We're All Killers Here
Disclaimer: Daredevil and the Avengers are the property of Marvel. If they were mine, there would be so much more interaction between all of these characters, and Matt and Frank would be reluctant best friends.
There was, in Daredevil's mind, a clearly-defined line between superheroes (namely the Avengers) and vigilantes such himself, the Punisher, and perhaps Spider-Man. People like him dealt with not necessarily smaller, but less wide-scale threats. Less alien invasions, more mob violence and general threats to his city. Occasionally, the line did blur, when something the Avengers were fighting did in fact threaten his city specifically, and in those cases he sometimes found himself working with said superheroes.
He didn't particularly enjoy those cases, mainly because he found some of the heroes to be rather… confident in their methods, to be polite. To be less polite, some of of them were unintentionally self-righteous asses. Then, of course, there was the very much intentionally self-righteous ass that was Tony Stark.
Banner was the most bearable, when he wasn't huge, green, and angry, which he actually tried to avoid as much as possible. Matt had never worked with him, though. That was one of the conditions of his arrangement with the Avengers: Banner was to stay out of Hell's Kitchen. He had nothing against the man himself, but the constant risk of unleashing the Hulk was too great, even in civilian settings. Matt absolutely refused to use the Hulk in any fight either, much less one in his own city. Banner had agreed, which was fortunate because that point was the deal breaker of his arrangement with the Avengers.
Surprisingly, it was the former assassins, Hawkeye and Black Widow, that were the next on the scale of the most tolerable Avengers. While he did not agree with their ideals about killing, they acknowledged that they did not consider themselves heroes of any kind. They were much like Frank, in that regard (except that they at least respected his opinions about killing, as he did theirs. Frank was just an ass about it).
Thor was… loud. He was a good man (demigod?), from the little Matt had seen of him, but a warrior, without a doubt. Matt hadn't met him more than a couple times, as he'd spent a lot of time in Asgard on some confidential business until recently. He didn't know the Asgardian well enough to form an opinion.
He supposed, then, that it was really just Captain America and Iron Man that were unbelievably hypocritical in some respects. They regretted the death the team's actions sometimes resulted in, but apparently not enough to change their policy about such actions. They both seemed to be believers in the ends justify the means, but only when it came to the Avengers' work. If anyone else lived by such a philosophy, they needed to be stopped. For two vastly different men, they really were similar in the matter of hypocrisy and justification.
Matt had gone with the Avengers once to their regular post-battle takeout meal in Avengers Tower. They had all been in the living room of the common floor, where the TV was on the news. There was a story on about the Punisher, when Stark told Jarvis to "turn that shit off" with a scowl in his voice. Matt assumed he was scowling, but he could never be sure about those things.
Daredevil, who of course still had his suit and mask on, narrowed his eyes. Not that they could see that, or that it actually made any difference to him, being blind, but there were some habits that he hadn't grown out of even after all his years of blindness. "What was on?" he asked, pretending he hadn't heard (or seen, for their benefit. He hadn't exactly revealed his greatest liability to them) every word of the story.
"A story about the Punisher," Steve replied, sounding equally displeased, "Something about his military background and sob story. As if that justifies what he does."
Matt didn't reply, deeming it unwise to start a conflict while Banner still seemed slightly on edge from some incident involving General Ross the day before. He'd actually been keeping an eye (an ear?) on Banner the whole time, which might have been why he wasn't having as good time as most of the others. Being acutely aware that the man who hulked out when stressed was kind of stressed did not do much to ease one's own stress.
They'd moved onto different, mostly lighter topics, but Matt had left soon after. He had opening statements to write for a case, after all.
Matt really hadn't expected Steve's and Stark's obvious animosity towards Frank to be an issue in the near future. However, two weeks later he got a call saying that one of the many gangs that was trying to fill the void left by Frank's one-man war on crime in Hell's Kitchen had gotten ahold of some chitauri weaponry. Stark informed him with some chagrin that Thor and Barton were both out of the equation for this particular mission for some reason or another. That would be a problem.
"Going in two men short is never ideal," he told Stark.
"Oh, I didn't realize," the man snarked, "But unless you have another vigilante pal in your corner, this is all we've got."
"As a matter of fact, I know a guy I can call," Matt replied calmly, trying not to let his annoyance bleed through. Somebody had to be professional in this conversation, and it sure as heck wasn't Stark.
As a matter of fact, Matt knew several people in the city who would be willing to help him. Jessica Jones, Spider-Man, and even Deadpool if he was still in town (in that order, for varying reasons), were all options. However, his first choice was always Frank, whom he could consider something resembling a friend during the times when he wasn't an an enemy (which was, luckily, most of the time these days).
He ended the call abruptly, not waiting for Stark's inevitably sarcastic reply, and called Frank via his phone's voice-control feature. Frank picked up, of course, but didn't speak first. He was always cautious like that.
"It's me," Matt began, "The Avengers have a mission in Hell's Kitchen, and they're down two members. You interested in filling one of those spots for a day?"
Frank was quiet for a few moments, and Matt almost thought he was going to hang up (he did that sometimes. He got pissed off at the strangest things). "The Avengers?" he finally said, "I thought they were more on the global scale." Matt heard what Frank didn't say - I thought there was a line between them and us.
Frank knew Matt occasionally worked with the Avengers, when they had business in Hell's Kitchen, but he probably couldn't imagine them being as accepting of himself. And honestly, the Captain and Stark probably wouldn't like it, but they could put aside their differences to complete the mission.
"We have an understanding," Matt explained, "When they have business in Hell's Kitchen, we work together on it because I don't really trust them not to accidentally wreck my city. I could probably take care of the problem myself, but I don't have all the details, so it's not ideal. As it is, I don't like the idea of going in with only two people watching my back."
"I thought you said they were only down two members?" Frank prodded, "That would leave four left."
"Yeah, except Banner doesn't come to Hell's Kitchen, ever, and I wouldn't trust Stark as far as I can throw him. That leaves Black Widow and the Captain. So, are you up to it?"
"You're sure they won't arrest me?"
"That ain't reassuring, Red, " Frank pointed out, "Whatever, just tell me where to meet you."
Daredevil and the Punisher arrived together at the meeting place set by the Avengers. It was the roof of a parking garage, where the Captain, Black Widow, and Stark were all waiting beside the Avengers' quinjet. Matt couldn't feel Banner's heart waiting in the quinjet. Good.
In retrospect, he probably should have expected the resistance, but he'd been thinking only about practicality, and hadn't considered that some of the others would have different priorities.
As soon as Captain America saw the Punisher, Daredevil felt him go from waiting-but-wary tense to ready-to-fight tense. "What is this?" he demanded, "Why did you bring the Punisher here?"
"Why the hell do you think?" Daredevil replied, "You were down two men. Now you're not."
He noted the uptick of the Punisher's heartbeat at the Captain's words. He knew the man held a great deal of respect for the Captain, so his contempt for Castle was probably disappointing.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Stark interrupted, his mask up so his voice was clearer, "I'm sorry, but since when do we work with serial killers? We're Avengers, not murderers."
Surely Matt didn't hear what he thought he'd just heard. Not murderers? Not murderers?!
Now was not the time for that argument, though. Now, they just needed to get over it and get their priorities straight.
Apparently Frank agreed on the first count, as he heard his heart go from disappointed to angry surprisingly quickly. He heard Frank drawing a breath to reply, and knew whatever he said would be just hostile enough to stretch this conflict out longer than it needed to be. That would be wildly counterproductive. Matt had brought him here for a reason, after all.
"Look, Stark," Matt interrupted before Frank could say something aggressive, "If you want to debate ethics and methods on your own time, you're welcome to, but we have more pressing matters at the moment. Either somebody fills us in on the situation and we take on this threat together, or Castle and I find it ourselves and take care of it ourselves. You forget - this is my city, and I don't need you to protect it."
He could feel Frank's heart rate change again, less sharply. Surprise and confusion were the prominent emotions in that heart rate. Matt wasn't sure why, but he didn't have time to consider it. Like he said, they had pressing matters to attend to in the form of a street gang with alien tech.
Daredevil didn't wait for Stark's response, instead looking (or pretending to look, for appearance's sake. Most of them still didn't know he was blind) at Romanoff. "Black Widow?" Of the three of them, she wouldn't fixate on Frank's questionable methods, especially when they had more important problems.
She explained the situation concisely and finally got the other two Avengers to get to work. "We'll talk about this later," she promised/ordered them.
It was a relatively easy mission, the enemies being amateurs. Still, it was good to have backup in the form of Frank. There was the unfortunate matter of the alien muzzle gag thing (and Matt had to wonder where they even got that) , that had gotten stuck on Frank's face. Stark assured them he'd encountered the like before, and that it was perfectly safe and would come off by itself in a few hours if they left it alone. His heartbeat read as truth. In the meantime, Frank would just be unable to speak.
However, once they were to a safe location (aka, another rooftop), the two male Avengers stopped. Matt sighed. He knew what was coming.
"Give us one good reason not to arrest him," Stark demanded, his repulsors whirring as they armed. The Captain's heart raced as he too drew his shield. The Black Widow didn't so much as tense, but Matt knew better than to think that meant she wasn't prepared for a fight.
"I guess the fact he just helped you doesn't mean much," Matt surmised dryly.
"We let him come because you insisted we needed him, and you're one of us," the Captain stated.
Matt startled inwardly. He wouldn't go as far as to say he was one of the Avengers. He didn't even really like them all that much. He respected them, sure, but he was still kinda pissed that they broke his city in the Chitauri Invasion.
"You're not going to arrest him," Matt interrupted with steel, "Because I won't let you."
"Is that a threat, Snake Eyes?" Stark asked darkly. His tone might've been intimidating, had he actually been capable of beating Matt on his own.
Matt would much rather end this peacefully than have to fight tree Avengers, though. If the Black Widow weren't present, Matt was sure they could take them, but as it was, the odds were not in their favor if a fight broke out.
Daredevil turned his head to where the Russian assassin stood. She didn't need to be able to see his eyes to know what he was asking. Please interfere, he pleaded silently.
Romanoff sighed. "As much as I would love to break up this ridiculous alpha wolf testosterone-match, this conversation needs to happen. If you don't get this out now, it'll just keep building up. However, if you guys start fighting, I will take all of you down, so show some damned self-restraint."
She wasn't bluffing. And they all knew it.
Turning back to the troublesome Avengers, Matt prepared himself to rip them apart verbally. That was what he did best, after all (apart from ripping people apart physically, but that wasn't an option).
If his heartbeat was any indication, Frank was pissed to be left out of this conversation. That was understandable.
Before he could follow up on that thought, Stark kept talking. "How can you defend this guy?" he asked, his voice tinged with disgust, "He's a murderer. That goes against everything you stand for. He's the kind of guy that guys like us put in jail."
He heard Frank's muffled protests, and Matt felt something go cold inside of him. He was usually a pretty even-tempered man, but he was always freer in the mask, and he hated hypocrites as much as much as he hated anything.
"You want to arrest him because he's a murderer?" Matt asked, his voice deceptively calm. He found himself already slipping into the cold, calm state he always found himself in during a trial. This was as clear as his mind could get without punching something, and when his mind was clear he knew that he was nigh-on unstoppable.
"Of course," Stark scoffed, his metal mask rolling up to reveal his face.
"If that's the case, then why haven't you turned yourself in?" he demanded.
"What the hell are you talking about?" Stark snapped, his eyes narrowed.
"How many people have you killed Stark?" Matt continued, "Not even taking into account the millions of innocents killed by your weapons or the Avengers' recklessness, how many people have you blasted a hole in with that repulsor?"
"That is completely different and you know it," Stark argued, but Matt wasn't done.
"Was it? Why did you kill those people, Stark? Because it needed to be done? Because they deserved it? The same reasons Frank kills. Frank does what he he thinks he has to, the same as you. Don't tell me you have a problem with his methods, because we've all seen the footage. You've killed people without hesitation, with witty one-liners."
He could feel the surprise and confusion rolling off of Frank, could almost hear him wondering what the hell he was doing, defending him to the Avengers. He knew Frank could defend himself in any other situation, but since he couldn't now, somebody else had to. And Matt knew no one but him would.
Stark drew a breath to respond, probably to make another excuse, but Matt didn't let him get that far. "You have even less respect for human life than Frank," Matt continued fiercely, "But at least he owns up to it. At least he doesn't try to brush off all the damage he does by just throwing money at the problem."
For once, Stark seemed to have nothing to say. Matt couldn't be sure, but he hoped the man looked visibly stunned.
Of course the Captain soon filled the gap. His opinion wasn't changed, but he was more tactful. He was respectful of Matt, at least, if not Frank. "Daredevil," he began, "I admit we all kill bad guys, but Castle does so with no supervision, no one to answer to, and no one to hold him accountable if he messes up. Eventually, he's going to make a mistake, get sloppy, and an innocent person will get hurt."
Matt resisted a sigh. He respected the Captain, he really did, but there was no respectful way to say what he needed to say now. This was, after all, the biggest issue he'd had with working the Avengers in the first place. "Captain, you realize you just described yourself. Who supervises the Avengers? The Avengers. Who do the Avengers answer to? The Avengers. Who holds the Avengers accountable when they mess up? The Avengers do, and it doesn't seem like you're doing a very good job of that."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Shark adds, breaking out of his stupor.
"It means that for all your superpowers and science, the Avengers are sloppy," Matt said, "You destroyed a good portion of the city during the Invasion, and before you argue, I know that it was for the greater good, but that doesn't change the facts. Forget the property damage, a lot of innocent people were trapped in those buildings. There were far too many civilian casualties. Did anyone hold you responsible for that? Anyone at all?"
Matt could feel Steve's uncertainty in the way he breathed, the tension in his shoulders that was different from his previous wariness. "No one has approached us about it in an official capacity, but I believe SHIELD was dealing with the aftermath personally."
"Regardless," Matt finished, "The Avengers are a necessary, but highly-destructive and messy group, which makes you dangerous because the likelihood of civilian casualties in any of your encounters is unfortunately high. Frank, on the other hand, is precise in his work, more so than any of you, except Black Widow and Hawkeye, but they're not enough to make up for that failure as a group."
Matt did allow himself a sigh then. "The bottom line is, you can't condemn Frank for the one quality you all share."
He sensed a vague wave of… something from the Black Widow's heartbeat, but he wasn't sure what. She was always hard to read. She didn't speak up, though, so he didn't press the matter. It was probably amusement, to be honest. She always seemed to find entertainment in conflict.
He got the feeling the Captain was giving him some kind of look, if the angle of his head was any indication, but he couldn't know what he meant by it. After a few moments of silence, broken only by the instant when Stark opened his mouth and the Captain held up a hand to stay his tongue.
Eventually, Rogers spoke again, but his voice was different, heavier. "We won't arrest him. I still don't approve of his operation, but I see your points. If he needs medical attention, you two are both welcome at the Tower tonight." Matt was always invited to the Tower afterwards when he did business with the Avengers, but he rarely accepted. Now, however, he glanced questioningly at Frank. Matt knew that they were both uninjured, but appearances had to be kept, even in his mask.
Frank shook his head, and Matt shrugged. "Maybe next time," he offered vaguely, as usual. He was thankful, if a little surprised, that Stark hadn't protested the offer. He hoped that meant that he would be rethinking some of his life choices. He knew the Captain's self-righteous certainty had been shaken by his words, at least.
"Now that that's taken care of," Romanoff interrupted, "We really should be going. We need to get these weapons to lockup." Her tone was pleasant, but everyone knew that wasn't a suggestion.
The Captain nodded, calling to Stark, "Let's get to the quinjet before something in those weapons crates explodes."
The three left without more trouble, though Stark grumbled the whole time. Frank didn't try to talk through the gag again.
To any bystanders, it would appear Matt and Frank went their separate ways, but Frank knew that Matt would circle around and follow him back to his safe house. He'd stay near until the gag came off just to be safe, but he wouldn't approach him. Both of them preferred to be alone, or at least have the illusion of isolation, when they were in situations where they were particularly vulnerable. Like, for instance, Frank being unable to speak.
Matt knew emotions. He might not be very good at dealing with his own (or so he was told), but he knew emotions, and all the nuances and micro-reactions that came with them, and he could read them like a book. Frank didn't know about that particular aspect of his abilities; no one did.
Matt hadn't wanted to listen to Frank's emotions during the conversation, but it was impossible to avoid in such close quarters. He was right next to him. Blocking out feelings from people so close was nearly impossible, because he sensed them in so many ways, with so many different cues.
It was easier afterwards, when he was farther away. He drowned the tiny noises that would give away Frank's temper in the vast noise of the city.
However, during that conversation with the Avengers, Matt had recognized a lot of emotions from Frank tonight. In fact, there were a few he didn't recognize (or at least couldn't quite place). He'd definitely been surprised, and confused at first, about Matt standing up for him. Matt hoped he didn't just chalk that down to Matt's dislike of hypocrites (Frank had called him a hypocrite more than once, but it was more complicated than that).
Or maybe he hoped he would. Matt wasn't sure which would be better. Maybe they were both good options (or maybe they were both bad). His friendship with Frank has always been rather morally ambiguous, thanks to Frank's own questionable morals. He really did care about Frank, and he was pretty sure Frank liked him, at least, but for all their insight into the minds of others, neither of them were good at dealing with their own emotions. Frank had even higher walls than Matt, and was much slower to lower them.
Matt wasn't sure how this encounter would affect their tentative friendship. Nonetheless, he knew it was the right thing to do, both because Frank couldn't defend himself, and because Frank was his friend.
So this happened. I set out to write a couple of pages, and the next thing I know I look up and I've written ten pages. This is the longest one-shot I've ever written. I hope you liked it.
This was written for a prompt, but I can't get the link to show up, so... oh well. I don't know if the emotion thing is canon, but it was helpful for fulfilling the intentions of the prompt. Please review, guys!
Oh yeah, and I own nothing.