Winter Sunlight

Iron Fist fic: Photo Finish

This came out of this conversation about Danny's portrait on the wall in 1x13 and just when exactly, in between ninjas and running from the law, he had time to go to a portrait studio.

Title: Photo Finish
Fandom: Iron Fist
Word Count: 4700
Summary: Ward wants a favor before Danny and Colleen leave town. Missing scene near the end of 1x13, after the funeral.
Crossposted on AO3: https://archiveofourown.org/works/20019835


1. Danny




Danny is meditating in the middle of Colleen's bed, sitting crosslegged in a tangle of bedcovers and stray clothing (Colleen, it turns out, is a messy packer, at least for a trip of indefinite duration), when a mild commotion out in the dojo rouses him. A door closing. Voices.

"Oh, you're looking for Danny?" Colleen says too loudly. "I'll have to see if he's here."

Danny has already swung his feet off the bed and curled his hand lightly into something not quite a fist as he leaps over an open suitcase and goes to find out who's bothering her.

He comes in on Colleen standing with her arms full of rolled-up mats, and just inside the door is the last person Danny would have expected to see here: a nervous and slightly sheepish-looking Ward.

"I thought we said goodbye already," is the first thing out of Danny's mouth.

(Though it wasn't really goodbye, not quite. They'd made it through the funeral, and on the sidewalk outside, Ward had said, "See you around," and Danny had said, "Yeah," and they'd both stood there for a minute, like there was something else that should be said, but neither of them could come up with it. And Danny had figured that would be the last time he'd see Ward for months, if ever, depending on how things went in K'un Lun with Colleen.)

But here's Ward in the dojo, a day and a half later.

And Ward just says, "I know," in a quiet, tired voice. He's dressed up as usual, from the neat lines of his jacket to his immaculately polished shoes, but it doesn't disguise his obvious exhaustion, the pallor of his face or the dark circles under his eyes. There are still visible traces of bruises on the side of his face. He looks tense and unhappy and nervous, and Danny wonders if either he or Colleen are aware that they're bristling at each other like a couple of stray cats.

And that's part of what makes him smile -- that, and just Ward being here, which might be bad news but it might also mean Ward is ... trying, in a Ward kind of way.

"You're supposed to take your shoes off," Danny says.

"I ... what?"

"He doesn't have to." Colleen's whole body is stiff; she keeps herself angled with the mats held to her chest, like armor, and her gaze fixed on Ward.

But Ward hesitates and then leans down and takes off his shoes, careful and precise. He glances up, and says, "I thought you might be gone already. You can use the Rand jet, you know."

"I know. We haven't decided about that yet." Danny moves to Colleen's side and touches her arm lightly, gives it a squeeze. It's not just support but also a point he needs to make: Ward over there, Colleen and Danny over here. He's on her side, no matter what.

But ... Ward. Here in the dojo. Even if Ward is only here because he wants something (almost certainly true), it's still kind of nice that he's here. "Do you, uh ... want some tea?"

"No, I ... no. Thanks." Ward looks even more awkward now, standing in sock feet just inside the door, hands shoved in the pockets of his wool coat. "Actually, I came to ask you for a favor."

"You," Colleen says, her voice a low bark of incredulity. "Want a favor. From him."

Danny gives her arm another gentle squeeze, a slow stroke of his open palm. "What's the favor?"

"I wanted to ... replace our dads' portraits. The ones in the outer office." Ward speaks more to the ceiling than to the two of them, rocking back on his heels, not quite meeting Danny's eyes. "I figure, it's not their company anymore. It's ours. We ought to signal that to everyone who comes in. That it's not the same place anymore. It's going to have a different direction. Right?"

"Right," Danny says cautiously. "Look, Ward, you don't need my permission to make changes. I don't care about the fifty-one percent, and I don't want to run the company; I told you that. I know I'm not good at it. You can do whatever you want with it, even sell it if you want to."

"I know. I ..." Ward huffs out a frustrated breath. "I need a picture of you, though. Something I can blow up to portrait sized that looks halfway professional." His gaze drops from the ceiling, and he meets Danny's eyes and gives him a quick smile with a tentative warmth in it. "What I've got to work with is a tiny black-and-white photo from your company ID and a few paparazzi shots from the tabloids. I don't suppose you've got a nice glossy around somewhere?"

"Um ... no, but you could take a picture of me right now?" Danny suggests. "With your phone or something?"

Ward glances at Danny's rumpled green hoodie and sweatpants, and takes a deep breath. "Danny. This is going to be on the wall where every visitor to our corporate offices sees it. This photo is going to tell people who our company is."

Danny grins, a full-on grin this time. "You wanted a different direction, right?"

He thinks for a minute he's pushed it too far, but then Ward ... Ward takes the playfulness and bats it back, rolling his eyes ceilingward and grinning a little. "Danny, c'mon. This is all I'm asking. If I schedule a session with a portrait studio tomorrow morning, will you be there? Hell, I'll even pick you up and drive you."

Danny hesitates, but ... he can't say no, he just can't. Ward's right, it's not much to ask. "Okay."

Colleen's arm tenses up again under his hand. "And I'll be there too," she says briskly. "To make sure it's all on the up and up."

Ward looks immediately offended. "What do you think I'm going to do, take him out back in an alley and stab him for his shares of the company?"

Colleen shrugs. "Yeah, I know right, try to lure someone to their death once or twice, and --"

"Sure, you can come," Danny says hastily, before things can go any further south, and he gives Ward a glance that is somewhere between apology and daring him to make anything of it.

Ward rolls his eyes again. "Okay, fine, of course she can come. And you're going to be wearing a suit and tie. With your shirt tucked in."

"I know how to dress up, Ward."

"History would suggest otherwise," Ward says dryly, and he fidgets and then says quickly, "Thanks," and starts to leave, remembers his shoes, and dodges back to pick them up, looking embarrassed.

"See you tomorrow!" Danny says brightly.

The door closes behind him. There's a moment of silence.

"I don't think it's a trap," Danny says finally. "I think he really wants to be friends."

"Danny, you think everyone wants to be friends with you."

"Yeah, but he's ..." Family, he wants to say, but -- he thought the Meachums were family once, mistook them for that, and he really doesn't want to keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

How many times will he let Ward stab him in the back before he learns?

But Ward saved his life. And he really thinks right now, they're both in the same situation, confused and uncertain and groping cautiously toward whatever their new normal is going to turn out to be.

Which just leaves a few questions. Such as ...

"Colleen, do you know where any of my ties got off to?"




2. Colleen




Ward is there on the dot of 9 a.m. the next morning, while Danny is trying to get his tie tied without strangling himself. Colleen is wearing her messiest, rattiest hoodie and has her hair pulled back in a sloppy ponytail. She gives Ward a look that dares him to do anything about it.

Ward takes a brief look at her, and all he says is, "Hi." He then takes a longer look at Danny. "Okay. Okay, we can work with this. Do you own any shoes that aren't sneakers?"

"I like my feet to be comfortable." Danny tries to adjust the tie again.

"Unless his feet are going to be in the photo, I don't think it matters," Colleen says pointedly.

".... Right. Okay. Sneakers it is. Nobody's gonna know." Ward reaches into his pocket. "I brought you a tie."

"But I'm already wearing a tie."

"His tie's fine," Colleen says, and her fingers twitch to ... she's not even sure, she just knows that having Ward in her dojo makes her incredibly jumpy. Just give me a reason, she wants to say, but Danny's not done making nice with the Meachums, apparently.

And Ward just keeps backing down, which is annoying.

"Okay," he says in exasperation, "his taste in ties isn't that bad, but -- that's not a Windsor knot."

Ward starts to reach for Danny's neck, and there's a very weird three-way moment in which Danny starts to jerk away, and Colleen very quickly makes the opening move for a kenpo snapping-twig defense that could have broken his wrist, but Ward pulls himself up and Colleen checks herself and they all three just kind of stand there for a minute.

Finally Ward makes a small gesture. "Yeah. So. Can I?"

Danny nods, and Colleen stands back because it's his decision, but she is so going to move in if Ward tries anything.

And at the same time she's thoroughly annoyed with herself, because what does she even think he's going to do, try to strangle Danny in the dojo? If nothing else, Ward has never been the direct-murdering type (well, except with Harold, but she can't really blame him for that, especially after Bakuto). It's not that she really thinks he's going to try to hurt Danny. It's just that she really, really doesn't like having him there.

If she's going to be complete honest with herself, it's not even Ward that's the problem, not entirely. She's just found out her entire life is a lie, most of the people she considered friends have tried to kill her, and she really hasn't had time to process it. She's running off around the world with Danny because where she used to have a life here (a mentor, work she loved, friends) there's now a void, and if she stops to think about it too much, she'll start screaming and never stop.

Giving Ward death glares is easier.

But he's careful as he ties Danny's tie for him, his movements neat and economical, and it occurs to Colleen as she watches him that he's used to doing things like that for other people. She recognizes it because it's the same way she adjusts her students' stances and reties their belts -- used to, she reminds herself. Used to. But Ward's done that kind of thing for people too. Probably Joy, she thinks. Maybe Harold. Maybe it comes of having a little sister, having family in a way she never really has -- that casual, physical comfort with other people.

And as if echoing her thoughts, Danny says quietly, "You did this before."

"What, tied a tie? Shockingly, yes. Every morning."

"No, for me." Danny's voice is distant. Remembering. "It was ... a wedding? I think. Or maybe some corporate thing. I was really small, and you kept having to do it over because I kept squirming --"

"I don't remember that," Ward says shortly. He steps back and gives the tie a short, approving nod. Danny touches it hesitantly, and then abruptly grins.

"Yeah, this is better," he says, and smiles at Ward. "Thanks."

Ward smiles a little and looks uncomfortable and turns to lead the way down the stairs. "Let's go, we're going to be late."

Colleen looks at Danny, who makes the tiniest of shrugs. And they go.


***


It turns out that Ward brought a limo, of all things. Colleen can't figure out if Ward is trying to impress them, or trying to be nice, or if he just thinks that being driven around in limos is what normal people do. Colleen scowls at the driver when he tries to open the door for her, and gets in on her own. They all end up knee to knee, looking awkwardly at each other: Danny and Colleen on one side, Ward on the other.

"Uh, do you want ... there's soda and iced tea," Ward offers, opening a little minibar thing, very sparsely stocked. He opens his mouth like he's about to say something else, then closes it, and looks at them expectantly. Colleen finds it interesting that there's no alcohol in it; TV has led her astray about the possibility of drinking in the backs of limousines, apparently. Or maybe that's a Ward thing.

So they each meekly take an iced tea. Danny doesn't open his (Colleen has learned that he dislikes most bottled tea; he says it's too sweet and tastes old, and it makes her a little bit pleased, in a petty way, that she knows this about him and Ward doesn't). She toys with hers, tearing the edge of the label. Danny's thigh is warm against hers.

"So what's going to happen?" Danny asks, fingering his tie again.

"What do you mean? It's a portrait studio. They'll take your photo -- stop that." Ward leans forward and swats Danny's hand away from the tie, or he starts to, but Colleen intercepts his hand in midair. She holds it just long enough and tight enough that it's clear she could break his fingers if she wanted to, and then firmly but not roughly returns Ward's hand to his side of the limo.

"Guys," Danny says.

Colleen is not going to be the one to apologize. Anyway, Ward is now looking at her, at both of them, like ... like he's figured some things out, and doesn't like it. He looks pensive and unhappy. She wants to feel satisfied about that, but instead she just feels unsettled and kind of miserable.

Trust Ward Meachum to make her feel guilty about scoring a point.

But he keeps his hands to himself for the rest of the ride. It's very quiet. The only person who tries to make conversation is Danny, and all his attempts fall flat.

Colleen drinks most of her tea.




3. Ward




Above all other things, Ward doesn't want to be Harold.

His life has lost its rudder, come unmoored from its anchor, and now he's groping in the dark, trying to seize hold of anything that makes sense -- and okay, that metaphor got completely away from him, but the point is, he doesn't really have much in the way of guiding principles right now, but the one thing he's seized on is that he's not going to be Harold.

So Ward notices the way Danny reacts when Ward tries to touch him, and the looks from Colleen, and he tries to stop. He's not running Danny's life the way Harold ran his. All Ward needs from him is a portrait to hang outside the elevators, and then Danny can go back to Asia and Ward will probably never see him again. And that's --

-- something he really regrets, damn it. And true, it's just one more regret to go on a huge, towering stack, but he keeps thinking about how Danny came to him and Joy in the beginning, friendly as a puppy, and if they'd just listened to him, if they hadn't ...

Well, there's no going back, no stuffing that particular cat back into the bag. His head hurts, and it's 9:30 a.m. and he really wants a drink, or a pill, or something to take the edge off. He never realized how raw the world feels when he's having to engage with it sober. Everything scrapes his nerves. Lights are too bright, voices too loud, everything just a little too close to the surface. He feels like he's walking around without skin.

He thought going cold turkey would be easiest but now that he's into the slow miserable grind of sobriety, he's changing his mind. Maybe it would work better to just kind of ... ease himself through it. Maybe one pill to take the edge off --

He has the painkiller prescription the hospital gave him for his concussion. He didn't fill it, but he also didn't throw it away, even with the bad idea, bad idea voice clanging in the back of his head. It's tucked into his wallet. He could fill it on the way home.

All of this goes through his mind in the limo, and is still whirling around at the back of his thoughts when they get out at the portrait studio and the driver pulls away. Danny walks in with a wide-eyed look like he's never seen anything like this before. Surely, Ward thinks, this can't possibly be the first time he's -- No, Wendell and Heather must have had as many photo ops for Danny as Harold did for Ward and his sister, dressed up like miniature adults, Joy with velvet ribbons in her hair.

He doesn't want to think about Joy. He doesn't want to be here, and it doesn't help much that Danny and Colleen look like they don't, either. Danny is still fidgeting with his tie. Colleen flops on a chair in the corner with one leg sprawled over its arm, idly holding the mostly-empty bottle of tea, and watches Ward like a hawk.

"Danny, you look constipated," Ward says. "Try to look serious and professional."

"Smile," the photographer says.

Danny tries to do both at once and ends up with a weird, screwy lopsided grin that -- okay, there is no way Ward's putting that on the wall; combined with the fluffy pile of curls, it makes him look like an actual, literal clown.

"Are we done yet?" Danny asks, picking at the tie.

"We've been here five minutes, so no. And stop that." Ward starts to reach for Danny's tie-fidgeting hands, gives Colleen a quick, nervous look, and desists. "Look, just try to look natural. Except professional."

"I don't even know what that means," Danny complains. The photographer repositions him looking off to the side and snaps a couple of quick shots.

"You need to look more serious," Ward says, so Danny tries scowling. Ward gets the familiar feeling of Danny working his last nerve, and maybe he doesn't mind Danny heading off to Asia quite so much anymore. "What is that supposed to be? Are you even trying?"

Danny's scowl deepens. "Look, if it's so easy, get up here and show me."

"What? I -- no -- all right, fine."

Ward marches up to the backdrop, stands stiff-backed at attention, and stares out into the middle distance. The photographer hesitates, shrugs, and snaps some shots.

"That's what you want me to do?"

"Professional," Ward says. "Serious, yet approachable."

"Ward, that's not what you look like. You look like Brother Peizhi when we got into his plums."

"Danny, please do not inflict K'un Lun stories on me today, I'm begging you."

"Ward, but -- no, if we're trying to show people what the company is going to be like going forward, we should be approachable and friendly, not scary and serious. Our dads are smiling in their portraits, right?"

"How about I take a couple of shots of you both?" the photographer suggests.

Ward throws her an annoyed look. "That's not what we're here for."

"No, but it'd be fun, don't you think?" Danny says, giving him a quick smile. "We don't have to keep any of them. I mean, we're business partners now, right? The only pictures we have of us together are from back when we were little kids."

Business partners. They are. That's weird. Thinking about that gets him through being jostled by Danny, who is suddenly all up in his personal space while the photographer's camera clicks.

"C'mon, Ward, unbend a little."

"I'm trying," Ward mutters. Joy used to complain about it too. They had a photo take every year for the corporate Christmas card and the stockholder newsletter, which usually involved the two of them sitting on a couch, Ward with his back straight and Joy draped on him in one of her bright flowing dresses. Come on, she'd say, try to look like you WANT to be here ...

Now he's got Danny draped on him instead, and Colleen looking quietly amused from across the room.

It's different, but -- This is what you wanted, isn't it? he thinks, suddenly furious at himself. Harold's gone, he's free, he can be whatever the hell he wants to be, he can go where he wants. Every decision he makes is his decision. And he tries to do the thing Joy always told him to do, and look like he wants to be here.

"Wow, that was almost a smile," Danny says. "You do know how to smile, right?"

"Of course I do," he snaps back, and Danny grins at him and Ward looks away but it's too late, he's grinning too.

(That's one of the pictures he keeps, when he gets to select prints from the full set later: Danny beaming at him, Ward ducking his head and looking away with a grin. It's one of the only photos he's ever seen of himself that makes him look happy.)

"Colleen, c'mere!" Danny says, laughing. "We don't have any pictures of us. Let's get some."

"What? No ..." But Colleen doesn't have any more defenses against Danny than Ward does, apparently. It's the first inkling he's gotten of anything they have in common, as Danny hauls Colleen over to the side of the room with the backdrops; she's wearing a look of resigned dismay that Ward's pretty sure is an exact mirror of the one he had a minute ago. And there's also something familiar about the way her scowl relaxes into a grin when Danny picks her up and spins her around in front of a sunlit-courtyard backdrop.

Danny is like a force of nature when he's like this. There's just no fending him off and no stopping him. Ward tried, lord knows he tried, and everything he did should have chased Danny off for good, but somehow it didn't and he doesn't know what to do with that.

So somehow this turns into an impromptu couple photography session for Danny and Colleen, and the entire mood in the room gets a lot more relaxed. The photographer gets a few of Danny by himself, looking considerably less constipated than earlier, and snaps a few candid ones of Danny and Colleen giggling, and Ward trying to get Danny's tie straight again, and suddenly they're out of time and the session's over.

"When do we get to see these?" Danny asks.

"I can give you small proofs right now," the photographer says. "The digital ones will be up on the website in a couple of days, and then you can order what you want."

"Wow." Danny looks starry-eyed. "Photography has changed a lot since 2002, huh Ward?"

"Stop being weird," Ward says, but Danny just looks happy, and even happier when the photographer prints off several sheets of photo thumbnails.

"Look at these! These are great. Colleen, look at this one. You're so pretty in it."

"I wish I hadn't worn this hoodie," Colleen says, looking at them over his shoulder.

"I want to keep it. I want all of these. Can I get copies of all these?"

"You can order any that you like," the photographer says. "Mr. Meachum, do you see any that look suitable for your corporate portrait?"

Ward decides that a few of the Danny ones do in fact pass muster, and arranges to have a large glossy version of the best one framed and shipped to the Rand offices.

"Ward, look at this one," Danny says, nudging him.

It's a strip of several candid shots in between their attempts at Danny's portraits, with Colleen giggling and a blurred, grinning Ward trying to get Danny's tie straight and, in one photo, impatiently swiping Danny's blond mop out of his face; he doesn't even remember doing that.

It's weird, Ward thinks, staring at the photos. They kind of almost look like they like each other.

They almost look like a family.

"I'm keeping these. Can I keep these?" Danny asks the photographer.

"Of course you can. Those are just the proofs, sir. Do you also want proof copies?" she asks Ward.

He's going to say no. There's no reason for it; if he wants any of these photos, he can get them off the website. But he finds himself nodding, and she runs off some copies for him too.

"This is great." Danny looks delighted. He folds them up and tucks them into his jacket. "I'm taking these with me. I didn't have pictures of anybody, before. I might take a picture of my parents too. Can I have the one from the townhouse, Ward?"

"I, uh, yeah." He'd forgotten completely about the townhouse. He's been there only once since Harold's death, only to find that Joy had cleaned out the bedroom, and taken the dog too. He's going to have to do something with it. Keep it? Sell it? "Do you want it?" he asks Danny.

"The photo? I just said --"

"The townhouse. It was your parents'."

"Oh." Danny looks startled. "Isn't it Joy's now --? Oh." He looks quickly away from Ward's face, and after a moment, he goes on. "I don't think so? I mean, I'm not even going to be here. And it's too big for just one person, or even two." He gives Colleen a quick smile, and then smiles at Ward. "You can do what you want with it."

Pieces of the past getting folded up and put away. It's all happening too fast, like everything that made his life real is breaking apart under his feet.

"Here you go, sir," the photographer says, and puts the proofs in his hand, still warm from the printer.

Ward looks down at the photos. At himself looking stiff and uncomfortable, and Danny and Colleen clowning around, and the handful of photos where he's wearing a shy, playful grin that makes his face completely unfamiliar to him.

Danny and Colleen, meanwhile, have been whispering back and forth. Abruptly Danny says, "Hey Ward, we're gonna have lunch after this. You're welcome to come if you want."

"Don't oversell it," Colleen says, nudging him. "You haven't told him what we're having."

"Oh. Right. So it's going to be sandwiches with limp lettuce, back at the dojo, with a side of three-day-old leftovers."

"We've got stuff in the 'fridge that needs to be used up before we leave," Colleen says.

Danny looks hopeful, but ... this has gone well. Better than Ward would have thought. And he doesn't want to ruin it. He'd like to tie a bow on this day with smiles and invitations and a good memory or two, not a slow spiral down into chilly silences and fights. Because no matter how well things are going now, that's where they'll end up eventually.

"Can't," he says. "Stuff to do. I can drop you off back at the dojo."

Danny looks far more crestfallen than Ward would have expected. "Yeah ... sure. Rain check, though? When I'm back from K'un Lun."

"Sure," Ward says easily. It's simple to agree to things somewhere out in a future that might not happen for years, if ever. "Rain check."


***


When they leave, Danny and Colleen go out first, talking and laughing. Danny has the proof sheets in his hand again, and they're giggling over some of the more ridiculous photos. Ward hangs back just long enough to open his wallet and take out the prescription. Crumpling it into a tight ball, he stuffs it into the trash can by the door.

It doesn't feel good, or freeing, or any of the things he wishes for. It just feels like a lost opportunity, a closed door. But like with the portraits, it's a door he chose, a door he gets to decide whether to open or close, and maybe being able to say that is a meaningful thing. He hopes so.

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