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Ivan squinted and covered his eyes at the brightness of the sun as he stepped out the door. He looked back at the guy in black- the dick was giving him a hard eye- and stepped out.

It was odd how a night in the tombs or wherever and you suddenly felt like a rag that had been wrung out hard. His tux no longer was crisp, collar hanging open, tie in pocket, jacket on his arm trapping the heat enough he was ready to chuck it.

He felt dirty and just wanted a shower to wash the night off him. He called a ride and headed home. The night was a blur. Again and again they asked what he had done. Had it been an accident.? Why? A billion other angles.

Ivan was a fucking cop, man. He knew how to push. These were jumped up assholes Brandon decided deserved to be rods or pricks. All the same. Brandon was swinging his dick around, showing off how tough he was, what a man he was. Trying to alpha the planet. Didn't take a genius to see the connection.

And Ivan, who had been his man from the get go was treated like shit by these guys. He still remembered the flick in Brandon's eye. The dismissal.

That was what loyalty meant to him. Not a goddamn thing.

So yeah, Ivan was out. And fucking angry. And done. And ready. You know what? Fuck Brandon. He's too busy being an asshole to protect Moscow.

Well, Ivan would do it. By any means necessary. Idly he wondered what Yun would think.

Oh she was gonna pay. He'd make sure of that. Put a gun to his family's head? Nu uh. But first he'd cozy up to her. And get what he needed. She thought she was something?

Ivan was done being a nice guy. Fuck that.
The ride came. Ivan sat in the back seat, conversation nonexistant. The man was a driver and nothing more. No need to make small talk.

Home. Just take me home.

Part him wanted to cry. The fuck did he expect? I expected crime and corruption from criminals. But to know Brandon's whole system was about greasing wheels...

Fuck. It hurt.

The car stopped. if it where a place. Home was a pie in the sky. Ma and her food. Pops and the games. His siblings always making noise.

He was at his apartment. He got out. No word to driver.

And Danya is there. His stomach clenches. So beautiful he might die. Yeah fake work up front but who cared. Tattoos on hip, talking about lesbian tongue...Sex made human...

Yeah Ivan had been hooked.

"Why are you here?" He asks.

She arches an eyebrow. He won't play. It's been a long day. He looks at her.

"Talk or not. Do it quickly."

She is angry, mouth a frown

Rage forms in her eyes. "You are a father."

The words made no sense. "What?"
She looked at him, anger fading to... not guilt. Or shame. Not her. Never Danya.

Her hair was different now, what had been dark now tinted light, dark eyebrows shaped over almond eyes. No smile, for which he was glad. Despite himself, his heart clenched at her memory.

That night. So long ago. An anniversary of sorts. He had been going through the academy. She was a live wire, energy pushing her into interests that a dumb jock like him had never heard of before. Places. People. Food. Music. She showed him a world he had never imagined existed.

There in the living room she puts on something. A song. And they start dancing. Slow. And the words wash over him.

I was born by the river,
in a little tent
Oh and just like the river
I've been running ev'r since
It's been a long time,
a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come,
oh yes it will.

And she was looking up at him and for a moment he had her. She was his alone. How, he could not imagine. But it was true.

Fool. She would never be had. She belonged to the universe. And she'd never apologize. Or ask for help.

And Ivan couldn't do it. He couldn't be with her when she wasn't going to be his alone. And she ripped his heart with those hooks, tearing away from him.

And he hadn't seen her since. Realized he had purposely never seen her again. Purposely avoided hearing her name or going to places.

Scars heal. And then Zoya rips them open. Yun plants her poison. And the holy mighy Ascendency shoves his hand in, to show him belief and trust are but a joke.

"How am I a father? Her lipped quirked up in line with an eyebrow. But refused the offer of jest. This day of all day, not his mood. "It's been four years."

The not shame showed again as the half smile faded. "Doesn't mean she's not yours. I just never told you. She was mine." She looked at him, as if resentment had stabbed her. What had he done? He would have been there if he'd known.

"Zara is smart and fiery. Her mother's daughter. But she wants to know her father. I am not enough for her." She blinked and tiredness showed instead. "I know what you wanted Ivan. And I wasn't that person. Am still not that person. For you. I'm sorry." He was stunned. "For anyone. We would havd been tied together."

"Would that have been so bad?" he whispered, terrified to hear her answer no matter what it was. Mercifully, no words came to her lips.

It was silent, the world had faded away. Danya broke it. "I want her to know you, Ivan. If you want to. I am trying, Ivan. You know that. You know me."

He stared at her, the storm of emotion scouring away what strength he had left. Thoughts were dangerous right now. He had little control left.. "I will call you. I just.....I can't do this right now, Danya."

The beginning of anger showed and then faded away as apparently, she really saw him. The tiredness, the dishevilled hair, the sweaty wrinkled tux. "Ok." She pulled out her wallet and did something. A moment later his vibrated. He didn't pull it out.

"Her picture. When you're ready."

She walked past him but not without touching his arm and kissing his cheek. The smell of her did it, all the knots and cords lossed, the strings cut. The puppet falling to the ground. He barely made it inside his apartment before he fell to the floor, gasps and sobs pouring out of him.

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