Make It Better

July 18, 2018:

Jess helps Luke try to reconcile the implications of their actions in taking down Fisk.

Luke's Bar

Smoke 'em while you got 'em. (and while you still can before it's open to the public)

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Owen Mercer, Matt Murdock, Six, Danny Rand

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Luke's bar is taking deliveries only, according to the sign that's been pinned to the door. The place in theory could have been opened a week ago, even without a full staff, but Luke is delaying it for the sake of those nearest and dearest to him and the threat they're facing at hand.

That doesn't mean there aren't things to do, but perhaps they're manifested by the owner who is now on the floor polishing the brass foot rail that runs along the bottom of the bar until he can see his pretty bald reflection in it. He should be wearing a look of pride, but instead his eyes are focused a million miles away and Luke's mouth is drawn into that deep brooding line he was wearing at the meeting.

*

Whatever burst of temper Jessica Jones had felt at the meeting was largely gone by the time she went to bed that night. She was exhausted, had one of her very rare headaches, and said so. She was telling the truth, because she was literally asleep three minutes after that, in the clothes she'd worn to the meeting. She'd stopped only to kick off her shoes.

And she wasn't addressing things the next day, because she got a call about a missing kid, and she went to go deal with that. Luckily, this missing kid was easier to track down than most, with a happier ending than most, but it put her out from 7 that morning till 3 the next morning, and once again she fell into bed and slept. This time, most of the day.

She wanders down freshly showered and dressed, and takes a seat at the bar, watching Luke clean and brood, brood and clean. Finally she lights up a cigarette and draws an ashtray over. Trying to decide if she's going to be the one to speak first, or if he is.

*

The fact that Jessica looks fresh out of the shower despite Danny's being a good driving distance away means she took the (un)conventional means that her powers provide. It's not something that is lost on Luke as his eyes flash up as he watches her for a moment, and then drop back down to the wet rag and powder he's working into the metal. "When this place opens back up, we're going to have to go back to smoking outside." It's such an innocuous statement, so conversational, that it just seems to make the air thicker in here around the big man, like he's cultivating his own atmosphere.

*

"When this place opens back up, I won't be in this part of it much," Jessica points out. "I have good days and bad days on the drinking thing. Being around just a whole boatload of friends makes it easier not to be tempted."

She shrugs her shoulder, and finally says: "You know I shouldn't have had to find out that way, right? That should have been something you told me. Up front. That Owen damn near sold out Daredevil and Six."

Because it's not her nature to speak in vague statements. It's not her nature to speak in subtext. It's not her nature to do anything except confront the issue between them straight up. And since she knows very well this tension is about that, she doesn't bother beating around the bush or asking what's wrong.

*

Luke makes a facial expression that is the nonverbal 'well, there is that', when she points out she won't be down at his work place much when it's in full swing. No keys to the place were offered, none were asked, but he didn't want to think about the fact that his livelihood revolves around her downfall. "There wasn't the perfect time." He grouses at his polishing job. "There wasn't the perfect place. Hell, there are days we pass like two subway trains, just going in different directions. Uptown and downtown." He's not meeting her eyes, avoiding the substance of her statement.

*

"Aaaaand you don't know how to use a phone suddenly?" Jessica asks, lifting her eyebrows all the way into her hairline. "Don't know how to send a text? Hey babe, got somethin' real important to tell you? This isn't a wait for time or place thing. There is no good time to deliver shit news. It remains shit news regardless of the mood I might have been in before or after. So waiting for the perfect time is bullshit."

She leans forward. Her head does a one-half tilt to the left and back. "You didn't know how I'd react and you were hoping I wouldn't find out at all, I think, is closer to what you mean."

*

"They're ready to crucify him!" Luke's voice raises slightly, but not even near the full roar it can take on. He hasn't so much as gone up a decibel when talking to Jess since their tumultuous start blended into a relationship. Not like this. But it's a note born just as much out of fear as it is frustration. "Danny's already banned him from the house, Matt seemed ready to dismiss him completely. What good do you think that news would have done /anyone/."

*

"They may be, but I'm not," Jessica says impatiently. "I'm pissed for sure, because those two people are extremely important to me. I'd go to Wakanda for one of them, too. Just like yes, I'd go to a figurative Wakanda for you too. But he didn't do it. He was tempted, but he didn't. But you know what would have helped? Us getting on the same page about that early. Look, man. I understand Owen Mercer way better than you think I do, because I used to be that guy. So yes, by all means, believe in him, help him. I sure couldn't have gotten around if someone…multiple someones…hadn't done that for me."

She takes a drag on the cigarette.

*

"I didn't know it in the beginning." Likely when he blasted his friends with that video mail. "Matt was right, he was hiding something from me." Luke keeps a hold of the rag but he turns away from his work, and tents up his knees so his arms can hitch on top. His chocolate colored eyes lift to Jess' face, some of the ire having slipped out of their shine. "But that's not what I've been hiding from you." Well it is, but clearly that's only part of what's been bugging Luke as of late.

*

Jessica Jones arches an eyebrow at that second part. "Well…okay."

Her tone gentles. She's addressed what she had to address here. She was done being mad before she walked in. The thing about Jones is she's got a lot of forgiveness to spare.

She needs a lot. So she tries to give a lot.

She just wasn't going to not address it. Her eyes meet his, and she asks quietly, "What is it, Luke?"

She puts out her cigarette then. Gives him her full attention, folds her arms on the bar, turns her whole body to him.

*

Luke remains seated on the floor looking up at Jessica, the strong man without the strength to get back to his feet. His lips pull and he makes a nervous wipe like he's scrubbing away the expression with the flat of his palm. Then, after all that anticipation, he just shakes his head and rolls to the side to get up. Finally, "You're right, I should have told you about Owen." He starts picking up his cleaning implements, snatching them from the floor with irritated fingers. "I just didn't want to." It sounds like a cop out, like it's easier just to tick her off.

*

"Uh uh. Back it up, Mister Man Mountain," Jessica says, rolling her hand around. "You just said that wasn't what you're hiding from me. No walking it back now. Tell me what it is. It's eating the shit out of you, that much is obvious."

She watches him fidget, get nervous, and says, "You know I'm going to find out anyway, right? I have a habit of finding out everything. It's kind of my schtick. And now you've got me wondering what it is. Which means I'm going to start trying to figure it out. Looking for clues, asking endless questions. Eventually I'm going to cave, find your secret Hello Kitty diary or whatever, and find it anyway. So. Spill. What the Hell is going on with you?"

*

"I just told you, you're not listening." Luke further baits, even though he hates himself a little bit more for the use of it. "It's not that I just didn't get an opportunity to tell you about Owen, I just didn't want to. He's my bro, I was covering for him." He moves past Jessica, turning a shoulder away from her instead of towards in a physical manifestation of shutting her out. He's going back behind the bar to stow the cleaning supplies and wring out the rag in the sink, not even rising to the occasion to quip about the cartoon character on his so called diary.

*

"Ah," Jessica says. "Sorry, I thought we'd already uncovered that much. Thought there was something else."

A pause.

"Though I swear to God if you say 'Bros before Hos' I'm dropping an entire box of liquor on your head and walking the fuck out."

She delivers her warning with a hint that she's absolutely serious, because ew.

She settles back, arching her eyebrows. Just waiting to see if he's going to make that mistake, maybe.

*

Luke turns, his jaw set in an unflattering way. "That's what you do, isn't it? Pick and pick at every scab to get to the wound underneath. Doesn't matter how much bleeding you cause or how much death." His hands curl on the edge of the bar, tension telegraphed across every knuckle and through to each fingertip, but he's obviously keeping it restrained else it would be kindling by now. Somewhere in those words, it shifted from being addressed at her to being reflected inward. About the time his head drops and shakes from side to side like a repetitive 'no'.

*

Jessica Jones narrows her eyes at the accusation. "Yeah, I guess so," she says at last. "Though you're going to have to explain to me where death comes into this particular scenario." Indicating it might have come into others, for sure.

Her own jaw goes tight. She crosses her arms. Adding, "You wanna fling any more barbs, Cage? Or do you want to get this shit out on the table? See cause, in medicine scabs fall off and leave nice pretty pink skin beneath. In life it doesn't quite work that way. I don't know what the fuck is going on with you, but I do know you're piling an awful lot of shit onto one very goddamn reasonable comment that you should have given me a particular piece of information about something that affects not only me, but our other friends. So connect some dots, put a few puzzle pieces into place, and help me understand what the Hell is going on here."

*

"For fuck's sake, I killed someone Jess." Luke breaths out the fire that's been brewing in his belly, his head still canted to the floor with his hands splayed out and gripping the edge of the bar. It now resembles the stance of someone who might retch instead of someone just trying to retain their cool. "This isn't about Owen screwing shit up, or what Fisk asked him to do. This isn't about Matt or Six or whether or not Owen promised to serve their identities up on a platter, or the lynch mob that's coming after him once this is all over and he can't get his bitch ass clean. I /killed/ someone. And I had to stand there with the rest of my friends and pretend to be righteous when it comes down to the hard decision about how to take out Fisk."

*

Jessica looks at him and arches her eyebrows. "Bucky and Jane have killed all sorts of people. I've killed a handful myself. Like. Under my own power and of my own free will. If righteousness is the bar to entry for doing some good somewhere I've already lost that goddamn battle. Especially since I don't think it lasts too goddamn long when the rubber hits the road anyway."

She decides it's time for another cigarette. Out comes the final straggler from a dying pack of Marlboro Reds. She pulls it, and crumples the paper. She tosses it over the bar, three-point shot into the garbage can. Lights right up, enjoying her chance to smoke in the bar, apparently, while she's still got the chance.

Or just needing a smoke when it's time to talk about ending lives.

*

Luke's eyes come up slowly when Jess admits to killing others. Bucky and Jane's moral decisions he couldn't care less about in this instance, knowing that others have had blood on their hands and fully accepting to work with them anyways. It certainly didn't preclude Luke from loving Jess even given what happened with Kilgrave. Still, the revelation is like a bit of salve on his conscience, for better or worse. "I'm not talking about the heat of the battle. Self defense. This was calculated. I signed those dealers death sentence the minute I made them give up their bosses. There is no way they're walking today."

*

"So you signed a death warrant in defense-of-others, then." Jessica says quietly. "And you're not even making the choice to kill them. And they could still make some too. Get in a car, get on a bus, get far away and get a new identity, for example. They aren't even dead yet. Sounds to me like you're righteous enough; I wouldn't have even had a moment of conscience over that one. Let's keep in mind, too, that those dealers were out peddling death and misery on the streets, would cheerfully have sold drugs to an 8-year old and have probably killed people directly, for greed."

She tamps some ashes into the ashtray and says, "Whole world is wolves, guard dogs and sheep, Luke. Or, if you prefer, monsters, defenders, and innocents. You, a guard dog, are letting a maybe-karmic death take a wolf. A monster. And you're sitting here beating the shit out of yourself for it? I'd say your righteousness is just fine."

*

Luke doesn't look terribly convinced. When something has been eating you the inside out for days, it's difficult to easily squelch with a few words, as insightful as they are. His chest puffs up like he has some argument, but in the end he's just reaching out with a scissor of fingers to try and snag the cigarette from her fingers. "I've delivered plenty of dealers, broken and bound, to the police station to face justice. Scorch the earth to control the burn. But this…righteousness has never left me with such a bad taste in my mouth."

*

Jessica lets him take the cigarette. "You were a cop. Makes sense you'd want to handle things like a cop handles things. Problem is it doesn't always work. Of course that's always the first choice. And man, everyone who does the kind of work we do has to figure out where they're gonna draw those lines for themselves. Every situation's different. Indiscriminantly gun down every gang banger you find and you become a monster yourself. And as I told Matt, nobody's ever required to break their morals, commit murder or any other crime, to help people. Some of us just choose to. This may be your line, and if so, don't cross it again. But crossing it without realizing you're crossing it? That happens."

She looks up at him gravely. "Sometimes you don't know where the line is till you trip over it and fall face first. All you can do is realize your heart was in the right place, pick yourself up, resolve to do better tomorrow."

*

Luke has the cigarette, but now he's looking at it like he's not sure what to do with it. He's forgotten how the things work. It just seems like he should be holding something between his knuckles to keep his hands occupied. "The problem is…" He rumbles in that lower register of his, that if there were any other noise in the bar, he'd be hard to hear. "I know deep down if I had Fisk's neck in my hands right now, I'd have no problem snapping his neck." His thumb pushes against the filter until the Marlboro Red pops in half in his fingers, sending a shower of unburnt tobacco flakes and ashes down to the bar's top.

*

"You apparently are in the mood to waste perfectly good cigarettes too," Jessica says dryly.

But she leaves it at that. "8000 lives? Yeah. I think a lot of people would. That's usually when the last resort seems pretty appropriate to me. When someone's so big, so powerful, so unable to be contained by the traditional justice system that there's no way stuffing them in jail is going to happen save by some sort of miracle. Usually that's other metas, but turns out, you don't need super powers to enter that category."

She shakes her head from side to side. "Your energy's better spent trying to dismantle his network though. Without that, killing him just creates a power vacuum, starts a war on our streets and/or raises a new Pinhead in his place. I've got some dirty cop leads I'm going to start…" here she smirks. "Picking at. Later tonight."

She reaches out to take his massive paw though, if he'll let her.

*

Luke looks at the sliver of hand that sinks into his grasp, his thumb running across the joints like a slow mallet across a xylophone. Back and forth, playing the silent notes of her fingers as his mind works around the implications of taking Kingpin down by the pieces that hold him up. And then finishing him off when he topples.

There is an exhale as he lifts her grasp and pulls her around by that tether so she's close again, drawing up his large frame in front of her. Eyes search, probe, and plead at her own before he lifts his other hand to finger back the hair that surrounds her face. There's an apology there in his gaze, but more than just for his mood. "I'm sorry you've gone through that alone. I'm sorry you have to live in this world." Because even though he's dealing with his own issues, he doesn't hesitate to pile hers on too.

*

Jessica lets herself be pulled around, lets him stroke her hair. "Beats the alternative," she says, of living in this world.

She wraps her arms around him, and holds him close, still trying to comfort him. "I'm okay. I've had a long time to grapple with some of this stuff. And I did, for a real long time. It sucks that you're having to wrestle with it now. It hurts to wrestle with that stuff. But eventually you come to grips with it, and figure out how you're going to move forward with it. Who you're going to be. But…it's also good. That you question yourself. It says you give a damn, that you still have a heart."

She looks up at him soberly. "It'll be okay, Man Mountain."

*

"No, it won't." Luke says, looking down into the eyes of a woman that a year ago he would have never thought he could have loved. Not after Reva having died. Not after Reva having /lied/. Never mind any of Jess' involvement in the former and Fisk's involvement in the latter. Things change. Things evolve. This progress. He'll just have to reconcile the fact that he's not the same man who came to Harlem. But now he's the man who has sworn to protect it. And Jones. "But we'll at least make it better."

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