Shaken, Not Stirred
Roleplaying Log: Shaken, Not Stirred
IC Details

With the Registration deadline looming, Luke Cage is far from in the clear. Matt Murdock floats a solution.

Other Characters Referenced: Peggy Carter, Foggy Nelson, Michael Carter, Carol Danvers, Tony Stark, Willis Stryker (NPC)
IC Date: February 11, 2019
IC Location: Luke and Jessica's Cozy Harlem Apartment
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 12 Feb 2019 05:08
Rating & Warnings: PG-13 (cussing)
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

Lawyers rarely make housecalls. Especially not lawyers as busy as Matt Murdock has quickly become over the course of the last few months. But Luke Cage and Jessica Jones have never been just clients. They are as friends, and at this point as close a thing to family as he's got. Having this conversation within the walls of Nelson & Murdock seems a little too neat, tidy, and professional. Besides, it's very possible that one or more of the parties will need a drink, including Matt.

Which is all to say that when Matt Murdock calls to say that he has some thoughts on next steps for Luke's case, he offers to come to them.

It's Monday night, after dinner time. The city is starting to thaw a bit from its weird frost-spike of last week, though the lawyer who opens the doors with walking stick in hand still has a heavy topcoat and a burgundy wool scarf wrapped around his neck.

* * *

Jessica has been quietly staring down the barrel of the deadline with her grim, 'there ain't no fuckin' way' face on. She has come to a full dead-end on even finding Willis Stryker. As Matt told her before, what she's got is a bunch of maybe and an SI who may tell enough to clear him. It's a real bitch to know exactly what happened but to have very little evidence of it, not nearly enough, she already knows, for Matt to present to a prosecutor or anyone else.

So when he says he's got thoughts, all she feels is relief. And while she may want a drink, she won't get one.

Full of nervous energy clear up until Matt arrives, she came home from working surveillance on some other case she cares a whole lot less about, only to write up reports and invoices at her Brooding Desk, because the alcoholic has become a workaholic.

Did she eat?

Only if Luke made her.

It's a good thing he already knows she can be a real pain in the ass to live with. She definitely didn't get any dinner on. Betty Crocker, she ain't, and never will be.

But puts an end to all that as Matt comes in, the printer coughing up a few more pages and whirring to a stop as she hits the button to close down all her work. "Hey," she says, coming out of her little nook into the main living area to greet the slightly chilled lawyer.

"Oh, shit, hang on."

She darts back over to close the Brooding Window, which is of course wide open to the freezing cold Jess barely notices. Made all the more ridiculous by the fact that she's in a tank top and jeans and bare feet. The faint hint of cigarette smoke says she was smoking Marlboros out that window while she worked, indulging her other addiction hard and fast.

* * *

Luke is in the kitchen rinsing up the last of the supper dishes and loading them in the dishwasher. Of course he made Jessica eat, even if it was take out Italian that he put on regular dishware so they felt normal. It's entirely domestic, but this is the tableau that Matt walks into in the Harlem apartment: Luke keeping house and Jess fast at work. "Hey man." He calls over his shoulder when he hears the door open, either having been alerted by the doorman that the lawyer is on the way up, or that's really the only person they're expecting tonight. Flipping his kitchen towel over his shoulder, he too heads into the living area to greet their guest.

* * *

"Hey you two," Matt says with a half-smile, close-lipped but fond. He sets his cane against the side of the wall and begins unbuttoning his coat. "Thanks for being flexible on timing. It's been a little crazy at the office these days."

He hangs up the coat and scarf and then turns to them both, taking a quick, assessing view of them in the way only he can. He can pick up on the stress radiating from Jessica Jones, and even if he couldn't, the wreath of cigarette smoke gives away much the same. Luke smells of dish-soap and red sauce, and the swirl of sensations around them both — the picture it paints of a private life — both quirk at his lips again and set an ache in his chest.

I've gotta do right by them.

"So, uh, I've got some news I wanted to share with you," he says, there in their front entrance. "Both of you. We're up against the clock, so I made a hail mary pass to see if I could unstick some of this." Another smile: slight, and slightly wry. "Mixed results, but it presents an option we have to consider."

* * *

"You're helping us," Jess points out, with a hint of fond humor as he thanks them for…what? Letting him work for them in his off time?

She settles into one of their living room chairs. Maybe she should take notes. Should she take notes? She should take notes. She's leaping up three seconds later to get a legal pad. Then she gets it all the way to the coffee table and realizes that it's loony, Matt's talking about a Hail Mary pass with SHIELD. Does she need to take notes for that? Furthermore she forgot her pen. She stands in the middle of the living room for a second, stepping towards her desk and away before she finally plops back into the chair with all the ladylike grace of a linebacker.

"What was the pass? What were the results?"

She's never in doubt about asking questions, at least.

* * *

Luke pops open the fridge and pulls out a trio of bottled waters before he heads into the living room. When Jess is in pure work overload, even the beer miraculously disappears from the apartment. Image that. One gets underhandedly lobbed into Jess' lap when she finally settles and the other is set on the coffee table in front of Matt with a muttered, "Water at your twelve." Before he too settles in the living room on the loveseat portion of the sectional that he takes up most of.

"We'll make time for you, Matt. Especially when you're doing us a solid. We're not grasping at straws yet, but it feels like we're getting close."

* * *

"Thanks, man," Matt says as he makes his way to the coffee table, snatches that water at his twelve, and plops down on one of the chairs. "So," he says, unscrewing the cap, "I went to see Peggy Carter at SHIELD — in uniform. I didn't reveal your identity, but I painted the problem for her in broad strokes."

He takes a swig of water and then lets the bottle balance on one knee. "My first thought in all this was to try and use any of the goodwill we scored with SHIELD to help you out," he says. "Call in a favor, and get them to weigh in with the powers that be and see if we could get 'Carl Lucas' clemency, or a pardon. Maybe even use the threat of airing their dirty laundry at Seagate."

Matt's jaw sets, resets. "Bottom line," he continues, "is that SHIELD can have your sentence commuted, but not for nothing. You'd need to sign on with them as a consultant for some fixed period of time — three years, maybe. It wouldn't be full time, or even close. You'd still have the bar, and everything you do in and for Harlem. It'd be more like James Barnes' situation."

His hands spread, the free one and the one with the bottle. "But we'd be fools to think that they wouldn't put you to work, once they learn about what you can do."

* * *

"Thanks, babe," Jess tells Luke, with a quick smile. She twists open the water. It's a good thing the beer isn't in the house. When she gets like this water, Coke, kombucha, Red Bull…she tends to down it all as if it were all a shot of something harder. As if she's pretending, real real hard, that this is what this is.

Matt leads in with the fact that Peggy is the one who he approached to work out this deal.

Jessica winces and rubs the back of her neck. "Probably want to get that in writing before she figures out who you are," she says to Luke.

Then, to Matt: "I mean she's not vindictive. We're still friends. I'm just. Not really sure if she's aware if I'm ah. Engaged. We've never talked about it. Last time she saw me I wasn't wearing the ring."

And given Jessica barely can figure out how to tell most friends about it…this apparently is as much announcement as Matt, say, is going to get from her (fortunately Luke took care of that right? Right)…It's little wonder that with the awkwardness she spews next that she has hardly jumped on the phone to have girl talk with the spy.

"I just um. Dated her brother for awhile. And then I kind of dumped him. Via text. While offering this speech that I was pretty sure I was too fucked up to have a relationship with anyone ever. It was while I was on that bender you talked me down from, Matt. So that could um. Be a thing. I mean I don't think she'd revoke it…it's been over a year…but um. It's…probably…worth…keeping in mind."

Poor Michael. She really was a shit to him. She exhales all the guilt she's radiating and looks at Luke, adding, "That's even if you want to do this. And I think maybe…"

She swings her gaze back over to Matt, frowning thoughtfully. "There might be more questions to ask either way."

* * *

Luke spreads his knees wide, resting his elbows on top of his thighs with his own water bottle dangling between them while Matt speaks, "Wait. So what. Like vigilante community service?" He's about to just jump in with both feet and sign on the line right then and there, but Jess is interjecting that bit about the Carters. "Wait, Michael's sister is Peggy?" He's torn between horribly amused at poor Jess' benefit and uneasy about where this puts the deal. "Man." That single word has so many definitions in his book. Here it means: well shit.

* * *

Matt was sure there would be reservations. After all, SHIELD has a reputation and the contours of this proffer are blurry to say the least. But what he didn't anticipate was the source of those reservations.

Jessica references that epic bender of hers, when she'd reeked of seven different brands of brown liquor, comingled with the umistakable whiff of utter despair. After years of digging and digging, Jessica Jones had hit bottom. And, along the way, broke the heart of a spy.

It sounds bad, but Matt's brow knits as he thinks through the problem the same way he would any other. "Peggy's always struck me as a pragmatist and a professional," he says. "I don't think you need to rub your engagement in her face — but it's also been more than a year now. I don't think we should let that bar us from considering the offer on the merits."

And then he turns his attention to Luke as the bartender asks exactly what those merits are. "A little like community service, yeah," Matt says. "Although I think potentially with more punching. SHIELD does work domestic and overseas. They jump-started the Avengers, and still work closely with them. But at the end of the day, they're spies."

* * *

"Yeah uh, I was just going to sort of…Well. I guess 'surprise, I'm married' is probably just as bad…"

She has no idea how to handle Peggy. At all. But Matt says something very true. And Jess seizes on it. "She is the definition. Of professional."

But a far more salient point comes to mind, the one she referred to when she said there might be more questions.

"Do you think they'll force Luke to go after people who don't register? Cause that seems like some sucktastic community service. Work with the Avengers wouldn't be so bad, if you could swing it, though, on some…something something Avengers are as good as SHIELD grounds. Tony sure isn't going to make anyone hunt people who don't register. He's so pissed off about it he's acting even more erratic than usual. But SHIELD? Carol might even try to fling you on TV to talk about it or some shit."

She adopts a 'newscaster' voice. "Prominent Harlem business owner Luke Cage speaks out in favor of registration tonight…"

She scowls a little, chews her nails. There were indeed other reservations.

And she asks: "Does the agreement as written limit what they can make him do at all?"

Which was the question she was thinking her way to with that meandering burst of anxious thinking out loud.

* * *

As far as Luke is concerned, the issue with his childhood friend aside, this is the easiest way to get the closure he needs on Carl so he can begin his life with Jess as honest to goodness Luke Cage on their legal marriage license. It's a good thing Jess has the wherewithal to ask the needed questions, because he looks ready to jump in with both feet. And clearly he's focusing on the most important aspect: "Luke Cage, double oh seven. I like my coffee shaken, not stirred."

* * *

Matt cracks a grin at Luke's James Bond impersonation. "Shaking makes for a weak martini, and a weaker iced coffee," he says. "Ice chips, you know? James Bond was such a lightweight."

But then he quickly sets the humor aside, and hones in on Jessica. "Registration is my big concern too," Matt says with a grim little nod towards Jessica. "Not just being a mouthpiece, but being an enforcer. NY DPS is tasked with bringing in unregistered mutants, but it's not hard too hard to imagine scenarios where they call for backup where they run into real trouble and need to fight metas with metas. And I don't think any of us want to buy Luke's freedom by trading in the freedom of others."

Which goes directly to Jessica's second point. "If we went this route, Foggy and I could try to limit the scope of his employment contract," Matt offers. "But to be clear: we don't have too much leverage here. And I wanted to consult with you before we dug in too deeply on the details with SHIELD."

* * *

Luke's eagerness to make like a Nike commercial and just do it draws a pure Jess look of loving exasperation from her. Matt can probably hear the sort of 'tchah' sound she makes at the back of her throat, the slight click of her tongue, that somehow also manages to convey both sentiments at once. He really doesn't do details.

Good thing he's got her.

"That's probably why he did it," she points out, absently. She's thinking furiously. "Being drunk off your ass isn't conducive to pretending to be someone you're not. Most of the time."

Jess herself somehow managed to be the ultimate Noir Heroine and do PI work just fine while drunk, but just fine might be the operative word. Her career didn't start really taking off till she got off the sauce.

"I think you've gotta try," she says slowly. "Christ, Matt, if that fatass that's being held right under their nose finally decides it's Tell-All time and there's no employment limitations? They could say, well, you're close to Matt Murdock, Cage. An unregistered meta. Go get him. And then of course he's not going to do that, and at that point we'd just all better have one Hell of an escape plan or something, because we're going to be double-o-fucked."

She downs the rest of the water bottle, looking at this problem from all angles.

And asks Matt: "Is there some way you could frame it to make it look like it's not a stab at negotiation? Something that doesn't require leverage so much as…I don't know. Can you make a case that making him do that violates his Constitutional rights or something?"

* * *

There are many reasons that the two of them are compatible in contradictory ways. Like Luke makes sure Jessica eats and Jessica makes sure Luke doesn't bulldoze into situations on gut instinct. That and things like 'double oh fucked' make the big man chuckle, "Whatever happens, I'm assuming before they're willing to put any clauses in the contract they're going to want it disclosed to them just WHO they're making the deal with. We can't expect to get something for nothing, here, but I'm going to have a real problem doing anything besides what I know is right. Law or no, enforcing Registration doesn't fall into that category."

* * *

"If they're smart, they won't do that," Matt says to Jessica's scenario of What if Fisk Talks. "Luke would be a valuable asset to SHIELD, and asking him to bring me in would run the risk that he'd balk. Then they'd have to send him to jail, and waste an asset."

His lips press together as he clasps the water bottle in both hands, between is knees. "I realize that means putting a lot of faith in the intelligence of government bureaucracies, though." A beat. "Look, it doesn't hurt to ask about keeping him out of registration business. And I will. If they say no deal, we'll think of something else."

* * *

"Sorry, Matt," Jess says, and she means it. The apology rings out in her voice.

"I know I'm being a pain in the ass here. The truth is you've worked out a damn good Hail Mary, especially considering my own fell real short of the End Zone. I just…I don't know. I know you've thought of things I haven't even begun to think of. And honestly, SHIELD for the most part strikes me as good people. They've never been anything but helpful to me. I hope it doesn't sound like I don't trust you and Foggy. I definitely do. 100. And Luke, if you're good to go with this, I mean…I don't see any other options. We're at T-minus 3 weeks at this point. I don't think any other 11th hour saves are coming."

She exhales, and admits, "I think maybe I'm spiralling, and I'm sorry to put you both on the receiving end of it."

* * *

"Babe, if like four sports metaphors in one breath is you spiraling, then I know I'm engaged to the right girl." Luke says honestly, reaching over to cap her knee briefly with his large paw and give a light, reassuring squeeze. "On top of everything else, you're trying to clean up my mess, and a cold case to boot. We've got a solid lead, and if we resolve it even after SHIELD expunges my record, then that gives us a fall back if they try to pull the rug out from underneath me." His attention goes back to Matt, if only known by benefit of hearing which way his voice is directed. "Let's go forward. See what they have to say. We still have three weeks to make the final decision and a lot can happen in that time frame."

* * *

"Your work in Savannah was great, full stop," Matt tells Jessica, quiet reassurance in his voice. From day one he's never been able to tolerate her self-flagellation. "And you're asking all the right questions. I don't trust SHIELD, at the end of the day." And that's true. For a man who beats up suspected criminals in dark alleys on his off hours, he's always been extraordinarily suspicious of law enforcement of any kind. It's part of why he became a defense attorney.

Matt looks between the pair. "But I wanted to at least bring it to you as one potential way forward, and maybe even the least bad of some really terrible options."

He greets Luke's measured response with a short nod. Go forward, his client says.

"Yeah, you got it, Luke."

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