Fall Down Seven

July 26, 2018:

Owen Mercer has a case for Jessica Jones. Jessica has a demand for him.

Luke's Building

Not quite open for business, not quite full of furniture.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Harley Quinn, Joker, Danny Rand, Azalea Kingston, Captain America, Claire Temple, Emery Papsworth, Luke Cage, Daredevil, Six

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Owen took the keys from Luke to the apartment in the new building, but that's about as far as he got in the process. Between needing to get back to Gotham to try and work things out with Harley, trying to plan some way of hitting Fisk's organization and keeping himself off the smack he's been busy. But his little side trip to Gotham didn't exactly go as planned. Sure Harley welcomed him back with open arms, but then so did the Joker. If by open arms you mean paralytic hallucinogens, taser guns and acid. And so heavily bandaged, mentally looped and desperate for an escape Owen made his way back to New York, metaphorically crawling back home.

But 'home' is an overstatement for what awaits him. Even a stop at one of his stashes yields only a meager sleeping bag, some clean clothes and at least enough cash to grab some necessities.

So a very bandaged Owen camped out on the floor of his apartment with a bottle of Jack and a plastic cup. He didn't mean to get drunk. He just wanted to take the edge off, to make the conversation with Harley easier. He let her know where he was, that he ran into the big J and that he needed a minute. It didn't go well. There was crying. Not from Owen. There was begging. Again Harley. There was only a lot of jaw clenching and terse answers on his end. And after the call, another drink. This one to help take his mind off of that call, and the terrible thoughts of whether she's just fucking with him.

Finally something of a plan forms in his mind. So he picks up the phone and fires off a text to his favorite PI.

Yo. Might need to hire you. Can we meet somewhere? I'm up at the new place in Harlem.

Looking around the barren place, which somehow looks sadder for being new and empty versus his old and empty place in Gotham, Owen decides that here won't do. Not the least of which because he still can't get his damn lighter to work.

Jessica Jones raps sharply on the door.

She is still sleeping at Danny's; Luke wants to be close to the others and she truthfully doesn't mind. Jessica has spent a lot of her life lonely. Having a group of people, however complex, occasionally tense, and morally diverse they are, all around her? Well. That suits her just fine. She is looking forward to life in the apartment she's chosen to share with Luke, but between the company and the bathtubs is kind of content to mooch off Danny Rand's hospitality as long as the glow-worm billionaire will allow.

She arrives looking much as she ever does, in ratty jeans, combat boots, and a pale gray tank top. A couple of amulets hang around her neck, disappearing beneath the collar of the thing. Hands in pockets. Carrying not much more than her phone, which makes an outline in her pockets. And neutral expression, which is in fact her default. Always her default. A hair shy of Resting Bitch Face. It doesn't make it all the way there, but it sure flirts with it.

Oh. Or we can do here. Owen blearily puts the cap on the bottle and stows it on the counter when he hears the knock. The cup is tossed into the sink with light toss. He looks around briefly as if looking for a mirror, but of course there is none. He gives himself a half shrug of 'oh well' and opens the door.

Owen Mercer often looks disheveled, but this is a whole other level. His entire right arm is wrapped in bandages. He has a ratty 80s rock band tee shirt on, with enough holes to see that there are bandages underneath that too. His face is cut up with a few small nicks here and there. He stands there for a bit too long before looking back over his shoulder.

"I'd invite you in but… I ain't got so much as a chair in there. Can we hit the roof for a smoke? Or.. maybe down in the bar?"

He's not embarrassed by the state of the place, it's definitely the nicest place he's ever had, but it's still awkward without any furniture, not even boxes to sit on.

Jessica stares at his state for a long moment. "What the Hell happened to you? And yeah, roof's fine."

She's no stranger to 'no furniture in the place.' The last time it happened to her it was because she smashed up all of her furniture in a drunken fit. Just a year and a half ago. It seems a lifetime ago, but sometimes she's given cause to remember it's not been that long at all.

She waits for him to emerge, stepping back, then up they go. This is in fact how she got here, just flying over and using the roof access. She settles against the safety rail and pulls out a cigarette, lighting it up. She keeps her lighter out, knowing Owen will need it.

Owen looks down at himself as Jess gives him the once over. He half shrugs and says, "Funny story." with no smile or indicator that it is actually a funny story. "I met Harley's ex. And you know how that goes: he gased me with nerve agent, electrocuted me and sprayed me with acid. I lit him on fire. The usual male posturing bullshit."

Well good to see that his sense of humor is somewhat still intact even if it looks like a few other things may not be.

But he saves most of the talk for the roof, eager to grab a cigarette. He leans his head down cigarette between his lips to light off her lighter. Using his left hand to hold it, he exhales nice and long before continuing.

"It's not like it's a big surprise that the Joker's a raging asshole who'd go after anyone with Harley. But still.. fuck him."

"Jesus Christ."

Jessica exhales, and shakes her head. "Well, if they'd stop sticking him in the corrupt revolving door that is Arkham Asylum maybe he'd stop doing that shit. Is the case about him? Or is it about something else?"

She takes a drag on her cigarette, staring out over the city from this particular rarified view, so different from her rooftop in Hell's Kitchen. Her former rooftop in Hell's Kitchen. She sticks her lighter back in her pocket, adding, "You get medical attention for that? Or did you do the bandage job yourself? If the latter, go see Claire."

"Yea."

Owen agrees with her assessment of the situation and takes another drag off the cigarette. Nicotine and alcohol aren't exactly what he's craving but it's better than nothing right about now.

"Yea. Arkham's basically his summer home. And yea. I.." He hesitates a second and then finally just sighs and comes out with it. "I want you to tail Harley. Blowjob the Clown is trying to make it out like this is some scam to set me up. And I know. I know that's likely bullshit to get in my head…"

He trails off and looks out at the city as if looking for a way to explain why he can't shake that. Finally he realizes he has to further peel back another little bit of truth for this to make sense.

"It might be cause it ain't like I started up with Harley f'r the right reasons either. She was a job."

Looking down at his bandages he shrugs and says, "Yea. Claire.. that's the mouthy nurse from the other night? I liked her." Yes, he bandaged himself and applied his own countering agents to try and stop the acid from doing any more damage, but yes he probably needs actual medical attention for this.

"Yeah, that's her. She'll fix you up right."

Jessica contemplates the job though. Tailing Harley Quinn. "A scam to set you up how?" she asks. "What did he say, exactly?"

She tumps ashes off the roof, taking a little bit of pleasure in this minor act of littering. In Hell's Kitchen it wouldn't have even merited notice, but the ashes float down and burn out on their way to a beautifully manicured little stretch of garden somewhere below. So far she's looking at that, gardens and buildings and skylines, rather than directly at Owen, but there's nothing in her stance to indicate anything except the same neutrality and mild concern she's already shown.

Of course, there are some elephants on this rooftop, maybe a herd of them. But she'll let him present his case to her before she starts the stampede.

"Just that she's still at his beck and call. Does whatever he asks and he's using her to screw with yutzes like me. Just twist them all around for a bit of fun. And then brutal torture. I dunno.. there were puppets involved. And costumes." A beat. "Gotham"

He looks at her briefly over one shoulder before resuming his lean against the rail, looking out the opposite direction that she is. He knows more questions are coming. He's lifted one lid ever so slightly. Not to mention all the other stuff that he's sure Jess will cover at some point. No need to hurry that on his account.

She contemplates that one. "I've never encountered him directly, but based on who Q used to be he's a mighty good manipulator. Still. I like Q. I'd be curious to see if he's still in her head. So I'll take your case, but on one condition. I find out he's right, you cut ties. You're not going to stick around and get yourself tangled up in a trifecta of abuse and manipulation which is sure to drag your head right back under the water. You will not try to save her, because if that's the case? She's not ready to save herself. Got it?"

If the PI is at all embarrassed about the fact that these days she speaks more like a world-weary mother or older sister to nearly everyone she knows than anything else, it doesn't show. It's just the mode she's fallen into over the past several months, and it even seems to work for her. It's exactly how she sounds now. Tired, full of School of Hard Knocks-won perspective.

Owen nods as Jess speculates about the big J's ability to get people all twisted up. He knows first hand now. He thought he was all prepped to handle it. Hah. That's an actual good joke.

"And Jess. I know yer a bad ass but, you gotta be ninja tight on this. He will not fuck around, he will cut off your face and wear it like a mask. He's the biggest nutball in Gotham, and that's sayin' somethin. So just tail her, and if you see a frickin' sign of this whackadoo.. I'm good."

The last thing Owen wants is to put Jess on the Joker's radar. But she should be removed enough from him and his Gotham life that it should be okay. Should be.

"Harley can save herself anytime. She don't need me f'r that shit. And frankly, if she wants him? Have him."

There's just a touch of bitterness there. A chip on his shoulder that's been in the under current of their whole relationship. Maybe it's because he's trying to change the subject he changes topic slightly going back to something she said.

"I'm glad you like her though… she's a good person.. Well, she's not, but I mean. Yea, she's morally flexible. And just super flexible in general."

Owen! You're babbling. And oversharing. Where were you headed with this?

"Uhh, I mean. I'm glad you like her." Yea, should have stopped there the first time.

It could be said, and easily, that Jessica sometimes likes all the wrong people, but there it is.

She blows out through her nose and says, "She's not a good person. She just was once. And still could be. If she is ready to save herself."

She turns around, puts her back to the railing now, and looks over at Owen.

"It shouldn't have mattered, you know. Whether Daredevil and Six were important to me or not. They could have been any capes ever that oppose the kind of shit the Pinhead does and it should not have mattered. Do I think you should have said fuck you very much right to his face and gotten shot? No. But I think you should have immediately called me, or Luke, or Danny, or Emery to let them know you got approached and to make it clear you weren't taking the offer. But of course you couldn't do that, because you weren't real clear on that yourself."

"You got no idea how badly I want that Jess.." The strain in Owen's voice is probably a good indicator. But whether he wants it for Harley because of their romantic relationship, or because he just wants to see that it's possible in general isn't clear.

Any thoughts on that topic though are immediately shut down when Jess changes gear. His cigarette is rapidly placed back in his mouth which clamps down on it and takes a drag that threatens to send the whole cigarette down his throat.

"I was high as shit Jones. I thought you'd at least get that."

Which doesn't excuse his behavior after the fact, like she said. He pulls the cigarette out and exhales through his nose, looking stoney-faced at her as if he's the one who's been wronged.

"No. Is that what you want to hear? I wasn't sure. Because guess what Jess? I fuck people over all the time. It's kind of my thing. So yea. I thought about it."

"I can't stop thinking about it."

The it there being a little vague as it sounds like he might not be talking about giving up Daredevil or Six. In this case the 'it' is the drug that was offered that's consuming his thoughts.

"I do understand it. It's why I'm not ripping you a new asshole right now," Jessica says, shrugging her shoulders. "That and you saving my ass from getting blown up. Friend of mine who shared my office wasn't so lucky, best as I can tell. It's why I'm sitting here, being calm, talking about taking your case and taking a cigarette. I understand perfectly."

She looks up at the sky now, cigarette held in two fingers, forgotten while the smoke trails around and about her leg. "But that doesn't mean we're not going to talk about it. Don't tell me anything I want to hear. Tell me if you're feeling ready to save yourself. Because that's what it comes down to. For you, as much as for Q."

Owen's anger at being challenged on this topic deflates pretty quickly when it's clear that Jess isn't going to yell at him about it. His look turns more suspicious or confused. He lets out a small defeated sigh as it's not like he can keep up the argument if she's not going to yell back at him.

"I'm sorry 'bout yer friend."

Owen takes a more relaxed drag on his smoke and tries to just be quiet and listen. For once.

"You know I c'd bullshit you. Just addict talk it out. I.. god those meetings drive me nuts. But… I have been going. And I haven't shot up since then. Or used H at all. I mean, I haven't been sober. And I've done other stuff to try and get my head on straight."

Yes, because when getting off heroin, other drugs are really helpful. No one has ever accused Owen of making good life choices.

The answer, and his deflation, and his refusal to bullshit, all add up to yes, probably.

"It's on me, too, you know," she says. "I was way laissez-faire about you being an addict. I didn't think about where the desperation could lead. I've never been addicted to anything harder than booze. Hard drugs were always Trish's deal, not mine. So I've never faced desperation that couldn't be solved with thirty dollars and a bodega. I've run up tabs I sure as Hell couldn't pay, but that's about it. As your friend, I probably should have pushed you harder. But when we had the conversation, you were trying. You were going to meetings. And thing is, I believe in you. So I didn't say what I'm going to say now. Didn't even think to say it."

She looks over at him with eyes that are gentle, but serious. "But now we know where it leads. To you dangling over a cliff, two inches from taking a flying leap, betraying your friends, and falling in with people who would end 8000 lives without a thought. So. I'm going to say it, and I'm going to say it straight up. You need professional help. You need to go to rehab. You need the medicine they can provide you with to combat this. You cannot do this alone, meetings are not enough, and white-knuckling the willpower isn't going to get it done."

"No. That's bullshit. You believed me. You and Luke trusted me. That's.." Owen would blame them for it. If he didn't care about them. If they didn't mean something to him he would laugh about the fact that they should never have trusted him in the first place. After all, fucking people over is what he does best. Okay, maybe throwing whacky boomerangs is, but it's a close second.

Then she's turning to look at him, and he looks back with uncertainty written across his face. He has a feeling he's not going to like where this is headed.

'You need to go to rehab.'

"No. Fuck no. What?!" The uncertainty turns right back to anger as he shoves off the railing. "That was not part of my deal with Luke. I said I'd stay clean. And I will. I am not some coked up starlet or redneck meth head. I can handle my shit."

Can you though? Because like she said, you did just agree to help the man who blew up 8000 New Yorkers in order to get your hands on more heron.

"I can do this. I need to do this."

"We're not talking about your deal with Luke. Your deal with Luke is your deal with Luke," Jessica says, finally taking the cigarette back to her lips. She drags on it, her eyes unreadable. "You two are bros, and he thinks everyone's being too hard on you, and he thinks you saying you'll stay clean is enough. He's never been an addict, as far as I know. He doesn't know shit. I know better."

Jessica narrows her eyes. "It doesn't take being a coked up starlet or a redneck meth head. Anyone can get to a point where they can't handle their shit. And Owen? You can't. What you need to do is go to rehab. What you've been doing isn't working. This isn't something that you need to prove to yourself or whatever. See, cause trying to do it yourself, and failing again and again while making it worse and worse? That's the response of weakness."

She shrugs. "It's counterintuitive. But the strong response, the thing it actually takes some stones to do? Is to admit you need help, and to go get it."

Hearing that Luke's deal is separate causes a brief respite in the hardness in his face. And it does mean a lot to him that Luke thinks he can stay clean. Even if he's not so sure himself. Not that he can let on about that right now.

"What is this your 'rehab worked for me' speech? Were you tell me the same goddamn sob story that all the suckers at those meetings say? They don't have my speed. I can burn through the withdrawals. I haven't used in a month."

It's an unsurprising mix of attacking and defending. It's probably a little sad how much it echoes Trish's own words all those years ago.

Jessica Jones shrugs a shoulder. Matter-of-fact as always.

"I never went to rehab. I went to a shrink. I admitted I was suicidally depressed and cripplingly anxious 99% of the time, that I drank because I couldn't make the pain stop any other way, and asked them to put me on pills to solve that. I had to go to specialists, because of my physiology, but I went. To get access to that specialist I had to look at a man I deeply admire, who at one point I wished I could be, and tell him that's what I needed. Everyone's path is different. I did all that after I nearly ended up on the street for trashing my own apartment, after some other friend bailed me out. AA works for me, but it wouldn't if it weren't for my friends. It's the people in my life I fight for, Owen, not for myself. I want to be better for them. People like us? People who are pretty sure we're just trash? We can upcycle ourselves into something useful and maybe even good, but we can't necessarily do a damned thing for ourselves. We punish ourselves with our right hands and give ourselves a pass with our left. It never fucking works."

What even about rehab is Owen fighting against here? It's a good question that Owen should probably stop to ask himself but doesn't. Instead he continues with a knee-jerk reaction that it's not for him.

"See? Why don't I just…" He stops ranting long enough to wince at her confession. He's an asshole sure, but he's not enough of one to mock Jess for that bit of truth. At least not at the moment.

"Hell I'd love a good new pill to try to sort my shit out."

It's a weak joke but he still tries to sell it with a wry smile. But then she's nailing him on something that he's surprised she can put her finger on. His face bunches up slightly as he listens.

"See? You hit rock bottom. This? I'm not hittin bottom, this is my best fuckin' life."

Jessica offers the most quiet, cynical laugh. It's little more than a series of really smoky breaths.

"Really? You haven't hit rock bottom? You don't think that was it? The Pinhead sitting there saying you need to hand two objectively good people over to him so that you can take his wonderdrug? If that isn't rock goddamn bottom I don't know what the Hell is. And if it isn't? You've got some real self-examination to do, Mercer. Because not only did you hit that…"

She narrows her eyes. "You hit that with people who are mostly willing to forgive you for it. To say yeah, okay, you fucked up, but you can move on from that."

She stabs at the air with her cigarette. "And you can. If you don't reward their faith in you by fucking doing the same shit that hasn't worked a thousand goddamn times before."

Owen looks at her and gives a half shrug of 'maybe'? It's hard for it to feel like bottom when he has a place to live, people who give a shit about him, access to Stark lab and the closest thing to an adult romantic relationship he's ever seen. There have been many lower points for Owen Mercer than this.

But.

As she so carefully points out, this did put all of that in jeopardy. And he does take a moment to consider that. What if Luke reacted like Danny did? What if Jess or Emery weren't as understanding of what it is to be an addict? What if Stark's lab just got shut off to him?

It his thing with Harley even real?

The questioning causes him to silently brood for a bit. He throws down the spent cigarette and grinds it out. And then keeps grinding it out.

"What … *sigh* how would it work?"

"There are about 10 outpatient rehab centers in the city," Jessica says quietly. "Choose one. Work the program. Do whatever they tell you to do. No matter how stupid or lame it seems. And you do that because if you knew how to quit, you'd have quit, so you're going to listen to the experts who can teach you how to quit."

She tosses down her own cigarette, for hers is mostly done, and does the same as him. "You'll need accountability. You should have someone take you to your sessions and to pick you up from them because otherwise it's too easy to blow off. It can be Luke or me or Emery, but it needs to be someone. Someone who you won't feel anything but sick looking in the face of and lying to if you decide to speed out the back for a few hours and then speed back through the lobby doors at pick-up time."

He glances over at her as she starts to explain, but mostly his eyes are down on the ground. He's considering it at least. He groans slightly at the 'do whatever they tell you'. He looks at her with the look of 'but come on' in his eyes.

"I have quit. Twice."

Owen tries to sound sincere but the irony of saying he's quit twice overwhelms him and he has to laugh a little at himself. He struggles to get back to a serious face but can't quite do it.

"I won't." Is the all too quick promise to not blow off the thing he was vehemently saying he wasn't going to do a few minutes ago.

"I don't know." His smile has faded and so has the anger and hurt. And now there is just a little tinge of worry. What if he does screw this up? When has he ever not screwed something up? Maybe he should just blow this all up and start over. He doesn't need rehab. He needs a clean slate. He can feel himself justifying it already. He knows where he's leading himself. The least he can do is give this life a fighting chance before he gives up on it.

"Okay."

Jessica watches him. She hears him, as he says things and then realizes what he's saying, hems and haws, plays tug of war with the enemy inside. She is quiet and steady and not betraying much more than getting it.

But when he says that final word, she pushes off the railing. "Okay. Let's go downstairs, look at your options, and pick one. And then we go. Right now. Today. You can pick a different person later, you can split it up between the three of us, I don't care. But today? It's me."

She arches an eyebrow as if to see whether he'll balk when she makes now, right now, the moment. But she's moving.

"Hmm?"

He looks surprised and raises both hands like 'wat?' at the sudden decision that they're going now. It's a good call of course on Jess's part for a thousand reasons but it's a shock. He makes an "Uhhh" sound like he's going to argue but can't literally think of a single viable reason why not.

"Shit."

He moves quietly for the door to the stairs. He mentally tries to figure out how he feels about this. It's a good thing. This is a good step. For a good life.

"I'm gonna fuck this up.."

Was that outloud? Oh well. It's true.

"Probably in some new and unexpected way though. I'm crafty like that."

The PI gives an amused half-smile, directed at the door back down into the building, as Owen says he's going to fuck this up. "Fall down seven, get up eight, Owen. We all fuck up. If you fuck it up, you'll have to make amends for that so you can get up again."

She opens the door for him, and adds, "But you don't know you will. Maybe you won't. Maybe you'll surprise yourself. It's in the realm of the possible. It's even in the realm of the probable. I think you'll surprise yourself, anyway."

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