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“Heard about that,” he nodded, expression hidden in the gloom.

“Yeah?” Jessica said, suspicious. The whole ‘meeting on rooftops with vigilantes’ thing didn’t sit nicely with her. This had 'Soon you'll be part of a major police investigation. Again' all over it.

And whatever the guy with the skull armour and the relaxed attitude about killing could want from her probably wasn't good news.

“Mm. Ugly business. Good work on taking him out.”

Her eyebrows climbed to her hairline. She wasn’t sure what she’d expected from him, but this wasn’t it.

“Not disappointed you didn’t handle him?” she said sharply. He seemed like that kind of guy.

“What?” he huffed a breath. “Second I heard about that guy I knew I needed to stay far away. Woulda helped if I coulda, but didn’t wanna risk handing him my skillset.”

That… actually made a lot of sense, if you didn’t have an ego about who took out the bad guys, as long as it got done.

“So you gonna tell me about this job you want me for?” she finally said, and caught a glimpse of his grin in the gloom.

He looked into middle distance for what felt like a long time, at least to Jessica. She wasn't exactly known for patience.

"You know of Karen Page?" he said finally, low and almost careful, "writes for the Bulletin?"

Huh.

"Writes stuff about vigilantes, about the Punisher sometimes, doesn't she? Yeah, I've read some of her stuff."

And Trish had been talking about her, about maybe having her on Trish Talk.

He grunted in acknowledgement. Was silent again, and she wondered what he was hesitant to tell her. Page was clearly sympathetic to the Punisher—or at least, to Frank Castle, but maybe he didn't want any articles about himself at all, drawing attention to him. She could sympathise with that; the few times she'd been mentioned in the media had been a nightmare. Did he want Jessica to get dirt on Page? Make her stop writing about him?

He could fix that himself, but Jessica was kind of starting to believe those claims by Page, that the Punisher was far more precise about his targets than most people would believe. Maybe he didn't want Page dead, just convinced to stop writing about him.

She watches his hand clench and unclench at his side.

"Needs backup sometimes," he finally said.

Jessica blinked. Did she hear that wrong? Was he saying he needs backup sometimes? That would be strange, but not as strange as—

"When she meets sources," he clarified.

Oh.

"Huh."

"Was hoping that you'd—" he gestured vaguely, "fuck, I don't know, pretend to be a colleague. Go with her. When it's— needed."

Jessica was still processing this, that he wanted protection for this reporter instead of dirt on her.

"How would that even work? You want me to infiltrate the Bulletin and talk her into letting me tag along on her research?" she said increduously, because really, she did have things to do. Alias Investigations had no shortage of cases these days.

"She'd call you if she needs you," he shrugged.

"Wait, she knows about this?"

Wait, he was in communication with Karen Page? Well, didn't that put an interesting spin on some of her articles.

"Said she'd consider bringing backup if— I found her somebody who wouldn't scare off her sources," he huffed a silent chuckle, made a 'and here we are' sort of gesture.

Jessica hid a grin at the thought of how this must have gone. The Punisher was, what, concerned about Page? Told her—asked her?— to stop meeting sources on her own? She'd seen a photo of Page, slim and fragile looking in her heels an pencil skirt and blouse. Imagined that woman telling this large, gruff, intimidating guy that if he wanted her to have backup, he could arrange it for her.

"I like her already," Jess decided impulsively. What the hell, she could use the billable hours.

She saw the Punisher's teeth gleam in a grin.

"She's a Pitbull in a damsel disguise," he said, apropos of nothing. Sounded admiring and maybe even fond. Huh, who woulda thought.

Jessica privately thought Page must indeed be a pitbull, if she'd been researching and meeting sources all on her own for some of the articles she'd been writing. It wasn't exactly the safest world she was digging into.

"So who's paying my bill?" she asked innocently.

He was silent for a moment, and she knew he knew that she'd draw conclusions from his answer. Finally he sighed and took an envelope from an inner coat pocket.

"Let me know when you've run through these hours," he said, handing it over.

It was... a fair amount of money. Enough to make her life a lot easier for a couple of months. Enough to buy a lot of booze, if she weren't trying to ease off on the drinking. There was also a note with a phone number. The money was presumably not legal, but she wasn't going to ask about that. Idly wondered if Page knew about this, too.

"Not Page?" she said, tucking away the envelope. "Letting her know," she elaborated.

He grunted, shook his head. "Want her to call you when she needs you."

And not worry about the cost, she filled in. Smart as Page was, Jessica figured that wouldn't fly for more than a couple of call-ins, but fine. Not Jess's business however the hell these two people arranged this.

"Gotta card?"

Jessica fished out an Alias Investigations card and put it into his battered fingers.

He grunted what she choose to think are thanks.

"We done? I've got more to do tonight than stand around dramatically on rooftops," she said, flicking him a half-grin. He huffed a laugh and nodded. Picked up his duffle bag (with, she'd bet anything, part of his arsenal) and headed for the roof entrance while she turned to the ledge to jump down into an alley.

"Be seeing you," he said over his shoulder, and it wasn't nearly as alarming to hear the Punisher say those words as she might have thought it would be.