Frank's Family

October 12, 2018:

Unable to resist the itch, Barbara goes to visit one of Frank's friends and the two talk about family and its powerful connection to Frank Castle.

Hell's Kitchen Church Proper

It's the basement of a church.

Characters

NPCs: Curtis Hoyle (Corpsman)

Mentions: Frank Castle

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

It's another late night in New York City, and Barbara Gordon hasn't gone back home. Every call back to Gotham has been met with a worried Jim Gordon. She wishes she could tell him that this time, she's not making excuses. Navigating out of New York City has become quite a challenge as fear has tightened the grip on the city. She's been staying with Bette Kane, which has been Jim's only safeguard to his sanity. Bette would look after Babs, as if she needed someone to look after.

Tonight, she makes the journey on her nimble bike toward the church. She cuts down the cleared, quiet streets without a single spotting of a demonic presence. When she parks at the streetside, and secures her bike, she knows she's coming to the end of the meeting. Vets will be filing out after that last coffee, last donut, last word of comfort. She steps into the church, hesitating just a moment as she crosses the threshold. She hasn't been to church in some time, and with demons running around, she's seriously rethinking whether or not God smites people, too. When there's no bolt of lightning, she makes her way down the steps to the basement, motocross jacket zipped to her chin and helmet in hand. Her red hair is in a loose braid, forelocks a bit windswept.

Reverently, she waits just at the door, peeking inside to see if she's interrupting the last bits of the meeting.

Many of the vets have already filed out, making their way up the stairs and cautiously out the door. They didn't see the action outside, but they definitely heard it and saw the aftermath, and so they're understandably wary. A couple glance at the young woman heading in the other direction, with one, a young Latino man whose left arm ends just below the elbow notes, "Next meeting's next week."

Inside the basement room, through the open door, there are still half a dozen people left. A heavyset man with graying brown hair and gray stubble on his pale jawline is haranguing two others by the coffee and donuts, while a tall black man with a handsome, serious face is speaking quietly to a vulpine young white man with dirty blonde hair. The heavyset man looks up at the new entrant, clearly checking out the leather-clad woman, "Hey there chickie. This meeting's for vets, for real men. Is that what your'e looking for?"

"Thanks, but I'm here to see Curtis." The ease in which she offers that to the Latino man makes it sound like her and Curtis are friends, meeting up for drinks or something after his meeting. She even smiles warmly as she continues on down. She glances toward the three around the donuts and coffee, and when the heavyset man turns to her, her expression tightens a bit. "Yeah, know where I can find one?" Her words have a slight acid do them, a kind of zero-tolerance in this post-modern era. "Besides," Barbara continues, "Last I heard, the armed forces is made up of 13% women." She glances beyond the heavyset veteran toward Curtis, and then advances toward him — it's a slow walk, respectful of his conversation with the vulpine young man.

O'Connor's first reaction, of course, is anger. He jabs a thumb at himself, "Right here. Silver Star outside of Tam Ky. Not that you'd know what you were looking for." One of the men he was talking to, however, snorts a laugh at Barbara's words, but takes the opportunity to slip away while the heavyset man is sputtering with anger. The other one shakes his head, "Give it a rest, O'Connor."

Curtis glances up at the back-and-forth, and speaks quietly to the vulpine Lewis. Lewis doesn't seem particularly happy, but he goes depart without grumping too much. This leaves Curtis to offer a smile to Barbara that somehow balances wary and welcoming, "Can I help you, ma'am?"

Barbara just throws a lasting look over her shoulder at O'Connor before Curtis earns the majority of her focus. She smiles for him, and then stretches out a hand in greeting — her other still holds the heavy helmet. "Hi. I'm Red." She hesitates a moment. "We have a friend in common. Tall-ish. Surly." She hesitates as she cuts a glance over her shoulder to the small cluster of vets still making their way out. "Likes guns." She meets Curtis's eyes steadily, her blues unflinching as she mouths 'Frank.' Then she glances at the chairs. "Let me help you clean up?"

Taking Barbara's hand is an instinctive reaction by Curtis, and the man looks around the group, his voice lowering slightly, "I know a lot of guys like that." There's a moment's pause, "But I know who you mean." Lewis lingers in the doorway a moment, and then he's gone too, leaving just Curtis and Barbara in the basement room. As Curtis moves over to the nearest of the chairs, Barbara can see a slight limp in his step. "I won't turn down the help. What can I do for you? Last I heard our friend was okay." There's a little worry there, but mostly covered.

"Last I heard, he's okay." Then she steps after him, helping him with chairs like a woman who has a rather close relationship with folding chairs and how to stack them without the threat of crashing to the floor in a pile. She is quiet for a couple heartbeats until she looks back up at Curtis. "You're the only person that Frank talks about… that's connected to his life before Central Park." She grabs another pair of chairs, holding one under each arm. "I guess part of me was first checking to make sure you were real, and then… I was hoping you could… help me understand him."

"He's a hard man…" there's probably more that Curtis meant to add to that statement, but he doesn't, letting the words trail off as he works to fold and stack chairs. There aren't that many of them, and it doesn't take long, leaving the snacks to clean up. Curtis limps over to the table, starting to fill a cup of coffee from the bag-in-a-box and then offering it out to Barbara, "I'm real. Well, mostly real." He hefts his artificial foot slightly, then gestures toward the donuts, "I don't know that I can help you understand Frank, though. He's… well, he's a different man than he was, before. I think I'm still waiting to see who that is, to see when he's ready for me to hold out a hand to him." There's a pause, "You're watching out for him, ma'am?"

Barbara steps forward, taking the cup of coffee once it is offered to him. She reaches for just a packet of sugar, no cream. She dresses it quietly, listening to his words as she stirs up the sugar into the hot black coffee. Then she sips at it, and it gives something to fill the silence that forms between them. When she looks up at Curtis, she nods seriously. "I am. I guess…" She furrows up her brow slightly. "I guess I'm trying to be a guide… or an anchor? I don't know." She frowns at herself, looking down into her coffee. "I met Frank when he was going after some Cartel kids. Then I started digging into who he is, what happened, and I ended up… being closer tied to all this than I anticipated." She looks up at Curtis. "But I told him I would be there for him."

Curtis hands over the coffee, pouring another for himself. He takes it black too. Whether he learned it from Frank, Frank learned it from him, or it's a Force Recon thing is patently unclear. "Frank's not an easy man to guide. Or to slow down." Curtis shrugs a little, leaning one hip against the snack table to take some weight off his artificial foot. "Might be that's what he needs right now, but I don't know." He takes a sip to buy himself some time, and then continues, "I'm not sure if I'm happy or jealous that he's talking to you."

"Tell me about it." Barbara starts to chuckle a bit, taking a sip from her coffee before she sets down the helmet so she can curl both hands around the cup. She sinks into the warmth and the scent of the sweetened coffee. She doesn't enjoy a cup of coffee all that often, but when she does, it stirs warm memories of her dad. She would have said more about Frank, but Curtis's words stalls out her brain. She blinks up at him, cup still held close beneath her chin. "Oh?" There's a small warmth building at the heels of her cheeks which she can only pray is not being presented as a blush.

Curtis gestures toward the door out of the room, "He's stopped by a couple of times, but that's it. He's got people here for him but…" The corpsman shakes his head, looking down at his coffee, completely missing the redhead's heating cheeks, and then taking a sip of the bitter brew, "I didn't think he was ready to have people there for him. He's got friends from the Corps, family, but he's been avoiding us for the most part. It hurts, but… well, I'd help him do whatever he needed to do in a heartbeat, but I don't know that I'd like it."

Barbara taps her fingertips around the cup as she glances around the room — short-threaded carpets, wood panels, the cross on the wall. Her attention lingers on the latter before she looks back to Curtis. She smiles gently. "Maybe that's why he lets me stay around and doesn't bring you in. I'm not family." She looks down at her cup and shrugs a bit. "I'm really just the annoying redhead following him around to make sure he doesn't do something he can't come back from." Then she takes another sip of coffee before she slips out of her lean, looking back up at Curtis. "I think once this is done, he'll come around more, Curtis."

"Maybe." Curtis doesn't sound entirely convinced. He smiles gently, "I'm pretty sure that the 'redhead' part of it doesn't matter all that much to him. The 'annoying' might." Taking another sip, he considers the situation and her words, "I hope so. He's a good man, or he was. I've got to think he will be one again." There's a short pause, and then he adds, "And I think he will be. If you can help with that, that's great. If I can, that's great. You think he's close?" Evidently, Frank hasn't talked about what he's doing much with Curtis.

Curtis's attempt to uplift Barbara just has her sinking a bit more into herself. She breathes out a slow exhale that almost verges into a sigh, and then she takes another sip of her coffee before she grabs for her helmet. She stops as she glances up toward him at his question, and her mouth thins a bit. Then she nods. "Yeah. He's almost done… maybe four." She looks to the door briefly and then back to Curtis. "You'll do all you can to get him in here when he's done, okay? I think he will need his family again… when he's done."

"I've been trying to get him in here since he got home." Curtis shakes his head a little, then nods, "It's a process. I don't know how it's going to work, but I think it is." He takes another sip, grimaces and looks down at the nearly-empty cup of coffee. "Four." Curtis rubs a hand across his mouth, looking vaguely ill. Drawing in a breath and then lets it out. "Billy and I'll be there whenever he's ready for us." This time the pause is longer, "Are you going to be here too, ma'am?"

Barbara watches him as he grimaces and greens as he processes all that Frank has done and will do. "Four." The word is whispered between them, and then she shakes her head. It isn't in response to his question, but something that is floating around in her own head. She finishes her coffee and drops the cup into the trash can. "If he needs me to be." Then she smiles a bit tiredly. "If he wants me to be," she corrects quietly. She hefts up her helmet once more, and she looks up at Curtis.

Curtis shrugs slightly, "It might be that he doesn't want anybody to be there. But that doesn't mean he won't need somebody there." He drains off his own coffee, then nods to the box of assorted donuts, "Take one for the road. Sugar's good for healing." It's not, and his dry tone suggests that he knows that well enough. "Thanks for the help picking up in here."

Barbara nods. "I'll keep that in mind." Then, at his offering, she is at first a bit surprised when Curtis hones in on her wounds. Or was he talking about something else? She smiles a bit ruefully at him, and then nods as she collects a donut in a napkin. "Sugar pusher." Then she gives him a serious nod, and a gentler smile. "Take care of yourself." Then she turns, helmet falling in beside her thigh as she retreats back to the stairs. She glances just once more over her shoulder, giving Curtis a nod, and then she's heading up the stairs.

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