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Blood on the Streets

Chapter Text

“What can I get ya, Dick?”

 

Danny’s partner chuckled as he walked away, leaving him to deal with tall, dark and handsome all on his own.

 

“I’m looking for someone.”

 

“Aw, a pretty thing like you? In a place like this? Yeah, I think you’ll be fine.” The barman said, eyes roaming Danny’s face, as he could feel it warming.

 

“No, that’s not what i-”

 

His laugh caught Danny off guard, but seeing a smile, for the first time since landing back in New York was a balm to his heart. The fact that the man had an arresting smile and warm, rich laugh had nothing to do with Danny’s currently racing heart, at least, Danny hoped it didn’t.

 

 

 

24 hours earlier, Harlem:

 

It was your average rainy winter day in New York. The rain had formed puddles on the street, which were reflecting the dim light of the lanterns. Danny slammed the car door shut and waited for Ward to get out. "Fucking weather," the older man muttered.

Danny slipped in his long coat and shrugged, "It's just water, Ward. It's not so bad."

His partner scoffed and waved at one of the uniformed officers. The man obeyed and hurried towards them. Danny didn't recognize him, although that was not really a surprise. They were a bit outside of their usual territory, but they were needed here so Central had no other choice. The police were running low on forces these days. Danny liked to believe that this was the reason he got the job so fast, although he knew that this wasn't the case.

Ward lit his cigar and looked at the officer, "What do we have here?"

"Uhm... " the young man stumbled. Ginger hair was visible under his hat. He looked 12 and the freckles didn't help much. Danny really hoped that Ward wouldn't make fun of him due to his age.

"When did the NYPD start hiring kids?"

So much for that.

Ginger-head rubbed his neck and continued to stumble, "I... I'm an adult."

"The case Officer...?" Danny interrupted as he tried to prevent Ward from jabbing at the kid again.

"Officer Miller," he gleamed with pride before he remembered the actual question, " A young lady found shot in the head over there."

"Thanks." Danny smiled and Ward nodded as he tapped his cigar over a puddle.

Miller led them down the busy street. Bystanders where stopping, trying to get a good look at the crime. In the house on the opposite side of the street, Danny could make out silhouettes. Underneath there was a strip club, all flashy neon signs and girls.

"We don't know who she is," Miller stated.

Ward looked around the shady neighborhood, "Whore?" Ward spoke out Danny's first thought.

"Maybe."

Danny nodded towards the strip club, "Dancer?"

"We asked around they aren't missing any girls." Miller pointed them towards a small alleyway, just bright enough for some trash cans.

Ward walked ahead, taking off his hat as they approached the body.

The girl seemed to be young, maybe ninteen? Her long blonde hair flowed down over her shoulders. The bullet had entered her head through the side. Dark blood ran down the pale skin before it mixed with the rain water and vanished in the drain.

"She looks like a whore," Ward remarked.

Danny took a look at the short purple dress. It was glistering in the neon light from the street. It looked almost as if it was shining in all the colors of the rainbow.

"I don't know... looks like it could be a bit expensive for that." Danny kneeled down and looked up at his partner.

"There are expensive whores." Ward seemed really annoyed and Danny couldn't really blame him. He had a hell of a reputation at the department. And now he was assigned to a boring case with the Newbie child. On top of it, the rumor around the station was that he was assigned to this case because of drug problems.

"I know... I know.” Danny lifted the open purse from the ground. No identification. A lipstick, a small mirror, cigarettes and a lighter. The mirror looked expensive. Little silver flower ornaments framed the reflecting surface. Danny handed it to Ward and focused on the lipstick. It matched the one the girl was wearing. There was a French name written on it. Most likely a label and not her name though.

"Whoever she is..." Ward started looking at the mirror, “she seems to have had money."

“And?" Danny got up from the ground and turned around to look at the coroner's car arriving.

"Someone must be missing her. And if no one does, she's a noble whore and there aren't so many around.”

Danny nodded and looked around, but there wasn't much to see around her. The alley was just a cul-de-sac. There was no sign of the weapon or...

"She has no money with her," Danny stated.

Ward looked around to confirm the statement and nodded, "On the other hand there are no signs of a struggle. No marks on her wrist... in this part of the city, girls get raped when they are robbed."

"Hmm..."

"Miller!"

The boy obeyed with non-surprising enthusiasm as he hurried towards the two detectives.

"Sir?"

Ward seemed to enjoy the power he had over him, judging by the glistering in his eyes, "You said that you talked to the girls at the club?"

The boy blushed, “Yeah."

"Well," Ward tapped at his cigar, "Did you ask them about any unusual activities?"

"None of them noticed anything."

"Did you also ask the inhabitants of the house?" Ward asked.

The boy nodded proudly, “Mostly prostitutes and junkies. But they ain't missing anyone and haven't seen anything."

Ward smiled, “Good work."

The way the kid glowed with pride made Danny smile.

"There's nothing more for us to do here," Ward said as he pushed past the waiting coroners. Danny followed right behind him as they walked towards the car.

"At the precinct we have to go through the missing persons’ reports. Not much glamor, rich kid."

"No problem for me," Danny shrugged, and got into the passenger seat of the car.

 

The city flew past them. All flashing neon signs and pedestrians in dark coats. Danny could see his own reflection in the window. He looked tired. Dark rings under his eyes, his beard scrubby and his short blond curls were messy.

He needed sleep. But this was his first case at this job and he would not try to let it drag him down. And he was not going to show any weakness in front of his new partner. Ward was hard to read, not that reading people was one of Danny's strengths anyway but Ward was complicated. He seemed harsh and straight forward, he had a sharp face and strict eyes. At the same time, his smile was warm and gentle, he just smiled very rarely. And what bugged Danny the most about that, the smile had never been directed at him. Sure they were only working together for a few days now, still he had expected something as a greeting or a sign of respect. Not that Danny had been shown much respect these past few years.

He knew that it was pathetic, but in a way, he craved appreciation and it was hard for himself to not hate that reflection in the window. On the other hand, his problems seemed so little compared to that of the poor girl in the alley. Killed and left in the dirt as a nameless cold body.

Danny sighed and leaned back against the seat.

"That's pretty tame," Ward said and looked at him.

"Excuse me?"

"My first case had been a family massacre in the suburbs, the parents and the two sons... it was a bloody mess."

That didn't really help to make Danny feel better, "What happened?"

"The father lost his job. He had been wounded in France a week before and leashed out."

"Christ"

"Yeah. Just remember that it can always be worse."

Danny looked down on his shoes, “That’s not how I usually think about the world."

"I don't care, that's just how it is."

The younger man sighed and looked out of the window. Back to the self-loathing.

 

 

A few blocks away:

 

Luke poured the customer a drink and smiled kindly. He was a regular, Liam Sanders. In his late forties, not really attractive, not really ugly. His brown hair wasn't spare or overly grey but it was cut weirdly and his glasses made him look older than he was. Sanders was from midtown; for a while Luke had wondered what a white, fairly well off man was doing in this neighborhood. One night it turned out that he had an affair with a girl in Harlem and was coming here before and after their dates. From what Luke could understand through Liam's drunken rambling a few weeks ago was that things ended bad. He assumed that these days Liam was only here out of habit.

"Hey! What does a man need to do to be served in here?" a guy asked from the other end of the bar.

Luke raised a brow. He had emptied the bottle of beer within less than a few minutes.

"Ask nicely, would be a start. “ He walked over towards him and pointed at the empty bottle, "Another?"

He nodded and Luke felt his eyes on him during every move he made. Not in a creepy way though but in a way that sent jolts through his body.

Luke opened the bottle and handed it to the man, "Never seen you around before."

"I live a few blocks down the road. There's another bar."

"Sam's? Didn't that burn down?"

"Guess, why I'm here. Though I have to admit... I wish I came here earlier. I like the view."

Luke smiled. This night was shaping up to be interesting. Not that Luke had trouble to find guys to spend the night with, but he rarely had people flirting with him at his place of work. Sometimes he had caught guys staring, but that was it. He figured that they were too shy or too afraid to flirt in a place filled with people. He sort of got that, although New York was far better, in terms of acceptance, than Savannah was, it was hard to be oneself.

The thing was, Luke had stopped caring. He had stopped caring about the glances and about discrimination. He was a gay, black man, growing up as the son of a preacher in Georgia. He had spent his whole life caring and New York had marked a new beginning for him.

Luke smiled teasingly, "Glad to hear that."

A smile played on the man's lips, “When do you close?"

Looking around the bar... it wasn't a busy night. Liam, the man at the bar, and a young couple in the back. The two lovers looked as if they were about to leave, with the man smoking his last cigarette. Luke could easily push Liam out, then he could close down and go upstairs with what's-his-name. The perks of having your own bar.

"Half an hour, tops."

The man smiled and raised his bottle in Luke's direction.

This night was going well.

 

Chapter Text

 

Danny bit his lip as he opened the first file. It was shocking how many women went missing in this city. The pile in front of him and Ward wasn't sorted by date, and the ones at the bottom looked a few years old. If anything, Danny was happy that those would be irrelevant to their case. Nonetheless, all of these were missing people. People who most likely had something horrible happening to them. And these were just the women who were actually missed by someone and from this city. Not accounting for men, boys or other people across the country. 


Danny's finger ghosted over the first page of the file, a young black woman called Candace Miller. Definitely not their Jane Doe. He resisted the urge to read the rest of the file and put it aside.


Ward was already through way more files; he just glanced at the pictures before he put them aside. Sure, that was the effective and right way, but in a way, Danny felt as if these women deserved to be spared more than a glance. And maybe in a perfect world, they would actually meet them alive and well.


The next file was an elderly lady. Judith Verne, reported missing by her son. Not the girl in the alley.


Piper Dempsey...14. Shit. Too young to be the girl though. Most likely a good thing. Danny glanced over towards Ward, before he read the first few lines of the file. The kid's father is a veteran with an alcohol problem and a history of domestic violence. A runaway?


Danny grabbed the next file, Wanda Dempsey, the mother who went missing the same day the daughter did. A runaway. Just two women running away from a monster. Ward was already through all of his file but maybe five or so.


Hope Shlottman. Wait. The picture showed a young woman, barely adult. Eighteen according to the information in the file. Her long blonde hair was braided into a short, tight bun; it contrasted with her open and happy smile.


"Ward," Danny glanced up from the sheet.


"What?"


"I think I found her," Danny took the picture from the file and slid it over the table.


Danny looked at Ward, trying to study his expression , "Tell me what's in the file?"


"Uhmm..." Danny scanned the first few pages, “A starlet and college student from Nebraska. She hasn't contacted her parents at home in a while and she wasn't found when her apartment was searched."


"Boyfriend?"


"Not according to her parents. But her roommates mentioned a guy, she couldn't name him though."


Ward sighed, "Well then it's an easy solve. Any other significant relationships?"


"Colleges, few friends. No one else said anything about a man. No known criminal history not here and not in Omaha. Also, no known associations with drug dealers or gangs."


"Where does she live?" Ward asked.


Why don't you just ask me for the file?


"Hell’s Kitchen."


Ward nodded, "And work?"


"Hell’s Kitchen."


"What's she doing in Harlem then?"

"Maybe the man? Another friend?" Danny guessed.


Ward leaned back in his chair and lit another cigar. His coat was draped over his chair and only now in the light of the office, Danny saw the shadows under his partner’s eyes, the almost faded stains on his dress shirt and how his suspenders were sliding down his shoulders. Somehow, he looked a lot more vulnerable than Danny had perceived him over their first day as partners.


"Are you alright?" the question just slipped out. Danny hadn't really considered that Ward might take this as an insult. He may not like him pointing out a perceived weakness.


The other man raised a brow, "Why do you think I'm not?"


"Just wondering," Danny smiled shyly and hoped his charm would be enough to brush the question aside.


Ward sighed and seemed to consider his answer for a few moments, before he rolled his eyes, "At the Academy we're always told to share with our partners, because you need to rely on them. So here we go: My girlfriend's in L.A. for work."


"And you're not handling that well?" that sounded way more rude than Danny had wanted it to.
"Yeah. She helped me through a hard time."


Danny figured it wouldn't be good to ask about that time. "What does she do? I mean what's her job."


"She has that radio show, Trish talk."


"Oh."


"Have you ever heard it?" there was a hint of excitement in his voice.


"No, I mean. I haven't been back in the city for long. I'll give it a try though." Danny gave him his warmest smile.


"She's great," Ward smiled fondly, before he seemingly snapped back and grabbed his coat, "Enough talking, let's go!"


"Go where?" Danny jumped from his chair and followed Ward's big fast steps.


"Hope's apartment."


"It's in the middle of the night," Danny argued.

"This is murder, Rand."

 


 

Suddenly Luke was back.


Back on Rykers. 


Back in the orange prison clothes, being he beaten on by the racist guards again.


Rykers had been hell. There was no other way to put it. What other word could describe the feeling when someone takes your personality, your freedom and your life from you?
What other word could describe it when you were treated like a damn animal, like a slave although slavery was theoretically abolished?


Sitting in a cell for the whole day, knowing that you might have to face abuse at any given moment had been torture. Luke wished that he could say that he had done his time, but he broke out, and sometimes Luke wondered if that wasn't the worse choice. If he had done his time, it would be harder for him to be dragged back. Like this, he woke up every day, afraid of ending it in a cell.


In a way it was like sitting in the cell, waiting for abuse that could happen any minute but that also wasn't guaranteed to happen at all. Just as he finished the thought, the heavy door opened.

Luke woke up and he was back in his apartment. His hook-up from last night was still asleep next to him. Sighing in relief he leaned back and closed his eyes.

 




Hope Shlottman lived in a tiny, but clean, apartment in the best region in Hell’s Kitchen, which was still really bad off compared to other parts of New York.


Her roommate introduced herself as Mei, a small woman, seemingly of Asian descent. They had decided not to tell her about the body in the alley that was most likely that of her friend. (deleted). She seemed smart though, and Danny was sure that she could add up the clues. Hope had been missing for a few days and only now the police was here again to look at her room. She must be assuming that something was up.


Shlottman's room was small, the light wooden floor was covered with a blue rug. A fancy bed with a heavy wooden frame was standing next to the door. The nightstand next to it was clean and empty. Meanwhile, the heavy wooden wardrobe was overflowing with show costumes, feather boas and dresses. The shelf and the desk were somehow stuffed in front of the window. A lonely gramophone was filling up one corner of the room. The lamp at the ceiling was tilting everything in a soft but somewhat cold shade of purple.  The wall was plastered with pictures and certificates.


Ward slowly stepped towards the wardrobe. Without hesitation, he opened the doors and started to dig through the fabric and clothes.


Danny hesitated. This was part of the life of a young woman. An intimate part at top of that.


As if he could read his thoughts, although it was probably just his expression, Ward tilted his head and looked at Danny, "Relax, it's not like we're looking through her diary or something... although we would definitely have to search that, if we found it, so keep your eyes open."
Hesitantly Danny opened the drawer and stopped when he found a pile of letters.
Ward seemed to notice that he had stopped and looked up from the wardrobe, "Look, the thing is, what do you think is the biggest injustice to the girl? Having cops who do this for a living look through her stuff, or being murdered with the killer still running on the loose? I think I know what my answer would be. And trust me, there's a lot of stuff I wouldn't want out in the open."


Danny sighed and grabbed the first letter addressed to Hope, written by her parents:

 

 

 Dearest Hope, 
It has been a few months since we've written you the last letter and we all hope that you're not too mad. A lot has happened these past weeks and we got all caught up in our own issues. Dad finally found a new job and right now it seems as if it will be better paying, than the last. He'll be working for GM and has good chances to be promoted soon since they are looking to expand and there are so many men at war for this country. He doesn't want to admit it, but he's really nervous. You know how he can be.
Owen has started football again. Apparently his injury didn't set him back too much and he's on his way to be a starting player again. Besides that, he isn't doing so good in school right now, maybe you could help him the next time you come over here? We'll pay you a little, of course. Owen also misses his big sister (he would never openly admit it either... men, right?) He asked us if we can adopt a kitten and we're actually thinking about giving in. We plan to visit the shelter next week or something.
I have started an art course two weeks ago. It just came over me as an idea, it's fairly expensive but I think it's paying off.


//There was a small sketch of a big futuristic city at night.//

Anyway, I have to leave and bring your brother to football practice. Hope you're doing well over there.

Sincerely,
Mom

Something in Danny's gut twisted as he put the letter down with slightly shivering hands. 


He took a deep breath and unfolded the next letter:

 

 

 To the enchanting Hope,
When I saw you on the stage that night, I knew that you were something truly special. Never have my eyes feasted on such beauty and never have I seen a smile that couldn't be overshadowed by the fume of cigarettes or that of nine other girls. Until this night I believed that all angels have left this world. All light has turned into darkness and all the beauty in the world has been wiped away. I'm not a man of words normally and yet, here you see me searching for descriptions that could put your beauty on these pages. I just beg you on my hands and knees to meet me in front of the Purple Velvet at nine.

Only thinking of you, S.

Over the text were two big words, written with harsh strong writing that seemed to belong to a woman: Fuck you!

The letter had no stamp and nothing else that would indicate it being send by the mail.
"Seems like she had an admirer." Danny handed the letter over towards Ward, "and she wasn't necessarily into him. But it could also be the boyfriend; there's no date on the letter maybe they had a fight."


"Maybe," Ward sighed and packed the letter into his jacket.

 The drive back to the precinct was luckily short. It was already early in the morning, when the detectives had left Hope's apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. Danny could see Ward struggling to keep his eyes open and he couldn't blame him. No matter how much coffee they would down today, they needed sleep more than anything else. The rest of the letters hadn't really offered much, they were mostly family, friends back from Iowa or little drawings Hope had folded in there.


Besides that, there hadn't been much: The trash can had been filled with paper and usual stuff you would find in every young girl's room, the wardrobe had offered the two nothing but street and show wear and besides that the vinyl were the only thing somewhat close to personal items.


"Where do you live?" Ward asked and looked over at Danny.


"Midtown, why?"


"We're calling it a day for now. Catch some sleep, we'll meet at the morgue in five hours and then we'll stop by Hope's workplace."


Danny groaned and let his head fall back against the seat, five hours’ worth of sleep was nothing, but they sure felt like heaven right now.


"Get used to it," Ward laughed and yawned to bring the point across, "Police work isn't easy and not as well paid as we deserve."


"As well as you want or as well as we deserve?"


"Maybe both? See, kid. None of us makes this job for the money alone. The times are hard, yes. But you don't choose this job because you are out for our loan. There are way less riskier or exhausting ways to earn more money. People take this job out of conviction."


"What was your reason?" Danny hoped he hadn't crossed any line with that question.


Ward sighed, "I wanted to prove myself. I always thought that I was soft and so did my father. He hated me I know that."


"I doubt that."


"You don't know him. He was never happy with what I did, there was no way to please him. So I went to the military, went to Europe, to war in order to prove him that I could do it and to prove myself that I was strong. And then, when the war was over and I came back, I went to the police. Do you want to know why?"


"I literally just asked you that," Danny smiled kindly.


Wards knuckles turned white as he gripped the steering wheel tightly, “Because my father still gave absolutely no damn. I know this sounds pathetic... But, I thought: Okay, what else can I do? And the police came to mind."


"Your father sounds like a real piece of work."


"Sometimes, when I get called in for murder of a middle aged white man, I hope that I'll arrive at the scene and see him."


There was some madness in Ward's voice and in some way it scared the shit out of Danny. What should he say in a situation like this? I'm sorry? It's okay? All of this sounded as if he was simplifying Ward's problems. I'm sure it isn't his intention to hurt you? That was as if he was protecting Ward's father.


"That sucks." It was the first thing that came to Danny's mind and he figured that maybe it was that simple.


If anything, it caused a sad smile on Ward's lips, "Yeah, it does. Anyway, this is you."


Danny hadn't realized that they had already pulled up in front of his Brownstone. "Thanks for the lift," he raised his hat and got out of the car, before he turned around to briefly wave at his partner.
 


 

Chapter Text

"Good morning."

 What's-his-name was already in Luke's kitchen cooking eggs. "It's in the middle of the day. I'd hardly call it that."


"As long as it's good."


Luke smiled, "I don't mean to be rude but don't you have work?"


"I work at a clinic. I'm free today."


"Ugh... uhm... nice. I just have to be down at the bar in a few hours and--"


The man grinned, "You don't have to put up with me don't worry. I'm not searching for someone and I don't think you are either," he lit a cigarette with the fire of the stove.


"How do you know?" Luke asked.


"We don't even know each other's names. And you haven't really tried to get to know it."


Luke shook his head and laughed, "It's nothing personal; I hope you know that."


"Have you ever been in love?” he looked up from the stove and took another drag from his cigarette.


An oddly personal question for someone you don't even know the name of and who you have known for just a night. On the other hand, what was the point in lying right now, he might as well speak the truth, “No."


"See, that's the point. I've been in love once and I don't plan on committing to someone who I don't feel this way with. It's neither worth my, or your, time. Last night was great, but I believe in love at first sight."


"What happened to him?" Luke sat down on his chair and leaned back.


"He was murdered. They say gang stuff."


Luke tilted his head choosing his words carefully, "There’s something in the way,you pronounced they … what do you say?"


"KKK."


"Shit, man."


"I mean, he was fighting for this country, fighting Nazis like so many. And then he gets back and gets murdered for being black or gay, or both. Here. This is not what we fought for."


"I'm so sorry. I know it won't make anything better, but I am," Luke said.


He looked at Luke and tilted his head, "It's none of your goddamn mistake... not at all. I shouldn't even have bothered to flood a one-night-stand with such a downer."


It was hard to read, whether the anger was in his words was actually directed at Luke or just the world in general. But maybe Luke shouldn't test it. Instead he tried to change the topic, got up and looked over his shoulder as he cooked.


The smell of the scrambled eggs was balm for his mood and as his stomach grumbled, he realized just how long it has been since he ate the last time.


His one night stand chuckled softly at the sound and petted his stomach, “A few minutes, I guess..."


Luke laughed softly, "Thank you for this. And you know, you can still come to the bar. I promise it won't be awkward."


"I...think it will."

Luke was happy that the conversation had turned to slight banter this quickly. "Maybe. Still, if you need a place to come to. Feel free to stop by."


"I'll keep that in mind."


Luke smiled and put a few plates on the counter, walked towards the radio and turned it on and was greeted by "Castle Rock" by Frank Sinatra. The other man smiled and Luke went on to open the window. Outside the city was alive, cars were honking, people were walking on the sideways chatting about work, family, or whatever. The smog and smoke from outside mixed with the fume of cigarette and scrambled egg from inside of Luke's apartment, but after all this sad talk and bad dreams at least the sun was still shining.

 

 

 The sun was breaking through some single clouds when Danny arrived at the morgue. He had decided to walk, it was just a short distance and he somehow felt uncomfortable while driving. It wasn't such a bad thing, though. The weather was decent and walking kept him in shape. He hadn't really had much time to work out these past few weeks, he needed to change that whenever he would have some free time.


The morgue was a fairly fancy building, pretty white pillars framing the heavy dark door. Ward was already waiting in front of it on the streets. Cigar lit and hiding a flask away.

"You're late."


Danny looked at his watch, “You’re early."


"Better being early, than late," Ward countered.


"And I'm not. Just in time," he muttered, but Ward had already made his way towards the door.


"First time here?"


"Hmm..." Danny nodded.


"Welcome to the fun then." Ward grinned as he walked  ahead towards a desk with a single woman sitting on it, "Detectives Ward Meachum and Daniel Rand."


The woman looked through a small calendar in front of her on the desk and raised a brow, "You are here for a Jane Doe?"


"We believe we identified her, but yes." Ward said.


"You can discuss that with Doctor Fitz. She'll pick you up here. Take a seat."


"Thank you Ma’am," Ward nodded.

Ward pulled Danny away as another duo of Detectives lined up behind them. "So I asked Daisy to call Hope's family," he sat down on a bench and Danny did the same.


"Daisy?"


"Daisy Johnson. Our secretary at the police station."


"We have our own secretary?" Danny asked.


Ward laughed,” Yeah, one for five detectives; you really don't know much."


"Detective Ward?" a heavily British accented voice saved Danny from being forced to answer, "and you must be Detective Rand?"


"Dr. Si- Fitz, I still have trouble to get used to it."
The young woman beamed happily at Ward, before she gave him her hand and turned towards Danny, “Nice to meet you Mr. Rand."


"Danny."


She smiled jokingly, "Oh please, I'm married now."


He blushed, "That's not what I-"


But she had already turned around, "The poor girl's at autopsy room 6."


"We believe her to be a Hope Shlottman," Danny added.


Fitz sighed, "At least she has a name now, Poor thing."


Danny nodded and Ward continued, "Is there even much you can tell us?"


Fitz raised her hand and opened a fairly heavy door. The smell was uncanny: foul and sterile at the same time. In the dim light of the lamps Hope looked like an angel. The skin looked even paler, than Danny remembered it. Her lips were purple and her hair was sideways falling down of the table, as was the white blanket that covered her naked body. Almost out of instinct, Danny grabbed his hat and held it in front of his chest. Ward did the same, so he probably did the right thing.


"Haunting isn't it?" Fitz whispered as she hurried ahead, "As Detective Meachum assumed, she didn't hold that many secrets."


"What about the bullet?" Ward asked stepping closer.


"It entered her skull from behind and above."


Danny looked at her, "She kneeled?"


"An execution. These kind of gunshots happened in the war and often whenever organized crime was involved. The bullet also belongs to a Desert Eagle, we know that the Italian mafia amongst other gangs likes to use these guns."


"She was a harmless starlet..."


Fitz sighed and walked towards the girl, "Well there's a bit more."


Carefully she shoved the blanket away, so that it uncovered her upper arm. There was a dark purple mark, roughly the size of an average man's hand. "She was grabbed and shaken. Domestic violence?"


"We're not a hundred percent sure whether or not she had a boyfriend. We know that she had a fight with one man who admired her," Ward replied dryly.


"There were also some older marks all over her torso."


"Shit."


She nodded, "I think that's it for here and today."


Ward stilled, "Wait. That's not like you at all. No lecture or private talk."


Fitz smiled after an initial shocked reaction, "I easily get sick down here as of lately."

"Have you seen another Doctor?" he tilted his head.


"Uhhhmm... It won't be an issue in a few months."


Ward stilled, for a moment an undefinable emotion flickered through his eyes, "Congratulations," he reached out and grabbed her hand.


Danny smiled and kindly did the same after Ward pulled back. Somehow it was ironic that they were celebrating the beginning of new life next to a body.


"But you mean it? I mean, you mean that we are done here for today?" Ward asked as he put on his hat. He seemed nervous and anxious to get out, although he tried to downplay it. Danny couldn't blame him, it was really uncomfortable down here.


"Yes." Fitz smiled still glowing from the announcement of her pregnancy, "I can escort you out, if you want me to."


"Thanks, we'll be fine." Ward smiled and Danny gave the Doctor a wave before they left the autopsy room.


"Now?" Danny asked.


"Where've you been yesterday?" Ward answered.


"Oh right, the Purple Velvet."


Ward laughed, "See? No need to ask me that, you're doing fine."

 


The Purple Velvet was a shady nightclub. Danny could imagine it being busy at night, when the businesses and banks were closing and busy men were out on the streets to drown their stress with alcohol, cigarettes, and pretty girls. Now, however, it was still afternoon, the streets were fairly empty except for some smaller groups of people out shopping.


"You think someone's there already?" Danny asked as he looked at Ward, who was busy parking the car. 


"The club will open soon. The girls and other employers should all be there," Danny's partner rolled his eyes in annoyance. 


"Well, sorry," he rubbed the base of his neck.


Ward sighed and turned off the motor, "No, I'm sorry. I'm still fed up with everything that happened with Trish. I shouldn't let it out on you... It's just... I barely slept an hour tonight."


"When's she coming back?" Danny asked.


"Hopefully this week."


"See, it's not so long anymore. You can do this." Danny smiled and opened the door.


"Hmm..." Ward grumbled, "Maybe a smoke can help."


Danny put on his hat and nodded. "Let's hope we get to know something new about Hope, I hate it when we have to make trips for nothing."


"These are her co-workers, I'm sure, they know something that we haven't heard already.


Ward sighed and knocked at the door a few seconds before he opened it. The inside of the Purple Velvet was a lot bigger than Danny had expected from the outside. There was a large stage and good amount of chairs and armchairs in front. On his right was a squeaky clean bar. The bartender was busy restocking the shelves and looked up at the two visitors.


"We're closed."


Ward rolled his eyes dramatically, "Can we talk to your girls?"


"Are you deaf? We're closed! Now get out, or I'll call the police!"


"We are the police." Danny didn't think that a person could have a more self-confident appearance than Ward at this moment as he walked up towards the bar. Danny showed his badge and Ward did the same.


Now it was the bartender who rolled his eyes and sighed, annoyed at the officers. Danny figured that his kind wasn't welcome in a place like this.


"What can you tell us about Hope Shlottman?" Ward asked a he put his badge away.


If the bartender was bothered or somehow moved, he didn't show it, "This is about her?"


"Yeah."


"She was a good girl. Came here always on time. She was very pretty; the men liked her."


"Isn't there more?"


"Maybe something more private?" Danny offered.


Ward looked at him and Danny feared that he’d just undermined Ward’s authority by interrupting.


"Ya gotta ask the girls. That's girly stuff, ya know?"


"Are the girls here?" Danny asked.


"Backstage."


"Thank you, sir." Danny smiled kindly and hurried after Ward.
"Don't ever do that again. I lead this investigation. If I want you to interview a witness, I'll tell you."


"Sorry."


Ward grunted. This time, he waited longer after the knock on the door. Danny assumed that this was because he wanted to give the girls some time to get decent.


After a short wait, he slowly opened the door, "Police."


"Is it because of Hope?" a pretty ginger girl stepped in front of the door. She was already dressed in a green show costume.


"Yes Ma'am. My partner and I have to ask you a few questions," Ward said.


"Come in."


The inside of the changing room was fairly well lit, confined to the club. A gramophone was playing quiet Jazz music in a corner and the air smelled like perfume, make up, and new fabrics.


Besides the ginger woman, there were three other girls. A brunette with a purple dress, an exotic looking, olive skinned woman and a blonde girl smoking in the corner.


"It's about Hope," the ginger turned around and repeated for the others.


The blonde girl rolled her eyes and vanished through a door in the back, Danny assumed that it led to a backyard or something. The others waved the two men over towards where they were sitting.


"You found her?" the brunette asked.


"Yes,” Ward answered. Danny had decided to remain silent until he was told otherwise.
"I assume she's not well." The exotic woman had not only foreign looks but also a very odd accent. Something in her voice sent unpleasant shivers down Danny's spine.


Ward nodded, "We're very sorry."


The brunette woman sighed, " We knew that this would happen. I mean, we knew that something terrible had happened to her, you know?"


"Yes, Ma’am."


"Name's Pam."


"Elektra," the dark skinned woman introduced herself.
"Robyn," the ginger added.
"Detective Meachum, and this is my partner Detective Rand. Who was that woman?" he gestured towards the door.


Elektra grinned, "Oh, that was Jenny. She's the girl who was hired as a replacement for Hope. She's jealous of her."


"Elektra!" Pam shouted.


"It's true. Hope was very popular. And Jenny...Not so much."


"We don't think she hurt her though." Pam said.


"She also arrived from Canada only after Hope vanished," Robyn offered.


Ward scribbled something down in his note pad, "Is there anyone who could mean her harm?"


"Not as far as we know," Elektra replied and the other girls nodded.


"A guy?" Ward offered.


"She was seeing someone... we never talked about that. Private life was a bit of a taboo. Hope never wanted to tell anything and we didn't want to push her."

Pam was seemingly the leader.


"And you don't know anything about that man?"


Elektra sighed, "I think she mentioned a bar, the "Brooklyn Raider" before she vanished, I can't remember the context though."


"And that’s really all?"


"As Pam said, she was very closed about everything non-work related and I don't think her advice for the show would interest you," Robyn smiled, "Besides, we have to be on stage for practice, so if you don't mind," she opened the door.

 


 The "Brooklyn Raider" was a small and sort of run down place at the corner of a busy street. Danny walked ahead with Ward right on his tracks; luckily the place was already open. The moment the door was opened a slit wide the smell of alcohol, junk food, and cigarettes escaped from the bar. Danny coughed when he walked in. His eyes needed a few moments to adjust to the dim light.


An elder man was sitting in a corner all alone, sipping on a glass of whiskey. Behind the bar, a large black man looked up from the glass he was drying with a towel. Surprisingly, Ward stayed behind as Danny walked towards the counter.


“What can I get ya, Dick?”


Danny’s partner chuckled as he walked away, leaving him to deal with tall, dark and handsome all on his own.
“I’m looking for someone.”


“Aw, a pretty thing like you? In a place like this? Yeah, I think you’ll be fine.” The barman said, eyes roaming Danny’s face as he could feel it warming.


“No, that’s now what I-”


His laugh caught Danny off guard, but seeing an honest smile that was actually directed at him for the first time since landing back in New York was a balm to his heart. The fact that the man had an arresting smile and warm, rich laugh had nothing to do with Danny’s currently racing heart, at least, Danny hoped it didn’t.

Chapter Text

Luke was sure that he had never seen a smile as beautiful as the one of the handsome young detective in front of him. And it wasn't even bright and that genuine. He seemed to be shy and looked awkwardly away from Luke. His insecurity was actually kind of cute.


"My partner and I, we're looking for whoever had shift in here two nights ago?"


"I assume you’re a cop, then…”


"Yeah. I can show you my badge," he searched his jacket and Luke laughed.


"I believe you. And regarding said night, that would be me. I'm the only real worker in the bar. I run this place alone."


"Oh."


"So the man you're looking for would be me." Luke smiled and he enjoyed the way the cop’s cheeks reddened slightly.


"Okay, then I need you to answer a few questions about said night," he slid his badge and ID over the counter.


Luke smiled and skimmed over the ID, "Daniel Rand", age twenty-five, and damn, the photo didn't do him justice.


"Luke Cage,” he smiled and offered him his hand.


Hesitantly, Rand took his offer, and for the first time the cop actually met his gaze. Luke wasn't sure if he'd ever seen such beautiful blue eyes in his life.

The cop awkwardly cleared his throat before he reached for something in the pocket of his trench coat, "We'd like to know if you've seen this woman on said night?" he placed a photograph on the counter and gave Luke some time to study it.

The picture showed a smiling white, blonde, girl in a pretty summer dress. She looked familiar but Luke couldn't quiet remember her. He had to admit that he'd been pretty drunk; it was likely that he'd seen her that night but he couldn't remember any details.

Luke sighed, "Looks familiar somehow. But I don't know anything else."


"Was she here with someone?" Rand asked.


"You either aren't as smart as you're pretty or you're deaf. I said what I said. I think she was here, but I can't tell for sure and I don't remember anything else."


Rand smiled and Luke was sure that he looked away to hide the blush on his cheeks, "Okay, if you remember anything. Like anything at all, be it details or other patrons who were here that night and might remember more, here's my office number."

Luke smiled and took the slip of paper, "I'll take you at your word."


He smiled shyly and nodded, "Okay, uhm...See you?"


"I hope so," Luke grinned and stuffed the slip of paper in one of his pockets.

Yeah, he shouldn’t really flirt in here, especially not with a white cop. But he had run from who he was for way too long and he finally wanted to take whatever he needed. And right now, he wanted Rand, so he would try everything in his power to make him want him as well. 

 

"You believe him?" Ward laughed, nudging Danny's shoulder.

He had told him about Cage's story and him not remembering anything.


"He seemed genuine," Danny shrugged.


Ward sighed, "I wouldn't believe... what they say."


"They?

 "People from... this kind of... environment."


"Environment? He's a bartender."


"Colored. I wouldn't trust colored people," Ward rolled his eyes.


"Why?"


Danny knew racism. He knew how the situation was here in New York. But he never understood the concept. He grew up in China, where he had been the odd one out. He just had no idea how the color of someone's skin should give anything about their character away. If what he heard about the Nazis was true, then judging people on certain visual traits had caused terrible things in Europe.

 
"Because they always cause some form of trouble." Ward lit his cigar and blew some smoke into the cold night air.


"What form of troub-- you know what? I guess we call it a day, right?" Danny had tried this before, it was hard to reason when someone didn't want to change his mind.


"Yeah. I'll drop you off."

The drive home was silent and awkward. The two hadn't made much progress today and it was getting late. Danny was sort of relieved when he closed the door behind himself. He took off his hat and shrugged out of his coat. He needed a good amount of sleep, a nice dinner and a hot bath. Not necessarily in that order.

 
Something about this day had been exhausting, the visit at the bar had been a lot more stressful than it should have been. A part of him knew why. Danny sighed and was unbuttoning his shirt when his phone rang from the living room.


With a short sprint, he managed to take the call after two rings, "Rand?


"Hi Detective," Daisy Johnson greeted, "I have a call to your office from a certain Luke Cage. Shall I connect him?"


"Sure. Go ahead."


A few moments passed and Danny heard the usual amount of weird noises that occurred whenever a call was connected.


"Detective Rand?" even over the phone, that dark, deep voice caused pleasant shivers to run down Danny's spine.


"Yes?"


"About that girl..." there was a pause and Danny swore he could hear a sigh, "About her... I think there's something more."


"You remember her?"


"Not directly. Maybe it's a bit too much to discuss over the phone."


Danny leaned back against the doorframe, "My partner and I can visit you tomorrow?"


"I... I... I'm not sure, if that is really something we can discuss just like this--"


"What do you suggest, then?"


"Meet me in an hour at Central Park."


"It's in the middle of the night."


"I know, that’s why I suggested it."


Danny sighed, he could easily call Ward or not agree on the deal. Everything about this sounded like a trap, a set-up, for something Danny didn't even know anything about. This case was nothing that should require a request this mysterious and yet this was happening. He had no reason to give Luke the benefit of a doubt and trust him and yet he knew that he wouldn't deny his offer for the shady meeting.


"Where exactly?"


"West entrance."


"Okay," after the confirmation Luke ended the call. 


Danny rubbed his temples, damn he was tired, but if he wanted to meet Luke in time he had no time for a nap. He had a few minutes before he needed to be on his way.  He buttoned his shirt closed again, stuffed a small note pad in his jacket, and went to the kitchen so that he could at least warm himself with a tea.

 

The park was dark when he arrived. He wore the same jacket and hat he had worn earlier and the way he glanced at Luke, distrusting and yet intrigued, made Luke smile. He liked seeing him again, not that this was unexpected. Luke had considered him an attractive man ever since he had first walked into his bar, but Luke hadn't expected his raised heartbeat, sweaty palms and the slight queasy feeling in his stomach.


"Here I am, what do you want to tell me?" Rand asked.


"Hello to you too."


Rand rolled his eyes, "Hey."


"I actually didn't expect you to show up."


"It's my case, what did you expect?" Rand asked.


Truth was, Luke had hoped for him to show up, but he sort of had expected to be disappointed. "I didn't expect a cop to meet a black man with possible ties to a murder in the middle of the night all alone."


"I'm an optimist and I believe in people."


"Or you're very stupid."


Rand laughed and put his hands in his pockets.
"Come on we'll walk a bit." For some reason Luke had to suppress the urge to offer the cop his hand.


Rand sighed, "If I wasn't stupid before, I am now."


They walked the first few steps in silence, side by side. It had rained earlier that night and the grass, trees, and bushes were wet and shiny in the dim lights of the lanterns.


Luke started, “When you came to the bar today..."


"I think technically it had been yesterday." Luke could see the ghost of a shit eating grin on the other man's face in the darkness.


"Smartass. There's something I remembered. It was a little after you left the bar. I was cleaning one of the tables and I remembered that she was sitting there. I also know that this table is usually reserved for a certain Hernan Alvares every night."


"Formally?"


"No, but he's usually there every week."


"So you're saying that he has something to do with the girl?" he had stopped to scribble something down and Luke wondered how that was even possible that time of the day.


Luke sighed, “All I'm saying is that he might know something about her."


"What can you tell me about that guy?" They continued walking slowly next to each other.

Luke remembered how his first date in New York had ended like this. There had been kisses and they had been holding hands as they ignored the glances others had directed at them. Yet somehow this felt just as, if not more intimate, than that night.


"I don't know much. He's a regular, has been at the bar since the beginning. He always wears sunglasses."


"Does he suffer from a disease?" Rand asked.


"I don't know."


"When did you open the bar?" Rand tilted his head.


Luke shrugged, "What does that have to do with the case?"


"Nothing," the other man admitted.


He was interested in him, but was it the cop Daniel Rand or the person Daniel Rand?
Please let it be the later. "Only a year ago."


"Why?"


"Why not?" he laughed, "I came from Georgia... and after that I... had a lot of different jobs. I wanted something honest and steady."


"Honest and steady, huh? And you open a bar in Harlem."


"Compared to Georgia...This is relaxing as hell."


"I've heard bad things happening to... you guys down there."


Luke laughed, "What do you mean? Blacks or Gays?"


"I... I didn't... know you were..." it was cute how he was so shy without an actual reason.


"Don't act stupid, it doesn't suit you. I mean, I really hope you just pretend that you haven't noticed it. Because otherwise my flirting skills have really gone to hell."


Rand giggled, "I guess I shrugged it off as something else... but in a way, I am honored-- flattered, I mean flattered. But--"


"It's okay you don't want this to actually happen, because you don't swing this way." Luke wasn't entirely convinced of that, but he told Rand whatever he thought the other man wanted to hear.


They crossed a small river over a bridge and for a moment Luke enjoyed the clean air. He used to smoke, but that was before he went to prison, these days he preferred the crystal clear night air over cigarette smoke, or car emissions. Secretly he was thankful for Rand not lighting a smoke either, though he wouldn't have complained loudly if he had.


“Are you sure that you remember nothing more?"


Luke had to smile at that pathetic attempt at a change in topic but he didn't want to call the other man out on it. He had no reason to do that and it would be mean.

"As I said, I don't really remember her that much. I think I've never seen her before or after that night."


Rand nodded, and Luke could slowly see his expression getting more and more disappointed.


"Who was she?"


"Wh-- Excuse me?" he seemed to have been lost in his thoughts.
"The girl. Pretty thing. Who was she?"


Rand sighed, "It's an ongoing investigation."


"These days a lot of girls coming to my bar are whores. She didn't look like a whore."


"She wasn't."


Luke nudged the other man's shoulder, "Maybe I remember something if you tell me more."


"I could get fired. Hell, I could get fired over this off-record meeting."


"It's okay." Luke grabbed Rand’s shoulders to help him calm down. He was obviously nervous. While Luke had to think about the possible consequences of touching the cop unannounced, Rand relaxed the moment Luke actually touched his jacket. For a few seconds, their eyes met and they didn't move. Then as sudden as the moment began, it was over.

Rand took a step back, "I... I have to go. We have to work on the case early tomorrow."


"Good luck." Luke shouted after the other man as he almost ran away.


A weird warm, and yet heart-wrenching, feeling spread inside of Luke's chest.

 

 

"Have you ever been in love?" the man who had lost his first love asked.


"No," the man who was just about to meet his first love answered.

Fuck.

Chapter Text

"Hey," Ward yawned and added a shot of liquor to his coffee.

"Good morning,” Danny smiled.

"You look unreasonably happy," he squinted, "I don't like that. You’re either a morning person or high. And I hate the first and would have to report the latter."

"Neither." Danny took of his hat and ran a hand through his short curls, "Let's assume that I have a friend..."

"A friend?"

"A hypothetical friend."

"Ah. And he's doing drugs?" Ward took a sip from his coffee and frowned before he took a bigger one.

Danny laughed, "No. No drugs."

"Sure."

"Let's say... said friend is a cop," he shrugged.

"Still sounds like there'll be drugs to me."

"What is it with you and drugs?" Danny saw some heads in the office turn and toned the volume down at Wards angry scowl.

Ward leaned in a little closer, "Don't mention drugs again."

"I didn't start with the d- damn word. Anyway, said friend is a cop and he has required information that could lead to a murderer."

"He would have done a good job."

"But what if he doesn't have any evidence? Just an unreliable witness and that's it?"

"You think this will stop a judge from imprisoning the murderer of a young woman," he leaned back in his armchair and lit a cigar," You really are naive, if you think that's how it works. Is your murderer someone with a name as big as yours?"

"No."

"Then people won't care much, he killed the pretty blonde kid. Is he colored, has a weird name or is from another country?"

"His name sounds Hispanic."

"Then people will love your solution."

Danny tilted his head, "That's not fair."

"It's how it is. This job isn't about justice. It never was, maybe it will be one day. We want the people to feel save over here. We don't want them to worry about whatever war we might stumble into. We want to clear our streets from monsters. If we have clear evidence, that's nice, if we don't it's okay."

"And you don't care at all?"

"No. I like to take care of my own business. And so should you."

Danny sighed, "I remember, when I was a kid... we had a servant, a colored woman called Cynthia. My parents were raised in a different time and they treated her like shit. And eventually, so did I... I mean it was shown to me. How should I know better? Eventually, we moved to China. Everything changed. I went to a private school with kids as rich as me and I was the only white kid. Suddenly, I was different. I was treated like shit, because of my looks. Suddenly, I was Cynthia. I realized how dumb I've been and I wanted nothing but to apologize to her. When we came back a few weeks ago, I tried to find her and what I found was an article in an archive. She was beaten so bad that she was hospitalized. She used the wrong bathroom. She lives in Indiana now, with her family. Before I started this job, I wanted to go there and apologize. I couldn't find the courage."

"Nice story."

"I... just... I don't think that people should be treated any different than you want them to treat you. And I wouldn't want to be blamed for something I didn’t do because of my name."

Ward shrugged, "Well, I don't think your friend blames the guy for murder because of his name."

"As I said, my friend got the name from someone."

"He trusts that someone?"

Why shouldn't he? "Yes. Somehow, I do."

For a moment, Ward just looked at Danny and damn, he wasn't sure what was going on in his head, "What's the name?"

"Shades Alvarez."

"Shades?"

"Yeah, I don't think that's his actual n--"

Ward laughed, "Ohh, I know Shades and the only thing that surprises me is that he hasn't murdered until now."
Somehow, this calmed Danny a lot.

"Come on!" Ward said.

"Where are we going?"

Ward adjusted his jacket, "We're raiding Shades' place. With his record, we'll get a warrant in no time."

 

 


 

 

Hernan "Shades" Alvarez' apartment was in a fairly crappy spot of Harlem. The color was fading from the walls of the house and the wood at the doors and windows was damaged. Clothes were hanging out of the windows. When Danny closed his eyes and ignored the smell of alcohol, tobacco, or trash from the overflowing cans, he could smell exotic spices and herbs. He wondered if Ward was aware of that sort of magic. If he was, he was giving everything to hide it.

Ward and Danny had agreed that they would go upstairs towards the apartment together while patrols were securing possible escape routes. Both detectives knew that the suspect they were visiting was dangerous. Danny could feel that awareness for the upcoming threat in the way his heartbeat sped up as his hand closed around his gun. Luckily, the stress allowed no time to think about how similar the feeling was to the one he had back then in Central Park with Luke. The climb up the stairs felt like a year when it couldn't have lasted longer than a few moments in reality. Luckily, Ward took the initiative and knocked on the paper thin oak wood door.

"Mr. Alvarez! Police!"

There was a sound coming from the inside that was certainly the sound of someone attempting an escape.

Ward raised his hand and Danny took a step back before he busted through the door. He went through the pattern he had learned, pointing the gun into every direction, securing Ward's back. The apartment was a crappy little place. A taller and more muscular man like Luke could probably fill it completely. 

Now the only thing filling it up was an ugly blue couch and shelf that was knocked over. The window on the back was standing open and the curtains were moving in the wind.

There were shouts and bangs coming from the street below the apartment. Before Danny was done securing the place, Ward was already at the window and looked down. 

By the way he relaxed, Danny could tell that he had good news before he said the words, "They have him."

"Good." Danny sighed and put his gun away.

"They'll bring him to the precinct for us. We should search this crap hole."

"Won't take long," Danny replied as he lifted up the cushion of the sofa.

"Yeah." Ward moved over towards, what Danny assumed to be the bedroom, “You take the living ro-- aaaand drugs."

Danny huffed and was proud of not calling Ward out on the use of the forbidden word.

The emptiness of the room didn't leave many options for one to hide anything. From how fast Ward had found the drugs in the bedroom, they had been out in the open. Except for a questionable taste in furniture, there was nothing illegal in the living room.

Danny started searching the shelves and cupboards in the kitchen and bath, leaving the doors open. He chuckled lightly when he heard a soft thump and muttered curse coming from the bedroom. He needed to ask Ward later what had happened there. He was almost done with his search of the living room when he noticed something sticking out of the soil of a potted plant in the right corner of the room. It was hard to see on the dark soil, but there was a shiny black surface, a weird form sticking out.

Quickly, Danny reached for it and pulled it out.

A revolver.

"Ward!"

There were steps and more curses coming from the other room, "What?"

"Look, what I found."

Danny's partner whistled, blowing some cigar smoke right into Danny's face.

"Do you think it is the gun that--"

"Yes."

"Good."

Ward rested a hand on Danny's shoulder, "And there's something else, I think."

"What?"

"Your friend did amazing work."

 


  

"Cage." When Luke heard the knock on his door Willis was the last person he had expected to see. He had hoped for Rand to be honest, maybe he had some more questions and wanted to have them answered as fast as possible. Thinking about it, it being Willis was actually more likely than that to happen. Luke was an optimist, but he also knew what was still in the realm of the possible.

While a visit by his hated and estranged half-brother was unlikely, the cop visiting him in the middle of the night, after they just had a normal talk yesterday, was absurd.

"What do you want?" Luke was tired from his shift at the bar and admittedly tired from trying to remember what happened to the girl.

"I want you to ask me to come in for a start."

Luke sighed and stepped aside. While Luke was tall and muscular, Willis always had a way to take in the room. His presence was somehow intimating and Luke sort of respected that.

"I hoped that I would never have to see you again." Damn, he was happy that he didn't have a one-night stand with him this night.

"Missed you too." Willis took a moment to look at his half-brother, before he continued, "You look good."

After all of these years, Luke had learned that it was the best to ignore his brother until he just went straight ahead with what he wanted.

Willis raised a brow as he sat down in one of Luke's armchairs and lit a cigar, "Sit."

Part of him wanted to say that this was his house and that Willis had no say in here, but sometimes these kinds of fights weren't worth the struggle.

Luke sighed and sat down on his couch, it was awkward because he didn't fill the sofa out the way Willis filled out the armchair. He felt like a student who has been called to the principal, although he had done nothing wrong.

"So?" Luke tried his best to mask his insecurity.

"This is about my work." Willis started.

"No shit. I didn't expect it to be a family gathering. But I'll tell you what I told you years ago after I got out of prison, where I wouldn't have been if it wasn't for you. I. Am. Out. And I want you out of my life!"

Willis’ eyes turned into angry slits," Then you shouldn't mess with us."

"What... how do you think I've messed with the Harlem Kings. What kind of crap has Mariah told you?"

"Shades Alvarez."

Shit.

"He's her lover now. Which is why… his ex-lover needed to vanish."

Shit. Shit. Shit.

"And you know who visited him today?"

"The cops." Luke sighed, they knew anyway.

"The fucking cops!"

"Look, I can... I didn't know that Shades is part of the gang."

Willis jumped from his chair and for a moment, Luke thought he'd toss his cigar on the floor, "Have you any idea what sort of shit you got us in?"

"I. Didn’t. Know!"

"You can be happy to know that we have one of the cops in our pocket."

"Which one?" Luke wasn't sure where this would lead and he wasn't sure what answer he was hoping for.

"Ward Meachum. He has a sister and a girl on top of a giant drug problem. It's enough to keep him out of our business, whenever we have trouble with him."

There was an agonizingly long pause during which Willis just looked at Luke and took a long puff from his cigar. Eventually, the slowly rising tension within Luke was too much and he had to ask, "What about the other cop?"

Willis smiled a knowing, filthy smile, "A pretty man, isn't he? Not that it matters for me. I'm not a fag like you."

In addition to the anger boiling inside of him, Luke's worries were rising, "What about him?"

Willis sighed and grinned evilly, "The problem with Detective Daniel Thomas Rand is... that he's all alone. You know, you can blackmail a cop into letting something go very easy, if they have someone they love, or someone who loves them. Rand is single and has no family, no friends. And the other problem is that he's too rich to be bribed."

"Willis."

"We don't like killing cops. We really don't like it. It's such a hard work to cover it and to avoid any links to us."

"Please..." Why was he so pathetic? Why was he begging for the life of a man he's only known for one or two days? "Please, don't hurt him."

"Don't worry. We won't hurt him. We want you to kill him."

All of the sudden, Luke felt cold, "Why?" he didn't even consciously form the word.

"Because you made this mess and you're gonna fix it. Because, you have no connections to the Harlem Kings, only Carl Lucas has and because that way, we won't go to prison."

"I won't kill an innocent man."

"If you don't kill him, we will... and we will kill you. And I can promise you, when we do it, you and he are gonna suffer for weeks, before we finally release him from his torture and you watch."

Luke swallowed, "Please."

Willis got up from the armchair and extinguished his cigar, "You have until tomorrow night. Sleep well"

Chapter Text

It was noon when Luke heard a knock on his door. He still had time. It was too early for Willis or the gang, yet this was the only thought on his mind, it's them and they're coming for me, they're coming for him.

To his surprise, it wasn't Willis or someone from the Harlem Kings. It was even worse, Rand.

"Hi," the cop smiled and for a moment, Luke had to fight the urge to slam the door shut and run.

"Hey." Luke was immediately nervous and lost his cool, his palms were sweaty and it was hard to look Rand in the eyes. Luke waited for the other man to say something and it seemed as if Rand was doing the same.

"Can, uhhmmm, can I come in?" he smiled shyly, "It won't take long."

"Yeah... uhmm... sure. How do you know my address?" Luke moved aside and let the other man walk in.

Rand chuckled, "I work for the police."

"Right. Detective Rand... I... I don't think now is a good--"

"It's Danny. And as I said, I don't think it will take long. Actually, I just wanted to come here and thank you for the hint."

And I wish, that I had never told you.

"We arrested him today. Without your help, this wouldn't have happened."

Shit.

Luke hated himself for thinking that he could reach for the gun he had stored in the cupboard behind him. He could point it at Danny and pull the trigger before he even realized what was happening. Gun shots weren't unusual in this area... he could dump him in the Hudson, maybe with a few flowers, something to show some respect or remorse. He wouldn’t be able to stay in New York after this, though.

Luckily he didn't have the guts to do it.

"Are you alright?" Danny tilted his head. 

"It's just... I'm not having a good day..."

Danny looked at Luke and bit his lip, his blue eyes piercing him through and through, at this moment Luke was sure that he could see right into his soul.

"Then let me make it better," he pulled him down and kissed Luke. Hesitatingly at first, but it didn't take long for the kiss to deepen and it didn't take long for Luke to open up to it. 
Danny tasted like green tea, cheesecake and strawberries. His body against Luke's chest felt like sunshine on a hot summer day. He tasted and felt better, then Luke could have imagined in his wildest dreams.

Luke pulled him closer, his hands slipping under the jacket, running up and down his back over the dress shirt. At the same time, Luke could feel Danny gently tugging on his shirt, pulling him closer and closer.

During this kiss, there was no past and no future. No killed girl in an alley and no Willis Stryker. There was just the present. Only Luke and Danny. Nothing and no one else.


Luke started to take a bit more control, gently tugging Danny by his hair and continuing to explore his mouth. He took his sweet time, gently biting down on his lips as his hands roamed over the other man's arms, back and ass.


To his surprise, it was Danny who grew impatient and shrugged off his jacket, without Luke helping him out.


The under shirt was tighter on Danny's body than Luke had expected. Not that he minded. He enjoyed the feeling of thin cotton wrapped around the other man's well defined body as he held him in his arms. There was something teasing about his bare skin being so close and yet so far. What was even more teasing however, were Danny's hands slipping under Luke's shirt and up his back. Despite the warm hands on his body, the cold air hitting Luke's naked skin caused him to shiver.


What began as a warm feeling in his stomach had now turned into a slight tug against his pants, Danny being pressed so tight against him didn't really help. His mind was already dizzy and he didn't want to go too far for tonight.
Breaking the kiss took much more self-control, than he had thought. And afterwards it was hard to resist the urge to continue, once he had the time to take in Danny with swollen lips and widened eyes in front of him.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Luke whispered against the smaller man's forehead. He must have been standing on his toes the whole time. Somehow, that was more of a turn on than it should be.

"Do you think I would have started to undress otherwise?" Luke had to smile at the impatient annoyance in Danny's tone of voice that was anything but subtle.

"Okay, then. Tell me when you want to stop." Luke pulled Danny up and closer by his tie and crashed their lips together. 

They kept on kissing until Luke decided that they both had enough.

He lifted Danny up by his ass, the other man's legs immediately wrapping around his hips, before Luke kissed him against the wall. Slowly, he pulled their lips apart and moved sideways, kissing Danny's neck and biting down on his earlobes. The soft groans were music to his ears. Danny was the most beautiful melody Luke had ever heard. It was like his favorite song after a bad day, or the singing of a bird on a warm summer morning.
Slowly Luke untucked Danny's dress shirt from where it was stuffed beneath his waistband. Finally, Luke could slide his hands up the side of Danny's body.


His skin was burning hot and his breath hitched as Luke touched his now bare skin. And that was the moment Luke lost the last bit of patience. He carried Danny towards his bedroom, not breaking the kiss as Danny's legs were wrapped tightly around Luke's waist.

Gently, Luke put the other man down on the edge of his bed, “You still su--"


Danny shut him up with an almost aggressive kiss, "You say that again and I'll shoot you right on the spot."

Luke laughed and kneeled down so that he could lose Danny's tie and unbutton his shirt and still explore his body with his mouth. Danny was even more fit than Luke had expected; he was fairly muscular and yet almost inhumanly slim. He could still summon a good amount of strength. Luke could feel that in the way Danny pulled at Luke's shirt and finally freed him from that stupid piece of fabric.
Carefully, Luke pushed Danny back into his mattress and straddled him, they slowly crawled backwards until they reached the head board. 


As their hips met and the men groaned in unison, Luke could feel that they were both fully hard by now. Slowly, Luke slid downwards Danny's body, spreading gentle kisses on his abs. Silent giggling indicated that Danny was ticklish and it somehow made Luke feel warm on the inside.


As Luke gently bit down on Danny's nipples, he opened the fly of the other man's pants and slid it down his legs along with his underpants. Luke moved downwards Danny's body, mesmerized by the soft groans. Danny was fairly big for a white guy and Luke could feel his mouth watering at the sight of his cock. But he had another idea, at least as long as Danny was okay with it.

"Just tell me, when--"

"Yeah... but... please."

Luke smiled and gently flipped Danny around so that he was lying on his stomach. He traced soothing circles on his back before he started to massage his ass, slowly spreading the cheeks. Danny's breath hitched, as Luke leaned down started to press his tongue against his hole. Luke used his mouth and fingers to slowly open the other man up.
He was nicely wet and his voice hoarse from moaning, when Luke pulled away and unbuttoned his own pants. He needed to stretch the fabric to get past his erection. As the pants hit the floor, Luke could see Danny flinch and tense.

"Are you--"

"Yes." Stubborn little thing.

"I want you to ride me."

"You what?"

Luke slid his hands down Danny's ass and smiled, " That way, you have the control and I can see your pretty face as I fuck you. Win-Win."

"I never..."

"I know, babe." Luke laid back on the bed and pulled Danny on his chest, so that he could straddle him, "Just lower down."

Danny obeyed and Luke gently guided his hips until he reached his dick. Luke reached around Danny to guide the tip of his cock towards Danny's hole and carefully pulled the other man down by his hips. Danny moaned ever louder than he had before.


For the rest of his dick, Luke left the control to Danny, letting him decide when he would take more and how much. Every time he slid down on him, his face was more beautiful than it had been before. Lost in pleasure and lust. As soon as Luke was balls deep into Danny, he pulled him into a deep kiss.

"You feel so damn good," and that was underselling it. Danny was tight and warm around him. Luke could feel him vibrating with every moan.


In response, Danny started to move his hips and Luke met him with swallow thrusts.
In his arousal, he had almost forgotten to give him some sort of relief. He reached for the other man's cock and wrapped his hands around it. Danny moaned and the move of his hips grew more erratic. With fast strokes that matched the rhythm of their fucking, Luke began to jerk.


It took only a few minutes until Danny spread his load over their chests, accompanied with a load groan and something that was probably supposed to be Luke's name.


Luke chuckled, but the smell of cum, the look on Danny's face and the vibrations around his dick, sent him over the edge as well. He pulled Danny in for another kiss as he filled him up. Danny waited until Luke was completely down from his high before he climbed off him and Luke's cock slipped out.

"You... uhm, wanna stay the night?" Luke grabbed a towel from his nightstand handed it to Danny and enjoyed the show as he cleaned himself.

"Night... it's afternoon."

"Gives us more time together."

He threw the towel towards Luke and sat down on the bed, resting his hand on Luke's thigh. "Don't you have to work tonight?"

"It's my bar. I don't have to open it."

"Is it worth a little fun?" Danny laughed.

"You are worth it."

A bunch of emotions flickered through the other man's eyes and with a designating sigh, he laid down next to Luke, who immediately wrapped his arms around his body.

 

 

Danny had just fallen asleep when reality hit Luke like lightning strike. He needed to kill the man next to him, the man who was snuggled up against him, the man he just slept with, the man he actually liked a lot.


He almost flinched away from his warm body, as if his skin was burning him. There had to be a way. There was always another way. Right now, the two options seemed to be to kill Danny, he didn't want to do that, or to spare him and get both of them tortured and killed, and he didn't want that either. He gently ran a hand down Danny's spine, he needed to find another way.


Taking out the Harlem Kings before they could get to them would be impossible. They were a big gang with connections everywhere and Turk, Willis, Stokes and Mariah were not to be underestimated.


Maybe he could tell Danny the truth. He twirled one of the curls around his finger. But would that save him? No. And he would probably be mad at Luke for having a past with a gang and for sleeping with him and keeping that sort of secret. No, that would not be an option. He figured that Danny wouldn't run from his job. Luke was good at reading people and that was something he was sure of.


But if Danny wouldn't be up to run for his life... Luke could do so and drag him along.

Chapter Text

Danny blinked a few times, before he managed to open his eyes. The last thing he remembered was the sex with Luke and falling asleep in his arms. Now he was tied to a chair in what seemed to be an abandoned warehouse. What hurt more? The betrayal or the ropes around his wrists, as they cut into his flesh.


He couldn't believe he had let himself get used this way. Getting fucked and then imprisoned, damn, he felt dirty.


But what reason could Luke have for this? Why did he have any interest in capturing him? Maybe he worked with Shades... but why did he tell him in the first place? And why hadn't he killed him yet? What use was he to him or them?

"Hey." He hadn't even seen Luke sitting in the chair in the corner of the room.

What did you say in a situation like this, "Good morning, why the hell am I tied to a god damn chair?""What the hell?" or just a simple "Fuck you!"

Danny decided to remain silent. 

Luke sighed and moved his chair over, so that he was looking at Danny, "You look adorable when you sleep," he whispered softly.

"Why?"

"It's a long story. I want to be honest with you, because believe it or not, I want to help you."

Man, Danny was having serious doubts about that.

"My actual name is Carl Lucas. I... I'm not proud to admit it but I've been involved with the Harlem Kings, shortly after I moved to New York."

The name rang a bell. Harlem Kings.


He tried to ignore the headache that he assumed was because of being knocked out by Cage and searched his memory for said gang. It was mostly settled in Harlem, as the name said, although it operated in all of New York and the surrounding areas. They were doing everything that involved organized crime, from drugs to human trafficking and prostitution. A bunch of bad guys.

"That's... bad..." Danny whispered.

"I was doing drug trafficking for them. My half-brother is a member and he somehow... got me into that stuff. You know blood is thicker and all of that crap. I thought that I needed to help him, since he's family."

"And then?"

"I was arrested. I remember that night, as if it was yesterday. The cop's name was officer Knight, the first colored cop woman I've ever seen, maybe you know her."

"I've heard the name."

Luke smiled, "She did leave a hell of an impression. She walked into my crappy apartment, even crappier than my current one, and she said, " You know why I'm here? You fucked up, brother." And she was right. I should have never worked with Willis."

"You were in prison?"

"That's why I changed my name. I wanted to leave this life behind."

Danny sighed, "I understand that."


"I bought a tiny bar and lived a simple life. I broke down all ties to my family, especially

Willis and thought, that would be it. Then one night, that girl and Shades walked into my bar."

"And that was where it all went to shit?"

Luke laughed, "No. It all went to shit a few nights later, when I met you." His smile was fond and somewhat gentle.
Considering the fact that he was tied to chair, that sentence should scare the hell out of Danny but somehow... it didn't.

"How exactly?"

"I betrayed a member of the gang."

"By ratting him out to me," Danny whispered.

"Yeah."

"But that doesn't explain..."

"Why I tied you up?" Luke laughed.

"Yeah. But I guess you'll tell me."

"My half-brother threatened me. He ordered me to kill you."

Danny felt his heart racing, but he wasn't scared for his life or worried... he was angry. He was so damn angry that someone did this to Luke. And it surprised him but he thought that he wasn't scared, because he knew that Luke wouldn't really hurt him. Now that he was awake a little longer, and had time to think about it during their talk, he was actually certain of that.

"Otherwise, he would have both of us tortured and killed. The time for me ran out an hour ago."

A cold shiver ran down Danny's spine, "Luke."

"I didn't want to directly tell you. Because I knew that you would try to run towards them and do what's right. I drugged you and got us somewhere where they won't search for us."

"You could have told me."

"I guess I underestimated your trust in me," Luke whispered and loosened the ties around Danny's wrist and ankles, "I won't make that mistake again."


Danny rubbed the bruised skin until he realized that Luke was watching him, "What is it?"

"Why?"

"Why, what?"

"I drugged you and tied you to a chair, I kept my past from you, why don't you knock me out and run away?"

It wasn't supposed to hurt, but damn it did, "Something in the way you touched me last night, the way you've looked at me in Central Park. I don't think you mean any harm."

"I don't."

"What do you suggest we do now?" Danny rearranged himself in a more relaxed position.

"The Harlem Kings are influential. But their power ends a few miles away from here. I... I wanted to run and start a new life and I wanted you to come with me and maybe... if you want... we can start this life together."

Once again, Danny's heart was racing. This time, not because of fear or anger. His cheeks were hot and his palms sweaty, he had never felt this way before. He wasn't stupid, he knew that it was love, or at least a very strong admiration for Luke and he knew that he had only known him for a few days and shouldn't feel this way. Yet he did.

"I would like that."

Luke smiled and looked at the ground, Danny could practically see the tension leaving his body.

Suddenly a hunch of guilt, mixed with the euphoria, "What about Hope?"

"What do you mean?"

"She deserves justice. If we run, then they get what they want and Alvarez- What about Ward?"

Luke sighed, "He'll be fine..."

"Luke."

"They’ll force him to drop the case by threatening his girl and sister."

"So, Shades will be out."

"There's no way to get Hope justice and survive this. The Harlem Kings are centered around the city but they are many. We can't kill them all."

"Okay, but what if there is a way? Do you know where I can make one or two calls?"

 

 


 

 

On February fourth the Brooklyn Raider blew up. An eyewitness reported that she saw the Detectives Daniel Rand and Ward Meachum along with his girlfriend Patricia Walker and sister Joy Meachum enter the bar. The police found five bodies, burned beyond recognition. The fifth body is believed to be that of the bar keeper and owner Luke Cage.

The same day, the New York Bulletin received a box with evidence, proving to the public that Hernan Alvarez murdered a young starlet called Hope Shlottman. 

A few days later, three houses in the Canadian outback were bought with a huge amount of cash and five people happily settled down in the wilderness.