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03/05/2023 04:41 PM 


  Intro   Yui (佑泉) censored. A girl just like the rest–nothing unusual. A socially distant personality, dragging her feet against the ground. Just another day in a black-and-white rerun. Living in a run-down apartment, living paycheck to paycheck in the Sanya district of Tokyo, Japan. Where graffiti light up the streets, where the homeless are first to greet you while you walk in–at least it's where those struggling to make a decent living, make a decent living. What defines a decent living, though? A question catered to everyone's distinct liking. Yui is a simple waitress, hiding dissociated thoughts behind a smile to make a decent living. Nothing strange about that.   Have you seen the news reports about another unexplained fire? That’s the third one in two months. They have no explanations for them.    Someone was found burned alive in an alley down in Sanya. They can’t pinpoint a source but suspect it’s foul play.   Yui was blessed with the gift of pyromancy. Though she has always used it for devious reasons, pinning her as a psychopath and nearly being admitted into a hospital several times for ‘unexplained’ arson while she was always present. Once she reached the age to move out, she moved into a poor city to continue her destructive strings of chaos while hiding behind a facade the whole time. Often, she sets random objects on fire to create a diversion while she steals products. Admittingly, she purposely goes after cameras first, often setting them into a ball of fire so there is no reconciliation of her being in these places.   The gift has harnessed so well that she has used it to get what she wanted out of anybody. With Sanya district home to many homeless, poorer people, sometimes when people come into something of value, she wants it. This may be drugs, a materialistic piece of value she can sell later. After all, this is all a part of the poor game to make a decent living.   Personality Yui suffers from a long-term of mental disorder, which has distinctly carved the way to what she is today. Often, while she is seen, she puts on a smiling face and tries to avoid everyone. The guilt she suffers from having an ability makes her think the world is out to get her, but not to be too obvious, she still tries to blend in. Often, she is spaced out and zoned out. All ties of contact to family has been severed for many reasons, and she has sought not to make any friendships. Behind her dissociative and blank demeanor lies the dement that makes her feel no guilt towards her actions to get what she wants. Believing every day is a battle of the fittest, and she might as well use the advantage she was given in life. Tending to believe this life is some kind of simulation and she is just an experiment with a more significant achievement to get a more fantastic affliction out of life.   Pyromancy Delving deeper into her pyromancy powers, she has not quite mastered them to a full degree. Sometimes, emotions can get in the way and elicit them. There is a way for her to harness the power and directly control the fire, though she has yet to learn how to do this. It has only been done once, and she is unsure why that happened or what caused her to manifest it in such a way. Currently, she is able to focus her manifestation on an object and cause it to combust. This goes for electrical materials, clothing materials, and most other materials except those that can not be combustible.    Important Information Yui’s true name and identity have been under wraps since she moved. Even her current identification is a name she changed it to, and that was only for employment purposes. While she doesn’t party, she hustles drugs and occasionally indulges herself with them.

Duty Driven (Taken/Busy IRL)

03/05/2023 08:57 PM 


THE CHURCH IN MY HEADWhen I was a childSome of the most judgmental and unkind People I ever met were on church pewsEvery Sunday with a HymnalAnd a Bible in their handsI didn’t know how some peopleWere able to disassociate their own Shortcomings and crueltyFrom their religiousObligations and convictionsBut many were able to do just thatBut as a child I couldn’t reconcileThe child abusersThe pedophilesThe rapistsThe drug traffickersThe thievesThe alcoholicsThe cheatersThe liarsFrom the people that stood at the pulpits.The ones I was told to emulate.The ministerThe reverendsThe deaconsThe word minister embodiesLoving protectionThe word reverend invokesReverence and inspirationDoesn’t it?I was a young adultBefore I realizedChurch is for sinnersBy that time organized religionFor me?Was black and soiled.RepulsiveHere I am now.I fling mantras out into the worldOf love, hope, compassion,Good healthI recently walked intoA cathedral in Ireland and cried.I felt the weight of time andCountless generations of believers.Working in the medical fieldAnd specializing in pediatricsHolding a one pound babyIn my handsMonths before evenThe parents were allowed to touch themI sincerely believe in miraclesI see them almost every dayMy church is in my headBuddhism is in my heartAnd in the actions of my handsThe words in my mouthWhat my ears hearThe soothing of my soulThe meals I help serve the homelessThe blankets I spread on their cotsI bow my head and listen to prayersWherever they are offeredI quietly whisperMy wishesInto an unknown ear  I don’t judge many people anymoreMy childhood is pastI learned valuable lessonsAnd peace is mine at lastThat doesn’t mean I trustEasily or broadlyIt just means I am an adultAnd am responsibleThere is some goodIn almost everyoneI don’t say that out of naivetyI have danced with monstersBut that’s another tale... 

Duty Driven (Taken/Busy IRL)

03/05/2023 08:54 PM 

Your Olfactory Bulb Has a Direct Route to Your Limbic System

The fog here is thick, until you step into it.  The storm rages until you get to its eye.  I wish this same principle could be said of me, too.  But like a gas giant, you could slip right through me with                         the smallest amount of pressure.There is no calming sense of self at the core.Gravity does not apply to me.There’s a boat on the lake cutting through the fog.  And then nothing.                                                        ­                                    More waves.                                                          ­            More birds.                The fog covers it all up again.  The sun slinks and the tide comes in, or is it out?  Does it matter?  The moon controls it in some way—the push, the pull of the waves.At least the lake looks blue today,                           looks green today.The geese are in the water now.  The families are packing up.                               The ice cream shop is closing.And I do not remember if I was ever here with you.                                  This, of course, is a collective you.  Could mean you, my reader,                                               could mean one specific person,                                               or two                                                             ­       or three                                                                ­                          or four;could be whoever I'm thinking of when I reread this to myself.  That’s the funny thing about the litany of loss.                                             It all starts to congeal.  Waves crash against the rock.  Starts to chip away, create something new.                                                      That’s what memory does.It’s not permanent.  It’s malleable.  Flexible.        Bendable.        Moldable.  It smells like lakewater.  Like                                                  fish and sand and mud and                            gulls and rocks and shells and     algae and fog—thick, thick fog.  Smell is supposed to be one of the biggest memory triggers, and yet                                       I cannot place a single memory of you here.                                                    And that’s mildly crushing.  So I would take you here:                                              to where I wish the air was                                                       saliter and less earthy.                                                to where I come sometimes to think.                                                where the clouds are so thick and puffy and                                                            the setting sun makes them look like                                                                cotton candy on the Fourth of July.                                              where the sun’s reflection on the water                                                                ­      turns the green lake pink.                                                where the geese are back out of the water and                                                                                                     onto the shore.I would take you here with me.  Into a new memory.                                        Homemade.        Handmade.        DIY.

Duty Driven (Taken/Busy IRL)

03/05/2023 08:33 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.”

Duty Driven (Taken/Busy IRL)

03/05/2023 08:21 PM 


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: Hi, there! I may have gotten a little carried away with this series, but I've been in serious need of a little me time and writing is the most fun kind of me time ever, so, here we are. SEE END NOTES FOR TRIGGER WARNINGS! (Contains Spoilers) First things first, I did a lot of research for this series. And I mean, a lot. I'll try and write as much as I can about it in the end notes, for anyone curious. 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 For Fratt Week prompt "Fall", and Whumptober prompts 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-?”

Duty Driven (Taken/Busy IRL)

03/05/2023 08:09 PM 


Summary: “You stick with me, Red,” Frank drops his voice down to a whisper, “I got you.” Frank and Matt deal with the aftermath of the attack at the Bulletin while planning on how to move forward. Notes: Hi, there! We're getting to the end of this series, and this work, admittedly, has been one of my favorites to write. I'm a sucker for angst, if it's not clear by now. SEE END NOTES FOR TRIGGER WARNINGS! (Contains spoilers!) Poems and excerpts taken from (in order of appearance):November by Raymond P. FischerAnd the word for moonlight is my name by Jai Hamid BashirLoss of memory by James LanglasLady Lazarus by Sylvia PlathVery many hands by Aaron ColemanForgetting by Joy Ladin No. 30 "major character death", No. 31 "trauma" and No. 5 "forgotten". Happy reading!     November; the eleventh month of the Gregorian calendar. The last month of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere.   May I be blind whenever June clouds pass; Never lie down in sun-warmed meadow grass, Never smell clover; my voice grow harsh and thin, And next November leave me dead in sin.   BLOOM   This mouth is a wound from where I’m learning how to love.   With mid December comes unforgiving cold and merciless noise. Winter parks and Christmas fairs open, stores play Christmas’ songs from nine to five and Matthew can only allow it to flood him, drag him to drown into it as he sits in the cot by the broken window. He sighs at the sound of Frank assembling his gun for the sixth time. They had been easy to ignore at some point, but now each click echoes around his head like a gunshot. His head’s been getting better slowly. It took him a week to improve from the simple flu and two days of Curtis coming and going to reassure Frank the fever was not due to an infection and that Matt’s immune system has been compromised for a while due to poor nutrition and stress. And stress hasn’t been lacking. Fisk, and now he remembers enough of that name that his fists clench with the mere thought of it, is tearing Matt’s life apart. Not long ago he heard an APB on his name, considered armed and dangerous. There was someone using his symbol to kill people and now Daredevil was wanted for murder. A shoot to kill order was issued on Frank twenty-four hours after the whole Bulletin ordeal. Nine people died on the attack - including one that, according to Frank, was the man who shanked Wilson Fisk -, several were hospitalized and the man had escaped custody somehow. Matt opens his eyes at the sound of Frank disassembling his gun again. “Frank,” a grunt, “Frank, it’s the seventh time already.” “You been counting?” Matt stands up from his place perching at the window to sit down on the (uncomfortable, flea-bitten) couch. “Hard not to.” Frank only offers him another grunt. Puts the handgun together and drops it on the table, leans back on his seat and crosses his arms. “Past time we planned ahead, Red.” Yeah, Matt had been thinking the same. Running wouldn’t get them anywhere, but - “You should go, Frank.” A second. Frank’s heartbeat stops for a second before it returns, booming powerfully against his bruised ribs. Matt can feel his stare burning holes through his unguarded eyes. “Excuse me?” At the sharp-edged tone, Matt’s hackles raise. “This isn’t your fight-” “What do you mean, it’s not my fight?” His voice climbs up several notches and so does his temperature, Frank’s muscles tense and ripple. “Fisk is my problem, I’m responsible for this mess, you shouldn’t have to-” “Ah for crying out loud, thought this Catholic guilt martyrdom fest bullsh*t had been knocked clean outta your skull-” “Don’t change the-” “What, Red, you want me to walk away?” Could you do that, he asks him in another lifetime, could you walk away? “Yes! That’s exactly what you should do!” “And you’ll fight that guy in the Devil suit, weighting half of what you did a month ago and with your skull crocheted with wire?” His tone is mocking and it hits him in all the wrong places. Matt’s palms sting when he slams both down against the table. “You could have died!” He exclaims at his face, his own heartbeat mingling with Frank’s until it’s impossible to tell either one apart. “And there was nothing, nothing I could have done to stop it!” The marine’s heartbeat falters before he too rises. But Matt won’t give him the chance to push and prod and bend him. He needs to understand. “Fisk found someone to kill me, Frank. Someone better, faster and what do you think he’ll do if you stand in his way again?” “I’m not the one who dies, Red.” He growls, crowding into Matt’s space. Fast heart rate slows right down. The level of self-control of this infuriating- “So you get your head on straight, because I don’t care what bullsh*t you’re agonizing over right now, we’re doing this, you’re not doing this alone, you got that?” Matt inhales and doesn’t let go. Frank steps and only then he exhales, when the air is slightly less Frank and he can breathe properly. “This ain’t on you, Red.” A hand raises - he almost gravitates towards it before holding back. Frank eventually lets it drop by his side. He should know that Frank wouldn’t do it half-way, even when it came to taking care of Matt, getting him back on his feet. Had never been one for half-measures. And yet, it still seems he thinks Matt’s worth the time. Not like this, Red. He sits back down, unperturbed by Frank looming over him. Since a week or so ago, they’ve been mostly ignoring what had happened, ignoring the implications in Frank’s words, refusing to voice the unmentionable. “It’s like,” he exhales brokenly, “every piece of information I try to make sense of, it doesn’t fit. It’s like reaching for a broken cup to try and glue it together, but finding that most of the pieces are missing. I can see most of the fragments, I don’t know how it looks like when they’re together.” Frank nods, as malleable and open as a solid wall of bricks, giving nothing away. “Any leads?” Matt tilts his head up. “One,” he can mostly sense Frank’s eyebrow curving up. “The man who made my suit.” Frank stops for a moment, his arms cross in front of his chest. “How good was that copy, Red?” Matt feels the devil smile through his teeth. “It was identical.” The marine stops, head slanting to the side as if considering him, something in his face. His heartbeat changes, his temperature rises, blood pumping faster in a rush. Frank suddenly snorts, all the tension leaving his shoulders. “It is good to have you back, Red.”     Frank checks his gear as quietly as he can, leaving Red to his meditation thing. Sig, couple of knives, a smoke grenade because regular ones are bound to f*** up Red’s hearing. Prepares an extra getaway duffle with a lot of ammo, because he can almost count on a sh*t storm when it comes to Matt f***ing Murdock. Makes sure to shove some of the redhead’s clothes and pills and the cream for the fading bruises around his neck. A crumpled piece of paper from a week ago catches his eye. He had already memorized both the addresses scribbled down in there, repeated them until they echoed with his kids’ laughter and the never-ceasing gunfire. Frank’s mind is a battlefield and he’s the last man standing on it. At least, he thinks, eyes straying back to auburn hair, it used to be. He worries the paper between his fingers, eyes going over the same phone number in the back. He wasn’t here for me, Frank, Karen had said between sobs, splattered in blood as she pointed at the corpse slumped in the ground. Jasper Evans, the man who had shanked Wilson Fisk. And the bald a**hole had known. Had known Karen would find him, that she’d bring him in. He had known. It had been a stupid move, what he did. And he was still glad Red had been completely wiped out to notice Frank being gone most of the next day after the attack. He had twenty-four hours to get Karen and Curtis to safety before he went to the address he was supplied with and killed the six people waiting for him inside. He traces the phone number again. Shakes his head but doesn’t immediately throw the paper away, once he crumples it for the second time. It could come in handy. Maybe. His eyes stray back to Red. It’s been getting harder to stop himself from staring, these days. Specially now, that he knows. Knows what his lips taste like, how they move against his, how he grabs like he’s terrified you’ll let go of him. He sits down and watches and waits.     Red insists on wearing a black cloth around his head like a goddamn sock, but Frank doesn’t do much besides ruffling his hair teasingly. Matt only gets stuck once, during the ride. Frank wonders if he realizes it still happens. He’d just suddenly stop whatever he was doing and be very still. It wasn’t like his usual dissociative episodes, Frank isn’t sure if he’s just listening to something or lost inside his head. He thinks maybe there’s familiarity in his state. Like a man sitting in the corner of a safe house, a forgotten black guitar on the corner, the memory of Lisa’s giggles when he tried teaching her- Heartbeat must change. His smell - something does, because Red’s eyes snap open, his ear gravitates to his side. Frank has to drag his eyes away from the soft crease of worry between his well-defined eyebrows. Still not as sure as he once was, but focused. Ready. His grip changes around the steering wheel. Telling Red off for listening to his heart would be too much like acknowledging the fact that Red, clueless like a newborn fawn or not, always knew what was going on inside. It was a massive tactical advantage, now that Frank thinks of it. Perfect for manipulation if you know which words provoke the strongest reaction out of someone. But manipulation is not Red’s style, that’s for sure. “Will you be able to track ‘im?” He stops at a red sign only to find Murdock aiming a grin at him. “I forgive you for that.” Frank scoffs. “Right,” he reaches his arm behind him, shoving a hand into the duffel. “You’ll need those.” Throws the twin batons carelessly on Murdock’s lap. “Oh,” Frank keeps his eyes forward to avoid that face Red did - the guilty sh*t that seemed to scream you shouldn’t have at the same time it spoke of a gratitude that just wasn’t proportional to the deed. “Thank you.” He risks looking. There’s the face. Sh*t. He shakes his head. “Yeah, yeah, altar boy.”     Red wants to go barging in for answers once they finally manage to trace Potter back to a warehouse and Frank, unsurprisingly, has to hold his leash and knock some sense into him. So he drags Red to a rooftop, takes his binoculars out and watches. “This is a waste of time, Frank, I can tell you what he’s doing if you insist on recon-” “Shut up, Red.” He sighs at the put upon frown that answers him. Those f***ing eyes. “Yer nifty senses can come in handy, Red, not gonna lie, but we’re doing this my way or not at all. Don’t think I won’t chain you up again.” Murdock frowns. Translates the words to the memory before sighing. “F*** you for that, by the way.” “You’re welcome, Saint Matthew.” Red snorts softly at that and Frank can only pretend there isn’t a smile in his face mirroring the younger man. Reputation to uphold and all that. Frank’s good at waiting - so he settles in and watches, eyes keen on every figure passing by the place. Writes down a few suspicious car plates, photographs two or three people acting sketchy. Red’s sh*t at it. Meditating crap or not, Murdock’s jumping out of his skin by the time Potter finally shows up. He didn’t think it was possible for a guy to fidget as much as the redhead did, but Frank’s ready to shove a bottle of Xanax in his hands and beg him - again - to sit your goddamn ass down, for f***’s sake. He suddenly falls belly down by Frank’s side, his lips a breath’s width away from touching the skin by his ear when he speaks. “That’s him, the tall man. I think he’s bald. He smells like oil. There’s a woman with him, she’s packing heat, that’s-” Red tilts his head at the same time Frank catches the two kissing through the binocular. “Betsy’s his parole officer.” “Betsy?” “Yes, Fisk threatened to hurt her if Melvin didn’t work for him.” Frank’s eyes fall to his tensing knuckles. Red shakes his head in guilty dismay. “He got to him again.” “Any surveillance cameras?” Looks like a goddamn bird evaluating and picking a branch with the amount of head tilts he manages under a minute. “Not directly in the lot, but we might want to avoid the auto-repair shop across it.” “Right. How we doing this?” “Let me talk to him alone.” Frank stops. Stares. He’s more convinced every day that Red’s the human equivalent of a suicidal road chicken. “When he’s tied up and unable to crack your head open again, yeah, Red, sure.” “Frank-” “No, so you’re telling me this guy works for Fisk and has a girl to protect and you think he’ll listen to you? This Melvin, you said he’s strong, right?” Matt doesn’t back down. If anything, he seems more convinced that’s the way to go about it. “I can get to him, Frank, if we treat him like an enemy-” “That’s exactly what he is until he proves otherwise!” And maybe even then. Someone had to be cautious and Red clearly ain’t gonna be it. Frank bares his teeth in annoyance. “After the stunt Fisk pulled a week ago, you think he’s not waiting for you?” “We waited enough-” “Like hell we did, Red. You’re remembering sh*t but you still got a wire holding your skull closed, so don’t you f***ing start. We’re doing this my way.” Red’s skin is hot. Frank can feel it even from their distance. And his eyes- f***. “No,” he shakes his head, conviction in every movement he makes. “No, we’re not.” “F***ing-” “Frank.” “You have a f***ing death wish, Red? Is that what-” “I’ll go in there and I’ll talk to him, Frank.” “Ah f***.” “He helped me when he didn’t have to, he risked his life, Betsy’s life-” Frank throws his head back while still cursing, “when he agreed to it back then, and I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.” Red aims his eyes straight at him, through him, stripping bare everything in his path. “I’m not letting him down again, Frank.” So he’s left to stare, again. Can’t stop staring. Can’t help letting whatever is blooming in his chest from spreading its vines all over his flesh and bones and taking over, consuming. This is what he had respected about Red from day one, from the moment he realized it wasn’t stupidity or naiveté, it was sheer, unwavering faith and unbelievable strength. Faith he refused to lose in the scumbags that would beat him half to death in the streets. Faith he refused to lose when a piece of sh*t tied him to a chimney and tried breaking him, showing him he was just as dirty. Hadn’t been ready for the truth, then. Now, he just lets it burn him from the inside out. This is Red, all of him. Missing chunks of memory and all, taking all of Frank in turn and not even realizing it. Stares maybe for too long, because Red’s out of sorts by then. Barely listens to his stammering - he reaches a fingertip to trace the shell of his ear, the peach-fuzz texture of his lobe. The soft sigh that leaves Matt in response - it’s too much. He clears his throat. “I go inside with you, Red, that’s final.” Matt nods, leans into the touch for a few moments more before squaring his shoulders back.     Frank sees it coming from a mile away. FBI storms the place, just after Frank shoots the locked gate and dodges having his head cut off with a circular saw blade - Potter is a big guy and abnormally strong and fighting him gets tricky once they’re surrounded. Matt takes care of that pretty quickly. He takes out three agents with a few well-aimed kicks and punches. Frank is careful to hit only legs and arms - there’s time to make a run for it, but the moment Red tries- “No!” Potter manages to grab Red around the waist with crushing force, the agonized gasp from having his broken rib jostled has Frank aiming his handgun at the man in a second. Nausea stabs him deep in the guts when Red is shoved head first to the table. “Hey, let him go!” No clear shot, if the guy as much as clenches the hand pressed against Red’s break- “Let him go or you die here, you hear me?” The tears give him a stop. Barely a second. “He’ll hurt Betsy!” The man exclaims, still holding Matt to the table, Matt with his fractured skull. Frank’s heartbeat speeds up more, his temperature rises. “Let him go, you piece of sh*t, let him go-” “Melvin,” a choked breath. “Melvin, don’t-” “He’ll hurt Betsy!” “Melvin, please.” The telling sound of a canister dropping. “Red!” He fires at the man’s right arm, precisely on the muscle so he lets go of Matt. A scream cuts through the sound of the flash-bang grenade going off, Frank jumps over to Red, throwing his body over his and hands covering his ears. His stomach does swoops at the thought of checking his head. “Hands in the air!” “Frank-” Matt drags himself up to run palms and fingers over his face, out of sorts, looking for injuries. “Frank-” “I’m fine, Red-” “You!” Frank turns over to the single agent up, hands trembling where he holds his rifle, young. “S-stand up! Show me your hands!” “Melvin,” Matt drags himself to the crying man in the corner, kneeling between the crates and boxes surrounding the plate. “You have to tell me.” “Don’t move, either of you!” Frank takes a step forward, covering both of them with his body, hands up in the air and gun pointed up to the ceiling, fingertips straight and away from the trigger. “Easy,” he growls, taking another step closer. Gotta keep his attention on him if Red’s getting what he wants. “Easy, kid.” “Don’t move!” “Melvin, please.” “Don’t you f***ing move!” Frank stops, but keeps himself moored to the ground. No one gets past him. “He didn’t tell me his name,” a muffled whisper comes from behind him, voice teary. “But he was FBI. Mr. Fisk- Mr. Fisk said they needed to catch you with the suit.” Footsteps approach from the hallways. There’s more in the way. “Red, now!” From a second to the other, all the lights shatter above him. Matt is body slamming him behind the safety of a few crates and wooden pallets as the agent starts shooting. Frank’s back to the wood, Matt pressing against his front, a hand clamped tight over his mouth. He makes a soft shushing noise, head tilting carefully up and Frank follow the direction, having a hard time taking his eyes away from the redhead. He catches the faint light coming from the back exit. He nods. “Please, he’ll hurt Betsy!” Potter’s cries echo through the walls as they make their escape. “He’ll hurt Betsy!”     Matt sits under the shower and lets the running water relax his tense, overworked muscles. There’s a bruise forming on the left side of his face, extending all the way to his temple. Matt senses it like a tense coiling of heat, burst veins like cobwebs spreading to his eyebrow and cheekbone. Apparently Fisk’s plans had changed. Trying to kill him turned into trying to disgrace him again - destroy the very symbol he worked so hard for. Frame him for being Daredevil - take away all he has left. Not according to Frank, though. He did mention once Matt had friends, but every time he tried going after a memory, as small or insignificant as it may be, he got lost in the fog. It’s there somewhere, suspended on the haze, holding its breath. Matt feels like a fool trying to touch the unreachable. Frank is back just as he’s finishing up. He had left Matt in the safe house and went back to follow Betsy. Make sure she’s safe, tell her to get out of town. His heartbeat is weird. Matt is so atuned to it, these days, that the shift crawls from his eardrums to his skin, his arms prickling in goosebumps. He pats himself dry quickly, eyebrows drawn in contemplation, tying the towel around his waist. His right side still feels stiff and weak sometimes, but he makes do. Frank is sitting in the living room when Matt steps out of the bathroom, heartbeat pounding against his chest, palms working together restlessly. He’s agitated, there’s heat coiling all over his frame as if he was about to attack, eyes following him when Matt steps into the living room. Frank’s heartbeat slows down but not by much. Matt claps his palms once, using the sound waves to orientate himself towards the duffle bag in the corner. Peruses inside for a pair of fresh clothes - sweatpants and hoodie, smelling of Frank. It’s only after he puts it on and the hoodie sleeves slide past his knuckles that he realizes they’re not his and almost pulls them off on principle. The ghost feeling of a fingertip caressing the shell of his ear stops him short of doing it. Matt sighs through his nose. Puts some socks on because there was a snow alert on the radio that morning and he could smell it in the air. Only then does he find a seat by Frank’s too-fast-too-wrong heartbeat. Knowing the best way to approach the man when he’s geared up helps. He tucks his elbows close to his body and stays quiet. Lets Frank know he’s not a threat or confrontational. If Castle notices his subtle try at communication, his body language doesn’t betray it. If anything, his muscles tense further, his heartbeat keeps pounding deafeningly loud, his blood pressure is through the roof. “Frank,” he tries, carefully reaches to touch his bicep. “What happened?” There’s blood on the soles of his boots, Matt notices, sniffing the air. “Frank...” The marine shakes his head, digs his elbows into his knees and briskly rubs his palms through the sides of his head. His breath hitches once, twice, but he never speaks whatever it is he’s got to say. Matt is just about to ask when the man suddenly leans back, stands up and stomps to the duffel bag. The one with his guns. “What are you doing?” No answer, predictably. The redhead jumps up too, his ribs protest at every deep breath. “Talk to me, Frank.” Frank slams a gun down against the kitchen table and Matt fights a flinch. He’s huffing through his nose, heart speeding up. Hormone levels spike, the bittersweet stench of adrenaline clogs the air - Frank is a bomb about to go off. “I told you. I f***ing told you. I told you we had to be careful, but you never listen to a f***ing thing anyone’s got to say, do you Red?” “Are you talking about Melvin?” No. Something else. There was something wrong. “Frank, what happened?” He takes a step forward, fighting the urge to fall into defense position when Frank’s trigger finger twitches. “Why do you smell like-” “Blood?” The soldier pulls something out of his jacket pocket and thrusts it into his hands, the coppery scent gets stuck to his tongue. He feels for it, the smooth polycarbonate drags across his fingers. The blood stains make it impossible for him to follow any traces of ink. “I don’t-” “Third body I found in the last week, Red. The third.” He takes a step back, brows furrowing down, presses his fingertips harder against the cards, can’t make sense of the ink. “Ask me their names-” “Frank, you’re not making any-” “Richard Murdoch, Matthew Ramirez, Louise Matthews, recognized any patterns yet, Red?” His stomach drops, blood turning cold. And Frank sees it and he’s vicious about it. Crowds into his space so Matt has nowhere to escape. “Yeah, got their eyes plucked out of their sockets while they were still alive before they were shot in the stomach, hands tied so they couldn’t do sh*t about it. This woman, Red? They left her in her kitchen. Her little kid found her. Her little kid.” Bile is corrosive like acid when it reaches his throat, coating the back of his tongue. He thinks maybe his pressure drops, because feeling leaves his fingertips and toes. “Fisk-” “Yeah.” Frank takes a step closer, Matt’s stumbles back when he reaches to pluck the three cards from his trembling hands. But he’s not done yet. Frank’s not pulling any punches and Matt feels like throwing up. “Now, you got a Fed dressed in your pajamas killing people, Fisk tearing your name apart, going after Karen, going after Curt, murdering innocent people to get you out hiding and you gonna tell me this piece of sh*t deserves a second chance, Red?” Matt’s mouth opens to answer but nothing leaves, his own heart hammering inside his chest, pressing against his sore ribs. “I can’t k-” “You’re goddamn right you can’t.” Cold seeps into his bones and Matt wonders if the air leaking out of his lungs is ever coming back, because suddenly it feels like there’s less oxygen in the room. He presses himself against the wall, chest barely moving. “This ends now. I’ll do it my way, my kinda justice.” Matt shakes his head once. Shakes it again more erratically and why isn’t there any air ? Why does his chest burn like it’s being torn apart? “No, Frank, you can’t, you can’t kill h-” “Yes, I can!” Frank steps closer, huffing against his face like a predator about to open his jaws and sink canines into his neck. “And I’ll kill anyone else in this town if it means you’re safe.” The air goes thicker, his heart squeezed tight in his chest and as fast as a hummingbird’s. And trapped between the beginnings of a panic attack and an elated sense of confusion, Matt feels like he finally understands Frank completely, if only for that moment. Sees all of him, the dark and the light, not fighting but constantly fusing. “Frank,” voice weak, his fingertips tremble when he reaches out, traces the bruised contours of his face. There are no words when he goes looking for them, still breathing too quickly, focusing on Frank. Bright like fire in front of him. “Frank.” “Shut up, Red,” had never heard his voice that weak, glass shattering wetly in every consonant. But his thumb comes up to caress Matt’s chin, his lower lip, his cheeks. “Shut your mouth.” Matt kisses him. It’s a conscious decision at first and then it’s not. It’s Frank’s lips, chapped and full against his trembling ones, his mouth hot and wet against Matt’s. It’s him swallowing all of that grief that was ever-present in Frank’s voice so it didn’t spill all over them both. It was Frank holding him up, pulling gently at his hair, a soft apology in each caress, in each peck. It’s tasting Frank’s pain in his tongue and trying to remember a time where he didn’t make sense. He hugs the man’s neck so he won’t let go, moaning faintly under his breath when the kiss turns deeper. When Matt can’t distinguish Frank’s heat from his own with his senses - they look like one and the same. His breath hitches when fingers clench hard around his hip, pressing him tighter against the wall. Frank pants into his mouth when their crotches meet. “Yes,” Matt whispers, begs, as he nods. “Yes, Frank, please-” And his voice is so lovingly wrecked when he murmurs by Matt’s ear, biting at the side of his neck, rolling his hips against his. “Goddamn you, Matty,” a particularly hard bite makes him yelp, “goddamn you.” “Please.” Frank doesn’t need much more convincing. Matt lets him take them to the bedroom and doesn’t think of anything or anyone else for some time.     Red dozed off eventually, back against his chest. He had filled up some but was still skinnier than he used to be. Frank had been there for every meal he couldn’t keep down - could trace them like braille over his slightly protuding ribs. It felt like an year ago that Red woke up for the first time in the cabin, unable to form words in a second and ready to attack in the next. Take me home, his voice echoes. Please, take me home. If he thinks too much about it, at some point, his voice and Matt’s mingle. It’s him, digging his fingers into that nurse’s arm, feeling like death when he brought him close. Take, me, home. But there was no home. Finds it in a small column in the newspaper - Kitchen Irish, Mexican Cartel, Dogs of Hell. He buries his lips in the smooth, velvety skin of Red’s neck, following lazily the dark red bruises decorating the side and falling like a chain around his neck and collarbones. His chest, the insides of his thighs, his hipbones. The contrast is like that of stars in a night sky - the old mottled bruises around Red’s neck had faded. Leaving behind some leftover hues of red, sickly green and yellowish - the love bites looking like little silhouettes of Mars or Venus, shining red among all that white. Stitches were about ready to come out, too, on the wound the Devil gave him. It felt wrong that Red’s body was so quick to erase abuse. That he took hit after hit after hit and continued there, standing, waiting for the next. There was hair very slowly starting to grow over the scar in his head, where it was bright pink and glossy. Fingers roam down to the deep scar above Matt’s hipbones and presses softly into the smooth texture, a grounding kiss. The skin was thin were it had knitted, almost paper-like. It was the worse one so far Frank had found on his body, while licking, biting and kissing him from his sinewy neck to the insides of his thighs. The wound had to be deep - the scar was slightly pulled inwards, like something had hooked in. Wonders if Nelson ever saw all of those scars. Or Karen. Thinking about that - about the three of them, he tries to build a scenario. Nelson, a put-upon frown that doesn’t manage to hide his worry. Karen, a compassionate attempt at stern reprimanding. You should take better care of yourself, Matt, she’d say. And he can see Matt clear as day, hunching his shoulders over with that guilt face he did, agreeing to everything not because he particularly had any care over his own state, but because he’d hate to have them worrying over him. Useless to think of sh*t like that now. Gets him thinking of Fisk, though, stomach twisting in his belly. Of Nelson. Of Karen, holed up in that church, waiting for a way to get out of the country. Curt, staying at a cousin’s home in Virginia. And Red, here, in his arms. With his come drying in him, with his marks spread all over his body. What the f*** is he doing? This is Matt. Matt who has an expiration date stamped on his forehead. Who dives into trouble the first chance he gets, who’s being hunted by cops, feds and scumbags alike. Priority was getting Red through this sh*t show alive, not whatever this was. Keeping Red safe meant taking out this Devil wanna-be before he gets to Matt, because the a**hole kept on coming. Fisk can come later. He needed to resupply, get in touch with David, ask about Louise Matthews and, maybe, give a call to the owner of the phone number forgotten in his duffle. Later, he wonders if it was the change in his heartbeat or his tapping trigger finger on the gentle dip of his waist that woke Matt up, nose still close to sweet-smelling skin. Matt stirs, humming softly before stretching like a cat, turning boneless in Frank’s arms before he squirms, rubbing his naked ass against Frank’s covered crotch. “M’too old for marathon sex, Red.” The fondness in his tone has no business being there. “No, you’re not.” Matt smiles knowingly but doesn’t push. Frank doesn’t let go though, finds that he can’t, nosing the freckles on Red’s most prominent cervical bone. Then kisses it - he isn’t sure he’ll ever get to do it again, so he lingers as much as he allows himself to. Matthew draws slow circles on the forearm trapping him by the waist, squirming at the feel of dried cum and spit between his legs. “I...” a soft, almost soundless chuckle, “I think I dreamed about my eighth birthday.” “Yeah?” “Yeah, I... Dad and I, we didn’t starve but we also didn’t have much money, you know? Food was definitely never wasted there. There’s this one time he manages a few extra bucks with a fight and he bought me a thematic cake. I never had one.” He smiles. It’s abstract, but he could almost remember how it looked like. “Lin was there.” “Lin?” “Lindsey. She was my friend.” Red chuckles suddenly. “I think she enjoyed it more than I did. It was Star Wars themed and she was obsessed with it.” Red tells him about it in whispers. About how she loved every single movie she could get her hands on, how they’d compete about who had memorized the most dialogues. About his dad feeling ashamed that he almost took a tumble and some of the frosting of the cake had stuck to the box. Frank holds him through it, one ear tight against his neck, listening for his heart, chin hooked over his shoulder. It’s quiet - like the eye of the storm, the silence after the gunfire. Lisa had insisted on having all over her birthdays with a different dinosaur theme from ages four to nine. God forbid Maria ever mentioned doing something else. Her giggles as she ran around the house with her plastic dinosaurs in hand, diving through the air, permeate every nook and cranny of his brain. Frank presses his lips softly to Matt’s temple, careful of his break. Moves away from spooning the younger man but doesn’t immediately get out, though. Stays there, hovering over Red’s spent form. “Frank.” He grunts. “Thank you.” Frank shakes his head. Standing up makes his skin rise in goosebumps, Matt’s own skin mirroring his. He’s tucking him into the blankets before he’s even realized what he’s done. Shakes his head again - Red’s got no f***ing reason- “Nothing to thank me for, Red.” The constant, familiar itch of anger poisons the softness of his afterglow. Red only blinks lazily at nothing, doe eyes lost. “Anyway.” Frank stands there, and Matt lies there and none of them move. His fingertips itch to reach out but the marine holds himself back. “Do you ever think about just... riding off?” Frank frowns, not expecting the question. “Just going away, not thinking about anything you leave behind.” “I have nothing to leave behind.” Is his first response. Red pauses, still unmoving. Either because he hears the lie in his heart or because he knows, just knows it’s not true. Not anymore. So Frank sighs. Gives in. “Sometimes, yeah.” “Yeah,” Matt smiles, the curves of his lips tinted in wishful red, the soft curves of his eyes disbelieving of the possibility of ever escaping. Ever getting away. “It’d be nice.”     A strange quiet takes over the apartment the next couple of weeks, while they lay low. Daredevil’s latest attack at the Bulletin and the Punisher sighting and mysterious eye-gouging murderer take over the news. They don’t leave often and Red takes in to checking the perimeter with his weird super senses and, for some reason, that gets Frank sleeping better at night. Most of his days, he fiddles with his police scanner - looking for word of people he had marked to be in Fisk’s payroll, FBI ops, anything the NYPD caught a wind of. Cops were apparently clean since Nelson and Murdock saved the day back then. Frank sighs at himself. Red is rubbing off on him, more ways than one. Although, the other ways don’t happen again after that night. Not for lack of want - they both orbit each other a few feet away, pulling closer as the day progresses without noticing. Frank’s a moon courting an impossible sun. Red is back to training, though, so there’s no time for them to suffer through talking and weird discussions. It happened, they both liked it, they both knew it, they didn’t talk about it. Simple. Frank is admittedly a bit worried at first when Red starts - building himself up to pull ups and push ups. He appreciates that unyielding strength of his (an immovable object, a fire you just couldn’t put out), but if there’s one thing Red’s no good at, is recognizing when it’s time to stop. Sh*t, look at all the things that happened to him and he was still kicking. Still hanging on to those high morals of his. Doesn’t matter that Frank found him half-dead with his skull bashed in, Red still had the strength to to have faith and hope and believe in people, when Frank, well, doesn’t. Even training, Murdock doesn’t last longer than an hour at a time. He doesn’t say it but he gets dizzy and exhausted fast. Frank would watch him across the safe house - he’d drag himself to a corner, guzzle down a bottle of water with shaking arms, eat a fruit or a bite of a protein bar and then he’d sit, cross his legs and go quiet. When he opened his eyes, minutes, sometimes an hour later, Frank could barely recognize the lost, messed up kid he brought to that shack. He’d go down, eyes dead - his arms would stop shaking, his shoulders would relax back and he’d start again with renewed vigor. Red would do it again and again until exhaustion finally caught up to him and he’d crumble by the bed and sleep for a long time. He gets used to being quiet around the place. Training took a lot out of him and Red slept five to six hours during the day. While he does his thing, Frank begins researching. Fisk’s immediate detail has to be it, no other way he’d get in touch with someone trained as quickly as he did. And after Melvin’s admission, well. Ray Nadeem’s face doesn’t surprise him among the files and pictures Micro leaked him. The thought of calling him, setting up a meeting to ask about the copycat is tempting enough, but Frank is resigned to waiting for the time being. He’s just going through the last of the files when a somewhat familiar face catches his eyes. Chiseled jaw, blonde hair, dead shark-like eyes. There was just something about it- Matt rises and jumps up so quickly Frank has no second thoughts when he immediately reaches for the gun in his pants, pressing it close to his chest, eyes checking all possible entrances. Bathroom, kitchen window, front door - no movement. But Red is still standing there, eyes focused and head tilted, whole body locked in defense. He either heard something or he’s in one of his flashbacks again. “Red,” he walks towards him, checks his breathing, his eyes. He’s calm, although alarmed. Frank doesn’t need more reassuring before pushing the redhead behind his body. “Where?” Bathroom, kitchen window, front door. Bathroom, kitchen - Red’s face. His furrowing eyebrows and the confused little twist of his lips. “Roof. Only one.” His muscles twitch, eyes go wide. “I know her,” he whispers, fingers suddenly reaching out to clench tightly to Frank’s sleeve. ”I know her, Frank.” A shift of red and black in the window directly across them and Frank is shoving Red behind him again, pulling the safety off. No way she got there from the roof, there was only one f***ing person he knew that could do that and he was standing right behind him. She steps inside the loft like a shadow spilling. Woman has a presence on her, the walls almost warp towards her. “Matthew,” a thick accented voice greets, her tongue curling around the double T. “You’re awfully hard to find these days.” “Who are you?” Frank’s eyes narrow. Red may not recognize her, but Frank does. Head may be a battlefield of gunfire and contingency plans and his kid’s laughter and Red’s soft voice but he remembers her. It gives him a stop, because that can’t be. He saw her bleed out on that rooftop through his scope, saw Red cry over her corpse. But then there were the initial reports of Midland Circle - Daredevil and an unidentified female trapped underneath. He tries to fight the nausea that comes with the thought. He saw her die. “The f*** you doing here?” But Matt is already stumbling forward and away, face a mask of confusion when he steps closer. Frank wonders if he feels the grief, even if he can’t properly recall it. “Matthew, why don’t you introduce us?” “No, wait, wait. I know you.” Her pretense drops for a moment, eyes calculating when she studies Red’s face, his body language, before turning to Frank. And by then, her gaze is a promise of death and not and easy one. She smiles, small and dry. “What did you do to him?” “I didn’t do sh*t-” “Frank didn’t do anyt-” Both stop at the same time. Red’s fingers close around his bicep, the muscle twitches in response. He stares at him, taking him in, the delicate curve of lips and light stubble. Lips he kissed. The surge of protectiveness almost destroys him. “I remember you,” he growls out, “on that rooftop with all the ninjas.” Her eyes cut sharp like a dagger when she finally stops staring at where Red’s palms were locked to him. The satisfaction is short-lived but Frank savors it all the same. Her face changes, like day and night. The way she looked at Red rubs him off, too - something between helpless affection and toxic, hungry possessiveness. As if Matt was the embodiment of salvation and the picture of meat that she was just dying to dig her claws in. “And I remember you ,” she smiles with little humor, “Matthew was awfully entertained with you back then.” “Was about to say the same.” “No, wait, you know each- Will any of you just tell me what’s going on?” The frustration bleeds into his voice but the girl and Frank are trapped in a conflict of their own. Her hands caress the daggers strapped to her thighs, Frank’s finger twitches against the trigger - but their weapons point down, Red’s presence a weighting on them both. “What happened to him?” “What happened to you?” He shoots back, she raises her eyebrows with a twitch of her head. “I thought you were dead.” Uses the moment to drag Red behind him again because he doesn’t trust the lady as far as he can throw her. “I was,” Frank’s whole body tenses, heartbeat flat-lining in his chest. He tries and fails not to think of Maria, of Lisa, of Junior. “I’ll ask again then, shall I? What happened to him?” “Would you stop talking like I’m not-” “Got his skull bashed in,” Frank rises in volume, “and you didn’t answer mine, the f*** do you want?” “Stop, stop, stop.” Red broke from his hold, taking three steps towards the woman before he froze altogether, his shoulders shaking. “I remember you. I remember fighting with you, you... you died, I held you-” her stance changes but it’s barely noticeable. Frank’s well aware she’s still a threat (probably never wasn’t a threat at any given moment), but something soft creeps at the corner of her lips. She reaches out to push a strand of red hair behind Matt’s ear, quiet fondness in her touch. Almost reverent. Red doesn’t lean into it but doesn’t run either and Frank’s guts twist. “You hurt me,” he whispered then, “I hurt you.” Her hand trembles where she’s touching him. “I don’t even know your name.” Her eyes find Frank’s, raw and desperately trying to cover it. All of her that felt inhuman before seems to melt away then. “Elektra,” she says, eyes still locked to Frank’s. “I heard you were missing.” Too much vunerability, her face twists in disgust at herself. Only then does Elektra finds it in herself to step away from Red and that’s about the only thing he can relate to. Frank can still see it in her eyes. She wants to kill him - do something about Frank being in Red’s immediate surroundings. He can’t say he doesn’t feel the same, and can’t claim to not know why they both don’t do it, the reason standing shakily between them. Their familiarity doesn’t stop there. He sees the way she looks at Matt - the hunger, the protectiveness, the helpless respect. “Take care of yourself, Matthew.” She jumps from the same window she came from, leaving them both there, standing, unable to say a word. NOVEMBER   There was a time when you thought things like that mattered. When you thought everything did.   He shoves the over-packed first aid kit into Red’s hands and the younger man puts it into the duffle as Frank power walks towards the black batons tangled with the sheets at the cot. “Frank, do we really have to-” Christ Jesus, this again. “Yes.” Red follows him like a duckling, still sporting those blushed cheeks against too-pale skin that Frank couldn’t bare looking at sometimes. He looks anyway, every damn time. “She didn’t attack us, she clearly could have-” “Ain’t up for discussion, Red, we’re going.” He reaches out a hand to stop Frank on his way to the ammo boxes stacked away close to the wall because Red had nifty senses, but was still f***ing blind and kept tripping on them. Fingers curl around his bicep. “Just, will you listen to me?” “Didn’t before, Red. Don’t figure I’ll start now.” “Frank...” his goddamn voice, Jesus Christ. Doesn’t need to look at him to know he’s giving him the f***ing eyes. “No,” he drops basic hygiene items into the getaway bag and kicks it out of the way, crowding into Red’s space with powerful steps. “This safe house is compromised. We’re not talking about this sh*t again.” But Red is good at grasping at straws. Spent a whole f***ing lifetime barely hanging on and he’s a pro at it by now. Even more now that he’s got cabin fever - desperate for any proof of connection besides the marine. “Please, Frank, I know her. You clearly know each other, I- she knows me.” More than knows if Frank’s got anything to say about it. Didn’t need to be close to know she was the type of girl that enjoyed playing the game as much as she liked winning it. The cat and mouse thing was her style. Manipulative to a fault. Just look at the way Red reacted to her - like a stray sniffing an owner. Made him f***ing sick to his bones. I know you, he thinks, selfishly, stupidly. “You stick by me, Red,” Frank drops his voice down to a whisper, “I got you.” Matt is still pissed. He can see it in the bullseye forming between his eyebrows. Frank steps closer, stares into the hazel-green of his eyes and reminds himself of all the marks hiding under those clothes. His mouth, his fingers, his bruises. He kisses his cheek chastely, slowly, nosing his temple when he stops pressing his lips to Matt’s skin. Holds on to that warmth he knows he won’t have close for long. “We can’t stay,” he enunciates, not as sure under all the solidity of his voice. Matt sighs and Frank doesn’t let him step away. Not then. Not yet. And there are those eyes again. All that light- “If something happens to you, I-” it dies down. Gets stuck in the cage of muscles spasming around his throat. Red takes a deep inhale that Frank feels overfilling his own lungs, his eyes wide. He steps back, every muscle in his body suddenly calling him to action. But he stays - stays to watch Matthew’s face fall, understanding flooding and creating rivers in the cracks of his anger. “Frank...” He shakes his head in response. He already said too f***ing much he can’t take back. Words just keep spilling out of him, these days. His chest feels flayed open. He needs back - back to before. Just him, the next target, the next mission. Not this. Whatever this is. Whatever Red is. He turns away from Matt, grabbing the getaway bag on the floor. Shoves an extra blanket in it before closing it. Red gets cold these days. “Let’s go.” Grabs what scrap of courage is left to look at him. Red’s face is almost serene, slightly dazed with solemn understanding. Frank thinks he preferred the anger. The anger he knew how to deal with. They walk down the stairs and leave Harlem.     Matt rubs his hands for warmth, presses his digits to feel where old cracks and hairline fractures had knitted his bones. Frank is quiet by his side, but his voice is all Matt can hear. And I’ll kill anyone else in this town if it means you’re safe. If something happens to you- He can’t tell where one neighborhood ends and the other starts, but the scents slowly become more familiar as they go. Smoke gives way to the tall trees of Central Park that gives way to Mexican food, coffee and alcohol. Chatter rises and so do faint sirens. Grocery stores and a Greek food restaurant and universities. Something that smells like childhood. Hell’s Kitchen. Besides his Dad, it was one of his only intact memories. It was difficult to track people besides that. Lindsey’s voice often got mixed and he can’t always remember what she looked like. The nuns all sounded the same, the priest (the good one) was surrounded by fog and the bad one... Well. Matt doubts he had any clear memories of him even before the injury to his head. Elektra... he can define the edges that separate her from the other women in his life, now. The one that smelled sterile like a hospital and the other one in the rain. Elektra was the soft voice in his ears, was the way he’d chant her name when she played with him - and she did play with him. She’d chuckle as she spread him out, coo as she made sure Matt knew he wasn’t in charge. That he was hers, body and soul. He can’t remember when her desires became his, our when his became hers. He does remember feeling utterly broken in her absence - faced with something she saw like a gift and felt like betrayal. He remembers fighting by her side and telling himself he wouldn’t let her come too close again. But soon he was kneeling, waiting for the clarity of her touch, the unburdening of letting himself be taught, guided. Matt figures he always liked himself better that way - when he was someone else’s. And in the middle of all that storm and chaos, right where Matt was taught to thrive, there’s Frank. Who feels more real than anything else in his head, solid and unwavering. There’s memories of him from before and after the injury and the fog. After he decided Frank wasn’t an enemy, and... When did that happen again? When did Frank became something between an ally and more? He sighs and tries to ignore the uptick on Frank’s heartbeat at the sound, the minute acknowledgment of worry. It twists the knife deeper - Frank worries. It should feel like something he should run away from. His finger sneak to his side, pressing against the finger-shaped bruises on his waist, the bite marks all over his torso, thighs and neck. Maybe it’s too late to run. The car stops. Matt steps out of it with a sharp inhale - desperate for air that wasn’t saturated with the smell of Frank’s skin, Frank’s hair, Frank’s clothes and the air that left his healing broken nose. It doesn’t surprise him that the fresh air makes no difference. Frank’s smell is stuck to him - it’s in the clothes he wears, in his hair, in his skin. He wonders if Frank would do it. Grant him that unburdening. Strip him away of the control he so desperately wishes he didn’t have at times. Elektra had bent him out of shape and broken him, but Frank... Frank would put him back together, wouldn’t he? He’d never leave him behind to pick up the pieces. Set him on fire and leave him to burn. And he wouldn’t have to hide from him, Frank’s seen all of Matt. He wouldn’t need to pretend like he did with- Karen. The name comes to him like a punch. It’s what Frank had said that day, to the woman who knew him at the Bulletin. “Karen,” he suddenly exclaims. Frank grunts in return. “Karen, it’s... Karen, it’s Karen. She, she was the woman in the rain, the one who helped me at the office!” It’s muddy, perceptions are tangled, there are thoughts and feelings he can’t put to context. “I didn’t meet her at school, I met her somewhere else, but I can’t remember where, I...” I can’t do this alone, he told her, I can’t take another step. And then she hugged him, didn’t she? You’re not alone, Matt. Blurry edges sharpen like blades. Her image carved like cut-out paper in the back of his skull. Only person besides Frank and Elektra that was actively part of his life that he remembered. Frank is quiet but there’s something weird with his body temperature. Blood pressure drops before it suddenly goes up, up, up. Not anger or frustration, something else. His heart goes scarily steady. “Frank?” “Yeah, that’s... She’s your assistant. I think.” “Oh.” Of course he knew. Matt keeps forgetting that Frank knows more that he lets on. It makes him wonder how deep Frank had been into his life before all of this. And he can’t bring himself to ask now. Not after what he said. What they’ve become - whatever that is. “C’mon, Red.” Frank helps him upstairs, the fog buzzing in his ears. No matter how much he tries, he can’t build up a timeline around Karen. Everything he remembers splintered, wrong, lacking.     “You sound like you’re meditating when you do that.” Frank raises his eyes to meet Red only once before turning back to his gun, checking the recoil strings. “Oh, yeah?” He asks, nonchalantly. “What does that sound like, sunshine?” He moves on to wiping the outside, making sure the bore of the barrel is clean enough. Chances another glance at Red when he’s putting the clip back in and assembling the gun back. He’s folded into a pretzel in the middle of the room. F***, he’s flexible. How far did that leg f***ing go, sh*t- “Your heartbeat slows, your breathing goes even. You almost sound like you’re asleep, peaceful.” Huh. Frank isn’t sure his breathing is even now, face twisting in calisthenics when Red folds into yet another impossible-looking position. Isn’t sure he ever sounds peaceful, either. Got war in his blood. Long before his family. He saw that in Red, too. A soldier wearing a civilian mask. A devil wearing a person suit. And right then, right there, Frank gets to see him free of the need for masks, brains knocked clean. The price of blissful ignorance. “Generalizing, you find something to focus on, usually your own breathing, and lets your mind stick with it. It’s basically what you’re doing.” Figures Frank’s own brand of meditation would include guns. He pauses. Watches Red make faces and clutch at his ribs while he keeps trying to get a tricky position right. “What do you focus on?” Matt blinks and stops altogether, tilts his head to study him in that unnerving way of his. When he speaks, he’s bluntly honest. “Your heart.” Frank halts, waits for the punchline. For something. “And that, what, brings you inner peace?” F***, he shouldn’t ask. He really doesn’t want to know. “It’s not that, it’s...” Matt turns his face away to think and Frank’s almost thankful for it. But Red’s not a quitter and he’s soon turning to face him again. “It’s safe.” Frank stares at him, unable to process what he just heard. And then, trying to find a catch. But there’s Red, who begged him for help and ended up with his skull bashed in. Who Frank’s been arguably holding hostage and hiding sh*t from. Who once bounced a bullet in his f***ing head, telling him Frank’s safe. “That’s f***ed up, Red.” The redhead smiles. “I know.” Frank shakes his head, turning away. Stands up already geared up for the discussion he knows is soon to come as he goes looking for his sniper rifle. Red’s been getting used to the new safe house the last few days but it doesn’t mean he’ll stay put when- “Where are you going?” Bingo. Frank doesn’t stop moving, his back to Red. Checks the rifle before putting it back in its case and grabbing it. Stands up with a sigh. “Gonna find a devil.” And an FBI agent, but Red didn’t need to know that part yet. Murdock stops, his silence saying a thousand things. Frank has to drag his eyes away from the last fading hickey over his Adam’s apple. They hadn’t done it again, besides the one night they got to Hell’s Kitchen and Red... well. Was f***ing angry and determined to show it. Determined to push until Frank finally gave him what he wanted - pushed him against the wall and kept him there until he begged. “Are you going to kill him?” “What do you think?” Can’t fathom how Red sticks to that sh*t anymore. Pain in the ass. Red suddenly stands up, fists clenched tight by his sides. Frank doesn’t want to but he will knock him back on his ass if he has to. “I’m coming with you.” “Like hell you are.” Frank scoffs, eyes instinctively jumping to the bright pink scar over his right ear. “You almost had your skull bashed in again the last time, Red, f***’s sake-” “I’m trained for this-” ah, f***, there he goes. Child soldier bullsh*t. “This concerns me, I’m coming with or without you.” Frank stares at him. F***. He opts for the other strategy. No amount of fighting puts Red down, it only incensed him. Got him invested.

Duty Driven (Taken/Busy IRL)

03/05/2023 08:01 PM 


Summary: “Running away from something, Red?” Frank asks, thumbing back the label of his beer bottle before taking a swig, leaning back on his sh*tty bar stool. Red smiled ruefully, turning to him. Of course he was. They both were. Frank and Matt have a one-night stand a month before the collapse of Midland Circle. Frank digs the devil out, but it soon becomes clear pieces of him stayed under the rubble. Notes: So, I got myself into writing another series because I'm stupidly gone for this ship, anyone relates?This story involves some serious mental health issues, including Insomnia, Suicidal thoughts, suicide attempt, medicine abuse, depression and others. Be advised! I wanted to explore some more of Matt's suicidal tendencies during s03 and defenders, so here it is.This will be a 4 work series, all one-chapter works.Happy reading! TW's:Panic attacks, insomnia, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempt, overdose, depression, hospitalization, some violence.     We thought we knew these sidewalk cracks by heart but even they have altered in our absence, branching out on their own. - Coming Home, Vern Rutsala   When Frank hears about Midland Circle, he’s walking home from a vet meeting at Curt’s, still sore with injuries from the fight with Billy and Agent Orange’s torture. It’s not even a choice. Before he knows it, his feet are carrying him to the closest library. Looking for information on water ducts, abandoned railroads, undergrounds maps of the city old enough for the ink to start fading and the paper to yellow. It’s not until twelve hours later that he finds the Devil’s bloodied, corpse-like body slumped by the river, smooth rocks digging into his bruised face. Frank doesn’t allow himself to acknowledge the heavy, suffocating burn churning in his chest at the sight of him - more bruises and blood than skin, chest barely moving -, and instead takes his vitals, runs his palms over his battered frame to make sure he could move him without risking further injury, mind settled in mission mode. It’s when Red suddenly wakes up, gasping and whispering for him to bring him to Clinton Church, that Frank sees her. A silhouette, a cut-out paper shadow mocking the impression of a woman Frank had seen through his scope once, a year or so before. A woman he saw bleed out in Red’s arms. She disappears before Frank can make sense of what he saw. He has more pressing matters at hand. Matt Murdock is not dying on his arms. So he takes the kid to Clinton Church, running calculations and tactical moves through his head - the medical apparel he needed to find, where he could find a doctor that would keep their mouths shut. Who could he threaten into getting him something or the other, who he could steal from - always bad guys. Father Lantom is not as old as Frank first imagined and he’s strong enough to help him put Matthew’s skinny, bleeding body into the orphanage’s infirmary. One of the nuns tries to call 911, but it only takes a word from the Father ( it’s Jack Murdock’s son, he said) for her to drop the phone. Frank brings in supplies. The nuns do what they can. He grew up here, the small nun, Maggie, tells him. In the orphanage. Frank nods. He doesn’t take his eyes away from the kid the whole time. She wants him and Red gone, but she takes care of him. They swear all the others to secrecy and it’s as good as it’ll get. I know who you are, the Father says, a week later, and Frank is yet again staring at Matt Murdock’s undisturbed, lifeless frame. Skinnier than when he first got there. I can not say I agree with your actions or even understand them, but I can only thank you for bringing him here safe. Frank offers little back. He isn’t sure why he did it. He just never considered the thought of not doing it.     It’s two weeks of daily visits from Frank before Red wakes up. At one moment he’s entering the room of a half-dead man, at the other, he’s watching him stumble and fall from the bed, gasping I can’t see, I can’t see, weakly in the Sister’s arms until he goes limp. After he helps Sister Maggie put him to bed, observing the other nuns hovering around and helping clean his wounds and change his bandages, Frank remembers the day at the bar, months ago. Before David Lieberman came after him. Before Madani’s involvement and Billy’s betrayal. Before William Rawlins. Before Midland Circle. He had been coming home from the construction site he had been working at under Pete Castiglione’s name when he stopped at a bar. It wasn’t something he usually did. But that day, the song from the carousel grated louder in his ears than the others and Maria’s voice was an echo of Hey, sleepyhead. There’s plenty of time now that you’re home. At a bar in Queens, he met Red. “Lost, Frank?” he had asked, swirling a glass of scotch in his hand, a small smile in his face. Frank had considered him only for a moment before he found himself a seat by his side. “I should ask you the same, you’re not in the Kitchen,” Red - Murdock - had chuckled tiredly, eyebrows raising in agreement. He downs the rest of his drink before knocking on the table for another. Frank gestures for the barman. “People haven’t heard much of the Devil for a while.” “And they won’t be,” “Huh,” Frank hadn’t asked. Maybe he should have. He had seen, even then, that something was eating away at him. Instead, he ordered a beer and another double for the auburn-haired man. “Running away from something, Red?” Frank asks, thumbing back the label of his beer bottle before taking a swig, leaning back on his sh*tty bar stool. Red smiled ruefully, turning to him. Of course he was. They both were. They had ended on Matt’s apartment, hours later. And Frank f***ed Red long and good into his sh*tty, blood-stained couch and didn’t think of the hollow hiding behind his ribs for a while. And when he thought Murdock couldn’t possibly take any more, panting and oversensitive as he was, the man straddled him and rode him like he was made for it, with a fluttering chest and shuddering gasps. For a while, Frank had hugged him in his bed. Spooned him from behind and held him tight. Murdock had tensed in his arms, but soon went pliant, allowing Frank - and himself - that moment to bask in human warmth and intimacy against their touch-starved skins. “Thought you were too Catholic for this kinda thing,” Frank had joked, and it wasn’t a lie. And Matt, he laughed, Frank had liked the sound enough that it scared him. “I’m not too good at being a Catholic,” he had answered, before his chuckle tempered down into a sigh. “It’s almost dawn.” “You got somewhere to be?” Someone, he didn’t say, remembering how Nelson and Murdock had dissolved, how Karen now worked somewhere else. Do you have anyone? Matt had gone quiet. Stiff under his fingers. “No,” he had whispered back, “nowhere.”       The next time Murdock wakes up, Frank is there, sitting by his bedside. Red is a bit more aware of his surroundings when one of the nun’s help him drink some water. He’s scarily thin and pale, his head doesn’t twitch side to side as Frank was used to seeing. “How are you, Red?” He doesn’t talk, staring straight at the ceiling, seeing nothing. Unlike the last time he woke up, he wasn’t trying to touch his ears. Just looking at nothing. Sucking all the noise around him like a black hole. Matt looked blank. Like he wasn’t even there. “Was she there?” He asks, finally, in a hoarse whisper, in what seems like an hour later but could have been only minutes. “I don’t know,” but he does know who Red’s talking about. He didn’t think it was possible, despite the reports of Daredevil and an unidentified woman being trapped under Midland Circle. “I thought she-” “She did,” Matt swallows thickly, somberly. “They brought her back,” he whispers, something like dread tainting all the blankness from before. “They brought her back and she was all wrong.” Frank’s heart stutters in his chest. Because as much as he’d like to unpack all that’s built inside that statement, it’s not what matters now. “What were you doing there, Red?” “She didn’t let me leave.” “ Bullsh*t,” Frank growls, pushing his feet into the ground but not making a move to stand up. Red doesn’t make an effort to acknowledge him, staring straight ahead, avoiding. He probably wasn’t even sure of where Frank was, and wasn’t that a sobering yet terrifying thought? “Bullsh*t, Red.” Silence stretches thin until it snaps and Red opens his mouth. And Red speaks. When he’s done, Frank stands up suddenly, the small pile of books falling from the nightstand to the floor. The feeling of unreality lasts for a mere second before he stomps away from the orphanage’s infirmary. His chest heaving in strained pants, furious, raging. He stomps away. Away from Red. If the Sister is surprised by his sudden hurry to leave, she doesn’t let it show. If anything, she looks resigned. She had said it before, everybody leaves Matthew. “He needs a friend,” is all she says, folding some donation clothes by the church pews. “He’s not in a good place,” yeah, no sh*t. Her eyes stray to the hallway Frank just strode away from. “And you’re the only one here.” “I can’t be that friend, Ma’am,” his voice is way more strained than he expected, it leaves his throat in a hoarse murmur. She gives him knowing eyes, hidden behind indifference. “Something more, maybe?” Frank just shakes his head. He can’t. If he closes his eyes, he can remember how pink and purple neon shined against Matthew’s skin. “Just... if you need supplies,” She nods, Frank ignores the disappointment that radiates stronger than it should in a frame so small. Her eyes... her eyes were familiar. “We have your number.” Frank walks away. Red’s words against his hurt lips, spilling into his bruised, mottled skin, they echo. Get stuck in his head. Repeating again and again until he can’t hear them anymore, just the movement of his lips. He dreams of him, asleep in his bed. Frank caresses a hand through his auburn hair and Red smiles. And when Frank’s about to leave, Matt’s mouthing those words, the same words he said that night, in between silk sheets, with Frank’s love bites blossoming on his neck and chest. The same Goddamned words.     It’s a month later when Daredevil - the fake one, because Frank knows the altar boy would never... he just couldn’t. He didn’t have it in him. And then, Wilson Fisk is exposed and arrested once more. A week later, Frank sees Red on patrol. He’s wearing all black and fighting off five, six people at the same time. When three more show up, Frank jumps in. He doesn’t even doubt himself for a second - clean slate, and all that. He covers fire for him, keeps to his rules, shoots kneecaps and elbows and steers clear from heads. The moment they get a reprieve, Red is on him, snarling like a feral animal and pushing him away. “Red-” “Get away,” his voice is down to a growl, and an unbidden shiver works through Frank’s guts at the sheer force of his glare. “Or you’re getting hurt.” And Red does it himself, brutal and efficient. Red doesn’t make a sound, he’s a blotch of ink moving in the flickering lights. He fights like Frank’s never seen him fight before. Except, he thinks, that day on the roof. And Frank... Frank can’t keep up with him. For the first time since he met the Devil, he can’t keep up with him. Not while carrying the armory he has on him. “Red, just wait-” But he disappears. Like a shadow, and Frank can’t follow him. The only trace he leaves behind a hand-print in blood on a wall.     That week, Frank runs some reconnaissance. He settles, belly down, three buildings away from Nelson, Murdock and Page’s new office. Watches through his scope as Nelson puts up their new plaque. Right then, Red seems fine. He laughs at someone Nelson says and Karen pats his shoulder with a fond glance their way. Red turns to her, smiles sweetly and pulls both of them for a little group hug. Red shakes his head with a little smirk to something Karen says, he seems fine. Red flinches away from their touch before leaning closer. His suit hangs loosely off his frame, he looks... tired. Skin-deep though, he puts on a show for his friends. He seems fine. Frank sighs wearily and the Devil tilts his head subtly, dangerously, towards the direction of the rooftop Frank lying on. Red seems to consider something before smiling again towards Nelson and walking inside. Frank leaves, hissing out a curse under his breath.     Red is being careless. Reckless. More than he usually is, which Frank never thought was possible. It’s almost like he’s tempting his God to come down himself and end him. Frank knows a little bit about that - the edge you can’t shake off, walking straight towards the barrel of a gun or maybe staying behind in a boat about to blow up. But even in the peak of his self-destructive bullsh*t, Frank wore body armor. Red’s wearing pajamas and staying out almost all night, at all hours of the night. Kid was a danger to himself. It’s proof to how he’s exhausting himself that, one night, Frank manages to catch up to him. “What are you doing out this late, Red?” “Go home, Frank,” he’s getting tired of this cat and mouse thing. “Come on, stop that,” he chides, carefully, voice low. “That ain’t me and you know it.” But Murdock just tilts his head, “I really don’t,” Frank grits his teeth. Maybe he deserves that. “Look, you wanna talk about it, we can talk.” “I don’t wanna talk, Frank,” he rebukes coldly. Walls so high up around him Frank can barely see what’s behind. But his fingers are trembling, his whole body shaking tiredly. His nose is bleeding, he moves with a limp. “I don’t know what you want, but it certainly isn’t me, so go.” “Cut the sh*t, Red,” he breaks in, last drop of his patience long gone. He steps forward into Matt’s space, who tries stepping back only to find a wall. He’s out of his game. “You think I haven’t seen it? You’ve been at it at all hours of the night, every night, you’re past burning that candle on both ends-” “I don’t need your patronizing bullsh*t-” “And that candle’s gotta burn on, Red. Long after tonight.” Red’s whole frame goes still for one moment, just long enough that Frank’s hackles go down and he thinks he’s finally gotten through to him. But then, suddenly the kid is pulling him close, both hands fisted in his shirt, with such ferocity that he stumbles slightly before finding his footing. “It’s none of your business.” “Yeah?” It hurts more than he’s willing to admit, so instead he grabs onto him too, fingers digging into his (skinny, bruised) upper arms, reaching up to tear the mask away from his face. “What about Karen then, Red? Nelson? Is it their business?” Red’s stutters, his hands loosen before his grip tightens. “You catch your death out here, you piss off the wrong guys, they’re gonna pay for it too, Red, you know that, don’t you?” Murdock shoves him away, taking the mask with him, eyes wide, breathing shallow. Frank almost takes it back, seeing the full-body tremor that wrecks his frame and remembering that Wilson Fisk and the fake Devil wasn’t too long ago. That Red probably spent day after day wondering if he’d wake up to news of his loved one’s deaths. “Red...” “Get the hell away from me, Frank,” he whispers, the decibels rising just above a breath, croaking exhausted. Frank thinks he’s never seen him this defeated, this tired. Red steps off the side of the building and disappears. Frank doesn’t try to follow.     He does follow him a few nights later and it’s too easy. Red’s out of his depth if he hasn’t noticed Frank. He finds a spot behind the huge neon sign, hoping it’s buzzing masks his heartbeat or smell or whatever it is Red uses to recognize him. It’s four in the morning and Murdock should be done in, but despite the scarily deep circles under his eyes he’s restless, head twitching left and right, pacing in circles, rubbing his palm through his face occasionally. Frank settles down and observes him through his scope as he goes inside his bathroom and comes back a few minutes later - showered and snug under thick autumn clothes. Red paces some more before tilting his head towards the table and just... standing there. As if he was mulling something over in that busy head of his. Frank watches him reach out a hand for a bottle of prescription pills on his coffee table, taking three and swallowing them dry. He clenches and loosens his fists in cycles, eyes closed and up to the ceiling. Murdock looks unsettled, fidgeting, twitching. His face set in a troubled, weary expression, eyes suspiciously bright in the neon lights. He had followed Red since eleven in the evening. He had been going at it for at least five hours, and still, he paced. It’s half an hour later when Matt finally sits down, staring straight ahead. Head tilting and twitching towards sounds far away, hands shaking. He doesn’t sleep. Frank leaves when dawn comes.     Thinking back, maybe it was the last straw, that night. He’d been observing Red for a while now, sometimes from behind the neon sign, sometimes through the scope of his sniper rifle. Red had lost weight, his milk-toned skin faded into a sickly ashen by the time night came and he was slacking off. The last few days, the Devil hadn’t noticed Frank following him from work to his nightly outings and that sh*t right there, that was worrying. It was only inevitable that Red, eventually, bit more than he could chew. But Frank’s ready when it happens and soon jumps into action. He keeps to Red’s rules for as long as he can, for as long as the a**holes they’re fighting let him. Once one pulls a gun to the back of Murdock’s head, Frank shoots his arm off with a shotgun. The blast clearly throws Red’s senses off the rails because he falters on where he stands, hands fisting a lowlife’s collar. The guy is quick to take advantage of Daredevil’s sudden distraction. Frank shoots his brains out the moment his knife nicks a piece of Red’s shirt off, right under his ribs. He thinks he hears Red’s shout of no!, but Frank’s busy taking care of the others surrounding them. He looses himself easily in it, in the blood he spills, in the blood that latches onto his skin as if finding home. And Frank never feels more at home than when he’s dipped in red. The last man standing. Red is on him the moment the last gang member falls to the ground, a hole through her tattooed neck. He’s torn off his mask and has his (tired, sleep-deprived) eyes burning wildfires into Frank’s skin. The moment Matthew’s hands dig into Frank, Frank’s dig into him too, bringing him closer, keeping him away. Wanting to appease his anger the same way he wants to watch it consume them both. “You piece of sh*t, you piece of sh*t, I can’t believe you!” Red snarls against him, faces too close together, baring teeth and curling lips. He burns into his reserves until the last drop is the only thing keeping him anchored to Frank, and Frank is the only thing keeping him from falling to the ground. He holds him tighter - feels like, should he let him go right then, Red would fall right through the floor and be swallowed by it. “You burst into something that has nothing NOTHING to do with you and you turn it into a blood bath!” “Yeah, you’d rather I had let that piece of sh*t stab you?” Frank snarls back, pulling him closer by his arms. Enough that he’s not sure what any of them would do should they get closer yet. He’s earth meeting fire, and Red’s embers were burning brighter than ever. “You’d rather let them go free than get the job done, Murdock?” “These people, they have families, they have kids-” “ For crying out loud, shut your goddamn mouth-” “That man you shot in MY arms, I followed him for weeks, he had a kid, Frank, he had a wife,” Red heaves out a weak breath and his eyes are too bright. “They’re better off without him!” Frank doesn’t know how he realizes it’s the wrong thing to say, only that he does. Matt looks about to cry or maybe fall apart, and Frank doesn’t think he’s ever seen him like this. It’s the lack of sleep, he thinks to himself. What else would it be? He grew up here, the Sister had said, in the orphanage. Murdock tries to attack again, but he’s weak. The former marine easily stops him, holding his elbows back, keeping his fists and legs away while letting his head thump against his chest. Matt snarls like a wounded animal, tries to kick him, but his muscles are quickly turning liquid and his bones rattle and quiver weakly in his attempts. “The hell happened to you, Red.” Stupid question. Midland, Elektra, Fisk, Poindexter, - whatever those pills were, the ones he took almost every night. Naively (obtusely, foolishly) Frank had thought he’d be better once he got back to his friends, started their firm again. He thought he’d be better once Frank’s brief presence in his life came to an end. But then again, Frank leaving had been anything but selfless. He’d always been quick to get lost in his head. Maybe that’s something he shares with Red. His fingers find a warm, wet spot on Murdock’s ribs when he tries to twist away from Frank. Bullet graze. “Com’on, let me patch you up.” “Let go.” There’s something in his face, Frank can’t call it by any name he knows. Layers and layers of too much, at the same time. He’s fighting the ocean, trying to set fire to it on his own. And Red... he looks like he wants to let the tide take him away. “Come on,” he says it softer, this time. Matthew doesn’t consent as much as he just stops fighting altogether, going deceivingly pliant against his hold. By the time they’re entering his apartment through the rooftop access, Red’s fiery attitude has been replaced by an unnerving, blank sort of avoidance. The bone-deep exhaustion is still there and it seems to weight more then as they get past the stairs. Matt looks done in. The bright orange of two different pill bottles catches his eyes as he makes his way to the coffee table, glancing at the name. Prozac, the almost empty one reads. Ambien, reads the half-full one. There’s another empty one, forgotten on the floor. “Having trouble sleeping?” He asks, as casually as he can get. The marine half expects it to be the thing that finally gets Red’s fury out once again, but no such luck. A shake of his head, more of fatigue than of disagreement, is the only response Castle gets. Red takes a first aid kit out of the bathroom and sits gingerly on the couch before taking off his compression shirt. Frank can’t help but hiss softly at the sight - Red’s a Pollock of bruises overlayed with cuts and scabs. There’s a splatter of drying blood along his neck and face - likely from the guy Frank shot. It’s not often Frank feels guilty for a kill. Not exactly for doing it, but how he did it. He shouldn’t have done it with Red holding the guy, close as he was, hands still on him. Not with the way the kid tied himself over knots over every little thing. He sighs, gets his mind to focus on the work. He sits facing Red, unsettled by not being able to read his face. Murdock is not exactly good at hiding his emotions and Frank’s good at picking people apart. But somehow, just then... It’s like the orphanage infirmary all over again. And Frank hates remembering that. “Look, Red,” “It’s been repeating since morning,” Matt interrupts, his voice oddly soft. Distant. Frank stops what he’s doing, the first stitch already done. “It won’t stop.” “What won’t stop?” Red looks... sh*t, he looks a bit feverish. Pale and clammy. It’s certainly not from blood loss, he hardly bled enough for that. There was something wrong. Just... off. Frank’s eyes involuntarily track back to the half-empty bottle of sleeping pills on the table. The empty one on the floor. He knew a bit about how messed up your head can get when you just can’t sleep. Frank had had nightmares for a long time after his Maria and his babies. Matthew’s eyebrows twitch and there’s a crack in him - a chasm splitting him in half from the inside out. Just deep enough under the skin that, should Frank be a little less familiar with him, he wouldn’t have seen it. “The radio,” he croaks out, tiredly. “Can’t you hear it? Two apartments down? No, three,” he chuckles a little, eyes bright. Frank sees the tears and freezes, stopping mid-stitch. “There’s a...” he laughs this time. “A stray adoption day at the park, like, like- like the saying?” Frank cuts off the thread, his heart thundering in his chest. “Red..?” His mind races a mile a minute. Is he drugged? Concussed? Something’s seriously off, something... “Like the saying, at the orphanage,” he huffs out another humorless, weak laugh. “The saying, they’d say... They said it was a safe place, until you found your forever home,” Murdock barks out a laugh, as if he finds it exceptionally amusing. Frank’s nauseated, but he holds him. Holds him because Red looks like he’s breaking and Frank’s afraid he’ll spill all over his stained floor and won’t be able to find the pieces of himself when it’s over. “Like puppies, you see? Like we were lost, stray puppies. You shouldn’t be jealous of the others, pup, one day you’ll find your forever home too,” his chuckling is nothing but a breath, now, a shaky hand coming up to brush the tears out of his face. “But we never did,” the laughter is all gone now. A small smile the only suggestion of it ever being there, cracking at the edges. “We never went home.” Frank has nothing to say. Wouldn’t know what to say. What could he, really? When there was nothing but Frank’s hands holding Red together there, in his blood-stained couch. The one Frank had f***ed him into months before and then left. Just... left. He thinks he had seen this coming a long time ago. It’s none of your business, he had told himself. Convinced himself. Too deep into the ocean to be able to make sense of it. “I’m tired, Frank,” his whisper is barely there when he finishes. “I’m really tired.” Frank nods. Tired he understands, tired he can fix. “You need sleep, Red, yeah?” He sticks the adhesive dressing over the stitched-up graze. He glances at the sleeping pills. “You want to take one before-” But Red’s back to his unnerving blank stare. “They don’t work,” he says, holding his stitched-up side. Frank’s hands hover over his shoulders, his lower back. Wouldn’t know how to touch him without breaking him more. “They never work.” The marine nods. “Yeah, I’ll go,” Red twists his head towards him subtly, softly. He’s not surprised, once again. Just like... yeah. “I’ll see you around, Red.” He averts his eyes the moment Matt opens his mouth. Frank thinks he sees him mouth something but the sound dies in his tongue before it reaches the surface. But he saw it, he thinks. He can’t be sure, he tells himself. Maybe it’s just an echo, his scarred head playing tricks on him. Maybe it’s an echo from that day, after the bar. Maybe...     “Bullsh*t, Red.” “I knew I wasn’t getting out of Midland Circle. And Elektra... she knew it too.” “You shut- shut your mouth,” “Told her we were gonna die and she said... She said, this is what living feels like,” Red closed his eyes. “I knew I wasn’t getting out,” he whispered, then: “I didn’t want to get out.”     Frank stops in front of a laundromat, two blocks away from Red’s building. If he looks back, he can still see it. He could still peek over his shoulder, and if he lets his mind drift, Frank almost feels like a schoolboy again. Wondering if that one boy he shared lunch with the day before is going to come to school, so they can share it again. He wonders if he should go back, now that Red’s voice faded among the noise in his head. He knows it will come back soon (it always does, Matt’s voice, for some reason, always comes back). Frank keeps walking. None of your business, his own voice whispers back to him. None of your business. And yet, he couldn’t shake off the cold in his bones. Something had happened in Red’s apartment, and Frank probably would never know or begin to understand what. It was like opening a box and hoping to find what you were looking for, and be greeted instead with a mangled imitation. Faulty clockwork. He walks for maybe an hour, mulling it all around in his mind, as if tasting bitter wine. Red, sitting alone in a bar in Queens. Red, admitting he had no one. Red staying behind under a collapsing building with that woman. Red’s sleeping problems. His reckless behavior, his confession in that small orphanage infirmary. Matt, chuckling like life is one big, bad joke, tears in his eyes. We never went home. The nun’s voice, coming back to him in a whisper, everybody leaves Matthew. Matt lying in a orphanage bed, looking so utterly at peace with his own words, conflicted with the reality in which he woke up to. I didn’t want to get out. He freezes before crossing the street. Frank doesn’t know what finally propels him to go back, he doesn’t know at which point did his walk turn into a run. Metal creaks and complains under his stomping feet as he takes two steps at a time, making his way up the fire escape. His pulse is booming like thunder inside his ribs, throbbing in his temples, threatening to give him a headache as he opens the door to the roof. He’s panting from his run, a palpitation in his chest when he finds the apartment silent. Murdock’s not in his room, he notices first. The two bottles he saw earlier on the coffee table are not there either. He must make a sound, something, because it echoes like a mewl from a wounded animal. Frank isn’t sure if the sound comes from him, but he moves towards the echo anyway, only for his feet to kick something in the way. The first thing he sees as he clicks the light switch on are two bright orange bottles. Both empty. But, they had been almost full before, hadn’t they? At least one of them had, he was sure- “Red?” A crash answers him, a small, cut-off cry he’s sure doesn’t belong to him. But he knows that voice, hears it in his dreams. Hears it whispering to him during the day - he follows it to the bathroom, clicking another light on. His stomach drops, blood running cold. Frank’s knees go weak and, in a second, he’s kneeling, holding Matt’s body in his arms as he convulsed, choking on his own spit and bile. Twitching and seizing non-stop, it didn’t matter how hard Frank held him close, positioning him sideways so he wouldn’t suffocate. It didn’t matter what he did- “Jesus Christ, what did you do?” his voice breaks, hands shaking where they grip Red’s frame, his skin ashen. Frank glances at the empty bottles, Prozac, it displays, Ambien. “What did you do?” He asks again, uselessly, eyes stinging as he holds him, waiting for the seizure to stop. Red’s drying, colorless vomit reeks of medicine. He calls emergency services, past caring if any of them saw through his beard and recognized his face. The words flow from his mouth in a syncopated rhythm and Frank barely hears himself over the buzzing. Nothing. Took pills, Red’s pallid, sallow skin. Prozac, his wide eyes fighting to stay open. Ambien, his hands, shaking violently, fingers spasming. Don’t know how long ago, Red’s auburn, bright hair against white tiles, colorless vomit, foam-covered lips. Male, about 30, the way he said his name, not long ago. Seizure, no blood in the vomit, Red’s little smile when Frank held him that day, twisted in silk sheets, soft against their scarred skins. “What did you do?” Frank asks again, voice sepulchral, begging, whispering. He does what the attendant tells him - checks the pupils (huge), his pulse (fluttery, too quick), his temperature (cold, getting colder), his breathing (shallow, fast). Frank holds the world in his hands as it falls apart silently, quiet as a grave. And what a terrifying thought it is. What a terrifying thought. He doesn’t know when he starts softly rocking, trembling fingertips caressing a cold cheek, his breathing ragged, shaky. His voice rather toneless as he mumble nothings into the empty air, ( you’re okay Red, I got you, I got you Matt, here with you, M’here with you) one finger digging into Red’s neck, pressing into a tripwire pulse. Too quick. Spasming like his muscles. Frank doesn’t hear the paramedics breaking down the door, doesn’t hear them until they’re right there, taking him away from him, asking Frank to step back, putting a blanket around his shoulders. He doesn’t know how much time passes before he stops fighting the paramedics holding him back and one of them is waving the bottles in front of him. Prozac. It says. Ambien. “Sir, I need you to answer me,” Frank nods, lethargic, clearing his throat before his eyes go back to Red. “Sir, do you know how many did he take?” “About... there was about half a bottle of Ambien. Not much of Prozac, maybe 10 pills, just- is he... is he...” is he breathing? Is he alive? “He’s stabilized for now, but we need to move him. We’re taking him to Metro-General,” The world is too quick around him. They have Red on a stretcher ( they’re taking him away), he fights the one guy still holding him back, but he’s weak. “His pupils are non-responsive,” a voice floats from his right, the man with a flashlight to Red’s eyes. “He’s blind,” he croaks out, licks his dry, parched lips. “He’s blind.” “Okay, sir,” the medic nods to another. “Tell them we’re bringing in a suicide attempt victim,” the words, they hit him, puncture his skin. A bullet in the dark where he can’t make sense of where it’s coming from. That they call him, Matt Murdock, brilliant lawyer, fierce protector, sweet, vicious Matthew, like that. Suicide attempt victim, they say. Frank can still feel his cold skin in his palms, as if he was still holding him there. Him and Matt, trapped between white, cold tiles, hanging off the edge, unaware that they’re in free fall. “Sir, are you his proxy?” “I’ll call him,” voice like gravel, bleeding like tar. “I’ll call his proxy.” “Does he have any family we can call?” But we never did. “No,” We never went home. “No, he doesn’t.”     Frank doesn’t think he ever got to go home, either. He planned to, craved it even. But home had never been his house, it had been Maria and the kids. And they died before he could remember how to feel it again. And after that... After that, Frank wasn’t looking for home anymore. He wonders if Matt had been, all this time. Nelson is on him from the moment he gets there, Karen hot in his heels. His hands shake when they grab his jacket only to push him. Frank barely stumbles. “What did you do to him?” He demands, eyes furious even while they threaten to spill like waterfalls. “Foggy-” Karen is shaken off the moment she tries to hold him back. “What did you do to my friend?! What did you do?” Frank doesn’t answer - what could he say? There was nothing to be said. Nothing that wouldn’t make it hurt more. He’s still numb. Still feeling the imprint of Red’s clammy skin and spasming muscles like a phantom limb. Karen must pull Nelson away, because suddenly she’s in front of him, big, cerulean eyes worried. Teary. “Frank, what happened?” He finds that he can talk. At least with her. “Found him,” She frowns, confused. “What?” “I found him,” Frank swallows. Can’t blink away the image seared into his eyelids, how his whole body went taut while he seized, how his own voice sounded frantic and broken as it boomed and echoed around the small bathroom. He makes eye contact with her. “I found him,” Karen looks lost for about a second before horror downs in her eyes and she gasps, taking a step back, hands covering her mouth. “He, he took pills.” “What is he-” Nelson’s voice fades when Karen sobs, still staring with wild, disbelieving eyes into Frank’s. “What’s he talking about?” “I thought, Jesus Christ,” her face looks pink when she cries, Frank remembers, for all the times she spilled tears for him. As if he deserved any of them. That same odd feeling of unreality claims him back, his skin is not his own, wet tiles touching his knees, seizing, shaking. “He said he was okay, he said- I gave him a therapist’s number, he said it was just insomnia, oh my god.” “Matt,” Nelson’s face contorts in a ugly, painful try at confusion and Frank’s dissociating mind focuses at it, for some reason. “Matt tried to-?” Frank averts his eyes when Karen jumps to hug Nelson by the neck, sobbing into his shoulder. His heartbeat a deafening roar in his ears, a painful stab against his rib cage. He sits down in the waiting room, with the two of them. The mismatched family Red had patched for himself but was never taught how to keep, how to hold it together. Frank feels cold tiles on his knees, sweaty, cold skin on his fingertips. And he knows that he’s still there, on that bathroom floor, holding Red’s life in his hands. He wonders if that’s how Matt felt, when he woke up at the church. Like he was still under the rubble, getting slowly crushed but never dying. Feeling bone after bone break, but never finding any peace.     Karen sits with him, later. While Nelson goes to Red’s place to pack up clothes for him. He’s out of the woods and stabilizing, we’re doing our best to clear out his system. A young, wide-eyed nurse had explained. He’s alive. Frank knows the shock will wear out eventually. He knows the next stop is anger. Some twisted Kubler-Ross bullsh*t. He’ll rage and he’ll want answers, but does he have any right to them? Does having a night with him entitles Frank to those answers? Does stitching up his wounds, finding him seizing in the floor? “Do you think... do you think it was on purpose?” Karen asks, her dulcet tone masking the dread Frank knows is wreaking havoc, deep down. Frank shakes his head. Does he think downing almost half a bottle of sleeping pills with some heavy antidepressants classified as a suicide attempt? Yes. Did Frank think it was on purpose, that Red wanted to die? He doesn’t. He doesn’t know. How could he? They know Red longer than he does. Now, if they know him well... That’s another problem. He knows Red’s lips look sweet but are infinitely sweeter once you kiss them. He knows his skin is warm like a fireplace. He knows his hair shines auburn-red in the sun and feel soft. He knows Red likes when you pull them, when you show him where you want him, how much you want him. He knows Matt’s waist is smaller than his ill-fitting clothes would lead you to think it was, and that it felt so breakable under his roughened hands. He knows Matt punches hard and is perhaps too quick to forgive and the last to give up hope. He knows the first and last person Matt Murdock will always hate and punish the most will be himself. He knows how he sounds when he whimpers in bliss, how his legs feel around Frank’s waist, how he’s shy about his eyes, how he fights like a dancer and hits like a boxer and always, always gets back up. And Frank knows that, should he ask his past self if he saw himself in this situation, his other would snort at his face. Should he ask his past self from days ago if he ever thought Red would pull something like this, he’d say no and yet he had seen it happening right under his nose. Because Midland Circle was it’s own proof and yet. “I don’t know, Karen, right before he... he cracked,” Frank shakes his head. “He’s been off, the last few weeks, I don’t know.” Isn’t that where it all comes back to? He didn’t know. He saw it but he didn’t observe it, not really. He averted his eyes, pretended it didn’t matter. He took for granted how much Red could take, took for granted the pain he saw, the struggling. He really doesn’t know. Maybe Red was half out of his mind and really just trying to sleep, maybe he has lost hold of himself, or maybe... Maybe he wanted to end it. I’m tired, Frank. Didn’t he tell him the same thing, roughly a year before? You ever been tired, Red? Frank feels the anger as it finally comes. Overcomes the shock with a snap, a rubber band pulled too hard, past it’s breaking point. Wasn’t it enough that he lost them? Didn’t he suffer enough, losing his wife, his babies? But then again, Frank had walked away from him. Not once, not twice. He walked away after the bar. He walked away from the church orphanage and the night before. When he saw it, when he knew Matt Murdock was way past his breaking point. Red hadn’t been looking good even then, sitting alone in the sh*tty bar stool. His knuckles were healed and his palms soft and Frank’s had never been rougher, full of healing sores and open ones after spending day after day hammering down walls. They had talked, and Frank had driven them to Red’s apartment and Matt had given him this small, almost innocent smile before inviting him in. He had looked pure and Frank had wanted to ruin him and so he did. And Matt, Matt had wanted to be ruined. And then he didn’t, in the end. He wanted to let Frank hold him. Hold his brittle, cracked parts together. But Frank had freaked out. And Red, he saw it. He noticed it even before Frank’s breath caught in his throat with guilt, panic, anger, grief. When he was leaving, Matthew didn’t look surprised or angry. It was almost like he had been expecting it. Like he never thought it could end any other way. And then, he had mouthed - said, begged - in a faint whisper, soft like it didn’t matter, like he didn’t think it’d be heard. He had almost begged- It didn’t matter. Frank had left. “I don’t know,” he repeats. Karen puts one hand on his shoulder. And he hears what she doesn’t ask. Why were you there? Why are you here? “I don’t know.” But he does.     Sometimes, Frank dreams he was there when Midland Circle collapsed. In some dreams, he’s outside, watching it explode and the blast is loud enough that he can’t hear himself over it. In others, he’s under it with Red, and he’s holding his hand as he pulls him, tells him to go, get the f*** out. Asks him why, why, why. But Red always answers the same way, always says the same thing. Frank has repeated it so many times, whispered over and over in his head, that he barely hears it anymore - just sees the movement of his lips when he says it. This is what living feels like. But sometimes, he says what he did when Frank was hastily putting his clothes on, leaving soft silk sheets and a naked, quiet Matthew behind. The same thing he had said the night before, when Frank left him in his apartment after his breakdown. But still, Matt’s just mouthing it. Red would never say that out loud, his own voice whispers back. But he did, that day. He did say it. Frank just chose not to listen. Everybody leaves Matthew. In the waiting room, Frank thinks Matt had been asking for help in the only way he knew how. And if that’s the truth, Frank had seen it but ignored it, and let him fall. In some dreams, Frank is the bomb. He’s the one thing that traps Red under the rubble. He’s the overwhelming deafness of the explosion before concrete comes crumbling down.       When Red wakes up, like months ago, Frank is there. It’s almost like they’re trapped in their own, f***ed up loop. He’s there to witness the surprise in his wide eyes, the opening and closing of his mouth in stuttered gasps as tears track down his face. It takes away all his doubts. That surprise. The tears. Red didn’t expect to wake up. Frank’s stomach twists in anger (nausea, grief) as he stands up and goes to the door, calling a nurse before going after Nelson and Karen. He didn’t - couldn’t - stay. When he leaves, he doesn’t look back. Afraid that Red will be saying the same thing again, the same words. The same goddamned words that would have made all the difference, should Frank have listened to them.     The next night, Karen calls him and Frank finds himself sitting in his van, staring at Metro-General’s front. The anger from before has faded slightly through the course of twenty-something hours. “Can you stay with him?” She had said, like she was asking him to watch her dog. Like we were lost, stray puppies. Frank curses, hidden behind a sigh. Shakes his head and pinches the bridge of his nose before staring at the flaking white paint under the big, red neon sign of the hospital. He takes the small, overnight duffel bag he brought with him, prepared for any occasion. It takes some effort to get his heart rate down. Combat boots hit the front door’s threshold before he’s even realized he’s moved. Karen and Nelson look like sh*t. Frank wonders if this will be the last straw for them too. If this is where Karen finally gets away, where Nelson finally gives up on his friend. Can’t be easy, Frank knows that. God knows what kept Curtis coming back to him, what kept Karen coming back or even the Liebermans. He wasn’t one to question much, at least not on a good day. Now Red - there wasn’t a single thing in his goddamn world Matt Murdock didn’t question, challenge or defy. Death, apparently, being the most prominent one of those. “Just... be careful, F- Pete,” Karen corrects herself, sighing and passing her long, manicured nails through her hair. “He’s not...” She looks at Nelson, helplessly. The blonde shakes his head too, that same pained, torn expression from the day before. “Make sure he doesn’t try to choke himself with his own IV,” he croaks out, coldly and Frank knows it’s none of his business, but he dares hope Nelson works through the hurt, the pain. Because if Karen leaves, Matt may close off, get sadder, quieter or angrier. But if Foggy Nelson left? Frank thinks that would be the last straw. Murdock turns his head away as soon as Frank enters his room, chest rising a bit raggedly. He’s still drowsy but the nurses warned that could happen. That had he taken a bit more than what he did of Prozac (they estimated between five to seven pills), he may have survived, but he’d most definitely have lasting sequels - motor coordination impairment, hearing loss, something named RASP, not any of it good things. That had the paramedics taken a bit longer to get there or Frank to find him, Red would have likely suffocated in his own spit and vomit. That the cardio-respiratory arrest he went in when he got to the emergency room could have killed him, should it have lasted mere seconds more than it did. Frank lets his bag drop to the ground by his feet and watches him. His slow-blinking, his shaky hands, his still pale skin, blue veins like spider-webs along his arms. Stark against an old, silvery scar by his elbow. Knife wound. The former marine sits down with a heaving sigh. Karen had told him earlier Murdock was put under periodic suicide watch, which meant a nurse would be checking in frequently to make sure he was alright. All the angry words he had left him in a blink of an eye. They would come back soon enough. “Brought a book,” he offers, quietly. If Karen’s research was to be believed, the cocktail of sleep deprivation, Prozac and Ambien would be enough to get Murdock’s senses a bit haywire. And as much as a wicked part of him wanted to punish him for his actions, for the sh*t he just pulled, Frank refrains from it. “Not going to give me a talk down?” Matt asks in a hoarse, phantom-like whisper. With all those tubes, pale like the sheets he was under, like the tiles Frank had found him. “Figured your friends got that covered,” and it’s not a lie. Curt would say another talking down is the last thing the kid needs right now. If the goal is feeling like sh*t, Red had that part handled. If it’s making him feel guilty, realize the extent of his actions, Red was most certainly thinking about it already. “Ever read Proust, Red?” “Yeah,” Matt looks at him a bit amused, although he doesn’t smile. He seems too tired for that. “Is In search of lost time supposed to make me feel better?” He asks and this time he sounds teasing. “Well, he did say happiness was beneficial for the body,” Frank shrugs, a small smile in his face. It doesn’t erase where they are but it’s almost like he could just... pretend. Just for a while. The heart monitor beeps steadily. “He’s the father of existential crisis, Frank,” he huffs out a snort at that, watching the artificial light as it touched Red’s damaged, cloudy eyes in a haze. “Brought poetry too,” Matt doesn’t say it but Frank can see it in the little tilt of his head, the curiosity. It fades as he sighs, tiredly. “What did you bring?” He didn’t actually know, Leo had been the one to tell him it was good. He checks out the cover. “Mary Oliver,” Frank’s hands scrape against his jeans as he settles back, Murdock twitches towards the sound, laying back on his sheets. “Do you want-” “Please,” he says softly. Frank nods, and presses his feet harder against the ground. Just so he doesn’t forget where he is. He blinks a few times, eyes on the heart monitor before going back to Matt’s steadily rising and falling chest. “I go down to the edge of the sea,” he starts, voice made of thin, breakable china. “how everything shines in the morning light, the cusp of the whelk, the broken cupboard of the clam...” He maybe reads to him for an hour or two. Frank barely feels time as he measures it with the sterile smell of the sheets, the soft rustling of pages, the feel of a soft paperback cover, Matthew’s tender breathing. It’s rawness dims with every word, every verse. “What dark part of my soul shivers,” Frank isn’t sure when Matt’s breath turns tremulous, or when his own voice strains in a husky grind. It’s just the words, Frank’s voice, Matthew’s breathing, the white sheets, the heart monitor. He can almost ignore where they are. Almost. A nurse comes in, not long after he finishes Every Morning. Red seems to come slowly out of his daze as a tray of mashed potatoes and other unidentifiable food gets dropped on his lap. The fragile truce snaps in a deaf sound, and Frank watches him turn his head down to his tasteless dinner, eyes turning away for all the good they do. Red’s rather well-trained in avoiding glances when he can’t (shouldn’t be able to) feel them. Frank can’t say he hadn’t seen coming what happens next. “I didn’t try to kill myself,” he murmurs into his (plastic) fork, curled around himself as if saying the words are a sharp knife of their own. Maybe he didn’t set out to, but he didn’t mind if he did. Maybe he wished for it, the same way Frank had wished most mornings before he started pulling his life together. “What were you trying to do then, Red?” He carefully swallows any resentment or anger back, any grief. Not the time. Red keeps playing with his food. The childish gesture would be amusing - endearing even, if not for the IV, the monitor, Red’s shaky hands, the nurse that came to check from time to time. “I wanted to... I just wanted to sleep.” I’m tired, Frank. Yeah, Frank knew tired. He knew not wanting to wake up, too. “Look, Red, you gotta heal,” he says, voice a deep rumble, low enough not to set his senses off. “these kinda things, they leave wounds. They make us... make us bleed, right? And thing is, sometimes, sometimes you don’t even realize it, ‘cos you’re so neck deep in the blood, yeah? You’re fighting the ocean one bucket at a time, and that sh*t is tiring as hell. You gotta take those wounds, and you gotta let them scar, you kno’? Better than to leave it open, bleed out, yeah?” Don’t make me find you like that again, an unbidden, choked-out voice crawls from the depths of his mind. Don’t do that to me again. Matt is quiet, in the wake of a revelation Frank never made. Maybe he heard it, anyway. “I don’t know how,” he finally admits. And it’s okay, because Frank hadn’t known it either. Sh*t, he was still figuring it out. Having Curt, though. That right there made all the difference. Matt suddenly sags deeper into his pillow. “I didn’t... want to die.” But he didn’t mind not waking up either. Some part of him, probably, had wished for it so hard, so loud - took over the remaining drops of sense from his sleep-deprived head. Frank breathes through the sudden rush of anger, unable to trace it back to Red or to himself. Angry at the idiot for doing this sh*t, angry at himself for not seeing it. Angry at Nelson and Karen who saw him every day and never noticed sh*t. But then again, Matt Murdock had been hiding for so long, he didn’t even know how to come out of the shadows on his own. Repressed, shackled-down anger comes like a punch to bruised ribs. Clawing at his throat like Ahab stabbing Moby D*ck, only to get tangled in ropes and dragged by his neck into the sea. “You don’t do that, Red,” he growls out, earning a mildly surprised glance from the younger man. “You don’t do that your friends, sh*t, you don’t do that to them,” his voice is suddenly thick, hoarse. Frank almost stops talking, if only to hide the weakness bleeding out in his tone. “Now you listen to me, ‘cause I’ll say it once, you listening? Your life is not yours and you take your goddamn hands out of it,” hisses out, sharp like a blade, and he sees it slide right through him, makes him bleed all over white sheets. Yet Matt’s face barely flinches. “You take your life, Red, you put that on Karen, you put that on Nelson, you tell me you love ‘em but you take that from them, you wound them!” You wound me, you tear me apart, says his heartbeat, the loud ringing in his ears. Haven’t I lost enough? Why do you want to go, too? Frank’s selfish, terribly, horribly selfish. He’d come and go as he saw fit, and somehow believed Red would always be there, open arms and all. Some f***ed up, self-entitled bullsh*t part of him thought that Matt and him would inevitably, one day, find each other again - be it in the middle of a fight, as allies or enemies or lovers in a bed. Matthew, he turns away with his stoic expression crumbling to shreds. That blade stabbed him right through where Frank had aimed and it was too late to claim it back now. Red looks pained, muscles jumping like he’d rather run far, far away than stand a second more listening to what Frank’s got to say. And that’s just another thing he can’t fix, just another thing he caused that he can’t fix. Frank had been there. Spent months sleeping with a gun under his pillow. He’d wake up sometimes looking for Maria, for his baby girl, his baby boy, and he’d think maybe... maybe he could, you know? Thought he didn’t owe nothing to no one here. And Red, he knows all that. There’s nothing Frank has to say about it that he doesn’t know. He’s just... punishing him. Tearing the wound a little wider. And that’s not what he wants. That’s the last thing he wants. “Just... ask for help, Red,” is that so hard? He almost says. As if he doesn’t know who he’s talking to. As if Frank had any right saying it. “Ask for what you need.” Matthew’s chest shudders and Frank wonders at how hypocritical he is, saying this sh*t. Sister Maggie had said it herself, people always leave him, she said. He could use a friend. And Frank, the first time Matt had asked of him what he needed... He left. He just left. Maybe that’s why Red doesn’t. He doesn’t expect it to be granted, so what’s the point? Looking at him, his hands twisting into the sheets surrounding his frame, his eyes blinking rapidly and owlishly, teary and unable to hide it, Frank thinks the dam is finally about to break. For one moment he waits with bated breath, thinks Matt’s going to ask. Talk. Anything. Just ask, Red, he thinks, just ask. But he doesn’t. He doesn’t say a word.       Frank goes home feeling the texture of his skin in his palms, from where he held his shivery arm before leaving. The smell of his hair. Matt had looked for a while like he wanted to say something, ask something. Looked like it was tearing him apart not to. Frank had seen it and maybe Matthew knew he did. He wished he had just said it. Help me, he didn’t think he’d say. But, maybe something small, like, read me more, or maybe, if Frank’s feeling bold and hopeful, hold me. And wasn’t that just it? He had said it, once. Almost something like it. Like help me, and hold me. And his eyes, his eyes had said it all, too. Ask me, Red. He would’ve done it in a second. In a f***ing second.

Duty Driven (Taken/Busy IRL)

03/05/2023 07:55 PM 

Light Perception

Summary: Fisk gets put away again, and it feels like that should be the end of it, but it’s not. Of course it’s not. The FBI needs a win. Who better to take that out on than the lawyers who exposed their corruption. I am not Daredevil, Matt says so many times in so many spaces that he almost believes it. His ability to maintain a concept of self was difficult enough before this: this new judgment day, this thing that has fractured him beyond what he thought was possible. He feels like he’s been dropped into the ocean, all his limbs weighted with stones, unable to find which way is up and which way is down, which way is surface and which way is gone. Later, he'll try to think about it objectively, distance himself from this new kind of violence that inhabits his body. He'll grapple with the defined edges of his constantly shifting memory, carefully delineate the before from the after, turn his conclusion over and over in his mind. As it turns out, he observes, living feels a lot like drowning. [An exploration of trauma and memory, of what it might look like if Matt's identity as Daredevil was exposed. Prison fic. Post-S3.] Notes: “There are things unbearable.”—Anne Carson, Decreation      I.   The moment Wilson Fisk steps up to the podium, flanked by his team, somehow more imposing than ever, heartbeats stutter and crescendo across the city: a frenetic, dissonant exposition—and Matt thinks he understands a little bit more now why crowds nearly rioted at the premiere of a ballet once, overwhelmed by its relentless unpredictability, by its apostasy. The pagans onstage made pagans of the audience. The memory of Fisk’s voice doesn’t even hold a candle to the reality of it. Makes his hands curl into fists, takes him right back. If his memory had been a candle, then the reality is a forest fire: violent, irredeemable. “…to frame me. Daredevil. The killer who’s now showing—his true colors. Who’s tried to murder people in newspaper offices—and churches. Attacking our sacred institutions. Believe—me. Daredevil is our true—public—enemy.” It feels like Matt is caught in the crossfire of feedback from every television set in the borough, the fractional delay of sound just offset enough to make it seem as though Fisk’s voice carries beyond the restraints of sound and time, as though his power is truly limitless. The gasps that follow the speech, the uptick in heart rates, the sharp smell of sweat glands and fear arousal overwhelm his senses as he parses through the confused and conflicted responses across the streets: truth, truth, truth, it can’t be true, can it be true— A stuttering swan song of disbelief; it doesn’t matter, he thinks, it really doesn’t matter what he does, how much he does, who he tries to be—a few seeds of doubt, a handful of words, and the people he calls his own turn on him, just like that. A half-measure; a man who can’t finish the job. One bad day away from becoming the villain of his own story. One bad day away from becoming— Nausea battles with helpless rage inside of him as he is stricken with the realization that maybe Castle was right: the system is broken, his work as Matt Murdock is a practice in futility, almost as pointless as his work as Daredevil—not enough, never enough. He imagines for a moment what it would look like to team up with Castle, to end this—once and for all, for better or worse, ‘til death do us part; an unholy marriage of the Devil and the Punisher. How disappointing that his old teacher couldn't be here to witness the ruthlessness he’d despaired of ever finding in Matt. Maybe there's hope for you yet— Matt clenches his jaw against the wave of grief that follows, and pushes himself up to his feet. Foggy and Karen are waiting. — It takes him less time than he hopes it’ll take to arrive, barely exhilarated from the sensation of vaulting from rooftop to rooftop, the wide chasm of empty spaces below him, the promise of adrenaline that comes with every moment that he taunts death, and fear, and his own limitations. “So, I guess you needed my help, after all,” Foggy says smugly, with, to his credit, just a trace of the bitterness that usually accompanies his words. Since that day. Judgment day. When the secrets came bleeding out from Matt’s wounds. So, Matt swallows his pride as Karen steps onto the rooftop after Foggy. “Yeah,” Matt says. “Yeah, I did, Foggy. You’re right.” He doesn’t add that Karen nearly died because she got involved, because Foggy gave her the idea to confront Fisk, because he did exactly what Matt asked him not to do. He doesn’t say anything because he finally understands—there is no protecting each other, and good intentions only pave the way to hurt and hell, anyway. Fisk's speech lingers in his mind, a thick gossamer caught at the barbed edges of his thoughts, as present as the hallucination of Fisk that’s been haunting Matt's footsteps since waking up back at St. Agnes weeks ago.  The worst part, thinks Matt, was not even the speech, itself, no; not Fisk's voice, nor even his accusations; it was the heckling of the protestors fading into rapt silence, the collective gasps which greeted the accusations against Daredevil, the rapid click of camera shutters stuttering one by one into stillness: the cold realization that, after everything, after everything Fisk had done—the city believed him. Fisk, it was Fisk, it was all Fisk— Helpless rage rises up in Matt's chest and his hands flex at his side, curl into trembling, white-knuckled fists. Ten steps behind, always ten steps behind and nothing he did ever— “Do you have any idea how much life has sucked for Karen and me,” Foggy interrupts his thoughts, “while you were, just, off doing your own thing?” All Matt’s ever tried to do is the right thing, and all Matt’s ever seemed to do is get it wrong.  “No, but—I’m sorry, Foggy,” Matt says, grimacing at the profound inadequacy of words to bridge this rift in their friendship, to fill this cavernous space of all the things he's never been able to say. "Maybe I was, was wrong to push you away." “Ok, it’s, insanely hard to fight with you if you keep agreeing with me,” says Foggy, and Matt's own heart skips a beat. He doesn't need enhanced senses to catch that Foggy's heart is almost in the quip, almost— “Good,” returns Matt, “because I don’t want to fight with you.” He releases the breath that's been caught in his chest, and the rest of his apology comes out in a rush of words. “Look, the way I’ve treated you—the way I’ve treated you both—you deserve better.” Foggy's breath hitches in surprise.  "Yes," he says, cautiously, and Matt can sense that Foggy has turned to look at Karen, sense that she is nodding in bewildered agreement. “We did. But... so did you." For a moment, the words don’t register, the corner of Matt's mouth tilting up as though Foggy just made a joke that he didn't quite understand.  “I, Fog, what’re you,” Matt says, the words faltering as they tumble out clumsily on top of each other. “Listen, Matt,” says Foggy, and his voice is doing that thing where it sounds somehow both resigned and determined. “I pushed you away, too, after everything that went down with—you know,” he stumbles, not wanting to say Elektra’s name. “But it wasn’t fair,” he says quickly, to stave off Matt’s inevitable apology. “It wasn’t fair to leave you alone like that after she showed up again. I just—Jesus, I still remember that night at Co—” “Foggy,” interrupts Matt. Karen’s heartbeat is quickening in confusion, in concern, in interest. “We don’t, we don’t have to do this. Just, if you can let me try to do better, give me another chance—that’s all I need.” "No, Matt," says Foggy. "I'm just—I'm trying to say that I know your relationship with Elektra is complicated, has always been complicated, and God knows you probably never learned anything about healthy relationships since your childhood was so supremely f***ed up—" Matt releases a sharp breath of air in an unexpected huff of laughter. “Look,” Foggy continues doggedly. “What I’m trying to say is that—I’m sorry, too. You were alone, and I know that you thought I’d—we’d—be safer that way, thanks to your own personal, a**hole Mr. Miyagi but—whoa, Matt, are you ok? What’d I say?” He must look like he'd gotten punched in the gut at the mention of his old teacher. Matt certainly feels winded, and breathless, and incapable of explaining why. He licks his lips, as though forcing his tongue into motion will pave the way for the words to follow. “Stick's, uh, he's... gone, Fog. She, Elektra—she killed him,” Matt says finally, quietly, as though saying it softly enough might keep it from being true; as though saying it out loud doesn't make him feel like he might fracture into innumerable, irreparable pieces. He's barely a person already, he thinks; there's no way he can survive another blow, another hit like that. “Jesus, Matt,” says Foggy, and the sharp taste of salt hits Matt's tongue. He drags his focus back into the present; wisps of Karen's long hair are getting caught in the night wind, trailing across her tear-dampened cheeks while Foggy is... stoic, which is unlike him, his heartbeat ticking up anxiously in the silence that follows. The regret Matt feels is instantaneous; he should have known better than to task his friends with the unfair burden of grieving these complicated losses, these impossible figures who'd stolen Matt away from them before they'd ever had a chance. “It’s, uh, it is what it is,” Matt says, his voice flat. “I thought I could help her. I thought I could—I don’t know, but,” he shakes his head and laughs, a sound that is entirely joyless. “I couldn’t.” “Oh, Matt,” Karen says, sadly. Foggy takes a halting step toward Matt, stops himself in awkwardly aborted movement. A long moment of silence follows, before she ventures: "So, where do we go from here?" “I don’t want to leave you,” Matt says slowly, reluctantly, “but I can’t—I can't ask you to be accomplices to what I have to do now.” The words linger in the air between them like a challenge. Karen shifts her head away from Matt, displeasure in every closed gesture of her body. Foggy looks between them, settles on Karen: “What’s that supposed to mean?” “Um,” Karen hesitates briefly then plows quickly forward, as though that might soften the blow of the words. “Matt wants to kill Fisk.” There is one vibrating moment of silence before Foggy's words come staccato, rapid-fire, punctuated with disbelief: “What the f***, Matt—you know, maybe that building falling on you really did mess with your head—" “We put him in prison, Foggy—and look what happened,” Matt says, and Foggy hates that his best friend is somehow able to sound calm, and rational, and deeply unaffected while discussing his intention to cross this line that he'd sworn he could never cross, this line that could never be uncrossed. Foggy can still picture the crumpled expression on Matt's face when he'd asked if Matt had ever gone that far before—and Foggy doesn't understand how they got from there to here. Foggy thinks he could fill books with what he doesn't understand about his best friend. “It won't be the same this time,” Foggy returns. “This time, he’ll be thrown into some kind of supermax hole where he can’t compromise anybody. He’ll never see the light of day again!” “Foggy, I know you’re not that naïve—” “It’s called having faith in the system, something you used to have—” “It’s called facing reality,” Matt snaps, but Foggy can hear the exhaustion in his voice, the disbelieving resignation, the stretch and break of him. "The reality that the system wasn't built to contain men like Fisk. Men who are too rich, and too powerful—men who take the law, who take the system and twist it into something that protects them—" “No, Matt,” Foggy snaps back. “This isn’t you. There’s another way to do this—we just, if you can just, I don’t know, take a step back from the murder ledge for one freaking second!” “Matt, just, hear him out, maybe,” Karen interjects. Her voice is soft, pleading, raw.  “Fine.” Matt laughs, and the sound is short, and bitter. “Tell me how the law can possibly fix this, Foggy. I’m all ears. Please. Tell me your plan.” "Ok, simple, step one," says Foggy slowly, deliberately. "We do this together—we devise a plan together. Step two: we, we execute said plan. Together." “Wow,” Matt says, and laughs joylessly again. Not enough. Never enough. “That’s genius. You come up with that on your own?” ”Yeah, well, so I’m still working out the details,“ Foggy replies, but the uptick in his heartbeat belies his too-casual tone. “Ok, ok, ok, what about this—we, we find ourselves another witness,” Karen suggests. “Someone that will flip on Fisk, but, unlike Jasper Evans, we keep them alive this time. Someone who knows the details of Fisk’s operation. Someone with nothing to lose.” "No," says Matt, as the memory of what happened at the church returns to him in a rush of grief that nearly takes his breath again. "Someone with everything to lose." “Nadeem,” breathes Karen. “He helped me get away.” “Yeah,” says Matt. “His family’s in danger, he probably went back to move them. I need to go. Now. Foggy—do you think Brett would be willing to help Nadeem’s family?” “Already on it,” Foggy mumbles, and Matt can hear his fingertips rapidly tapping the screen of his phone. Pulling the mask back over his head, Matt rolls his shoulders back and starts jogging across the rooftop, gaining momentum as he goes until he’s leaping over and across.   —   In some ways, it feels like Matt never stopped running. Fisk gets put away again, and it feels like that should be the end of it, but it’s not. Of course it’s not. The FBI needs a win. Who better to take that out on than the lawyers who exposed their corruption. Daredevil. Our true—public—enemy. They’ve gathered enough evidence against Matt that there’s not much Foggy can do other than insist on protective custody, on the grounds that a blind attorney can't be placed in general population with the same violent offenders he put there. I am not Daredevil, Matt says so many times in so many spaces that he almost believes it. The days following his indictment are a blur of promises and threats bridged together by sleepless nights outlined with crushing absence where language used to be.   II.   It takes only one night in prison for Matt Murdock to realize that his luck has finally caught up with him; it takes thirty-two nights to fully understand what that means. Thirty-two nights of imprisoned men yelling and banging and taunting and singing; thirty-two days of the stench and noise of convicted inmates mixed in with others, like Matt, who are just awaiting trial; thirty-two nights of listening to choked sobs and threats, favors and retributions. Thirty-two days and nights with little sleep, and less food.  Then it happens—the transfer from protective custody to general population. Matt is almost relieved when it happens: it means freedom from the oppressive hum of surveillance cameras in protective custody always watching, always, so that he must act the part of helpless blind attorney every moment of every day and every night, or risk losing his case before it can ever get to trial, risk getting Foggy sentenced alongside Matt for aiding and abetting. The prison guards have demonstrated petty cruelties in the past, but still—Matt doesn’t see it coming when they take him not to his new cell in general population but into an ambush. A closed room with no way out, the door locked behind him and too many heartbeats to immediately count. It’s not that Matt ever considered himself an especially lucky person to begin with, not that he'd ever relied on luck when he could rely on himself, instead; but he's always been able to recognize when good things come into his life that have absolutely nothing to do with him—that have everything to do with chance, or else divine providence, or fate. And if all the good luck allotted to him in life had been spent up on a singular event, Matt's ok with that—because getting assigned to Foggy Nelson as a roommate at Columbia felt like a second chance at everything good that had ever slipped through his grasp—a chance at happiness that didn’t need to be gripped tightly in his fists or hidden beneath a mask. Foggy, who saw Matt—really saw him; not just his disability or the cultivated personality he presented to the world, but who Matt was, who he tried to be. Foggy, who saw with his heart, like Matt— He starts numbering the heartbeats, placing the bodies in the space, tasting the cortisol and adrenaline mingling with sweat in the air, his thoughts involuntarily drifting back to the last time he’d faced this many men, the cavernous space of the sky above as he and Elektra fought back to back on the rooftop where she would die in his arms. Different, he thinks, from the second time she would die: ripped from his arms below the earth as the sky collapsed down upon them. Elektra. It really shouldn’t have come as a surprise to Matt that he would all but free-fall into the kind of life Elektra could promise him, the life he'd been coldly, dispassionately shut out from in the quiet basement of an orphanage: his child's body colored with bruises he'd thought could mean love, his child's heart filled all the way up with shame—he’d been holding onto it for months, had pressed it carefully, tenderly, into the pages of his bible: a paper bracelet made from the wrapper of an ice cream cone— So if Elektra wasn’t quite compatible with Matt’s desperate need to be good, to be so good, well, at least she knew every buried part of him: knew intimately his darkness, his grief, his unbearable rage. Is she sick? Worse, Matty, she’s in love— “You’re Battlin’ Jack’s boy,” says a voice from above the men, atop a set of steps leading up to a door, and there’s something about the voice that strikes a chord in Matt’s mind, that stops him in his tracks, that catches his breath in his throat. Matt had observed the exit behind the man from the moment he’d stepped foot inside, one of three exits from the space. All closed, all locked, all useless. Guards posted outside every one, their pockets lined with blood money, their bodies full of threats. Plata o plomo. Silver or lead. Take our money, or take our violence. Matt always chooses violence. “What’s it to you?” he bites, fighting down the feeling that this is all more than it seems, more urgent, more dangerous than he can comprehend right now, with the evidence he has before him. "You don't remember me?" the man asks, mildly. "I killed your father." You don’t remember me? You killed my father. Well, I hate to break it to you, son, but I killed a lot of guys’ dads. Then let me help you…he hit hard, like this— Matt's body turns to ice, turns to stone, turns to lead as everything comes together to form a memory: Elektra, knife in hand, taunting Roscoe Sweeney, encouraging Matt to tell him who he was—he could taste salt in the air as he beat the other man until his face didn’t even feel like a face anymore, so bruised and bloodied beneath Matt’s knuckles. Good, he'd thought. His father's face hadn't felt like a face anymore either when Matt had found him in the alleyway all those years ago—but Elektra had disappeared after Matt refused to kill him, leaving only the lingering scent of her perfume—sandalwood, ylang ylang, mandarin leaf—as proof that she'd been there at all. Shards of crystal like fractured stars in Matt's hearing on the kitchen floor. Matt, equally shattered, equally disposable, alone by the open door.  He'd stood there numbly until long after she left, until the lonely wail of sirens reached the limits of his hearing. Then he'd hitchhiked and stumbled his way back to the dorm at Columbia, every intention of waiting for Foggy to leave the building before returning to their room—until realizing his keys were gone, lost somehow during the messy events of the evening. Or, just as likely, Elektra had taken them before disappearing; petty retribution for not complying with her command to end it, for not meeting her own desperate need for Matt to be the mirror to her fragmented pieces—to reflect back something whole, something still worthy of love. So Matt had knocked, humiliated, dried blood on his knuckles, on his clothes, mingled with the tears that had tracked their way down his face, and tried to ignore Foggy’s sharp intake of breath when he saw Matt, tried to ignore the frightened uptick in his pulse as the law student succumbed to his tendency to babble in distressing situations. “Oh my god, Matt,” he had said, “you disappeared from the party last night, and I know you can take care of yourself, but I’m always afraid you’ve fallen into, like, an open manhole or, I don’t know—a sinkhole, because I guess that’s more likely to happen than quicksand, not that I really thought quicksand was an option when there’s wet concrete and—” Matt had opened his mouth to say Foggy’s name, to reassure him, to somehow make this seem less bad than it was; instead, he'd heard himself gasp Elektra's name, barely a whisper of a sound, felt hot tears slipping out from the corners of his eyes again. The scent of Foggy’s fear had blossomed into anger, then; he had never liked Elektra, had never trusted her, had warned Matt about her so many times—and Matt had felt bitter shame rise up in his throat. But Foggy had knelt gently, quietly beside him as Matt wept wordlessly, his hands aching to feel just once what it would be like to touch someone and—not hurt, not be hurt. And if Matt had internally railed at the unfairness of it all—he’d thought surely by now he would be ok, surely by now he would have picked up the pieces of his life and fashioned them into something whole, no longer caught in the riptide of shattered childhood dreams and loss—he didn't let it pass through his lips. Not the way he had once allowed it to pass through his lips as a child in the orphanage waking again and again from impressionistic nightmares to unfamiliar rooms, calling out for his dead father, for anyone at all. He'd learned, then, when no one came, that it was better not to ask at all, better not to burden others with his neediness, his sadness, his shame. “Matthew?! Oh, you’re Battlin’ Jack’s boy, oh you amateur. Now I know your name, nothing to stop me from bloodying the street with your corpse, just like I did to your old man—” Scuffle of countless feet across concrete pulls Matt's attention back to the men who circle slowly, densely around him. "Sweeney," he all but spits, almost pleased for the opportunity to face him again. He can feel that helpless rage rising back up inside of his body again and his hands tighten into fists, aching for a fight after a month of playing domesticated house cat for the cameras in protective custody, for the prison guards whose daily cruelties and provocations were their bread and butter. “Murdock,” the mobster responds, almost sweetly. “You put me away ten years ago, and I’ve just been dreaming about getting you back ever since. Then I read about your trial in the paper and realized that I could get you back without ever leaving these walls. Only this, this is so much better than even I imagined.” “What do—what are you talking about,” Matt bites out through gritted teeth, mentally cataloguing everything in the room that could be used as a weapon against him, counting every heartbeat, every obstacle between him and a way out of this alive. A few inmates have switchblades tucked into their waistbands, others have clumsier weapons, and the rest carrying only their loathing for Daredevil, armed only with their bitter memories of humiliation and defeat, with the knowledge that they're locked away in here because of him. “You see, I knew about you, sure, followed along as the media praised the poor blind orphan with a law degree just trying to do good for his community. Except it turns out that you’ve been doing it with your fists instead of your law degree—I wonder how your partner feels about that—how your old man would’ve felt about that—” “Enough—” The word snarls out of him unbidden, his rage uncoiling inside of him until every fiber of him aches to hurt, to be hurt. “Don’t talk about them, don't you dare talk about them—” "Did you know that your partner has personally fought every appeal that I've made in the last ten years?" asks Sweeney, his heartbeat rushing in satisfaction when Matt doesn't respond. "You didn't know, did you? Guess we're all entitled to our... little secrets—" Sweeney's body is suddenly wracked with convulsive coughs; calluses line the inflamed membranes of his nasal passages, and Matt is hit with the realization that Sweeney had never recovered from the beating he'd given him that night, ten years ago. The thought that Sweeney must remember Battlin’ Jack Murdock every single time he takes a breath brings Matt a rush of grim satisfaction. “You’re a survivor, Murdock, unlike your old man," Sweeney says, his voice rasping. "Unfortunately for you, so am I—and I’ve not forgotten what you did. You left me with too many reminders.” "Then you should know now that you don’t want to make an enemy of me,” he bites, the Devil creeping into his voice. Sweeney laughs, drawing a few huffs of laughter from the men around Matt and he is caught in the crossfire of feedback again, kneeling on a rooftop with Fisk's voice in his ears; he shakes his head desperately in an attempt to bring his senses back into focus. Feeling of solid concrete beneath his feet, uptick in the ring of heartbeats around him, low hum of the ventilation system somewhere distantly above. “No,” Sweeney returns. “The mistake was making me an enemy, was making yourself an entire goddamn army of enemies and thinking you’d somehow never end up in here with them. Did you really think we’d never come back for you, pretty boy? For Daredevil?” Daredevil—our true—public—enemy— Sweeney scoffs. "You've only been here thirty-two f***ing days, Murdock, and, from what I hear, you're already losing it: talkin' to yourself in your cell, not eating, not sleeping—well, we've been here for years, so you can imagine that we are more tired, more hungry—for release, for retribution that's owed to us." Matt’s only half-listening to Sweeney’s monologue, his senses trained on the men surrounding him. Mind, body, connection. He forcibly releases the tension in his shoulders, allows himself to relax into the stance of a boxer as he grounds up through his feet. He tilts his head, focusing on the men who are distracted by Sweeney's speech. Adrenaline is coursing through him now, his body practically vibrating with it. “You think I’m afraid of you or these men, Sweeney? You think I’m not hungry for a release after thirty two days and nights of listening to all the sh*t that goes on in this place?” Matt's mouth curves up in a feral smile. “Try me.” Matt strikes the prisoner closest to him, the sole of his foot connecting with his throat; he goes down, and Matt uses the momentum from the kick to erupt into a flurry of motion as the other prisoners scramble to take their shot at the man who put them here. Slipping back on his feet, he narrowly avoids a shiv; taking advantage of the convict's imbalanced footing, Matt throws him face-first into the ascending concrete steps. There's a sharp crack as the man's jaw dislocates on impact. Matt steps over him to get to Sweeney but more men are already grasping at his arms, dragging him back by his prison uniform, by his hair, by anything they can get a hold of. He violently shakes off a couple of his attackers before something heavy is swinging through the air and he's forced to drop back down over the railing. He drops into a roll as he lands, swiping out a leg close to the ground to bring down the attacker closest to him, uses the momentum to spin back up to his feet. He strikes his heel down across the man's temple before Matt is grabbed again from behind, arms restrained this time. He kicks out furiously at one of the men in front of him, lands a hit on one of the men holding him and pulls away— —but there are too many men and they've closed too tightly in on him. He is being restrained again and this time the attacker hurls Matt against the wall, then down against the steps. He hits hard, his senses blurring in and out of focus as he swings out desperately. One man, two men, three go down, but more pile on top of Matt, their hands grabbing at his prison uniform, his arms held high behind him as he tries and fails to fend off the seemingly endless stream of attackers: a chaotic blur of overstimulation for his already exhausted and dazed senses. Then the shiv is cutting through Matt’s prison uniform, leaving a jagged, burning wound across his chest, and he cannot help the agonized gasp that is torn from his throat as the serrated edge of the makeshift blade catches every bit of sinew beneath his skin, as men grasp at the torn fabric, cool air against his skin followed by violent touch—  Mind, body, connection. The mind controls the body— Matt forces himself to exhale, tracks separate heartbeats out of the cacophony, and thrusts his head back savagely into the face of one of the men restraining him. His leg kicks out, and another man goes down as he wildly wrestles his way back up to his feet. His breath is coming out in gasps now; he swipes at the blood around his mouth with one hand, then lowers it to gauge the depth of the wound on his torso, the other arm still dangling at his side, numb all the way up to where his shoulder is braced against the wall. He’ll survive the knife wound, he thinks, his body now trembling with exertion and the effort of fighting off the shock that threatens his hard-won control over his senses. His head tilts as he gauges the heartbeats of the men still on their feet; he can sense the hesitation in their movements, their disbelief that he is somehow still on his own feet, and he knows he won't get another chance. Despite the exhaustion settling into his limbs like a weight, the long days and sleepless nights and weeks of slow starvation, he forces himself into motion, striking at any vulnerable place that might knock down these men enough for him to catch his breath, to figure something else out, to— The world shifts beneath him as he is thrown against the side of the staircase. Matt grabs a fistful of hair as he goes down, drags the attacker down with him and staggers to his knees at the man's side before he can get back up; he hits him until he can feel bones fracturing beneath his fists. “Careful, Murdock,” Sweeney warns, and his voice draws Matt’s focus back to the feeling that he’s still missing something, something bigger, something more urgent, something more pressing; only he can’t pinpoint what’s wrong over the sound of blood rushing in his ears, the sound of his own gasps, his heartbeat pounding against his ribcage, the cacophonous ring of heartbeats still around him, above him, his senses dazed, overstimulated, overwhelmed. What was he missing? What was he missing? Tap, tap—tap, tap, tap— He thinks back to his old teacher and narrows his focus, tuning out the heavy breathing of the other prisoners, the gasping, strangled sounds from men still on the ground—tap, tap, tap—there it is. A tapping sound. Sounds so familiar. Only Matt can’t place it. Another rooftop, he thinks, another lifetime. Karen and Foggy were there, he was typing out a text— Phone. Camera. Low of hum of video in the corner of the ceiling, barely audible, barely distinct from the low hum of the ventilation system just beside it. He stills immediately with the realization, and then something heavy is swinging toward his head again. The blow itself incapacitates him, his hands raising to his ears in a desperate attempt to stave off the high pitched ringing that follows. The pain that follows blurs his senses entirely out of focus for a moment that feels eternal. He gasps as the world swims around him, sounds coming in and out of muffled focus as he is dragged up onto his knees, his arms held behind him in a final defeat, a blade pressed against his throat. “You showed your hand, Murdock, just like your old man,” Sweeney says as he finally descends from where he'd been waiting at the top of the concrete stairs, phone held loosely in his hand. He laughs. “Except I let Jack off too easy for what he did, I think. Should’ve waited ‘til he was home, made you watch—sorry, listen, as the bullet went through his skull, let you think you could save him, let you try to staunch the blood—” “F*** you—” Matt half-slurs, half-gasps, fighting down the too-visceral memories of himself as a child with hands so small, too small—I think that’s my dad, I think that’s my dad—to be feeling for the familiar landscape of his father’s face and finding a bullet hole instead. Matt swallows around the sob in his throat, chokes out: “You think getting sent to prison was the worst thing that could’ve happened to you, Sweeney? After everything you’ve done—I should’ve, I should’ve—” “What, killed him?” says a low, familiar voice, and Matt feels like all the breath has been stolen from him in an instant, feels a horrible cold settle inside of him in its place. “Like you tried to kill me?” “No,” he gasps, his stomach churning. No no no no no no no— This isn’t real, he thinks, it can’t be; he’s hallucinating again, lost to himself. Poor timing, but that’s par for the course. It’s not enough for Matt to fight enemies made of flesh and blood, no; he must create phantoms to haunt his steps, resurrect ghosts long dead. Self-flagellation for the modern penitent. Better lost to himself than this: ten steps behind with a mouthful of blood and defeat. The world around him is still swimming in and out of muffled focus, his tightly wound control over his senses unraveling under the strain of it all: metallic taste of blood, acrid sweat mingling with expensive cologne, adrenaline and arousal, too many heartbeats, too many sounds, too much, it was all too much and he's so tired, he doesn't think he's ever felt so tired before— “What’re you—what does, no—” he tries to say, but his voice falters, catches in his throat as he fights to get the words out past his lips. Played like a fool. Always the fool. His teacher had been right about Matt; but his teacher is gone now, for all the good being right ever did him. Did Fisk do this to you? Fisk, it was Fisk, it was all Fisk— Matt struggles to slow the breaths that hover high up in his chest, fluttering violently like a wild bird trapped in a cage. He can't catch his breath. He can't catch his breath, and he can't tell what's real and what's— Pull it together, he thinks viciously, but Fisk’s presence obliterates his focus, gets deep inside of him where he can't stop it, where he can't shut him out. He leans in close, so close that Matt can feel his too-warm breath in his ear, all but deafening in its proximity, in its intensity, in its intent—and, for some reason that Matt can’t immediately name, can’t immediately place, the feeling is so much more sickening than the blood rapidly seeping out onto his abdomen, than the blade still pressed into his throat. “You’re still so naïve, Matthew,” says Fisk, quietly, for his ears alone, and Matt cannot help the shudder that wracks his already trembling frame. “There are things worse than death for men like you and men like me. Things unbearable that linger, and fester, and take on lives of their own.” Fisk steps back, runs his fingers back and forth across the palm of his hand, a rapid brush up from the bottom followed by a slow return.  "You will only wish you had died, died rather than know what it means to have who you are stripped from you, to understand that you allowed it to happen, to know that you could have stopped it—at the expense, of course, of knowing you've all but placed a death sentence on your partner, of knowing you'll never see him again. The same choice you gave to me, Mr. Murdock. Fair's fair." Matt’s been dealt sh*t hands before, always prided himself on his ability to take the hand he was dealt and shift the cards in his favor, on his ability to hit the mat and get back up again, fists swinging. Now laughter bubbles up inside of him. The ghost of his father had finally abandoned him, it seemed; only fitting that he should face his ruin alone. For it is we who haunt the dead, he remembers bitterly, and not the dead haunt us. He chokes back the hysterical urge to laugh, swallows down the bile that's risen again at the back of his throat as Fisk forcefully grips Matt’s jaw and tilts it up toward the surveillance camera hanging from the corner of the ceiling. Its low, dissonant drone cuts in and out of Matt's hearing like a scratched record, and he feels boneless, uncorporeal. If his body had turned to ice before, now it was dark, drowning water. “They’re watching, Matthew,” Fisk says. “Don’t let the Devil out." Don’t let the Devil out, he says, and Matt hears the promise in the spaces between the words, or your case will fail before it ever makes it to trial, and Foggy will get sentenced, and worse, for aiding and abetting Daredevil. Daredevil—our true—public—enemy— He feels like he’s been dropped into the ocean, all his limbs weighted with stones, unable to find which way is up and which way is down, which way is surface and which way is gone. Surface feels like a fairy-story told to children at night, like enchanted forests.  Light as the breadcrumbs which lead the way up, which lead the way out. This isn’t real, he thinks desperately, like the child who hides under his covers at night from the monsters who live in the closet, who sleep under the bed. If I can’t see it, it can’t be real.  He can practically hear Stick’s response, derisive, cold: C’mon, kid. You, more than anyone, know better than that. Get up. Get up and fight back, your soft partner be damned. Just look at you, a trained warrior—and this is what you’ve become: weak, soft, useless. I was right to leave you when I did— “Time’s up, Mr. Murdock,” Fisk says, dispassionately, and the ghost of his old teacher dissipates like smoke. Then, to Sweeney: “He’s yours. Let your men have him, but he stays alive—or you do not.” A litany of no’s are uttered in quick succession, one after another, as if from someone else, though Matt feels his own lips moving, feels the vibrations in his throat, feels his tongue heavy and dry against the roof of his mouth as the knife is removed from his throat, as different hands roughly grasp his jaw this time, hold him still as the other men press in— Then, nothing; only a few dull sounds in the back of his throat as he resigns himself to muteness, to what he cannot fight, to what he cannot change.  This is the moment Matt understands what it means for his luck to have finally caught up with him, the moment he understands that there is no such thing as paying his dues, that some cards can’t be shifted in his favor. He'd known the risks of Daredevil, had lived for the risks of Daredevil—thrived in the charged spaces between risk and consequence, walked the tightrope between good intention and self-destruction. So, the consequences had arrived. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for— Judgment day.  The formation of a memory like the empty spaces between towering edifices, playing over and over—the smells, he thinks, the smells are what will stay with him the most—but no, because it repeats, and this time it’s the feeling of powerlessness, of observing distantly from somewhere outside of his body, the ringing in his ears rendering his assailants all but invisible to him, if not for their lingering, burning touches on his body, his skin— But no, because the memory repeats and, this time, there’s just nothing there, and he thinks, if he could just remember, just remember what happened, how it happened, he could gather the fragments back together into something that makes sense—except that it repeats, and he remembers, and it still doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t—the blur of faceless touches, the ringing in his ears softening to a quiet drone as nothing happens, nothing, really, because if he can’t remember, then it didn’t, it couldn’t have— —and then he’s on his hands and knees, trembling, vomiting until there’s nothing left but his own blood that he keeps swallowing and he’s dry heaving and shaking as they laugh, and he thinks, he thinks this might be dying because he doesn't understand how anybody could withstand this feeling without dying. His body doesn’t even feel like it belongs to him anymore, because it couldn’t possibly, he can’t think of a reason why— No, he thinks, absently, what happened—it happened to someone else.  He doesn’t try to focus. There is no mind, body, connection, not anymore, not when his mind has violently rejected any connection to his body. In this moment, there are no thoughts of Elektra, or Foggy, or even God; no illusions of a friend or hero coming to his rescue. In his experience, people showing up at the last minute to save the day is a trope strictly relegated to films and books and television shows. In real life, people rarely show up at the last minute to save the day. In Matt’s experience, no one ever shows up at all. Maybe later he’ll rewrite the story; give it a better ending, a better beginning, more realistic, more true—something that makes more sense. Mostly, he remembers that it started and he remembers that it ended; but it felt like it never would, and he feels like, somehow, it never will.   III.   The night passes slowly. He trades incoherent banter with phantoms and mumbles apologies to ghosts. His body trembles violently, and the touch of his own fingertips feels alien as he presses the blood back into his wounds. He can’t remember why. Memory can keep its secrets, he thinks, as a rat scurries across the floor of his new cell.   —   Morning brings a kind of clarity. Unwanted, but there nonetheless. His phantoms (mostly) fade away at the relentless hammering of a bell. Father Lantom lingers. Something to do with Catholic school, he thinks. “Is there a problem, inmate? Why aren’t you prepared for the count?” There’s a heartbeat at the entrance to his cell; he probably should have noticed it before, but there are so many heartbeats, and so many voices, and the effort to focus his senses would only draw energy away from the effort to get to his feet without collapsing. The thought of being touched by anyone else right now is too much for Matt to bear. “No,” Matt says as he shuffles carefully to stand in front of his bed. He holds his arms behind his back in compliance, gritting his teeth against the low moan that rises in his throat. “Sorry.” “Next time you’re late for the count,” the guard says irritably, his hand resting on the baton at his side, “you’ll find out what disciplinary action means, Murdock.”   —   Attending meals is non-negotiable, evidently. Inmates in general population are not permitted to stay in their cells during mealtimes. In addition to learning that neat fact, Matt also learns that asking questions is considered ‘non-compliance’ and, therefore, also cause for disciplinary action. Matt not-so-secretly thinks that the guard just wanted an excuse to use force, but that doesn’t change the fact that he ends up on his knees again, unable to defend himself without giving away his secret. I am not Daredevil, he thinks, swallowing down the burning desire to fight back. It settles in his stomach like hot coals, waiting to burst into flames inside of him. The cafeteria is only a five-minute walk from Matt’s new cell, but the assault of catcalls and jeering on his ears, the sudden touches and hisses, makes it feel endless. Worse, there were so many men—he doesn't know which ones were in the room with him, which ones that— Sweeney signals his approach with the pungent, cloying odor of cigar smoke and expensive alcohol; the combination causes nausea to rise up in the back of Matt's throat. “You look real down this morning, Murdock,” he murmurs, standing close, too close. “So, listen, I’m gonna make this easy for you. This, last night, will just be a taste of what the next few years are gonna look like for you in here. Or, you can choose option B: tell your partner that I want out, and that I want him to get me the deal. Fisk can rot in hell for all I care. I’ll even delete that footage of you—” Don’t let the Devil out— “You have no idea what’s coming for you, Sweeney,” Matt spits, and turns to walk away from the cafeteria line. But the world spins disorientingly around him in vertigo not felt since he was a child: the rough fabric of his father’s shirt pressing desperately against Matt's eyes as the blue sky eroded away like film that had caught fire. I can’t see, I can’t see— He grasps for something to hold onto, something to stabilize himself, but finds nothing, ears ringing, his senses overwhelmed. He stumbles backward into another inmate, and mocking laughter erupts from the line. Flashes of memory return to him: on his knees gasping for breath while they laugh— All the helplessness inside of him transforms into rage in an instant, so suddenly that it takes his breath away—but before he can do anything there are hands grasping roughly at his arms, and he's hauled away.    —   Solitary. Matt registers the small, enclosed space as the gate clicks loudly shut behind him, the footsteps of the two prison guards walking away, but he is on his hands and knees in the filth and grime of countless inmates before him and he can hardly find a shred of feeling left in him to care. His mind is a constant replaying of his latest disaster, his most recent self-destruction; a litany of no’s like a prayer, don’t let the Devil out— His jaw clicks tight against the sudden onslaught of memories and he forcefully jerks his body back against the wall of the cell, sucks in a sharp breath of air through his nose and presses one trembling hand against the throbbing wound at his side. He can feel blood seeping out and through his new prison uniform. He can't remember what happened to the other uniform, ripped, stained, ruined; he supposes they must have thrown it away when they took it off of him. No evidence, no crime. Time passes slowly. He reviews all of Foggy’s cases in his mind, but the exercise is pointless, and he knows it. He’s never heard Foggy even mention Sweeney’s name, let alone mention attending any appeals. Beneath the hurt, Matt feels distantly pleased, vindicated, even, that he’s not the only one who ever kept secrets in their friendship. Still, the secret is out, and now Sweeney knows that hurting Matt hurts Foggy, knows that bending Matt will get Foggy to do whatever it takes to keep Matt from breaking. Fisk may have used the lowlife crime boss to get his revenge, but Sweeney used him right back. It’s almost laughable. Almost. “In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” Matt says, bitterly, “I’m the idiot who can f*** things up for the people I love even from behind bars.” His own voice sounds foreign to him and Matt hesitates to consider the ramifications of this feeling of decorporealization. A sudden echo of footsteps from the corridor catches his attention, then a heartbeat from the other side of the bars. A guard, judging by the sound of callused fingertips impatiently brushing against a baton. “Losing it already, Murdock?” he jeers. “Get up, your attorney’s here.” Matt doesn’t rise to the bait, doesn’t even shift to acknowledge the guard's presence; he’s found that if he holds himself absolutely still, he can slow the spinning and repress the nausea to tolerable levels, slightly stabilize his core temperature from its extreme ricocheting between hot and cold, burning and shivering. He'd given up trying to stop his body from its constant, violent trembling; it'd started at some point during the night, and hadn't taken a break from it since. “Hey, you hear me? Thought you were blind, not deaf!” snaps the guard, and he slides a key into the lock. Matt hears a soft click as the latch unlocks, and the gate swings open. “Your lawyer’s here and he wants to see you. Get up.” “I’m staying here,” Matt says flatly. “I don’t want to see him.” “I don’t give a sh*t what you want, inmate—your a**hole attorney is threatening to file a lawsuit against this entire prison if he doesn’t get to see you, and I’m not gonna be the sorry son of a bitch who gets held responsible. So, get up, and get moving.” Matt doesn’t bother to point out all the lawsuits they would have on their hands if word ever got out about even half of went on in here. Then again, the warden seems capable of making anything he wants to disappear. A veritable bureaucratic magician. The violence Matt had witnessed in here even before this, the things he heard for weeks on end— He stands up slowly, one trembling hand still pressed against the wound at his side, his shoulder pressed gingerly against the wall for support. The guard unsnaps a leather pouch, then gestures wordlessly with a pair of handcuffs for Matt to put his hands out in front of him. Matt grits his teeth, pointedly doesn’t react. I am not Daredevil— “Oh, f***’s sake,” the guard mutters. “Hold your hands out in front you, inmate.” “Is that really necessary?” scoffs Matt. Still, he holds his arms out, bloodied palms splayed up. “I was indicted on suspicion of perjury and obstruction of justice, not for running a fight club.” The irony of the defense isn’t lost on Matt. “And yet, here you are in solitary for fighting with another inmate. Want to avoid cuffs, Murdock? Learn to keep your hands to yourself and your mouth shut. Your fancy degree don’t mean sh*t in here.” The cold metal clicks shut around his aching wrists— You're still so naïve, Matthew— —and the guard walks him down the cellblock. Matt walks slowly, the only act of resistance left to him, feeling suddenly furious that Foggy keeps returning to the prison, keeps risking his safety; doesn’t he understand that Matt can’t keep him safe anymore? Can’t even keep himself safe. He still feels drugged, like he’s only witnessing everything from somewhere deep inside his own body, not actually living it. Like if he tried to speak, he’d be able to say nothing at all. The moment they enter, Foggy is all movement and barely restrained displeasure. He stands up, his fingertips pressing against the plexiglass that separates them, the clean scent of his cologne cutting through the lingering stench of the prison, and Matt, against himself, is grateful for it, for the sense of gentleness and stability that is carried with it. Surrounding yourself with soft stuff isn't life, it's death— “Get those cuffs off of him,” Foggy demands, redirecting Matt's attention away from phantoms lingering in the corners of the room. “This institution may be in the business of dehumanizing inmates, but he’s a non-violent offender awaiting trial, and I’m here to have a civilized conversation with a human being. Get them off, and then get out.” The guard’s heartbeat speeds up in a rush of anger, but he complies. Matt suffers the touch of the guard once more as he removes the cuffs from around his wrists. Tries not to think about the next time the cuffs will go back on, back off, back on; the endless violations of bodily autonomy waiting for him that he can do nothing about.  “What the hell, Foggy,” Matt bites out the moment the guard has left the room. "You may get to leave at the end of this meeting, but I don’t. Maybe try not to make me enemy number one of every single guard in here.” “What do you mean every single guard? Have other guards been mistreating you?” asks Foggy, and his tone indicates that he’s prepared to pick a fight with every single guard that has even so much as looked at Matt. “Jesus, Foggy,” mutters Matt. “That’s the part you hear? I just meant that I don’t need you to antagonize the guards for me on my first day in general population, ok?” “Not ok, Matt," snaps Foggy, but he releases a deep breath of his own and stops pacing long enough to sit down across the table from Matt. The breath hardly helped, Matt thinks, he can still hear Foggy’s heart racing like a cornered animal. “Matt,” Foggy starts to say, then falters, sits down across from him and tries again. “Listen. I don’t know what strings got pulled to transfer you to general population, but I’m working on it. It wasn’t a legal transfer. I’m filing a transfer back to protective custody while Karen is investigating who’s behind this. In the meantime, I just—I need you to keep your head down, ok? There's—there's someone else in here, other than Fisk—someone who has it out for you... and for me." “Foggy, it's fine,” Matt interrupts, not wanting to draw this out any longer than he has to. “I already know about Sweeney.” “Sh*t,” Foggy curses. “Did something happen between you two? Did Sweeney—are you—is that why you’re in solitary? Wait, no, did something happen last night? Is that why he sent that message to me?” For one long, disorienting moment, Matt thinks he’s going to be sick again. The nausea rises up in his throat, and he forces himself to swallow it down and keep it down. The nausea roils, threatens to rise again, his body burning cold with the effort to keep it in check. His very own Sisyphean punishment, he thinks. How appropriate. A fitting punishment for the arrogant hero who dared to challenge a god. What hubris, what naïveté. “What did Sweeney send to you,” Matt bites out through gritted teeth, certain that if he opens his mouth any more he’ll lose the fight with his stomach. “Foggy, what did he send you?” “Just, a text message," Foggy says, his pulse quickening as the clean scent of his sweat begins to sour with fear. "What else would he send me, Matt?” The rigidity of Matt’s posture softens ever so slightly. He opens his mouth to talk, but finds that nothing comes out. He licks his lips, tries again: "I don't, it doesn't matter. I, just, what did he say?" A few moments pass before Foggy answers, and he thinks that Foggy won’t let it go, whatever it is that’s bothering him about Matt’s response. Matt tilts his head back up from the table. Defiantly tries to meet Foggy’s eyes. Probably ends up looking somewhere over his left shoulder. “Sweeney was just letting me know that he’s in here with you, Matt,” Foggy concedes, his shoulders collapsing with a resigned exhale. “Probably trying to make me sweat. But then I get here first thing this morning and they tell me that you’ve somehow already managed to land yourself in solitary. Seriously, Matt, what the hell happened? Did he provoke you into a fight?” "Nothing happened," Matt replies bitterly, almost surprised at his own reaction, that he can still feel so hurt over something as trivial as this: that this must have been Matt's fault, that Matt allowed himself to be provoked into recklessness again.  “Jesus, Matt, do you seriously expect me to believe that? I mean, I know you can’t actually see what you look like, but I'm, I’m personally having major flashbacks to that time I found you dying on your apartment floor,” Foggy snaps back, leaning toward the plexiglass as he finishes his rant in a furious whisper. “So, can you, just, for once in your freaking life be straight with me? Because I really don’t want to drag Jessica or Karen into this, really, really don’t want to interrogate every single guard in here, but if you won’t tell me what’s going on—" Foggy’s breath is high in chest, and his pulse is elevated with emotion, but his heartbeat is steady, no hint of a bluff. Panic rises up in Matt at the thought of—no. Foggy can’t. He can’t— They're watching, Matthew—

Minato Uzumaki

03/05/2023 05:35 PM 


1) I'm not always here. Posts take some time. If you expect posts right away or every day forget it. I have things to do before I role play.2) It's role play. Don't get so upset, don't take it too seriously. Unless I say something OOC, my character is simply that, my character and he's talking to your character, not you.3) Make things natural. I won't do preset relationships, even among cannon characters. Our Role Play will begin with our characters as strangers and we'll build from there.4) Please acknowledge you read this page and leave a comment below. Thanks for your time.


03/04/2023 12:06 PM 


  姫野 (the best private investigator in kabukichō)> original character by rev.akio yuuichi. this is a work of fiction. names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author's imagination. any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.good to see you again, and I'm sorry for coming and going so much lately. don't worry—think i'm here to stay this time. no idea who I am? no worries; you've come to the right place if you like yakuza sh*t. i might be a one-trick pony, but i've gotten pretty good at my trick. -rev.—Yuuichi is the owner and head detective of   88TH AGENCY                    一ノ瀬号館 2nd floor, Sakura-dori st.                       1-chōme-10-2 Kabukichō, ShinjukuPreviously, he was a vice detective working for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department  (警視庁, Keishichō), working undercover for the shinjuku squad within the organized / vice crimes bureau. He has worked cases involving organized crime, prostitution, gambling, firearms, human trafficking, and narcotics.                          taken from the TPA police vice operations handbook, pg. 61( because vice crimes are typically street-level crimes, their existence and operations are often hard to track down and prosecute. as such, vice investigators must often perform undercover investigations, some of which may take months or even years to complete )After he returned to Tokyo in 2019, 88th Agency was open for business. If you or anyone you know lives in the Tokyo Metro, you've likely seen or heard about his business. It's not uncommon for some paper flyers to be stapled to telephone lines or taped to the windows of small businesses.Usually, if someone asks for directions, he tells them it's the tan building a block over from Shinjuku Unatetsu.On the corner, you'll spot a (usually vandalized) sign sitting outside of a narrow staircase that leads you up to the agency. It's a small live-in office with a worked in leather couch, a CRT Television with a gamecube and two controllers, and his desk sitting in the corner with a mountain of unorganized files and folders. At first glance, you would assume this was just the messy apartment of some shady loser; and you'd be mostly right.But this loser is the best damn detective in Kabukichō.    typical loadout :      glock g19      sony M-570v      vipertek VTS-880      pocket knife with window breaker      pack of seven stars      820MHz UHF wireless bugs      smelling salts      handcuffs      rohypnol      disposable plastic gloves      lockpicking kit      wallet      fake I.D.      cell phone, iPhone      nokia 2720 (burner)              Yuuichi will do whatever it takes to find what he is looking for. He has a tendancy to obsess over cases (and suspects). The same methods that the *police saw as reckless or unethical, he sees as necessary. If someone is running from the truth, they will do everything they can to cover their tracks.*If it wasn't for his career in law enforcement or his personal friendship with the chief of police (which many see as unfair), he would likely be either behind bars or dead. But the chief's good favor will run dry someday, so he is working against the clock.As reckless as the detective is, he believes he has a polished sense of justice. All of the darkness in his past has shown him how to be truly good (or so he believes). He has a few trusted confidants that he works with on jobs that require more than one person, but has never employeed more than himself. With business growing more and more, he has considered bringing on more detectives to help his growing pile of work. Same goes for a secretary.Working the gutters of Tokyo for over ten years now, he's become streetwise through and through. Several of the gangs that operate in his part of town share a mutual understanding, and they tend to help one another. One such relationship is that with the AKUMA-gumi that run a local chop shop. Thanks to them, he get you anything from MDMA to Oxycontin from his dealer on Hanamichi-dori street, upper Kabukichō.He is good friends with a *lieutenant of the Nakano-Kai by the name of Okumura Kuze. He is part-owner and operator of a certain luxury onsen called OMO(tenashi), Shinjuku, Tokyo-Idai-Dori (東京医大通り), the other owner being Ishida Takeshi of the same family. Reservations are pretty expensive, but he might be able to swing you a deal if you're nice enough.*It's unclear just how close he is with the yakuza, but he is close enough to have lieutenants as drinking buddies. He has even been known to have drinks with a wild card by the name of Ryutaro.If you have ever seen the short video of the guy in the green jacket trying to rescue a cat from a tree that falls into a dumpster, that was him. It was pretty famous for a moment, and it did net him a few clients.His main number is 75-470-5523, the same number on the flyers.He does everything he can to avoid a fist-fight (although some would disagree). After hitting his late twenties, the detective swore off waking up with gnarly bruises and sore bones. But some nights, all it takes is one wrong look to send him back into his bad habit. Call it an excuse to visit his favorite back-alley clinic.A long time ago, people called him “wolf”. He hated it, and it didn’t last long. But there’s always that one a**hole that remembers.Yuuichi has ties with the Four Seasons, an old school chinese restaurant run by a *triad family from hong kong. The rear parlor is used for everything from business discussions to pulling teeth.*Yei Ming has been one of his closest contacts for years, and Yuuichi sets time aside every year to go to his little sister's dance recitals.While he enjoys his coffee black, he is becoming fond of trying new boba drinks at the thousands of little tea shops all over Tokyo.His favorite izakaya is Ikesu MOMON, and he can be found (sometimes doing paperwork if he's behind) at the bar on most weeknights. In fact, he would consider himself somewhat of an "izakaya enthusiast"; self-appointed. From meeting clients outside of the office, to finding new leads in a relaxed setting, you can always find the detective slinging back a few brews after the *workday has come to an end.*Everyone else’s workday. He’s always 調査 ( on the beat. )If he had to pick a *favorite food, it would probably be Yangnyeom chicken (Korean: 양념치킨), and his favorite thing to pair it with is pickled radish and kimchi. As for beer, it's pretty hard to beat Asahi on draft.*He will never, ever turn down a basket of hot tempura shrimp either. An absolute weakness.As for his other meals, he typically doesn’t eat his fill until the hard part of the day is over. Coffee in the morning, maybe something light for lunch. If his day takes an unexpected turn, he will figure food out along the way.His body is littered with tattoos, *all of them meaningless*except for oneCURRENT CASES"Glass Castle"Main Contact - Okumura Kuze, Hansel ReinerPOI - Ito Takahiro, Saito Touma, Ashley IgnusPolice Officer(s) assigned - Tanaka Chiharu, Hashimoto HiroshiCurrently, Glass Castle is a cold case with no solid leads for an arrest of Ito Takahiro. Please refer to Ito Family Codex for history.Taken from Police File 20-23 : Yuuichi is legally prohibited to assist police with this investigation on any capacity.Note: Any information regarding crime(s) involing the Ito family should be reported immediatly. Please call 75-470-5523 "Ikebana"Main contact - Okumura Kuze, Yamada AikoPOI - Oda Keiichi, Goro HimenoHis informant at OMO has been reporting disturbances for his guests at night. Further investigation revealed a murder of one Himeno Goro, age 31. He was cut in half in front of two witnessess who claim "a spectral katana formed and cursed his name before killing him". There was no weapon on scene. No stories and video evidence support this claim. Currently questioning suspects. No stories seem to match."Headsplitter"Main Contact - 分類した (Classified)POI - Seon-mi Kim, Ji-yeon Park, Kim's Lawyer, Kazuko SeijiKazuko Seiji has been linked to selling innapropriate images of co-workers, but currently there is no hard evidence linking him to this crime. It is suspected that he keeps his database on his personal computer in his office. ( Presently, any further information regarding this investigation is confidential. Please check back for an update on 3/20. )"Acquittal"Main Contact - Yokohama Public HousePOI - "Gomi-tan", Numerous online aliasesAfter the death of the Late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 88th has been hired by the government as an NGO asset to help track suspicious activity that targets government officials. Evidence has found a local internet troll guilty of crimes against the state. Possible stalking of suspects involved with the yakuza or those related, as well as supposed threats of violence or defamation. Any suspicious information should be reported to 88th agency. This may include, but is not limited to, screenshots, photos, threatining messages, blackmail, or possible wherebouts.Note: Seeking person(s) adept at tracking criminal activity that either targets or uses a computer, a computer network or a networked device. Please call 75-470-5523 for more information.In his office, there is a paper held to a corkboard with a thumbtack that reads,“There was once a tiger that ran alongside a river trying to catch his reflection.”    知らせNOTICEinformation subject to changethis list will update as stories progressthank you for your cooperation ↼ PROFILE                                                                              HOME ⇀   @import url(''); body { background:fff; background-size:cover; background-attachment: fixed; } h1 { text-align:right; padding:15px; } div,p { font-family:Baskervville; } .basics { width: 400px; text-align:justify; font-weight:bold; font-size:10px; text-transform: none; color:#614d68; letter-spacing:1px; line-height:12px;padding:20px; }::selection { background: #614d68; color:#fff; } ::-moz-selection { background: #614d68; color:#fff;}


03/04/2023 12:12 PM 

RP Details


03/03/2023 05:31 PM 

chapter one!

  disclaimer/An: hello! Thank you for checking out my story! This story is heavily inspired by “scars and scales” along with “stray dogs”. Please go check both out! Scars and scales can be found on AO3 and stray dogs is a comic. This story also contains some spoilers to the sun and moon show so check them out on youtube! This story involves things such as whump, fighting, and animal abuse. ‘y/n’ is also suppose to be alot like me.   Y/N POV   Beeping. God it f***ing hurt. you wanted to scream as you heard the noise. It was a daily occurrence but it still hurt. It almost became a trigger at this point. And yet with a shaky hand you reach over and press the button, effectively shutting the obnoxious machine off. Once your nerves calmed down you realized that's just what it was. Obnoxious was what it was.    A large part of you screamed to call out of work that day but that wasn't your choice to make. And it's not like you were sick. With a groan you slowly sat up, glancing outside at the snow covered ground.    You carefully pulled the blankets off your body feeling the frigid air nip your legs causing goosebumps. You slowly willed yourself up from the bed that was calling you back to you. But you couldn't, you had a job to do and things to take care of.    You didn't quite bother to change yet. It was pointless right now, there were more important things to worry about right now. You barely have the emotional energy to slip on a hoodie as you open your bedroom door.   You look down as you hear a soft flop. You only chuckle slightly before picking up your bunny. Cream was a small floppy eared bunny whose coat shined softly with an orange and white coloring. He was the only bunny you owned. You normally didn't keep bigger animals, out of worry they’d hurt the smaller ones that roamed around. You didn't even keep cats, you had a dove after all.   “Breakfast time..” you whisper to the small creature in your arms as you stroked his fur. Before walking down the steps into the kitchen. It was a pretty nice kitchen you had to admit. It wasn't even too small, surprisingly. You weren't married or anything, in fact you rather preferred to spend time with your animals. They were your friends, and it's not that you couldn't make friends with humans, in fact you had a lot of friends. It was just more cozy with the soft creatures.    You bend down to the ground picking up a small blue boul labeled ‘cream’. Besides, why spend money on a partner when you would rather worry about giving your pets the best life. You almost laughed at the absent thought as you set cream down on the ground. Before pulling out a premium bag of hay, specifically made for rabbits as it had slight bits of pellets mixed in it as well. With a huff you set it down on the counter before turning to your fridge and digging around, finding some soft carrots and some lettuce. You place them in the bowl before filling it with the rest of the food. You slowly and carefully lean down towards the rabbit setting the food boul inform of him.    With a soft part of his head you turned your attention to a particularly loud animal. Corral was a mostly white dove with gray spots and green eyes. “Alright- alright i hear you!” you laugh as you pull out a bag of bird seed made for doves. You grab Corrals orange bowl, filling it. The seed was filled all kinds of things, mostly seeds and corn. Not that she ever complained about the simple food but you always made up for it, making sure she always had a fresh pine cone in her cage.   Once you had finished with coral you went upstairs, slowly opening up a room that was luminated with a green tone. It was a typical color for reptile rooms but it wasn't just reptiles in there, in fact you had none other than turtles and the occasional fish. The rest of the room was lined with cages of hamsters and more birds. The hamster cages were large with tubes connecting them. You had taken note of the fact the hamsters mainly enjoyed the sunflower seeds. The bowl was usually empty by the time you came home from work, all left in it was the corn and the veggies. Annoying as it was, you avoided the corn and veggies as you fed the small creatures.   Once you had finished you smiled at your work, making sure each animal got attention and their own little treat, you went downstairs and dug around in the pantry for something to eat. With a sigh you pull out the last poptart. You open the pouch, pulling one out and taking a bite before writing that down on the note pad. Once you had finished you tossed the foil into the trash bin before going back upstairs.   You slip into the white and teal uniform you had been given. Plan as it was you had spiced it up with some animal pins, it fit for the vet anyways. You gave a satisfied smile before brushing through your hair and grabbing your lunch you had made just the other night before walking out the door and to work.    Once you got in you clocked in and grabbed a work provided coffee before walking into the dog ward. They kept most of the ill dogs here and as much as you didnt have a dog you certainly wanted one. But you didn't quite have the patience to train it, so you preferred other people's dogs.   You noticed a younger veterinarian standing by one of the cages. He had short curly black hair and black eyes. “Kengo?  What are you doing here this early?” you asked, tapping his shoulder. He normally was here for the night shift.   He jumped back slightly, clearly you had startled him.great. You thought to myself. He was normally shy and in his own little world so it didn't surprise me too much. Of course it was a little disturbing to think about him handling an animal's life.   “Oh- mx.Y/N! Good morning! I was called because there was an important thing you were supposed to teach me?” Kengo had tilted his head ever so slightly to the side. In reality he wasn't much younger than you but he was new to the building and still in training, so it was partly your job to help train him.    “Oh yeah? And what is that?” you asked softly with confusion. He was oddly vague about what you were teaching him. ‘You would think that'd be important’ you think to yourself. That's when you hear footsteps approaching. You watch Kengo jump a second time, clearly yanking out of his thoughts again.   “Oh.  mx. Y/N. Good morning. We've got work to do this morning!” a cheery voice chimed as you looked back at the owner of said voice. A girl with long light blue hair and glowing yellow eyes. Her ponytail was straight to the point it gave of an unsettling vibe to it. Not to mention the few times you had met her outside of the office she was an eyesore to look at. Her name was Magana, and she was the owner of the veterinary office here. As soft as she looked she had a particularly snarky attitude to her. But she worked well with animals so you guess this really is where she belongs.   “Doctor Cooro. It's um nice to see you this morning.”: surprisingly you found yourself stammering over your words as if you suddenly could no longer speak. What is wrong with you? Just speak up will ya? “You said that there's something I need to show Kengo how to do? May I ask what that is?” you ask and magana give you a look.    She clearly thinks you must already know. “Isn't it obvious? Putting an animal down? I don't have that heart to do that to a poor creature. But with the world around us more and more animals that come in are in a state that can't be fixed” magana glanced down at the ground. You almost felt sick. You hated the thought of killing a living being, especially if it was by your own hands. But you suppose she was right.  You turn to the creature laying in its cage behind you. Lily, a small rottweiler puppy. You knew exactly what magana was talking about. The abuse uprisings. You give a stuttered sigh as you stare at the dog's sad eyes. She had been brought in severely underweight and injured. You couldn't get her to eat, at all. She was just suffering “lily..?” you asked, turning back to Magana who gave a nod. With reluctant hands and tearful eyes you reached to pick the sad creature up.


03/03/2023 04:15 PM 

Himi's Rules!

Please be patient with me, School does take up my time! Please keep things to RP, I'm not interested in a RL relationship.  Please don't be rude to me. EroRP is fine with discussion.  DarkRP must be heavily discussed before I agree to write it. More rules will probably come.


03/03/2023 03:53 PM 


  For our world this is usually how it goes. This takes place in a world were animal human hybrids have been genetically created. This account focuses on the present of when their being created. At the beginning of this these hybrids would be stuck in their animal forms making it so they could switch. At first people were interested in these hybrids and would try to run experiments on them, however because it was hard to tell the difference between a hybrid and an actual animal people would often end up mistaking the two. There was an uprising in  animal abuse because people are sick and stupid and started to hate these hybrids.   The only way to make it so hybrids can switch forms is a star that currently alot of people are after  


03/03/2023 03:53 PM 


  By rping with us you are agreeing to the following:    -NO smut! We are a minor, and our characters are both minors and animals. -we focus on dark themes such as: murder, whump, and animal and child abuse.  -you character MAY have powers, some might even help out with plots –you can also just play another animal if thatd be easier -You have at least some experience with hurt/comfort or at least know how to do it. -You can write at least a paragraph. -You will avoid any of that creepy “UwU *action*” sh*t.  -You agree a RP is just that. A RP. Wed love to have friendships outside of RPs but were not looking for romance outside of RPs. We are VERY happy with our (IRL) girlfriend. -You have some basic human decency -have patience -your ok with animal and child characters  

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