hands. Shoot Red in the head and he comes back to save you from torture. Chain him to a chimney and he comes back to help you out of a death penalty. Hurt him and he forgives you, trap him and he tries to save you, take everything away from him and he’s still there. Body and mind soaking up abuse like it’s no big deal. “No it’s not, Matt.” In the silence that grows after his voice fades, there’s understanding. A distance Frank doesn’t try to impose by refusing to call him by name, an honesty Red doesn’t try and hide behind snark and stubbornness. Murdock looks a lot more like the guy Frank knew, before everything. The lawyer with the relentless sense of justice; the vigilante who’d sooner get killed than let someone get hurt. The guy who had two people who’d give him the world, if only he knew how to ask, and who he’d die to protect. And here they are now.     “H-h-hurts,” everywhere, and he can’t make it stop. It’s the first word through his lips once he wakes up. Smells blood, gunpowder, cordite, urine, dust. “Hurts, hurts-” “Red,” he’s moving, why is he moving? He needs to stop. He’s got to hide. He needs to hide before- “Red, it was just a dream.” “Hurts,” he isn’t sure what. His head. His head hurt. His belly, his thigh. It all hurts. “Red, what’s my name, huh? Can you tell me?” Voice. Deep. Tense. Familiar heartbeat. Gunpowder. Coffee. Shaving cream. Smoke. “F-rank,” a sob, “it hurts.”  

EɴᴅCʜᴀɴᴛʀᴇss

09/17/2022 10:31 AM 

Reflect, Respect and Ride On.

    A bundle of white lilies is gently clutched in a gloved hand. Its bearer in an olive-green cloak is carefully strolling towards a row of three stone crosses; each thick base has been pierced well beyond a foot beneath the earth.   Enchanting blue eyes give each cross a fond stare. Soon, the flower-bearer kneels down less than half a yard before the middle one. At least five stems with seven or eight fair white petals on one end are placed in front of every cross.   Fingers within tanned brown leather are then placed atop the nearest carved stone. This red-haired woman with a bewitching visage akin to royalty, despite the dirt and mild bruises on her freckled face, closes her eyes before taking a deep breath. The moment feels slow. The distant howl of the late morning breeze and the chirping of winged critters are quite crisp for her ears.   The burden of grief perhaps encumbers her. And so, she ponders fondly on past days of exploits, for good or ill. Even the eves came with the sweet frivolity formerly joined by those now sleeping under the dug and then spruced earth. Some were wilder and more wondrous than others. The lads bore a hell of vigor to have her scream sinful melodies and nearly had her mind going blissfully blank while either rocking the bed or even making bushes shake. And she thoroughly delighted on their carnal cruelty, a reward for their bravery in battle and just being such fine fellows to get well-acquainted with.   She even mused on one of them being happily married to her, even bless him with a child or two to raise and then carry well his lineage. But such aspirations were quashed by one of the biggest and most barbaric blights of this world. What a loathsome lot, armed and eager to flay and feed upon many; take their trinkets and comforts. Burn the green lands. Poison the crisp waters and the fresh air, even.   A competent hand could have been lent to avert this outcome. Alas, what evil they have all been fighting had split their forces for quite some time. To delay the spread of such darkness and pillaging of the innocent, these three, perhaps even others out there whose corpses have not been found, laid down their lives. Even if their eyes were plucked, their flesh was torn and their limbs maimed, each courageous deed to push back the dreadful tide was perhaps worth the gruesome death to either be a stubborn blockade or give time for those who cannot fend well for themselves to be led away into safety.   Maybe, good fortune is even upon these do-gooders. The fallen ones this lass is paying respects to have pierced something fierce into those armed wretches. And a great curiosity was also discovered, one that can turn the tides back in their favor. Something or someone ancient and rather divine for this world aches to be reawakened, if the shackles are removed and the sinister stupor making them so pitifully weak is cured.   “Their sacrifice will not be for naught,” an armored fellow with a black beard and mustache broke the silence. He, a man nearly on his fifth decade on this earth, can easily tower over the woman if both are on their feet.She remains silent but only for a few seconds.  “Absolutely,” she sweetly spilled, her voice quite alluring. Her fingers atop the cross are removed. She plants them on her luscious lips before placing them on the cross but for a brief moment. She takes another deep breath.  “They shall all be avenged.”   The tall fellow walks close to be by her side. He too is careful in his steps so as to not disturb his comrades well at rest. The woman opens her eyes just in time to acknowledge his kindness with an open hand just inches before her lovely face. She obliges with a smile and a lifted hand of her own which he meets with a decent grip. She lightly groans while ascending to be off of her knees, dusting them afterwards with her knuckles.   Before leaving this open field beneath a fair sky, surrounded by mossy rock walls and nearby trees, they all look back at those graves. A hand is placed on a respective chest. They all bow in tandem before their fallen friends. Depart, be on recently-fed steeds and ride on, the men and the woman.   A few minutes had passed since they left the grave site.   “We have confirmation of that folk those wretches have imprisoned, where it is being relocated,” declared by another armored bloke with a fine reddish-brown beard.  “Hooded, cloaked, corpse-like, and conquered in gray?” she asked.  “Right on all accounts, my lady,” he reaffirmed with a mild smirk.  Relief is astir in her, though such elegant countenance looks rather solemn.   “I need to free him from his bonds,” she prattled while the hooves keep galloping on.  “And so you shall,” reassured the other rider, the one who helped her back on her feet not long ago.  “But we may need a bit more men to ensure you are not easily disturbed from the sorcery you need to perform, Lady Eden. We need this miracle to work. Too long that these lands have had its share of suffering. Too many good men and women had fed into such ravenous darkness.”   “Very well, my lord,” Lady Eden agreed with him.  “Lead on. I will neither fail you nor our beloved fallen.”   Ride on, warriors and a knightly witch.  Recruit more aid to free a god in gray. / E D E A L I A T H  

潮鏡❖

09/17/2022 07:20 PM 

Ryunmei Post II: Return of the Black Lotus

Anger. Emptiness. Jealousy. Greed. Only, but a few negative emotions. All who carry such within their hearts fall susceptible to sinister bloody veil posed by a celestial silent round entity above, the blood moon. The manifestation at the will of powerful dark-creatures such as vampires, demons, spirits. These creatures include those once human beings. Society knew little of these foul creatures that prey on humans like cattle, but their was a small faction that kept them at bay for centuries to the just myths. However, they were the every day reality to this faction comprised of various skilled combatants.These individuals formed a hidden village known as the Shadowhilts. Glory unknown to them for their diligent efforts to sustain peace for humanity. They did not seek such fame as it would reveal to the world of such evil lurking in the darkness that would empower them if fear was instilled into the people making them more susceptible to the corruption.Corruption found its venomous talons sinked into the members throughout time, but one prodigy was born into the Shadowhilts that virtually ended by a beauty with raven hair and lavender hues. The evil anomalies that stood for fear were shaken to its core by this beauty. She earned the title "Black Lotus", the "Shadow of Abyss". One hand in hand with darkness with the power to seal evil with her binding blade that lurked in darkness' shadow to prey on. So terrifying, she was deeemed a monster by her own people for her skills and her behavior. Although shunned, she carried nothing but love in her heart to protect her people, but difficult it was for her to express it. Exactly one year after she was born, she had a sister. Red hair lavender hues she shared and beauty that the villagers would envy much like her sister. However, she did not share the same power in skills much like her sister.  Forced to live in her sister's shadow and as much of it insisted upon the younger sister by her into a non-combative role out of sibling worry her younger sister would watch her older sister set off on missions alone over and over and over again. During this time the younger sister would diligently train in secret one day walk beside her older sister and protect her herself. No matter how much she strived she could not find herself placed at  her side.   “Sister, I have always stood within these village walls with discontent as part of the royal family not living to our name and constantly worried for your return from each mission. No matter the dishonor not fighting, I have wanted to protect and fight alongside you as well sister. Like you have said, you are my only family member as well. You should not have to shoulder the most of the weight of the village’s responsibility regardless of your status as chosen wielder of the sword. I have trained diligently throughout the months you are absent to one day be the sister protecting you. I have only been a burden till this point and I have reached the age to make my own decisions. Whether I have your blessing or not I will fight.” The sadness in Erze’s eyes pierced her sister’s heart. “.. Fine. I cannot stop you, but I ask that you please come back safely from your mission. You will be joining a group for your first mission.” “Why do you not go on missions with a group?” “I assure you that it only works in my favor to go alone.” “Sister, you are very stubborn.” Erze pouts at her sister to be met with a slight chuckle. “Did you laugh?” “I do not know what you are talking about.” “You did! I am going to tell Laudia.” “How about we have our favorite treat before we set off? Yes?” “Gah, sister. Avoiding my question with another. You never like to show you are happy.” “Trust me, Erze. Although I do not show it I am always happy. You are with me. That is my reason.”That was the last happy moment they shared...  The two departed for their missions. Several months have passed. Word had spread that a vampire queen had risen and her activity spread throughout the region. Upon completion of her mission, the woman rushed home upon learning the dire news.  “That mission… Erze was tasked with it. I must hurry.”  Footsteps swiftly approached her, she prepared her spear in response. “There you are!” “Laudia? What are you doing here?” “We must make haste. There has been no word from the group to include your sister… And the attacks are reaching closer to our village. Something must have happened to th-” “Let us hurry. We should reach the village before nightfall.” The information plagued her mind. Her and Laudia rushed home. She did not want to hear the possibility of her sister’s safety in jeopardy. After a long journey, the two had reached the outskirts of their village. There was an army of people waiting outside. “Are they.. Wait, those are some of our people.” “I do not understand why they are with non-citizens close to our village… We need to proceed with caution, [NAME INAUDIBLE].” The sound of air sliced by their hair strands. Trimmings of hair clipped falling besides their feet. “Why are you attacking us? It is I, Laudia and [NAME INAUDIBLE].” “Laudia, their eyes.. They are in a trance dyed in blood red. They are possessed…”   “We can’t kill them.” “Posse-” The two noticed the surroundings bathed in red. Their eyes gravitated towards the sky. A blood moon had graced their presence. The possessed began to morph all alike with fangs protruding, their eyes dyed bright red, and anguish noise resonating with one another to make a loud noise all directed towards the two. “There is no way… A high demon and the Lotus royal family can summon a blood moon. The vampire queen must be here.”  “[NAME INAUDIBLE], focus!” Laudia shielded her from multiple arrows. Laudia noticed her eyes glowing in response to the blood moon.  “We cannot save them. They have been completely turned and empowered. However, so are you. We will do what we must!”Heavy breaths. Flesh ripping. The enraged roars and agony filled the gruesome atmosphere. Clansmen and once innocent humans collapsing at the hands of the two maidens. Speechless as they were, each strike into each individual weighed heavily in their hearts, especially the ones they have known. Throughout the battle Laudia took note of one body and another. Her eyes shook with fear. “Laudia! Are you okay?” “I am fine, I need to go. I know you can handle the remaining people.” “Laudia! Wait!” An explosion erupted from above. Laudia stood there staring at her companion with sadness as the rubble from the towers quickly buried the entrance into the village.  “Laudi-” Immediately the remaining corrupted attacked together. However, they were no match for her. Several more minutes had gone by until she was finished. Panting lightly with her glowing eyes gazing over their faces, remembering their once human state  with sadness. She could not linger and made haste towards Laudia wondering why she sealed the entrance. She reached the main plaza of the village after overcoming the towering rubble. The bloody light had still blanketed over the village. The summoner had remained present.  A figure had approached her from the shadows, eyes dimming red. [NAME HIDDEN] eyes widened with realization. “Laudia!” She walked with a lack of grace swaying slowly side to side. “[NAME INAUDIBLE], I am sorry… I did not want you to face her…” She ran towards Laudia, but she placed a barrier around herself. Her eyes are dying with red. “What are you talking about!? Laudia what is going on?” “She has been waiting for you, I did not want you to see her in this state. The vampire queen is..your sister. She fell victim and-” Their heads laid against the barrier with their foreheads upon one another. “You knew long ago, but begged it not be true. I could not have you face her, but I could not bring myself to fight her. I have little time, I ask you to kill me before I completely turn. Let my last breath be that of one with honor.” “Thank you, Laudia. No matter of blood, my sister and I have always thought of you as one of our own. I will commit this sin to honor your request.” The blade pierced her fatally through the wall. “Thank you, [INAUDIBLE NAME]. May the Lotus forever bloom honorably...” The magic wall disintegrated as Laudia limped and collapsed with a catch from her friend, she gently laid her down. Erze’s voice danced with a childish laughter into the air to her sister’s ears. She walked forward discovering the abomination that she has become. “Ah, sister! You have finally come! Do you like the moon? Until months ago, you were the only of few humans capable of summoning it. I have gained immeasurable power. I no longer have to live in your shadow and watch you be the only able member of the family. We are alike!” “You are wrong. I am still the only human capable of summoning the blood moon. It is not a toy. You can either coexist with the darkness or be drowned by its tempting influence and you have subjected in its corruptive power.” “Again! Always talking down on me. I have been wanting to kill you myself, but a little fun of toying with you using my pawns is entertaining segway to the main show. What do you say?” "My voice calling you broke in the wind. It came as thousand of blades cutting the line of hope that kept me alive."Her heart shut. Blood became frigid. Eyes flared with the lavender ghostly hue. Her humanity sealed away as she drew her blade before the evil-turned sister."It is time to say goodbye to you. You became an abomination. Forced me to stain these hands of our people. An irreparable sin.""I shouldered the weight duty already. One I desperately wanted to spare you of, but now this sin. Now obliged to commit one more, your death will be delivered by hands, sis-... No... You are my sister no more...""A cruel fate we both must suffer. Let this be final act of duty & love. I will atone for our family and end your suffering here."  A familiar, yet new malevolent sensation brushed against her soul. Evident before her eyes influenced the woman presumed the sister of this world tempted by another entity from another rift. The Black Lotus (//Old Persona. To reduce confusion Black Lotus will be used to distinguish who is control of the body of Xion) experienced Deja Vu again. (Is this why my life was preserved, Dream Walker?) She pondered until a sorceress made her entrance. On guard, she examined the potential foe. The offer into the unknown danger by the masked ominous figure just made the question evermore suspicious. However, Kirze would pose a future threat and Xion was far from near of defeating her without the Black Lotus in control. The mind-lingering closed with the swift departure  of the sorceress. The Black Lotus made haste into the portal with the name in mind mentioned as the final note."Ally or foe, Ryunmei, Kirze and other threat will not bring an end to the wish of my late friends. Their legacy will carry on with Xion. One thing is clear the darkness, no matter what world will, the darkness will not fall at my hands."The Black Lotus leapt into the rift, her attire glowed revealing only the outlines of her  figure of her body. "Elsion. Berona. Kaede. Grant me your strengths, so we may exterminate the unknown threat. The Dream which dyes this body anew. The Shadow of the Abyss. The chilling touch. The resplendent light."    Icy mail formed against her breast. Snow white skirt glimmer with dancing lights running off her body. Lotus hair band holding her blue hair. Shadowy blue crystals expanded from her right and a contrasting white crystal from her left shaping into stylish wings. She stood unphased by the horde of undead that before her what appeared within the chambers of a castle. The area so grim with lighting. Only the eyes of the undead flared at the sight of her with their increased volume to signal intent to bring harm to her.  "So far the sorceress word holds true. I must find the blood bender that threatens Xion quickly. No matter what you did in your lives I will deliver your souls to rest. May the puppeteer behind your your cursed state be punished for their cruel act."The room's temperature dropped drastically as visible specs forming a cloud-like bundle of frigid magic. The hordes rushed towards the Black Lotus with their howls echoing to the other chambers the Black Lotus. At the gesture of hand motion cloud rushed  like massive bullets against the massive oncoming threat blasting them back paint the desolating the chambger into a frozen desolation. "I delivery all thy to rest. May body and soul know peace." The ice encapsulation eroded into  along with the corpses. The diamond dust settled into the air like fireflies within the night danzing to a wondrouse destination. Black Lotus witnessing the first time the powers bestowed on her in unison. She could not linger and made her way towards what appeared to be the exit witha door partly opened. The same flaring eyes from earlier multiplied between the crack. Her attack alerted more of the nearby horde."I must be more discrete it seems. I cannot be stalled much longer before Xion reawakens into the midst of this chaos. I must return to my roots..." She extended her right hand, "Elsion bless me with your binding blade once more." A katana basked in lavender light formed in her clutches. "Hope that there will not be much more for it seems endless in this unknown." The tail-ends of light  caught the attention of the undead before her revealing their mutiliated appearance. "What was that?" A different source of energy felt unfamiliar to the Black Lotus. Whatever it was it divided the attention of the horde to split off."Finally, a small change in my favor for once in battle. Perhaps this new life will be less diresome than the last." The remaining horde, yet still massive in numbers rushed her. The Black Lotus remained with the katana at hand to avoid any further hurdles whilst dealing with the threat before her. Friend or foe it would only stall in her mission to find Kirze. She recalled to a samurai many years who once stood in her way, friend now, but his stubborn pacifist ways resulted in the deaths of many more innocent lives.Her body became ghostly, elusive to the eyes of the horde. Strikes accompanied with cherry blossoms in her attacks.    The Black Lotus made quick work of each horde beheading many  with her swift slashes. The fall of their horde brethren enraged the others. She sighed realizing she was placed back in square one. The cries potentially attracted more unwanted attention than she wanted. "One strike." She whispered. She closed her eyes and lowered her self into a deep silence. Her blade at her side as if it were sheathed. The horde scurried towards her, but halted to a red dye in the room overtaking and the ground beneath her feet vibration. THe rubble on the floor steadily lifted around her as the overwhelming energy halted them momentarily and resumed towards her. Her eyes opened sharply with a residual glow. She swung her blade horizontally. The bodies severed into two, stone wall in the swung direction all blasted outward. The dust and gravel clouded the halls. It was a matter of time the Black Lotus would attract more attention. Her blade vanished from her cluthches  and she rushed through the clouded chaos and towards the hallway away from the source of light to hunt for Kirze. However she was met with a dead-end. She peers out a window discovering she was far from  off the ground within a castle, she would not survive such a jump regardless her abilities. She turned around and awaited what the source was in wait.  //ECHOES OF MEMORIES - XION NEW PERSONA IN HER SLEEPThe downpour of drizzling rain. Blonde locks against her side. She looked ahead. A distraught man with a red spear held close. She wondered where she was, and the identity of this man.He turned slowly and turned towards his focus. A cold silence passed by. His lips slowly moved with a the softest of voice with the simplest, yet emphatic complex question."Why?"

Lucas『Active Rebel』

09/17/2022 05:54 PM 

Info

First name. LucasLast name. CaddelRace. HumanHeight. 5 foot 09Weight. 136 poundsHair. BlondeDye. PurpleEyes. YellowPiercings. Both ears, four on each.

Lucas『Active Rebel』

09/17/2022 05:51 PM 

Here they are...

Not gonna waste anyone's time here, getting right to the simplicity of it all.1. Don't rush.2. Don't be rude.3. No one liners, at least a para.4. No mutes or collectors.

ᶠʳᵒᵐ ᴱᵃʳ ᵀᵒ ᴱᵃʳ

09/16/2022 11:52 PM 

Template i

  If I die young, bury me in satin Lay me down on a bed of roses Sink me in the river at dawn Send me away with the words of a love songLord make me a rainbow, I'll shine down on my mother She'll know I'm safe with you when she stands under my colors, oh, And life ain't always what you think it ought to be, no Ain't even grey, but she buries her baby   .buryme { width:250px; padding:20px; background:black; color:gold; font-size:11px; line-height:13px; font-family:helvetica; margin:0 auto; } .insadness { margin:0 auto; text-align:center; } .insadness img { height:100px; width:100px; border:3px double black; }.sharpknife { text-align:center; padding:5px 15px; border-bottom:3px double black; }.listening { text-align:justify; padding:7px 0; font-family:arial; font-size:11px; }

Engetsu

09/16/2022 10:53 PM 

Rules

 1. I'm not Isshin Kurosaki. He's a fictional character that I write as for fun. 2. This is a hobby and I have a busy life outside of writing online. I'll be online when I can and will do my best to reply in a timely manner. Any attempt to rush me for a reply will result in a warning. 3. I do rps in messages and comments for ooc. I also have Discord for another form of communication. 4. I tend to stick to anywhere between 2 and 5 paragraphs, but I can do more if I'm given enough time and motivation for the rp. However, those longer replies will be far and few in-between due to having CTS (Carpal Tunnel Syndrom). 5. I prefer discussions over just sending a random starter. I don't want to plan out the entire rp mind you, but at least set a foundation for a story to grow from a starting point. 6. I usually prefer AU stories over the canon story. That's why we write, right? To make up unique and fun stories together. 7. Mature themes are allowed but that being said, I'm not going to have Isshin be some ladies' man who goes around trying to show his Zanpakutou to all the ladies. Mature themes will involve blood, violence, ect... 8. The canon ship is nice but I'm not against having Isshin be with someone else. If the story is going in that direction, both parties agree, and everything goes smoothly, I'm down for an AU ship. 9. Drama is a no go here. I'm here to write and have fun. I'll gladly lend an ear to listen and offer advice on things every once in awhile, but I don't want to hear about why you dislike so and so. But if you want help in motivating yourself, I'm your guy for something like that.10. I don't do fighting rps. I will have my character fight alongside yours against Hollows or whatever the enemy might be in the story. But I just don't care to do fighting rps. Any request for them will be polietly declined.I'm a really easy-going guy so I don't really like making rules. But I felt like it would at least be a good idea to set up some basic ground rules we can all agree on.

ᶠʳᵒᵐ ᵀʰᵉ ᴴᵉᵃᵛᵉⁿˢ

09/15/2022 01:08 PM 

Rules

- Please remember, I'm here to have fun and write stories. I'm not here to start, or get involved in drama. I wish to make friends and connections.- Though I am fine with writing darker themes, that does not include NSFW/adult themes (you all know what I mean). Especially not outside of shipping. If it's within a ship, any NSFW can be written on discord.- Please don't expect me to be active and available 24/7. I do sleep and do other things with my life, so me always replying within an hour or so isn't always going to be something I can manage. If you can't be patient and understand RPing on here isn't my priority, you may take your leave.- I don't tolerate rudeness, OOC drama of any kind, bullying, impatience, and ignorance. Depending on the situation, I will give a warning before dropping the person. - Though I am fully accepting of OCs, please don't push your ideas of 'my OC is related to your character in this way' on me. Run the idea by me first, and we'll go from there. - In addition to the previous rule, though I am accepting of random starters being sent my way, that rule still stands. Feel free to send your starter, but please add an OOC note to it, running the idea by me.- Do not control my character and do not God-mod. You aren't the one writing my character, so focus on your own and have some decency/respect towards who you're writing with.- I'm sorry for this rule, but I won't write with those that don't use proper grammar and punctuation. It doesn't have to be perfect and university major level (God knows I'm not that good, myself), but please don't send me something that's a paragraph long, and ends up being a single sentence. And please make sure you're spelling properly. It's far too difficult to read and just gets annoying, otherwise.- If you add me, I expect you to greet me once I've accepted you. I'll do the same if I add you first.- I am not a number. If I see you actively in stream for a week or more, yet I haven't received a greeting or a reply, I'll just walk away. I'm not interested in just being there to up your friend list number. If that's all you want, why are you even on this site?- Lastly, I do not give my discord out immediately, so please don't ask. It doesn't even matter if you're mobile-only and use discord for RP instead of ani. My only discord is my personal, and I will not give it out unless I feel I can trust you.  Thank You for coming to my Ted Talk!

Rules, RP



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