The Bartender and the Spy

September 07, 2017:

Luke Cage may not make a great spy, but Michael Carter makes a horrible bartender. They're both out of their element. Follows "An Uncommon Reaction"

Hotel Bar - Wakanda

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Jessica Jones

Mood Music: [*\ None.]


Fade In…

Come to Wakanda, they said. It'll be fun they said.

Okay, so no one actually said that to Luke Cage who flew halfway around the world following one Jessica Jones under the misguided good intentions of protecting her and thus protecting some answers she swore to give him. Tonight, however, it seems Luke isn't doing much protecting of anything, save the bottle of liquor he has sitting in front of him at the hotel bar. He's frowning at the bottom of his glass as it becomes visible again, but if he's worried about it, such things are assuaged with a quick refill of amber liquid.

*

"Mr. Cage, what did that bottle ever do to you?" comes an exceedingly British voice. Michael's wearing a neatly cut lightweight black suit with a white shirt underneath. He must have purchased something locally or had it shipped, because he was absolutely roasting in his normal suits. Whatever his suit is made out of now, it breathes much better. Perhaps even some high tech Wakandan fabric.
He steps forward and offers his hand. "Mr. Cage, I'm Michael Carter. I thought it was high time we met. I do hope this isn't a bad time."

*

Luke's eyes are bloodshot as he glances up at Michael and his introduction, then down to the offered hand as if he has to process everything a hair longer than normal. Finally he slaps a big hand in for a shake, "Jessica's mentioned you." Which must mean the man isn't perceived as a threat in this unknown country. "Call me Luke. And it's all a bad time, might as well make the best of it." He drags the bottle into a neutral position in silent offering.

*

It doesn't take a superspy to figure out that Luke isn't in the best way. Michael looks sympathetic and takes a seat after returning the shake, undoing his jacket as he does. He smiles at the offer of a first name. "Luke," he echoes back.
Rather than ask him why he's feeling glum, instead he asks, "So what's your take on the investigation?"

*

"That I got myself tangled up in other people's business." Luke replies rather dryly as he motions for another glass for his new guest, "This isn't really my style. Detective work. Jessica," The name seems painful when it's formed in his mouth, like he's gargling with glass the way his lips draw back against his teeth, "Made some connection yesterday, something about Wright Brothers and the Staff thing, and Sky shit. I dunno. Might want to just call her."

*

"I got a very enthusiastic voicemail earlier on," says Michael with a touch of wryness. He nods in appreciation at the offer of a glass. "In truth, it's not mine either. My life is working assets and dropping packages, not digging down to the root of a mystery. I don't have much of a taste for mysteries. In many cases, I'd rather not know."

*

There is a rumble of laughter at something he said, a sudden unexpected thing especially to Luke who looks as surprised as the bar staff at the loud noise from the man who has been otherwise sullen tonight. "Rather not know." He repeats, on the tail end of his laugh that has him blotting his eyes on the back of his hand. "Shit. Where were you yesterday." A final exhale of laughing breath is given in a rush through pursed lips. "You know her long?" Jessica, presumably.

*

Michael Carter looks a mite surprised but doesn't otherwise comment on the laughter from the big man. "Jones?" he asks after a moment. He shakes his head. "Not long at all. But she's a friend of my sister's. That's part of the reason I'm here."

*

"Mmm." Luke comments as to Michael's connection to Jessica with that single syllable that's more just a noise he makes as his mouth presses back to the glass. It's a whiskey blend, heavy on notes of coffee if Michael deigns to drink, but it's not like Luke is tasting it much anymore. "Working assets, sounds like a fancy way of saying you beat up people for a living."

*

Michael cracks a smile at that. He reaches across to pour himself a splash. "Not far from the truth, in fact. I'm like James Bond with less flare and a much smaller budget." He draws the glass up to his nose to sniff. He sips, then nods approvingly.
Again, it doesn't take a spy to know that something happened between him and Jessica. But he's not a man to pry. Well, unless he needs to know. Then he's excellent at prying. "Will you be staying on, then?"

*

Luke gives a little impressed 'huh' at Michael's job explanation, "International Man of Mystery." His glass swings out, lightly connecting with Michael's so they clink together. "Put that shit on a business card, and you're automatically 'in' with the ladies. But then a business card defeats the purpose of being a spy, doesn't it?" The seat he's in groans as he shifts his weight. "I'm just a bartender, man. I'm in way over my head. I'll see it through, but the sooner it's done the better."

*

"It does indeed," defeat the purpose, that is. "What good is this job when I can't brag about it, hmm?" He taps the glasses together and swallows a mouthful. "I have a feeling this won't be a rapid job. Unless of course, we're run out of the country or all thrown in prison. There lies a swift end."

*

"Yeah, I can't imagine the shit show I'm going to get back to when this is over, my bar'll probably be burnt to the ground. Don't know how much longer I can afford to stay, I damn near maxed out my card just flying over. At least Jones said I can hitch a ride home when it's said and done, but…well, it was a gamble coming here. I knew that. Shit, it's just…" Luke's hand drags down his face, weary as he is blurry. No wait, that's just Michael. Michael is blurry.

*

Michael Carter pauses with the glass to his lips. He sips once and then sets the glass down, eyes on Luke. "I say, are you all right?" And yes, he's the kind of Englishman who says 'I say' unironically.

*

"You have that phrase where you come from, 'got the rug pulled out from underneath you'?" Luke asks as if Michael is from Mars rather than jolly old England like his accent places him as. But then again, in this day and age, coming from Mars isn't really a stretch.

*

Michael Carter chuckles, nods his head, then, "I daresay it's likely we invented the phrase, yes." He watches for signs that the big man has had more than he can handle. He's pretty damned strong but even he's not sure he could help Luke back to his room if he passed out.

*

"Oh. Yeah, probably. Well that. That's what's wrong with me. And now I gotta work with her, because it's the right thing to do - finish this job - but I don't even want to see her. All I want to do is drive a fist into her face. So instead. I'm going to finish this bottle, whether you help me or not." Luke says succinctly while refilling his glass.

*

"Look, I've been avoiding asking what this about because it's none of my bloody business," says Michael. That and he's an Englishman of a particular generation. There's certain things you just repress and talk around. It's the way of things. "And I'm no sort of counsellor, but if you want an objective opinion…" he reaches over and fills Luke's glass, then his own.

*

"She killed my wife." There, there is no need to sugar coat it or dance around it, it just is what it is. Luke rewets his lips and shakes his head slightly, like he's still trying to process it.

*

Michael blinks, slowly. Then, several things fit into place. "It has to have been a grave accident, or when she was under the control of that man." Kilgrave got a lot of attention from MI-6.5. If he hadn't been killed, it's likely the world's intelligence community would be fighting to figure out what made him tick. "I don't know Jones well, but I know enough to know she's not a murderer."

*

"You think I don't know that." Luke's voice raises slightly, pitched out of it's normal rumble when he clamps eyes on Michael. "I read what that man could do to people. He apparently did it to Reva too. But what he didn't make Jessica Jones do was invite me to sit on her sofa, have a cup of coffee, and tell me sometimes shit just happens. It was a bus accident. Wrong place, wrong time. Sorry for your loss."

*

"Ah." Michael gets the rub of the situation, then. "Tell me, how would you have reacted if she had told you then, early when you had met. Perhaps before you understood the power she was under." He lifts a hand. "Now, I'm not defending her. That's not my place."

*

"I knew. I heard about the trial same as half the world. Doesn't change the fact she gave me hope, strung me along, saying she'd help me find answers when this Wakanda thing was over. And I stupidly thought she might need my help and so now I'm stuck here." Why is Luke pouring his thoughts out to this overly proper British man? Oh yeah. Booze. He needs more of that.

*

Michael Carter would argue he's the right amount of proper with a virtual stranger who is spilling his guts to him. But he wonders that as well. But well, he did name himself an objective party. "Well. Yes, I do agree that was not right of her. But we could actually use your help. Not to put too fine a point on it, but you're the only one of us who isn't obviously and blatantly a foreigner. It's very likely people will talk to you when they wouldn't us. I myself realize that I represent the very colonial forces that caused Wakanda to isolate itself to begin with."

*

It's with a sigh that Luke says, "That's why I'm not going anywhere. I can still do some good here, even if it costs me." The big man squints at the bottle, which is now getting dangerously low. "I think that's my cue I should go to bed though." Maybe in the morning things will be better. Besides the hangover.

*

"In truth, I was hoping you'd say that," says Michael with a tight smile bordering on a grimace. "Because I'm not certain I would be able to help you to bed if you stay much longer." Then he cracks a bit of a smile. "Perhaps you should take your cue from the rest of us and distract yourself with work for the time being."

*

"What else have I got." Luke says simply in reply, getting to his feet slowly and dragging the bottle off the bar.

*

Michael reaches out to grip the bottle. His grip is surprisingly strong, especially given Luke's strength. "Leave some for me, will you?"

*

Luke looks from Michael's face down to the hand gripping the bottle. It's not worth the fight, especially as his beef isn't with the Englishman. In the end he just relents and releases his own hold on the bottle. "Sure man, it's paid for."

*

Michael tugs the bottle towards himself. "I'll repay the favour. If you like this, I've got a few ideas of something to share at a later date. Perhaps to toast the end of this mission?"

*

"We can toast when I'm back in New York City." But at least it's a promise of a future, a promise of an end to this mission, and perhaps some return to normalcy. Luke gives a sloppy salute off his bald head, "God save the Queen." Because that's what you're supposed to say in parting to a Brit, right?

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