Fandom: Netflix MCU mashup (Punisher focus)
Wordcount: This part, 1828
Rating: General for now
Summary: Foggy hires a contractor. Frank has an overdue talk with someone who...doesn't really want to be a contractor, tbh.
Foggy jumped when his cell rang; he kept it on silent for most numbers, and the privileged remainder hadn’t been calling much lately. Before answering he glanced at the clock on his desk, which told him who it was even though the number on the phone was unfamiliar. He had completely lost track of time. Again.
“Jessica, hi,” he said. “Are you here? I can come down to meet you.”
“Don’t bother,” came the response in her usual dry tone. “I know my way around this place. Which cell is yours?”
He told her, and a few minutes later she was striding in, giving the room a brief look of distaste before pulling up a chair opposite him. “Jesus, all these hotshot offices look the same. I thought yours would at least have stupid toys on the desk or something.”
“We here at Hogarth, Chao and Benowitz have a strict policy against displaying symptoms of a personality,” he explained. “Thanks for coming.”
She shrugged one shoulder. “Hogarth and I want to work together but don’t want to speak or look at each other. You’re the best compromise.”
“I’m deeply flattered.” He even meant it, in a way. Jessica had never been friendly to him, exactly, but he knew he could trust her and he could tell it was mutual. “Hogarth wants me to take a new client. Rap sheet as long as the A-line, but he claims to have faced the Punisher and survived, so she thinks there’s a bigger case coming and we should get in on it early.”
“You’re buying that load of obvious bullshit?”
Foggy grinned. “I told her I wasn’t going to represent this guy unless I saw some hard evidence that his boogeyman was actually Frank Castle. She said I was the one who was responsible for finding evidence that it wasn’t.” He spread his hands at her. “You’re the best compromise.”
She didn’t return his smile. “Why not just go to your pal Karen? She’s in bed with him, right?” The words were immediately followed by a rare look of apologetic regret. “Shit, I don’t mean that literally.”
“Yeah, thanks for that mental image. And for knowing way more about Karen than I thought you would, although I guess that’s a trait I should get used to if I’m paying you for private investigation.” His eyes fell on the one personal item he did have on his desk, a small framed picture of himself, Matt, and Karen, and he sighed. “I want this taken care of before Karen hears about it. Castle nearly got her killed last time. A Castle doppelganger would be just as bad.”
Jessica raked a hand through her soot-black hair and shook her head. “You’re quick, Nelson, but she’s quicker. Sorry.”
Foggy’s heart skipped a beat. “What do you mean?”
“Page called up Trish yesterday and told her all about the Punisher clone rumors. They decided Trish is gonna bring it up on her show, get a ‘man on the street’ take to find out if there’s been any other sightings.”
“Ughhh, Karen.” Foggy tilted his head back and stared at the ceiling. It was a nice ceiling, actually, in keeping with the rest of the decor on this floor of the HCB office. He’d had plenty of opportunity to notice that already. “Where’s Matt when you need him?” he muttered, grateful that he could say that in front of Jessica.
Her voice was unusually compassionate. “Would he have been able to stop her?”
“No. But he would have known exactly how frustrating this is.”
“Karen won’t actually be on the air, if that helps,” offered Jessica. “Trish is going to keep her name out of it.”
Foggy sat upright and nodded; it did help. “So can you do some digging? Prove it’s not Castle in the skull vest, so I don’t have to take on this trashcan client?”
He had half-hoped that she would linger to shoot the breeze a little, but she simply replied, “Yeah. I’ll be in touch,” and headed for the door. “Don’t forget to tune in for an exciting new episode of Trish Talk on Wednesday,” she added, and then he was alone again.
It had been months since Frank had seen the Liebermans’ house in person, and he noticed a few changes. Small things, and mostly positive signs, like the freshly planted flower bed and the bicycles locked up by the back door. He knocked once and entered without waiting for a response.
“That you, Frank?” called David from somewhere upstairs. “Come up.”
Frank didn’t know which door on the second floor was which, but when he reached the top of the stairs, one was wide open, and the sound of typing was coming from it. David, surrounded by computers and equipment that Frank couldn’t fathom the use for, barely glanced up at him when he stepped in.
“You let anyone just waltz into your home?” Frank asked.
David made a flippant gesture at one of his monitors; it was split into four camera views, and the first two were on the front and back doors. “So, you need something?”
Frank looked around for somewhere to sit, and found a second swivel chair to drag over to David’s side. “Sounds like you got a bug up your ass today. Everything alright with you and Sarah?”
“Yeah, fine. She says hi. Actually no, she doesn’t.” He angled himself to face Frank more directly. “She says ‘Is Frank okay? Is he still in town? Why doesn’t he come over when we invite him?’ And I say, ‘I’m sure he would, dear, if only he weren’t such a gloomy, antisocial troglodyte.’”
Frank groaned and rubbed his temples. “I told you before, it’s better for your family if I’m not around. Last thing they want is a reminder of all the shit they went through last year, all the lies I had to tell them.” His voice dropped an octave. “They got you now. My work’s done here.”
That didn’t seem to do much for David’s mood. His eyes moved back to his screen for a moment, and he scrolled through an incomprehensible page of data before stating quietly, “You know what Zach’s been saying? He wants to be a Marine.”
“Fuck all,” breathed Frank.
“Quite a showstopper, huh? I don’t know what to tell him. If only I had a friend with the relevant experience to give him some perspective.” David leaned on his desk, head propped up in his hand. “Leo asked about you a couple times, too, but she convinced herself pretty early on that if you didn’t want to see us anymore, it was her own fault.”
Frank would have been sure that David was just trying to guilt him into accepting Sarah’s repeated dinner invitations, except that he knew Zach and Leo well enough to fully believe what David was reporting about both of them. “You oughta be kicking me out the door, you asshole. Someone messes with your kids like that, you don’t let him back in your house to see them again.”
Abruptly David stood up and paced in a circle around the study, a vivid reminder of his constant frayed nerves during their time in the basement hideout, despite his neatly trimmed beard and presentable clothing. “If you’re only going to set foot here to call in favors, Frank, then just get to the point. Everyone starts coming home around four. Wouldn’t want you getting cornered by three other people who give a shit about you.”
It wasn’t that the argument wasn’t worth pursuing, but Frank didn’t have the kinds of answers that David was looking for. He grunted in acquiescence and took a piece of paper from his pocket, unfolding it on the desk. “I need to find these people.”
“Oh, Christ.” David went back to his chair and picked up the paper. “Who are they and am I abetting their murders?”
“I just gotta talk to them. The ones I’m really after, I don’t have names for them yet.” He hesitated, then confided, “This ain’t some new crusade I cooked up to keep busy. I’m getting framed for someone else’s kills. I gotta put a stop to it.”
David’s expression softened somewhat. “Yeah. Yeah, I guess you do.” He wheeled his chair sideways, to one of the other computers. “It’ll take about a day to put together comprehensive profiles, but if you hang around for another ten minutes I can give you something to start off with.”
“Sure,” said Frank. “Thanks.”
In the quiet that followed as David entered the data to begin his search, Frank looked around the room, taking comfort in the family pictures on the walls and the harmless clutter among the computers. It didn’t look like a secret lab, or even like it was off-limits to the kids. David had changed while he was in hiding, there was no way around that, but it was clear he wasn’t struggling to fit back into his home.
“So what have you cooked up to keep busy?” David asked casually, scrolling through the data on his screen. “Find a new sledgehammer job?”
“Automotive.” Frank shrugged. “Small garage, flexible schedule. It’s alright.”
“And you spend the rest of your time, let me guess, lifting weights, strumming forlornly on your guitar, and avoiding all human contact?”
Frank rolled his eyes. His chair was too small; he turned it around to sit with his arms folded over its back. “Get off my case, Lieberman.” He got no response but a knowing look, so he added, “I go to a veterans’ support group, okay? The one Curtis runs. They meet twice a week and I’m always there. You happy?”
David paused in what he was doing and turned to face Frank, looking surprised. “Yeah, that’s...that’s great, man, good for you.” His tone was sincere, and he didn’t add any qualifiers before returning to his work. “I’m not trying to put a leash on you, Frank. I know you’re not a mad dog. Just seems like if you’re back in the land of the living, you ought to be getting something out of it. Go out and have a beer once in a while. Go...see a sports game, or whatever you jocks like to do.”
“I’m not a jock,” Frank informed him, affronted. Was that worse than hipster? He wasn’t sure.
“Maybe not now, but I can just imagine you in high school. Probably the captain of the football team. Tormenting nerds like me for being smarter than you.”
“Sure hope somebody was, if you were this much of a prick already.”
David gave him a sly grin and stretched in his chair, fingers interlocked over his head. “You know it. Okay, almost done here. The program just needs to run for a few minutes. You want a sandwich, jock?”
Frank couldn’t hold in his laugh any longer. “You’re goddamn right I want a sandwich, nerd.”