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St. Elmo's Fire
Ivan slapped the alarm blaring in his ear. Well, not blaring. It started all nice and soft. How a gentle wake up song became some super annoying obnoxious ear worm he didn't know.

He dragged his ass into the shower. The shampoo, some tea treatment, was refreshing- and stung his eyes something fierce at the same time. So, you know, that woke him up.

He dressed in sweats and a tshirt and pondered the day. Days, really. Had next four off. Somehow. He wasn't gonna ask. He already knew. He needed to train. Nox had given him the basics. Now it was time.

Still....he felt an ache. He called Ma and Pops. Was glad they were ok. And the little ones. He checked on his brother and sister too and their families. And shot Sara a message so she knew he remembered....and had been serious.

Bah. The hole was still there. And it was still early. But he was afraid.

Terrified really. Still...he messaged.

"Can I come by this morning?

He put the wallet down and did some chores. Every ding made him check his phone anxiously.

@"Danya Khorasani"
It had been a challenging morning as mornings went.  First was the fight to get out of bed, then the fight to change.  What to wear at least was simple as schools thankfully universally wore uniforms.  

“Have you brushed your hair?”  For the third time.  Danya knew she had not as the child emerged from the hall with a rat’s nest atop her head.  She felt more than heard the scowl and was answered not by words but by a stomping retreat back down the hall.  Danya did smirk as she stirred the eggs.  “Sweetie, please bring mommy her wallet when you’re done.”  Damn it if she’d left it in the bathroom and Zara had just turned on the latest annoying song all the kids kept on infinite repeat.  She could have sworn she’d deleted it from the playlist.  

Eggs on the table in a bowl, plates...English muffin, turkey bacon, juice, milk…  Demon-child emerged, hair perfectly brushed...except the back where it looked like the girl had spent all night scratching with a balloon.  Danya kept the sigh in as she accepted her wallet with thanks.  She checked it as Zara retrieved the silverware and napkins as was her responsibility, since carpool sometimes ran a little late.  Because children.  Ivan had sent a message.  Their daughter was still stomping around and slamming drawers and cabinets which earned her a warning in the form of her name in ‘mom voice.’  That corrected the behavior for now.  Danya barely had to think before firing back a text.  “Sure, come now to catch breakfast.  Fair warning of household grumpiness.”  Danya attached a sound file of the song, ‘Bad Seed Rising,’ and hit send.  Well, every moment of parenthood wasn’t sunshine and butterflies. 
Ivan felt worry in the pit of his stomach. He wasn't sure why, exactly. Danya's answer had seemed purposefully pleasant enough. Friendly and appreciative too.

But she had the gift of understatement. Hah! Gift. Girl was brilliant. Like he was playing Connect Four and she was playing chess. He smiled weakly. She also liked to catch him off guard.

Suddenly he felt as if he was standing outside a house they were about to raid. He's at the door, looking at his team, making sure everyone's in position. Cuz, you know, in his dream he's also SWAT trained. And probably a negotiator. And whatever else is super cool.

Ivan Sarkozy to the rescue!!! Whatever he'd need to be, he'd be it. Idiot.

Cept he's lookin down and realizes he's naked and holding a nerf gun. And he's leading the raid?!?!?!

And as he falls, wound gaping, he sees Danya looking at him with a half smile, one eyebrow raised, as if to say "What, did you think it was all legos and stories?"

Yeah, maybe morning was a bad idea. Too late tho.

But he wasn't gonna back out now. Pride, if nothing else. And he wanted to see Zara. She didn't know he was her father, not yet. He needed to have a relationship with her first. And Danya wanted that for her.

So ok. She had done this alone for five years. He owed it to both of them.

Though that he would have helped from the start, had he known, he tried to ignore. Maybe later. IF they ended up being something.

So guts churning, he knocked on her door. Door open. Smile but definite stress. Quick peck on the cheek. And then he's sitting with Zara at the table while Danya finishes getting ready. Carpool is coming (something they didn't have when he was a kid) and she has a presentation. Zara needs her breakfast.

And Ivan is the clueless lug.

Can I be SWAT again?
Zara's eyes showed only a little sleepiness. She wasn't a zombie or anything. She picked at her eggs and bacon, leaving the muffin to get cold. She had said 'hi' but she hadn't hugged him.

That was a good thing, actually. Other than that one day, she had never seen him before. It was good Danya was not forcing her to be overly affectionate with strangers. Some parent's did, thinking it encouraged friendliness. An easy going attitude. Ivan knew all too well how easily how a predator might exploit that behavior. Let them develop a relationship naturally, so that she felt safe. So that she knew she had autonomy when it came to her body. Danya was a good mom, it was obvious. How she had changed. Matured, rather. These little glimpses showed a girl who had grown up. What about you? It was a good question. And one he was trying to find an answer to.

He longingly looked to the hallway where Danya had disappeared. He wasn't exactly sure how to have a conversation with Zara. He tried to remember his nieces. They had talked already about her favorite shows. Hmm.....what else? He supposed he wasn't the best uncle either. So...when in doubt, be dork. He stared at the bacon, feigning ravenous hunger. "You're not gonna eat that?" he asked, pretending to be barely holding back.

She smiled mid-chew and looked at it. The dimples on her face lit up her eyes even as they flashed possessively. "Yes! I am!" And then she swiped the pieces and shoved it all into her mouth triumphantly.

Her cheeks now puffed out as she tried to chew. Ivan looked hurt and then puffed out his cheeks, making a face. "Look how full my mouth is! I can't talk now!" and then made his head dance stupidly. She laughed- and started choking.

Immediately he panicked, reaching over to sooth her back. "It's ok, it's ok." He held out her glass, telling her to sip it. It wasn't as bad as it seemed and she was able to swallow relatively easily. It had just been a cough. Good god, fuckhead! First morning with her and she nearly chokes on her food. You are BAD at this. His smile was weaker. "Sorry. We can save playing for after breakfast."

She finished her eggs and made a stab at her toast. Out of the blue, she asked, "What did you do to your eye?" Crap! Sara had mentioned it. Everyone did. Idly, he wondered if he should have put on some makeup.

Danya would have some.

Yeah, that wasn't a conversation he wanted to have. Hey Danya? Do you have a foundation that matches my skin tone? She'd probably laugh. Though he did like her laugh. Fun and playful Danya.

He frowned, purposefully looking confused. "My eye? What's wrong with my eye? Did I lose it somewhere?"

She smiled- again around her food. "No, silly! Right there," and then pointed. Almost hit him too.

"Ohhh.....that. Yeah, well..." How was he supposed to answer that? I joined a fight at an exclusive fight club and was hit a lot? That was exactly the kind of thing Danya didn't want him bringing here. "I was playing a game and accidentally got hit." Sorta true. Not like he wanted the punch. Or at least not there.

She nodded and pointed at her knee. "I was playing tag the other day and skinned my knee the same way. Do you like tag?"

Ivan smiled, now that he was on firmer ground. "I love it! Maybe we can play some time." From the muttering, it sounded like Danya was finishing up. He always like how she talked to herself when she was getting situated in the morning, mentally go over lists and things. He stood. "Alright. Come on. Let's help your mom out by putting these dishes in the washer so there's no mess when you get home." Zara frowned but got up and brought her plate even as Ivan loaded the stuff from the stove.

Danya emerged- wow, but she put herself together so well. Stylish but not in a way that called attention to herself. Not like he even knew fashion. And nothing she wore screamed money, though he knew she did alright as a photographer. It all came across as just uniquely individual.

It was those dark eyes that drew him though, the hunger for her to shoot him just a hint of a smile.
Being with Danya and Zara felt like being home- even though it was a home he had never lived in. She seemed to appreciate his offered help. It wasn't long before Ivan was the guy picking Zara up to take her to school. The mornings were occasionally hectic. Yeah right. Sometimes they were crazy. Ivan had no idea how much struggle it could be to get a kid ready for school.

At first Ivan held back. To Zara he was just mommy's friend. Ivan had no right to assert any prerogatives as a biological father- not yet anyway. There were times, sitting at the table with Zara- he even was the one making breakfast now, lightening Danya's load there- that the simple domesticity of it all felt so comforting and good- a man who hadn't even realized he was starving suddenly eating an actual meal- that he felt irritation at Danya for having deprived him of this from the start. That he had not had the opportunity to watch Zara grow from a helpless infant to the precocious and fiercely intelligent girl before him.

She didn't have the right to have made that decision, even if he had been dumb and immature. Despite the fading of his bruises, they had indicated he still was. But she grew up, after all, despite her bratty self-centeredness. Quickly, it seemed. Who's to say Ivan wouldn't have done the same. But he kept that to himself. Better late than never.

As the days and weeks went by, tongues flowed more freely and feelings were more expressed without fear. Cautious wariness slowly wilted away, replaced by trust. And it felt good. His relationship with Zara had grown to the point that she hugged him before she walked into school each day. The first time had left his eyes glassy with moisture and an unimaginable ache in his heart. How was it possible for you to love someone so completely after such a short period of time?

The mornings were a joy despite the hard work and occasional struggles. He was sure that would wear off, if Danya's looks in those moments were any indicators. But it was all new to him.

His relationship with Danya progressed, though slowly. They were not the same kids they used to be. Some things had stayed the same. And somethings had changed- a lot! The physical attraction was still there. How could it not? The mature woman she was now had a deeper beauty than the self centered butterfly she had been. Serenity. And while he couldn't say he looked all that different, he had certainly seen things. Wonderful and terrible things. She said there was a quietness to him, as if there were places he didn't want to go, ugliness he did not want to share.

He certainly wasn't ready to tell her about that night in the pit, fueled by rage and anger, when he was ready to plumb the depths. It still was there. Yun Kao still held a leash around his neck. That hadn't disappeared. Good people could do bad things. Pops was an example of that. The world was far more complex than he had imagined. But he had a daughter. And a woman that he was finding he still had powerful feelings for, if not loved. Protecting them- along with his family- was his first job. And if that meant breaking rules, then so be it.

So that was happening.

Nox's lesson had proved useful. Every day in the evening, he practiced with the power, alternating between fine motor control stuff- dexterity, thinness of threads, complicated weaves- and working on his strength in the power.

Advancement wasn't always detectable or noticeable. Not surprising. Working out was the same. For days, he struggled to making thinner weaves of earth. It was so fuzzy, though, a couple of threads so fine that he could barely make them out. He'd strain his eyes, trying to bring them both into focus, to 'feel' them individually. Idly, he wondered if glasses would help. But then, boom! He could see, could feel. And eventually manipulate. The chess pieces got better, too.

One of his friends owned an old salvage shop with lots of junked cars and trucks and other things in the back. He might struggle to lift a refrigerator, fighting every day and barely moving it. And then, suddenly something would happen and he'd get it off the ground. Only a few seconds, at first. Gradually, the time increased. And the height. He supposed it was all analogous to strength training, though what "muscles" were being damaged and repaired, he couldn't begin to imagine.

And there was work. The Cap had let them know that Domovoi would be coming under the authority of the Consulate on Channeling. DuBois. Ivan had some hope, there. DuBois might provide help ridding him of Yun Kao and her rope. What that restructuring would mean, Ivan didn't know. But it might be good. And still, work was work. Despite everything that had happened, crimes went on- their special cases- and they needed investigating.

At least there was movement. In all of it. Routine, true. But good all the same. He was sure the lull would end. If, as the rumors said, Domovoi would be expanded, there would be other cops like him. Would there be combat training? What about the Atharim? They had the knowledge and the experience of what was out there. Where they being leveraged? Probably. He hadn't seen Dorian in a while.

Whatever was going on, things would be changing soon. And so Ivan took advantage of this time. Most of all, took advantage of being with Zara and Danya. Because they were his future. Ivan wouldn't lose that again. Not this time.

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