Author's Note: All I'm reading, watching and saying in the last few days is Kastle. And wanting to hit Matt for being such a douche to Karen. The result is this. \o/ (Also, it's a real challange to write from a blind's person POV. I hope I didn't mess it up too bad...)
Disclaimer: I own neither the show nor the characters. I don't earn any money with this piece. I just do it for fun.
He has promised Karen to give her space, give her time, and as Matt he's kept his distance but as the Devil of Hell's Kitchen he's always there, hiding in the shadows and watching her from afar.
She's moved to a better neighborhood but she's far from safe - her unique ability to drag to light what the bad guys would rather see buried six feet under lands her in dangerous situations more often than not, and sometimes, Matt doesn't know whether to be proud of her or shake some sense into her.
She has taken some precautions at least, carries a .380 with her whenever she's going to the darker parts of the city, and when he checks out her new apartment one late afternoon while she's still at the Bulletin, he is pleasantly surprised to find two additional, high-end security locks installed on the front door and the glass panes of the windows replaced with laminated glass.
Every night, he makes sure to stop by her place, usually before he returns to his own, but tonight he's cutting it close, his senses telling him dawn is already approaching. The group of thugs four corners away have kept him longer than he anticipated. He settles down on the rooftop across the street, next to an old chimney, and tilts his head as he reaches out with his senses.
There's the quiet buzz of the electricity in her apartment that tells him she's got the light on in the bathroom, the splashing sounds of running water from the tab, her faint, slightly accelerated heartbeat and—
A second heartbeat.
Between one heartbeat and the next, his own this time, Matt has moved, down the building and silently up again until he's on the fire escape in front of her living room window, slips inside, fear and anger thrumming in his blood, nothing else counting but saving her, and it's only when he almost collides with Karen as she comes out of the bathroom and stifles her shriek behind her hand that his mind is jolted back into focus.
"Matt?!" She whispers, voice caught somewhere between disbelief and anger. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"I thought you were in danger." The moment the words leave his mouth he realizes he's been wrong. God, he's gotten it so wrong. She never was in danger, not this time. The second heartbeat he's picked up is too slow, too calm to belong to someone who's preparing to attack Karen. Whoever it is, is fast asleep. In Karen's bed. Matt hasn't experienced vertigo in a very long time but right now he's feeling on the verge of it. "Karen..."
"Don't, Matt." The sound of the hem of her shirt brushing along the top of her bare thighs vibrates through his mind as her hand comes up to press against his chest, and he remembers a time when she'd done it to hold him close and not to ward him off. "Just... don't."
She's right, he has no claim, not anymore, but part of him just can't let it go. He slips off his gloves and puts them down on the dresser to his right before settling his hands gently on her shoulders. He opens his mouth but his voice fails him as his thumbs skim across the beginning of the logo on her shirt. Something is off, the texture feels all wrong, he of all people knows the difference between a manufactured logo and a did-it-yourself one.
Beneath his hands, Karen freezes and he can sense her heartbeat quickening. A voice in his head tells him to stop, to stop right here, to step back and turn around, but it's like his hands have a mind of their own. Lightly, his fingertips trace along the lines of what he figures must be spray paint, follow them up and down, and slowly an image forms before his mind's eye.
He's heard people talk about it, heard it being described on the radio and in the papers, for the first time after the night of the kidnapping and then whenever The Punisher made another appearance. A white design on the man's otherwise black clothes.
There's a low sound, and for one still moment Matt wonders if he's just heard his own heart breaking because it certainly feels like that, but it's only one of the floorboards creaking as someone steps up behind Karen.
Where his eyes fail him, it's his other senses that paint the outline for him, the faint smell and taste of smoke and gun oil and dried blood in the air, and Matt could hit himself for being so blind, in every sense of the word. He has always prided himself to know a person's true feelings and intentions, too see what's really going on, because eyes can be deceiving. So how did he miss this? How did he miss Karen and Frank Castle? The signs have always been there, now that he's thinking about it, from the beginning, from the day Karen had crossed a red line without hesitation and he hadn't been able to stop her.
"I'm sorry." And he really is, because it is his fault he blew whatever chance he had with Karen. When he should have held onto her and the love she'd offered with both hands, he had only done it with one hand and lost his grip the second he'd chosen Elektra.
"I know," Karen simply says, her heartbeat steady, and Matt sighs and reaches for his gloves. He can't fault her for not offering the same sentiment. She has nothing to be sorry for. She has found her little piece of happiness, has found love and is holding onto it with both hands.
He makes his way back to the window and is already half-way through it before he turns around once again and looks in the direction of the man standing behind Karen. Part of him wants to leave a warning, if you hurt her, I will forget the code, but he knows that the other man would rather kill himself first than hurt Karen, so in the end Matt settles for an advice he should have followed himself from the start, "Don't let her go."
"Not planning on, Red," the Punisher replies, the conviction clear in the hoarse tone of his voice. "Not a chance."
The soft sound of rustling reaches Matt's ears and his imagination supplies the rest of the picture, Frank's arm slipping around Karen's waist to pull her back against his chest and her fitting herself into him without hesitation, letting her head come to a rest on the other's man shoulder.
It's the ache in his heart that gives Matt the final push to leave and climb down the fire escape, and the last thing he hears is Frank asking Karen in that low voice of his if she's okay and her answering him by turning in his arms and pressing her lips to his.
The echo of their hearts beating as one stays with Matt for a long time.