Matt

Daredevil loomed over the apartment where Izzy stayed, Wes Cleon's missing friend. After Wes came to him, Matt convinced him to go with him to the station and make a formal report with Brett Mahoney, whom he knew he could trust. He used the address Wes gave to track down where Izzy's home. She lived with her mother and step dad, but rarely stayed there, which pretty much meant that the only person that even cared that Izzy was missing was Wes, and now Matt.

The date with Riley had totally fallen apart, but he could live with that, knowing that a second date wasn't too far off. The options Frank gave were to let him go or shoot both of them in the knees caps. Riley was right not trust that he wouldn't turn to violence if he didn't have his way. Yet, a third option came to play as Riley rested her gun on the diner table, signaling that indeed, they had come to an understanding. Afterwards was a trip to the station to make the calls in order for Castle to slip out of the city under the noses of the highway patrols.

He had to hand it to him for successfully convincing both Matt and a stubborn Riley Knight to defy their good conscience and help his cause.

He couldn't do anything right then and there as Matt Murdock without giving his identity away, but he knew Castle would be back to New York eventually after he regrouped.

Izzy's room was spare, the closet still full of clothes, judging from the mess of the bed she had to be missing for at least three days at this point. After locating a purse he rifled through and found a fake ID. He pocketed that and swung his legs out of the window, continuing onto the next address Wes gave him, the place where he was supposed to meet her the night she disappeared.

It was a bar no less; Matt tisked under his breath like a disapproving grandpa. He was going to have a few words with Wes about fake IDs and under age drinking. She definitely was here, waiting for him. He dropped down and walked along the length of the alley. The rain had watered it down, but he could tell she had been carrying drugs that either fell when she was possibly kidnapped or before she left the place, so much for Wes' assurances that Izzy was out of trouble. Nonetheless Matt believed the kid when he said he wasn't involved in any gang crimes, but there was a chance he had no idea what Izzy had gotten herself into.

Matt's burner phone started to ring. He answered it and was surprised to hear Foggy on the other line—they'd decided to take a break from the firm, an informal breakup but in Matt's head it still needed thorough discussion. Perhaps this was what Foggy was calling him about, although it was odd for him to use this emergency contact for firm-related (which also meant friendship-related) disagreements;

"Foggy, are you okay? Did something happen?"

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," he said. He can hear the creaking floorboards in Foggy's apartment as he is on the phone with him. "I don't mean to make you worry using this number, it's just you weren't answering your other phone."

Matt chewed on his lip leaning on the brick wall; "are we talking now?" He asked him; "not talking to each other is what has me worried, Fog."

Foggy sighed, a little forlorn and it saddens Matt too. "We have to, I know, but this isn't about that, not really. Where are you now?"

"I'm just tracking Wes' friend. What's up?"

"ADA Towers called. Turns out we have one more rodeo left with the DA."

Matt scowled and used his free hand to hoist himself onto a fire escape.

"What more does she want?"

...

Early the next morning, they reached the courthouse with an escort of armed guards outside waiting for them.

Foggy lagged back to allow Karen to walk ahead of them. "Do you think Reyes knows he came to you?" He whispered to him, eyes casting apprehensively at the police around them. Matt had mentioned the hostile-trade meeting in the diner the other night to him.

"They would've arrested me by now, wouldn't they?" Matt replied. "Made a spectacle of it."

The office was on the first floor. As they walked towards it, Riley Knight strolled in behind Sgt. Fitzgerald, a flicker of recognition on her features when she saw them.

The sergeant saw them first and came to blows with them; "What are you three doing here?"

"I could ask the same for you sergeant, after you," Foggy made a sweeping gesture and the Fitzgerald rolled his eyes walking into Reyes' office. Matt and Riley were last. She stretched her hand out for a handshake, which was peculiar, until she used that to lean in and whisper into his ear;

"Do you know what's going on?"

"No clue."

As she moved away from his ear her lips brushed on his cheek in the lightest of kisses. It was fleeting; the touch, the moment, confined to just the two of them. She let go of his hand and stalked past him into the room, but not before treating him with a coy smile.

"Detective," Foggy regarded her with an overly formal nod as she stood off to one side with the sergeant. Matt joined his partners in seats in front of Reyes' large mahogany desk. She waited behind it with Towers flanking her, by her side through every case, through every lie.

"I've gathered you here for obvious reasons and also reasons that will be made clearer," began Reyes, and Matt could tell there something off about her. Her posture not as proud, slouched, from worry and fatigue. Her hair had more product in it to hide its limpness. She hadn't had a proper meal besides coffee and cigarettes.

"You were Castle's attorneys," she addressed them, then to the cops in the room; "and you both of you are heads in the Vice at the 15th so it's pertinent you are aware of this too." She cleared her throat, peering down at her desk, then at everyone as she braced herself;

"I'll make this quick; the day Castle's family was killed at the carousel was a FBI-DA office coordinated sting operation. I ordered it. We trying to apprehend one man; the Blacksmith." Reyes—after years of hearing the stories of her savagery and prowess in court to steamroll small-time firms— was having difficulty spitting out the truth; "before we knew it, the op had fallen apart when someone fired the first shot. It was over for everyone."

Matt was floored, and Karen's was downright seething in her seat.

"He was right about you," Matt started coldly, straightening in his seat to her, "about this being a cover-up; a lie. You were trying to take us a for a fool, all of us."

ADA Towers stepped in for her defense, "Mr. Murdock—"

"You defamed our client in public to cover your own tracks—!"

"Your accusations are valid," Reyes held her hand up to stop him before this escalated, "but that is not what I asked you here today."

It was too late for her to avoid their wrath. "You wanted to give him the death penalty," Karen interjected hotly; she wasn't going to let this simmer down without a well-deserved fight. "You expect us to stand by and let this injustice to slide under the carpet, unnoticed by the public?"

"Alright, alright." Fitzgerald threw his arms out and approached all of them. "Now that we have this out in the open we can discuss it reasonably," placated the sergeant.

Matt sent him a glare; he was hardly part of this from the beginning and now he thought he had a say in how the conversation went?

Karen stabbed at Reyes, "there is no reasoning with her!"

"Reyes is in danger," Tower's voice boomed over them. "It's only a matter of time before he comes for her. That's why you're here."

"I know that amongst all of us, we have had our disagreements," Reyes went on, trying to contain the situation, "on opposites sides of the court room, and even when we were on the same side. But I am not speaking to you as the district attorney, I am speaking to you as a concerned mother with innocent, vulnerable children. I am at risk, so is my family." Reyes stamped something onto the desk, it sounded like a flexible sheet. "This was in my daughter's backpack, I understand Castle would want me dead, but to threaten my child— this is going too far." She covered her mouth to hide it, but Matt knew her bottom lip was trembling with fear.

"Castle's x-ray," Karen explained to him.

"We'll beef up security," assured the sergeant, "we have every precinct looking for Castle. We can expand that search to include this Blacksmith too."

"If Castle has already connected the dots, who knows what he'll do to me," said Reyes. "Did he reach out to any of you?"

Riley eyes shifted briefly to Matt, but neither of them said a word. Matt knew this couldn't be Frank. He's slaughtered many, but he wouldn't stoop to the level of child murderer, there was a line he wouldn't cross. Besides, how could he have planted that in Reyes' kid's backpack if he was across state lines by now, thanks to Riley and Matt?

"No he hasn't," Karen responded.

Matt listened to the vicinity around the court. Reyes was perfectly safe in hiding, until she chose now to re-emerge for this meeting. As safe as the courthouse was with armed guards outside, she was putting a target on her back without even realizing it; if this was Castle (a big if) he was a sharp shooter after all. The windows weren't bulletproof, and all of them were stuck in here like sitting ducks, and to his dismay, that included the people he cared for the most.

"I doubt he even knows about any of this," Karen continued, "since you made damn sure to bury any evidence tying you to-"

He picked up on on the unmistakable sound of a rifle loading.

Matt latched onto Karen's wrist; "Get down!"

The windows exploded, as rounds fired into the office. Glass raining down in a whirlwind like millions of tiny stones. Matt circled his arm around Karen's back to protect her as she screamed into the ground. He was useless in this firestorm that kept coming and coming.

As suddenly as it began, it ended. A few moments after the ringing subsided, and he could finally hear his own heartbeat, Matt lifted his head off Karen's shoulder. He was unharmed, his glasses had fallen off and he tried to locate them when a shallow wet sound distracted him.

Matt stayed low, shuffling his knees over the bed of glass to behind the desk, Reyes was slumped over it. He grabbed a fistful of her blazer and pulled her to him, a gentle, caring hand on the back of her neck as he rested her on the carpet.

"Reyes?"

The painful sounds were coming from her and the four bullets lodged into her ribcage and spine. Blood dripped from the corner of her mouth and any words she tried to form that were lost forever. From where they were lodged she wouldn't survive. He couldn't gauge how much longer she had left, but it wasn't much. She was reaching for his arm, gazing up at him with fearful eyes. He was sorry his eyes couldn't look at hers directly, to comfort her, to let her know that she was seen in her final moments. He took her arm instead and laid it across her tummy, and kept his hands there. ADA Towers crouched besides Reyes, softly pleading for her to hang on. Towers had his hand wrapped around his arm where he was shot.

In the next shaky breath, she died.

Matt covered his mouth with both his hands, and then his ears at the terrifying, echoing silence when her heart stopped. The stillness, the deep empty void was worse than too much sound. It always managed to make him panic like a lost child, the feeling of an end-of-world darkness that could swallow him whole. He forced himself to listen to the beats of the pulse in his wrists pressed tightly against his head, to Karen helping Foggy sit up, both of them miraculously unharmed.

Riley's shoes crunched and kicked up the glass as she hurried to her feet. He scarcely had a chance to shout for her when she drew her gun and dashed out the exit. There was nothing he could do to save Reyes. He got up ran out after Knight.

"Knight, are you okay?" He caught up with her and grasped her forearm.

"Oh thank god," her chest heaved in a swell of relief, voice breaking into a sob, pulling him into a clumsy one-armed hug. "I'm fine, are you?" She quickly rubbed his shoulders, stroked down his arms, holding his face to check him. He could have just told her he wasn't hurt but he liked being examined under her touch.

"Okay. We need to go," she told him hurrying to the main exit. They didn't have much time.


Riley

"I don't think it's him," she said to Matt, half-shouting it, because her hearing was still a bit muffled.

"Neither do I, but they got her."

Riley stopped and swallowed the dread that built up inside. "Is she...?"

He shook his head with a grave look, the only answer she needed.

"Fuck," she hissed under her breath, pressing her lips together to focus. They bounded down the steps to the wide pavement in front of the courthouse, passed the guards that had rushed in at the sound of the gunfire, too late to save Reyes. The streets were in upheaval, as any passing cars and New Yorkers fled as fast as they could. People weren't about to risk getting gunned down.

Riley promptly studied the buildings across from the courthouse; if I were the shooter what would I choose? She pressed down on her radio. "Calling all units. DA Reyes is dead, I repeat, DA Reyes is dead. I need roadblocks on a 1-mile radius from the courthouse and emergency support."

Having paid no mind to him as she assessed the situation; Matt abruptly grabbed on her arm, pulling her to follow him; "come on, I know where they are!"

They followed the standstill traffic until Matt stopped and pointed at a van zooming past them.

"That van!"

Riley spun around looking for a car to take, something that wasn't blocked by traffic or smack-dab in the fray. She dashed over to the nearest, most ideal vehicle and hammered on the driver's side window. A grey haired middle aged-man looked startled to see her, he'd been hiding in his seat to protect himself, arms over his head.

"I need to commandeer this vehicle!" She stamped her badge against the window.

He sputtered; "w-what? I can't—"

"Sir, please! This is a police emergency!"

The man hurried out of his car, raising his arms up. Riley signaled for Matt to hop in on the other side.

"I've always wondered if cops actually did that," he said shutting his door.

"Yeah," she muttered, surprised with herself; "it was my first time too."

She strapped in and hit the accelerator the moment the lights went green.

"Take this left," Matt instructed.

She took a sharp turn and saw the van speed past them in the opposite direction.

"Shit we missed them!" Matt slapped the dashboard. Riley pulled the vehicle into reverse in the opposite direction to the incoming traffic. Matt was flung against the side window, clinging to his seat for dear life. Horns blared at her as she swerved to follow the van.

"Up ahead, stop beneath the bridge and we get out!"

Riley peered ahead and couldn't see the van. Parking the car and continuing this on foot was a bad idea. "Are you sure? We shouldn't stop."

"Trust me."

There was cars scattered around stuck in traffic, Riley hit the brakes, nearly crashing the poor man's car into a vehicle in front of them. Huh, maybe I'll get out of this high-speed chase without an car accident.

"There's too many people here we're stuck," she growled, infuriated. "We shouldn't have—"

Before she knew what he was doing; Matt snatched her gun from her lap.

He wound down the window and shot into the air. Chaos broke out as people hopped out and started to flee, screaming for their lives. She spotted the van they were chasing skid to a halt at the crowds running. Admittedly she wouldn't have needlessly scared civilians like that, but it was enough of a hindrance for them to get close enough to them on foot. Riley and Matt got out to the ground and he came around to her side;

"There are three of them. We go slowly, up here," he indicated in a direction to their right, giving her gun back.

"Never imagined the day you'd actually use one of these."

His mouth turned down; "first and last time, wasn't a fan."

Riley straightened and fired at the front windows of the van. They retaliated and she flattened herself against the car.

Matt held onto her arm. "Come on. There's an opening!" She followed his lead.

They squatted and dashed between cars, sliding alongside a school bus. Riley could spot at least two of them, and knelt forward. "No wait, duck!" He yanked her shirt to the ground as a shot took out the taillights she was next to. She was rattled, out of breathe, but still in it.

"They'll get away," she said through clenched teeth.

"Towards the front of the taxi, 2 'o' clock."

Riley licked her lips, wiping sweat from her brow and charged forward, dodging any fleeing citizens. She got into position by the taxi and took her shots.

"Fuck Matt, they're too far from us," she hissed and checked her cartridge. "They're going to escape in the crowd."

"We can't let them get away. There's still a chance."

"I only have one bullet left," she told him, not confident with their odds, "it has to be clear shot."

"Shit," he dropped down, gulping, his eyes flickering in thought. His gaze hardened and he raised his head to her, a stony, determined look on his face. "Okay, we just need one." She followed him along the sides of the taxi. "There," he stopped. "One 'o' clock, above the left light of that truck."

Riley sidled up next to him, the space he directed her too was empty, but she stayed patient, steadying her gun with her line of vision.

"Take the shot in three, two...one."

The second she fired it struck one of their shooters in the shoulder when he appeared. He lurched face-forward to the ground. Riley got up and ran to their perp, she kicked his gun aside before he could use it, and aimed hers at his head;

"Police! Don't move!"

...

In the aftermath, Riley and Matt returned to the courthouse to check on their friends. Several ambulances were rolled up outside, the street sectioned off. She spotted Foggy and Karen with blankets around their shoulders at the steps of the courthouse. Riley 'led' Matt to them before searching for Fitzgerald.

She saw the sergeant sitting behind an ambulance, legs hanging off the side, getting stitched up. She started for him when ADA Towers appeared by her.

"She's dead."

Riley stopped, took in the sight of him. He looked worse for wear, his arm in a sling, glasses cracked, tie undone and shirt un-tucked.

Her shoulders fell, she pitied him, understood how he felt too. "I know."

"I shouldn't have let this go on. I shouldn't have let her come here—there's—" he let out a trembling sigh, "there's so much we shouldn't have done, and now she's dead..."

It's up to God now. Riley clamped her hand over his good shoulder. "You didn't kill her, and you stuck by her side, even at the end." She had no idea if that was what he wanted to hear, he could have been coerced into not ratting Reyes out, but there had to be something said for loyalty, especially when there was so little of that these days. "You're injured Towers, you should go home."

After that she checked on Fitzgerald who had a bullet graze on his leg. He was overall pissed at all the patrol guards too. She left him to his work to sort out the citywide terror the shooting had caused. As the hours wore on, Riley stayed around as the ambulances and cop cars slowly pulled out and dispersed from the courthouse; answering questions, giving orders to the evidence collection team, taking orders from the Captain to control the crowds and journalists that started to form at the perimeter. Time flew by and it was sundown by the time things really started to settle down.

She sat at on the wide steps of the courthouse, letting her legs rest.

"Riley."

She peered up at Matt standing on the step above her.

"You're still here," she said, gaze widening, "how are Foggy and Karen?"

"Shaken up, but unharmed," he told her. "Are you staying longer?"

"No, I don't think so."

"Can I walk you home?"

She couldn't think of a better way to end her evening. He offered his hand to help her stand and they set off back to her place.

"That was some fine teamwork," said Matt.

"We'd all be dead if you hadn't yelled out first."

"Thank God you have good aim."

They fell silent. It was always quieter in the aftermath of these things. Their fingers brushed against one another but her palms were sweaty from running around, and she didn't want to subject him to that.

"I can't believe she's gone," Matt spoke up, dimly. "She was there standing in front of us, and now..."

Reyes death hung over them like a storm cloud, weighing down the air they breathed. "I feel the same way."

"It's not like we knew her besides who she was professionally to us, but—"

"But it still really sucks."

Matt nodded, letting out a long sigh, holding onto his cracked red glasses in his palm. "I wish we could've helped her, if I'd just—picked up on the shooter earlier, if-"

"There's nothing we could've done, Matt. Whoever did this wanted to silence her, if it wasn't at the courthouse, it could've been at her home later. All we know is that it wasn't Castle."

"The moment she tells the truth, she dies. We lose, and the only people who win are the people who did this." He snickered morosely, shaking his head; "and what good was I? I didn't even know what to say to her as she was dying. I froze. I panicked."

"Why did you panic?"

His chest lifted up as he stopped and started, it was obvious he'd never spoken to anyone about it.

"It scares me. It doesn't make sense but it does; the sounds of a last breathe, a last heartbeat. It keeps me up at night," he said, hanging his head. "I give a good talk about not letting fears consume you but I can't take my own advice."

"It's not irrational to fear death, Matt, it doesn't make you stupid or any less brave. It's the opposite," said Riley, as they slowed down near her place. "And of course it makes sense. When someone dies I see the life leave them. You can hear it, that's all; it means you're normal. It keeps you up at night because it weighs on your conscience and it reminds you of—"

"Of my dad when he died," whispered Matt, his words heavy. She wasn't going to say his dad in particular, but he was opening up to her about it on his own.

She clasped his arms. "You don't have to think about those deaths or about your dad, alone," she told him. "I'm here; even if you just want to talk about his favorite basketball team or colour. I'll listen."

"He preferred baseball and his favorite colour was red," he replied promptly, lifting his head to her.

She fixed a tousle of brown hair on his head and held the side of his neck. "He'd want you to remember him in that way, in the good moments, Matt."

He sighed, nodding. She could feel the breath he took push against inside of her palm.

"You're right."

"You need to get out more, and then you'll have other things to keep you up at night."

That wrung the smile out of him, just what she wanted.

"Brett is going to take a crack at our suspect," she told him as they continued their walk.

"And you're not? Thought you might enjoy it."

"We're too close to this." Lord knows that was true, they were intertwined with Castle, conspiring with him at this point. "If he gives us anything, it'll help Castle when he chooses to show up again. Besides, I have family commitments this weekend."

"Your mum's wedding."

"Maybe I shouldn't leave," she hesitated, "maybe I need to be here to figure if there was any truth in what Castle told us at the diner." She still had the Ace of spades playing card he gave to her in her jacket pocket.

"You should go, get away from the danger of this place for a while," said Matt. "Are you sure you don't want a plus one?" He offered with a grin. "Mums and aunts love me."

"Oh I'm sure they do, and to be honest I'd like to see you in a tux, pretending not to know how to dance."

"Why do you assume I can?" He said through a surprised chuckle.

"Please. Someone, who can sense the 'shift in people's weight on the ground,'" she mimicked his pretentiously brooding voice. "Can definitely carry a rhythm in their feet."

"You do have a point. Although, Foggy was always the better dancer, I was the better wingman."

"I think you should stay here," she said, hoping he wouldn't be too disappointed by it. "Family gatherings, um, we are not ready for that. But I trust that everything will be in good hands while I'm gone. I think those dangerous things we're afraid of can wait a few days."

"Okay," he said, not pushing it. "I can look into some of it for you, if you want."

She smiled gratefully at him. "That would be really helpful."

"Really, I'm more concerned about whether you'll find someone who can keep up with you on that dance floor."

She chewed on her bottom lip laughing lightly as they stopped outside her apartment stoop. He dragged up her other hand to splay across his chest. The soothing beat of his heart hitting her palm.

"You blush a lot," said Matt. "Did you realize that?"

As he said it, heat seeped into her face. Damn it. He smiled, satisfied to have his point proven.

"Yeah, so?" She defended herself rather poorly, but he wasn't paying attention to what she said anymore.

"Especially on your neck," said Matt, his fingers danced along her collarbone, then gliding up her jawline. "And then just here on your cheek." His fingers brushed down along her cheekbone, as he mapped out exactly where the colour reached up to flush her skin. His thumb lazily traced over her cupid's bow as light as a kiss. She stared at him, caught in his eyes. His thumb pressed harder on her bottom lip, she couldn't stop herself; her tongue darted out to wet it.

That was what undid it. He pulled her to him, his lips crashing over hers, hot and sweet. She turned her head to the side, and her tongue was in his mouth. Each exhalation of hers had a soft moan to follow it. Riley fisted his collar and pressed her chest to his.

Matt's lips broke away, "I needed this, more than you know." He said holding her chin between his thumb and forefinger.

"You're not coming up." She grasped the edges of his coat and leaned her head back groaning in frustration, thwarted yet again by his 'rational thinking.'

He laughed, his arm snug around and he pulled her up to him. "Riley, there hasn't been anyone for a while, anyone that mattered. Also, I need to meet up with Foggy and Karen at Josie's."

"I hope you work out things with them," she sighed and brought their foreheads together. Now that things appeared to be heading on the track towards something really good- Riley scarcely ever said that about most aspects of her life- she believed they would be okay.

"We have time." She assured him and kissed him softly with safe certainty. "I'm not going anywhere."

His eyes were closed, but the corners of his lips tugged up at that.

...

She smiled contently to herself all the way from the ground floor to the door of her apartment. It was dark inside her place. She shut the door and tossed the keys onto the table beside it.

As she turned on the hallway light, Riley stifled a scream.

Sitting on a dining chair, was none other than Stick.

She pulled her gun out a second later, her heart pounding like a jackhammer. Stick looked mildly annoyed by her reaction.

"What are you doing in my home?" She demanded, her anger seething through her teeth. "What did I tell you about coming back here?"

"Christ, how does Matt stand your self-righteousness?" He remarked, leaning an elbow on the table, he wore dark sunglasses over his eyes. "Right—he can probably overlook that for a pretty face and a good time."

She took a step closer but stayed as far away as she could. "Get out of my apartment," growled the order. She wanted nothing to do with him.

Stick sighed tiredly; "it's funny and sad how you think you matter in the grand scheme of this city."

"Yeah, I don't give a shit grandpa," she scoffed. "What the hell do you want? Does Matt know you're here?"

"No, he has no idea. Now would you put the gun down?" He held his palms out to her and used his white cane to stand. "I'm not here to attack you. If I was you'd know by now."

"I don't buy that gramps." She wasn't going to let her guard down, knowing he could kill her with his bare hands. "You're standing upright after that bullet got you."

"I've had worst," he said with a nonchalant shrug.

"Are you going to visit him? Matt?"

"That's not of your business, detective."

"You're in my home uninvited, I will ask my damn questions," she shot back, her finger still positioned to squeeze on the trigger.

"If you put the gun down, I could get to answering them," he tried, exasperated.

"We don't need you around, so whatever you think your purpose is here, you can take it and leave."

He snickered sardonically, "huh, it's 'we' between you two now?" He shook his head with a look of mock pity. "Ohh detective. I expected at least one of you to have some capacity for rational thought. I'm even more disappointment it wasn't you."

It was clear he wasn't going to leave without having his say and she was going to have to put up with it. "You just want to use him."

"But you've used him," hissed Stick, almost coming to Matt's defense but also attacking her. "So stop pretending like you haven't been shitty to one another. Matt's a compulsive liar, and you're not an angel yourself. How many people have you cops killed in the name of 'justice,' you act like you're above the law like any vigilante out there and you know it."

Riley glared at him. "Things are different between us now."

"Of course screwing one another was going to get in the way sooner or later," he derided, disgusted by the idea of them. "You actually think you're good for him? Good for each other?"

He thought it would be that easy to get on her nerves, but she's had worst. "You know I'm sensing a pattern here," she remarked, "whenever you show up to mess up his life, you come back and talk like you know what's best for him, when you don't even know him."

"I know him better than you do. Your methods are denying him the justice he deserves. You're holding him back. He's a warrior, a concept you wouldn't understand," he said with disdain. "He's out there following you like a lap dog, saving your ass because you're an incompetent cop in the way."

"This incompetent cop saved your ass, but you've clearly already forgotten that," she retorted. She had him there.

He had not bothered putting his hands up with the gun aimed in his direction, but at that moment he did. "Indeed, you did save me. You showed me you had a killing spirit too and I admired that." He smirked. "That's why I'm here with a thank you gift, if you could not shoot me while I show you what I came here for." He reached over to the table, pushed a file closer to the edge of it and flipped it open, then backed away from it.

"Some information you've been searching for."

"What information?"

He was being suspiciously cordial out of nowhere. "You've been looking for someone, someone we've kept our eye on for quite some time."

Slowly, slowly she shuffled closer to the open file. Riley saw red marks on one of the corners.

"There's blood on this, who the hell did you kill to get this?"

"Do you mind lowering the gun so I can explain what I have? Do you see a weapon on me?"

"It's the ones I can't see that I'm worried about," she replied icily.

"Clever girl," he cocked his head with a wry smile; "have a read then. Is that the man you're looking for?

Silvio Manfredi. Of the Silician Manfredi's. Maggia. Perfect. Just perfect.

"Codename; Silvername," she skimmed the file, everything started to make sense. "Italian crime syndicate." Stick wasn't here for her, not to kill her anyway. Her fingers twitched, she was going to have to trust him, just one more time. It sickened her to do it. Dejectedly, Riley lowered the gun. She waited with bated breath in terrified silence at what he would do. But he didn't make any move. She lifted the edge of the file.

With the gun gone, Stick's shoulders relaxed, "finally." Although they both knew he could probably outmanouvre even a gunshot and take her down. He played it this way for the sake of gaining her trust.

He pointed at the file on the table with his cane, a grin forming on his mouth. "I can't tell if there's a resemblance between you and daddy, but I'm sure the rest of the file will fill in the holes for you. Did I find the right match?" That grin became more smug by the second.

She thought she had longer to bask in the afterglow of the kiss with Matt on her doorstep, but the universe wouldn't let me, the send Stick to ruin it.

"It's him," she replied monotonously, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of being here while she processed this. Everything was there in the file, it couldn't have been anyone else, short of a DNA test, the picture of him was enough for her to know they were related.

He snickered, enjoying her chagrin. "Congrats. Will you be holding a potluck for the family reunion?"

"You're enjoying this aren't you?"

"I enjoy when people understand who their true selves are."

There he goes with his talk of destiny. "Why have you been monitoring him?"

"We like to keep track of players of interest. Although Silvermane is retired he made certain to paint the West coast red before he hung up his coat."

Players of interest, the only thing Stick cares about was his mystical war. "So are you saying he's part of the 'Hand'?"

His eyebrows rose above his black glasses. "So you remember what I told you about them."

"You come to my home looking for the 'key to immortality,' fight off the Triad in the process, you don't forget something like that so easily," she said, a chill of unease down her back.

He shrugged a shoulder, somehow impressed by her in his own way. "I never thought you'd give more shits about the Hand than Matty ever did." Stick spun towards her medal in a frame over the fireplace. "You won this for our escapades that night, huh?" He tapped it lightly with his cane. "You're welcome by the way, for this useless hunk of metal. Your kind of people think this is actually worth something, but it's an empty reward, just a chain around your neck tying you down to society's prison."

Riley could ignore all his insults and so-called wisdom, because he still hadn't answered her damn question.

"Stick. Is Silvermane with the Hand or not?" She needed to know what she was dealing with. "Is his goal in life immortality too?" She couldn't believe she was asking him that.

"Only the 'five' have immortality, not their underlings," he told her matter-of-factedly as if that was general knowledge she was meant to know off the top of her head.

She rolled her eyes, tapping her forehead with the sole of her palm. "Right. Of course. Only the five. Five fingers in a 'hand.' Absolute genius. Why didn't I think of that?"

"There's always a chance they'll initiate him."

Riley closed the file and slid it to him, as it started to make sense why he even bothered to find this information for. "This isn't my problem, the people you fight are not my battle, I don't even know him—"

"Oh sweetheart, we don't need you to fight our battles. That's all I came here to deliver, the rest is up to you," said Stick heading for the window, leaving the file where it was. "Say hi to Matty for me."

He was going to leave her with barely an explanation as to why he did this? She held her arm out in his direction. "Wait. Then why did you find him for me? You came here to hear my reaction just for the kick of it? That's bullshit."

His forehead creased as he studied her. "You haven't told him about any of this, have you?"

She felt caught between a rock and a hard place, "not yet," she admitted, ashamed by it, even more because Stick was the one to expose her to herself.

He scoffed derisively, "yet he despises me for lying. Christ. You think I'm the one trying to sabotage your twisted love affair; you can screw it up all on your own. He thinks this is the first honest relationship he's ever had, but it's not. Matt has no idea that you're going to get him killed."

"You think I'm the one who's going to get him killed?" She rebuked, pointing at her chest. "Just because he cares about someone and something that isn't you or your war?" The spark of anger flare again in her. "Why him? Find someone else! I'm sure you have plenty of soldiers committed to your cause happy to die for it."

"The life he lives now in that shithole apartment is just him pretending. This war is his fate."

"I don't know why you keep trying," she said scornfully. "You return and fail every single time. Matt would never leave everything behind to die for your cause."

"Then you don't know him very well, do you?"

He pointed to the file. "In there is your fate. I gave this to you to educate you about your past, maybe your future. You're impatient like he is and you don't pause to look at the bigger picture, your arrogance holds you back. Think of it as a chance for you to see yourself for who you really are, maybe a chance for Matt to be enlightened too."

"I worked really hard not to be the person I used to be," she argued adamantly. "And this isn't going to change a thing."

"Whatever you say, kiddo," he opened up the window to make his exit. "Do what you will with the information. Go meet your dad, find some answers— or not. But I think you'll find more than you bargained for if you do."


A/N: As we all know according to season 3 canon, Matt does sorta die in the Defenders fighting the Hand, just an ominous wink there ;)