Luke fidgeted on the yoga mat, fighting the urge to drum his fingers against his knee. "I don't get what...."
"Before one can quiet his mind he must first quiet his doubts." Danny didn't open his eyes but Luke could kind of feel those green eyes on him anyway. Luke watched him take a deep breath, his back straight as a board and the backs of his hands resting on his knees. Luke hadn't even bothered trying to twist his legs up to match Danny's position, he knew all that would lead to was a couple of agents having to come in to get him standing again. "Now breathe the way I showed you."
"Don't know why you have me doing this," Luke grumbled, closing his eyes.
"Finding balance is the source of all strength."
"Man, I'm not exactly lacking on strength."
"There's strength of the body and then strength of the mind. You must learn to balance the two before you can master either." For all the Danny was the most patient dude Luke had ever met he could hear a clear as day At least pretend to humor me tone in his voice. "Mediation is the key to understanding your inner self."
Luke let out a long breath, matching his breathing to Danny's as best he could. "What am I supposed to be thinking about?"
"Don't think of anything. Empty your mind of all cares and worries. Contemplate the emptiness."
And Luke gave it a shot, he really did – hey, this was part of what let Danny punch holes through concrete, there had to be something to it – but he could only sit there thinking about nothing for so long. He opened his eyes and watched Danny, trying to figure out what it was he was doing right so Luke could at least try to fake it.
Danny held so still he could have passed as a statue if he hadn't been breathing. Luke didn't get how he could focus with his hair in his face like that but he supposed that stopped being a concern once you reached whatever level of zen it was Danny lived at every day. As it was all Luke could do to keep himself getting up and brushing it out of his eyes but that would just make it clear he was cheating. He focused on watching Danny breathe instead, the way that blonde hair shifted with each faint exhale.
Luke was coming to realize he watched Danny a lot.
He hadn't noticed at first. Luke always stuck by Danny after missions but he'd always thought that was just because the guy was so calm. He loved his team, he did, they were one weird-ass dysfunctional family after all this time but after a day of dealing with Parker and Ava and Sam Luke needed that calm. Hell, just being around someone who could stay quiet for more than five minutes at a time felt like a glass of cool water most days.
That there was something more going on had snuck up on him; all of a sudden he couldn't even look at Danny without noticing how his hair stuck to the back on his neck after a workout or the definition of his abs when his shirt rode up. And it wasn't long until that led to staring at his ceiling at night, imagining trailing his tongue over the curve of Danny's hip, picturing that calm breathing going all rough and ragged.
The room was stuffy and Luke watched a bead of sweat trail down Danny's neck. Luke had picked Danny up before; all that lean muscle made him heavier than he looked but Luke could still sling him under one arm with no problem. It would be nothing to pick Danny up now and press him against the wall, to hold him there and kiss the calm right out of him. Luke imagined Danny's legs wrapped around his waist, he was more than flexible enough for that, to wrap around Luke and hold on tight. He thought about Danny's heels digging into the small of his back as Luke slid inside him. He wondered what it would feel like to make Danny Rand scream. To strip all that composure away bit by bit until he was a shivery mess, shaking and unsteady the way Luke felt every time Danny looked his way.
Just when Luke felt like he was a second from crawling out of his skin Danny finally, finally opened his eyes. "How close did you get?"
That was a loaded question if Luke ever heard one. "You have no idea."
So Luke had himself a problem. It wasn't like he could just ask Danny to the prom.
Well. Actually, he probably could just ask Danny to the prom, it wasn't like there weren't those two senior guys running for double prom king already. The school was pretty good about that kind of thing, really; the only guy he could really see giving them any hassle was that loudmouth Thompson and Luke sure as hell wasn't being shoved into any lockers.
Luke just had a hard time picturing Danny doing the prom thing. The guy was practically a monk; Luke had never seen him give anyone so much as a second look, guy or girl. For all he knew Danny's training meant he had to abstain from all that stuff. Probably depleted his chi or whatever it was he threw around.
Or Luke was just talking himself out of making a move so he wouldn't have to risk looking like an idiot. That was a solid option, too.
Moments like these that made Luke wish he knew people who weren't superheroes or SHIELD agents. Asking Sam or Parker for advice was a non-starter; Parker would ramble until he got on so many tangents they both lost track of where he'd been going – and with his luck some idiot supervillain would crash the party mid-way – and he'd known first graders who'd managed more maturity than Sam. Ava would probably be okay, but she would just tell him to get over himself already and quit bugging her. And Luke would rather set himself on fire than ask Coulson for dating advice. Dating your teammates didn't exactly have its own section in the SHIELD handbook.
The bell rang and Luke leaned against the locker row. His next period was a free study hall; he'd let Danny talk him into another meditation lesson and the prospect of getting to stare at Danny for forty-five minutes straight both filled him with dread and got him hard.
Skipping out wasn't even an option.
Luke walked in to find Danny already seated on the mat and this time stripped to the waist. If it hadn't been Danny Rand he was dealing with Luke would have sworn this was intentional torture. "Hey."
Luke decided sharing that he'd had to spend a few extra minutes making sure he didn't walk into a one-on-one session with a guy who'd trained half his life to observe everything sporting a hard-on was a bad idea. "Got held up."
"We should start. Each second is the building block of eternity."
"Man, the fortune cookie industry would love to get their hooks in you." Danny's eyes opened at that and Luke felt a twinge of guilt; he liked to see Danny surprised but that had been mean. "Sorry," he said, sitting across from him. "Still not comfortable with all this. Not used to being this bad at stuff."
Danny nodded, his expression smoothing out again. "It takes practice, especially at first. I used to get very discouraged myself when my training first started."
"Yeah, but you figured it out and you were like, five."
"As I said. It takes practice." He let out a deep breath and the silence stretched on for a few minutes.
"Hey, Danny," he finally said, desperate for anything to distract himself from the truth that the only thing he was getting any growing awareness of was how looking at Danny half-naked was getting him hard again.
"How come you don't invite the rest of the team to train like this?"
"Spider-Man and Nova lack the discipline required. The silence of their own minds would only intimidate them, not enlighten."
"What about Ava? She's into all this mystical stuff, she'd be way better at it than I am."
"White Tiger's power stems from a very different kind of mysticism. Her balance must be forged in concert with the energies of her amulet, a conversation that extends far beyond her own self. Wielding the Iron Fist is similar in some ways but the only center I need master is my own." He opened his eyes for the first time since Luke walked into the room. "Would it help you to have the others present?"
"Nah," Luke said, and it was rare to see emotion on Danny's face that was as clear as the relief there now. "Just curious."
"You should be concentrating."
Luke could take a hint. He stayed quiet but didn't bother with the meditating, giving that all up as a lost cause.
Dudes in high school had no business being as ripped as Danny - Luke was super-humanly strong and he didn't have close to that much definition. He couldn't stop himself from watching how Danny's ridiculously defined abs moved as he breathed. That led to his eyes traveling down that trail of fine blond hair stretching past Danny's waist band and Luke wondering how it would feel to follow that trail with his fingertips. Or his tongue. Hell, one then the other. Get the workout pants Danny was wearing off him and follow that trail all the way down.
Luke had blown a guy once, a buddy he used to play ball with sometimes in the old neighborhood. (Parker might win the "animal-themed villains busting up your birthday party" version of Never Have I Ever, but Luke knew he'd smoke the rest of the team in the normal version.) They'd wanted something to bet so playing one-on-one got a little more interesting but neither any cash and well, things got interesting. It was the only contest he'd ever lost on purpose. It had only been the once and Luke knew he wasn't an expert, but he'd be more than willing to practice if Danny would just give him the word.
Luke let his mind go, imagining letting his tongue circle around the base of Danny's cock, getting him good and hard. Imagined just learning the taste of him, the difference between the loose skin around his balls and the smooth length of his shaft. He wondered if Danny would gasp when he started licking the head of his cock or if he would still be able to keep his cool. Luke thought he'd give serious thought to giving up his powers for the chance to make Danny come undone in reality the way he could in his dreams.
Luke gave a guilty start even though he knew there was no way Danny could know what he'd been thinking about. "Yeah?"
"The bell rang. Didn't you hear it?"
"Um...no. Guess not."
"Good." Danny looking at him like he was finally getting this right just made the guilt worse. He got up, giving Luke a good view of how low his pants hung on his hips and Jesus, that was not helping at all. "Aren't you coming?" he said, picking up his shirt from the floor and slinging it over his shoulder.
Standing up right now was a really bad idea unless he wanted Danny to know for sure he'd been contemplating a lot more than emptiness. "Uh...I'll catch up with you. Think I'm getting the hang off all this."
Danny gave him a weird look – which Luke knew he deserved, he was acting pretty weird – but didn't question it. Luke waited until he was safely out of sight, then he bolted for the rest room and locked himself in the nearest restroom. Finally getting to unbutton his jeans felt like heaven; Luke braced himself against the stall and wrapped his hand around his cock, picturing Danny draped over one the the study room chairs, his head tossing back as Luke deep-throated him. He wanted to hear his breathing turn into rough little gasps, thought about looking up to see Danny's big green eyes wide as Luke showed him everything he'd been missing all that time training on that mountain. He imagined Danny's lips parting, forming Luke's name without having the breath for sound. Imagined Danny whispering please.
Luke finally came with a muffled groan and slumped against the wall. This had to stop. Something had to change and it had better be soon.
Parker's villains were an embarrassment to the whole business. Luke sincerely hoped that if he had guys dressed like giant squids came after him when he eventually went solo someone would put him out of his misery.
So it was extra embarrassing when one of the freak's ink blasts hit him in the chest hard enough to topple him off the helicarrier and down the long, long way into the river below. Unbreakable skin and super strength were no good now; the impact sent the wind right out of him and the Hudson in early March is cold. As the water passed over his head Luke had just enough time to think, Damn, I don't wanna get killed by someone named the Squid before passing out.
The first thing Luke heard was muffled arguing. As everything slowly got clearer Luke could make out steady beeping, and he could smell antiseptic. His chest ached and his throat felt raw; Luke forced his eyes open and realized he was in the helicarrier med bay, which unless the afterlife had been drastically over hyped meant he'd managed to side-step his humiliating, fishy death. And he was with it enough now to realize it was – of course – Parker and Sam arguing, with Ava sitting on the foot of his bed looking like she was seconds away from strangling them both. "Your bad guys suck, Parker," he mumbled, just wanting to shut them up.
Everyone turned to stare and Luke realized this must have been bad; all three of them looked relieved and Ava even looked like she'd crying. Bless Parker, though, he always managed to recover first. "What, this is my fault now?" he said, turning it into a joke, the way he did with everything.
Luke had to admit, he'd learned to appreciate that. "Guy was trying to kill you. Ink you. Whatever."
"Look one nutcase decides spiders and calamari are natural enemies does not mean I'm to blame here...."
"It's not the first time," Sam said, joining in. "Well, first squid guy, sure, but there was the rhino guy...."
"And the Scorpion," Ava said, piling it on.
"Okay, okay, the whole zoo hates me, I get it. You'd think fishing teammates out of the Hudson would earn you a little leeway."
They'd punished Parker enough. "You fished me out?" Luke said.
Parker shrugged, not able to look at him; Luke had hoped some teasing would keep they guy from beating himself up – near misses came with the territory – but Peter Parker was even better at guilt than he was at talking. "Couldn't let you drown in the river, right? Who know what you'd mutate into." His phone chimed and Parker winced. "Luke, man, I'm sorry, my aunt's texted me like, six times, I gotta...."
"Go, go," Luke said, waving him off. "I fine, I'll return the favor next time."
Parker gave him a grateful smile and web slung his way out the window, leaving him with Sam and Ava. "So, how bad was it?"
"Sam had to do CPR on you," Ava said.
"Saved your life!"
"He's promised to be gracious," she said, elbowing Sam in the ribs.
That was when Luke realized who was very conspicuously missing. "Hey," he said, his chest so tight he could barely breathe. "Where's Danny?" Maybe Ava hadn't been crying over him after all. "Is he...?"
"Aw man, he's fine, he's still in debrief," Sam said, with a grin. "You should've seen it, you went over the side and he just Hulked out all over that guy, just bam, bam, bam," he said miming punching someone into the floor. "It took, like, ten agents to pull him off. It was pretty awesome. Wrecked the place all up, Fury was maaaaaad."
"Sam!" Ava said, finally getting his attention. "How about you go tell the doctors Luke's awake, huh? Be useful."
Sam rolled his eyes. "Sure, sure. I'm sure they'll all want to talk to the hero of the day anyway. Don't worry, Tiger, your time will come."
Luke quirked an eyebrow at Ava. "Thought you said he'd be gracious."
"This is gracious for him." Then she smacked him on the shoulder. "Don't you ever scare us like that again."
"You hurt your hand doing that, didn't you."
"Maybe. Shut up."
Luke leaned his head against the pillow and stared at the ceiling for a while. "Did Danny really freak out?"
"Yeah. He was trying to kill Squidboy. I mean, I was with him on that but it was like he couldn't see anything but his fist in that guy's face. I guess you can't be surprised, though." She looked at him then, sitting back on the bed. "Oh God, you are surprised. Tell me you're not really surprised."
Luke didn't know why she wasn't. Just the thought of Danny being that out of control made Luke feel like freaking out himself. "Yeah?"
She dropped her head into her hands. "I don't believe Sam was right. You are this clueless. I owe him ten dollars now."
She looked at him through her fingers. "You are aware that Danny's over the moon for you, right? I mean, Sam caught on. Sam."
Luke began to seriously consider that he'd maybe woken up in a parallel universe. "Huh?"
Ava flicked her finger against his forehead. "Do not be this clueless."
"But...I mean, Danny never said anything...."
"Okay, said, no. But come on. The solo training sessions? The choosing the room right next to yours? How about last Christmas, when he gave you the meditation rock he was given his first day of Iron Fist training? That wasn't even a little clue?"
Luke had never wished invisibility was his superpower more than right then. "I figured everyone got rocks."
"No. Only you got a super significant Christmas rock." She let out an exasperated breath. "You like him too, right? And please say yes, because I can't deal with being wrong this many times in one day." Luke didn't say anything, which he guessed was answer enough. "Then do something, already."
"Thought about asking you what to do. Figured you'd just tell me to man up."
"Well, it's good advice. Take it." Then she patted his shoulder and left the room, leaving Luke alone with his thoughts.
Luke didn't see Danny at all until school the next Monday; he leaned against Danny's locker just as he went to open it and crossed his arms. "Hey."
"I need my books."
Luke gave him a long look. "You okay?"
"Of course I am." Which would have been more convincing if he would actually look at Luke, but sure, he could play along with this.
"The guys told me you lost your cool on Squid man. Been keeping yourself kind of scarce, huh?"
"Maintaining discipline requires vigilance. I've been working to rediscover my center." The bell rang and the hallway cleared out; Danny gave Luke a look but he didn't stop blocking the locker. "We're going to be late."
"Why'd you pick me for the solo meditation stuff?"
"I told you. You were the only one who...."
"Yeah, I know you said that. The real reason now."
Danny put his back to the locker wall and stared at the floor. "I...I'm not balanced around you," he admitted. "I'd hoped I could learn to control that if we trained together."
"You could've just avoided me."
"I could never do that." He shook his head. "I was never trained for this. Previous Iron Fists have lead secluded lives, maybe I'm not supposed to...."
Enough of that. Luke shifted over to pin him against the lockers and kissed him before he could get another word out, the way he caught Danny's mouth hot and wet and open sending a jolt right to his spine. "You disappear off to some mountain somewhere we're all dragging you back," he said, still standing close enough to feel Danny breathe.
Danny's lips twitched up. "I could never do that either." He hesitated for a second, then he angled his chin up like he was going in for the kiss this time, stopping with their lips just shy of brushing.
Luke closed the rest of the distance and this was better than any dream; he pressed close to Danny as he took the kiss deep, close enough to feel his heart beating. "Hey. It takes two things to balance, right?" he said, stroking his thumb along the line of Danny's jaw.
He felt Danny smile. "It can."
"See? That's why it hasn't been working, you've been trying to balance just the one." Luke realized he was rambling and didn't know how to stop. The part of his brain that still hadn't grasped all of this was happening wondered this was what Parker felt like all the time. "So let's try it my way for a while, okay? We'll figure a way to work it out. We can...." This time Danny did kiss him, mercifully shutting him up. "Sweet Christmas, you got no idea how long I've wanted to this."
"Not as long as me."
That Danny almost sounded shy saying that just about shut down Luke's brain. "Whattya say we blow off the rest of the day, huh? Or at least the rest of the morning?" he said, whispering right into his ear as he traced his fingers along Danny's waistband.
"We'll get in trouble."
"Man, I am willing to risk it. Study hall's empty this early in the morning, let's hide out there. Got something I want to try."
"What if someone sees us?"
Luke thought that was a Nick Fury lecture he was more than willing to sit through. "Let 'em."