Back to the Grind
Roleplaying Log: Back to the Grind
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Babs has something for Frank to help her with.

Other Characters Referenced: Dinah Lance, Daredevil, Batman, Tony Stark, Huntress
IC Date: June 05, 2019
IC Location: Voodoo Coffee, Gotham
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 07 Jun 2019 05:30
Rating & Warnings: PG-13 for Language
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

The text message just said to meet her at the coffee shop down in Red Hook. Barbara's in her street clothes instead of her suit, leaning back against the brick exterior of the 24-hour caffeine supplier. She's got her arms crossed at her chest, dressed in her motocross gear with her helmet tucked down at her feet. Her red hair has been braided neatly, with wisps of bangs at her forehead. There's very little care given to the street around her, even as a man walks by to cast her a leering look. She's got her phone out and appears to be text messaging someone, head bowed and presence otherwise innocuous.

Frank's coming the other direction from the leering guy, and he might just happen to give the guy's shoulder a nice heavy bump as he passes him a half dozen paces down the street, "Oops." He doesn't sound like it was a mistake at all. "Sorry." He also doesn't sound sorry at all. Luckily he's also Frank Castle, which tends to discourage discontent upon the male and not-entirely-idiotic. He gathers his light spring jacket around his shoulders, looking down beneath the brim of his ballcap as he leans against the wall alongside Barbara, "Summer's gonna suck for keeping a low profile. Hey Red. You're tryin' to bribe me with coffee, this must not be something I wanna do." There's a pause, and he actually cracks a joke, even if it's delivered in a near monotone, "We're not picking out curtains for the Keep, are we?"

Barbara doesn't look up at the shoulder-bump, but there's a little flash of a smile at her lips. Then she's looking up at Frank as he settles in beside her. Her shoulder almost touches his, perhaps setting a clear expectation to those around her that Frank is welcomed and definitely someone most don't want to mess with. She tilts a look up to him from their comfortable place together. At the dry-delivered joke, her smile brightens to something close to full-dimpled. "The Keep?" Then she snorts slightly, dismissing the mere idea before she pushes off the wall. "Come on. Let's grab some coffee and I can walk you through it." This joint is the same one they visited back when Barbara was doing the Roller Derby gig. Now that she's a full-paid employee of Stark Industries, she's not worried about most of that. She still volunteers at the library, but that's more to keep up her presence so that using the Belfry isn't that unusual— might be time to move the Belfry though. There's apparently something about Wayne buying the clocktower as a historical preservation project. Hmm. Anyway, Babs leads Frank into the Voodoo Coffee shop with its New Orleans Day-of-the-Dead theme and its colorful baked goods. Babs is already at the counter, ordering their coffees— even if she opts for an Almond Latte.

"Hey, your idea." Frank steps into the coffee shop behind her, "Still working out a place to stay anyhow. At least something semi-permanent." Like the crappy ground-floor apartment he was in before. He lets her head to the counter, lingering back a little and just giving his head a little shake when asked by the clerk if he wants anything besides the black drip coffee Babs orders for him. He catches her eye a moment, then heads over to claim a table, unslinging his backpack and digging out a little brown-paper-wrapped parcel. It's set on the table before her chair, and when she picks up the drinks and joins him, he upnods toward it, "I remember you saying you wanted to visit the Big Easy some time. It ain't quite the same, and I didn't know you'd have another housemate, but I figured you and Dinah might like 'em." Inside the thick paper are a pair of Cafe du Monde t-shirts. Evidently Frank stopped off in New Orleans between Tuscaloosa and Phoenix.

"My idea?" Barbara snorts slightly before she selects one of the rainbow-frosted cookies sprinkled in edible glitter. Then she is heading over to join him soon after he's settled in, carrying her cookie in a wrapped bag and the coffee. She sinks down across from him, tucking her legs under her chair. She is stalled by the bag, and she starts to open it and takes out one of the t-shirts. She smiles at it, beaming to dimples once more. "Frank! This is great." She rubs the soft material against her cheek, marveling in its smooth softness. Then she smiles back at him before she gives his foot a little nudge with her own in silent thanks. She picks up her cup of coffee, closing her hands around the paper cup. She takes a sip. "So. Um. You looking for a place to stay? Like, here, or in New York?"

Frank lowers his voice under the general hum of the coffee shop, "You know, Punisher Keep." He collects his coffee, taking a sip to start readjusting the blood-coffee balance in his caffeine system. Her reaction to the shirts draws a grin to his lips, and he nods a little at the nudge, giving a little shrug that while it's not very bashful, is definitely too bashful for someone with a kill count longer than his leg. "You sounded like you really wanted to go. And up in New York. Rules up there are better for me, both the ones on the books, and the ones enforced by the masks and capes." There's a pause, and he snorts, "Besides Hornhead. Plus, I've got the job up there." He shrugs unapologetically, "Sorry to get your hopes up." His deadpan game is very, very strong. Shifting tacks, he asks, "So whatcha got? I mean, I can give you the pep talk in texts, right?" Okay, maybe he didn't shift tacks too far from flipping her affectionate shit.

Memory brightens her eyes, and she laughs. "That's right. Punisher's Keep. I still think that's a really smart idea." Because Barbara thought of it! But then she is back to admiring her t-shirt, looking over it with an affectionate touch of her fingers. Then she is shrugging out of her motocross jacket, revealing a pretty plain green t-shirt underneath. She nods slightly with his hushed words as she tugs on the new t-shirt over her green one, tugging it into place before she shows off with her hands spread. "It's a good fit," she tells him without any drop of surprise. Then she settles her arms folded in front of her. "It's alright. We could use help down here, but at the same time… this is okay. You just make sure to call me when you need me, okay?" When they shift topics, Babs takes a breath before she takes out her phone. It's better than dropping a file folder in front of him, because it can look like she's just sharing vacation photos or something. She scoots her chair around so she can sit beside him at the circular table. She shows him some images she has on her phone— Frank would recognize the woman, though he would have to look through the bruises and pale pallor of a corpse. It's Jane Eyre-senal— one of Barbara Gordon's old team mates. "She washed up at the docks a few days ago. Dad told me about it, because he knew I skated with her." Her lips tighten. "She was beaten pretty badly." Her voice is tight. "She had the words 'Beware the Court of Owls' carved into her chest."

"Because you thought of it." See, Frank's hip to her ways. He watches her try on the shirt, nodding his approval. "There we go. Whole lot easier to size a t-shirt than a vest." His brows draw together at the mention of using help in Gotham, "Really, Babs?" There's concern there, behind his question, "The Big Bad Bat and GCPD would come after me hard if I set up shop down here, wouldn't they? I mean, my way and the Gotham Rules… they're always gonna clash some." Even if he's cleaned up his methods a bit. Still, he shifts his chair over a little as well so that he can study the images, craning over her shoulder. After a moment, he frowns, "That's… Jane. Right?" His whiskey-and-cigarettes-sounding voice rasps, "And they've got no idea who the Court of Owls is. Or if it's there to throw them off the trail. So they're running down who she was when she wasn't Jane. So you want to start in on the Court. Rattle some cages down here, shake up some criminals, see what they know."

"Yeah." The words are soft when Frank asks if that's Jane. Her lips press together. "I only ever knew her as Jane." Then she sets down the phone, darkening the screen so that no one else will see the dead visage of Jane Eyre-senal. She breathes out a breath that catches a bit in her chest, and she rubs slightly at the underneath of her chin. "No. I know who the Court of Owls is… well, kind of. They are from an old nursery rhyme… I can't even remember it. Some of my classmates in school would talk about it. It starts with Beware the Court Owls, though. I remember that much… so, I don't know. Maybe some obsession with the rhyme?" She ventures this cautiously, almost uncertain with a tight frown at her lips.

Frank looks down at the darkened phone, his frown deepening, drawing his heavy brows together. "Sounds like that's the next step, if these shitbirds are obsessed with the rhyme and you want to stop them — looking up the rest of the rhyme." Slowly, he looks back up to her face, studying her for a moment, then he nods, "Trace the clue, work it from that end, since the cops'll be working from her driver's license? I don't know, Red. You're the expert at this." Taking a sip of his coffee, he reaches out with his other hand to squeeze Barbara's shoulder. "Me, I'm point and click. But I've got your back until you figure out where you want me pointed."

"Yes. I thought I'd ask B—Batman about it." The name almost slips, lost in the commonality shared between the two. But she corrects herself quickly, and there's barely a flicker in her expression. Instead, Barbara takes a drink from her own coffee, looking down at her darkened phone, now beside Frank instead of across from him. This makes it all the easier to turn toward him when he squeezes at her shoulder. The redhead nods after a heartbeat. "Yeah. I thought I would chase the leads the police get, and then… well… go a bit deeper. I'm just not sure where this will go."

"You want me to shake some trees?" If he noticed the slip, Frank doesn't give any indication. "Talk to vets and scum?" He shrugs a little, "I mean, you know the shitbirds down here better than me, but I'm happy to help out." And the vets he might actually have an in with. "Do you usually know where something like this is going to go when you start, Red? Because me… as far as I can tell, the way that I think something will end up really, really isn't the way it ends up." There's a pause, and he squeezes her shoulder, "But you're not a shit detective. You don't have to run through the walls between you and the end like I do." That's not him getting down on himself, just an amused bit of self-reflection.

For a moment, Barbara is on the verge of taking him up on that offer— of letting Frank shake some trees, use his natural fear to shake out information. But instead, the redhead smiles that tired little smile and she touches his forearm gently. "No." The word is quiet. "You're right, Frank. Between the Bats and GCPD, I would just be putting you at risk of you becoming the target. But, I tell you what… if things get dicey, you'll be the first person I call— you know, after Dinah." Then she takes another drink from her paper cup before she turns back toward him with a little, almost shy smile. "But thank you, Frank. For the offer alone."

Frank chuckles dryly, "Red, I got a target on my back so big, I think sometimes the reason I don't get as much attention is people ain't expecting me to be, you know, in a coffee shop." But the words and the touch seem to have done their trick, and he doesn't offer again, letting his hand slip from her shoulder and leaning back in the chair, "After Dinah, since she'll get here a hell of a lot faster." There's a pause, and then Frank shrugs a little, "You know you don't even gotta ask, right, Red?" His dark eyes are intent on her paler ones, "Seriously, you came lookin' for me and were there for me when no one else was. I've always got your back. Always."

Barbara's smile turns warm and smiling as she regards him, head tilted slightly to one side. "After Dinah." Then the follow-up has her starting to settle into something warm, calm, and contented. She nods her head slowly, reaching out to touch his wrist again. "I know. I know that the one thing I earned in all this is that I'll always have Frank Castle when I need him." That's when she leans forward and touches a light kiss to his cheek, and her smile takes on an even softer edge. "Thanks, Frank."

Frank has the self-awareness to chuckle at her response, nodding with a dry little smile and giving her shoulder a little nudge with his forearm, "Whether you want it or not." The humor is stilled by the lean and the kiss to his cheek, and he settles back into his chair, a little grin at one corner of his lips, "Of course, Babs." He takes a sip of his coffee, then adds, "One of these days, you gotta at least get out to like, Upstate again, or the mountains in Pennsylvania." He shrugs a little helplessly, "I'm a city boy, born and raised, but damn if some of those little back-country roads aren't great. You'd probably love 'em on that bike of yours."

"Hey — I'm sure if you're there to help me out it's because I need it." Barbara then finishes up her coffee with a final swig, and she settles one foot up on the chair, her chin resting on the bend. She glances over to him at the strange reminiscence of his time on the road. It is unusual for Frank to be so open about that kind of stuff. "Yeah? I know… I need to get out more. I just don't know when I'll ever have the time — I guess I could ask Stark for a couple days off, and just try not to make eye contact with the Bat when he gives me a hard time about not keeping up with patrols."

"Dinah tells you 'bout all the clubs you should be goin' to, I tell you about country roads." Frank smirks a little at that, shaking his head in amusement. "You know, Dinah and Willhelmina could probably cover for you. Or one of the Robins, or hell, even me." Once more, he gives her a light forearm shove to the shoulder, "So you don't spend the whole time feeling guilty about leavin' your job uncovered." Amusement filters into the gravelly words, and he grins, finishing off his coffee and setting the empty cup down. "Maybe he should franchise a few more Robins if he wants more coverage."

The gentle shove to her shoulder rocks her sideways, and she casts him a dubious look. "You say this like he collects little lost vigilantes to protect his city." Then Barbara hesitates, mulling over that statement with a slight shift of her expression. "Huh, okay. Maybe don't comment on that." Then she offers him a little smirk before she settles into her elbows once more, half-forgetting the rainbow cookie that she had ordered with her coffee. "I'm sure I can find some coverage — but that does mean I need someone to go with me if Dinah and Willhelmina are covering for me." She folds her arms together in front of her. "Unless you're offering to tag along."

Frank opens his mouth to comment, and Barbara cuts him off. He gives a little nod as she changes her position. "That's what I thought." He does grumpy and scowling very well, but he's not too bad at self-satisfied either. "Pretty sure it also takes some time to get 'em up to standards, but… yeah. You think he won't want to meet Wilhelmina if he hasn't already? Clear her for work in town?" He snorts a little at that idea, as well he might, considering he hasn't ever met The Bat — to his knowledge. "Buddy system, Red? Yeah, if I got time to slip outta town for a bit, I could do that. Especially if there's some time I need to keep quiet, let some heat die off."

Babs just scowls at him. "Keep it to yourself, Castle." Then she remembers her cookie, and tears off a bite to chew through it. Her eyes flicker back toward Frank briefly only to nod slowly. "I think that she's okay. We would know if she wasn't." Then she folds her arms in front of her again while she continues to eat through that bite of cookie. When he mentions the Buddy System, she glances aside to him. "Yeah?" She hesitates. "Only if you want to. Don't feel obligated… might be just as nice to take a little vacation on my own, too." There she goes, backing up just as quickly so there's no threat of promises.

"Maybe Big Bad Bat's trusting you and Blondie to screen Wilhelmina." The sidelong glance causes him to snort, "When've you known me to offer something I'm not good with doing, Red?" Scooting about in his chair to partially turn toward her, he hooks the heels of his combat boots — the ones she got him for Christmas — to the horizontal support under the chair and rests his forearms on his thighs, "You want to go alone, you can do that just fine. You want company, I can come along. Means just one…" oooh, he just almost called himself a vigilante, "…person off the streets of each city at the same time. I mean, unless there's a Mask and Cape and Underoos Vacation Season."

"Or that we're enough to vouch for her, and will take the heat if she does something that violates the Code." Capital C. He's turning toward her now, and Barbara doesn't notice the boots— or perhaps just assumes that they have always been there. He's leaning more toward her, and so she rests her head more in her hand, elbow perched on the table's edge. "That's not really what I'm trying to needle out of you, Frank — I want to know if you want to go with me. Tagging along because I asked or because you feel you ought to wouldn't be fun for anyone."

"Yeah? And you gonna take the heat when I have to violate the Gotham Code?" There's mostly amusement behind the question, but also some concern from Frank. Because he's pretty sure that sooner or later he's going to have to kill someone in Gotham. "You ain't needling me, Red." He reaches out with one hand, nudging her knee with his knuckles, "Like I said, I'm not gonna promise anything I'm not okay doing." There's a pause, and then he offers up a little grin, "Besides, you're kind of alright when you relax a little."

"More than likely," Barbara breathes out softly. Then she lifts her own smile to him to match the little amusement. At the nudge to her knee, she leans in closer to him as her fingers slip down to take his hand gently with her own before he retreats back. She squeezes his hand gently with her fingers as she matches his own lean, her body turned in the chair so that she can rest her elbows gently on her knees. "Do you know how much work it takes to get me to relax?" She's teasing him now in this quiet moment in the all-night coffee shop.

Frank looks down at her fingers, his brows beetling lightly before he gives her hand a little squeeze. "Yeah. I had to get you on a derby track. Or put on Christmas in a crapsack apartment. Or up in the Belfry on your birthday." He snorts, "Look, if there's anyone who knows how hard it is to get you to relax, it's Dinah, but if there's two people, I'm pretty sure it's Dinah and me." Or, you know, her dad or Dick or any of half a dozen others. "But I'm pretty sure it's worth it, Red."

When Frank lists off all the work he's had to do since last Fall to get her to relax, Barbara's expression turns to a little scowl. "Look." But then she stops, and the redhead sighs. "Alright. That's fair." Then she releases his hand, and she leans back away from him with a slight dip of her chin. She brushes her fingers slightly back against the back of her neck. "I'll make some plans."

Frank grins over at Babs, silently daring her to protest. His grin spreads as she sighs, and he nods definitively, resting his forearm on his thigh again, "Hey, it's not relaxing if you're forced into it." Knocking her knee with his knuckles again, he straightens up, "So what were you walking me through before I distracted you with the idea of a vacation, bad influence that I am?"

"I don't know — a little peer pressure might be needed. I'm sure once I'm — wherever it is we decide to go — I'll relax." The little knock against her knee again brightens her smile to somewhere nearing dimpled. Then she sighs out a soft breath, and rubs slightly at her temple with a brush of her knuckles. "Court of Owls — the nursery rhyme. I need to check with Batman about what it means. If it means anything. I think asking around as a friend of the deceased might be easier than Batgirl shaking cages."

"Right. Yeah, some people might be willing to talk to a friend who aren't willing to talk to the cops." Frank shrugs a little helplessly, "If you don't want me shaking trees, there's not much I can do to help, I don't think. You think of anything, lemme know." A crooked, boyish smile touches his lips, "And don't forget you've got people around here to delegate to, Lieutenant."

"Lieutenant? Did I get promoted?" Barbara's smile does not fade nor falter. Then she is settling down back into her seat with her shoulders pressed back into the chair. "Oh no, I want you to shake up some trees, but maybe just do it quietly. I was thinking maybe you could look into those die-hard fans we had at the bouts. Maybe this is some crazy fan. Jane had quite a following." She gives his foot a nudge. "How's that for delegation?"

"Nope. Not since you got the bars." Frank chuckles, "Why, you buckin' for a promotion? Sorry to say, those bars are as far as I ever got." The demonstration of delegation causes him to snort a chuckle, "Yeah, yeah. That's what I get for givin' you a suggestion. I see how it is." Still, he nods a little more thoughtfully, the small smile fading from his lips, "Like those asshole Sinist-HER fans who kept cursing the refs every time they called a foul." He only cursed the refs when they called a foul wrong. Totally different. "People who take things a little too seriously, who might have hated when she beat their team… or when she turned them down."

"Hell no," Babs says with a sudden laugh. "I'm good. Really. I'll happily stay Lieutenant forever." Then she tilts her head, hand curving up along the back of her neck and into the light fall of her braided hair. "Yeah, like those guys… I don't know if any of them are violent, but this is Gotham. Weirdos come out of the weirdest cracks sometimes." She sucks in a tight breath before she lets it out. "In some ways, I hope it was just a crazed fan. All we need is something bigger brewing."

"And just because it's a crazed fan doesn't mean it's not part of somethin' bigger." Frank grunts sourly, "Blacksmith was just a drug dealer at first, right?" Before he was a family-killing psychopath who was also Frank's former commanding officer. So, you know, comforting thoughts. "But hell, Red, you know the nursery rhyme, I'm sure someone out there in Gotham is totally obsessed with it — that sure seems to be how Gotham rolls. You get the guy obsessed with riddles, the guy obsessed with clowns, the guy obsessed with birds, the girl obsessed with cats… it's pretty much the Gotham thing. Wouldn't be surprised if there's some Owlman looking for an Owlwoman behind this all."

"That's also true," Barbara agrees with her own disquieted expression. She hopes that it isn't, but this is Gotham — some realities are the worst possible outcome. Then she sighs out a breath at the mention of The Blacksmith. Her eyes tick to the side as she regards the meager population of the all-night coffee stand. By the time, it's nearing the hour when the drunks and clubbers will filter in for rowdy coffee and sugar. She looks back over to Frank, tipping her head to one side as she does. "Hey. I'm not obsessed with anything." So not true. "And I wouldn't be surprised either." She starts to hear the loud rowdy voices of the first group coming into the door. "You want to walk me to my cycle?"

"Bats, books, dogs, fixing broken things…?" At least Frank's amusement cuts through the sour cloud that was brewing over him. "Yeah. I can watch you kick the shit out of anyone stupid enough to hassle you." Still, he rises to his feet without hesitation, snagging his empty cup to throw it away on the way to the door. "Don't forget to give that other shirt to Dinah. I'll know if you keep the both for yourself, Red." Which could be totally creepy coming from the wrong person. Frank mostly just makes it teasing.

"Just sit back, take bets?" There's an amused flash across her expression as she picks up her cookie, but tosses her empty cup. "I won't forget." She has the bag tucked under her arm after all. Then she is crossing toward the exit with Frank. She stays close as she does, and she smiles over to him. "Are you one of my broken things, Frank?"

"I hadn't even though of making book," Frank admits, "See, you're one step ahead of me on this crime thing, Red." Beat pause, "Oh, sorry, crime-fighting thing." The smiling question gets a shrug in response, but it's a shrug with a grin, "Don't know about yours," he teases quietly, "but yeah, I'm still a pretty broken thing." Which probably isn't something he could have admitted so readily, even positively, a year ago. Or even a few months ago.

"Ha." It's a mirthless note before she's stepping along into the open air of the night. She turns toward him, tucking her hands into the pockets of her leather jacket. She considers him with a tilt of her head, forelocks sweeping down across one brow. "I don't know. Pretty sure that when I adopted Max, I adopted you, too. Why else do you keep coming around?" There's a twitch of a smile at her lips before she reaches out to gently tug his sleeve. Then she's leading him up the hill where she parked her bike.

"You keep tellin' me you're just around for Max, you're gonna give me a complex, Red." Another one. Frank follows the tug at his sleeve easily enough, shoving his hands into his own pockets to walk companionably up the hill toward the bike. "Or maybe it's because you gave me a phone and kept texting it. Somethin' about someone caring if you live or die matters." Woah, Frank got a little heavy there, even if he didn't mean to.

"I need you, too." Those words are soft as they spill out of her, and then Barbara feels a bit of a blush rise up at her cheeks that she, hopes, cannot be seen in the dark. She tilts her smile toward him, and there's a gentler edge to it at his deep words. She steps closer to him, and her fingers curl around his elbow. It has an intimacy a bystander might take for something more than two friends walking down a dark street together. "It does," she agrees quietly.

"Yeah, just 'cause I tell you how great you are." Frank plays it off readily enough, but the pause that covers the blush that he misses in the dark sinks into his subconscious, and he gives her hand a squeeze in his elbow a moment before just letting it rest there as they walk. Part of his mind wanders, a memory resurfacing of another woman with her hand on his arm, walking beside him under the streetlights of New York City, and so it's a moment after her quiet agreement that he blinks a little and looks over at Barbara, "Hey Red, you got a lot of people who care what happens to you. Probably some you wish would care a little less."

A touch of laughter suffuses her words as she points out that, "I'm not all that great." Then she is continuing along for several long quiet steps, letting Frank slip into that unconscious silence. Then, with some care, she tightens her hand at his elbow. "Yeah, maybe. I mean, not about people caring for me — just the bit about the little less." She laughs again before she glances back aside to him. "I lost you for a moment there What were you thinking about?"

"Bullshit." But Frank manages a smile at her conditional agreement that perhaps some people care too much for her liking, but the expression slips away at the question that follows. "Just a memory." For a moment, it seems like he might leave it at that, but then he looks down at the pavement before their feet, letting out a slow sigh, "Me and my old lady, right at the start. Walking down 54th Street, right by the park. She tucked her hand into my arm just like that." His words trail off as he digs into the memory a little deeper, "'Bout a month later, she was tellin' me she was pregnant and I asked her to marry me."

Barbara's chest tightens abruptly at the recount of the memory. Her fingers squeeze just once before they fall away, and she tucks her hands back into her pocket. "Sorry," she half-mumbles. Her eyes drop to their walking boots. "Didn't mean to…" It seems too lame to finish that apology, so she just lets it die off on her lips. She looks down, her forelocks making a short curtain that obstructs him from catching the full expression that darkens her features. "Heading back to New York?" It's an attempt to move on, change topics, give her chest a chance to loosen. Her blue eyes just shift aside to him briefly.

"It's…" What is it? Frank is stymied for a moment. 'It's fine' isn't altogether accurate, but it's also not really wrong either. 'It's alright?' No, his family is still dead. But he's also not feeling any worse than the usual weight of his grief. 'It's not your fault' is true, but it's also not the point — it's not anybody's fault that the gesture reminded him of his wife-to-be's presence, of the happy times before they really started tearing into each other. 'It's actually kind of nice,' is true in one meaning, it did feel nice both to have the connection and the pleasant memory, but it also discounts the darker sides of the memory. Instead, he just goes silent for a moment, then reaches out to touch her back, just below her shoulder blade, a physical reassurance rather than a verbal one. He's always been better at actions than words. Accepting the change of topic, he shakes his head slightly, "I think I'm gonna hit Rourke's, see if that pack of fanboys is there. You gonna head home and get some sleep?"

Barbara casts a side glance to Frank as he tries to find the words, and she is surprised by how tight she's holding her breath in her chest. Then he touches her back, and her eyes drift away again to watch the sidewalk get eaten under their feet. She exhales as she nods, though there's something a bit awkward that settles into her tall, graceful frame. "Yeah. Dinah has become a bit more strict about check-ins. I should go home, sleep." She frets at her lip as she continues along for several paces, and ahead, her bike comes into sight, leaned against the curb.

Frank does what Frank does, which is break through instead of lingering in a place that's untenable. "Sounds good, Red. You said, back in that subway tunnel somethin' like eight months ago, that you'd go all intense, and then need that bit of calm, that time to breathe. I think you need it now. You sound like you've been running yourself ragged. Stay in with Dinah and read. Watch a movie. Deal with thing with Jane. Nothin' that's gonna shake the city, nothin' that's big." If he only knew. "Just breathe, Babs."

"Yeah." Her words are soft, but there's something odd edging into them. "Um. Yeah. I'll go relax." She takes a little step away from him once they get to her bike. She unlocks the helmet from the bike, and she handles it carefully. She hesitates, going back and forth between the awkwardness before she asks quietly, "Need a lift?" It's a quiet offering, nodding to the second helmet that is attached on the backseat of her bike. "If not, that's fine. I bet you drove some crapmobile here anyway."

Frank looks over the bike, giving Barbara the time to be awkward, evidently immune to it himself — at least for now. He only hesitates a moment at her offer, "Yeah, I'll take a ride to the train station. I abandoned the beater I had outside Metropolis." He takes the second helmet, pulling off his ballcap and tucking it into a pocket before he pulls the helmet on, waiting for her to get onto the bike and then climbing on behind her easily enough. He settles his hands at her sides, pauses, and shifts them forward just a little for a better grip on her jacket. Maybe he isn't entirely immune to the awkwardness. He gives his helmet a smack as if to seat it, and then reaches up with one hand to give the back of hers a pat, "Ready."

"Need to get you another car then," Barbara offers up with a quirk of her smile. Once he takes the helmet, she relaxes a bit more. "I'll get you to the train station." Then she is adjusting the bike, scooting forward enough to make room for his larger frame. When he settles his grip on her jacket, she gives a slight nod. But only when he smacks his helmet and then pats hers does she gun the bike, whipping off from the curb and into the Gotham night.

"If I need one." Frank settles in close behind her when she scoots up, and when she twists the throttle, he grabs tight around her waist. He's gotten better at riding bitch, leaning appropriately and as necessary. When they get to the train station, he reaches up with one hand to give her shoulder a squeeze, then dismounts, "Besides, if I had a car, you couldn't go all protective and drive me to the train station." He snorts amusement, then shakes his head, pulling off his helmet and offering it out to her, "And I know how much you like it."

"Being protective of you?" Barbara quirks a smile up at him once she's shaken her hair out of the helmet. The braid falls ruffled at her shoulders. She starts to ease off the bike, kicking out the stand. She takes the offered helmet from him and sets it back on the seat he just vacated. She looks back up at him with those paler blue eyes, and she smiles. "I do like it." Then she nods to the train station. "Now shoo before I decide to get on the train with you."

"Isn't that what you're doing, Red? Making sure I get home safe?" Frank gestures toward the train station, grinning faintly. At her 'threat,' he shakes his head, then leans forward to press a light kiss to her forehead, "You know you can always come up. But wait a bit, I'm still working on long-term housing." He starts to step back, "Try to get some rest, Red."

The kiss to her forehead shutters her eyes for a moment, and then Barbara nods slowly. "Yeah. I'll try. Travel safe." Then she waits there at her bike, eyes lingering on him as he walks away.

One step, two, and Frank turns about, walking off through the parking lot. As he gets to the entrance, he turns around and gives a wave, evidently assuming that she's going to still be there. Then he's gone, into the sparse crowds and back toward the Big Apple.

Barbara does wait for the wave, not sure if she should expect it. But there it is, and he's awarded with a little wave. Then she turns away, back to Gotham.

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