Captain Ahab

October 23, 2018:

Babs has a gift for Frank.

Hudson Yards Subway Station, Hell's Kitchen, NYC

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Max, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Owen Mercer, Batman, Dinah Lance, Nightwing, Wilson Fisk

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

The text message came in the pre-midnight hours two days after the Daily Bugle covered the suspected arson on the Castle home. Barbara Gordon was heading back to New York City, and asked if Frank could meet her at the Hudson Yards subway station in Hell's Kitchen. The subway had been closed down since the arrival of Hell, but both Batgirl and the Punisher are resourceful people — she doubted that he would struggle to get down the triple-wide stairwell into the concrete underground. The lights have been kept on to deter people occupying the dead station. Her motorcycle is parked by the bench she occupies, dressed in the full leathers of her black motocross gear. Her helmet is beside her on the bench and her ears are muffed by a pair of over-the-ear headphones. Her eyes stare ahead, unfocused.

Frank's been checking his phone more often. It's easier when he carries it with him. He doesn't worry about whether or not he should be down in the Hudson Yards subway station, he just walks down the well-lit triple-wide stairwell. His coat is buttoned closed around his torso, and he looks around when he reaches the bottom of the stairs. It's not hard to spot the motorcycle or its rider, and he heads in that direction, his rubber-soled combat boots making soft sounds on the tile floor. As he approaches, he growls, "Why does everyone wear headphones?" There's more than a little 'old man shouting at kids on lawn' to his griping, but for all that he's finished his original list, there's not any great change in his apparent demeanor.

"Because it dissuades men from harassing a woman who is just trying to wait for the next train." Her eyes lifts toward him, and she slides the headphones off her head, letting them loop around her neck and bind-up her long mane of rich cinnamon hair. The music coming from them is soft — ambient rather than all-demanding. The Bat looks at him for a long heartbeat, eyes never leaving his. There's a stretch of silence, and she visibly looks uncertain as to what to say, or how to say it. "Frank, is it…" She stops, hesitating before she gestures, allowing the motion to fill the words she cannot seem to grasp. Is it done? Is he done?

"Pretty sure that ain't Beefcake's excuse." Frank can read the question in her eyes, and he nods once, "'Cept for the late addition, yeah." He's silent for a long moment, shoving his hands in the pockets of his coat, and then he adds, "It helped." The words are slow in coming as if he has to haul each one up from a great depth before presenting it. "Not as much as I wanted, but it helped. And it's done. It's finished. They ain't gonna kill anyone else's kids." He looks down, tearing one hand from his pocket to rub the heel of his hand diagonally up and across the bridge of his nose. "Now it's just the neighborhood's closure." Another pause, "And you know, demons."

It takes Barbara a bit of silent think time before she realizes that Beefcake is Luke Cage. It actually brings a faint smile to her lips, and she shakes her head slightly. Then she's looking at her lap, fingers folded together and red hair slipping free from her headphones to obscure parts of her pale features. When she looks up at him, it's at the words it helped. She stares at him for a long moment, and the sadness in her expression is hard to miss. There's no cheerful relief at Frank being done — or almost done. Just silent mourning — though who Babs mourns is still something she can't fully unpack. She straightens up a bit, nodding her head before she gestures slightly to the seat beside her. No one's coming down here, and in some ways, this bright place is a quiet respite from the world up there. "It was you, wasn't it? That burned down your house… was that the last step?"

"It's a good thing, Red." The's in response to the silent, mournful look from Barbara. "Completing the mission, gettin' closure. It's a good thing." Sure, Frank's had the same dream waking up every morning since then, but being done is better than not being done. He hesitates a moment at the gestured invitation, but only long enough to glance around the subway station, eyeing as if expecting demons to pop out of nowhere. Then he gives a little grunt and lets himself drop on the bench alongside Babs, his hands going back into his pockets, "Yeah. It was me. Too many memories. I got what I needed to keep outta there." His cheek trembles a moment, the veteran Marine struggling to maintain his control, and his voice is more than a little raw as he notes, "I… I couldn't have gone through it. Nobody should've had to go through it. It was better that way. Real closure."

Barbara scoots up taller in her seat once Frank sits in beside her. It relaxes some of her shoulders, and she turns her head to watch him with those serious blue eyes. Then she offers him a small smile that just gently compresses the small dimples in her cheeks. "You have to give yourself time, Frank. Finishing the mission, getting closure… there's still wounds there that will become scars, and maybe those scars will fade over time, but… I… you need to find some people to be with, Frank. Like Luke… he's a good guy, and he will be someone who can help you." Uncertainty crosses her expression for a heartbeat, and then she presses her shoulder against his gently. "Curtis, too. He's got that group… maybe you should at least listen in, even if you aren't ready to take a chair." She looks down at her hands again, exposing her palms where she can observe the familiar lines that crisscross the calloused surface. "I'm here, too." She looks up at him now.

Frank stares out at the abandoned subway station for a long while, frowning in thought as he listens. "Yeah. Maybe. I listen in on some of Curtis's meetings. Don't think they're for me, though." Except, of course, they're explicitly for people like him. The press of her shoulder to his draws Frank's eyes over to Barbara, "I'm gonna give my wounds the time they need to become scars, Red. Don't worry. I still got a mission, anyhow. Lots of prep-work I can do while they worry about timing and the trial and all that." His brows lift a moment, brightening his expression, "Oh yeah. I had an idea for you. You ever hear of roller derby?"

Lots of prep-work. In some ways, that just sinks Barbara a bit more. She sighs softly and then gives a small nod. At least he's going to give himself time, and at least he's going to listen in to Curtis. Those are the best she can do, and it pains her that, that is all she has to give Frank. But she doesn't speak the words that so easily write their way across her expression. When his brows and tone both lift, she glances back to him with a slight arch of her own brows. The question opens her expression a bit more, and she finds a small smile creeping its way past the little rain clouds that build above her and Frank in the subway station. "Actually… yeah. I watch the Gotham City Roller Girls. I root for the Lit Chicks." Then her brows furrow together as she tries to predict where Frank is going with this. "… why?"

The way Barbara sinks some at Frank's mention of prep-work seems to confuse him, his brows furrowing, but he shakes it off, snorting a sort of laugh at her response to his question, "Of course you do." Root for the Lit Chicks, that is. Still, there was a reason he brought it up, and not just for small talk, "You tired of camping accidents and running into doors and being a clutz to keep your dad from finding out?" He upnods slightly, "Join a derby team. They get almost as beat up as you do." No stab wounds, of course, but there aren't really many excuses for that. "Or say you joined one. Perfect cover for a vigilante." Or, at least a female vigilante.

The topic change is something that Barbara can appreciate, but its context has her brows arching high and her smile actually redoubling until it's bright with dimples. "You think I should join a derby team to cover up for being a vigilante?" Her arms cross at her chest a bit, and she cuts him an almost dubious look. "I think my dad might prefer his klutzy daughter over a derby daughter." Then her lips press together slightly, her smile slipping away into a thoughtful expression. "I… guess I could. I haven't roller skated since I was thirteen." Since Dayton, since her parents died. She shifts her shoulders slightly against the back of the bench, nudging against Frank with their close proximity. A slow exhale escapes her. "The Lit Chicks are down a player… Alice in Woundherland has been suspended for drug use. Nightwing and I found her high on some new metahumanity-inducing drug… she was soaking in electrical energy and turning it into kinetic energy. She was so high, she had no idea what she was doing. She thought it was a serious hallucination."

Frank shrugs, his hands still in his jacket pockets as he does. "Just an idea. In case you got tired of coming up with new excuses all the time." Loss, Frank can identify with, but the loss of parents is different, and his own loss isn't anything he really wants to pick at yet. The mention of the Lit Chicks skater and her experience draws Frank's brows down into a scowl, but he just sort of broods on some part of it, shifting his seat on the bench before he gives his head a little shake, "So what would your derby name be? Dewey Decimator? Hermione Danger? Babs in the Belfry?"

"I'm always tired of coming up with excuses," Barbara says, and for a heartbeat, there's a hint of exhaustion that filters into her voice. "It was harder when I was back in Dad's house." She tilts a glance toward the man beside her "I've moved in with my friend Dinah… she owns a little florist shop in Gotham. She also knows a lot about my extracurriculars." She smiles with a small edge of amusement. "You'd like her." Then her head dips and her brows furrow thoughtfully. His suggestion spark a few brow lifts, though she bursts out into warm, earnest laughter at his latter suggestion. "Hm, you don't think that's a bit on the nose?" She smiles ruefully. "I've got a place in the top of the library… I call it the Belfry." She tilts a smile his way. "It's a safehouse… in case you ever need someone to go when you're in Gotham." Then she looks away as she thinks, leaning her head back into the bench to stare up at the ceiling. "I like Hermione Danger, but maybe go classic… how about the Little Grr Maid? Or Pippi Longsock'ems? Both are literary redheads." Well, one is a Disney redhead, but she's not going to be that picky. "Could be Sansa Snark, too."

There's a moment where Frank wants to make a mordant joke about the most frequent needs for Gotham florists — funerals and apologies, but he lets it pass. "There ain't many people I like, Red." That dark humor is still there in his voice, backed by a raspy little chuckle, and Frank shakes his head, "I'll take your word for it though." The amusement doubles as she fires back about the safehouse, and he shakes his head, "Yeah, that's not on-the-nose or anything." He chuckles at her suggestions, although the last one confuses him for a moment, "Oh right. From the fantasy show with all the naked people." Disney, he's got this. Game of Thrones, less certain. "How 'bout AriHell? Smashing Beauty? Belle-icose? Mer — " he frowns, stops, then shakes his head, "Nope. I got nothin' with Merida."

"I've noticed," Barbara says, tone more than a little biting. "I think at this point the only two people you like are Curtis and Billy." See? She listens. "I figure you only use people's real names if you like them." She fashions herself a brittle, sharp smile toward the so-called Punisher before she looks back at the tiled wall across from them. She looks thoughtful, head tilted aside a bit as she goes through the suggestions, then she frowns slightly. "Belle-icose?" Repeating the name has catching the subtle play of words — something that actually impresses Barbara, but she doesn't remark on it. She does however turns to face Castle with an mockingly dismayed look. "Warlike? Me?" She snorts a bit. "I think coming from you, I'm going to take that as a compliment."

"Hey, I like Beefcake. And Twitch — sometimes. And you're not even too bad yourself, Red." Frank even gives her shoulder a little shove with his own, "I just swore I wouldn't use any of Billy's nicknames in front of women." There's something a little brittle in his own commentary about his brother, another reminder of the life he lost, but he snorts at the look of mock dismay, "Red… you gave me a concussion. And bruised a rib. Plus, Belle's all book-y and you're a librarian. You may not be any Semper Fatalis — now that's a great derby name — but I think you can be bellicose just fine." Finally, he smirks just a touch, "And yeah, I do read. Sometimes even without movin' my lips."

The shoulder shove sparks a warm look, and she glances toward him. "Not too bad, is it? High praise…" She then shifts slightly on the hard bench, flexing her feet in her motocross boots. The snort draws her gaze his way, and his words spark a small, but warm smile. "I'll put it on the list, though since this is your grand idea, maybe we should put 'Red' somewhere in the name." Then she tucks a bit of red hair behind her ear, looking away a bit. The mention that Frank actually does read — that he might not fit perfectly into the jarhead stereotype — prompts a look from the librarian. "That's good news… makes this next part less awkward." She grabs for her sleek, black, soft-case backpack that's on the ground at her feet. Tucking it into her lap, she opens the zippers, to reveal the dark purple interior. She pulls out a book that looks like it had been got at a thrift store. She hands it to him, and the cover is embossed with the title: Moby Dick.

"Slay-ja the Red," is Frank's immediate suggestion, playing off Sonja the Red — who Babs may well be too young to know. And then she's talking about awkward situations, and he tilts his head slightly to one side, frowning his curiosity. Taking the book, he rifles through it briefly. Is he checking to see if there's a gun-shaped cutout in the middle? Or maybe just appreciating the well-loved condition. "Huh. I've heard of this one. It's about the whale, right?" One brow lifts slightly in question, and Frank hefts the book a moment, taking a measure of it as literary masterpiece, workout equipment, and self-defense weapon alike. "Thanks, Red."

"You mean 'Red Slay-ja.'" She has seen it, enough to actually correct him on the name. Barbara smiles a bit at that and then just leans back to let him take stock of the book. His offer of thanks is met with a slight nod of her chin. "Yeah, the whale. It's a good one." And since she's a librarian, she's good at matching books to people. She sets her bag back down at her feet. "You'll have to tell me if you like it or not. No lies. I won't be able to pick out a better book the second time around if it isn't the right fit." Then she clasps her hands down on the bench on either side of her, looking from Frank to the empty subway station again. "I really liked to read when I was a kid… feels like I don't have as much time anymore." She then shakes her head, almost feeling a bit self-deprecating. "Books used to be the one companion I could always count on." There's a small hint of loneliness that filters through her words, and she shrugs her shoulders. "It's yours. You don't have to return it when you're done, just pass it along to someone else."

"Yeah, that too." Frank folds his hands around the book, one finger tapping on the cover idly, "I don't usually worry about bullshit lies, Red. Just too much trouble for everyone." He looks back down at the book, studying it for a moment as if considering it as a companion for the first time. "That's rough, Red." Finally, he looks back up from the book to her, looking for that loneliness in her features. "You got a family now though. Two of 'em, really." There's no comparison to himself in the statement, no 'woe is me,' just a sincere look on the bright side, surprisingly enough. "And you can count on both of 'em."

"I didn't think you did. Not really." Something about Frank always screams truth, even if it hurts. She watches him study the book, and her blue eyes are there to meet his when he looks back up at her. There's a light smile that's settled onto her lips like it's supposed to be there, like it belongs there, and just hasn't had a chance to come around lately. It actually takes a bit of youth from her features, capturing the woman that exists beneath the suit and cowl. Her brows arch slightly when he mentions two families. "Two? You mean Dad and then the Bats?" The use of Jim Gordon as a standalone perhaps betrays more about Barbara's life than she's really let on. Of the Gordons, it's just her and Jim now. Jim's wife left when she was just barely starting to call her 'Mom,' and James, Jr. is still in Arkham. In that big house, it was just the two of them for a long, long time. She shifts slightly in her seat on the bench. "If family is defined as people you can count on, then I think I have three." She looks at him. "I can count on you, too, Frank."

Frank nods at her first statement, perhaps even a little proud that she's read that in him. The questions get a nod as well, "Yeah." But then she shifts and goes on, and his brows lift in surprise, then settle down into a faint scowl of thought. "Yeah." He draws in a slow breath, the considering, looking the idea over from every angle. "Yeah. I guess that's true, ain't it." The idea that there's family you can count on among 'business associates' is clearly a new one for him, and one he's testing out in his mind. "You clearly got other folks you can count on too, since you're crashin' with one of them. I'm just sayin' that you've come a long way from where books were all you could count on."

"I heard what you said. I hope you hear what I've said, too." Barbara turns a bit more toward him, and her blue eyes hold his dark browns steadily. She sets her hand gently on his forearm through the sleeve of his jacket, and her strong fingers squeeze gently. "You don't need to worry about me. I'm worried about you, though." Her words are soft, gentle, and almost a whisper. "I know what can happen next, Frank. You're done — Fisk or no Fisk. I've seen what can happen next… you either turn away from everything, disappear into loneliness; or, you decide to keep up the Punisher gig, but you take it so far that you're executing petty thieves who steal a few hundred bucks from a bodega. You convince yourself that's your mission." She hesitates. "Or… third option… you find people who care about you, who want to fight the same fight you do… and you become part of that family. For me, it's the Bats. We're all a bit dysfunctional, and Batman is not an easy mentor, and Nightwing and I have been in the suits too long, and the Boy-Wonders are all a bit odd, but incredibly endearing… but we're a family, and we look out for each other." She hesitates. "I want you to find that, because you could be something besides just the guy who avenged his family." Her expression turns to one of concern, but also colored with a sad smile. "Beyond that, I just don't want you to be alone, Frank."

"Yeah." Frank glances down at her hand, then up to meet her gaze. "I got time to figure out what comes next. Lots to do for the last name. Lots of time." There are times when Frank seems beyond worrying about what's the socially-acceptable thing to do. Sometimes it's torturing and murdering people present at your family's death, and sometimes it's holding someone's gaze without any indication of discomfort. "I heard what you said, Red." His lips tighten, some of his still-present grief writhing to the surface of his features and being drawn away again. "And yeah, maybe there's another sorta family here. I've had guys in my squad almost as annoying as Twitch." Letting out a breath, he tucks the book under his far arm and shoves his hands back into his pocket, "I ain't gonna kill random assholes though. That ain't me. You should know me well enough by now to know that." Stopping a moment, he glances back to Barbara, "I don't figure I'm likely to sit well with the other Bats."

The words that come from Frank actually draw a look of disappointment, and she looks away just as tired tears start to touch the edges of her eyes. She breathes out a slow breath, drawing herself back into her own space and watching her boots scuff the concrete beneath her soles. When she looks back up at him, she smiles a watery smile. "Owen is someone you love or hate, I guess." Then she wipes the back of her hand across her nose as she rocks forward a bit, straightening up. When he glances back her way, she meets that look. His words just soften her features to something gentle, affectionate, and naked. "You're a hard dog to love," Barbara says softly, unintentionally calling back to the metaphor she made with Luke just a few hours ago.

The watery look causes Frank to frown a little more, his brows drawing down. The open look freezes him though, and his brows rise slightly before he chuckles a little, "You teach a dog to bite…" Shaking his head, he reaches out to clap an arm lightly on her shoulder, fingers squeezing gently, "I don't figure the Bats are much at dinner parties either." Oh how little he knows. Leaning back in the bench, he gathers up the book again, hefting it in his lap and looking down at it, "I know that I'm gonna have to look at what comes after the last name. I just, I don't know, I don't want to have to think about that yet."

"I didn't teach you to bite." Then she quiets as they sit together, almost shoulder-to-shoulder, in that empty place beneath Hell's Kitchen. The comfort that he gives her through the grip to her shoulder feels inadequate, and it just settles her deeper into herself. Then she glances to the book, and then to Frank. "Then don't," she says softly. She hesitates a moment, and then shifts in her seat. "Come to Gotham. You can scope out the Roller Derby teams with me." She glances down at the book briefly. "The name can wait."

"No, but the US government sure did." Frank doesn't seem particularly distraught by this fact. Just part of his life. "You're really going to join one then? Not just fake it?" He snorts softly, smiling to himself, "Of course you are. That's how you do things." Glancing inside the front cover of the book, he looks up again, "The name can't wait, Red." Still, he relents, "But if you can keep your Dad and his people off my tail, I can go see which of the teams you want to pick for you and your friends." He snorts softly, "I got no idea how you're gonna get one team to pick up you and all your friends at once though."

Their relationship finds a moment of balance then. Frank sees a part of Barbara that's not faked or hidden or kept secret, just as she's seen a part of him. It brings a small smile onto her lips that just falters for a heartbeat when he edges into rejecting her suggestion. She had been ready for it — almost as if she had set it up to watch it fall. Then he accepts — in the way that Frank Castle does. She shakes her head then. "I'm not doing this for them. I'm doing this for me." Then she dips her head briefly before she turns back toward him.

"And they'll do it for you, I bet." There's something perhaps proud in the quiet rasp, perhaps fond, and Frank lets his lips curl into the faintest of crooked grins. "You got Beefcake, Twitch, and me workin' together, and we didn't even know you." Looking up toward the tile opposite them, he draws in a slow breath through his nose, tipping his head upward as he does. "Good that you're doin' somethin' for you. You've been tense, Red. And not just from someone trying to shoot up your place."

The detectable fondness that grates through Frank's rasp draws Barbara's eyes to his once more. Then a small smile redoubles at her lips, and she shrugs slightly. "My only super-power: by undeniable ability to twist people's arms into doing things they would rather not do." She draws up a knee to her chest, catching it around her arms. "I'll try not to abuse that power." Then she glances at the tiles across from them as well, catching the faintest reflection of the two in the white gloss. She watches the outline of Frank's silhouette, the way he moves through his shoulders beneath the winter coat. His commentary turns her chin slightly toward him, eyes moving from the white-out reflection of Frank to his full color self. "I guess I haven't found the place to breathe yet. Used to be like that… early on with Batman and Robin. We would have these long stretches of intense work… and then a calm. I haven't gotten to the calm yet. Lost my center." Those words are soft, and then she smiles a weary smile toward Frank once more. "I'll get it back. Always do."

"You mean dealin' with me and Twitch in a new city threw it off." Frank drives right to the core again. "Probably me more than Twitch. 'Cause I challenged the way you were brought into the cape world." He glances up toward the stairwell briefly, tracking a soft sound echoing down, and then looks back over to Barbara as it fades away again, "But you're in a good place now, yeah? Livin' with a good friend, don't have to keep comin' over here to make sure I'm goin' overboard, no demons to deal with, and still talkin' me into comin' over to the Big G so that you know I haven't just disappeared." There's a little chuckle beneath the last statement.

The glance attracts her own attention, and she cuts a look to the stairwell in anticipation. Nothing comes, and the tension melts out of her body and she looks back to Frank. Barbara feels a warmth gather at her cheeks as Frank just narrows in on it all, and she starts to smile with a small laugh caught behind her lips. "Hmm." She shakes her head a bit. "Yeah. You could say that you challenged the way I think about this job." She shrugs her shoulder a bit. "Frank, I've seen what happens when a good man becomes the bad guy." She looks steadily at his brown eyes. "And you're a good man… I made this choice because I didn't want to have to watch you become something that needed to be put down, locked away. And maybe that's not my responsibility, but, well… that's who I am." She turns toward him now, tucking her leg under her. "So, I'm in your corner. You okay with that?"

"You're right, I'm not your responsibility." That could have come out harshly. Might have, another time. In this case, though, there's a little peek of a crooked grin behind the words. Frank reaches out to pat her shin as she turns toward him, leaning back in the bench and resting his arms across the back with a little grimace of pain, "But I'm okay with you pretending I am." The smile fades into something more serious, "You know I'm gonna keep challenging how you think 'bout your job, right? And that I ain't gonna go off the deep end again." There's a little slip of the tongue that he moves past without even apparently noticing, "I'm a Marine, and we got rules of engagement. That includes protectin' innocents." He upnods a touch, holding her gaze as he does, "You know I've got your back too, right?"

"Good." Barbara meets his crooked grin with her own lopsided smile. Just being able to smile and relax seems to drain the last of the tension from her and she curls her arm under her head as she rests against the back of the bench. She listens to him — and even catches the slip of the tongue there. It actually lifts her brows slightly. Again, which means Frank recognizes more about his actions than some believe he does. She will have to decide if that's better… or worse… Then she straightens up a bit, still turned to him, still in that almost intimate curl together on the bench. "You can challenge my thinking whenever you want, but if it's my case — my mission — I decide when and if we cross that line." She has an ageless seriousness to her words. Her twenty-sixth birthday is coming soon, but she speaks from a place well beyond that. Some of that sternness fades away as blue eyes hold browns without falter. "… I know."

The last point is the most important, and Frank nods at her response. "Good." And then he draws in another slow breath through his nose, "Yeah. I'm helpin' you, I only shoot to kill if you say so, or if it's a last resort. I'm not lettin' a friend die because I held back." With his elbows hanging over the back of the bench, he shrugs a little awkwardly, "Besides that… yeah. The person pulling the job calls the rules of engagement." Castle snorts a chuckle, "Not like you need my help in the Big G. You got all the Bats out there. Unless there's a job you're too embarrassed to let them know about, Red."

"Good." Then she breathes out a slow exhale, and she leans her head into her arm a bit. She glances down the dark subway tunnel that leads into the deep underground of Hell's Kitchen. In Gotham, an interlude at a rails station would get you hustled, mugged, or killed. Here, it gives them both the space to breathe. She looks up toward Frank as he snorts and chuckles through his words. The last sentiment has her furrowing her brow. "It isn't about needing your help, Frank. If I did only what I needed to do, I would have never followed you to New York City after you were skulking around my rooftops. Besides…" She breathes out a slow exhale. "We all have our own shit we're dealing with." She rubs at the back of her neck, and then she looks back up at Frank. "You'll bring Max with you?"

"I think you were just chasing after Max." Even if she hadn't met the dog by then. "And yeah, if you think that derby is Max-friendly, I'll bring him along. He's good cover anyhow. Fewer people looking at me, more looking at him." Castle shakes his head slowly, chuckling again, "This whole 'my' rooftops thing. Cracks me up. I mean, are they your rooftops, the Big Bad Bat's rooftops, the Boy Wonders's…" he pauses a moment, "Damn, that's awkward to say. I mean, there's overlap. Is the Kitchen Hornhead's? Snow White's? C'mon, that shit's funny."

"I wasn't chasing after Max, but I'm definitely only sticking around because of Max. He's an amazing cuddler. I just want another opportunity to snuggle down with your dog." There's a relaxation that settles into her as she smiles to Frank, head tilting slightly. "You could just call them 'The Robins,' if you like. But you're also forgetting Batwoman, and she'd kick your ass for forgetting her." Then she shakes her head, pressing her head into her palm as she rests her elbow against the space of bench not occupied by Frank's arm. "Can we at least agree the library roof belongs to me?"

"I can't keep track of all the Bats. Isn't there a Bat-dog or something? There's more vigilantes in Gotham than there are powered criminals." Frank watches her curl up further and relax, chuckling slightly, "Yeah, why do you think I let him up on the couch." There's something a little sad behind the chuckle, but Frank just brushes his nose with one thumb. "You can claim whatever you want. I'm not gonna argue with any of you. I don't need territory. I don't want territory." He taps the back of the bench with two fingers, "I'm thinkin' of gettin' a job. My source of cash dried up. I assume one of the Bats is rich as fuck, since you all have the fun toys, and I doubt the library pays that well."

"No. Though if you think Max wants to do something in his downtime…" Barbara shakes her head with an earnest smile. Then she catches that little bit of sadness, and she reaches out to gently touch his shoulder in a silent acknowledgement of its presence — even as it passes. The mention of territory has her looking up at him with a rueful smile. "Yes, well… you can continue to be your rebellious self." Then she looks up slightly at the mention of getting a job, and funding all the fun toys, and she tilts her head slightly. "You think that there's someone out there that's going to hire on Frank Castle?" She frowns slightly. "Guess there's places that might not ask too many questions."

"I think Max is out of the 'working for a living' business. He's a lazy bum." The touch to his shoulder draws a nod of acknowledgment, Frank accepting the connection. The characterization of him as 'rebellious' causes him to chuckle, "Bite your tongue, Red." The point about who might hire the Punisher causes him to shrug a little helplessly. "Yeah. I wouldn't exactly be workin' in an office. I don't care what the job is, just somethin' to fill the time after I'm done with the last name. I also thought I might get another ID. You're good with computers. You interested in helpin'?"

"Well… there's a lot of rebuilding that's going to happen in the Kitchen… there's probably a lot of need for people who could do some construction. It would be steady work, quiet work… and you probably wouldn't get much attention." She brushes a bit of hair behind her ear, and then she frowns slightly at his request. It's a thoughtful silence that settles over her, and then she starts to nod. "I can do that. Get me the name you want to use, and I'll set up the ID." She reaches out to touch his hand, long fingers brushing along the calloused digits. Then she grips them, squeezing his hand tightly with a couple gentle pulses.

"About what I figured," Frank responds to the suggestion on working construction. "Castiglione," comes quickly enough to her request, and then he glances down to where she clasps his hand. He hesitates a moment, glancing down, then shifts his hand to clasp hers, thumb-webbing to thumb-webbing. It's not quite as impersonal as a shake, less intimate than holding hands. "It's an old family name. Before we were Castles. And how 'bout Pete? Nice, simple, nothin' to it." Withdrawing his hand from hers, he traces his index finger across his chest twice in an 'x,' "I promise I won't use it for killin' people."

Pete Castiglione. She runs the name through her head a couple times, and then nods slightly — though she's interrupted by his cross-his-heart and the promise that goes along with it. It sparks a small, lopsided smile at her lips. "Alright, Frank… I'll get you the ID." Then she starts to unwind, slipping her feet back to the ground while she turns in her seat to face the glossy tiles once more. She thumbs down the tunnel. "I should go." She hesitates for a moment there, looking at him with that steady blue stare. A battle ensues in her mind, and then she looks away to grab her backpack as a sudden awkward uncertainty settles around her.

Frank nods at the promise, and as she unwinds and prepares to depart, he nods, "Thanks, Red." The awkward uncertainty catches his eye, but he waits to move until she rises, at which point he stands as well, reaching out to rest a hand on her shoulder and squeeze lightly. His voice lowers a little, roughening, "Really. Thanks, Babs. For makin' sure I didn't slip."

She's on her feet and slinging the bag up on one shoulder by the time he stands. She's stopped by the sudden, and unexpected, weight of his hand on her shoulder. She looks up at him, and her brows arch slightly when he calls her Babs. She's lived so long with being Frank's Red, that to hear him call her by something she claims as her own takes a moment. Then she steps forward into him, one arm crossing around his shoulder while the other curves up under his arm in a full hug. Unlike the tired, exhausted, threadbare hug she gave him in her backyard, this one is anchoring, pulling him down into her as if he might float away without the weight. She closes her eyes, and just… breathes.

Whether or not Frank was expecting that reaction, was looking for it, it still takes him a moment to process it. His eyes close, and his arms close around her to return the hug, one hand at her shoulder and the copy of Moby Dick at the middle of her back. There's something a little desperate about the tightness of the squeeze at first, and then he relaxes a little, letting out a little breath and just accepting the physical contact with another person. After a long minute or two, he shifts his head, just touching his temple to hers lightly, and then opens his eye sand releases her, stepping back. He's said what he needs to say, so he nods, tucking the enormous book under his arm and shoving his hands into his pockets. And then he does think of something to say, and notes, "Watch out for the rail gangs, Red." He makes a solitary figure turning back to the stairs and walking up them easily enough, but there's also a sense to him that he's not entirely alone, and he knows it.

"I will," Barbara answers to his back as he leaves. She turns away, shrugging up the second strap of her backpack before she grabs for her helmet. She holds it in both hands, readying to duck her head into it; but, then she looks back. She watches Frank head up the stairs, disappearing up into the city above. Once she sees the soles of his combat boots disappear does she seat the helmet, fasten it, and then swing herself into the saddle of the bike. The engine roars in this tight, echoey place, and the wheels skitter just a moment before she's whipping down the platform and jumps the bike literally down into the middle of the subway tracks. It zips down the tunnel, heading the long, dark way back to Jersey.

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