Manly Feelings

September 30, 2018:

Frank drops something off for Luke. They talk about their feelings. No, really.

Luke's Bar, Harlem


NPCs: Max

Mentions: Jessica Jones, Owen Mercer, Barbara Gordon, Wilson Fisk, Matt Murdock

Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

Frank Castle is a wanted man. Well, he was a wanted man before, but after the TCLEC shooting, the Reyes shooting, the Tepper shooting, and the attempt on Barbara Gordon's life, he's really, really wanted. So he goes to one of the few places where he may not be wanted at all: Luke's Bar. He moves with a care that suggests more than a few bumps and bruises, walking Max from Hell's Kitchen across to Harlem. The duffel bag slung over one shoulder doesn't help, but at least it doesn't have any long, rifle-like shapes in it. He's gone away from the black ballcap, settling for a grey hoodie (down) and a light winter jacket, trusting to keeping his own head down and the demons marauding around to avoid unfortunate incidents of recognition.

He may push open the door to the bar, but it's Max who pokes his nose in first, like a peace offering. Only then does Castle step in, catching the closing door with one hand as if prepared to depart again post haste if he is not welcome.

You know what people do when hell opens up and spews out it's many minions? They drink. The bar is packed tonight, all of the tables taken and some people are standing at the ledge that runs along the windows. There is one seat open at the bar, and it has a little cardboard tent next to the cocktail napkin holder that reads 'RESERVED FOR JONES'. Even though Jess has been on the wagon for nearly a year now, she still comes and drinks a soda and keeps Luke company once in a while, and thus she gets her own special seat. It's one of the perks of dating the owner.

There is an older man behind the bar, a silver haired gentleman with a Luke's Bar t-shirt on that reads 'Aged to Perfection' on the back who is busy washing some glasses. The big man himself is out on the floor, delivering pitchers of beer to several tables, hoisting four in each grip as he moves through the crowd. It's the bell above the door that alerts him they've got another incoming patron, and his bald head swivels in that direction. There is a suck of air through his teeth and he quickly deposits the last of his orders on the way to the door, oblivious that the lite beer went to the lager table, but they just good naturedly switch pitchers behind Luke's back as he heads to the door to intercept Frank.

"You can't be here, man." He whispers harshly, but rather than send Castle back out into the street, he ushers him in and starts to coral him towards the back hall with a, "C'mon."

Frank crouches down as the bell goes off in the crowded bar, giving Max's ruff a ruffle, which has the nice side effect (or, you know, main purpose) of lowering his face. Besides, who looks at the guy walking that cheerful dog. Max, it should be noted, wags his tail and rams a shoulder against Luke's knee as the big man approaches. Frank smirks in amusement, then shrugs a little, "Seems like I can't be much of anywhere." The words are quiet, but he doesn't protest being shuffled toward the back hall, keeping his head down to guide the dog through the crowded bar (and keep hiding his face as he does it). Once he's in the hall, he gives the duffel a pat, "I got Mercer's bent sticks. Thanks for gettin' Red out."

On the way to the back, Luke leans over the bar and grabs a bottle of bourbon and asks Smitty to watch the place as he, Frank and his trusty dog disappear into the back hall. "Man's a wizard with those things." Cage mentions of the boomerangs as he motions with the bottle towards the door to the basement instead of just squirreling the wanted criminal into the back office. The light illuminating the steps is already on, likely a common thoroughfare for the bar employees to head down with trash and come up with more stock. Indeed, the first room seems just that: a store room, but they're headed further back down the hallway into the bowels of the building.

"Got her out with a brand new hole in her belly, but I'm assured I left her in good hands." Luke promises Frank as he reaches into the next room and finds the switch that clicks on a series of lights down in the boiler room. "I can't believe I'm offering, but do you need a place to hide out for a few days?" After all, Castle is some how linked to Gordon who is linked to Jones, so Frank gets good will by proxy.

"The one I saw he was pretty good with." Frank unslings the duffel, juggling it and Max's leash for a moment before he hands the duffel off. "Yeah, I saw her on the way back. She was walkin'. Be back in her suit in like a week, even if she should wait three." The offer causes Frank to blink slightly, and he straightens up, "Nah. Thanks, Cage." The 'thanks' is a little rusty, even if he's been using it a lot more recently. There's a pause for a moment, and then he grimaces and admits, "I don't want to bring you guys any trouble." There's another pause, as he studies the boiler room for a moment, then Luke himself, "And thanks for you showing up too. Woulda been a whole lot worse if you weren't there." Which is saying something considering the body count.

"Yeah, well. We're not out of the woods on that one, trouble finds a way." Luke takes the duffel and stashes it in a cabinet with some other supplies. Mostly run of the mill garage staples like tools and the like. He doesn't seem concerned with anyone finding it that shouldn't, but there are few that ever come down here and the tenants don't have access to that part of the basement. Instead of offering Frank the booze he's been toting around, he heads to the furnace and opens up the hatch on the side, not caring about the heat of the metal. Apparently Luke is taking the time to pour one out for his homies into the flames? Maybe all those bullets he's absorbed have done some damage to the noggin.

"Look man, I like you. You're a brother I'd've taken a bullet for in the Marines before my skin was like this. But the reason I was there is that my girl gave Gordon my name, and I'll be damned if I'll let her down. So, you're welcome, but let's not make a habit of it, yeah?" He comments casually as he comes back over, only now offering Frank the liquor, figuring he could use it.

"Not this time, it won't. Blacksmith's done." There's a quiet relief behind the gruff statement. "Cut off the head, the body might flop around for a little while, but it's dead." Frank watches Luke handle the bottle, curiosity flickering on his blunt features, and then he blinks, "Jessica Jones is your girl? Huh. She's been givin' me almost as much shit as Hornhead. Well, you didn't let her down. Didn't let me down either." Even if he's got a bullet hole in his side. He takes the warmed bottle, studying it for a moment, then shrugs just a moment and takes a sip, looks down to Max and shakes his head, "None for you." The bottle goes back to Luke, and he nods toward the furnace, "Don't recognize that from any unit of the Corps. Booze into the fire?"

Luke just looks at Frank with sort of a bland expression. "Cut off the head and two more grow back in its place. You saw the amount of drugs on that ship. That didn't come from no where and was headed some where. It's going to be missed." Cage crouches down next to Max, finally acknowledging his canine buddy with a good hearty scratch to his scruff and behind his ears. It's one of the few times he has to look up at someone else, and his brown eyes shift up at the mention of Jessica. "Yeah." Acknowledging their relationship with a hint of a warning in that deep voice of his for Frank to tread lightly on that one subject. He reaches out when the bottle is passed back, and he swigs straight from it in the same manner. A gaze gets tossed back over his shoulder at the mention of the furnace. "If you're still wearing rose colored glasses about supernatural shit," Shit, that's a dollar to Pop's, "Not sure if you want me to knock them off."

Frank snorts lightly, gesturing up to the bruising around one eye, "Hell," he would be great for financing a swear-jar, "she never gave me any of these. Not like Hornhead or Red." Max lavishes in the attention, then looks to repay it with some doggy kisses. "Hundred mil in heroin, if you believe the guy who brought it over. All up in flames. And whatever the hell the other stuff was. Would've been a good day even without the Blacksmith." There's a pause as he studies Luke, then admits, "Fine, maybe too many bodies to be clean. But it's a hundred mil that won't be goin' onto the streets." The mention of the supernatural draws a pause, and a shrug, one thumb jabbing over his shoulder, "Ran into a couple of… whatevers… a couple of days back. Supernatural shit is more trouble I don't need. I figure all I need to know about it is if it needs dealing with, and if bullets hurt it." There's a pause, and he actually flashes a grin, "Matter of fact, it does, and they do. Eventually." At least the kind he ran into.

"No and no." Luke answers about this particular brand of Supernatural. "Fact you can't even fire your gun in here. Won't work." His nose wrinkles up at the doggie kisses, but he doesn't shy away from them, just drying his face on one sleeve between them. "Man, everyone we zip tied probably went up with the boat, but I didn't stop to check. The two in the warehouse might've survived." It weighs on him a bit, judging how he looks away briefly, a muscle in his jaw tightening slightly. Along with the fact that, "I've seen those types of drugs before, but never a guy bulk up like that right in front of me. Thankfully it didn't make him bulletproof too." He'll just leave that little tidbit out with his lawyers, making a drugged up pseudo meta meet his end. "What about that guy in the truck with the rocket launcher?"

That is… not what Frank Castle likes to hear about a place that he is. His eyes widen slightly, and then he looks vaguely… what's between disgusted and impressed? Dispressed? "Huh. That's… somethin' else." His feet shift uncomfortably, and he latches onto the less-odd-and-uncomfortable subject matter, dead people. "You did what you could. Hell, we all did." For a wonder. "Those deaths are on Gosnell. The asshole leading the flying column." The truck-borne reinforcements. He considers for a long moment, then relents a little, "You know as well as I do though, a LAW shouldn't've done all that." The Light-Anti-Armor weapon is mostly for making trucks and Humvees blow up, not whole ships. "Wait… whatever you were fighting, that was a guy?" Frank starts to shake his head, "Hulks and demons and people who dress up like devils and bats. What the hell kind of world is that, huh?" Apparently bulletproof Marines are just kind of cool.

"The one we live in, man. Saw the guy shoot up myself and then 'roid out like Popeye on spinach. There was an even larger pressurized canister that looked like its big brother with those crates. I think that's what the LAW hit, what caused the explosion. And if more of that drug was inside that canister, judging by the size? It was probably worth more than the heroin. So to me, it was more about destroying that evidence, and we were just convenient bonuses. Wish I could have snagged a vial to bring back for the Brains to analyze, but Barbara won that priority." Luke gives one more ruffle to Max as he eases back to his feet, the bottle tipped to his mouth again and then passed back over.

Frank grunts thoughtfully, looking down as Max watches the conversation flow back and forth and then goes out and flops on the floor close enough to the furnace to be warmed by it, rolling onto his back and panting up at the two humans. Frank shakes his head at the dog, a bit of fond amusement gathered at the corner of his mouth. It fades when he mentions priority, "Red snagged a sample?" His lips purse together, and he considers a bit more before he shrugs, "In her city, guess that makes sense. Me, I figure anything like that should all burn." There's a pause as he considers the explosive results when the rocket was applied, "From a nice safe distance. Don't need that shit on the street." His right index finger — his trigger finger — taps at the leash idly for a moment, and then he shakes his head, "Not my problem though." At least not yet.

"Nah, I meant her ass needed dragging off the boat," Take the man out of the Marines, but put him back with another Jarhead and all bets on language are off. "Before I could get my hands on one. I'd be for it all being destroyed, if we knew what it was." Luke's eyes narrow just a hair when Frank proclaims it's not his problem. "Well, your man's dead now. Seems like you've got time on your hands to start caring a little bit about what effects the people that stuck their necks out for you. Just sayin'."

Frank nods his understanding at the correction, evidently not having any problem at all with getting an ally out of harm's way first. "List's pretty small now." There's an animation in Castle's eyes as he references the list, something that is usually absent from those dark eyes. "It'll be over soon. Really over." A man dying of thirst in the desert who says that there'll be water soon. Really soon. "After?" Some of the life fades out, and Frank shrugs a little, "I don't know. I'm not exactly lookin' to become a killer for hire, or some… cape." There's a bit of scorn in his voice at the last term, but also a bit of amusement. Apparently picturing himself in a scalloped bat-cape is a little ridiculous to the veteran Marine.

"So it's not over." Luke says a bit flatly, scrubbing at his goatee with the blunt end of his fingertips. "But Blacksmith is dead, right?" The big man contemplates this for a moment, his mouth opening to ask a question before it closes again. Instead of just asking it, he chews it over for a second to see if he can swallow it or if it has to be spit out. The words come tentatively, "Can I…can I ask you a personal question, Castle?" There is a twitch at the corner of his eye, like he's already regretting the words or because in the asking of it, makes him just as vulnerable.

"Almost." So close Frank can feel it. "Almost over," he clarifies. "And yeah. Blacksmith's dead." He's been so careful about talking about whether or not he's actually killed someone, but there's something about him like a hound straining at a leash that leaves some of that caution behind. "No one else though. Besides at the boat." The wariness behind the question causes Frank to frown just a bit, and he definitely has a face for frowning, his heavy brows drawing together and his mouth setting in a grim line, "Yeah."

Besides at the boat, he says. Casualties of war, you'd think Cage would be used to it by now, but it causes him to take another swig of the bottle they've been passing back and forth. It's a deep draw, making him tilt his head back and his adam's apple to bob thickly in his throat as he swallows two or three times. He comes up for air with an audible sigh at the pleasant burn down his throat that will warm his belly and making asking his question a little easier. "Do you feel different? Now that he's gone?" It's a question that seems to ring home for the asker, and not just one out of simple curiosity.

Frank considers the question seriously, glancing down and tapping his thumb against Max's leash as the dog rolls and rubs his back on the floor. Finally, he looks up to Cage's dark eyes, "Yeah. A little." His thumbnail scratches on the leash, and then he adds in, "Like, there's a little more air around me." Drawing in a deep breath, he lets it out slowly, "Don't know what it'll be like when I'm really done. But each one of those shitbags that I deal with, I feel like I'm closer." He shakes his head a little, "I don't know what I'm closer too, but I'm closer." His growling words gain urgency, "I'm almost there, Cage. Almost done. They took my daughter, my wife, and my son, and I've almost got them." Max rolls up onto his feet and wags his way over to Frank's side, sitting down and whining a little at his feet.

Luke doesn't exactly look appeased by Frank's answer, but accepts it nonetheless. Maybe he'll ask again when it's all said and done. Maybe the answer will be different. Maybe it'll put his own mind at ease about not taking the opportunity to end Fisk when he had it.

"I heard about your family, I'm sorry man. I know what it's like to have your wife taken from you. And then I almost lost Jess. I can't imagine…" Having to bury a whole family, having to put your kids into the ground. However that sentence was going to end, Luke just lets it drift off into the shadows of the basement as he gives a shake of his head and a thinning of his lips. Max provides a convenient distraction from the thoughts that are darkening his gaze, and reaches to stroke an ear again. "He'd be a good service dog. Has the instinct. You should get him one of those vests, then he'd never risk being kicked out of the bar if the cops are around."

The condolences for his family cause Frank's eyes to drop, and then to close, the pain of that loss spreading clearly across his bruised and battered features. He sinks down to one knee, and Max leans into him, Castle reaching up blindly to rub at the dog's ears. "Can you imagine? They had him workin' as a guard dog. I think they were fighting him too." Because talking about canine tragedy is easier than human tragedy. "Vest's a good idea." And then he goes silent again, his forehead pressed against the side of Max's head. He gets a few doggy kisses, then looks up — way up in this case — to Luke, wiping dog-slobber off his face along with the first signs of gathering tears. His voice was steady before, but now, now those gravelly tones waver, "Nobody should have to bury their kids." There's a pause as he struggles for some semblance of control, "But I didn't even get to do that." Several long breaths and a doggy tail thumping against his ribs lets him continue more steadily, "I'm sorry about your wife, Cage. Didn't know your lady got hurt. Sorry that happened too. You know who did it?"

And like a true bro, Cage isn't going to mention seeing that glisten of tears in Castle's eyes. Instead, he just joins Frank on the floor which has the double benefit of not causing the other man neck strain of having to look up at a six and a half foot fellow. He sits with his back to the grey cinderblock wall, stretching his long legs out in front of him and clunking the bottle down in a neutral place between them.

"Which one?" Luke asks with a touch of sardonic laughter coloring his voice. "Jess got sniped by one of Kingpin's minions. As far as Reva…" His face screws up in something like a mixture of pain and sheepishness. "Well, I'm planning on marrying her killer. But. That's sort of a complicated story. Turns out Reva was just using me, was involved in what made me like…" He gestures to himself with a flippant gesture. "This. And just because Reva ended up not being who I thought she was, doesn't make the sting of her loss any less, you know? Just the idea of what she represented." Cage crosses his booted ankles, settling in on the concrete floor. "Loving Jessica is a completely different animal. She's not just the idea of happiness. That girl is firmly underneath my bulletproof skin. We never talked about kids…"

Nobody wants to see Frank Castle cry. The initial response stiffens his spine, something of the drawn arrow settling back into his kneeling frame — and then the Reva side of things throws him for a complete and utter loop. He opens his mouth, closes it, processes. Sometimes, Frank reacts completely off the handle. Sometimes, he actually stops and thinks. And then he comes back with a thoughtful, "People that can hurt you, the ones that can really hurt you, are the ones that are close enough to do it. People that get inside you and… and… and tear you apart, and make you feel like you're never gonna recover. Shit, I'd… I… I would chop my arm off right here just to feel that one more time for my wife. My old lady, she didn't just break my heart. She… she'd rip it out, she'd tear it apart, she'd step on that shit, feed it to a dog. I mean she was ruthless. She brought the pain. But she'll never hurt me again. Just like she'll never love me again. You got that. Hell, you got that twice. You have everything. So, hold on to it. Use two hands and never let go. Just like it sounds like you're doin'." There's a moment's pause, his voice creaking a little as if rusty after that many words coming out at once, "Kids… shit man. Even worse than wives. Those little assholes can tear you up without even tryin', but they're still the best thing in the world."

"I have one helluva grip man, but sometimes I don't feel strong enough to hold onto Jess. The life we live? Circumstance just wants to rip us apart. At least that's what it feels like. If it's not dragons, it's gem dimensions, psychotic drug dealers or demons. Seems like an unfair proposition to bring kids into that. It's not just me off at war. It's both of us. But still I can't imagine my life any other way." This is what happens when two men wax poetical-like in the basement with a dog and a bottle of booze. It's random and rambling and it doesn't matter. "That's why I wanna marry her. I //need/ to marry her. But I've got to take care of some shit first, which means I'll help you however you need it, but I gotta keep my nose cleaner than Field Day."

Frank nods slowly at the initial statement, pressing his forehead to Max's again and then giving the dog a scruffle behind the ears as thanks. As Castle settles into a squat on his heels, forearms on his thighs, Max saunters over toward the furnace again and flops down in front of it. After that first sip, he hasn't gone for the bottle, and doesn't seem particularly inclined to reach for it at the moment. "This is where I'm supposed to tell you that doin' things my way means that nobody gets more than one shot at her." He shakes his head a little, "But not here, not now. You live your life the way you want, man. But don't wait too long with her. Longer you wait, more chance of something fucking it up. Hell, I was with Maria three months when I married her. She said she was pregnant, she was keepin' the kid, didn't want to raise her alone, but understood if I didn't want to stick around. I asked her to marry me that day." His lips purse together for a moment, and then he adds, "And about Fisk?" A fierce light enters his dark eyes, "He's the one name on my list that has nothin' to do with my family. You don't do that to the Kitchen. And don't worry, I already promised everyone else gets their closure in court first."

Luke had this sort of sleepy, glazed look on his face when Frank recalls how he and his wife got engaged, no doubt drawn into the daydream and imagining a similar circumstance between he and Jess. That imagery snaps shut quickly when Frank mentions Fisk and the fact that Wilson's name is on the 'list'. His gaze abruptly returns to Castle, hands curling into fists where they rest on the meat of his thighs. "So long as I'm the first one to piss on his grave." Ever fiber of his being wants to ask to be involved, help take out the man that hurt so many of his friends, not to mention the 8,000 that perished in the Kitchen. But he doesn't. If his skin wasn't impervious to such wounds, he'd be digging half moons into his palms from how tightly he clamps his fingers into them. But he doesn't ask.

Rising smoothly up to his feet, Frank steps forward, crouching down slightly to offer out his hand to Luke, "Done. Not 'till after the trial though. Guy I know convinced me that it'd be stealing everyone else's closure if we didn't see him ripped apart in court." Shaking his head out a little, Frank glances over to Max, draws in and lets out a long breath, nearly a sigh, and nods to himself, "I should get goin'. Wanted to drop those," he nods to the duffel of boomerangs, "off for Mercer, and thank you for watchin' out for Red."

Luke reaches up to take Frank's hand. Whether or not he meant to take it as a shake, Castle will now be responsible for hauling Cage's large frame back to his feet, but at least Luke takes pity on him and scoots a foot beneath himself to make the task much more bearable. He gives a nod to the mention of parting, "It's what I do. Look after people and their shit." He slants an honest grin, then hitches his chin in the direction of the door. "End of the hall there's a metal staircase, that'll take you up to street level." It's the standard hatch that most NYC buildings have in the sidewalk, handy for taking up the trash and sneaking folks out in this case. "Use it whenever you need to, just shoot me a text so I can disable the alarm on it." And then he rambles off his cell number for Frank.

Frank leans back into the effort of hauling the super-dense superhero up to his feet, "Damn." Glancing over his shoulder in the direction indicated, Frank nods, "Got it." The cell number is considered with a frown, Frank's lips moving a little as he repeats it under his breath, "Mine's uh…" Slipping Max's leash around his wrist, he digs out a cheap burner phone and its separated battery, combines them, and boots up to respond with his. There's a moment's awkward shrug, "I don't use it much." In fact, until a few days ago, he wasn't even keeping it anywhere near where he sleeps. So that's progress. The phone is pulled apart again, the two pieces shoved back in a pocket, and Frank grins a little crookedly, "Take care of yourself and your lady, Beefcake." Hey, it's better than 'Punchy,' right? Without waiting for a response, he turns about and heads for the staircase, giving Max's leash a little tug to get the dog moving too, even if he cruises by Luke's knee on the way out.

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