AKA Muggers and Mimes

November 24, 2017:

Luke Cage asks Jessica Jones to have a coffee with him in Central Park. He wants to check on her…in spite of all that's happened between them.

Central Park, New York City

Not today, Mimes!


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Matt Murdock, Jane Foster, Danny Rand, Emery Papsworth, Owen Mercer, Dani Moonstar, Dr. Strange, Bucky Barnes

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Truth is, if Matthew Murdock hadn't set Jessica upright again, she probably wouldn't be able to take this meeting. She'd have pled work, or whatever.

But Matthew Murdock did right the ship, so to speak, and if there are still some leaks in the hull she's nevertheless more or less tugboating along. She feels like she can be around friends again at the least. She's gone back to her own apartment, something of a coup after days of acting like a spazz to avoid it. Which was good, there was a lot of mail, including a package that probably wouldn't have fared so well, waiting.

She's climbed slowly and painfully back onto the wagon.

But some old wounds, freshly torn asunder, continue to bleed, which is why she set the boundary she did, gave the warning she did when she agreed to meet Luke Cage at Central Park.

She sits on one of the benches, and at the least, here at the end of November, being bundled to the nines doesn't make her stand out too much. She's got one knee propped up, one booted foot on the edge of the bench so she can rest her chin on said knee, watching a series of skaters twirl about one of the frozen lakes. There a couple of tupperware beside her. Luke is bringing coffee, but she decided to bring cake. She's not going to eat an entire German chocolate cake by her lonesome, no matter how appealing a good stress eat sounds. And that will keep the balance, maybe.

Her scarf trails out behind her, as does her hair, windblown and messy. A navy blue hoodie under her black leather jacket, and some of the most ripped jeans she owns. She's got under-armor on, courtesy of Jane, and she doesn't expect to get shot at today, so she went ahead and picked clothing with a different sort of armor in mind. Making herself as invisible as possible is still on the priority list. Grey gloves, with fingers today, and absolutely no make-up whatsoever.

But here.


Luke decided to walk today. Maybe he needed to clear his head, or just let the chill of the air sink into his bones to make him somewhat numb. Either way, the dozens of blocks and a few avenues are nothing to a New Yorker to take on foot. True to his word, he brought the coffee, the cups labeled with a local bagel shop's name instead of some national chain and steam rises from the little mouths on the lids. If she hadn't told him where she would be, the coffee would have been cold by the time he approaches the bench, setting one of the paper containers in a neutral spot on the bench and sinking down on the opposite end - mindful of that no touching thing.

"Jones." He greets, equally neutrally, as he stretches out his long legs clad in blue jeans and takes a sip from his own cup. They're both black, maybe remembering how she took it back at her apartment so many moons ago. That, or he has a pocket of his leather jacket stuffed with sugar and cream packets just in case.



Jessica shoves one of the cake tupperwares towards him (complete with plastic fork) and takes up the coffee. He remembered correctly; she sure doesn't go looking for cream or sugar. Black like her soul, that's the only way to take it.

She glances at him, then looks back at the skaters, a furrow forming between her brow, lips thinning. A question bubbling and brewing until it finally bursts from her lips in her typically blunt way.

"So…demon bear shows you your dead wife, and you decide you wanna see me, of all people?"

She wraps her other hand around the coffee, letting the warmth seep into her fingers, gives him another one of those glances, the heavy-laden ones that has her looking away again, and follows that up with a single question.



There is a rumble in his throat that on any other day might be laughter, but today it seems out of place and slightly pained. "Good to see you too." He leans slightly in that direction, but there is enough space between them that he's still in his own personal bubble. "You know. When you're not all unconscious and slung over my shoulder with Rand." He straightens up again, eyes straying out to the park. The pause in answering her is easily excusable as him just taking another sip of coffee to unfreeze his cold tongue.

"If that bitch did half as much to you as she did to me, I figured you could use a friend. And you're not really in the habit of asking for help when it's for yourself, are you?" No accusation there, just an observation.


As he mentions her unconscious and slung over his shoulder state, she grimaces, embarrassed, still, by the fact that they had to come get her fat out of the fire, by the fact that she couldn't think of anything more useful to do than hit a button and hope for the best.

And by the fact that, as usual, she sort of forgot basic human smalltalk niceties. "Sorry," she says, looking down at her coffee. "Peopling. Not my strong suit. Ask anyone." Unless, of course, she's asking them for information. Then she can turn up the charm like nobody's business, but that's different.

"But thank you. For coming to my rescue. I should have said that in person before now, not just over the phone."

She drops her booted foot into the slush on the ground and scrapes it back and forth.

'You're not really in the habit of asking for help when it's for yourself, are you?'

"No," she admits quietly. "I guess I'm not. I mean. Sometimes I get it anyway." Like today, apparently.


Luke pulls back his feet providing a shelf of his knees, resting his elbows on the meat of his thighs as he leans forward leaving the coffee cup to dangle in the void between. "And I didn't even have to punch anyone." He says for getting her here, only now just glancing down at the tupperware container she slide over. "What's this?" But he doesn't go to explore it on his own, not that Jessica would boobytrap it, but born of the need to make conversation than any true curiosity of its contents.


"Cake," Jessica says. A twitch of an almost smirk at her lips. "Don't worry. I didn't attempt to make it. It was an apology present from someone who is actually good at making food, and I've got more than I can possibly eat by myself."

She picks her own up, pops the top, takes a bite, as if to prove it is not boobytrapped, poisoned, or, most likely, just god awful because it came from her own hand.

"Rand's butler," she adds, in case the source of the cake might be at issue, or a problem in some way. "I think he thought I was more pissed off at him than I really was."

Surprise, surprise, she has that affect on people sometimes.


"Rand sent me a caseful of hoodies and t-shirts." Luke sets the coffee down to balance on the metal slats of the bench, freeing up his hands to take the container of cake and crack open the top. He gives it a sniff, but it's not like the big man is going to turn down food. Forks are wielded like weapons against perpetual hunger in his world. "'Course they're all Rand brand, so now I'm dressed like some Yonkers douche bag all the time, popping logos." His big shoulders rise and fall in a shrug. What are you gonna do. "S'good." He mumbles after a mouthful of it, licking frosting from the corner of his mouth. "Isn't that cliche? Superheroes with butlers?" He doesn't mention her ire and the effect it has on people. Because he's a smart man, Luke Cage.


Jessica's shoulders shake as he starts to describe this Yonkers douche bag popping logos phenomenon. It's a silent laugh that sort of makes it to her eyes next, makes her lips start twitching. "He means well," is what she says, but there's still a quick grin that gets flashed in his direction. It's there and gone like a snowflake on a stove, but it's there, and some evidence of the humor remains. "And at the very least you're huge and intimidating, so nobody who values their health is going to call you on the Yonkers douche bag thing."

She shrugs her shoulders at the superheroes with butlers thing as well, adding, "Dunno, I think Rand's the only one I know that has one. Unless you count Stark's AI. JARVIS sounds a little like a butler. But even Rand's butler is some sort of superhero himself, so, take that for whatever it's worth. One who maybe needs to update his planning skills a little bit, but I guess I'm nobody to talk."

She takes a bigger bite of the cake, laughter giving her a bit more appetite than she had even moments before.

And yes, he is a smart man.


"He means well." Luke echoes, but that means the grey hoodie he's wearing underneath his leather jacket most likely has the Immortal Iron Fist's name emblazoned in tiny embroidered letters over his heart. The flash of smile is enough to make the corner of Luke's eyes crinkle warmly, even if the matching expression doesn't quite form on his lips. "So even Danny's butler is a meta? I'm starting to think we attract each other like flies." Says the man who just hired someone at the bar who possesses his own abilities. There is a shake of his bald head as he takes another bite of cake, tasting it but not really savoring it.


"I honestly don't know what the Hell his deal is," Jessica says, shaking her head from side to side. "He's got some sort of thing going on. I'm hoping to shake him down for some answers, too, if he thinks cake is going to get him off the hook for that he's got another god damn think coming." She stabs the cake as if by way of emphasis, which might indicate that while she wasn't as pissed as Emery thought, she's still somewhat miffed by whatever prompted the baking of the apology cake.

"As for the rest, well. I mean. I think it just feels that way. Know plenty of people who aren't metas. But I mean, since I've started devoting most of my time to doing the whole— deal that I'm doing—" she waves a hand around as if helpless to describe it, "I mean yeah, there's a community I guess, and good thing, given the number of things out there that want to kick people's asses."


"I think he should've made a bigger cake." Luke says down at his container. It could be in response to the fact that his is emptying out fast, or the fact that Jessica is still a little bit prickly. More the latter, judging by the sidelong glance that accompanies it. "Get off the hook for what? Because if you think he's up to something that's going to get Rand in trouble, I'll break the dude in half myself." It's said without much venom, it's just stated as fact.


"No, that's not his issue."

Jessica might twitch another smirk at the comment about the bigger cake, but she takes a long sip of her coffee. "In fact, he does a good job of looking out for the kid, as best as I can tell. No, I was just going to pin him down for some answers based on a very long and pained voicemail he left me after his own encounter with the bear. I walk in to talk and he and Mercer have cooked up the most insane and ineffectual plan I've ever had the misfortune to be involved in. Well I don't know, maybe it was brilliant, but I got 30 seconds to make that evaluation, and it sure didn't work, which is why I got to have fun with demon bears and all her maggoty friends a second god damn time."

She scrapes her fingers through her messy hair, growling, "I mean I'm not stupid. I went to help get Jane— which is god damn generous cause I didn't actually do one god damn thing of use— and then I had no intentions of flicking it in the nose again. I've been working the case, doing the footwork, trying my best to learn about it. Because— it's kind of what I do for the magic set. They don't stop and think of the mundane side of anything much, and I guess a lot of people don't think the way detectives do anyway, but when I do it, well, it tends to help. Maybe only a little. Maybe sometimes a lot. But unless my digging brings up the one and only weakness that any normal bruiser can do if they only chant over the right birch stick under the right configuration of stars, facing off with it a third time is not something I'm inclined to try. Facing off with it a second time wasn't something I was inclined to try."


Luke scratches the corner of his mouth with the handle of the plastic fork, "That's why the Bear Bitch came sniffing around the bar, to look for Mercer but he and I really haven't had the chance to sit down and have a nice heart to heart about it." And by heart to heart, there might be some Cage-patented growling involved. "When she figured out her puny ass arrows had no effect on me, she went for the mind-fuck, I guess." He gives a shudder of his large frame, "Maggots." That puts an end to his cake devouring at least, and the container is set aside. Although it's mostly empty, he was looking forward to scraping off that last bit of frosting around the edge. No more. "Find anything useful? Because I can't punch the shit out of shadows."


"She apparently attacked him first or something. Mercer. Don't be hard on that guy, he's trying to turn his shit around, you know? If you're too hard on him he might give up."

Jessica finishes coffee and cake, and puts her hands in her pockets, sighing. "I learned a little. Useful would be a stretch."

She pauses, organizing her thoughts. "Two legends, one from the Iroquios, one from the Algonquin. The first is something called The Hunting of the Great Bear. The second is a dirty little secret called the Bear Walkers that nobody, and I mean nobody, wants to talk about."

She smiles faintly. "Nevertheless, I learned the power to change into a bear typically runs in families. Power's held by one member until their death, then the next member gets cursed. And the next member doesn't have to be willing. I think that's what has happened to the woman you saw. It's not her fault. Her name's Dani Moonstar, and I hear she was hunting the bear until she kind of was the bear. She was well spoken of. And possession…magical warping…that's just mind control under another name. I wanna help her. I just don't know how. And it took over cause she chose not to kill someone. The curse wants you to kill someone a year. So. I mean. She deserves the help. Her ancestor though maybe enslaved the spirit of a bear. Maybe the Great Bear, according to this wizard, Strange. He thinks maybe it got corrupted too. There's some weird link with the stars that we don't get yet."

She leans back, looks over at him. "Anyway, I'm sort of stalled out. I need a shaman, a real shaman from either tribe or any related tribe who might know. Strange forwarded my shit to this guy Robert Bearclaw, he thought he'd have better luck than me in actually getting a real shaman to talk to him. So I either need to hear from Bearclaw or I need to get real lucky. If not, I think my contribution to this might just be over. I might have taken it as far as I can. I don't love that, but it might just be true."


Luke's fingers lace together, providing a sort of cap that he rests on the top of his head. He might as well be capitulating to cops with that gesture. It's one of frustration. "You're killing me, Jones." You know why? Because she takes all the fun out of being mad, when she has to go an appeal to his sensibilities about doing the right thing. Because now he can't yell at Mercer or kill the Bearbitch.


Jessica takes her hands out of her pockets. Spreads them. "Sorry, man."

She can tell it's for both. "That's me all over. Wet blanket killjoy."

She scrapes her foot into the slush again, back and forth, back and forth. When she's giving a big juicy briefing she can talk all day long; because that's providing someone with information and it's different. Conversation— real conversation— is a little harder, so she awkwardly stalls after that. At least Luke is not alone in this; she would awkward stall at this point with most people in her life.


Luke finally turns a bit sideways on the bench, hitching one leg up into the seat and stretching an arm across the back of it. His hand doesn't touch her - he sort of promised - but it's there. "Look, I don't care if this Moonstar was up for humanitarian of the year before she got bit by the bear bug. All I know is that she has to stop messing with my friends' heads before she breaks something that can't be fixed. I don't think it's a coincidence that Reva's name came up at the Hospital and then that's what her little vision decided to show me. Her face was already bouncing around in my head, all those memories. If we can figure out how to turn that off, she'll have even less power over us than her arrows."


“Correlation isn't causation. That thing shows you whatever shit it can to fuck you right up." She does not mention that she's not 100% sure that in her case it may have already broken things that can't be fixed. She's not sure if she's going to recover fully from this one. She just also shies away from saying so. "But…Reva's name came up at the hospital?"

Jessica asks, and now she's sharp and right on point. She was, after all, unconscious for all of it, and if she knows, thanks to Daredevil, that these guys who nabbed her were the same ones who nabbed Kilgrave, she nevertheless does not have a whole lot of puzzle pieces.


Always, always the detective.


There is a pinch to one of Luke's eyes, like he's backed himself into some sort of corner he can't gracefully get out of. Not that grace has ever been one of his strong suits. "Because whatever connected you to that doctor connected me too. And Reva. Going back to Seagate Prison where I did some time." Sure, Jess may already know that. Jess may know his first baby words or his shoe size, too because he's not entirely sure of how much the detective knows, including his former name. Still, it's a whole half of a life he never talks about. And then there's the fact he sort of promised Daredevil that he'd leave Jessica out of the loop for now.


By her quirk of an eyebrow, she did not know about Seagate.

But she exhales sharply. "Jesus. I guess maybe that makes sense. Because they're connected to Kilgrave, and Kilgrave was after a thumb drive that Reva hid, though I still don't know what was on it or why he was so hell bent to get it. So of course it's connected to you too. And Seagate. One of the people Kilgrave made me shake down was a former Seagate prison guard."

But on this count, he may be a bit in luck. She looks down, lines deepening in her face, staring at her hands. "I should have told you," she says, "that he's still alive and in a coma and that someone made off with him. But it seems like, you know, we get out little bits of information about all of that, all that time, and then we end up hitting a brick wall, and then it becomes impossible to continue. And. I've mostly tried not to think about it."

She exhales. "Must seem lame as fuck. Daredevil— he offered to take care of that problem for me, and I just…I've just let him. Instead of taking care of my own shit. Hell, I asked Bucky to help too. I'm fucking immune to that guy's powers now, 99% sure, and I still don't have the goddamn guts. Even to look at him out cold, in a hospital bed. Fuck, someone surprised me with a photo of him once, and it wasn't even him, it was some alternate-universe version of him that came up in a case, and I had a panic attack for a good fifteen god damn minutes. So much for not asking for help."

Maybe he's off the hook, if only because she doesn't want to be in the loop much more than she already is.


"Jessica." Luke says quietly, in that low timbre of his that makes her name sound more like a vibration deep in his chest rather than a word that is formed. "You're going to have to cut yourself some slack when it comes to him. Let your friends protect you the best way we know how. There's no reason for you to relive that shit-" Like Luke is doing himself right now every night when he goes home and reads as much of the files on the thumb drive he can stomach in one sitting. "It's going to be a gut punch every time. Believe me, I know."


She sucks her lips into her mouth the way someone does when they're trying to keep certain emotions inside, looks away from him, scrubs a gloved hand across her eyes in a way that comes across suspiciously wet. "Yeah. I mean I'll never forgive myself if any of you end up going through that, but the risk seems minimal. If he were up, around…I'd like to think I'd handle it, because I'd have to. That I'd only drag in people who can't be affected or have good defenses. I'd like to think that. Truth is? I don't know for sure. I've been able to face down some other guy with the same power set, and it worked out, but I wanted to run away the whole time. Just up and say: see ya, you guys are the heroes, you deal with it."

She scoffs at herself. "I'd like to think someday it won't be a punch in the gut. That it'll just be yeah okay, whatever. But every time I think I get there…"

She cuts off. "I shouldn't be talking to you about this. Of all people, you are the last person who should have to— comfort my sorry ass over this."


"If there is one thing I'm sure of these days? Is your ass is anything but sorry." Luke glances down in an over-lascivious way that's meant to be humorous, his own smile quirking for the first time today, even if it lacks any real conviction behind it. "Even superheroes have weaknesses. Because with this face and these muscles? It wouldn't be fair to the rest of the male population if we didn't." He's hurting, it's plain in the sharpness of his eyes but he'll absorb the blows as much as he does physical ones.


Jessica Jones expects that his comment on her physical attributes might sear her as much as…

Well. People. Especially men. Getting anywhere too close to her. Has for the past many days.

But instead, she looks up, meets his eyes for half a second. She snorts a bit of a laugh, lips quirking, even if she pulls her other knee up to hide her body a bit; it's funny, and she's at least glad she can see the humor in it, and glad he can joke about it a little bit. "Yes, yes, you're too sexy for your Yonkers," she quips back, very, very lightly. "It's good to know you've kept your humility."


"Like I said, we've all got our weaknesses." Luke repeats much softer, this time there is a difference to it, a different shadow of sadness that casts over his features as he watches her own. A tightness to his muscles betrays his want to move, perhaps an urge touch her or mop unruly waves of hair back from her face that's nearly telegraphed in his gaze. Instead, he just lifts to his feet like a spring too tightly coiled. "And my super secret is, Power Man has a tiny bladder and that coffee is shooting straight through me." Sad excuses are, well. Sad.


She sees it. Jess isn't even sure what to make of it. Why or how he could possibly have any feelings for her remains an eternal mystery to her. It's not much mystery that she managed to find some for him, despite her growling about poisoned ground or anything else, but his for her? Baffle her to no end.

She looks down a little, not really enjoying the fact that this particular weakness is hurting others in her life. He makes this silly excuse, not to mention drops this super-hero name that she really ought to give him shit about.

She ought to let it stand. A moment of indecision. To say what? To explain what? She's already told him it's everyone, not just him. She told him that on the text. And she appreciates that he's doing this thing, respecting her boundaries after her critique. Maybe she ought to explain just how terribly she tanked it with Michael, but that opens up a can of worms, maybe, because she's not sure she wouldn't tank it with anyone. She's not sure she's going to manage to be with anyone, ever, if this will fade away or if it's now been seared into her for good.

A thousand shadows lurk in her eyes when she finally lifts them back up to meet his. In a far softer, more gentle voice than she usually uses with him— the reasons why she tends to fling every wall she has at him still aren't clear to her either— she says just two words: "Luke. Thanks."


"Sure thing." Luke intones gently, sheepishly bending over to snag up his coffee cup of sorry excuses so he can throw away the refuse. "Thanks for sharing your Cake of Atonement. I hope this is how Rand eats all the time, because it'll amuse me if he gets a pot belly." He pauses. "Be careful getting home. I'd offer to walk you, but I might get arrested for punching a mime if he tries to give you an imaginary flower." NOT TODAY, MIME.


It also baffles her to no end how he just…does that. That thing that he does.

Lock your door. Be careful getting home. Get behind me and get into cover. It's almost weird to her. It's weird to her that he does it and it's weird to her that she listens.

But her lips quirk a bit as he makes this joke. "Mimes are evil. Everyone knows that. That could be your whole defense if it happened. I can hook you right up with the very best lawyers in town, after all. But who needs another trial so soon? I'll be careful. I will steer clear of all muggers and mimes to the very best of my ability."

Maybe she should ask him to walk her home, but she feels weird about it, so she just…runs with the joke, instead.


"On second thought," Luke says while pitching his cup at an openmouthed trash can nearby, sinking the shot thanks to years of playing basketball in Harlem. "I'm more worried for the muggers and mimes." He gives her a little good-natured wink and shoves his hands deep into the pockets of his leather coat before he turns to amble off vaguely Northward.

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