Avox in Arcadia (perpetual) wrote,
Avox in Arcadia
perpetual

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A Conspiracy of Ravens - Chapter Six

Chapter Title: Javelin
Author: Kairos
Fandom: Netflix MCU mashup (Punisher focus)
Pairing: Frank/Karen
Wordcount: This part, 2749
Rating: General for now
Summary: Bagels for breakfast. Curry for lunch. Knuckle sandwich for dinner.
Notes: I'm five episodes into Jessica Jones S2; will post reactions later. I'm pretty sure that this story will still work with canon, set after The Punisher and before JJS2, but I'm not going to stress if it doesn't.

Brief reference to Agents of SHIELD S2/3 in here. Won't affect the plot but I like getting my MCU references on. Oh, and I've decided that my chapters will be longer from now on. Yeah I'm still worried about running out of story, but I felt like there wasn't enough happening in each update.


In the early hours of the morning, the priory of St. John of the Cross was steeped in silence. The permanent residents were already out, tending to their own work, and the traffic on the surrounding streets was calm and intermittent before rush hour hit. Those who were awake were alone, for the most part, preparing for their own day instead of speaking to each other.

A handful of alarm clocks in the neighborhood sounded, Matt’s among them. He turned it off and sat up in bed, keeping his senses within his immediate surroundings instead of using them to find out what was going on beyond this tiny room. His body still ached from the night before. He hadn’t been hurt in any way, but he was out of shape, and it was too soon to start climbing and running in pursuit of criminals.

He groaned and stretched, promising himself a long meditation session later. Not a night off, though. Too soon could very easily turn into too late.

Jessica’s proximity last night had thrown him off, too. He didn’t think she had seen him, but he had been forced to hang back while she continued on the heels of the gang members, so the excursion had shown him little except that his old ally -- and friend -- was after the same people that he was. That made everything much more complicated, not to mention emotional. What he wouldn’t have given to go say hello to Jessica, explain everything, ask her how everyone was doing. At least she was alive and well, though.

After he had showered and dressed, he listened for Father Lantom and found him in his office, so he tapped on the ajar door and heard a prompt, “Come in.”

“Good morning, Father,” said Matt, closing the door behind him and moving forward in slow, cautious steps. He knew the priory well enough by now that he didn’t take his cane with him indoors, but the chair he was aiming for wasn’t always in the exact same place.

“Morning, Matthew.” He had been shuffling through some papers, but his computer was on as well. “We’ve got bagels in the kitchen.”

Matt found the chair and seated himself. “Thanks. I’ll go get one in a minute.” He didn’t try to stall before bringing up what he really wanted to talk about. “Karen was here last night, wasn’t she?”

Father Lantom’s voice was disapproving. “If you listened in, I assume you’ll be wanting to take confession later.”

“No,” Matt responded immediately. “I mean, I couldn’t help hearing when she came in, but I put my earbuds in right away to drown it out.” There had been a temptation, of course. Not the same as with Jessica; if anything, the idea of going to talk to Karen terrified him, but he had wanted so much to just listen to her voice and hear what she had to say. “I just, you know, hoped you could tell me how she’s doing.”

“She’s grieving,” said Father Lantom. His tone suggested that he couldn’t avoid being blunt about it. “She’s a tough woman, and she’ll pull through, but she misses her friend and she wants answers.”

Matt bowed his head, ashamed. “I’m sorry about all this. I’m sorry you had to lie for me.”

“Oh, I didn’t lie to Miss Page. Or your friend Foggy, for that matter.” That conversation had happened before Matt had come to St. John of the Cross, fortunately. He wasn’t sure he could handle many more close encounters. “I’ve kept your secret out of necessity. I pray it won’t be for much longer.”

“So do I.” He sat still for a moment, listening to the rest of the world waking up, then explained, “I know where to find the men who have been hunting me. Their organization is called Javelin. As soon as I expose them, it’ll be safe to tell the world I’m alive.”

Father Lantom let out an exasperated breath. “You went out last night, didn’t you? You told me plain as day that you weren’t in any shape to get back to your work, but you didn’t have the suit back in your hands for two hours before you were putting it on again.”

“I didn’t fight. I just have to track down their leaders, fast. I’m not going to be responsible for bringing a new gang into Hell’s Kitchen.”

“And you’re sure that you’re the reason they’re here?”

Without his cane to grip, Matt’s hands balled into fists and trembled in his lap. “They threatened my...Sister Maggie,” he said. “It’s me they want. They don’t know how to find me, so you’re okay, and Karen’s okay, and Foggy’s okay. But not for long.”

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It took an inordinate amount of time to agree on what to eat, so Trish felt a measure of triumph when she finally completed the order and hung up the phone. “I got us each a lassi,” she called to Jessica, who had wandered away from the living room. “I’m sure you brought your own beverage as usual, but if you’ve never had one of these you have to try it.”

“Whatever,” said Jessica, emerging from the bathroom with a pill bottle in her hand. “Are you seriously taking fish oil? How new age-y can you get?”

Trish rolled her eyes. “I take a lot of supplements. I got that one just in case I turned out to be an Inhuman, but I didn’t want to waste the rest of the bottle and it turns out the health benefits aren’t bad, so I kept buying it. What were you doing in my medicine cabinet?”

“Making sure you weren’t into anything worse than attempting to give yourself superpowers based on a rumor from three years ago. Although come to think of it, I don’t know if there is actually anything worse than that.” Despite her tone, she looked relieved as she set the bottle down on the counter.

Midway between annoyed and saddened, Trish gave her adoptive sister a flat look. “Like I would ever start doing something destructive to my body. And anyway, do you think I could slip it past you if I did?”

“No, because I always look in your medicine cabinet.” She didn’t say it like a challenge, but there was no apology there either. Jessica had some paranoia issues, sure. She acknowledged them, and she had good reason for them, and she wouldn’t try to hide them from Trish.

Just like Trish wouldn’t have tried to conceal her harebrained schemes to become a hero. It was who she was.

They sat down at the breakfast bar, Jessica casting a quick, unappreciative look at her phone before tossing it into her bag and ignoring it. “Lawyers,” she huffed.

“That Foggy guy?” asked Trish. “How dare he try to contact you while you’re working for him. I think you should tell him what you saw, Jess.”

“His dead pal Daredevil? God, no. He’d just think I was drinking on the job.” She held up a splayed hand before Trish could comment. “And I wasn’t!”

Trish didn’t derail the discussion to point out that she hadn’t been about to make any such accusation. “So if Matt really is dead, who was wearing the horns? Do we have a fake Punisher and a fake Daredevil?” In the months since Matt’s death, his role had been taken on briefly by one of his and Jessica’s other friends, Danny. He had only worn a replica of the costume once or twice, but all of them had contributed in some way to spreading the rumor that the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen was still active, just to throw off any scent that would connect him to Matthew Murdock. But Jessica would have known if the man she had seen was Danny, even if she hadn’t recognized him.

Jessica blew out a frustrated breath. “I was hired to catch some asshole in the act of pretending to be Frank Castle. If someone wants me to catch some other asshole pretending to be Matt, they can call my office and have Malcolm talk me into it.”

“What about Karen?”

That got her a sharp look from Jessica. “What about Karen?”

Trish shrugged. “This is Daredevil-related, so I’m sure she’d like to be filled in on it. And maybe she knows something that she wouldn’t have thought to tell you earlier.”

Jessica looked uncomfortable. After a moment she brushed her hair back from her eyes and admitted, “I don’t really want to do that to her. There was something going on between them.”

“You mean they were--?” Trish thought back to her conversation with Karen while they had waited for news at the Hell’s Kitchen police station. Karen had described her friendship with Matt as “complicated,” which implied some kind of romantic tension that of course Trish hadn’t pressed her on. “I thought you said he was all about that other woman. Elektra?”

“Yeah, Karen and Matt weren’t screwing, but come on, Trish, you must have seen it on her. She was stupid in love with him.”

If that was true -- and Trish agreed that it probably was -- Karen had been dealt a terrible hand. To love someone who loved another was hard enough, but now that he was gone, Matt must be haunting her relentlessly. Trish thought of Simpson, not because the history there at all resembled Karen’s, but because it still hurt. No need to wonder what kind of painful memories Jessica was fighting. Trish kept her tone even when she answered, “So you want to skip over a potential source of information just to spare her feelings? That’s…”

“Unprofessional?” Jessica suggested glumly.

“I was going to say, ‘oddly empathetic’. But okay. For now we’ll operate under the assumption that fake Daredevil is after fake Punisher. Could actually weave this into the show…” She paused to let her thoughts catch up to her words. “If we’re trying to convince people that the Punisher they’ve been hearing about isn’t the original, it might go over better to theorize that there’s a resurgence of vigilante copycats in general.”

Jessica narrowed her eyes. “Nobody’s seen the horns guy but me. You’re not getting my testimony on the air, you know that, right?”

“I don’t need to. Either it turns out to be nothing, or you won’t be the only one for long. We could get a stance established before the mass hysteria sets in.”

“So much for not telling Karen.”

Trish opened her mouth to reply, then closed it again. Karen had already confirmed a meeting with her after Trish Talk brought the subject to the public; there was no way to talk around the Daredevil aspect if that was what would be on the show. “I think she’ll understand,” she said. “She’s...one of us.”

There was no need to explain what she meant by that to Jessica, who looked skeptical but not affronted. “She’s a reporter,” she countered. “Before you know it she’ll be banging on your door with a list of questions on how you feel about the local superheroes.”

“Don’t be--” Trish was interrupted by a knock at the door. She stared toward it for a long moment, then back at Jessica, who gave her an innocent shrug. Trish raised an eyebrow. “What’s going on?”

Jessica snorted a laugh. “You ordered Indian food.”

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Frank kicked away a fallen enemy’s arm and advanced slowly on the last one standing. They were in the basement of an abandoned building and there was nowhere to go but up the one staircase against the far wall, so Frank fired a shot that way to show the man that he wouldn’t make it. By the time he realized he was out of options and turned to draw, Frank was too close to give him time to aim, and in another second he was disarmed and making frantic promises in a bid to save his life.

It was pathetic, but Frank had expected nothing else after the weak performance that the others had put up. He grabbed the lowlife by the throat and slammed him into the wall, making soft sounds to shush his babbling. “Take it easy, Paul. It’s Paul, right? You’re gonna walk outta here, Paul. I’ma ask you a couple questions, you’re gonna answer, and then you’re gonna walk free and stay free until I find out you told me a lie or you pulled some shit I gotta clean up. You got that, yeah?”

Paul nodded, as much as he could with Frank’s hand at his neck. Frank lessened the pressure enough to let him breathe and speak comfortably. “Alright, Paul. You know who I’m looking for, don’t you? Where is he?”

“Which one?” the man choked out. Frank rolled his eyes and raised his gun to Paul’s temple, causing his next words to come out in a panicked shriek. “There’s more than one! Okay okay right now his name is Russell Blagg, but if you kill him they’ll just hire another guy to replace him!”

Frank lowered the gun a few inches. “Who’ll hire another guy?”

“I don’t know. Jesus Christ I don’t know! Russell’s the only one who’s talked to them, the rest of us ain’t even on the same payroll! I can tell you where Russell’s gonna be, that’s all I got.”

“Come on, Paul, that ain’t all you got.” It had been easy enough to intimidate this wretch, but Frank knew he had to keep pressing if he wanted answers he could use. “What were you doing here tonight? Who were you after?”

Paul swallowed a few times, his wide eyes tracking to the side to look for Frank’s gun. “They’re called Javelin. Boss wants ‘em gone but we’re not s’posed to kill ‘em yet. ‘Cept Russell, he’s the one takes ‘em out all at once.”

Frank grimaced. According to Karen, there were still super-powered individuals active in the area, but with Daredevil dead and Frank himself staying out of the game, of course new gangs were moving in. New gangs with stupid names. “What’s this Javelin want?”

“I don’t know.” Paul winced before Frank even moved to threaten him again. “I mean it’s gotta be they caused some kinda trouble for our side. None of ‘em are from around here. They all moved in at once. I don’t think it’s a gang, I think it’s a cult.”

‘Javelin’ did sound more like a cult than a gang. “Alright,” said Frank, ignoring the huge sigh of relief from the trembling criminal. “Where’s Russell gonna be, Paul?”

After he got the information he needed, he knocked Paul unconscious with a punch to the side of the head, then spent a minute shaking the pain out of his hand. He had aimed it properly, exerting the right amount of force, but he had taken care to leave everyone else alive too, and some had required more than one hit. Hand-to-hand was tricky, and exhausting, when you were the only one playing by that rule.

All around the bare concrete floor, the gang members lay in sad little heaps, like a low-stakes battlefield. Most of them had a gun or two nearby, or still on their person. Frank didn’t need or want their weapons, but he didn’t want them to have them either, so he would have to do some collecting and disposal. He scowled, thinking about their worthless lives and all the innocent people they were likely to hurt once they came to. Nothing about this felt right. He was wearing the skull on his chest; he needed it to show them who he was, and that he was serious, but he hadn’t come here for revenge. He didn’t even have proof of their crimes.

With any luck, Karen wouldn’t find out about this, but he wished he knew what she would think if she did. Was this what she had wanted? Putting a stop to the imitators without killing them? Or would she wonder how he could find out about two new active gangs in Hell’s Kitchen and not take them down?

He had thought once that if Karen was safe -- Karen, and the Liebermans, and Curtis -- he would be at peace to go live out whatever life was left to him. But when he pictured Karen’s sky-blue eyes, there was no peace there. She was safe, but she wasn’t happy. None of them were.


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Tags: conspiracy of ravens
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