Fandom: Netflix MCU mashup (Punisher focus)
Wordcount: This part, 1069
Rating: General for now
Notes: Looks like I've committed to posting my Kastle fanfiction here - as always, if a few chapters go by and it doesn't seem like anyone is reading, I'll quit. Otherwise, it's going to be here for a while so please don't mind me.
Time was ticking down to his next deployment -- yesterday they had been counting in months, now it was weeks -- but Frank would be home for Christmas, and he wanted to make it a special one. As soon as the kids were in bed, he found Maria in the kitchen and sidled up close as if he had a secret to tell her.
She was scrubbing the countertop, but he immobilized her for the second that it took to plant a kiss on her cheek, then freed her again and murmured, “What if we finally get ‘em a dog?”
“Frank,” she groaned, pushing him away so she could rinse her sponge. “Not this again.”
“Aw come on. You love dogs. Didn’t we always say we were gonna get one?”
She pursed her lips, concentrating on the cleaning. “You do realize that if ‘we’ get a dog it’s actually going to be me taking care of it until the kids are old enough to pitch in?” She shook her head. “I don’t need more work right now.”
“Hey,” Frank protested. “I pitch in.”
“You do when you’re here, although, while we’re on the subject, you can empty the dishwasher instead of just standing there.” She heaved a sigh. “But then you get shipped out again and it’s me on my own trying to keep everything steady for you to come home to, assuming we’re that lucky.”
Frank opened the dishwasher and pulled out the top rack, which rattled loudly and got him a glare from Maria. Whenever she handled a home appliance, it was smooth and efficient and didn’t wake anyone up. Frank wasn’t a klutz, but she had more practice with these machines than he did. “You don’t want a pet for the kids you can just say so. Doesn’t always have to circle back on this same routine about my job.”
“I have said so, and then a little while later you just bring it up again like you didn’t even hear me! I don’t know what you think life here is like when you’re gone, but I can assure you I’m not just taking baths and chatting with the neighbors about how much I miss you. There’s a lot I have to balance and I’m not ready for a dog on top of that--” she held up a hand and raised her voice as he tried to cut in-- “and it’s not because I’m some bitchy housewife who doesn’t want a pet for her kids!”
Most of the dishes were still in the rack. Frank didn’t trust himself to pick up a glass without crushing it in his hand, at the moment. “Alright, Chrissakes, forget about it.”
“No.” Maria straightened up holding a dish towel, which she flicked at him after using it to dry her hands. “I’m not going to forget about it. I hurt your feelings, right? Fight back.”
It always came down to this: he could either leave the room, or let her bruise his heart in a few more ways. He always chose the latter.
At the time, he would have said it was because marriage needs open communication, or because he wanted to make Maria happy and the easiest way to do that was to let her win the argument. Now he knew it was something much simpler. Leaving her side, even for a few minutes to cool down, meant going off by himself, and he couldn’t take the loneliness.
But the worst had come to pass, and there was no place in the world where he could go to be by Maria’s side, no pleas for a pet from Lisa and Frankie, no deployment to spend with his brothers in arms, and it turned out he could take it after all. He missed the torment of Maria’s implications that getting away from his responsibilities at home was a relief, he missed the guilt that struck him whenever he caught a current of fear beneath her anger, but he was alive and at home. He hoped she would forgive him.
That argument had taken place a few years before the end, but they had never made it to the right time to get a dog. Frank was grateful for that; it would have been one more life lost, or one duty holding him back from taking revenge. Max, the wounded guard dog he had taken from the Kitchen Irish, had come to him at the right time, in the right way; a family dog who had been loved by his children would have had no place in Frank’s war.
Max was gone too now, of course. Maybe he had ended up in the hands of better masters, but that was wishful thinking. Max had crossed paths with Frank, the harbinger of death.
The bird of ill omen, Billy had called him once, when they were told to choose call signs from a list. All of the options were birds, and since Eagle wasn’t on the list, Frank had wanted to choose Hawk, but Billy insisted he had to be Raven, the “death bird”. Of course he had laughed as he said it, and of course Frank had shrugged and laughed along and accepted the moniker. Like all of his memories of Billy’s jokes, this one had taken on a much different meaning since his betrayal had come to light. So had the name.
Frank still wanted to lose himself in memories of Maria, but the ones that came to mind were always wrong. He wished they had never fought. He wished he could erase himself entirely from the scene in the kitchen, and imagine her living her life freely without the shadow of a raven cast over her.
All he could do now was keep the raven from visiting anyone else he cared about, even if it left him feeling trapped and listless. He remembered the reckless acts of compassion from Karen Page, the intensity that warned him away from her even as it drew them together. He had told her the secret of knowing who mattered most, and she had listened to him like she believed it, like he wasn’t mad with grief but just a guy who would know. The devil of it was that now Karen was the only reason he even realized he was lonely.
He missed her. It hurt. He could live with that.