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Riders And Punishers

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Looking down at the bottle in his hand, Frank felt himself have an all too familiar flash of rage. But then as fast as it came, it was gone. He didn't like that it still happened. After everything he'd been through, everything he'd done, and still he couldn't seem to let himself rest.

He looked around the bar. Seemed his flash might have been a bit more than just that. All he could see were either worried, concerned, or freaked out faces. He must've done something, and looking down at his hands again, the broken glass and blood proved he did. Before he could fully process, the barman was already over him with medical supplies and a rag, tending to the accidental wounds.

Frank groaned to himself. He knew he couldn't live like this, going from bar to bar; hoping-no praying that something would happen, something that let him hurt someone. He knew that wasn't good. He knew he was sick, not right in the head, but noone stopped him. Hell, those guys in government used to provide him deals all the time, giving him passes if he got rid of people for them. At the time he didn't care, the hits he took would only be done if they were an actual bad person, not because they knew too much or could possibly be a threat. 

That was a long time ago now though. The last three, four years? He wasn't sure anymore, but either way, no contact, no hits had been sent his way. He was fine with that for a while, doing his own thing and actually helping out those attention seeking 'heroes' prancing around New York and everywhere else. Sure, some of those guys and girls were decent, but then there were ones like Stark- hell, all of those Avengers who seemed to do it for the fame. Frank felt he might be a little too hard on that analysis, but they had never done anything to prove him wrong. Plus, whenever he did work with them, he'd do his thing and then get a lecture. Why the hell would they work with him if they weren't ready for that?!

He sighed. Those thoughts always annoyed him more. He asked for another drink, and went back to his brooding. It was interrupted though, as he found himself being joined by a new face. An empty looking man, his leather biker jacket seemed to have scorch marks all over it, and he looked like he had just been through Hell. Despite the look, the man went to sit next to Frank, greeting him quite cheerfully.

"Well look who it is", he said, "Didn't think I'd find you out here in the middle of nowhere Frank."

Frank grunted. "Didn't think I'd have to deal with your shit out here, Blaze."

The biker looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "You purposefully been avoiding me, Frankie? Who whould'a guessed."

"You, apparently."

Blaze chuckled, then looked at the other man's hand. "What happened there?"

Frank sighed, yet again; "Broke a glass. Didn't even realise 'till I saw the looks everyone was givin'."

"Anger flashes?" The rider got a slightly surprised look for the guess, so he continued. "I've had similar Frank. When you turn into a flaming skeleton and burn people's souls for a living, you can't help but get angry at the world every once in a while."

"Never thought of your job like that."

"Noone does. They just look at me like I kill people for fun, like I enjoy turning into that thing and going on witch hunts every night."

Both men were quite for a while after that, listening to the background chatter, and barely audible music coming from the jukebox. Eventually, the barman walked over with a new drink for Frank, and Blaze just asked for some water, getting quizzical looks from the other two men.

"What can I say, water helps cool the burning feeling", he said with shrugging shoulders, knowing only Frank would understand. In turn, Frank glared at the guy for the slight joke, although he guessed that it was probably serious as well. Once the barman got him the drink and left, the two anti heroes resumed their conversation.

 "If you don't mind me asking Frank", Blaze started, "But I was just wonderin', how's it going in your department of 'fun'?"

The man in questioned scoffed, "I haven't killed anyone in a long time, Johnny. There was that Jigsaw guy, but that was only because he kept pissing me off, getting in my way. That whould'a been, what... six, seven months ago now? Yeah that sounds about right."

"Damn man, Punisher doesn't wanna punish anymore?"

Frank glared at the rider, "It's not that Blaze- well, it is a little, but it's not like anyone's came on my radar either. Honestly, it's starting to get to me. I keep hoping with all I have some guy'll try something stupid, y'know? Push the wrong person around, feel up someone who doesn't want that, I just want something to happen that'll give me a reason to hurt someone."

Johnny looked at his friend for a few moments, deep in his own thoughts. "I think", he eventually said, "That might have something to do with your army days, probably a lot to do with your Punisher missions and strategic attacks you had to plan back then. Now that your not doing something like that, you're empty, you're just drifting along, am I right?"

"...Damn, rider, you a mind reader or something?"

"I think you already know the answer to that, Castle. You at least know about some of the things the mighty Ghost Rider has done in the years."

"Yeah, I have. Guessin' you know what ol' Punisher's done too."

"I feel like you're joking right now Frankie."

Frank chuckled and took a swig from his glass. "You know me, Blaze. Frank Castle: Punisher, comedian for hire."

The rider cracked a slight smile. "Sounds a hell of a lot better than Hero's for Hire."

"Don't get me started on those bozos", Frank stated while pointing his drink at the other man.

"Not you're favorite?" Blaze asked.

"I got no favorites when it comes to the guy's in super teams. You ask me, they're in it for the fame."

"I don't know, man. Some of them are pretty good people."

"Some, but not a lot."

"Give me your opinion on who's a good hero then", Johnny asked the other man.

There were a few moments of serious thought, until Frank finally said: "That Spider-Man's good enough."

"Really?" Blaze said with clear surprise, his eyebrows instantly shooting up. "Out of every superhero out there, you go with Spider-Man?"

"Yeah", Frank confirmed with a shrug, "He's a decent kind o' guy. Helped him out once or twice back in the day, he was a lot younger back then though."

The rider sat back a little as he continued to listen to Frank's story.

"Not sure how old, but he would've been just over twenty I reckon. We was both going after this drug dealer who was sellin' to kids in the parks. Course the kid was takin' him to police and all that if he found him, and I would've killed him. Despite that, we made a truce until we found him, and eventually we did. Turned out though, the guy had been framed big time and all that crap. The kid found out before me, and actually took a bullet for the guy. When I got in his face about blockin' the shot, he just said 'we got the wrong guy', and walked off. Found out a few days later he found the real one and actually roughed him up a bit before taking him to custody, didn't even leave one of those notes he writes. Proved to me right then and there that he'd risk everything if it meant putting away the right people. Also proved he was a better guy then I could ever be."

Silence again. Frank had some more of his drink while Blaze processed what he'd been told, eventually finding words to say. "Damn. Guess there are some really good people out there. All my Ghost Rider stuff doesn't really help when it comes to believing in people." 

"Can see how that'd be", the Punisher stated, "All that looking at sins all day wouldn't help any optimistic views you have."

The other man simply nodded, leaving it there. After that, they just had pretty simplistic discussions, talking about the good bars around, any worthwhile views to look at, and exchanging biking tracks to speed along on. That went on for quite a while, and once the two anti heroes had all but exhausted all the topics they could think of, they realised that they were among the only few left in the bar.

"Think I'll be on my way now, Frankie", Johnny said with a slight grin while he got up, "Maybe I'll see you around."

"Sure you will, skeleton", Frank remarked as he rose up as well. "Guess I'll go as well."

"Well you know what they say Punisher, ladies first."

Johnny signalled to the door and Frank glared at him while Blaze laughed. "Laugh it up, Blaze. Might be your only chance."

The two exited the bar, going to their motorcycles which just so happened to be next to each other. Frank got on his, adjusting his helmet so it stayed on while the other guy drove out onto the road.

Over the roar of the engine, Frank could just hear Blaze call out: "Have fun doing your thing, Frankie! And don't do anything I wouldn't do!"

The Punisher scoffed as he watched Blaze's bike suddenly light up on fire, while he saw the man's face turn into a burning skull, and if a skeleton could grin, it was obvious that the Ghost Rider was doing that right now. The spirit of vengeance gave a half wave, and then drove off, leaving slight scorch marks on the road.

Frank let himself give a tiny grin at the sight. He'd never say it out loud, but he had to admit, Ghost Rider was pretty cool. He finished putting on his helmet and starting his bike, and drove off himself.

I'll not do something something he wouldn't when Hell freezes over, he thought, chuckling at his joke. 

Frank figured he'd pay a visit to New York. Wouldn't do any good to anyone to let those criminals run around free now, would it?