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thank you, void, it has been a stressful month

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Unnerving, that's the word Frank's army commander had used. Unnerving, the way he could look into a person's soul.

Karen spent so long looking for his that she's not entirely sure he returned the favor.

 

 

Karen's head is cradled in the crook of Frank's arm and she's breathing too hard and too shallow at once, the kind of hysterical breathing you do if you're crying. But Karen's not crying.

She turns her face away from him a little, towards his hand, thick fingers heavy on her cheekbone and her jaw. The pad of one finger catches on her parted, gasping lips and Frank says in a low, rough voice, "Deep breath, Page, Jesus Christ."

His other hand is between her legs. Makes it kind of hard to breathe.

 

 

Karen was a different person before she came to New York. It's sort of funny. She came here and cleaned up her act, though for a lot of people it went the opposite way.

But she supposes it went that way for her too eventually, didn't it?

In high school Karen was the kind of girl who climbed on the back of motorcycles owned by boys who never graduated and worked at the gas station. She slept with boys and stole their leather jackets. She was the girl who was told how much potential she had that she was just squandering.

After her brother died, things were different.

 

 

Karen pushes Frank onto his back, her steady hands slipping against his leather jacket, his solid chest. He hisses like she hurt him but Karen knows better than to ask. There are stitches and bruises and blood everywhere on him, always. He's all wounds. He has Kevlar under his t-shirt.

Karen touches the hollows under his eyes, the bump of his broken nose, the mouth that said to her, less than half an hour ago, "This is stupid." Karen had kissed him. It was stupid. She does it again now, hard like she means it, and feels his hands grip her hips tight.

Karen thinks she's forgetting the difference between rough and soft. Is there one?

 

 

In her most unforgiving moments Karen wonders if her interest in Frank makes her like one of those women who go wild for Charlie Manson, who would marry a Menendez brother in jail. There has always been something in the dark that pulled on Karen. She couldn't help chasing it, but she's afraid that couching it as a search for truth is letting herself off the hook for an intrinsic thirst for something distinctly abnormal.

She used to keep books about serial killers on her bedside table.

She was more attracted to Matt when he was just a nameless man dressed in black who beat down her attackers, before she even know that the Devil was him.

Karen is afraid of herself but it's a toss up: is she more afraid of who she is, or who she might be?

 

 

Frank pulls at her thin cotton blouse, crisp and white and clean, until it splits along one seam and loses some of its buttons, gets his prints all over it. His mouth is harsh against her as it moves over her sternum and collarbone, teeth and stubble leaving hot red skin in their wake. He pulls her bra straps down her shoulders. He pulls her apart.

Karen grips him hard. She gets his short hair caught between her knuckles and presses her fist against his skull, this impenetrable thing that was once pierced by a bullet. Frank's like her, falling apart and held together at the same time. Sheer force of will. They've got that.

He kisses her with his mouth open but Karen's the one who bites.

 

 

The thing that gets her about Frank is trying to reconcile him with himself. It's not an entirely unique story, though Frank has executed it with more flair than most: men who seem like the perfect husband and the perfect father have gone on killing sprees before. It means nothing to him and it weighs on him heavily. She can feel it when she touches him, that weight.

There is a man beneath the bruises, but Karen still doesn't know if she's right about what kind of man he is.

 

 

Karen opens Frank's split lip by accident so their kisses taste like copper, like pennies, like bad decisions. That's how she feels about him: she wants to split him open for answers.

Her fingers scrabble against the back of his neck when they fuck, Karen on top and in Frank's lap, her legs splayed open over him, feeling his muscular thighs underneath her, unyielding. Everything about Frank is like that, and Karen appreciates that; she knows Frank will only budge when he wants to. And he wants to, for her.

Dangerous, dangerous.

 

 

Karen is not technically supposed to be in contact with Frank anymore, but since when has supposed to been a key aspect in her decision-making process?

Everything is falling apart. Everything has fallen. Matt is the man who stalks Hell's Kitchen at night in costume. Foggy is never around anymore and when he is he's apologetic the whole time, but he's still looking at his watch. Karen falls asleep at her desk more regularly than she falls asleep in her bed. Newsprint tattoos her cheek and her neck aches from the angle. Her fingertips are never far from the keyboard of her laptop.

It doesn't seem right that the things you're meant to do pull you so far away from the people you love.

 

 

Frank doesn't have much to put back on because he doesn't take much off, so it's quick after. He doesn't even really catch his breath before he's on his feet again: zipped, buckled, buttoned up. Karen is less neatly put together but that matters to her less. Her hair is sticking to her neck and her thighs have bruises on them, her chest hurts from the force with which it rolled through her. How hard Frank made her come.

"How are you doing?" she asks, an oddly belated pleasantry. Probably should have started with that, but then she never would have gotten here.

Frank gives her that look that's a wry smile and a scoff in one. "How are you?"

 

 

Karen falls apart, but she keeps herself together.