“A difficult smile to resist, eh, Hercule?” “Yes, indeed. Oh! If you think that the young lady and not the case attracted me, you do me a wrong, Claude.” “Yet, you still wear the trinket she gave you.”
She was still surprised at how well it was working. They had needed time, of course they had. But it was really finally working. She was sitting on his sofa, her bare feet resting next to him, his hands on his lap, fighting the urge to caress her skin. She had just handed in an article and was too tired to go to a bar. At least that’s what she told him. And he had a sprained knee that wouldn’t let him patrol that night. At least that’s what he said. Perfect excuses to be together while Foggy was on a date with Marci. It was far more than what she had expected a few months ago. Not that it had been easy. They had been through a lot. The three of them had. The two of them too.
It had all started on a Thursday night, weeks after the collapse of Midland Circle. Foggy and Karen were still getting used to the idea of a life where Matt was dead. They had learned how to live a life without him, but this was different. It was permanent. They had given each other some space to be able to deal with it. Whenever they had met, it had been too difficult not to let the sadness overflow. So they had decided that it was better not to meet for a few weeks, to see if it calmed them down a bit, but they would send each other messages every other day. That’s why she was so surprised when Foggy phoned her.
“This’s gonna sound crazy, Karen, but there’re two avocados next to my beers and I swear to God I haven’t bought them”.
That was all he said. There was no need for a further explanation. She had already told him what she felt about Matt’s death. Even if it was not logical, she had the hunch that it was not really over yet. Maybe her instincts were right. He suggested that they meet and she left the Bulletin and rushed to her apartment. Foggy was already at her door when she got there.
While she was opening her door, all they could talk about was how much they wanted it to be true. But they needed more reasons to believe it, some sort of confirmation. On her nightstand, next to a paper bag, they saw a pair of red-tinted glasses. He was alive.
When they got to his place, they used Foggy’s keys to get in. They knew Danny was still paying the rent, just in case Matt came back. And there he was, lying on the sofa. He was all wrapped in bandages and the little skin that was showing was covered in bruises and stitches. He was worse than ever. But alive.
“I wanted to tell you I’m alive but I didn’t know if you’d want to see me so I…” And before he could continue talking they were all over him, trying to keep the distance not to hurt him but at the same time trying to make some contact to convince themselves that it was real. He was alive.
That night was difficult for all of them. It was a whirlwind of emotions. There was happiness and relief but also disappointment and resentment. And there was hope, lots of hope and that’s what they needed the most. They wished for a possible future together. And of course there would be one if they wanted it. The three of them were there because at that moment their whole world was inside those walls, whether it was to demand explanations or to support each other. There was nowhere else they’d rather be.
But the distance between them could only disappear if they worked on it slowly, day by day. It was not a matter of fixing things but of building a new friendship using some of the broken pieces they had left behind. They all knew it, especially Matt. No wonder the things he had left for them, using Danny’s help once again, were not only his way to show them he was not dead but also a cry for help and a statement on intentions.
He needed Foggy’s friendship. Like in the old times. The two avocados. A real friendship based on honesty and trust. A friend that could make him laugh every single day but who would also yell at him and get judgmental if the situation demanded it. They would always be there for each other, in sickness and in health. Family.
And then, there’s Karen. He did everything wrong the first time, lying to her almost everyday. But he didn’t do it right the second time either. Then, he spent months lying to himself so the truth was obviously out of the equation. He needed to stop hiding behind his glasses, he had to accept his two halves and then show them to her.
Getting closer to Karen proved to be more difficult than getting Foggy back in his life. Foggy was much more critical and would complain about his patrolling every now and then. But he was always there, whereas Karen seemed more cautious and distant even though she had approved his night activities without a second thought. It was as if an invisible wall had been placed between them. There was nothing he could really reproach, but he had the feeling that she was holding back. He wanted to talk to her about it but she was always subtly reluctant to spend time with him alone. If it was not the three of them, she would always have to work or she would be too tired or would need to head back home. Sometimes even when Foggy was there, she would tell them that something had come up and she just couldn’t make it.
So it wasn’t an easy task, getting Karen back. Matt and Karen had based their relationship on lies and half-truths. They had always been trying to please the other, taking for granted what the other person wanted without really knowing it. That’s why when they decided to bury their love story and give their friendship an opportunity, they needed time before it all made sense. Until it finally did.
Matt was the one who decided it was time to open his Pandora’s box. Some nights before, having already drunk a few beers at Josie’s, Foggy had asked him about his true feelings for Karen -he could not hide it from him- and about the way things were between them- Matt had screwed things up, big deal, but maybe there was a possibility of getting Karen back the way he wanted to. But Foggy also knew about Elektra and their past and recent history. They both knew Foggy had never liked her. At least, he hadn’t liked the effect she had on him. He could understand their connection, their traumatic past because of Stick’s abusive techniques, their need of people who could understand everything they had gone through, that passionate sex when he was nothing but hormones, the violent side they shared that everyone else would have rejected at once… but the effect she had always had on him was still a mystery to him. He couldn’t help but wonder why he had chosen her again and again. And maybe it was one of those things that none of them could understand or explain. Definitely, the heart is a tricky thing.
So they talked about her, again. Elektra was his first love, the first person to truly know him and the only one to really accept him. At least back then. And nothing, no one could ever erase that. Despite her darkest side, she would always be an essential part of him, especially after having lost her no less than three times. First, when she tried to convince him to kill his father’s murderer and as she didn’t succeed, she left. He thought he was never going to get past that. Then, when she died in his arms after having helped him save Karen, yes, Karen, among other people. He was devastated once again, but al least this time he got the answers he needed to understand why she had left. He buried her and was finally ready to move on. But then, she was taken back from death. He could not stand aside, he could not let them kill her. He knew there was still good in her. So he made her remember who she really was and then he made his new friends leave while he waited for the explosion. He had to save them. He had to. Then they got buried under rubble. It was supposed to be the end. He would have died for her, just like she did for him. But that was the past and it was high time to get over it and try and be happy for a change.
And maybe Elektra was right when she told him he needed to let people in. And he was trying to do that with Karen, but he knew it was not working. Why did it had to be so difficult? It was not because his feelings for her. Even though he wanted to be with her - he was falling for her more and more everyday- he was extremely cautious about it. Their friendship was the first and maybe the only step in their relationship and he wanted to do things right. But it did not feel real. He could not explain why.
He had come clean to her, as clean as he could with Foggy always by their side. But she would not let him explain everything he needed to tell her. They were supposed to be honest to each other now, that was the key, but something was missing. She was elusive and he knew she was hiding things from him too. And she was keeping him at distance, he could feel it. It wasn’t that surprising considering how he had treated her, but he wanted, he needed to talk to her. Just the two of them. Maybe if he was more open and explained everything she was avoiding to hear, she would talk to him too. He had to tell her everything and then maybe, maybe she would understand. But to do so, he needed Foggy’s help. And it is then when it all really started.
It was a Saturday night and they were going to meet at Matt’s. Foggy, Matt and Karen, the three of them. That’s what they tried to do as much as their busy lives let them to. They would usually meet at Josie’s for some beers, but Foggy had insisted on a quieter place for a change.
Foggy offered to buy some nice wine -he could afford it now- and to get some food on the way. And he did, but once they started having dinner, he got a mildly convincing phone call. Marcy had drunk a bit too much and needed him to take her home. Things were going fine between Marcy and Foggy so he couldn’t put it at risk saying no to her. So he hugged his friends and left.
There was no way Karen could leave without an explanation. They all knew it, the same as they everyone was aware that this sudden inconvenience had been planned in advance. But the situation had to be tackled and their conversation could not be avoided anymore. Just in case, Matt offered her a way out and asked her if she preferred to leave, but she decided to stay.
So they had their dinner and their wine, and they talked. At first, their words were tentative, perfectly studied and analysed. Probably they had both rehearsed the conversation in their heads many times before and knew what they wanted to say and what they hoped to hear.
They left their shields aside, and talked. No glasses, no masks, just them, finally opening to each other. They started talking about everything and nothing: their jobs, the city, the group of common friends- it had expanded after the Midland incident- … and then they talked about all the things they were afraid to say.
It was surprising how easy it was. Even the hardest words felt redeeming somehow. There had been so many misunderstandings that it was a relief to realise that what they were afraid to show the other was precisely what the other was trying to hide as well. Their darkest side. They were so obsessed with fascinating the other, so terrified of being rejected that they hadn’t seen that even their secrets mirrored the other’s.
He was the one who started opening up. He had mentioned some things about his past when he showed her the mask, but he didn’t really explain them. He’d just told her what she needed to know to understand how he was able to do the things he did. Now he finally explained what he should have told her back then. His dramatic past conformed him. Of course he would have issues after everything that had happened to him: his mother’s abandonment, his father’s death, Stick’s bullshit… And all that sense of abandonment and frustration joined the violent side inside of him. And his sense of justice plus his need of fighting found the perfect ally in the man behind the mask. But he was always in hiding, pretending he was nothing more than what people could see. Just like her. And his heart broke in two when he heard her open as well.
What she had left in Vermont explained who she was and what she was terrified of. She also had a dark side that she wanted to keep under control but it was a part of her and she couldn’t deny it, she couldn’t keep on hiding it. And then, all those terrible things that happened short after she arrived in the city took her darkest side to the surface, exposing her. So she made some wrong choices, and Ben died. Because of her. She shouldn’t have manipulated him. But she did. And he was killed. Because of her. And that drew her towards so much pain and sorrow… and then she was drugged, they seated her on a chair in a warehouse somewhere, and she killed Wesley. She killed him. She took the gun and killed him. And panic overwhelmed her, and it wouldn’t go away. And there was nothing she could do. And it was so different from what she had expected to find when she ran away from Vermont.
Because she had killed a man. There’s no way one could get to come back from that. Once you’ve pulled the trigger… And she had done it. Again and again. So that was it. That was her. And that would always be her. Yes. And she would do it again. Just the same. And did he know what the scariest thing was? There was no regret, none. But there was panic. A lot of it. What if Fisk found out? What if he came after her? What if he came after THEM?
Matt couldn’t hold it any longer and he broke the distance between them and hold her in his arms. Stroking her back, his other hand getting lost in her hair. She couldn’t stop sobbing and all he could do was whisper that it was ok. She had done what she had to do. He wouldn’t love her any less because of it. His only regret was not being there for her. If he had known it… But he understood. It was ok. She was ok. They were safe. And he would make sure it stayed that way. He would do whatever it took. Anything. And he cupped his face, he wiped her tears and he kissed her forehead, her eyes, her cheeks, and held her even tighter again and cried with her.
A few minutes later, once they had stopped crying. He managed to speak again. “Why didn’t you tell us? We… we would have been there for you. I would have been there for you, Karen”. She took a deep breath and tried to make him understand. How could she tell him? She was alone. All alone. And his constant speech for justice always included rejecting violence. If she had known what she had just learned about him… But she didn’t and she had no one but them. What would have happened to her if they had decided it was best to tell the police? She would have been killed. That’s for sure. And what if they hadn’t but they decided that a murderer was not welcome in Nelson and Murdock? What would she have done if they had rejected her? He had to understand it. She had no one but them.
He knew she was right. If she had known about his other identity, about the techniques he was using himself, she might have trusted him. But he wasn’t being honest to her. And even after that, when he showed her who he was, he omitted the most important part: the reasons why he did it. In fact, when he told her he was Daredevil, he did quite the opposite. He kept lying. He told her that he had been so wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Violence was not the way. His violent side had just led them to where they were. But he had learned the lesson. He would not accept violence again. That part of him was over. Gone. Forever. He would never wear the mask again. He would never ever do that again. So of course there was no way she could tell him that sometimes violence was in fact the only way. And she kept lying. Just like him. And the distance between them started expanding again.
And the time came to tell her what he thought might make him lose her forever. But Matt knew that if she had shared the secret she was more afraid to tell, he had to do the same. Even if it meant destroying every opportunity he could possibly have with her. So he told her everything about Elektra, ending his confession with what scared him the most: “I think I’ll always have these lingering feelings for her”. He admitted it, expecting the worst.
Karen wasn’t surprised. Jessica had already told her everything she knew. Trish had insisted on it and Jess had never learned how to say no to her. The Matt she was told about had nothing to do with the Matt she had kissed at her doorstep. He was a stranger to her. That scared her. Had it all been a farce, then? Had any of it ever been real? Karen had cried so much over it that her face remained still when he told her about his feelings and about his decision to sacrifice himself for the city. In Elektra’s arms. While kissing her.
“I get it”, she said. “Really. I do. I think I almost fell for Frank for the same reasons”.
And it’s then when he was taken aback. He couldn’t believe her words. Falling for Frank? Frank? The Punisher? Where was that coming from?
Their words were setting them apart, they could feel each other retreating further and further away with every piece of information that was revealed. But it had to be done, it was the only way to destroy the wall that they had built between them. And it was cracking. Finally. They could now walk towards the other. If they wanted to.
“What’re you talking about? I don’t… I don’t understand…” That’s all he managed to say.
“Really, Matt, it’s ok. I know what you mean”, she said. “I was so lost, I thought I’d become a monster but Frank helped me understand. I’d never been able to be myself with anyone else. I was feeling so alone until he came into my life. Because he sees through me, Matt. And he accepts me. He really does. And he treats me like an equal, you know? And he knows who I am, who I really am. He knows what I think, what I feel. And he also knows what I have done and what I can do. And he trusts me, he accepts me, Matt. And I know you don’t, but I do understand him and accept him too.”
Matt was in shock. Karen and Frank. How? How could that ever happen? He was nothing like her. Nothing like her. He asked her if anything had happened between them, if they were together, if they had ever been. He knew he had no right to ask, but he needed to know. He just needed to know.
So she told him all the things he would have never expected to hear. While he was still gone, Frank went back to her. He knew he could trust her. Maybe she was the only person he could really trust. And they got close. They worked together, side by side. And she wanted nothing but to be there. And there were times when she thought she was getting closer than she should, but she was feeling things she thought she would never get to feel. Like feeling valued, trusted, understood. She even felt safe. Not just in a physical way but emotionally. Because she was a priority. And she would be informed and she wouldn’t be questioned. And he would be there because she was important to him. Just like he was important to her. And they shared some terrifying moments. And he was always there for her. And he never doubted her. And she never doubted him. And he made her feel alive again. And she was quickly falling for him and there was nothing she could do about it because she knew that even though those feelings were building on him as well, his mourning was not over yet. He was not ready for it. We was far from being ready yet. So when the mission was over and, as she had warned him, he got exposed, he did what he had to do. He ran away from New York, and from her. If they had tried to make it work, it would have probably ended up pretty badly for the two of them. So all she got was a few touches, some sweet words and a predictable farewell.
He didn’t know what to say. Her heartbeat was steady. She was strong enough to deal with all of this and even more. She was amazing. How had he been so stupid as to let her go? There was nothing he could say to make her feel better and he had no right to complain about any of it. How could he? So he took a deep breath and said what he needed to say.
“I’m sorry, Karen. I’m sorry things went this way with me and… and with him as well. But let me tell you something… you are my priority. You have no idea what you mean to me, Karen. And if you let me, if you please let me, I can prove it to you. If you give me a chance.”
“That’s why I’m here, Matt. That’s why I haven’t left”
“Thanks, Karen. And there’s something… there’s something else I have to tell you and you probably don’t wanna hear this but I need to tell you anyway: you… you’re not like him”
“I know, Matt. And you’re not like her either”.
There was nothing more to say, at least nothing more to explain. From that moment their words went around in circles until the morning came and they were left with nothing but feelings and their true selves.
He offered her his bed but she thought it was better if she left. But she was so glad they had talked. Things could only get better at that point. They had to laugh at that. They would make things work. They both wanted to. And now that they were hiding nothing from the other, it could really work.
The days after that felt weird for both of them. They kept sending each other messages to make sure everything was ok. He asked her to have some coffee near the Bulletin and, despite all her work, she said yes. She wanted to go somewhere and have a drink after work, and even though the city always needs surveillance, he went there. At first, their conversations weren’t as natural as they expected but little but little they felt relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company without analysing it. Before they knew it, all the pieces started to fit.
It was strange at first, but they were getting closer and closer everyday. And soon they broke the distance and let each other enjoy some casual touches. He would hold her arm to cross the road and he would keep it longer that it was supposed to be necessary just to feel her heart beating faster and the temperature rising on her skin, her pale cheeks turning pink. Of course she knew he could feel it, so she would laugh at the way he was smirking and stick her tongue out or whisper a swear word to him. She would take advantage of his blindness and take his hand to show him things whenever there were people around. He loved it when she did it, but he didn’t dare to go any further than this. She was in charge of the pace. She needed to be sure about it. So she had to be.
The time they spent together increased unconsciously. He started giving her all the useful information he could get for her articles and she started letting him know all the data she managed to get. They also started to meet for drinks more and more often. Too bad Marcy was keeping Foggy busy almost every night. And drinks led to other alternatives such coffees on Sunday mornings or dinners at someone’s home when they both gave themselves a free night. Like that night when Karen was sitting on his sofa, so very next to him, and Matt was doubting how long he could control himself his need to touch her, to kiss her.
They had had some Italian food she had collected on her way and they had almost finished the bottle of wine he had bought some days ago, hoping for a night like this. It wasn’t that different from all the other nights they had spent at his place, some food, some wine and some conversation about the crazy lives they lived. But he could feel something was different, she was more open, more willing to whatever it was that she had in mind. So he was twitchy. He didn’t know how to sit, what to say. Foggy would laugh at him if he saw the reputed seducer feeling this way.
Then she looked at him. They were just laughing at something he was saying and she stopped and looked at him. She took his glass of wine, put on the coffee table and said “Matt, you can relax, it’s ok”. And that was it. He could not hold it any longer. He placed one of his hand at the back of her neck and he kissed her. Softly at first, then urgently. And she kissed him back as eagerly as he had wished in his most hopeful dreams. And the kisses were only interrupted to get rid of the clothes that were now the only thing that separated them. Their hands, their tongue, their lips going everywhere. And minutes went by, and hours went by, and days went by and they never seemed to get enough. How could they ever doubt it? How could they ever live without it? They should have known it right from the start. It was meant to be.
And they knew it wouldn’t be easy. How could it be when none of them were? But despite all the obstacles, despite the lies, the misunderstandings, despite their mistakes, they knew it just made sense. They loved each other and whatever happened, they knew they would always be there for the other. Always. And they would always, always love each other. No matter what. They would love each other until the end of times.
“The history of the royal family of Hyrule is also the history of Calamity Ganon, a primal evil that has endured over the ages. This evil has been turned back time and time again by a warrior wielding the soul of a hero, and a princess who carries the blood of the Goddess.”