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The Good Side of You

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day 1 > I can hear you, but I’m afraid to be near you

When Matt comes too, he’s in a car.

He stays completely still. Positive he’s been kidnapped until he gets a whiff of the air. Then he groans, more in annoyance than in pain from the stab wounds and lacerations he’s got scattering his middle right now.

“Jesus, I thought you were a goner for a second there.” Frank Castle mumbles from the front seat.

Matt ignores him. “Gonna suck getting this blood out of your upholstery.”

”Shut your smart mouth... After all I’ve done for you? Can you not fucking swim?”

For a second, Matt has no idea what he’s talking about. He reaches up, cringing at the stiffness of his body, to brush blood away from his eye, and then freezes, realizing he’s touching his face and not his mask.

Matt panics. Frank is still grumbling in the front seat. It almost sounds like he’s talking to someone else, someone other than Matt, someone named Max. All Matt can think about is the fact that Frank fucking Castle, the man he defended (or tried too,) in court, now knew his dirty little secret, and put him, bleeding out, in the back seat of a car.

He tries to figure out how he got here. Did he walk? How did Frank get a car? Matt supposes he probably stole it, but still? How did Matt get in the car? He’s not exactly light: did Frank carry him?

(He remembers being shoved, very rudely, into the water from the boat. He remembers the lick of an explosion as he fell into the icy blue. Doesn’t remember much after that, maybe the cold shocked him enough that he passed out, but he does remember taking a sharp inhale, pulling that sweet, sweet air into his lungs, remembers coughing water. He had realized his helmet was off, and that he was now on the boat dock, and that Frank Castle was leaning over him, his hands still folded, ready to push, over Matt’s chest.

At that, he passed out again.)

“Did you carry me?” Matt asks, not having listened to anything Frank had been saying for the last minute.

Frank shifts. “Yeah, I mean, you were pretty much dead.”

Matt understands why he thought that. He can feel the shifting of his skin, two sliced pieces rubbing together. A stab wound in his hip. Broken ribs from the CPR. His scalp is bleeding too, and he wonders why.

Frank continues a light chatter with himself, or Matt, or the imaginary third person in the car with them, and Matt decides his head hurts too much to deal with all of this.

Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he hopes he’s still underwater.

{+}

The next time he wakes up, he’s in a bathtub. Maybe today will just be a series of snapshots from the moments he’s conscious.

The water is only pooling at his hips and had already run red by the stench of it.

He’s naked, save for his boxers, and completely exposed. He almost wants to reach down and check if he still has both his kidneys.

Because that’s got to be what this is. Franks holding him hostage. How cute. He can already hear what Foggy’s gonna have to say about this.

But then, the door creams slightly, and thankfully his head has cleared enough that he can kind-of hear what’s going on around him. He hears Frank come in, set a heavy box on the counter, full of medical supplies — alcohol, fabric band-aids, ointment — and turn to leave again.

Instead, the sound of his heavy boots is replaced with a light scratching noise, a soft pitter-patter... Almost like a —

There is a dog leaning over the bathtub.

Matt flinches so hard he tears something in his side, totally blowing his “I’m still sleeping” cover.

“Hey! Oh, c’mon now,” Frank shouts, rubbing in after the dog. He yanks it away by the collar and drags it out of the bathroom. “I told you to stay out here, girl, okay? Stay out.”

Matt wonders how bad he really is. Obviously, lots of blood loss and a very open slash wound around his waist, but really, could he fight Frank Castle right now?

“Sorry.” The man in question rasps as he walks into the bathroom again. Matt remains curled as much as he can in the bath. The water is getting cold. He gets really close to Matt, kneeling down beside the tub. “Fuck, Murdock, I just stitched that.” He groans.

Frank saying his name, knowing what he knows, makes Matt shiver.

“Ok, stay put, I’ll do it again.”

The large slash and stab wound have not been tended too yet, but the smaller slashes around his hips have been. The one he ripped, of course, will have to be redone, but Frank has made quite the progress, which only freaks Matt out more. Why would he fix him up just to keep him hostage?

A big hand comes down beside Matt’s hip in the water. Frank cups up some bloody water and scoops it onto Matt’s ripped stitches. Matt only curls up more.

“Okay, you’re gonna have to relax. I haven’t even gotten to the bad one yet.” Matt doesn’t move. Frank scoffs. “Are you cold? Is that it?

Matt doesn’t know what he’s feeling. Or what the fuck is happening.

But he nods.

Frank also nods, tight and singular, and reaches down between Matt’s ankles to pull the plug. He lets the water drain while also running the tap, keeping a supply of fresh, warm water for Matt’s comfort.

He gets back to business, pulling slightly at Matt’s hip when he doesn’t uncurl from
his fearful ball all the way. Frank is really getting a show here, getting to see the stark differences between Matt Murdock and Daredevil.

Matt hitches at the sting of the needle, swooping in and out of his skin to pull it back together. He’s gonna have some impressive scars after this one.

As quick as he started, Frank’s setting the needle aside and grabbing the alcohol. Matt can smell the sting of it in the air.

“Don’t bite your tongue, now,” Frank warns, before pouring the sterilizer over the gash in Matt’s side. Matt arches.

Castle is torturing him. If he was so included to patch Matt up, he could have done this wound while he was unconscious. Like a nice guy would.

Frank holds him down, “I know, I know.” He hushes. Matt wants to cry.

“I had to wait until you were awake to do this one, cuz’ you’ll tell me if I nick a nerve.” He explains, like he can read Matt’s mind.

How kind of him. So thoughtful.

Matt is quite until he’s done. If he lets a few tears fall, Frank doesn’t mention it.

“Okay.” He says once Matt’s laced up tight. “One more and you’re good.”

“Where am I?”

Frank digs in his kit. “Outside of Bedford. Gotta’ place. It’s a friend’s.”

Clearly, Matt almost hisses. Like he’d bring him to his actual house. Frank sets to work on the stab wound.

“What about... What about the Blacksmith? What...” Matt cuts off with a hiss. Frank apologizes softly, smoothing a hand down his flank, like he’s trying to comfort him.

With the water moving and the slash stitched, the water feels less bloody. Maybe, by the end of this, he’ll actually feel clean.

Frank never does answer him, as he cleans out the rest of his wounds. “You’ll have to dry off so we can wrap these. Anywhere else?”

Matt tries to stare in his general direction, hoping to convey how confusing this whole thing is. He reaches up and taps his hairline, where it had been bleeding before.

The trail that lead to his eyebrow has dried, and so has the original cut, but Frank sets to work in cleaning it out. He uses a plastic cup to pour fresh water over Matt’s forehead, and Matt almost likes how it feels dripping down his nose.

Frank wipes away the stain from his forehead and then digs his thumb into the cut on Matt’s forehead. Matt holds back a groan.

After a couple more cups of water, Frank sight. “You know what...” he starts, and then leaves Matt’s side, digging around under the sink for something Matt can’t place. He’s getting sleepier by the second, his head fuzzy.

Frank slides a hand under Matt’s head and pours another cup of water over the crown of his head. Then, he pumps a soft smelling soap into his hands (hand-soap?) and scrubs it into Matt’s hair.

He can almost hear Foggy’s laugh after he tells him that Frank Castle —very gently, softly, kindly?— washed his hair for him while Matt slowly regenerated blood cells in a half-empty bathtub.

It really does feel nice, but that’s not weird to Matt. Frank is a father, he probably washed his kid's hair all the time. What’s strange is how Frank is reacting to it. Like he’s also enjoying it. Like maybe he enjoys having someone to look after, to care for, to wash their hair.

Pouring water from the cup to remove the soap takes very careful concentration on Frank’s part, who gently tilts Matt’s heavy head back to rinse his hair.

Matt can almost separate the context from the situation and imagine he’s been bathed lovingly by a partner, someone who cares so much about him to hold up his head for him when he’s tired. He selfishly and greedily soaks in the feeling.

{+}

After his bath, Matt changes, rather slowly, out of his wet boxers and into sweats that Frank had provided. Then Matt helps Frank dress his wounds, and clean the few Frank collected himself. Frank slipped a hoodie over his head, muttering something about the heating in this place, and then they head out of the bathroom. They haven’t spoken a word since Matt brought up the Blacksmith.

“I know Baby, I know,” Frank coos as he sets Matt down on the couch. Matt almost thinks he’s talking to him until he turns his attention quickly to the dog. “You’ve been so patient, my girl, you’re so good.”

Matt coughs. “You went back for her.” He states.

Frank shrugs. “I couldn’t leave her. Didn’t know how long I’d be gone for.” He turns his attention back to her. “And where would I be without my Maxxy?”

As Matt finally falls asleep, the bitter smell of dog food in the air, he realizes Frank was talking to her in her car, filling her in on all the details. Matt smiles a little, feeling almost safe, and lets sleep overtake him.

Chapter Text

day 2 > I don’t know where to begin

The room feels softer while bathed in warm sunlight. Matt lets his arm fall away from himself to feel the dance of light coming in from the windows.

His head is clear, now, totally free of the cloud of last night. He’s able to fully take in the space.

They’re in a tiny, single floor home with no close neighbours. There’s a small kitchen with rusting pipes and a ticking gas line. The whole place smells of dust and wood.

He tries, and fails, to move. He should get out of here, he knows, but he’s in no condition to be out and about in the show. He has no idea where he is... He doesn’t even have shoes with him

He can hear Frank’s heartbeat, a low thrum one room over.

He lies and waits for him to wake up.

 

{+}

Max wakes him about an hour later.

Thankfully, she doesn’t jump on him, but she does shove her nose into Matt’s face, leaving a wet kiss on his forehead as she sniffs him.

“Max, dammit,” Frank grumbles, standing at the door. “Let’s go, c’mon.”

With one last loud sniff, Max leaves him be. She hogs off to meet with her owner, who lets out a breathy “sorry, Red,” before letting them both out into the cold morning air.

They come in a couple minutes later, both smelling of snow. Matt doesn’t do much but lie there, not wanting to cause trouble.

“I gotta’ run out later to get some junk. I ain’t got any real food left.” Frank says, digging around in the cabinets. “Got oatmeal. You hungry?”

The back of the couch faces the kitchen, so Frank can’t even see if Matt responds. He just keeps talking, filling the air. “How do ya’ feel?”

Matt coughs. “Not great.”

“You don’t look great,” Frank adds.

Matt says nothing.

“You know,” he continues, “when I saw your face, I thought maybe you’d been faking the whole Blind Lawyer thing... until I saw your eyes,” Frank says, stirring honey into his already sweet smelling tea.

Max is at his feet, her tail thumping the ground. She’s covered in snow from being outside, and sounds like a healthy, happy girl, but Matt isn’t overly surprised.

Matt hides the urge to draw the blankets up, cover his eyes. Dead, still, cold eyes. He wishes for nothing more than his glasses.

“How do you do it, then? You got some kinda’ superpower? Like them’ boys in the Tower?”

Stark Tower, he means. Matt shakes his head. “I was in an accident when I was a kid. My other senses are heightened.”

Frank chuckles. “So, pretty much a superpower.”

Matt wouldn’t say being blind is a fucking superpower. He’d give it all up just to see his friends faces. “Sure.”

Frank brings a plate and cup around for him, placing them on the coffee table. “Wanna’ sit up?”

Really, he’s gotta piss. And his wounds are aching to be cleaned again, rewrapped and smoothed over with an ice pack. But he’ll take what he can get.

Frank lifts him from behind the shoulders, turning him so he’s somewhat upright, not enough to crunch in on his wounds, but enough to eat. Matt gets a strong whiff of his scent with him being this close. He smells like fabric softener, and dog, the stench of blood and gun oil hidden underneath.

Matt gets a cup in one hand, and a bowl of oatmeal in the other. They eat in silence.

After breakfast, Matt gets what he wants without asking. Frank helps him to the bathroom and waits patiently outside for when he needs help with the wounds on his back. Matt takes in the shape of the window, the lock, and screen. Wonders if he could fit.

After a moment, Matt opens the door slowly, letting Frank in. He stands with his back to the mirror, hands braced on the counter as Frank patches him up again, and helps him to the couch, again, and pulls the blankets up to his chin.

“Comfy?”

Matt closes his eyes.

“You can take my bed tonight. If you wanna stay.”

That makes Matt’s eyes shoot open. Stay? What? He has an option to leave? “What?”

“I just mean, it’s bigger and softer. Not sure if I could keep Max off it all night, though... She seems to think it’s her bed.”

“No, I mean,” Matt wishes he could sit up by himself and have this conversation like a normal person. “I can leave?”

Frank stares at him so hard it makes Matt’s skin prickle. “Yeah? I’m not keeping you here against your will.”

Matt leans up on an elbow, ignoring the pain in his ribs. “It sure seems like that?”

“What? No? I didn’t hand-cuff you to the radiator.”

“Then why did you bring me here?!”

Frank scoffs. “I saved your life!? You were basically dead! I couldn’t have just left you there!”

“Yes, you could have.” Matt bites.

“No.” Frank insists. “I couldn’t have.”

Matt’s eyebrows raise. “Why?”

Stepping forward, Frank distracts himself by cleaning up the dishes from breakfast. “Cuz’ you woulda’ died.”

The rock that has been lifted when Frank told him he was still a free man has settled again. He’s confused.

He doesn’t ask about it anymore, but he also doesn’t leave. So that’s something.

{+}

He sleeps pretty much the rest of the day. Doesn’t even notice when Frank slips out of the house. He does notice when he comes home, with a mere two bags of groceries. Someone’s gotta teach this man how to shop. He has a short meeting with Max while he’s gone, where he brushes his fingers over her face, down her back. She loves the attention, and now Matt has an idea of what she looks like.

He wonders what Frank looks like. Thinks about asking to touch him as he helps Matt up, helps him walk, makes him food, puts him in his bed, sleeps on the couch. It all feels too intimate to ask now. Maybe later.

He knows Frank is strong. He’s wide and tall, and sturdy. Solid.

He wonders what his skin feels like.

He’s losing it, Matt realizes with a slap of insight. He’s gone mad.

Chapter Text

day 3 > the song you sing for the dead

Frank was right about Max sleeping on the bed because when he wakes the next morning, it’s because Frank has the door cracked and is calling for her. She takes her sweet time getting out of bed beside Matt and jumps off, her nails scratching the hardwood.

They go outside again. Longer this time. Matt waits for them to come back.

He can sit up on his own today. A minor victory, since he feels kind of like his torso has been cut off and sewn back on. He’s thankful for the soft mattress beneath him, thankful Frank gave up his own bed…

Lord. Frank Castle gave up his bed for him. He slept on the couch so that Matt would be comfortable. Not that the couch what uncomfortable, but when you’ve had your belly sliced open six ways to Sunday, a mattress is appreciated.

Max barks as Frank lets them back in the front door. She runs to scratch at the bedroom door, pushing enough that it slowly glides open. She jumps on the bed by Matt’s feet and rushes up to kiss him.

He laughs. For the first time in a long time. He can feel Frank walking up to the door. He rubs behind Max’s ears, calling her a good girl, and laughs some more.

“Red,” Frank calls. When he looks up, Frank is holding his cellphone, which is quietly calling Foggy’s name.

Matt jumps. How has he not heard that? It had been in his Daredevil suit pocket. His senses must not be as good as he thought. Frank tosses it to him, and he catches it, but still, how could he not hear his best friend calling him?

Matt buries a hand in Max’s short fur. “Fog?” He says by way of greeting.

”Jesus. Jesus! I’ve called you like six times, where were you!?

“I… Uh…” Matt answers intelligently.

”Were you on that fucking boat, Matthew? Cuz’ Frank Castle sure was —was being the key word here— and they said you were there too!”

Matt pulls the phone away. Just for a moment. They think Frank’s dead. Frank, who is still standing in the doorway, cutting an apple into slices with a butterfly knife.

”And don’t get me started about Karen. Whatever you guys had for a minute there was totally weird and she’s totally weird now because of it. And she has this weird infatuation with Castle like he’s a puppy who needs saving, and Jesus, Matt! What the hell is wrong with you?!”

“I’m fine, Foggy. I’m, uhh, sorry about Frank.” Frank looks up at the mention of his name. Matt acts like he can’t tell.

”Like I give a shit. Where the hell are you?”

Matt coughs. “Just laying low for a bit. I promise I’m safe.” He can feel Frank twitch.

Foggy yells for a couple more seconds, complaining about this and that and the next thing. Matt is so happy to hear his voice that he could melt. He almost wants to go do more stupid shit just to have him call and check in on him. Eventually, he runs out of fuel and ends the call without much of a goodbye, and Matt shuts off his phone before Siri starts reading out his search history or something.

“What was that about?” Frank asks, walking into the room if only to pet Max.

“They think you’re dead.”

Frank smiles. “That was the plan.”

Matt sits up, careful of his wounds. “Frank, don't you understand? You can restart! Make a new life for yourself, change your name…”

“No.”

“Why not!? You’ve done enough saving for one lifetime.”

“There will always be more.” People who need saving, or people to be killed?

Matt doesn’t say anything else. He takes the apple slice Frank offers him, and they sit in silence for a while.

Somehow, though, it’s comfortable.

Chapter Text

day 4 > I’ve got nothing to prove

They’re getting used to each other now.

He’s getting used to Frank. The smell of him, the smell of Max. The sound of him in the house, the touch of his arm across his shoulders, helping him walk, even if he can pretty much walk on his own by now. He’s getting used to the chill of the cabin, with not much for heat but a fireplace.

He’s getting used to Frank’s hands on his wounds, his thumb sweeping the stitches, cleaning them. Applying an ointment with a brush of his fingers. He’s getting used to the way Frank holds him; one hand, strong and sturdy on the back of his ribs, the other cleaning his fragile, broken skin. Frank hushes him, the hand holding him even petting him in a comforting back and forth.

Matt doesn’t look at him. Pretends he doesn’t feel the blush shared between them. Pretends he doesn’t feel Frank’s worried expression twisting every time they do this.

It’s getting better. All of it. But there’s still some trepidation in their movement. It’s natural. Comfortable.

It’s getting better.

Chapter Text

day 5 > with the wind in your hair

“Red,” Frank calls, two inches away from his face.

He flinches hard, slapping Frank in the shoulder for scaring him awake. Frank laughs. “Can you walk?”

Matt pulls his hand back. “What?”

“C’mon, let’s go for a walk.”

Matt sits up, rubbing his eyes of the goop there. “Where to?”

“My neighbours. He’ll have firewood. I’m fuckin’ freezing every night on that couch.”

Matt flushes, pushing himself upright. “You know, you could just sleep in here.” The bedroom is smaller, most likely insulated better, and the heat from the sun stays hidden within the walls for longer.

Frank shoves something at him. “Let’s go, Maxxy’s waiting.”

Feeling the fabric beneath him, he realizes it’s a winter coat. Fuzzy on the inside, slick for the snow to fall off the outside. He slips it on and leaves the bedroom.

“Hey, Frank?”

“Yeah?” He calls from the kitchen.

Matt looks at his hands. “Do you have a pair of sunglasses I could borrow?”

Frank looks at him for a second. “Hate to break it to you, partner, but..”

“It’s just to cover my eyes.” Just because he’s been deprived of his glasses doesn’t mean he’s comfortable with just anyone looking at his eyes. Maybe he’s gotten used to Frank seeing him without his glasses, but that wasn’t exactly on purpose.

Frank stands for a moment, staring at him. Then he turns around and rummages through a bucket in the hall closet. “What’s wrong with them?” He asks, finding some ugly black aviators, and handing them over.Matt puts them on, doesn’t care what they look like. It feels the same as putting on his mask. “I just like them covered.”

Frank says nothing else.

He helps him put his shoes on. Which is nice, because he may be able to walk now, but he doesn’t know about bending over to tie his laces. Frank slips a leash around Max’s neck and a toque over his head and holds the door open for Matt to follow him.

Matt hasn’t been outside in five days. The last time he was outside, he had been slashed to hell and Frank had been giving him rescue breaths.

He doesn’t have his cane, and his head is still slightly fuzzy, but as he steps outside, he’s overcome with a rush of peace. It’s so quiet… He can hear his own heartbeat again.

“Red?” Frank brings him back to the present. He reaches forward and grad’s Matt’s wrist: “Here, Max will lead you,” and puts the end of the leash in his palm.

The walk is only a mile or more, but Matt is exhausted by the end of it. They walk side by side, arms brushing. It keeps Matt in line, walking not too fast or too slow — which is one of the main reasons he always holds Foggy’s arm, because he walks too fast. He can feel his breath on his face, the snow hitting his nose. As tired as he is, it’s nice to be outside.

Frank takes his arm to help him up the steps, muttering something about how its slippery, and digs the bell.

“Petey! Oh, what a nice surprise!” The voice of an elderly woman calls. She instantly draws Frank forward to kiss his cheek. “Oh! And my Maxxy! How could I forget, oh hello my sweet.” She drops down to pet the happy dog, excited to see an old friend.

“My goodness, it’s been too long, you!” She scolds, to which Frank laughs and shrugs. She only then notices Matt, peering from behind Frank’s shoulder. “Oh, Pete, who did you bring me? Who is this handsome young man!?”

Matt smiles. “Red.” He offers a hand, a little off from where she is, playing up his Ditsy Blind Guy side.

“Well aren’t you the cutest!” She says, catching his hand and shaking it. “Come on in, I just put a pot on.”

“Thanks, Margie,” Frank says, stepping into the home, pulling Matt with him. Frank keeps his boots on and moseys on into the kitchen like he lives there. Matt and Max patiently wipe their paws before entering, Matt holding out a hand to not bump into anything, wishing he has his cane.

“You must tell me, Red… Are you a Fredrick, or an Alfred?”

Matt slides into the kitchen beside Frank, who’s taken a seat at the breakfast bar. He holds Max’s leash close. “Actually,” he chimes, “I’m a Matthew.”

Margie drops her jaw. “Isn’t that funny!? Now how does a nickname like that come about?”

He smiles. “Don’t know, you’ll have to ask… have to ask Pete.” He tells her, stumbling over the names.

“You can let her go, Hun. Have a seat.” Margie tells him, and he does as told. Max scrambles around the kitchen to hop up on Margie. Frank shouts at her to get down, but she can’t really hear him when she’s being so positively reinforced by Margie.

“Oh, Petey leave her alone. You know, it’s so good that you’re up at the cabin for Christmas. And to have company, too! How nice.” She slides over to Matt as she reaches for stir-spoons. “Company that isn’t a dog.”

Matt smirks at that, ducking his head in a blush.

“Yeah, Marge, I know. But you see, we came by to see if John…”

“He only ever visits when he wants something. Is he like that with you, Red? You best slap him ‘cross the head if he is.”

Laughing, Matt reaches up and gives Frank a slight slap on the back of his head. Margie lets out a roar of laughter as Frank whines and slaps Matt’s hand away.

Recovering, wiping an eye, she asks: “So what is it this time, Hun?”

Frank rubs his skull to drum up the drama. “We was’ wondering if John’s got some firewood we could take home. I didn’t cut any before I went into the city, and now it’s all wet.”

Margie crosses her arms over her chest. “Well, how smart was that, Pete?” Frank sighs, shrugging. “Fine, I’m sure there’s some outside. You can take the wheelbarrow.”

Frank leans over the counter to kiss her forehead, and bounds off somewhere behind Matt, a door opening and slamming shut as Max dashes after him.

Margie is chuckling as she grabs her kettle, pouring water into a small tea-cup for Matt. The tea smells sweet, like Frank takes it at home. She slides him the cup. “How do you keep him from bouncing off the walls over there?”

Matt smiles warmly. “I don’t.” He tosses his hands up. “I just let him be. There’s no stopping him.” Ain’t that the truth.

She smirks at him and reaches over to tap his teacup. “Jade citrus, with honey and sugar. Same as Pete.”

Matt drinks it happily, soaking in the warmth of her home. It’s a cottage, same as Frank’s. It’s soft and domestic feeling, like visiting Grandma.

“So how long are you staying, Matthew?” Margie asks, her hip to the table.

Matt smiles at his real name. Feels good to hear it out loud. “I’m not sure.”

“Oh, I’m so glad you’re here with Pete. Christmas time is always rough for him.”

Matt blinks, tipping his head. “Why’s that?”

Margie runs her hands over her hair. “Well, he gets lonely, is all. And I don’t see David around anymore. You know, I just worry.”

Matt nods, pretending he knows what she’s talkimg about. Assuming really friends of Frank probably would. She talks to fill the air, just like Frank. Asks him about whether they’ll put up a tree, says she has a couple ready to be cut in the back. Asks where he’s from, how he likes the snow, if he has good enough boots. Soon enough, Frank comes stumbling back in the house, Max beside him, shaking off her wet coat.

“I brought it around front. We can go when you’re ready for us gone, Margie.” Frank says, coming to stand behind Matt’s chair.

“I never want you gone, Hun. But if you should get going, then you should get going.” She wipes her hand over her pants. “But you three should come by for supper soon. Maybe next week, after Christmas.”

Frank takes Matt’s elbow and leads him down the hall to the front door. “Yes, we will. Really. Next time John’s home you call us, okay? I’ll bring some wine.”

“Yes, you will!” Margie laughs, slapping his arm. She goes around him to grab Matt by the shoulders. “Oh, it was so nice to meet you, Red. You come over anytime, you hear?” She comes close to his ear. “Anytime this one drives you nuts, you come on over, okay?” Matt chuckles and she kisses his cheek. Frank herds him outside, passing him Max’s leash to have her lead him.

“And you,” she starts, grabbing at Frank. “You take care of yourself, yeah?” Frank nods between her hands. “And hey, you bring David by next time.”

Frank takes her hands away. “Even if you’re fighting, okay? Just have him come by…”

“We’re not fighting, Marge,” Frank insists. “Okay? I’ll bring him by. Soon...ish.”

Margie nods. Frank kisses her cheek and takes off outside, catching up to Matt. “Bye boys! Bye Max!” She calls after them. Frank and Matt turn in unison to wave goodbye, and they head off down the road, their feet stepping in their own footsteps.

“Who’s David?” Matt asks, huffing a little bit at the over-exertion.

Frank sighs. “You too?”

Matt shrugs.

“He’s dead now. So it doesn’t matter.”

Max continues to tug him along, but Matt stops. “Oh, Frank, I’m sorry…”

“Oh, c’mon woulda’.” He replies, reaching back and grabbing Matt’s wrist. He tucks it into the curve of his elbow, like he’s seen Matt do with his friend’s many times.

As tired as Matt is, he keeps pace, and only kind-of flops on the couch, snow boots and all, the minute they’re home.

Home, Matt thinks, and smiles.

Weird.

{•}

Matt rests on the couch, sleepily petting Max as Frank fixes up the fire.

It feels so good to be warm again. To have the warmth of the fireplace heating this strange home they’ve found together. Matt rests his head back against the couch.

Frank wanders around the house, sounding almost aimless. Nothing is ever aimless with Frank.

He taps a small glass to Matt’s shoulder, shaking him out of his sleepy-warm trance.

Matt holds it as Frank pours. Whiskey, strong smelling. He purrs. “Are we celebrating?”

Smiling, Frank rounds the couch to sit in the very small space between Matt and the arm, Max having taken up the other side. “How do you feel?” He asks, settling down.

“Good,” Matt replies somewhat dreamily.

Frank clinks his glass with his bottle. He didn’t bring a glass for himself. “Then I guess we’re celebrating.”

Matt takes a sip, his head lolling back on the couch. He looks over at where Frank is nursing whiskey from the bottle and wishes he could stare.

The fire, the whiskey, the dog sleeping heavily beside him, it all feels so domestic. So warm.

“Frank,” Matt calls. He turns to look at Matt but doesn’t answer. He tries again. “Frank.”

“Yeah?”

Matt sits up a little bit. “Can I see you?” He asks, full of apprehension, his arm lifting without his command towards Frank’s face.

Frank says nothing. He takes Matt’s glass and puts it on the table, the other man already drunk on the feeling in the room. Then he takes Matt’s wrist, like he’s done a hundred times before, and places his hand softly on his own cheek.

Matt’s fingers unfurl and press into as much surface area as they can cover. His left hand reaches to meet its twin, mirroring his actions on Frank’s other cheek.

He swipes his fingertips over Frank’s cheekbones, his eyebrows, his (very crooked) nose, over his eyelashes as his eyes fall shut. His palms flatten against his cheeks and hold him there.

Frank chuckles softly. “Whaddya’ think?”

Humming, Matt drags his hands down to his jaw, fingers reaching down to his neck. “You ever thought of growing a bread?”

Frank huffs a laugh. “Maybe if I was a construction worker.”

Matt pets the back of his palm over his cheek, keen on touching him until he won’t let him anymore. “Construction would be good work for you.” He starts, moving his hand down to Frank’s neck, his thumb rubbing the bolt on his jaw, sweeping low down to his chin, and back. “You’d get to destroy stuff, break it all apart. Put it together and build something new.”

He hopes he doesn’t sound to preachy. Frank scoffs lightly, but his cheek curls into a smile under Matt’s thumb.

“Wouldn’t it be nice? To settle down, live in a place like this? With neighbours like Marge?”

It’s not his place. It is so not his place, but he says it anyway. Frank’s eyes are hot on his face. “I’ve tried that.” He growls, pulling away from his roaming hands.

Matt reaches for him. “No, no, that’s not what I meant...”

Matt’s hand slides along his arm as he stands and walks away from the couch. “Frank...” He tries again.

“Goodnight, Matt.” He says quietly, leaving for the bedroom. The door closes quietly behind him.

Max huffs from her dog bed. Nice going, kid.

“I know, buddy.” He groans. “I know.”

He sleeps on the couch. Like a guest in the house.

Maybe that’s all he is. All he should be.

Chapter Text

day 6 > amethyst and flowers on the table

He doesn’t sleep well. His wounds ache.

He sits up the second Frank leaves the bedroom. “Hey,” he says softly.

“Hey yourself,” Frank replies, making his way to the kitchen to feed Max.

“Frank, about last night...”

“Red.”

“No, no. It wasn’t my place and...”

“Red.” Frank insists.

Matt shuts up, and Frank is quiet for a moment.

He chuckles lightly. “I’m smiling at you. Okay? You’re good.”

Looking down at his hands, Matt nods. He feels like an idiot. He hears Frank fill Max’s bowl.

“Look, I gotta go into town for a bit, can you let Max out in once she's done eating? Just let her out and call her when you want her back in.” Frank instructs, packing away the dog food bag.

Max sits happily at his feet, waiting for his command. He waves a hand, the sound of it cutting through the air, and she digs in. “Good girl, Maxxy.” He tells her, before grabbing his keys and coat. “You listening, Red?”

“Uh, yes,” Matt replies respectfully. “Let her out, call her in. Got it.”

Frank leaves with a huff of cold air rushing in from the door.

Well, that could have gone a lot worse.

{+}

Matt is not snooping.

He’s not. Really. He’s simply trying to learn more about this man without asking and without having permission to look through his things. But really, it’s not snooping.

Matt brushes his hands over about ten hoodies in the front hall closet. A couple pairs of heavy-duty boots rest on the floor, but not much else.

He looks in the kitchen drawers, the cabinets, the fridge. Frank has some fresh cheese, some ground meat, a small amount of vegetables. His cabinets are full of canned food. Matt wonders if he can work with this...

He takes out as much as he can carry from the fridge and sets to work.

{+}

By the time Frank gets back, Matt has created some kind of chilli. When 70% of the food in the house is canned, chilli is really your best bet.

“Hey,” Frank greets, setting down his grocery bags. There’s only one this time, and Matt thinks he should just go with him next time, maybe save them some trips back and forth. Not to mention he really doesn’t like being left alone here.

Matt smiles, leaning against the counter opposite the stove. “Hey.”

“How was my girl?” He asks, but his attention is turned to his dog. He scrubs a hand over her head, behind her ears. Max yips at him.

“Perfect, as always.”

Frank straightens up, brushing his hands on his pants. “Whatcha doing?”

Shrugging, Matt points over to the stove. “Lunch.”

Frank nods, a smile growing. “Lunch,” he copies.

“I hope that’s okay, I just used a couple cans of the tomato...”

“Yes.” Frank interrupts. “Yeah, it’s okay. I was just surprised.”

Math shrugs.

“Speaking of surprises,” Frank begins, shoving Matt a plastic grocery bag, “here.”

Uhh...

Matt can’t tell what it is before touching it, and even as he reaches inside, he can’t really tell. “Is this...”

“It’s a cane,” Frank tells him. “Like the one you used when...”

He drifts off as Matt stares down at his hands, carefully opening the cane, having it click straight to the floor. He sighs.

“I know you don’t, you know, need it. Seeing how you fight and shit. But, I mean, you looked a little sad trying to make your around yesterday.”

Matt chuckles, breathy. He drags the cane back and forth on the ground between the span of his shoulders. It feels so good.

“I got it from this weird little pharmacy. I saw it the other day when I went to get more band-aids and I almost bought it for you but I wasn’t sure if that would be...” Frank does what he does best. Talk to fill the air.

Matt wants to hug him. “Thank you,” he says softly, clutching his new cane.

“Yeah, uh... Yeah.” Frank responds. He turns to walk away from the kitchen, then turns again and walks back towards Matt, then finally settles on grabbing a bowl from the cabinet and pointing to the pot on the stove. “Can I eat this?”

Matt, still slightly shocked, and warmed to the core, nods, holding his cane up under his chin.

Frank scoops himself a bowl and leaves for the living room. Matt walks around the cabin with his cane for a bit, feeling more and more like himself with every step he took.

Chapter Text

day 7 > I suppose, a friend is a friend

“Never have I ever... Been on an airplane.”

“Oh, come on! That’s not fair, you know I’ve been over seas.”

“Well I could have said I’ve never driven a car and it would have had the same effect. There’s lots of stuff I haven’t done that you have.”

“Fine. I’ll drink... Okay. Never have I ever been a pro-bono defence lawyer in Hell’s Kitchen, New York.”

“Okay, now that’s cheating.”

Chapter Text

day 8 > I’ve lost my strength completely

It’s late in the evening when the phone rings.

The shrill noise makes Matt jump from his seat, makes Max stand alert. It rings loud in the quiet night. Frank stares at it for a moment. “Who the hell could that be?” Matt asks.

Frank’s heart rate is up. Whether it be from the noise, or the fear of who’s calling, Matt doesn’t know, but he feels how Frank stares at the phone, resting on the hook on the kitchen counter. After the third ring, Frank stands to answer it.

“‘Ello?” Matt can feel his tightening shoulders. “What? Okay, calm down, I can’t hear you.”

Matt tilts his head, trying to hear the scratchy voice on the other side of the line. ”Broken in… two men… guns… John's not ho…”

“Okay, okay Marge, just hold on, alright? I’m coming over right now, okay? Did you see them? Yeah? Okay, wait a second…” He snaps his head towards Matt on the couch. “Matt, get over here.” He demands, and Matt obeys fast, jumping up and running to his side. “Tell Red what you saw, okay? He’s gonna write it down, okay? I’m on my way over now, you just sit tight.”

Frank shoves the phone at Matt, and finds a useless piece of paper and pencil in the drawer and slides it to him. Matt bites his tongue, not wanting to stress Frank out further at the mention that he can’t write with pen and paper. Instead, he listens very intently.

“Okay Margie, I’m here.” He tells her. Behind him, Frank is on a mad dash to find everything he needs to get over there. She’s crying, her voice as wobbly as it is quiet. “One is tall and skinny, blonde hair and white skin. The other is shorter, thin also, darker skin but still white-looking, he’s got… he’s got…”

“It’s okay, Margie. You’re okay, Pete’s coming to get you, okay? It’s gonna be okay.” Matt promises.

Margie sniffles into the phone. “Okay.”

The man of the hour appears behind him, now dressed and most likely covered in guns and whatever else. He dashes to the door, keys in one hand and flashlight in the other. “Keep her calm,” Frank tells him, and Matt nods as he leaves for the neighbours.

Matt’s breath catches as he leaves“It’s okay,” he tells her again, listening as he leaves, “Pete’ll be there soon. Just stay quiet.”

“I’m scared.” Margie admits.

Matt nods. “Me too. But Pete will protect you. Okay? That’s what he does best.”

They stay on the line, keeping each other clam —even as Matt hears a gunshot ring through the trees— until the coast is clear.

{+}

Matt says by the phone for a few minutes after Frank found Margie in her hiding spot in the closet and brought her out. Frank offers to bring her home, but she refuses, saying she’ll have to call the cops and wait up for them. Frank, of course, offers to stay, but she sends him home, and hangs up the phone.

Matt sits in the bedroom and waits for him.

Frank is home a couple minutes later. He walks into the cabin like a dead man.

He smells of blood, but only slightly. Matt listens as he takes off his coat, the smell intensifying as he reviles he’s shirt underneath, splattered in blood.

“Is she okay?” Matt asks, quiet in the dead of night.

Frank nods.

“Are you okay?”

He nods again.

“Are you hurt? I heard the gunshot...” Matt’s hand tightens in Max’s collar where she lays beside him in bed, keeping her away from him. He’s bloody. He doesn’t want her to lick him.

Frank strips his shirt as well, using it to wipe his face, and discards it in the hallway before walking into the bedroom.

Why isn’t Matt scared?

Instead of hiding under the bed, which is what he should be doing, Matt reaches for him. His hand reaching out like a life line.

Frank rounds the bed to on the side Max is not occupying. He takes Matt’s hand and crawls into the bed beside him. Matt pulls him, having to stomp down the urge to pull this man into his arms.

He knows exactly who Frank Castle is. Knows what he’s done. Why does he want to help him?

Frank’s heart rate is slowing, his breaths little puffs in the quiet. He lies down, his head on the same pillow as Matt’s.

Matt’s hand slips out of his hold, instead coming to curve along the side of his cheek, trying to comfort him. He shakes off any apprehension about it. He shakes off who this man is and focuses on the man he’s met this week. Like they were strangers before this.

Frank’s own hand snakes up to hold Matt’s firm against his face. His face is twisted in pain, but it’s all emotional. He huffs a hard sigh and twists his face into Matt’s palm.

As they fall asleep, Frank’s face slides down to rest his forehead against Matt’s shoulder, their hands stating tangled, pressed against Frank’s mouth so that Matt can feel him breathe.

And the night turns. Just as it always does, and always will.

Chapter Text

day 9 > oh, be near me

The next morning, Frank kisses him.

He’s laying on his back in bed, his shirt lifting to expose his scars, the sun warming his shoulders as he basks like a cat.

Max, who is curled against his side, her head pillowed on his bicep, is really basking: tongue out, totally relaxed in sleep.

Matt didn’t hear Frank get up, but hears him wandering about the cabin, but always eventually making his way back to Matt.

He leans against the doorframe, watching his relaxed posture and his sleeping dog. Matt can feel his calm; a stark difference from when he came home last night, yet Matt feels no different. He still feels that same quiet safety around Frank, whether he’s soft in the morning light, or harsh, covered in that night’s spray of blood.

Frank slowly crept over to where Matt was laying. Something about the light, or the fact that they had just woken up together, or that Matt is currently spooning his dog makes Frank’s cheeks heat. Matt wishes he could see it.

Then, as if he’s done it a million times before, he scoops up Matt’s face with his palm and leans down to kiss him.

It messes with Matt’s head a little bit. It feels far too soft, far too gentle. Matt knows Frank can be gentle, has seen it first hand in the sweep of his fingers over his wounds, but this feels different.

It’s like this is a new person. No one where the same as the man who threw a fit in court the first time the real Matt spoke to him.

As Matt reciprocates, Frank responses beautifully. He sighs lightly, his fingers curling against Matt’s face.

Matt pushes him back. Holds him at arm's length. “Who are you?”

Frank only smiles, smooths a hand over Matt’s hair, and calls Max outside the room.

Matt sits, and stews.

Chapter Text

day 10 > I forgive you, brother, I can hear you

“Ow! Jesus Christ on a…”

Frank chuckles at the blasphemy.

“This is so not funny, you dick,” Matt complains, clutching his side, purposefully shining his flashlight at Frank’s eyes.

“I told you to stay still!” Frank returns, shrugging and slapping the light away. “It's not exactly supposed to feel nice.” He turns Matt’s hand to have him point the light at the right spot, and comes back in with his scissors and tweezers, reaching right for Matt’s stitches.

“I know, I know, okay, just…” Matt grabs his hand to still him, “warm me next time, before you yank any more skin off.”

“I’m being careful.”

“I didn’t say you weren’t.”

Frank rolls his eyes and pushes Matt back against the mirror. He’s sitting on the bathroom counter with Frank between his knees. He pulls the next snitch out slowly, throwing it in the trash with the rest.

Matt hisses every time, his head tipped back and eyes pinched. Frank pets him, hushes him, a mirror of when he sewed Matt up.

“How’s it looking?” Matt asks, his hand on Frank’s shoulder, ready to push him away if it hurts real bad.

Pulling the last stitch of this wound out, Frank steps back to see his work. “Yep. Definitely infected.”

“That bad?”

“It’s all red and purple, man.”

Matt puts his fingers over it. “And a little wonky.” Frank slaps his hands.

“Get outta there. You’re gonna make it worse.”

They both sigh. The scar is raised red off Matt’s hip, sore and hot. Thankfully it’s not the big-bad-slash that runs the length of his rib, but instead the smaller one that Matt ripped the stitches of that first night in the bathtub. Frank rubs his forehead. “I’ve got some antibiotics somewhere. Probably.”

“Oh, it’s not that bad,” Matt says as Frank covers the wound with a bandage, placing his hand on his forehead to test his temperature.

Frank’s hand swoops up to replace his own, the back of his palm against Matt’s face.

He’s very close. Matt can feel him staring at his blank eyes. “You know, just because I’m blind doesn’t mean I can’t feel you staring at me.”

Frank chuckles, bringing his other hand up to curve along Matt’s neck. He thumbs the bolt of his jaw gently. “Do you ever wish you could see?”

Matt raises his eyebrows.

Frank jumps back. “Oh my God, that was so rude, Matt, I’m so...”

“Yes,” he interrupts. “There’s a lot of things I wish I could see... Even just once.” He reaches for Frank’s hands, which are curled into fists at his side, and brings them up to hold his waist. “I wish I could see the sunrise. I have no memory of it, at all. I guess as a kid I never paid attention. And it makes no noise, unlike the ocean, or... people. I just have no idea what it looks like.”

Frank listens intently, his hands drawing up to brush a curl of hair behind Matt’s ear.

“I wish I could see I could see my clients faces, when we get their sentence reduced, and they know they can go home to their families... I wish I could see the man who has been my best friend for ten years, and I’ve never seen his face.” Matt tilts his head up at him, considers for a moment, and then thinks, fuck it. “I wish I could see you,” he confesses.

Frank’s heart rate is a drum between them. Matt wishes the other could hear it too.

“I mean, I’m fine. I have a life for myself, and I’m very happy. It never slows me down, but that doesn’t mean...”

Frank nods, like he totally understand, and Matt is so thankful for that.

“What about you?” Frank asks. “Do you wish you could see yourself.”

Matt shrugs. “I don’t know. Not really. Like, if I got the chance to pick three things to see, I don’t think my own face would be one of them,” he chuckles.

“That’s a real shame, Red,” Frank starts, his hands stroking over his face in a strange homage to the way Matt sees people. “‘cuz you’re so damn pretty.”

Something spins low in his gut at that. He doesn’t think he’s ever been called that before, unless it was a joke. This doesn’t feel like a joke. “Yeah?” he asks, voice cracking.

“Yeah,” Frank moans, “you look like such a sweet little thing, no wonder no one has ever found out how,” his hands drag over Matt’s shoulders, down to his chest, “strong, and powerful you are.”

His arousal is suddenly hot in the air, Matt is choking on it.

“You’ve got these pretty lips, like something right out of a porno.”

That makes Matt chuckle, clearing the air a little bit.

“No, seriously! And your eyes... I know you don’t like people see’in them, but God, Matt,” Frank speaks with such softness and honestly. “You’re so beautiful.”

Matt soaks it in. The attention. The touch.

After another second, the tension gets to be too much and Matt slaps his hands away. “Am I gonna’ make it, doc?”

Frank steps back, nodding, his lip tucked into his teeth. He helps Matt off the counter before dashing out of the room to find some antibiotics.

Matt wonders if it was his honesty or his infection that scared him off.

Chapter Text

day 11 > somewhere in the desert there’s a forrest

They’re not even drunk. It’s Christmas Eve, and they’re not even drunk.

Frank presses him down into the couch and it shouldn’t feel so right.

It shouldn’t feel like he’s been waiting for this. It shouldn’t feel like he can’t breathe without this. It doesn’t seem to matter that it’s the middle of the day, or that Matt doesn’t know where to put his hands, doesn’t know what to do except lie there and take it.

Kissing Frank doesn’t feel like a fight. The way he tips Matt’s head back against the couch, places an open palm under his shirt to force him to arch into it. The way he laughs breathily into Matt’s throat, smoothing his hands down his sides.

“I’ve never done this before,” Matt admits softly, his fingers twisting in a strand of Frank’s hair.

Frank kisses his forehead, “it’s okay.”

Matt angles his head to point his eyes up at him. “I don’t know what to do…”

Frank shakes his head. “You don’t have to do anything.”

And he doesn’t. He wishes he could. Wishes he could use this moment to make it clear to Frank how thankful he is, for saving his life, for stitching his scars, for keeping him safe.

He hopes, in some strange way, his reaction is thankful. He may have never been with a man before, but he knows it’s fucking weird to thank someone during sex. So he hopes he doesn’t have to say it to still get his point across.

Maybe it works. As he tips his head, eyes pinched shut, calling his name over and over and over, Frank kisses his jaw, marking him there, fist flying between them. Frank chuckles as he moans, bites his lip, rocks into him.

Matt knows how he looks. Needy and desperate. He just hopes Frank can see past it.

After, Matt cleans them up. He slips back into his boxers and walks back to and from the bathroom with his hand out, his head still a little fuzzy to rely entirely on his ears.

Frank grabs him around the waist, kissing his stomach, hands grabbing his ass as he cleans them off.

“Quit it,” Matt chirps with no heat behind the words as his hand's tangle in Frank’s hair.

They don’t exactly fit on the couch, but that doesn’t stop them. Matt lays almost directly on top of him, their chests pressed together and legs tangled.

Frank runs a hand through his hair and down his back, keeping up a slow back and forth like he used to when stitching Matt up.

“Hey,” he starts. Matt looks up at him. “Merry Christmas.”

Matt hums, pressing his face into his neck, breathes in the smell of his skin.

Chapter Text

day 12 > we all know how this will end

 

When Matt wakes up, it’s Christmas.

It’s the same as it always is. No presents, no stockings, no lights. Sometimes he gets take out that night, eats it on the floor with Foggy by this side, pressed together in the chill of the night.

Matt thinks of calling him; thinks about it with his face smashed against Frank’s chest, his hands smoothing down his flank, the dog whining at the door. Boy, what would Foggy think of him now.

His phone has died long ago, anyway.

Frank groans, his hand coming to cover his eyes. “Yes, okay, good morning, Max.”

Matt chuckles, patting Frank’s chest before pressing on to it, using it as leverage to push himself up.

“Hey,” Frank whispers, sitting up with him and pressing a kiss to the spot beside his ear. His hand slides down Matt’s ribcage, feeling the bumps of the scars there. “How’s your side?”

“Okay,” he replies, his hand covering Frank’s. “Antibiotics are a helluva drug.”

Frank huffs a laugh. “Ain’t that the truth.”

He kisses him again before leaving him to tend to Max, opening the door and exchanging her with the cold of the snow. “Hey Frank?”

He hums.

“Is there a church in town?”

Frank scoffs slightly, “a’course, yeah. Where do you think we are, Matthew?”

“Well,” he begins, turning on the well-loved couch to face him. “I don’t really know.”

He hasn’t been outside of the cabin since they visited Margie. Frank has been back over there a couple more times since the break-in, but now that John’s back in town, Matt hasn’t felt the need to join him. He usually sits and listens to music, or does his yoga, or sleeps. He’s meditated more this week than ever before in his life.

Frank steps up to the back of the couch and touches Matt’s face with one finger, drawing across his jaw ever so gently. “Yeah, there’s a church. Go shower and I’ll take you.”

That was easy, Matt thinks as he follows the orders. Not like you have to tell him to a have a hot shower twice.

After, sits wrapped in his towel on the bed while Frank digs through the closet. He can almost feel the shift of the man through the air. Matt briefly thinks of reaching for him, dropping his towel, repeating last night with his…

“I think this will fit you.” Frank breaks the quiet, shoving a button down at him. It’s starchy, and dusty. “It’s Davids, so be careful.”Matt brushes the fabric between his fingers. He doesn’t know much about David, or really anything other than that this is his cabin that he and Frank used to hide out in. And that he’s dead.

He wonders who he was to Frank, lifting the shirt to his face, smelling nothing but dust. “Did you love him?” He asks, not bothering to think it through.

Frank stills, just for a moment. A sighted person may not have even seen it. “Just, be careful with it. Okay?”

“Okay,” Matt nods, and it’s answer enough. Whoever he was, he meant a lot to Frank, and that’s all that matters. He slips the shirt over his shoulders, buttoning his way up, and wonders if he’ll mean something to him too, after this is all done.

Suddenly, with his face still buried in the boxes on the closet shelf, Frank laughs. Matt tips his head at him.

“This tie,” he chuckles, “it’s from Margie. It’s got my name stitched into it.” Frank passes it over and helps him place his finger along the stitching. It has ’PETE’ pressed into the bottom of the tie. “I always would go losing my ties. Always had to wear one when I went to ceremonies, like Medal of Honour and shit…” He looks softly at it. “She bought it for me and stitched my name in it. Said if it was important to me, I’d never lose it.”

Matt smiles, thumbing the stitching. “And you never did.”

Taking it from his hand, Frank reaches over him to pop his collar, and loop the tie around his neck. He ties it for him; Matt enjoys the feeling of his hands on his neck.

Matt is glad he’s going to church. Maybe it’s time for a confession.

{+}

He doesn’t confess. Instead, he holds elbow as they walk down the aisle. He sits close as they listen to Christmas prayer. He holds his hand on the ride home.

And it’s just as rewarding.

{+}

“We should go back to the city,” Matt says in the evening of Christmas day. Frank gives him a look, his brows raising. “You’re itching. I can tell.” Itching for what, Matt can’t tell. He doesn’t really want to know.

Matt unbuttons his shirt and drags it off his shoulders. He folds it carefully --he was told to be careful with it and sets it on the dresser before stepping up towards Frank on the bed.

As soon as he’s close enough, Frank drags him close, pulling him up so he’s sitting on his lap with legs either side of Frank’s thighs. He’s never been in this position before, and laughs to break his nervousness. He plants hands on Frank’s chest to keep himself upright.

Frank’s hands slide down his bare back, fingertips dipping into the waistline of his pants. “You wanna go back?”

Biting his lip, trying to look Frank in the eye. “No,” Matt takes his hands from behind his back and brings them up to kiss each one. “But I have to.”

Frank nods, his head leaning back against the headboard. “Back to business, then?”

Matt sighs and falls forward to press his face into Frank’s chest. He doesn’t want Frank to go back to New York. Knows he’s safest here. He wonders how the hell he got himself in this situation. Frank chuckles above him, tickling over his ribs.

“I’ll take you home tomorrow, if you’d like…”

Matt shoots up. “Come with me.”

He can feel Frank’s hesitation, if it wasn’t apparent in the way he doesn’t immediately respond. “If you’re going back,” he puts his hands over Matt’s eyes in a strange imitation of his Daredevil mask, “then I’m going back.”

“No,” Matt murmurs, pressing close to him again. He presses their chests together, his arms winding around the other man. “No, you can stay with me. You can grow your hair out and start wearing bright coloured sweaters. We can put a vest on Max, say she’s my guide dog, no one would ever suspect and you wouldn’t have to…”

In a quick, sudden movement, Frank throws him off his lap and onto the bed beside him. Matt reacts as if he’s about to be attacked, but instead, Frank lays on top of him, smothering him to silence.

Matt doesn’t say anything else. He knows this isn’t the end of The Punisher. He knows he doesn’t have that power. Eventually, he’s able to wiggle free enough from his cage under Frank’s body to say: “I would like it. If you stayed with me.” Frank hums, deep and rumbling in both of their chests. “Me too.” They fall asleep tangled together, knowing that by morning, they’d be back to their normal selves . Their normal, separate, selves.

Chapter Text

day ? > I long to be near you

It’s only after he’s checked his phone for the morning that he realizes he slept right through the night. His phone is still reading out his morning emails while he ponders it.

He hasn’t slept straight through the night since he left Frank’s place. The city is so damn loud: the cars, the music, the people. He can hear the god-dammed electricity running through the walls. Every little thing wakes him up, and sets him on edge.

He’s proud of himself for this small step back towards his life before the boat. His reward is coffee.

He slides the bedroom door open and steps outside, his foot immediately kicking into something on the floor.

It makes him jump. He didn’t put anything there, right outside his door for him to slip and die on, why would he? His next immediate thought is holy mother Mary and Jesus christ it’s a fucking bomb but that is quickly stomped down when he realized how light and hollow sounding it was.

Upon further inspection, it was a box. A simple, cardboard box, with no wrapping or tissue, not even a bow on top. Pretty lame packaging, if you ask him. If you’re going to break into someone's house and leave a cardboard box, you might as well put a bow on it.

He carries it and sits down on the couch, still holding it slightly away from his face incase its full of anthrax or something horrible, but he decides to risk it and open it. He’s been through enough chemicals he could probably handle some anthrax.

It’s not anthrax. It’s a long piece of fabric, he realizes in horror as he pulls it out like a snake charmer calls a snake: straight up and out. He runs his hands over it wondering what the hell it is. He has almost no idea until he feels a slight pattern of stitching at the other end.

He knows this pattern, he’s felt it before. And just like that, with a little bit of clarity, the thing in his hands turns into something extremely meaningful.

It’s a tie, for one. Hopefully, something plain, though he never did ask at the time, because it’s Frank’s tie. The one with ‘Pete’ stitched into the bottom. The one he wore on their last day at the cabin.

Matt sinks back into the couch and clutches it tightly in his hand. He brings it up and rubs the stitching along his lower lip, still smelling the dust from the closet it was left in.

There’s a soft piece of something still in the box. It feels like a napkin, and almost throws it away before his fingers skim over an indent in the paper. He tries his best to read out the note, which says, in scratchy handwriting: “If it’s important, I’ll never lose it.”

Matt’s heart is a beating drum right now, hammering against his chest with nothing but deep, unadulterated affection.

He folds the tie neatly and leaves it on the coffee table. It’s too much for him right now.

But the next day, Matt ties it around his neck, a little too tight, and starts his day with Frank around his throat, just where he belongs.