They were partway into negotiations with three arms dealers in a dockside dive bar in Jakarta when Ward said in a strange voice, "Danny, we gotta go."
Danny gave him a quick, sharp glance. He couldn't ask why, because with no other common language except a few words of Bahasa Indonesia he'd picked up in the past week, they were doing their negotiations in English.
But after months of traveling together, he trusted Ward. And Ward looked really alarmed. He was holding it together in his buttoned-down Ward kind of way, but as far as Danny could tell in the dim light of the bar, he'd actually gone pale.
"Sorry, guys," Danny said. "We've had something come up. We're gonna have to get together another time."
"You don't trust us?" The trio's spokesman was a big guy with a scar across his nose and a notch carved out of his ear. None of them had offered names. "You go talk to our competitors, maybe?"
"Not at all. We'd be happy to meet you back here tomorrow, if you want. Same time?"
"We don't want to reschedule."
"Sorry. No choice. We're gonna have to." Danny shoved a card across the table with the address of the drop box they were using to avoid giving out their actual address (Ward's idea). "You can get in touch with us here, if you need to. Otherwise, we'll call you tomorrow."
He stood up, and glanced at Ward, a little puzzled to see that Ward hadn't moved when it was Ward who'd seen whatever had tipped him off to danger. Ward hesitated for a minute before getting up, and as he did, he grabbed at the edge of the table to steady himself. It was subtle, but unmistakable.
Danny's first, uncharitable thought, which he planned to keep to himself permanently, was that Ward had been drinking -- by accident, maybe? But he couldn't have been; Ward's drink was a club soda, and the mostly-empty glass was still right in front of him. Danny's beer, which he'd ordered for form's sake, was barely touched at his place at the table.
But there was definitely something wrong with Ward. He was sweating, and the bar wasn't that warm. And he still had his hand resting on the edge of the table.
Danny jerked his head toward the door, and moved to fall into step with him. He didn't miss Ward's little push-off from the table and the slight jerk as he caught himself on the first step. Danny moved up until their shoulders were almost touching.
"They put something in my drink," Ward muttered between his teeth. "We gotta go. Did you drink any of yours?"
Danny shook his head. He didn't really like alcohol, and anyway, he wanted a clear head for this kind of thing. He hadn't done more than take a light sip or two. "How do you feel?"
"Drunk," Ward said grimly. There was an entire world of pent-up emotion wrapped up in that word.
Danny glanced over his shoulder. They weren't being followed ... yet, but all three of the guys were watching them leave, and none of them looked friendly.
"I think maybe someone doesn't like us asking questions about Orson Randall," Danny murmured, and Ward snorted.
He stayed as close to Ward as he possibly could without Ward tripping over him, in case he had to catch him. Ward was holding it together pretty well, but this close up, Danny could tell it was mostly self-control born of years' practice at faking "normal." Ward's eyes were glassy, and he lurched slightly when he moved. Danny tried to redirect him with little nudges, keeping him upright and pointed at the door without being too obvious about it.
A bouncer stepped into their path at the door. "Leaving?" he ground out, his English terse but clear.
"Yeah," Danny said. He reached for Ward's arm. "My friend needs some air."
"Too much to drink?" There was a sharp look in the bouncer's eyes. "Something didn't agree with him, maybe?"
"Something like that," Danny said. Ward was leaning now, resting some of his weight on Danny's shoulder.
"Maybe you want to stay. He can sleep it off in the back."
"No," Danny said, and took a step closer, closing into the big guy's space. "He won't."
There was a moment when he thought it was going to come to fighting, but then the bouncer stepped aside, and Danny got a good grip on Ward's arm and hustled them out of there.
As soon as they were out of the bar, Danny got a grip on the back of Ward's jacket as well on as his arm. Ward was stumbling now, his breathing harsh; Danny tried to keep him in a straight line. The dockside was quiet and dark; this area was mainly warehouses and closed industrial businesses. The lights of container ships glittered across the water. There was music and nightlife down the dock area a ways, and Danny headed for it as fast as he could get Ward to move.
"How do you feel?" he murmured.
"Oh, peachy." Ward gave a sudden laugh, too high-pitched. "Feels like I'm flying. You think they have any more of this stuff?"
And Danny was suddenly, incandescently furious. Ward had worked so damned hard at staying clean, and -- okay, so the plan was probably to drag them off and interrogate them in a room somewhere with a drain in the floor, which was obviously also bad, but they'd also gotten Ward high and Danny was not going to forgive them for that.
They didn't really have time, but he stopped anyway to prop Ward against the wall and take a close look at him. Ward was hot to the touch, sweaty and pale, his eyes bright like he had a fever and pupils blown out even more than the dim light on the docks could account for. Danny put his hand on Ward's chest and felt his heartbeat, rapid but steady.
"Wow, I'm high," Ward said absently. He clutched at Danny's wrist. "I don't want -- I don't like you seeing me like this."
"I know, but it's okay. It'll be fine. We're gonna get you somewhere safe where you can sleep it off." He glanced back at the bar. "Uh, don't look now, but those guys just came out. Can you walk?"
"Sure," Ward said, and then promptly slid off the wall and would have landed on his face if Danny hadn't caught him.
"Right." He got a grip on Ward and got them moving again.
"I'm sorry," Ward said, reeling into Danny as Danny tried to keep them both moving in a straight line.
"What are you sorry for? You didn't do this on purpose."
"I know, but ... I'm sorry. For everything. I was really terrible to you, you know? I was a really terrible person and I'm trying to be a better person but there's just so much --"
"Can we not have this conversation now?" Danny glanced back at the dark shapes that were closing on them from the general direction of the bar, where the neon sign had gone off. "You've already apologized for all for that." Er, sort of. Looking back on it, he wasn't sure if Ward had actually apologized, as such. Still, it wasn't like it mattered now, a year and an ocean and an entire lifetime away from everything that had happened between them when he'd first come back to New York.
"Yeah, no, I guess so, but I'm sorry, I'm just ... sorry." Ward was half-hugging him now, which annoyingly made it difficult to walk.
"I know you are," Danny said, trying to extract himself from Ward's drunkenly apologetic octopus-like clutches without dropping him. "Can you move faster?"
"I'm so high. Have you ever been high?"
"Uh, kind of. There were altered states of being in K'un Lun. Mostly mystically induced, though. No, not that way!" Ward had started to veer off. Danny caught hold of him and redirected him forward.
"I didn't mean to." Ward sounded suddenly ragged. "I didn't want to ... do this."
"I know. They did it to you. You know, I don't think you lose your, uh, NA medallion, or whatever it is, if someone else drugs you."
"Yeah, absolutely, and I need you to stay quiet now, okay?" Danny hustled both of them into the inky shadows between two warehouses.
"I can't feel my feet."
"Yes, okay, shhhh."
There was a metal side door with a padlock on a rusty hasp. The Iron Fist would've really come in handy at this point, but Danny leaned Ward against the wall, stepped back and jump-kicked it. The lock came off and went spinning against the opposite side of the alley with a noise that sounded as loud as an entire steel drum band.
"Wow, that was cool," Ward said.
"Mmm-hmm. C'mon, inside." There was no way to lock the door from the inside, so Danny went for speed instead, stumbling into crates in the pitch-dark interior.
"I never really tell you that," Ward went on. "Do I? All that ... stuff, with the kung fu -- really damn cool."
"You can tell me how awesome I am later. Please shut up. Ow!" He'd run into something, an entire stack of shrink-wrapped-together crates from the feel of it. Holding onto Ward with one hand, Danny groped his way around it. If he lost Ward in here he was afraid he wouldn't be able to find him again.
"I just really wish, I don't know, I mean obviously I wish I hadn't done all the things I've done, actually pretty much my entire life --"
... okay, he could always follow the sound of the talking.
"Ward, I think anything you say at this point you're going to regret saying when you sober up," he whispered, groping his way down another row of crates while towing Ward by the arm. "And we'll both regret it if we get caught by gangsters, so let's just find a place to hide, okay?"
Somewhere in the warehouse, there was the sound of a door slamming open.
"How do we get ourselves into these things?" Danny muttered, running his hand over the top of a crate. "Okay, Ward, just stand there, okay?"
He'd learned how to break fence rails and logs and people's arms with his bare hands, and popping the top off a crate wasn't that different. He reached inside and groped around. It seemed to be full of something soft. Clothing, maybe? They could work with that.
He reached around for Ward and found him more or less where Danny had left him, weaving in place. Far down the warehouse, flashlights glimmered, appearing and disappearing as they were intermittently blocked by stacks of crates.
"C'mon, in." Getting Ward to climb into the waist-high crate was a comedy of errors that would've been funny under other circumstances. At least he wasn't still babbling, but in a way the silence was more ominous. "You okay?" Danny murmured as he tried to get Ward's legs in.
"Mmm. Yeah. Guess so. Where are we?"
"Hiding in a warehouse. Shhh."
"It's dark in here."
"I know. Hush. Ow!"
He finally got Ward into the crate, and climbed in after him. A flashlight beam stabbed down the aisle, and Danny gritted his teeth and tried to pull the lid back over them as quietly as possible. Now he just hoped they hadn't left any visible traces.
And that he could keep Ward quiet.
And also that they could breathe in here, which he hadn't really thought of until he got the lid settled above them, sealing them into a cramped and claustrophobic space.
Ward seemed to come suddenly awake, thrashing against him. Danny caught hold of one of his arms and a handful of jacket. "It's okay," he whispered. "Shhh. Hold still. We're hiding."
"I seem to do a lot of hiding when I'm with you," Ward whispered back, sounding a little more like himself, and Danny stifled a laugh.
"Yeah. I guess we do."
In the dark, all he had was touch to keep tabs on Ward, on what he was doing, how he was doing. Earlier, when Danny was supporting him down the docks, Ward had felt hot to the touch, but now he was shivering.
"I don't like this part," Ward said, too loudly. "Everything's spinning."
"Shhh. You're drugged. You'll be okay." Danny hesitated. "Uh, give me some warning if you think you're gonna be sick, okay?"
"Not really sick, just ... dizzy." Ward took a breath. "You wouldn't think you'd notice things spinning when it's dark, but you really do --"
"Ward, please be quiet, we're hiding from people with guns, remember?"
"Danny -- pfeh -- Danny, get your hand out of my mouth --"
"I'm trying to get you to shut up, but you keep moving," Danny whispered back, trying not to laugh, but he couldn't really help it because Ward was giggling now and okay, damn it, having a mutual giggle fit while hiding inside a crate really wasn't conducive to staying hidden. Also Ward was apparently a lot less close to sober than Danny had hoped, and was still trying to talk as well as laughing. "Ward, c'mon, stop it, you're drugged, we're hiding, so how about being quiet now? Ward -- damn it --"
Danny tried squirming closer through their tangled nest of cheap textiles and just hugging him, and that, strangely, worked; Ward settled down and buried his face in Danny's shoulder.
"It'll be okay," Danny whispered. "You'll be okay."
"You're going to figure it out eventually," Ward whispered into his shoulder, "figure me out, and .... leave --"
"No I won't, I mean c'mon, you saved our lives tonight by realizing you'd been drugged before it really took effect." And now he was the one putting them in jeopardy by talking. "Look, Ward, do you trust me?"
"Yes," Ward whispered back, immediate.
"So trust me to keep us safe," Danny whispered, pressing the palm of his hand to Ward's back. "Be still, be quiet, and trust me."
He wasn't sure if that was what did it, or if Ward just hit the limits of consciousness while under the effects of whatever they'd given him, but his breathing slowed and Danny was alarmed for a minute before realizing that Ward had fallen asleep.
Well, at least this way he could feel Ward breathing against him, deep and slow, and didn't have to worry that Ward had been drugged so heavily that he was going to stop breathing.
Except now his arm was falling asleep.
This was going to be a really long night.
Danny had a pretty good sense of time; you had to, growing up in a place with no clocks. He figured it was maybe between an hour and a half to two hours before he'd had as much of this situation as he could take. All of his limbs were pure pins and needles despite his attempts to move them at intervals, he couldn't meditate like this, and Ward was drooling on his neck. Also, it felt like they were sinking deeper in the tangle of clothes, sort of like movie quicksand (and unlike real quicksand, based on Danny's regrettable firsthand experience). He was starting to have mildly panicked thoughts about suffocating. He didn't want to be the subject of a series of news articles headlined things like American billionaires found suffocated in crate of clothing; police baffled.
He managed to untangle himself from Ward after a moment's struggle, started to sit up, and banged his head on the underside of the crate lid. "Ow," he whispered. He got a grip on the underside and started to slide it to one side. The scraping noise was horrible; he stopped, then inched it over carefully. Fresh air flooded in. Ahhhh. Totally worth it.
The warehouse remained oppressively dark, but he somehow doubted that the gangsters chasing them were going to find their crate and then sit in the dark for hours waiting for them to emerge. There was no sound, no flicker of flashlights in the blackness.
"Wha," Ward mumbled, jerking against Danny's leg, and came awake flailing. Danny got punched in the side of the head before managing to catch Ward's arms in the dark.
"Whoa -- ow -- calm down. Ward? You okay?"
"Where," Ward said blearily.
"Hiding in a crate in a warehouse, and please keep your voice down," Danny whispered.
"Nnngh," was Ward's inarticulate response.
Danny helped him clamber out of the crate and held onto him while he stumbled in a few different directions before settling down.
"I have," Ward said indistinctly after a moment, "the mother of all headaches."
He still sounded a little slurred, but less out of it. "Come on," Danny said, putting an arm around him and steering him in what he vaguely remembered as the general direction of the door. "Hotel's this way."
"Yay," Ward muttered, and held onto Danny's shoulder and let himself be steered.
Their room hadn't been tossed, as far as Danny could tell. They had checked in under an assumed name as well as using fake names for the meet (Ward's idea again; Ward was good at the sneaky stuff), so there was a pretty decent bordering on certain probability that their hotel was safe. Anyway, by the time they got there, Ward was half asleep again, so Danny got some water into him and let him sleep, which he did, for most of the day and on into the following evening.
By the time Ward woke up, Danny had gotten some sleep and some food himself. He'd taken a couple of walks around the hotel and saw no sign of anyone hanging around, so he was going to assume the hotel was safe for now, and they could take their own time going and finding those guys again.
And they were definitely finding those guys again.
Ward was in the shower when Danny got back to the room after his latest sweep for lurking goons, on which he'd also picked up some light food as the street vendors and shops started to close up for the night. Ward was cranky, jittery, and clearly on edge. Danny made him eat a little something and then dragged him down to the hotel's gym. It was late enough by now that they were the only ones there.
"And what are we doing, exactly?" Ward asked warily, circling around the edge of the mats.
"We're going to work out down here until you're so tired you can't move."
"Are we, now," Ward said, half-laughing.
"Yes," Danny said, because he had been around Ward enough by now to know Ward's moods, and he knew that jittery edginess, recognized what it meant. He trusted that Ward wasn't going to just run out looking for a hit of something, but he didn't want Ward to have to do the entire willpower part all by himself.
And he really hadn't been kidding about the workout part, which was what the look on Ward's face clearly announced when they collapsed, some while later, at the edge of the mats and Danny passed him a water bottle.
"I am going to be so fucking sore tomorrow," Ward moaned after passing the bottle back. He flopped back on the floor and threw an arm over his face.
"Yeah, probably." But in the meantime he was sweating the poison out of his body and he was distracted, and that was what Danny figured was important right now.
"Did I, uh." Ward hesitated, with his arm still covering his face. "... say anything embarrassing, you know, back there?"
"Don't you remember?"
"Not clearly. It's all kind of a blur. The last thing I remember for certain is getting up from the table in the bar, and then it's all kind of a haze 'til waking up with you in the warehouse feeling like a bus ran over me." He paused again. "Well, okay, that's not completely true, I mean, there's bits and pieces. Mostly I remember falling all over you and making an ass of myself."
"Ward." Danny leaned over to punch him lightly in the shoulder. "No, you didn't. For one thing it wasn't your fault, I mean, it's like getting sick or something, not anything someone's gonna hold against you. But even so, you didn't do anything to be ashamed of. I hate that they did that to you, but you weren't -- I mean -- you were sweet."
"Sweet," Ward said in a tone laced with sarcasm.
"Yeah." It was on the tip of his tongue to say more, but he didn't; it wasn't fair, that Ward couldn't remember as much of as Danny could, and he didn't want it to be a source of embarrassment, something that came between them.
You just wanted to apologize for all those times you didn't do the right thing with me, he could have said. You just wanted to be better. You just wanted me not to leave you.
He wanted to reassure Ward, like he had last night, that it was okay, that seeing Ward like that hadn't done anything except give Danny an overwhelming urge to kick the collective asses of the people who'd done that to him. But what it came down to was that there was no way he could say it that wouldn't leave Ward even more embarrassed about it than he already was. All Danny could really do was prove it. Just be there. The same way Ward had proven, in small quiet ways, over the last year, that he wasn't that person anymore, that he really meant it -- he wanted to do better, to be better.
"So basically," Danny said, nudging Ward, "next time it's my turn to get drugged, okay?"
Ward lifted his arm away from his eyes and blinked at him. "Okay, first of all that's the worst idea, because between the two of us the one who's more likely to get us out of trouble without getting his ass handed to him is you -- notice I said more likely, and not, you know, a sure thing, give your track record --"
"Thanks for that, Ward."
"And second, how do you plan to do that? Are you going to be my food taster? Actually," Ward added, "you might as well; you steal my food often enough anyway."
But he sounded a little better, and a little more like himself, which was the point.
"You know, if people are going to all the trouble to drug and kidnap us, I bet this means we're on the right track," Danny said, reaching for his water bottle.
"You realize you've got a terminal case of looking on the bright side, right?"
"So what that means is, when you're feeling up to it, we go find those guys and find out what they know. I think they've got some payback coming, don't you?"
A little of the bloodthirstiness he was feeling must have slipped into his tone, because Ward looked up at him for a minute and then grinned slowly, and said, "Sure."