You're Not All Bad, Owen Mercer

September 28, 2018:

Owen gets back in touch with Barbara after the docks. They actually have a civil conversation. What is the world coming to?

"Downstairs", Chinatown, Gotham

In RP.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Luke Cage, Frank Castle

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

There's this bar in Chinatown. It sits on this strange little block that is shaped like an acute triangle — three tight corners that house a single building with apartments in the upper levels and your usual city staples on the lower level. The sunken basement of the building is accessed by a stairwell that hugs up against the corner store, and the dark glass door opens into the tight, almost claustrophobic interior of a family owned bar that has had so many names that it's just called Downstairs.

When Barbara got the call from Owen, that's where she told him to meet her. Back in the early days of VigiWatch, the high schoolers at Cherry Hill High School would clamber down into its crowded room and get cheap, disgusting bottled beer for a buck each, and the bartender never asked for ID. Not that Barbara Gordon was much of a drinker to begin with, and only had to worry about being caught in a bar rather than actually drinking.

Tonight, though, she's gotten herself a brown bottle and is seated in a booth, waiting for Owen to show-up. She's nursing on the sour brew, and picking through a bowl of peanuts. She looks tired, and definitely worse for wear: bruise on her cheek and neck, scrapes and cuts all across her skin. Her clothes hide the worse of the wounds from the explosion, but she still moves very gingerly as she turns toward the door impatiently.

Owen's late. It's easy to assume that is by choice.

When he does show up, he looks rugged, like he maybe hasn't slept since the other night. He's dressed in more casual clothes now though, a long sleeve waffle shirt covers the bandages on his arms. He slips down into the bar looking very much like he belongs in this or any dive bar. He makes his way to the bar without seeming to look around at all, as if he doesn't care that he's meeting someone. And only once he has a cheap bottle of beer in hand does he casually make his way over and stand at the edge of the booth.

"Can I sit?"

Blue eyes follow Owen's path to the bar, and then toward her table. She looks away just as he gets near, only to look up again at his almost innocent question. It sends her brows up slightly before she nods, almost confused by the casual question. "Yeah, sure." She gestures him to join her, and then both hands curl around the glass bottle. She looks thoughtful at the man for a long moment, and then she frowns a bit. "You disappeared the other night," she says, tone a bit cautious. "Was it the objective, or something else entirely?"

By her tone, she's giving him the benefit of the doubt here… that something legit may be why he left. Maybe the drugs, maybe it was working with a Bat.

Owen slides into the booth, with a less than casual look out at the rest of the bar. He looks distracted as she states the obvious and follows up with a question which causes him to grimace a bit. He hems and haws for a bit, his head wavering as he tries to figure out how much to say. "It was important." He would like to leave it there and so he moves the conversation along.

"You okay? Have you heard from Shooty-shooty bang-bang?"

It's worth noting that almost entirely gone is the jocular tone and taunting. In it's place is a much more reserved and toned down Owen. It might be almost unsettling in the direct contrast.

It is unsettling, and Barbara arches a brow slightly at him. "No…" she says slowly, expression teetering on curious and suspicious. "I haven't heard from him." There's a long silence between them before she circles back to his first question. "Boat went up. It wasn't us, either. Rocket launcher, fired right at the cargo. I didn't know heroin was explosive, but something was… there was some pressurized containers onboard, hidden amongst the drugs." Her mouth tightens slightly as she looks down at her bottle. "Frank went overboard, but we haven't heard from him…" Unspoken is that she doesn't know if he's alive or dead. "I'm okay… just moving a bit… slower right now."

She reaches up, rubbing behind her neck beneath the fall of red hair. She glances out around the bar, and then back to Mercer. Her eyes search his for a long moment, then she breathes out a slow exhale. "Mercer… you didn't have to help me… you really could have blown me off entirely… but you didn't… so…" The rest goes unsaid, an awkward and very silent thank-you projected between them.

Owen takes a small sip of his beer as she fills him in. He nods and then shakes his head, "*Shit*" he swears to himself, chastising himself for leaving Luke there. I mean yes, the other two as well, but mostly Luke. He nods and gives her a glance over as if he's going to see anything at this point in terms of how hurt she actually is. He finds himself wishing desperately for a cigarette right now.

When she starts to get all genuine on him, his lips tighten and actually curl just slightly. "Yea. Well, I have tried to stay the fuck away from all you." At first he doesn't clarify but then realizes his vagueness.

"The bats. I get it. Even when I was pullin' jobs I did it far away from here. And then you want to rope me into shit? Because let me tell you, if it was anyone else I would have just laughed you off with that alley stunt. But no. I felt like I owed you something.." The why goes unsaid. "But I'm still not sure how I ended up on that boat. Frank I get. You…?" He looks down at his beer, obviously uncomfortable without his usual routine of jibes and insulting monikers.

"And I just wanted to stop you from crossing a line." It seems like Owen might be in a confessional mood tonight. Maybe it's because he almost got Bart killed the other night. Maybe it's because he couldn't get Tim to stop Barbara and he somehow feels responsible for that.

"Because not to be all dramatic guy about it, but you don't belong on that side of the line."

I have tried to stay the fuck away from you all.

"I know you have," Barbara murmurs softly. "You know, I get why… almost. But… Owen, when I sought you out, it was because I needed someone who could track a drug dealer without being suspicious. I picked you because… well… I figured you were the same Owen Mercer." She takes a sip from her beer before she continues, voice a bit softer. "I tried to rope you in because I thought you were still a drugged-up piece of crap."

When she looks up at him now, her blue eyes are deeply apologetic and her own brand of uncomfortable. Trusting, dutiful Barbara really has stepped well outside her norm with this whole Frank Castle… thing. She can't even really call it anything beyond that. It's a thing, and she got herself roped into it and then roped as many others as she could, like recruiting for a crusade.

She breathes out a slow exhale again, sinking into the bench of the booth. "Frank's a good man. He… he does what he does because that's what soldiers do. Add a thick dose of grief, and you have a man who is willing to do anything to find an end to that grief. I saw it for what it was, and…" She shakes her head slightly. "That's a darkness that not everyone can come back from… and it's a darkness that can turn a soul into something empty, and then it becomes easy to kill for killing sake, cause or no cause."

She licks her lips. "You ever think that perhaps we make our own villains sometimes? How many crazies running around Gotham were made because they got all caught-up in their own darkness, and no one was willing to…" Then she stops herself, shaking her head again with a low, hollow laugh. "I'm sounding righteous." She leans back into the booth, pressing her head into the high-back. "I didn't want Frank to do this alone, and he needs people to give him direction. I'm probably not the right person… but maybe you are? Maybe Luke?"

Owen's anger at being roped into this is quickly expended. It's not like he had to be a part of it. He quirks an eyebrow as she uses the past tense, "Yea well, I guess I'll be thankful you're not keeping closer tabs on me then."

"Frank Castle is a soldier, fighting a war. He's going to kill the enemy or die trying. That's it." Owen doesn't pass any judgement on Frank being either good or bad, or whether what he's doing falls into either of those buckets. He does agree with one point, "Yea well that's the question isn't it? What happens to this guy if he wins? Does the body count stop? Or is he just gonna find a new reason to keep racking it up? Because it's awfully tempting to justify killing people for doing bad things."

When Barbara starts in about the Gotham crazies, Owen takes a longer sip of beer and seems to almost relax. He gives a short laugh. Does she know? She probably realizes Owen was up to recently with Harley Quinn. But regardless he knows a thing or two about trying to help people who got caught up in darkness get out of the crazy. He gives a sigh before saying, "Yea well sometimes you gotta worry more about getting dragged down into that darkness. Because it ain't gonna help anybody if you go down too." He tries his best to stay on topic with Barbara and Frank, but it would be clear to a few who know the details that he's speaking from a very specific, very recent, personal experience.

"That's why he needs people who get him, and can help him… and not just shut him down because he's killed people… people that," and she cradles her beer closer to her chest, "that really deserved it." She takes a sip from the bottle before she sets it down again. "I checked out the people Frank put down. Child traffickers, violent loan sharks… I don't think I'm violating any code by agreeing that this world might be better off without those kinds of people in your neighborhoods." Then she shrugs her shoulders slightly. "So, yeah… when he's done, I don't even know what life he could go back into… a half-life, something like a zombie… but he's seen something, too. Luke… he didn't even question it. He was there to help Frank… and you… despite being a total asshole, you were there to help me."

There's something to that — and Barbara frowns slightly at Owen as she leans a bit forward again. "So, I need to know… Why?" The question is curious, if not a bit confused. "Why do you care if a Bat falls down the dark, dark well, Owen? You loathe us… why does what happens to me in all this actually matter to you?" By her dogged words, he's probably not going to get out of giving her some kind of answer. Not unless he does his disappearing trick, which might say more than any words could.

"Yea well it turns out, you can build a life after doing bad shit." Maybe. Owen seems pretty confident in his initial declaration. After all, that's what he's been trying to do for the last year. "And Luke Cage is just the guy you want in your corner when you try and do that." Luke and Jessica have given him more than his fare share of help and chances when it comes to trying to build a life for himself, and maybe dabble in the do-gooding from time to time.

The distinction drawn between helping Frank and helping her causes Owen to wince a little bit. It's true though. He might have helped Frank, but it's not like he feels any particular deep seated need to. But then Barbara puts a pin on it. Why? He's had to ask himself that a lot over the last week or so. Why does it bother him so much? Why can't he stop needling her about it? Who is he to have any say in what anyone does?

He shrugs. There are a lot of things that he's tried on for the answer to that. Lots of things he has trouble admitting to himself.

"Because Gotham is fucked up enough without it's heroes dropping bodies. Someone has to do it right, and it sure as hell ain't gonna be the hoods. So yea, I'm not Batsies biggest fan, but it still /means/ something."

Owen's review of Luke relaxes Barbara. When she sees Frank again — because she's still 100% believing in the idea that she will, indeed, see Frank again — she's sending him to Luke. That's that. Barbara casually misses the opportunity to reflect on Owen's words, though — a deeper meaning. You can build a life after doing bad shit. Maybe some of those people that Frank put down — the goons, the henchmen, the nameless thugs — they could have had a chance to build a life after Central Park. Her brain will get to that connection at some point, and then she'll be back to worrying about the what-ifs. For now, she stays in the here and the now.

She blinks slightly at his reasoning, only surprised by it for a heartbeat. Because then she's nodding, agreeing with his words. "If it helps, we're not your #1 Fan either… but… are you going to get uncomfortable when I thank you? We could just casually sidestep that part of this conversation, if you prefer."

Owen probably has more sympathy for people on all sides of this equation than most. He has had the chance to see a lot of different walks of life thus far and is continually surprised by how much things change when you get just a little below the surface. Not that he often thinks about this type of thing, it just means he's less likely to commit to a hard and fast stance on things. He adds to the earlier conversation, "Daredevil just put the Kingpin, the man who blew up Hell's Kitchen behind bars." Yes, it was more of a team effort than that, but in Owen's mind this was always somehow DD's fight. But he gets to his point, "And I admit, I was all for killing the guy but… " He trails off, not sure how to say this without sounding like a complete tool. He just rolls his eyes a little at himself as he says it.

"It felt right."

He smiles wryly when she admits they're not his number one fan. He narrows his eyes at the question, "Yes, we can just skip that shit. Hundred percent."

"Let's hope he can stay behind bars," Barbara says, tone a bit jaded. After all, how many times have they put Joker in Arkham? She takes another drink from the bottle, finally getting down to the sourest part of the brew. Her nose wrinkles slightly, setting the bottle down at her elbow. She leans forward, resting her arms on the scarred, scratched tabletop. She keeps her eyes focused on Owen across from her.

The answer to her question draws a small smile to her lips — a bit lopsided, and almost playful. "Just pretend I've already said it, and we can move on."

"I'm actually hoping he gets shower raped and murdered with a toothbrush shiv but yea, I guess I'll take staying there as a distant second."

Stay classy Owen.

He takes a deep drink of his beer, which is only about halfway gone. He nods at the sentiment about moving on past any awkward pleasantries. But really there isn't a whole lot more for him to say. He waits about one or two awkward beats before saying, "Alright. This is weird. I came, yer alive, yay. Let me know if you hear from Frank. I'll help him.. with all of it." Owen has no qualms about offering to help with the murder of people in need of murdering, and maybe thanks to Barbara he's also willing to offer Frank and hand up in general. Whether Frank is willing to take that hand once he finds out a little more about Owen, who knows?

He stands up and leaves his beer on the table and gives Barbara only a small nod.

"Barbie."

And then he's turning to head for the door.

Barbara's brows arch high above her eyes at that, and she's stalled with a response — mouth moving and twisting with words — and then she settles into just shaking her head.

"Hey, I'm not making this weird," she objects without much conviction behind it. Sitting in a bar with Owen Mercer is always going to be weird for Babs, but she gets a weird premonition that this isn't the last time she'll be sitting in a bar with Owen Mercer. Accepting her inevitable fate, she just salutes with a bottle. "I'll let him know," she says quietly. Her eyes cut to the bag tucked against her thigh on the booth bench, and in it, the burner phone sits silent.

When Owen makes his farewells, Barbara narrows her eyes after him. "It's Barbara… or Babs… Barbie is blond." But, at least, there's something companionable in shouting after Owen Mercer. It keeps the world spinning.

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