Near-Tears in the Rain
Roleplaying Log: Near-Tears in the Rain
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Frank and Babs have dinner at a Gotham diner in the midst of a storm. A familiar cop stops by, and Frank gets emotional.

Other Characters Referenced: Jim Gordon, Jake Toreldo, Pepper Potts, Tony Stark, Dick Grayson, Maria Castle
IC Date: June 30, 2019
IC Location: Gotham
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 02 Jul 2019 00:32
Rating & Warnings: Light R for language
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

A summer storm sweeps through Gotham City, and the city sidewalks are filled with a dance of people with umbrellas. A redhead sits in a booth several back from the door centered on the long and narrow diner that sits on an odd-shaped intersection. She has her laptop opened, but the screen is spiraling colors of neon on a black background. Her hands are curled around a white ceramic cup of coffee, glasses perched on the top of her head to pin back her hair and forelocks. She's looking out at the city with a distant gaze. Just a stone's throw from Burnside, and what will be her new college campus, she waits for her date to show up.

The van does make things easier, and the storm makes it even easier. Pete keeps his head down, his black ball-cap shadowing his face from view and from rain alike. The rain speckles the shoulders of his work jacket and his hat, but he it doesn't slow him, the big man opening the door and stepping in. He shakes his head as the waitress comes to greet him, "Thanks, ma'am, I'm meetin' someone." He glances right, left, and there's Babs, and he points in her direction, "'scuse me." He heads in Barbara's direction, offering her a brief smile, "Hey, Red. You hear back on your application already?" He doesn't know how these things work.

The moment she hears the words 'Thanks, ma'am,' she knows that Frank has shown up. Barbara's smile is soft, and she just breaks focus from the windows to Frank when he closes in on her booth. She looks up at him with a quirk of her brow, and that smile curves higher into her cheeks. "Hey." His follow-up question has her laughing softly, but she doesn't answer him until he's taken a seat, either beside her or across from her. "They're still reviewing it. I've been set up for an interview though, sooo…" She reaches to close her laptop, and then she plucks her glasses off her hair as she shakes the long red locks loose.

Frank leans in to press a kiss to Barbara's temple, just below the pushed-up glasses, then settles in opposite her in the booth. He nods at her response, "So you can crush the shit out of that, and then get on with showing them how badass you are." He watches her long hair settle around her face, and he shakes his head in amusement, "They teach that move in Librarian School, Red?" One hand gestures to the glasses, then turns his own white ceramic cup upright at the end of the table. When the waitress comes by, he nods, "Black please, ma'am. Thanks." He gets his pour, then pokes at the menu, although the majority of his attention stays on Barbara, "Anything goin' on out there? I'd ask if the rain shuts down the trouble, but it never stops rainin' down here, does it?"

Frank's blind confidence in her has Babs smiling down into her coffee, and her fingertips brush along the temple where his warm lips still leave a lasting sensation against her nerves. Then she is tucking away the computer entirely, not catching the amusement until she's already looking back to him. "Teach what?" Then she realizes what he means, and she snorts. "Yes… right up there with how to gracefully shake my hair out of a bun while asking where your overdue books are." She kicks him lightly under the table before she shuffles her cup forward for a refill. Only once the waitress has moved along does she rest her weight into her folded forearms. "Rain makes it worse, actually." Then she offers him a little smile. "I have to go up to Metropolis on Monday for some Stark Meet-and-Greet, so I decided to give myself tonight off. Maybe PJs and watching crappy TV."

Frank grunts at the kick under the table, scowling at her over the table, "Ow." That would probably mean something with you know, even the slightest hint of pain in his voice. "And the ruler smacking on the table? No, wait, that's a nun." He frowns at the suggestion of rain making things worse, grunting thoughtfully, "Different than the service. Nobody likes bein' out in the rain in the boonies. I mean, shit happens, because there's always somebody crazy enough to put up with the rain because nobody else likes it." Usually that was him. "Meet-and-Greet? Stark's got you in front of VIPs now? Don't get me wrong, I woulda had you doin' that right away." He takes a sip of the coffee, glancing out the window, then back to her, licking his lips, "And what's your idea of crappy TV, Red?"

"Librarians just slam encyclopedias on your knuckles." Babs gestures at him with her coffee cup before she takes a sip from the hot, black brew. She's starting to tuck up her leg, hooking her foot youthfully on the edge of the bench and tucking her knee against her chest between her arms. She's wearing shorts, leaving her knee bare with a little bruise on the side of one kneecap. "Oh? Because you think that having a pretty young redhead meeting his VIPs is the right fit for me?" That's such a goddamn trap, Frank would be stupid not to spot it. She is smiling though as she takes another sip from the edge of the mug. "Though more people would just call me Pepper or Ms. Potts if I was doing that from the start." Then she follows his glance out into he rain, and her gaze lingers when his looks back. "Hmm." She presses her lips together thoughtfully, looking upward briefly. "I don't know if I should tell you… I feel like I'm going to get judged… or worse, chastised."

Frank can spot traps a mile away, usually. Then again, that doesn't stop him from… "I think you're pretty much as good in front of people as you are in front of a computer, Red." Stomping right into them. "Goddamn, I think you've got more bruises than I do." Probably not. Well, depends on the day. He kicks lightly at her remaining foot on the ground, then shakes his head, "No offense to whoever that is, but I'm pretty sure you start doin' that, they're gonna start callin' her Ms. Gordon." His brows lift slightly as she watches him warily, glancing aside and then back to her, "I'm just tryin' to figure out if I'm gonna be bored outta my mind, or wonderin' what I got myself into."

Now Babs feels a bit of a pink heat rise at her cheeks, and she scowls at Frank in self-defense. His comment about her bruise has her scowling look slide away into something sheepish. "I, um… ran into the dresser this morning." Sometimes she's really just a klutz. She rubs her fingertips down along the ceramic, and she smiles up at him at the light kick to her foot. Then she's laughing at the idea of Pepper Potts getting called Ms. Gordon. When Frank meets her eyes again, it's to find a warm smile settling into place. "Oh yeah? You think you've netted yourself an invite to curling up with me and crappy TV?"

Frank watches the blush and the scowl and the sheepish look impassively, just a hint of a smile touching his lips and the corners of his eyes. It's a steady, intent look as he watches her laugh and smile. The difference in their expressions, his micro and hers macro, are bold, clear, and the brightness that shines from her sparks warmth in his chest that hasn't been there in a long while. He takes a sip of his coffee, and then shrugs just a little, "I figured you didn't ask me to drive four hours just for dinner." Once more, that little touch of a smirk graces his lips for a heartbeat, "I've been wrong before though. Once or twice."

Babs is looking abashed as she looks down at her coffee, rubbing her fingers along the ceramic again. "Yeah. I was hoping you would stay the night." Then she smiles back up at him, a bit of hair slipped across her forehead. "How do you feel about really bad Food Network shows? I have to say, I'm kind of in love with the Barefoot Contessa." She might even show him some Alton Brown, but she will not say that is crappy TV. Now, beneath the table, she's resting her foot a bit more steadily against his to forge a contact point there that is hard to make with them sitting across from each other.

Frank looks confused for a moment, "Food Network?" Look, Frank hasn't spent a lot of time in front of a TV since getting back to New York, and he didn't spend a lot of time Back Home before then. He's out of a lot of loops. "What's a Barefoot Contessa?" She has a lot to show him. The touch of her foot to his, however, has a steadying, warming effect, and his smile lasts just a bit longer as the waitress comes back to get their orders. Once she's gone again, he looks back out the window, then to Babs again, "People just… watch people cook? I mean, I guess I get that. Watchin' someone who knows what they're doin' can be kind of great. And I'm glad you were hopin' that. I was hopin' so too." He reaches across the table to smooth the lock of hair back behind her ear, fingers lingering there, "Might've even packed a change of clothes. I was that confident." Now, to be fair, there's also a pistol and a couple of magazines in there too. "You wanna try to put your bike in the back of the van when we head back to the house?"

"Frank," Babs says in a patient, yet chastising tone. "I think you're going to enjoy this." Then she is distracted by putting in her order — she takes a hamburger and fries. Nothing special. It's diner food after all. Then she's setting the menu back into place on the table before her eyes flicker back to him. "I watch you cook." Her smile arches higher a moment before she is softening and warming at the touch of his fingers to tuck back that lock, and the lingering look in his dark eyes. She snorts a bit of laughter, shaking her head slightly. "Justifiable confidence," she reassures him. Then she's threading her hair over one shoulder. "Yeah. We should give it a try. I haven't even gotten to ride this new van of yours." She narrows her eyes slightly over the edge of her ceramic mug as she takes another drink of coffee.

"I brought straps to tie the bike down just in case. Need to put in some good tie-downs." Frank is nothing if not practical, and sometimes, it's good to be really prepared to bring your vigilante girlfriend's motorcycle in your vigilante van. "It's just a couple of seats and a big gap in the back. I'm thinkin' of tryin' to get some old vests," bulletproof ones, "and linin' the inside. Maybe put a second metal skin on the inside. A stealth Hillbilly Humvee." Of course, he's still thinking mundane materials, despite knowing people who work at Stark Unlimited and own Rand Enterprises. "Gonna need some welding kit for all that though. So that's next. Finding some shitheads who don't need theirs." Which means Jersey City chop shops may be loosing some gear soon. There's a pause, and then he adds, "I'm pretty sure you watch me cook because you still can't believe I do it, Red." There's a pause, and then he adds, "I could teach you, ya know."

The resourceful and ever-practical Frank Castle has Babs smiling with renewed amusement. "Uh huh. You think you're going to be hauling around my bike a lot, or are you using my bike to test out what you would need to haul The Punisher Bike around?" Bats and their branding. Then she is hearing his plan through, and she starts to grin brighter. "You going to let me help you with that, or should I let you jimmy it?" Now she's teasing him, but only for a moment before she puts her mug down. "Come on, Frank. Let me help you with this. No lining the interior with bulletproof vests, or anything like that." She gives his foot a nudge, but then she is smiling warmer and softer again. "I like watching you cook because I like watching you cook, Frank." At his offer, she ducks her chin with a small smile. "Yeah, but… do you really want to put yourself through that?"

“Figuring that any time we met up somewhere and I wasn’t on a bike too, it’d be nice. Be able to ride together.” Frank scowls a little, taking another sip of his coffee, “Pretty sure there’s never gonna be a Punisher Bike.” Amusement filters through the scowl as he looks down at his cup, twisting it on the tabletop, “Can’t really ride it around day to day if it’s got skulls all over it.” A pause, “And it ain’t like I can afford two bikes like some other people I know.” The nudge at his foot, and the smile and request that accompanies it brings another momentary smile to Frank’s lips as he teases her again, “Look, Hillbilly Armor is a tradition.” Pause, and his smile softens, “You can help. What ideas you got? Besides some crazy idea that you’d be a bad student?”

"There might not be a Punisher Bike, but teasing you about it is too much fun." Babs's smile brightens. Then she's tilting her head to one side in a classic "thinking" look. "Well. First go would be to just put on some interior paneling that's bulletproof, and then maybe — "

"Babs?"

Behind Frank in the narrow corridor between booths is none other than Jake Toreldo. He's holding a togo cup of coffee that steams hot and fresh and a bag which is probably his dinner. He's in his uniform and he looks clean and fresh, meaning that he's about to come on shift. He has an awkward smile on his young features.

"Jake," Babs half-gasps as she works to keep her smile high. "Hi."

This is why Frank hates sitting with his back to the door. He should have spotted Jake outside anyhow, but Babs drew in his attention far more readily than he’s used to. He half-recognizes the voice, but it’s Babs’s greeting that locks in the identity of the newcomer in: Nutshot. He grimaces, but at least he’s still wearing his ballcap, in complete contravention of accepted manners. Feinting a glance up, he offers a half-smile, half-grimace that’s only likely to be partially visible from beneath the brim. “Officer.” It’s a polite enough greeting, for all that his tone is entirely neutral. “Evenin’.” He leaves it at that, letting Babs take point with the once-Zuko-light.

Look, Frank. You should have sat next to Babs and then you would have had a shot at the front door. Traditionalist. Babs is still smiling at Jake who casts a glance to Frank only to them doubletake back to him. The back of his brain itches but can't really shake out why. So, he settles on undefined suspicion of the older dude having a coffee with Babs. "Hey," he says to Frank, and then to Babs asks, "Sorry. Saw you in the window. Didn't know you had a… meeting?"

For the redhead's part, she is quick to smile. "Um. Date. This is Pete. Pete, this is Jake Toreldo. He works with my dad."

Babs should have agreed it was a meek ting, because now Jake is braiding his suspicion with jealousy and a institutionalized need to protect Jim Gordon's only daughter.

Frank’s head comes up a little as Babs confirms that they’re on a date, surprise flickering over his hat-shaded features for a moment. But she’s gone there, and she’s introducing him, so Frank composes his expression and holds out a hand, reaching quickly when Jake returns the gesture so that he can press the webbing of his thumb tight against Jake’s, where the younger man had no leverage to try and squish his hand. That would just be embarrassing for all involved (except maybe Babs). “Officer Toreldo. It’s a pleasure. The Commissioner fights the good fight.” And because Jake’s going to ask, he supplies “Pete Castiglione. Of New York.” Technically New Jersey now, but fuck if he’s going to admit that. Maybe that’ll keep Jake from digging through the organized crime files for Gotham due to the Italian last name. Who are we kidding, he’s going to dig anyway.

And, oh, how Jake tried to get a grip on Frank only to grimace slightly at how the other man had him before he could even try. So, he just tries to smile through the handshake before he nods. "Nice to meet you, Pete." He hesitates before he asks a bit more casually, "You know Babs from her time in New York?" You know. When she went to college.

Babs is quick to jump in— perhaps a little too quick. "Pete and I met last fall when New York had those shutdowns." Because of demons that no one will admit happened. "Pete saved my life." Which is both truth and perhaps a hope for Jake to lay off a bit. Look at the older guy who made sure Jim Gordon's little girl stayed safe. You should trust him.

By Jake's expression, he might be easing into that idea. "Oh. That's… good. Did you two, um," Then Jake thinks better about that and just shrugs with a sharp boyish smile that proves maybe Babs has a type. "Well. I should get to it. Commissioner believes in punctuality." Which reminds Pete that Jake knows Jim. In case he had no idea.

Frank starts to respond to Jake’s question, but he’s slow enough that Babs is already there with an explanation. Frank nods agreeably, “Just doin’ what I could.” Which isn’t untrue from his perspective. Amusement twists up one corner of Frank’s mouth, and he does his best to smother the emotion from his rough voice — okay, maybe not quite his best —“Yeah, we did… just order.” He nods as Jake excuses himself, “Stay safe out there, Officer Toreldo.”

Frank waits for Jake to move off, then pushes out of his booth and around to Babs’s side, “Can’t see the damn door from there.” He pauses a moment, and then the amusement is back, as he gives a pretty good — if gruff — imitation of Jake, “So Red, did we…?”

Babs offers Jake up a wide and dimpled smile before she says her goodbyes. She doesn't seem at all perturbed by the idea of Jake using her Dad's name as some kind of intimidation factor. Though, once the young officer has left the diner, she breathes out a short exhale. Her eyes lift as Frank shuffles around the booth to sit beside her and she smirks. "Some Marine you are." When Frank teases Jake, she shoves him with her elbow. "I don't know. Did we? And if we didn't, can we?"

Then their food arrives.

Oh, right, Frank was supposed to be intimidated by the suggestion that Jake would tell the Commissioner about him. Oops. Truth be told, there is a wrinkle of worry at his brow as he considers what Jim Gordon might think of him, but it's not exactly a new worry, and so he grunts softly at the shove, shaking his head and nodding toward the door, "Marines don't usually have to worry about an ambush while sitting in a booth at a diner." There's dry amusement beneath the words, and he shakes his head, opening his mouth to respond to her teasing words, when the food arrives. He looks up to the waitress, "Thank you, ma'am." He handles the momentary confusion due to his seat swap with a helpless shrug, a half-grin, and a glance toward Barbara, a silent, 'you think I should sit farther away from her?' Gathering up his roast beef sandwich, he rubs his hands together, glances over to Barbara's burger and fries, and chuckles, "Pretty sure we did. A couple of times." He smothers a grin as he gathers up some of his own fries and dips them straight in the au juice, "Doesn't mean we can't again, right?"

"Just checking your memory, because you know Jake's about to tell my dad I was seen with some old New York dude at the Rose Diner." Babs takes a bite from her own fries first, settling in comfortably beside, and just slightly against, Frank. She lets a silence settle between them, and she's carefully munching on some of her fries and burger to fill that silence. Only after a few moments does she turn slightly to him, reassuring quietly that, "It will be okay. The ID I put into the databases for Pete Castiglione is pretty tight. Jake will do the bare minimum dig, see that you're a straightforward type, and just accept that's it." Or Jake will scratch that itch, and maybe even get Jim involved. She takes another bite of fries, and repeats herself, perhaps to even reassure herself, "It will be okay."

"Pretty sure it was going to happen anyhow. Better he remembers me in-person than starts thinking of where he's seen that face on the ID before." Frank has spent a year avoiding the attention of the police. He's not the pro that many in Gotham are, but he's learned some of the tricks. "I trust your work, Red." There's no doubt in his voice, even if there is worry. He's silent for a few moments, even in the face of the telling repetition, "And Nutshot may not recognize me under a baseball cap, but I'm pretty sure that won't work if your dad wants to meet the new boyfriend." There's a pause, his brow furrowing tightly, and he looks over at Babs, his voice and eyes going a little tight, for all that he tries to keep the question light, "Or is that not something dads do when their daughters are grown up?"

"Frank." His name is soft, almost gentle coming from the redhead beside him. Her hand slips across his knee before she tucks in closer against him, her head curling against his shoulder briefly. Then she straightens up to look at him, and her head tilts back slightly. "Yeah. Dads still do that, in all its old fashioned sexism." But she's giving him a little smile. "He won't want to meet you until he knows everything about you, but I'll try to intercept him." She looks down at her meal, tucking a bit of hair behind her ear. "He said he owed you. You saved me that night, coming to my apartment, getting me out of there. Even if you used me as bait." She gives him a look. "Dad doesn't know that bit though."

Frank looks down, but his eyes close when she curls close to him and he lets out a slow breath. Gathering up another fry by feel, he taps it against the others, then grimaces and nods a little toward her, his shoulders loosening slowly, "I'm okay with a little old fashioned sexism if…" but he lets the breath go again, and he shakes his head. It didn't keep his daughter safe. "You do that with other guys? Run interference? Or you let him dig and trust that he won't find anything you don't know?" Eating the fry, he finally opens his eyes, curling his arm around her shoulders and working to eat left-handed, "Because if you didn't, and you do this time, he'll know something's different. And he don't owe me, Red. I wasn't gonna let anything happen to you." There's a pause, and he adds, "Besides, you weren't in danger." Besides the shotgun and the pistol. "I mean, if you'd stayed behind the 'fridge. I'd've been shot a couple'a times probably, but you had to get me back somehow."

Something in Frank's words has Babs giving Frank a bit more space, and she retreats into her own space on the bench. She shuffles around a fry on her own plate, dipping it almost idly into some ketchup before popping it into her mouth. Then he's curling an arm around her shoulders, and she tucks back in close against him with a slight shrug. "Dad never poked around Dick Grayson — he was Bruce Wayne's ward. And then there was a few smatterings of boyfriends, or dates, at college… and then." She takes in a breath. "Before John and I tried again…" She shakes her head. "Look, I think Dad really has enjoyed how uneventful my dating life has actually been." She doesn't seem interested in her food now, and she looks down. "I don't know if I can actually stop Dad from poking too hard around everything."

"Sorry, yeah. I wasn't lookin' for a list." Still, Frank's arm squeezes her shoulders at her own hesitation. "Because it's hard, being with someone who doesn't know, right? Doesn't know what it's like?" He slowly turns his head to press a kiss to her temple, and then gathers up his sandwich with his left hand, dipping it in the au jus and then looking over at her, "Then don't. Your work'll stand up. And if it doesn't," he shrugs a little helplessly. "If it doesn't, we'll deal. Not like he'd use you as bait." There might even be some dry humor there at the end. After all, he just admitted to using her like that. He takes a bite and chews, settling into the trademark Castle Can't-Do-Anything-About-This-So-I-Won't-Worry stance.

"Yeah." Babs looks down again, knowing she can't tell Frank that Dick actually does know what it's like — has known it longer than she has. She takes another bite of her french fry as she remains loosely embraced under Frank's arm. She watches him eat, watches those subtle changes in his face — around his mouth, his eyes. Then she's looking away as he tells her to not interfere. She takes in a breath before she nods slowly. "Okay. I won't." She sounds more than a little uncomfortable with the idea of just letting Jim Gordon be Jim Gordon. Her eyes sight the chain that is just visible over the collar of his shirt before it disappears beneath that same shirt. She knows what hangs on that chain, and it makes her look away a bit. "You sure you want him digging into who Pete is?"

Frank gives Babs a squeeze around the shoulders, then slips his arm loose so that he can use both hands to feed himself. "I'm not gonna tell you what you should do or not do," Besides, you know, the fact that he just did, sort of. But maybe he's taking it back, between bites of the roast beef sandwich. "You know your dad. You know your work." His shoulders rise and fall as he glances out the window, then back to her, touching the back of her hand with his knuckles. "I don't much want anybody digging into who I am. But I trust your work. You think your dad'd punch holes in it?"

Besides that fact. With a little toss of her hair, she looks over at him, particularly when he touches her hand with his heavy, calloused knuckles. She turns her hand slightly so her fingers can grace along the edge of his hand in a soft pass. Then she is looking back at her own meal, picking up her burger so she can actually start in on her own meal. "He's a Gordon," is all she says. Then she touches his leg beneath the table, and her smile takes on a little tiredness. "He'll poke holes if he wants to." Then she leans in and she presses her lips softly against his cheek.

Frank watches her fingers touch his hand, and he smiles, honest warmth and lightness there in his features for a moment. He catches her fingers and squeezes for a moment, and then goes back to his meal. "And you think age and treachery'll beat brains and beauty this time, Red?" The touch to his leg draws his eyes over to her again, and he looks down at their meals, "You wanna get doggie bags for this and eat 'em watchin' whatever the hell the Food Network is?"

"Did you just call my dad treacherous?" Babs actually laughs, and it breaks some of the mood brewing over her. She turns her head into his briefly, and then she starts to nod. so that her forehead brushes across his temple and jaw. "Yeah. Let's do that." Then she leans back enough to smile at him. "And Frank… the fact that I have to introduce you to the Food Network is wrong on so many levels. Do you watch anything other than baseball?" Then she is waving to the waitress and making those time-old hand gestures that say: doggy bag and check please.

Frank shrugs, considers, then nods, his jaw bumping against her head as she nods too, "Yeah. Pretty sure you don't get to be Commissioner in Gotham without a little treachery." No judgment there. He shrugs again at her accusation of wrongness, "I don't watch much TV." He twists in the booth, digging into his pants pocket to get out his wallet and peel off some bills to pay, "I don't even really like watchin' baseball. I don't like watchin' much of anything most of the time. I'd rather be doin' it, Red." When the waitress comes over with the bill and a couple of boxes, Frank starts scooting to the edge of the bench, then offers out his hand to Barbara. "Pretty sure the only time I see TV is when I'm waitin' somewhere, and I try not to do that too. Drives me fuckin' nuts."

The feel of his cheek and jaw moving along her skin and hair draws a small smile to her lips. Then she's leaning back to look up into his dark features with a tilt of her head. "You don't know Jim Gordon very well, do you?" Normally that would have bite and ire to it — protecting Jim Gordon's name by his daughter. But, here, she's smiling. Frank's in for a surprise when he learns the tightness of the Jim Gordon code of ethics — and perhaps some of the more surprising articles within that code. For now, she listens to his reasons why he doesn't watch TV. Her brows arch up. "What did you do to unwind?" There's an unspoken, 'before Maria and the kids died.' She's not sure that Frank unwinds anymore save for moments when he can shut off the world. Then she is taking her togo container and piling her food into it. She munches on a couple fries as she does so.

“Just by reputation.” There’s a hint of amusement behind Frank’s words, although it fades away as he adds, “and by the daughter he raised. Treachery ain’t always a bad thing, Red. Not the way the saying goes. Could just mean being a tricky bastard.” He too starts loading up the container, glancing aside to the windows, the length of the diner, and to her as he does. The question — and the implication behind it — weighs his shoulders down, but he nods slowly, silent a few heartbeats before he answers, “Every time I came home, first thing we did was go to the Park.” Always Central Park, always the carousel. The weight settles in around his voice as well as he finishes packing the to-go container and starts nudging it and his coffee cup around, “We went to see things together. Statue of Liberty. Minor league baseball games. Concerts.” Memories flash behind his eyes, his fingers tightening on the styrofoam carton, because of course Gotham still uses styrofoam, “Played catch. Talked. Fixed shit together. Read. Argued.”

Babs considers this with a tilt of her head. "Okay. Dad's a tricky guy." Note how she doesn't dare call Jim Gordon a bastard. No way. He will sense that in whatever mystical force connects father and daughter. She clips the lid shut over her fries and burger, and reaches to take another drink through the environment-killing plastic straw, draining the water down to its ice. She watches Frank as he recounts what his family did — a snapshot of the lives they lived before that day in Central Park. She recalled how Lisa's room had looked, and Frankie's. It reinforced a story of a family who lived lives more traditional — focused on doing things together. She reaches to touch his wrist, and then she offers him a smile. "That sounds nice. Even the arguing."

In some ways, Frank Castle is a dinosaur, including his idea of the ideal life to live, the ideal escape from who he is behind the trigger. It was a life more at home in the '50s than the present. But it was a comfort and an escape nonetheless, and one he was willing to give up the team for — until he couldn't. The styrofoam creaks again, his head bowed, and then he carefully takes his hands away from the carton, his voice rougher than usual, quiet in the cheerful buzz of the diner, "Day they died, I told Maria that I was done, that I wasn't going back. I'd just got home the night before. And when I woke up, I saw her face. It just came at me. But, like, the second it did, I knew… it was right. It was like this… this weight got… got lifted off my shoulders, you know? For both of us, you know? She knew it was right. The kids, too. I was just ready, you know? It was time. I just… I wanted to be with them." He pushes the back of his thumb up against the oft-broken bridge of his nose, refusing to let the shine in his eyes fall as tears. "That's how nice it was, even the arguing. I was willin' to give up my other family for it." They're supposed to be taking their take-out and going, but Frank's hunched down on the edge of the bench seat, looking over to Babs as he tries to get a hold of himself again.

Barbara becomes quiet, and steady, beside Frank as he lets those memories, and the emotions they are tethered to, churn within him. She doesn't touch him more than sliding her hand into his, fingers working through his own until she is holding his hand in hers, and squeezing softly. Her other hand traces the lines of the back of his hand — the lines of his bones, the crown of his knuckles. When he brushes at his nose, she nods once. "I know." The words are whispered. Then she gives his hand one more squeeze before she releases him — a gentle and slow loosening of her fingers from his. "They'll always be with you, Frank." Her hand presses up against his chest now, pressing the gold ring against his sternum. "Come on. Let's get out of here. You want to go for a little walk before we load up the bike in your van?"

Frank clings to Barbara's hand when she takes his, breathing out a couple of short little huffs as he draws himself together. When she slips her hand away, his goes blindly back to the coffee cup, but he looks down at the press of the ring and the dogtags to his chest. His eyes close, and his breath shudders as he feels the comfort of her hand on his chest, of the gold circle on his skin. But there's something else there that filters through his subconscious, the knowledge that the ring is between him and her. Between the full connection of her hand and his chest. "Yeah." That's to the first part, but then there's a suggestion of a walk, and he pauses as he starts to scoot out from the booth, and then goes with, "Naw." He pries himself out of the booth and offers out his hand to her, looking down the narrow corridor between booths and counter, and then back to her again. "Might be good, but I think the food'd get cold. Pretty sure it's gonna take a bit to get the bike lashed down."

Babs briefly curls her fingers along his jaw as he comes back to himself, prying himself out of that dark place that will always be in him. She smiles gently at him, but there's a fragility to that gentle expression. Then they are moving, and she takes his hand to ease herself out of the booth, grabbing up her food as she does. It still rains out there, and Babs just lifts up the hood on her jacket so that she is cowled from the storm. Her green eyes lift to meet his briefly, and then she smiles again. "Alright. Let's get moving then." She presses her lips softly to his cheek and then she leads the way, let Frank watch her six while she crosses through the narrow corridor and stepping down and out the door. The rain splashes on her hood, and peppers the white styrofoam. She glances behind her briefly to check for Frank.

Frank recognizes the brittleness of that gentle smile, and his lips press together, but he nods at it, accepting both the gentleness and the delicacy of it. He steps back when she moves to go first, smiling ever-so-faintly at the kiss on his cheek, then scoops up his food in his left hand, following after her. "On your six, Red." He draws in a breath as the dirty Gotham rain hits his hat and jacket, the hand holding the styrofoam package, the plastic whiteness. And that breath seems to steady him again, his steps quickening to catch up to her, walking alongside her for a few steps before his hand shifts a little, knuckles brushing hers before his blunt fingers reach for hers, to take her hand. "Not a lot of people would put up with all this shit, Red." His voice is still even rougher than normal, "Even fewer would get it."

The Punisher takes her hand before she can tuck it into her pocket. She turns toward him slightly, slowing to a stop despite the rain to look up those few inches into Frank's dark features. She searches his inky-dark eyes. Then her smile returns, this time without the brittle edges. "I'm not going anywhere, Frank. I've always seen you, and the pain you carry, and the anger that comes with it." Then she steps in closer, and her kiss to his lips is soft and soothing with her nose brushing against his lightly.

Frank's eyes meet hers without hesitation, despite missing Jake's approach earlier. He turns toward her as she smiles, "I know." It's an unconscious mimicry. He's probably only seen Star Wars once, and that years and years ago. When she steps closer, he tilts his head and leans down to meet the kiss, the brim of his hat slipping past her hood. Water patters down on clothing, skin, and styrofoam as his arm slips behind her back, careful of her hand as he embraces her, accepts that unflinching support and affection, breathes it in. It's a moment of recovery, a moment of comfort, of respite from the fury and pain of the real world, but Frank eventually draws back, touching the side of his head to hers, and then straightens away, "C'mon, Red. No sense staying out in the rain if we don't have to."

Little do either know that there's there's a distant shuttering of a camera that captures that kiss, and the hand-holding before, and the blurry images of the two sitting in the booth, and Jake's interruption. Photo after photo is captured even has Babs slips back from the kiss to smile up at him. Then she is taking his hand tighter in hers, and the two turn to go fetch her bike and get it lashed into the van so they can drive back to the house behind Sherwood Florist.

Finding comfort with someone means letting your guard down, and these two have let their guard down in a place where someone is always watching.

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