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Matt Murdock was dead.

The wood of the pew is cold against her skin as she sits in near darkness, staring up at the crucifix, a chill running over her skin.

She shivers absently, recalling the faces of the other survivors as they realized he wasn't coming back; the inadequate words of apology and reassurance sliding over her.

He wasn't coming back, and she couldn't find the strength to get up from this pew. Her limbs felt numb, the heat sapped from her extremities from hours of sitting in the cold church. Foggy had left hours ago, long after the last of the mourners were gone.

It was just her now.

Her and the Holy Spirit, she scoffed internally.

It seemed so improbable that Matt was gone, as improbable as dogs learning to speak.

Matt had been a reliable force in her life for the past year, and it was only after his revelation of his identity as Daredevil that the trust between them had shifted, changed.

But it had shattered the fragile relationship they had formed, the lies of his identity and his need for justice too much for them to live under. The world had changed, and now it had changed again.

What did any of it mean if Matt was gone?

She knew the other powered people that he had been with would protect the city, but who would protect her? Who would go for shitty drinks at Josie's and make her laugh? Who would tease her about her tendency to snort while laughing after drinking too much?

Who would—

No.

She wouldn't do that.

She wasn't a weak woman, and she wouldn't let Matt's death turn her in to one.

Her jaw firms as she glares at the Christ hanging above the altar, silently berating him for laying so much guilt at Matt's feet, for making him feel like he owed the world his body, his soul, his very life.

"I'm sorry for your loss ma'am."

She barely flinches at the sound of his voice, a knot unwinding in her stomach when she sees him out of the corner of her eye. She hadn't heard him coming, she never did.

She had never seen him until it was too late and her whole world was blown to hell, just like she had never seen that deer that had sent her parent's car and her whole world careening out of control when she was 17.

Inhaling sharply, she pushes away that line of thinking to address the other problematic man who is once more in her life.

"I called you," she replies, turning her gaze back to the crucifix.

He nods, but remains silent.

"Why didn't you come?" she demands, words biting and harsh.

He sighs softly and she can see his head dip forward towards his clenched hands, as though he's praying. The idea of him praying is so preposterous she has to fight down a hysterical laugh that bubbles up.

She is tired, grief stricken and dealing with ghosts of Christmas past.

"You said I'd be dead to you. Figured you didn't want anything to do with me," he replies softly.

She scoffs, a bitter taste in her mouth. "If that was true, I wouldn't have called," she snaps.

He doesn't say anything, remaining quiet while she stews. He's never been good with words, never been a poet, he didn't seduce or flatter, he just told the truth.

"You could have helped him," she accuses, frustration filling the words.

"Maybe. Red wasn't one to take a lotta help," he reasons back quietly.

She knew.

Oh, how she knew.

She knew how he would rather be beat black and blue before he told her the truth about himself.

She knew how he would rather let himself be blown up than take any help.

How he would rather be with that woman—

No, she isn't going to think about that.

She isn't going to think about Matt staying behind for Elektra.

She isn't going to think about him dying with her, for her.

A soft noise of distress scrapes the back of her throat and she clapped a hand over her mouth, eyes burning with unshed tears.

Turning her head away, she inhales sharply, deep breaths shuddering in her chest.

"Damn you Matt Murdock," she whispers, a tear dripping off her nose.

Wiping her face, she turned it back to the crucifix and sniffles, head and heart aching.

Karen Page wasn't a woman who believed in fate, destiny, kismet or any other bullshit word that people liked to use to explain the mysteries of the universe. She kept her gaze firmly averted as she walked past doomsayers on the streets, ignoring their proselytizing and insisting that God would save them all, if only humanity would repent.

If there was a God, he certainly didn't give a fuck about Karen Page, and she didn't believe his grand plan involved her losing control of her parent's vehicle and killing her brother.

Fate, destiny, God, it was all bullshit and it could all leave her the hell alone.

Matt had tried repeatedly, politely, gently, to convince her on the subject, that God cared; He was involved in her life. Eventually she had fixed him with a firm look (blindness be damned) and told him, "Then can you tell Him to please leave me the fuck alone? His Plan has been pretty shit and I'd rather take the wheel from here."

The discussions on faith and fate had ended, and Karen had gone back to working happily at the Nelson and Murdock firm.

The best damn avocados at law.

A watery smile creeps onto her face; best damn avocados at law she remembers Matt and Foggy drunkenly proclaiming, stumbling over themselves to explain the story to her.

They remain in silence for long minutes as she bows her head, whispering a soft prayer for her friend. She might not have the same faith Matt had, but this one small thing, she can do it for him.

Wiping her cheeks, she sighs and casts one last look towards the mournful looking Christ before she stands, straightening her dress. She feels his eyes on her and keeps her chin tucked, avoiding his gaze for the moment.

He hasn't seen her wear anything so somber before, even when they were running from his nightmares she had been in flowy fabrics and bright colors. She was light and warmth and beauty, but now, he can see she is none of those things.

This is Karen Page in mourning and it occurs to him how regal she looks—hair pinned into a tight bun, pearls in her ears and at her throat. He watches as she swallows hard, the taut lines of her throat pale and strong in the faint candlelight.

She looks like Jacqueline Kennedy saying goodbye to her sweet boyish husband, tragedy somehow making her stoic beauty just as arousing as she had been to him before this.

And he knows he shouldn't think of her that way, he knows now isn't the time, just as before wasn't and every moment in the future won't be, because at the end of the day, they'll always be two ships passing in the night.

He watches her shoulders straighten and then turn towards him, her brow furrowed slightly as her gaze runs over him in the faint light of the church. He can feel it resting on his face for a long moment and wonders what she sees when she looks at him.

Killer?

Victim?

Friend?

She sighs.

"You look like shit Frank."

He nods, "Yes ma'am. Cartel," he says by way of explanation.

She sighs again, mouth pursing, and he's momentarily fascinated by the way her brow furrows.

"Good night Frank."

He nods again and murmurs a polite good night, watching as she walks past, hips swaying. He listens until the sound of her heels clicking against the marble has faded and the silence resumed.

His eyes fall on the Christ figure, silently assessing him.

He heard what had happened in New York, had been in disbelief until he had confirmed it with a number of sources.

"You gonna get down off there and help?" he calls out softly to the Christ, waiting a few moments in silence before he shakes his head and stands.

"Yea, didn't think so," he mutters, turning up the collar of his jacket before striding out of the church, tucking his coat close to conceal the Remington 870 MCS Masterkey that hung on a strap from his shoulder.

The doors of the church clanged shut, the noise echoing through the empty nave, tiny candles flickering and casting shadows over the face of the doleful Christ.


Broken glass crunched under her stiletto, ragged breaths condensing in the freezing air. She could hear the men pursuing her, the nickel jacketed bullets slamming into the wall with explosive force near her head.

Cursing, she skids and runs for the heavy metal door, just barely visible in the frozen blue light, cursing Ellison and his need to find out what had really happened at Midland Circle.

Matt Murdock and his merry band of idiots, fucking her over, just like he had done when he was alive, she thought bitterly.

Another hail of bullets whizzed by and she bit back a yelp, swallowing around the pain in her throat as she struggled to breathe.

Never wearing heels again while trying to talk to mobsters...it went on the list of things she would Never Do Again.

Her fingers scrabble over the metal, searching for a handle when, stomach sinking, she realizes that it doesn't open from this side. The pads of her fingers sweep over the door one last rapid time before she whirls and looks around wildly, searching for someplace to hide.

There!

A staircase.

She kicks off her heels and runs, shoving them in her bag as she ascends, bare feet slapping against the rusty metal.

Please don't let me get tetanus...

A door loomed ahead and she sprints for it as the sound of bullets and men shouting followed her up the stairs. Slamming into the door, she wrenches it open and then slams it shut, looking around for something to barricade the door with.

The desk.

She moves rapidly, thoughts racing with the push of adrenalin in her veins. Shoving the desk in front of the door, she swears as bullets ping against the wall and hid behind the filing cabinet, pulling out her .380 and pointing it at the door.

Taking three deep breaths she tries to steady herself and then bullets are shattering the plywood door, slamming into the wall behind her. Ducking back behind the filing cabinet she listens as the wood is shredded.

Hopefully they would run out of bullets before they made their way in the room.

Despite the situation, she snorts out a scoffing laugh at her own miserable optimism.

Sure Page, and maybe they'll just put down their guns and let you walk outta here, she scoffs internally.

The gunfire grew louder, and suddenly she could hear men screaming and then falling silent. When the rapid-fire ended, everything outside the door fell silent. It was so quiet she could hear her own heart throbbing and the harsh pants of her breath in the small room.

"Page?"

A surprised laugh ripples out of her chest and for a moment she allows relief to fill her, eyes sliding shut.

When the relief passes she opens her eyes and steps around the filing cabinet, distantly noting that there were three bullet holes roughly level with where her head had been.

Picking her way through the debris, she flinches as debris cuts her feet, hot blood flowing in small rivers. She nudges aside the remains of the desk and door and steps out into the faint light.

Frank stood in the shadows, gun propped on one shoulder as he watched her emerge. His gaze flickered down to the .380 in her hand and he nods sharply, seemingly pleased that she's armed. 

"What were you doin here ma'am?" he asks, faintly accusatory.

She glances around at the dead men and frowns, shaking her head, "Following up on a story for Ellison on Midland Circle."

A displeased noise comes from Frank and she looks up at him, her brows coming together, "What?" she snaps, knowing he has something on his mind, even if he is a recalcitrant bastard.

Frank shakes his head. Karen Page is too damn stubborn for her own good he thinks.

"You shoulda called. They were goin to kill you," he tells her, as though she isn't perfectly aware of that.

"Really? And here I thought they wanted to bake me a fucking cake!" she snaps back, rolling her eyes at him for good measure. "Besides you didn't come the last time I called," she snaps, tossing the words at him over her shoulder.

He shouldn't be hurt by it but he is, and it takes him a moment to respond without heat. "I couldn't ma'am, I was tied up with somethin."

She just hums and nods, her mouth puckered in a disapproving frown. With a huff she slides her gun back into her bag and pulls a pair of rubber gloves out, preparing to search the bodies.

"Ma'am?"

He sounds confused, faintly worried and somewhat surprised.

He is surprised; she's approaching the bodies with a cold detachment he hadn't thought her capable of. He knew she was strong, but this...

She glances up at him from where she knelt by one of the bodies—face blown off by Frank's handiwork she notes—and lifts a brow, "What?"

"Police'll be here soon," he reminds her instead of commenting on her newfound lack of squeamishness, the sound of sirens growing closer as he speaks.

"So go," she tells him dismissively, still searching the bodies. She takes half a dozen phones, searching their pockets for clues, and snaps photos of each man's face before glancing back up and finding him still standing there, watching her.

She stands and shoves the evidence into her purse, grabbing her shoes out and sliding them back on. "Seriously Frank, go. I'll handle this," she tells him, her voice a little softer now.

He hesitates a moment and then nods. For some reason he believes her. He knows she's strong, but he's never seen her like this.

Instead of stepping away though, he comes toward her, hand extended. "Gimme your piece," he orders softly, "They'll search you."

She hesitates a fraction of a second and then digs it out, slapping it into his palm.

"Got your story straight?" he asks as he slides it into the waistband of his jeans.

"I came for a story, an informant agreed to meet me here, when I came I was ambushed and chased. I barricaded myself in here and it sounded like the Russians showed up and killed the Yakuza. Simple," she rattles off easily.

He gives her one last look, nodding sharply before disappearing into the murky evening.

Sirens scream as she limps down the stairs, the pain of running in heels just now catching up to her. Flashlights bobbed through the warehouse and she lifts her hands as they approach, showing they were empty.

"I'm Karen Page, reporter for the Bulletin, don't shoot!"


Her front door slammed behind her, a headache already pulsing in her veins. Kicking off her shoes again, she limps over to her fridge and pulls a bottle of vodka from the freezer. Not bothering with a glass, she unscrews the lid and swallows a healthy swig, trying to numb the pain.

Bloody footprints coat the kitchen floor and when she glances down she grimaces at the blood on her feet, the ache in them making her calves hurt. Her head pounds from the sound of gunfire, ears still ringing.

Taking the bottle to the shower with her, she strips off her clothes as she goes, leaving a trail behind her. As the scalding water pounds against her spine she sips the vodka slowly, becoming number with each moment.

Her body aches as she warms, and the numbness is interrupted by a startling pain in her arm. Glancing down she frowns at the sight of a gouge in her arm, blood flowing freely. She hadn't felt it before...

When Frank had shown up.

She had been distracted by her need to get information, to hide the truth from the police—and thank god for Brett Mahoney she thinks, otherwise too many questions would have been asked.

She knows she can only use his name so many times before that card doesn't work anymore, she's just hoping it doesn't count against her this time. Hopes that no one notices that both the Russians and the Yakuza were killed by a third party.

Hopes that no one realizes the Punisher is back.

When the water finally grows cold she wraps a towel around herself, wet hair trailing down her back in a slip of shiny copper as she puts a bandaid on over the gouge in her arm, ignoring the pain that flares when she presses it down against her skin.

She tightens her towel around her chest and slips out of the bathroom, shivering in the cooler air as she puts the vodka back, somewhat reluctantly. If anyone has earned a drink tonight, it's Karen Page.

Better not drink it all tonight though...

A rush of cold air ripples over her skin and she looks around hastily, frowning when she sees her fire escape window cracked open. Her hand instantly went searching for a weapon, coming up with a knife from her knife block as her heart started thrumming unevenly once more.

A dark shape emerges from behind the silk room divider keeping her "living room" and "bedroom" areas separate, and she inhales sharply, raising the knife defensively.

"It's me, ma'am. Just returning your gun."

Her stomach plummets at the sound of his voice, relief and annoyance flooding her equally.

"Goddammit Frank," she hisses, turning away to catch her breath as she tosses aside the knife.

She hears the squeak of linoleum under his boots as he approaches and when she looks up he's no more than three feet from her, holding out her gun. She stares at it for a moment before nodding, reaching out to take it from him.

Lights flicker from outside, flashing over his face and she bites her lip, frustration and sorrow flooding her. His nose looks like it's broken—again—and he has a bloody lip, the blood appearing crimson in the faint lights. The way he's standing lets her know he's probably sporting a couple of bruised ribs, if not something worse.

With a defeated sigh she shakes her head and smiles wryly at him, "You look like shit Frank, what happened?" she asks softly.

"I had a chat with the Yakuza and the Russians."

"Huh...why?" she demands. The cold air from the window blows over her skin and she realizes she's still in her towel. A flush raises on her chest and she ducks her head, the realization that she's in next to nothing in front of Frank Castle, the Punisher, sending an unexpected heat furling through her.

Karen points to her small kitchen chair and holds up a finger, "Wait here, I'm putting on clothes and I want to hear why," she orders.

Frank nods and sinks into the chair without protest, surprising her. His long fingers tap against the polymer of the table, watching as she slips away to put clothes on.

Some faint light in her room clicks on and he can see her slight form through the silk barrier between them as she pulls clothes on.

Her hips shimmy and circle as something slides up her legs and something hot pulses through his veins at the action— so reminiscent of how he has imagined her body moving if he...NO.

Frank cut off that train of thought before it even got going.

He had ruined her life once in a hail of bullets and no matter how many times he stopped her from being killed or followed her to make sure she was safe, he still managed to let her down again by not being here when Red had needed him—when she had needed him.

He glances back toward the screen and can see that the soft peaks of her breasts are barely discernible through the shadowy material before she drops something over her head and covers them.

Glancing away, he hears her approach and only looks up when she's standing a few inches away, staring down at him with a determined frown. When her hand drifts towards his face he holds still, trying not to flinch when her smooth skin skims over his wounds.

"I can clean that up," she offers softly and he wonders at the look in her eye, wonders at the way her body leans toward his.

"No need, I'll do it later," he replies, turning his gaze away from her and breaking the skin to skin contact. It feels like ants are crawling under his skin, burning where she had touched, the sensation spreading through him.

Karen ignores him and returns to her bathroom, reemerging moments later with a yellow container stuffed with medical supplies. Seating herself across from him, she drags the chair forward until her knee is between his and the other nudged the outside of his leg.

Unexpected head flushes through him at the touch, and heat rises in his burnished cheeks. He shifts in the chair and she scowls faintly at him.

"Sit still," she orders.

Her hands remain busy as her gaze flickers to him.

"So why did you go see the Yakuza and Russians?" she demands again, leaning towards him with a cotton ball soaked in peroxide.

He braces himself for the burn and winces as her fingers brushed against his cuts, cleaning and checking for deeper injury.

"Same reason as you. Heard they were no longer friends and wanted to know why. Wanted to see what I could find out."

She nods sharply and spread a small bandage over the cut on his nose, fingers soft and delicate.

"Didn't think you cared about the why's behind criminals' actions," she murmurs.

"Because I'm the Punisher?" he taunts, holding her sea colored eyes with his darker ones when they flicker up. A long moment passes before she shrugs, nodding, and gives him a bashful half smile.

"You needed the information," he tells her simply, watching as her eyes widen for a moment before she inhales sharply and pulls away, dropping the cotton ball and cursing softly.

He watches her grow increasingly flustered until she stands suddenly, scowling down at him.

"I didn't ask you to do that Frank, I didn't ask you to put yourself in danger. I-I don't need another person I—" and there her voice cut out for a moment before she continues, eyes glistening and voice unsteady, "I don't need another friend dying," she murmurs, carefully emphasizing the word.

"Told you, Red didn't like asking for help," he tells her, "It wasn't your fault."

Her gaze flares up from where she had been staring at the floor, "You think I don't know that? I know it wasn't my fault! If he hadn't tried to save that damned Elektra..." she breaks off, breathing heavily for a moment before she shakes her head, "Forget it. Just...forget it."

He watches as she gathers up the used medical supplies with shaking fingers, turning away to throw them in her trash, trying to control her wild emotions.

She was spiraling again, dangerously close to doing or saying something she would regret.

"I couldn't do it," she whispers, breaking the silence that had fallen.

Her shoulders are rigid as she speaks and Frank wonders silently how she didn't shatter under the pressure.

"I couldn't love him the same way after I found out who he really was. All the lies, all the half truths, it all finally made sense. You told me once that if it was really love it would rip your guts out and make you want to come back for more."

She shakes her head, "It wasn't like that with Matt. It was...lonely. Empty."

He hears her sniffle and a moment later she turns to face him, brow furrowed in confusion. "I loved him, but not enough," she tells him.

Why? Why is she telling him of all people these things? It wasn't like he was able to fix them for her. Field strip a gun and put it back together in under three minutes, close a wound with duct tape, hotwire a stolen vehicle...those things he could do.

But these things? Repairing a broken heart? Mourn a friendship? He had no idea.

"I'm sorry ma'am," he mutters, rubbing a hand over the back of his neck awkwardly. She looks so brokenhearted that he has to fight the urge to get up and hold her in his arms.

He recalls the moment he held her as bullets destroyed her old apartment, how she trembled in his arms and he could smell the faint floral scent of her hair, so at odds with the moment.

Frank notices when she shivers in front of him, goosebumps running over her arms and legs and when he looks her over he realizes there's blood on her arm

Frank notices when she shivers in front of him, goosebumps running over her arms and legs and when he looks her over he realizes there's blood on her arm. In a moment he's up, reaching for her, frowning deeply.

She backs away, startled, and he holds his hand up, showing her he's not a threat—and isn't that a joke, the Punisher, not a threat. But he's not, not to her.

Never her.

He can see her pulse in her throat and he waits a moment before speaking. "Ma'am, you're bleeding," he murmurs, pointing to her arm.

Karen looks down, surprise flashing on her face. Her mouth opens in a soft O and he steps closer, "Let me see," he tells her gently, and he's surprised when she nods, angling herself towards him.

He peels off the bandage and frowns when he sees a familiar looking furrow in her skin. He's had enough bullet wounds of his own to know what a graze looks like and to know it has to be hurting her more than she's letting on.

Gently he guides her into the chair he had been in and cleans the wound with antiseptic, eyes flashing up to her face when she flinches at the bite of the peroxide. She just nods at him and he keeps going, cleaning the wound and then applying a large bandage to it, pressing it against her skin gently.

"It'll scar, but if you put some of that, cocoa shit on it, it'll fade," he mutters, gathering up the trash and standing, leaving her sitting at the table.

"That cocoa shit?" she asks, and he realizes that she's teasing; he can hear the laughter in her voice. When he turns around she's smirking at him, her long legs crossed, shining in the faint light shining in from the windows.

Her hair is curling around her face and there's dark marks under her eyes, he can see how tired she is, wonders how she's been sleeping since...everything.

She lifts a brow at him and he realizes she's waiting for him to answer her.

"Cocoa butter. It's good for scars and stretch marks," he tells her, muttering the last words as he remembers rubbing said lotion into Maria's taut belly, feeling his babies move beneath his palm. 

Karen hears the unspoken words, the knowledge he's not sharing. "Thanks, I'll do that," she replies, rising to her feet as nervous energy fills her. She goes back to the freezer for the vodka, knowing she shouldn't.

There are a lot of things she shouldn't do.

She shouldn't drink as much as she has been.

She shouldn't be angry with a dead man.

She shouldn't be thinking about kissing Frank.

She pours a splash of vodka into a glass and waves the bottle at him, nodding when he does, and pours another splash into a glass for him. He takes it from her and their eyes meet as she sips, enjoying the burn.

"How long are you here for?" she asks, shifting on her sore feet.

He notices.

He notices everything about her, even when he shouldn't.

"Depends," he replies, shrugging a shoulder.

"On?"

"On what I find."

She nods and swallows down the rest of her vodka. When she refills her glass she hears his footsteps and then he's there, holding out his for more. Karen stares at him while she pours, eyes flickering over the bruises and fat lip.

They lift their glasses and drink and in the silence she can hear the traffic outside the window it's so silent. Frank drains his glass and sets it on the counter, hands bracing out as he sighs, eyes falling shut.

She wonders what he's thinking about; Maria and the kids? The men he killed tonight? That car alarm going off a block away?

"You going back out tonight?" she asks, trying not to worry, trying not to care. Because caring about Frank Castle is another thing on the list of things she should Never Do Again. She cared about him once, and he had walked away from her to murder Schoonover.

Frank shakes his head, no; he's going back to his shitty apartment on the wrong side of town where his dog is waiting for him. He'll get a shitty frozen meal out and spend the night cleaning his guns, watching as the sun comes up and he can go to sleep, finally.

He can't sleep at night anymore; the darkness is there, waiting for him when he closes his eyes. It's always been there, haunting him in the daylight, like a demon creeping along in the shadows behind him, lingering, watching, waiting for him to let down his guard to slide in and destroy him again.

Colored lights flash from outside over her walls and in an instant he hears carousel music, the laughter of children. Sweet sickly cotton candy floods his nose, immediately drowned out by the sharp bitter scent of blood and gunpowder.

He's vaguely aware of hands on him and he lashes out, knocking them aside, shoving the owner of the hands against the wall. The hands scramble over his arms, digging into his skin and as the sounds of the carousel fade from his ears, he can hear a soft feminine voice chanting his name.

"Frank, Frank I'm here, shhh."

The swirls of colors fade from his eyes and he blinks rapidly, coming to himself slowly. He's breathing heavily, the bitter taste of copper in his mouth as he realizes that his hands are on Karen, fingers digging into the skin of her upper arms so tightly he must be bruising her.

She's wide eyed and breathing softly, still whispering his name. Her fingers are grasping at his chest, twisted in the fabric of his shirt, her knuckles white.

"Frank, breathe, it's me," she whispers, tugging on his shirt gently.

His breathing is ragged and he's struggling to contain the fear and rage swelling within him. Gritting his teeth he looks away, trembling.

When her hand touches his cheek he flinches, head whipping around to glare at her. Most people falter under the weight of a glare from the Punisher. But not her.

No, Karen Page is made of sterner stuff. He's witnessed that.

She presses her fingers to his cheek more firmly and without even realizing it, he leans into the touch, exhaling in relief.

The manic music of the carousel fades, the tang of gunpowder becomes an echo, and as he stares into her stormy eyes, the laughter of children recedes back to the darkness, waiting once more to lunge out and torture him.

Her thumb traces under his bruised eye and the twinge of pain followed by the overwhelming sensation of relief scares him. He's not used to being touched, not anymore, not unless it's someone else's fists on his skin.

He can handle the pain; it's like a demon that's taken up residence in his body, bloodying his vision and teeth. It's this, this, gentleness that he can't stand.

I almost hurts him to be touched so softly, so tenderly. It makes him think of Maria and bile rises in his throat. Unthinking, he slams a fist into the wall near her head, welcoming the pain as it crackles through his knuckles.

Karen gasps softly and her fingers slip from his face, dropping to his shoulder.

"Frank," she breathes.

"Don't," he warns, backing away from her, pushing her hands away as she tries to follow him.

"Frank," she murmurs, reaching out for him, a worried frown creasing her face.

"Just don't," he snaps, trying to control his breathing.

She ignores him and her fingers wrap around his bicep, her left hand coming up to cup around his neck and he flinches, a guttural whine coming from his throat. He's taut, like a wire ready to snap, his body trembling like a nervous racehorse under her touch.

"Frank, just breathe," she whispers, her thumb stroking against his neck softly, and it breaks him, shatters the pain and leaves him raw, skin seared like a flayed man.

Karen makes a soft noise and slides closer to him, the scent of her orchid body wash flooding his nose. He breathes it in eagerly, trying to drown out the scent of blood and gunpowder still lingering like a ghost.

Karen's fingers trail over the soft hairs at the base of his neck and he shivers, fearing he'll die at the gentility she's showing him.

His hands hang limp at his sides and he just breathes as she touches him, hushing and soothing him. Karen leans in even closer, her forehead pressing against his gently.

She's flaying him alive and she doesn't even realize it. She has no idea how she's dug her way under his skin and into his soul, sitting right there next to his demon, fighting for space. It's her light that keeps the demon at bay, her sweetness and strength that make the air clearer around his head.

And he'll let her destroy him, flay him, dig under his skin and into his soul, because this, this is truer than anything else he's felt in so long.

Frank is struggling, trying to regain some sense of control when her hand at his neck pulls and her body sways into his, her hips settling against his as her mouth finds his cheek. For a long moment she's just there, pressed against him and he can't move, can't think, can't react.

Then the hands on the clock sway and he's stepping back, shaking his head like a dog trying to rid himself of water. He's been destroyed by her touch and he can't stand it anymore, he has to escape.

"Frank," she says, hurt coloring her voice and he accepts it, takes it in, lets it flay him on the inside. Her hand reaches out towards him supplicating, and he shakes his head, turning away.

"Don't touch me," he growls, rubbing a hand over his face, trying to rub off the sensation her touch sent shivering through his body.

Karen's face darkens, "Why? Frank, what the fuck?" she demands, frustration coloring her voice.

He whirls back towards her, glaring. "Because Karen, I can't stand it. I don't deserve your kindness or you bein sweet." And then suddenly he's grabbing her, shaking her softly, eyes wide with panic, "Don't you get it? You're destroying me," he gasps.

She stares at him wide eyed, mouth partially open in shock. "W-what?" she stutters. "I'm...I'm just trying to make sure you're ok," she replies sharply. "It's what...friends do," she tells him harshly.

He laughs bitterly at that, because if she and he are friends, then hell, he's also the tooth fairy. He doesn't deserve her, not at all, and he has to make her understand that. "You don't get it Karen, I'm going to end up gettin you hurt. You'll end up dead because of me and I can't stand that."

He shakes her again, his fingers biting into her skin and she gasps, exhaling sharply. Her breath smells like vodka and something spicy, something uniquely her and it drugs him; he sways towards her, yearning for it.

A battle as bloody and violent as any he's waged on the streets wages within him. Leave/don't leave...touch her/don't touch her...kiss her/don't kiss her.

Frank doesn't want to feel broken, flayed and destroyed, he wants that sweet healing touch of hers to break him down and put him back together.

Even if he doesn't deserve it.

Maybe, just for tonight, he can have it.

His fingers on her arms loosen and he strokes her skin with his thumbs, the silky heat emanating from her body intoxicating him. He's entranced, his dark gaze watching her pulse in her throat as he touches her.

Karen can feel that something has changed in Frank; she can see the way he's almost...relaxed. She's never seen him like this, he's never touched her like this and it makes her pulse thrum, her body filling with a sweet need.

She's scared to move, scared to frighten him off; that he'll change his mind, of what will happen if he keeps touching her. She's scared to find out that she wants to know...wants to step off this ledge and not look back.

Karen lifts her hands to rest softly on his shoulders, fingers clutching at him and Frank moves suddenly, pulling her towards him until her body is pressed to his. His face buries in her hair, a move she hadn't expected.

He inhales, breathing in her scent, letting it wash away the blood that seems to drench his consciousness. His hands cup her hip and shoulder, his body tense against hers.

She runs her fingers through his hair softly and he trembles. "Shhh, Frank, it's ok," she whispers, her fingers furrowing through his buzz cut. She turns her face and places a soft kiss on his cheek, nose brushing against his skin.

Frank shudders as she continues gently, her mouth brushing over his skin, growing bolder as he relaxes into her touch. Her teeth close around his throat, mouth sucking until he's groaning brokenly and his hips arch into her.

Heat burns in her veins at the sound from Frank, a soft noise in her own throat forming as his hands grip her tighter. Her tongue flicks over the bruised skin and Frank whines deep in his throat, biting his tongue to keep a senseless stream of words from slipping out.

It wouldn't do to have something soft and affectionate he can't mean come out and fuck everything up.

Karen tugs on his hips, pulling him against her and then suddenly they're up against the wall, his body covering hers. Her hands slide under his tight tshirt, fingertips gliding along his abdomen, tracing over his well defined muscles and heat curls through her belly at the thought of putting her mouth on them.

She tugs at the hem of his shirt, pulling at it until it's lifted over his head and his torso is exposed. She pauses a moment, tracing her fingers over the scars and bruises littering his skin. He's a map of pain, an atlas pointing out where he's been mutilated and beaten by his own drive for revenge and justice.

In the next moment her mouth is on him, sucking and biting at his pecs, her hands clutching his waist. Frank groans as her hot mouth leaves mark after mark on him, her silky hair brushing over his skin like fire.

When she sinks to her knees he groans, watching as she unzips his jeans and shifts them so his half erect cock comes free. A moment later she's stroking him, her grip firm, squeezing as she twists.

Frank shudders and groans, bracing himself against the wall, watching her as she stares up at him with wide blue eyes. When her lips close around his weeping tip he thinks he too might start crying.

"Christ Page," he hisses, growling as she opens her mouth wider and sucks, taking him deeper with each bob of her head. She hums against him and he shudders, trying to control the swell of need flooding him.

Her fingers dig into his jean covered thigh and she's sucking him harder when he pushes at her shoulder, panting. "I'm gonna..." he gasps, barely able to speak.

Karen hums around his cock, ignoring his warning. Her eyes are bright as she takes him deeper, her throat aching as he stretches her, hips jolting as he breathes in loud gasps. She reaches a hand up to press into his sweat sheened chest and he clamps a hand over it, pressing her touch into his skin.

He doesn't know why she's doing this, allowing him to come in her mouth without so much as a word of disagreement. He can't understand why she wants to do this, why she wants him at all. He knows why he wants her, but fuck why does she want him?

Frank cries out a warning and then suddenly his brain is short circuiting, whiting out as he comes. Through slitted eyes he watches her suck him until he's shaking, too sensitive.

As the light fades from his eyes she rises and wraps her fingers around his waist, leaning in to kiss his neck softly, so gently it shatters him all over again. She pulls his waist gently, "Come on," she whispers, pulling him towards her bedroom.

He follows her, as he always will.

Karen guides him to her bed, pushing him down gently. She kneels again and unlaces his boots, pulling them off and setting them aside before she strips his socks off and rises up to reach for his jeans.

His fingers wind around her wrist, stopping her. Her eyes meet his, worry and curiosity warring there.

"You...you don't have to," he whispers, and then thinks that it's far too late for that. She's already been on her knees for him, a place he never wanted her to be, a place that's reserved for killers and rapists who are about to meet the business end of his bullets.

If he's honest with himself he wants her any way she'll have him, but he knows he doesn't deserve her.

She smiles then, soft and warm, her fingers curling around his waist and she leans up to kiss him, on the lips this time, surprising him. She pulls away just as he's responding and murmurs against his lips, "I want to."

When he hesitates she kisses him again, firmer this time, keeping at it until he's kissing her back, one of his hands twining through her silken curls. "I want to, I want you," she whispers, nose brushing his gently.

He nods and she tugs at his jeans, sliding them off when he shifts his hips up for her. When he's naked she stares down at him for a moment and then waves a hand, "Move back," she urges.

Frank has always been good at taking direction and this is no different. He slides back until her pillows and headboard are supporting his spine and she follows, sliding into his lap with a grace and ease that takes his breath away.

He's yet to really touch her, and now here they are, her sitting in his naked lap while still fully dressed. He wants to put his hands on her, but holds back, imagining her lustrous skin being sullied by his touch.

She slips her hands around his neck and leans in, silky hair framing her face as she kisses him and he can taste a spicy flavor on her tongue as it swipes along his lower lip, soothing where her teeth bite.

She's gentle, but firm, pushing and pulling him along until he's lost in a tide of her; the way she tastes, the way she smells, the way she feels. He's not sure how long they stay like that, her mouth on his, her fingers in his hair, his hands on her hips.

It could be hours, days, years—and he didn't know it could be like this; slow, steady, sweet. It hasn't been that way since Maria, and even as he thinks that, he doesn't push her away because some part of him needs this, needs to know he's still worth slow and sweet and steady.

He doesn't deserve it, but she gives it to him anyway.

Karen begins trailing her mouth over his jaw, his scruff burning her in a way that leaves her blood pounding between her legs, aching for more. She sucks another mark onto his neck, rolling her hips down into his until he's panting beneath her and his hips are jutting back up against her, his cock growing hard again.

After a moment she leans back and stares at him while she breathes heavily, eyes hooded with desire. His dark eyes meet hers and without thinking he lifts a hand to her cheek, knuckles brushing over it smoothly.

Her eyes widen and her bottom lip falls open enough for him to cup her cheek and swipe his thumb over it, dragging it down for a breath before she's closing her lips around the appendage and biting, gently.

Pleasure bolts through him, curling low in his belly, heat building. She sucks on his thumb, tongue swirling for a moment before she releases it and leans in, kissing him again. Their tongues dance and retreat until he's breathless, needy and desperate.

"You taste like gunpowder," she whispers, then recaptures his mouth.

Frank's hands push at her shirt, guiding it up until she's leaning back and it's tossed aside, leaving her bare to his touch. His breath catches in his throat at the sight of her naked breasts, pale and glistening in the lights from the window.

She watches him stare and after a moment guides his hand to her breast, watching as his eyes widen and his breath exhales sharply. His palm curves around her breast, hesitating for just a moment before he's shifting and stroking his thumb over her nipple until it's taut and aching.

Karen moans softly, rolling her hips down into him as his other hand joins the first, cupping then stroking her breast. She's breathing harder, losing herself in the feel of Frank's calloused fingers on her skin, moaning when his lips finally close on her throat.

Frank growls low in his throat as he mouths over her neck, leaving red marks that he knows she'll have to cover later, but for right now, he's lost in the taste of her. When his lips close over her breast he thinks maybe he's died and gone to heaven, groaning as she whines and furrows her fingers through his hair.

Karen's nails scrape his skull, a moan lodged in her throat as he feasts on the tender skin of her breasts, his teeth tugging and tongue lapping until she's gasping and writhing on his lap. She can feel the hard edge of his cock through her shorts and she's burning, aching with need and growing wetter by the second.

"Frank," she gasps and in an instant he's moving away from her skin, watching her with careful eyes, his chest heaving as they stare at each other.

"Touch me," she demands, rising up on her knees to shimmy off her shorts and then sink back into his lap.

She's burning him, searing into his soul where her body meets his, her long arms wrapping around his shoulders, her lips blazing against his. She's light and heat and she's burning him, shading away the demon with her intensity.

His hands are back at her waist, pulling her more firmly against him until it's not enough; he needs to touch more of her, to put his mouth on her.

He grabs her hips and rolls them until her back hits the mattress and in a moment he's mouthing his way over her breasts, down her torso, and then hovers, just inches from where she's already wet and waiting for him.

Karen whines and rolls her hips, trying to get his mouth on her and to her surprise he laughs, softly, "Just wait ma'am," he encourages before his lips brush over her inner thigh and she's gasping as he's burning her right back.

"Frank," she breathes, fingers burrowing in his hair as he mouths over her thigh, sucking her skin between his teeth, trying to hold himself back from where he can smell her, the scent so tantalizing it makes his mouth water.

When she's practically ripping hair from his skull he moves in and darts his tongue out, sliding slowly between her folds and up to her clit, nudging it gently. She sighs, her body relaxing and then tensing within the same breath.

He deliberately takes his time, lapping at her slowly, tongue flicking and nudging her clit as it darts between her folds, tasting her sweet juices. Her fingers are looser in his hair, holding onto him as he licks, then flicks, then sucks.

Karen whines and rolls her hips against his mouth, pleasure burning low in her belly, spreading until she's moaning his name, begging for release. Frank plans to give it to her, more than once, considering she's deemed him worthy to even be in this position.

He'll worship her until she's tired of him and makes him leave, whenever that might be.

He sucks harder on her clit, circling her opening with two fingers before sliding in, curling them against her walls until she's shuddering and moaning loudly, one fist balling against her mouth to muffle her cries.

He sucks harder and rubs on her g-spot until she inhales sharply and shudders, her whole body arching and tensing. He works her through it, moaning as her walls flutter around him, trying to suck him in.

Karen gasps, throat raw from muffling her cries as he kisses over her thighs, and up her flat stomach to leave marks on her skin. As he makes his way up to her mouth her arms wind around his broad shoulders, pulling him close.

Frank settles between her hips, bracing himself above her on his forearms as he kisses her, the taste of her still heavy on his tongue. If she had flayed him apart with her kisses, he's poured lighter fluid on the remains and lit a match.

When he starts to pull away, lifting himself off her, she frowns at him and wraps a leg around his thigh, pulling him back.

"Where are you going?" she demands softly, running her fingers through his hair. He tries not to sink into her touch, but fails, miserably.

"Just thought..." he trails off, not able to complete the thought.

"Thought you'd get me off and leave?" she murmurs, and he looks up at her, preparing himself to withdraw, to leave.

When he doesn't say anything she smirks and tugs against his thigh, pulling his hips forward until his cock is lying heavily on her hip. He grunts at the touch and his head drops to her shoulder, breathe heaving out against her skin.

Her fingers furrow through his hair once more and she tugs his head up, drawing him up to kiss her, sweet and soft. Her breath is soft against his lips when she whispers, "Don't go."

He stares down at her, hair splayed out in a golden halo on her pillow, blue eyes shining up at him like lamps and nods, he'll stay. For her, he'll stay.

His mouth finds hers again and she runs her hands over his back, her nails digging into his skin until it almost hurts, and then she's lifting her hips and his cock is dragging over her wet heat, pulling a moan from her throat.

He chokes on his own groan and grabs her hip, holding her up as he angles himself toward her entrance, hesitating for a moment before she's gripping his bicep tighter and whispering at him to hurry up.

When he slides into her he growls out a curse, swearing louder when her leg wraps around his hips, angling so he slides deeper, bottoming out within her. Karen gasps at the way he's filling her, seated deep, not moving.

Long moments pass as Frank savors the moment, letting her sear into his memory, the feel of her body tight around him something he'll never forget. She whines and wiggles her hips, encouraging him to move and a moment later he's withdrawing and then snapping his hips forward, plunging deep into her.

Biting her lip, she digs her fingertips into his biceps, holding on as he thrusts hard into her, still slow, building heat between them until sweat breaks out on his chest and over her throat. He grabs her other leg and wraps it around his waist, plunging harder and faster into her, slowly losing himself in her.

Karen's cries fill the room, gasping out his name then biting her lip to keep quiet. He sinks down onto his forearms, his fingers winding into her hair as he thrusts into her, his face burying in her neck.

His breath is harsh against her skin and he knows he's not going to last long, despite his best efforts to make this last longer. Karen's rolling her hips into his movement, biting her lip and moaning deep in her throat.

"Ahhh, ahh! Frank!" she cries as he thrusts harder, "Oh fuck, Frank, Frank!"

His mouth covers hers and she whines, "More, p-please!"

Shifting his weight he quickly slides a hand down to her clit and rubs, hard and fast. She bucks into him, crying out as he kisses her furiously, hips pounding into hers.

She can feel her orgasm building rapidly and when it comes she bites his shoulder, crying out as waves of pleasure slam through her. Frank curses as her body tightens and flutters, sucking him deeper in a fist of pleasure.

He's coming a few rough thrusts later, hot and hard, his vision blurring as he growls into her neck, her name a broken gasp. They move against each other restlessly for a few more minutes until the sparks under their skin settle and cool.

When he slips out of her he doesn't move far, simply collapses against the pillow as exhaustion overtakes him. She lies next to him, hair disheveled and cheeks flushed, chest rising and falling slowly.

He's trying not to stare at her, trying not to think about what happened too much, trying not to let the shadows back in to ruin this moment.

She shivers and he reaches out absently, pulling up the blankets around her, smirking at her look of surprise.

"Momma raised a gentleman," he tells her, half shrugging, "Even if I aint much of one now."

She smiles at that and reaches out to run her fingers over his cheek, tracing the bruises once more. He glances out the window and then to her small digital clock beside the bed. She notices the glance and lifts a brow, "Somewhere to be?"

She tries to ask nonchalantly, but it still comes out too interested. She's worried he'll bolt. She wouldn't be surprised or even offended if he did. It's not the first time he's left her after an emotionally revelatory moment, though none so intimate as this.

"No, just lookin."

Karen stares at him for a moment and then nods, accepting his vague explanation. They sink into a comfortable silence and she shifts deeper under the blanket, staring up at the ceiling. Frank curls his hands behind his head, eyes drifting closed.

"I killed Wilson Fisk's man last year."

Her words come out of nowhere, and in a moment she's continuing.

"He kidnapped me and held me at gunpoint. He told me they would kill Matt, Foggy, everyone I cared about. When his phone rang I grabbed the gun from the table and..." she breaks off and he rolls to look at her, watches her brow furrow.

"And?" he prompts softly

"And?" he prompts softly.

"And he asked if I really thought he'd give me a loaded gun. I told him it wasn't the first time I had shot someone, and then..."

"Then you shot him."

She hums in affirmation and turns her head to look at him, a question in her eyes.

'You did the right thing," he tells her softly and at the look in her eyes, he knows she already knows.

She surprises him then, moving to curl into his side, her nose brushing against his chest. He hesitates for a moment and then wraps an arm around her waist.

"You did good Karen, you did good," he whispers and feels her relax into him.


When she wakes up the next morning he's already gone, but there's a note on her freezer.

Get a better lock for your front door Page. Call me if you need me.

I'll see you soon.

917-446-8319

FC

She stares at it for a moment and then smiles softly, "See you soon Frank," she whispers.