Poking a Hornet's Nest

July 06, 2018:

Daredevil pays Owen Mercer a visit after hearing the man may have been tipped off about the bombings in Hell's Kitchen.

Hell's Kitchen

There are fewer rooftops than there used to be.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Jessica Jones, Wilson Fisk, Luke Cage, Danny Rand

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

It's been a week since the bombings. A week of Owen first checking in on everyone at Danny's. Making sure Kennis was looked after when he heard that Emery was missing. Making sure that Emery returned safely. Making sure to make himself scarce when questions came up. It tears at him because he would like nothing more than to support those people and in turn take solace with them after that terrible night. But his own secrets drive him away.

He's been mostly crashing at friends places around the city. Another lie about his place in the kitchen being blown up, when in reality he hasn't had a place of his own in New York for a few months now. Going back to Gotham still feels like a mistake and the awkwardness with Harley means spending too much time together starts to get strange, for both of them. In short, Owen has nowhere to be.

But that's hardly new.

Sitting instead on the rooftop of a building watching the various cleanup efforts underway in Hell's Kitchen Owen is apparently having dinner. Or something like dinner. A case of beer is open behind him. A large pizza from one of the Rays Pizza which Owen is still unsure if it's the original or not is balanced on the ledge next to him. Rooftop pizza and drinking is about as close to comfort food as Owen gets, but it does little to make him feel better. At most he hopes it will distract him, even a little.

The week has been a blur for Matt Murdock. The horror of the explosion, the grueling work of search and rescue, the precious few hours spent with friends who should by all rights be dead — and then the hunt. Through New York City's underworld, for anyone who will say anything — chasing down some unexpected avenues revealed through Foggy Nelson's intrepid research. Sleeping, when he allows himself.

And one more thing: keeping his senses open for any sign of Owen Mercer.

He finds said sign, strangely enough, on his home turf: the rooftops of Hell's Kitchen. The landscape of those rooftops has been changed irrevocably by the recent devastation, but the buildings that are left are all familiar to his footsteps. His booted feet land some twenty feet behind Mercer, and the grappling cable sings and slings through the air behind him, quickly retracting into his billy club. Then the Devil of Hell's Kitchen comes from his landing crouch to a full rise. His suit is like his neighborhood: battered and soot-stained.

"That's quite the view you've got there," he calls out to Owen over the distance between them.

Owen may not have super hearing, but spend enough time as a criminal in Gotham and the retracting of a grapple line is something you get attuned to. He clenches, not in a way perceptible to most, but certainly to Matt. He is expecting someone else though. Because when Owen's down, it would really make more sense for Red Robin to be the one to come give him a hard time. At least that's what Owen in his dour mood expects.

But that's not the Red Knight's voice.

The beer can, which was about to become a missile is set down on the roof besides Owen as he turns to face the Devil.

His face falls when he sees who it is and he even gives an annoyed snort. Oh, even better. His pessimism failed to consider a scenario worse than a lecture from Rockin' Robin.

"Yea. It's quite a view. Not quite as flashy as last week though, didn't realize they were doing fireworks the week before the 4th. I was sure it was this weekend."

The joke is in poor taste. Owen is first crass enough to not care, but also drunk enough to ensure that there is a little bit of slurring in it. He smells like he's been at the drinking for a while and the empties on the roof are likely not all. There are no other drugs in his system though. The combined cigarette smoke, booze, body odor and clinging smell of grape bubble gum though might make it hard to get much detail though.

True facts: Matt Murdock has a soft spot for addicts. Call it a life steeped in Catholic narratives of prodigal sons, or attribute it to his extrasensory powers that allow him to 'see' the real effects of dependence and withdrawal in concrete and chemical terms. Or even chalk it up to growing up in New York City, a place whose foundation rests on addictions of manifold kinds.

He knows what booze can do to you, much less heroin, and so in other circumstances, when Owen makes his crack, Matt Murdock would probably be able to forgive it. But the circumstances are what they are, and the red-suited man has to summon a breath to keep from charging the man and bowling him over the rooftop edge.

"You were surprised," Matt repeats, or at least paraphrases. It sounds at once as if Matt is making sure he heard Owen right, and equally as if Matt is quite sure Owen is full of shit and is not surprised in the slightest. He takes a few stagger steps forward to close the distance between them.

It's not long, though, before he makes the subtext text. "Because, a mutual friend tells me you may have gotten a little head's up about that show," Daredevil says conversationally, free hand and club-carrying hand outstretched to either side. "So I figured I'd ask for myself."

The speed blur that helps Owen sober up would be barely seen by most, a mere blink and they might think their eyes were playing tricks on them. But to Matt it's like everything about Owen accelerates into a flat line, his pulse, his micro-movements all become a blur for just a brief second or two. Because the topic of conversation tells him that he might want a more clear head here. Lying drunk makes it harder to keep your story straight. And Owen has no idea that Emery is not the only meta with a super powered bullshit detector.

"I.." Owen originally was going to crack more about fireworks and explosions but he stops when Daredevil approaches. He instead fully turns and stands up on the edge of the roof, picking his beer back up as he goes. Yes, even though he's trying to sober up on the one hand, the urge to have a drink in his hand is still strong.

"A /mutual friend/. Love it." Owen's tone is slightly mocking. Annoyed. "Normally I'd guess for fun. But the house is rather full of people right about now and I'm sure word's getting round other places." And Owen already knows that Luke, Jess and Danny did at least one job with this guy. Do heroes refer to those as 'jobs'? Probably not. Whatever they call it then. But it still feels like a betrayal somehow. It shouldn't, even in Owen's state he knows that. But it does.

"And I didn't hear a question in there."

Owen's eyes take in all the angles while barely moving. He's considering something and his pulse is certainly high for someone just having a conversation.

Daredevil has at least some sense of Owen's powers from that night at Luke's bar, but the sudden event that sends the whole signal that is Owen Mercer spiking dangerously upward on the scale of Matt's senses reinforces that point. He's acutely aware that he's come alone, with only a metal stick and some fancy body armor to protect him, against someone on par with the mutant speedster terrorist he faced off with weeks ago. Still, he steps forward again.

They don't call him the Man Without Fear for nothing, one supposes.

"Okay, that's fair," the red shadow says with a roll of his shoulders, tone still easy and absent any obvious strain of menace. "My questions are: Did you hear about anything going down in Hell's Kitchen? If so, what did you hear and from whom?" A beat. "That clear enough?"

Daredevil has that advantage in that Owen knows nothing about his abilities. He knows a little about the suit he's wearing, but only enough to know it's not granting him any metahuman level abilities. Owen knows that he took down a room full of assassins at one point, or something like that so he's no lightweight. But if he wanted to take him on he should have lulled him into a friendly chat. Offered him a beer. Play up the friend angle. That's why Fisk chose him.

No! He's not doing that. That's not what Owen wants. But that reward? Seemingly every fiber of him does in fact want that. Waking, sleeping, drunk, sober, it doesn't matter, he wants to get back to that place on the couch right before Fisk appeared.

And if giving this guy to Fisk makes it safer for everyone else .. ? Wouldn't it?


Owen's own tone seems to relax. With a forced breath he tries to calm himself down. This isn't a fight. This isn't a lecture. They're just talking.

"I heard /something/ was going down. No specifics. Just 'something'. I was lit. I didn't think much of it, except figured I'd warn off some friends just in case it was big." He stifles a half laugh, "Like, I was thinking a revenge hit or something. Or like I dunno, what if /a/ bomb what off…" Here his bitter tone is more self-mocking, at how little imagination he had just two weeks ago. Now a lot more seems possible. Terrifyingly possible.

After that first fraught exchange, Owen's tone seems to relax and he offers Daredevil the truth, if not necessarily full candor. His answer resonates with the man in red for varying reasons. All of them were guilty — including Daredevil himself — were guilty of a lack of imagination. They thought they were dealing with a run-of-the-mill gangland sociopath, who just wanted to build a better brand of street drug and make billions in the doing of it.

None of them had any idea what Wilson Fisk was capable of until the night he showed them all, and even now Matt is only just slowly beginning to understand what drives his enemy.

Can Owen — who existed on the very periphery of this fight — really be blamed for not taking some vague threat to Hell's Kitchen more seriously? Who would hear something like that and picture the devastation and ruin that now surrounds them.

And so Matt says, quietly: "I get it. You told your friends. You knew Jess was there, and wanted to warn her off. And you didn't know how bad it was going to be. I get it." It seems, for the moment, like this encounter could be salvaged after all — disaster avoided on both their parts.

Still, Daredevil takes another step forward. Ten feet between them now, give or take. "So who was it that told you?"

Yea, come closer. There's no dodging without speed in … Owen finds himself doing the 'math' as it were of how to best take down his 'opponent' before he realizes it. But he doesn't draw any weapon yet.

That's not what I'm doing. Right? Even Owen isn't sure. Every time he thinks he's come to a decision about how to handle this it seems to flip on him. The gnawing withdrawal isn't helping him think straight either even if he's staving it off with his powers as best he can.

"Yea. I.. " Owen regrets not doing more even if he realizes there's little he could have actually done. It feels like he was the closest one to stopping it. And in some ways he was. Who else has actually sat in a room with Fisk? Who else did Fisk personally warn about that night?

"Who..?" Between the memories and the conflicting plan Owen somehow didn't see the obvious next question coming. "A dealer. She's not anyone I know.. not my regular. It was Ariel. Fancy ass place in Chelsea." Owen's comfortable giving the information out. He trusts that's a dead end from the little he knows of the Kingpin. Well maybe trust is the wrong word. He hopes it is. For everyone's sake.

Matt Murdock likes Owen Mercer. He likes the heroism he displayed in that bar fire, the way he handled the unfortunate but necessary exposure of Murdock's powers, and the way he's proven a loyal and caring friend to Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. Yes, Owen is a complete fucking mess right now. But so is Matt, who has spent the last two months living out of an abandoned boxing gym while waging a one man war on the Russian mob, and who has lost just about everything that matters to him except for one shaggy-haired law partner.

Matt really has no room to judge Owen's current state, or even Owen's choices as he understands them. At least — he doesn't until he hears that telltale skip-start of a heartbeat. His features close and harden, and it's noticeable even with the top half of them obscured by the devil mask. His footsteps stop; the hand holding the billy club clenches.

"Mercer," Daredevil says after a long beat of quiet, his tone still even but now carrying an added edge. "Why are you lying to me right now?"

"Hmmp." The noise that comes out of Owen's mouth, throat really is more of confused annoyance than anything else. His eyes narrow and his head tilts as if questioning already the claim that he's lying.

"What makes you say that?" What indeed. He stuck to his story. The details are the same he gave Luke. They're close enough to the truth that he's fine. He didn't lie. He blurred parts of the story together to leave out details. That's totally different.

"And what are you going to do about that assumption? Ya fuckin' cape." Well that's a bit of a throwback for Owen. It's been a while since he's really gotten to taunt a do-gooder. Particularly since he mostly works with them them now. He's a little rusty though, that's not his best effort. Maybe if he presses on he can find his groove again.

"Beat me cause you don't like my answer?"

What makes you say that? Owen Mercer volleys back, easing back into the role of a Gotham City ne'er do well. The Devil of Hell's Kitchen cocks his head to the right ever so slightly, as if Owen were some lab experiment that just registered a strange result. "Because I know," the masked man replies, and even though it's a throaty rasp it's said with absolute ironclad authority. "Because knowing whether people are lying is part of what I can do."

Daredevil takes a swallow. His jaw tightens further, if that's possible. He lets some of the grief and anger that's raging around inside him come to the fore. "Eight-thousand people are dead, Mercer," the man in red tells him. "Eight thousand. People Jessica and others in your life knew, and cared about — their neighbors and friends. You may think that whatever you're papering over is irrelevant to that. You may also be wrong about that, so it's not your call to make. Come clean, Mercer. Now's the time."

Owen's jaw clenches at the non-answer. Telepath? No. Would have read my thoughts. Right? Probably. He keeps his eyes on the weapon in Daredevil's hand. It would be easier if they just fought. Then if Owen won fair and square, why not right?

"Eight thousand. Yea, I got it. Believe me."

Owen tries to reason that he did his part. That number's haunted him, almost as much as the visions of dead bodies and crying children. He doesn't need reminding of it.

When Matt tries to guess at his motives though, Owen face twists into a sneer. "Papering over? What the fuck do you think you're playing at? Like you said. Eight thousand dead. You think poking this hornet's nest again is really the right call? No. Fuck you."

Because if it takes everyone thinking he's the bad guy to keep them from going after Fisk, that's fine by him. Because once he says that name? If he gave them that information, they'd be off like a shot. He's banking on the Ariel chick being a dead end. It's a gamble but the cat's out of the bag on that part. But if he starts spreading Fisk's name about, the hammer's going to drop, he knows it. Again. And he can't risk that.

There are two phases to the 'attack'. The first is the beer can thrown from his left hand at far too fast a speed to be human. It's aimed square at the chest piece, Owen knows it can take the hit of a half empty can of opened beer even at super speed. The follow through on that allows Owen to grab the folded boomerang from his boot and throw that as well. There's no trick to it, no acid spray, no electro-shock, it's just a weighted boomerang that would hurt except for the armor DD's wearing.

And with those thrown Owen's off the edge of the roof, using a burst of speed to get some distance. Not caring if either of his throws hit, but mentally thinking of the closest safe place he can get off the street.

There are a few things Daredevil could (and would) say to Owen Mercer's logic about 'not poking a hornet's nest.' Things he's learned over the past few days that have convinced him that what happened here, in this neighborhood, had little to do with himself, his friends, or any degree of 'poking.'

But Daredevil doesn't have a chance, because all of a sudden Owen is lobbing whatever he can find at him with superhuman speed.

The first blow finds its mark. Though Bucky Barnes once compared Daredevil's reflexes to precognition, the truth is that he only has a short span of Owen Mercer's up-ticked heartbeat to give him warning of what's coming. And when it does come, it comes at a speed he cannot hope to counter.

And Owen's aim strikes true as well, with the half-empty beer can striking the center of the man's red body armor. Already covered in soot and grime from a week's worth of labor amid the ruin, it gets a nice coating of cheap beer when the liquid explodes out of the top on impact. Most of it sprays through the air and onto the rooftop floor, but it's safe to say that Matt's costume is in desperate need of a dry cleaning.

He isn't thinking about that, can't, because the much more dangerous projectile is hurtling towards him — if at slightly slower speeds. After the initial stagger backwards from the impact of the beer can, Daredevil regains his footing and lets the billy club in one hand dart up and out to knock the boomerang off its current trajectory towards his cheekbone. Course altered, it goes flying and then skidding along the roof's surface.

By the time Owen's projectiles are dealt with, of course, the speedster is hurtling through Hell's Kitchen at a pace even Daredevil and his grappling hook can't match. He grits his teeth. "Fine then, don't come clean," Matt says with a puff of exasperated breath. Getting helpful answers from Owen was always a long shot, but the reasons he won't — including Owen's deception — all rankle and disappoint.

Still. There are other threads to shake loose from Wilson Fisk's messy stitch-work, and it's only a few moments after Owen is gone that the man in red is wiping flecks of cheap beer off his jawline and leaping from the rooftop to find them.

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