not_that_spike: (shy smile)
[personal profile] not_that_spike
The cloak thing is... really getting old. He can do it and keep on doing it, but it lost its appeal after the first couple days. Hell, half the time they've been out here it's just been the seven of them: if Hero and Ciba and Natalya had known about him, this would have been a different kind of trip. He wouldn't trade being here for anything, that's not it. It's just weird being a ghost, for all intents and purposes. And now the stakes are changing. Ever since they got to within about fifty miles of New York City, there's been a fuck of a lot of travel in absolute silence. Even the kids seem to know how serious things are; he's got a renewed respect for the little guys, not that he ever lost respect for Beth Junior. It's just he never thought a whole lot of kids in general. Now that he's seen how keyed-in they are to their parents' -- in this case their mothers' -- moods, he's pretty impressed.

There's shit going on, though, and not just around them. Being this isolated has given him a lot of time for thinking, and most of the thinking he's been doing hasn't necessarily left him feeling all warm and happy. They're almost at the harbor; the plan is to get passage on a ship for Europe and make their way to Paris. That... won't be an easy trip. It isn't like he'll have the simple luxury of any time alone with Beth and Junior; they'll probably all be crammed in some small space together. It's just a thing they're going to have to get through, unless he decides to jump ship and leave here and the only way he's going to do that is if someone shoots him. Tempers are starting to flare, and he can't do anything about that.

But damn, does he love his woman. He loves Beth so much. He told her a long time ago he'd die for her, and he would. Still, he gets this sick little feeling in his throat every time he thinks about the potential meetup with Yorick. Beth and Junior, they're his family. He's the one who's been there; he's the one who loves them. Yorick doesn't even know about the baby.

So what happens when the guy finds out?

Yeah, it's going to be a long trip across the Atlantic. A long trip thinking a lot of thoughts he'd rather not.

More than anything, he'd like to find a single damn door leading them home, but... the universe hasn't been that kind. Deep down inside, he's got the feeling it doesn't like him very much.

But when the opportunity arises to have a few minutes alone with Beth and Junior, he grabs it. Ciba's off with Natalya talking about what happens to Vlad when they finally get to Russia and Hero's off scouting the path; Junior's being fed. He almost doesn't dare take off the cloak here, but it's private enough so he can risk it for just a couple minutes. No one will see him. Resting a hand on Beth's shoulder, he looks down into Junior's contented face. She's such a beautiful kid, even if she doesn't happen to look a whole lot like Beth.

She sure looks nothing like him.

"Hey, Marie. Marie Browning. I remember you."

What he wouldn't give for Europa right now. Every day a honeymoon: that's sure as hell been put to the test.

Date: 2007-06-19 07:36 am (UTC)
stbethadettes: (Beth Plural lounging)
From: [personal profile] stbethadettes
Leaning back against a tree trunk with Junior in her arms, Beth aims a smile at him.

"A little over a year ago? Europa? I was just short of being the size of Texas?" Her smile widens. "Yeah, I remember you, too. Steve, right?"

She's tired. Little Beth has skipped her morning nap the last three mornings, and while that's caused her to take a longer nap in the afternoon, it's also seemed to make her fight sleep more at night.

Not only that, but the baby's curious. She wants to crawl places. She wants to reach for things... and then sometimes drop them and have somebody get them back to her. And Beth's trying to make sure she gets some solid food to try once a day in addition to the regular feedings.

She's not the only one who's tired, though, and she knows it.

Careful, she leans slightly into Spike, her face tilted up as if expecting a kiss.

Date: 2007-06-19 11:08 pm (UTC)
stbethadettes: (and she's... she's pretty huh?)
From: [personal profile] stbethadettes
She's always thought he could probably read passages from the goddamn dictionary to her and get a reaction, but what he says so quietly into her ear is way more exciting than that.

It's a nice thought. It's more than a nice thought, but the realm of fantasy is certainly where it has to stay for now.

She's pretty confident, and for all the things that have happened to her in the last five years, she'd have to take some pride in the fact that she's fairly well-adjusted. She was never an amazon, she never went hungry, she never went so crazy with grief that she did anything she regrets, she's tried her best to help the people she could, she took the best care she possibly could of St. Bernadette's while she was living there.

She found a place at the end of the universe that was almost -- almost -- a sanctuary and then was presented with a guy who would do almost anything for her and a nearly perfect little place to live with him, a place even safer than the bar itself. And in her worry at the possibility of having a repeat performance of what happened last summer and getting stuck with Junior alone at St. Bernadette's, which was no longer as safe as it once was, she nearly gave it all up just to guarantee safer possibilities for herself and Junior.

Nearly gave it all up unintentionally, but the end result is the same. And if Spike hadn't been crafty as hell and gotten this cloak and followed Hero out, she'd be here without him.

If there's one thing that's been a bit of a downfall for her, it's guilt. And not guilt over everything: though she wouldn't dream of pinning any hopes and expectations on Yorick, she doesn't regret the night they spent together.

She doesn't regret her relationship with Spike.

She doesn't regret the sweet-faced baby girl in her arms.

It's been guilt over the plane crash and the lives she took with the intention of saving. Guilt over Spike getting trapped out here with her, even though she wasn't the one who ran the shed down in a tank. Guilt over not telling Hero, for both Spike's sake and Hero's.

In the first two instances, it's one of the worst kinds of guilt: the irrational kind, the kind that's deep and heartfelt and terrible but was nothing she really could've done anything about at the times that things went down.

The guilt she feels over not telling Hero about Spike is on a smaller scale because the logical part of her can acknowledge that any time you need to keep something secret -- and Spike does have to be kept secret -- the fewer people that know, the better. And they can't even tell Ciba and Natalya.

But it's a kind of guilt she can do something about, and if Spike had told her he needed her to let Hero know, she wouldn't have gone another night without doing it.

Some days she thinks she might do it anyway.

She lifts a hand to Spike's face, rests her palm against his cheekbone, her fingers curling in the hair behind his ear. "Next available opportunity, bounty hunter. Just you wait."

Date: 2007-06-20 02:03 am (UTC)
stbethadettes: (any port in a storm)
From: [personal profile] stbethadettes
Well, that settles that.

"You're sure?"

Of course he's sure. She looks down at little Beth, lets the baby's hand wrap around her finger.

"I'll tell her."

Tonight. She'll make it happen.

If there's ever been a real test of their relationship, this would have to be it. They've been able to get along in a bar, by a lake, in bed together, on trips for pleasure. They've made it through the appearance -- and disappearance -- of his dead ex-girlfriend, the one he apparently carried a torch for for so long, longer than she's known him, and they've made it through a pregnancy that managed to take both of them by surprise.

And somehow, most of those things seem small in comparison to having to live like this.

She's always admired and respected him. Right from the very start. But now, after being able to watch him carry on like this, she admires and respects him even more.

And she's still sorry he's had to do it.

Date: 2007-06-20 04:04 am (UTC)
stbethadettes: (the jezebel who stole Yorick for a night)
From: [personal profile] stbethadettes
She lets out a quiet laugh in spite of herself, but before she lets him distract her with the little cellophane fish -- it's bound to say the same thing it always does -- she has to say something.

"I know you're right. She might be angry. But I'm a big girl, Spike, and you know that by now." She smiles slightly. "If I'm finally going to tell her the truth about you being out here, I'm not going to prop it up on a lie."

Besides, it's not the only thing she's been untruthful to Hero about: she lied about what Yorick's letter said when they first met. And she made a point of getting rid of it when they left on their motorcycle courtesy of Sister Ober and the Swiss Guard squad.

The truth is that in those few minutes immediately after finding out Hero was an amazon, Yorick's letter might not have been enough to make her keep an open mind. In the long run, what Yorick asked her to do hasn't mattered a whole hell of a lot. He may be the one to thank for sending his sister her way, but after riding away from Sister Ober, they formed their friendship all on their own.

And she loves Hero. Beyond Junior and Spike, Hero means the most to her out here.

In other life, if she'd been in Beth Singular's position, she'd have been thrilled to get a kick-ass sister-in-law like Hero. As it is, she's glad they met. She'd glad Junior gets Hero for an aunt.

"Give me a sec." Still cradling Junior, she buttons the top of her shirt back up with one hand before holding that hand out for the fish and grinning at Spike. "All right, bounty hunter. Let me have it."

Date: 2007-06-20 05:24 am (UTC)
stbethadettes: (Default)
From: [personal profile] stbethadettes
It's a matter of seconds until the ends of the fish curl up on her palm, and still grinning, she raises her eyebrows at Spike.

"How's that for a shocker?"

When she passes the fish back to him, she leans into him again and presses her lips to his.

She's not surprised at all.

Date: 2007-06-20 06:22 am (UTC)
stbethadettes: (let she who has not sinned)
From: [personal profile] stbethadettes
The sound of someone getting closer makes her slump as opposed to straighten, wanting to look like she's been hanging out right here with Junior for a while and has gotten as comfortable as possible. She can feel Spike to one side of her, and even after all this time, she's only partially gotten used to being able to feel him nearby without seeing him.

At first she's not sure who it is, but then it becomes obvious that the noise is coming from the direction Hero went off in. And then, sure enough, Hero comes along, back from checking things out up ahead.

She glances quickly down at the baby's sleeping face, then looks up at Hero and smiles as she approaches, patting the ground next to her -- on the side opposite Spike -- as if it's a prime seat. "Hey, you. Come sit with us."

Date: 2007-06-20 06:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] no-real-hero.livejournal.com
Taking the hat off, she sits heavily next to Beth. Her feet are fucking killing her -- stupid boots -- but at least for this little foray she didn't have to have the heavy goddamn pack on her back.

"Remember a while ago when I told you it seemed like there weren't so many fucking amazons any more?"

Resting her elbow on her knee, she makes a broad sweeping gesture; it's supposed to mean I was wrong... again. "I overheard this conversation a mile or two up the road. Something about some goddamn fight for control over the fucking harbor. Isn't that just great?" Her voice is low, though: she's not going to be the one to wake her little niece. She shakes her head once, twice, three times, and then looks over at the mamacita.

"Sorry. Had to get it out of my system. Looks like everything's quiet here, at least."

Date: 2007-06-20 07:15 am (UTC)
stbethadettes: (any port in a storm)
From: [personal profile] stbethadettes
"You're kidding."

Hero's definitely not kidding, and it's fucking unbelievable that after all this time there are still those damn amazons scattered around.

And fighting over the harbor. Great. She'd say she'd love to know what ridiculous reason they have for wanting the harbor, but reason only works on some of these chicks and she doesn't really care to know so long as this little group can make it through them.

Safely. All of them.

She's quiet for a moment, listening for Ciba and Natalya and Vlad but not hearing them nearby.

"Hero, there's something I need to talk to you about."

Especially if there's a threat of angry amazons at the harbor.

Date: 2007-06-20 07:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] no-real-hero.livejournal.com
Her first thought is that Beth doesn't want to go through with this: she doesn't want to go to Paris for any of a dozen reasons or more and they're probably all really good reasons. All it takes is one glance down at the sleeping baby in her arms to understand: she's a protective mama bear. If there are amazons, why on earth would she want to put Beth Junior in any kind of danger?

Maybe that's not it, though. Maybe it doesn't have anything to do with that at all. After all, the information's barely had a chance to sink in and she gets the feeling Beth was going to talk to her about whatever this is no matter what she'd said when she sat back down.

"What is it?" Beth knows (or at least she hopes she knows) she can talk to her about anything under the whole goddamn sun.

Anything at all.

Date: 2007-06-20 08:40 pm (UTC)
stbethadettes: (explaining it all again)
From: [personal profile] stbethadettes
She gently shifts Junior in her arms, buying herself just a second to gather her thoughts about where to start with this.

What she doesn't want to do is launch into it with something like I probably should've told you this before or I've been keeping something from you or anything like that. One of the worst case scenarios is that Hero would think she's been able to get back to the bar at some point -- or maybe even continuously -- all this time, and that's really not something she wants to make so much as flicker through Hero's mind. A way back to the bar, however temporary, is something she would've told Hero about pretty much immediately.

So she'll tell her the story.

"Do you remember the House of Arch?" Her voice, already pretty low, gets even quieter. "Sending messages by owls and moving from room to room by portrait and Tom and Door, the people responsible for it?"

Date: 2007-06-20 09:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] no-real-hero.livejournal.com
"Yeah." She remembers it pretty fucking well: it's an awesome way of getting around and she still can't believe she walked into a goddamn portrait and ended up in Beth's apartment. "In fact, I sent a message to..."

She looks around warily, waits and listens for just a moment before continuing, but doesn't hear anything. Or anyone. She really doesn't want Natalya and Ciba stumbling in on this conversation; they'll think the pair of them are fucking lunatics if they hear them talking about getting around by portrait and sending messages by owl, or even a place called the House of Arch. Seeing as how the coast is clear, she continues very quietly.

"...to Spike last time I was there, but I guess he wasn't around to get it because I never saw him. Why?" She has no idea what this has to do with much of anything, especially not with amazons staking claim to New York's harbor. But she's all ears.

Date: 2007-06-21 02:47 am (UTC)
stbethadettes: (the jezebel who stole Yorick for a night)
From: [personal profile] stbethadettes
She never saw him. The choice of words could almost be funny.

"Well, Tom was the owner of a cloak. A cloak that can..." Even after everything, this still manages to be one of the strangest conversations she's had, and she can't help glancing around again, looking for signs of life within listening range. But there are none yet. "...make the wearer invisible."

Junior smacks her lips in her sleep, her little hands balled up.

"And he loaned it to Spike."

She looks up at Hero again, knowing Hero is more than capable of putting two and two together and easily coming up with four.

"And when Spike saw you in the bar that day," she goes on anyway, "he was the opportunist he's always been."

Date: 2007-06-21 03:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] no-real-hero.livejournal.com
"Wait."

This is as convoluted as one of Yorick's Knight Rider fanfics.

"But I didn't see him. I sent him a note. And I waited a while, and then I left, because it was time to go, and..."

Her expression shifts from confused to completely, utterly disgusted with herself: her head goes into her hands and she shakes her head. "Goddammit, this explains so much! All those times I couldn't get doors to close? All those times I felt like we were being followed and couldn't see anyone?"

Carefully, she peeks out from between her fingers: she still doesn't see anything. "So he followed me out that bar door, huh?" Even through the grid of her fingers, Beth can probably see her eyes narrowing. "And where is this goddamn opportunist of yours right now?"

Things are starting to make sense. If nothing else, she thought Beth was taking things pretty fucking well. Now she has an idea why.

Date: 2007-06-21 03:25 am (UTC)
stbethadettes: (you maybe want to holster that thing?)
From: [personal profile] stbethadettes
It's not lost on her that the expression on Hero's face is almost the same as the one she had after hearing the made-up contents of Yorick's letter back at St. Bernadette's.

In reply, Beth turns her head away from Hero and looks very pointedly at about where she thinks Spike's face would be if she could see it.

Date: 2007-06-21 03:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] no-real-hero.livejournal.com
"You goddamn sneak!" Before he can even say boo, she's over there, grabbing his hand, pulling him to his feet, wrapping her arms around him. "You fucker! I thought I was never going to see you again!"

He may be Beth's guy, but he's her niece's dad and that makes him family. There's also something else, though: this whole goddamn trip she's been doubting her sanity. It isn't just hearing Victoria; she knows how to deal with that. But she's been thinking maybe, just maybe, the whole thing about the bar's been nothing but a dream, a fantasy, something she made up. Yeah, she's got the pictures and yeah, she's got Santa Madre and Beth Junior here with her, but somewhere inside she's been wondering if the whole thing was just some weird hallucination.

Seeing Spike makes it all real. Painfully, wonderfully real. "You son of a bitch," she sobs against his shoulder. "Have you really been here the whole goddamn time?"

Of course he has. Of course he has: their way back got run over right after she got here. "That fucking cape." It might come in handy.

Especially for getting the babies past the amazons guarding the harbor.

Date: 2007-06-21 05:16 am (UTC)
stbethadettes: (the jezebel who stole Yorick for a night)
From: [personal profile] stbethadettes
That reaction isn't quite what Beth expected but there's no doubt that it's a huge fucking relief, and when Spike's arm goes around her, she leans into him.

She'd give his hand a squeeze if not for the baby in her arms.

"Well, it sounds like you could get to put that firepower to use soon enough." He was sitting right here with them when Hero mentioned what she heard about the harbor. "You might get to meet some amazons after all."

Things have been going surprisingly smoothly, considering. They've been spared experiences with any amazons before now.

She still has the Barak buried in her bag, and while she hasn't had practice in a while, she's not afraid to use it if she needs to.

Date: 2007-06-21 05:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] no-real-hero.livejournal.com
This is still pretty goddamn unbelievable. "How..."

She stops, shaking her head, and tries again. "All this time. You were with us all this time, and you knew, mamacita, and you didn't say anything. How come?"

Maybe they were afraid she couldn't keep a secret, or maybe they thought she'd be pissed off and she is, a little bit, but only because they waited so long to tell her. "But you've been... how? Beth, how..."

A sharp noise pulls her attention away immediately; one hand goes out in a hush warning. But the sound passes and the furrow in her brow lessens. "I mean, I can see not telling Natalya and Ciba, especially if you didn't want to have to explain the whole bar-at-the-end-of-the-goddamn-universe thing. Sounds crazy enough. But you could have told me. I wasn't going to blow anyone's cover. Shit, I could have babysat more or something."

The notion of something as normal as babysitting makes her laugh, though. It's hard to stay stern when your best friend in the whole world -- the one who you thought had lost her guy forever -- suddenly has him again.

It almost gives her a little bit of hope.

Date: 2007-06-21 06:45 am (UTC)
stbethadettes: (let she who has not sinned)
From: [personal profile] stbethadettes
She smiles an apology.

"No offense, Hero, but I just thought it would be smarter not to tell a soul. This is..."

Kind of one of the scenarios she used to consider worst-case: Spike's stuck here. He's safe from the plague, whether it's thanks to the nanobots or not, but now there's the threat of amazons. And if something happened to him, it'd be fucking unbearable. It'd be worse than knowing he's (relatively) safe back at the bar and House of Arch.

"It sucks."

It's complicated. Maybe a Spike-style understatement is the best way she can hope to get it across.

"If nobody knew, it'd be harder for it to get out."

Date: 2007-06-21 07:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] no-real-hero.livejournal.com
She pretty much stopped believing in any kind of magic at all the minute Joe died in her arms; she's spent the years in between then and now hardening herself to all the fucked-up things life likes to throw at the unsuspecting masses. But the second she sees Beth and Junior and Spike just disappear in front of her eyes...

There's magic and then there's magic. Her dog of a brother spent most of his days back when they were growing up doing that goddamn dime-store variety of magic: levitating, getting out of handcuffs, pulling shit out of hats. This is magic on a whole different level.

Little Beth hiccuping softly in her sleep is the only thing that gives away their location. Reaching out, she fishes blindly for where she thinks they must be, meeting only air.

"That's fucking unreal. Take it off again. I want to look at it."

Date: 2007-06-21 08:10 pm (UTC)
stbethadettes: (Default)
From: [personal profile] stbethadettes
They can see her just fine, and it's kind of entertaining to watch Hero look for them, reach out and swat at the air where she thinks they are.

Beth has to grin.

If she ever sees Tom again, she's going to give him both a hell of a hard time and a big goddamn kiss on the cheek for enabling the opportunist in her life.

When Spike uncovers them, she takes a step away, still watchful and listening for Ciba and Natalya or anyone one else who might be around and very gently rocks Junior from side to side as Hero takes a look at the cloak.

She's done it before. The curiosity was too much, and it's an amazing thing. Just looking at you'd never guess it could do what it does.

Date: 2007-06-21 08:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] no-real-hero.livejournal.com
This thing's fucking incredible: it weighs almost nothing, feels like the smoothest silk, but it's magic. She'd like to put it on and sneak around just like Spike's been doing since they lost their way back to the bar, but seeing as how she's not stupid about the need for urgency, she hands it over and watches Spike just disappear into nothing.

"One of these days, mamacita, you're going to have to tell me about how you guys have done it. How you know where he is and all that. When we're alone... and that means just the two of us." She says that last bit for Spike's benefit; there's a lot she doesn't necessarily want to talk about in front of him.

There's probably a lot he's overheard that she wouldn't have shared. That ought to bother her a lot more than it does right now. But at the moment, she's just so goddamn glad she didn't make up the bar and everything that happened there.

In the meantime, though, she just nods to Beth. "Good for you, though. I'm really -- and I mean really -- happy for you guys."

And not a little jealous, too, but there's not much point in getting into that.

Date: 2007-06-21 09:10 pm (UTC)
stbethadettes: (Default)
From: [personal profile] stbethadettes
She half-smiles.

"Don't worry. By now he knows how to safely get lost without really getting lost."

She's never had anything specific she felt like she had to keep from him, but she's always wanted him to know things because she wants him to know them and not because she's under his scrutiny -- not that he's actually scrutinizing her -- 24 hours a day.

It's been one of those things that they've had to figure out how to live with and she knows Spike would give her some time to talk to Hero alone if she ever asked -- and she trusts him to do it even though she can't see to know for certain -- but there's no way to firmly resolve it with things as they are. It's just pretty much impossible with the way things are right now.

Of course, if Hero's worried about Spike spying on them in their underwear, well, he's not some damn pervert. He's a good guy -- the former hit man with a conscience -- and the only eyeful he's gotten has been from her.

Purposefully.

Sure enough, she can hear the voices getting closer. And that's definitely Natalya's brand of English.

"C'mon, Auntie Hero. Can you give me a hand with getting Junior back into her backpack?"

Date: 2007-06-21 09:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] no-real-hero.livejournal.com
"You bet your ass I can." She takes the still-sleeping baby, runs a worn finger across her little cheek, then settles her into the pack. As she moves back she feels an invisible hand grabbing and squeezing hers just for a second; she almost smiles.

And there, now that she's looking for it, she notices the way Beth's hand curls around something unseen: it's good. It's all good.

If his goddamn world of theirs ever rights itself again and finds the need for a little escapism, there's a hell of a story in this. So what if she thought sci-fi and fantasy were never meant to be her genre?

"Guess I ought to fill Natalya and Ciba in on the situation at the harbor. Then we'll figure out how to go about getting to Paris... finally."

It's been a long, long trip and they're not even halfway there. The only thing she knows with any certainty is that no one, but no one's going to get left behind.

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