not_that_spike: (adorable)
They say the best things in life are the ones you have to wait for.

And wait for.

And wait a little more for, but hell, he doesn't mind. Some days he feels like he's been waiting his whole damn life, but so what? It's brought him here, hasn't it? All the shit: the Dragons, Julia, Vicious, finding himself at the bar, meeting Beth, following Hero out that day for what was supposed to be a quick surprise visit. Hell, he likes France but he's easy. The only place he's ever really called his home was where Beth's been. They could be anywhere, so long as they're together.

All three of them. Junior pats the little mound of earth over the seed she's just planted, then rubs her hands together briskly. She's getting big.

"Now remember where you put it. By the time we get back, it might have started growing already. You never know."

She looks up at him, her mom's fierce determination echoed all over her little face. "You never know, bounty hunter."

Shit, he loves the hell out of that little girl. "Come on." Picking her up, he holds her high over his head until she's giddy with laughter; together, they step inside. Time to go see Beth. Make sure she hasn't changed her mind.

He hasn't.
not_that_spike: (curiosity killed the cat)
Legos are too small for Beth Junior's tiny hands, but these Duplo things aren't bad either. Amazing that they can still find them: there aren't a fuck of a lot of kids around these days. But they scored this farm set and it's extra fun because he has this book that matches. Little Beth sits there, legs splayed, palms on her thighs, absolutely rapt with attention.

"All right, Junior. Here we go. I read, you act it out." He hands her the farmer figurine. "Farmer Brown has a problem. His cows like to type. All day long he hears Click, clack, moo. Click, clack, moo. Clickety, clack, moo."

It doesn't matter that she doesn't get it about typing and why the hell would she know that? She cups her ear with her hand, listening intently. "Click, clack moo," she says. solemn-faced and intrigued, so he continues. This is a new book for her.

"At first, he couldn't believe his ears. Cows that type? Impossible! Click, clack, moo. Click, clack, moo. Clickety, clack, moo." The picture shows the farmer running to the barn; Junior makes the Duplo farmer jump up and down in her hand. "Hey, good one, Beth. OK. Here we go." Each turn of the page is like the unveiling of another treasure. The next page shows the farmer reading a note on the barn door. "Then, he couldn't believe his eyes. Dear Farmer Brown, The barn is very cold at night. We'd like some electric blankets. Sincerely, The Cows."

Junior giggles, peering over at the picture book as he turns the page.

"It was bad enough the cows had found the old typewriter in the barn, now they wanted electric blankets! 'No way,' said Farmer Brown. 'No electric blankets.' So the cows went on strike. They left a note on the barn door. Sorry. We're closed. No milk today. 'No milk today!' cried Farmer Brown. In the background, he heard the cows busy at work: Click, clack, moo. Click, clack, moo. Clickety, clack, moo." He moves three cows over to Beth Junior so they can be closer to the farmer, then reaches over and tickles her tummy. She roars with laughter.

"Want me to keep going?"

"Yeah!" She abandons the farmer in favor of the cows now, because the next page has more of them.

"The next day, he got another note: Dear Farmer Brown, The hens are cold too. They'd like electric blankets. Sincerely, The Cows." The look on his face is pure shock. "Imagine that, Junior. What would you do?"

Beth absolutely beams. "Give them bankits!"

That's my girl, he thinks. So would he, but hell, he's easy. And now he pauses for just a minute, because this woman who absolutely takes his breath away just walked into the room. Junior breaks into a big toothy grin. "Mama, mama, mama! Cows! Cows with notes!"

The smile on his Beth's face is priceless.
not_that_spike: (another t-shirt)
That's... the last window fixed and fuck if he ever thought he'd get to be such an expert at window glazing, but so it goes. At least he hasn't had to replace whole fucking frames, and that's something. The lock on the door isn't new and shiny but it works and it has keys -- how 'bout that, it was a real find -- and they're far enough off the beaten path that he can wander around the place without Tom's invisibility cloak. One of these days he'll give it back with one hell of a lot of appreciation: Paris isn't so bad. He just doesn't need to become the local curiosity yet. Not until Beth's ready for that, and she won't be ready for it until she's ready for it.

Plus, that cloak lets him go places with them he wouldn't necessarily be able to otherwise. Like everywhere, for instance. But here in the house it's all good and he doesn't wear it and if anyone gets close enough to look in the damn windows, so be it. It isn't like they'll be getting much of an eyeful and given time, things will normalize.

Yeah, like... twenty years. Oh well. He can wait.

There's one little detail about this house he likes more than all the other little details, and that's the closet with the little door tucked away at the back. He's checked it every day just like he's doing now. The hidden door's barely big enough for him to fit through if he crawled, he bets -- he hasn't tried it yet -- but he has opened it again. And every time he opens it, the bar's on the other side.

One of these days curiosity's going to win out and hell, if it was just him he'd have been through that door already. But it's not just him any more and maybe it's all about growing up or being a grownup, or maybe it's because it's no longer a case of having nothing to lose. He knows what it's like to be without Beth; he knows what it's like to be without her and Junior both. It's not a position he's going to put himself in willingly any more.

And he doesn't even miss the old days, not really, although he does wonder about the people there he knows. Knew. Closing that little door -- wondering if anyone on the other side of the door at the bar sees him -- he straightens up, rolls his neck from side to side until he hears a couple satisfying pops: that's better. Deciding to risk it, he heads out to the garden where Beth and Junior are and do a little work without the cloak because fuck it, why not? To anyone passing by, he'll just have to look like the ugliest damn girl in Paris. They won't be expecting a guy.

"Hey." He can't help but smile at the sight before him. It's so sweet with Junior toddling around pulling weeds and Beth, tall and muscular and slim, her smile all for the little girl who's finally able to stumble around the yard freely. Yeah, time to fix that rock wall and... no time like the present. In his wildest dreams he never actually imagined a guy could get used to this kind of thing. Especially not a guy like him but fuck it: he likes it.

A lot.

(For now.)
not_that_spike: (adorable)
"Okay, check it out." He's never been big on the whole shut your eyes and don't open them until I say so thing. For one, it's annoying as hell and for another, who can stand it anyhow? But still, this was kind of worth a little bit of surprise.

In Beth's arms, Junior's eyes go wide and she lets out a perfect "ooh." As if in all her year and a half of wisdom, she remembers this place? He doubts it; they've been to a hell of a lot of places in her short lifetime and not all by choice. But this place is kind of cool: it's far enough outside Paris so not very many people just happen by but they can still be in the city in just under twenty minutes at a leisurely walking pace. One thing he's noticed on this trip is that it's the cities where people have congregated, and out of necessity. When half a planet's population just drops dead, it leaves a lot of empty space. Outskirts that used to be convenient when everyone drove are now considered too far out, a pain in the ass, dangerous. Even with bicycles, people want to be where other people are and he kind of can't blame them. There's safety in numbers: call it a tribal mentality or whatever, but the human population as a whole has reverted back to that in a lot of ways.

One bounty hunter displaced in time and space happens to think that's just about perfect: it means he's got fifteen or twenty minutes of space between him and most visitors and if he's here, he can take off that cloak and just be himself. Spend some quality time with his woman and their little aijou and not have to worry about someone knocking at the door to take a census or any of that shit. And this place... well, it's pretty cool. Like a lot of once-valuable (and now largely useless) properties outside Paris it's built of stone, which keeps it warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It's all on one floor which means no stairs to navigate with a sleeping Junior, and almost all of the windows are still intact. The setup's cozy too: there's a working kitchen, two bedrooms right next to each other, living room or parlor or whatever the fuck the French call those salles, and a bathroom.

With a working toilet.

They passed by this place on their trek into Paris however long ago it was -- months now -- and he took notice of it then but never figured they'd be sticking around long-term enough to warrant a return trip. But now that it looks like they'll be here for a while, why the hell not? They have to live somewhere, and he'd just as soon it be a place where he can actually take off the damn cloak once in a while.

"I may just be a humble bounty hunter, ma'am, but I think I'm going in for a new career as a real estate agent." There's even a yard -- overgrown and its stone walls in need of a bunch of repair work -- where they could grow... uh... tobacco. Yeah, that's it. And fly off into the sunset in their personal spacecraft-built-for-three some day. "What do you think? Too far from the bright city lights?"

Shit, he could even smoke here... if he could get his hands on any cigs.
not_that_spike: (damn determined)
They've been at this all damn night and now that the sun's starting to rise... hell, now things are getting interesting: they've isolated the apartment building where other-Beth is supposed to be. After all this time, the anticipation is palpable in their little party. Only one thing remains to be seen: if Yorick's there too. And if he is, he's Hero's brother and Hero knows other-Beth so... it makes sense for her to go.

Not necessarily by herself, though. The first rule of scoping out a place is never fucking go in alone -- that's how he lost his eye -- but there doesn't appear to be anything out of the ordinary going on; Natalya finds a nice safe place in an alley where Beth and Ciba and the kids can wait for Hero to get back. For his money, he'd like one of them to be on the roof: it's a great place to see what's going on around them. If this was an ordinary day and he could get out from under the damn cloak, it'd make a hell of a lot of difference. Then he could be up there keeping an eye on things... not that he has a great safety record on rooftops.

He just won't let himself think about what happened to Julia on Annie's rooftop, but... she's not here, and Beth won't be up there, and anyhow, the Syndicate isn't after them. This isn't Mars, and the Syndicate hasn't even been launched yet. And no one's going to die on his watch. Not here and not now and during the discussion between Hero and Natalya he takes advantage, gives Beth's hand an invisible squeeze, and lets her know he'll be at the end of the alley. At least this way he can be moving, stretching, let the damn blood circulate in his veins. Besides, it's a strategic position and he... is armed.

Still, he shakes his head as Hero goes into the building by herself. She's got balls, he'll give her that much. She's almost as reckless as he is.
not_that_spike: (sitting thinking)
It's harder to sleep some nights than others. Tonight's one of them: the lights of Paris look so damn inviting, but he can't just get up and go for a walk, have a smoke, stroll by the Seine. There aren't any amazons here that he knows of, but the last damn thing he wants to do is put their group in any kind of danger. It's not just him. Hell, if it was, he'd say fuck it to danger and just do whatever the hell he wants to do. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, all that shit. But there are his Beths to consider, and in the grand scheme of things it's not some competition about who matters more or anything. It's just... they mean everything to him. Everything, and he's not about to get up and go off on his own right now. Even though it's been a long time since they found that church and went back to the bar -- back home -- he's not going anywhere without them. He knows what it's like to be separated from Beth and not be able to find her, and as much as he's in love with freedom and doing things his way, he's in love with her even more.

So tonight he just gets up quietly. The cloak's in his arms just in case he needs it real fast, and he sits where he can look out the window into the darkness, feet up on the window sill. Eventually he'll have to sleep, but for now sitting up's okay. As he looks out into the street, he lets his focus go soft: he's tired but restless. This is the kind of time when memories from long ago like to come back: things he hasn't thought about in... forever or longer.

Like when he was... twelve, and his parents made him see a shrink. His mom took him -- it was always her; his dad couldn't give him the time of day -- and when she dropped him off and said she'd be back later there were tears in her eyes, and how was that supposed to make him feel? Hell, he was only twelve, and he knew he was trouble but... none of his friends had to go for counseling. He didn't want it. He didn't need it. If his parents had just asked him what he wanted, he would have told them.

I just want you guys to like me.

But they never asked, and there he was. He doesn't remember the shrink's name; it feels like a whole fucking lifetime ago that he sat there and as the door closed, he felt really, really small, and there was this long silence. And in the long silence he felt even smaller, and then the shrink called him by his name -- his real name -- and asked him if he knew why he was there and he said yeah, because my parents don't want me.

There wasn't a whole hell of a lot the shrink could say about that, except to make some noise about breaking the patterns of the past.

In her little makeshift bed, Beth Junior whimpers against some dream or other. Beth stirs, but he's there first with a whispered I've got her. In the darkness of the Parisian night, he picks Junior up and moves back over to the spot by the window. She never really opens her eyes all the way; being in his arms settles her back down again and soon she's sleeping hard and content and she's so, so beautiful, and he can't imagine his own dad holding him this way, looking down on him with this overwhelming rush of absolute love like he has for Junior. He holds her and rocks her and leans down to give her forehead a kiss and then screw the noise, he tells her. It's still a whisper and she's just a little baby and she might not understand the words, but then again, she might.

"Beth Junior: I love you like crazy. Don't ever forget it."

For hours and hours he holds her as she sleeps, watching her with such gratitude. Whatever twist of fate's given him this opportunity, he'll take it. And it isn't until the sky starts shifting from black to purple to rose-gray that he sets Junior back down and climbs into what passes for his bed, careful to cover himself up with the cloak. As his eyes close, he thinks the night feels like... a minor victory.

Bounty hunter: one. Patterns of the past?

Zero.
not_that_spike: (remembering on mars)
Hey Beth.

Everyone's asleep: you and Junior right here where I can keep an eye on you, Hero in the next room, Ciba and Vlad tucked away, Natalya sleeping through guard duty -- again -- but I don't blame her. There were plenty of times I was out staking a bounty and just got too damn bored to keep my eyes open. Besides, you know you have me here. Never let a damn thing happen to you, not when I'm right by your side. This search for Yorick reminds me of one thing I learned when Jet and I were partners, and that's that finding one person in a sea of people takes a little bit of skill and a hell of a lot of luck. Now don't laugh if I talk about faith, but I don't mean religious faith here. Still, you have to have faith that you're going to be able to find the guy you're looking for or... the whole thing's nothing but a waste of time. Sometimes it feels like that anyhow, but other times perseverance pays off.

Hell, by this time I'm plenty curious about the guy. I want to meet him too. I want Junior to meet the guy responsible for her being here. I guess I owe him a lot of thanks for a lot of reasons: for leaving things so you and I could find each other. For fathering Junior. There's no such thing as too many Beths and I can't even imagine what my life would be like without the two of you. So even though it's been a hell of a year, Slim, I'd do it all over again just so I could be sitting here watching you sleep so peacefully. Ditching the cloak would be nice, but if it's what lets me stay here, then I say thank fuck for the cloak, right?

The only regret I have about the way things have gone is that back at the bar I got all selfish and complacent: we had it real good there, even if we didn't always know it. I guess I'm lucky to have had as many perfect moments with you as I have, and don't think for a moment there's a chance in hell I'll let go of that. When I thought I'd lost you, I was just about ready to give up. Figured without you, there wasn't much reason to hang around the end of the universe. And then you walked back into our room and damn if that wasn't the best sight I've ever seen, and as ready as I was to walk back through the front door into Red Dragon headquarters, all those thoughts evaporated in a damn second. See, you're kind of stuck with me. This may be a whole ocean of women, but I only see one, and she's like a lifeboat for me.

Venus was a hell of a nice dream but seeing how none of us can control the... uh... vagaries of time and space, I'll be content to stay right here with you. If I have to stay a secret, hell, that's a small price to pay as long as I get to be with you. If we get to go back to the bar, I'll be content to go there with you. And if by some weird twist or some shit like that we actually do end up on Venus or... Eleuthera or wherever in my time, I'll take that too. As long as it's the three of us, I'll be good with that.

I guess all I'm trying to say is I love you. I used to say you meant the whole damn universe to me, but I'm broadening that. You mean all of time and space and every dimension that ever was. Don't you tell anyone what a damn romantic I am at heart or they'll kick me out of the tough guy's club, if they haven't already done it. But I don't give a shit about that. I just want to see my Beths smiling.



Setting down the pen, he folds the piece of paper in thirds and tucks it into Beth's hand. She stirs for just a moment but doesn't wake up which is good: it's been a tiring couple of weeks here and they all need rest. One of these days they'll either find Yorick or give up and sometimes it feels fruitless as hell, but Beth's determined to see it through and like he said, he's pretty damn curious by now too... and not as... annoyed by the idea of Yorick as he was when they started. Not now that he knows a little bit about what it's like to travel as a man in this world of theirs. Shit, he'll be relieved to see another guy too.

It might even happen today. That's the thing about this place: he never knows what's going to happen. Each day is its own little challenge, and he's never shied away from one of those. Not yet.

Pressing a soft kiss to sleeping Junior's temple, he nestles back around his own Beth, careful to pull the cloak up all the way. They might have their own room, but that doesn't mean guaranteed privacy.

It's a nice thought, though, and when his mind finally quiets enough to sleep, the dream he falls into is full of private moments.

Notes

Oct. 10th, 2007 02:56 pm
not_that_spike: (before I knew you)
Tom and Door )



Ingress )



Elaine )



Faye )
not_that_spike: (sweats and coffee)
A few weeks ago, standing on a hill looking out at the lights of Paris in the distance, Beth told him what she missed about not being here. It was something so simple and so perfect that it made him yearn for this place like he hadn't in months.

The way you smell.
Especially after a shower.
Especially after a shower I took with you.


It broke his heart a little bit: of all the things for her to miss, of course, it was the one thing that was so unattainable out there. Even after they all settled inconspicuously into a place in Paris, only Beth and Hero knew he was there and that brought its own difficulties, trying to stay hidden in an apartment full of women and kids. It's been a challenge and he's never shied away from those, but catching a little break sometimes would be a good thing. As much as he's tried to let Beth have her privacy, he knows it's been tough all around. Hell, there are days he's wanted nothing more than to step out into the streets of Paris all by himself without having to check in, without having to be a constant unseen presence.

But people do what they have to do, and they manage under all sorts of situations that aren't ideal. If what they've been through the past six months hasn't been enough to tear them apart, he guesses they have a pretty damn fine foundation for their relationship. Besides, he loves her as much as ever.

More. More every day, and that... well, hell, it's something to treasure. So now, watching Beth dry off from that shower they finally got to take together, he reaches for that pack of Marsboros sitting out on the bureau.

"Hey. Slim. Mind if I smoke?" It's only half a joke: after all this time he might just hate it, but then again, he might not. In the other room, Junior's still sleeping soundly. Smokes and lighter in hand, towel wrapped around his waist and another over his shoulders, he moves to Beth's side and holds her in his arms and kisses her like he's wanted to do every damn day of his life since he first met her and this time, there's no listening for approaching footsteps or worrying about staying out from under the precious cloak for too long. It's just the two of them, and they're home, home, home. They can't stay, but they can sure enjoy the hell out of it while they're here.
not_that_spike: (fatalistic with a smile)
The sounds are different and the smells are different and the language is different. By now he's used to only hearing female voices; he doesn't really miss the sound of other men but that's mostly because he hasn't had the luxury to miss a hell of a lot of anything. This has been the most perilous part of their travel, getting across the damn ocean, and he's glad they told Hero. Otherwise, it might have been pretty damn impossible.

But they're here, all of them, and it's been walk and ride the train and walk and ride the train and camp out and hide and all the usual shit all the way from Saint-Nazaire to Paris, but for the first time he can see landmarks in the distance. Hell, even a skinny green-haired martial-arts-geek unpopular combative kid growing up on Mars knows what the damn Eiffel Tower looks like.

They're almost there, and all those things he hasn't been letting himself think about are going to have to be thought about sooner than later now... if Yorick's actually still in Paris. That information is months old now, but it was all they had to go on and he knows from long years of tracking bounties that you've got to go with the information you have. Doesn't make any damn sense to do things any other way, and some leads pan out and others don't.

What matters most to him, though, is that they made it this far together. Junior's had such milestones, and there's a word that never once entered his vocabulary before the baby came along. But she can crawl like a champ and sit up by herself, and she's had solid food and damn, he wouldn't have missed this for the world. He can only imagine how much poorer his life would be without this wealth of experience, even though he's had to do it cloaked and from a distance.

Still, he's been there for it.

Stepping down from the overlook, he makes sure they're alone; Hero's been pretty damn good at keeping Natalya and Ciba out of their way at night and he owes her for that. Once he's sure they're alone, he lets that cloak hood drop back and the front fall open: he can breathe again. Turning to Beth, he speaks in the quietest low whisper.

"Look at that. These French women really have their shit together. They have electricity going and everything."

That hasn't often been the case.
not_that_spike: (deep asleep)
There once was a tiger-striped cat. This cat died a million deaths, revived and lived a million lives and he was owned by various people who he didn't really care for. The cat wasn't afraid to die... Then one day, the cat became a stray cat, which meant he was was free. He met a white female cat, and the two of them spent their days together happily. Well, years passed, and the white cat grew weak and died of old age. The tiger-striped cat cried a million times, and then he died too. Except this time, he didn't come back to life.

He told Jet that story. He told it the day he went to finish things off with Vicious at Syndicate headquarters, after Julia died for the first time. Then he told Jet the story again the day he went to finish things off with Vicious at Syndicate headquarters, after Julia died for the third time. That was... when Beth was gone, stolen away from him, before Beth Junior was born. About a year ago, in fact. A little more, maybe, or a little less.

Yesterday, as they were making their way around, he overheard Natalya and Hero talking about the date. Yesterday, it was June 25.

How 'bout that: it's his birthday. That's something he never once celebrated before he met Beth; birthdays were always just irrelevant. Another day, just a thing to mark the passage of time. But ever since time's been playing all those fucked-up tricks on him, he doesn't know how old he is any more and it doesn't really matter. There's only one thing that matters about this birthday: he's here with Beth.

In the pre-dawn hint of light, he wraps an invisible arm around her midsection. There's no huge pregnant belly like last year, no Junior inside kick-boxing up a storm. No: Junior's out here with them, sleeping like the baby she is. That's good. That's how it's supposed to be. He doesn't wake Beth up; he doesn't care if she knows what day it is; he doesn't need to make a big deal out of it. All he cares about is that they're together today, that they were together yesterday, and that they'll be together tomorrow. This abandoned apartment isn't the best place they've ever stayed, but it's not the worst either and now that Hero knows he's around, it's been a little easier for him to stay around, stay fed, things like that. Whether they know it or not, he owes these women and some day, he'll repay his debts to them.

But not just now. Now he takes advantage of the fact that he and Beth and Beth Junior are in a room of their own, and even if the room doesn't have a door or electricity or anything, it's still a little piece of privacy. Not enough for him to sleep out in the open, but enough for him to hold Beth in his arms all night without worrying about someone stumbling over him. It's about the best birthday present he could have asked for. It doesn't matter a damn bit if no one else knows what day it is: he does, and when he decided last year he wasn't ever going to spend another birthday without Beth he didn't know if that meant he'd ever have another birthday to spend.

All things considered, he's glad as hell things worked out this way.

I love you, Beth Durand. I love you a hell of a lot.

Content for the moment, he smiles privately and lets his hands wander so, so lightly up and down her body. It's too early for anyone to be awake and he won't wake up Beth, but he takes advantage of this little private moment to just savor the hell out of everything.

Every last bit of it. And that tiger-striped cat story? The key element to it -- the thing Jet never really appreciated -- is the died of old age part. He has no intention of going any other way. Not any more.
not_that_spike: (shy smile)
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.
not_that_spike: (remembering on mars)
More than anything, he thinks it would be nice as hell to sleep in, wake up lazily with Beth in his arms, stay in bed all day. Those two and a half years they had... well, shit, he appreciated every damn day of it, but he appreciates them even more now. He's never felt particularly tied to any one place -- never felt anywhere call him going home, home, this is where you belong, Spike Spiegel -- but shit, the bar's the closest thing he's ever had to that.

But then he rethinks that whole more than anything bullshit. What he really wants, more than anything in the whole fucking universe, is to be with Beth.

He's got his wish, even if it's a little bit skewed, and he thinks of that old saying that goes be careful what you wish for, you might get it. This is one time he doesn't mind things going the way they have, even if it would be easier some other way: when he thinks about how long it's been since the way back to the bar got mowed down by an Israeli Merkava battle tank, he's nothing but grateful for being here no matter how difficult the circumstances might make it. He's not sure what he'd be doing now if he was stuck at the bar or the House and there was no sign of Beth or Junior or Hero.

So yeah, even though this is probably the least ideal situation he can practically imagine, he'll take it. He'll take it all the way, because he's with the woman he loves.

And the daughter he loves.

How 'bout that: he's... really not that type of guy. Funny how things can change.

When Ciba and Vlad and Natalya and Hero are all out of earshot and way the hell out of sight on a little hike to find fresh water, he reaches over and tucks Beth's hair back behind her ear. "It's just me, Slim. Your very own invisible bounty hunter."

In Beth's arms, Junior's eyes widen at the sound of his voice and she lets out a big laugh.

"Hope you don't mind me tagging along another few days. I've never been to New York." Even if she can't see it, he's smiling. Yeah, this trip has been tough as hell, but he hasn't lost his sense of humor. It might be his most precious commodity, right after the cloak and the guns and ammo and cigarettes. He lets the cloak fall back and runs a hand through his hair.

He'd do anything for his Beths.
not_that_spike: (damn determined)
Tom's cloak is fucking great... for ten minutes at a time but not for weeks: this whole thing is really damn hard. It's like he's there but not there. He knows Beth doesn't want him to leave her side much because she's worried about him and the fact they're still together through everything is more of a testament to how much they love each other than anything else, but... it's hard. It's hard to eat, because they're only worrying about food for four adults and one kid; lucky for them Beth's nursing Junior. It's hard to get clean or take a piss or even get a breath of fresh air, and he wishes Beth would at least tell Hero he's there. Hell, he'd tell all of them, explain how he got there, everything. Beth and Hero were heading for the bar the day the Israeli army showed up. Natalya and Ciba would've found out anyway if that was the case. If they knew, he could act as their advance scout. He could lift all the supplies they need. He could even be rear guard, making sure they're always safe: he'd be good at that. He'd be helpful that way.

But he promised Beth it could be her choice, and even when the cloak starts to feel a little bit like a straitjacket, he reminds himself this is her world and he's no more than an intruder. Well, an intruder who happens to love the hell out of one of its remaining women and hard though it is, it's infinitely preferable to sitting at the bar stewing. So far none of the doors they've opened have led anywhere but their expected locations, and if he hadn't chanced out here after Hero, there's no telling if he ever would have seen Beth and Junior again. The only time he really gets to have anything to do with her is in the middle of the night when Beth's on watch... and not even then, always. Sometimes, one of the other women is awake and then the only thing he can do is bite his tongue and shut the hell up.

One night while Beth slept, he stole away outside. They were in an abandoned convenience store that night, somewhere in Missouri, he thinks. The whole town was empty; he walked up the road a way and once he was damn sure no one was watching them, he slipped out of the cloak for a precious little bit and just breathed. He breathed, then changed into a fresh shirt and rolled up the old one and stuck it back in his pack. It got washed in secret the next time they camped out by a stream and he left it far away from the rest of the camp's laundry to dry out. Alone is one thing, but alone in a crowd is something else entirely. There haven't been any opportunities to work out, precious few opportunities to even talk to Beth for fear of being overheard.

Personally, he's ready to let Natalya and Ciba and Hero know. He's ready to be able to hold Junior for more than a few minutes while she's sleeping. He's ready to start contributing to this walk across the country and it's a really big country.

More than anything, though, he's ready to find a door that leads back home.

And that might never happen.
not_that_spike: (ready with a gun)
The night's been a little bit fitful but also really fucking quiet around this place; he's dozed on and off but since first light he's been awake. He... hasn't taken the cloak off at all because the words hot suite and safe house mean government-run and monitored or if they don't, they damn well should and he doesn't want to be caught on any cameras. So he sits in a corner of the barn where he's got a view of both the front door and the hidden door Hero disappeared through, wishing like hell he could at least reach into his pack and get out a piece of fruit or a bottle of water or something, but he doesn't want to risk making too much noise.

He can wait. He can wait because it's worth it just to see Beth and Junior, and he's resolved that even if he goes back to the bar without even letting them know he's been here, it will have been worth it. It'll satisfy his curiosity and ease his fears, because that damn dream just sucked. If he never has that one again it'll be too soon.

It's been a long couple nights, and he's tired but he wasn't about to miss this opportunity because of a little damn thing like that. When he gets back he can sleep all he wants. For now, he settles back and lets his eyes close, knees drawn up, gun in hand. It's called sleeping with one eye open and he's really fucking good at it. Beth figured that out about him when they were after Robertson on that shuttle: he knows how to make his body rest while his mind stays alert and that might be one of the best damn skills he's got. It's saved his ass more than once.

And now... shit, he can't hear any sounds coming from behind that door. It's really well-hidden, this place. Anyone'd think it was just a damn barn stuck in the middle of the place, and so he sits and waits and breathes and tries really hard not to move, alseep for all intents and purposes.

Until the door opens and the nose of a rifle makes its way out first.
not_that_spike: (never had any good luck)
Earth has this look and feel and smell all its own: he remembers it well from the time he did with Doohan, the vacation he took with Beth. He sneaks through the shed door and just out of the way, cloak intact, as Hero takes a step forward then turns back to shut that door behind her. She stops for a moment and looks back and for a minute he thinks she sees him, but she doesn't. She's just lost in thought and he feels a little bit bad that he didn't tell her he was going to do this, but shit. That dream? It scared the crap out of him, and it was just dumb luck Hero picked today to come back for a visit.

Or maybe it was fate; he's always claimed to be a hell of a fatalistic guy and a hell of an opportunist and he wasn't going to let this opportunity pass. If Hero could walk across the damn country with a heavy backpack, he can follow her from this corn field to wherever it is they go wearing one and he can do it silently. Fortunately the corn husks rustle in the wind and he doesn't have to worry too much about making noise and that's good: he's trying to get his bearings and the stars look different here than they do on Mars. He has no fucking idea what direction's what, but it almost doesn't matter.

Click. Click. Click. Sometimes that fake eye is a hell of a good thing to have, and he's also got a damn good memory. Anyone who's been thrown out of as many casinos for counting cards as he's been ought to be able to memorize a damn path from a shed in a field to wherever Hero's going; he follows along breathing softly but only because he reminds himself to breathe. Good thing he can kind of sort of see through this cloak of Tom's.

His pack is full of things they might need: smokes and jerky and dried fruit and water, diapers and a few changes of clothes for the baby, a few sets of clothes for him. He figures shit like men's underwear won't be easy to come by out here, so if he's erred on the side of caution by packing a few extra of those, so be it; there are still some things he and Beth don't actually share. The heaviest thing in the pack is all that ammo. Beth keeps telling him it's too dangerous for him out here but a little danger never kept him from doing a single thing his whole damn life and it's not about to start now.

He trails Hero for what feels like a long time, but as soon as she stops and goes inside wherever it is they go in the middle of Kansas, he'll stop and take a breather. He won't risk smoking; he can go without. What he really needs to know is that Beth and the baby are okay. Eventually Hero moves quickly and quietly toward a silo and opens the door to the barn next to it. It looks just like any damn barn in any western: there's a loft up top and bales of hay everywhere. No livestock but he guesses they've long since died out, what with all the male mammals dropping dead and people needing food and all that shit. This barn though: it's mostly for show, because Hero moves through the front door to a hidden door in the corner; it closes behind her with a solid metallic thunk. He'll never be able to get in there, he bets, but after Hero's been gone about ten minutes, he has to give it a try. The door's solid as hell and he can't make it budge; he's great at sleight of hand but he's a lousy lock-picker and this lock... well, it doesn't much look like it wants to be picked.

There's not a hell of a lot to do except find a cozy corner of the barn, kick back in the hay, and wait. Even though he doesn't like waiting, he's pretty damn good at it.

And how 'bout that: he's still alive. Earth hasn't killed him yet.
not_that_spike: (nightmare)
"Hey, Slim. Junior."

He isn't expecting them so soon after the last visit, it's a hell of a good surprise. "Just like I promised, Beth, I haven't finished building that dream house yet. Saved the best parts for you." Moving toward her, he holds his arms out to take the baby; she flashes him a big smile -- is that a hint of tooth down there? -- and giggles. Holding her close, he smiles up at Beth. It's so damn good to see them and she looks good, like she's had a good dose of fresh air or something. Her hair, shorter like before, is even paler blonde; he leans over to kiss her.

In his arms, the baby starts to fuss. "Hey, hold that thought for just a second." Looking down at his little aijou with a smile, he brushes her hair aside... but she's bleeding. Bleeding from the mouth and the nose and the eyes, and... fuck! "What the..." And he looks up from Beth Junior's face just in time to see the same fucking thing happening to Beth and he realizes... shit, this is exactly what Beth said happened out there in her world way back when, the day all the guys died.

"No!" In his panic he thinks it has to be the vaccine they're making: it upset the balance and now that the kid Vlad can survive, all the women have to pay just like all the men paid last time. "No, Beth. No. No. No, Slim. No. You're my angel. Angels don't die." Reaching forward, he grabs her just before she collapses.


He's never sat up so damn fast his whole life, covered in sweat, heart pounding, hands shaking. Either it's because he's sleeping in their bed for the first time since she left or because something's wrong, although he's never been the least damn bit prophetic with his dreams before, but... fuck. Fuck.

Fuck. He flies out of bed, stumbles into the nursery but no one's there. No one's there, because they're out there. They're out in a plague-filled world, and there's not a damn thing he can do about it because he's here. He can't get there. He can't even sneak out to check on them, because that's not his world and the door won't open onto it for him. He's tried: it doesn't open at all. Well, fuck that, he's all done sitting around waiting. If it wasn't the middle of the damn night he'd demand that Door open up onto Beth's world for him right this fucking minute, but even he's not that... unfair or whatever; he can't do that to her, can't wake her up in the middle of the night to satisfy his panic. Not without proof something's wrong.

Shit.

Well. There is something he can do: stepping into the living room, he takes out a piece of paper and pen and writes a quick note.

Tom, I might be missing some of Ingress's lessons. As soon as I get a chance, I'm going to find Beth and Junior. I'll bring your cloak back.

-Spike


As soon as he heads to the portrait gallery he'll send that to Tom by house owl. First opportunity he gets for that door, he's not sitting still. He's all done being left behind. In the dark of the night, he packs his supplies.

No more waiting, no more separation: it's time. If it doesn't happen by itself, he'll fucking make it happen.
not_that_spike: (damn determined)
That cloak Tom's loaned him: it's a hell of a thing. A hell of a powerful thing and while he's never really given a shit about power or having it, he's not always the best at turning away from temptation. He doesn't know shit about magic or how magic items work: all he knows is when Tom put that thing on, he just disappeared.

It's like he was never there.

He... kind of has to put it to the test, just to see how it works. Just to see if there's any way it doesn't work, because sitting around waiting? That really sucks. He's missed a whole fucking month of time with Beth and Beth Junior, and damn if he's going to be left behind to fend for himself again. Someone smart -- Annie, probably -- once told him that in order to change now, we have to understand the patterns of the past and make a concerted effort to break out of them. He got left behind once before, and he's not going to let it happen again. There's nothing wrong, he thinks, with a guy wanting his family enough to do whatever it takes to be with them. And hell, if Beth can visit him, why can't he just visit her? Twice as often is twice as good; Door as much as offered to open onto her world for him if he needs it.

No reason not to take her up on it. Just a couple times, just till things settle down and Beth and Junior can come back home.

Inside, there's a hell of a lot more going on but it's not the kind of shit he's going to share with anybody. It all has to do with the damn past, and all the feelings that get stirred up every time he watches Beth take Junior out that door with her and he doesn't get to go with them. Old shit comes back. Old feelings of not being worth someone's time, of not being worth loving, of not being worth sticking around for and he knows the situation's different. Beth isn't Julia. She never was. Her reasons for going are entirely different. But that old wounded part of him can't quite seem to let go enough to reconcile that.

He's not very proud of that, but he can't help it. He's tried: he just can't.

Slipping that cloak over his body, he moves unseen through the House of Arch and into the bar proper. It's crowded -- it always is -- but if he holds the fabric close around himself, he can move between people without bumping into them and the one time he does, the guy whose arm he bumps looks right through him, shrugs, and forgets about it. This thing is... almost dangerous, it works so well. But it's just a tool, just a means to an end. So it works inside: time to test it outside, see how it runs, see if there are any concerns about it then. The thing is long and he's worried about his feet being seen if he has to move in it fast, but again if he holds it around himself, it seems to work. He runs right past a couple people walking around the lake and although they hear his approaching footsteps and automatically move out of the way, they still don't seem to see him: the girl turns to the guy and asks if he heard something, but he just shrugs and pick up their conversation right where it left off.

It's pretty fucking amazing: this thing will work. If what Beth's most worried about is him being seen, she can leave that worry at home. It's a way he can be with her and not cause some big damn upset to the delicate balance of her world, or at least it should work that way.

Back home again, he tests one more theory: he takes his big travel backpack and stuffs it with pillows and puts it over his back. He takes his artillery pack and puts it around his waist, and loads up with as much crap as he can, even simulating carrying a baby. Then he tries the cloak again and when he looks in the mirror -- mirrors have never been his best friend -- he can't see a damn thing, even though when the cloak drops from around his body he's the size of two men.

Hell yeah: it's time to get a travel pack prepared.
not_that_spike: (sitting smoking)
He's never been the kind of guy to go in for pacing. It's annoying, never mind being a waste of time. Nah, other people can pace all they want. What he does is sit on his ass and smoke. It's a much more enjoyable way of fretting. In between smokes, he picks at some of the paint splattered on his skin. Most of it's gone and what he realizes for the first time as he looks down at the tiny flecks on his flesh is that it's almost the same color blue as Beth's bathing suit.

She'll like that.

It's detail work, cutting in paint to the sides of a ceiling and without a damn roller, it's hard covering the rest. Hard on the back. But if Beth could do it back in Room 8 over the bar, he can sure as fuck do it in their rooms in the House of Arch. Especially in the nursery; the ceiling's a little lower there and he rigged a kind of little low scaffolding thing so he could get back and forth with the paint more easily. And once Junior's room was done -- at least the blue part -- and he moved her crib back in there, and the rocking chair, and the bureau... well, he started on their room: his and Beth's. It's been a fun little challenge and he knows she'll like it when she comes back.

But he's getting tired of waiting. Real tired, and tired of alone and there's no damn reason to be all alone. Beth's not. She's out there with Hero and some Russian girl named Natalya and some twins who are doctors, and the astronaut and her baby. And hell, he can be a downright sociable guy when he actually sets his mind to it, and that's why he's sitting in the living room smoking instead of pacing, fresh coffee on in the kitchen, the partially built Lego dream castle (she did say there was no such thing as thinking too big for a dream house) moved to one side.

Hopefully, Tom will be here pretty soon. He's always kind of hated sitting around waiting.
not_that_spike: (taking things apart)
As the days go by, they take on a sameness: he wakes up alone, he moves through the day oblivious to other people, he eats alone, he sleeps alone. It's nothing he's not used to but it doesn't mean he likes it. It really... kind of sucks.

A lot.

But if it's what Beth needs to do, he can do it. Even if it's taking longer than he hoped.

She'll be back. She said she would. He just... well, yeah. Everyone knows how he feels. He misses them. It reminds him in some ways of when Julia first disappeared, and he held this burning flame of hope in his heart that any moment now, he'd open his eyes and she'd be there. Looking at him from around a corner, or sitting by the side of the bed when he woke up, or on the other end of the phone, or down the block walking toward him. It's just that she never did, and that was then and this is different.

Because there really isn't any other choice -- a lot like then -- he can wait.

In the meantime, his feet are up on the coffee table and he's got a glass of water and a pack of cigarettes and he's reading. He hasn't read this much since he was on the Bebop, and that's both good and bad. It draws his mind away from things for a while, but he's distracted. His eyes can't really focus on the words on the page, even though the book he's reading on the history of personal spacecraft in the 2050s is a little bit interesting. He's read it before, but not for a long time.

Fuck it: setting it aside, he disappears into the bedroom for a minute, reemerging from the portrait into the living room with a box in his hand. Inside are a bunch of interlocking blocks -- Legos, he thinks they're called -- that he got from Bar a few days ago when he asked her idly for something to take his mind off things. Clearing the coffee table, he sets his cigarette into the ashtray and starts building. When he's done, the blocks are going to be shaped into that house on Venus they've never had a chance to buy.

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June 2009

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