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put them up (those dog tags)

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War is shit. Everyone comes into it with bright eyes and a dream to help protect their country. Matt has seen countless soldiers lose the light in their eyes, seen too many of his own get shot down or blown to high hell.

He’s watched each soldier lose the light when he’s leading them through hundred-degree heat with sixty pounds strapped to their back as they all trudged through shit, literally.

He’s watched all of his friends die, held many of them as they took their last choked and blood-filled breath and left him alone once again.

Yet, he still relishes in the fact that there are no complicated rules, no need to think, just aim and shoot when your commander tells you, and at times, he can let the devil out.

He’s been on a myriad of missions, all of them seeming to be worse than the last, but this one was plain boring.

Trekking through the desert, guarding a wagon carrying who the hell knows what and absolutely nothing going on around them. Just the sun pressing down on their backs and his subordinates that followed him as they bickered with each other.

Then to his right, he heard the familiar click of a trigger being pushed, and he dropped while screaming out a “get down!” He watched as four of his squad hesitated to fall and get blown away by the debris in the explosion that had been set off.

Matt stood and gripped his assault rifle tightly, and he rushed towards the explosion site, looking through the scope.

He pulled the trigger when he saw movement and heard the tell-tale shout of pain from someone getting shot. Everything went to shit right after he dashed back to the truck to have the limited safety it provided.

Matt watched as a group of at least twenty people came through the dust of the explosion, all of them holding some sort of rifle. Matt watched helplessly as they formed a line and shot at the truck and tried to shoot through it and get to them.

He looked to his left and winced when he saw one of his subordinates fall, blood pooling around their head from the bullet that had entered through the back of their skull.

He sniffed and cringed as the pungent scent of chemicals entered his nose and noticed the thick, clear liquid spew from the truck onto the ground.

Matt turned around and peered around the truck, and he grasped his rifle firing off a few shots and watched two bodies fall.

Then he felt it, like a hot knife stabbing him over and over again, he looked down to his left side where his ribs were and saw the blood blooming. He felt himself fall to his knees and his hands dropping to his side, resting on the ground in the chemicals that had been spilled.

Matt collapsed and he moved his hands to clutch his side trying to slow the bleeding, there were tears in his eyes, not from pain or sadness, but ones that were fear, he did not want to go to hell, he knew he would too many sins had been committed for him to go anywhere else.

He reached up and wiped the tears from his eyes, he hissed quietly as he felt them burn from the contact. He took in ragged breaths as his vision began to fade and took in heaving breaths as the blood in his throat tried it’s damnest to choke him.
Matt looked on as his eyesight faded to black and he laid his head back trying his best to fight to stay awake, it didn’t work.

On that day, it was thought all of the soldiers died, it took hours for a new squad to find them and secure the truck. They all watched on as the medic went around to each of the bodies checking their pulses. When the medic reached the final body, pale and his side bloodied from a wound and chemicals splashed all over his face which had caused the skin to blister. The medic sighed and crouched to check his pulse and stiffened.

“Call an E-Vac! Now! This one’s alive!” the medic yelled back at the squad.

The medic applied pressure to the wound which was now bleeding sluggishly, he grabbed the dog tags around his neck and noted the name, Murdock.

The helicopter arrived within the hour, and the medic grunted as he hoisted Murdock up and carried him bridal style to the helicopter before dropping him onto the makeshift gurney and signaling the pilot to set off.

The entire squad watched as the helicopter slowly faded from sight.

||

Matt wasn’t entirely sure if he was dreaming, he felt like he had come in and out of consciousness, but everything was dark and black when he felt like he was lucid.

It still felt like a dream when he felt himself wake up fully, everything was dark. There was cotton wrapped around his face and over his eyes. It was rough and bothered the skin around it.

He grunted as he tried to lift his left arm so he could take off the bothersome cloth. His breath hitched as his arm was held back by some sort of strap connected to what seemed a railing next to him. He roughly pulled against as he tried to get his arm free.

This was not okay, he must have been captured, there was no other explanation for him to be blindfolded and tied down.
Then he heard the signature sound of combat boots enter his space, he struggled more as he tried to break the binds and his breathing grew heavy until he was taking heaving breaths and tears were falling from his eyes.

“Hey, Sunshine.” The man greets his voice was rough, Matt turned his head away from the individual and let out a silent sob.

The man rushed over as he realized what was happening, he crouched beside Matt and softly whispered reassurances to him as he tried to take breaths so he could breathe properly and calm down.

When Matt was finally able to breathe normally, he turned his head towards the person crouching beside him, for some reason he could sense where they were.

“Listen to me, you have not been captured, you are in no danger, you’re in a hospital.” The man provided. Matt took in a few hitched breaths before he nodded in acknowledgment to the statement.

Matt tilted his head as he heard another person walk towards him and he must have surprised them judging by the sound of surprise he heard come from them.

“Lieutenant Murdock, good afternoon.” The nurse greeted, Matt identifying them to be a male.

“As Lieutenant Castle must have told you, you are in a hospital being treated for various injuries. You and your team were ambushed while transporting a package, everyone was shot down including you, but miraculously you survived.” Matt maintained an apathetic look on his face as he listened attentively to the nurse.

“However, you have extensive injuries including multiple lacerations, three cracked ribs, and a bullet wound in your upper left side.” The nurse continued

Matt did not care much about these wounds, “When can I return to duty?” he inquired asking out of curiosity.

He could feel the pity coming off of the nurse in waves, “I apologize Lieutenant Murdock, but the package you were transporting contained hazardous chemicals, and unfortunately while you were unconscious some of the chemicals entered your eye, it took away your eyesight, you’re blind.”

Matt inhaled sharply as everything seemed to fall apart, he could hear everyone’s heartbeat, the whirring on the machines. He could smell the underlying scent of piss and shit under the overwhelming disinfectant smell. He could feel what everyone in the room was doing, the unknown man beside him was standing stock still, and the nurse was talking about something, and holy shit the sudden hand on his shoulder felt like it was burning him.

“Lieutenant Murdock.” He hears a far-away voice call out to him.

Matt felt everything around him return to background noise, but he could still sense everything, it was almost like a second form of sight.

He knows where everything is, he knows what they are doing, he knows how they’re feeling, this is almost better than sight.

“Lieutenant Murdock!” and his thoughts come skidding to a halt, as his head tilts to the side in the form of silent inquiry.

“Do you understand? you are honorably discharged because of wounds sustained in battle.” The nurse continues, and Matt sighs in annoyance.

“No offense sir, but I am perfectly fine, and I may not be able to see, but I don’t need sight, I can perform just as well as I was before this…injury,” Matt stated airily.

“You can think that, but there is no way you are being put back into duty Lieutenant Murdock.” The nurse replied snarkily.

“No, you don’t understand, I can sense things other people can’t. Like I can tell that your slightly nervous because of your heartbeat and that this machinery is four years old.”

The nurse took a step backward at the statement, the things that he had just told the nurse were impossible to know without fantastic technology at work.

Murdock continued his previous statement, “So as you can see I can go back to duty just fine.”

The nurse shook his head before looking at and addressing his patient once again, “I’m sorry Lieutenant Murdock, but it’s not up to me, and I doubt you could shake the higher-ups on this decision.”

“That’s Bullshit! I can tell that you’re lying!” Matt spits out.

In the end that was a mistake because he heard the machine beside him shift and smell a new type of fluid enter his blood, and it didn’t take a scientist to know that it was one meant to knock him out.

He glared unseeingly to the general area of where the nurse stood, and he felt his head loll back against the pillow, and his muscles relax unwillingly before his eyelids drooped and he couldn’t sense anything anymore.

||

Matt supposed his anger on that first day was unwarranted as the nurse was only doing their job. But, since then he had calmed down or at least he did not act like an asshole 24/7 anymore.

Most of the other soldiers were there temporarily, getting treated for their wounds and either being re-enlisted or honorably discharged.

The only constants were the staff, his midnight training sessions, and the soldier he had come to know as Castle. He was the one who had calmed him down the day he woke up, and when Castle had found him going hard at the punching bag at midnight with blisters across his knuckles. He had stood and watched until Matt finally acknowledged him by stopping his frequent jabs at the bag.

They were both on edge, not entirely comfortable with each other, but they both felt a sense of familiarity because of the shit they had both gone through.

They didn’t talk, but Frank approached one of the other punching bags, the farthest one from Matt in fact, and started his own routine of punching the bag with a few different kicks mixed in.

Matt shrugged before continuing his rally of hits, the force behind them slowly grew until the bag was swaying. His knuckles were so bloody that it looked as if there was no skin left on the appendages.

Matt punched the bag one more time and accidentally let out a shout of frustration. He stood there heaving his hands were clenched by his side, and the blood dripped from his knuckles on to the floor.

“You okay there, Sunshine?” Matt startles at the sudden question, he had forgotten that Castle had come and joined him.

Matt nods signifying that he was fine and his stiff posture hardens, even more, when Castle gently grasped one of his hands bringing it up to eye-level so he could look over his knuckles.

Castle sighed before leaving Murdock in the small gym, Murdock stood still listening to the fading footsteps, pause, and the rustling of supplies. When Castle returned he carries a roll of bandages and a small bottle of alcohol, he stood before Matt and held his hand gently.

 

Castle uncapped the bottle before drizzling it onto the wounds that Matt had inflicted on himself. When he could actually see the wounds past the blood, he stopped the stream of the antiseptic before pulling out the bandages that he had taken.

“So, what are you doing here anyway, sunshine?” Castle asks and Murdock stays silent his eyes avoiding Castle’s general direction. He sighed before repeating the question, and Murdock does not have the reaction that he had expected.

“What are you doing here Castle? You’re perfectly fine, why are you still in the hospital.” Murdock asks. Castle proceeds to look down at Murdock’s knuckles and continue to wrap them diligently, maintaining a stoic attitude and refusing to answer the question.

Castle keeps up the façade for a few minutes before he sighs and looks into Murdock’s eyes, “They’re keeping me here for something that the higher-ups want to discuss, something about how I can’t go back out into active duty until they meet with me.”

Matt faces him and attempts to meet Castle’s gaze with his own unseeing one, but he only managed to face in the general direction of his face.

“I got blinded on a mission, we had to protect a secret transport, but leadership didn’t tell us what we were protecting. Just my luck that they were dangerous chemicals and that we were ambushed that day, chemicals got into my eyes and I was blinded by the time anyone found us.”

Castle looked at Murdock before he held out his hand, “Frank Castle.” Murdock’s gaze does not shift but he tentatively reaches out for Frank’s hand and when he feels it he grasps it tightly. “Matt Murdock.”

“So, prince charming, you feel like a spar.” Matt proposed with a chuckle. Frank snorted at that while glancing at Matt’s newly wrapped knuckles, “sure, sunshine.” He responded before rising from his sitting position and over to the mat that was usually used for gentle exercises.

Matt followed his head twitching back and forth as he tried to follow Frank the best he could with only the sound of his footsteps leading him. He paused and circled around Frank mapping out his position by the slight shift in air currents.

Eventually, he arrived at the general area across from Frank and dropped into his boxing stance, he waited for Frank to move so that he would gain the upper hand. Then he felt it, the initial step forward before someone would punch.

Matt was ready and he ducked to the side as a fist passed within five inches of his face judging from the air current. Matt stepped backward and held his neck in a chokehold before throwing his knee into Castle’s stomach, he hurriedly went around to the back of Frank and grabbed one of his arms pulling it back behind him, “I’m not made of glass Frank, take this seriously.”

Matt grunted in surprise as he was flipped over Frank’s back and slammed onto the springy board below them. He quickly supported himself onto his hands and swept one of his legs out and into Frank’s knees successfully unbalancing him.

He quickly wrapped his legs around Castle’s waist and pulled him down onto the mat with him making sure that he landed on his side so he there was no way for him to get up quickly. Matt rolled over onto Frank so that he was on top of him with his arms pinned above him.

Matt breathed heavily while he kept his eyes on Frank with unfocused eyes, Matt grinned before rolling off of him as Frank chuckled. His smile soon dropped as he focused and heard a third heartbeat in the room.

He craned his head off the mat and faced the area where the heart was beating, “Castle, Murdock, show your respect and stand at attention.” Matt and Frank scrambled up from their position and stood with their hands by their sides and heads facing forward unflinching.

“I am here about Castle’s re-enlisting, we would like you to join a Black-Ops team that would go on secret undercover missions.” Frank looks over to the man with interest now, and Matt stays still as to not intrude on the conversation.

Murdock stiffens though at the next statement, “Now, Murdock you were originally going to be asked as well, however, after the accident we crossed you off. But, after seeing you fight Castle we would like you to join the Black Ops team once again.”

Matt stared in the direction of the man somehow managing to maintain a straight face even though there was skepticism coursing through him. He knew that there was no way they would let him back into active duty with his injury now even if he did fight it, but if he took this other man’s offer he would not have to be shipped back to New York and he could stay here.

He was curious as to how Castle would respond to the proposition and waited silently for his answer, but it seemed as if Castle and the higher-ranking man were waiting for Murdock to answer as well. Matt with the same serious look upon his face answered, “Yes sir, I accept your offer.”

Castle’s eyes flick toward Murdock’s position in surprise before returning to the stony expression of the officer before him. The officer turns his focus to Castle putting him under scrutiny, “Lieutenant Castle, your answer?”

Frank has a guarded expression on his face and thinks about how this is most likely the reason that he had to stay at this hell hole of a hospital. Shit about the higher-ups putting him back in active duty when really it was a ploy to get him into Black Ops.

“Yes sir, I accept your offer as well.”