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Pass the Mic
Serving water instead of vodka. That was cold, specially without asking. But despite the smile Nox wore he knew he was going to be poor company. A cold bed was better than wasting energy.

The bar tender left to get Ivan a real drink and Ivan whispered about flouncing. Nox smirked. "Why not flirt with the bruised and battered hottie sitting at her bar?" His words were out of his mouth faster than he could take them back. He hadn't actually looked at Ivan as a hottie, hadn't mentioned it, said anything, but the truth was the truth and fuck if he'd have gotten the wrong impression. It was not him checkout the other man out - at least that's what he told himself. Ivan wasn't his type. But then what was his type?

Ivan laughed it off. "She'll be back. Then we'll see." Ivan didn't seem overly gung-ho about flirting.

Nox relaxed at Ivan's comment. "You'll see. I need to go." Nox stood up. He really wasn't feeling the whole social butterfly thing and the happy smile was painful right now. And such a lie. Nox finished off his coffee. "You know how to find me if you need me. I'll be around." He patted Ivan's hand and was praying to fucking god it came off as platonic. He had to go home.... fuck he had to get laid but that wasn't going to happen here.

Nox walked up to Sara and wrapped his arms around her. "That goes for you too.Ivan can share my number if you want it." It was very unlike him to give out his number but she might need it.

"See ya round." Nox said waving at the small group. He had to get out, get home, do something, sex wasn't going to happen tonight, but he could work the issues out with a long workout.

[[ with Ivan ]]
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Sara was about to retort, but she saw how pleased and excited Claire looked when Ivan struck a pose on the table and bit it back instead. She had no wish to encourage Ivan’s drinking, but good women like Claire deserved more attention from men like Ivan. It was about time!

“Consider me a great deal happier than I was before meeting you Nox,” said Sara getting to her feet. Smiling. “I’ll be here if you want a dance again.”

Sara took Nox’s hug and number— and nodded her thanks. Nox’s gift was astonishingly generous, given how fiercely he protected his privacy. He didn’t feel much like hobnobbing with the other Cafe Mio’s girls. Nox left the two talking and exited through the quiet Cafe. He was a much tougher nut to crack than most. She knew that in her heart as well as she knew anything. A complicated man.

“Are you well enough with vodka?” Sara asked sharply in her clipped accent, sweeping up her skirts and seating herself facing Ivan. “We don’t need you pushing yourself too hard and bleeding internally from some of your old injuries. In a bad way, for our carpets…"

She picked up Nox’s black coffee and sipped it grimacing when she realized it had gone cold. She looked up as Ivan asked about her origins.

“Chisinau, Moldova—wine. Monasteries. Nothing.” She sighed. Her shoulders relaxed. "It all bellied up with the pit fights there. All for money too. It shouldn’t have happened, Lea dying. If we’d had the money for family debts, she’d never have got within spitting distance of staging a fight. Turned out to be just the motivation I needed to get out. You know the rules here. Know them, loathe them, gonna fight to change them. I won’t get us caught without money like that again. When the next financial bubble comes, I’m going to be ready, and that means doing what it takes."

“What did you mean when you said little sisters? There’s a bright side to them not mourning you. Did you fight for money, too?”

Ivan laughed away her comment and took a sip of his vodka. There we go. That's more like it. His eye followed Claire's retreating form. Damn, but that dress hugged her curves. Peachy indeed.

He felt a brief twinge of guilt and looked away. Old habits and all that. He met Sara's eye briefly, though not embarressed. "If I was gonna die from internal bleeding, it'd have happened already. This was from last week."

The bruises were darker, blues, blacks and yellows, mostly because of the dead blood under the skin. That's how it always was, truth be told. You looked the worst when actually you were pretty much close to mended. Oh, there was some residual soreness in his joints- points of contact where fists and head slammed into shoulders or ribs or chest. Those would last a bit longer.

He laughed. "This is all just leftovers, now."

And she told her story. Enough of it that his foot went to the ground and he leaned forward intently as he listened. Yep. Trapped. His voice dropped low- like super low- and he spoke quietly. "They good to you around here? Pressure you or the other girls into anything?"

Gone was any playfulnesss, just intense sincerity. "I'm a cop. My job is to help people. You just let me know and I'll...." His voice trailed off. The Syndicate. Yun Kao. He tamped down the flare of anger. He needed to be smart about them.

"You just let me know. I'll look out for you." he said finally.

Absently, he answered her question. "Two younger sisters and two younger brothers. I look out for them." The other gave him pause. "I just wanted to fight, is all. I guess. To feel alive. In control maybe."

Dumb. It sounded dumb. His face lit up. "And then I met my daughter. Didn't even know she existed. God, I must'a looked a fright to her. But... yeah. It was nice. So no more fighting pits for me."

He may still have to fight. And he would likely come away looking worse than now. But it wouldn't be some temper tantrum either.
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She paused and allowed the silence to last. There was tension between them. Both of them hated how awkward things had become. But she didn’t know how to communicate with her father anymore, not after Lea left them...

Sara looked around, blinking. Her gaze finally found Ivan’s face.

“I thought I knew her, Ivan. Her death proved me wrong. But… I guess you won't put your daughter through hell. She wants to see you, and I think you should be there."

Just the sight of Ivan stilled her fears. He was laughing heartily, as if at some enormous cosmic joke. A man in his beaten condition surely shouldn’t be able to laugh so violently. Unless…

Ivan exuded power and authority as he bent forward, but his tone didn’t match his appearance at all. His eyes narrowed as he listened. Then he asked about Cafe Mio, edgily. Ivan sounded positively worried. Nervous for her and the girls here?

Sara shook her head. “It’s not like what you think. It’s better, now” she said. She reached into the pocket of her dress and produced a plastic effigy of a cross, a believer’s nick-knack. She displayed it with huge pride. “I went through hell because I believed. Lea only did what she did to protect me. My faith.”

She put the effigy back into her pocket.

“Thank you,” she nodded and smiled encouragingly. “Kindness makes you better. Love makes you better. You’ll see."
Ivan smiled at her words, the memory of Zara leaning over the pile of legos, hunting; looking from Danya to Zara as they sat at the table; an ache of being where he knew he needed to be.

And suddenly he felt tired. Not physically. Mentally. This wasn't the life he wanted. He wanted to be home with them. But of course, he couldn't go to her. Danya had promised....nothing. Nothing certain. Not while he was like this.

Hope. All he had was hope. The hope he could be a good father. The desire to be a stable husband, not the kid he had been for so long.

He smiled at Sara. "You're not wrong." He seemed to look into the future. "Not wrong." He stood, reaching out for her hand to draw her up. He took his wallet and sent his contact, looking down at her with reassurance. His voice was firm and comforing. "You listen to me, Sara. If you need anything- if there is any problem- you contact me. Ok?"

He looked around, eye catching the attention of bouncers and the proprietor. He didn't look away. Instead, he held their gaze, unafraid. He looked back at Sara, small smile forming, the one he used when his little sister ran up to him, scared. "You just remember. You have family here now. Any trouble, and you let me know."

He enfolder her in a warm hug, her head against his chest. And then he wandered out into the night. The sky lit by the moon, bright and cobalt blue. The future looked down on him.

Ivan Sarkozy smiled. The moon was bright with hope. And he had a lot of work to do.
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Sara smiled her sunshine smile as she watched officer Ivan, her only friend, drinking companion, and her big brother, discuss contact information as he glared at Pan, Claire and the bouncers. Her smile widened when he reached for her hand.

She got up, the gown falling off a shoulder and feeling the draft. His gaze was stern and insistent, booking no arguments. But Ivan’s hand was warm as it took Sara’s and gave it a gentle squeeze.

“You just remember. You have family here now. Any trouble, and you let me know."

And so, in she came. Over she came.

The touch of Ivan’s skin was as fair as it seemed. And he smelled nice up close, way nicer than that expensive incense in Cafe Mio. Happily, Sara welcomed Ivan’s hug.

Then, Ivan was gone. Sara felt as if she’d been punched in the gut, as if a part of herself had been taken away. With Ivan, to a degree impossible even within her family, Sara had come to feel a sense of kinship and togetherness she hadn’t felt since Lea died.

But that person—her friend, her support—had left something behind. Sara sat on the couch, thinking of his kind smile, his strength, the strong bitter memory of Lea he stirred up.


Sara ran after him.

She didn’t falter in her stride. If anything, she ran faster, raising her skirts to run, swinging her head back. For a beautiful moment, the night's weariness left her. She felt as if she could take on the whole of Moscow single-handed. She felt the way she had done as a teenager, with the whole world before her.

“Ivan, stay safe!” she shouted, “Thank you, I will!”

The Light protects...


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