Chain Smoking

April 26, 2018:

Fresh off his return from an alternate dimension, Owen Mercer stops by Alias Investigations to talk.

Alias Investigations, Hell's Kitchen, New York

The second-hand smoke just adds to the hardboiled vibe, right?

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Emery Papsworth, Trish Walker, Tony Stark, Wanda Maximoff, Pietro Maximoff, Huntress

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It's not like Owen didn't realize how hard recovery was going to be. He's been through this twice now and it's not like anyone has ever promised that getting off heroin was easy, least of all someone who's actually accomplished such. But at least he's on the path now, with a few slips already under his belt. It's not his 12 step program though that has him coming to Jess's door to apologize. He hasn't reached that step yet and what he has to apologize for, at least in his mind, has nothing to do with his drug usage.

Taking care to drink before hand, lest he feel the need to ask Jess for a drink, Owen is half in the bag by the time he knocks on her door. The knock isn't loud or urgent but he didn't text before hand, which he normally would.

"Jess? You home?"

*

"Yeah, come on in," Jessica calls.

She's working on her fifth cigarette, if the state of her ashtray is any indication, but no booze. Just Red Bull. Right now what she's got spread out all over her desk is a mess of paperwork on one company, and one company only. Annual reports. Public tax records. Any news clippings she can get her hands on. Trask Industries has apparently caught her attention, and quite a bit of it, to boot.

If she's discomfited by his lack of texting it certainly doesn't show. She just stands up with the cigarette still in her mouth, moving to the more sociable couch versus making him sit at the client side of the desk. Her ashtray comes with. She plans to do more smoking. "What's up?"

*

Relieved to see that she's already smoking, Owen lights up at literal super human speed slowing only on inhale to make sure to reveal in that first pull. He exhales with a bit of an awkward smile and "Hey.." greeting as he makes his way in.

"I needed to talk. If ya got a minute." He takes a seat and looks at her with a slight grimace. There's actually a lot he realizes that he wants to talk to her about. From his alternate universe life to how the gloves are working to even his recovery, but none of that is what really dragged him here.

"I met with the brotherhood." Band-aid rip. It's obvious that he's going to continue but he pauses briefly for that to sink in for a second. "Including the chick who messed you up, I'm pretty sure. But I had good reasons.." Did he? Does planning blackmail, extortion and stealing count as good? "But I still feel like shit, cause I know they jumped you."

*

"Don't," Jessica says grimly. "Feel like shit, I mean."

She gestures back at her desk. "They met with me, too. Just stopped right on by, though they left Bruiser Betty at home. Are you going after this collar bullshit? Is that why? Because the more the merrier on that shit as far as I'm concerned."

Even with all that said, she dips her chin to him. A slight thank-you incline of the head. She recognizes that he came right up to be upfront with her about this, even if his concern proved to be unnecessary. It adds to the trust he's already built with her, with a woman who doesn't have a whole lot of that to spare for the most part. She puts the ashtray down so they can both get to it, and takes another inhale of her own. By now the second-hand smoke is just swirling about the place like a grey mist cloud.

*

Owen's confused at first by Jess's reaction but then she explains. He relaxes as actually sinks more into the couch now, not so tense or weird.

"Okay. Cause I was still planning on messin' her shit up for that, but yea. It's the collars. Tony was talking about them and it just.. I got freaked out."

He stops to smoke for a bit, trying to figure out how much he wants to explain or where to start or any of that. It's becoming easier for him to talk about real things, especially with Jessica or Emery. There's less lying or at least glossing over then there was before.

"I had something happen. It's weird and I don't even understand it. But.." He laughs a little, nervously. Even with a couple in him he can feel how much he wants a drink in his hand to tell about this stuff. Oh well, a smoke will have to suffice for keeping his hands busy. "Do you believe in like .. past lives? Or I guess current.. other lives?" The look on his face is one of someone who realizes they sound like a borderline crazy person.

*

He knows he sounds like a borderline crazy person.

Jessica doesn't flicker an eyelash.

"Sure. They're a thing. I met one of my dimensional twins face to face once. Hell, there are about…70 refugees from a dead reality floating around from some shit that went down last year. You find yourself in another dimension recently?"

Jessica makes the slight face she always makes when she talks about this stuff. A tight grimace that says 'I can't fucking believe I talk about this shit like it is serious and yet it is' face. It's a flicker across her mouth and eyes, a sort of self-conscious shift as she finishes this cigarette and lights up another from a pack that is about out of them, but she's paying him full attention now.

She still feels crazy when she says this shit too. She just doesn't think anyone else is crazy for saying it.

*

"Wait what?" Owen was not expecting that response either. Man, Jessica is just full of surprises tonight. He looks at her and tilts his head trying to follow what she is saying but decides to maybe just soldier on with his bit and maybe come back to the dead reality part.

"Yea. It was uhmm.. weird. I worked for the Maximoffs… who were royalty." He knows there is a lot to unpack and maybe none of it is important, but still he feels like he needed to at least tell someone! "I was an agent of SHIELD. Moonstar, the bear chick, she was uhm.. my partner." He looks off to the side and then admits. "My /partner/ partner too. But the weirdest part… that I'm still struggling with is uhm.." He frowns as if disgusted to admit, "I think I'm from the future Jess. Like not just there, but I'm pretty sure I was born in the thirtieth century or some shit."

Looking at her out of the corner of his eye as he's mostly facing forward, he says "And I know. I was doing a ton of drugs when this happened. I get it… I'm just. I'm pretty sure this was real." Pretty sure. That or he's snapped and is losing his grip on reality, that's always a fun option to consider. Especially considering Harley's past.

*

Jessica spreads her hands at his 'wait, what?'

But she tilts her head thoughtfully at the rest. For some reason the fact that he was a SHIELD agent provokes the faintest hint of a grin, just tugging at the side of her mouth, but she leaves that unaddressed. Because his alter-identity and what he got up to is probably not the crux of this matter.

Being from the future is.

"Okay," she says. "It's not impossible. If you're sure it was real, I'm sure it was real. What did you see that led you to believe you are from the thirtieth century? You seemed to have a whole lot of 21st century memories when we met, so what happened there? And probably most importantly of all, what does it mean to your life right now? What do you wanna do about it?"

She waves away his demurral that he was on drugs, grey smoke trailing after slim fingers. She's worked entire cases drunk as a skunk, she's not going to dismiss him on those grounds. Not even on the grounds of it being a hard narcotic.

*

"It gets better. Or worse. I haven't decided." Oh yes, there is more to this whole future man, alternate reality, bad trip story. "You know Bart? Mini flash who used to work at Luke's? Yeeeaaa…" He stops and looks at her again with the side eyes. "He's my half brother?" At first it's a question. "Our mom is Meloni Thawne, we were both born in the future. And in that world, I grew up there. I knew future tech… still now some future tech. I mean that's why I'm pretty sure this is real."

A long exhale of smoke and then Owen finally turns to face her. "But here? It doesn't line up. I mean I grew up in the systems in this time in this world. But there.. I grew up in the future, with parents until I was sent back to keep Bart safe. It's … I had a hard time keeping my head on straight, between what I knew then and what was real here. I mean I almost called that speedy sister fucker 'Your Highness'.."

*

Jessica has to think back over what he said a few times to make sense of it.

Slowly: "It sounds like in this reality you and Bart were both sent back as babies for whatever reason, and separated for whatever reason. I mean. I can see why you're disoriented for sure. In the other world why did Bart end up here? Why send you back to take care of Bart at all? Why wouldn't you both just hide in the future? Or did you get those details?"

She also adds thoughtfully, "Probably you'll feel less disoriented, by the way, the longer you stay in this reality. You'll reacclimate. This one will start making sense again. Sometimes the weirdest, for your own sense of identity, is just seeing how else you could turn out. And, well."

She furrows her brow thoughtfully. "Then there's the stuff that always seems to be the same no matter where you end up. Which is weird too. Still, I guess what I'm really asking is are you and Bart under some sort of threat here and now? And…are you going to tell him?"

*

Owen is still not good at keeping it straight in his own mind, let alone explaining it. "I don't know. Bart's uhm.. he's my older brother? I guess?" Yea, that's still weird. "He was gone before I was born in the future, and I wasn't sent back until I was older. Something about me having access to the speed force to be able to time travel and find him. I don't .. think there's a threat? Here?" It hadn't occurred to him that what he was supposed to keep Bart safe from might also exist here.

"Yea. That's probably true. It'd help if I stopped running into Dani.." That's been fun. He's seen her more since he's been back than ever before. He stubs out his first cigarette, not even pausing in motion to light the next. "But I gotta tell Bart. Or at least ask him, if things line up. I mean maybe.. maybe it's all different? I guess it could be." But deep down he knows it's not. It's a weird knowing.

"But you're right. Since this happened I've been doing some thinking. " Reaching into his pocket to pull out a white NA keychain. It's not the same system as AA, but close enough for her to probably recognize what he's showing her. "I'm working on it."

*

The whole 'speed force' thing still confounds Jessica Jones. Apparently it time travels too? She spends a moment with crossed eyes, trying to keep it straight in her head, before she shakes her head. The timeline stops making sense when people start jumping around in it. What she says, instead, is, "He's a sweet kid. I think he'll be glad to know he's got a brother."

But then Owen is pulling out his NA keychain. Jessica's eyes soften. The yweren't harder than usual before, mind, but they soften from their normal mien. For one thing, she knows how weirdly personal it is to show anyone a token of any kind. It's a baring of a private struggle, even if they know all about it. Both the falls and the triumphs can feel equally weird to reveal to another human being.

So she is careful with how she answers, but answer, she does, quietly. "I'm glad. If you hit one of those nights where you can't stand it you can come over here if you need to. Had to run to a friend myself not too long ago to keep me steady, found it helped."

*

Speed Force. Owen didn't mention it, but one of his greatest disappointments was realizing that neither the alternate universe nor the future had a better name for it. He's gotten over it, but it was really sad.

"Bart? It's hard keeping it straight. I need to get my head on first before I talk to him. But.. he's a Titan. So. There's some complications there." Keeping a respectful distance from Tim's hero group is something Owen does think about. That and he's sure (though probably wrong) that Tim would tell Bart all about what he's been up to in Gotham. Owen's mental version of Tim acting as more of a source of internal moral judgement than the real one has ever done.

When Jess starts to soften, Owen immediately shoves the keychain away. He knows that she's not going to get all mushy or whatever. He does, but the gut reaction to not make a big deal out of it is still really strong. "Yea. I got Emery. He's uhh.. my cape sponsor. Like, I just don't think a normal guy would always get.. some of my life? But I appreciate the offer." He then trails off and gets a thoughtful look on his face. Considering.

*

"Emery's a good one. I need to swing by and see Kinnis. I keep getting swamped by shit," Jessica says, taking another drag on her cigarette. She smirks. "You finish her sparkly taser wand yet? Because I honestly can't wait to see someone try to screw with her only to see her fairy zot the shit right out of them."

She's content to move off the subject of their various battles with substance abuse, for sure, and into the image of a 5-year old kicking someone's ass with a sparkly wand. "You wanna Coke or something?" She stands up, heads to her fridge; she wants a Coke and she might as well play a bit more of a decent hostess by offering something while she's up. Then again, one-on-one she never feels as awkward with anyone in her own space as she starts to feel when multiple people begin ending up in it. Casual enough right here and now.

And if this gives him space to think and consider without being watched while he thinks and considers…well, anyone's guess if she's done that on purpose or if it's just coincidence.

*

"Emery? Yea. He's a good, fuckin' dude." Owen exhales and considers for a second all of the people that seem to have fallen into his life. "Oh yea! I just dropped it off. I'll be honest, I thought about setting up a sniper rifle and letting one or two of the bad guys slip through just so she could wail 'em with it? But.. Emery said no."

"Nah. I'm good." Owen answers quickly, wanting to stop himself from doing something dumb like asking for a jack and coke like he would otherwise do. But then he lapses into silence again, considering.

"Yea. So in the midst of that Stark brought up the collars. I lost it. I mean.. something about the thought of someone takin' my powers. Somehow I was thinking of this like a weird mutant thing…? Like a dick, I didn't care until it affected me."

Stubbing out the cigarette and kicking his feet up on the coffee table, always one to make himself at home appropriately or not. Owen continues, "I got high again. I was so freaked out… cause of fuckin' Zoom." He sighs and says, "But anyway. That's why I went looking for the brotherhood. Somehow didn't put it together that the world's closest twins were the same as the other world till we're face to face and sure 'nuff Wanda started in on the crazy blah-blah mumbo jumbo nonsense." Belatedly he adds, "At least she didn't turn me inside out..? I guess?"

*

"Registration? Yeah. It was just sound and fury to me till I saw that thing. Just people mouthing off," Jessica admits, opening her Coke with a snap-hiss and crossing back to the couch. She sits down, and alternates the Coke and the smoke like a pro. "I gotta admit right now I'm scared shitless, man. Seeing all sorts of nasty scenarios. I'm half tempted to start caching supplies in some hidey holes I know of. I feel like a fucking paranoid ass, but…there it is. You got an idea of what you wanna do about it yet? I'm going digging for dirt, Trish is going to work her media angle, but I'm worried it won't be enough."

And it's not like all the other problems and hits are going to keep coming either. They're going to keep rolling on, same as ever. She leans back though, on the matter of the twins. "They said they weren't much into killing. I think I believe them. That said, I don't think they'd draw the line at killing if they thought they had to."

There is no judgment or warning attached to that last either. There's a certain…grimness, instead.

*

"Yea. Registration. First they came for … something. Ya know?" Owen is just smart enough to know there's a meaningful saying in there somewhere. It's just buried under a lot of other things in his mind.

"Yea. I mean I'm not gonna lie, I've got … plans for that. Dives. Money. Go bags. But, only cause those things existed for me from before? It certainly feels like I might need it now though. I don't think it's paranoid Jess. I saw some specs. Even Tony.." Here Owen hesitates to blow anyone's spot but Jess is an investigator who works for Stark so she may as well know. "The Lannister twins even gave Tony a collar. Which means he thinks it's serious enough stuff to work with them. He's next on my list of chat buddies, but yea. This whole shit just got real."

As she lays out her plans, he nods. That all makes sense. And silently he wishes that he were more equipped to consider those types of options. "I.. look, I'm gonna be honest, it's not legal. I fight dirty but yea, I'm not down with murderin' people. Even the dopes behind this. Not anymore. … Unless they break my no trying to kill Owen rule. Then fuck it." The last part is said with a casual shrug.

*

"At this point I think legal is the least of our concerns," Jessica says grimly. "Given sooner or later our goddamn existences might not be 'legal.' I'll likely be doing some breaking and entering of my own. I've done it for less. Spreading the word doesn't hurt either. I'll probably swing by to go see Tony myself. He's probably already halfway to a counter, but I'm not sure a counter's going to be enough."

But when he says it's not paranoid, she nods. And, well, there are worse things than being laughed at for stowing a bunch of canned goods in hiding places. Like. Wearing slave collars.

She lights up another cigarette, unable to have this discussion or even think about this stuff without some sort of chemical aid, even if it's a mild one. She exhales a long puff of nicotine and says, "I don't give a shit anymore that I got shitkicked. I lived. What doesn't kill you, etc. etc., whatever. Depending on how bad shit gets…"

She leaves that thought unspoken though. Instead she says, "Let's just hope we stop it early."

*

As she frames it like that, Owen laughs. It's funny that he is actually trying to care about legality under those circumstances, considering it has rarely been an impediment to him in the past. "Yea, you need any help with some B and E, call me." The offer is light hearted, but obviously sincere.

Leaning forward, he also lights up again. It helps when talking about these suddenly real scenarios that would have seemed laughable even a few weeks ago. It's hard for Owen to tell if it's the facts that have changed, or if he's that different, but from Jess's reaction it's starting to become clear that it is indeed a tangible shift in the world itself.

"We will. I mean, sounds like team twincest already has kicked things off with working to wake other people up. No meta, crook or cape is gonna take this shit…" Of course as soon as he says it, Owen knows it's not true. There will be some who will see it differently. Some will want to work it for their own gain. Who knows maybe some whackadoo hero will see it as a good thing? He realizes he's trailed off and just adds outloud, "Fine. Not all. But even us less noble types can be motivated by some green. Which apparently that's not different here, they have money. The Maxipoffs are willing to bank roll my little venture. I'm sure I can find other enterprising types to help."

*

"Oh, before I forget. Speaking of capes."

Jessica tamps out more ashes and says, "There's a cape over in Gotham who saw the gloves and wants a pair of her own. She's willing to pay for 'em, so if you set your price you can make some cash. I mean, I don't know what you know about her, or if she's someone who should have that stuff. I have friend-of-a-friend trust for her, but don't know her rep. Calls herself Huntress, though, if that means anything to you."

That's just something she had meant to pass along…and is maybe a welcome respite from the dark scenarios that seem to be building, like stormclouds, on the horizon. The fact that it took a pair of Teenaged Twincest Terrorists to get the word out is almost an embarrassment. Until she saw that thing for herself, she'd simply trusted that nobody sane would really do such a terrible thing. She forgot how many people in the world are anything but sane.

*

Owen perks up at the mention of a possible new opportunity. His funding stream has recently come to an end so he's been on the lookout. "Huntress? .. Yea, yea. Sure. So long as I keep 'em nerfed under a certain level that should be fine. She's not messin' round. I've never run into her, but she's gotta rep." Not that Owen is one to judge anyone for having a reputation either way, but he's not exactly looking to be responsible for crispy frying petty thieves anytime soon.

"But yea, I've been pickin' up some more outfitting work. It's been good while your lazy ass man gets his new place done. I'm assuming he's just over chillin' at Rand's drinking his booze?" Yes, Owen is well aware of how hard Luke is working to clear out and rebuild the bar. It's just a little more fun to imagine him laying on a couch at Rand's day drinking and eating gourmet bon bons.

"And on that note," Owen stands up. "Tell Luke he owes me a beer and my job back." He stubs out his cigarette before making his way to the door. "And uhh… thanks for the talk Jess."

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