"Every single one of us,
The devil inside."
Matt can feel Karen staring at him, can hear the hitch in her breath, her heart hammering against her ribs. Her heart pounds a little faster and she takes the kind of breath that someone takes just before speaking, and Matt braces himself for what's coming-hatred, anger, disbelief, perhaps the same stinging sense of betrayal that Foggy had felt.
What does come surprises him-acceptance? Maybe not acceptance, but at the very least okayness, in the form of a single question, spoken with a breathless smile.
"So then you aren't alcoholic?"
Matt, relieved, lets out a chuckle that's more harsh than he means for it to be. "No. No, I'm not an alcoholic."
"The car hitting you -that was actually you getting hurt protecting the city. Every black eye, every scar, every time you came into work with a - a limp or bloodied knuckles - holy shit you saved my life!" Her breaths have become short and shallow, and Matt steps forward, putting a hand on her elbow.
"You should sit."
She doesn't argue as he guides her to a chair, just sits down quietly. Matt can feel her eyes boring a hole through him. He takes a breath. "You're not...you're not mad at me, then?" he asks.
"Mad? Matt, I'm - I'm furious!" Karen cries. Before Matt can respond, she continues. "But I also understand, and I'm grateful, and I'm confused, and I'm beyond relieved that you aren't in some sort of fight club and, can I just ask you one question?"
Matt, who's just glad she's talking to him, nods.
And so Matt givers her the World on Fire speech, like he did Claire and Foggy, as Karen listens intently, heart fluttering in her chest, silent until he's done talking.
"So you can see me waving right now?" she says, slowly lifting a hand and wagging her fingers.
"Well, sort of. Yes."
"But you can't see my nail polish."
"I can smell it."
"It's red. Almost the same color as this ridiculous helmet."
Matt smiles. "Is it that bad?"
"Well, now that I know who's under it, it does seem a little...a little much."
They both laugh, a little uneasily, but it's real. Matt tilts his head to the side, listening. "You still have questions," he says.
"Well, yeah, no shit," Karen responds good-naturedly.
"Go ahead and ask. I've got nowhere else to be tonight."
Karen swallows. "Where were you? During Castle's case?"
Matt takes a deep breath. Fisk and his guys were easy enough to explain. Karen had been there. She knew what they were capable of, and what lengths they were willing to go to. Ninjas…He takes another breath. "There's this….this shadow organization. The Japanese. They-"
"They're the ones that kidnapped me," Karen says, surprising Matt.
"Uh, yeah. Yeah. I can't really explain what they were doing here-hell, I'm not so sure I know myself-but it's over. For now, anyway, it's over." It's weak, and cryptic, but Karen doesn't argue.
"And that…" Karen pauses. Matt can hear the blood rushing to her face, her heart jumping. "Who was she?"
It feels like a punch to the gut, or maybe like one of Nobu's blades. Whatever it feels like, it hurts, and Matt had underestimated how raw he still is after losing her. It never could have worked, of course. Their relationship was toxic. And Elektra...well, she was never going to change. And neither was Matt. And yet…
"I knew her in college," he finally says. Not a lie. Not the whole truth. Not by a long shot. "The old man who let you in that day? That was my, uh...my mentor. The one who taught me to utilize my other senses instead of dwelling on the one I don't have...Well, he trained her, too. I didn't know in college, but…" He's rambling, and not sure that anything he's saying is even making sense, but he keeps going. "She came back to Hell's Kitchen to help fight the Japanese. She was a vigilante, like me. The day you came over, she'd been hurt, and she couldn't go to the hospital, so I took her to my place to help her…" He trails off at the memory of it, turning his head down to the floor.
"You said was. She was a vigilante like you." Karen's voice is gentle, and undeniably curious.
Matt bites his bottom lip before turning his face toward her once more. "She died. Protecting me, protecting the city."
Karen stands, and Matt stiffens as she walks forward and wraps her arms around him. He remains a statue for only a moment before returning the embrace.
"Matt, I'm so sorry," she says quietly. "I said such awful things-"
"You didn't know," Matt says quickly, pulling away and putting his hands on her shoulders. "You had no idea what was happening. I can't blame you for being angry. Please don't blame yourself."
"You and Foggy...the fighting. This is what it's all been about, isn't it?" There's no accusation in her voice. That almost makes it worse.
Matt feels a sting of sadness as he lowers his arm to his side, and something like regret. Not regret, though. He's saving lives, isn't he? He's feeling something else then. Bitterness, maybe. He latches onto it. "Yeah. Yeah, he found me in my apartment one night. The car accident. He doesn't like that I'm risking my life, you know? Doesn't like that I'm blowing him off to save the damn city."
"Oh, come on, that's not fair. He's just worried about you," Karen says, and Matt can hear the frown in her voice.
He scoffs, turning. "Yeah, he's worried about me. Having a loose cannon for a partner doesn't look great to potential clients, does it? Guess that's not a problem any more, though."
"Matt!" Karen reaches out and grabs his hand. "I'm worried about you, and I just found out! There's been some really terrifying shit going on in this city for months, and you've been out there fighting that terrible shit! Fisk and his guys. The Russians. Hell, you've even fought Frank, haven't you? Every time you were late for work, or just didn't show up, I figured you were hungover. Foggy probably thought you were dead. You don't think that's been hard on him?"
She's right. Matt knows she is. But Matt doesn't know how to fix it with Foggy. He doesn't have a clue. The sudden sob that erupts from him is a surprise, and entirely against his will.
"Matt…" Karen says softly, and she pulls him into another hug. He rests his forehead against her shoulder, and has the tears under control quickly, but doesn't move from the hug. It's warm, and genuine, and full of care that Matt hasn't felt in a long, long time.
They stand like that for a long time, holding each other, until Karen's heart suddenly starts hammering in her chest so hard that Matt can feel her heartbeat in his own chest. He pulls away, cocking his head to the side with a frown. "Are you okay, Karen?"
"There's, uh-" She takes a deep, shuddering breath. "There's something I need to tell you. You're not the only one that's been keeping secrets."
"Please tell me you're not flying around Queens dressed in spandex," Matt says with a wry grin. Karen forces a laugh, but Matt can sense the fear radiating off of her, and he can smell guilt. He knows it well; it's a scent he wears often. One that's been lingering on Karen for months. He cups her cheek in his hand. "Whatever it is, you can tell me. It can't be any worse than dressing up like a devil and beating the shit out of people."
Karen shrugs away from his touch. Whatever it is she's about to say, she doesn't want to say it. "Wesley," she finally mutters. She swallows, clears her throat. "Fisk's right-hand man." The words are thin, like they're trying to hide from Matt even as they exit Karen's mouth. "I killed him. Matt, I killed him."
Matt catches the horrified sound in his throat before it has a chance to escape, chasing back the angry words that want to burst forth. He knows there's a good explanation, a rational one. And he knows Karen, that she would never - but his mind keeps tracing its way back to Elektra.
"This is who I am." Words dripping with blood. He pushes the thought from his mind. Pushes out the cold, dead, young eyes.
"What happened?" he asks, and his voice is harsher than he'd meant for it to be. Karen doesn't seem to notice.
Her voice trembles as she answers. "He - he kidnapped me. Drugged me and took me to some warehouse. Matt, he threatened my family, Foggy, he threatened you." Her voice cracks on the last word, and she's fighting back tears now. "He was going to kill everyone I love if I didn't lie about Fisk, if I didn't...He'd put a gun on the table. You know, to scare me. His phone rang and I - I grabbed it. He told me it wasn't loaded and I knew it was Fisk on the phone, and I was scared, so I - I pulled the trigger."
"And it was loaded," Matt deduces. There's nothing in her voice but sadness and fear. No pride. No defiance. Not Elektra.
Karen nods. "I pulled the trigger, and then I did it again and again and - I killed him." Matt can smell the salt in the tears rolling down her cheeks, hears her tiny snuffles. "I'm no better than the people you fight every night."
Matt is startled by the whole thing, sure, but even more than that, at the fact that Karen thinks of herself as some sort of monster or criminal because of it. Though, now that he thinks about it, his own language probably hasn't helped that self-image.
"Karen. That's not true. The guys I fight, they're out there hurting good people. They're doing it on purpose."
"What about Frank Castle?" Her voice is strange when she says it. Matt knows she's remembering everything he said about the Punisher during the trial. And before it. And after it.
He'd said a lot of shit about Frank Castle. About killing. And the whole time, Karen had...damn.
"Frank Castle enjoys killing people. He doesn't do it because he has no other choice. He does it because he doesn't care about that choice. And me, I'm not much better. I don't kill people, but I want to. The reason I'm so adamant against it is because I know if I open that door, there will be no closing it. But you...you didn't have a choice. You didn't want to kill that man, and that makes you a better person than me. And the guilt has been eating you up ever since. Don't think I haven't noticed it. The regret."
"But you're wrong, Matt. I don't regret it. If I had to do it all again, I would. To save Foggy. To save you. And that scares me." He hasn't heard her this distressed since the night he saved her.
It's Matt's turn to hug her, and he does. He pulls her in close and he wraps his arms around her tight. "Karen, you're not a monster. You did what you had to do in a - a no-win scenario. I promise you, I will make sure that you're never put in a situation like that again. You hear me? Things were….things were pretty screwed up there for awhile, but I've figured out my priorities. I've lost too many people. I know where my attention should be now."
Karen nods against him. His shirt is wet from her tears. "Okay. Matt, I'm sorry."
Matt runs a hands over her hair. "You've got nothing to be sorry for. It's been a long night. A helluva night. You wanna stop by Josie's, get a drink?"
Karen laughs a little between the tears. "Yeah. Josie didn't actually close the tab. She called bullshit. I think she was just afraid of losing her only customers."
Matt chuckles and releases his grip on her so he can grab his jacket and cane. As they walk to the bar, there's almost a feeling of normalcy. He doubts things between them will ever go back to how they were before - awkward office flirtations and rom-com dates - but it's a start.