Fandom: Netflix MCU mashup
Wordcount: This part, 2468
Rating: Teen I guess.
Summary: Exposition and bonding.
Once they were alone, Frank wasn’t sure how to start. The relief -- and yes, joy -- that he had felt on seeing that Karen was alive and well wasn’t enough to erase what he had been going through over the last day and night, and he was still furious. He was also still afraid. The dark bruises she had hidden back under her sleeve were calling out to him, like a taunt. Someone hurt her. You weren’t there.
Karen had nothing to keep her silent, though. “I know what you’re thinking,” she said solemnly, “and I wasn’t raped.”
This time the relief itself was painful. His mind hadn’t even been fully able to formulate that fear. All he could voice was, “Karen...”
“I wasn’t assaulted. Or groped. Or anything like it. Nobody even said anything rude to me. I’m okay, Frank. You know I wouldn’t lie to you about this.”
He rubbed his hands over his face, took a few hard breaths, and finally gave a slow nod, eyes unfocused. “So what happened?”
“With this?” She raised her hurt arm and gestured at it with the other. “Life is wacky. I got bitten by a dog. Not even a criminal underworld guard dog, just a shelter dog.”
“Huh.” If he had been anywhere near the mood for it, he thought he would have laughed. That was the last answer he had expected, but it was true, she wouldn’t lie about it. Now that he could think about it a little more clearly, the bruise really had looked older than it would have if she had taken it during her ordeal. “You wanna get some ice on it, though?”
Karen’s mouth quirked in a tired grin. “It’s fine. You’re not the only one who can handle some black and blue.” She hugged herself, though, and let her gaze wander around Trish’s bedroom as if she were scoping out potential escape routes. “Um, when Jessica got there, she knocked everyone out and then called the cops. There was plenty of evidence on hand, so they’re all going to jail. Just so you know.”
Frank snorted. No need to tell her what he thought about them going to jail. “Why were they after you?”
“I was looking into this guy called Donovan Wake--” She held up her hands, seeing his reaction. “It didn’t seem like it was anything dangerous, all I even had was a name…” She faltered and then gave up, hanging her head and pushing her fingers through her hair.
She could have died. She had misjudged the danger, and it could have killed her. Frank took the time to forgive her in his heart, so his next words were low and gravelly but not accusatory: “You gotta stop doing this to me, Karen.”
“I know,” she said softly. “I’m sorry.”
He wasn’t prepared for that. “You know?” he echoed.
Karen bit her lip and squeezed her eyes shut. “I was scared,” she confessed, her voice cracking slightly. “I couldn’t stop thinking about how I had gone into it without telling you. I was scared, and nobody knew where I was, and they took my gun…”
Unable to bear seeing her like this, Frank closed the distance between them and wrapped his arms around her, and she immediately lay her head on his shoulder and cried into it. “Shhh,” he murmured. “It’s okay. You’re okay. You want another .380, or something else?”
Her muffled sob turned into a muffled laugh, and she lifted her head to meet his eyes. “I’ll trust your judgment. For now I just want to work on this case. Jessica’s all in, so we should probably get back out there and sit down with her and Trish.”
Frank shook his head. “It’s 2am. You gonna sleep here, or you want me take you home?”
“It is?” Karen blinked a few times. “Here, I guess.”
“I’ll be back tomorrow. David dug up some shit on Wake, I’ll bring it over.” He had been prepared to push back if she wanted to go home but didn’t want him to stay on her couch overnight, but this way spared both of them from further argument. This Trish Walker had a good security system, and neither she nor Jessica seemed a fool about using it.
They returned to the living room, where Jessica gave them a sour look over the paperwork she was shuffling through. “It’s 2am,” she informed them.
Karen shrugged, her arms tight at her sides. “Yeah, sorry. Frank’s going home now. Is it still okay if I crash here?”
Trish, who was on the couch taking notes over her own pile of documents, began nodding before lifting her eyes up to Frank and Karen. “Stay as long as you want. It’s no trouble, and it’s easier to work on this together if you’re here.”
“Thanks.” Karen looked at Frank, giving him the wild notion that he would like to kiss her goodnight until she said, “You don’t have to come over tomorrow. I can meet you at my apartment to get whatever info you have for me. I’ll need to stop there anyway to get some clothes.”
He cursed under his breath, but didn’t get any further before she spoke again, louder this time, a strained and helpless protest: “You shouldn’t be around here. You’ll end up on camera. Trish is a celebrity, people notice who she’s seen with.”
Frank frowned, but he understood. Keeping a low profile was still an essential part of Pete Castiglione’s life, and sometimes Karen knew better than he did about how to keep a low profile. “I’ll be back here tomorrow,” he repeated.
Castle was back there the next day, but Jessica was the only one at Trish’s place when he showed up, a baseball cap low on his brow and a laptop case slung over his shoulder. “Where’s Karen?” he asked as soon as she buzzed him in.
“Hello to you too,” she replied, turning back to the work space she had set up in the kitchen. “Trish took her to the pound.”
He set the case on the counter next to her and gave her a deep scowl as he removed his heavy jacket. “You gonna make me ask again?”
Realizing that she had made an unintended jab at Karen, Jessica didn’t try pushing back against his attitude. “That’s the truth. They went to run errands and one of them was the pound. Karen said she wanted a dog.”
“A dog,” Castle echoed. He shook his head and let out a long sigh. “Okay. So you’re a PI, that right?”
“You any good at it?”
Jessica looked up from her papers to give him her best glare. “You any good at mass murdering criminals?”
Castle took off his cap, better to glare back at her, but after just a second of that he shrugged and said, “Fair enough. Show me what you got so far.”
If he hadn’t answered that way, if she hadn’t already talked to Trish and Karen about it and agreed to share information, if she hadn’t been in a decent mood, she would have told him to shove it. But if she had managed to tolerate him so far, it would probably just get easier from here. “You first,” she said.
He didn’t even hesitate. “That piece of shit calling himself the Punisher, Karen found out who hired him. And the one before that, and probably the next one, if we don’t take care of this now. Guy called Donovan Wake. He’s hard to get at, ‘cause he lives on a goddamn yacht most of the year, but he’s here now, and I know the marina where he docks.”
Jessica blinked. “Yeah...yeah that’s all in line with what I got.” She slid him an opened folder and started to explain everything in the simplest terms possible, like she did for her clients. “He’s been operating in the New York area for a couple decades at least. Looks like he and Fisk managed to mostly stay out of each other’s way with whatever truces or agreements they came up with, but they’re not allied. Plus, the yacht thing.”
“Yeah,” said Castle absently, poring over the contents of the folder. It was mostly reports about organized crime which had occurred within the past ten years, though it needed trained scrutiny to find the connections that pinned everything to Wake. “My buddy pulled up this same kinda shit, but nothing recent enough to track down those assholes you got last night. How’d you do it?”
It was a few minutes before ten. Probably too early for a drink. She sighed and pulled the folder back toward herself. “They weren’t with Wake. His big project right now is just the fake Punisher revolving door. With Fisk out of the picture he’s taking out all the small-time competition, putting the blame on you so whoever’s left is gonna be too scared to join any gang he doesn’t control. And it looks like it’s pretty much working, so far. Most of what I found on him came from what his enemies had stashed away; they’re trying to find his weaknesses.”
Castle frowned. “So who kidnapped Karen?”
Of course that would be the only thing on his mind. She leaned on the counter, turned halfway to look at him. “Javelin.”
“Yeah?” he pressed, impatience in his voice. “Who’s Javelin and how do I get to them?”
“I don’t know.”
He muttered a curse, exhaling loudly and pushing back from the counter.
Jessica felt oddly sympathetic, even though he had just flashed her such a dirty look that you’d think she was the one who had threatened Karen instead of the one who had rescued her. “Yet,” she heard herself saying. “I don’t know who they are, yet.”
Castle’s expression didn’t become any happier -- if anything, there was an extra edge of tragedy in his eyes, but there was also an unexpected kindness. “What’s your story?” he asked in his sandpaper voice. “Is Karen paying you for this?”
“Dunno, is she? You could plant that idea in her head, I won’t mind.” She carded a hand through her hair, letting her eyes fall back onto the catalog of Wake’s crimes. “Look, a few years ago I got...trapped. Guy ruined my life, ruined a lot of lives, and, you know, he’s gone but there’s still always a guy out there ready to ruin another life. There’s always someone who gets trapped. I keep trying to forget about it but Trish and Karen both have this really obnoxious habit of making me care. So, whatever.” She swept her hand over the folder. “Let’s find this latest turd, see how much I manage to regret it this time.”
“Your parents know what you do?” asked Castle.
Jessica blinked. People didn’t usually ask about her family until they got to know her, and she was good at preventing that from happening very much. “They’re dead,” she said.
He showed no surprise. “Was it the guy?”
“No, it was before that, car accident, Christ, why are we talking about me? Thought this was about keeping Javelin off of Karen.”
“Yeah,” said Castle. “Yeah, that’s right. I’ll just shut my face, Miss Jones, and you go ahead and keep telling me anything you think I ought to know about this research you got.”
Something about his cadence had reminded her of her father, and she almost smiled. “Call me Miss Jones again and I’ll tell you what I think you should know about affordable prepaid burial plots.”
Foggy got up to greet Karen as she came into his office, telling himself he should resist the urge to hug her in his relief at seeing her, until she initiated a hug of her own accord. There was definitely something troubling her, and definitely something she was hiding from him, and he couldn’t tell if they were the same thing. “Looked all over the place for you yesterday,” he said when they had released each other. “What happened?”
“Yeah, sorry,” she said, dropping into a chair. Her shoulder bag came down heavily on the floor beside her, like she had been carrying around too much weight for too long. “I’ve been trying to adopt this dog and it’s turning into a real bureaucratic nightmare. I just came from there and they bumped my application back again.”
“Okay, that’s...not what I was expecting.” Foggy shut the office door, then sat down with her.
“I know. Call it a weird coping mechanism, but I’m really set on this dog. But thanks for letting me come here.”
“I’m the one who’s been trying to reach you since yesterday, remember?”
Karen nodded, after a brief startled pause that suggested she hadn’t actually remembered. “What did you want to talk about?”
The picture that Jessica had given him was in his desk, and he nearly brought it out and put it in front of her, but there was that something that was troubling her, and it was more than just the animal shelter. She seemed haggard and restive, and he couldn’t give her any new sources of worry until he understood. “What did you want to talk about?” he replied.
There was a pause, during which Karen looked vaguely guilty. Foggy remembered all the times he had seen that look before, and braced himself, but Karen began innocuously enough: “We found the man behind the fake Punishers. Donovan Wake. Jessica’s been researching, trying to find me something I can print to expose him, but there’s one thing that came up that I wanted to get your take on.” She frowned deeply, closing her eyes for a moment before continuing. “Most of his rap sheet is the kind of corruption and organized crime you expect from the rich guys who don’t get their own hands dirty, but he also had dealings with human traffickers. The Russians that were working with Fisk two years ago?”
Foggy nodded, full of too many questions to narrow his choice down to anything but prompting her to go on. “So this Wake guy was profiting off them too?”
“No,” said Karen. “He was a customer. There’s a record of him making a purchase that corresponds with a missing person report for a girl who disappeared from her home in New Jersey in 2012.” Her voice became throttled with outrage. “She was thirteen.”
“Okay, Karen, wait. Before we get any further, you have to tell me what you want from me here. Am I in this in as a lawyer, or are you just here for some off-the-record counsel?”
Karen steadied herself before answering, but she still looked to be near tears. “I guess I just needed a friend.”