Come To Your Window

September 28, 2018:

Frank visits Barbara after the docks.

The Gordon Residence, Gotham City

It's exactly what you would picture for Jim Gordon's family house.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Owen Mercer, Luke Cage, Jim Gordon, Harvey Bullock, Ray Schoonover/The Blacksmith

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

First came the text, mid-morning the day after the explosion at Pier 41: Still with us, Red?

There's no context for anyone seeing the text if her phone is in custody, no nothing else, just checking in to make sure she's still alive. The text probably would have come sooner, but it's not easy to get rice to dry out a wet cellphone in Hackensack, New Jersey after midnight, especially when you've got a bullet-hole in your side currently plugged with duct tape. But you check on your team, especially when your real team, the team that backed you the longest, is one person.

So it's well after dark on the 28th when Frank Castle takes a risk. He's done away with the all-black look, instead opting for a Gotham Knights watch cap and a brand new winter jacket, both of which are a lot less suspicious than a plain black baseball cap and a hoodie. It's not hard to find out where the police commissioner lives, and so he circles the spot at different distances several times in his newly-stolen car, sure that Colonel Schoonover isn't going to be reporting it missing any time soon. When he's reasonably certain that there aren't any police on-duty outside, he hauls himself painfully up and over the fence into the back yard, sidestepping the swing set with a slightly wistful look and scoping the building out from up close. The curtains in the bedroom windows tell all the story he needs, one set dark and unadorned, the other younger, a little brighter on the outside.

That's her room.

First, he texts a simple, "Hey." And then he waits a moment, hefting one of the little pebbles he took out from around the downspout. The first throw draws a little grunt of pain from Frank, but it 'ticks' neatly off the window.

It had been a long, exhausting twenty-four hours. Luke got a message to Alfred, who met them rather inconspicuously at the back door of a pawn shop in Sandy Hook where he took the wounded Barbara off Luke's hands to see to her wounds. The shrapnel had all been removed, and tetanus shots given, and then a regiment of antibiotics prescribed. She would scar from the deep impact to her liver, but it would heal without significant damage. All the other wounds — the nicks and scrapes — would at least would line up decently enough with her apartment now being like swiss cheese.

He got her to her family home, and her dad found her asleep on the couch the next morning. They had a long talk about what happened, and despite all her best efforts to convince him that Frank Castle would have never, ever killed Reyes, or the medical examiner, or would have threatened Zane, or would have shot-up her apartment, Jim Gordon was set on making her stay home for a few weeks where he could look after her. It was only that afternoon that she saw the text from Frank on her burner, and had responded with a simple: Yes. Then she had gone back to sleep, sleeping off the pain meds that Alfred had given her.

When the burner lights up again with another message, she groggily reaches for it before the deep pain in her belly screams out in defiance against the long, stretched movement. She curls inward on herself before she slowly tugs upright. She reaches for the phone, hugging an arm across her belly. The simple message furrows her brows, and she almost starts typing out a response before she hears the light tick of stone against her windowpane. Confused, she pulls herself out of bed and steps toward the window. She looks down, and…

Her heart catches. Maybe this is some opioid-fueled dream. She even pinches slightly at her thigh to check for consciousness. When she feels the pain from the squeeze of her fingers, she lifts a hand to him in a halting gesture. She turns away from the window, taking up the phone to text: Be right down. She grabs a robe to pull over her pajamas — fleece joggers paired with an oversized t-shirt from GCPD — and shoves her feet into a pair of rubber-bottom slippers before she heads for the downstairs sliding glass door. She unlocks it, and steps out into the cool late September night.

The appearance of the redhead in the over-sized t-shirt draws a slight nod from Frank in the yard below, loosing a little of the tension that had gathered right in the heart of 'enemy territory.' At least it's probably not a big, catfishing trap if Barbara is there. Probably. Still, there's something a little more centered about the Frank that stands in the Gordon family backyard, his hands shoved into his pockets. Some of the manic need has been burned out of him. Some of it. When she makes her slow way out into the yard, he studies her movement for a long moment, then nods again, waiting until the door is closed before he adds a low, "Hey Red." He glances up to the windows overlooking the yard, stepping up to touch clasp her shoulder lightly and get himself close enough to the side of the house to avoid easy view from upstairs. "You catch a round too?"

The way Frank Castle carries himself is something that Barbara can't ignore. She steps in close at his clasp, and it lets them drift in beneath the shadows of the house. She glances up to her father's study, and then back to Frank. A tired, ghostly smile tugs at her lips. "He's at work," she says gently. "He gets obsessive about cases, sometimes. Now that the house is empty most of the time, it's easier for him to forget what time it is." Then she looks down slightly, touching her side just below the last rib. She's bruised from the shotgun butt, and then the puncture wound. "Shrapnel from the explosion. Four inches of rusted steel. I'm lucky it didn't hit anything more than a bit of liver." She starts to look him over, tracing new bruises and his own posture. Her mouth tightens. "Have you had someone look at you yet?"

Frank nods slowly, his hand dropping away from Barbara's shoulder again, "Didn't see any guards out front. They better than the last pair, or what?" Because he assumes that the Commissioner didn't leave his wounded daughter all alone when the dangerous madman Frank Castle is around. The mention of her wounds draws his brows up, but before he can comment, she's asking her question, and he shrugs just a little, "I did. I got a buddy back in New York can look at it if anything goes bad." He shifts his feet again, glancing down, then back up to meet her blue gaze, "Wanted to say thanks. Make sure it didn't cost you too bad." A ghost of a smile touches his lips, "Shoulda known you're tougher than you look."

"They're parked a block down, and I have a panic button upstairs." Barbara says this in casual, matter-of-fact tone that is joined by a slight smile. She tucks a bit of red hair behind her ear, looking down at their feet — his boots, her slippers. She's about ready to respond to that bit of thanks, the fact he's got some ghost of a smile on his lips. But the mention of going to a friend in New York causes her to look back up at him with a blink. "You've been back to New York?" Her brow furrows together slightly, and then she shifts slightly — and gingerly — to turn a bit more away from him, looking out at the yard. "What happened on the boat, Frank? Luke said you got into the water, but we couldn't find you. Where did you go?" Her words are soft, but still pressing.

Frank grunts in surprise at having missed the cops parked a block away. Exhaustion does horrible things to a guy. Then the questions come, and he glances up north and west, "State, yeah. City, no." Castle hesitates for a long moment, then lets out a little breath, "The guy with their backup. The mouthy one. I knew him in Afghanistan. He would've died for our CO. Wouldn't be back here working for anyone else." The words come in short bursts, some combination between wariness and eagerness. "So I went up to see him. The Colonel. The Blacksmith." And there it is, he lets out a breath, a growling murmur coming out with the air, "I'm almost done with the list, Red."

Silence envelopes Barbara in the wake of Frank's words. She looks at him through the slight fall of red hair, her blue eyes searching his darker gaze. She can almost see it, the breath that escapes him, the way his body shifts slightly beneath the winter coat. Then she realizes what he's said, and she starts to shake her head, brows furrowing together sharply. "Wait… Schoonover? He…" She straightens up slightly. "He is the Blacksmith?" Was. She rubs at her mouth slightly, and then tucks away her hair behind her ear once more. "He… Frank…" She looks up at him, drawing her robe closer around him. "He's dead."

"He was," Frank confirms, "he is." The big man shakes his head in slight wonder, only to wince just a little, "I didn't want to believe it either." He grunts softly, "He was though." There doesn't seem like there's any doubt in Castle's voice. Studying the young woman for a long moment, he questions quietly, "Should you be up, Red?" And then he seems to realize that he's the reason she got out of bed, and he adds, "I just wanted to check in. I knew…" even here, he doesn't want to use the man's name, "Beefcake went after you. Hoped he caught up to you."

The lack of doubt in Castle's voice is all that Barbara needs… for now. There will be an itch later, and that itch will give her everything she needs to confirm that Ray Schoonover has been running drugs, even if it is just putting all the dots and lines together. At his quiet concern, her gaze lifts to meet his once more. "He pulled me off the boat, got me somewhere safe… he went looking for you, Frank." She steps closer to him, reaching to touch his sleeve gently. "You should make sure to go see him. He didn't come because I asked him to… he came because it was you, Frank. He was looking out for you."

Frank starts to nod again, then stops, puzzled for a moment, "Just because I'm a vet?" Shaking his head, he shrugs the question off, "Yeah. I need to get in touch with both of them. They're next. After I figure out how the hell to get back into the city." There's a bit more of a grin twisting one corner of his lips up, "I got a bit of baggage for the trip back." Letting the faint whiff of 'kid back from the candy store' fade away, he nods slowly, "The big man seems like good people. Even before last night. Not so sure about Twitchy, but definitely the big man." Rubbing a hand at his side gingerly, he adds, "Damned handy too. Might have to ask him if he was born that way, or if it's somethin' you can get."

"I think it's more than that… but that's his story to tell." Her hand slides off his sleeve, and both are back in the big patch pockets of her robe. That candy-store excitement perks her brows curiously, but she doesn't ask. Not yet, at least. The bit about Owen draws her expression gentler. "He's an addict… the drugs may have spooked him off… or it was just… working with me." There's a story there, but she doesn't share it. Again, not hers to share. She shifts uneasily on her feet, and she starts to drift toward a little bench that is tucked near the wall of the house. She sits gingerly on it, holding lightly against her own side.

"Everybody has their own story." To tell or not tell, as the case may be. Frank steps out of the way as she moves toward the bench, offering out a hand to her arm to help her down to the bench, "He still came though. Even that would've gotten his boomerangs back." Grunting thoughtfully, he adds, "I'll have to figure out how to get in touch with him. I go through the big man. He's got a nice bar." There's a pause, and then he gestures down to Barbara's side, "How long? Until you're good to go again?"

The strange gentlemanliness of Frank's offered hand throws Barbara a bit, but she does use his palm to settle herself onto the bench. She doesn't look all that comfortable on the hard bench; sitting and standing are really the worst as it puts pressure down along her torso. She's just moving from one uncomfortable position to another. "Well… I'm sure you will see Owen Mercer well before I do." Then she breathes out a slow exhale, sitting up straighter despite how it stretches her wound. She looks up at Frank again, the tilt of her head sending her hair into a languid fall off her shoulder. "If I keep my promise to take it easy, two weeks…" Her words are soft, slipping into something gentle as she keeps her gaze tilted up to him. "Do you need me?"

As she cranes her neck up, Frank sinks down into an uneasy squat, wincing as his knee bends and his side stretches. "So what you're saying is three or four," Castle smirks a little there, "I got a feeling you're a bit like me and you're gonna push that too hard." At least he's a little self-aware about what he does, even if it doesn't stop him from doing it. The question catches him off-guard, and he considers for a moment, "I think I got it, Red. The list is gettin' damned short now." Letting out a little breath, he closes his eyes for a moment, "It's almost over." He lets out his weariness, pain, and relief behind those three words.

Barbara laughs — a gentle, soft laugh that befits the dark lawn and heavy waning moon. She nods soberly then. "Three or four, and I'll be back in the suit in two regardless. I am who I am." Her hands rest together in her lap, nestled in the terry of her robe. For all the world spins around her, around them, she's focused on Frank Castle. She can see it — in his soul. She lets him exist there, in that moment, where he can see that the mission is almost done. Then she looks away, glancing out across the dark lawn. "Get back to New York. You'd almost be better going on foot, or maybe trying to get someone to ferry you over. Go find Luke, alright?"

"Yeah." And just like that, the weight of his self-proclaimed mission settles back onto Frank's shoulders. "Don't worry, nobody's gonna be lookin' for my car for a couple of days. And gettin' into New York shouldn't be too hard, even with a buncha hardware in the trunk. It's gettin' out that ain't goin' so well, from what I've seen." He pushes slowly up to his feet again, rubbing at his badly-bruised knee and working it a couple of times before he nods, "You last two on the couch, I'll be impressed, Red. I'll look up the other two. Take care of yourself." And then he's stepping back, looking to head back to the fence he (inadvisably) came over on the way in.

She sees each little change — the weight in his shoulders, the way his body seems change its posture when the mission settles over him. In her mind's eye, he goes from man checking in on a friend to soldier preparing for the next phase by the time he's stepping back. He's given a chance to step away, but that's as far as he gets before Barbara is stepping after him and standing tall on the balls of her feet, ignoring the scream of pain that comes from stretching her torso up so she can reconnect Frank to a world that isn't always about the next mission. It's a surprisingly tight hug for someone so unassuming. She crosses her arms around the back of his head, hands almost able to cup the opposite elbows. It presses them close, and her head is a firm weight against his own. "Be careful," she whispers softly. Then she's back on her soles, stepping away. Her emotions are bare on her face — weary eyes, a watery smile, and her exhaustion. It has been a long summer. "I hear New York City is Hell these days."

When Barbara rises up, Frank starts to protest, then lets his shoulders loose and his eyes closed. Awkwardly, his right arm lifts up to return the embrace, patting once at her back, then staying in place to clasp a little tighter. It has been a dehumanizing series of months, and even if Frank would never admit it, the human contact feels good. "I'm gonna worry more about gettin' it done than bein' careful, Red." The words are quiet, his armor momentarily stripped away to reveal his own weariness and the gnawing edge of his grief. Her joke draws a chuckle from him, his lips curling into a crooked grin, "Yeah. But nobody gives me shit about killing demons."

Barbara passes the blade of her palm across her nose, and she breathes out a slow exhale. "Well, you're going to be careful anyway because you owe me that, alright?" Then she gives his arm a gentle knock of her fist before she begins to step away, crossing back toward the sliding glass door. She stops briefly to look back at him, her own smile a bit lopsided. "No… I doubt anyone is going to give you much shit about that." Then she holds up the burner slightly, the reminder that she's just a call or text away.

"As soon as I owe you, Red, I'll let you know." The humor is still there in Frank's voice, clearly teasing her given the number of times he's said 'thank you' in the past week. The punch, gentle as it is, actually draws a little wince from the veteran Marine, given that she managed to hit one of his recent bruises. "Never know, Hornhead might complain. They're his people, right? Some of 'em might turn out good or some shit." He shakes his head in amusement, then responds to the hefting of the phone with a little nod. A long, slow breath begins to build his walls up again, focusing him once more on the six gangsters and one kingpin still on his list."See you 'round, Red." And then the Punisher is off toward the back fence.

Barbara stops at the sliding glass door, and she looks out at the departing Punisher. Her hands slide down into the patch pockets of her robe once more, feeling the interior edges with nervous fingers. Her eyes follow him until he's managed himself back over, and then she steps inside to place a call. Harvey Bullock is just a couple blocks down, probably smoking a cigarette and drinking stale coffee. She'll get him on the phone, give him grief about something that will distract him enough that Frank won't have a problem getting past the old veteran cop. Plus, in some ways, giving Uncle Harvey a hard time will make her slide back into the norm, and she needs that.

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