I'm No Hero

October 16, 2018:

Backdated to early October after Fisk falls and before the demon invasion. Matt fills in Owen on the Defenders concept and makes him an offer.

Rooftop - Rand Residence

Beautiful Grammercy Park home.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: All the Defenders, Batgirl, Punisher

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Up on the roof of Danny Rand's opulent home in Grammarcy Park, Owen Mercer lights his tenth cigarette of the night. The butts are carefully stored in a bowl resting on the ledge next to him. The bowl is probably worth more than Owen makes in a week bar-tending but at least he's not just leaving them on the ground? The roughed up man has bandages ensconcing his right arm and is relegated to texting with one hand. He is either texting multiple people or another speedster by the rate at which his thumb moves. His voice growls audibly, swearing at either the responses or maybe his own typos? Who knows.

*

There are few things in life Matt hates more than cigarettes, but they're an inescapable fact of life in this city. Especially for Matt. Sure, you can ban smokers from bars and restaurants, kick them out onto the curb, but he can still pick up the stench as it wafts and clings to whatever it can find in the open air and on the crowded streets.

For Matt Murdock, ten cigarettes are a goddamn smoke signal, even through the solidly built walls of Danny Rand's apartment. It signals a pensive, agitated visitor, and process of elimination — plus all his other creepy hacks — narrow the universe of possibilities down pretty quickly.

He debates whether to go up. Not just because of the smoke, but also because chances are this won't be an easy conversation, for a lot of reasons. Still, he's never been one to shirk those. Fuck it, he decides.

There's no tap-tap-taping on the stairwell to announce his approach. Inside Rand's house he's abandoned most of the blind man kabuki. But when he opens the door to the rooftop it's clear he's still carrying the cane with him all the same. In this age of helicopters and drones and super high resolution cameras it's just better to be safe than sorry.

He's dressed in a light blue chambray shirt and dark jeans. His face and neck are still mottled with bruises, his bottom lip still shows signs of it's prior busting. When he walks, it's with enough guarding of his right rib that you'd think he'd use the cane inside too — blind or not — just to get along.

"Hey, Mercer," he says as the door swings shut behind him.

*

"Fuck you too."

Mercer swears, not at the incoming 'blind' lawyer, but at the phone in his hands. Yet another door being shut on him as he tries to do his best to track a certain someone down. The fact that he's being asked to use his less than above board connections to track down Blacksmith mere weeks or is days since he did the same for the Kingpin isn't lost on him. Did word get out? If capes know that he has ins, then hoods know the same … which means door slamming in his face. But the phone and it's frustrations are forgotten when Matt appears. He slips it into his pocket and switches his cigarette to the unhurt arm.

"Murdock. How you holdin' up?"

Owen is dressed in his usual array of grunge-y looking band tee-shirt, frayed jeans but in this case bare feet. The weather in New York has hit that perfect season where you want to bottle it up and remember it during the coming cold or even the prior heat.

A long exhale of smoke, at least marginally over his shoulder, precedes Owen actually taking a look at Matt. He lets out a soft laugh, "Shit. You look worse than I usually do." Owen is usually covered in an assortment of cuts and bruises, bandages and gauze, so much so that most people have stopped actually commenting on it. And while that may also be true for Matt, Owen doesn't know him well enough yet to know that.

*

"Yeah, it's been a long week," Matt says gamely when Owen rightly calls him out for looking like he's been through a car accident. Aside from the lack of out-and-out puncture wounds, it's probably the worst shape he's been in since fighting those fucking ridiculous laser panthers in the jungles of Wakanda.

Maybe that's what drives him towards one of the deck chairs, which he finds with only the most cursory tapping and fumbling — enough to throw off any drones or cameras that might for some reason be watching Danny Rand's rooftop. He couldn't have preserved his secrets this long without a healthy dose of paranoia.

He props the red walking stick against the arm of his chosen chair and settles into, turning his battered profile up into the breeze. New York only sees about six-odd weeks of truly good weather a year, and Matt can enjoy it even without the whiff of cigarette smoke. "But I'm — alright," he adds, finally getting around to replying to Owen's question with a answer so understated it can't be anything close to the whole truth. On the other hand, it may be the most honest answer he can give right now. The enormity of it all — a two year war apparently won and done — is going to take him some time to process.

"How about you?" he asks with a little lift of his chin in the direction of Owen's phone. God knows how he knows which hand it's in. "Sounded like a good talk."

*

Inadvertently cradling his hurt arm to himself, Owen fully faces Matt as he takes a seat. He leans back against the stone ledge of the roof and lets his head rollback in a stretch. Even if he weren't a smoker he would likely be out on the roof for much the same reason. There is nothing like fall in New York.

"Me? I'm good."

Owen's auto response fires with a well worn practice that his body may or may not betray as a lie. Does it count as a lie if you don't even think about it? It's a weird defense like mechanism left over from years past that Emery has had to call him out on more than once.

"/That/. Was another shitty call to some crap people. It was one thing to track down Fisk, it was almost a pleasure to help him get fucked." Ahh, the noble intentions of Owen Mercer. "But somehow Batgirl now has me running down drug dealers trying to find a would be replacement." Those are his words, not hers. But it does seem awfully coincidental that Blacksmith is moving in with a new designer drug just days after Fisk goes down.

"And like some chump, here I am. I swear this is some jacked up penance for using somehow. /Stupid karma./"

His grousing doesn't have any real bite behind it. Likely because he's not as annoyed by what he is doing as who roped him into it.

*

If Matt reads a lie into Owen's words about being 'good,' he doesn't seem to take much umbrage. The lawyer-cum-vigilante has told that same reflexive lie himself plenty of times. He relaxes back into his seat, cocking his head to one side like he's listening to some far-off sound.

"Couldn't have fucked him without you," Matt says dryly of Wilson Fisk, whose oversized frame is currently confined in an undersized cell on the Raft. "Or without phone calls like that one. That's gotta be some karma points right there." Whatever concerns he may have about a reformed criminal in their crew, he's pragmatic enough to see the use of someone who has underworld sources that don't require a regular beating to stay talkative.

But then Owen's talking about Batgirl, and Matt's bushy eyebrows shoot up. He looks in Owen's direction, as if he could actually see him there. "Batgirl has you chasing down New York drug dealers?" He sounds incredulous. Maybe a little offended. Stay in your lane, Batgirl.

And then, through the haze and rush of the final days of Wilson Fisk, memory strikes and connections click. "Is this about Frank Castle?"

*

"Best gang rape I've been apart of yet."

If anyone is going to take the joke too far, it's a good bed, it's going to be Owen.

Owen notices the reaction about Batgirl though and at the question he gives his best I know, right? look to Matt, unsure if facial expressions are lost on him or not. But his tone says it all when he answers, "I know. She grabbed me on the street in fuckin' midtown!" Not that Owen is a New Yorker by birth, and he still splits his time between Gotham and New York a bit more than he intended to, but still! She doesn't belong in Midtown! Or any part of Manhattan. Or any borough.

He stops his rant though at the question and quirks an eyebrow, curious that Matt gets it in one. "Yea. And believe me, I've been giving her shit ever since finding out bout this guy. I don't know why she's all 'yay, revenge killings!' .. I mean except for the gravelly voice and dead wife and kids sob story and chiseled abs.." Oh Mercer, you are no Emery, but apparently he does have some good guesses as to why Batgirl is involved.

"How did you know? … /Are you/ a mind reader?" Owen's eyes narrow in suspicion, since well no one has really cleared up the whole blind man flying around all ninja like yet.

*

Matt angles an incredulous look at Owen when he carries the joke past the line of good taste. It's a silent but eloquent: Dude, don't.

But then Owen is going into Batgirl and her interest in Frank Castle. Matt grimaces at Owen's theory for why Batgirl has taken such an interest in the so-called Punisher, not because he finds it distasteful, but because he thinks Owen is probably right on the money. There's some connection between them.

Of course, Matt isn't immune to falling for people on the wrong side of the law. Far fucking from it.

When Owen asks him point blank if he can actually read minds, he lets out a short, quiet chuckle. "Nah, I'm no mind reader, Mercer. I — "

It's always a delicate moment, when Matt Murdock chooses to reveal what he can do. His powers, which are less powers than compensations, can so easily be turned into liabilities. Revealing them — especially to someone who once flirted with turning him over to his enemies — is an act of trust. Of faith.

"When I was a kid, I got a barrell full of chemicals in my eyes," he explains in that quiet clip of his, chin dipped downward towards his chest. "The same stuff that made Jess and Luke what they are. The same stuff Fisk was trying to sell as a street drug last year. It took my sight, but amplified my other senses. Hearing, smell, touch, aspects of balance and body-control. It took a lot of time and training, but now I can pick up more than most people."

Then he cracks a smile. "And I didn't know about Castle — I guessed. Because she gave me a whole file on the guy a few months back. I was going to follow up on it, but… Fisk, and Hell's Kitchen. All that distracted me."

*

Owen gives his best 'charming' smile at the look from Matt. Rather proud of his ability to see the line and happily skip over it.

And surely Owen would be the last to judge anyone for their romantic interests. On a superficial level Owen of course would give anyone grief for any romantic attachment real or imagined, but just under the surface Owen realizes he has zero legs to stand on in that regard. He's very recently learned that he would make even worse decisions than usual when it comes to matters of the heart.

When Matt starts to clarify that he can't read minds, Owen almost protests that he doesn't need to know. But he is curious. Especially after seeing Daredevil in action and connecting it to the friendly blind lawyer that used to visit Luke's. He finds himself listening intently to the origins of Matt's more active crime fighting life. He smiles a bit as Matt finally explains.

"Damn. My money was totally on balls the size of Texas. But either way, that was some damn fine fighting down in that hole."

But then Matt confesses to the perfectly reasonable explanation as to why he knew it was about Castle and Owen hehs. Oh, right, normal reasons, sometimes he forgets about those things. He smirks, "Yea, go figure. Well, whatever her reasons, suddenly she's all in on this crusade and I'm.." He catches himself. Annoyed that the next word out of his mouth was almost 'worried'. Gross. He tries again.

"Pissed that she's roping me and others into this shitty Rambo sequel."

*

"Yeah, well, maybe those too," Matt says dryly of 'balls the size of Texas,' offering them up as an alternative or supplemental explanation for how he does the things he does. "Or just a general lack of common sense. But thanks. You weren't too bad yourself, 'Boomerang.'" Owen might be the first person Matt 'Daredevil' Murdock has met that he can fairly give shit to over a code name.

A beat passes. Matt's jaw works as he mulls something. "They're calling us a team now, you know," he says, lips twisted wry. "It's all over the Bugle, out there on the streets." The 'Defenders.' The ones who took down the Hell's Kitchen bomber. It seems ridiculous, both to give them credit for failing to stop Fisk too late, and because they so little resemble the star-spangled superhero teams that regularly make headlines. "A few of us are thinking it may be time to start acting like one. Putting our heads together to tackle problems. Maybe even this Blacksmith stuff that Batgirl flagged, if he's really making a run at Fisk's throne."

Matt's lips bend downward as he adds: "Down for it?"

*

"Uhh first of all. It's Captain Boomerang."

Wait is that better? Well, either way, Owen is quick to correct Matt. He pulls out another cigarette, and lights up again before probably over explaining why.

"I thought I had to ditch it.. to get away from the Rogues and all that shit." It's pretty likely Matt might know the Rogues as a group of villains that the first Captain Boomerang belonged to. But it's also way more of a Gotham thing. "But it turns out, I'm kind of forever linked to that. So what the hell. Plus it's always kind of fun to see people's what the fuck faces when I tell them I'm Captain Boomerang."

At the talk of a team, Owen's makes a nodding gesture. He's been following the articles, seeing what they have to say about him, if anything. "Defenders ain't bad, far as names go." It could be a lot worse. At the talk of acting more like a team, Owen's eyes narrow and then at the question he outright scoffs.

"I don't know about that. You sure that's a good idea?"

Owen certainly isn't.

*

"Oh, sorry, Captain Boomerang," Matt allows. If there's any mockery in his tone, it's of the good-natured and joshing kind.

It's safe to say Matt knows at least a little about the Rogues. He was an avid Batman-follower in his high-school and college years. Despite that, his face registers neither surprise nor concern when Owen talks about the association. Owen Mercer has an unsavory past? Shocker.

Or maybe his lack of concern about Owen's background is that he's more focused on Owen's skepticism. "The Kingpin did a lot of damage to people and places we care about when we were running around on our own," Matt offers with a shrug of his shoulders, and it's a testament to his recovery from a very dark few months that he can make that admission so equably. The sting of failure, and the cost of all that failure, is finally starting to fade. "And we were only able to finally take care of him when we started working together."

That's an uncomfortable conclusion for Matt, who spent most of his first two years as a vigilante swinging solo on the rooftops of Hell's Kitchen. Teamwork is well outside of his comfort zone — this wasn't a kid who played sports in high school, for obvious reasons. But still, he finds the logic compelling for several reasons, including:

"And maybe using the rep we've built and playing it up could make assholes like this Blacksmith think twice about trying to rebuild Fisk's empire," Matt adds.

*

"Thank you." Owen graciously accepts the correction, mocking sarcasm and all.

Owen starts laughing as Matt gives him the hard sell on the team concept.

"Yea no. Not what I meant Murdock. I think the Defenders is a great idea. If we had that, maybe Fisk wouldn't have been able to pull that off. I was asking if yer sure about me being a part of it. I'm not exactly squeaky clean and .. well, I'm not sure what kind of code of conduct yer lookin' for here?"

Owen isn't looking for someone to beg him. He's just maybe a little less sure about this -I'm gonna be a hero- plan than he was just a year ago. Has it only been a year? Owen tries not to boggle at the thought that he's only been in New York for little over a year.

"I mean, you need a hand. I'm there. I ain't sayin' no…"

*

"Then what are you saying, Mercer?" Matt throws back. It's both a riposte and genuinely searching. "None of us are 'squeaky clean.' I could be disbarred tomorrow for the shit I do every night. Luke's got a past. So does Jess. I don't have a clue what Emery can do, or why he's some kind of weapons expert and kissy-kissy with angel-demons. And Six — "

Not Kinsey, Six. He's careful with her identity, even among people in the know. Matt knows better than most that someone could be listening to what you say at any time. And that expression? Subtle, but complex: wry, affectionate, longsuffering. Complicated.

"— Six has her own issues with the law. We all do. None of us are Captain-Fucking-America." A beat. "Except for maybe Danny."

Another beat, a tilt of his head to one side, as if he were getting a better vantage of the man — though that's obviously not the case.

"So what's your deal?"

*

Owen rubs his head uncomfortably when Matt asks him directly what he means. Well, yes that would be helpful if he could clearly lay that out. But expressing his doubts or speaking earnestly about things are not exactly easy for him. Cracking jokes and cursing like an injured sailor are really more his forte.

Thankfully Matt gives him a brief reprieve from the point blank question to innumerate the issues the other Defenders face, and rightfully so. They are no boy scouts. Owen's face creases only slightly into a smile as Matt refers to her as Six, but breaks into a chuckle at both Cap-Fuck-America and Danny.

The smile fades though as Matt brings it back home. Owen hemms and haws, taking a long drawn out drag on his cigarette.

"Fuck. I don't know" is exhaled with the smoke.

"I guess I'm in the hero business now."

He doesn't sound terribly sure of himself but he has been steadily working towards that goal on his own for the last year. But somehow anyone recognizing that or making it even in some small way official gives him pause, like now it's a reality versus just him bullshitting about going straight.

*

Matt listens to Owen deliberate, attentive and attuned to the silence. Maybe, somehow, he even hears the man's grudging decision before he gives it voice. "I mean, you can call it the vigilante business if it makes you feel any better," Matt offers of heroism and heroics with a slight, tired smile.

"It's sure as hell beats, 'fuckin' cape,'" he adds, a rueful call-back to the words Owen threw at him (along with a beer can and a boomerang) during their earlier confrontation on the rooftop of a newly-bombed-out Hell's Kitchen.

He ribs, but there's no question he finds some quiet satisfaction in Owen's answer. That's in part because he was sure Owen was always going to be the hardest sell of this nascent crew. "But okay, then, Captain Boomerang. Let's do this."

*

Managing to keep his cigarette in his mouth as he laughs at both the slight change of verbiage and the call back to his earlier taunt, Owen lets his head fall back in genuine mirth. Some people would be embarrassed or at least a little chagrined to have one of their worst failures in judgement brought up, not Owen.

"There ya go. Vigilante. That's a much better term for me. Cause I don't think anyone's going to be mistakin' me for a hero anytime soon. And I guess I'll just have to deal with bein' a cape." It's like getting traded from the Yankees to the Red Sox, with a slightly larger moral shift. But the idea of changing his team colors is one of the easier things Owen has to wrestle with. He knows he wants to do this, he made that decision a long time ago. But as always making the decision internally is one thing, walking that out is a whole other thing. And he knows exactly what some of those challenges look like and what shape they'll take and what short-shorts she wears.

"It's on DD."

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