But there is time for her to feel it. Last time she was in shock, maybe in a bit of denial, and if she wasn’t completely free of rage as she did what had to be done to James Wesley, well, she still felt nothing like this mad frenzy. After running up to him, that sneering monster with that cruel bloody curved blade he’s holding in his hand, taunting them in a voice laced with cruelty, probably too arrogant to think anything of the footsteps so small behind him, Karen’s seeing red. She even has a moment to wonder if he realized one of his straight knives fell off his belt, if he’d ever know he was going to be killed by one of his own weapons, before she’s burying it in his back again, and again, and again. This time, the blood splatters all over her.
It’s only days ago Matt and Foggy even learned she once killed to protect them, among other people. And this time, they have to witness it. Foggy has to see the look on her face, and Matt has to hear her pants and probably smell her adrenaline, as she not only kills someone, but does it with bloodthirsty zeal.
Foggy also probably thought her to be dead a couple of minutes ago; Matt would’ve known better, of course, but there was no way for him to inform Foggy without the assassin finding out too. That’s probably why, when the bloody corpse falls to the alley floor, he simply cries out her name and runs over to her.
“Don’t!” She recoils from him; she won’t defile him, not Foggy. Honestly, she should never have him touch her again, but she hasn’t the strength for that, not any more than Matt ultimately did.
Then he looks frightened, hurt. But Matt understands, even as he’s still squirming under the pipes; he’ll get himself free of them within a minute or so more. “He was the only one left,” he said, his voice all too calm, when Karen knows how upset he must be. “There’s no one else in Hell’s Kitchen who’ll try to kill either of you tonight.”
Frantic footsteps from the other end of the ally, and there’s Frank, arrived too late. Of course when he looks down at the dead assassin he’s not anything more than simply relieved. “It’s over, then?”
Matt hangs his head. Foggy shrugs. “I guess? What are we supposed to do with the body?”
“You aren’t going to do anything with it, Nelson,” Frank informs him. “You are going to take a long route home, possibly calling one of your colleagues and making remarks about just getting out of your office-”
“Bad idea,” Karen cuts him off. “They’re terrible liars, both of them.” She’s probably disturbing them by her lack of hysterics right now, though those might come later; she’s not sure.
“Well, don’t then. Point is, you weren’t anywhere near here. There’s a chance the people trying to keep track of what’s going on with me and Red know or will realize someone came here trying to kill him, me, and/or our journalist ally of choice, but unless they connect him to Fisk they don’t need to know you had anything to do with it. It’ll be better if they don’t think she had anything to do with it either, but you’ve got the best chance of not being noticed by anyone.”
“He’s right, Foggy.” Matt slips free of the pipes. “Someone…someone shadow him home?” Because even if in theory there’s no more need for that right now, neither she nor he will feel comfortable just letting him walk off unguarded.
Also, Karen doesn’t want Matt around her right now either. Right now, she’s someone she doesn’t want to stain even him with. “You’re the best person for that,” she says.
“We’ll get rid of the body then,” says Frank. “There’s an open furnace near here. There’s another place close to it I’ve got some coats stashed.” He looks Karen up and down. “You can get home in one of them without looking like too alarming a sight.”
It’s a grim task they carry out coldly. Well, Frank carries it out; he carries the body and throws it in; all Karen does is hold the furnace door open. It takes long enough the adrenaline wears off and what she’s just done starts to sink in. This time it hits her slowly, a heavy weight that feels like it’s pressing against her, slowly pushing her down until she needs to crumble to bits. She keeps from doing so, until after the door is closed and Frank pulls her gun out of his pack with a, “I’ll take the knife?”
There are no tears, not then, but suddenly Karen can’t breathe. She’s jackknifed, her knees hard against dirty cement. Her purse slips off her arm and lands beside her; Frank opens it, takes the knife out, and puts the gun in. Then he carefully places a hand on her shoulder, and waits.
“I don’t know if I had to kill him,” she finally says. “I mean, Matt wouldn’t have. He would’ve tried something else.”
“If it were your and Nelson’s lives at stake? I wouldn’t assume that. Anyone else, and yeah, he would’ve been an idiot, but…”
“But I wasn’t even thinking about how there was no other option.” She needs to tell him this, especially since there’s no one else in the world she can ever tell. “All I was thinking about was how much I wanted him dead. How much I wanted to kill him.”
“That’s what happens in a war, m’am.” Franks voice is as gentle as she’s ever heard it, but still rough. “Turns you into someone harder, angrier, makes you think in ways you never thought you’d think as well as do things you wouldn’t do otherwise. And make no mistake, that’s what you’ve been in since Fisk got out. This is, what, the fourth attempt on you, third on Nelson, and something like the tenth on Red since then? And that’s just on your lives. You’ve been holding up pretty well, considering. Which….I don’t want you to be me, but you’re going to be different now…” He drifts off for a moment, then continues, “And anyway, that man was a vicious killer, and not one we were in position to turn over to the police. Whatever your motivations, you did the right thing, and you know it.”
She’d like to tell him she does know that. But they don’t lie to each other.
He recognizes what her silence means, and he rises and says, “Stay here. I’ll bring you a coat.”
When he’s gone, Karen allows herself to cry, and to face the one truth she can’t talk about even to him.
When the assassin tried to kill her first, he whispered to her that his employer wanted her to know this was for James Wesley. Which means Wilson Fisk somehow found out she was the one who killed him. She’s pretty sure he’ll stop at nothing to kill her now, and currently they can’t get at him, which means he’ll send someone else, and then another person after that. Sooner or later, either she’ll get killed, or one of the three men in the world who are willing to die for her will get killed. She’s got the sinking feeling it’ll end with all three of them dead, and then her probably killed after that anyway.
Unless she dies first, before they can.
She knows both Matt and Frank live their lives with the assumption that their days are numbered. But what would they say if she told them she now has to do the same? She doesn’t dare. Besides, then she would lose whatever chance she has of making sure she’s killed before them.
The tears over that are spent when Frank returns. The coat’s a huge trench one, which he obviously uses when he wants to walk in the streets unrecognized. She stands up and holds her arms out, letting him put it on her, letting grim resolve settle on her with it; it’s not unlike how she’s lived during more than one phase of her life. He hugs her to him then, head against his chest and hands on her back, and she wonders if he used to hold his children this way.
“I know what you’re thinking,” he whispers. “Don’t think it. I said already, don’t be me. Go to your two men.” Those two men he found her in bed with the previous morning when he came to warn them about Fisk’s assassin. He simply said to that he didn’t give a shit, and it seems he genuinely doesn’t. “Go to them and let them give you what you need. Please.”
She has no illusions he’s not still near her even when he’s out of her sight. Ten minutes later, when she’s standing at the spot on the streets when one way would lead her to her apartment, and the other to Foggy’s, she’s mildly surprised he doesn’t swoop down and tell her to go to the latter.
She wants to. It’s more home to her now than her own apartment is; she’s not entirely sure she won’t move in when her lease runs out. Matt’s pretty much there for good now. At first they talked about him getting his own place when they got his money unfrozen, then when they got his name cleared completely and his law license reinstated, something they aren’t even dead certain will happen, but all such talk is now stopped. They’ll both of them be in by now, and cleaned up. And facing down the fact of what their girlfriend has just done, and this will be hard enough a night for them without them having to deal with her.
But then again, she reminds herself, they might not appreciate her not coming to them so they can have her safe and with them and have a better idea of how she’s holding up. She’d call them once she got in, of course, but that’s not nearly the same thing. They might even get angry at her.
But they might be anyway, Foggy especially. Karen thinks about how badly he might react to this once the shock wears off. One thing he’s made clear is that his love for them is unconditional, but his companionship is not. And if he’s ready to withdraw it over this, well, she can’t deal with that tonight.
But then she thinks about sitting in her apartment, maybe having exchanged some quick words over the phone, and dwelling on what they might really be thinking about her. She’s got a full work day tomorrow, which is going to be difficult enough to manage if she isn’t constantly worried about it. She’ll jump at each email that comes to her, thinking it might be from them, not knowing what they’ll say to her. Or they might not contact her. They might leave her in suspense, out of anger or uncertainty, leave her heartsick and scared and guilty and alone.
She turns towards Foggy’s apartment.
When she walks in, Matt is lying across the couch with his eyes closed. He’s in Foggy’s bathrobe, which leaves most of his chest exposed, and Karen can see fresh bandages. Foggy is in the adjoining armchair, just looking down at Matt, and Karen wants to memorize that look, be glad she can so much as witness one person being able to love another one so much. He’ll place flowers on both their graves someday, she thinks. But he knows it with Matt, and yet there he is, his face so filled with tenderness and love. She’s sorry Matt will never see that look.
She gets only a moment to see it, though. Then Foggy turns towards her, and Matt stirs, and no, not yet. Karen is already fleeing away, towards the bathroom. She hears each man call out her name, but not yet. Maybe she’ll feel more able to face them after she’s showered.
Karen’s known since puberty that blood washes easily off skin and hair. Almost all girls learn that then, of course, but she had at least one source of knowledge most of them don’t. She also knows, from lessons learned as an adult, that her blouse and skirt will be hopeless cases. Not that it matters; she’d never wear them again anyway. This time, when she steps in the shower, she also thinks about the man’s blood which will collect in the shower drain. She wonders how long Matt will keep smelling it whenever he steps into the bathroom. She fears she herself may never stop.
The shower is at its loudest, and she also fears she may have developed Matt’s hearing too, at least when it comes to him and Foggy. Except not quite, because she can’t make their words out from the living area. But she can hear their voices, their tones. Anxious, sad, tired. She is a burden on them. Even if she saved them tonight, she’ll cause them more grief in the end. For a moment she wonders if she should grab one of the razors and slit her own throat.
It’s only a brief moment, her thoughts at their darkest, before she reminds herself that’s a stupid thing to do. She must die, yes, but for the moment she might still be needed. If they can hold out long enough, she ought to stay alive because her testimony might be vital towards clearing Matt’s name and getting his law license restored. She also still thinks she’s got the best chance of anyone of finding out where that guy Simpson came from, and there’s more than one reason the world ought to know that, and more than one friend who especially ought to know. Also, even if he might not be as obsessed about it, Fisk will still want Matt and Foggy dead, and this might not be the last time she’ll need to save them. Foggy won’t fight until he has to, and Matt might not kill even then. They need all the help they can get.
They’ve neither of them ever killed anybody. If Karen can, she’s going to keep it that way. She’ll kill more people so they don’t have to if it comes to that. Neither of them should ever have to have this kind of blood on their hands. Should have to stand here in the shower and think of the shock on the dead man’s face, the blood spurting out of his back, the fact that she wanted more of it, that she hadn’t wanted anything like that from Wesley, she’s getting worse…Must not cry, she reminds herself. Matt will hear it. Foggy will probably hear it too. Mustn’t put that on them. Must not cry…
It’s no use. She can’t even keep quiet, not really; she can keep herself from wailing, but she can’t keep the sobs down. They rack her whole body, until her legs can’t hold her up; she’s kneeling on the shower floor, barely able to breathe, the smell of blood only getting stronger.
Did the man she killed tonight ever feel anything like this? Probably he didn’t in his last years, but he looked pretty old; he might have when he was younger. Maybe he’d been raised in one of those weird ninja cults Matt’s run into, but maybe he had a life outside being a killer. Maybe he even still has loved ones somewhere who will now wait for him to come home, and he won’t, and they’ll die a thousand deaths while who knows how long it’ll take for them to get confirmation of his death, if they do at all, Oh God…
Foggy’s got a good boiler, so when the water turns cold, Karen knows she’s been there too long, and she can hear the two men talking just outside the room. Mentally she begs them to come in, to take her into their arms and sooth her and let things be all right again, if only for a moment. But at the same time she doesn’t want them to come in, can’t have that, can’t do it. When the door opens, she looks frantically around for an escape route, even though she knows there’s none. She tries to summon her voice to tell them she’s fine, but it doesn’t come.
“Oh Jesus, Karen, you are not getting hypothermia,” says Foggy, and a moment later Matt’s in the shower and turning it off. A moment after that Karen’s wrapped in a warm towel, Foggy gently nudging her into a standing position. She slumps against him as the two of them work together to dry her, and oh, it feels so good to be touched, hands on her face, her back, her knees. Strange, she thinks, how desperate it makes her for more, when less than ten years ago the slightest contact from anyone caused her to flinch away, though this isn’t sexual anyway; she just wants to feel warm skin against her own, be covered with their care for her.
So selfish of her, wanting to plead with them to keep touching her, when she’s not sure they even like doing this right now. “You shouldn’t…” she starts.
“Karen,” says Foggy. “You saved our lives. Whatever you need to get through this night, please let us help you. Especially since, you know, Matt heard what that bastard said to you.”
Karen was worried he might have. She’s got a response ready, one true enough that with her heart racing already Matt won’t detect a thing amiss. But she can’t get it out now. Maybe tomorrow morning.
But then Matts says, “Karen, please, tell us you’re not going to do anything stupid.”
“I’m not,” she says, and that’s true; she isn’t. She’s just going to do something he desperately doesn’t want her to do, when it’s the smart thing to do.
She sees Foggy raise his head up, and Matt nod, confirming to him those two words, at least, aren’t a lie. He looks slightly relieved, though he probably recognizes the limit to them.
From the living room, they hear Foggy’s phone ring. Karen just keeps herself from asking him to ignore it. He is clearly reluctant as he pulls away, and says, “Probably Jeri. I swear, if she wants to talk about that damn Brody case again…”
Matt takes Karen into his embrace completely as Foggy leaves the bathroom. “Your hair?” he asks; she’s now mostly dry otherwise.
“I should brush it out.”
He keeps a hold of her all the way to the bedroom, and first to the dresser where she kept a spare hairbrush, and then to the king size silk-sheeted bed Foggy bought when he took Matt in.(“I don’t need such luxury,” Matt said to him. “Well, tough noogies,” Foggy retorted, “you’re getting it anyway.”) He even keeps his hands on her as she brushes, painful strokes to her scalp and comforting ones to her arms and back, as they listen to Foggy talk on the phone with someone who turns out to be Mr. Chao.
Her hair’s pretty much smooth when he says, “I’ve gone through it in my head. I don’t think you could’ve done differently from what you did. You wouldn’t have had the strength to knock him out, and there was no way to effectively restrain him.”
“You still wouldn’t have done it,” she says.
“I don’t…” He might not be sure of that. It doesn’t matter. She is. Finally he says, “I’m not about to judge someone else for doing so. Besides, as Foggy said…” And that is something, she supposes. Matt doesn’t want anyone killed for him, but they both know Foggy is another matter. “And I’ve never been in that situation, not like that. Not either of the ones you’ve been in.”
That’s as much as he’s been willing to say about Wesley. Karen’s grateful for it.
She’s even more grateful when he takes her dropping the brush as a cue to take her back into his arms, pulling them both gently down on the bed. His bathrobe’s more off than on, and she lets her hands roam his skin, laced with his bruises and scars and scrapes and who knows what else, but he’s alive. He and Foggy, they’re both alive, and even if Karen’s not sure how she’ll live with what she did tonight she can’t be sorry she did it. His hands are on her legs, then her chest, they stroke across her breasts devoid of intent.
“Karen,” he says softly. “I don’t know what you’re thinking, but let me say this: Hell’s Kitchen needs you more than it needs me.”
“What?” She can’t conceal her horror. She doesn’t know if he’s guessed her thoughts, or if he’s just resolved to die for her, and is worried she’ll object, but either one’s bad.
“Think about it. You were the one who truly broke Fisk’s power here, when you got the recording of Manolis and exposed his network. You’ll probably be the one in the end who exposes that IMG program, the threads you’re pulling, glad as I’ll be to help. And you’re the one who gets at the social issues and the poverty and all the things I can’t touch, especially now when I can’t even practice law.”
“You’ll get your license back.”
“You’ll still do more than me. Please remember that.” He whispers it into her ear like a desperate kiss.
She thinks about Ben, martyr for their profession; there have been too many of those in recent years. If her death is connected to Fisk, everyone will probably figure he targeted her because of what she did as a reporter; she’ll be another one. They’ll never know that she herself was a killer too.
The touching still isn’t sexual until it is, until a careless run of his finger up her inner thigh sends Karen flaring to life, something inside her body going off and getting hot until the ache runs back and forth from her chest to her limbs before settling firmly between her legs. Her breathe quickens, her stomach trembles. Matt’s hand moves to the small of her back, but that just makes her feel fire where his fingertips land.
She can tell the exactly moment Matt realizes; he stops and inhales sharply. “Karen…” he starts.
“I’m sorry,” she whispers, the shame hitting. “This isn’t even how I should react to this…”
“I don’t think how people react to this sort of thing is even predictable…”
She didn’t even notice when Foggy stopped talking in the other room, but the door opens and he’s hurrying to the bed. He must see the distress on Karen’s face, because he’s all too careful when he gets there; he’s always careful with her, Foggy, far more than Matt is. “Not feeling any better?” he asks, taking only her hands, and no, she wants so much more from him, too much from him. She leans forward, and he kisses her chastely, too chastely, except he shouldn’t be kissing her at all.
“You…” she starts, but her mind won’t even focus, is going back to his trying to touch her earlier that night; she sees his face from then more than his current one. “You should be frightened. You were frightened. Is he frightened, Matt?”
“For you, not of you, Karen.” Their faces remain close enough she can feel the words on her cheek. “You shouldn’t…please, you did what you had to, but please don’t let it take your soul.” And oh no, Karen can’t handle this, because Foggy’s looking at her in the exact same way she saw him looking at Matt when she came into the apartment, and that’s not something she can bear to see right now.
His next kiss, harder, deeper, is pure emotion. He can’t detect the condition her body’s in right now; sex is probably the last thing on his mind. But two seconds of having his mouth hot and fierce against hers turns fire to inferno. Before she knows what she’s doing Karen’s hands are on him, needing to touch anyway, hating that he’s still fully dressed, wanting skin.
When Matt starts pressing open-mouthed kisses down her back, she can’t hold back a desperate moan, and that finally alerts Foggy, and he pulls back. A please touch me escapes her, and he obeys, hands sweaty but still warm, finding her sides, her hips, her knees, and when she moves downward against them he gets the message and lets one of them finds where she’s wet, far more than she even realized before that moment. “Wow,” he whispers, and she was worried about them obliging her, but she can’t mistake the desire in his voice, and behind her, when Matt pulls himself back up, she can feel him hard against the back of her thigh. Helpless moans pour out of Karen, every move his fingers make inside her sending her more and more out of her mind, not to mention what Matt’s doing to her with mouth and hands both.
She wants to scream when Foggy withdraws again, leaving her empty; she feels like there’s a hot pit inside her, and she can barely think of anything besides how much she needs them to fill it. “I can’t…” She struggles to find words. “Please, I need…”
“I’m getting too close,” Matt warns. That’s mildly surprising, but not very, considering the adrenaline and emotion that’s still charging through all three of them, and the fact that he’s come from less than this at least once. Karen’s trying to think if they’ve got time to find a condom and get him in her.
But Foggy takes that decision out of her hands with a, “Let me, and he shifts over and moves down, clearly intending to suck Matt off. Karen shifts up as a panting Matt rolls onto his back, the robe all but falling off completely. She practically curls herself around his upper body, stealing one kiss, and then trailing more kisses and caresses over his chest, watching his head fall back as Foggy’s mouth wraps itself around him.
One of Matt’s arms is around her, his hand gets itself between her legs and his fingers hold themselves just inside, unable to reach any further, just there and just keeping Karen sane. She could figure out how to move to fuck herself on them, but she can’t tear her concentration away from Matt’s face. She needs this as much as she needs them doing anything to her, seeing Matt senseless with pleasure, hearing Foggy’s happy noises as he goes to town, greedy for it, her two boys, and when they could have been dead hours earlier, but now Matt’s surging up until her hands press him back down, and then she can feel the shuddering as he comes, soft moans giving way to whimpers as Foggy suckles him dry.
But then his arms go slack and his fingers slip out of her, and Karen is scrambling, trying to get them back in, until Foggy looks up from where he's moved to kiss Matt himself and says, “Condom,” and her loud reaction to that is all he needs to hear. Except he’s still fully clothed, so she’s on him even as he turns to the nightstand, grabbing at his shirt buttons, telling herself not to pop them off because this shirt is expensive but it’s hard to care right now. Matt must figure out the problem too, because he bends over to get Foggy’s pants unbuttoned.
“Okay, okay.” Foggy himself gets the idea and undoes the final buttons for her just as Matt pulls down everything covering his lower half. With the shirt finally gone Karen presses herself against his bare back, taking a moment to just breathe that delicious skin in; he's so warm. Then one of her fingers finds a nipple and flicks, and the noise he makes reignites her.
She urges him to turn around and they tumble back onto the bed together. Karen falls on her side against Matt, and her legs fall open so fast she can’t help the moment of shame, her father’s voice still able to sneer in her head, spreading your legs for two men. She doesn’t know if it shows on her face, but either something gives it away to Matt or he guesses what she’s feeling, and he puts his arms back around her and says softly, “Remember, it’s an honor every time you let us touch you.” He’s given a whole lecture on that subject which Karen is not interested in hearing right now.
Somehow it’s Foggy, the one of them who never feels shame or guilt in bed, who gauges her thoughts more accurately. He finishes rolling the condom on one-handed so he can put the other on her shoulder and say, “It’s all right, Karen. You’re allowed to be needy.” And when the needs of her and Matt combined would drain most men dry, but Karen attempts no arguments. “Okay, lifting your leg now…” he warns, because they both try to avoid startling her during sex. She lets it fall on his hip and groans with relief when at last she has what she’s craved so badly.
The Foggy presses forward until he’s flush against her, and Matt arms reach out, and oh yes, this is perfect, encased between the both of them, two mouths pressing loving kisses wherever they would reach, Foggy filling her with strong, steady, deep thrusts. Karen tries to keep her hands moving, because she hasn’t touched Foggy nearly enough tonight, but it’s been a long night, and it doesn’t take much to leave her in pieces, unable to do anything besides hold on and kiss Foggy’s face and neck clumsily and mewl into his skin like a hungry cat. For the first time that night she’s free of any guilt, or shame, or grief, or fear, or even anger. All she’s got in her are relief and desire and joy and pleasure and so, so much love.
“Karen, he’s close,” Matt gasps out to her, which she already guessed by the noises Foggy’s making. But then a moment later Matt’s fingers are down and working her clit perfectly, and when Foggy gets there, groaning her name, it’s only moments later she finally seizes up, her whole body taken by the ecstasy, and she’s loud enough her throat is sore even before the spasms stop rocking her, leaving her limp and wrung and strangely raw.
It takes her a few moments to realize Matt’s crying. Hardly the first time that’s happened during sex, but these tears on her shoulder-blades are hot and thick and probably not the usual ones, and she’s trying to turn herself around as Foggy whispers Matt’s name anxiously.
Matt mumbles an apology, which just distresses them both further, before choking out, “I shouldn’t…I had moments of thinking each of you were about to die, and I couldn’t…I mean, you’re the one who actually had to kill him, Karen…and here I am, so upset because I’m so glad he’s dead…”
“Oh, Matt,” sighs Foggy, and pulls them both to him. Karen finds her face pressed into his chest, Matt’s tear-stained face in front of her, and it’s easy enough to put a hand on it, loving and protective, and remembering what she’s not only killed for twice, but what she’ll both live and die for.
As much as possible. As long as possible. At this moment, that’s all she can cling to.