It’s been something like two years since the last time he saw him, but it’s fitting that Frank would come across Murdock again in the middle of a shootout. Some things just don’t change.
The fight’s already been going on for a while when he gets there, drawn by the gunshots and screams, and Murdock looks like he could use some help. From his vantage point on a nearby roof, Frank sees him dance around bullets and throw all kinds of things at the head of his assailants, hitting his target every time, but there’s just too many of them and he’s surrounded.
Frank hesitates for a whole second before he makes up his mind and jumps into the fray. He wishes he was a bigger asshole, that he’d just let him get shot and go on with his life, but as much as he hates it, he can’t bring himself to mind his own business, as always.
Once he starts shooting people and they stop getting up again, the fight ends rather quickly. He keeps the killing to a minimum - not out of professional courtesy for Murdock, more because he’s trying to avoid bringing attention to himself. News of his return to Hell’s Kitchen are starting to circulate, and he’d rather keep under the radar of the FBI as long as possible.
He knocks out the last one of his opponents by whipping him in the face with the butt of his now-empty handgun, just in time to see Murdock repeatedly smash the face of the last thug standing into the windshield of a car. The guy falls to the floor, unconscious.
Murdock turns to him, balled fists at his sides, shoulders heaving hard from the fight. His breath forms little clouds of condensation in the yellow light from the streetlamp above.
Frank expects a patronizing remark, then. Waits for it with a cutting answer on the tip of his tongue. But instead, Murdock takes one step towards him and face-plants on the concrete.
As if on cue, police sirens start echoing not too far away, and Frank swears under his breath.
It’s a split-second decision to heave Murdock’s limp body off the ground and slide under his arm, carrying him away from the scene as fast as he can, which isn’t fast at all. Even without the weight of his red suit - reckless bastard - Murdock isn’t exactly light.
He manages to avoid the cops, but barely. Makes it to a roof just as he hears the tires of the police cars screech to halt in the street below. He wastes no time there, cursing himself under his breath as he drags Murdock away from them.
The first time Murdock comes to, Frank is stitching up the cut on his forehead. Judging by the shape of the wound, someone hit him with something - hard -, which is probably the reason he fainted in the first place. All his other injuries are bad, but Frank’s seen him come back swinging from way worse before.
It’s a good thing he’s concussed, because the first thing he does when he wakes up is take a swing at Frank.
“Hey, hey! Slow down, Murdock, it’s me!” Frank hisses, dodging the sluggish blow and grabbing Murdock by the wrist.
That’s the wrong thing to do, clearly, because next thing he knows he has his face pressed flat against the floor with his arm twisted behind him at a painful angle. Concussed, but not harmless, got it.
The exertion gets the better of Murdock, though, because he faints immediately after that and Frank has to put him back on the bed again, cursing him the whole time.
Next time Murdock wakes up, he tries to go for it again, only this time Frank zip-tied him to the bedframe. It’s shitty quality and makes a low creaking noise when he strains against the bonds, but it holds. Frank rolls his eyes.
“Give it a rest, you’re going to rip open your stitches,” he says. “Again.”
Murdock freezes for half a second, then his head turns Frank’s way.
“Frank,” he breathes out. “Where am I?”
His eyes don’t focus at all, landing somewhere on the wall left of Frank, confirming what he already suspected: the blind thing isn’t just a cover. Mh, he wonders how that works.
“You’re at my place,” he answers, then goes for another stitch on the cut across his ribs. Murdock hisses and tries to twist away from him, but Frank drags him right back where he was. “And I’m trying to stitch you up, but you’re not exactly making it easy on me.”
“Untie me,” Murdock says, his voice bordering on Daredevil territory.
Frank snorts. “Yeah, I think the fuck no—”
Murdock twists his hips off the bed and catches him in a chokehold with his thighs, clearly intent on crushing his windpipe. Gasping for air, Frank reaches out blindly until he finds a freshly stitched cut on Murdock’s hip and digs his thumb in. Murdock’s grip loosens just enough for Frank to free himself and he staggers back, away from the bed and out of reach from other eventual surprise attacks.
“Fucking hell, Murdock, next time I’ll just leave you for the cops to find!” he snaps, rubbing at his neck with one hand.
“You were there?” Murdock asks like he didn’t just try to choke him, frowning in confusion.
“Yeah, I was there. Saving your ass!” Frank barks. “Serves me well, I never fucking learn my lesson, for fuck’s—”
“What happened to the girls? Did you get them?”
Frank cuts himself off, turns to look at him.
That was the wrong thing to say, because Murdock curses and immediately starts pulling intently at his bonds again, the bedframe groaning with the force of it.
“Murdock, for fuck’s sake— what girls?” Frank repeats.
“Untie me now, Frank,” Murdock growls, baring his teeth at him.
“What girls?” Frank growls back.
Murdock finally stops trying to saw his hands off, having already managed to reopen one of his wounds and work himself into a pain-induced sweat. He looks furious, but he’s probably figured out that answering the question is his best chance at getting what he wants.
“The men I was fighting, they were taking them to the docks in a truck. They run a human trafficking ring,” he explains, and Frank swears under his breath.
His mind is made up in the next second. He goes to open the chest in the corner of the small bedroom, the one in which he stores all his ammo, and starts stocking up.
Murdock is fuming behind him. “Don’t you dare! Goddamn it, Frank, untie me! I can still get there in time!”
Frank barks out a mirthless laugh. “Like hell you can get there in time, you can barely walk!”
He stands and stores the extra magazines in the pouches at his belt, then grabs his rifle from where it’s propped up against the wall in the corner. He climbs out the window, onto his fire escape, all the while ignoring Murdock’s calls and vicious thrashing. The bedframe probably won’t hold him for long, but it’ll still be enough for Frank to get there long before him - if Murdock even manages to get this far. He’ll probably fall to his death on the way there, in his state.
Whatever, Frank’s done his good deed of the day, it won’t be his problem anymore.
He takes a phone from one of the dead scumbags’ pocket and gives it to one of the girls. He tells her to call the cops and leaves without waiting for an answer.
On the way back to his place, he half-expects Murdock to jump out of the shadows and tackle him to the ground - he looked angry enough to pull something like that - but he gets there without a hitch.
Unsurprisingly, the bedframe is broken, with no Murdock in sight. Good riddance - he doesn’t think he could’ve taken any more of his bullshit tonight.
His sheets are stained beyond salvageable with blood and he notices that his closet is open, the drawer in which he puts his shirts pulled right out of its socket. He curses Murdock under his breath. That’s what he gets for not minding his own business.
Hell’s Kitchen isn’t that big, so it’s only a matter of time before he runs into Murdock again.
Next time it happens, he really, really tries to convince himself he’s not going to make the same mistake as last time. He had to throw out the bloody sheets and buy a new closet because Murdock, that asshole, actually broke the hinges of the old one when he stole his clothes.
So yeah, this time, he can choke. Literally, since Frank finds him in an alleyway grappling with a man holding a chain around his neck. The second guy is too busy repeatedly punching him in the stomach to notice Frank just standing there, struggling with his good samaritan impulses. There’s a third man, unconscious against the wall, and Murdock’s fancy baton lays on the ground at Frank’s feet, probably lost during the fight.
Murdock’s probably seen worse before. Just two guys with a chain is undoubtedly small fry for the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. Frank just knows, if he helps him, it’s going to end up in bared teeth and threats, maybe even a fight, if Murdock’s in a particularly bad mood. Frank almost turns around.
“Hey!” he calls. The two thugs’ faces whip his way, too slow to see the baton he throws at Murdock, who snatches it out of the air and uses it to deck the first guy in the head. The second guy’s grip on the chain falters enough for Murdock to twist away from him and knock him out with a single hit, before finishing the other one with a brutal kick to the face.
He swipes the blood away from his mouth between two ragged breaths, then bends to grab his second baton from where it rolled out of sight. He turns to Frank with a considering tilt to his head. Not expecting a thank you, Frank just turns around and leaves.
He’s a little surprised when no baton comes flying at his head, and risks a look back just in time to see Murdock climbing the fire escape like a goddamned olympic gymnast.
“Showoff,” he mutters, rolling his eyes.
One of his shoulders is dislocated, the other took a bullet, he probably sprained his ankle, he’s out of ammo, and he’s pretty sure the car he’s currently using as cover is on fire.
He thinks there’s a joke about Mondays to make there, but really, he’s too tired for that.
Getting killed by some random gangsters wasn’t how he’d wished to go, but with the kind of life he lived, he couldn’t afford to be picky.
There’s a handgun on the ground ten feet away from him, but trying to get it would put him directly in the line of fire. It’s either that or getting shot by the reinforcements when they round the parking lot, anyway, so he gets ready to run for it.
Then he hears a familiar sound, a whoosh of air followed by dull thud, and one thug yells, “Watch out, we got company!”
Frank waits for Murdock to draw enough attention to himself, then hurries to pick up the handgun. With two shoulders busted, aiming isn’t exactly easy, but he manages to hit his target most of the time. He uses his last shot on a guy trying to sneak up on Murdock - like that would work - and throws his empty gun away, looking around for anything of use. Murdock’s head snaps to him. “Fran—”
Frank gets shot in the back. His vest takes most of the damage, but the impact still throws him to his knees, breath knocked out of him. He faintly hears the fight continue around him, tries to stop the world from spinning, and suddenly there are hands on him, pulling him forcefully to his feet.
He realizes it’s Murdock just in time not to punch him in the throat. Not sure he would have landed it anyway, with how much his shoulder’s throbbing.
“Frank, come on,” Murdock is saying through the ringing in his ears, and Frank doesn’t think, lets him drag him somewhere, away from the parking lot turned warzone.
Murdock navigates Hell’s Kitchen like it’s second nature, knowing exactly what fire escape he wants to use and what dark alley to take, and soon they come to a stop on a roof. It’s got an impressive view of the neighborhood, but Frank can’t really be bothered to enjoy it, right now.
He falls more than sits down, trying to catch his breath. Everything hurts.
Murdock has that telling slant to his head as he watches him - or listens to him, or whatever it is he does - for a few seconds.
“Your shoulder,” he says.
Frank huffs out a dry laugh. “Which one?”
Murdock doesn’t grace that with an answer, instead he crouches next to him and takes his wrist in one hand, bracing his other one on Frank’s pectoral. He tilts his head questioningly, and Frank nods.
He pulls, and after a couple excruciating seconds, they hear the tell-tale pop of bone sliding back into place. Good. Now to deal with all his other problems.
“I can’t do much about… Everything else,” Murdock says, grimacing as he gestures vaguely at Frank’s entire body. He actually sounds a little bit apologetic, fucking hero complex.
“’s fine,” Frank grunts, pushing himself back to his feet. “I got it from there.”
“You need to get that bullet out. You going to do that on your own?” he asks, sarcastic little shit.
“I know someone,” Frank says to get him off his back. He starts limping away, but he’s barely made it three steps before Murdock slides under his arm and takes some of his weight. His first instinct is to bark at him to leave him be, pain making him snappy, but then he thinks of the distance separating him from his place and reconsiders. He’s not petty enough to turn down the help just because it’s Murdock offering it.
He texts Curtis on the way there, and neither of them say anything else for the entirety of the painstakingly long trip. Suits Frank just fine.
Curtis is already waiting for him when they get there.
“Mondays, uh?” he says as Frank squeezes himself through the window with a grunt of pain. Then he notices Murdock hovering on the fire escape and his eyebrows go up. “That’s new.”
“He’s got some broken ribs, couldn’t tell how many,” Murdock says like it’s a normal conversation starter. Frank rolls his eyes and drops himself on the couch, wincing when it jars his definitely broken ribs.
“Uh… Thanks?” Curtis says. “You gonna— and he’s gone.”
“He does that,” Frank grunts.
“You made some other interesting friends I don’t know about?” Curtis asks as he starts pulling stuff out of his medikit.
Frank huffs. “Wouldn’t exactly call us friends.”
“You should have told me you knew Daredevil, man, I would’ve brought something for him to sign.”
That draws a laugh out of him.
“I’ll be sure to warn you next time.”
Curtis doesn’t push, either because he’s too nice for that, or he’s planning on grilling Frank later on, when he’s not bleeding out. For now, Frank’s just happy for the respite.
He sighs and lets his head fall on the backrest of the couch. He was planning on raiding this gang’s hideout tonight, but that’ll have to wait. Anyway, he has a distinct feeling there won’t be anyone left for him to shoot, come morning.
As the cop cuffs his hands behind him, the wet concrete scraping at his cheek, Frank can only think of how frustrating it is to have no one else to blame but himself. Maybe he could try and pit some of it on Murdock - saving his ass twice, now - but really he knows it’s on him. He attracted too much attention.
The worst part is getting caught now, right as he finds a fucking hangar full of drugs, and not being able to dig further. He didn’t think anyone could grow an operation this big and go unnoticed, not with him and Murdock keeping watch, and still. Someone is trying to take back Hell’s Kitchen, and from what he saw, they’re succeeding.
But now, instead of hunting down Fisk’s wannabe successor, he’s crammed in the back of a police cruiser with a whole fucking escort to bring him safely to the Kitchen’s precinct. They found his place - he knew he should have been more careful, his neighbor was giving him funny looks lately - and took him by surprise. Even he wasn’t about to gun down a dozen policemen to stay free.
They cuff him to a table in an interrogation room. He finds it odd - thought they’d want to keep him in a cell, given his reputation - but he finds out why soon enough.
Mahoney slides into the chair in front of him, gives him a flat look. He looks like this conversation alone is costing him years off his lifespan.
“Castle,” he says.
“Wanna tell me why I gotta sit here with you, when I’ve been told I would never hear from you again?”
Frank shrugs, makes the cuffs clink against the metal table. “Didn’t stand a chance, your guys are just too good.”
Mahoney rolls his eyes. “Look, Castle, I ain’t got time for your bullshit today. The feds are on their way, so if you’re hiding something you tell me right now.”
Frank snorts. He wishes he got arrested on purpose, that it was part of some carefully crafted plan. He shakes his head, leans back into his chair. “No bullshit, Mahoney. They really just,” he shrugs, “got me.”
Mahoney narrows his eyes at him. He opens his mouth, undoubtedly to voice his distrust of Frank’s explanation, but he’s cut off by an officer peeking her head into the room.
“Detective, someone wants to see you.”
“They can wait,” Mahoney says, annoyed at the interruption.
The officer shifts uncomfortably. “It’s about Castle, sir.”
Mahoney hesitates, gives Frank a distrustful look, then lets out a heavy sigh. “Alright, I’ll be right there.” He gets up, points a threatening finger at Frank. “No funny business, Castle.”
Frank helplessly opens his arms as far as the cuffs will allow. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
He’s left alone in the cell, wondering what’s being said about him on the other side of the door. He can hear voices, but not make out the words. It takes a few minutes, but eventually the door opens again. He was expecting Mahoney, but instead, Matthew fucking Murdock steps in, glasses, cane and all. His smile is a smug slant when he says,
“Mr. Castle, it’s been a while.”
Brett Mahoney didn’t wake up this morning ready to deal with Frank Castle of all fucking people.
He knows, just knows, that Castle getting arrested can’t possibly be all there is to it. There’s always something, with him. Uncovering some deeply rooted political corruption, avenging someone, kidnapping someone else, you name it. Brett is not ready to see his precinct burnt to ashes because Castle decided to take whatever war he was fighting this week here. As soon as he gets the call that he got arrested, he notifies the feds.
Castle isn’t beaten up this time. He’s not vibrating with repressed murderous rage either, or maybe he’s just gotten better at hiding it. He looks— passive. Resigned, almost.
When Castle tells him that he doesn’t have anything planned, he looks sincere - as sincere as possible, anyway - and Brett kind of wants to believe him, if only to avoid the headache this whole thing is causing him. But then, of course, his day just goes from bad to worse.
He leaves the interrogation room and is immediately greeted by Matt Murdock’s familiar half-smile. Brett is sure he’s spent years perfecting it to be as annoying as possible.
“Murdock,” he says flatly. The guy seems to have an innate talent to find trouble wherever he goes, and Brett just can’t afford that kind of bad luck today. “Can I ask what the fuck you’re doing here?”
The officer next to them looks at him warily out of the corner of her eye, probably because of the choice of words, but Brett can’t be bothered to care. Matt, for his part, only looks like he secretly finds it very amusing.
“I’m here for my client.”
Oh no. No, no, no.
“The hell you are,” Brett says without thinking.
Matt tilts his head. “I heard you arrested him earlier today. I’d like to speak with him.”
“Yeah, like not even an hour ago! How could you possibly know that?” Brett says incredulously, though really, he should be used to that kind of shit coming from him. “Anyway, it doesn’t matter. The feds are coming to pick him up any minute now, you’re not speaking to him, Matt.”
“I’ll be quick. May I?” Matt asks without missing a beat, pointing at the door behind Brett.
“You may not,” he hisses. “Do you have a death wish? Because last time I checked, you two didn’t exactly part ways on the best of terms.”
Matt’s mouth does that thing that means he’s about to use his lawyer voice. “His visit to prison was mostly his own doing, he knows that. I doubt he would—”
Brett cuts him off before it grates him too much. “Goddamnit Matt, how do I have to say it? You’re not talking to him. Besides, he never asked for a lawyer. Foggy even know you’re here?”
The sour twist to Matt’s lips answers that for him. “I’m only asking for a few minutes, Brett,” he says.
“He can probably kill you twelve different ways in a few minutes, Matt,” he retorts. “Don’t think he won’t just ‘cause you’re blind.”
Matt smirks - actually smirks, the madman. He’s got even less self-preservation instincts than Brett thought. “You’d be right outside the door, you and the whole precinct. I think you know even he isn’t crazy enough to try anything here.”
Brett puts his hands on his hips, lets his head fall forward with a heavy sigh. Arguing with Matt is, and has always been, pointless. And it’s not just the lawyer thing, the guy’s just a stubborn asshole when he wants to be. He makes a point, though; Brett doesn’t think Castle would actually try anything. As much as he hates it, Brett kind of got a read on his personality last time they met, and he’s not nearly as crazy as everyone makes him out to be. But it’s Castle, and one can never be sure, with him.
Brett looks up at Matt, wishes he could see the glare he gives him, but he probably knows how much of a pain in the ass he’s being either way.
“I’m getting a coffee, and when I’m coming back, you’re done. Clear?” he says.
Matt’s smug’s smile is almost enough to make him withdraw the offer on the spot.
“Crystal. Thank you, Detective.”
Brett nods at the officer guarding the door to let him in. Before he goes to get his coffee, though, he makes a quick detour by the observation room.
It’s slightly - very - illegal, but it’s not like he’s planning on spying on them the whole time. Just a minute, to make sure Matt doesn’t do anything stupid. Brett just can’t shake the impression that he isn’t telling him everything. Maybe it’s the fact that he seems to have a sixth - of fifth, in his case - sense to always find the craziest cases and throw himself at them every time.
Matt’s voice comes in through the speakers. “Mr. Castle, it’s been a while.”
Through the one-way glass, Brett watches him slide his hand along the table to guide himself until he’s standing right next to Castle. He extends a hand at him. Castle considers it with a raised eyebrow for a couple seconds before he takes it.
“Murdock,” he says.
When Matt doesn’t step back right away, Brett knocks a few times on the glass. No use tempting his luck, and Foggy would kill him if he found out he let Matt get murdered on his watch.
Matt smiles like he knows exactly what kind of hell he’s making of Brett’s life and rounds the table to sit at a safe distance from Castle.
“I hear you’ve been busy,” he says, linking his fingers in front of him.
“Something like that,” Castle says.
Satisfied that he’s not going to have to burst in there to break them apart, Brett finally leaves the room.
He’s got to hand it to him, Matt’s one ballsy motherfucker. Pretty sure it’s mostly from lack of survival instincts, but still. And it didn’t look like Castle outwardly hated him, weirdly enough. Matt tended to bring that out in people, but clearly Castle was immune.
Brett’s just done pouring his coffee when a gunshot echoes through the precinct, so maybe not so immune after all.
His mug shatters on the ground as he sprints his way back to the interrogation room, along with several other officers. He skids to a halt in the hallway, gun pointed ahead of him.
Out of the corner of his eye he sees the body of the officer he left to guard the door laying face down on the floor, but he doesn’t let himself dwell on that, not now. Not when Castle is pointing a gun at Matt’s head.
Frank doesn’t really know how to react, so he doesn’t, waiting on Murdock to make his next move. He walks over to him, keeping up the blind act for the benefit of the camera that’s in the corner right above his shoulder, and offers him his hand.
“Murdock,” Frank says as he takes it, feeling really awkward about the whole thing, but then he feels the distinctive shape of a handcuff key slide between his fingers.
Someone knocks on the one-way glass window, almost making him jump. Aren’t conversations with your lawyer supposed to be private? If this is even what’s going on - Frank admittedly has no idea.
Murdock doesn’t seem bothered by the interruption, though, only smiles like he’s in on a private joke and goes to sit in front of Frank.
“I hear you’ve been busy,” he says, and yeah, he’s definitely having way too much fun with this.
“Something like that,” Frank says, keeping up the charade for whoever’s on the other side of that glass.
Murdock pauses. He’s got that faraway look to him for a second, then the line of his shoulders loosens up. He’s not relaxed, far from it, but now he looks more like the Murdock Frank knows than like a do-gooder lawyer.
“We’re good,” he says, tilting his head to indicate the one-way glass.
“That’s gonna look bad, you realize that, right?” Frank says, nodding at his hands and what they’re hiding. “Me leaving this room uncuffed right after you came in.”
“The FBI is on the way,” Murdock says like he didn’t even hear him.
“And they’re gonna ask you how I got out of these cuffs,” Frank insists.
“I have a plan,” Murdock says, his lips curling up in half a smile. “Besides, they’re not going to arrest a blind man.”
Frank lifts an unimpressed eyebrow at him. “I think you’re giving your blind man card too much credit.”
“You’d be surprised at what people let me get away with.”
Frank ignores that, though he kinda wants to ask, only because Murdock looks like there’s a story there. “Why are you helping me?” he asks instead, because what the fuck?
Murdock’s smile fades. He leans back into his chair, sighs. “I’m not even sure myself,” he admits. “Let’s say it’s to get even.”
Frank mulls that over for a few seconds, then decides that however conflicted Murdock feels about helping him, it’s between him and his conscience. Frank might as well take advantage of it, because he just remembered he doesn’t feel like rotting away in prison today.
“Fine. What’s your plan?”
Murdock smirks, and it’s a sharp, devilish thing.
“You’re going to hate it.”
As soon as he’s free of his cuffs, Frank launches himself across the table. He grabs Murdock by the lapels of his coat and pushes him roughly against the wall. The noise is enough for the officer standing guard to burst in, gun at the ready, but Frank was expecting her. He knocks the gun out of her hands, not fast enough to prevent her from firing a single shot at the wall behind him, before knocking her unconscious with an elbow to the face.
He picks up the gun and grabs Murdock, pretends to pull him in the hallway when really, he’s letting himself get manhandled obediently. The shot wasn’t part of the plan, but they expected a lot of resistance either way, so it’s not really a surprise to see Mahoney and a dozen officers come running at the end of the hallway.
“Freeze!” Mahoney yells.
Frank pushes the gun against Murdock’s temple, catches the arm of his glasses and slants them across his face. “Easy now, detective,” he says.
“Sorry, Brett,” Murdock says breathlessly. He’s really selling the helpless victim act.
Murdock uses his place at Frank’s front to push him backwards, the movement probably looking like Frank is the one dragging him away from an outsider’s perpective.
“Don’t get in my way, and nobody gets hurt,” Frank says, calm even though he’s got about ten guns pointed at him, right now. He wonders if Murdock managed to piss one of these officers enough for them to shoot right through him to get to Frank. Wouldn’t really surprise him.
Murdock shifts his weight, guiding Frank to his left and right into a door he hadn’t even noticed. Frank gets the message and opens it.
“Castle!” he hears Mahoney roar before he slams it shut again.
They’re in a stairwell. There are no cameras, and Murdock can obviously tell because he gracefully slips out of Frank’s grip and starts taking the steps up two at a time.
If he had the time to spare, Frank would probably roll his eyes.
They get to the last floor and Murdock stops at the door, gestures at Frank to grab him again.
“There’s two on your ten, one on your three, their guns aren’t out,” he says as Frank slips an arm around his neck. “Brett and six others are coming from the other staircase at the end of the hallway in about twenty seconds.”
“Which way are we going?”
“Right. There’s a fire exit, you can’t miss it.”
Wondering since when he trusts Murdock enough to pull crazy shit like that, Frank throws the door open.
Just like he said, three officers startle when they see them come in, clearly not expecting them.
“Don’t even think about it,” Frank snarls at the one he sees reach for his gun.
He sees the fire exit, right where Murdock said it would be, and thinks he really should ask him how he does it, some day, because that’s a handy skill to have. Right on time, Mahoney and a whole bunch of people come out the other staircase, Mahoney ordering everyone not to shoot.
“Stay back,” Frank growls as he continues to follow Murdock’s lead backwards.
They’ve almost reached their way out when Frank feels Murdock suddenly shove at him, a second before a bullet whizzes right past him and lodges itself in the wall next to their heads.
“I said don’t shoot!” Mahoney yells. With how pissed he sounds, someone’s getting fired today. Good fucking riddance.
Not wasting time, Frank slips into the narrow corridor the fire exit opens on, pulling Murdock in after him. Then it’s only a handful of stairs going up, leading to another door, and Murdock’s already pushing it open before Frank even has time to realize he’s not holding onto him anymore.
He follows, and they end up on the precinct roof. The sudden calm is deceiving, he knows half the cops of Hell’s Kitchen are right behind them. Murdock knows it too, as he’s already striding his way to the edge of the roof.
“Can you run?” he asks. He probably noticed Frank’s limp, courtesy of the overzealous officers who arrested him earlier today.
Stopping beside him, Frank looks at the forty feet drop between the precinct and the next building, frowns.
“Yeah, but I can’t parkour.”
Murdock grins deviantly.
“I’ll take the easy route, come on.”
They make it a couple blocks before Murdock seems to decide they’re far enough to slow down.
Frank’s worked up a sweat, jumping across rooftops like that, and his ankle is hurting like a bitch, but he’ll live.
He wonders what he’s gonna do from here. His place is a no-go, probably crawling with FBI agents by now. He has a few safe houses, but none of them are anywhere near here, and the Kitchen’s whole police force is going to be looking for him.
“Do you know the way to my place from here?” Murdock asks, snapping him out of his thoughts.
“To your place?” he repeats, frowning.
Murdock shrugs. “Last place they’ll be looking. You’ll need to lay low until they give up the search for today.”
Frank does, actually, know where he lives. He looked up his address a while ago, if only because he wanted to know what block to avoid when on patrol. Didn’t want to step on Murdock’s toes more than he already did. But Murdock didn’t ask him if he knew where he lived, he asked if he knew the way there, so he probably knows that. Frank refuses to feel bad about it. Besides, it’s not like Murdock seems to mind.
He nods, and Murdock throws him something. He snatches it out of the air reflexively. It’s a key.
He almost misses it when Murdock uses the distraction to slip Frank’s stolen gun out from the back of his jeans.
Frank whips around, tries to take it back, but Murdock’s a slippery bastard when he wants to be. He dodges him easily and as he does, takes the gun apart with only a couple of swift movements, lets the pieces fall to the ground with a clatter. And oh, oh that does something to Frank.
“You won’t be needing that anymore,” he says with a smirk.
Frank’s staring, but he can’t really bring himself to snap out of it. He didn’t think the guy had ever even held a gun before, thought maybe he would start crying if he even touched one. And then he goes and— and—
“I’ll distract them,” Murdock continues, oblivious. “Gain you some time.” He turns around, and Frank’s eyes land on his ass out of their own volition. And what a nice ass it is.
Then Murdock vaults himself off the roof, and Frank is left alone with his traitorous thoughts.
Brett knows this one’s on him. He’s not even blaming Frank, really. Brett knew leaving these two trouble magnets together in a room was bound to lead to catastrophe, and yet he let it happen.
The feds aren’t there, yet, so there’s at least that, but it’s not like he won’t have to tell them he lost their perp when they get there eventually. He has no doubt that they’re not going to find Castle today. Not today, not tomorrow, maybe not ever again. He’s already vanished into the night.
Now, to find Matt. He doubts Castle would actually hurt him, but he also knows Matt can be a little shit and Castle’s not renowned for his patience, so he can only hope he’s not going to find him with a bullet or two in his knees.
Him and about a dozen other police cruisers sweep Hell’s Kitchen high and low, but it’s two hours after Castle escapes from the precinct that he finally gets a call from central telling him they found Matt.
“Stumbled right into the road, almost ran him over,” Simmons tells him when he gets back to the station and he asks how they found him. “Lucky bastard, if you ask me.”
Brett has a distinct feeling that luck has nothing to do with it, but he keeps that to himself.
Matt’s sitting in the bullpen with a police jacket over his shoulders, nursing a steaming mug like he might get cold from the shock. When Brett comes to stand in front of him and Matt gives him his infuriating half-smile, he knows that the whole thing is a farce. He’s not even really trying, the dick.
“How’re you holding up?” Brett asks, playing it up for now.
“I’m fine,” Matt says. At least he doesn’t try and openly lie to him. “Sorry for..,” he gestures at the bustle of the station around them, everyone still trying to find Castle, “you know.”
He sounds sincere, it’s a start. Brett’s still not letting him back into the precinct for the next year, but at least he’s sorry.
“Not your fault,” he says, though he doesn’t entirely believe it. The whole thing was just… Too smooth. Brett knew he was missing something. But it’s not like Matt was ever going to tell him. Brett was definitely not leaving it alone, though.
“It kinda was, though,” Matt says. “He only snapped because I pushed him.”
“That right, uh?” Brett hums, giving him a flat look.
“You’ll find him soon enough,” Matt says, and Brett can’t help it, he barks out a laugh.
“Sure we will. Christ, Matt.” He shakes his head disbelievingly. What else is there to do against that sheer amount of audacity? “You feeling up to making your statement now? Or should we reschedule that for tomorrow?” he asks condescendingly.
Matt’s lips are fighting hard not to turn into a full-blown grin.
“Tomorrow would be great, if that’s okay. I need to sleep this off,” he says. Brett snorts.
“Though you might wanna know, I personally won’t be pressing charges,” Matt adds.
At this point, Brett isn’t even surprised.
“Of course. Still protecting your client, uh?”
Matt shrugs helplessly. “Professional secrecy.”
Brett lets ouf a heavy sigh, but it’s not even that annoyed anymore. He’s too tired for that.
“Simmons,” he calls, and the officer’s head whips around to look at him from where she’s filling up paperwork. “Take Murdock back to his place, make sure he gets there in one piece.”
“But… Castle’s still out there. Shouldn’t we keep him under protection?” Simmons asks with a wary look at Matt.
“Trust me, Castle’s long gone by now, and he’s certainly not coming back for him, as annoying as he is,” Brett says, and Matt exhales a laugh.
Simmons still looks like she was just ordered to go hunt a pack of wolves bare-handed, but she nods and offers her arm for Matt to hold as she escorts him to the door.
“I’ll call Foggy for you, tell him you’re alright,” Brett calls as they’re walking away, and he watches the smile fall clean off Matt’s face. It’s petty, but he’ll take what he can on a day like this.
Frank figures Murdock must have given him the key to the roof entrance to avoid a possible run-in with the neighbor, and he’s right.
The loft is bathed in late afternoon light, painting bright orange squares across its floors. Frank’s only ever seen it through a scope before, but it’s a nice place, better than his own by a mile, though maybe lacking in the furniture department. Makes sense, though, with as little time as Murdock probably spends here, he’d only need the bare minimum.
He makes himself at home, figuring Murdock giving him the key is all the permission he needs. He doesn’t snoop around, though, because he gets the feeling that Murdock would immediately know if he touched something. There are beers in the fridge, so he takes one and goes to lay on the couch, enjoying the warmth of the sun on his neck while it lasts.
It’s still weird to him that Murdock would trust him with this, his home. He’s still not convinced it isn’t some elaborate ruse to get back at him for tying him to his bed that one time. But Murdock himself admitted to not being sure as to why he was doing this, which, in a weird way, is kind of reassuring. At least he doesn’t have an ulterior motive.
Frank will be gone as soon as the police patrols thin out, anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.
He closes his eyes, and next thing he knows, he’s startled awake by the sound of a key loudly sliding into a lock. He must have dozed off for at least an hour, because the sun is gone, though the room isn’t dark, thanks to the giant fucking billboard that’s right outside the window that he somehow hadn’t noticed earlier.
He jumps to his feet as he hears the handle on the front door turn once, twice, followed by a familiar voice.
“Sorry, wrong key.”
“It’s okay. You’ve had a rough day,” another voice answers, one Frank doesn’t recognize, so it can’t be good news.
Murdock has to know he’s here, with all the crazy shit he can do, so he’s probably making all this noise to warn him. Frank has about five seconds to spare, so he jumps into the bathroom and closes the door quietly behind him, just as the front door pushes open.
“You really don’t have to,” Murdock says as they move into the loft, though only one pair of footsteps is audible.
“It’s fine, better safe than sorry right?” the second voice, a woman, answers good-naturedly.
Frank listens to her move around the loft, eventually coming dangerously close to the bathroom. He tenses up, ready for a fight, but her steps fade away soon enough.
“All clear,” she says with a smile in her voice.
“Told you,” Murdock says, and he must be giving her that crooked smile of his because her voice is a lot more flustered when she speaks again.
“Guess I’ll see you at the precinct tomorrow, then. You have a good night, Mr. Murdock.”
“Matt,” he corrects her, and Frank rolls his eyes. “You too, Simmons.”
“Laura,” she answers. Frank kind of wants to burst out of the bathroom just to put a stop to the ridiculous flirting. He’s pretty sure her face would be worth it.
The door closes, but Frank still waits a couple more seconds before coming out, just to be sure.
Murdock swipes the half-empty bottle of beer off the table and wiggles it in front of him.
“You’re lucky she wasn’t paying attention,” he says patronizingly.
He’s right, and Frank feels like a fucking idiot for forgetting it, but he’s not about to admit it to him. Ever.
“She was distracted alright,” he says instead as he takes the bottle back and takes a long pull. It’s lukewarm, now, but he’s had worse.
“Had to cover for you somehow,” Murdock says. Like that’s the only reason he was turning on the charm.
Frank snorts and throws himself back on the couch. He expects Murdock to scoff outrageously, maybe tell him to get his boots off the cushions, but instead he slides on the opposite end of the couch with two fresh beers in his hands and offers him one.
After considering him carefully for a while, Frank takes it, thinking that this feels charged, like he’s not just offering him a beer but maybe an olive branch too.
Frank doesn’t thank him - for the beer, or the other stuff too - because it’s not like Murdock said anything when it was him rescuing his ass, so he can go fuck himself.
They start drinking in companionable silence, when suddenly, Murdock says, “Want some good news?”
Frank lifts an eyebrow at him, suspicious. This feels like the start of a knock-knock joke.
Murdock smiles. “I heard the victim doesn’t want to press charges.”
Frank’s own barked laugh surprises him, and Murdock looks very pleased with himself.
Neither of them say anything else as they wait for the police sirens to fade and the manhunt to be called off, but Frank can tell something’s just shifted, there.
He might have the FBI on his tail, Frank’s not leaving that drug ring alone until everyone involved is either dead or behind bars.
The thing is, Murdock somehow knows he’s found something big, and now Frank can’t seem to shake him off. The guy’s everywhere Frank is, vaulting out of the shadows with his stupid black mask and batons to knock out every gangster Frank finds before he gets a chance to put a bullet in them.
But having reinforcements is a plus, especially dealing with an operation of this size, and Murdock is a hell of a fucking asset, so Frank begrudgingly accepts the help. Besides, maybe he’s getting soft, but he’s starting to think he might not be as much of a pain in the ass as he originally thought, even going as far as sharing some info with Frank every once in a while.
He’s still a fucking bastard, smirking smugly every time he manages to get to a target before him, but Frank gives as good as he gets, enjoying the disapproving twist of his mouth every time Frank shoots the kneecaps off some random drug dealer just to make a point.
So they tacitly collaborate, if only until this whole drug ring is brought down.
Between the two of them, they already managed to find and dismantle three small hideouts, but they still have no idea of who’s running the thing. It’s going slowly, and Frank is getting more frustrated every day.
But then one night, Murdock drops in front of him out of nowhere and tells him he’s got something.
Looking through the scope of his rifle at the commotion going on on the docks, Frank understands this is nothing like the ridiculous gatherings they’ve come across until now. Probably why Murdock actually sought him out for the first time since their little partnership started.
“I’m guessing it ain’t exotic fruits in those boxes,” Frank says, following a pair of men carrying a heavy wooden crate from a boat to a warehouse.
“Weapons,” Murdock confirms. “Heavy stuff. They’ve been stocking up for a while, now.”
“Preparing for war,” Frank says. He lowers his rifle, turns to look at Murdock, who nods.
“They have enough to take Hell’s Kitchen with this,” he says, and there’s that undercurrent of barely restrained fury to his voice, dangerous. Frank’s heard it a few times now, sometimes even directed at him. He knows better than to mess with it.
“We’re stopping them tonight,” he says, and for once, Murdock looks like he agrees.
It goes rather smoothly. That is, until it all goes to hell, of course.
They’ve cleared the warehouse rather easily, ten men no match for the two of them and the element of surprise. It’s when they reach the boat that things go south.
It’s a familiar scenario, the two of them and an exploding boat, though this time Murdock’s the one pushing Frank off into the river. He feels the burn of the blast at his back right before he hits the water, and it takes him a moment to get his bearings and remember to find some air.
He breaks the surface with a gasp and immediately looks around for Murdock. He didn’t see him jump after him, but he wasn’t exactly in a position to pay attention.
“Red!” he says, too breathless to be as loud as he wants. “Red, you there?”
The boat burns bright above him, casting orange light on the water around it, which is the only reason he manages to see Murdock break out for air about twenty feet away from him.
His relief is short lived, as he notices that Murdock looks like he’s barely managing to hold his head above the water. Frank swims his way over to him and Murdock startles violently when he feels the disturbance in the water next to him.
“It’s me, it’s me,” Frank says, and he waits for Murdock to stop thrashing about.
“Frank,” Murdock says, sounding surprisingly relieved as well, then he swallows a mouthful of water and coughs it out. “You okay?”
Frank ignores the genuine worry in his voice. “Let’s get out of here,” he says instead.
Murdock nods as well as he can manage with water up to his ears and they start making their way to the next pier, far enough not to get shot as soon as they leave the water.
Frank pulls himself out first, then helps Murdock climb his way next to him. Murdock immediately rolls on his back, chest heaving, and Frank wonders just how much he got hurt by the blast, for him to look so distressed.
“We should get out of here,” he says, listening to the police sirens growing closer.
Murdock nods, but makes no move to get up. “Yeah, just… Gimme a second.”
“Don’t really have one,” Frank says, and pulls him to his feet. Murdock sways a little, grabs onto Frank’s arm for balance, and that’s as worrying as it gets. “Can you walk?”
Murdock nods, and Frank doesn’t wait for him to start doing so on his own, just drags them away from the flames and chaos behind them.
By the time they stumble into Murdock’s loft, he looks like he’s doing better already. He still has to lean against Frank, but only as much as Frank himself needs him to stay upright.
Murdock drops Frank on the couch and rips off his mask, leaving his hair a wet mess atop his head. They both stay like this a second, catching their breath.
“You good?” Murdock finally asks, breaking the silence.
Frank hums. He’s hurting pretty much everywhere, and chaffing where his wet clothes are rubbing at him, but he’s used to worse. “You?” he asks Murdock, and he has trouble sounding casual about it. It was surprisingly off-putting seeing him so out of it on the docks.
“Yeah,” Murdock says, almost a sigh, “Just got..,” he makes a spinning motion at the side of his head “Water in my ears. That and the blast, messed up my senses.”
Frank nods, though he has no idea how that works. He’ll ask another day.
Murdock turns around and starts limping his way to the bedroom, peeling off his wet shirt along the way, and Frank’s brain kind of short-circuits. When he comes back, still half-naked, he’s carrying a pile of dry clothes that he hands over to him.
“You can have the shower first,” he says.
Frank can’t help the huffed laugh he lets out. “Is that an offer or an order?”
Murdock’s lips curl up. “It’s an order. You stink, and besides, I’m sure a warm shower sounds nice, right about now.”
Sounds like heaven, actually. Frank doesn’t leave him a chance to change his mind, just pushes himself to his feet and disappears into the bathroom as fast as his aching legs will allow.
When he comes back out, wearing a shirt that’s slightly too tight and pants that are three inches too short for him not to look like an idiot, he feels like a new man.
Murdock’s busy trying to stitch up a shallow cut on his own ribs, twisting ridiculously and wincing the whole time. Frank just rolls his eyes and comes to sit on the coffee table in front of him.
“Lemme handle that, you’re just going to make it worse,” he says gruffly, and Murdock - surprisingly - lets him take the thread and needle from him without complaint.
Frank wonders what happened for Murdock to go from trying to strangle him with his thighs to this, letting Frank stitch him up quietly on his couch. He doesn’t think he did anything particular to earn this. Maybe Murdock’s just easy to give away his trust. He’d already offered to team up back when Frank was trying to take down the Blacksmith, and Frank had given him even less reasons to trust him, then. Maybe he’s just lonely.
He shakes the thought away. Would be hypocritical of him to try and psychoanalyze him when he’s just realized he trusts him just as much.
He thinks it’s not from a conscious effort on his part, but that maybe Murdock just has a way of growing on people. Would explain how Karen and Nelson still hang around after all the shit he’s pulled.
Murdock says something, snapping Frank out of his absent-minded sewing.
“What was that?” Frank asks.
“I said I heard you call me Red, at the docks. Hadn’t happened in a while.”
Frank huffs. “Yeah, well. Doesn’t really suit you anymore, but I couldn’t exactly call you Murdock when anyone could hear.”
Murdock tilts his head in acknowledgement, a small smile playing on his lips.
“You're bleeding,” he says then, right as Frank finishes the last stitch.
He’d noticed, but he hadn’t really been paying it any mind. It doesn’t need stitches, just a shallow gash on his shoulder where a bullet grazed him.
“Lemme take a look at it,” Murdock adds, gesturing at him to turn around.
“It’s nothing,” Frank says dismissively, putting the supplies away in the open medikit. “Barely even feel it.”
“Dipping this in Hudson water can’t be good, at least lemme clean it up.”
He sighs and complies, knowing better than to argue with him. At least Murdock’s fingers are cold, careful as he gently dabs it with disinfectant. Frank closes his eyes and exhales through his nose, the exhaustion of the night catching up with him quick.
“You can stay here tonight,” Murdock says quietly, closing the medikit. Frank hadn’t noticed he was already done.
He opens his eyes, looks over his shoulder to catch a glimpse of his face, but Murdock’s already disappearing into the bathroom to take his own shower.
Now that the FBI’s got his apartment, Frank’s been staying at one of his safe houses while he finds something else, sleeping on a shitty mattress on the floor. There are cracks in the walls, the sink leaks, and his neighbors need a divorce. The prospect of walking over there right now isn’t exactly appealing, and Murdock’s couch feels heavenly under his sore muscles. And he offered, so he obviously doesn’t mind.
He’s asleep before Murdock even comes out of the shower.
Someone gently shakes him awake and he cracks an eye open. It’s Murdock, leaning over him with a ridiculous case of bed hair and sleepy eyes, soft morning light hitting the side of his face and bringing out the red in his hair.
“Foggy’s here,” he says, not exactly whispering, but close. As if on cue, Frank hears a series of heavy knocks at the door.
Groaning as pretty much every bone in his body pops, Frank starts getting up. Feeling like he’s some kind of secret lover about to be caught by an angry husband, he starts looking around for his shoes, when Murdock puts a hand on his shoulder and guides him towards the bedroom.
Before Frank’s mind can go anywhere with that, he says, “I’ll handle him, you just hide for a minute.”
He doesn’t look worried about the whole thing, actually looks kind of out of it. Probably not a fan of early mornings, given his nightly activities.
Frank lets himself be pushed inside the bedroom, watches the door slide close just as he hears Nelson loose patience.
“Matt, I swear if you don’t open this door in five seconds I’m breaking in!”
A couple seconds later, there’s the sound of a door unlocking, and Murdock’s quiet voice.
“You have a key, Foggy.”
Heavy footsteps move into the loft. “Yeah, but maybe if I break the door once in a while you’ll learn a lesson from it.”
“You can always try,” Murdock answers with a smirk in his voice, and how he doesn’t get punched in the face more often is a mystery to Frank.
“Don’t test me, Matt. So, do I need to get you to the hospital or not?”
“I’m fine. Just had a midnight swim, nothing crazy.”
“Sure. You know it’s all over the newspaper, right?” Nelson says, unimpressed. “You and the Punisher blowing up half the docks, hand in hand. Adorable.”
Frank sits down on the bed, figuring he’s going to have to wait a while before Murdock manages to talk himself out of that one. His hands land on the warm mattress where Murdock was just laying, and he carefully doesn’t dwell on that.
“He’s helping me, Foggy,” Murdock says, sounding like they’ve had this conversation before. “Notice he didn’t kill anybody.”
Nelson sighs loud enough for Frank to hear him, even through the door. “Guess he owes you one for the stint you pulled at the precinct, uh?”
“Still not letting that one go, uh?” Murdock says. It sounds like he’s smiling.
“No, I’m not. Ever. And neither is Brett. It’s going to cost us millions in cigars to get back in his good graces, you know that?”
“He’s already forgiven me, he just needs to get it out of his system.”
“He most definitely has not,” Nelson says, but he’s laughing, now. “I’m thinking he might shoot you on sight, actually.”
“I’ll just send the cigars by mail, then.”
“You might wanna do that.”
There’s a beat, then Murdock says, sincerely, “Thank you for checking in, Fog.”
“Answer your phone, next time,” Nelson retorts, but there’s no heat behind it. “Wanna come with me to the office, share a cab?”
“I’ll have breakfast first, meet you there,” Murdock says.
Frank listens to Nelson’s footsteps fade, to the door close behind him, then he slides out of the bedroom. Murdock’s already in the kitchen, heating up a pan.
Maybe he should leave, that probably would be the polite thing to do. Not overstay his welcome. Instead Frank comes to stand at the counter, leans his hip against it and considers Murdock as he starts cracking eggs into a bowl. Nelson obviously knows they help each other out occasionally, so why even bother to hide him in his room at all?
“Am I your dirty little secret, Murdock?” he asks.
Murdock makes a strangled kind of noise, then bursts out laughing.
“He knows we work together. I just don’t think his heart could take it if he found you here first thing in the morning,” he explains.
Frank feels a smile tug at his own lips. “I scare him that much, uh?”
Murdock pours the eggs into the pan, his head turned Frank’s way. “Only because he hasn’t seen you wearing my pants,” he says, smiling enough to show teeth. “Then he’d never be able to take you seriously again.”
Frank’s lets out a disbelieving laugh. “How would you know? Maybe I look great in these.”
“You look like an ass,” Murdock retorts, and Frank has no doubt that he can tell, somehow.
He sits down at the table so that he’s still facing the kitchen, watching Murdock pick up ingredients without seeing them, move gracefully from the stove to the fridge and back. He wonders if he can tell he’s being watched. Probably.
“How does that even work?” Frank asks to alleviate the silence. It’s been nagging him for a while, now’s as good a time as any.
“Thought you’d ask sooner,” Murdock says. He doesn’t sound like he minds.
“Waiting for the right occasion.”
Murdock comes back with two plates full of scrambled eggs and toasts, one of which he slides in front of Frank.
“It’s hard to explain,” he says. “Sighted people have trouble picturing it, I’ve found.”
Frank starts digging into his eggs.
This is the second drug trade they stop this week, unconscious men scattered all around them in the empty parking lot.
Matt stands watch as Frank searches inside the van that the drug dealers came here with. It’s full of neat little white packages, there’s a crate containing guns, and not a single clue as to who is the head behind all this.
Frank hops out, grumbling under his breath.
“Nothing,” he says.
“Told you,” Matt says, annoyingly. He must sense Frank’s glare because the sassy cant to his hips straightens some and he says, “We’ll find something, eventually. They’re going to make a mistake.”
Frank scoffs. “When? They haven’t made one yet, and we’re running in fucking circles.”
He kicks the van’s bumper for good measure, can almost picture Matt’s unimpressed eyebrow raise under his mask.
“We’re making progress. It’s slow, but sometimes there’s nothing else you can do,” he says.
Frank looks at him. That doesn’t sound like something he would say at all.
“Nelson tell you that?”
Caught, Matt chuckles. “Karen.”
Frank huffs out a laugh. “Yeah, makes sense.”
“Look, I don’t like this either, but we’re getting close, I can tell,” Matt says. “Only a couple more of these, and—”
He tilts his head in a way that’s starting to look familiar to Frank, and before he can ask what he’s just heard, Matt’s throwing himself at him.
Gunshots go off around them as Frank’s head hits the door of the van hard enough for him to see stars. He hears Matt let out a grunt somewhere in front of him, feels himself get pulled on the other side of the van, out of the line of fire. When his vision stops dancing in front of his eyes, he sees Matt leaning on the van next to him, holding his bleeding shoulder, teeth bared in pain.
“Where?” Frank asks, pulling his rifle out of the holster on his back.
“Your 2, on the roof next to the water tower,” Matt grits out.
Frank risks a peek out the corner of their hiding place, only for a bullet to whizz right past his nose. He takes cover again, hissing out a swear.
“I can’t get a clear shot.”
“I’ll distract him.”
Matt’s sprinting off before Frank can even open his mouth to tell him that’s a stupid fucking idea. He swears loudly as Murdock zigzags his way between the parked cars, dodging bullets left and right. Frank snaps himself out of it to take advantage of the distraction. He rolls out of cover, finds his target, breathes out. He could probably get him in the shoulder, if he wanted.
He presses the trigger and the guy’s head explodes.
The sudden silence after the shot is deafening. He looks around for Murdock, doesn’t see him anywhere.
“M— Red!” he yells, sliding his rifle back into its holster. “Red, where you at?”
“Here, I’m here,” Matt says, a little strained, pulling himself upright from where he was hiding behind a car. He doesn’t look like he was shot anywhere else than the original hit on his shoulder, but Frank’s not taking any chances.
“He get you?” he asks as he walks up to him. He doesn’t reach out for him, but it’s a near thing.
Matt shakes his head. “I’ll live.”
Frank quickly feels relief give way to anger. He snaps, “Yeah, wanna tell me what the fuck that was about? You didn’t see him?”
Matt doesn’t make the obvious joke there, and it’s all the better because Frank’s not sure he wouldn’t punch him if he did. He knows damn well what he means.
“I wasn’t paying attention. I was too slow,” he says instead, and there’s an angry twist to his mouth. Frank knows it’s not directed at him, though. Somehow, knowing Matt blames himself instantly puts out Frank’s own anger.
He exhales heavily, tries to let some of the fucking mess of things he feels constricting his chest go with his breath.
“Let’s get outta here,” he says.
“Curtis is here,” Matt says from where he’s sitting on Frank’s shitty couch, in Frank’s shitty safe house.
Frank goes to the door and opens it before Curtis even has a chance to knock. He startles slightly, and Frank would probably find it a little funny if he wasn’t still so hung up about tonight’s incident.
He steps aside to let him in, and Curtis stops in his tracks when he sees Matt there, still wearing his mask and clutching at his shoulder.
There’s a beat of uncertainty where Frank has no idea what Curtis is thinking, then he just sighs, “We gotta stop meeting like this,” and goes to sit down next to Matt.
“Always a pleasure,” Matt says, smiling, though it’s dampened by the pain.
“Frank didn’t mention it was for a friend,” Curtis says casually as he gets his gloves on, already assessing the damage to Matt’s shoulder.
“Does it matter?” Frank asks tiredly, crossing his arms where he’s standing next to them.
“Nah. Friend of my friend, and all that,” Curtis says. He wipes at the wound with a wad of cotton to get as much blood as possible out of the way, making Matt hiss through his teeth. “Well, the bullet didn’t go deep, so there’s that. You’re lucky it was shitty ammo, probably would’ve shattered your shoulder blade otherwise.”
“Would be even luckier if he’d been wearing a fucking vest,” Frank mutters. He’d been meaning to bring it up for a while, now’s as good a time as any. Matt needs to understand that a thermic shirt and cargo pants isn’t appropriate combat gear, especially when you have a perfectly fine armored suit in your closet but refuse to wear it for stupid fucking symbolistic reasons.
Matt huffs. “I’m working on it.”
Curtis makes a face at their bickering but doesn’t say anything about it. He fishes a pair of tweezers out of his supplies.
“Bad news is, the bullet’s fractured into shards, so I’m gonna have to take them all out. Could take a while.” He looks at Frank as if telling him he can go do something else while he waits.
“I’ve got time,” Frank says, shrugging.
Curtis sighs. “Knock yourself out.”
He gets to work, and Frank stays there. Time stretches as he watches Matt bare his teeth from time to time when Curtis has to dig deeper to get a piece of the bullet out. He doesn’t complain or let out anything else than the occasional hiss, and Frank wonders how often he gets shot. If he bothers to ask Nelson or Karen for help when he does.
“Think that’s it,” Curtis says, wiping at his forehead with the back of his arm. “Lemme just check—”
Matt twists, ghosts the tip of his fingers across his shoulder.
“You got it all,” he says, letting his hand fall back again.
Curtis snorts. “Sure. I’m just gonna—”
“You got it all, Curt,” Frank says, unable to keep the amusement out of his tone. He sees Matt smile mischievously out of the corner of his eye, clearly sharing the sentiment.
Curtis raises an eyebrow at him, then shrugs, apparently deciding he trusts Frank enough not to question it further. He gets started on dressing Matt’s wound, carefully wrapping a roll of gauze around his shoulder.
“So, how’d you guys meet?” he asks casually. “Is there a vigilante craigslist?”
“He shot me in the head,” Matt says at the same time as Frank says, “He started it.”
Curtis’s eyes go from him to Matt a couple times. “Mh. Do I even wanna know?”
“He got over it,” Frank says.
Curtis finishes up and starts packing his kit back up. Matt rolls his shoulder carefully once, then turns to pretend to look at him.
“Thank you, Curtis,” he says, sincere.
“Thank me by not getting shot at four in the morning again, some of us have day jobs,” Curtis says, but there’s no real heat behind it.
Frank thanks him again after walking him to the door. Curtis waves it off.
“Anytime, man. Hey, come by the church for a session, sometime, yeah?”
“Yeah, maybe.” He probably won’t.
When Frank comes back into the living room, Matt’s struggling to slip back into his torn shirt. Frank rolls his eyes.
“What do you think you’re doing, exactly?”
“You heard Curtis, some of us have day jobs. Foggy and I are meeting a client in four hours,” Matt says, as he finally manages to get his head through the collar and hisses in pain as a result.
“Christ, Murdock, just call in sick. You’re not meeting a client like this,” Frank says, gesturing at the whole of him.
“I promised Foggy,” Matt says, limping his way to the open window. He gives Frank a slanted smile. “And I’ve gone to court in worse condition before.”
Frank runs a tired hand across his face. How Matt’s even got it in him to be a cocky little shit right now is a mystery.
“Okay, alright, listen. Just—” Frank takes a step between him and his way out, “Just stay here, sleep for a couple hours. I’ll give you a ride to work, and we’ll swing by your place so you can change. Unless you wanna meet your client lookin’ like this.”
Matt opens his mouth, maybe in surprise or maybe because he’s about to argue, so Frank cuts him off, “You’re not parkour-ing your way there, Murdock.”
Matt tilts his head. “You gonna stop me?” he asks. Could be taken as a threat but there’s a hint of an amused smile at the corner of his mouth.
“I won’t have to, because if you tried right now you’d fall to your death. God you’re stubborn,” Frank says, snapping the window shut.
Matt snorts, “You’re one to talk,” but when Frank turns around, he’s sat back down on the couch.
He takes off the mask, his hair sticking up in twelve different directions.
Frank clears his throat. “I’ll get you some clothes,” he says to give himself something to do instead of staring dumbly.
He throws him a hoodie and sweatpants when he comes back. Matt catches them before they hit him in the face, of course, and he gets started on the painstaking process of stripping of his shirt again.
“You can take a shower, if you want, but I can’t guarantee hot water,” Frank says as he goes into his bedroom to get rid of his own gear.
He doesn’t get an answer, but a minute later there’s the sound of running water.
He changes into more comfortable clothes and goes back into the living room, and before he even knows what he’s doing he lays down on the couch. It isn’t nearly as comfortable as Matt’s, but he’s not the one with a busted shoulder, so.
He’s almost asleep by the time Matt comes out of the bathroom. He cracks an eye open, finds him hovering in the doorway. Ignoring the pang of something he feels at seeing him in his slightly oversized clothes, he gestures at the bedroom.
“Shitty couch,” he says, hoping Matt will get the message.
There’s a beat, then Matt nods, and goes to bed without another word. Frank lets out a drawn-out breath and closes his eyes.
“There,” Matt says, and Frank pulls over in front of a small grocery store. Through the window he sees Nelson waiting there, looking stressed and checking his watch compulsively. They’re only five minutes late, Frank rolls his eyes.
Matt opens the door and Nelson does a double take, undoubtedly not expecting him to come out of a random van. Then his eyes land on Frank behind the wheel, wearing sunglasses as a half-assed attempt to look inconspicuous in plain daylight, and his eyebrow shoot up to his hairline as his jaw drops cartoonishly.
Frank gives him a little two-fingered salute, because he’s kind of an asshole and it makes Nelson’s eyes go impossibly wider. Then he nods at Matt.
“See ya around, Murdock.”
Matt slams the door shut, and as Frank starts easing himself back into the traffic, he hears Nelson’s voice carry through the rolled-down window.
“Hey, um, Matt? What the fuck?”
Frank got stabbed in the back. Literally, this time.
Matt had texted him earlier that night, telling him he wasn’t patrolling tonight and not to go after their mystery gang alone, so of course Frank had done just that, and gotten a knife stuck in his shoulder for his trouble.
The asshole that had managed to get the drop on him got a bullet in the head pretty much a second later, but Frank still needed to get the knife out. It wasn’t a big knife, thankfully, more of a potato peeler than anything, but it was in a place where trying to get it out himself might do more harm than good.
Because Frank’s luck is a thing of legend, Curtis is out of town on some kind of romantic getaway, and though Frank knows that he would absolutely ditch everything for him, he doesn’t want to cost him another girlfriend.
So here he is, sitting on Matt’s roof, waiting for him to come home from whatever was more important to him than preventing a gang war.
He’s being unfair, he knows. Matt can have a life - should have a life - outside of being the Devil, but it’s hard being amenable with a knife scraping at your shoulder blade.
He’s been here for maybe an hour and is considering just pulling it out himself and risk nicking his artery, when the roof door to Matt’s loft suddenly opens next to him.
He looks— disheveled. His tie is undone, so are the top two button of his shirt, and his suit jacket is nowhere to be seen. There’s a slight drunken flush to his cheeks and his hair looks like someone’s been running their hands through it. Suddenly Frank thinks he has an idea as to why he couldn’t patrol tonight. Maybe that officer he heard last time? She certainly sounded interested.
“Hey,” Matt says.
“Am I interrupting something? Sorry,” Frank says, not even pretending he means it.
Matt scoffs, but there’s a smile in there, like he finds Frank’s ordeal very funny. Frank’s about to tell him to shove it when Matt says,
“I was out with Karen and Foggy. We won a big case today.”
Matt chuckles. “Yeah, oh.”
He crouches next to him and extends a hand to his shoulder, ghosting his fingers where the blade disappears into the muscle.
“Didn’t I tell you not to go there alone?”
He’s not whispering, but it’s a close thing. Frank shivers. It’s a cold night, for June.
“Was handling myself just fine before you,” he mutters.
Matt makes a humming sound, then straightens back up, extending a hand. “Let’s go inside, take care of that.” As he pulls Frank to his feet, he adds, “Karen and Foggy are here.”
Frank glares at him. He wishes he could see it.
“Couldn’t you tell them to leave?”
“I tried, but they thought it was suspicious. I had to tell them you were there.”
Frank starts to make his way back from where he came when Matt’s hand closes around his wrist.
“You still have a knife in your back,” he says helpfully. “How are you planning on taking it out?”
Frank snatches his hand back. “Curtis,” he says without missing a beat.
Matt does the blind equivalent of rolling his eyes.
“You would have gone to him first if he was available.”
“You don’t know that. Maybe I just like you more,” Frank says, meaning it to be sarcastic, but he hears his own heart skip as he says it.
Thankfully Matt looks too drunk to notice. He sighs, hands on his hips.
“They don’t bite, Frank. Just— come inside, alright? It won’t take long.”
Frank hesitates, hating the slight cant to Matt’s mouth that means he knows he’s already won.
He works his jaw once, considers leaving just to prove a point, then sighs.
“You’re dealing with Nelson,” he says as he pushes past him and into the loft.
Nelson and Karen are in the living room, talking with their heads bent close to one another, and they both turn to him when they hear him coming down the stairs. Karen smiles, like she’s genuinely fucking happy to see him, and Frank suddenly realizes how much he’s missed her. Nelson, for his part, looks decidedly unhappy about the whole thing.
“Frank,” he says, clipped.
“Couldn’t you pick another night to get stabbed?”
Karen slaps him in the arm.
Frank rolls his eyes. “I’m sorry, I’ll try to mind your schedule next time I’m planning on repeating the experience.”
Nelson opens his mouth, probably too drunk for his survival instincts to kick in, but Matt cuts him off.
“Karen, could you get me the medikit in the bathroom, please? Some clean towels, too. Frank, you sit down,” he says. He doesn’t sound nearly as weirded out by the situation as Frank feels. Maybe the alcohol helps.
Karen goes and Frank sits down heavily on the couch, feeling Nelson’s disapproving glare as he does. Whatever, it’s not his house. He doesn’t have a say in any of this.
The cushion behind Frank tips under Matt’s weight, and he starts carefully taking off his gear layer by layer.
Nelson’s eyes almost bulge out of his skull the second the wound’s out in the open.
“Oh no, no no no,” he says, spinning around so his back is facing them. “I am not watching that!”
“Oh, I wouldn’t want to ruin your night, Nelson,” Frank says sarcastically. “Just pretend I’m not here and go on with your plans.”
“Maybe I will, Castle!” he snaps, turning to point a finger at him like he forgot why he turned around in the first place. “And maybe if I get drunk enough I’ll forget I ever saw that!”
“There are beers in the fridge,” Matt says offhandedly as he gently prods the area around the knife.
This somewhat reassures Frank that he’s not about to bleed out, since he trusts Matt to at least take it a little more seriously if he was. Doesn’t mean he appreciates how fucking chill he is about the whole thing.
Nelson, surprisingly, actually goes to take the beers. As he’s fishing them out of the fridge, Matt pulls the knife out, making Frank swear through his teeth. He has the distinct feeling the timing is significant, since Nelson absolutely looks like the type to faint if he saw that.
Matt thanks Karen when she hands him a towel. He puts pressure on the wound and Frank hisses out in pain, catching Karen’s sympathetic wince out of the corner of his eye.
Nelson brings the pack of beers back and leaves it on the coffee table, then slumps in the armchair across from Frank, giving him the stink eye the whole time.
Frank ignores it. “Hey, hand me one of those,” he says instead, pointing his chin at the beers.
Matt lets out an incredulous chuckle, his breath ghosting over Frank’s bare shoulder. Nelson narrows his eyes at him, but eventually seems to decide he can trust him with a bottle and slides one over to him.
Frank grunts in acknowledgement and takes a long swig, aiming to dull the throbbing pain in his back.
“Look at us,” Nelson says after a beat, gesturing between them. “Just a merry group of normal people on a Friday night, having a beer, taking knives out of each other.”
“It’s not that weird for us, honestly.”
Nelson sighs deeply. “Sadly.”
Matt starts stitching him up and Frank notices the exact moment Nelson sees the needle go in.
“God, I did not need to see that!” he whines, shielding his eyes with his hands.
“You don’t have to stay, Foggy,” Matt says, a smile in his voice.
“And leave Karen to deal with the two of you?” Nelson shakes his head. “I’m not a monster, Matt.”
“I can handle them, Foggy,” Karen says, laughing, and Frank doesn’t doubt for a second that she can. She’s been dealing with Matt’s bullshit for a while, now.
“Oh, I know you can,” Nelson says, echoing his thoughts. “That’s not the point. And anyway, I come from a prestigious line of butchers, gore does nothing to me. This is..,” He gestures at Frank’s wound, makes a face. “This barely registers on my radar of disgusting-ness.”
Karen bites her lip, badly concealing a smile, and Frank hears Matt try to smother his laugh behind him.
He feels a little weird witnessing their friendship from this point of view. They’re too drunk to really care he’s there, otherwise they wouldn’t act so relaxed, he’s sure - at least Nelson wouldn’t. Or maybe he’s just like that all the time. Out of the three of them he’s certainly the one Frank knows the less about.
When Matt finally announces he’s done, Nelson lets out a loud sigh of relief.
“I’ll just cover it up so you can shower,” Matt says, already applying a waterproof bandage to his work.
Frank snorts. “Is that an offer or an order?”
“You know what it is,” Matt retorts, playful.
“This is so weird,” Nelson says, reminding Frank that he is, in fact, still here. Frank raises an eyebrow at him as he watches them in that aghast way only drunk people manage to be. When he notices, he clarifies, “You two. Talking. Like people.”
“Mh, crazy, I know,” Frank says, taking a sip of his beer.
“We are people,” Matt confirms, just enough on that side of drunk for Frank to wonder why he let him get a knife out of him not ten minutes ago.
“Well, the jury’s still out on some of us,” Nelson says, narrowing his eyes at Frank.
“Alright, we should probably leave you to it, I’m sure Frank needs rest,” Karen says suddenly, jumping to her feet, and Frank gives her a grateful look for the out. She smiles back.
Matt clearly shares the sentiment. “I’ll call you a cab,” he says.
Nelson’s eyes widen. “Hey, wait! No! I’m not leaving you alone with him!” he says to Matt, gesturing wildly at Frank, who rolls his eyes.
“Right, because my plan was to have Murdock get the knife out only to stab him with it. And you’re the one keeping me from doing so.”
Nelson sputters indignantly, “M-Maybe! I don’t know what’s going on in that bullet-proof skull of yours!”
“Foggy, come on. You can always come see if Matt’s still alive in the morning,” Karen says, taking him by the arm as she gives them a commiserating smile.
That seems enough to convince Nelson’s drunk brain, and he lets her pull him to his feet.
“Alright, okay. I’ll do that. He better be! I’m watching you, Castle!” he says menacingly, making Karen giggle as she drags him to the front door. “I know krav-maga!”
Karen burst out laughing. “Since when,” she says as the door closes after them.
After listening to their voices fade out in the hall, Matt lets out a breath and sags against the back of the couch.
“I’ll have to buy her flowers for that one.”
“I’ll pitch in,” Frank says.
Matt groans tiredly as he pulls himself upright. “I’ll go get you some clothes, the shower is yours.”
He goes to leave, and Franks feels like he should say something. He clears his throat.
“Hey, uh… Sorry. For ruining your night.”
Matt pauses, maybe in surprise, maybe because his drunken brain needs to process the words, then he just smiles, waves it off.
“Don’t worry about it. Foggy probably won’t even remember half of it.”
Frank gets a text from Matt right as he starts his patrol.
Busy tonight, don’t wait up
Another one pops up only a second later, like Matt’s reading his thoughts from all the way across Hell’s Kitchen,
And don’t go after them alone
Frank snorts. As tempting as it sounds, he learned his lesson from last time. Even he needs backup, going after these guys.
But now he’s left to wonder what could possibly keep Matt away from tracking down their mystery gang leader. He seems just as eager as Frank to bring them down as soon as possible, if not more. He’s so fucking territorial with the Kitchen, it’s a wonder he even takes breaks from hunting them down at all.
Hot date? Frank types as a joke, then immediately deletes it. If it’s actually the case, he doesn’t want to know. Just doing recon, he writes instead. Neutral. Better.
He doesn’t get an answer, but that’s to be expected. Matt doesn’t take his phone with him on patrols, Frank usually has to wait until morning for him to bother texting back.
It’s not a habit, but he usually wakes up with a message from him, on the rare occasions where they don’t patrol together. A way to make sure they’re both still alive, probably.
That’s why Frank gets suspicious when he wakes up the next morning and there’s still no news from Matt.
He’s not worried; there are too many possible reasons as to why he didn’t write, starting with the very obvious fact that he has a life outside of this. But still, it’s… Weird. So Frank calls him, and ends up on voicemail.
He doesn’t bother with breakfast, just takes his van and drives to his place.
The roof door is open, so Frank lets himself in. He almost calls out for Matt but cuts himself off when he sees Nelson wandering in the living room below him.
He leans on the railing with his elbows.
Nelson startles violently, letting out a high-pitched shriek as he whips around to look at him.
“Jesus Chri— okay, of course you’re here,” he says, terror melting into annoyance almost instantly. “I wish I was more surprised. Where’s Matt?”
“Was about to ask you the same thing,” Franks says, refusing to let himself worry just yet.
Nelson frowns. “What? You really don’t know?”
“Why would I?”
“I thought… Well, you two seem like you’re hanging out a lot, these days,” Nelson says, shrugging. “And you’re here. I thought you might know something. He hasn’t come into work this morning.
Okay, now Frank is getting worried.
“Any ideas where he might be?” he asks, keeping his voice neutral. No need to freak out Nelson, he wouldn’t be any help, then.
“He, uh… He told us he was seeing someone about his new suit, yesterday.”
So that’s what he was doing. He did mention something about that a while back.
“You got a name?” Frank asks.
Nelson makes a face, looking torn. He’s probably thinking Frank’s about to go and shoot the man - he might, depending on what the guy has to say, but that’s neither here nor there.
“Look, you want me to find him or not?” Frank snaps, losing patience.
To his credit, Nelson barely flinches at his outburst. He finally makes up his mind, meeting Frank’s eyes resolutely.
Well, it’s not much, but it’s a start. Frank heads for the door.
“Hey!” Nelson calls. “Keep us updated!
Frank scrolls through his very limited contacts list and presses the call button as he’s getting in his car.
“I need you to find me Melvin Potter in Hell’s Kitchen,” he says, fishing out his emergency gun from his glove box and slipping it into the back of his jeans.
It’s been almost three months since their last call, but David doesn’t sound too surprised to hear his voice.
“Well, hello to you too—”
“Melvin Potter, Lieberman. Now,” he growls.
“Alright, Jesus, gimme a second—” There’s the distinctive clattering sound of his fingers flying across his keyboard - of course he was already sitting in front of his computer - then, “Here. Melvin Potter. He’s on probation for… Shit, why are you looking for this guy again?
“Just give me his address, goddamnit.”
“I already sent it to you. He also… He used to own a workshop, but it’s been closed down,” David says.
Frank starts up the engine. “Send me the location.”
“Why do yo—”
“That all?” he asks as he checks his rearview mirror.
“That I can find on such short notice, yeah.”
Frank hangs up and peels away from his haphazard parking space at the foot of Matt’s building.
He checks the workshop first, since it’s the closest, and draws his gun before he even steps inside.
The place is a mess. Blood spatters on the ground, on the walls, broken furniture, tools scattered all around the floor. No bodies, but a fight definitely went down here, and not long ago.
He makes his way deeper into the place, and when he rounds a corner he finds a man sitting on the floor, looking like the wall at his back is the only thing holding him upright. His eyes are closed. He’s breathing, but he’s taken a nasty beating.
“Hey! Wake up,” Frank barks, training his gun on him.
The man startles, but he’s clearly too hurt to move. He tries to ineffectively shield himself with his hands.
“No, no, leave me alone, please,” he says, voice small, wobbly.
“You Melvin Potter?”
He nods, almost imperceptibly.
“The man in the mask, was he there?” He waits for Potter to confirm, and when he doesn’t he takes a threatening step forward, growls, “Was he there?”
Potter makes a wounded noise and shakes his head yes.
“What happened?” Frank asks.
“He came here for his suit, I’m making— I’m making it for him,” Potter says, getting cut off by his own hiccups. “But the other men, the— they were waiting for him, they took him.”
Frank feels cold dread creeping up his spine. “Where?”
Potter sobs. “I don’t know, I don’t know. It’s all my fault, my fault—”
Frank lowers his gun. It’s clear that the guy’s not a threat.
“Those men, who were they? Did they say anything?” he says, trying to keep him focused even though it’s pretty much a lost cause. “Who they worked for, where they were taking him?”
Potter runs a shaky hand along his scalp, sniffles loudly. “They said… They said something about Cicero. Said he was going to be happy.”
“Caesar Cicero?” Frank says, the name sounding familiar. Then realization hits him.
The Maggia. They’ve been looking for the new player in town for months, and all this time it was the fucking Maggia taking back their old territory.
“Call yourself an ambulance, Melvin,” he says, not really caring if the guy listens, and leaves him there, sobbing quietly.
Once he’s in his car, he calls David again.
“Find your guy?” David asks.
“Where would Caesar Cicero go if he wanted to discreetly torture someone?”
“Mh, just a regular Tuesday morning in the life of Frank Castle, I see,” David says, but Frank hears him typing away on his keyboard, which is the only reason he doesn’t snap at him. David makes a humming sound. “Well, this being Hell’s Kitchen, there are a few places where that could happen, but my best guess is that abandoned building the Maggia used as a distribution point for their drugs a few years back. It was seized by the police and is getting demolished next week. Perfect place to hide a body. I sent you the address, along with some other possible locations in case you don’t find him there.”
Frank very deliberately ignores the part about hiding a body and checks his phone for the address.
“You going after the Maggia now?” David asks, almost like he’s making conversation. Frank hangs up and drives off.
David must be his lucky star, because Frank finds armed men guarding the not-so abandoned building. If he wasn’t way more preoccupied with other things, maybe he’d even feel a little bad for hanging up on him twice.
It’s not as heavily guarded as any of the hideouts him and Matt have been taking down. They’re probably not expecting anyone to come here. They’re in for a surprise.
Normally Frank would take time to prepare, pack some extra ammo, wear a vest at the fucking least. As it is, he isn’t even sure Matt’s still alive, or if he’s even here, so he’s not wasting a second.
Taking a page from Matt’s book, he uses the rusty fire escape to sneak his way inside and avoid the two men standing guard in front of the building and doing a shit job of pretending not to be guarding the building.
Had he gotten more time to plan this out, he probably would have just gone in guns blazing, but with his only weapon being a handgun, he has to keep the element of surprise as long as possible.
‘As long as possible’ turns out to be quite short, in the end, because he immediately comes across two men as he makes his way through the third floor.
He makes quit work of them, but the shots undoubtedly alerted the whole neighborhood of his presence, so he fastens things up.
Once he makes it to the fifth floor, he trades his empty gun for one he steals off a dead guard. It’s the last floor, and he’s pretty sure that’s where most of the resistance is waiting for him.
He kicks a door open and is greeted by five men unloading their handguns at him. He gets a glimpse of the room before he’s forced to duck back into the hallway. A man bound to a chair, his back to him. Black clothes, a mop of dark hair.
He waits for the fire to die down, for one guy to come look for him, and then the fight blurs out, the only thing he can think of being Matt’s unmoving form, unmasked.
He comes back into the room after getting rid of four men, immediately pointing his gun at the last one.
He’s standing next to Matt, gripping his hair and pressing a gun to his temple.
“Alright Castle, drop your g—”
Frank’s bullet hits him square in the forehead.
Frank hurries to kneel in front of Matt, his heart lurching in his throat when he sees his beaten up face, dried blood covering up most of it.
“Matt, hey,” he says, sliding a careful hand on the back of his neck, his voice coming out rough. “Come on, wake up.”
Matt stirs, and Frank feel relief wash over him like a fucking tidal wave.
“Frank,” he breathes out, dark eyes breaking open and landing somewhere to Frank’s left.
“Yeah, s’me,” Frank says, already working on getting his hands free. “Had me scared for a sec, there, Matty.”
Matt’s arms go unbound and he winces. “My shoulder,” he mutters, and Frank notices the weird angle to it. Dislocated.
“Alright,” he says, moving to Matt’s side and mirroring his movements from that night that feels like it happened forever ago - one hand on his chest, the other around his wrist. “Ready?”
Matt nods, and he pulls. A loud popping sound, and Matt swears loudly through his teeth. “Fuck.”
“Anything else?” Frank asks, looking him over for other signs of less obvious injuries
Matt’s hand goes to his chest, curling protectively around himself as he tries to sit more comfortably. “Fractured ribs, some broken fingers… Definitely a concussion, and a lot of bruises.”
“That’s not too bad,” Frank says, even though he wishes he could kill those assholes twice.
Matt scoffs, then winces.
“Yeah, well, they went easy on me. Had to wait for Cicero to get the real party started.”
“He wanted to do the honors, uh,” Frank says, his voice betraying nothing of what’s underneath.
Matt must hear it anyway, because he turns his head to him, says, “Frank—”
Frank doesn’t want to hear the speech about not going after Cicero, right now, he can’t afford to get angrier, so he cuts him off,
“Let’s get you out of here, someone probably heard the shots.”
“How’d you find me?” Matt asks quietly, head lulling against the passenger side window.
“Went to your place looking for you and came across Nelson doing the same,” Frank says. Matt makes a noise, probably thinking about the many worried phone calls in his near future. Frank continues, “He told me you went shopping for a new suit, I tracked you from there.”
Matt straightens. “Melvin, is he—”
Frank lifts a shoulder. “Was alive when I left him.”
Matt rubs at the hollow of his eye, grimacing. “Shit, if this— If the police hears about this he’ll go back to prison.”
“He’s probably the one who sold you out, don’t beat yourself up over this guy,” Frank says. He’s already gripping the wheel a little harder than necessary.
“He wouldn’t do that,” Matt says. “They had to be following him, or—”
“Then he wasn’t careful enough!” Frank snaps. “Either way, it’s his goddamn fault, Matt.”
Matt just sighs, and the simple fact that he doesn’t even bother to argue back is a testament to the state he’s in.
Frank takes a deep breath that does nothing to calm his nerves, then asks, “Where to?”
Frank glances at him. “You should probably let Curt take a look at those fingers,” he says.
There’s a beat, Matt seemingly weighing his options.
“My place,” he repeats eventually. “Can you tell him to meet us there?”
Frank’s eyebrows raise. “He’d know where you live.”
“I trust him,” Matt says, offering him a small smile, tired but sincere. Frank’s heart skips a beat. “And no offense, but your place is a shithole.”
Frank snorts, finally feeling some of the tension in his chest give.
On the phone, Frank doesn’t tell Curtis it’s for Daredevil, on the off chance that he won’t figure it out in a second, and Matt painstakingly switches his blood-soaked black clothes for some less incriminating civilian ones.
When Curtis gets there, he takes one look at Matt’s beaten up face and says, “You know, when I said to try not getting shot at four in morning again, it didn’t mean that another time was okay either.”
Matt chuckles. Yeah, so maybe it was stupid of them to think they could fool him, but still, they had to at least pretend to try.
“I didn’t get shot, this time.”
“Oh, then it’s fine, forget I said anything,” Curtis says, moving to get seated in front of him on the couch. “Frank said something about your fingers?”
Matt obediently gives him his hand and Curtis starts examining his knuckles.
“You got a name I can use?” he asks casually.
“Matt.” No use lying to him when he could just find it on the mailbox in the lobby.
Curtis makes a humming noise as he gently bends Matt’s fingers one by one. Frank watches the whole thing intently. He’s still feeling restless, itching to punch something - or run his hands through Matt’s hair and make sure he’s okay, again and again. It’s either one, he’s not sure, and he doesn’t want to examine that last particular impulse, right now.
Eventually, Curtis lets out a sigh. “Well, fractures are relatively clean. You should be fine in the long run, but these needs splinting for sure,” he says, already pulling everything he needs out of his bag.
“Thank you, Curtis,” Matt says sincerely, managing to sound charming even with broken bones and a concussion. “Sorry for bothering you. Again.”
“Mh, sure. So, you wanna tell me how Frank’s blind lawyer ended up fighting crime dressed in a public domain halloween costume?” Curtis asks, raising an unimpressed eyebrow at him.
Frank’s laugh bursts ouf of him without warning. He doesn’t even feel bad about it, as Matt seems to take the jab in stride, small smile playing on his lips as he tilts his head in concession.
“It’s a long story,” he says.
Curtis opens his arms to encompass their whole situation. “I’ve got time.”
Frank leans against the wall next to the front door.
“Thank you, Curt. Really.”
He hopes he doesn’t sound too rough, because the gratitude he’s feeling is genuine. He’s just having trouble getting over this day’s rocky start.
“Anytime, man.” Curtis claps him on the shoulder before shrugging on his coat.
“I’m serious. It uh, it means a lot, alright?” Frank says seriously. It’s one thing waking up at odd hours to deal with Frank’s bullshit, but Curtis doesn’t owe Matt shit. Not that he wouldn’t help him - Frank has no doubt he’d walk through fire to help pretty much anyone that required it - but Frank can’t help but feel like he’s taking advantage of their friendship every time he calls him.
Curtis looks at him, and Frank gets the distinct feeling he’s seeing right through him. It’s in the slight curl to his mouth, the slant of his eyebrow. Oh, yeah, he knows.
“Buy me a beer, sometime, and we’ll call it even,” he says, and Frank thinks he doesn’t deserve him. “But still, you two be careful, ok? I need my beauty sleep.”
Frank sees him out, and once the door closes he goes back to Matt. Finds him struggling to get out of his shirt, undoubtedly to get into the shower.
“You should tell Nelson you’re still alive, I told him I’d keep him updated,” he says, crossing his arms as he watches him twist ridiculously to try and get around his broken ribs. The guy just never fucking quits, it’s exhausting. If this is half of what it’s like knowing Frank, he owes David some apologies.
“Already sent him a text telling him I’m fine,” Matt says between two grunts of pain.
Frank rolls his eyes. “Can’t the shower wait for when you’re not about to fucking collapse?”
“Do you know how hard it is to get blood out of silk?” Matt says in lieu of an answer.
While the ungainly kitten thing he’s got going on is a little endearing, Frank quickly gets tired of seeing him wince with every movement he makes.
“Alright, enough, you’re gonna make it worse,” he grumbles, making his way over to him.
He starts pulling the shirt off of him, Matt letting himself be handled docilely. As the collar goes past his head it ruffles his hair, making it fall back against his forehead, and Frank suddenly thinks this is way, way to close. Even with the majority of his face being one big bruise, Matt’s a sight to behold.
“Thanks,” Matt says, gaze somewhere on Frank’s cheek.
“I take it back, you do need a shower,” Frank says, pushing the shirt into his chest until he takes it, then turning around to sit down on the couch - and put some much needed distance between them.
Matt huffs out a laugh behind him and limps his way into the bathroom.
Once he hears the water running, Frank lets out a heavy sigh. He lays all the way down on the couch, trying to catch some rest before he has to watch Matt for the rest of the day. Even concussed, he knows he might try and pull something like going to work.
He’s barely settled down when Matt’s phone starts screaming FOGGY, FOGGY, FOGGY, at him. Because of course a text wasn’t going to cut it, what was Matt expecting?
He tries to ignore it, but it keeps picking back up as soon as it goes to voicemail, Nelson clearly not having it. He finally snaps and snatches the phone off the coffee table.
The line’s barely clicked on and Nelson’s voice is already shrieking at him. “Matt! What happened? How hurt are you?”
“He’ll live, Nelson,” Frank says gruffly.
“Motherfu— Frank. Hi. How nice to hear your voice this fine morning.”
“Matt’s in the shower.”
“And you thought it was okay to answer his phone because..?”
“Because you kept calling and it was driving me nuts,” Frank snaps. “And you told me to keep you updated, so that’s what I’m doing.”
“What happened?” Nelson asks, quick to go back to his priorities.
He sounds worried. Frank can sympathize, but he’s not sure what to tell him, if Nelson can handle the truth and whether Matt even wants him to know in the first place.
“You should ask him,” he says eventually.
“I would sure like to, but someone’s answering his phone for him,” Nelson says. He’s starting to sound like he might call the cops on Frank if this goes on any longer.
On cue, Matt finally comes out of the bathroom, still dripping wet like he hurried to get out, and gestures at Frank to give him the phone.
Frank happily complies, fixated on how low the towel around his hips is hanging.
“Foggy, hey,” Matt says, padding his way to the bedroom and sliding the door shut in a semblance of privacy.
Frank’s eyes follow him until he’s out of sight, then he pretends like he didn’t just do that and sags back into the couch cushions with a groan. He doesn’t have time for this— Whatever it is.
Because he can’t get a fucking break, his own phone starts buzzing against his thigh.
“Fucking Christ, what now?”
It’s David. He picks up after allowing himself a short time to prepare mentally.
“Oh, you’re still alive, good. Thanks for letting me know.”
He doesn’t sound particularly angry, more like mildly annoyed. He’s probably used to his lack of manners, by now. Still, Frank feels a little bad.
“I was busy,” he says.
“Clearly,” David says. “D’you find your guy?”
An expectant pause, then David says, “… And?”
It was foolish of Frank to hope he would leave it at that. David thinks he’s talking about Potter, though, so it’s not like he has to give anything about Matt away.
“He’s alive,” he says. Then, after a beat, forces out a gruff, “Thanks.”
David snorts. “Wow, you must really like this guy, uh?”
“Fuck off,” Frank says, hoping Matt’s too busy with Nelson to pay attention to their conversation.
“You’re welcome,” David says smugly. “Everything okay, then?”
Frank forces himself to relax. Taking out his pent up stress on David isn’t fair. “Yeah. Sorry for… You know. I needed the info.”
“It’s okay,” David says, giving up on the joking tone. “I know it had to be important.”
He probably didn’t mean it as a veiled jab at how Frank never calls, but he still takes it that way. Before he has time to give an awkward excuse, David continues,
“Hey, Leo’s been asking after you, maybe you could swing by sometime.”
Frank scoffs. “Right.”
“I’m serious!” David says, and Frank knows he is, that’s the problem. “Sarah keeps bothering me about inviting you for dinner, since you ditched us last time.”
“You know why I did that,” Frank says.
“I do,” he says, serious. “Still. Things have settled down, since then. And you’re you. I’m sure you know how to be stealthy enough to pay us a visit once in a while and not get tailed by whatever gang you’re after.”
Frank runs a tired hand across his face. “David—”
“Think about it, alright? No pressure.”
Frank breathes out. He already knows he’ll think about it, that he’ll seriously consider it before deciding against it. Again. “Sure. ’til next time, Lieberman.”
“See you, Frank.”
When he hangs up, he sees that Matt is standing in the bedroom doorway, waiting with fresh clothes for him in his arms.
“Who was it?” he asks. At least he’s not pretending he didn’t listen in on the whole thing.
Frank sighs for the umpteenth time today and takes the offered change of clothes.
“He’s… a friend. He helped me with—” He stops there, not knowing how to end this sentence. It’s too complicated, and it would bring up topics he’d rather avoid, right now.
Matt seems to get it.
“Okay,” he says. There’s a pregnant pause, then he adds, “He sounds nice.”
Frank snorts. “Okay, now you’re pushing it.”
Frank had thought that now that they knew who they were looking for, taking down Cicero would be fairly easy. He hadn’t accounted for the fact that the guy was a paranoid bastard.
After finding out about the rampage Frank went on rescuing Daredevil from his men, he’d apparently proceeded to surround himself with a small army. Or at least that’s what it looked like, from where Frank was surveilling his hideout through his scope.
It was a dive bar in the least reputable part of Hell’s Kitchen, which was saying something. Reminded Frank of that bar the Kitchen Irish used to own, the one he shot up a couple years ago. Apparently gangs all had the same taste in headquarters.
Going about it in pretty much the same way he’d dealt with the Kitchen Irish seemed the safest way, but it’s not like Frank was free to do as he pleased, this time.
“Foggy talked to Brett. If they found him here, with all of this,” Matt gestures at the armed men guarding the place, “it would be enough to link him to everything else, the guns, the drugs. They’d have enough proof to send him to jail for the rest of his life, Frank.”
He’s crouching close to him, talking low as to not alert their targets. Frank has to put in a great deal of effort to not stare at his mouth. He’s got that soft hint of a smile, sounds so fucking hopeful, like Frank agreeing to this would make his fucking day.
Frank thinks he’s definitely softened up, because it only takes some minor arguing for him to finally cave.
“But don’t get any ideas,” he says when he catches the pleased grin on Matt’s face, “if it’s us or them, I’m not hesitating.”
He’s still not sure he’s not going to shoot Cicero in the face when he sees him, no matter if it makes Matt furious with him. It would be worth it to see the bastard dead, and he definitely deserves it after—
“You won’t have to,” Matt says resolutely.
Frank wishes he could manage to feel half as confident as he sounds. Guess he’ll just have to have enough faith for the both of them.
Frank ducks and Matt’s baton flies above his head, hitting a guy trying to sneak up on him straight in the nose, shattering it and sending blood spattering everywhere.
Frank finishes the job by smashing the butt of his gun on his temple, almost synchronizing it with Matt’s fancy kick that sends his last opponent flying behind the counter, bottles crashing around him.
The sudden calm that follows is deafening, their ragged breathing filling the room.
They actually made it. Frank is genuinely surprised. Not that they went into this expecting to die, but shit, they really underestimated the opposition. About thirty men in total once the reinforcements were called, most of them armed. Even for the two of them that was a little too much on the suicidal side.
He seeks out Matt without thinking, sees him come staggering his way as well. They meet in the middle, Frank grabbing him by the back of the neck and pulling him in until their foreheads are resting against each other and they’re sharing the same air. Too many close calls, he just has to convince himself that they made it. He allows himself the weakness.
They stay like that for what’s probably only a few seconds as they catch their breath, but Frank still manages to lose time. Matt’s fingers close around his bicep, dig into it like he too has to make sure that Frank is here, standing, mostly intact.
“Police are here,” he says eventually.
Frank nods. He has to force his hand to relax, to let go and step back, already mourning the loss of contact.
“Way out?” he asks. Matt’s already stepping over the unconscious bodies of their ennemies to move further into the bar.
“That was meant for me,” Matt says.
His fingers are hovering above the darkening bruise on Frank’s chest where a bullet hit him, making it really hard for him to manage his breathing.
“Only one of us was wearing a vest and it wasn’t you,” he mutters gruffly.
The corner of Matt’s mouth curls up, like he knows all the secrets of the universe, sees right through him, and fuck, maybe he does. Frank is more aware of his heartbeat than ever.
Matt stands up, leaves him sitting at the edge of the couch feeling like a lovesick fool.
“You have the bed,” he says.
Frank scoffs. “Yeah, right. I know you can’t tell, but you’re black and blue all over, Matt. You’re not sleeping on the couch.”
“Your ribs are cracked, Frank,” Matt chuckles, managing to make the words sound so fucking affectionate it hurts.
“I’ve slept on worse than a couch with cracked ribs before.”
Matt considers him with a canted head. He looks a mess, bruises on his jaw, on his eye, wearing his ridiculous fluffy socks. Frank would die for him.
“Alright, come on,” he says, turning around suddenly and giving Frank whiplash.
He blinks. Matt has never given up an argument that easily.
“I said come on,” Matt repeats, stopping in the doorway. “The bed’s big enough for two.”
Frank— doesn’t know what to make of this. A real bed sure sounds appealing right now, but he doubts he’d be able to catch even a minute of sleep with Matt so close to him - the mere idea of it makes him feel like a teenager with a crush. But the thought of Matt being away from him - even if it’s only a few feet - doesn’t sit well with him either. Not when he still has the image of that guy aiming at him and pulling the trigger burned into his eyelids, when he can remember the ice-cold dread that shot through him in that half-second before he jumped in front of the bullet.
“Come on, Frank. You need the rest,” Matt says tiredly, and that’s all it takes for him to make up his mind.
He’s never been good at self-preservation.
Getting into bed is surprisingly not as awkward as Frank thought it would be. Both of them are too tired for that. It’s a relief to sink down into a soft mattress, nothing like Frank’s shitty one at his new place, close enough to Matt to feel the heat of him, know that he’s alive and well even after Frank closes his eyes. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
He listens to Matt’s breathing slow down, their knuckles brushing against each other occasionally where their hands are laying between them, and finally lets exhaustion catch up with him.
He’s woken up by a ray of sunshine leaking though the window and hitting him squarely in the face.
He grunts, his brain not quite ready for words yet, and squints at the offending light like it might go away if he manages to glare hard enough. Then he becomes aware of the spot where Matt has his forehead pressed between his shoulder blades, his respiration calm and regular against his spine. His breath catches, his chest constricting with the domesticity of it all, the fucking trust that Matt graces him with for God knows what reason.
He’s wondering if he should leave before he wakes up, and if he can even manage to not wake him while doing so, when Matt speaks up.
Frank frowns, rolls over so they’re facing each other.
“I haven’t said anything,” he says, rough from sleep. His stomach does a little flip-flop at the sight of him, bathed in morning light, crazy hair, bruises and all.
“I can hear you thinking,” Matts says. He gives him a teasing smile that makes Frank’s heart ache.
“Don’t think your hearing’s that good yet,” Frank says.
He props himself up on an elbow, putting some much needed extra inches between their faces, and rubs at the stubble on his jaw.
“Fuck,” he mutters, aching everywhere. “Still need a good three days of sleep to recover from that one.”
“How’s coffee sound to you? I need coffee. I’m making coffee,” he grumbles, moving to get out of the bed.
“What?” he sighs, turning to him.
Matt’s hand slides to the back of his head, pulls him down until his mouth crashes against his. Frank lets out a sound that’s halfway between a whine and a groan, immediately opening up for him, feeling Matt’s smile against his lips. He pushes him back into the pillow, curling above him with one hand burying itself in his hair and the other supporting his own weight. Matt’s hands are on his sides, his neck, his arms, like he’s trying to commit the shape of him to memory.
When they break apart for air, what feels like minutes, hours later, Frank’s out of breath. Matt smiles up at him, hair fanned out around his face like a halo, and isn’t that an ironic image.
Frank has to clear his throat before he can manage any sort of sound.
“Not that I’m complaining, but what brought this on?” he asks, sounding dumbfounded even to his own ears.
“Well, you weren’t making your move, so I had to take matters into my own hands,” Matt says, shrugging, his mouth curling smugly.
“I wasn’t— You fucking dick,” Frank sputters, but he has trouble getting annoyed with him, right now.
Matt laughs, and Frank happily shuts him up.
Kissing quickly turns to something a little more heated, with Frank climbing on Matt’s lap while Matt pulls at his shirt frustratedly, paradoxically refusing to part for even a second to get the offending piece of clothing off.
Frank’s just gotten his hands under Matt’s hoodie when he hears him let out a groan that doesn’t sound at all like the sexy kind, his forehead hitting Frank’s shoulder bluntly. Frank stops moving, raising a questioning eyebrow.
“Foggy’s here,” Matt says, and it’s Frank’s turn to groan in annoyance.
“What is he even doing here? Doesn’t he have a life?”
Matt pats his leg, motioning him to get off. “I forgot to text him when I got home last night, he’s checking in on me.”
“I hate you,” Frank says, letting himself fall back on his pillow. He listens to Matt’s footsteps leave the room, calls to his retreating back, “Tell him to fuck off.”
Glaring at the ceiling, he hears the door open, the faint sounds of conversation moving into the loft, and silently bemoans the good time he should be having right now instead of listening to Nelson lecturing Matt - again. This is becoming a habit he’s not too fond of.
“—least you’re alive, I guess,” Nelson is saying. He doesn’t sound too angry, that’s a start. Maybe Matt’ll manage to get rid of him sooner than expected.
“I’m sorry, Foggy. I was tired.”
“Well it’s your own damn fault. You’re the one choosing not to go to sleep at a reasonable hour like the rest of us.”
Matt chuckles. “We got Cicero, though.”
Frank rolls his eyes at the smug tone, but allows himself a smile too, only because he’s almost sure Matt can’t make it out from the next room over. It is a pretty big deal, even if he didn’t get to shoot the bastard.
“Yeah alright. I have to admit that that’s pretty fucking cool,” Nelson concedes. “Can’t believe I’ll have to actually thank Frank the next time I see him.”
There’s a short pause during which Matt must make a face, because the next thing Frank hears is Nelson making a strangled kind of noise.
“Wh- he’s here?”
“Foggy, don’t—” Matt says, somehow managing to sound both pleading and resigned in the same sentence, right as the door to the bedroom slides open.
Frank turns his head to look at Nelson, whose eyes go wide at the sight of him, half naked and lounging comfortably in Matt’s bed.
Frank absently thinks that, with all his lawyer skills, Matt could probably talk Nelson into believing some bullshit explanation for this. Frank wouldn’t even hold it against him if it meant avoiding Nelson’s dramatics. But Matt doesn’t look like he’s about to try and lie to him, he just winces like he knows what’s coming. It’s probably for the better; Frank’s pride could do without having to hide from Nelson of all fucking people.
Nelson, who opens his mouth, closes it. Then his face does a weird scrunched up thing before he says, very calmly,
“Frank. Good morning.”
That’s certainly not the hysteric screeching he was expecting. Now he has no idea where this is going.
“… Mornin’?” he says carefully.
“Could you give us a minute?” Nelson says with a plastic smile, and slides the door closed again.
Next thing Frank hears is a high-pitched hiss of jumbled up words. He lets out a heavy sigh. There’s the dramatics.
He’ll be waiting for Matt to come back to bed for hours, at this rate. He might as well give up.
He opens the door again, startling Nelson, and goes to make himself some coffee in the kitchen.
He pretends he doesn’t hear him continue to frantically whisper-scream at Matt and vacantly stares in the distance as he sips on his coffee. Eventually the whispering stops, and a few seconds later Nelson steps into his line of sight. Frank raises an eyebrow at him.
“May I?” Nelson asks, too polite to be genuine, as he gestures at Frank’s half-empty mug.
Not really knowing where he’s going with that, Frank gives it to him without much thought, then watches as Nelson downs the whole thing in a couple swigs, probably burning his tongue to hell in the process. He puts the mug back down in front of him and gives him a sharp nod. “Thank you. I’ll see you around.”
Then he leaves, and Frank is torn between mild horror and hysteric laughter.
He hears the front door close, and Matt throws himself in the chair in front of him a second later.
“Thanks for the help there,” he says flatly, as Frank hands him another mug.
He snorts. “Oh, he is your problem, Murdock.”