Red-Black Throwdown

August 28, 2018:

Batgirl stops Frank from killing… well, one of his two targets. R for swearing.

Queens, New York

Characters

NPCs: Two Dogs of Hell

Mentions: Joker and Captain Boomerang, indirectly

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

The itch — a small, tiny constant scratching at the back of her mind. She's tried to let it go, but each time her mind drifts from Gotham to New York. She gave Daredevil all she had on Frank Castle, hoping that handing it all over would give her the closure she needed. But the detective in her can't let it go. There's something there, and she just needs to find it. If she finds it, then she can let it go.

Tracking the movements of the last Dogs of Hell was not hard. They've given up all their usual haunts, which only narrows down the possible alternatives. Edging out of Hell's Kitchen, off Manhattan, and into Queens. Gotham's made it clear, and Metropolis has its own shit. Right now, best bet, head west; first JFK, then west. Maybe Castle won't follow them if they just go west. But, first, there's beer.

Two of the last Dogs stagger out of a whole-in-the-wall bar that's tucked down a pedestrian thoroughfare that neighbors an overgrown public garden. What had meant to just be a beer to settle the nerves turned quickly into a dozen split between them, and now one takes a liberal piss into a picked-over tomato plant. His partner grouses, "Hurry up. I hate being outside, man."

Frank has his own itch, and it goes to the meter of 'one batch, two batch, penny and dime.' The itch is getting smaller, but more insistent, as he works his way through the list in his head. There aren't many Dogs of War left who participated in the shootout at the carousel — maybe five or six, the numbers get hazy due to the wake of the bombing. Frank has followed these two out of Hell's Kitchen, off of Manhattan, and into Queens. Nobody goes to Queens — unless you're headed for JFK or La Guardia, which is why it's so important that Frank follow these two. Frank crouches on top of the roof of the hole-in-the-wall bar, and when he hears the nervous grousing, he steps out around the air conditioning units and moves toward the walled edge of the roof. His lips move, whispering the words, "One batch, two batch, penny and dime," as he draws a pistol, eyeing the range, and then bringing the pistol up in both hands, ready to put two bullets in the back of the pissing man's head.

Batgirl is still a block away when Frank's recitations begin; she sails smoothly on the taut line of reinforced wire from a tall roof to a shorter. Her scalloped cape swoops behind her in a great flutter of yellow-lined black. She alights on the roof silently, recoiling the wire as she runs across the flat, rough rooftop. She's just coming to the opposite edge when the two shots ring out. The silhouette of Frank Castle on the neighboring roof is spotted easily now that she's looking for him. She darts forward, foregoing the line and instead freerunning her way down from the taller roof and onto the bar's shabby, roughly graveled terrain.

She wasn't fast enough to stop the first Dog stumbling forward into the garden patch, but she whips out a razor batarang, and it slices toward Frank's arm to slow his focus on the second Dog. The man down in the garden is stumbling back, scrabbling for cover through the depleted berry bushes.

The snap of bullets makes Frank happy. All too often lately, when he tries to shoot someone, a person in a mask hits him or his gun. Two rounds, upper back and the back of the Dog's neck, and blood spatters over the pissed-on tomato plant. He starts to shift his aim and… damn it. Blood wells up on his own arm as the razorang strikes home, slashing across the back of his left forearm and tearing through his hoodie. Frank whirls and ducks down, bringing up the pistol to aim at… oh great, a bat. He fires, aiming carefully to blast a round into a bathroom vent just alongside Batgirl. "Why the fuck are you defending shitbags, Red?" He's out of the line of fire of the Dog down below, so he can take a moment to query his attacker rather than trying to put her down hard and final.

The shot to the bathroom vent causes Barbara to step back and twist, showing off the long, lean lines of her profile while also swooping her reinforced cape around her. The fluttering garment stills abruptly as the electromagnetic pulse adds rigidity to the fibers. Her sharp blue eyes look up over her forearm. His accusation draws her chin down tighter, and when she speaks, her voice is low behind the barrier of her arm and cape. "Sparing their lives only so they will face justice, Castle." She reaches for a concussive batarang at her belt, moving slowly and covertly behind the fall of her cape.

Frank weighs the pistol in his hand, even as he's also counting his shots — three down, five to go in his heavy M1911 A1. He stays crouched, studying the cape-swirled figure of the Gotham crime-fighter over the sights of his .45. "They're never gonna face justice, Red. They go to jail, they'll be out in months." His boots crunch in the gravel as he shifts his weight, gathering his feet under him in case she attacks again. His voice is low, harsh, "I deal with them, the shitbags never kill anyone again. How many times you put… what's his name, the clown, into Arkham?"

Below the arguing vigilantes, the surviving Dog of Hell peers out of bushes, peering up, then scoots forward, checking his fellow's pulse. Nothing, and so he starts to book it down the alley, all thoughts of another half dozen beers gone from his mind.

"They should face justice, Frank… for what they did. But you are not the one who should determine their sentence." Her words are carefully leveled. She loosens her grip slightly on her cape, and she advances a step to adjust her footing. Her fingers slide around the batarang, feeling its weight in her hand. She recognizes Frank's stance — typical, military. She adjusts her own to find stability just as he does. "No system is perfect… but no system at all is chaos." Her throat tightens. "It's time to stop this, Frank…"

"Bullshit." Frank glances behind him, craning his neck to look over the walled edge of the roof. The second would-be-victim is gone, and so Frank rises up from his crouch, starting to pace slowly away from the edge of the roof. He keeps his pistol leveled at Barbara in both hands as he does, growling, "How many times, Red? How many? How many dead bodies because you couldn't do what you or your boss couldn't do what you had to do?" Shaking his head, clear strain twisting and choking his voice as he adds, "How many parents never seen their children again because you didn't finish the clown?" His anger turns his voice even rougher, for all that he lowers it from the near-shout it had risen to, "How many children don't come home because of it?"

Each stab of Frank's words darkens her expression. He says all the things that every vigilante out there says to the mirror, in their head, in their hands. How many lives does it take before you just put them down? The choke draws her out of her cape slightly, and her mouth is tight with a frown. "The further you go down that road, the harder it is to come back." Her own words are thick, almost choked themselves. She can't help but think about Bruce — for her mentor, it was the child who came home without his parents. "It's time to stop, Frank," she repeats, voice softer despite the hard tightness in her expression.

"Come back?" Frank shifts his hands on the grip of his pistol, and he shakes his head, "I don't have to come back. I just have to make sure that they don't." The barrel of the pistol twitches up, "No, it's time for you to get your hand off whatever the hell you have behind that cape, Red, and the the fuck out of my way." Reining in his anger, his hard-featured face hardens further, and he draws in a breath, his shoulders squaring with the expansion of his chest, "Because if you're between me and them, you're on their side."

"I can't do that." There's more to those words than just a flat defiance. There's a confession there. She can't walk away. Something itches, deep in her bones. She feels it — like someone has walked over her grave. It's made her restless. She steps forward abruptly, and her cape drops from its rigidity to sweep back. She looks as if she is about to charge, but within three steps, she's releasing first one concussive batarang right at Frank. The second is released within another step. She's banking on it only taking two to drop Castle. What she will do with him after that — she hasn't planned that far.

Frank Castle is fast. He's not superhuman, but he's very, very fast. Even as he leaps to his left, he squeezes off two shots. She's in his way, so they're aimed at her, but she's not a killer, so they're aimed at her sweeping cape, which he's almost certain is bulletproof. His left shoulder crunches on the grit of the roof as he tucks his shoulder, his roll thrown off by the sudden explosion behind him. Fetching up against another section of wall, he can't quite escape the second batarang, and it sticks in the back of his shoulder, dug into the trauma vest beneath his hoodie. When nothing else happens immediately, he winces and mutters, "Fuck." And then there's another explosion, sending him slamming against the wall once more. Most men would stay down after that. Frank… Frank looks over his shoulder at Batgirl, blood trickling from his ears and nose, and then he pushes off, rushing at the caped crusader (young, female edition) with a wordless roar, looking to slam straight into her, shoulder aimed squarely for the oval in the center of her chest.

The shots ricochet off the rigidity of her cape. She had expected them, and she can feel the vibrations through the material. The muttered word followed by the second explosion has her advancing another two steps… and right into the charging monstrosity that is Frank Castle. She had expected at least a stagger, a chance to get the upper hand against the Marine. Instead, she's taking the full impact of the Punisher. He drives her back several feet, her boots leaving ruts in the gravel. Her lips twist with a grimace as she swings her own weight forward, barreling a closed fist into the soft flesh of his side just beneath his last rib; simultaneously, she drops low, trying to throw Frank off balance enough that he flies over her shoulder and opens the space between them.

Frank starts to give Barbara a little push to give him time to swing, but she's already ducking low, and he barely gets his elbow down in time to soak up some of the force of the punch, the impact twisting him over and drawing a wince to his face and a grunt to his lips. He knows shoulder-throws well, but that doesn't mean that he can avoid the physics of one. The jabbing response with his left hand plays right into it, too, and so he finds himself airborne and tumbling into a loose roll across the top of the roof. Sprawling out onto his back, he reaches back over his head with his left hand, grasping for the tail of Batgirl's cape and trying to tug her backwards, either off-balance or off her feet entirely. It's just a momentary yank, not trying to hold on, and then he's twisting sideways, his ears still ringing as he springs up to his feet, the pistol still grasped in his right hand coming up toward the black and purple-clad vigilante.

Her cape is surprisingly slick in his grip, but he gets enough purchase to yank her back. She doesn't fight the fall, but instead embraces it. She hits the ground, but her spine and lower body is already tucking and then she kips back up just in time to spot the shooter stance. Her gloved fingers grace along the edge of the cape, grasping at it with one hand while her other crossing her body to thumbs out another razor batarang from its place at her collarbone. There's a touch of unintentional theatrics as the grasped edge of the cape arcs above her head, and the cape spreads like the batwing it emulates with the scallops opening wide and the fabric becoming as rigid as membrane stretched over bone. She flings out the razor batarang toward Frank just as she swoops the cape around her in a cocoon to protect her from the anticipated gunfire.

Except there's no gunfire coming. Instead, Frank is coming straight at the cowled woman, twisting aside to let the expected batarang fly past and taking advantage of the fact that she can't exactly see through the cape either to holster the pistol once more as he comes. His right hand grabs for her wrist, his left reaching low to try and grasp the bottom of the stiffened cape, pulling up either to snap whatever forms the boning within it… or to use the leverage to hurl her off her feet once more. More items of note for the detective — he is neither just a gunman, or just a raging berserker.

It takes her mind just a second too slow to recognize that there's no gunfire. Barbara hears the scrape of his boots in the gravel too late, and her cape stays rigid just long enough for him to get an actual grip on both cape and wrist. It's graceless and unrefined, but she gets tangled up in her cape and in his grip. She hits the ground, but not before her head slams hard into the bar's TV aerial. It scrapes through scalp and hair, catching strands of red. Then she's on the ground, feeling her vision pulse and fade out. She struggles through the threats of unconsciousness, trying to get her feet back under her again. He's going to kill me, is all she can think. But beneath that thought, buried in the deeper side of her subconscious, a softer voice replies, You would have killed him. That dark ring in her vision tightens down, and she staggers back to the ground, already wounded head hitting the graveled roof with a sound thunk.

Frank really didn't intend to bounce Barbara's head off the TV antenna, but he had other things on his mind than where he was throwing her. Like avoiding that razor-sharp batarang and closing quickly enough. He follows up again, aiming to stay closer, where his greater strength (he assumes) can tell. As he skids to a kneel alongside her, he draws back his right fist as he grabs for the clasp of her cape with his left. But her head is lolling, so the fist never snaps forward. His breath comes short and fast, and then he lets it out with a hiss, looking around the poorly-maintained rooftop. Studying the youthful half-features shown by the cowl, he frowns, then looks up again, blinking hard against the ringing hammering in his ears. Frank brushes his wrist under his nose, smearing blood across his upper lip and his sleeve, touches his bruised side gingerly, and then grabs one of her arms and ducks his shoulder into her stomach, staggering up to his feet with the Gotham crimefighter on his shoulder. Time to find a place for a quiet discussion without things exploding on his face.

It takes some time to move the unconscious Batgirl several blocks away. Even in Queens, a couple of gunshots and a dead guy (Frank checked, the guy was still face-down in the garden) are going to get attention from the police. Frank isn't going to take her out of her costume, even though he's pretty certain that there are plenty of tricks inside, so instead he's just duct-taped her wrists behind her back, a heavy steel pipe between her bound wrists and her back. He's sitting on a derelict industrial stove in what used to be a restaurant's kitchen and is now an abandoned building, a dozen feet away. His reloaded pistol is cradled in his hands, and the blood below his nose and ears has dried. "Wake up, Red."

For a woman her litheness, she's weighty. Muscle does that — so does all the gear she has on. She groans unconsciously as he hauls her up, head rocking slightly in wavering consciousness. The cowl is heavily scarred from the scrape with the aerial, and the gravel. Blood trickles from her mouth where her teeth nicked her lip and cheek, and the coppery taste pulls her that last forward step to awareness once more. Wake up, Red. She intakes a sharp breath through her nostrils, and she writhes against her bonds just as her feet kick out, trying to get purchase on the floor. Her heel catches, strains, and then slips back out in front of her. Her blue eyes dart up to Frank. She moves too quick, and shadows swim in front of her vision from the concussion. Her eyes flutter shut for a heartbeat, chest moving with a deep breath. "Castle." Her voice is thick, no longer forcing the deeper inflection. "Where am I?"

"I figure you can get out if you want to." Frank sounds much more reasonable when he isn't bellowing in rage. "I did some research. You bats have all sorts of tricks. So we're on the honor system." And duct tape. Duct tape is integral to the vigilante honor system. "You're alive. Does the where matter?" Apparently, that's not a real question, because he moves on almost immediately to, "You're a long ways from Gotham, Red. You're here to stop me from killing assholes who deserve a whole lot worse. And you know I'm right. You know these shitbags will kill more people. Even if they go to jail. Why?"

"That's," she starts, voice catching a bit before she licks her lips, "that's not how the honor system works, or you'd be duct taped to a pipe, too. I'll play ball, though." Can't play games with a concussion, Barbara. The words at least sound tough, and vaguely threatening. She looks up at him, leaning her head back into the pipe behind her. She stares up at him steadily — or at least for a few seconds before she has to close her eyes again. The headache is very distracting, but Frank might be winning in terms of things demanding her focus. She looks back at him again. She can't help the lopsided smile that edges onto her lips for a heartbeat, and then she licks at her lips. "Because there's more to this than just a shoot-out at the Carousel." Her mouth tightens. "And I'm not their executioner. Neither are you."

"You also drew on me first." Frank rubs under his nose again and checks for dried flakes of blood — they're there alright. He winces sharply, rubbing at his temple, then notes, "So you get the duct tape." With the pistol in his hands and at least a little warning before she can attack again, he evidently feels comfortable enough to smirk faintly at his semi-joke. And then she brings up the carousel, and he shakes his head, all levity flash-boiling away from his expression, "No, there's not, and yes, I am. Because you know that they deserve it, just like I know it." He shifts the pistol in his right hand, glancing down at the bloody slash on his left sleeve, "You ever hear about blunt weapons? At least the Hornhead throws sticks, asshole that he is."

"With a razor. You're not blade-adverse, are you?" That NAFOD trait is shining through, barreling past her weakened defenses as her head continues to swim. She feels a strange tickle at the back of her neck. Her senses become entirely rapt in the sensation. It takes her another moment to realize its origin. "I'm bleeding." The words are said nonchalantly, almost as if she hadn't meant to say them aloud. Then she's looking back up at him as he complains. Again, a half-smile edges onto her lips. "It was just a little nick." Her head presses back into the pipe, and she winces. Scalp cut. Must have been the gravel. She comes back to the heart of their conversation, and she tries to catch her thoughts. "But it doesn't explain… why they were there to begin with… I don't understand why they were there to begin with." That's the itch. She's given it a name. But that's not what Frank's on about. So, she meets his eyes. She could give him another couched reply about justice and trusting the system. She could, but she doesn't. She spares him that.

"Sticking into me? Yeah. I don't like 'em." Frank starts to cross his arms, but he still has a pistol in his right hand, so he stops, resting his left hand on his hip and letting his right forearm laying across his thigh. "Didn't see the TV antenna behind you. Sorry. I think it saved me a bunch of bruises though." Didn't save him the concussion, but honestly, that's almost standard operating procedure. "They were there to do a deal. It went south. After I clean them up, I find out who got them there and I deal with them too." Seeing him like this, calm, collected, and serious, one wouldn't think him a berserker in the slightest… well, besides the dried blood under his nose and ears, and the slash on his forearm, "You're going to tell me I should get the cops to do it. Here's the problem. The cops put them in jail, they get out again. You put them down, they get back up again. I put them down, they stay down. They don't kill anyone ever again. They don't hook kids on smack. They don't do. Anything. Ever. Again."

The Punisher just apologized to her for not better coordinating body-slamming her down to the ground. It causes her brows to arch sharply beneath the cowl. She exhales slowly through her nose, and nods slightly. "If I don't try to knock you unconscious in turn, could you cut this tape and hand me something to stauch this bleeding?" Her words are a quiet interruption to their conversation, but the constant trickle of her blood and its pooling in her collar tells her that the blood flow is not slowing. "You're wrong, though. I'm not here to tell you to let the cops handle this." Then why are you here, Barbara? She flares her nostrils again. "Sometimes fear can be just as powerful as death, Frank. You've scared them… those two? They were trying to get out here. One had a ticket to Denver, where his family lives. He could have been getting out. We won't know though, because he's dead."

Frank weighs his options, then carefully holsters his pistol and hops down off his one-cheeked lean on the dead stove. As he crosses the narrow distance slowly, he pulls out a clean handkerchief, "Lean your head forward. I'm no corpsman," which would prove he was a veteran Marine if she didn't already know, "but I can stop the bleeding." He considers the suggestion, "And what would he do in Denver? You think he wouldn't join the nearest chapter? Keep running drugs? Keep killing people?" Reaching out to gather up her red hair and brush it out of the way, he warily steps closer to the pipe to try and apply pressure to the headwound. "People do what they know how to do." Which says a lot about him too.

The redhead holds her breath expectantly while he weighs the options and then starts toward her. When he pulls the handkerchief instead of his kabar, her breath relaxes in her chest. She hesitates at his suggestion, knowing that all it would take from the big man is a snap of his shoulders. He'd break her neck easily. But she leans forward, ducking her head a bit. The red hair is matted where gravel cut up between the locks and along her scalp. Some of the smaller rocks are wedged in her skin and caught up in the tangles of her soft hair. She winces when he first touches the wound, and then she wordlessly murmurs when he finally applies the pressure. She leans into his hand, adding resistance behind his hand for more pressure. "Let the ones who are fleeing go… monitor them, wait to see if they set themselves straight… they step out of line… you do what you do, but let them go. Go after the ones still here."

Blood seeps into Frank's handkerchief, and he reaches past the twisted-aside rope of red hair to pluck at the gravel stuck into her scalp and hair. As he said, he's no corpsman, but he can do that much. His hand flattens out on the back of her neck, pressing tightly, "Who the hell can do that? You think I got the money for a dozen tickets to Denver, Los Angeles, or wherever-the-hell else the scum runs to." Shaking his head, he gravels, "You don't wait for cockroaches to scurry back into their holes. You crush them when they're on the floor. And I am going after the ones still here. Your people did me a favor though, closing off Gotham."

There's something strange about Frank seeing to her split scalp and gravel-littered hair. It distracts her more than her headache, or this conversation. In fact, she misses a chance to interrupt him. "That wasn't us…" She frowns slightly, keeping her head averted. "That was the rail gangs. They didn't want a turf war. The Family doesn't string up dead gangers." At least, not lately. She finally circles back to his rebuttal. "I can do that." Barbara looks up at him slightly. "I'll monitor them. I don't need to be in Denver to do it. I'll tell you if they step out of line."

"Nah. Gotham-you. Not Bat-you. I heard you people don't kill." Frank smirks at that a little, "You gotta be pretty confident, throwing around those bat-ninja-stars and saying you don't kill people." Drawing in a breath, he lets it out and frowns down at the pale neck he's daubed free of blood. He has to keep up the pressure or the bleeding starts again, but he's currently well within arm's reach, and he's pretty sure that she can get out of the duct tape any time she wants. "You monitor them, they go bad, not only do I gotta buy a plane ticket and go deal with him, but, you know, someone's dead." His frown deepens further, and he grunts, "You want this done, either I've gotta be dead, or they do. I'm not letting these shitbags…" his voice catches up, and he takes in another breath, then lets it out in a hiss from his oft-broken nose, "I'm not letting these shitbags kill again."

The intensity of Barbara's offense at the mere association of her Family to the gangs of Gotham is unnerving. She knows he can see it — the way her throat tightens and jaw works and mouth thins. His adjustment to his statement prompts a slight nod that barely upsets his pressure on the back of her head. She's closer to him now than they had been on that park bench, and she can easily meet his dark eyes when she tilts her chin up. The comment about her razor-edged batarangs goes unanswered. She isn't sure she can give him a good answer, and that bothers her. Instead, she just holds their gazes. There's a long silence between them, and then… "Alright." She'd seen the smiling pictures, the plates laid out for a last meal, the flowers long-dead in their funeral arrangements.

"So you've got to decide if you're going to try to kill me, get out of my way, or help me find the right people so this stops." The words are flat, and Frank's eyes meet her blue gaze — they're heavy, world-weary, and very nearly dead. For all that he got the right answers to her humanity-testing questions earlier, this close, this steady connection of gazes, he's a man who sees the end of a heavy, hard duty coming. "I've had enough bullshit from vigilantes trying to stop me. The more of you masks try to stop me, Red, the more likely that someone innocent gets hurt. I don't want that." There's a pause, and then he adds, "Also, it hurts like hell." Looking down at his sliced arm again, he uses the pinky of his right hand to peel back his bloody sleeve, frowning down at it and then looking up again, "Who the hell uses bat-ninja stars? That's like using boomerangs. Who the hell uses boomerangs?" Now there's a non sequitor.

Masks. It was only ever because that's what Bruce did — and he did it because his identity was so precious to contain, to compartmentalize away from his vigilantism. But then you have Tony Stark — all self-professed. She intakes a deep breath, and then nods her head slowly. There's an abrupt movement, and her hands are suddenly stretched out at her sides, palms out. No threat. He had been right about the ease it would take her to break through the duct-tape. She's a practiced vigilante, after all. She reaches up very slowly, interrupting his hand's pressure on the back of her neck. Carefully — and if uninterrupted — she pulls at the sides of her cowl, tugging it up and free from her face to gather around her shoulders.

Knowing is one thing, but the ease with which she breaks out of the duct tape is almost insulting to the good name of duct tape, and it's quick enough that Frank tenses, his right hand still pressing the cloth to the back of his neck, but his left hand shifting, either to go for her neck, his knife, or his pistol. The movement dies before it every really gets started, however, as her hands go out to her sides. When she reaches up, he draws back the handkerchief, starting to hand it over, only to have her reach for her cowl instead. That's when he steps around from behind the iron pipe, moving around to stand in front of her instead. His brows shoot up as she shucks the mask and reveals her youthful features, and he frowns slightly, "So you're gonna try to kill me or you're gonna help me."

Barbara has only ever revealed herself to her Family and Jessica Jones. Not even Jim Gordon knows about his adopted daughter's other life. The revealed connection between Barbara Gordon and Batgirl was always done because it needed to be done — her Family because it was her family, and Jess because they are close allies. This reveal is the first time she's made the effort to bridge a gap — between the masked and unmasked. He may not know it, but it's a sacrifice made instinctively, without much thought of it's later consequences. She looks into his dark, serious eyes. Rather than offering a direct answer to his question, she tugs off a glove to reveal a slender, strong hand. The slimness in her fingers is the only feminine quality that hand possess; nails are short, skin is calloused. She offers it to him. "I'm Barbara, Barbara Gordon."

It takes a moment, and then Frank recognizes the redhead, and his eyes widen slowly, then narrow again. "The girl from the carousel." To be fair, his emotions were in a turmoil there, as they always were. And so it's another moment before he recognizes that she's holding out her hand to him. Warily, he looks down at the pale digits, and then takes it in his bigger paw, squeezing briefly and then letting go, "Frank Castle. But you know that already." He opens his mouth to offer further warning Don't think that this will keep me from putting you down if you try to stop me, but he swallows the words, shaking his head a little, "You've been following me. There's something about me that you're worried about, and it ain't just the shitstains I'm killing, Red." Sure, he knows her name now, but apparently he's going to stick with his own name for her.

"Yeah, that was me." The exchanged grips is enough to relax Barbara. Her muscles uncoil and she sinks back into the pipe. She slides back on her glove, but does not make the same efforts to replace her cowl. She instead carefully touches along her scalp until she finds the cut, and then takes the handkerchief from Frank so she can resume holding pressure on the wound. How are you going to explain that one, Barbara? Klutzy as always? At his deductions, she looks back up at him again. "I'm a detective… and there's something about what happened to you that…" Her mouth tightens a bit. "I think there's more to it."

At her claim to be a detective — even if he's already seen the results — Frank chuckles dryly, "Barbara Gordon, teen detective." He's off by several years, but he's already puzzling over why the combination of name and vocation sounds so familiar. And then she's back to the death of his family, and his humor, dry as it was, cuts off. Instead, he scowls, "Sometimes, it ain't some big conspiracy." He'll regret saying that later. "Sometimes it's just some assholes shooting up the wrong area." Evidently, he doesn't know that he was declared dead and taken off life support in the hospital. "See, I figured you'd realized that just dealing with the problem meant you didn't have the same problem later on. You were getting tired of bringing in all the same freaks to the cops — " and that's when the name clicks, "Wait, ain't there a Gotham cop named Gordon?"

The accusation of her being a teenager causes her expression to turn rueful. "You're off by about seven years. I'll let you infer in which direction." Then she leans forward a bit, wincing as she does. Being seated on the floor has made her stiff, and she feels every ache from their brief tussle on the roof. She reaches for something on her belt, holding up a hand as she does as if to stall him from assuming she's going for another batarang — or worse. She leans back down against the pipe once she has her smartphone out. When he makes the name connection, Barbara looks up sharply. "He doesn't know." The words come sharp and sudden. That's all she offers — the best confirmation he's going to get.

Instead, she looks back to look at her phone. She holds it up just long enough for it to scan for facial recognition and unlock. After several taps, she holds the device out to Frank. It's an X-Ray… of Frank Castle's skull. "You were shot in the head. I talked to the nurse who was in charge of you… you were in a vegetative state for three weeks, kept solely on life support. They had no ID for you, no one who could identify you. The media didn't even start covering your family's murders until two weeks after it happened." And by her tone, that is strange. Did Frank not have his wallet on him? His dog tags? No one knew his family enough to find out what happened to Frank? No coverage on two little kids and a woman killed at Central Park's carousel? All unspoken questions that seem to resonate in her words as she speaks. "Men and women in suits visited you almost daily, and it was during one of these visits that someone produced a buried DNR. You were basically dead according to the tests, and so they took you off life support." She looks steadily at him, gauging his reaction to her words.

Frank has the good grace to look a little surprised when she corrects his estimate of her age, but it's quickly washed away by sudden wariness as she reaches for her belt. His own hand moves toward his pistol, but he doesn't draw, letting her pull out the phone. Only then does he relax a little more. Grunting softly at her sharp words, he starts to respond, only to be confronted with his own mortality. He may not know much about x-rays, but even he can spot the hole on the right side of his head, and he frowns, taking in the caped crimefighter's words. "I knew some of that." His frown deepens, "But not all. I didn't know someone faked a DNR." Which confirms that it was indeed faked. The fingers of his right hand start to twitch ever-so-slightly, and his frown turns thoughtful, "So you're saying there's more people who should be on my list besides the Dogs, the Irish, the Cartel, and whoever brought them together."

The unmasked Batgirl watches him as he takes in her information. The silence between them is respected, and only when he finally offers up her own conclusion does she start to nod. "I'm saying that…" Barbara lowers the phone once more, tapping it so the screen goes dark and the device locks. "I don't know. I don't know what this is really about, or how deep this goes, but someone thinks you're a player in this game." She tucks away her phone, and then starts to curl her feet under her even while her body complains loudly in the form of deep, bone-hurting aches. She wants nothing more than to not stagger or sag in front of the Punisher, and so she wills herself to stand upright even while her head swims.

Frank's dark eyebrows lift slightly at the uncertainty by the caped crusader, then shrugs his shoulders a little helplessly, wincing just a little as he does. Apparently, his side still hurts. "Someone starts trying to move me around like a pawn, they're gonna find out that I'm not playin' any game, Red." Leaning back against the dead stove again, he considers her for a long moment, and then he growls, "Why are you embarrassed by what you're doing, Red?" There's a weight there, behind the dark eyes and faint scowl.

A touch of concern flashes across her exposed expression, but it fades before it pulls her lips into too tight a frown. She steps back from the pipe, finding her footing on the yellow soles of her boots. She turns until she is leaning on the counter across from the dead stove, and the Punisher. She looks to be about to speak before his growled question interrupts her. She leans back a bit, blinking in surprise. "I'm… I'm not embarrassed."

Tilting his head to one side, Frank studies her in silence for a moment, then shakes his head. "You're hiding what you're doing from your father. I mean, he works with the rest of the Bats, right? So why wouldn't he work with you?" Pushing off the stove, he only sways a little as he turns and starts toward the nearest door, growling over his shoulder, "Sounds like you're embarrassed to tell him for some reason. Sounds like something you should work out. But as long as you're not gonna get in my way, we're good."

There's something like being the center of Frank Castle's attention. She almost counts the seconds of silence she stands under that stare until he breaks it, shaking his head and pushing off the stove. She opens her mouth to answer, only for him to start a strategic retreat. She pushes back off the counter, turning toward him. "Because I'm his daughter." Then she frowns. "Frank, wait." She advances a step, and then something about the size of her palm is tossed across the open space between them. It's a disposable phone. "I'm B.G." Then she reaches up to the edges of her cowl to begin to tug it back into place, grimacing through the pain as she turns away.

Frank looks over his shoulder as Batgirl steps forward behind him, still tensing despite the entente between the two. "And he'd want to protect you. Keep you from going out." His hands brace on his hips for a moment, "I get that. A man wants to protect his daughter." There's a harsh edge to that, given that he wasn't able to protect his own. "So you're avoiding the argument. Thought you had more guts than that." Still, he turns around to accept the burner, catching it in two hands against his stomach and looking down at it, "Phones are dangerous." Still, he allows, "But I'll check it when I can."

Her mouth tightens at the poking words from Frank Castle. "He wouldn't want to know," Barbara replies quietly. "It's the one thing he believes in… he can't know who we are, or he will have to act on that information. I'm not going to tell him…" Not unless I have to. "It isn't about guts." She hesitates. "Or at least, it isn't all about guts." The soft confession there is said in a near whisper. Then she looks back to him, her cowl back in place over her eyes. When he looks down at the phone, she glances to it as well. "It's untraceable." Her tone dries. "I was a nerd in high school." While she uses past tense, she's still quite the nerd.

Frank allows the response to go unchallenged, watching the vigilante's pale features covered by the dark cowl once again, then he shrugs a little helplessly, looking down to the phone again. His thumb turns the gadget off, "'Was?'" He studies the burner another moment, hefting it as he weighs the risk as clearly as he weighs the item itself. Tech-capable means that the gangs or their mysterious coordinator aren't as likely to track him with it, but more likely that she can. It can go somewhere safe that isn't the hole that he sleeps in. "See you 'round, Red." And then he pockets the phone and turns back toward the exit.

Barbara just shrugs a shoulder in mute acceptance to his questioning. Then she dips her head slightly. "Take care, Frank." This time, she doesn't interrupt him as he makes his leave. She also gives him the exit. Her cape settles into place around her as she walks in an opposite direction to find a convenient window. She parked her motorcycle a block away, and tucked in the storage compartment is a change of clothes. It'll be a long ride back to Gotham.

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