Safehouses

October 29, 2018:

Frank comes to visit Barbara in Gotham.

East End, Gotham City

Characters

NPCs: Max

Mentions: Jason Todd, Batman, Nightwing

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Barbara sits on the hood of a beige sedan in the parking lot of the East Park Side bus station. She has her legs crossed beneath her, wearing a pair of weathered Uggs, jeans, and a loose cream-colored sweater beneath her peacoat. She has a rather large bag of Big Belly Burger beside her, and she's only about halfway through the hamburger as she waits for Frank to arrive. She has a book opened in her lap, head tilted down as she reads with a thick lock of red hair draped across her cheek and forelocks sweeping her forehead. She's told Frank which aisle and spot she was in, and waits for him to arrive while she feasts on both fast food and words.

Frank has a watchcap pulled low over his brows, the collars of his light winter jacket tucked up under his chin and his hoodie trailing down his back. Max's leash is wrapped around his left wrist, both hands shoved into the pockets of his jacket. Whether it's Babs or the burger, Max is straining at the leash as he comes down the aisle. "Least that's better for situational awareness than music." Grumpy asshole that Frank is, there's still a snort of amusement behind the words. He holds onto Max's leash as the dog leaps toward the hood of the car, 'whuffing' and whining for the burger, for attention, or… let's be honest, for the burger. And attention. "Max." The mutt whines, but doesn't jump again, putting his paws on the bumper instead. "You got a car?"

Barbara hears Max before she hears Frank. A light smile traces her lips, but she remains committed to her book until she can tuck in a bookmark — a strip of photos from one of those photo booths that features Barbara, and the founding journalists of VigiWatch. Then she smiles to Max before she wraps up her burger and starts to scoot down the smooth hood to collect up Max's head in her hands and scrunch up his face and ears. "Hi Max." She leans down and smooches him right on his nose, and for that, she's awarded with happy licks. Then she looks up to Frank, and she smiles lightly at him. "I borrowed a car. I figured you riding bitch and Max in the sidecar wasn't going to fly." Now she's teasing him, and she seems content by it. She slips off the hood, tucking the book under her arm. She looks down at Max as she digs into her peacoat's pocket. "Sit," she instructs the dog, producing a treat to reward him with for the good behavior.

"He's closer to a bitch than I am," Frank grumbles. Public transit might be better than walking the trail-tunnels, but it still puts him on edge. Max returns the smooches in his own slobbery way, whining at the appearance of the treat and turning around twice before he reluctantly sits himself down, looking expectantly at the hand-held treat. "You tryin' to buy off my dog, Red? Should've gone with the burger then. He's a pig." He studies the car, giving the bottom of the door a little nudge with the toe of one boot, "Should I feel like I'm cheatin' on New York?"

"Good boy," Barbara says in that warm, pitched tone that humans use around dogs. She smooches his head, and then lets him eat the treat right out of her hand. "Bark if you want to claim shotgun." Then she looks up at Frank, and she shakes her head slightly. "Pretty sure I've already bought off your dog." Then she watches him check out the car, and she hooks her hands under the book, tucking it behind her in quite a girlish pose. She tilts her head slightly. "My Uncle Harvey's car… he's had this thing since I was a kid. He loves it." Then she gets back to that question, and she smiles at him gently. "No. Cm'on. Grab the bag. I got you food in case you didn't get yourself something to eat on the way. I'll take you to the safehouse."

Max turns his doggy gaze toward Frank, only to find himself facing a sharply-pointed finger. The dog does not bark. Frank smiles and crouches down, extracting his other hand to give Max an ear-scruffle, "He knows who feeds him every day." Only once Frank has collected the bag of grease, protein, and carbs from the hood does Max let out a low bark, causing Frank to roll his eyes, "Nope. Sorry. You're in the back seat." Opening a door for Max to clamber up into the back of the car, Frank closes it behind the dog, then gets in the passenger's seat himself, opening the bag and starting to dig in to the work of shoveling food into his mouth. Between bites, he asks, "And we're goin' to a safehouse first because Uncle Harvey and all of your dad's friends want nothin' more than to find me and string me up by my feet?"

Barbara just smiles at the affection shared between man and hound, and then she gives Max a sympathetic look. "Next time, Max." Then she starts around the car, pulling out the mass of keys that includes a rather old — and questionably hygienic — rabbit's foot. She slides into the driver's seat, shutting the door, and pulling on her seat belt. She gives Frank a look to get his own belt on, because she's Barbara and there's some safety rules she abides by. Some. Then she starts to shake her head slightly at the comment. "Dad would at least see that you were lawfully arrested, jailed, tried, and convicted." She smiles slightly. "But I'm working on that… I asked a lawyer friend back in Hell's Kitchen to get your case in front of the new DA and drop the charges related to TCLEC, Reyes, and everything else the Blacksmith did in your name. That'll give you some graces here in Gotham." Some. Then she starts up the engine, and once Frank's belt is secured, she pulls out into the parking lot to navigate onto the Gotham streets. The East End is nestled close enough to Old Gotham that it holds onto its classic deco architecture. On four wheels, Barbara proves to be a slightly more cautious driver than the skill and finesse she has on a motorcycle.

Frank blinks at the look, then shrugs around a mouthful of burger, holding the wrapped sandwich in one hand and pulling his seatbelt on with the other, "Yes ma'am." The words are muffled by food, and he chews and swallows as he listens. A dry chuckle follows up her promise, "You know, if the whole rooftop thing doesn't work out, you got a real future as a social worker or a guardian angel." He watches the architecture with a cynical, soldier's eye: that cornice would be an excellent sniper's perch, that buttress cover for half a squad. It's subconscious by this point. "Your dad got rid of the charges from your place? I mean, besides the whole 'assaulting a cop' thing. Just leaves TCLEC here, and Reyes and Tepper in New York." There's a pause, and he glances over to her, "Don't know that I'm ever gonna be square with the law though, Red. They got plenty of real things to come after me for."

"Or adopting shelter dogs," Barbara quips back with a tilt of her head toward Frank. Then she smiles gently. "Glad you like my halo, though. Sometimes I do wish I could fly." Then she's taking them down along one of the greenspaces. It's quiet at this hour, but the homeless are starting to emerge — stepping out the shadows they have hid in during the day. Another person may have become blind to their presence, but Barbara watches them with a knowing eye. Frank's words pull her focus back into the car, and she glances toward him. "None of us are. We've all committed crimes to do what we do… you think my dad wouldn't arrest me on the spot if he knew who I was? That's why he doesn't want to know who we are… he's never, ever tried to figure out who Batman is… because he knows what he will have to do with that information."

"You can't have mine." Frank bites, chews, and swallows as he watches the homeless gather into view. There's a wariness to the watching, considering that he's settled in with them back in New York to do recon, "You wouldn't like how I got him anyhow." He nods slowly at the description of Jim's methods, "I don't think the NYPD thinks the same way. I'm just thinkin' that even if the NYPD and GCPD back off from the shit I didn't do, they're still gonna want me for the stuff I did do. And you guys, you're just battery and assault." He grins a little grimly, "Pikers." Shifting in his seat, he pulls out a chunk of hamburger and offers it back to Max, who gobbles it up greedily, "And you're tellin' me that you don't have some gear that lets you fly?"

Barbara stops at a red light, and curls her arm around Frank's seat so she can smile back at Max. "When are we going to break it to him, Max?" Then she reaches up to ruffle up his ears before she looks back at the road ahead of them. Her eyes cut to Frank at his words, and she tilts her head slightly. "Did you just call me a piker because I don't choose to kill people?" She gives him a rueful look. Then she shakes her head, shifting back into gear as she pulls them through the intersection, making a turn onto a street that heads into a small, but low income housing neighborhood of squat apartment buildings with various convenience stores on the lower floor. She drives along the street that highlights just a snapshot of the darker edges of Gotham. She glances toward Frank and shakes her head. "Batman does, but… no." She chuckles slightly. "I just have my bike. But the idea of flying over the city… I'd love that." She leans her head back against the headrest as she drives down the road, and then sweeps into an underground lot with a chipped and weathered private parking sign.

"I'm just saying, if you're going to worry about cops, you got a lot less to worry about than me." Still, Frank chuckles as he wipes off his hand on a napkin and goes back to shoveling burger into his mouth. He chews and swallows, "Well, talk to the Big Bad Bat. Tell him you need some airpower." As the turn into the underground lot, Castle chuckles softly, "Couldn't find any nastier place to stash me before the bout? It is a bout, right? Or is it a recruiting event or something?" He finishes off the last bit of the burger, wiping his face and his hands with the napkin and tossing it into the bag.

"I needed to get you to a safehouse that the Red Hood hasn't compromised and that isn't being used by the other Bats." Barbara casts him a shadowy smile in the dim lights of the underground lot. She pulls into an open parking spot, and kills the engine. "And I've been in your apartment… I don't think you have an inch of room to complain about anywhere I stash you." Then she undoes her belt, and pushes herself out of the car. She steps to the trunk, smiling at Max as she passes the window, and then pops it to retrieve a duffel. She slings it up on her shoulder, and then glances back to Frank. "Recruitment event. I got some loaner stakes and pads. I've been doing some practice runs since we had this grand idea."

Frank's eyes narrow slightly at the mention of the Red Hood, his right index finger tapping softly against the greasy Big Belly Burger bag. He considers a moment as Max pants at Barbara through the window, and then pops off his belt and gets out of the car himself, bringing the bag with him, "No, I really thought you'd find some place nastier. Show off how seedy Gotham gets." Moving around to the back of the car, he opens the door for Max and gathers up the leash, "I'm pretty sure I've seen worse though." Stepping away from the car, he waits for her to lead the way, "So I get to sit in the audience and watch you fall on your ass?"

"You can always reject my selected housing, and I can find you a cardboard box in the Narrows." Barbara teases him comfortably before she waits for Frank to get both himself and Max out of the car. Only once the doors are shut does she use the key to analog the locks on the doors, and then hefts up the duffel a bit more. She glances at him at his question, and she starts to laugh softly as she leads the way across the underground lot toward the stairwell door. "Yes, and I give you permission to take joy in seeing me get hip-checked across the track." She takes out another set of keys, this time to open the lock on the garage door. She passes the door to him once its opened, stepping into a narrow stairwell. She heads up on echoey metal stairs, beginning the climb to the sixth floor.

Frank gives the old analog car an appreciative pat on the roof, then leads Max after Barbara, "Now why would I do that, Red?" He catches the door with his burger-bag-filled hand and holds it open, then looks up the stairs and shakes his head, "Sorry Max. Sucks to be you." The dog whines a little, but heads toward the cold metal stairs canine-fully. "Good thing we won't be staying here long. Leading him out to do his business would be a pain in the ass." He follows Barbara and Max up the stairs, shaking his head a little, "And I expect you to kick ass out there. You get hip-checked, I expect you'll be back up on your skates and lookin' for some payback."

"It's alright, Max." Barbara ruffles up his ears briefly. Then she starts upward until they get to the sixth floor. It becomes obvious why Barbara said it was alright when they get onto the sixth floor, stepping out onto a roof that has a few patches of bare dirt from a failed attempt at a rooftop garden. As she leads on across the roof toward what looks to be a greenhouse with darkened windows, she speaks over her shoulder. "Yes, Sir," she says wryly. When she opens the door, it leads into something most unlike a greenhouse. The glass walls have been painted a light grey on the inside to give some privacy; the concrete floors are acid-washed, and the ceiling is glass that looks into the Gotham skies. There's a compact, kitchen-like area with a narrow gas stove and toaster oven and compact fridge. There rest of the safehouse is dedicated to a small sleeping area with a full-sized bed and thrift store chairs. It's surprisingly warm inside, and the heat appears to be radiant from the floor. One tall cabinet has a red cross on it, and is stocked full of medical supplies. "There's some food in the fridge, and I got Max a small bag of chow. This is one of my own safehouses, so I don't think you'll get any Bats coming around."

Frank starts to chuckle at the 'yes sir,' and nods appreciatively at the rooftop expanse. For his part, Max starts tugging at the leash, looking to explore the rooftop and all of its interesting smells, but Frank gives a little tap on the leash, "C'mon. You can dig later." He looks around the inside of the greenhouse as he holds the door open for Barbara, nodding his approval, "Nice." As he heads in himself, he gestures generally around, "I saw the fire escape, there any other escapes for folks who don't like swinging into walls?" There's a low chuckle behind the words, and he looses Max to go explore the small area. "Sorry I got here early. Thought it'd take longer to get off'a Manhattan."

Barbara smiles warmly for Max as he goes off to check out his temporary lodgings, and then the woman is turning back toward Frank as she leans into the simple, solid table that is barely big enough for its two chairs. She nods slightly. "Two fire escapes on either side, and a second stairwell. If you're trying to get down real fast, there's also a chute at the back of the greenhouse behind a hidden spot on the floor that will take you down to the third floor." Then she shrugs her shoulders slightly at the apology. "I was hanging around for you anyway." She ducks her chin a bit, shifting against the table. "The recruitment gig isn't until 10… they use a warehouse in Red Hook."

Frank glances around as she indicates the escape routes, and then chuckles as she mentions the escape chute. "Okay, I get the picture. You're totally prepared." It's only barely grudging, and certainly amused. Max finds a particularly warm spot on the heated floor and rolls over onto his back, lolling about with his paws in the air and his tongue hanging out. Frank lifts his brows, checking his watch and chuckling, "Should I have brought my book?" He moves over to one of the chairs, leaning back against it, "Or are you gonna pick my brain on tactics, or tell me how the cape thing goes?"

Max is hard to ignore; but once he's settled down, Barbara turns back into the kitchen. From the cabinets, she pulls out a French press and electric kettle. From the fridge, she takes out some ground coffee. She starts to prepare the press and kettle, and she glances to Frank. "Coffee?" She's assuming the answer, because she's preparing two servings worth. Once the kettle is going, she steps back to the table. She pulls out a chair, sliding down into it with her leg being dragged up to her chest, knee hooked under her chin with the brace of her arm. Then she starts to join him in a warm laugh, shaking her head. "Well, thought about picking your brain about derby tactics, but then I would have to ask how you even came to think about suggesting derby to begin with. I don't think that's something you came across while in Afghanistan." She tilts her head slightly. "You seem more like a baseball guy, personally."

"I've seen half a night of derby, that's it." Frank takes the coffee as granted as well, only giving the inquiry a slight nod. "And yeah, you know what I was doin' there." He doesn't go into detail, however, nodding slowly at her second assumption, "Yeah. I played a little in school. Go Yankees. Sorry, the Knights and the Griffins can suck it." Resting his hip on the arm of the chair, he shrugs, "So all I've seen is that some of the teams work together, some just trust to their own skills. I figure you're a team player, since you don't have powers."

His attempt to spare her is given a sharp look, but then she shakes her head — dismissing that line of conversation. She snorts slightly at his words, and she waves her hand dismissively. "I'm the wrong Bat for you to get all fired up about dissing on team sports. You want Nightwing." Then she leans her head back a bit, watching him across the table with those steady blue eyes. "What makes you think I'm a team player?" She smirks slightly at that before she shakes her head slightly. "Alright, I'm a team player… I've always fancied myself as one of the jammers, but that requires me to be fast."

"Right, you're the bookworm, not the jock. Computers, not gymnastics." Frank snorts softly as she questions his assumption and then agrees with it. "Guess you'll just have to get fast then." He shrugs a little, "You're smaller than most of the blockers, but most of the jammers block too." He might have been watching a little more closely than he claimed. "But you did a number on me. I figure you can drop them once you figure out how to skate." Pause. "Sorry, skate better. I forget that every girl learns to skate at age 12." The pause that follows isn't intentional, and has a great deal more to do with the invisible hand that feels like it's grabbing his chest. His daughter never made it to 12.

"Mmhmm. Learning to skate is part of our secret cult training." It's said just before she notices the look that crosses Frank's face, and she loosens her leg from up against her chest so she can stretch her foot out to nudge at his shin slightly. Then she pulls herself out of her chair when she hears the kettle start to hit boiling point. She has her back to him as she makes the coffee, pouring the water over the grounds in the press. She gives it a stir before she sets the lid onto the pitcher. Then she pulls down two mugs, standing on tiptoes to reach them out of the cabinet. Then she glances toward Frank. "Alright. So, skate fast, hit hard, don't get hit in turn." Then she turns, leaning into the counter, arms crossed at her chest. She lets the grounds brew.

The nudge draws Frank's head up again, and when she turns away, he has a moment to rub at his chest with the heel of one hand. When she looks back, he's composed again, watching her steadily. "Once you've got your skates under you, I figure you'll be able to pull that judo shit when they try to hit you. That'll be worth watching." Resting his hands on the arm of the chair behind him, he inquires, "So what's got you worried, Red? You're actually asking me for advice. You got me here earlier than you needed. What's up?"

Her brows furrow together suddenly at his questions. She hesitates, and then rubs the knuckle of her forefinger up along her jaw and chin. She almost wants to tell him about her journey back — the nests of demons, the train, the Joker. But that would only get Frank's mind back onto something, and having him starting to hone in on Joker is not something she wants, or needs, right now. She presses off the counter, turning back to the coffee where she presses down the plunger slowly, pushing the grounds into the bottom of the pitcher. Then she pours the hot, strong coffee into the mugs. Then she turns to hand him one before she steps to the compact fridge to pull full fat whipping cream out. She pours some into her cup. This all fills the silence between them before she shakes her head. "I've never…" She exhales. "I've never tried out for a sport before." She steps back to her chair, slumping back into it. "I wasn't… a sports kid. I did martial arts, and I did robotics competitions, and I nerded out with Zane and the gang."

Frank watches the hesitation, his lips tightening slightly, but then she's offering him coffee, and that takes precedence. He takes the mug from her and takes an immediate sip, nodding slightly and then moving past to get two bowls out of the cupboard for Max. Her response causes him to grin suddenly, "You've got nerves, Red?" The crooked smile twists his face into something a good deal lighter than his usual glower, "One of the Bats is worried about whether she can hack it with housewives and office workers and doctors?"

"I've got nerves, okay?" Barbara watches him, holding the mug to her chest. "And you can take all the joy in that, that you want, but the fact is that this isn't like anything I've done before, and so… yes, I'm nervous." She takes a sip of the coffee, looking down into it almost reproachfully. "And if you keep that to yourself, I will be most grateful. No one needs to know I'm afraid of getting my ass handed to me by a bunch of… what was it? Housewives, office workers, and doctors?" She's pretty sure that's not the make-up of the Gotham City Roller girls, but she's not going to nitpick that.

'Office workers' covers a whole lot of occupations. Plus Frank didn't look that closely at the program. "Hell, Red. As long as you can make it around the track, you're gonna knock 'em dead." There's a moment's thoughtful pause, and then he adds, "Even if you can't make it around the track, some team's gonna figure that once they teach you how to skate, you're gonna be an animal." Water goes into one of the bowls, and he pokes around the kitchen for a moment to find the bag of dog food, pouring some of it into the other bowl. Both go down onto the floor — even if Max is already asleep on the blissfully warm floor — and then he rolls the bag back up and tucks it away again. "I didn't say anything about afraid. You worried you won't make a good impression? You won't be good enough? You can't take the hits?"

Barbara doesn't track his movements around the safehouse's modest kitchen. She's instead watching Max, coffee mug pressed to her cheek. Only once he asks those questions does she look back to him. There's a long silence between when those questions are asked and when she finds her words again. Confessions of a gifted child means that failure is always, always, the hardest pill to swallow. "Pretty much," she says quietly. Then she unwinds from the chair again, taking another drink of her coffee before she sets down the mug. "Being a Bat isn't the same thing as being Barbara Gordon."

"That's the problem with the mask, Red." Turning his back to the counter again, he collects his coffee cup and takes another sip as he leans back. "There ain't no Frank Castle or the Punisher, there's just me. I'm usin' the skull, but it ain't a person. It's just a symbol on my vest." Not exactly helpful, all things considered, and he grunts softly, raising the mug to his lips again as he realizes it. "So you're afraid that Barbara Gordon can't live up to the Bat? I mean, it ain't like anyone else is gonna know who you are. It's just you and me that'll know. And I don't care what mask you wear, I know you're the same person either way."

"The problems without the mask greatly outweigh the problems with the mask, Frank." Not that she hasn't said something similar before. She curls an arm around the chair, turning toward him now. She tucks a bit of red hair behind her ear. At first, the question seems to rankle, but then he keeps going and her expression goes from a little curt to something softer. She arches her brows slightly at him. "Yes, but that's you, Frank. You're never going to care about the masks…" Then she breathes out a slower exhale, pulling herself back to her feet. "In some ways…" She shifts uneasily as she turns to pick up her mug. "'Red' might be closer to who I really am, because… it's who I am to you, and who that is, is both." And there's something almost… affectionate to that.

"Yeah I'm gonna care about the masks," Frank grumbles, "I'm gonna care that they affect your peripheral vision." Now he's just being a grump. "I know you can't go all Tony Stark. I'm just sayin' that there's problems in being able to separate yourself from who you are when you're on the rooftops." He can't really gripe too much with her saying such nice things though, and instead he rolls his shoulders, "Hell, Red's just a nickname. I know Babs is who you are, whether you're wearing your mask or not. Just don't let yourself forget it, you're the same person whether you got the bat on your chest or not."

“Says the man who wears baseball caps,” Barbara Gordon spikes back. Then she shakes her head slightly, leaning into her left hip with her arms crossed. She tilts her head at his own words — words he might not intend to be warming, but are. She steps forward a step and touches his shoulder gently. “I think you’re going to keep reminding me when I do.” Then she rolls up onto the balls of her feet and touches a soft kiss to his cheek, and through that affection, she conveys her thanks.

Frank shrugs helplessly at her riposte, but let's it pass. "I think if you need it, I'll remind you. But I don't think you'll forget it too much." As she leans in, Frank ducks his head, almost as if he were bashful. The kids on the cheek gets a squashed little smile, and a pat on her own shoulder with one hand. "Hell, you've been doin' the whole rooftop skulking thing longer than me. You got it under control. As long as you don't lose yourself in the mask." There's a moment's hesitation, and then he admits, "A lot of soldiers do, even without a real mask."

The bashfulness is a bit surprising from the hard edged Punisher. But she passes the moment easily and instead focuses on the words that come next. She smiles a bit at that, the knuckles of her hand on his shoulder nudging lightly against his clavicle. “Always a danger. That’s why we need people who know who we are. It grounds us, and gives us people who can bring us back if we get lost behind the mask. In some ways, I think that’s why there are masks and capes finding others.” She shrugs a shoulder as she turns away, hand sliding down his arm and then away.

"You mean like the Bats and the Defenders." Frank considers the point with a thoughtful frown. Lifting the mug to his lips, he settles his caffeine/blood balance (decidedly in the caffeine direction), watching her turn away. Eventually, he asks, "Who did your family lose to the mask, Red?" The question is quiet, gravelly as always but not harsh. "To make you so worried about you going that way — and even more worried about a guy you didn't even know?"

The question stalls her for a thoughtful moment, her hand sliding back through her hair to the back of her neck. She feels the tension there — an on-going knot of stress that will never loosen. She turns toward him slowly, sitting back into the table’s edge. Simple, but incredibly sturdy, it doesn’t even wobble under the weight of her lean. “Jason Todd. He was a… boy-wonder. He died, or so I thought. He was the one who stabbed me through the shoulder, after shooting a kid who stole money from a convinence store.” She sighs out a breath. “He’s the one we lost, but it’s more than that.” She looks down slightly. “I don’t know how to explain it.”

"Jason Todd," Frank says the name slowly, sampling it, considering it. He's still listening to the rest of what she says, as demonstrated when he puts together, "He's the one you're afraid I'll become." It's not a question, just a statement. "The ones closest to you, they're the ones who can hurt you the most. 'Cause they're the ones you care what they think of you."

When Barbara looks back up at Frank, her blue eyes are serious, but also sad. She mourns for Jason, because that's who Barbara is to the Bat Family. Team Mom, The Chick — whatever you want to call the trope, that's who she is. She breathes out a slow exhale, shoulders shrugging up slightly. "Yes." Then she pushes off the table, turning away from him as she feels a bit of emotion catch in her throat and chest. Then she clears her throat. "Yeah. He's the one."

And Frank's the anti-hero who needs Team Mom as his Lancer, clearly. He watches her turn away, starts to settle back against the arm of the chair, then stops. She isn't like him. She doesn't need space to work through things. He pushes himself up to his feet, setting down the coffee cup a little reluctantly and stepping over to put a hand on the shoulder that took the knife weeks before, his hand just resting there lightly. "You think you failed him, don't you?" His voice is a low growl, reined in carefully, "I've gotten to know you, Red. I'm pretty damned sure that if you tried to help him, you didn't fail. He failed himself."

The reluctant connection that Frank makes with Barbara turns her head to him slightly. She's tired, and her smile a bit watery. "I didn't know it was him, and I haven't seen him since." Which means that Barbara hasn't had a chance to help him, and that bothers her even more. "Something happened to Jason along the way, and now… I don't even know if he's himself. He was supposed to be dead, and now he's not… there's more to this story, but I don't know what it is yet." Then she tucks a bit of red hair behind her ear before she drops her hand down to his on her shoulder. She gives his fingers a gentle squeeze in thanks for his words, and then she releases him.

"Well, I meant before. But if he was supposed to be dead… yeah." Frank's fingers squeeze her shoulder as she squeezes his hand, and then give another squeeze when she releases it. Only then does he step back to lean against the side of the table, "Sounds like it's time to do some detective work. Be good to know what'd knock him off balance if you're gonna knock hi out and take him into Arkham." Her town, her rules. Or at least, her lead, her rules.

There's a small smile that tugs at her lips at his gentle correction, and then she ducks her head as she crosses her arms lightly at her chest. She listens to her own heartbeat, her own breathing, and when she sighs out a slow exhale, it settles her chest a bit. Her heart still aches at the memory of Jason, but it is an ache she will carry with her quietly. When she looks back up at Frank, she shakes her head. "We get to Jason… I want to see him redeemed, brought back. I don't want to see him exiled to Arkham if there is another way."

Frank nods slowly, apparently accepting her statement despite the shift in her body language, drawing in on herself. "So what's the play then? Knock him out, drag him somewhere else, and talk him through it? Try to talk him through it while dodging bullets?" He shrugs his shoulders slightly, "I'm all for redemption, Red," even as he says the words, there's a flicker of a masked man raising a pistol in his mind's eye, and he frowns, even as he continues, "But you gotta have a plan."

At Frank's almost chastisement — not that it can be at all compared to Bruce Wayne's chastisement — Barbara offers him a lopsided smile. "Some adaptation of the first idea… I'm not stupid enough to think that I can just talk him out of whatever dark place he's in." Her smile stays lightly crooked even as her eyes hold his own darker gaze. "But getting him off the streets is the first step, then it's finding out what it was… where the path went twisted." She reaches out to squeeze his upper arm. "And I promise not to do it alone." Then she steps back, pulling her cell phone out of her pocket to glance over the screen. The time shows just a quarter after nine. "Alright, time to get suited up and to the track." Even if that means getting there early, because that's another feature of Barbara Gordon.

Frank nods again, more definitively this time. "Good. Probably some work you can do beforehand too. Make it easier. Get some facts to compare." He's seen interrogations, been part of them. He's even understood a few of them. "I figure you're not dumb enough to do it alone." Says the guy who does almost all of his missions alone. The time-check causes him to look at his watch too, and he nods, "Sounds good. You can tell me the name you picked out on the way."

The reinforcement of her own plan incites a small, serious smile from the woman. Then she grabs to put their dishes in the sink to be seen to later, and then she turns toward him with a small hip-cock and arms crossing at her chest. Her smile warms after a heartbeat. "I don't know. Maybe I want that to be a surprise." She gives his upper arm a gentle shove with her knuckles before she starts for the door.

Frank gives up his coffee cup after another slug, finishing the brew off, and then glances around — nope, nothing else to get except the slumbering dog. Scoffing a little at Max, he looks back to Babs in time to get the shoulder-shove and roll with it, sounding more amused than annoyed, "Hah. Fine. Keep your damned secrets." He smothers a comment about Maria and how she kept her secrets, not entirely sure why he's smothering it, then moves over to the dog's side and crouches down to give him a light shove, "Come on, kibble-breath. Time to get movin'." Max huffs awake, sniffs around a moment, then stands in proper tail-thwapping range of Frank for a couple of side-rubs. Castle isn't far behind Barbara heading for the door, gathering up the leash as he goes.

"It won't be a well-kept secret." Barbara smiles over her shoulder to him. "You'll hear it announced during my try-out." Then she opens the door for the pair, winking down to Max as they pass. Then she shuts the door, letting it slide back into its frame. When she looks back to Frank, her smile is softer. "Besides, this is a fun secret… which is the only kinds I'll keep." Then she starts to lead them back through the stairwell to the ground level where the car awaits them.

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