not_that_spike: (fatalistic with a smile)
It's such a damn relief to be coming back here with them instead of alone, and it's not the alone part that's bothered him so much as the lack of them. It hardly makes sense when he thinks about it that way, but shit, it's the way he feels: it's not about him. It's about all of them. As soon as they're through and into the living room, he sets that shit in his hands right down and reaches for Beth Junior: she's heavy in that backpack, sure, but he really wants to hold her.

"Hey, little princess." He almost can't stop looking at her: he wants both Beths in his line of sight. "Your mom says you guys have something to show me. This bounty hunter's all yours."

Junior gives him a big wide-eyed stare that morphs into a smile and then into a big laugh: he kisses her right on the belly, right through that tiny t-shirt of hers.

He flashes a huge smile of his own at Beth. "And yours. All yours, and damn, Beth, am I glad to see you. I love the hell out of both of you, ma'am."

Time's kind of funny: it has a way of making things seem so interminable when they're happening, but in retrospect -- when those things that inched along are all over -- it's like they didn't take any time at all. Hell, it's only been maybe a week. That's nothing.
not_that_spike: (reading in bed)
He tells himself he's stopped counting the hours, but if he really thinks about it, he knows he can figure out exactly how long it's been. And that's not the way he wants to spend his time. Instead, he's reading: Yeats this time. He's been looking at this poem for what feels like a good half hour, trying to figure it out. There's a lot of legend and mythology shit woven into the guy's work and he doesn't pretend to understand it; in fact, he likes Yeats's later stuff a lot better.

But he takes what he can get, and he can learn all about Cuchulainn some other time. The words are starting to swim on the page anyhow; lying down on the couch, he lets the book cover his face.

Maybe he'll go for a run around the lake. It's just a little bit hard to get motivated, that's all. He's worried, sure, but also... he's bored, and that's depressing. He's never been any damn good at waiting for things to happen.
not_that_spike: (contemplating space)
With every day that passes, he's more and more restless: it's beginning to feel like last summer to him again and that... doesn't sit well. It doesn't sit well at all, and it makes sleeping without her that much more painful. Shit, it's like walking around with an open wound for everyone to see, and it's really starting to piss him off. The truth of the matter -- that he misses Beth and Junior -- is neither simple nor trivial, and it's so much bigger than words can hold.

They're not off on some vacation. For all he knows, they could've been shot by amazons. And the worst part is that he can't do a damn thing about it; sitting idly by has never been his thing. In the days since they left he's pushed himself to all kinds of limits: limits in sleeplessness, in staring at the front door to the bar, in pacing, in working out, in cleaning, in moping, in smoking.

Since that first night, though, he hasn't been drinking. The last thing he wants is for Beth to come back through that door and find him passed out with some tequila bottle in his hand: that would be a waste of time. But he's tried almost everything else, and he's running out of ideas. He's not quite desperate enough to go kicking the front door yet. Last time that happened, he saw Vicious and he wonders if maybe that was when time started jumping around for them: he's not sure. All the details are kind of fuzzy and elusive, almost like a dream. But the idea nags at him: who says time is something constant and predictable? It sure as fuck hasn't been for them.

Who the hell knows. If there's any door-kicking, it'll be once Beth and Junior are back here safely.

If they ever get back, a voice nags in his ear but he shakes it off: he has to have faith. Hell, he waited three damn years for Julia. And here it's only been about three days. It's just... now, there's more at stake.

A lot more. For the first time, he resents Earth. He resents Earth and all its shit: they should have been able to have Venus but instead they got separated again and that's not fair

(no one ever said life was fair)

and maybe it's just his destiny. Maybe if being separated from Julia didn't have to play out again... well, fuck, he's the one who messed with the grand space/time continuum by bringing Beth to his world; maybe she has to bear the responsibility for leaving him now. And that, he thinks, is such complete and utter bullshit he can't even believe he thought of it.

(Enough.)

Yeah, that's enough: if he was back on the Bebop he'd fuel up the Swordfish and take off on her right about now, just to see where he'd end up. But he's not on the Bebop and he doesn't have the Swordfish and right now, he doesn't want to run away.

He just wants his Beths back. It's just that the longer they're gone, the less it seems like they might actually return. So what else can he do? He can't stop waiting. Picking a book off the shelf at random, he lies on the couch where he's slept (more or less) every night and lets the book fall open.

Between going and staying the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.
The circular afternoon is now a bay
where the world in stillness rocks.

All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can't be touched.

Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.

Time throbbing in my temples
repeats the same unchanging syllable of blood.

The light turns the indifferent wall
into a ghostly theater of reflections.

I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.

The moment scatters. Motionless,
I stay and go: I am a pause.
not_that_spike: (sad Spike)
Oh yeah: he remembers what this is like. He remembers what it's like to be alone, and he also remembers how easy it was for him to get used to it at first, when he waited and waited for Julia and she didn't show up, and she wasn't at her apartment and there was nothing to do but go off by himself. That was a long time ago and he's way past harboring resentment over it: Julia's gone and he's got Beth and Beth Junior.

It's just that they're not here now and... he really misses them. He didn't sleep last night. He kept waking up and reaching over to find the bed empty and then sleep would desert him. Or he'd wake up and look at the clock and think it was time for a diaper change or a feeding, but Junior wasn't there for it. The small solace was that no matter where they were, she'd be wanting those things so his instincts hadn't necessarily gone bad. It was just hard.

And now it's still hard, and he moves restlessly from the bedroom to the nursery to the bedroom again, lying down and reading. But Yeats is too depressing and he doesn't feel much like his old Tao of Jeet Kune Do standby and he's not going to watch movies without Beth here because that's the thing they do together. Instead, he opts for the living room/kitchen combo where he... takes all the books off the shelf and puts them back in no particular order, looks out the window into the night sky, tests the couch in three different positions with the pillows here or there or on the floor, goes into the kitchen and makes himself a cup of coffee he really doesn't need, eyes the high chair wistfully, then gives up. There comes a point when resisting the inevitable just doesn't work for him and this... is about it. There's a bottle of tequila in the kitchen; he takes it out of the cabinet and lines up two shot glasses, then sits at his usual seat at the table. One shot glass goes in front of him, and one goes where Beth usually sits. He doesn't engage in any pretend conversation or any of that shit; that's so far from his style that on any other day thinking it would make him laugh.

Tonight, it doesn't: he fills both glasses, raises his to hers, and drains it. Then he switches them, raising the second glass to the empty one. It doesn't take any time at all for that one to be gone.

He refills them both and goes through the whole thing again. After the fourth shot of whiskey -- he never drinks like this any more, not since well before Junior was born -- it's about all he can do to make his way from the kitchen back into the living room where he lies down on the couch and knows he'll fall asleep almost immediately. The last thought he remembers before sleep blissfully claims him is that he's going to sleep out here the whole time they're gone, because the bed doesn't work for him when she's gone.

In the morning he'll have a hell of a hangover, but he'll probably be glad for it. It'll give him something else to focus on.
not_that_spike: (damn determined)
A long, long time ago, Spike made a promise to himself. He promised that he would never stand in the way of Beth's happiness: she means too much to him. So while he doesn't like this -- hell, he hates it -- it's important enough to her to risk everything. Shit, he knows she loves him. He knows it, and this isn't some case of history repeating itself. This is different. This is something she believes in her heart she needs to do. Not just for herself: she needs to do it for Beth Junior and he can't think of a better reason.

That little girl deserves the best chance she can get, no matter what and Beth's right. There are no guarantees that this will last. For all he knows, this place will suddenly just go away and they'll all end up back wherever they were: different places in time, different places in the universe, different situations, different settings. He's pretty damn sure if he goes back, he's going to be at the remains of Syndicate Headquarters. If he had the opportunity to shift that -- to ensure some better potential future -- would he take it?

Hell, yeah. In an ideal world he'd have Beth and Junior by his side, but there aren't any guarantees. He knows it. He's fatalistic and realistic. Time has drummed those qualities into him in a very specific way. It doesn't mean he has to like it. But that promise plays over and over in his mind: if Beth wants this and needs it and thinks it's right, he can't stand in her way.

He just wishes she didn't have to take the baby too. It's going to make the separation that much harder. Sure, he'll get past it: she's coming back. Three days, five days, a week: he can deal with that.

But it doesn't mean he has to like it. In fact, he can hate it as much as he damn well pleases, but that doesn't mean he's going to show Beth how much he hates it, or show Hero how much he hates it, and he'll never let Beth Junior know how much he hates it. This is for her.

He double-checks the Barak: it's cleaned and oiled to within an inch of its life. Safety's on. He wishes like hell he could go with them, but he also understands the reasoning behind that too. What it all boils down to is respecting Beth's wishes and hell, he loves her. He loves her more than he's ever loved anyone and... whatever she wants. Looking up, he latches the safety on the Barak and hands it to her. "I have all of the princess's stuff packed. Enough diapers for the week you wanted and then some: they're... stuffed into every little crevice, Beth." It seems like the least he could do: if he's not going, at least he could tuck notes away in the diapers. She'll find one every time she does a diaper change, but no way in hell is he giving up that secret to her before they go. Send a little bit of himself along with them... because he loves the hell out of them.

Besides, it's given him something to focus on other than wondering how lonely it will be without them here.
not_that_spike: (lying down)
The bed's decidedly comfortable. It's not as good as the one on Venus but there isn't a damn bed in the whole universe that's as good as the one on Venus. It's just not possible.

That was a hell of a surprising trip. He remembers the feeling of the whole world dropping out from under his feet when Beth told him she was pregnant but now... well, shit. Now he can't imagine what it would be like without Junior. As Beth steps out of the nursery, lights in there dim, he sits up just a little and pats the bed beside him. She gets a significant little smile: he loves the hell out of her and the way he feels has moved beyond the whole every-day-a-honeymoon thing. She and the princess are literally his whole universe, his sun and moons, his stars, his planets, his galaxies. They've... kind of taken over his heart.

It's a really good thing for a solitary and lonely bounty hunter. They bring him balance. He pretty much thinks that whatever way the wind blows is okay now, because he has this to balance things out: this place, this woman, this baby, this love. It's imprinted deep on his psyche.

"She sleeping?" It sounds like it. Some nights, Junior lies in her crib talking to herself: it's really endearing most of the time. Some nights, she just needs to go to sleep and won't. For a guy who's been used to sleeping wherever and whenever, it gets a little bit maddening but she's only little and he never, ever shows his frustration to her or to Beth. Not because he wants to seem perfect, but because he swore up and down and inside out that he'd be a good father to little Beth. The polar opposite of the way his dad was to him.

"She had a big day. She was really good with Hero." So was he, for that matter, but he's a big kid and has no reason not to be. "And I didn't poison anyone with my cooking either."
not_that_spike: (fatalistic with a smile)
"Shh, Junior. It's a surprise, okay?" With the baby tucked safely in his arm, he steps through the portrait from the living room into their bedroom, where Beth's waiting. She... looks a little impatient, but what the hell, he only kept her here for a while. Not even that long, he thinks. Just enough to put the finishing touches on their little surprise. "Okay, Slim, we're ready for you. Come on."

This business of getting back and forth by portrait is a little unnerving still, but hell, it works. "You two wait right here in the living room, okay?" When Beth sits, he hands her the baby then disappears into the kitchen where there... might or might not be a little noise, a few things clattering, the sounds of a couple things being moved around, preparations being made. He peeks around the door, a little bit of a devilish smile on his lips, a pair of candlesticks in holders in his hands: he brings them in and sets them down on the coffee table in front of Beth, lights the candles. They're sweet-smelling, like hibiscus or magnolia, something like that.

"Now, you have to close your eyes, ma'am." Leaning forward -- mindful of the candles -- he kisses her forehead, then the baby's fist. "Be right back."

There's not quite as much noise this time; he reappears with a pair of plates loaded high: rice covered with skewers of beef, chicken, all manner of vegetables, sauce drizzled over it all. He's not much of a gourmet cook and as much as he would've liked, he couldn't figure out how the hell to cook lobster the way Bar does, but this is something he can do, something he knows he can make without screwing it up, and the last thing he wants to do on Beth's birthday is screw up her birthday dinner. His next trip to the kitchen brings back a basket of fresh hot bread and a bowl of fresh salad, and the third trip yields a bottle of red wine and a pair of stem glasses.

And napkins and silverware; he's not making her struggle through this with chopsticks and since it's her day, he's doing things her way. Pouring wine into both glasses, he hands her one and toasts her.

"Hey, Beth, you can open your eyes now." Smiling, he raises his glass to her. "I... kind of love you, ma'am, a hell of a lot, and I figured the only way left to show you that I haven't already is by proving I could actually cook something decent. And seeing as how it's your birthday, I... well, you don't need to know how many recipes I went through and said no to but here we are. If it's not a house on Venus, it gets to be a birthday dinner." After a sip of wine, he eyes the food but really, his whole attention is on her. "Happy birthday, Beth Durand."

This dinner is pretty much just the start of things. He's got more surprises waiting and tucked away but for now, this is... well, it's her birthday and he loves her.
not_that_spike: (taking things apart)
They're all keyed -- or whatever the hell it's called -- to the painting and now there's no point in waiting: time to pack. He still can't believe it; things like this don't happen for him. Maybe that shit this summer was the last in a lifetime's run of bad luck and now things are taking a turn for the better. Whatever it is, he's not going to look this gift horse in the mouth. Instead he's got boxes from Bar so they can pack up their things and get moving, and that's what they're in the middle of doing. It's kind of amazing how much crap Beth Junior has already. More than he does; it's kind of amusing.

"I can't believe we haven't even seen the place yet. We should go take a look." He hasn't had a place of his own since... since he was with Julia, still inside the Syndicate: a whole lifetime ago. A whole couple lifetimes ago. All the diapers go into a box; he's not bothering labeling anything because really, what they have is so minimal it won't take long to unpack. A whole lot of unknown lies ahead, but that doesn't frighten him. In fact, it makes things interesting. They'll still have the bar and the lake and the greenhouses and all that shit, but in private -- where it matters -- they'll have more space.

Last year he promised Beth Christmas on Venus. This year, it's Christmas in a new place. The past year's changed his life in so damn many ways, he can't even begin to count them. He's richer by far where it counts -- in his heart and soul -- and though he's never been one to rest on his accomplishments, he thinks this year's seen so much change. Whether or not it was intended, it is what it is and now he just can't imagine life without Beth Junior.

And he didn't think he had room in his heart to love anyone besides Beth. Looks like he was wrong about that one.
not_that_spike: (taking things apart)
Beth Junior's propped up in his lap and he's got the book out so she can see it. It's a stupid book, but it's also kind of funny and he figures it can't hurt to read to her, no matter how much or how little she actually understands. At least the colors are bright and the words have an easy cadence to them, so he keeps on while Beth's brushing her teeth.

"A green dog over a tree." That's ridiculous; he points to a green dog flying a yellow helicopter. Dogs don't know how to be pilots... not that he's going to burst Junior's bubble on that one or anything. Somewhere deep inside he still holds onto this stubborn idea of a house on Venus with the three of them, maybe a big dog like he had when he was a kid, working in the yard with his NO DAMN SYNDICATE OWNS ME t-shirt declaring his status proudly.

Yeah, right: as if.

"A yellow dog under a tree. Look, Junior, this one's reading, just like we are."

He covets the dog's hammock.

"Two dogs in a house on a boat in the water." The dogs' house has a diving board: that's practical. "A dog over the water. A dog under the water. A... knock at the door. Hold that thought." Setting aside Go, Dog. Go! for the time being, he scoops up Little Beth and, after a glance at the bathroom to make sure Beth's got all the privacy she needs -- that bathroom door never gets closed quite all the way in here any more -- he moves to the room door. They're not expecting anyone, but people have been known to drop by. It's probably Elaine.

"Yo." He pulls the door open about halfway; Beth Junior turns her wobbly little head with a curious but huge grin that serves as its own damn welcoming committee. She's so precious, so sweet, so innocent. He hopes that never changes. And then it's his turn to smile. "Hey. Great, you found the place." Taking just a moment, he sets the number 8 back up on its bottom, but it's going to fall over onto its side again any second now; he's so used to that. "Come on in."
not_that_spike: (stubborn show-off)
Usually when he comes through the door looking smug as hell, he's got a memory of something private with Beth on his mind. Tonight, though... well, if he was a cat, she'd be able to see the feathers sticking out from between his lips even while he adamantly denied the fact he swallowed the damn canary. Opening the door to the room a little more quickly than usual, supplies tucked under his arm, he still stops at the sight of Beth sitting on that blanket on the floor playing with the baby, Beth Junior grinning back at her mom with a toothless smile bigger than any sunrise he's ever been privileged to witness. Both of them turn at the sound of the door opening, though, and he wishes -- just like he does every time he catches them in the middle of playing -- he had the camera with him. It's one of those note to self, just carry the damn camera everywhere you go, cowboy: you think you'd remember that by now moments.

But he catches Beth's eye and, setting the towels and pillow and tube of Desitin down on the bureau, lets the smile that threatened the whole walk up the stairs finally break loose.

"Hey." In a fraction of a moment he's down on the floor there with them, running a fingertip over the baby's face before turning to plant a kiss right on Beth's lips. "You'll never fucking guess what just happened."

It's the end of the universe: anything's fair game. But if it was that unexpected for him, he really doubts it's something Beth's even thought about herself. He stretches out one leg but rests his other arm on his knee; the tie catches on it and drapes over his forearm. And damn if he isn't still smiling that smug-as-hell smile.
not_that_spike: (asleep)
When he thinks about his life and all the shit he's been through, the facts of it kind of amaze him. Sometimes they amaze him in a good way and sometimes in a bad way, but the general oh fuck, that really happened to me level of amazement is always, always there. And here, at this point -- hell, he never thought he'd live this long or have these types of chances, of opportunities -- it's like he's constantly delighted. Never in a million years would it have been his choice to have a baby but as fate had it, Beth came to him pregnant and he doesn't have a single damn regret about any of it. Except the time they were apart, but there's nothing he can do about that and it's past time to be all irritated over it; it's a waste of energy. At times like this in the dark of night when Beth and Beth Junior are both sleeping and there's nothing for him to do but lie still and think, he knows there's one undeniable truth for his life at this point.

He loves them so fucking much. He loves them so much it makes the breath catch in his throat and it makes his jaw tighten, and he wonders when he ever became such a damn romantic sucker. With every last ounce of his being, he'll protect and defend and love and cherish the hell out of both his Beths for as long as he can. Forever, if it's up to him.

The baby sleeping for five and six hours has been a hell of a blessing. It's brought with it a little bit of unexpected sanity and relaxation. He knew that all those years in space it was a good idea to store up sleep for some future need and this has sure been what he's needed it for. In the past he knew love so deep that it hurt, but it was an unfinished story and he's read the ending three times now. Julia died out there, she died in here, she died out there. He's not sure he'll ever forget her or what she meant to him or think of her with that hard cynical edge his gut tends to put on everything. But this thing with Beth... there's so much more to it. He used to say Julia was the part of him that had been missing and she was. But not all of it.

Life -- this place -- is such a damn gift. The woman next to him and the baby sleeping across the room are the biggest gifts of all and he doesn't take either of them lightly or for granted. Without them he's a shell and a shadow; now that he's tasted sunlight, he really doesn't want to have to go back to living in some endless dream. And so now, in the darkness of their room, he curls closer to Beth with the utmost gratitude that his ribs allow him to make this simple movement again, pressing a kiss to the top of her shoulder. He doesn't want to wake her up; he's not making any demands and certainly has no intention of causing her to lose out on precious sleep.

But damn, does he just love her with his whole fucking heart.

Outside

Dec. 4th, 2006 03:42 pm
not_that_spike: (cold on Callisto)
It's fucking cold outside. About as cold as it was that day on Callisto; he's okay with that shit but it's a good idea to keep moving and he knows he's lucky he didn't get frostbite or hypothermia that night he spent out in the snow there. Hell, that was a long time ago. Feels like forever, like the memory of a dream that's iffy around the edges by the time you remember it. There's snow on the ground here outside but it doesn't stop him; someone's already tamped it down on the path around the lake and that's where he runs now.

Beth Junior is almost three months old and that kind of amazes him. Having her around -- seeing her little smile, hearing her laugh -- is unbelievable. It's not all peaches and cream; he misses his alone time with Beth and he gets sick of getting up in the middle of the night and changing Junior's diapers or carrying her around until she falls back asleep. On the other hand, it isn't like he has a hell of a lot of other shit to do to stay busy. It's only moderately annoying in that whole this is kind of a pain in the ass way and he doesn't really let it bother him: no point. At the rate she's growing she'll be out of high school tomorrow and he'll be all nostalgic about no sleep and diapers and baths in the sink and all that. She'll need her own room soon enough and Beth's room just isn't close enough; they'll have to talk to Mike or Bernard one of these days.

But for now, it's all good. And he hasn't lost too much strength or tone for all his lack of activity; either he's just in good fucking shape or those nanobots really are something. Or maybe it's both things, although he was pretty damn good at this before Vincent's nanobots. He has reasons now to stay in shape, though. Two of them, both named Beth and he figures if this is it -- if this is the end of his travels -- it's not a bad thing at all. He'll take it.

Every step echoes a memory of Beth. Every breath of cold air filling his lungs is a reminder of what's important. Even if he never gets to leave here again (and he still hasn't tried the door since Beth got back all those months ago; to say he's skeptical of them now is a hell of an understatement), that's okay. Everything and everyone who matters to him is here... except Jet and he'll take it. Sure, there are some people he misses and would like to see again. But they're either on different planets or they're dead and there's nothing he can do about that. So for now, this is good. No: it's fucking great. Perfect.

He doesn't start to feel the burn and stitch in his side until his third lap around the lake and he knows if he can make it the rest of the way, it'll be worth it. It's good to move, good to do things. So he sets that big tree at the end of the loop as his goal, one thought in his mind: as good as it is out here, it'll be even better back inside with his Beths. Get back in there, get showered and clean, leave snowy wet running shoes somewhere safe to dry... and give his woman one hell of a hug in greeting. And that's the thought that puts a smile on his face, cramps aside, all the way back around the lake, into the bar, and back up the stairs.
not_that_spike: (adorable)
There's moments like this where things are just so damn priceless, so precious: he and Beth are sitting in bed together, their backs propped up by an ocean of pillows. His knees are up and Beth Junior's resting against his legs. He's got both of the baby's hands in his or, really, she's got both his index fingers in her little fists, waving back and forth. Every little thing she does is kind of amazing. It's almost imossible to think of her being any older than she is right this moment, but he knows it'll seem like only moments have flown by once she's crawling or talking or walking, and then memories of days like this will become fuzzy and far away.

That's just kind of the way it goes. He leans over to press a kiss to the side of Beth's face; little Beth's grip on his fingers doesn't loosen even a fraction. Turning his attention back to Junior, his eyes soften and he gives her a little grin.

"Hey, Junior. Guess what? I love your mom." Leaning into Beth, his smile widens. Beth and Beth: he's got one hell of a good deal all the way around.

A Letter

Nov. 5th, 2006 07:11 pm
not_that_spike: (before I knew you)
Shit, he never used to write anything down. Things on paper have a way of following people. It's kind of an elementary thing he learned about his first week with the Dragons: you don't leave a trail, you can't get caught. You leave a trail, people can follow it. But hell, that was a lifetime ago, in a completely different time and place. He was a different person. That was before this place, before Beth, before Beth Junior.

Since then he's written countless letters to Beth and so far, none of those have come back to haunt him. But this one... well, this is different. Pen in hand, he looks at the blank piece of paper. Then he looks across the room at Junior sleeping in Beth's arms and Beth's asleep too, and it's so kind of priceless and so kind of perfect and he doesn't ever want to forget it, so he reaches over and takes one of those instacameras off the bureau top and takes two identical pictures of them sleeping. One goes on the dresser next to the camera; the other stays right here.

It's going in this letter, if he can ever get it written. It's a lot harder than he thought it would be. Finally with a determined nod, he starts to write.

Hey, Beth Junior. I've been sitting here watching you and your mom sleep so peacefully, and just in case you don't believe me, I'm putting in a picture to prove it. Yeah, one time you were only just six weeks old. So tiny, so perfect. By the time you read this I bet you'll still be perfect, but I know for sure you won't be anywhere near this tiny. I thought about writing this for you for a while and thinking about it made it into the hardest damn thing I've ever had to do, almost. But then I reminded myself "hey, bounty hunter, you took down the Dragons by yourself. You did that all alone, and that was a hell of a thing, and if you could pull down the longest-standing crime syndicate in all of Tharsis City, you can sure as hell write a letter to your little aijou."

So here I am. I hope you don't open this till you're twelve, like it says on the front of the envelope. When I look into the future -- you can ask your mom, that's not something I ever really try to do 'cause I'm more of a live-for-the-minute type of guy -- I have a hard time picturing you getting all grown up. If things go the way I hope, I'll be there with you to see it. But just in case I'm not for whatever reason -- the universe hasn't always been kind or benevolent to me -- at least you can know that here, in your sixth week of life, I'm sitting here thinking about you. Thinking about you growing up strong and beautiful, like your mom, maybe a little bit flippant and reckless like me. If I have my way you'll be a hell of a kickboxer or some kind of martial artist because there's no such thing as being too capable of taking care of yourself. And this place, well, it has a way of throwing curveballs at you when you're not really expecting them. So look out for those.

But whether you're here or on Earth with Beth... or if we finally made it to Venus, the three of us... there's something real important I want you to know. I've watched you since the moment you were born, except for the times I was sleeping or your aunt Elaine was watching you, and you amaze me. I've held you and rocked you to sleep. I've told you stories and read you books and let you hold my hand and held yours back. I've never been the kind of guy to think of himself as much of a role model. Anything but that, really. And I've never been much in the way of dad material but shit, Junior -- don't go talking like me, now -- you're the second most incredible thing that's ever happened to me. Your mom's the first, but you know that and if you don't you should. Until you came along, I could say with absolute certainty that Beth was my favorite person in the whole damn universe, no questions asked. Now I get to say I have two favorite people in the whole damn universe, no questions asked and lucky for me they're both named Beth.

Anyway, little one. You're starting to look like you're about to wake up, so I'll finish this now and put it in an envelope and keep it safe for you. Happy 12th birthday, aijou. Just in case you're not around anyone who knows what that word means, I'll go ahead and say it now: it means beloved daughter and that's how I feel about you. Happy birthday, Beth Junior, and I sure as hell hope I'm handing you this in person. But if I'm not, for whatever reason, know how much this bounty hunter loves you.

Spike


He doesn't even reread it; instead, he just folds it and puts it in the envelope and seals it in there along with the picture. On the front he writes For Elizabeth Marie, on her 12th birthday and when he's done, he walks over to the closet as quietly as he can and puts it in the back of the photo album. That should be a real safe place for it. Satisfied, he closes the closet door and just stands there for a while watching both his Beths sleeping so peacefully.

And hell, who can blame him for not being able to resist? Kicking off his shoes, he climbs into the bed with them. It's almost like he can hear the strong beating of three separate but intimately connected hearts.

Annie

Oct. 30th, 2006 02:07 pm
not_that_spike: (deep asleep)
"So you have a daughter now. That's good. I knew you weren't listening when I told you if you sleep with girls, they have a tendency to get pregnant. How old were you when I told you that: fifteen? Sixteen? You think it'd kill you to listen to your elders for once? But no, who am I kidding? You've never listened to anyone your whole life. You're nothing but a stubborn show-off."

He sits up in bed, glancing to make sure Beth and Beth Junior are still asleep, and scratches his head. He must've been dreaming about Annie, because that's sure as hell the sound of her voice. It's her, loud and clear, and when he looks over at the chair next to the bed he does a double-take: there she is.

"Whoa. Now I know how you felt when you said the dead aren't supposed to come back to life, Annie." Reaching right through her for his t-shirt, he puts it on, keeping the blanket draped over the rest of his body. "Hey. It's been a while."

Annie sits in the chair, giving him time to get himself a little bit respectable before her gaze moves from the sleeping baby across the room back to Spike. "What's her name?"

"Beth. Elizabeth Marie, but she's--"

"Beautiful. And sleeping. Didn't you ever learn anything? You don't want to wake up a sleeping baby."

He shakes his head, amused. "But you're talking."

"Details. Besides, I know how to do it without waking her up."

In his defense, he was listening to her that day when he was fifteen or sixteen. "I've never gotten anyone pregnant in my life, Annie. Beth, she's not--"

"Awake." Annie's quick to cut him off for a second time. "Look at her. I never had kids of my own. Didn't work out that way, so we ran Mao's boarding house instead, me and Frank. But he was gone before you met him. Yeah, before you came along, things were peaceful there." She gives him a lopsided but genuine smile. "Look at you, a father now. I never would have thought. Out of all the kids that came through that place, Spike, you showed the most promise. Mao and I used to talk about you a lot. He thought you deserved every opportunity. I thought he was being generous. But look, you proved him right. I'm proud of you, kid. Who's the lucky girl?" She nods across him to where Beth sleeps every bit as soundly as Beth Junior.

Following her gaze, he smiles. "Beth. Beth and Beth. You want me to wake her up so you can meet her?"

"No." The headshake she gives him is a definitive one. "I'm only here to talk to you. I miss you. That was a rotten trick you played, pretending to be dead all those years. Mao said he knew you were still alive. He had guys out looking for you. Said he wouldn't rest till he found you. He always wanted you to come back and take over." There's a moment's pause, but then her words come quickly again. "It's good you didn't. That would've been nothing but trouble. Now, you found your way here instead, and that's good. Look what you have. A girl, a daughter. I never would have thought."

Again, he tries to tell her. "Little Beth, she's not my--"

Annie stands up sharply, leaning over at him. "Don't you dare say what you're going to say. She is. You think genetics is the only thing that matters? If you do, you're not as smart as I thought. Don't you ever let that baby hear she's not your daughter. Not from your mouth. You love her, don't you? You take care of her, don't you? Both of them?"

"Uh... hell, yeah." He can feel himself backing away just a little. This isn't the first time he's been face-to-face with Annie when she's been angry with him. Far from it.

"You two aren't married, but that doesn't keep you from calling Beth yours, does it?"

"No."

"Then give it a rest, you stubborn son of a bitch. They're both yours. Give me a hard time about it one more time and I'll come back until I wear you down on it." As she sits back, the expression on her face softens. "Tell your daughter about me, would you? Tell her all about Annie. Tell her about the lady who took care of you and taught you all about the birds and the bees. Tell them both."

Now it's his turn to smile. "Hell, ma'am, I already have."

"Damn good thing. Maybe you are as smart as Mao thought." Her eyes travel again to the sleeping baby. "Now you get yourself back to sleep. Before you know it, that little one will be awake again. They have a tendency to do that."

"Yeah, don't I know." Exhausted, he settles back down in bed, his head resting on the pillow. The lure of sleep is so strong it's almost hypnotic, but he forces himself to stay awake just a little bit longer. "Hey, Annie?"

"Yeah?" She looks almost motherly and angelic, like some guardian making sure he really does get to sleep.

"Thanks for stopping by." His eyes are so heavy he can't keep them open, no matter how hard he tries.

It only feels like moments later that Beth Junior's tiny cries wake him from about the deepest damn sleep and weirdest fucking dream he ever remembers having. Yawning, he reaches for his t-shirt only to find he's already got it on. But his sweats are right where he left them, right on the chair, and he puts those on quickly before half-stumbling across the room to pick up the baby. As soon as she's in his arms her crying quiets a little bit. "Shh, shh. Hey. I have an idea. If you listen real carefully, I'll tell you a story. I used to know this woman named Annie... oh, you say I told you this one already?" He's just buying Beth a little bit of time so she can wake up enough to nurse the baby; it's their routine and he does it at least a couple times a night. "You want to hear it again? Yeah? Good. It all starts when I was fifteen..."
not_that_spike: (you're so damn beautiful)
Sometimes when he looks at Beth he gets all shy, like he hasn't been sleeping with her for two years. Like he's never been graced by her presence before. Like he's never even dated a woman before and he doesn't know what to do, what to say. And honestly, they've spent so much time in this room since Beth Junior was born, it seems like having a few hours to themselves should lead them to... oh, some sort of reckless adolescent behavior like going out drinking, or vandalizing mailboxes. The kind of shit he never really did because it just didn't seem like that much fun and now... shit, it seems like a waste of precious time.

For the first time since the baby came along -- thanks to Elaine's insistence they take advantage of her babysitting skills -- they're alone together.

It feels like a hell of a lot longer than the calendar says, but despite that, the room feels a little emptier without Junior. He'd put money on the fact they can fill it, just the two of them.

Letting out a breath with an audible sigh, he smiles at his woman. His woman. Like he owns her or something -- he doesn't -- but they are kind of tied to each other, heart to heart. Reaching forward, he folds her into his arms, presses a kiss to the side of her face, rubs her back.

"Hey." As if he's just noticed it, he looks down at the lack of space between them. "We fit together." His hands stray automatically to her hips and he tugs her forward just a little bit.

His eyes are all soft burning affection and this time when he leans forward to kiss her again, it's not on the cheek. No, he goes right for her mouth because that's where his lips feel right at home. One kiss, two kisses, three kisses: it's not the only way to do things but it's his favorite way. There's magic in her body; there's magic in the way she makes him feel.

"Love you, Beth."

Just in case there was any doubt.
not_that_spike: (deep asleep)
Sleep is such a precious damn commodity these days; he can't remember the last time he slept for more than a couple hours without little Beth waking them up and he knows it's only been two weeks, and he knows he should have listened when people warned him that he ought to get his sleep back before she was born, but hell, he figures everyone gets to figure out about parenting for themselves. Tired as he is, it surprises the hell out of him when he wakes up on his own -- no Beth, no Junior crying -- in the middle of the night. At least he guesses it's the middle of the night.

He gives his eyes a minute to adjust; Beth's eyes are closed and across the room Junior's quiet as a little clam in a closed-up shell. In the near-darkness, he smiles for no one but himself.

Well, damn. What do you know?

Next to him, Beth stirs slightly. He freezes, holding his breath: the last thing he wants to do is wake her up when it's not even feeding or changing time. What he doesn't do is close his eyes; seeing her relaxed like this is too sweet a sight.

(Click.)

He ought to close his eyes. He ought to force himself to go right back to sleep. The baby will wake up soon enough anyhow, but right now, he wants to watch Beth. After all, it isn't just anyone who gets to spend his most private moments with an angel.
not_that_spike: (lighter)
The light from the TV set is the only light on in the room; the volume's all the way down. Seven Samurai plays, scenes interspersed with subtitles, but he's not really paying attention. That's because across the room, in her basket, one princess is fast asleep.

By the black-and-white-and-gray light, he studies Beth: her profile, the curve of her shoulders, the glint in her eyes punctuated by the television's flickering. He's got one hand on the small of her back and a cigarette between his lips, but he's not going to smoke it in here. He's not going to smoke it at all; it's just to have it there out of habit. He's stretched out watching her, occasionally glancing at the movie. Last time they did this, she had a baby.

If he's sure of only one thing, it's that the same thing isn't going to happen tonight.

Love you, Slim. If he could, he'd send the thought to her right through the palm of his hand. For all he knows, she feels it anyway.
not_that_spike: (smiling)
She's too little for flying lessons, but that doesn't mean he can't pretend they're flying. Hell, she's only a week old; she can't sit up by herself or any of that shit. Instead, he's got her tucked into the crook of his left arm and with his right, he's mock-flying the Swordfish.

"See, Junior, here's how it works. You turn the key and the ship hums into action. Then you check the fuel gauge, make sure the weapons systems are a go, and turn to the universe's most beautiful pilot, who just happens to be sitting right next to you." He turns to his right and plants a kiss on Beth's lips. "Then, you radio in -- radio's up here -- and ask Mom, I mean, Jet, to open the hatch and cut the gravitational system so you can fly her out into deep space." With that, he points up to the ceiling where the stars are faintly visible, even though it's light inside the room.

"And that's all there is to it."

Not really, but that's all there is to this little demonstration, anyhow. "Now, in the next lesson I'll teach you how to fuel up your spaceship. But in the meantime, we've got this." Behind them on the bed, the plush spacecraft they got on Europa sits waiting its turn patiently; he holds it up to Beth Junior who's still too young to play with it, but that doesn't stop him. "Beth, Swordfish. Swordfish, Beth Junior." He watches her, entranced, and then a huge smile breaks over his face. Turning to Beth, his eyes light up. "Hey. I think she smiled at me."

The mere concept pretty much melts his heart.
not_that_spike: (too content)
There probably won't be a hell of a lot of evenings downstairs in the bar, at least not for a while. Beth Junior's too little; he doesn't want her around all that noise and smoke and bright lights and shit like that. And he might be wearing that brand fucking new dad label, but there's a few things that even Beth Junior can't distract him from or make him forget.

Two years ago tonight, some random beautiful angel made a crack about his hair, shared a smoke with him, a martini, and an episode of scar show-and-tell. If there's anything here that deserves celebration, this is it. So while she's feeding Beth Junior he sneaks down to the bar and orders up a bunch of her favorite foods: some lobster, some steak, a nice salad on the side, a bowl of ripe juicy strawberries dipped in dark chocolate. A bottle of wine and a bottle of sparkling water -- her choice, whatever she wants -- some fresh bread... and a very small plate of potechi.

Just for effect.

Pushing open the door quietly with his shoulder, he brings in the tray (complete with a stargazer lily in a vase). There's a smile on his face and fuck if he can or wants to wipe it away: these have been the best two years of his whole sorry life. Even with the separation; even with the bullshit in Cooksfield and the bullshit in Tharsis. He can't ever remember looking back over a period of time and feeling so complete. Junior's sleeping in Beth's arms; he sets the tray down on the bed right near her.

"Hey." His voice is a whisper; he doesn't want to disturb the baby. "I met you two years ago tonight, Beth. I think that's worth a little private party." He figures he can feed her or set Beth Junior into her swing for a little bit so they can actually eat together. Then, later, if little Beth's still sleeping, he can brush her hair and rub her back and her feet and tell her stories or read to her, or just hold her. "And I sure love the hell out of you, ma'am. You're the best damn woman I've ever had the pleasure of knowing."

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