Frank Castle is one terrifying motherfucker.
He’s metal everywhere. Lead bullets. Iron blood. Steel muscle and demeanor. Breathtaking. Heartstopping. Not in the poetic way.
Fair warning to anyone who ever witnesses him in action.
These are the few thoughts one Franklin Nelson has, shielded by an upturned desk as he tries desperately to remember the breathing exercises he learned in therapy.
He’s still shaking when all the movement stops. And suddenly a broad chest with a garish skull logo is filling his vision. Foggy shifts his gaze upward to meet stone cold eyes and then down to moving lips. Which he can’t hear. Holy shit, he can’t hear. Foggy is only now realizing that the world around him is awash with a tinny ringing sound. And he still can’t fucking move.
He watches vacantly as Castle sighs and pulls him up by the arm.
Distantly, Foggy registers being roughly led out of the abandoned warehouse (cliché, he knows) and into the cooling night air. As soon as his feet find the concrete, he collapses again, and the other figure stops to lean on the wall next to him.
Foggy takes a few steadying breathes and eventually things begin to enter his brain again. The rushing river water. The distant car honking. The shuffling of heavy lead and weaponry as Frank Fucking Castle does the busy work of reloading his conspicuous white van. Oh, Foggy can hear again.
“What the fuck just happened?” Foggy asks. The hysteria in his veins still thick and persistent.
“Nothing. You’re fine, Nelson,” comes the curt reply.
“No. None of that fuckery because holy shit, Frank I think three dozen people just died!”
“Thirty-eight, actually. If I got my math right.”
“Yes, that’s the point that needs elaboration,” Foggy twitches. He feels a chill worm its way up his spine. “Okay, I’m either going to vomit or scream, so please tell me what just happened before I do something drastic and/or very embarrassing.”
"It’s a farm. Weed, cocaine, potentially something new. A little bird told me it makes people go berserk on the streets. You know this, Nelson, don’t insult me.” Castle lists impatiently.
“The Shaughnessy case,” Foggy concludes.
“Bingo. You found something before I did, so congratulations, Counselor. Unfortunately, you only had enough sense to bring the mace on your keychain and not enough sense to consider that people can be violent when their illegal activity is uncovered.”
“Yeah, I’m not exactly made for combat.”
“You’re too soft. Too trusting. You gotta assume the worst sometimes.”
“I don’t like it when people die, Frank!” Foggy exclaims. “My entire life is trying to make less of that happen in the world!” He scrubs his face and feels the need to do something with his hands. He settles for pacing a little instead.
Frank sets his jaw a little bit. “You and Red, huh? Not everyone can be saved. Not everyone is worth saving. I’ve said it before and I’m gonna keep saying it until people like you get it.”
“Innocent until proven guilty. Human rights and freedoms. The law tries only to step in when people blow through that for themselves. And people dying, Frank? That’s a pretty big infringement on people’s rights and freedoms!”
Against all expectation, Castle twitches in what might almost be a smirk. It might be menacing. “Lawyers. Can’t see any fucking sense. Let me ask you, kid, How’s your client doing, huh? Cure in sight?”
That shuts Foggy up.
“Thought so. What do you think’s gonna happen if that shit gets unleashed into the city, huh? We got, what, a few kilos in that warehouse, and 38 people inhaling that shit all day, knowing the recipe. Let it loose in the city unsupervised. What happens?”
“We might find a cure. There are teams working on a cure,” Foggy counters weakly. There’s a sinking feeling because they haven’t made much progress so far. "Besides we don't know for sure if this is what's doing it."
"You gonna gamble with people's lives like that? If this project gets any bigger, more people die. I'm nipping it at the bud. That's all."
"Where's the due diligence?" Foggy groans.
"Jesus Christ, what is with you doom and gloom types? So dramatic all the time."
The behemoth of a man huffs. “Hey, do me a favour." He hands Foggy a pair of industrial gloves and a tankard of gasoline. Gingerly, the actual, literal serial killer pats him on the cheek. “Get moving, kid.”
Franklin P. Nelson is an attorney who spends his days arguing for the improvement of case law in all of America such that it better reflects the needs of the vulnerable and exploited. He has argued with powerful lawyers with case records trailing back before he was a twinge in his father’s balls. He has presented cases in front of renowned justices who have tapped their gavel and changed the direction of legal discourse on global levels. He has stood and represented some scary and powerful motherfuckers. Hell, he’d represented Frank Castle, and he had not been tongue tied even then.
But he has nothing to say now. Just a lot to ruminate in as he empties the gasoline all over piles and piles of an underground drug that's allegedly just regular old cocaine, which has been making his life a living hell for the past few days, and all over the bodies of the people who had been manufacturing it. He sees some of their faces. He can trace their snuffed out life trajectories by them.
He’s seen so many cases in his life. You come to a new country, and you have no prospects. You hear from a friend of a friend that there’s an easy job that pays a lot, but you gotta be really careful. Or, you find out your kid has stage II cancer, deep in the marrow, and you realize your health insurance doesn’t cover dependents, so you call in a cousin of a friend and ask for a loan that you promise to work for. Or you’re an addict that owes some money and you’re sick of getting on your knees. He’s seen it all.
One thing Foggy knows is that most people don’t wake up one day wanting to be the hands doing illicit labour where you’re subject to the same trappings of late stage capitalism but without the health and dental.
It’s a shame. He meets the still open eyes of a boy with latex-gloved hands and hole in his throat. He can’t be older than 20. Foggy can already feel that it’s going to haunt him for a while, but it’s hardly the first time he’s been confronted with mortality, so he swallows that rising bile.
“Hey, Nelson. We gotta get out of here ASAP. Sun’s gonna be up in the next hour and we gotta be out of here,” Castle calls from the door. A courtesy he didn’t have to offer. Foggy rushes over with the boy still staring on, judging the pair as they make their escape.
It’s a little surreal, sitting in the passenger’s seat beside Frank Castle, illuminated by the red light of the fire that Foggy himself had helped create. Bitterly, distantly, Foggy is relieved that whatever substance had been created can’t do any more harm. Lives had been lost, yes. Thirty eight whole lives that will now be holes for families and friends to try and fill with grief and acceptance once they get the awful news. That is, if they receive the news at all. Yes, a tragedy. But no more. No more lives lost to this. No more people suffering like Shaughnessy, locked in a cage in a straightjacket, whose loved ones are grieving despite his still being here. “No more” is also a strange comfort. One that he feels guilty for feeling.
“You okay, kid?” Frank asks, eventually, carefully.
“No, Frank, I am not okay. But thank you.”
“Hm.” It’s not an addition to the conversation. Frank doesn’t want a conversation.
“No, seriously. Thank you. For saving my hide. And also, for making sure no one else has to go through whatever that drug does. It’s not pretty.”
Castle nods. Stoic, as always. But he takes a turn that is pointedly in the opposite direction of Foggy’s apartment (yes, Foggy knows he should be more worried that Frank Castle probably knows where he lives, but he also doesn’t think Castle is the type to come an event unprepared).
“Where are we headed?”
Frank doesn’t answer until they’re parked outside of a cute little diner. “Let’s get some breakfast, Counselor.” The fucking Punisher hands him a very large black hoodie. “In case you don’t want the security cameras to recognize you.” And Foggy finds himself being ushered inside by a strong hand gently on his arm.
They don’t talk to each other until they’re both two coffees in and Frank has had a plate of toast and eggs, and Foggy’s working through the same with the addition of some bacon and stale apple pie that he stress ordered. So sue him, the waitress is charming and the night’s been terrible.
“Were you following me?” Foggy asks, finally, around a forkful of tender fruit and sugar.
Frank just stares for a second and nods.
“You’re smart. You had a lead so I followed.”
“For how long?”
“Does no one have respect for privacy?”
The silence stretches for the duration of the meal.
“Hey, you got cash?” Frank asks when they’re nearly done.
Foggy scoffs, because he is tired and his brain is more or less on autopilot. “You asked me out, isn’t it customary for you to pay?” but he’s already taking out his wallet because of course, Frank Castle doesn’t carry money around on these bloody excursions. Unlike Foggy, who is always at least semi-muggable with his fat wallet and lack of self-defense skills.
Frank, miraculously, huffs as if he has a sense of humour.
Foggy lays down a fifty because fuck it, it’s been a weird night and someone needs to be compensated, even if it’s just the waitress. They leave before they even get the bill.
Frank drives him home in the silence, and he doesn’t seem to want conversation. This suits Foggy fine because he finds himself dozing in the cool light of the dawning day listening to some early commuter jazz station. He thinks about the thousands of people who still have another hour or so before they have to get up for work on a Thursday morning. And when they get up, they’ll go about their lives, maybe read about a warehouse burning down in a freak accident, and Foggy will know about it intimately and no one else will find out what he knows. He thinks about the boy who died with open eyes. He thinks about Shaughnessy. He thinks about his client's wife and kids. He thinks about Frank Castle and the cargo that sits mere inches behind him, dirty with fresh blood.
Soon, they’re just outside of Foggy’s apartment, and warm hands shake him conscious. Foggy makes to get out but turns back.
“It’s not over yet, is it?” he asks.
Frank answers in the affirmative. His tone is cold, as it always is. He faces forward, concentrating hard on the road ahead of him, hands not leaving the steering wheel.
“Any idea who might be at the top of it?” Negative. “Are there other sites for, uh, manufacturing?” Uncertain. “Fuck me, huh?”
Frank turns to face Foggy this time. Eyes intense. “Keep me updated if you find anything,” he tells him.
Indulging in the deep sigh building from the pit of his stomach, Foggy steps out into the morning chill. There are a few cars driving lazily on the street now. Some birds are chirping their cheery greetings.
“How exactly am I gonna contact you?” Foggy asks, leaning on the window as if he were a teenager reluctantly saying goodbye after a long date. It’s a very different context, and Foggy catches a glimpse of some blood on his shirtsleeve that he hadn’t noticed before.
“You’ll think of something and I’ll know.”
“You’re not gonna stop following me, are you?”
Frank just shrugs and starts to drive away. “See you around, kid.” And very soon, the car is lost from Foggy’s field of vision. All is as it was, as if nothing ever happened. Except even Foggy can smell himself.
“Well, fuck me,” Foggy sighs at no one in particular, deflating to a crouch on the sidewalk. He gives himself a few light slaps on the cheek before walking to the front door, suddenly feeling quite exhausted.
When he gets his keys out his fingers land on a small mace dispenser and Foggy inexplicably wants to cry even though he feels a laugh rumbling from his chest.
He gets in the elevator and a kid that lives two floors down also gets in, walking off being drunk and high in equal parts at 5:21 in the morning. A late night, just like Foggy. She can’t be more than 20, probably a college kid, if the way she dresses and smells is any indication. Her backpack is littered with buttons she could have obtained from campus. Activist groups for the rights of immigrants, increased access to health care, for increased education about drug addiction. He thinks about the boy in the warehouse again, who wouldn’t have a chance to change the world because he might be young but he's also dead.
She turns to him and smiles, and even with ruined makeup and a rumpled skirt, she’s gloriously alive and full of potential.
“Nice night?” she asks him, taking in his similarly disheveled appearance. Foggy is made acutely aware that he must make quite a picture, with his messy hair, dark green dress shirt untucked from his black dress pants, and a too-large black hoodie. It smells like gunpowder. He hopes the girl doesn’t notice this over the smell of her dank weed, or notice the splotches of dark blood all over his person (thankfully barely perceptible on all the black).
So Foggy huffs out a laugh, not quite ready to incriminate himself, but too tired for full on dishonestly. “It was interesting, at least. You?”
She hums with a smile, pleasant and heady, it seems. She must have had a good night. She’s also probably feeling too honest for very different reasons. She puts a hand by her mouth, as if to whisper even though they’re on opposite sides of the elevator. “I kissed someone very hot last night,” she comments dreamily.
“I’m happy for you,” Foggy tells her. It’s not exactly easy, but it’s certainly the most pleasant interaction he’s had in at least 72 hours so he will take it.
“Thanks,” the girl answers as the elevator stops on her floor. “Have a nice day, sir,” she throws behind a shoulder as she walks airily out of the elevator.
When he gets inside his apartment, he rushes to take off his clothes and puts them hurriedly in the washing machine, putting in twice the amount of detergent and stain remover he usually would, especially for such a small load. He sets the machine to the hottest and longest setting and lets it rumble to life before sighing deeply. Then, he makes his way, naked, to the bathroom where he vomits for a solid five minutes.
When he’s freshly showered and in his most comfortable pair of pyjamas, it’s 6:37 in the morning. He composes a text to Karen, something halfway honest about feeling awful and spending the morning puking, because neither Karen nor Matt knew that Foggy was going to be out last night, and Foggy had really been hoping his investigation would not take as long as it had. He had really been hoping there would be less bloodshed, so it had been a shitty night all around. He tucks himself completely under the covers and slips into a fitful sleep with his heart still pounding.
Foggy had been lounging in his apartment all day between naps, Netflix, and actual research into the case he’s working on. He realizes that Frank, quite unhelpfully, buried his one lead last night, which brings him back to square two. It’s right after square one, which was finding out what the substance does. Allegedly. Potentially. Tests were still being run. It’s more like a half square that Foggy will round up to feel accomplished.
In all fairness to Frank, everyone in the warehouse did seem pretty adamant that Foggy had to die, and there were lots of scary guns involved, and it really would have been quite dangerous if they had spent a whole lot more time in the building where there were fumes and crystal dust and poor ventilation.
It’s a few hours after noon, when he’s looked over every location his client has been recorded to have frequented for the weeks, hell, months preceding the incident. Normal guy with a secret and unfortunate drug habit; he went to work, picked his kids up from school, went out with his wife once a week. Occasionally went out for a few hours where the family didn’t keep track, and it appears none of his friends knew either. Disappears out of the blue one day. Reappears soon after on 8th and 33rd out of nowhere, banging his head on the wall and thrashing at anyone who came near.
He looks over the billboard on his wall, where he’d pinpointed all the locations his client had been to. The location of the unloading, the suspected location of the kidnapping. Pictures of the license plate-less car that had dropped him. The likely locations for where the car had been bought.
All of this nebulous information. No leads because it was likely a stranger kidnapping. No relation. No vengeful exes, no ruthless employers, no friends-of-a-friend-of-a-friend coming to collect on a favour. Unless they were missing something. And Foggy knew they were missing. There was a sizable gap in the man’s activities, but no one knew what that piece was. They just needed more information. Just one more fact to make something click. Some motive.
Foggy gets a call at 4:58pm from a client number. Mrs. Shaughnessy.
“Hello? Foggy Nelson speaking.” Foggy answers, professional.
“That bastard!” shouts a familiar voice, and the swearing divulges into something more rapid and vulgar (if tone is anything to go by) when Mrs. Shaughnessy switches over to her native Cantonese to curse someone out.
“Sorry?” Foggy interrupts, feeling small.
“No, no, I’m sorry. I just wanted to call to let you know. Alan’s been keeping secrets. Real bullshit like you wouldn’t believe. I knew about the drugs, and we were trying to get help for him. But turns out, every other week like clockwork, he’s been visiting a fucking whorehouse and paying with a bank account I had no idea existed. The bank called about a shitload of debt. And I just got his best friend to squeal on where he’s been going.”
And there’s the other shoe, dropping right in front of him. Thank God. Or don't, because this wasn't looking great for Alan.
Foggy gets the details. He hangs up with words of comfort, which are met with icy gratitude and laced anger, but it’s not directed at him. He doesn’t know if that makes him feel more comforted or not. He puts his notes up onto the board and ponders the names, pinpoints the potential locations of the brothel in question.
At 6:13pm, there’s a knock at his door.
“Hello, hello!” Karen calls brightly, walking into the space. Matt trails behind her, carrying a few plastic bags. “We brought soup because you were feeling under the weather.”
“Aw, thanks, guys,” Foggy says, touched.
“Did you eat a bad burrito or something last night?” Matt prods, good-humoured. Foggy falters, considers lying for a second.
“No, I, uh, I saw Frank Castle last night,” Foggy mumbles to the floor.
“What?!” they both exclaim, and they’re both asking questions and crowding him. He gets them calm enough to sit down at the dining table, even though Karen’s tapping her fingers on the wood and Matt’s shaking his right leg vigorously with his mouth is set in a firm, displeased line.
“He didn’t hurt me,” Foggy clarifies. “It was more of a saving my life situation. There were maybe some guns involved.”
“That’s even worse!” Karen cries. She inexplicably trusts Frank, and Foggy knows that Frank had never been the cause of her worry. “Why were you in a life-threatening situation?”
“I went prodding last night. At the suspicious warehouse by the pier you guys told me not to go to.”
“Foggy-” Matt starts, visibly angry.
“It couldn’t wait!” Foggy interrupts. “Whatever we’re looking at it, we've got to be quick before someone else starts hurting people. I went late enough that I thought no one would be there, but, uh, I guess the city really never sleeps.”
“And you almost died over it? Foggy, you’re supposed to be the reasonable one!” Matt scolds, and his worry lines grow deeper.
“But I didn’t die! And Frank, well, we got rid of the supply so we don’t have to worry about it anymore!”
“So you buried our leads, almost got shot at, and Frank has now made you complicit in arson?!” Matt accuses, voice raising.
“How did you know it was arson?”
Karen frowns at his lack of denial, fishing out a newspaper from her bag, and throwing it roughly in front of Foggy. Ah.
“We are very disappointed in you, mister,” she whispers at him, glowering.
“Well, Karen and I were on a lovely walk to your place, soup in hand, when Karen spotted a paper that had some bad news about that very warehouse,” Matt’s snide now, but not entirely uncaring. “We were going to commiserate, share a bottle of cheap tequila and pour over what information we still have.” And Karen pulls out said bottle of cheap tequila from the bag, too. She crosses her arms and starts to pace.
“We thought it was too much of a coincidence,” Karen muses, steely. But only for a moment because Foggy shifts uncomfortably and she seems to notice something off. “Holy shit, Foggy, are you actually okay?” in a moment, she's in front of Foggy, a gentle hand on the nape of his neck. It hurts. Matt’s face twists with worry when Foggy lets out a hiss.
“What’s going on?” he asks, standing up from his seat.
“Foggy’s got a nasty bruise on his neck. Actually, how far does this go? Foggy, do you mind taking your shirt off?”
He acquiesces because these are his closest friends and it’s not the time to be bashful about his body image.
“Jesus Christ, Fog, that’s pretty nasty.” she turns to Matt, who appears expectant. “It, uh, it goes from the nape of his neck to his mid-back, and across both shoulders.”
Foggy vaguely remembers a table upturning and hitting him on the back, supposedly from Frank throwing it at him. At the time he was just glad for some cover from the gunfire.
It also explains why he’s been achy and sleeping was really uncomfortable.
They’re silent for a bit, perhaps the gravity of Foggy nearly dying finally hitting all three of them. None of them move except Foggy, who puts his shirt back on. Matt looks even more upset. Karen glances all over the room. Anywhere but at people.
“What’s this?” she asks, pointing at the billboard.
“New information,” Foggy replies, suddenly a lot more energetic.
He explains everything new that he had found out. The brothel means connections, possibly a reason he was targeted, which may point to a motive, and in turn, a suspect.
“Tequila is still on the table, if you want,” Matt offers, once all the soup had been consumed and the night creeps in.
“Oh, yeah. That’s another thing. I might have inhaled some of the substance or whatever while I was at the warehouse. I, uh, might be a carrier, actually. I mean, probably not, but you might want to avoid sharing spit or anything.” He didn’t get high or anything, though. And that was the point of drugs. So he was probably in the clear. Probably.
Karen looks angry again. Matt seems mortified.
“Stop getting yourself in harm’s way.” Karen demands, poking Foggy in the side angrily. She’s seemingly lost to the irony of it, because Foggy really is the least reckless of the group. (What that says about the three of them is definitely cause for concern.)
The pair leave, eventually, even though Foggy offers his couch. They all need a break, and it’s totally understandable. Foggy realizes he never took his clothes out of the dryer. He finds the hoodie in the load and ponders it for a moment. He leaves it by the window, and somehow hopes Frank sees it, even though he lives 12 floors up. At the very least, it's a reminder to get it back to the guy, somehow.
It's just passed 2am when a chill wakes him up. He turns on the lamp beside his bed, and nearly screams.
Frank Castle is on his bed, seated with militaristic rigidity. His eyes are open but glassy, and atop some wicked dark circles and bags. He maybe hasn't slept in a while.
"How did you get up here?" Foggy asks, heart hammering.
"Don't worry about it," Frank answers, disciplined and measured as ever.
“Will I have to get new locks?”
Sighing, Foggy tears the duvet off of himself and heads toward his glorious work in the living room. Wordlessly, Frank follows close behind.
Once Foggy had finished explaining all the new information about the character of his client, Frank nods silently and heads out the door.
“And just where are you headed?”
“The brothel. I trust Red’s been looking for it all night, too.”
“Frank, stop!” Foggy calls out, heart loud and unsteady to his own ears at the prospect of a second night in a row dealing with a bulletstorm and body count. But he knows if Frank just goes, another trail will be abruptly truncated. Another thread singed off. Another end deadened because Frank Fucking Castle cannot keep a gun holstered for one whole night. And fuck it if Foggy doesn’t have an actual job to do and a moral compass that doesn’t factor in any bloodshed. “I’m coming with you.” He downs half of a five hour energy that had been sitting open on the coffee table, grabs his coat, and follows Frank Castle out the door.
It takes them a few tries, but eventually, they reach a rather nondescript building and park a few blocks away. By all accounts, it’s fairly unsuspicious. Neon lights amidst dark curtains, dark walls and high windows. Notably, there isn’t a sign out front that would indicate that this isn’t just the house of someone with eccentric tastes in decor.
For his part, Frank loads a few guns in a long jacket. Foggy, in his pyjama bottoms and old college letterman, feels a little underdressed and very shifty.
“We’re here to get information, right?” Foggy asks, pointedly. Frank scoffs. “Castle, tell me you aren’t going to shoot up a bunch of sex workers, who are already statistically at a high risk for suffering violence. Say these words to me.” The man pauses, considering.
“Listen, kid. We are here to get information. But I don’t care what these people do for a living. If they do have a hand in creating something that’s going to get people hurt, that’s some evil shit, and I’m going to act on it. But, as you’re so insistent, if this is a respectable brothel, we’re just going to make up some cock and bull about thinking this was the address for our buddy’s stag or some shit and leave and no one’s the wiser.”
Foggy agrees to these terms, even though he would vastly prefer it if the option of actually killing anyone was off the table. Foggy wishes Castle would put the guns away. Instead, he catches the breathing rage machine slip a sheathed knife under his pant leg.
“Okay, even you have got to admit this all seems a bit excessive,” Foggy comments, pointing at Frank’s person. He has a set to his jaw and carefully puts away two guns he’s had stored who knows where. “Better.” Foggy makes to pat his cheek and, God help him, actually follows through in his tired state.
They’re greeted at the door by a kind looking woman, probably in her mid twenties, Foggy guesses. She has broken English, accented heavily with something maybe far east that Foggy has trouble entirely pinpointing since she’s speaking in English. Tiredly, he wonders what she does during the day, if she hates her job or loves it, if it’s enough to get her doing whatever else she might enjoy doing. Foggy is very tired, and when he’s tired, his thoughts tend to spiral into something unmitigated and often sensitive. Right now he just hopes everyone gets home safe after whatever the hell this interaction will be.
“Would you like room?” she asks them brightly. Foggy glances at Frank, who just shrugs slightly and makes a gesture to let him know the floor is his.
“Sure,” Foggy answers, making an executive decision and already counting the ways this was a bad idea.
“We only accept cash, ATM is in back of hall,” she instructs, and points him in the right direction. Foggy shares another look with Frank, who is now standing uncomfortably rigid and not moving while the woman tries to make small talk with the two of them. Foggy pats him on the back before absconding to take out a few hundred. He cringes with every bill. He might be a lawyer, and he might have until recently been very gainfully employed, but there’s still something about carrying this kind of cash in his hands that feels wrong somehow.
When he returns, Frank has not relaxed one bit, but the woman is trying her very best to have a conversation. She almost looks relieved when Foggy comes back, and he smiles and thanks her for waiting.
“We only need an hour,” Foggy tells her. She nods and points between the two of them.
“Together?” she asks, as a point of clarification. It’s tactful and professional. Frank, who has other things to worry about, doesn’t even bristle. Foggy, on the other hand, shudders a little at the idea that he’s seen as a package deal with Frank Castle. Despite this unease, he trudges on.
“Yes,” Foggy says. He’s almost proud that his voice doesn’t crack.
“None at all.”
“Can I take your coat?”
“Oh, sure. Of course.” Foggy shrugs of the letterman, revealing his softest sleeping tee. He watches as the receptionist hangs it up on a peg on the wall. Foggy very much regrets not being asleep right now. When she turns over to Frank, though, he stiffens.
“Actually, let me just leave this in the car,” he mutters, making quick strides out the door. When it swings shut, Foggy turns to the woman.
“Nice weather we’ve been having recently, huh?” he asks, because there’s nothing else to say.
“Yes,” she replies warmly. “First time here?”
“Is it that obvious?” Foggy sighs, a little self-deprecating.
“Your friend is very… stiff,” she comments, motioning with her hands as if to indicate a boulder.
Foggy nods knowingly. “He’s, uh, shy,” he replies, apologetically.
“I can see. As long as he is nice.” She shrugs. Foggy shivers, because Frank really isn’t nice.
“I’m nice enough to make up for him, don’t worry.” Foggy smiles in a way he hopes is charming despite the fact that his hair is disheveled and he’s in a brothel in his pyjamas.
Just then, Castle comes back in, considerably less armed in a long-sleeved black shirt and loose cargo pants. Foggy’s not fooled, though. He can still count at least three places a dangerous object could be hidden without anyone being able to notice.
“Right this way,” she gestures, and leads them up the stairs into a small room with a king sized bed, a couch and a vanity which is stocked with various sex things. Toys, lube, and boxes of condoms. Frank immediately takes the couch and Foggy awkwardly faces him from the bed.
“Just do the talking. Find out what we need and let’s go,” Castle orders, dark and tense. Foggy just gulps and nods. This is him letting Foggy take the lead, trying things out sensibly without cocking the gun before a civil discussion. It’s his chance to save lives.
A woman walks in, around their age. She’s beautiful, in a way. Tall, broad, and graceful with long, curly hair. She seems comfortable in some lacy underthings and a silk robe, and smiles at the two of them.
“Hello, boys. I’m Lilian, but most just call me Lil. Anything I can do for you?” she makes a move to touch Frank, who is closer to the door. But just before Lil’s delicate hand reaches Frank’s shoulder, it’s caught in a rough grip.
“Nope. We ain't doing this,” he states simply before letting go. She looks a little terrified, and maybe a little relieved that Frank isn’t expecting her to touch him. It flashes over her face for a second before it’s schooled back into a perfect little smile.
“Just going to watch your friend here have all the fun? That’s fine with me.” She shrugs and makes her way over to the bed, looming over Foggy appreciatively. Foggy knows it’s a performance, but her presence is powerful and affecting nonetheless. Before he knows it, Lil’s hands are all over him, playing with his hair, tracing invisible shapes on his chest. She whispers to him, “So what’ll it be, handsome?”
Foggy shakes himself out of his daze and clears his throat. He looks to Frank, who doesn’t seem exactly uninterested in what’s happening. Maybe there’s a ghost of an amused smile on his face, but Foggy can’t be sure in the dim lighting. When he looks back to Lil, she seems expectant.
“Actually, Lil, I was wondering if we could just talk, maybe?” Foggy croaks out.
“Oh.” Her demeanour falters. “Sure.” She moves to sit on the bed, a fair distance away from Foggy.
“Um, we were wondering about a certain, uh, illegal substance that I think is available here?” Foggy pries, tensing in his spot.
“Oh? Is it our cocaine? Word’s getting out that our coke’s pretty good, huh? It comes with room service, if you wanna pay for the package,” Lil’s business facade returns, full force, if a little differently than before.
“Is that all you serve here?” Foggy asks, to be sure.
“Other than drinks and pot, yeah. All comes with the package, which I think is a pretty good deal,” Lil reiterates.
“You’ve sampled it all? Can attest to its quality?” This is familiar, like a cross-examination. Foggy could do this in his sleep. Hell, he might as well be doing it in his sleep because holy fuck, is it ever shitty to be 33 and running on maybe 5 hours split between 48 hours.
“Of course." The thing is, she might be lying. And Foggy should definitely not be buying illegal drugs in a brothel as a lawyer , but he’s tired, and this will be a good way to obtain samples for testing if Shaughnessy's been frequenting this joint with a known addiction.
“Sure, let’s get the package then.” He looks over to Frank, who has a brow raised, but is otherwise still in the same position he was when he first sat down. “Could we get that to go, actually?”
Lil bursts out laughing. “So you came to a brothel for a drug deal? You guys are pretty fucking funny. What drinks do you guys want? We got a fully stocked bar downstairs. Unless you want a milkshake or something,” she’s still laughing.
“Actually, a milkshake sounds great,” Foggy says.
Lil picks up a hand-held radio from the vanity and speaks into it. “Hey, Vix. Could we get a number one,” she looks over at Foggy and shakes her head with a soft smile, “to go, and two,” Foggy shakes his head and hold up three fingers, gesturing to her as well. She smiles, warmer. “Make that three milkshakes to room four.” She turns to the men in the room, now. “What flavour do you guys want? We can do chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla.” Then, to the radio, “I’ll take a chocolate.”
“Strawberry,” Frank answers, almost immediately. She turns to Foggy.
“Vanilla,” Foggy says, absently. He watches as Lil shoves a basket of handcuffs and ropes to the side to fiddle with a leather paddle once she hangs up on Vix.
“I figured you were a vanilla man,” she teases. Frank, honest to God, snorts.
A few minutes later, a brown paper bag is in Foggy’s lap and the three of them are lounging in various spots in the room nursing milkshakes; Foggy and Frank are on the couch and Lil is taking up the whole bed.
“You guys have me for another 45 minutes or so, so we might as well keep each other company,” she says when the silence stretches out. “So what can I call you boys?”
Foggy stumbles, and before he can catch himself and make up a pseudonym like everyone else in these scenarios otherwise would, he mutters out a lame “Fo- Frankl- Frank. Just Frank is fine.” He’s met with a glare from Frank.
“Pete, pleasure to meet you,” the other man says, surprisingly neighbourly.
“How long have you been together?” she asks crossing her legs on the bed, looking between the two of them.
“Oh? We’re not- we’re not together.” Foggy says, too honest. He’s sure he’s digging himself into a hole. This story doesn't paint them in the best light. Foggy can already see how well it would be received. “Two men go into a brothel, not for wild sex to spice up their dried up domestic lives, but for drugs, which they don’t even take on-site, and some milkshakes and pleasant chatter.” Not suspicious at all. Foggy’s too tired for this.
Frank scoffs. “It’s okay, sweetheart,” he says. He gives Foggy a meaningful look that tells him Frank’s been thinking some similar things. More to the point, he just seems amused. “I don’t think they’re the type to judge here.” the brick wall of a man reaches over and pats Foggy’s cheek with an icy hand, chilled by his drink. “He’s a church-going type,” Frank tells Lil, by way of explanation. She nods sagely.
“Wait, I think I’ve heard this one before. You’re trying pussy again just to see of you can stomach it? No, no. You’ve had all this God-fearing sex and you have no idea how to go about asking for something else so you came here for some advice? Wait, wait. I got it. This was spontaneous. It’s like, 2am, and you’re both a little out of it but super restless because work’s been stressful. You’ve heard about us from a friend of a friend, and Petey over here suggests something to get your minds off of it. Frank comes along because how could he say no to that ass, but turns out you’re both too tired to get it up now that you’re here?”
The thing is, the story’s entirely off, save for at a few points. Work stress. 2am fatigue and bad decisions. Foggy following Frank out the door. Frank’s admittedly spectacular ass. So Foggy sputters a little and asks, “Have these all really happened to you?”
Lil shakes her head. “I mean, not personally, but I hear things from co-workers. Maybe I’m mixing up some details, but yeah, these things happen. A lot of people come in thinking they want something and realizing they don’t really.
“Anyway,” she continues, turning to Foggy, suddenly very serious. “I don’t know what your whole situation with God or whatever is, but you shouldn’t ever feel bad about sex things. Your boyfriend’s hot, but it’s not inherently an evil, sinful thing, and you don’t have to try to resolve your identity or whatever by doing things you don't want to. You seem like a good boy, Frank. You don’t have to do drugs or whatever to feel wild if that’s not who you are.”
Foggy gulps. Lil’s read him too well. Even if the details are a little wrong. She seems very powerful, all of a sudden. “Thanks,” he breathes out.
“I’m just glad you guys seem to be in a healthy relationship. It’s nice to see people be encouraging toward their partners. I shouldn’t be telling you this, but one of our previous clients went a little off-book, if you know what I mean,” Frank and Foggy both perk up.
“No? What happened?” Foggy prods.
“Well, I really shouldn’t be telling you, but I'm sure you've seen it in the news by now, so I’ll do it anyways. Just promise you won’t tell anyone I said anything.” She swallows a strawful of her drink and continues.
“There was this regular who came in like twice a month. He always picked the same sort of girls to play the same kind of scenes. Submissive roles for pretty Asian girls. He was very gross and no one here liked him very much. But one day we find out he had a wife and kids, right? And we have this rule here about serving folks who just want to cheat.
“Mother Yi, our manager, hates that shit. It’s actually in our rulebook. We can’t serve people who are already in committed relationships unless there’s reason to think their partners know and are okay with it. It’s a little weird, but it’s sensible in some ways, and it's a nice thing to keep in mind. No scorned lovers coming in to burn the place down or anything, you know? And it’s just colossally shitty to be mixed up in that kind of scandal. Trust me, it’s like, what do you say? ‘Sorry your partner cheated on you, but this is literally my job and I literally do not care about him?’
“So yeah, no bachelor parties, no one with a ring on their finger, no one who ever mentions words like ‘spouse,’ ‘girlfriend,’ ‘boyfriend,’ or ‘partner.’ We stop mid thrust and kick them out if we have to.”
“Is that standard?”
“Not everywhere. Hell, I wouldn’t really care if it were up to me, but our manager is pretty adamant about it. It's safer like that.”
“So what happened? To that regular, I mean?”
“Well, our manager finds out that he’s been lying to the girls here. I mean, it’s not like it never happens, but this guy’s been coming here for months, he was supposed to be trusted clientele, Mother, well, she really wants to look after us, you know? Apparently, next time he comes over, she asks for him in her office and he just leaves all dark and brooding, and Mom follows him out. Everyone figures he’s going to come clean to his wife or something. But, I don’t know. Something happens, I guess because the next thing they know he's acting crazy on the streets. I just don’t know."
“Holy shit.” Foggy says, after a beat.
“You’re not cops or anything, by the way, are you?” Foggy shakes his head. “Eh, you guys bought me a milkshake, and holy shit, I’ve been sitting on this for days. I need to tell someone and I can’t afford therapy. I was there. Like, on the street when he started attacking everyone. It was like 7pm and I was just doing some errands in the area. I wasn't even working and I recognized him.”
“Are you okay?” Foggy asks, genuinely concerned.
“Yeah, I guess. I don’t think he recognized me, and I never served him. I wasn’t exactly his type, you know? But I don’t know. There was something about him. Something in his eyes. Like he was scared and confused, too. Even though he was literally clawing and biting people.” Lil shudders. “Maybe I’m just projecting.”
“I’m sorry you had to see that,” Foggy comforts. He puts down his cup, now finished with his drink.
“Yeah, me too,” she answers absently. Suddenly, Foggy stands up.
“Can I give you a hug or something? You look like you need a hug.”
Lil chuckles, mirthless but grateful. “Yeah, Frank, sure. Hell, we’ve still got about 20 minutes, you can do a hell of a lot more than that, if you want." But she acquiesces, and the touches are friendly. Lil deflates in Foggy’s arms for a brief second before letting go.
“You know what? Thank you. For whatever the hell this was. Come back whenever. You can even drop your pants next time if you want. I mean, a job’s a job, and somehow this feels like slacking.”
Foggy nods, smiling a little, and asks Frank for the time. They obviously don’t have anywhere to be, but it’s been a very late night. Foggy yawns performatively. “Actually we should probably get going soon. Sorry to leave you hanging.”
“No worries at all! Go get some sleep, boys,” Lil waves them off before settling back down on the bed, seemingly lost in her own thoughts.
“All right, let’s go, kid,” Frank says, standing up, beaconing Foggy over to the door with a gesture that catches Foggy's back once he's close enough.
“Hey Pete?” Lil calls from her spot. Frank looks up. “Keep this one around.” Frank gives a curt nod. “Oh, and don’t forget your parcel.”
“Right!” Foggy exclaims, picking up the bag from the couch and heading out the door.
They go back to Foggy’s for a debrief. Putting up a few more notes on the billboard and considering what had just happened. The thing is they start discussing other things, too.
“They’re still breaking the law,” Frank states. “That makes them criminals.”
“We broke the law. Hell, we’re breaking it right now, Frank!” Foggy counters, swallowing some of his hastily made sandwich. “Just because someone’s on the wrong side of the law, doesn’t mean they’re bad people.”
“What about your client? He broke the law and seems pretty scummy.”
“Worth killing, though? For just being a shitty human being?”
“If he’s gonna hurt people, yes. As it stands now, it seems likely.” Frank tastes a long drink from a glass, setting his empty plateware aside to focus on Foggy.
“Do not. Not right now, at least. He’s our excuse to follow this case. If you keep killing everyone involved, we can’t do anything with the law and all the evidence just goes down the toilet. All we have is eyewitness and character testimony. No documents. I can’t do a posthumous trial, man. We have nothing if Shaughnessy's dead.”
“And you want to protect him?”
“Honestly, in light of recent evidence, no. I think he might actually be a piece of shit. But this is also about his family. If they’re implicated in any way because the trial goes south, guess who’s dealing with the backlash?
“How do you think it looks since they've been covering a cocaine habit under a roof with kids? Do you think people will believe that they weren’t being abusive since he’s being plenty violent now? I don’t need to protect him as a person, but I need to establish non culpability for and recency of his violent actions after his, you know, drug thing. Otherwise Cathy never gets to see her kids again even though she’s been trying very, very hard to provide a good life for them. Because that’s what's on trial here. Shaughnessy and his history with violence. This whole other thing is irrelevant.”
“Except it’s not irrelevant because that’s who he was as a person. A piece of shit that deserves shit because he cheats on his old lady and touches his dick to the fantasy of being a powerful white man.”
They go back and forth for a while, actually. And the thing is, Foggy’s starting to see what Frank means. He does have qualms about defending a guy who was secretive and sleazy behind his family’s back. He sees that there might not be a cure for whatever’s causing the man to pick at his skin until he bleeds or lunge at the personnel who give him his meals. He is a danger to those around him.
Only, he also remembers how the Missus came in, shaken up about how her husband has been found after being missing for a while, and she doesn’t have a lot of money, but she needs someone to do something kind for her family even if she never gets her husband back. And she cried because he wasn’t the same man she fell in love with, but they have two beautiful children who need help and she’d only been managing to stay afloat for the past week and a half and she feels seconds away from drowning. Maybe it’d be a different story if she drops out and doesn’t decide to fight, but they were spouses, a legally bound unit, and everything that harms him harms her and the kids, too.
It’s a lot to mull over.
They finish their sandwiches and leave the dishes in the sink.
“It’s like 3 hours until people usually start getting up, you might as well crash here for a bit,” Foggy offers when Frank gets up to leave.
“Dude, you look like you haven’t slept in a decade. Knowing you, it’s probably true. Just take the couch for a quick hour or two. It’s fine. You saved my life, I committed arson with you. We’re probably friends by now.”
Frank shifts on his feet, deciding. Finally, he makes his way back to the couch. “If you want to brush your teeth, extra brushes are in the second drawer,” Foggy instructs, pointing to the guest washroom. Frank grunts as Foggy makes his way to wash up for the second time that night. God , he’s just to tired .
Foggy Nelson cannot catch a break because, just under an hour later, he hears panicked whimpering from his living room. Groggily, he gets up and seeks out the source.
He’s surprised to find that it’s just Frank, squirming in his sleep like he’s having a nightmare. No, Foggy knows he’s having a nightmare. Just before Foggy can shake him awake, though, Frank shoots up in confusion and fear. It takes a moment to locate himself and find Foggy’s face.
“You okay, dude?” Foggy asks, genuinely a little worried.
Frank, still breathing heavily, replies with a, “Yeah, yeah.” Then, quiter, “Sorry.” He gets up to leave when Foggy grabs him by the wrist, light as a feather so Frank can break free if he wants.
“Hey, get some more sleep, buddy. You really seem like you need it.” Then, Foggy sighs, because he’s really tired and not thinking when he makes his next suggestion. “Want to share the bed? I know from when I used to have nightmares having another body near you can be comforting.” Then, Foggy’s brain catches up and he can’t just rescind the offer because it’s in the air now. “It doesn’t have to be weird or anything. I used to do it with Matt all the time back in college when he had trouble sleeping.”
Frank quirks an eyebrow but wordlessly makes his way over to the bedroom. Foggy figures it has something to do with the fact that he hasn’t had much comfort since the whole… Castle Incident occurred and maybe Foggy thinks Frank might be more than a little lonely and left without the chance to properly grieve. Foggy doesn’t know. He just knows that he really needs to sleep and Frank also probably needs to sleep, and that Frank’s probably had more than enough experience sharing space with other men from his days in the military.
What he doesn’t count on is that the prospect of sleeping next to the Punisher is kind of terrifying and decidedly surreal. The body beside him has ended countless lives. He has seen shit Foggy can’t begin to imagine. Is dealing with an emotional burden Foggy can never fully appreciate. These thoughts circle his mind, around and around, swirling together until sleep catches up to him.
Hours later, way into mid-morning according to the clock on his wall, Foggy is awoken by a rapid knocking at his door. He reaches for his phone by his bedside and realizes with a curse that he hadn’t plugged it in last night. No juice. Annoyed, he starts to charge it.
“Foggy?” calls a panicked voice. “Foggy? It’s Matt. Foggy? I know you’re awake in there!”
It’s a few sluggish moments before the door opens and Matt stumbles inside. “Oh, thank God,” Matt says moving his hands all over his friend’s shoulders and face to make sure he’s unharmed.
“Sorry, I overslept and my phone didn’t charge,” Foggy fills in. Matt begins to look relieved but registers something else amiss.
“Why is Frank Castle in your bed?” Matt hisses.
“He was having nightmares."
Matt’s face goes on a long journey before settling on fussy displeasure. "Please don’t tell me we like Frank now. He kills people, Foggy.”
“Hey, you’re the one who wanted to take his case way back when. If I like him now it’s because you liked him first.” Matt’s frown deepens.
Before he can retort, however, the man in question walks out of the bedroom with as much casualness as his militaristic form can achieve. “Morning, Red,” he greets without any warmth, before walking into the bathroom and taking an audible piss.
It’s only once the sink starts running that either Matt or Foggy find their voice again.
“What the fuck, Foggy,” Matt says in an accusatory tone.
“Hey, Matt, say what you will, I won’t apologize for helping a very, very messed up man get some sleep for once in his miserable life.” Foggy makes his way into the kitchen and pours himself a tall glass of water. “Besides, it’s not like we’re cuddling or anything.”
“So what exactly did you get into last night?”
“Ugh. let me wash up first and I can fill you in. Call Karen, too. She might want to be here for this.”
“So,” Foggy begins, when Matt, Karen, and Frank are seated on his couch. “Frank and I took a field trip to the brothel the other night.” Matt makes an impatient hum and Karen looks curiously between Frank and Foggy. He presses on. “And this is a bag of the substances that are served there.” Matt stands up.
“Foggy, you started hanging out with Castle yesterday , and here is a list of all the shit you’ve done since then:” Matt says, holding his fingers up to start counting on them. “Been involved in a shootout, been an accomplice committing arson, which was also tampering with a crime scene, purchased services at an illegal place of business, bought illicit substances at said place of business, and this morning I found you in bed with the fucking Punisher!”
“Hey!” Frank protests at the same time Karen exclaims, “What?!” with a mix of shock and amusement (because she was, inexplicably, the only one actually friends with everyone in the room).
“Okay, first of all, Matthew , that last one’s not even illegal. Second of all, how many counts of assault are we counting for you and your quest for justice, huh?” And Matt sits back down, looking even less settled. “Yeah, thought so, you dick.”
So Foggy tells them what went down, the new information they gathered. He also hands Matt the package so he could send it to one of his superhero buddies for analysis. Matt takes it like it’s a dirty diaper. (“Suck it up, Murdock,” Foggy orders. Matt scowls, but it looks more like a pout.)
“Okay, so what were you guys doing?” Foggy finally thinks to ask.
Karen grins, cracks her knuckles, and starts laying out a bunch of papers. “Well, I don’t know about Matt, but I did some research on similar cases where someone goes missing and shows up feral. You’d be surprised at what comes up. But, if we’re talking also about cases where that happens and it later also comes to light that they were doing shady stuff behind their families’ backs, also shamefully, very broad. The human race is a bit of a mess. Then I started sifting through all the cases where the behaviour was similar to Shaughnessy’s. You know, skin-picking, biting, scratching, clawing, the whole shebang. There was one other case in New York, seven years ago, where the guy was shot in the head by the time the police found him. No one followed up because turned out no one missed the guy. Thomas Sprink. Every other case I found is concentrated around one city near Shenzhen, China, like, 30 years ago.
“Funny thing is, no one found a connection, or I guess no one was looking, but I mapped out all the cases and in the middle of them was here,” she points to the centre of a map littered with red dots. “Which, when I looked at property records of the lot, was, incidentally, also a brothel at the time. I don’t have a list of everyone who worked there, but the landowner’s name was someone named Yi Gen, a Korean who immigrated to China in the 80s with only military records and no birth certificate.”
“So what, it’s like a human trafficking thing?” Foggy asks.
“Maybe. But maybe not. The building got destroyed in the late 80s when a bunch of women found out that their husbands were some of the clientele, who were, as we can guess, changed , so they couldn’t exactly support their families. There’s only one article about it, and it was in Chinese, and the Google translate feature isn’t the best, so that’s about all I got.”
And it’s so familiar, it has to be it.
“That sounds about right,” Foggy breathes, a little amazed. “It’s gotta be the manager at this place, too.” Then, he turns to face the last member of their little group. “Matt, what do you have for us?”
Matt sighs deeply. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I was trying to find a trail on the streets. I hit up the brothel, but nothing registered as particularly out of place. No one on the streets is talking about it. If it weren’t providing an illegal service, you’d think its record is squeaky clean. Nothing about any trafficking, nothing about any undue violence, nothing about scams or fraud.
“It seems everyone's just happy a potential competitor is out of the way in terms of New York's booming drug trade, and the rumours about berserker chemicals is still around, but no one’s caught any wind of it otherwise. I think the warehouse was just another arm of the business, to make its own product, I think. The manufacturers didn’t seem to be wanting to build an empire or anything, and no one else seemed too concerned about it. I’m sorry, guys. I really have nothing.”
“Hey,” Foggy comforts. “It’s not nothing. Maybe it's the absence of something, but that can be just as telling sometimes. Get the samples to Hank Pym or something. Look for anything weird. We might find something there.”
Matt sighs again, the wrinkles on his face exaggerating his frustration.
Nothing. Turns out it’s just regular old ganja and coka, Matt’s saying into the phone with real defeat a few days later. Which is fine. It’s a good thing there’s nothing new on the streets that might be potentially hazardous in unexpected ways. I should be a good thing to know they don’t need to be worried about biological warfare. Even knowing Shaughnessy might never be cured is a comfort because it means they can just stop trying. Except. Except.
Frank sours from his spot on Foggy’s bed. It’s a thing. He’s here a lot, now, actually. Occasionally, he takes naps while Foggy clacks away on this laptop from his bedroom chaise. One time early on in this whole friendship process, Frank told Foggy about a guy called Lieberman, but Foggy still isn’t sure if Frank slept with the guy’s wife or not and the whole thing seemed complicated because at this point both Frank and Lieberman were supposed to have died more than a handful of times between the two of them. Foggy maintains that having vigilante friends is just weird sometimes.
It’s usually Matt being all doom and gloom about this case because no matter who he beats up, he never finds anyone with any useful information. Whoever is behind this isn’t trying anything on anyone else’s turf, isn’t seeking to consolidate businesses, isn’t hiring any outside people for their dirty work, and there doesn't even seem to be a lot of dirty work. Whoever it is, they’re not working on the streets, which is what Matt tends to specialize in. It also isn’t helping that Matt may be starting to feel possessive of Foggy, who has been spending an increasing amount of time with Frank.
Frank, who sits up from the bed in dawning realization.
“Frank, we fucked up,” Foggy says plainly, putting his phone down.
“I heard,” he intones, devoid of any emotion.
“There wasn’t anything special about the drugs,” Foggy starts the thought.
“No one had to die," Frank finishes glumly. "I mean, they were still making drugs, Nelson. That's still illegal, last I checked." It feels like rationalizing. Foggy isn’t sure who for.
"Not for an empire or anything, by the looks of it. I mean, morally, Frank? They were non-violent offenders. No one would have gotten hurt if we didn't get involved." Foggy shakes his head clearing the thought of wasted lives from his brain. It had been days, and he had been ignoring the the mental images for the entirety of that time. Waiting for a calmer moment to process everything.
"Non-violent my ass. They tried to stick you. Everyone had guns. You could have died."
"But what if I hadn't stepped in? Isn’t it like an agitated wasp nest scenario?"
"Then someone else, eventually.” Frank tries. He’s frustrated, now. Despite it all, he still cares about the lives that disappear by his work, especially if they don't deserve to. “Why were you even there if it was all nothing?"
"A source. Matt found a source to corroborate that there was a lady who kept going to that warehouse. That she was the one who drove Shaughnessy when everything happened. There were rumours flying around that she was working on something big because her stuff sure as shit wasn't hitting the streets. Fuck. It's all a dead end. Unconfirmed evidence. I should have looked into it more.”
“No, you went in to look into it, we’re not blaming you for this,” Frank insists, intense and twitchy. "And it's not a dead end. We have a name. Yi. That manager. Your client left with her that day. And Yi, the one from China. They’ve got to be connected somehow." Something dark and remorseful flashes in his eyes, just barely noticeable.
Foggy sighs. He knows where this goes and he isn't all too happy about it. He never expected to become a regular at any seedy location, but that's the sort of hand you're dealt with sometimes. He became friends with Matt, after all, who turned out to be a superhero with vigilante tendencies. And Foggy thinks he just might be friends with Frank, who has surprisingly normal person tendencies now that his whole "quest for vengeance" thing seems satisfactorily resolved. It's the sort of risky life they teach you about in criminology 101. Hang out with dumbasses and become subject to their dumbassery.
"We're gonna go back," Frank states, standing up and heading to the door. "Right the fuck now. We gotta figure this out."
Foggy doesn’t even hesitate to throw on a sensible coat, thankful that he’s in more than just his jammies this time.
The drive out is very tense and neither of them say much to each other. They're parked in some lot a few blocks over, amidst other cars that give them a little shelter. As soon as the van is off, Frank is making to head out the door when a hand on his arm stops him.
"Are you okay?" Foggy asks, studying the other man for any sign of distress. But Frank always seems at least mildly distressed and Foggy doesn't really know what he's looking for.
"Yeah, kid. Let's just get some answers,” Frank says, rough. He’s always rough, but there’s something like remorse or guilt there that makes Foggy halt a little.
“You didn’t know-” Foggy starts.
“Yeah, but I could have. I was sloppy. But I’m okay, Nelson. It’s not the first time someone’s died because I was sloppy.” Frank gives Foggy’s hand a quick squeeze to shove him off before heading out the door.
They enter the building again, and not much has changed in the week since they’d been gone.
“Back already?” the receptionist asks, smiling pleasantly.
“Uh, yes,” Foggy answers. He thinks for a second and remembers their backstory. Internally, he cringes. He looks to Frank, who just shrugs. Experimentally, he takes Foggy’s hand, and it’s very definitely weird. Neither of them pull away, though.
“Same as last time?”
They wait, both on the bed this time, both rigid as planks. The bed sharing is not that weird, per se. They’ve shared a bed. But they haven’t really touched very much. It's always for some purpose, to get the other to go somewhere, to look up, to jostle. They aren't easy and friendly like they would be if the relationship were a little warmer. When Foggy wakes up from nights with Frank, it's always to Frank either awake and gone or asleep like some cartoon, with his arms schooled deliberately at his side. Sometimes a stray arm or leg would make it onto Frank, but those were rare and awkward occasions that neither of them ever properly brought up.
Now, they're leaned in relatively close, just almost touching and tense because they both need comfort but don’t know how to ask for it.
"What the fuck are we doing here, Frank? Did I miss the part where we had a plan?" Foggy hisses, facing the other man.
"We could just play along," Frank suggests, like an idiot.
"How far, Frank? Until someone starts suspecting something? Until someone's dick gets touched? I am not paying for you to get laid, man."
Frank looks at Foggy, considering. "What if-" he starts, and suddenly, Frank's hand is on his shoulder, and it's something different than mere camaraderie because the touch isn’t fleeting. It’s something more substantial. Foggy, who doesn't really understand what's going on but he starts to lean in, because there's something in the mood that suggests it's okay.
"Am I interrupting something?" a vaguely familiar voice calls from behind them, cheery as ever. She’s more clothed than the last time they’d seen her. A red dress of sorts that Foggy can’t seem to figure out how to put on.
"Oh, hi! Lil, right?" Foggy flushes as his motormouth starts with some meaningless small talk. And the moment is gone, just like that.
"No, don't stop on my watch. Just let me know if you want me to join you or anything," and her voice is full of genuine affection and good humor, oblivious to the several shades of crisis both men are experiencing. "You guys are hilarious, and it would be an honour if you guys came here more often."
"I'm glad," Foggy says, because how else do you respond to that?
"And I'm really sorry, but I'm not sure if I can offer the package again. Apparently our supplier burned down a while ago, and we’re fresh out of stock." Foggy and Frank both wince, but Lil goes on. "Yeah, very unfortunate. They think about forty people died or something. I think they said there was a wayward match? Some freak accident, I guess. But I don't know, it's like… who do we go to for a proper investigation? The police? I have to laugh." She chuckles a little at herself, then seems to remember where she is. “Fuck, sorry guys. I know folks don’t come here to talk business. Or about the legality of this whole place.”
"But it shouldn't matter!" Foggy presses. "They're totally unrelated infractions, the ars-potential arson,” Foggy corrects himself with a grimace. “Everyone deserves some peace of mind, regardless of where they stand with the law!"
Lil startles at his conviction.
Frank sighs softly from behind them, absently rubbing circles on Foggy's back. Again, another touch. "He's a lawyer," Frank explains.
"Lush," she responds dazedly, then shakes it off a moment later. "What are you doing here? You're not, like, conducting an investigation or anything, are you? Because you seem like nice people, but if you try anything funny, I'm gonna have to do something about it."
"Listen, if I confess, I can get disbarred, so, no, revealing this place isn't exactly my first instinct. I came here once before, and I didn’t report it then. So boom. Intent to commit a crime right there. Mutually assured destruction."
See, it's not exactly lying to omit the fact that this was an investigation because it was thoroughly for vigilante purposes, which are also notably illegal.
Lil regains her facade. "So do you guys still want to try something? Or was this entire conversation a bit of a boner kill?"
"The latter," Foggy says, far too quickly, because he will take any out to avoid having sex with Frank "The Punisher" Castle in these exact circumstances. "Sorry."
"No, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything that made this a bummer. Do you want a refund? At this rate, I don't think we'll ever get to fuck." She sounds genuinely rueful.
Foggy doesn't think of that as a particularly bad thing, but he's gotta keep up appearances. "No, no. It's fine. Maybe we can hang out for a bit, see if the mood changes. And even if it doesn't, you're more than decent company."
Lil seems very grateful. They order milkshakes again. No drugs, this time.
"How is Mother Yi about this mess?"
Lil sighs deeply. "Honestly? I think she's very torn about it. She didn't like that guy who went crazy. Like hated him with a passion, actually, once she found out what he was doing. But she also doesn't like how messy it's gotten. The guy had a family, you know? It's like. Maybe he had that shit coming to him because he was a piece of shit, but I just keep thinking about how he had a family and they definitely don't deserve to be involved in this mess. I hope there’s someone looking out for them, too, I guess.
“I don’t know. Everything's just unfortunate, isn’t it? First some guy starts running amok, and then her supplier burns down? I think she’s just going through it.”
“I mean, if you guys ever need help with anything, I know a pretty decent lawyer,” Foggy offers, both out of empathy and reflex. Then, he remembers the conflict of interest and frowns at himself. Lil just laughs.
“Yeah, I’ll definitely be calling up the type of lawyer that frequents places like this. No offense. It’s just… like you said. Mutually assured destruction. I mean, it’s a fine gesture but it’s not like we can just ask for money since our drug factory wasn’t exactly insured. Thanks, though, Frank. Maybe I’ll let Mom know about you guys. You seem like good people.”
And Frank’s been tense for most of the conversation. He’s actually always tense, but Foggy suspects that this whole “following up on a shootout” thing has been a bit difficult for him on an emotional level. That, and Frank’s probably not used to socializing just for the sake of it. So, also out of empathy and reflex, Foggy reaches over and squeezes Frank’s knee lightly. Frank doesn’t relax at all, but he does grunt a little in acknowledgement, so it’s not an entirely lost gesture.
“Your boy doesn’t talk much does he?” Lil comments, trying to lighten the mood a little, bring it back to more domestic things.
Foggy, for his part, nods, figuring out a strategy to approach this.
“He’s had a tough go of things. Even before we met. God, he actually scared the shit out of me when we first met.”
Frank does a thing he sometimes does when he’s trying to charm people. He chuckles a little and looks down and away. Frank’s smiles are rare and beautiful, but they’re also usually fake. “Yeah,” Frank agrees. “But we’re better nowadays, huh, kid?”
“Sure are, buddy.” Foggy pats Frank’s leg again, something comfortable, now. Foggy figures the guy needs some friends in his corner. Frank reaches out and holds Foggy’s hand. Maybe it’s part of this act they have going on, but it still makes Foggy think about the comfortable, tactile friendship he has with Matt and Karen. Little bumps on the shoulder, clinging to each other singing obnoxiously into the quiet night sky, and full-body hugs when the mood calls for it. It hits Foggy how starved for affection Frank must be since most touches he gets these days leave him bruised or worse.
“Aw,” Lil calls from beside them. “You guys are sweet. Are you sure you really need me here?”
“We like your company. I don’t know. Last time, we came here kind of… spontaneously? We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into, but now we do just like your company,” Foggy says, honestly.
“Do you think we can talk to Mother Yi?” Frank asks, a little unsure. “Just to let her know she’ll be okay.”
“Ah, shit, you guys are really sweet,” Lil sighs. “I also mean, like, shit. I wasn’t supposed to say anything about any of this. You know, it’s not the best for business. But hell yeah. If we’re just about done here, I can show you out.” Foggy checks the time. Yes, he should have been sleeping way too long ago. As with most nights.
“If you wouldn’t mind. Thank you,” Foggy says, standing up and stretching, the fatigue is starting to set in, and holy shit does your body start getting tired after your teenage days.
The three of them exit and make it to the front door. Lil hugs the receptionist for a second, before taking her hand and kissing it apologetically.
“Sorry, Mom.” she starts. “I know I wasn’t supposed to talk about the business with clients or whatever, but these guys are okay, and it just sort of slipped out.” The receptionist, Mother Yi, Foggy now realizes, turns to them with a smile on her face.
“Oh, yeah-” Foggy begins to say.
“I’m- We’re really sorry about everything that’s happened.” Frank apologizes earnestly, significantly. “With your supplier. And the guy who went berserk a while ago. I understand he was a regular. Must have really been something.”
“Not the worst I’ve seen. But thank you,” she says softly, genuinely. She’s a little terrifying for it. “And thank you for business,” she finishes, with a wink and a secretive stink eye when she turns back to Lil, who Foggy suspects will only be getting a light scolding at worst. Lil walks them out the door, presumably to prolong the inevitable.
“You gonna be okay in there?” Foggy asks.
“Yeah, it’s not the worst I’ve done. She never really does anything. Just gives us some jansoree and lets us go. We’re kinda lucky here. We get a lot of freedom and support compared to some others in the business, I guess.”
“Jansoree?” Foggy asks.
“It’s like, Korean for nagging or something.” Ah. “Mom says some words sometimes, and we sort of picked up on some things over the years. Anyway, I should get going. And you, too. There’s nothing wrong with not being into weird shit. Go home, make sweet vanilla love or whatever it is you people do and get some sleep. If I never see you guys here again, I give you my congratulations.”
And just like that, they’re ushered out into the midnight street, and their feet are taking them towards the car.
“They seem like good people.” Frank concludes, darkly. He's seated at the wheel but not moving to turn on the engine.
“And breaking the law. I don’t know, wasn’t your whole schtick killing criminals without mercy?” Foggy prods, lost and trying to follow Frank’s thought process.
“Everyone’s done some fucked up shit. You what you do to survive. But sometimes people are vile and deserve to die, and you know fucked up when you see it. These people aren’t it."
“You think I like killing?” Frank responds, bitterly. “You think it’s just fun for me? I’m doing what I can to help people. Ask Red. You think when it comes down to it, everyone’s just gonna see reason? You think people are going to, what, confess out of the goodness of their hearts and sit their asses in prison until they get better at not hurting people? Some people are scum. And some people get in the way of people like me taking care of it. Either way, people like me are taking care of it.”
“So how do you tell? The difference between an irredeemable piece of shit and someone just trying to live their life?”
Frank really considers this one. Stares for a while into a starless sky for a few seconds over it.
“It’s about whether they like to see others suffering or not.”
“And where do you fall on that spectrum?”
Frank frowns and doesn’t answer. The drive back to Foggy’s is silent and contemplative.
The sky remains without stars, and the ugly grey delivers them, eventually, back to the familiar territory of Foggy’s apartment. Frank parks in a partially empty lot a few block away, and when they get out, the grey concrete surrounds them until they find the pale yellow light of Foggy’s apartment building.
The atmosphere is too antsy, which is why Foggy offers his bed for the night. He’s not particularly afraid of what Frank will do to himself or others, at least, not now. But, at this point, they’re at least friends and Foggy knows how to support friends when they’ve been through something upsetting. And it’s usually a fair bet that Frank’s upset.
Frank broods all the way up the elevator, but it’s just the two of them. So it’s fine, because no one’s around to be scared.
Foggy’s washed up and dozing in bed when he hears the faucet turn off. He waits for the inevitable dip in the bed. It comes, but it’s a lot closer than it usually is. And when he opens his eyes, Frank is studying him, and the gaze is just… intense. Foggy finds himself drawn to it, but he pushes the thought away because it’s not what Frank needs from him right now.
“What’s up?” Foggy asks, grasping for casualness.
“You’re really just a good person, aren’t you, Nelson?” Foggy hums, agreeing. He closes his eyes again and smiles a little. Sure, if this is how he receives his first genuine compliment from Frank, so be it. Then, there are tender fingers on his temple, moving his hair out of the way. The air is soft and thick between them. When Frank settles down beside him, Foggy drags him closer and falls asleep to the feeling of Frank’s forehead on his lips.
Frank sleeps like a log sometimes. It’s probably the fatigue from, well, everything. But Foggy’s glad for him when he can get some decent shut eye. Nowadays, Foggy’s missing sleep, too.
It’s just past 2:30 in the morning when there’s a quick tap at Foggy’s window and an idiot in red is waving to him from his fire escape. Foggy rolls off of the other man, who thankfully doesn’t even stir, and answers the window.
“Hey, Matt,” he whispers.
“Well, we found out that the manager’s name is Mother Yi. She seems young, actually, so that’s got to be a thing. She’s also the receptionist at the brothel. I think she was the one driving the car when Shaughnessy’s whole episode happened. Oh, and she doesn’t seem to want anything too grand. She doesn’t seem to want to grow the business or anything, so no wonder you haven’t been finding anything on her.”
“No, I mean how have you been? I know you never really wanted to get involved in my shit and now you’ve been out in the field three times just for this,” Daredevil elaborates. He doesn’t come inside, but he leans on the windowsill.
“I’ve been how I’ve been,” Foggy answers, honestly. “I don’t mind it, actually. I mean, you know I’m not exactly as brave as you are, but I don’t mind feeling like I’m helping.
“But I don’t know about this, Matt. Is this case too convoluted? I’ve been lying to the people at the brothel. I’ve actually committed arson. And I’m pretty sure our client is just some sleazy racist cheater who left his family poor by spending all their money behind their backs.”
“Fair. I’ll consider it, Counselor. But what about Yi?" Matt counters lightly. "Don’t you think there’s something fishy about it all? I mean, if she doesn’t exactly match the description of Yi Gen. And if there’s an entity that we know can make people lose their minds and go violent in the streets, shouldn’t we be looking into it regardless of our case content?"
“Point taken. Counterpoint: I don’t think I want to be defending this guy anymore, even though I still think we shouldn’t be depriving people of their right minds as a punishment, and it’s still a mismanagement of justice. But I keep not liking what I find out about him. I’ve met Yi twice and she doesn’t seem particularly evil. Actually, maybe you should go talk to her. You know. In the suit, if you know what I mean.”
“I’m not going to beat someone up if you’re not sure about it, Foggy.”
“Yeah, but she might be more inclined to talk about these things. More than if you came as Matt Murdock, Attorney at Law, or any other guise you can come up with to be, like, a client there.”
“Is that how you’ve been operating? Like some duplicitous investigator? Have you been learning from Jones? Because she ends up detained a lot. I don’t know if you’re the prison type.” Matt comments, a trace of humour in his weary voice as he gestures to Frank Castle’s sleeping form with his chin.
“Funny, Matt.” Foggy states dryly, in lieu of laughing. “I’m, just. So tired. But yeah. I think Mother Yi’s our next lead. Let’s look into her.”
“Noted. Thanks, Foggy.”
There’s a beat where Foggy expects Matt to leave, but he doesn’t.
“So, you and Castle have been pretty chummy lately." It feels accusatory, somehow.
“Yeah. He needs someone. I think he’s just lonely,” Foggy’s feeling defensive, but he refuses to come across that way.
“Are you guys together?” Matt asks, casually, like they’re in middle school asking about playground crushes, and not like they’re talking about a serial killer who is asleep on Foggy’s bed. Surreal.
“No. I think he just needs someone to look after him.” It’s the most honest he could be at this point, because even Foggy doesn’t know what’s going on.
“It doesn’t have to be you. He’s not- he’s not a good guy, Foggy,” Matt warns, lowering his voice even further. But even then, he’s not becoming upset over the prospect, which Foggy counts as a win.
“I think he’s been trying. And if I can take care of him, I will. We’re friends now. I think.”
Matt nods, turns an ear towards Frank’s still form, and finally pulls away. “Good night, Fogs.”
“Night, Matt. Get some sleep. I’ll see you later.”
“I won’t,” Matt replies ambiguously with a crooked little grin that used to be insufferable.
Foggy opens his mouth to respond, but Matt’s already vaulting off the fire escape and swinging on his billy club with a casual wave over his shoulder.
Foggy turns back to the bed and shuffles under the covers. Finally, Frank murmurs something and pulls Foggy close. Frank’s eyes are bleary, but open.
“Hey, what’s up?” Foggy whispers toward Frank’s sleepy face.
“Nothing. This okay?” Frank shifts closer so that they’re nose to nose. Foggy nods because he doesn’t trust his voice right now. Frank kisses him, briefly, fleetingly, sleepily, such that it could be ignored as a weird dream once they wake up in the morning.
They’re both running on the vestiges of sleep, but Foggy’s suddenly feeling really alert. He kisses back briefly, just because he feels like he should do that before he forgets.
“I’m really not a good person, Nelson.” There’s the soft horror at the realization that Frank overheard that conversation. But at the end of the day, Foggy believes his own words, and Frank genuinely needs a friendly force in his life.
“Go to sleep, Frank. I’ll make you something nice in the morning,” Foggy tells him, pressing another kiss to his nose.
“I’m holding you to that,” comes a yawned reply.
The next day happens to be a weekend. So, after a quick breakfast comprised of waffles and oatmeal, Foggy decides to go back to sleep while Frank apologetically lets him know that there are errands to be run, people to see.
Foggy needs a break, so he spends the day focusing on his neglected housework, cooking a large and semi-healthy lunch, and watching trash romcoms until it’s an appropriate time to start dinner, then does not make dinner. He decidedly does not look at the case file or the backlog of other paperwork that’ll be there for him Monday morning. He does spend 20 minutes catching up on the news, but he lets himself switch the TV off after the weather.
He’s been lying down on his couch, scrolling through banal personality quizzes for the past half hour when there’s a knock at his door. Before Foggy can answer, though, there’s a jingling of metal that probably means Frank’s sneaking in by lockpicking again.
“Stop stripping all my locks,” Foggy scolds lightly as Frank walks in and heads to the kitchen counter.
“I wasn’t. I took your keys this time. Figured you wouldn’t want to go out today.” Frank throws said keys at the other man, who catches it gracelessly.
“Oh.” Foggy doesn’t know whether to be angry, indignant, or grateful. It’s a common feeling around Frank.
“I brought dinner. Gyro okay?” Frank says, gruffly as he sets two plastic bags on the counter and starts unwrapping.
They eat watching the television. Some HBO drama that neither of them have any context for. When Foggy’s up and collecting the trash, Frank’s gaze starts to linger. The larger man follows Foggy into the kitchen and all but pins him to the counter.
“Did we kiss last night?” he asks, almost shyly, which is ridiculous because he’s also like 200 pounds of muscled rage.
“Yes,” Foggy answers, watching Frank's lips.
“Do you want to do it again?”
So they do. And they also fuck. It’s not bad. Actually, it’s quite good, seeing as how Foggy hadn’t been with anyone since he and Marci broke up again a few months back and Frank seems to always be grieving his wife. It’s kind of a personality trait at this point. Frank is slowly making peace with it, or at least Foggy hopes. Otherwise this whole scenario would feel a lot more weird. And it is weird, but maybe it’s because it’s unfamiliar. Maybe it’s also the fact that Foggy has a lot of nebulous and unformed feelings about Frank. Neither of them cry, though, so Foggy counts it as an overall win.
“Anyone get back to you on the Yi situation?” Foggy asks when they’re done and clean.
“Not tonight. I’ll tell you everything tomorrow. Promise.”
They’re lying next to each other, washed and in comfortable clothes (both in Foggy’s pyjamas. His shirts don’t fit Frank, though, who is a tank.) Foggy shifts to sleep when Frank shuffles around him and starts getting up. “What’s up?”
“Stuff to do tonight. I’ll be back by morning, okay?”
“Good luck.” Foggy yawns. He receives a kiss to his temple and Frank is out the door.
Foggy tries to focus hard. Matt tried to teach him once so that Foggy can have a better understanding of what sensory information is really like without sight. He listens to Frank’s familiar footfall shuffle about in his apartment before it heads out the door and Foggy hears the lock turn. It’s the last thing he hears before drifting off to the thought of getting a spare key sometime.
There's a loud knocking on Foggy's window later that night. Agitated and fast. As soon as the window is open, Matt is crawling inside. Before he says anything, though, he pauses at his spot by the sill for a second, taking in the room and making a few connections.
"I can't believe you're sleeping with Castle!" Matt curses as he makes his way into the bedroom proper, tracking dirt onto Foggy's carpet.
"We're consenting adults and what we do in the privacy of-" Foggy starts, already defensive, but he receives a gloved hand to his mouth.
Matt frowns. "You know what? Fine. I don't care. Okay, I care. How could you? He’s like my nemesis, Foggy!” Matt whines, a little petulantly. It shouldn’t be funny, but he’s wearing red fetish gear and acting like a cliquey high schooler, and Foggy does find it funny, if only because this is his best friend of a decade telling him who not to date like he isn't someone who beats up baddies by moonlight.
“‘Nemesis’? What are we? Comic book characters? Besides, you know him. He’s alright, sometimes.”
Matt pauses, calculating how to approach this conversation. He evidently comes up short because all he says is, "Stop putting yourself in harm's way, Foggy. I don't know what I'd do if I lost you. Frank is dangerous." It speaks volumes that Matt feels okay with that amount of sentimental honesty. It also speaks loudly that he sounds genuinely distraught.
"So are you, and you're my best friend, buddy. By the way, this is how it feels when you go out to get beat up."
"But I'm helping people! You're just getting laid!"
"Fair point. But what if I just like getting laid, Matty?" Foggy's not trying to be serious at all right now. The whole situation is ridiculous, and he shouldn't do it the honour of being taken seriously. The Daredevil, face half covered, gapes.
"Nothing else to say to defend yourself?" The man in red finally settles upon, his jaw not easing its angry tension.
"Nope. Other than that he's genuinely not a bad guy and that he's my friend now and that I care about his well being."
Matt pouts. “Alright, but you tell me the instant you want out.”
Matt shakes his head and makes a gesture like he's about to pray, face screwed up in consternation.
"Were you here to tell me something?" Foggy asks when Matt heads over to the window.
Matt gives out a bone-shaking sigh. "I'm going out with Frank tonight, seeing what Yi's all about. Now that he’s fucking you, though, he’s first line."
Foggy sighs. “Matty, watch his back for me, or so help me, God- ”
“Alright, alright. Geez. I remember when you used to fuss over me like that.”
“I’ve learned my lesson with you because you're hopeless.” Foggy pats his cheek and Matt seems offended for a second. “Obviously, don’t get hurt, either, you dickhead.” Foggy amends. Matt smiles and pats his friend on the shoulder.
The Daredevil leaves by way of window, like always. This time, he’s slow enough for Foggy to hear a world-weary “Jesus Christ, what the fuck?” escape his lips before he’s airborne.
Frank, true to his word, is back by morning. He’s also sporting a black eye, which is concerning.
“Shit, Frank, what happened?” Foggy asks, bolting towards the other man and reaching over towards the bruise, stopping just shy of touching skin. Frank actually smirks, batting away Foggy’s fingers and making neat strides toward the living room, which remains a mess with paper and string.
“Your partner gave me a warning on your behalf. But, more to the point, Karen found some things out the other day.”
Frank hands him a huge folder that he’d been hiding in his jacket, tucked in the front of his pants because evidently, bags aren’t vigilante-friendly attire.
And Foggy knows immediately what he’s talking about. “It’s Yi.” There’s a grainy, washed out photo of a familiar face in South Korean military regalia. Her hair is short, and she’s carrying herself in a decidedly more masculine manner. But there’s something about her face that’s very, very familiar.
“Holy shit. What does this mean?”
“Met up with Murdock last night to find out.”
So the breakdown goes something like this, according to Karen and Murdock (mostly Karen; she’s really the brains of this operation):
Mother Yi was once Geun Lee, a Korean enlisted in the military circa 1980. Forced into prostitution post-service for coming out and fleeing eventually to China to start a new life with a new name. Only, something must have happened because Frank had just apparently seen her fight Daredevil by opening up the entire ground and summoning some "demon-looking son of a bitch". She also apparently has magic fists.
“Red says it’s the Hand. She must have made some deal with the Hand."
“Shit,” Foggy breathes.
Only, she didn’t want to kill anyone, apparently. She doesn’t have a fighter’s aura, but Foggy could have told anyone that.
“Did she recognize you?” Foggy asks.
“She didn’t see me. I was on the roof.”
“Okay. That’s okay.”
“Karen’s going to ask her some things. As a journalist.”
“Think she’ll talk? I mean, she’s not exactly the most legal person in New York right now. I’m guessing anonymity is important to her.”
“We gotta see what this is all about.”
“Then what? Are you gonna kill my client?”
Frank pauses to consider. “I’m trying not to do this shit anymore,” he confesses. “But I don’t know if there’s anything for me to do but putting assholes out of commission.”
Foggy reaches over the rest of the couch and squeezes the calloused and scabbed hand resting between them. “We’ll find you something.”
Frank doesn’t smile. “Maybe.” Frank squeezes back, just slightly, then breathes out. “We’re escorting Karen tonight. In case things go south.”
Of course Foggy readily offers to tag along. Of course he’s more than a little terrified at the prospect.
The thing is, yes, this is a highly illegal sort of operation. But isn’t what he’s been doing also wildly illegal? Aren’t they all doing illegal things constantly? Isn’t Foggy’s whole vocation trying to justify things that he thinks the law should be lenient towards? Isn’t that just vigilantism with extra steps?
Foggy doesn’t even have to stretch his mind to come up with a humanizing defense of Yi. When it comes down to it, she wasn’t even particularly violent. Only as self defense, and that’s fully allowed even within the confines of the law. Isn’t it worse to seek it out like Matt or Frank? To leave people bloody or dead on the street, regardless of what their actions have been in the past? To what degree does context matter?
Is he a bad person to have been associating with Matt and Frank this whole time, knowing that they’re beating people up and making use of actual weapons?
And if intention is a factor, isn’t Yi’s ostensible endeavour to provide labourers a safe place to work inherently a goal as noble as any vigilante’s goal to reduce harm in whatever way they deem appropriate?
And where does that leave Foggy if his client is a man that even criminals have decided is at least a little scummy?
Foggy stews for a long while in these samesuch thoughts, doing menial housework to try to keep his mind off of the worst of it while Frank sits on the couch cleaning his guns, because these are the people Foggy associates with now. And Foggy finds that even this, being domestic while a serial killer sits in his place of residence, he can justify. Perhaps law school was a mistake.
It’s just easing into the dark nighttime when Frank is letting Matt into the window, because he doesn’t seem to know what a door is these days.
“Ready to head out?” He asks them, stretching a little in place. Foggy inhales audibly.
The three of them are on the roof across the street. Close enough for Matt to jump down or Frank to aim one of his colossal guns at any sign of danger, but not close enough to be noticed. Foggy’s feeling decidedly useless and also a little underdressed seeing as how one of his companions is sporting a very unsubtle logo on his chest and the other is decked out in red leather. They watch on as Karen walks into the building, admittedly looking a little illicit.
“Narrate for us, Matty,” Foggy requests, bouncing on his feet a few minutes after he watches her go in. It’s infuriating not being able to tell what’s going on.
“Oh,” Matt startles from his concentration. Obviously, he isn’t used to doing this sort of thing with friends. “They were just greeting each other. Karen’s talking to Yi about how she’s helping with the Shaughnessy case. Wow, she’s really going for it. Full on honesty. She’s, um, she’s just being honest right now about her work and why she's there? Asking if Yi has anything to say about Shaughnessy's character, how many times he’s come here. That sort of thing.”
He continues to narrate. Occasionally, he pauses just to listen and take in the conversation. None of it’s hostile at all. According to Matt, Yi is more than willing to condemn the actions and character of their client, as long as she can remain anonymous. Foggy’s relieved to discover that Karen doesn’t seem to be in any immediate danger.
“Oh, shit, she just asked Yi about the picture. It’s kind of tense in there. I’m going in closer,” Matt informs them. He disappears off of the roof and Foggy barely feels like he’s finished blinking before he catches a red smudge in the alley opposite them, ready to pounce. Frank is also climbing down the fire escape of the building, guns neat and unobtrusive on his towering form. Slower than Matt, but still very powerful and measured. Foggy, not wanting to be dead weight, starts to make his way down at a sensible pace.
He watches from the last few flights as Yi is escorts Karen out, and they seem pretty amicable. Unfortunately, Frank is also, on the ground, caught in the middle of the empty lot, obviously armed.
Foggy takes in the scene in slow motion as Yi’s eyes land on Frank.
She sounds disappointed, scared, and more than a little betrayed when she utters a broken, “Pete?” to Frank before he can explain anything.
In an instant, Yi transforms into something else. Her eyes and fists alight with an eerie blue glow as she shoves Karen back into the building and locks the door.
Yi is a clumsy fighter for sure; she’s been to the military, so her form isn't bad, but she doesn't seem used to proper martial arts, and even Foggy can tell that she’s hesitating when she strikes. Frank tries for his gun, but the bullets don’t seem to be doing much as they bounce off her form and land lightly on the concrete. When Matt runs towards them, Yi snarls angrily at him, and the ground opens up. What appear to be tendrils made of darkness bind him and immobilize him on the ground.
She moves like she’s made of stone, heavy and uncontrolled against the gravity, as she pins Frank down between her knees and starts punching in earnest. Frank doesn’t make to pull away, only blocking the strikes to the weakest parts of his face.
Still, fist and palm land hard at Frank’s nose and eyes and she just doesn’t stop. It’s relentless, like crashing waves in the storm. Foggy can’t feel his legs, but he finds that he has somehow made it just a few yards away from the commotion. He can hear it now, the crunching of bones under Yi, Karen's shouting and banging from the other side of the door.
Then, when Frank is definitely unconscious, Yi's hands start glowing white and they land, palms flat, on either side of Frank’s face, and he screams.
“Stop!” Foggy shouts from across the back alley lot. His legs are weak and slow as he tries to move forward. “Please, stop!” When they meet eyes, her face goes even angrier.
“Don’t bring violence to my house!” she cries. And she’s really crying, as Foggy realizes now, her face crumpled and streaming angry tears.
“We won’t! I promise!” Foggy answers, empty hands up.
From behind her, Karen finally works the door open. Her hands are bloody, and Foggy suspects it has something to do with the knife and busted lock she’s holding. Foggy watches as she takes off her coat and wraps it around Mother Yi, who looks up and finally, finally , lets go of Frank.
Foggy rushes over to his side, but he’s already unconscious. Thankfully, he's still breathing.
"Mother Yi,” Foggy calls, cautiously making his way over to her, where Karen is calming her down with whispered words of assurance and a tight hug.
“Why do you come here?” she asks, her glow dissipating as if it were never there.
“We wanted to check up on you. I’m sorry. Oh god, I’m so sorry.” Foggy falls at her feet. “We’re representing Shaughnessy. The guy from a while back, and we think he’s super seedy. I don’t know what to do with him because I don’t want to hurt you, but God, he has a family.”
Slowly, she reaches out a hand, and pats Foggy’s hair. “I believe you.”
They’re invited inside, and they get a few looks from the workers and a handful of clients who are in the lounge. They must have heard everything. Foggy is carrying an unconscious Frank on his shoulders, and Karen and Yi doing the same for Daredevil.
They drop Frank and Matt off in one of the unused rooms in the back, and Foggy and Karen follow Yi into her office. It’s really more of a closet space with a desk and various pictures of Yi's employees. Foggy recognizes Lil with an arm wrapped around Yi, throwing up a peace sign. They seem to be out on a picnic.
Yi pulls out a first aid kit, which looks regrettably well-used, and begins cleaning up Karen’s hands as the pair take a seat on the neat wooden desk.
“Explain, now. Please,” Yi demands, gesturing for Foggy to sit down.
“Okay,” Foggy says, dazedly, taking in his surroundings. I’m Foggy Nelson, from Nelson and Murdock, Attorneys at Law.” Yi stiffens. “Sorry. We’re not trying to prosecute you or anything. We’re defense attorneys. We, uh, represent good people who have been taken advantage of by the law.”
“We’re not networking, Foggy,” Karen scolds, but she’s smiling a little. She always gets gooey with the spiel. She once told him it makes her feel all righteous.
“Well, a few weeks ago, we were asked to take the Shaughnessy case. The one where the man was hurting people on the street. The family couldn’t afford reparations or anything, and we thought it’d be a pretty open and shut case, we’d just have to prove that he wasn’t acting in his right mind, and that whatever happened to him was temporary. We wanted him to be able to come home eventually and not be hospitalized for the foreseeable future, which led us to you. Unfortunately, he turned out to be an absolute dickhead who was spending money at your, uh, establishment without the family’s knowledge.”
Yi nods, comprehending. “Ah. So you wanted to see what caused it.”
“Yes. Well, if we’re in the spirit of honesty, I also have to tell you that we heard a rumour on the streets that it was your cocaine-”
“So you burn down my warehouse with forty of my workers inside,” she flashes blue for a second, before she breathes out, steadying.
“Sorry,” Foggy says, because there’s no excuse for the loss of lives. Then, "wait, you're your own supplier?"
Yi nods. "Good for business, extra money. But other people too messy," she says, gesturing vaguely. She reaches inside her miniature fridge beside the desk and hands Karen an ice pack. “You are journalist, right?"
“Um, yes!” She answers, smiling. “I mean, I used to be, but I still have connections to the Bulletin. I write an occasional piece from time to time.”
Yi stands up and picks up some photos from around the room. Foggy counts thirty eight.
“Publish their names. Show their faces,” Yi requests, handing her a neat stack. She also rifles through her files on a cabinet behind her. “Here. Names of everyone working that day.”
“Of course,” Karen replies, resting a hand on Yi’s momentarily. They nod at each other in acknowledgement.
Yi looks to Foggy, “What do you want?” she asks, sadly.
“I don’t know. I thought I knew. But now? I just want to protect you guys, somehow. If that’s okay. You clearly care about these people. And it’s not like you’re doing anything without people’s consent, so I can’t say I have any moral hang ups.”
“How you gonna do that?”
“I don’t know,” Foggy sighs. “I don’t know. You have to understand, I’m a lawyer. I could be disbarred for just being here.” He crumples in on himself, feeling wired and ashamed. Lost. “What do you need?”
“Nothing. I am very good manager. And you are coward." It's snide, but oddly still affectionate, even despite it all.
“I’m so sorry for everything,” Foggy says. He thinks it may be some sort of mantra for this conversation. He can’t say it enough.
“I have seen many people die,” Yi tell him, heavy and dark. “Grief does not get easier.”
“Get out, please. I do not want to see you again.”
“That’s fair. Thank you.”
Foggy gets up to leave. Karen, though, stays behind for a few minutes while Foggy waits by the door. He tries not to eavesdrop, but he gets the impression that Karen’s trying to explain their situation. Yi nods, appears understanding, offers some words of her own. They part on a friendly handshake as Karen returns the ice pack.
“You really fucked up, Foggy.”
“What are you going to do to make it up to her? Because, I’ve talked to her for maybe twenty minutes and I’m already on her side more than ours.”
And it hits him. It’s easy to see her side. He knows he can make some argument for her and people will be convinced. An argument for...something.
“I think I can maybe do something useful for her. I just hope Yi can accept an apology.”
“I’m sure she can, Fogs. But you better make it convincing.”
“I can only try.”
Karen hums. Still looking a bit angry at the whole situation.
“They should be okay, Yi said. Frank might have some jumbled memories for a few days, but it wasn’t nearly as long as she was working on Shaughnessy or any of the others. She didn’t let a demon claim his mind or anything, so everything ought to be reversible.”
“Christ, is that what she’s been doing?”
“You know, funnily enough, she made a bad deal when she was in a rough spot, but she has her end of it to uphold, so she targets scummy shitbags. I’d say she’s making do,” Karen defends.
Finally, just before they reach the room where the rest of their crew are waiting, she blindsides him.
“How long have you been fucking Frank?” Foggy groans. “Matt told me.” Foggy groans again, louder.
Karen knocks on the door, rolling her eyes at him, struggling to frown. Evidently, she finds it hilarious.
“Get up, asshole,” Foggy hears Matt stage whisper, followed by a deep, gravelly grunt. Karen swings the door open and walks into the room.
“Are you ready to leave?” Karen asks by way of greeting.
They pile into Frank’s nondescript car, and Foggy’s at the wheel.
He drops Matt off with Karen because she seems pretty certain that Matt has a concussion, if nothing else. She also gives a less-than-subtle wink and nudge when she suggests he take Frank home, so Foggy braces for a lot more of Karen’s nefarious (but obnoxiously adorable) meddling so they can pretend they’re normal people with like, love lives or something.
They pull up to Foggy’s parking spot, which is far too seldom used for him to pay $250 a month for. Foggy doesn’t even have a car, which is entirely unfortunate.
Foggy helps Frank out of the car. He’s dozing upright, which cannot be a good sign. He’s also covered in all kinds of blood. All of it’s probably his, if the way the fight looked was any indication. So he bundles Frank up in the extra sweater he keeps around to cover to worst of it. He needs the extra warmth, if the way he’s clinging to Foggy is any indication.
The elevator ride up is quiet, and a few people saunter in at the ground floor, so Foggy shifts to hide Frank’s face and pretends he’s just a sleepy drunk friend. That’s New York, for you. You could have a man dying inches from you and you’d be none the wiser because no one checks up on anything. Frank hardly stirs or stiffens at their presence, though, which is also worrying.
“Hey,” Foggy says gently, laying Frank down on the bed. “I’m gonna get you some juice. For electrolytes or whatever. Then I’m going to look you over, alright?”
Frank doesn’t answer. Instead, he drifts into unconsciousness. Foggy jostles him a little, as gently as he can that still gets Frank opening his eyes.
“Stay with me, alright?”
Frank nods, slowly. When Foggy comes back from the kitchen, he drinks a whole pouch of Capri Sun and chases it with an entire glass of water. Foggy lets out a sigh of relief. He takes out the impressive first aid kit from the master bathroom.
“Alright, I’m gonna take your clothes off, okay? Might need to cut you out of this shirt.” Frank coughs in reply. “That’s not a good sign, is it?” Foggy tries, but no one laughs.
There isn’t much conversation to be had, so it dies down pretty damn quick. But it’s familiar for Foggy to be patching someone up in his apartment. He can feel useful with this. He knows now how to check for internal damage, fractured bones. It’s upsetting if Foggy ever takes the time to genuinely consider why he’s had to develop that skillset, so he focuses instead on patching up all the broken skin in front of him. Like with the law, Foggy is methodical and measured, and surprisingly competent.
“Hey,” Frank calls as Foggy moves to put everything away and wash his hands.
“Hey,” Foggy mirrors, drying his hands and leaning on the doorframe. The distance is tense, but necessary now.
“You’re a good guy. You shouldn’t worry about me. I’m not worth that,” Frank goes on, but he looks away. Out the window, at the cloudy night sky.
“Bullshit. I like you, and I’m keeping you around because I want to.” This is also familiar because Foggy happens to have a best friend who should also seek therapy. And Frank doesn't even have a priest to talk to. “Why weren’t you fighting back?”
“It wasn’t worth it. I don't know.”
“Cryptic. Look, I know you’re not used to it, or whatever, but can you be a person for a few seconds and talk to me?”
“It hurts, Nelson. What do you want me to say? My body hurts and my head hurts and my heart fucking hurts. Always hurts. I’m never going to be able to forget a moment of all the shit I’ve done. Everyone I’ve lost. Forgive me if self-preservation isn’t my first instinct.”
“Apology not accepted. Do better next time. I swear, if you use someone else to commit suicide, I’m gonna…" Foggy trails off.
“What are you gonna do, huh?" But Frank doesn't seem too angry, more amused than anything. "Sue me? Kill me? God, I’d like to see you try.”
“Frank, shut the fuck up. You’re not dying on me.”
“Why? Because we had a moment? You feel attached to me, now?”
“No, because I’ve met you, and I think you can have a fulfilling life outside of your past traumas. The law’s not holding you accountable for shit. I’m not holding you accountable for shit. You’re the only one here torturing yourself.”
“How do I move on from this, Nelson? How do I forget? Tell me how." His face contorts, and it’s even uglier with the blood and the bruising. It’s a magnificent show of vulnerability. Foggy wants to hug him. Just, not yet.
“You don’t have to forget. But you can move forward. You’ve done some shit. Hell, I’ve done some shit. Fundamentally? You keep saying you want to help people. That’s who you are. Helping people. You’re allowed to want that. You can even put down the gun if you want to.”
“Maybe I don’t want to.”
“Then don’t! I don’t fucking know! Keep aiming at the people you think deserve it! Just ask someone first, talk to someone before you do something drastic. Please. The thing about our legal system is that we aren’t above punishment if people deserve it, but we have counsel for a reason. I know I would prefer it if no one fucking died, but what can I do? I’m just some New York lawyer trying not to have all his friends bleed out on his furniture!” He sounds tired and exasperated, and his voice approximates how he feels.
There’s a few moments of breathing in the silence as Foggy gingerly makes his way to the bed.
“You think there are people that are better off dead?” Frank asks when Foggy settles down beside him.
“No,” he answers, certain and strong. “I think there are people that might choose it, and I’m not here to condemn that choice. I get that living can be hell sometimes. But at the end of the day, living is something, and dying is nothing, and something is always better than nothing, right? Even if they hurt people, they might also help someone. And I’m not necessarily a utilitarian or anything, so I’m not the type to think that bad negates good.”
The mood shifts to something slower, more cerebral.
“And what do you think about dying?”
Foggy wants to laugh. It’s a quirky fourth date question, but it’s a legitimate one. He considers what would be the most optimistic without being too accepting of the concept of dying.
“It is what it is. It happens all the time. I’m not afraid of it for myself, per se. But I think you leave people behind, and they miss you. I think living is definitely the hardest thing anyone ever does, and dying might be the easiest thing because you’re just letting go, but you stay because loving people is one of the greatest joys there is and it’s worth it to stay around.
“Like, do you ever just look at a dog or a baby and they’re just happy? Or you see people grossly making out in the park? Or even just like a fruit fly that finds a whole rotten orange and goes apeshit? Living is really hard, but I think there are moments that make it worth it, like when you connect with someone. Despite all the pain you’ve been through. Isn’t it worth it to feel that?”
Frank nods, indecisive. Considering the life he had before, when things made a semblance of sense, compared to the shitstorm he’s living in now, it must be some adjustment. “Have you felt that?”
“If course. A lot, actually. I have family, my friends. I have grateful clients. I have little old ladies in my building sometimes who pat my cheek and tell me how old I'm getting.”
Frank hums. Maybe it’s more of a scoff. A laugh, if Foggy's optimistic. “You really are something, Nelson.” The comment isn’t much, but Foggy feels some pride at that.
“Do you want help getting ready for bed?”
Foggy knows that each sleep cycle is about 90 minutes. The thing is, it’s been a long time since he’s consistently slept in the same bed with someone and he’d forgotten how much compromise it takes sometimes, between late night shuffling, snoring, and blanket hogging.
Frank is a whole other beast because he also deals with nightmares. Very consistently. And occasionally, a concussion. He’s dealing with both tonight, so he sets his alarm studiously at two hour intervals and wraps Frank up in his softest sheets for maximum comfort.
So when Frank shoots up in the middle of the night, panting and sweating, and reaching around the bed for a body, it’s not a surprise.
“Hey, buddy, you all right?” Foggy asks, rubbing his eyes. He watches for a moment as it takes Frank a moment to take in his surroundings, to recognize Foggy. “Need a manly midnight cuddle or something?”
Wordlessly, Frank shifts and places himself around Foggy, burrowing his face into Foggy’s soft, broad chest.
Just before Foggy drifts back to sleep, though, he hears a murmur from the other man, spoken into his neck.
“I said, you don’t have to take pity on me. I’m fine by myself.”
“You’re my friend. You’re a person. I don’t pity you, I think you’re worth keeping around.”
“Why?” Frank asks, legitimately incredulous.
“Because you’re one of those noble bastards I know who’s arrogant enough to think they can make a difference and I admire that,” Foggy mumbles, already halfway asleep.
“I’m not going to stroke your ego at buttfuck o’clock, Francis. But no, that’s not it. You’re also really pretty when you meet dogs and smile because you think no one’s looking. You appreciate everything you’ve got. You’re loyal. Smart when you want to be. I don’t know. Is that enough? Can we go back to sleep now?” Foggy asks, yawning.
“Yeah, kid. Yeah.”
Frank is gone by the morning. No matter. It's a Monday and Foggy is a grown man with a grown up job at his own grown up firm and there are a million other things to worry about besides a man leaving his bed without a goodbye. It’s not even the first time it’s happened, so Foggy remains resolutely optimistic about the whole thing.
He gets to work on things he feels like he can actually control in his hurricane life. Paperwork for easy cases that don't require a lot of effort, signing off on certain documents, drafting emails.
3:00pm hits and Foggy realizes he hadn't done anything worth his brain for the entire day before he sits to attention. He's calls up Mrs. Shaughnessy, fills her in, and helps her file for an annulment on top of accepting the plea deal for insanity.
He's mulling over the past few days, clicking a pen until he hears Matt yell at him to stop from the other room.
And just like that, miraculously, a connection forms in Foggy’s brain and he knows how to try to make it up to Yi. He knows what her business needs. The question is whether she will accept his apology.
"Hey, Matty. Can you help me with something?"
“Of course, buddy. What’s up?”
“How did you swing a license?” Karen asks curiously when Foggy hands her an envelope and a binder. They’re brunching on a Sunday, waiting for Matt to get to the restaurant from Mass. Things have reached a stasis for the time being. Still no word from Frank, though.
“I mean, it wasn’t easy. But I made an argument about the prevalence of sex work and the rights of sex workers and the necessity for safety like brothels can provide. I mean it’s not perfect by any means, and she’s going to need a liquor license to keep serving alcohol. And she’s not allowed to offer illegal substances, but she won’t have to be so back alley anymore. I’m sure she can swing it. And she’s not allowed to advertise services on her workers’ behalf. Again, not perfect, but it gives the business some legitimacy. They can get healthcare now. There's like 200 pages of licensing agreements, stipulations, and regulations for us to leaf through.”
“Oh my god, Foggy, that’s pretty thorough.”
“Anyways, it’d be pretty great if you could deliver it for me. I don’t know if Yi likes me anymore.”
“She likes you. She just doesn’t trust you,” Karen corrects, taking a sip of her latte.
“It’s not. I have her personal number now. She helped me write the memoriam. She goes by Hannah in her daily life, by the way. She told me I can tell you.”
“Just don’t be stupid,” Karen teases, placing the package gently in her bag. “I’ll get back to you. She finds you charming. She says she likes your boyfriend, too, but that you’re too good for him.”
“Is this your sequitur asking me about Frank?”
“Yes,” she says without shame, leaning forward in interest.
Foggy sighs because there’s not really much to tell. “He left. After I patched him up, like three weeks ago. Hasn't talked to me since,” Foggy explains, surprising himself with how sad he sounds. Maybe he was getting a little attached. So Karen, like a good friend, comforts him.
“I, for one, am exuberant at this development,” Matt calls from behind them, grinning.
Foggy sighs again. “Matt says Frank’s his nemesis.” Karen snorts.
“Matthew. This is real life. Nemeses don’t exist.” He folds up his cane and takes his seat next to Foggy. Matt swings and arm around the back of his friend’s seat, almost possessively. He frowns towards Karen pointedly.
“Frank can’t have him. Foggy’s too sweet.”
“Let Foggy be happy.” Karen makes to kick his foot under the table, but Matt expertly dodges with a smarmy smile in her direction.
The brunch goes well, all things considered. If Foggy’s a little upset at being rejected, it’s easy to hide under the general jovial air his friends have made for him. It feels right, Foggy tells himself. The three of them.
If Foggy finds Frank’s sweater and wears it a little bit more around the house, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. It’s a comfortable sweater and the bloodstains are barely visible. He can’t say he misses Frank per se; they hadn’t known each other well, nor that long. But for that two weeks or so, they’d spent a lot of time together. He had gotten used to having someone around. His apartment isn’t exactly large, but it feels all the more empty since it’s just him, now.
He still has a spare key in his desk drawer, just in case. Foggy tells himself it’s practical and not pathetic.
He goes a full month without having to get a new lock because Frank doesn’t sneak in like a lunatic anymore and it shouldn’t be a sad realization.
Yi accepts the apology, and they have a business meeting over lunch one day to discuss the details. It only takes half an hour, because Yi-Hannah- came prepared with a pen. A few jokes are shared. She asks about Frank, and Foggy can’t answer. They chat about other things for the next two hours, and Foggy can’t be mopey because he’s just made another superpowered friend and the six-year-old in him remains excited.
Another month goes by. Foggy’s on his way home from work on a Friday, when he realizes the door is unlocked. He grips the mace on his keychain and steps inside, as quietly as he can.
The light flicks on from behind him, and Foggy jumps a foot into the air.
“What do you think you’re going to do with that?” Frank calls. Foggy whirls around fast, calming down when he sees the familiar face.
“Holy shit. Do not scare me like that, man,” Foggy says, steadying himself by bending over and resting his palms on his knees. “So what can I do you for, Frank?” Foggy asks, going for an easy and cheerful front and missing by a mile. He shrugs off his coat and hangs it up by the door.
“Well, you’ve already done me, but do want some dinner?”
“Uh, sure,” Foggy replies, thoroughly confused because Frank’s never been one for humour or romance, to Foggy’s knowledge.
By the time Foggy’s washed up for dinner and sat down, there’s a beautiful table setting and a less-than delicate looking salad in front of him.
“Did you cook? In my kitchen?”
“Sure did.” Foggy loads his fork and takes a bite.
“Wow this is really good, but I hope you’re not expecting me to eat just greens tonight,” Foggy half-jokes. He actually does worry about his macronutrient intake, sometimes. Only sometimes.
Abruptly, the man stands up and retrieves another pair of plates from the kitchen, containing some very creamy looking pasta dish.
“Perfect, some carbs! Truly, a man after my own heart!” Foggy praises. Frank smiles quietly at his plate.
“So, apologies for being so tactless, but I didn’t know you could cook,” Foggy comments after a few bites.
“It’s been a while. Maria’s mother was adamant about it. She wanted me to make sure I could provide for her daughter,” Frank replies, heavily. Foggy reaches over and pats his knee, comfortingly. Frank doesn’t even flinch, and hey, that’s a win.
“Hey, man. Thank you.” Then, after a beat. “Are we good?”
“Yeah, kid. Yeah, we are.”
They eat the rest of their meal, and halfway through, Frank leaves to “check on dessert” like they’re just any couple on any date. Foggy hopes Frank is having fun. When they finish the meal, Foggy insists on cleaning up, and he gets an eyeful of a truly impressive tiramisu. Frank Castle is full of surprises, apparently.
They’re curled up on the couch a while later, on the last few sips of their wine glasses when Foggy asks, “Was this a date?”
“Can it be?” Frank puts down his glass on the coffee table and shifts to face Foggy more.
“I remembered.It’s like, everything about you left my brain for a few weeks, and then everything came back all at once.
"You were right. Forgetting the past means forgetting the good stuff, forgetting progress. But then, I felt like you moved on, so I tried moving on. I got a job. And I’ve been to therapy. Like you said, I’m trying to move forward. I’m not gonna quit putting justice on the streets, but I realized I want to be accountable to someone. And I like you, dipshit.”
“You’re a smart guy, Nelson. Fundamentally good, or whatever you said. I appreciate that.”
“So what do you say? Do you want to try it?” Frank asks, intense, but not moving closer. Foggy does, and kisses Frank’s knuckles, which are only a little bruised.
“Sure. I could get used to food like this every day.”
Frank laughs, full-chested if quick. It’s mesmerizing because Foggy’s never seen it before. The way Frank’s face crinkles with joy without baggage, the slump of shoulders at ease.
“You shouldn’t. I only know like five recipes.”
“More than I know, then. You’re perfect.” Foggy nudges him affectionately.
“Guilty as charged. It’s because I have ulterior motives,” Foggy winks. He’s only half joking, but there wasn’t a doubt in his mind that Frank was going to stay the night, no matter what that’ll entail. Frank leans over to kiss him properly and rests his forehead on Foggy’s shoulder. It feels like he’s grinning.
“Ulterior motives, huh?”
“Yeah, man. I don’t know if you noticed, but you’re unfairly hot.” Foggy always talks easily, and the wine lubricates his lips even further. Silently, Frank shakes with laughter, then turns a little somber on Foggy’s shoulder. When they see each other again, face to face, Frank’s face is set and serious.
“There are some things you should know before we do this.”
And Frank comes clean about everything he’s done in his life. All the people he’s killed, directly or indirectly. He talks about his family, what he’s lost. Everyone in his life at the moment, what he gets up to between seeing Foggy and fighting crime. His time in prison, his mental evaluations, his anger. Talks about a busload of guilt and grief.
Foggy, in turn, has his fair share of life to synopsize. It feels fair. It’s also unbalanced because at the end of the day, Foggy just hasn’t been through the same shit, but he hopes Frank appreciates the gesture.
“We still good?” Frank asks when they’re done baring their souls to each other. Foggy kisses him on the face in response.
“Yeah. We’re still good.”
“You still want to do this?”
“Well, if you’re willing to have me.”
“You’re an idiot, you know that?”
Foggy chuckles and shifts closer. “I’ve been told once or twice.”
Frank stays the next morning. And the morning after that. On Monday, they head to work at the same time, Frank decked out in bright orange and a hard hat, and Foggy in his standard suit. They kiss a little by the door.
When Matt walks in, he’s very vocal about his displeasure. Karen claps and pats Foggy on the back.
When Frank goes out at night, he always gives Foggy a body count. It’s less an ideal, but Foggy would rather have this than nothing. He counts it as progress that the number decreases over time, even if the number of capped knees do not.
Sometimes they discuss the irredeemable. People who seem to enjoy hurting people, people who hurt kids, people who just don’t seem to care much about the lives of others. People in positions of power stomping on everything in their path for more power. Sometimes, Foggy does reluctantly give the go-ahead and Frank gets tense around him for a few days.
Regardless, they keep a well stocked first-aid kit and Foggy never refuses to use it.
Matt comes by sometimes, like he always does, and doesn’t stop glaring in Frank’s direction every time they’re in the same room. Eventually, though, his complaining about Frank’s scent starts to diminish. Foggy starts counting all the news reports of the Daredevil and the Punisher working together. Not every night. Nothing close to every night, but often enough that Foggy feels at ease.
They have brunches with Karen, the two of them. Sometimes Frank and Karen partner up on investigations together and they seem to have more fun now that Frank isn’t just trying to kill everyone on sight. Foggy’s proud whenever it feels like Frank found a new friend on the field or comes home with a casserole or bundt cake someone gives him in gratitude.
The nightmares don’t stop, and Frank sometimes has whole episodes where he’s out of the house and no one can track him. At the end of it, though, he comes home and cooks something for Foggy and they talk it out. They manage.
Months and months in, they’ve reached a comfortable stasis. Foggy lets himself get used to it.