One Sunday, Frank Castle woke up and realized he was in love with two people. Again.
After Maria was killed, after the kids were killed, the thought of seeing Billy had been too painful to contemplate. If he the one remaining person he had left killed, he'd never forgive himself. Billy could recover, move on. He was resilient.
Except Billy hadn't been who he thought he was. Had Billy mourned? Had he cared? He'd known what was coming. He could have done something. He didn't. Some repayment for years of friendship. For the off and on thing they had; quickies on base to relieve stress, occasional nights for all three of them, after the kids had gone to bed. He thought it had meant something.
He hadn't realized he had a heart left to break until Billy's bullet had grazed his skull in that stairwell. Seeing the other man again had made him start to hope, to think about after. After the bastards who killed his family were dead, maybe Billy and him could have a second chance. That died quick, consumed by anger. The sadness didn't come until later. Much later.
It blindsided him one evening. He had the radio on, half listening, until the song switched to something familiar. Something Billy liked. Something they'd danced to together, drunk and laughing, one night in Afghanistan. They'd managed to get some leave and a hotel room, spend some time together. Get away from the killing, remind each other of the good things in life.
He expected anger at the reminder of what Billy had been to him. Instead he got hit with a wave of grief so huge he couldn't breathe for a second. He curled up, gasping and surprised by the tears running down his face. After Billy's betrayal, he thought that was it, their bond severed cleanly. He'd forgotten how many memories they'd built up over the years, how good they were. They'd loved each other, in their own way. Or, he thought they did. He had.
It was like the one memory had triggered an avalanche of them. Him and Billy sneaking off to a dark corner to make out. Him, Billy, and Maria taking the kids out to the park. The three of them in bed together, Maria watching as they fucked. Or Billy watching him and Maria. Or all three of them, all at once. All those smiles Billy shot him, sweet and cocky all at once. Every night they'd spent awake, plagued by nightmares but comforted by each other.
Had it all been false? Had Billy ever cared? He'd known about the plan to kill his family and did nothing. What kind of person could sit by as people he supposedly cared about got gunned down? Frank sobbed, curling up on his couch. Billy had been closer than a brother to him. The only person closer was Maria. Losing both of them took everything.
The only thing that mattered was vengeance. All softer parts of his life had been burned away. He'd loved once. He would never love again. Ever.
And then, he realized, he was in love again. He was over at the Liebermans' house. He'd watched Leo and Zach the night before while David and Sarah went out together. By the time they got back, it was 2 in the morning and they made him sleep there instead of driving back to his apartment. They'd put him in the guest bedroom and he managed to catch some sleep, far enough out that sirens rarely sounded here.
He woke some time after dawn, the scent of pancakes wafting up the stairs. He could hear people moving around downstairs. And he wanted, sharp and sudden, surprising even him. He wanted this life. He wanted them. Not just the easy relationship David and Sarah had, no, he wanted to be with them. He wanted to share their lives.
And then he was brought back down to reality. They would never want him back. They were friends, sure, but they already had each other. They didn't need some fucked up, damaged ex-Marine in their love lives.
"Hey, jackass, get up. Breakfast is ready." David was leaning in the doorway, at ease in the way he only had been since he'd come back home. "C'mon, stop lying around."
"Yeah, yeah. I'm coming." Frank sat up and stretched. He pulled on yesterday's clothes and wandered downstairs. Even if they were just friends, that was fine. He could live with that.
Downstairs everything was bright and cheerful. "This smells amazing."
"Thanks." Sarah put the bowl of fruit on the table and sat. "Zach, sit down. Leo, no phones at breakfast."
The food was delicious. Just being in that house made him feel lighter. It reminded him of being with Maria and the kids, but not in a way that hurt. Or at least, it hurt less. Even when it was just him and Sarah talking awkwardly, he felt more at peace here than he did anywhere else in the city. Now that David was back and things were smoothing out, it was better.
He fit here, somehow. Maybe it was because they knew what he did, had seen at least some of what he was capable of. Maybe it was just the way they were. But either way, he felt more relaxed with them than anywhere else.
That was when it hit him. He wanted this. Not in the sense of wanting a relationship like David and Sarah, wanting what he used to have with Maria back. He wanted a relationship with David and Sarah. He wanted to wake up in bed with them. He wanted to kiss them. He wanted... everything.
He hadn't realized he could still want things like that. He thought the last possibility of that had died with Billy's betrayal. His heart had been quietly piecing itself back together, every time he visited them. He'd felt something, when he was at their house, but he figured it was just relaxation. Not.. not love. Not a possibility of something.
Though, he couldn't be sure that there was possibility. A drunken attempt at dick-measuring did not mean that David was at all attracted to him. And whatever attraction Sarah may have had for him had probably died once she found out that David was alive. The fact that they welcomed him into their home would be enough. It would have to be enough.
He didn't mean to change his behavior, but it still happened. He veered away from contact. He visited less often, afraid that his feelings would show. He couldn't bear to see their pity. They'd let him down easy, of course, but still. It would change things. He couldn't bear for that to happen.
David and Sarah noticed, eventually. Of course they did, they were observant people. David, especially. Live with a guy in a basement for weeks and you can't get anything past him.
They kept inviting him over. He refused a few times, but he couldn't refuse forever. Especially not when Leo asked. That was dirty pool. They knew that she only had to call him up and he'd cave.
Though, the breaking point wasn't Leo. It was David. He called and asked Frank to come over, again. Frank tried to come up with an excuse, but he had run out, apparently. David saw through all of them. He kept insisting until Frank gave up and agreed to visit.
Frank drove up to the Lieberman house and pulled into their drive. He switched off the engine, but didn't get out. He hoped that, at least, he'd be still welcome after. He'd come to like visiting them too much. If that got cut off, he'd... Well, he wasn't sure what he would do. He'd survive. He always does. But something would be lost.
He couldn't make himself get out of the car. Facing down multiple armed thugs was nothing. Facing these two, though. They saw too much of him. They saw past his masks. David wouldn't let him deflect. Leo and Zach knew just how to get past his defenses.
He jumped when there was a knock on the passenger side window. He looked over, to see David standing outside, smiling. "You going to just sit there or come in?"
Frank sighed. "I'll come in." He opened his door and climbed out.
"You ok?" David asked.
"Fine." He started for the front door, brushing past David.
"...right," David said.
David practically pushed him over to the couch. Frank was out of it enough that he let him, sitting down when the back of his legs hit the couch.
"Frank, what's been bothering you?" David asked.
"I think I love you. And Sarah. Or, at least, it could be love. I want it to be..." He trailed off, head in his hands, staring at the floor. Hey, he'd asked. He'd figure out how to live with his rejection. It'd be polite, at least.
When David's arms wrapped around him, pulling him close, he flinched. The other man rested his head on his shoulder. "Frank, you have been a pain in my ass since the day we met. And I wouldn't have it any other way."
"David, what..." He trailed off again, leaning into him. If this was letting him down easy, he wasn't doing it the way he thought he would.
"Sarah and I have been talking. You and I, we got close. And you and Sarah got close. So why don't we explore that closeness, together."
Frank froze. He wasn't expecting this. At all. "You were talking?"
"Yeah. You're... important. To us. We want you here."
"Why? You know me. Know what I've done. Why'd you want me around?" He tried to move away, but David just clung closer.
"No, you don't. Frank, we know you. I know you. You've got baggage, sure. I was dead for a year. Sarah still hasn't completely forgiven me for that. You were there for her. You helped her, a lot. You helped our kids."
"I have this dream." Frank hadn't meant to say that. But once he started, he couldn't stop. "Your family and my family are together, having a dinner. Maybe Thanksgiving. It's all fun and happy and then I'm ziptied to a chair. And these guys come in. They're wearing fatigues and ski masks. And they kill all of you, right in front of me. If something happened to you, any of you, because of me-" He couldn't go on. His eyes stung and he clenched them shut.
"What would happen? You have a new enemy I don't know about? Or is this just you being self-sacrificing? Because you just owned up to wanting us. And we want you. I'll say that as much as I have to."
"I'm not... I've got enough blood on my hands. Sooner or later, something's gonna happen. It always does. And I can't lose you."
"So you'll just lose us in a different way? For fuck sake, Frank, stop it. Can't you just let yourself be happy? Please?" David took his head in his hands and turned it towards him. "For me? For us?"
He wanted to. Oh, how he wanted to. He just couldn't. His heart had been broken too many times. Even getting what he wanted hurt. He couldn't see any option that wouldn't involve losing it again. "I can't. I'm sorry. I can't."
David kissed him. He kissed back, immediately. He clung to the other man, not wanting the kiss to end. It was the first time he'd really kissed someone since Maria. The physical contact warmed him, making him press closer to David.
"Wow. That's something to come home to." When they pulled apart, Sarah was standing in the doorway, staring at them. "Don't stop on my account! I'm guessing you told him?"
"He told me first, actually," David said. "Kind of surprised me. I think he thought he'd get turned down, though."
"Seriously?" Sarah looked at Frank. "Really?"
He shrugged. "I've got baggage. You know that. I'm no catch."
She walked over to the couch and sat next to him. "You're definitely a catch. Otherwise, I wouldn't have thrown myself at you that one time."
"You didn't know who I was, then." Frank sighed. "It's different. I can't just..." He shook his head. "I just can't."
"It looked like you could a second ago. You were kissing David pretty enthusiastically."
"That was... I... He kissed me first." He knew it was a lame answer, but he couldn't think of anything else.
"Sweetie, did you kiss him?" Sarah asked David.
"I had to do something. It was that or listen to him deny it for another hour." David shrugged. "He enjoyed it. He seemed like he was enjoying it."
They both looked at Frank. Both of them at once was too much to bear. "Yes! Ok, yes, I enjoyed it. It was nice. Really nice. But it doesn't change things. At all."
"It changes everything," David said. "You idiot. You like us. We like you. I don't see any problems."
"But what if I hurt you? What if one of my enemies finds you?" Frank buried his head in his hands. "I can't lose you."
"Oh. Oh, Frank." Sarah leaned over and wrapped her arms around him. "Sweetie. You won't lose us. You think David hasn't built the best security possible for our house? And if you're here, we'll have you, too."
Abruptly, he was tired to the bone. He just wanted to rest and the idea of driving back to his empty apartment held no appeal. He leaned into Sarah, who cuddled him close.
"You done fighting?" David asked.
He nodded. "For now," he whispered.
They tugged him into place so he was lying with his head in Sarah's lap and his feet in David's. David unlaced his boots and tugged until they came off. They were supposedly watching something on TV, but he bet none of them were paying attention to it. Sarah was running her fingers through his hair. Between his exhaustion, the warmth of the room, and the pleasant feeling of fingers against his scalp, he fell into a doze.
When he woke, it was dark. Sarah wasn't there, but David was crouching in front of him.
"You've got to wake up, Frank, I can't carry your heavy ass upstairs."
"It's time for bed. You're sleeping with us. C'mon."
Frank sat up and stretched. "Just sleeping?"
"Yeah, just sleeping. We're all tired." David moved towards the stairs, looking back over his shoulder at Frank. Frank pushed himself off the couch and followed. For all his protests earlier, he couldn't find it in himself to fight against this now. He watched David climb the stairs ahead of him, envying the other man's ease at trusting him with his back.
Sarah was sitting on the side of the bed, already in her pajamas. They weren't anything sexy, but Frank's breath still caught looking at her. It had been a long time since he had slept with a woman, even semi-platonicly.
"She's something, isn't she?" David said.
"She really is." Frank smiled. He sat on the foot of the bed and took off his sweatshirt. He could sleep fully clothed, but why do that if he didn't have to.
As he peeled off his shirt, he felt their eyes on him. David reached out and stroked one of his deeper scars. He flinched away. "I know, it looks like shit."
"That's not what I think," David said. "Yeah, it's pretty bad. But you survived."
"That's what I do." Frank stood to take off his pants, then sat, again. Sarah and David had moved to either side of him. "Nothing's put me down yet."
"And nothing will, if I have any say in it," David said. "Now c'mon, sleep."
Between them, David and Sarah got Frank under the covers. Sarah was in the middle. She slept on her side, David spooned against her back. After a few minutes, Frank rolled to face them. They had fallen asleep already, far too trusting for people who knew what he'd done. He watched them, matched his breathing to theirs, and before he was aware of it, fell asleep.
He was woken by the sun in his eyes. They'd all moved in their sleep. He was flat on his back, with Sarah wrapped around his right side and David behind her. He hadn't shared a bed in years and their movement hadn't woken him at all.
He tried to get up, but Sarah protested in her sleep and clung tighter. He tried to break her hold, but gave up. He could have, but he didn't want to actually hurt her. She nuzzled his shoulder, shifting so she was more on top of him.
"Were you thinking about leaving?" David was awake, watching him from where he lay.
Frank sighed. "I probably should. Don't need me around, making things complicated."
"Frank," David said, "What? No. Stay. You're not making things complicated."
"What about Leo? Zach?" Frank asked, "What are you going to tell them, if I stay?"
"What do you think? What should we tell them?" David asked, "You're a part of this family. They don't need to know what happens in the bedroom."
Frank frowned. "It's going to be that easy?"
"Yes," Sarah said, "It can be that easy." She sat up and leaned against Frank. "Stop overthinking. Enjoy the morning, at least."
Frank looked down at her. She looked back at him, still sleepy, but completely sincere. He leaned down so he could rest his forehead on hers and just breathe for a second. Leaving this behind would be hard. Too hard.
"Just stay, for a little while, at least," David said, "Please." He sounded almost desperate. Frank didn't want to fight against that. He caved.
"All right. I'll stay."