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Her Hands Still Reek of Gunshot Residue

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Karen dreams of gunfire.

Of a white shirt, dotted with a red that slowly spreads outward, a red like the suit that protects the street.

Of the slug-slowness of the drug fading in her system and the salt taste of tears in her mouth.

Every night, she sees the shock on his face as he crumples. And every night, she hears the ringing of the phone, the banshee siren wail, which becomes her alarm even as she wakes screaming, every time, her muscles shuddering like the gun she held in her hands, her heart pounding like a gunshot to the chest.

It was bad enough when it was Fisk she dreamed of, seeking revenge. Bad enough the thought had stayed with her, whispered in her ear: What if he finds out it was her? How will she escape his wrath? And what of Matt and Foggy?

How can she tell them? How can she not?

She looks into the faces of her friends and remembers them telling her that she's innocent, and they believed her. The first time she met them, she lay heavy under the shadow of Could I? Did I? and they freed her. They accepted her.

And now that shadow is a weight dragging her down. She feels Death tugging at her wrists like shackles, and she jumps every time a phone rings. She can't see a man on the street in a suit without the taste of bile in the back of her throat, and it makes her sick, it makes her feel weak and pathetic and paranoid, and all the things she moved to this city to escape.

And every night, it catches up to her. She dreams herself a prison with every blink of her eyes.

So she doesn't sleep. She fights the exhaustion like she fights everything else: with a stubborn reluctance to give in. She lives on a razor's edge of survival. Any misstep and she'll fall, she'll trip into nightmares, or she'll be too tired to keep quiet and will spill her secret:

I stared Death in the face, she'll mumble, and he wore the face of Fisk's henchman, and I pulled the trigger.

I shot a man to save my life, she'll tell herself, but I see his face in my dreams.

I took a life, she'll whisper, and it haunts me.

I'm not innocent anymore, she'll scream, how can you protect me?!

So, every night, Karen doesn't sleep. She doesn't dream.

Her ghosts can't get her when she's awake.

But she feels haunted nonetheless.