Half Truths, Partial Lies

June 30, 2018:

Owen tells Luke the truth about the bombing in Hell's Kitchen. Sort of.

Rubble of Alias Investigations

Oh the horror, the horror! (RIP HK)

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Jessica Jones, Danny Rand, Kingpin, Claire Temple (mentioned, but not named)

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Hell's Kitchen has rallied. Neighbors helped neighbors. Strangers helped strangers. Even when the dust has settled and the fires are just embers, the work continues.

Bone tired firemen are leaning against their truck, drinking water from soot covered bottles as their emergency lights are bouncing red off the crumbled facades of buildings. With each flash, a slash of color crosses the bald dome of Luke Cage where he sits on a pair of steps that used to lead to an apartment building, head wearily bent while his ashed fingers pluck at a loose thread of a chaos-battered quilt that sits folded in his lap. His broad shoulders shake as a cough rattles his frame, the frequent trips into burning buildings having taken their toll on the big man, even though his skin shows no bruises, cuts or burns. His clothes, however, look as if they took a bomb directly. Such is the peril of being Luke Cage's wardrobe.

*

Still half dressed in costume and half-out Owen is walking the burned out streets in a full on daze. There are police officers and other agencies trying to clear the streets to move everyone to safety but they are only suggesting, not enforcing that as of now.

It's been a long night and Owen has been to Grammercy and back already. He went to crash at Danny's, to check in on Jess and Luke and everyone there, but he couldn't get past the new security system.

And so he made his way back here to try to help. He didn't mean to head for Alias, his feet just took him that way. And seeing the place causes his face to slide down even farther into a pained grimace. He mindlessly walks towards it, only realizing someone is sitting on the steps a fraction of an instant before he realizes it's Luke.

Not just Luke, but Luke looking like a bomb hit him outside Jess's building holding her quilt.

Owen's stomach turns yet again. He closes his eyes and stops in the middle of the street. She said she would stay at Danny's. With Luke. They weren't supposed to be here. This wasn't supposed to happen.

Owen manages to re-open his eyes but can only stand stock still in the street staring at Luke, trying to get air into his suddenly useless lungs.

*

A line of spittle forms between Luke's parted lips from the cough, a pass of his tongue whisking it away. It's not like he should bother, he's a mess. What's a little spit?

A sigh breaks from his chest, the sort like someone is trying to gather energy that just isn't flowing. He should move. He should get up. He does not.

Eyes do lift though, blind to the state of the street he's walked down so many times. The sweet spot that he used to park his bike now has a bathtub sitting on top of a Chevy. It should seem absurdly funny, but he just looks right past it. Why? Because there stands Owen in his hybrid state of bartender/Boomerang. Now, Luke finds the strength to get to his feet, fueled by something that makes his eyes darken. The blanket stays clutched in one hand, fisted so tightly his knuckles blanch.

*

Standing frozen to the spot Owen can only wait as Luke makes his approach. He wishes he had another drink right now, but he manages to swallow hard enough to find his voice at least.

"Luke. Where . is . Jess?"

It's like those four words take all of the strength he has to get out. Because he thinks he knows the answer. The anger in Luke's walk, the clenched knuckles, the burnt out destroyed building, it doesn't take a detective to come to this conclusion.

He realizes he's braced to take a punch. Not just a regular punch, but a good ol' might end him punch. And if his assumption is right, he deserves it. How could he do this to these people? How could he fail them so badly?

His face is a tired twisted grimace of anger, regret and resolve. He might have killed one of the first people he ever really gave a damn about or gave a damn about him. And he might be about to be killed by another. Banner day for Owen Mercer.

*

Just as he's blind to the carnage around him, Cage is also deaf to the question no matter how desperately Owen wants the answer. He continues advancing until he's right up in Owen's personal space. It doesn't matter if the man is braced for a punch or not, because it doesn't come. What he gets is an assault of another kind. A pair steal arms band around Owen drawing him into a fierce hug, the quilt mashed up against his back the only cushioning to the nearly crushing embrace. "Too fucking stupid to take your own advice?" The words vibrate in his chest with raw emotion, not just relief at seeing his friend alive and breathing, but the hashmarks of last night's events carved in too.

*

No! This is so much worse!

Owen squirms and weakly shoves at Luke and makes protesting noises. "Hey. What? No! What?! I got shot.." Kind of. It was a demon fingernail. And yes, it was as gross as it sounds. But he's trying to use it to stop the big black dude from crushing him. And now that he seems to have recovered at least a little of his voice, his question is reiterated, stronger.

"Luke, where the /fuck/ is Jess? And what are you doing here?"

And why aren't you punching me? The last part is not spoken but the confusion of it is written on Owen's face. He tries to figure out the motive for why the man isn't hammering him into the scorched pavement but can only land on the fact that Luke isn't suspicious enough. Hence the hugging. Or maybe that's just the shock. Do people shock hug?

*

Hearing that Owen's been shot of all things causes Luke to pull back slightly, gripping the man by one shoulder and looking down into his face with searching eyes, "If she has sense in her damn head she's at Danny's. And if Danny likes having his head attached to his body, he'll make sure she stays that way. I haven't been able to get through on my cell, the subway's down. Cabs'll be impossible. I was just trying to get the energy to hoof it to Gram…shit, you're looking pale, man. C'mon." Just because he's tired, doesn't mean his strength has left him. Cage plucks up Owen by the scruff of his shirt like he's worried Owen is about to pass out, hauling the dangling man towards the side of the street.

*

Owen visibly relaxes when Luke talks about her in the present tense, as in not burnt to a crisp in the burned out shell of a building behind him. He deflates and shakes his head for a bit with his eyes closed, letting that little bit of personal relief wash over him in the midst of this huge mass of regret.

"I was up on the roofs earlier.. I booked it to Danny's but it's all locked up tight as shit now. I didn't.. " How does he explain why he didn't just knock? Or check on them? "I didn't want to cause Danny any issues showin' up like this so I figured I'd come back and help out for a bit.." Yea, that's not exactly what happened but kind of. In very broad strokes.

"Wha..?" Owen is hefted off his feet. "OWWWW!!! Put me down!" Owen comically swings his one good arm to swat at Luke, looking a bit like a marionette flinging it's limbs about, or at least 3 of the 4.

*

Owen is not in fact let down until he's dangling above the broken set of stairs Luke was occupying earlier, plopping the man down on the concrete tiers. "Sit and listen." It's not a tone that brokers argument, and he's already shaking out the Shitty Quilt (tm) to drape over him like an invalid. He's not about to haul Owen to a medic, given his nature of being a meta, but he has a card in his pocket of a nurse who might be discrete by word of mouth. For now, it stays in the pocket of his tattered jeans, because the big man has other things on his mind. "I need to know who your contact was that gave you the heads up."

*

Owen is in rough shape and really should have stopped to rest a long time ago, or at the very least eat considering how much he's been leaning on his speed powers for healing up and running all over the place. He's tired enough that he accepts being set down and even having the blanket put over him. It lulls him into enough of a secured spot that he doesn't see the question coming. He was expecting a speech of some kind.

"What?"

Owen blinks hard and looks at Luke trying to come up with an answer but feigning confusion.

"Uhh.. yea. Look, it was.." He hesitates momentarily. "It was a dealer." He looks away and then back at Luke. He's never really talked to Luke directly about the drug usage, maybe Jess has. Who knows. He probably has guessed at least, even if Owen was totally clean when he worked at the bar. "My normal dealer bounced me to this other guy. He had some new product and threw in some creepy ominous tip. But.. it wasn't… he didn't say what. I mean." Here Owen can at least fall back to the truth and say with sincerity, and a little twinge of desperation to be believed.

"I had no idea this was going to happen."

*

"I believe you, man. And I ain't judging." Twin hands fan out showing the lighter skin of his palms in mock capitulation when Owen reveals that he not only has a dealer, he has a normal one. "Don't have the luxury. But I need names. Need to know where you met him, what time. Dealer's have turfs, if I can narrow down where he was, I can narrow down where he's gonna be next. After shit like this, his business is going to be booming. People need the escape." And maybe that's why Owen went to him in the first place, and Luke's lower jaw juts out at the uncomfortable emotions that brings up. Not the time, not the place. "I'm going to shake him down, then climb up the ladder until I fund the motherfucker responsible for this."

*

"It was Fisk."

Wait what? Is Owen really coming clean so easily? No. No, he is not.

"The dealer, it was a chick. Named Aerial. She said the name. She said Fisk was doing something in the kitchen. You don't have to crack any heads to find out who's at the top of this. I didn't tell you or Jess because I knew if I did you would do somethin' stupid like show up and get blown up"

Owen desperately tries to crack a joke to distract himself from the fact that he's lying. Like he always does. It's not even second nature. It's first.

"I should have told you. I should have walked out when she said the name.."

The last part doesn't quite jive with the story, a little too much regret mingled in there. But mentally Owen rearranges the facts to fit this narrative he's spinning. It's not like he planned to reveal any of this. But he also wasn't ready to tell the real truth yet either. And he still needs to decide what to do about that contact number Fisk left him for completing the job. That damn job.

*

What little bit of cool Luke had is gone, like cartoon steam whistling out of his ears. "What the actual…" He's so floored that he can't finish the sentence at first, pacing a pair of steps away before turning back, "Fuck, man. You're damn right you should have left. Instead you, what? Chased the goddamn dragon off the man that's been trying to end us? The one that blew up /my bar/. My /home/. Put you out of a job, but hell, maybe it was a peace offering, right?" His bloodshot eyes go up to the sky, "If you didn't know what he was going to do, then how would you have known we were going to get blown up if she showed up?"

*

"It was a joke…" A really crappy one. "I didn't know anything about what 'it' was. She just said Friday was gonna suck in Hell's Kitchen or something, I forget the exact words. I did.."

And in truth it's a relief to get yelled at. Even if it's only a fraction of what he deserves.

"Yea I took the hit. It was.." Owen stops himself from getting into it but he started down the path of explaining how mind blowingly good it was, how softened up he was for something to drop in his lap. But that doesn't explain his behavior after. No, he was stone cold sober when he texted Luke and Jess. When he lied then. When he's lying now.

"I'm sorry. Look I know it probably don't mean shit to you but she called Fisk the Kingpin. Like /the/ Kingpin. And that's a name that means something in my old life. I just.. I just wanted you two safe man."

There is some truth to that. Some.

*

"What about EVERYBODY ELSE?" Luke's arm snaps out to the side as he bellows, pointing up the street but somehow his words encompass all of the borough. "We could have alerted the authorities. SHIELD. Let them know something was brewing. They could have been alert. If not prevent it at least have been prepared for /something/." His hands clamp onto the top of his bald head, like he can feel the pressure building and he's afraid his skull is about to explode. Cage's chest heaves from his scream, the strain on his lungs stirring up another cough that leaves him speechless for a moment.

Then: "I trust you." Luke sounds like he's talking to himself.

"You're like a brother to me." The words are stilted, like his lungs are threatening to protest again.

"You saved my girl."

Or his rage. "And you're going to help me make this right."

*

Yelling right back Owen launches into his own personal defense that's been playing his head on loop.

"I didn't know shit! What was I supposed to do? Evacuate Hell's Kitchen because of the word of damn drug dealer? And I did call SHIELD!! At least the one fuckin' SHIELD agent who would listen to me."

Owen doesn't have much energy to get too fired up and he certainly has no moral ground to really stand on anyway, but he tries.

"If I had any idea it was this.. Luke." Owen stops, trying to get the words right. Trying to convey just how far outside his limited imagination this whole scenario is. "I didn't. I never.. "

But then Luke is saying how he trusted him. Considered him family.

"Stop. Look I fucked up. Don't.. " Don't say that now. Not when you don't know. You wouldn't mean that.

"I will. I promise."

And he means it. He wants to do the right thing. To be better. And even now he knows it might all fall apart if he does tell the truth. And it might be even worse if he doesn't.

*

"We had time, Owen. Time to run the rumor and see what shook out. A week to chase it down." Luke shakes his head, no doubt in that moment taking some of the blame for not pushing Owen on it earlier. They just said 'sure, thx' to the text. "It's behind us now." He tries to sound convincing, for both of their sakes. His hand makes a gimme gesture, "C'mon. We're going back to Rand's to get cleaned up. Rest. Eat. Don't breathe a word of this to Jess, not until I can ease her into it. She just lost her home, her neighborhood, she can't lose a friend too. But she has to know. They all have to know. And you're going to man up and own it. But I got your back."

*

It's true. There was plenty of time to look into it if Owen had let people look into it. He could have prevented this. Maybe. But even preventing half of it would have been a huge amount. The scale of this is still mind blowing.

"Yea.. behind us." Owen agrees weakly. Owen hands over the blanket and stands up.

At the talk of not telling Jess right away Owen nods in agreement. At the talk of owning up to it all Owen can do is let out a small 'heh' at what Luke thinks he has to own up to compared to the reality.

It's worse. It's so much worse.

*

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