Title: Stages of Grief
Fandom: Iron Fist
Word Count: 2700
Summary: A botched kidnapping leaves Ward in the kidnappers' hands, mistakenly believing Danny is dead. Post-S2.
There were voices, distant murmurs resolving into words: "-- paid for two of them, and we've only got one."
American accents. Huh, Ward thought vaguely. His head hurt, a splitting, pounding ache. Hangover, obviously, but he didn't remember actually drinking, and that seemed kind of unfair ...
"-- still get paid for one," a different voice said, and then Ward tried to open his eyes, because Danny. His eyes were stuck together with something, blood maybe. He peeled them open anyway, losing some eyelashes from the feel of it.
"Danny," he managed, and lurched forward, trying to sit up. Nothing seemed to work right. His arms were deadweight; his headache spiked, his stomach heaved, and he fell over.
He wasn't sure why he was so panicked; he had only the vaguest and most fragmented memories of how he'd come to be here, with his head hurting so badly it made his eyes water. He breathed in and out slowly through his mouth, trying not to be sick. He was lying on his side with his cheek pressed against something cool and hard. He had a blurry sideways view of metal furniture legs and a large, dim open space. A warehouse? Hangar? And where the hell was Danny?
"He's awake," one of the American-accented voices said, and a shadow fell across him as someone crouched down next to him. A rough hand grabbed the collar of his shirt and hauled him upright, propping him against a wall. Ward screwed his eyes shut, which helped with the sickness and dizziness a little bit, but that meant he couldn't see what was happening. His hands, he realized vaguely, were tied behind him. He cracked an eye open and squinted at the blurred face in front of him until the features resolved into someone completely unfamiliar.
"That's Meachum, right?" the other one said. No, a different one. There were at least three. And now memory was starting to trickle back. There had been a fight. They'd been on a bridge. Danny --
Light flashed in his eyes, sending an icepick spike straight into his brain. Ward gasped and let his aching head drop back to rest against the wall. When he managed to open his eyes again, the American was standing up holding a phone. There were even more than three, he saw with a sinking sensation in the pit of his unsettled stomach. Four or five of them, mercenary-looking types in camo and T-shirts. Yeah, these were the guys who'd jumped them on the bridge, before Danny --
"Just texted his photo to Fisk," the ringleader said. He was probably about forty, with a crew cut and a sunburn. "We'll have an answer back in a minute. And settle down. We're getting paid one way or another."
Fisk. Kingpin. Fuck. Ward tried to speak and coughed; his mouth was achingly dry. "Where's Danny?" he asked, although somewhere in the back of his aching brain, the information was there. He just didn't want to look at it.
The mercs looked at each other. "You wanna tell him or should I?" said the one next to Sunburn, who had a knife scar across his nose and cheek, twisting the edge of his smile into a grimace.
Sunburn grinned down at Ward, tapping the phone lightly against his thigh. "It's just you, Richie Rich. Yeah, we were paid to grab both of you. Couple of expat billionaires, got a good price on you two. Too bad your business partner had to put up a fight, huh?"
Danny. For an instant Ward thought he might have been knifed; it was that bad, the pain in his chest as the memories slid back into place.
They'd been jumped on a bridge right outside one of the damn temples that Danny kept dragging him to. The bridge was over a canyon, and Danny --
Danny had been shot, and had gone over the edge.
That knowledge went through him like a flood of ice water and then drained away, leaving a kind of strange clarity. Even the headache didn't seem to matter so much anymore. Ward dragged in a slow, shaking breath, and tried to fix Sunburn's face in his mind. No matter what, he was going to kill these guys. Every last one of them.
He dragged a dry tongue over his lips, and said quietly, "What's your name?"
Sunburn grinned again, showing nicotine-yellowed teeth. "We ask the questions, rich boy. And right now, you're our meal ticket. Oh hey." He looked down at his phone. "That was fast."
He jerked his head at the others, and they went off to consult. Ward leaned against the wall where they'd left him. His body was a sack of lead; his head felt too hot and too large, pain pulsing behind his eyes. He didn't remember being hit in the head. What was that called, retrograde amnesia? He closed his eyes and felt dried blood flake off around his eyebrow.
If only the memory loss had gone a little farther back. Instead he had an endless technicolor replay of Danny turning around, yelling his name -- it must've been one of these assholes moving in on him from behind, what Danny was trying to warn him about. Up to that point, Ward had been holding his own pretty well, using the moves Danny had taught him.
And then Danny jerked, staggering back from the impact of a bullet, and went over the edge.
They were hundreds of feet above the twisting little mountain river that had cut the canyon. Even Danny couldn't survive a fall like that, unless some of his K'un Lun training involved the ability to fly.
Ward felt like he was made of ice, brittle and hard, balanced on the edge of a catastrophic shattering.
Think. They're selling you to Kingpin. Okay, fair enough. They're going to want you alive. Wanted both of us alive -- The ice shuddered, cracked. Don't think about that. Look forward, not back. These guys are just in it for the money, but Fisk -- Fisk wants Rand. Okay, fair enough. If you die here, he won't get it, it'll go to Joy. So you're alive for the moment. So --
"Time to go, princess." Rough hands hauled him to his feet.
His headache escalated into a sick throbbing that filled the entire world. "Fuck you," he muttered through the red haze. His breath shuddered in his throat. He was hurt and sick and stumbling, being half-carried and half-dragged, and he wished like hell they'd never come here, wished he'd fucking tied up Danny back in New York and sat on him.
Danny couldn't be dead. It wasn't possible. Not Danny, bright cheerful Danny who'd survived a plane crash and Harold and the Hand and everything else. He couldn't have gotten killed because he'd taken his eyes off his opponents for two seconds to yell out a warning to Ward. That was ... that was just typical, wasn't it? Ward had called Danny a cancer, once, but he was the cancer, destroying everything he touched.
Caught up in physical misery and sick guilt, he was only dimly aware that they were still moving, until sunlight drenched the world. This, combined with the movement, was too much for him, finally; he doubled over, retching dryly, with nothing to throw up in a empty stomach. Nobody bothered to stop for him; they just hauled him along without caring, and he managed to straighten up and get his legs under him because he'd rather that than being dragged.
He finally managed to get a look around. They were on the edge of an airstrip, little more than an extra-wide dirt road hacked out of a low, scrubby forest with mountains soaring all around them. They'd just left a cluster of concrete buildings falling into ruin at the edge of it. An old military airstrip, maybe?
The plane on the airstrip looked about the right age to go with the rest of it, a two-engine cargo plane of unpainted silver metal. The cargo door in the side was open, inky shadows blotting the interior in sharp contrast to the painfully bright sun. As they dragged him toward it, Ward wondered what the odds were that the thing could even fly. Maybe they'd go down in the jungle somewhere.
Actually ... that had some potential. Take them all out at once. If he could get his hands free -- kill the pilot, maybe --
They'd killed Danny. It wasn't a question of whether they'd die, just how. And he needed to live long enough to make it happen. That was all that really mattered at this point.
"Hey, Rick!" Sunburn called. "Thought I told you to get the engine warmed up!"
"Fucker's drunk again," one of the others said, and laughed.
"I swear to God, Rick ..." He reached up to swing himself up to the passenger side of the plane, then went over backward with a strangled yelp that choked off halfway.
There was a frozen moment when no one seemed to know quite how to react, Ward included, because that was Danny, jumping down from the door of the plane and into a hand-to-hand fight with the nearest mercs with that impossible speed he had. He took down two of them before they even knew what hit them, whirled and shot another with one of the chi guns.
The guy holding Ward finally had the presence of mind to jam a gun into Ward's temple. "Hey, hands in the air and drop the guns, or Pretty Boy here takes a bullet," he yelled. Danny froze in the process of straightening up from taking down another of the mercs with a spinning kick.
In that instant, Ward could see this going exactly like things had gone on the bridge except this time without whatever last-minute miracle Danny had somehow managed to kung-fu up out of nowhere. His hands were tied but his feet weren't, so he kicked his captor in the balls.
The gun went off in his ear. He fell, unable to catch himself with his hands behind his back, and hit the gravel runway hard enough to scramble his bruised brains again.
Things got hazy for a little while, and then there were hands on him, frantically plucking and pawing at him. The bonds around his hands separated, and he felt himself turned over while Danny's anxious voice said, "Ward? Ward!"
"Ow," Ward muttered, trying to bat him away. "I'm fine."
"Did he shoot you? Are you -- there's blood all over you, Ward, talk to me."
"I think that's from before," Ward mumbled, and then he managed to open his eyes and it finally sank in: it was Danny, definitely Danny, looking down at him with frantic worry. Danny, alive.
And Ward just ... went limp. Closed his eyes. Couldn't speak, couldn't even breathe.
Okay, probably not the best way to convince Danny he was okay. Still, he couldn't seem to muster the energy to move. He let Danny manhandle him into a sitting position, not much more gently than the mercs had.
"Ward, please, say something," Danny begged, parting Ward's hair with desperate fingers and from the feel of things, pulling out some of it as he tried to rip apart the mats of dried blood to get a look underneath.
"Ow! Stop it. I told you, I'm fine." Ward knotted a hand in Danny's shirt: Danny, solid and alive and warm and here, looking just like he had when Ward last saw him except now he had a bloodstained, crusted bandage knotted around his upper arm.
"They shot you," Ward said, lightly touching Danny's arm beneath the bandage.
"Yeah, they winged me, back at the bridge," Danny said. He cupped his hand around the back of Ward's head to hold it still so he could keep poking at the lump on the side. "The question is, what'd they do to you? You look awful."
"I got hit in the head. Ow. Stop. I thought they --" He took a breath, then said it. "I thought they killed you, back at the bridge."
"No -- no. Wow. No. I'm sorry." Danny looked truly contrite. "No, I managed to grab onto the underside of the bridge when I fell." Of course he did, Ward thought; only Danny could twist in midair, after being shot, and grab hold of the underside of a stone bridge. "It took me awhile to get back up top, and then I had to find you."
"You did." He still had a hard grip on Danny's shirt, all that was keeping him from falling over, or maybe just floating away.
"Yeah," Danny said, grinning a little, though he still looked distracted and worried. "Okay, so I don't think you got shot in the head, I think you maybe got winged a little bit across the scalp, but most of this is from earlier."
"Told you, I'm --"
"-- but that doesn't mean you're fine in any way, you still look like hell, Ward, and you've got a concussion at the very least. You need a hospital."
"I'm fine, really," Ward said again, and rested his forehead against Danny's shoulder. Danny gripped the back of his neck and then leaned his cheek against the top of Ward's head. It hurt. Ward didn't care.
After a little while, Danny said, "Uh, not to mess up the moment, but ... do you know how to fly a plane?"
Ward managed a shaky laugh. "Oh yeah, I got my pilot's license in between business school, running Rand, and being errand boy for my undead dad. Absolutely."
"So that's a no, then."
Danny left Ward sitting in the open cargo door of the plane, the only shade on the runway, while he tied up the surviving mercs and dragged them into one of the old hangars. He came back with two bottles of water. "Found these inside," he said, handing one to Ward. It was unexpectedly cold and damp. "These guys must've brought them. Still some ice in the cooler."
"Hooray." Ward leaned his aching head against the side of the plane's door, the metal hot in the sun. The cold water was soothing on his dry, sore throat. Danny stared up at him anxiously. "Stop looking like that. I'm not dying."
"If you could see yourself, Ward, you'd be looking worried too. You're covered with blood."
Ward looked down at the brown stains on his shirt. "Dried blood," he said, plucking at it.
"That's not better!" Danny leaned his elbows on the floor of the plane and frowned up at him. "Do you think you feel up to walking out of here?"
"Oh sure," Ward said wearily. "It'll be fun." And then he sat up straighter. "Wait. We might not have to. At least one of those guys had a phone that worked out here. Satphone or a cell with a really good antenna. See if you can find it."
"Sweet. Be right back." Danny patted him on the knee and jogged off toward the hangar. Ward tried to convince himself that he wasn't staring anxiously after him. Instead he drank the rest of his bottle of water and wondered who the hell says Sweet in 2019 like a 1990s fifth-grader.
Danny was back in a few minutes. "Ward, you're brilliant. I just talked to Colleen and she's all over it. There'll be a helicopter headed our way as soon as she can find the nearest charter service that she can, um, charter without causing an international incident."
He hopped up into the plane's doorway, where he sat beside Ward, legs swinging, and leaned his shoulder against Ward's. Ward leaned back, and closed his eyes.
After a little while Danny said, "So I looked at their text history. Wilson Fisk has a price on our heads? Because dodging Orson Randall's guys and what's left of the Hand and anyone else we've managed to piss off lately isn't enough. Seriously?"
"Bet you're regretting that 51% of the company now, huh," Ward said without opening his eyes.
"I'll talk to Colleen about it. Maybe she can do something back home."
"I don't think you're supposed to fall asleep with a concussion, Ward."
"Mmm. Bite me."
Danny shifted a little, making his shoulder a more comfortable pillow. "You sure you don't want to lay down?"
"I'm fine here," Ward said, and this time, he meant it.
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