AKA Door-to-Door Used Car Salesman

November 29, 2017:

Luke Cage couch surfs his way to Alias Investigations.

Alias Investigations

Get your mind out of the gutter, there are plenty of sleeping spaces. SOLO! Sleeping spaces!

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Cindy Moon, John Constantine, Dani Moonstar, Zatanna Zatara, Bucky Barnes, Jane Foster, Owen Mercer, Foggy Nelson, Matt Murdock, Six, Elinor Ravensdale, Emery Papsworth

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Luke found himself driving around Manhattan, winding down streets and avenues with no real direction after the meeting of the minds. When it comes time to finally turn in the direction of his bar, he ends up parked outside Alias, sitting on his idling motorcycle for a long pace of time before he finally cranks the engine off and heads upstairs. "I need a place to crash." And so he was given Jessica's couch and a quilt and he fell asleep hard into a blissfully dreamless slumber until the sun creeping through her blinds thought best to stir him back to reality. One eye cracks open, warily trying to remember just where he ended up this time.

Jessica Jones is no stranger to this dance. Usually, it's just her.

All last year, in fact, she had a sort of weird habit of couch surfing. She'd go to Shadowcrest. To John and Zee's flat. To Bucky and Jane's apartment. To Trish's place. It was part of the big yawning hole inside herself she'd been trying to fill after seeing her family again in a vision, alive, whole, with a brother grown and married and a little niece on the way. To try to recapture that feeling of family. She'd taken in two homeless adult teenagers while she was at it. It never quite worked, never quite filled the void she was trying to fill. Not until she accepted what she did have, not until she made space for something different but in its own way, also good.

Sometimes she still does it though. She fled to Shadowcrest very recently, in fact, when the sight of her own apartment made her stomach churn and her skin crawl. So she'd let Luke in without a word, recognizing all the signs.

She'd motioned him to the couch, and she'd taken Cindy Moon's recently vacated bunk bed for herself.

The quilt she throws over him has more significance than he knows, though were Trish here, or several of Jessica's friends, they'd know it. It is what she calls The Shitty Quilt. Not because the Quilt itself is shitty. It's a little well-loved, but it was originally well-made. It's because it's what she takes down when she feels like shit. It's the last thing she has of her mother's, the only thing made by her hands Jessica still owns. When she's sad, she cries on that quilt, when she's lonely, she wraps it around herself, when she's scared, she finds solace beneath it.

He wakes to the smell of scrambled eggs. Jess stands there at the stove making them, wearing baggy black sweats and a huge black hoodie (her own, not Luke's, but still too big for her) over a white t-shirt. Maybe it's a change in his breathing that alerts her, because she doesn't even look back. She says, "What you are about to recieve, Cage, is the only dish I know how to cook from scratch, the dish it took me three months to perfect. So. You are going to eat these scrambled eggs and you are going to like them. Or you're at least going to pretend to."

"What's with people feeding me breakfast lately." Luke's first words come out as a croak, his big frame far too large for the couch to have slept comfortably, but comfort wasn't high on his list last night. He drags his socked feet from where they dangle over one arm rest, shifting them to the ground so he can sit upright. The quilt is balled up over his lap, like he's not quite ready to rid himself of its warmth just yet. "Not that I'm complaining, but you know if you feed a stray, they just keep coming back."

"Most strays do that from the moment you let them into your house," Jessica says, with no particular rancor. She sets the eggs down in front of him, noting, "It is morning, therefore breakfast," as if either mornings or breakfast are things that she does.

Routinely.

They are not.

But she pretends well. And it's the early hour of 10:45 AM. God awful early as far as Jessica is concerned. She puts his coffee down and then retreats to go claim her own. Either she has eaten her own egg or does not intend to eat one, because she just starts tossing dishes into the sink. Where they will apparently be done later, because she looks in no great hurry to take care of them here and now.

She studies him like he is a puzzle to be solved. Maybe he even is. Of all the doorsteps he could have come to, well…for all that she got it…having him come to hers of all people's still stands as a surprise.

Luke has habits that seem to surface when he's tired or just plain not paying attention. One happens to be that he grips his fork like a weapon rather than a utensil, even if he still uses the side of it to snick off a polite portion of egg before shoveling it in his mouth. The other is that his free hand wraps around the edge of the plate as if protecting his food from intruders. He's bent over the breakfast, eating it before it gets cold, and thus lets silence overtake the room. Finally he mutters, "S'good. Thanks." It really is a wonder how fast he cleaned his plate, now folding his lips over each other to make sure no crumbs went astray. "And thanks for letting me stay. I'll be out of your hair as soon as I finish waking up, gotta lotta housekeeping to do today."

If there were ever a person who gave no fucks about Luke Cage's table manners, it is one Jessica Jones.

She doesn't even seem to notice. She's sipping her coffee. "You're not in my hair. When you're in my hair, I'll let you know. Bluntly and loudly. As I think I've already proven on multiple occasions. People I give a damn about get to stay as long as they want or need to. You'd be surprised how few clients I actually meet in-office. They like coffee shops for some reason. I think Hell's Kitchen might be the reason. Or Al. He really does wig people out when he sleeps in the elevator."

You know what? Suddenly there are dishes to be done. She pushes up her sleeves and starts working on them. Hand washing of course, there is no dishwasher, so it's not exactly a noisy task.

Table manners are one thing, eating like you've done time is quite another. Luke takes a quick gulp of coffee and while Jess's back is turned, he gets to his feet and redoes the top button of his jeans he loosened before bed. "Speaking of clients, there's actually something I need you to take care of for me. Professionally, I mean." Being in socks make his steps quieter, but the lumbering lug will never really be one for stealth so it's apparent he's coming up behind her. Keys are jingling as he works open one of the rings to pull a small silver key from the masses.

Startling her is a bad idea anyway.

She turns the water off and turns well before he gets there though.

She doesn't warn him off, but it's apparent proximity is still an issue. She could let him sleep a room away, but the closer her gets the more her neck and shoulder muscles tense. She tries to hide it; and if he's not paying attention maybe he'll even miss it. It distresses people, she knows it does, but at the same time, there are things inside her that are still distressing her. She is worlds better from where she was on the 11th or 12th of the month, but the hardest bit to overcome is still lingering like a noose around her neck.

She reminds herself, with his every step, that he has already proven he is not interested in harming her. It's a silent reminder, but it's one she still has to give herself. Still, her face remains a neutral mask until he says he needs her to take care of something.

"Yeah?" Despite her body's tense reaction, she sounds genuinely interested, and looks genuinely pleased. She doesn't smile, but the guarded nature of her face opens up a lot. Jessica may not like asking for help much, but she does like being asked for help. Nothing really perks her up more than that. It's not just having a case, it's having something to offer.

Luke still seems mindful of her predicament, keeping well out of her personal bubble as he sets the key down on the counter in a neutral position, much as he did the coffee in the park the other day. "There is a Credit Union on East 53rd and 3rd, that's my safety deposit box key. Number is on it. If things go sideways, inside is the deed to the bar. If Mercer deserves the second chance you say he does, give it to him. You can decide what to do with the cash and few other things that are in there."

She relaxes when she sees he is respecting her space.

She frowns faintly.

Getting one's affairs in order as a hero type is good. They do dangerous work. She did it herself, in Feburary, though she really needs to go and shred half a dozen overwrought and overemotional mushy embarrassing letters and write better ones. She was in a weird place back then. She puts it on her inner to-do list. Most of the instructions are moot now too.

Gotta update that shit yearly.

The fact that he is coming to her for it strikes her as strange.

And while she takes the key, she says gently, "Luke, legally I can't just write your bar over to Mercer. You need to go over to talk to Foggy Nelson or Matt Murdock over at Nelson and Murdock. They're mostly criminal law but they'll handle a will and testament, if you ask nicely…"

Then she grimaces. "Of course it's still in Rthe trust isn't it?" It can't be in Reva's name directly, because she thinks the death certificate would have put it instantly into probate. She would have had to set up a revocable living trust.

She thinks it through, she's no lawyer but she works with them enough to know this much: "You still need to take it to them, to make sure he's added as a proper beneficiary on the trust, I think. I'll take the key, you can tell them I'm your executor if I'm really the person you want for that job— " her face reflects her utter bafflement for sure, "but if you want Owen to be able to keep that bar, you gotta get your i's dotted and your t's crossed. They can probably get you set up in half an hour though."

None of this comes as a particular surprise to Luke, who just leans a hip against the counter and absorbs all the advice with a single nod to punctuate it at the end. "I'll add it to the list. Just send me the number to that law firm and I'll swing by after I go see Pops, I'm sure you'll have to sign something too." It's clear the conversation makes him uncomfortable, even just having to consider he has something worthwhile to leave behind, but apparently no family it's meant for. His circle suddenly seems very small. "We're going in on Friday to try and put an end to this Meta-farm where they're trying to crank out more people like you and me but you need to stay far away from it, Jess." He mops a hand down his goatee, trying to figure out how to proceed when 'delicate' really isn't an option. "Kilgrave's there."

Jessica looks down, troubled. They're handling her shit. She asked them to. It's about more than her. But here is Luke basically making out his last will and testament and leaving his— what? Not his worst enemy, not his best friend, not his lover, his what? Frenemy? Complication? to play Executor. It seems wrong somehow. It seems wrong that she shouldn't be there.

To keep from having to say anything meaningful right away, she says: "Morgan. Text Luke Cage the contact information for Nelson and Murdock."

Morgan Freeman's voice: "It would be my pleasure, Miss Jones."

Luke's phone buzzes seconds later.

The phone was halfway across the room. She's feeling lazy. She also gives him an I swear if you judge me… look before pouring herself another cup of coffee.

Morgan's voice is not important mind, but this is something she's got to grapple with for just a moment.

Finally she looks down again, a grimace of I-am-disappointed-with-myself flashing over her face. "Yeah. Daredevil told me he had a line on that location. I already…admitted…I guess, that I need and want and even grateful that other people are going to handle that for me. Granted, that was before I heard you making out your goddamn will to go do it. If you, Mr. Bulletproof Invincibility is that worried, then it must be worse than I thought, and if it's worse than I thought, there has got to be some moral and ethical problem with me just sitting around on my ass. Granted I agreed to watch a 7-year old that night to make sure she didn't get kidnapped, whenever it went down, so it's good to know when, but like, there are others who could do that too. I— it feels wrong. I am grateful and it feels wrong. Dishonorable."
-

"Nuh-uh, you stop that right now Jessica Jones." Luke straightens, but he doesn't reach out for her, instead folding his arms across his chest to resist the urge. "You're too close to this, too close to that man in there. That's why you're sitting this one out. Not because you're weak or lacking some sort of morals. But because we can't do our job if we gotta be worried about you too. So you sit your ass out. I'd rather you be pissed off at me, than sitting around feeling sorry for yourself." The man stalks away, if only to grab up his breakfast plate and thrust it at her back by the sink. "Besides. I need someone on the outside of this to take care of my shit if things go off wrong, and you're the last one that knows me, Jones."

Jessica looks up at him, a furrow between her brow. "I'm— not pissed off at you or feeling sorr— well okay, yes I do that, but that's not this. I mean…it's not right, sending my friends in to— "

She closes her eyes. "I'm new to this having friends and people I care about shit but it just…it feels like I ought to—"

She rubs a hand over her face. "I'm a mess, okay, I know it, and you're right, and Daredevil is right, and Bucky is right, you're all right, just…it's—"

She shakes her head in frustration, unable to even articulate it. "It's— I'll take care of it. You just have to go to the lawyers and make sure it's done right. I don't know, maybe I could just hand the kid the deed. Don't…don't…"

She reaches out and punches him a little on the shoulder. It's not meant to do anything, she knows it won't, it's no more strength than someone who looks like her would normally have. "You fucking die handling MY shit? Any of you? I will exhume your corpses and have them animated just so I can fucking yell at whoever was dumb enough to do it. Do not fuck with me, Cage, I will do it. I have the resources, I know the people."

The sudden contact when touching has been strictly forbidden causes two dark eyebrows to push up to one very nonexistent hairline. "Look at you, and your tiny little ineffectual fists." Though it's debatable how much damage she could actually do to him with her blows, she very well can displace the man and he knows it. Which means she's pulling her punches, which meant it was more for effect than anything, and that's what has him the most amused. The jerk is smiling. "And as disturbing as that image is, you forget one thing, Jess. It's my shit too."

"Yeah. I know. And Daredevil's been investigating that company as long as I've known him. Longer. And they threatened Six and some friend of hers, and Bucky and I have an understanding I guess that makes it better and…"

Jess steps back. She actively ignores the fact that she touched him at all. He got the communique, she's not going to fucking harp on it more. Touching someone else is also easier than _being_ touched, but even that's hard. She's getting there.

"So it's all your shit too. And god knows I'm handling some shit. It's not like I'm just sitting around on my ass. Except I did for like 5 whole days, I've done nothing, and I destroyed someone's business trying to save lives so…fucking-a, I don't know. Have fun storming the castle, fuck."

She rakes her fingers through unbrushed hair, scowling.

"That's better." Luke says in that low rumble of his, it's just as good as a pat on the head, the velvet 'atta girl' in his voice as she starts to work through it, or at least away from self-doubt. "And no doubt you've helped every single one of 'em when you could, so you're just going to have to get used to the fact that once in a while, people like to return the favor." He ends up going to the sink himself, to rinse the yolk off his plate and start scrubbing it with a soapy sponge.

She gives him a dangerous look. "Don't talk to me that way," she says. The tone is more flat than angry. It's at the pat on the head way. "I appreciate what you're trying to do but…please. Not in that tone. Just— don't do that. I know you don't mean it badly, just…Not like I'm a child, not ever, not like— just—"

She walks away from him, pressing her hands to her temples, nearly over her ears, as if shutting something out. Then exhales, when she finally does it, and drops her hands.

"And no, not really. I'm a constant drain on Daredevil, trust me, he helps me like a zillion times more than I help him, ends up roped into my crap constantly, often in medias res. I won't go into how but I damn near ruined Six's life. I definitely ruined your life."

A pause. "And I know you're like, well Jess, what about Bucky and Wakanda, and I say fuck that, because that man has spent days, hours, weeks giving me more than I ever gave him, as has Jane. I went to try to help them, and let them know they weren't alone, and instead, it became real clear real fast it was happening the other way around. They weren't letting me be alone."

She wraps her hands into her armpits. "So no. Slate's not square. Not by a long damn shot. I got a lot more doing to do before I can even get close."

"You didn't ruin my life, Jess." Luke subdues, either for having been called out about his tone or maybe something else she said. He's certainly making sure that plate is spotless ten times over before it goes to the drying rack. "Turns out it was pretty messed up to begin with." The plate finally clinks together with the rest of the dishes and he cranks off the tap, and then he just leans there, wet hands gripping the edge of the sink and his head hanging.

It only just now dawns on her that he's standing there doing her dishes. She hadn't even noticed. It had felt natural, normal.

She moves to the window, cracks it open, pulls open her desk drawer, pulls out a cigarette carton and a lighter. She lights it up and takes a drag, then looks over her shoulder. She looks indecisive.

Detective or friend or both? She draws nearer. She can tump ashes into her sink, it washes. She offers him the pack with a cigarette stuck out, turns to place her back and her butt against the countertop.

"I didn't ask, because respect, business, yours, but…what exactly's going on with you, Cage? I spilled to you, so. Your turn. Spill."

Their entire conversations are so weird, sometimes. With other friends she speaks a bit more…gently, especially when she cares, but with Cage it just all comes out different. But maybe it's just their way. Dynamics are a thing. She decides to evaluate it later, turning her attention fully to him. Detective? Friend? Maybe both.

Luke doesn't bother looking around for a towel, he just dries his hands on his shirt leaving little dark patches of wetness in his fingers' wake. He focuses more on the pack of cigarettes than the woman holding them, finally plucking the little offering that's already jutting out. "You know, I haven't really smoked since…when I was a beat cop. Something about that time pulling a graveyard shift and trying to stay awake, when even the radio chatter has died down and even the criminals have gone to bed." He rewets his lips, giving the paper roll something to stick to as he slides it between his lips and holds his palm out for the lighter so she can drop it in without risk of their fingers touching. "Never touched 'em in prison. I wasn't going to be a slave to something that suddenly turned into a very expensive luxury." Probably not the spilling she meant, but there it is, or at least it's the start.

The revelation he was a cop draws clear surprise to her face, and then a flicker of 'did you bullshit me before?' face. Because he said he didn't know how to solve cases.

Jessica smokes a little more, encouraging him to go on, though, listening to him recount his memories. She can put herself there. Graveyard shift, radio chatter, eyes drooping, bad coffee churnin gin the stomach."

She drops it into his hand. She does appreciate the courtesy. She does. It comes and goes, this weird sensation. Right now she's mastered proximity, she's close as she can get right now. Maybe because she's the one who approached.

"Makes sense," she says, in a prompting tone. About prison. "There's no way in fuck you were a dirty cop," she declares flatly. "So what happened?"

"Must've rubbed up against the wrong person. Never did figure out who framed me, but all of a sudden an anonymous tip later and I was sent up to Seagate." Luke's hand curls around the lighter, it'd be such an easy thing to shatter it in his palm but just like Jessica pulling her punch earlier, he's learned to control his strength. He bends into the flame, then leaves it on the counter as he puffs to life a red and angry cherry. "That's where I met Reva. She was the prison shrink and she spent /weeks/ trying to get me to talk in group." There is a chuck of humorless laughter. "You know what did it? What got me to open up? She looked me right in the eye and gave her word that the rumors of weird experiments going on there were false. And now her name isn't just mentioned in the files we found. She's the co-author."

"Jesus," Jessica says, and now the voice is soft. Now the gentleness she seems to easily give everyone else in her life, more or less, now, comes out for him. She isn't sure why he always gets her Brillo Pad side going, but he often does. But all the same.

"Jesus," she says again, in a slightly different tone. Because what else do you say to something like that? The implications spin out in Jessica's mind perfectly well, every last one of them, right down to the question of whether Reva Connors married Luke Cage to keep tabs on their experiment. Or did she really fall in love? Six feet under, there's no way to ask…

She looks down. She has debated mentioning this a thousand times over.

"You can ask her. If you want. I'm not fucking with you. My neighbor Elinor. She's— she sees ghosts. We first met she described Reva to me to a tee, freaked me right out. If her spirit isn't at rest, she can call her, you can talk to her, it will be legit. I solve cases on behalf of her ghosts, quite often. So if you need to know, need an explanation from her lips…the tools are there."

There is just the briefest of moments where Luke just looks at Jessica like she's grown a second head. "Oh hell no." He shoots out of the kitchen area like a bolt, but it's not like there are a lot of places to hide in her apartment so he just goes to the open window and expels a lungful of smoke out of it. "Eating hoagies out of phones, and zipping back from Wakanda in the blink of an eye. Demon Bears, and having to worry about my soul on top of everything else. No. Absolutely not. There is a line, and if it's mine to draw, I'm drawing it."

"Of course it's yours to draw."

Jessica stays cool, tumping ashes into the sink. "Whose else would it be? It's an offer. I'm sorry. I've gotten…really really used to that stuff, I guess. It's gotten to where I can start spotting the occult in a case pretty quick. I'm no expert, I have experts, but I know when to give them a call. I shouldn't have mentioned it. Sorry."

She means it. She did debate it, forever. "Your soul's fine, at least for now. Emery said so. I'm sure everyone I know about who got touched by that bear has got to be fine. You were the only one who wasn't with Constantine or Emery during your encounter, and Constantine stopped all kinds of shit while Emery could have sensed a problem then and there."

She takes another inhale. "I offered, too, because…I guess that would be me. Just needing every last answer. But that's not you, and I should have asked more questions. Shouldn't have assumed."

"You don't have to be sorry," He's pretty sure the windowsill isn't really sturdy enough to handle his weight, so he just leans against the frame of the window with a lift of his arm, pillowing his head on his forearm as he looks through the dusty glass. "I appreciate the offer, I do. And I'm a fool not to take you up on it, but …I think I'm holding together by a thread, here, Jess. It was hard enough seeing some messed up version of her image from Moonstar. I…think actually talking to her would be the final cut."

"I get it." Jessica says. "I really, truly do. Are you sure you should be on this thing? Maybe it hits a little too close to home for you, too."

She looks down, thoughtfully, realizing it might raise other questions.

"For what it's worth, I didn't know. I didn't do a deep dive. Not into either one of you. I was just looking for the people I needed to atone to. Basic search brought me to the bar, basic listening skills brought me to your name, and that's it. I didn't go all up in your secrets. It was fucked up, what I did, but…I felt I had to do something to make it right. And…"

She tumps out more ashes. "It wasn't like I hadn't already tried telling people bluntly and openly that mind control was a thing and I'd been under it for 8 months. I went to the police and nearly got involuntarily committed. It wasn't like I could knock on your door and be like, 'hey, guess what.' And any attempt to meet you surely would created a potential for some seriously awkward questions I knew I couldn't answer to anyone's satisfaction. So I kept it to the shadows."

She inhales another drag. "You hide your thing well. I didn't stop till I realized the only help I could provide was nothing at all that you needed. It was fucked up. It was. But…I didn't know what Reva was doing or any of that. I never even knew what Kilgrave wanted with her or her thumbdrive. I may want answers, almost always, but to be very honest I couldn't. I just couldn't. It was— well. Like now, I guess. Poking any harder…"

"…will just make your entire world unravel." Luke finishes her sentence his own way, taking one last draw off the cigarette before he pitches the half of thing out the window. "I knew you didn't know, the moment I mentioned Seagate. The fact that the name Carl Lucas will mean nothing to you is a bit of a relief in that regard, but no doubt you'll here it cropping up from here on out. So," His lips twitch into a bit of a smile. "Nice to meet you."

"Luke Cage is better," Jessica says, after a moment's thought. "Suits you better. Carl Lucas made you sound like a door-to-door used car salesman."

Her lips twitch as she gives him this bit of shit.

She lets the butt of her cigarette fall, pulls out another one, lights it. She's no slave to them, she goes whole stretches of time without any, but today? Is a chain smoke day. It busies her hands, is meditative, it's working for her right now.

"I wish you'd found better answers though. I do."

She looks down, her mouth twisting. She's trying to make a decision, and she's not sure about it. Finally, halting, she says, "I know…right now. I'm not the picture of mental health. But…this life I'm in now is way more and better than what I had even a year ago. And I was mostly able to start building it after I…after I came to some things. I'll tell you about it if you want them. If you think it might help. I don't wanna…load you up with bullshit or platitudes. And like, totally, helping people feel better about shitty things? Is so not my strength. But I could try."

"Carl died back at Seagate." Luke says of the used car salesmen name, which is just as well. He owns being Luke Cage now. Giving and taking shit is easier than the rest. But the smiles die, the smart ass remarks fade. "She called me a subject." The word sounds like glass on his tongue, cutting it to tiny shards. He tries to shake it away with a waggle of his bald head. He finally exhales a breath that manages to push it away for now. "You've already helped, giving me a place to crash. Filling my belly. Listening to me whine. But I really should see about those i's and t's." A pause. A tease reforming, "What's that guy's name in the elevator again? Because I really could use a hug."

Jessica's face reflects anger as she hears that. Subject.

If Luke keeps talking she might start to be kind of glad she killed Reva Connors. Not a thought she probably ought to share, so she sticks the cigarette in her mouth for another drag and smirks around the comment.

"Sure, why not? You seem endlessly addicted to my damn whining. Go on then. But be careful not to squeeze ole' Al too hard. He's just like one of those Victoria Vomit dolls. First it's gimmie some sugar and then it's oh crap, it's all over me isn't it?"

There is a snort of laughter after her description of Al, another shake of Luke's head and he's headed towards the door. Something makes him stop however, and back track a few steps to the couch where he pulls up the quilt to stretch it between his wide wing span of arms. A handful of quick motions, and he folds it neatly. There. Better.

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