When Danny showed up at his door with a six pack and enough cheep Chinese take out to feed the Lower East Side, Luke knew that someone had talked.
"I thought you were still chasing dragons in Tokyo." He held the door open, snagging a beer as Danny slid by.
"Teaching dragons -- which ends up being a lot like chasing them an annoying amount of the time." Danny started laying cardboard cartons out on Luke's tiny kitchen table. "I should move back here. Turns out Misty hates Japan, and now she barely visits me, even if I pay for the flights." Having run out of tabletop, Danny glanced at counter, then apparently decided not to risk the dirty dishes and went for a second layer on the table.
Luke leaned against the battered fridge -- which Jessica still hadn't been able to replace -- contemplating the can of Budweiser in his hand. If he'd accomplished nothing else in his life, at least he'd finally managed to convince Danny that crappy take out and expensive micro brews just didn't work together. "Who's going to look after Little K'un Lun?"
Danny shrugged, lean muscles rippling his powder-blue t-shirt. The picture on the front looked like it might have been of a Japanese boy band, about forty washes ago, anyway. "It'll be okay. The second I leave, three government ministries and at least half a dozen multi-nationals will be fighting for the right to look after it." He broke apart a set of chopsticks and rubbed them together, but didn't go for the cartons or even sit down. He didn't say anything either, possibly trying to wait Luke out, or give him space to confess, or something. Damn new-age kung fu patience bull shit.
"So..." Luke said, wanting to get this thing launched. He waited, then sighed and asked, "Who called?"
Danny gave him a look like he was surprised Luke had figured it out, but that could just be sarcasm. "Matt Murdock. He said you'd been sounding kind of weird lately."
"You flew seven thousand miles because some blind lawyer said my voice was off?" Luke didn't really mean to snap, but damn if everyone wasn't just all over his business these days. A man didn't have room to think. He chugged back the last of the first beer and popped another open. "Shit, man."
"It was your heartbeat; I've heard this crazy rumour that Matt's actually Daredevil, and you're avoiding the subject, so spill: what's bugging you?" So much for new-age kung fu patience. Misty was rubbing off on the boy in a major way. Of course, he probably would have looked more intimidating if he hadn't been trying to roll both chopsticks across his knuckles in two separate patterns. They'd fall off his hand, one after the other, only to be snatched out of the air and dropped back on his other hand.
Luke chuckled. Okay, maybe Misty was a hell of a lot better at interrogating people, but, in the end, this just felt like such a relief. Here was his best friend of over ten years standing in Luke's kitchen, being strange and wanting to talk. "Jessica's pregnant." The words had been rattling around in his head for three days now, but he'd never said them aloud before. They sounded even more surreal than he'd thought they would.
"Oh!" Danny exclaimed, eyes wide. "Oh, huh." Then he frowned, absently drumming the sticks on a pot lid. "That would be... Jessica... Drew?"
"What?" What? "No!"
"Jessica Jones, Danny!" Luke ran a hand over his head, feeling the bristle of stubble scratching against his palm. He needed to shave. "Christmas!"
"Right." For the first time that night. Danny went perfectly still. He had his head cocked to one side like a bird, and Luke half expected him to stand on one foot. "Do I know her?"
Luke felt like he'd just been punched in the gut by one of Piledriver's over-sized fists. Danny was the closest family he'd had since his dad stopped speaking to him when Luke'd ended up in the pen. Hell, he maybe knew Luke better than anyone ever had, and here he didn't have a clue about the mother of Luke's baby. Jess had that little connection with his life; she was that much of a stranger. "Yeah, we met her a few years back: red and black costume, unmasked to the cops so she could take in the Owl's kids."
Shoving down another pang of disappointment, Luke stepped around Danny -- who was still staring blankly at the cracked drywall above the cupboard -- and went over to find them a couple of clean plates. Which it turned out he didn't have. He'd rinsed off the least grungy from the dirty pile and set them on top of the stack of take out cartons, before something apparently clicked in Danny's head, and he spun to face Luke. "She was a bit of a mess," he blurted, then winced.
Their eyes met, and Luke didn't see half the judgement he'd expected, finding open sympathy instead. Jess would hate it, but Luke knew where it was coming from. "She kind of was," Luke acknowledged.
Danny had started to twirl the chopsticks again, obviously feeling like he was on safer ground. "Okay, so this Jessica Jones is pregnant, and..." he frowned again.
Luke sighed. "Christmas, Danny. I know you're from another dimension, but do we need do talk about the birds and the bees. I figured Misty would've taken care of that one a while back."
The chopsticks clattered when the hit the linoleum. "You mean it's yours?"
"No, it's the Punisher's," Luke snapped. "Of course it's mine."
"How did... never mind, ignore that... when did this happen? I thought you were seeing that bartender, Trixie."
"Dixie," Luke corrected absently, though she'd been three women ago, and not a lot more than a one-night stand. He didn't even know how Danny had heard of her. "Naw, she's old news. Jess's been a... friend for a while -- she helped me find my dad last year -- but this is kind of new, for both of us. She just told me a couple days ago."
"And you're sure it's yours?"
Luke had a feeling that Danny thought both he and Jess were some kind of libertines, and didn't think much of them for it. This was not the best-friend experience he'd been hoping for. "Well, it's either mine or Scott Lang's, and I'm pretty sure no man's ever going to confuse any kid of ours."
"Luke." Danny looked stunned; no, worse. He looked appalled.
Hands curling into fists, Luke decided that if Danny said one more god-damn thing, he was going to have to take a swing at something. Which would suck, because he wasn't going to hit his best friend, not again, and the fridge had taken enough abuse as it was.
He tensed as Danny put his hands on Luke's shoulders. "Hey," Danny said, voice low and soft. It was probably the same tone he used on unruly dragons. "I'm sorry. This is just... it's caught me off guard. I mean, Luke, you're going to have a baby."
"Looks that way."
"Do you want to?"
"Yeah." Luke let out a long, shaky breath. "Yeah, I do."
"I'm going to be an uncle!" Danny grinned like it was Christmas morning and he was five. "That's amazing!" Before Luke could respond, Danny threw his arms around Luke's neck and jumped up, his legs straddling Luke's waist. He kissed Luke squarely, if rather perfunctorily, on the lips. "You're going to have a baby!" He grinned down at Luke, eyes shining.
The wave of excitement, of irrational happiness, that he'd felt when Jess first told him swept over Luke again, and he smiled back. Suddenly, all of Luke's worries, all the logistics that he'd been stewing over for days, just didn't matter. Danny was here, and there wasn't nothing they couldn't handle together. Trusting Danny to be able to stay on, Luke ran his hands up his back, sliding under his shirt, to trace the fine network of scars running over his skin. The rough callouses on Luke's palms caught slightly on the edges of a fresher wound, and Luke opened his mouth.
Danny kissed him again, deep and slow this time, keeping him from asking, and Luke didn't push it. The answer was probably just "dragons" and/or "ninjas" anyway. He sighed as Danny's strong hands kneaded the tension out of his neck and shoulders, then gasped as he rolled their hips together. "We should celebrate," Danny decided suddenly. "Let's go out, somewhere nice. I'm buying."
Luke glanced at the table. Danny really was from another world. "You just brought me enough food for a week."
By now, Danny knew him well enough to know when he wasn't going to budge. "Staying in's probably more fun anyway." He wiggled his hips again before hopping down. "We can go out tomorrow night. Hey, I'll invite Jessica. I want to meet her."
He'd been trying to picture it since Jess had told him, but Luke still couldn't quite figure out how that was going to go. Jess could be so damn private, and he didn't feel at all sure about how Danny would take that. Or, for that matter, how she would react to the inevitable fourteen thousand questions. "I want you to meet her too." He paused, considering how to say the next part. "Danny, you're my family, have been since day one. I know Jess is new, but I like her a whole lot, and she's having our baby. It'd mean the world to me if you two got along."
Danny looked him up and down, chewing his lip. "Are you going to give her that speech too?"
"Damn right." He wasn't necessarily looking forward to it though.
"And she knows about us, I mean, about whatever it is that we are."
"Yes. She seems okay with it." Luke didn't add that he didn't know for sure that Jess would tell him if she wasn't.
Danny grinned again, clapping his hands together. "Cool. Let's have Chinese."
Twenty hours and four plans later, Danny led Luke and Jess out of the elevator and into Heaven's Grill. Luke always felt like a bit of a target on the top of a sky scraper like this, and that -- along with the exorbitant prices -- had kept him from setting foot in the place in years. The last time, he'd been trying to impress She-hulk, and it had resulted in enough property damage that Luke was surprised the doorman let him in. Maybe it had changed ownership. More likely, they knew how much Danny Rand could spend in one night.
Luke took Jess' jacket, and she tugged at her dress, trying to pull the shoulders straight. It fit just a little tight in the waist and loose in the chest, and the straps kept threatening to slide off and down her arms. Luke hadn't asked, but he was pretty sure she'd borrowed the outfit from Carol Danvers in a hurry. He had a feeling that he might have come on too strong with the Let's All Get Along speech.
When he looked up, Danny was watching them with a tight expression that Luke couldn't quite figure out. Brushing his fingers against the wool of Danny's sleeve seemed to clear it away, but the look gave Luke an uneasy feeling all the same.
The waiter seated them next to a floor-to-ceiling window and a view over Midtown and the Park. Which was good, because they had a small forest of potted ferns between them and the rest of the room. Same spot as last time, actually, only now Luke was sure that the foliage was keeping the heroes away from the rest of the patrons, rather than the reverse.
"Oh, good. Somewhere private," Danny said. Luke wasn't certain if he was serious or not, but he exchanged a look with Jess anyway. Danny ignored it, focusing on the waiter. "Don't worry about the wine list. We'll all have your finest bubbly water."
Jess pulled a face. "Don't bother on my account," she said, too late to for the waiter to hear. "Just because I just had to give up drinking, and smoking, and coffee, all at the same time, doesn't mean that you should suffer."
"It's fine," Luke told her.
"I thought you were three months along," Danny said at the same time, frowning.
Luke suppressed a sigh. He'd been bracing for this ever since he'd seen the edge of What to Expect when You're Expecting under Danny's back seat.
Jess shrugged, probably meaning to seem unconcerned, but Luke knew what the armour looked like when it was going up. "Yeah, well, no one told me that until last week."
"Oh..." Danny said. "That's... uh... hey!" He glared at Luke, who had just kicked him under the table. "Well I guess you don't have as long to wait then." Which was lame even for him.
"So..." Luke interjected, only to realise he didn't have a topic. He searched his mind for something that wasn't "sports," and, after too long a pause, came up with, "How's Misty?"
Danny's expression softened, a fond smile spreading across his face. "Oh fine. She's off doing surveillance or something with Colleen. I asked her to come along, but she said, quote," His voice dropped to an approximation of Misty's husky mezzo, "'There's was no way in hell I'm getting in the middle of that one.'" Folding his hands behind his head, he leaned back in his chair. "So I told her I had no idea what she could possibly mean."
"Then she smacked you," Luke finished, grinning.
"Well yes, she did. But she didn't use her bionic arm, so I don't think she meant it." He leaned forwarded again and focused on Jess, who was studying the menu. From the way her eyes were moving, Luke suspected she was trying to find the most expensive thing on it. "Do you know Misty Knight, Jessica?"
"What?" Jess blinked, and made a face. Luke brushed his knee against hers. "Oh, yeah, well, I mean, I don't really know her. I've worked a couple cases that ran into her bail bond gig. She's very... competent." She glanced down at the menu, hesitated, then looked back up at Danny. "You two have been together for a while, huh?"
"Twelve years," Danny said with enough smug satisfaction that Luke wanted to kick him again.
"Off and on," Luke added, because, really, there'd been some pretty spectacular break ups in there. Danny shouldn't get to feel that superior about only dating the one woman since age nineteen.
"More on than off."
"Right." Jess gave Luke look, and raised an eyebrow. "How does she feel about you--"
Luke's leg twitched, but the waiter showed up just then, saving him from having to step on anyone's foot. Jess picked something moderately priced; Danny found something with sea urchin eggs, and Luke started feeling cautiously optimistic.
Danny kept up his side, rattling on about kung fu dragons in Japan, which was bizarre enough to hold Jess' attention without comment. That moved into an account -- with corrective comments from Luke -- of how Little K'un Lun had ended up in Tokyo in the first place. Part way though the story, Danny started rolling his water glass between his hands, increasing in speed as he talked. His expression looked relaxed and happy, but Luke knew Danny's game face when he saw it. From the way Jessica's shoulders were tensing, Luke guessed she was seeing the front, too. He had definitely made too much of a speech.
Luke rested his hand on Jess' thigh, sliding his fingertips along the inside of her leg. She glanced over at him and smiled tightly. There wasn't any real warmth in the look, but she did put her hand over his and squeezed. "How you doing?" he asked in a low voice.
"Fine." She sounded like the really meant, "tired, hungry, out of my element, and at the end of my rope."
Danny dropped his story in the middle of the part where his own uncle had stabbed him in the heart, and leaned halfway across the table. "Are you sure? We can ditch this place and get a pizza to take back to Luke's. It'd let you lie down for a bit, if you want."
"I said I was fine." She didn't quite snap, but it came close. "I'm not about to faint all over the table, if that's what you're worried about."
"We can do pizza another night," Luke cut in before Danny could well and truly put his foot in his mouth. "I'll rent a movie. Put that home theatre system you never use through its paces."
Jess looked unsure, but Danny smiled happily at Luke. "How about tomorrow?" he asked. "I have to head back to Tokyo pretty soon, sort things out so I can leave for good, but I'm here tomorrow."
Luke shook his head. "We have dinner at Jessica' mom's tomorrow." That visit had been creeping up on him for days now, bringing a growing sense of dread with it. He hadn't met Mrs Jones yet, but he knew that what his ma would have done to him if he'd only brought a girl home after he'd knocked her up. There was no way this wasn't going to hurt.
"But you should wait up, Danny. Luke will probably need you to--" Jess sketched a circle in the air with her forefinger, then stabbed through it, "when he gets back, anyway."
"What are you going to do?" Luke asked, not feeling any more at ease about meeting this woman, which made him feel oddly protective of Jess. Like she'd need protecting from her own mother.
"Probably drink an epic amount of decaffeinated ice tea while pretending it's whisky."
"You... uh, I mean, we could..." Danny faltered, then stopped talking, the tips of his ears turning red. "Never mind."
Jess snorted. "Yeah. I'm not ready to go there either."
Not for the first time, an image of the three of them together flashed through Luke's mind, awkward and enticing. He felt a spike of heat in his groin, and took a sip of water to moisten his mouth. It had been a long time since he'd been with Danny and a woman.
"Easy, hotshot." Jess patted his hand, and Luke felt the warmth spread to his face.
Danny coughed, then grinned. "She knows you that well, at least."
Smiling, for real this time, Jess drawled, "Oh, I know a lot more about Luke than that."
"You see, that's the thing about him, you hang out with him for years and think you know him all the way through, and then, bam! He surprises you!" Danny was doing his best academic impression; it was slightly hindered by not having gone to school since grade four, but sitting up straight and steepling his hands more or less covered it. "You see, Jessica, knowing Luke is a bit like an archaeological expedition: no end of surprising layers."
"I know, right. He comes off as Mister Tough Guy, but..."
As their food arrived, Luke sank as far down into his chair as his bulk would allow and let himself relax a little. They were actually talking to each other, double teaming him, sure, but talking.
Danny lay flat on his back, arms spread out to take over the majority of Luke's bed. He said something that sounded like "...granumanrah?" though Luke's ears were still ringing, to he couldn't really tell.
"There's cookies on top of the fridge," he offered. Danny usually went after snacks after sex the same way smokers lit up.
"What? No. Well... yes, in a minute, but I said, 'I guess that didn't go well.'"
Swinging his legs off the bed, Luke braced his arms on his knees and hunched forwards. "You remember that 'Master of the World' dude we went up against a few years back?"
"The one who launched the city thing into orbit so he could wipe out seventy percent of the Earth's population?"
"Yeah, him. Right now I'm really glad Jess's adopted, because I think he's related to her mom."
"That bad, huh?"
Luke scrubbed a hand over his eyes and tried to focus on glowing red numbers on his alarm clock. One twenty seven in the morning. "Christmas, You have no idea."
He heard the mattress creak as Danny rolled onto his side. "She doesn't like her daughter having a baby with a black man?"
"Nah. She was too busy being an enlightened liberal and pretending not to notice what colour I am." Straightening, he cracked his neck, first on one side then the other, and rolled his shoulders. It didn't seem to do much for the tension that crept right back in the moment he thought about the first half of the night. He hadn't worried about what anyone's parents thought of him since... well, since Reva, and she'd died all the way back when he was in Seagate prison. "It's the ex-con thing that's the problem." And some of the shit from those angry months in Chicago, but Danny didn't like hearing about that time, thought it was his fault. It wasn't; none of it was. Luke could clear his name in every court in the galaxy, and he'd still never get out from under the shadow Willis Stryker's frame job.
Danny trailed his fingers down Luke's spine. "I'm sorry, man."
"It's no big thing," he said, but leaned back into the touch a little anyway.
"My mom likes you. Well, she's dead, but her spirit's quite fond of you." The bed creaked again, and Danny's arms slid around Luke's waist. He almost kneed Luke in the kidneys trying to arrange himself, but eventually he settled with his chest pressed against Luke's back, chin on his shoulder.
"That's a great comfort to my soul, Danny." He meant the words to sound light, but he meant them. It did feel good to know that, no matter how bad things got, Danny and the ghost of Heather Rand loved him. Not that either of them were around much these days.
Danny pressed a kiss to the joint of Luke's neck and shoulder and disengaged so he could pad into the kitchen. He called something back, but he must have had his head in the fridge because Luke didn't catch any of it. A minute later, he came back with the box of cookies, plus a jar of peanut butter and a bottle of soda. Luke had long since learned that kissing Danny had the opposite effect to shutting him up, and he'd been expecting Danny's usual flood of post coital babbling for five minutes now. However, Danny just plunked back down on the bed, and spread crumbs over the sheets without comment.
Luke listened to him finish three peanut butter-smeared chocolate-chip cookies before he turned around. Danny was sitting in lotus position, still buck naked, nothing but his hand and his jaw moving as he stared at Luke intently. "What? Am I turning into a bug or something?"
"No, I was just trying to figure it out..."
"Oh, yeah, what this time?"
"Jessica. Do you love her?"
Luke knew the answer in his head, but he couldn't figure out how to summarise it, so he didn't say anything.
Danny just kept on going, gesturing with the soda bottle as he talked. "I mean, I don't know her at all; I've met her, what, twice? And she seems pretty nice, but she's not exactly your type, is she? I mean, usually you go for the drop dead gorgeous, self-contained ones, who don't really need you -- which isn't a criticism, because look at me and Misty -- but Jessica is not that. And here you are putting up with stuff I've never seen you take, like the thing with her mom, and Jessica moving in at the end of the month. When was the last time you let a woman move in? Have you ever shared a place with one of your girlfriends? So I've gotta ask, are you doing all this because of the baby, or do you love her?"
"I do," Luke told him, and knew as soon as he said it that that answer wasn't enough, that maybe nothing he could say would be enough for Danny right now. He collapsed back on the bed, ignoring the crumbs and the tangled covers, and closing his eyes. He didn't want to have to deal with his best friend watching him as though Luke could somehow explain how this mess worked. "Christmas, Danny, I know. I hear everything you're saying, and there's even more shit I haven't told you yet. I can't make it all make sense." He pressed his palms against his eyes, trying to push away the ache. No luck. "But it's not just the baby. It was before that, too."
Glass clinked on wood as Danny set the bottle down on the bedside table. He curled up next to Luke, resting his head on Luke's chest, right over his heart. "Does she love you?" he asked so softly that Luke almost didn't hear him.
"I don't know. I think so. I hope so."
Danny lifted his head, and Luke uncovered one eye enough to meet his gaze. "I love you."
"That I do know." Luke brought an arm down to wrap around Danny's shoulders. "All this ain't going to change what's between us."
It didn't take much longer for Danny to pass out, but Luke stared at the ceiling for a long time, hoping he hadn't just lied.