This forum uses cookies
This forum makes use of cookies to store your login information if you are registered, and your last visit if you are not. Cookies are small text documents stored on your computer; the cookies set by this forum can only be used on this website and pose no security risk. Cookies on this forum also track the specific topics you have read and when you last read them. Please confirm whether you accept or reject these cookies being set.

A cookie will be stored in your browser regardless of choice to prevent you being asked this question again. You will be able to change your cookie settings at any time using the link in the footer.

Good Enough
The meds worked pretty well. Not like he still didn't hurt, but it wasn't bad. Well, maybe not as bad. He coulda taken a few more tabs but...he wanted to be lucid. And pain worked as well as any stim for that. Three of his ribs were fractured so clearly he would't be running around anytime soon; jaw nearly broken; Nu-skin covering slashes and bites itching something fierce; concussion that still made him see double at times; lip split in a number of places; a couple of broken knuckles; a broken toe; and everywhere else deep black and blue bruises covering him. 

It had been a good fight.

At least he hadn't broken his nose or lost any teeth. And thankfully, his eye was not swollen anymore- although maybe it was a shade darker that it should be. Not that he'd put on make up to cover it.

Thank God for modern medicine. He coulda done without the lecture from the doc. Her frowns made him smirk, though of course he regretted it, what with the lips and jaw and all. Her look said it served him right. And it probably did.

The Cap'n was worse. Ivan just told him it had been a fight club thing. The man tore him a new one before putting him on the DL for the time being. It was stupid of him, he knew. He had a job to do. And he would do it. But still. he didn't regret it. It had been good for him.

And truthfully, Ivan looked forward to hanging out with Ryker again. No more fighting like that. No. But it was fun all the same. Something had changed. What it was, Ivan wasn't sure. Well, nothing really had changed. Ascendancy was still the same pompous ass who allowed and even used corruption as a tool in his empire; Yun Kao was still out there holding his family over his head; Zoya was still gone; and Danya and Zara....

Ivan stood at the door of her apartment, his stomach fluttering. He took a deep breath, appreciating the sharp pain that came from his complaining ribs. It was funny. He'd had no fear getting into the ring with that man. He'd had no fear when the woman held him with the power, used it to dig into his wounds. But the prospect of seeing Zara, fear paralyzed him.

His arm weighed two hundred pounds it seemed, as he tried to raise it to knock. He clenched his jaw and stab of agony lanced through him. Not broken, but definitely had been put out of joint. The resetting had been bad.

"Coward," he whispered to himself. He knocked and the door opened. The sweet smell hit him in the face and he inhaled sharply. Suddenly he was 19 again. And Danya had surprised him with dinner. Some sort of Persian stew her mother used to make. Despite himself, his heart opened for a moment, allowing himself to remember, to feel what he had felt, what had been walled off for all these years. God he missed her.

And there she stood, blonde streaked hair pulled back in a pony tail, white t-shirt and faded blue jeans. Nothing had changed. She looked at him curiously, her smile fading as she took in his injuries. "Hi Danya," was all he said before she hugged him- and then he breathed sharply through clenched teeth as his entire body protested.

She pulled back, concern painting her face. "Oh! I'm sorry." She looked at him, studying, then stepped aside so he could enter. Pain colored her words. "Oh Ivan, what did you do?" It was more chiding than anything else.

And he didn't feel like talking about it. Not with her. He felt stupid enough as it was. He tilted his head briefly and tried to give a halfhearted smile. "I just fell down. That's all." She looked at him for a moment, raising an eyebrow and one side of her lips in a smile. Then she shrugged, not pressing the issue. She knew him.

He looked around. It was as he remembered. The brown leather couch covered in different colored pillows; the plush blue chair opposite it, zebra print pillow on it; thick patterned carpet on the floor; lamp in the corner with a red and gold gauze cloth draped over it; mix of prints on the wall, some from her homeland, Iran, and others of people or script that he remembered was Farsi; a low table in between the the couch and chair. He looked over at the kitchen. An easel was near the wall, a half finished black and white painting on the canvas. There was green tea pot, as well as another on the stove giving off the aroma he remembered so well, meat and onions and cinnamon and the sweet of carrots.

But there were differences too. Childish drawings covered the refrigerator. And amid the music or art or travel books on the table were children's books. He recognized one of them, The Illustrated Book of Russian Fairy Tales. Another of Persian stories. And he saw toys in a couple of places.

He looked back at Danya. She was even more beautiful than he remembered. She was a mother. She had become a mother.

And I am a father.

He looked at her, smiled weakly, the butterflies returning. "Thank you for...well, just...thank you." Her smile warmed him- and cut him. Maybe we can...- he stopped that line of thought. He was not here for her. He couldn't open those doors again. Boundaries. He need to keep it light. Going down that road He just couldn't.

She nodded, but kept her distance. She knew what he was thinking. She always did. She didn't want to give him false hope. Her kindness cut his heart. "I want her to know her father. You're a good man Ivan." Her smile fell as she looked at his bandaged knuckles, saw how he moved, took in the cuts on his lip and the slight bruising under his eye, replaced it with a small frown, deep brown eyes filling with concern. Softly, "You deserve some happiness. Clearly."

She took a breath as if to clear the mood. Walls again. Damn her and her walls. "Anyway, I made your favorite stew. It's Zara's too." She paused, looking at him with a hopeful encouraging smile. "Ready?"

He took a deep breath, ignored the pain, and smiled, nodding. "Yeah. I'm ready."
He slowly- slow because of the pain, he told himself- followed her down the hall, his heart pounding in his chest. It wasn't like he was going to face one of those things from down in the tunnels. And he wasn't following a criminal's trail, entering and clearing each room of a darkened building. That kind of heart pounding made sense.

But for a four year old girl?

Danya stopped at the door. Bright colored letters spelled out 'ZARA' across it. "Relax, Ivan," she said, taking his hand and opening the door. On the floor sat the little girl from the picture. She was hunched over a pile of lego bricks, head down in concentration, tongue peeking out the corner of her mouth. A tablet sat in front of her displaying picture instructions for building. He noticed the legos had been organized into different colored piles.

She looked up and his heart froze. Blue eyes stared back at him. His eyes. The rest was all Danya, though with chubby cheeks and little pointed chin rather than her mother's mature face. Her black hair was also tied back in a ponytail.

She looked from her mom to him and then at their intertwined hands, the puzzle plain on her face. "Zara. This is my friend Ivan. I wanted him to meet you." The puzzle faded.

Ivan took a breath. Then he remembered his niece Zotya, tried to remember how he was with her. He let go of Danya's hand and knelt- carefully. Oh so carefully- down on one knee and held out his hand. "Hi, Zara. I'm...uh. Nice to meet you." She looked at his hand for a moment then shook it. He looked at her legos and what she was trying to build. "So, uhh, whatcha got here?"

She looked at the tablet. "It's a airplane." Ivan smiled at her. He gestured to the half finished thing.

"Can I take a look?" She held it out to him and he took it and turned it over, examining from every angle. He looked back at Danya with surprise in his eyes. Complex. "Wow. That is really cool," he said, handing it back to her.

Danya came over and knelt beside her- their- daughter, and spoke up, pride plain on her face. "She loves building. I'm guessing she has an engineer inside her." Then to Zara, she said. "Honey. Mommy needs to finish lunch. Can Ivan stay and help you?"

Zara shrugged, ponytail swinging as she went back at the tablet. "Ok."

Ivan looked at Danya, fear returning in waves. She smiled, eyes twinkling and winking. She whispered "You're a tough guy, Ivan. I think you can handle it," the tease clear in her voice. Despite himself he smiled- and winced. Maybe he should take some kind of pain reliever.

Man up, Ivan.

Danya left the room. Zara was digging through one of the colored piles. "Can I help you find the pieces you need?"
Zara was pretty focused on what she was doing. She barely spoke except to point out pieces she needed. Ivan dutifully dug through the appropriate piles, though it took him a while to find what he was looking for. More than once, she simply glanced over and dipped her hand in, pulling out what she wanted as if by magic.

He smiled. "You're good at this. What else do you like to build besides planes?"

Not looking up, she shrugged. "I don't know. Cars. Houses. Space ships."

He nodded, trying to think of something else to say. "My niece Zotya likes the Moskva Mermaid Girls. Do you like that show?"

Her head shot up, eyes bright. "Yah! My favorite is Suni."

His smile widened. "Yeah? Why?"

Plane in her lap, a single piece forgotten in her hand, she gestured excitedly. "She's funny, even when she always gets the other girls in trouble. And her pet octopus, Vosim too!" She got up and went to her bed and pulled off a stuffed animal- probably Vosim, if Ivan had to guess. "Mommy got this for my birthday."

His heart fell when he heard the word 'birthday' and he felt a stab of anger at Danya. He was grateful to her for today...but still. Four years he had a daughter and didn't even know it. Stolen years.

She held it out to him, shy smile on her face and the anger melted away as he took it, made its arms flap about while making a goofy voice.

And like that the ice was broken. His nervousness fled as she showed him her room and her toys. She was very smart, he saw. The legos thing was not the only standout. She had lots of books- science, animals, and places. She also showed him things she'd gotten when they went to Iran to visit.

The thought scared Ivan. The Dominion held sway there, but the instability went back a long time. But of course that wouldn't have stopped Danya. He wasn't sure if that thought was fond or irritated. Father for all of ten minutes, and I'm already being over-protective.

Well, she was safe now. And so he relaxed, and just enjoyed her enthusiasm until Danya came in announcing lunch was ready. "And go wash your hands," she said, teasingly adding "That means you, Ivan."

Zara giggled and he laughed. "Yes, mommy."

Zara playfully slapped at his leg. "She's not your mommy!" He just grinned at her.

When they all sat at the table, Ivan made a show of taking the cloth napkin and tucking it in his shirt under his chin. He whispered loudly to Zara. "I make a lot of messes." She laughed and when he looked at Danya, he saw her smiling at him.

A deep longing washed over him, as he looked from her to Zara, the three of them sitting at the table together, the sound of their daughter's laughter mingling with smell of a delicious stew that filled the air. The longing was an ache that made his heart want to burst, a hunger that had nothing to do with food. Tears almost came to his eyes with the realization.

This is what I want.
Ivan felt as if he was relaxing on the couch. Well....he was relaxing on the couch, Zara leaning against him as he read to her from the book of Russian fairy tales. Stomach full, warm tea now at the small table next to the arm rest, he was as content as he ever had been in his life.

And happy. Peaceful. So hard to reconcile the angry rage filled man of the other day with Ivan of now. Zara was sleepy, her eyelids half closed. He put his arm around her as he read, enjoying the tiny warmth by his side. He wasn't surprised when she fell asleep. She looked so peaceful.

Danya was sitting in the chair opposite him. He just watched her for a while. She raised an eyebrow but said nothing. Ivan felt courage building in him. Cautiously, carefully, he was getting ready. He took a breath. "I want this, Danya. Zara. You." He gestured to the room. "All of this."

She tilted her head, studying him, lips pursed together. Finally, "That's not why I asked you here, Ivan. I wanted you to be part of Zara's life."

Irritation flared, but he kept his voice low, though he not without an eedge. "Tell me you are not happy right now. That today wasn't a great day." His eyes were a challenge and she looked away, toward the window. He breathed raggedly. "I loved you Danya." He paused, searching. "I still do." He looked at sleeping Zara. "And her. I love her already." He looked back at her, opening his heart, letting her see the earnestness in his eyes.
She’d been watching Ivan interact with her daughter ever since he’d arrived.  Their daughter.  Even if she’d known since learning she was with child five years prior, Zara had been just hers for so long.  Sharing that had been an unexpected barrier to overcome in her mind.  Even if she knew in her heart that it would be the best thing for Zara; to know and have her father too.  This was not going to be an easy transition should it work out.  Not easy for the adults anyway.  Kids were remarkably resilient but still needed someone to look after their best interests.  Whether they wanted it or not.

She turned her gaze back.  A mother’s gaze.  “A couple of hours, Ivan.”  There was a warning in her tone but a gentle one.  Impulsive.  Had he always been that way?  “Being a good father isn’t just playing with Legos and reading books...”  ...and making her little girl laugh.  God, that laugh!  The no-nonsense expression she adopted was aimed just a little toward herself too for almost giving in to those blue eyes.  Not that he needed to know that right now.  “You have to grow up at some point, Ivan.”  A very open look said exactly what she thought about his injuries.  “I’m not going to tell you what to do; you’re a grown man.”  You need to sort yourself out is what.  She gestured at his face.  “Whatever that is, can’t come here and those things tend to follow people home.”

Danya’s eyes dropped to the form of her sleeping child.  “You love me?  This isn’t for me, Ivan.  This isn’t about us.”  That was not something she'd even allow herself to consider right now.  She sighed, completely understanding the man’s feelings for the little girl he’d just met.  “I’m sorry.  I’m sorry I kept her for myself.  It was selfish and...and mean.”  She swallowed down her emotions.  “This was a baby step.”  That didn’t make her feel any better, she’d kept that for herself too.  “Time, is what I’m saying, this can’t happen all at once.”  Danya looked at Ivan and there would be no question what she was thinking.  “I...Zara can’t have you just…”  She pulled herself together, the speech had gone much more smoothly that morning in her head.  “It’s all or nothing Ivan, with her.  Take some time to think about things.”  Whatever it is you’re doing to yourself.  “Think about what that really means.  Then let me know what you decide.  For Zara.”  She immediately regretted phrasing it that way.  “I didn’t mean it that way.  I mean, I’m not holding her over you.”  Danya looked, really looked at Ivan.  He could see through her too when she let him in.  “You’re a good man.  I know in my heart you can be a good father too.”
Her words were like punches to the gut and he couldn't breath. They hurt so much more than the fight at the Almaz. Even with her trying to be kind.

Or because she was trying to be kind. He couldn't breath and his eyes washed with tears. Happiness- no, not happiness. Joy sat before him, ready and waiting.

And he wasn't good enough. Not yet.

And the worst part? The thing that absolutely killed him? She was right. He wasn't a father. Not yet. Nor was he a husband.

And he didn't hate her. But his heart broke all the same.

He needed out. He needed to be free of Yun Kao. For ma and pop. For his siblings and nieces and nephews. And now for Zara. Zara and Danya.

"Ok," was all he said. All he could say, the tiny weight of their daughter against his side, the soft sounds of her breathing the most beautiful thing he'd ever heard. "I will, Danya. For her. For you."
She could tell he was hurt.  It twisted her insides.  Danya wanted to go to him but she didn’t.  She wanted so many things, for Zara, for Ivan, for herself...selfish things for herself.  Danya remembered how she felt in the man’s arms.  She recalled warmth and security, soft lips; the muscles in his back silky and smooth when he moved-  No.  Selfish.  Danya wanted to go to Ivan but she did not.  Instead her voice was gentle.  “Do it for yourself too Ivan.”  Her full lips curved upward.  “Loving others can’t happen if you don’t love yourself.”  

Danya leaned forward and picked up her delicate tea cup.  “Have I bitched at you enough for one day then?”  She bit her lower lip and looked over the rim in question.  It was not a dismissal by any means but if his intent was to wrap things up, best not end on a somber note.  She knew Ivan and once his mind was set on something, things happened pretty quickly.  He was probably ready to go cut ties with whatever problems were dogging at him.
He was silent for a moment, her words- her tone- swirling through his mind. Careful. Careful. Her eyes, her lips, the feel of little Zara against him, her soft tiny hand in his, all sparks on the kindling of his heart. And smoke was already rising.

And something else too. He was sitting. But he was also standing. He felt strong. Firm. The light of the power was like the soothing sun on a summer day, warm against his back. He had a family. And now he had another family.

Yeah. The fire grew and a slight smile curved his lips. He didn't mind the pain on his cuts in the slightest. The room was still, both of them looking at each other. He could be part of this. It was in reach.

It was as though, in his stillness, he was gathering energy, pulling energy from everything around him, feeling it come into him, swirling, as if compressing. Not just the air, not just the couch, not even just the power. He felt energy from Danya going into him, from Zara, filling him up, flowing into those gashes and missing chunks and tears in his heart.

Brandon no longer mattered. Or rather, his betrayal didn't matter. He had been a fool to worship a man. And while he would always love Zoya, Zara's laughter now overlaid hers. It didn't erase it. It never could. Nor did he want it to.

But he felt hope again.

Hope. It had been gone for so long. He couldn't even remember when he'd lost it. A life without hope is a living death.

He wasn't a fool. Nothing really had changed.

And yet....the universe had changed.

He smiled at Danya, suddenly remembering something she had read to him once, long ago. ""Hope springs eternal in every human breast" Her response warmed him.

Life was out there. Life was here. His life.

And he meant to get it.

Love filled his eyes. "Thank you."

Zara was put to bed, with him giving her a tender kiss on her forehead. And then good-byes were said- which took a bit longer cuz of all the hugs and kisses. Not that he minded despite the very real pain. There was nothing like human connection to give you a sense of belonging.

And even though it felt like he was tearing himself in half, Ivan was striding down the street once more. Ivan Sarkozy. Himself.

He needed help. Most of all he needed to learn. Messages went out on his wallet even as the sun beat warmly against his back.


Bruised. Bloody. Battered. But not beaten. Not yet.

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)