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11 May 2008 @ 01:53 pm
Living After Midnight  

Living After Midnight
an Outsiders story
by thecryingwillow
Copyright 2008


Disclaimer: DC Comics own Owen Mercer and all the characters mentioned therein. No profit is being gleaned from this.

Spoilers: Up to issue 41 of the Outsiders, references to Supergirl prior to issue 19.

Summary: When he was a supervillain, Owen's days did not involve routinely torturing people. He wonders what this says about him, now that he's a superhero.


Owen is seven. Everyone in the entire second grade wants to be Superman, or Wonder Woman. Owen wants to be Green Arrow, or Green Lantern. Green is Owen's favorite color. His eyes are kind of green, although his mom says they're more hazel than green. Owen would rather be Green Arrow than Green Lantern, because you can make arrows but you can't make magic rings.

Owen and his mom live in a small apartment on a street where the power goes off all the time. His mom's the landlord of their building. The other tenants are really old, leftovers from when the neighborhood was good and filled with people who wanted to do better, and as long as Owen doesn't run in the hallways after ten they don't complain and they always pay their rent on time so Owen and his mom aren't completely poor. Just kind of poor.

Owen's mom has thick glasses that slide down her nose a lot. She likes to pinch her nose when Owen upsets her. Sometimes Owen does upsetting things. Owen gets sent to the principal's office a lot.

Owen's mom works at the hospital downtown. She's a Filing Assistant. Owen doesn't really know what this means except that she has shifts and doesn't get home until real late. That's fine with Owen. On days that he gets suspended from school, his mom has to come from work to pick him up, and those are the worse days, but when she's at work and he's suspended he can just sit on the couch and eat Lucky Charms and watch MTV all day.

Owen doesn't have a dad, but that's okay. A lot of kids' parents are divorced at school and some kids are adopted. Owen's mother says that they don't need any other men in their house--Owen is enough, just right.


Owen is thirteen when he has his first taste of alcohol, sitting in the front seat of Bobby Harker's mom's car. Harker is in high school and his mom lets him drive her car to go get groceries. He lives next door to Owen in the apartment building to the right of them.

The vodka comes from under Owen's kitchen sink, where his mother stores the liquor that she uses for cooking. Owen's mother doesn't drink. There are still bottles there that she told him once that she's had since college.

Harker fills up half of a dirty plastic cup with vodka, passes it to Owen, and fills up half of another cup for himself.

Owen stares at the liquid. It's kind of clear, but thick, too, like spit.

"Drink it, you pussy," Harker rasps, coughing, after he's downed his portion, and rubs his mouth off with his sleeve.

"Crap," Owen says, taking a swig. It burns his nose and throat, and his eyes immediately start to water. He swallows it all in a big gulp, coughing and feeling it rushing up his nose, fucking Christ, and feels his stomach flop and churn.

"If you're gonna puke," Harker says, "don't puke on the car."

"I'm not gonna puke," says Owen, doubled over, eyes closed.

"Get out of the car," Harker says, "you're gonna puke."

"I'm not gonna puke--"

He doesn't, actually. He just retches all the way home, which is about ten feet from Harker's apartment's garage to his back door. Then he stays on the steps, doubled over, for about ten minutes before going inside, half-woozy, and goes to bed without waiting up for his mother.

It takes him about three months before he tastes anything else--this time, beer--and it's like tasting sour piss, but he gets used to it soon enough. And then there's one thing he has in common with everyone else.

The first time he gets shitfaced, it's at a party and he's fourteen, and a girl he knew from middle school takes him upstairs and he manages to stay semi-coherent when she blows him off, and when he stumbles downstairs the guys from the neighborhood clap him on the back and he knows he's done something right.

"You lucky bitch," someone tells him. Owen grins like this is the best compliment in the world, and clutches his plastic cup like a lifesaver.

He gives up on trying to tell school counselors about what he thinks of his future freshman year.


Owen is nineteen when he becomes an Outsider.

Being an Outsider is like you're on the edge of everything. For one thing, everyone thinks you're dead.

He gets used to it quickly, because it wasn't like he was much of a person before, anyway. People didn't notice him. He was just one of those kids who had too many piercings and listened to punk music.

He misses his apartment. His room on the 'Quod is small and dirty and he likes it, even puts some posters up.

He finds that he becomes friends with Grace, first. It's not because she's strong or anything, although he does like that--never hurts to have someone who can punch out Superman covering your back--but more because she can listen, and she doesn't ask stupid questions. She knows about questionable pasts.

It's not exactly that he's pissed off that he had to explain everything, because he's not. It wasn't like Dick couldn't have gone through his entire history in a couple minutes, so it's not that, it's not. It's more the way Dick told him he had to: the way he said that there were no more skeletons in closets, for anybody.

Because Owen knows that there are more skeletons in the entire team's closet than could ever be told.

Grace can listen and make appropriate comments at the right times. She's big, so it takes a hell of a lot of cheap liquor to get her to loosen any, but that doesn't really matter. Owen's kind of small-boned, something that he used to get pissed off about a lot. They make a fun couple, throwing beer bottles off the side of the ship, him and Grace, her towering over him and making lewd comments about Dick's ass in the darkness.

Dick starts using them to torture people in the third week that he's on the team.

"On the team" is wrong, because Owen figured out very early that they weren't so much a team as a group of people who happened to work well together. They weren't the Justice League. The Justice League are the kind of team you watch on TV and cheer on because all of them are the good guys, the people who bring bread to starving countries, that sort of thing. Never go against the law.

Grace and Owen can break international laws, because they are invisible.

It's not like he hasn't seen this kind of shit before. He knows Grace has killed people. And he knows he's killed people, although when he thinks about it, it's kind of like he's looking at another person named Owen Mercer in a different time. His life is divided into neat, organized sections of horror.

Dick has probably never killed anybody, or if he has it was out of self-defense or some shit like that, so he starts using Grace and Owen to start torturing people because it's not like they haven't seen this shit before and besides, Grace is scary and Owen's good at cleaning up afterward. That isn't to say that Owen's nerves aren't jolted afterward; he doesn't know about Grace's. ''

He wonders whether anyone can really get used to breaking people's jaws.

They form a routine which revolves around eating Chinese take out on the 'Quod's deck and talking about their ex's. Grace has enough to provide several months of entertainment. They compare notes and drink. And then they go sleep in deck chairs and wake up hungover and go to torture people.

Owen stopped thinking about superheroes with adjectives like "good" a long time ago. If superheroes were all "good", that would necessitate all supervillains being "bad". When he was a supervillain, Owen's days did not involve routinely torturing people. He wonders what this says about him, now that he's a superhero.

The way he figures it, these people, the people that he is now a part of, are not superheroes. They're janitors who clean up after everybody else, the places on the floor along the wall where the big guys don't want to get down on their knees and scrape at the dirt.


Owen is twenty when he falls in love with the most selfish person he has ever known.

Owen is normal. Owen has had a normal life, relatively, compared to the rest of the people whose giant flying airship he happens to live on, whose parents and mentors taught them almost from birth, placed the swords in their hands and watched them kill, or beat, or stick their chins out for justice. Owen didn't have a father until he was nineteen.

This is why he falls in love with Kara: she is confused, selfish, beautiful and lonely, and she does not have a family. Owen's seen Wonder Woman on TV and from far away, flying, but to him, Kara is much more like a goddess, like the painting of Aphrodite rising out of the water, holding herself. Kara cannot do anything but hold herself. She is young, stupid, helplessly beautiful and Owen falls helplessly in love with her because she is different, and he has spent his entire life chasing difference.

Now he is different and he loves it, and she hates it, and every time she burns an S into her arm with a cigarette (Dick made him quit in the first week and he's never quite gotten over it), he wants to take her fingers and kiss the pain from them with beer-covered lips.

One of the things his father told him, before he died, was to never fall in love with a superhero. Owen's logic is: Kara is not a superhero. Kara is confused.


Owen thinks that he's forgotten how to be depressed, which in a way isn't pleasant. Without being depressed you're just numb--numb all over--and Owen doesn't want to be numb, Owen wants to be able to do things. Without the motivation from being unmovable, you can't move.

He climbs the hill easy enough, and is able to get there soon enough. He has to ask some questions of people who he shouldn't talk to anymore. He likes to think that for this circumstance he could be forgiven, but he's learned enough now to know that there's no such thing.

"Hi, dad," he says to the headstone, smoothing his hand against the chipped letters, settling against the ground.

And he talks.

He talks about leaving home and about his mom, not the other one but the one who raised him, how she talked about things and how she wanted him to keep learning. He talks about being scared. He talks about blood, about the first time his head was slammed into someone else's knee and how the only thing he could think was how to do that to someone else next time so he wouldn't get caught. He talks about teams and about family and about how they are each other, but not really, and how you can't substitute one thing for another if you don't know what you're looking for. He talks about speed and about boomerangs and broken promises.

He sits for a while, after he's stopped, looking at the sky.

And then he goes home.
yaoi_covenessyaoi_coveness on June 12th, 2008 06:11 am (UTC)
so cute. I love Owen, I'm so glad you did this it was really sweet and really well done.///_^
I in pyjamas for the heatsnake_easing on June 23rd, 2008 10:50 pm (UTC)
Oh, Owen got a really raw deal with the Outsiders and afterwards. I hope he's in a better place right now, or at least in off-any-team limbo.

Thanks for writing this.
honi soit qui mal y pense: happystinglikeabee on July 2nd, 2008 06:20 am (UTC)
This is the first Owen fic I've read, and it is effing fantastic. Love, love, love it. Watching Owen and Kara always felt unfair, and reading the passage here finally makes sense. Gah. Have you written other Owen fics as well?

Also: love your icon :D
Melissa Greymelissagrey on March 4th, 2009 10:13 pm (UTC)
I might be several months late, but I just want to say . . . Owen Mercer is an awesome character and does not get nearly enough love. Thank you so much for writing interesting Owen-fic. I hope you still check out this livejournal because I'd love to see more.