Christmas is All Around Us
Roleplaying Log: Christmas is All Around Us
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Barbara visits Frank to return his jacket and make plans.

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: December 02, 2018
IC Location: Castle Apartment, Hell's Kitchen, NYC
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 06 Dec 2018 04:44
Rating & Warnings: R for Language, sorry not sorry.
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

Her motorcycle pulls up outside Frank's apartment building, and the hour is well past midnight. She has not been here in sometime, caught up with all the trappings of her job, her extracurriculars, and everything else. She sits on the saddle, helmet in her lap. She stares at the building for a long moment, looking over its plain and rundown facade. With a slow exhale, she swings out of her seat, locks the bike, and then heads for the sunken stairwell that will take her down to the hallway that leads to Frank's apartment.

When she gets to the door, she lifts her fist — hesitates just once — and then knocks. She calls after the rap of knuckles. "Pete? It's Red."

Frank is still trying to work on his minigun. He's 'borrowed' a laser measuring tool from work, and he's using it to true the barrels. At the knock, he reaches around and grabs a pistol, but the voice that follows relaxes him readily, and he tosses the laser back onto the bed, "Just a minute." The pistol goes into a holster which is then shoved down the back of his pants, and he heads for the door. Two locks, a kick to the corner of the door, and he hauls it open. He's wearing a long-sleeved waffle-knit shirt against the chill in the basement. "Come on in, Red." He pulls the door back to let her in, shutting it behind her, "You didn't have to come all the way up here." Still, there's an honest smile budding at one corner of his lips, "Good to see you, Babs."

Barbara waits, arms crossing loosely at her chest. She keeps her chin ducked low as she waits, but there's something in her stance that shows she's waiting, ready. Someone come down this hallway who tries to give the redhead trouble. When she hears the lock and the kick, she straightens up again. She is all smiles the moment he opens the door, and she steps in once he pulls the door open and invites her in. When he takes his stock of her — which he is bound to do — he will find small, but healing nicks across her cheeks and forehead. "Oh, come on… you totally tracked me down to Sherwood Florists and my roommate almost pulled her shotgun on you. I think that was a clear 'from the heavens' sign that I needed to make a trek to New York." She then steps up, and is up on the balls of her feet to pull him into a hug. "Good to see you, Frank."

The nicks turn Frank's little smile into a frown of concern, but that doesn't stop him from returning the hug, his arms squeezing tight for a moment before he releases her, "I coulda taken her." There's a beat pause, and then he shrugs slightly, "Maybe." He locks locks the door again, then upnods at her head, "Derby or fake-derby?" The concern is pretty clear to see, even as he gestures for her to come in, "And I just got worried when you didn't get back to me." He shrugs a little, "When I say it like that, it sounds like shit. I'm new to the whole texting thing. Probably totally normal not to hear back right away. You want some coffee?"

The squeeze smothers a noise against his shoulder as he puts pressure on her wound just between her ribs. Then she breathes out a slow breath, and gives his shoulder a gentle, patting squeeze. There's a bit of quiet communication there: she's okay. The quest for more information earns a small smile, and she shakes her head. "Fake-derby." She steps away a bit, heading deeper into the apartment. She slides slowly into one of his tired metal chairs, and she starts to unzip her jacket, easing it back off her shoulders. "I know. I'm sorry. I saw the message, told myself to respond, but then got… caught-up." She shakes her head apologetically. The offer of coffee has her nodding again. "Yes… coffee. Sounds great."

The little noise against his shoulder causes Frank to frown a bit more deeply, but he doesn't comment on it right away. Instead, he heads for the kitchen, crossing paths with Max as the dog comes 'whuffing' out to get some attention from the redhead. Frank shakes his head just a little, muttering with amusement, "Suck up." Castle starts up the coffee machine, turning around and leaning back against the kitchen counter, "Yeah. That's me goin' too far then. Sorry." Still, he nods toward her, dark eyes flicking here and there seeking other wounds, "How bad is it? And who did it?" The concern hasn't faded, despite his snark towards his dog.

The arrival of Max does all it is meant to: she's smiling warmly to him and she's dropping down out of her chair and into a squat to ruffle up his ears and draw him in closer for doggy kisses and hugs around the neck. She murmurs something to the dog that sends his stumpy tail wagging. Before she can get up though, Castle is turning back to her with those concerned words and considering eyes. She pats Max firmly on the head before she gets back up, moving a bit more tenderly once more. She then eases herself back up into the chair, and then she looks up at him with a half-tilt of her head. "It's alright… knife to the ribs." She hesitates. "You…" She frowns then, and the rebuff dies on her lips. She sighs, and resumes gently ruffling up Max's ears. "Ukrainian mob… they call themselves the Whisper Gang. I went in with a group, trying to interrupt a meeting… but they… had… magic… or something. Ended up in total darkness. Couldn't see anything. Though I was grabbing Black Canary, ended up grabbing one of them… they just slotted the knife between my ribs."

Frank watches Babs and Max greet each other with much snuffling, sniffing, and licking — at least on Max's side. The concern remains, but the scowl fades somewhat. He lifts his brows in silent question at the 'You…' but he lets the aborted words go. Listening to the mission debriefing, he frowns, "I gotta teach you capes about recon by fire." It's just grumpy-Frank showing through a little. The coffee is getting close to done, but Castle steps away from the counter, moving over to crouch down alongside Barbara, "You got your SAS guy to look at it? Should you even be up here, Red? I mean, I'm glad you came, but I still got the phone."

Her brows furrow, head shaking slightly with confusion. "Recon by fire?" Then his concern, his almost chiding words, catch her slightly. It is hard not to smile when Frank shows his grumpy bear concern for her, and she reaches out to touch the back of his hand when he crouches. "Hey… I've had worse… the boat? That was a lot worse." Then she tilts her head, and there's a warmth that settles in around her eyes. This is where she sees the human still in Frank — the care and connection. "No… Jess looked at it. Did a rough stitch job. I promise I'm okay." She shakes her head, rubbing at the back of her neck.

"Don't know what's in the shadows? Shoot it." Frank's explanation of 'recon by fire' is… probably disturbingly blase. The touch to the back of his hand drops his eyes down there for a moment, and he shrugs his shoulders somewhere between bashfully and guiltily. But then she's making excuses, and he scowls, "Bullshit, Red. You gotta take care of shit like this." The coffee maker beeps, and Frank gives her forearm a squeeze then gets up and moves to pour them a couple of cups. "You've gotten stitched up before, how's that job look? Do I gotta fix it?"

Barbara shakes her head once he's defined it, and her whole body lifts with a deep sigh. "I don't use guns." She raises her hand sharply to him, stalling his argument. "And I don't want to hear it, Frank… and even if I did use guns, there is no clear guarantee that I wouldn't have shot my allies." Her mouth tightens. "My friends." Then she turns her head aside, hand squeezing his gently before she releases him. She watches him go to get their coffee, and then she's settling an elbow into her knee, glancing down at Max who has settled into a sprawl around her feet. "No… really… it's alright. I'm alright."

"I'm giving you shit, Red. I know that's not your style." Frank brings back the pair of coffees, "You in a cream or sugar mood today?" He sets the cups on the table, then leans against it. The wood creaks, but apparently he does this often and knows where it's safe to put his weight on the rickety thing. "You say so, Red." The words are grudging, his lips pressing together for a moment. There's a pause, and then he edges carefully around the next words, "Uh… the flowers. I gotta explain that, don't I?"

"Yeah," she breathes. "Actually, I am." But then she's looking up at Frank with a tilt of her head. Those blue eyes search his darker gaze, and the face it holds. He looks different with the beard that has settled into his jawline and mouth. He looks — slept, less bruised. It is somewhat of a relief to her to see him that way. Then he asks the question, and a small laugh bubbles up from her. She shakes her head. "Well, um… yeah." She tilts her head a bit. "Though I have a small suspicion that I might know why… but, roses?" Beat pause, and her brows lift. "Did Dinah pick them out?"

It takes a moment for Frank to push off the table again after his query, submitting to her inspection with a silent stillness. The laughter from her breaks him out of it, however, and one corner of his lip curls up in a crooked little grin, "Yeah." His right hand comes up, his thumb brushing across the tip of his nose, "She did. Gave me some shit about comin' in and askin' questions without buying anything." Only then does he rise up from the edge of the table, crossing to the crappy fridge that came with the apartment and digging out a couple of creamers that he keeps around for heathens who don't take their coffee black. A small bag of sugar and a spoon are gathered up too, and he brings the additives back to her, "I figured I'd get somethin' you could put in a vase somewhere. You know, brighten up the room." As if he knows jack shit about that. "She goes for the roses. I think she figured I was goin' cheap." Chuckling, he shakes his head, "She's a pistol, ya know."

"Sounds like Dinah." Barbara is all smiles at Frank's recall of her friend and Frank's interaction with the infamous Dinah Lance. "She's always been like that." Then she ducks her head slightly, rubbing at the back of her neck while she watches him dig into the cabinet for creamers. She takes the offered additives, and then begins to dress her coffee. She's quiet as she works, looking up at him through the fall of half-cascaded forelocks. She smiles a bit. "I liked them. They did their job. To be honest, Dinah was probably more trying to get you out of her shop than anything else. She…" She shrugs her shoulders. "She's protective, and serious when it comes to me. But I suppose that's what a good friend does."

Barbara saying that she liked the flowers draws that little grin back to Frank's face, but he just nods, not apparently noticing it. "Yeah, no shit. I go in there with a trenchcoat, a backpack, a watch cap, and a beard, I'm surprised I didn't get shot." At least he sounds amused by that fact. "I got thrown outta one other florist before I found that one." He leans back against the table again, gathering up his own coffee and taking a sip, "No, I'm in favor of her bein' protective. I'm an fuckin' train ride away. There's trouble, I'm gonna get there way the hell too late." This time, he lets himself grin broadly, "She scare Blonde Danny Zuko off yet?"

Barbara just laughs again, and this time it's relaxed and comfortable. She shakes her head, reaching up to tug at a bit of forelock. "Oh, Frank…" She then smiles ruefully. "Yeah, I'm surprised, too." Then she sighs, but on the last little exhale, her brows arch. "Oh! I have your coat! It's in my bike bag." She looks abruptly apologetic and just a hair sheepish. "I'm sorry, I meant to get it back to you so much sooner… I just forgot, and things have been so chaotic the last couple weeks." She finally takes a sip of her coffee, relaxing into it. It's shitty creamers and straight-forward sugar, but Frank knows how to make good coffee.

"Good!" Hey look, Frank Castle can even use exclamation points that aren't associated with orders, threats, or cursing. He snorts immediately afterwards, "I need it back. I got told I was urban lumberjack chic. Whatever the hell that is." His shoulders roll with amused discomfort. "I don't get shit like that when I'm wearin' a hoodie and my jacket." Shaking his head, he grins again, "Naw, it's not a big deal. Finally got Dinah to get her hand off the shotgun when I told her you borrowed it. Pretty much cleared me of creepy stalker status." Beat pause, "Pretty much."

"It's your beard," Babs says with a warm lilt. "You look a bit like a hipster, but without the skinny jeans. Add some flannel, and you're going to start being referred to as a lumbersnack." She takes another sip of her coffee, leaning down a bit to scratch fondly at Max. The dog makes that happy whirring noise that sleepy dogs make when being loved on. She smiles, and a bit more tension leeches from her. Now she looks back up at him, and she settles into her chair. "So, I… can I ask you something?" The question is presented in the usual awkwardness of a Barbara Gordon who hates — hates — asking for help, but is here all the same.

Frank reaches up to scratch at his beard as she mentions it again, although he grunts a little in disgust at the accusation of near hipsterdom. He opens his mouth to protest, and then she says 'lumbersnack.' He… has no reply to this, so it's a good thing that she's (presumably) moving on to another topic as he blinks several times, opens his mouth again, and closes it with a little exhalation of breath. The awkward question stills his own confusion and awkwardness, and he shrugs slightly, "Yeah. Anything." Flat truth, followed by another sip of coffee.

That slight change in Frank's demeanor is caught, and Barbara feels a sudden heat rise up in her cheeks. She starts to laugh, but it catches in her throat and comes out as a low humor in her words. "… Nevermind." Then she straightens up, fingers curling around the hot coffee cup. She glances between it and Frank, expression thoughtful as she works through her question — gets all the words carefully aligned in her own head. Then she smiles that warm little smile, head tilting as she tucks a bit of hair back behind her ear. "I think I'm starting up a team… with my friend… but I need to know… how do I make the call about who should be part of it, and who shouldn't, and… what are some things I need to do to make this work? I've always been on a team, but this is different." Then a breath escapes her, and the slight panic works into her features. "I've never done this before."

The blushing and laughter causes Frank to chuckle himself, one corner of his grin curling up easily. The deliberation behind her phrasing has him leaning forward slightly, curious as to the question. When it comes, his brows lift, and then he frowns thoughtfully. The flash of panic, however, delays his response, and he shifts his weight off the edge of the table, crouching down before Babs and reaching out for her arm, "Hey. Red. Babs." His gravelly voice is quiet, sure now, "How much shit have you done already that you hadn't done before you tried it? I'm pretty sure you can do anything you set your mind to." Then there's the actual question, and he nods slowly as he responds, apparently considering his own words even as he speaks them, "I never had a whole lot of say about who was on my team. But I can tell you that the ones I wanted on my team weren't always the best there were at the job. They were the ones who could do the job best with the team. As part of the team. Not grandstanders or people who wanted to be heroes," that gets a wry little grunt from him and a shrug before he continues, "people who were there for the rest of the team. People who wanted to be there for the family."

The grin from Frank Castle just sets her into her own smile. It is good to see him easily able to grin, able to relax a bit. The change to a thoughtful frown slips her own expression back into something sober and open. When he touches her arm, she breathes out a slow exhale that lightens the tension that has builds in her shoulders and her chest. She meets his steady dark eyes across the short distance, and she listens. There is no interruption, though his commentary on her ability catches her smile again — this one a bit weak and tight. "Th-thanks, Frank. I'm not sure if that's totally a compliment or not, but I'm going to take it as one." Then she breathes out her mouth, lips formed into a soft circle so it swooshes past. Then she nods slightly. "This is going to be hard… most of the people I'm tapping… they aren't team people… or they haven't been. Lots of independent vigilantes, people who have done it there way." Her brows furrow together. "I'm not even sure what our way will be."

"'Course it's a compliment, Red." Frank smirks again, "Fact that you even questioned it means you're psychin' yourself out." Still, he considers the situation she's presenting, nodding slowly to himself as he does, "Sounds like you need practice. Need to test 'em to see how they work with a team. Find out what your way is." He gives her knee a brief pat as he levers himself up out of his crouch, leaning his hip onto the table again and taking up his coffee cup to have another sip. "So why the team now? Is it for Batgirl or for you?"

The subtle way that Frank calls her out for her own self-esteem draws a bit of a smile back to her lips, and then she's leaning her head down into her hands, stabilizing her own head both physically and emotionally. She takes a deep breath that inflates her ribcage and then the exhale seems to settle her down into herself once more. When she looks back up at him, she's not quite so panicked, not quite so exposed. She rubs slightly at the back of her neck. "Yeah. We got this mission I have laid out… Atlantic City. Going after the guys who stabbed me." She chuckles ruefully. "Not vengefully or anything, but we're on their trail." Then she looks up, head turning slightly into her palm. Then she looks up with another lift of brows at his question. It takes her a second to mull though, to really nail down the answer. Then she speaks quietly around the heel of her hand. "I need a change… hit me… a bit out of nowhere… I'm the only one that's still been sticking around as Batman's sidekick… the Robins have both moved on to other work… and I'm still here. Doing the same old shit." The slip of the word is odd for Barbara — an exhibit of her real frustration despite the evenness of her words. "I think it's time I moved on to something that's… not in Batman's shadow."

As Babs folds in on herself, Frank shifts his coffee cup to his left hand and reaches out to put his right on her shoulder, just silent comfort. The mention of the guys who stabbed her, however, sharpens his eyes, his lips tightening into a flat line, "They aren't down in one of the rail tunnels anymore you don't figure?" There's something about his tone that suggests that he had made plans in that direction in the past few minutes. Likely involving the large arsenal taking up his bed. The need for change draws a slow nod, "So for you." His lips purse again, but the frown isn't quite so deep this time, "I thought maybe derby'd help that too." The littlest hint of a smile touches one corner of his lips, "But you do you, Red. I think it sounds like a good idea. You want backup, an insurance policy on this first run, all you gotta do is ask." The smile deepens, growing a little crooked as he snorts a laugh, "Even if I'm pretty sure your friends'd object to someone with a Barrett fifty coverin' you if they run Bat-style."

The steady comfort to her shoulder is all she really needs, and she's resting beneath it. When he mentions where the Whispers are, she looks up at him. She reads those thoughts quickly, easily — she really has spent way too much time around Castle. Her smile does soften a bit, and she looks mixed in thanks and reproach. "The Whispers are part of the Rail Gangs, yeah. They'll be down there." But then she stops, and reaches to touch his hand gently. "But they've got some new tricks… they can make darkness. Blackness. We ran in there, and it was like suddenly being under a thick blanket. Couldn't see, or hear well, or even speak… Black Canary's scream was nothing down there." And by her tone, that means something. "That's how they got me… I couldn't see them coming and they just slotted that knife in like I was…" Her words falter, brows furrowing together. "Helpless."

Frank nods slowly at the description, even as he shrugs a little helplessly, a little 'boy caught with hand in cookie jar' gesture in response to the silent reproach-thanks. His brows furrow as he thinks through the problem, although the comment about Canary's scream has him a little puzzled — he really does need to do his research on Gotham vigilantes at some point. "And you got low-light and IR in that cowl of yours." It's not a question, just another thing to weigh into the equation. "But you got in, and out. So stuff goes in. Maybe next time you throw a couple concussion 'rangs in before you go in." Pause, "'Cause I'd use a grenade launcher." More hurriedly, he adds, "Maybe with tear gas." And that consideration is enough to draw him out of his tactical thinking and notice that she's drawing inward again. His hand at her shoulder squeezes once, his thumb shifting to rest along the arch of her neck as he ducks his head forward a touch, "You're a thinker, Red. It's a problem to work, right? I got shit for knowledge 'bout demons or makin' darkness, but from what I've seen, you hit somethin' hard enough and smart enough, it goes down. You just gotta work the problem, figure out how to beat whatever they're doin'."

The affirmative on what her cowl is capable of casts an amused smile along her lips, and she narrows her eyes. "Are you doing a threat assessment on me, Frank?" Then she smiles, rocks forward in her chair to draw herself a bit more upright. She hears his suggestion, brows quirked. The hurried joinder causes her to hum with light amusement. "Might get through their masks." She hesitates, and explains. "They graft these metal masks onto their faces." She places her hands around the lower half of her face, demonstrating. "To discourage snitching." Or to make it clear that it isn't acceptable. Then she frowns at his suggestion about the batarangs and she nods soberly. Then she rubs at the back of her neck, thoughtful. "I asked a Magician I know to help think about a way to penetrate the spell, too… but he's going to need to figure out what the magic actually is. I guess it's a complex deal." She smirks. "Who knew." Then she smiles gently at the moment of encouragement and affection from the Punisher. She rests her forehead briefly against his. "You're really good at these pep talks."

"Well…" Frank stalls for a moment, before his smile spreads, "Yeah. I did one. But that was just knockin' suggestions off the list." The description of the masks grafted onto faces draws Frank up though, and his nose wrinkles in disgust, "That's fucked up. How the hell do they eat?" Shaking that off, he sinks into the press of foreheads, his hand slipping back to the nape of her neck and squeezing for just a moment before he blows out a breath, "Pfft. Magicians." Straightening up, he lets his hand drop back to his coffee cup, "Fuckin' magic when a gas grenade'd probably do the trick. Or a real one damned sure would. Way to over-complicate things." He's teasing, but the little grin, but he shrugs at the compliment, "Part of leadin' a team." His eyes tighten and his grin fades, and the next words are quieter, "or bein' part of a family."

"Of course you did." Barbara's laughter comes soft and easy, and she shakes her head. "You'll have to let me know what you figured out." At his shock and disgust, the Gothamite just smiles a rueful smile. "Welcome to Gotham City." His question prompts a shrug, and then she gestures. "There's… gaps around the masks. Liquid diet, I assume, or something like it." She frowns. "Haven't tried to figure that all out." Then she closes her eyes at the squeeze, and it brings up another smile. The brooding comments about magic has her shoulders lifting. "More of them running around then you would think… but it's good to have that assessed by someone who knows what they're seeing. I'm trying to understand it." Because Babs must know everything. Then she softens as he does, and she reaches for his own hand again, giving his fingers a hard squeeze. It's a silent exchange of comfort. Then her smile perks a bit. "How's the job?"

Frank snorts at 'Welcome to Gotham City,' but seems to accept it as a truism. Gotham is Weird, Capital W. "Yeah, yeah. Nerd." Because yes, Babs must know everything. He glances down at the squeeze to his fingers, returning it briefly and then taking up his mug for another sip of coffee. "The job's a job, Red." Shrugging a little helplessly, he takes another slug of the bitter brew, "It's ain't exactly my life's ambition to knock down broken buildings, but it keeps me busy and it pays the bills." Grunting softly, he nods over to the end table by his couch-bed, "Curtis gave me this bunch of little short stories, called The Crack-Up." He chuckles softly, "I think he was makin' a joke. First line is," he quotes from memory, his eyes lifting upward slightly as he thinks it through, "'Of course, all life is… the process of breaking down.' Real funny, Curtis." Despite the griping, his chuckle grows, "Here I am knockin' down walls all day and he gives me this thing." There's a pause, and then, "I didn't cause any problems with Dinah, did I? She's not givin' you shit about havin' a stalker?"

Barbara scowls at his teasing words, and then she resumes her cradling hold around her mug of coffee. She is comforted by the connection forged between just sitting in this quiet place with her coffee and the grumpy Marine. She nods soberly at his first remark. "I know." She hooks a hand behind her neck, head tilting slightly. Then she turns slightly toward the side table, she turns toward it and the book indicated on its surface. As he explains it, her brows arch thoughtfully. THen she barks a short laugh, smiling as she does. "Sounds like something you would enjoy. Curtis made a good call." Then she is quiet for a heartbeat, lips pressed together; she thinks through her words before she edges into them. "Have you put on the vest lately?" She looks up at him across the length of space between them. Her blue eyes search his darker gaze.

Pausing a moment in thought, Frank considers his mention of 'life's ambition,' but then Babs is laughing, and he shrugs a little helplessly, "It's good. A little… I don't know… dense ain't quite right, but somethin' like that. But yeah, he did. Of course." Frank shakes his head in amusement, then stops at the further question, grunting a little, "Yeah." There's a little reluctance to the admission, as if he expects her to be disappointed. "Just to ask questions though. No one dead." Considering for a moment, he adds, "Only a couple of broken bones, but those assholes drew on me."

Looking after Frank has become something that is part of who she is. "You'll have to let me read it when you're done." She smiles ruefully. "I'll make the time." Which is a quiet remark on how busy she's been, how much her life has been pulling her in so many directions. But is that really anything new these days? She tucks her head into her arm as she listens to him talk about the Vest, about how he hasn't killed anyone. She actually smiles, though it's a bit fragile. "Well, but you didn't kill them, so that's something." She rubs at the back of her neck. "You'll let me know if you need me, right?"

Frank nods at the request, "Yeah. I'm almost done." There's a pause, and he frowns in thought, "Guess I'll have to come south in a day or two." There's a pause, and then he chuckles, "Wait… don't you work in a damned library?" He shakes his head with the subdued laughter, smothering it with a sip of coffee and then setting down the empty cup. It's been too long since he had to think about whether someone was manufacturing a way to meet up again, consciously or not. "Yeah, I know you beat the shit outta people, Red, so you got no way to complain about me puttin' on the vest and askin' questions." There's a little grin alongside the teasing words, even if there's some honest griping there too. "And I haven't seen anything I can't handle yet. But yeah. I remember I got backup." Up-nodding a little, he adds, "You know you got it too, if you need overwatch or something. I know you got your team, but I'm guessin' they aren't exactly shooters."

Barbara smiles ruefully over the edge of her cup, looking at Frank with narrowed eyes. "Yeah, but being given a book is particularly special. It means, 'Hey, I'm really interested in this and I think you might be, too.' I'm surrounded by books, but I like the idea if being given a book to read. It holds some interesting social weight." Then she sips her coffee once more, only just realizing that she missed Frank's meaningful intentions. She arches slightly. "You're coming to Gotham?" Now she's a bit worried. "Frank, are you going to poke around the Whispers?" Despite the question, and maybe the inevitable warning in her voice, it's rhetorical in nature. She knows what he's planning before she even asks it. Then she sighs slightly, and shakes her head as she curls her hands tighter around the mug. "Please be careful. Take someone with you, okay?" Little does she know he's going to take Owen, perhaps banking on Luke. Or even Jess. His reminder that he is her backup too has her smiling a bit. "I know, I haven't forgotten."

Frank nods his acceptance at the correction, "Okay bookworm." He pauses, the corrects himself, "book wyrm. I can see it." He rests his hands on the edge of the table, then gives up and pulls over a chair so that he can sit at the same height as her. "Giving a piece of yourself, somethin' that matters to you." Then she goes worried, and he smirks just a little, "Yeah. I am. I meant to give you the book when I'm done with it. But yeah. I figured I might hit 'em in the nose with a newspaper." Reaching out one socked foot to nudge her boot, he shrugs faintly, "I ain't lookin' to get myself hurt. I'll bring backup." Leaning forward to rest his forearms on his thighs, he inquires, "So who you bringin' in on the team, Red?"

Barbara pauses, and then starts to laugh when Frank recalls the wordplay she had done earlier. She nods with a warm smile. "Yes. Book Wyrm." Then she tucks her arm around one knee that's brought up to her chest, and she smiles at the way he nudges at her boot. Then she tilts her head, resting her neck gently against her hand as she holds onto the back of her neck. Then she sighs thoughtfully. "Um. Black Canary, without a doubt. Jessica Jones." She thinks a bit. "There's this gal that Jess knows… Red Sparrow. And I've invited along Ms. Marvel and Batwoman." Then she hesitates, adding a bit more carefully. "And a zombie named Dead Girl." She shrugs a bit, and breathes out another almost weak, "Welcome to Gotham…?"

Earning the laugh causes Frank to grin, and he nods, listening to the list of prospectives, "Sparrow? Girl about yay high?" He holds out his hand at about an appropriate height, "Swords and electricity?" And then he nods to himself, "Sparky." But then there's 'zombie,' and he blinks, "Gotham." Shaking his head, he chuckles slightly, "Sparky and I worked together fine against some demons. She can work with a team. Don't know Ms. Marvel or Black Canary. Figure you know Batwoman." Grudgingly, he adds, "Snow White… she'll probably work okay. Don't know how she is with teamwork, but she gets along with Luke…" The chuckle returns, along with a little smirk, "just fine."

"Yeah, about that." Barbara arches her brows then at the explanation to how Frank knows Arnavi. Then she cracks a small smile. "Gosh, Frank… you're starting to work with other people. How does that make you feel?" She's teasing him gently, though the use of his nickname for Sparrow has her laughing lightly. "Sparky? Really?" Then she shakes her head. The bit about Jess has her smiling a bit ruefully. "Jess is alright. She can sometimes get too deep, too focused on a case… but she's really alright. Bats likes her. You know, as much as he likes anyone." Then she shrugs her shoulders in an earnest lift. "She'll work out." She takes another sip of coffee, and expression becoming a bit more hesitant, a bit more thoughtful. "Frank, you got someone to stay with for the Holidays?" Her mouth tightens. "I worried about you on Thanksgiving, but… this season is really hard on Dad. Mom left soon before Christmas, and he gets kind of… laser focused on work if I'm not there to yank him back. I meant to come visit." To see that you were doing okay, goes the unspoken clause to that statement.

Frank rolls his shoulders a little uncomfortably at her teasing, "I like workin' with a team, Red. I just… couldn't. Billy and Curtis, they didn't need to be dragged in, Hornhead and Snow White were tryin' to stop me…" The approval of Batman for Jessica Jones has him snorting softly, "Yeeeah." And then there's the question, the one that leaves him a good deal more vulnerable, because while there may well be people for him to be around for the holidays, and he may not have seen his family for most holidays, this is still the first holiday season with them in the ground. He looks down, drawing in a slightly shaky breath. "I ain't gonna lie, Thanksgiving kinda sucked." That is far from the whole story, clearly. "But you had stuff to do." Looking up again, he smirks dryly, "You don't have to be here to hold my hand all the time, Red. I'm a big boy. Christmas… well, I'm probably gonna be watchin' Luke's place. He and Snow White are goin' outta town. He asked me to make sure it doesn't turn into a drug den." You know, with Owen downstairs.

Barbara watches him with those eyes — eyes of a detective, eyes of a friend. She watches the pain filter in, the deep ache. There's that instinct there to just get up and hug Frank, because hugs are an anchor — a point of contact that keeps him from going under. She scoots forward instead, setting her foot solidly against his despite the boot. She tucks a bit of red hair behind her ear. Some guilt filters across her face, despite his admonishment. You don't have to be here to hold my hand all the time, Red. The news that he's watching Luke's place draws her brows up a bit, and then she settles into a small smile. "Yes, well… when you have Owen stalking around, you never do know." Then she tilts her head. "I tell you what… I'll come up here Christmas Day. Dad and I always do something Christmas Eve, and we're getting together with the Lances." Beat pause. "Dinah's dad's a retired cop." Because apparently Frank's got himself surrounded by daughters of law enforcement. "But I'll come up Christmas Day and we can do something." Beat pause. "You ever been ice skating?"

Looking down at the combat boot nudging his socked foot, Castle chuckles, although it still has a hint of strain behind it. He drywashes his hands, the blunt nail of one thumb scraping at the edges of new callouses from swinging a sledgehammer all day. And then the mention of Owen actually opens the chuckle into something a little more honest, although very dry, "Yeah, 'cause I'm Luke's responsible friend." Or, you know, the one Luke wants to make sure has something to do that keeps him connected to the family over the holidays. The news of Dinah's dad's former role causes him to shake his head in amused resignation, but he doesn't get to comment before she mentions ice-skating, and his mind's eye flickers back to a six-year-old Lisa, skittering fearlessly out onto the ice. Frank's eyes squeeze shut, and he takes in a shuddering breath, letting it out in a rough, "It's been a while." Another shaky breath, and then he looks up, "Maybe it'd be good though." 'Reclaim a memory,' he seems to suggest, without saying it. "You don't have'ta give up your Christmas though, Babs."

"He's not wrong." There's a flicker of amusement there, crossing her lips and making her smile again — dimples and all. "You're just a very responsible man who knows how to kill people with various kinds of weapons and a font of unending resolve." Then she finishes off her coffee, and unwinds out of her chair to get herself a refill. This one she keeps black, letting the mug reheat itself and become a handwarmer. She looks over her shoulder to him briefly, catching the sight of renewed pain. Her expression softens into her own mourning and sorrow for the man. When she steps back to him, it's her turn to give him comfort. She squeezes his shoulder, hands small but extremely strong. She doesn't go gentle either, giving him the kind of grip that reminds him he's still alive — for better or worse. Then she nods. "You know, only you think that I'm giving up my Christmas, Frank. I'm including you in my Christmas. Think of it that way, alright?" Beat pause. "Because no one is ever going to make me give up my Christmas. Not even you."

Frank manages an acknowledging nod at her smiling words, sitting up into the pressure of her hand on his shoulder. After a long moment, he reaches up with his right hand to squeeze her hand in silent thanks. As she reframes his pity-party, he grunts thoughtfully, and then can't hold back a little chuff of amusement. 'Not even you.' "Yeah, yeah. Fine." Frank shakes his head, gruffly griping, "Anyone ever tell you that you're nosy, Red?" There's another silent thank-you behind the words, and he looses her hand, "I'll make dinner. You got anyone else up here you want to invite?" The invitation feels so natural, so easy, that it slips out before Frank remembers that he's a wanted fugitive from the law, and his lips purse for a moment before he adds, probably unnecessarily, "Y'know, who won't burn me or mind the bedroom armory."

"You can just call me 'Rudolph.'" The play on her nickname draws a wide smile to her lips, dimples and all. It is a festive little dressing to Red that she couldn't pass up. Then she slips back into her chair once he's come out of his moments of pity, and the offer draws up her brows. Then she tilts her head, actually looking thoughtful. "Um. Could I bring Dinah? You two should probably meet on better circumstances, plus… she'd get the whole bedroom arsenal." She then smirks. "Though, Frank… might be time to consider getting yourself a lair, or something. You're still Pete Castiglione on paper… maybe we can get you set up with some sub-basement somewhere for your Punisher Lair." By her tone, she's not kidding. Frank needs a base, and she's serious. "Will you let me do some digging? Find you somewhere that you can actually, you know, stash your weapons and maybe set you up some kind of base of operations?" Little does she know that Luke has one of those, but neither are in that loop yet.

Frank groans his amusement at the play on his nickname for Babs, shaking his head, "You should be a-damned-shamed of yourself for that one, Red." There's only a moment of hesitation about the suggestion to bring Dinah, and then he nods, "Yeah, sure. She gonna come skating too?" He's not entirely sure why he asked that, but he brushes past as she suggests his own private Bullet Cave, looking over toward the door to the armory. It's open, and the pranged barrels of the minigun can be seen through it. "I… I don't know." Looking back to Barbara, he shrugs a little helplessly, "You keep your gear at your house, right?" Granted, her suit, utility belt, and batarangs all fit in a suitcase, unlike his arsenal. Grimacing a little helplessly, he adds, "Takin' over the bedroom's probably not somethin' I should keep up. The couch is startin' to do a number on my back anyhow." The fact that it's at least third-hand probably doesn't help. "Maybe a storage unit somewhere? Or should I go all super-sneaky like the Belfry?" He snorts a laugh, "This is one of those problems a soldier just doesn't have most of the time."

"I'm not ashamed at all." Then she is laughing warmly until she shakes her head, letting the moment pass. When he mentions Dinah and ice-skating, she looks thoughtful. "I guess she could… I can ask her, though Dinah keeps a pretty busy schedule." Then she is tilting her head more thoughtfully at the shop talk. She starts to shake her head. "Yeah, but my gear all can be stashed under my bed. Even more-so now that I've got a new suit in the works." She glances toward the bedroom door with Frank, and then she coughs a soft laugh. "You look a bit like a really shady arms dealer, right now…" Then she pulls a knee up to her chest, taking a sip of the black coffee. "A storage unit would be alright, but we'd need to find somewhere without high security… lots of cameras. I was actually… maybe… thinking about a place by the water. The docks? There's lots of lots down there that could serve as your Secret Lair of Frank Castle." She muses with a smile at that.

Frank shakes his head at the mention of Dinah's schedule, "Totally welcome — or not. I won't take it bad either way." He gives the bedroom-armory another glance, then shakes his head, "I think you gotta be a fuckin' millionaire to have a bed high enough to put a minigun under." The mention of a new suit draws his eyebrows up, "Ceramic plates? I mean, I know you go all dodgy, but you gotta get somethin' in there for knives. Maybe some real fine titanium mesh." This is where he would make a mithril vest joke if he had the slightest nerdy pop culture knowledge at all. He takes in the suggestions about how to disguise a superhero lair, nodding slowly, "Why the waterfront?" It's not questioning her choice, just seeking out more information. "And shouldn't it be my Castle-cave or somethin' like that? Punisher Keep?"

"I didn't think you would." Barbara flashes up a warm smile at that. "Dinah's good people… fiercely protective and a bit of a drunk, but good people." If she thought hard enough about that, she would realize that most of the people she surrounds herself with are fiercely protective, but good people. She takes another drink from her mug, letting it warm her belly. Then she looks up at his feedback on her armor, and she smiles ruefully. "Something like ceramic plates, but there's some new material I'm working with that will at least help with the whole still getting shot at problem." She then looks thoughtful, brows furrowed. "Waterfront just feels right, I don't know… no one pays much attention to the docks, and it gives you various ins and outs in case something goes wrong. Apartments aren't great for that. Also easier to pull in power and other utilities that cause people's brows to go up. I only have the Belfry where it is because I was in charge of the renovations and I could disguise a lot of that stuff. We don't have that for the Punisher Keep." She likes that one, because a Keep is also a Castle.

Frank shakes his head, "A bit of a drunk?" There's a chuckle there, and then he considers and shrugs, "Everybody deals with shit a different way, as long as it doesn't get in the way. What you're sayin' though, is that I should get more than coffee for dinner." He takes his own cup and rises then, getting a refill and taking a sip on his way back, listening to the reasoning behind the docks as she goes. "Makes sense. Could be close to here too." Settling down into the chair facing her again, he leans his forearms on his thighs, cradling the cup in both hands. "Little warehouse somewhere, or storage area tucked away from everything else. Somethin' I can lock up real tight. Might work. Be nice to sleep in a bed again. And for the record, I ain't so worried about you gettin' shot. With your cape, you seem like you got that covered. It's the gettin' stabbed that seems to happen way too often."

Barbara actually smiles a bit ruefully at that. "Yeah, I guess so. Dinah's got rougher stuff in her backpack than I do… she carries around a lot more." She tilts her head up to Frank. "Kinda like you. Though, I guess you just go for the caffeine instead of the booze." She then hooks her elbow into her knee, resting her cheek and chin in her palm. She watches him with those thoughtful blue eyes as he processes her suggestion, and she nods. "Yeah. I've got some contacts I can use, maybe score you a space… but it's going to need some serious TLC, because I don't have those kinds of contacts." Which is to say, not contacts that can get him a really sprucy joint that's ready to be a vigilante hideaway. Then she smiles. "And yeah, getting you to sleep in a bed again would be good." Her smile redoubles gently before she sips her coffee. "You're getting old and fragile."

When she offers again to find him a place, he snorts, "Hey… I found this place myself." And then she calls him old and fragile, and he straightens up enough to ball up one fist mock-threateningly, "Hey… come over here," not that they aren't already well within arm's reach if he stretched forward, "and say that." A nice bit of proof that he doesn't see her as a helpless damsel in distress, regardless of his threatened plan to go hurt the people who hurt her. Shaking his head with a half-smirk, he adds, "I can handle the fix-up. There's more to me than shootin' shit." Like his offer to cook Christmas dinner, although maybe she's assuming he's going to order in. "If you've got a good contact up here, I'll take the help, but you got your own shit to worry 'bout, Red. Like Atlantic City and puttin' a new team together."

The threat is met with laughter, and she shakes her head with both hands up. "No way… there's no safe range for Frank Castle, but I definitely know I got at least some chance to escape if I stay right here." Then she smiles at him, dimples warm. She returns to his half-complaint about her help, and she shrugs. "Tell you what, I'll give you a list of options and you can pick one." She grins then. "So you feel like you were given a choice." Then she finishes off her coffee, and sets the mug aside. Two cups is plenty for her, even if she's sure Frank's going to finish off the pot. "I'll send you some info. Maybe take Owen a long… he could probably use some proper walkies." Like he's a dog or something. Then she starts to roll up to her feet, reaching down to squeeze his shoulder gently. "I should start getting my ass back home." Then she remembers something. "Oh! Wait." She steps away from the table, heading for the bag she dropped by the front door. She picks up the sleek-lined backpack, and starts back to Frank.

Apparently mollified, Frank nods as she puts her hands up, taking another sip of his coffee and surrendering himself, "Fine, fine. Send me your damn list." The suggestion to bring Owen along causes Frank to give her a slightly confused look, "You think Twitch'd put up with construction work? Or do you just mean pickin' the place out?" And then she's rising, and he gives a little exhalation of breath and levers himself to his feet too. "Yeah, probably so. 'Least the roads should be clear this time of night." Her exclamation causes his brows to rise, then he chuckles, "Yeah, right. My jacket." As he sets down his coffee come and heads for her and the door, they can meet in the middle of the small apartment.

"I like how you agree to things like you have a choice." Then she shrugs at the mention of Owen again, and she smiles. "I don't know. I think Owen knows a lot about how to make shitty places work." There's a compliment there, really, Owen. Then Barbara is smiling warmly to him as she returns with her backpack. She unzips it, and pulls out the thick winter jacket. "Maybe next time don't let me keep something that's making sure you don't die of hypothermia." She hands it off to him, hesitates, and then smiles again. "Check the pocket." When Frank pats around the pockets and pulls out what she's stashed in the left-hand side, he finds a box. Inside the box, he finds… "There's always interesting street vendors who sell Vigilante stuff. I thought you'd appreciate your own bottle opener." And indeed, in the box is a sleek black metal bottle opener that bears the white skull that is emblazoned on Frank's vest. "I got Red Robin a bobblehead last I was poking around."

Frank takes the jacket, hefting it a moment and half-turning to toss it onto the end of the couch, "Come on, this is nothin'. Winter in the Hindu Kush," Afghanistan, "is cold as fuck." The note to check the pockets stalls him from tossing it, and he arches an eyebrow at her before he digs around, checking the right side first, and then the left. Pulling out the box, he snorts, "Fine, but this counts as my birthday present." The coat finally completes its trip to the arm of the couch, and he opens up the box, blinking in surprise. He's a bit stymied for a moment, a mix of emotions flitting across his face before he just starts shaking his head and chuckling, "Jesus Christ some people are fucked up." Says the guy who inspired the item. Still, a grin follows the chuckle, and he shifts box and bottle opener to his left hand so that he can step forward and give Babs a tightly-squeezed hug, "Thanks, Red. For the opener and for comin' up."

Barbara snorts slightly at his complaint. "Hey, at least you were in the Hindu Kush. No one likes a man who complains." She then watches him, and a smile buds up at her lips as he goes through the steps to unwrap the little trinket. When he's stymied by its sight, she starts to smile warmly. "Look, it's totally tchotchke, but I get a kick out of it. These vendors down in Times Square love to sell them. There's Daredevils, and little Jessica Joneses, and Batmans and Supermans… you're not worth a bobblehead yet, but I saw the bottle opener and had to get it for you. I think it's… kind of a quiet nod that the city knows and accepts that you are here." Then she smiles to meet his grin and chuckle before she's getting caught up in the hug. She buries in close, wrapping him up in her strong, lithe arms. Her smile is warm and earnest as they remain together for a heartbeat longer, then she releases him. "I'll always be there for you, Frank. Always." She then gives his beard a playful tug. "Even if you're a hipster." Then she ducks away, expecting retaliation before she grabs up her backpack and helmet.

"Naw, it's hilarious, just… makes me kinda worry about some people out there." Despite Frank's instinct to go for a rib-creaking squeeze, he's a little gentle, remembering her wince when she sat down the first time. When he looses his arms and steps back, he's already tucking the bottle opener back into the box, then looks up as she tugs at his beard and accuses him of being a hipster. One hand swings in a wide, swiping arc, that would totally miss short of her head even if she weren't ducking away. "Bite your damn tongue, Red." But at least he's laughing, even as he upnods, "Drive safe. I'll get on down there in the next couple of days to bring you the book."

The pretend swipe toward her head just makes her laugh again, ducking back further before she shakes her head. "Then you're just being human." Barbara slings up her backpack. She curls her arm around her helmet, tilting her head slightly. "And the beard looks good on you, Frank." Then she starts for the door, smiling wryly toward him as she does. "Stay out of trouble, Frank…" Then she ducks her head as she reaches for the knob of the door so she can slip back out into the hallway.

'Stay out of trouble,' she says. That's… not going to happen, especially since he plans to be back in Gotham for a different purpose altogether tomorrow. Frank sees her to the door, "Kick ass and take names, Red." The door shuts behind her. 'The beard looks good on you, Frank.' Huh. He frowns at the door for a moment, then shakes his head and turns away, going to collect his coffee and take it into the bedroom to go back to work on his minigun.

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