|Night Watchmen 02: The Chicago Way
Author: Ironbear PM
A demon mobster boss and vamp nests make it clear to Faith and the gang that summer is no longer the slow time on the Hellmouth while LA vampire gang fights and an old face takes Buffy deeper into her past...Rated: Fiction M - English - Supernatural - Faith L. & Cordelia C. - Chapters: 10 - Words: 36,633 - Reviews: 11 - Favs: 21 - Follows: 5 - Updated: 07-24-08 - Published: 07-21-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4411781
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Chicago Way: Epilogue -
Saturday August 15, 1998; Los Angeles, Pike's apartment.
The days following the date-not-a-date with Pike went by in a surreal mirror image effect for Buffy. On the one hand, there was the continuing 'ick' that was her job at Helen's Diner. Sore feet, grease smells, rude and grabby customers, long hours, and far too much effort for just enough money to pay her rent and bills with a bit left over for groceries. On the other, evenings when their schedules were close enough were spent sitting around Pike's apartment companionably watching television or a movie and playing with Pike's little girl.
It was almost like having a real life for the first time since just before Merrick had dropped in to disrupt her Hemery existence, only without the short skirts and cheer leading, and with much greasier hair.
Buffy decided firmly that she was either happier than she'd been since Angel woke up psychotic and homicidal, or desperately miserable. Or just numb. She couldn't figure out which, and she decided it really didn't matter.
She even found herself noticing suddenly at odd times that up to an hour had gone by when she wasn't desperately homesick for her mom, her friends, and for Giles. Even having to stake the occasional vamp on the way home from night shifts didn't take her back to Sunnydale in her mind as often.
"Get her tucked away?" Buffy asked, looking up with a smile as Pike wandered back out from the bedroom.
"Oh yeah. Squeaky clean, freshly storied, and snuggling happily into a pillow with Mr. BunBun and a tiny bit of drool," Pike said, laughing. He settled in on the sofa near her.
"Stuffed rabbit. She couldn't manage 'bunny' all the way when she first got him," he shrugged.
"Ah." Buffy nodded sagely. "Mine was Mr. Gordo the Pig."
"Not me," Pike smirked. "Stuffed animals just never fit with the image," he said, deadpan.
"I seem to recall different," Buffy's eyebrows raised and she smirked. "Or was that someone else's bear peeking out from your bookshelf, hmm?"
"I take the fifth," Pike said loftily. "Can't prove nuthin' on me, copper."
"Darn. And I burned all the photos," Buffy snapped her fingers. "It's all right. That whole bad boy thing is overrated, I'm starting to think. Glad you lost some of it."
"It's hard to be a tough guy with a three year old in one arm," Pike stated. "Besides, you've seen me scream in terror."
"Oh yeah! I remember now," Buffy laughed, punching him lightly in the arm. "And such a cute scream, too." She looked at him seriously, "It's a good change. Just enough bad boy to still be interesting, and just enough fluffiness to be appealing."
"Appealing, huh?" Pike leaned closer, eyes twinkling. There was a moment where Buffy might have leaned forward just a bit and they'd be kissing. So she did.
"Umm." She opened her eyes and leaned back and away. "Definitely. And I am so really not ready for this yet."
Pike nodded, "That's ok. No hurry."
"This is... nice though." Buffy nodded.
"I agree," Pike said. He picked up the remote, saying, "Ready for movie time? And - oh! How about a trip over to Pacific Park next day off we both have?"
"With Elena?" At Pike's nod Buffy mock-frowned, "Sure you don't just want a chance to see me in a wet bathing suit?"
"Of course," he waggled his eyebrows, leering.
"Oh. Ok," Buffy settled in to relax. "Sure. Sounds fun."
Saturday August 15, 1998; Chase Manor, late late morning.
"This changes everything, doesn't it," Faith remarked. Following breakfast, the three of them had settled in on the couch at the pool house and popped a copy of Stargate into the player to relax with.
There was a long silence following that. Finally, Cordelia nodded. "Yeah," she said, "And no, not at all."
After a moment, Faith nodded seriously and her lips curled up at the corners. "Well, as long as you're certain one way or the other."
Xander laughed, looking over at her. "What do you mean?"
Faith brought her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them. Wearing a pair of Cordelia's pajamas and with no makeup, she looked extremely young and fragile. "Just... " she trailed off, shaking her head. Aiming the remote at the TV, she paused the movie.
After a few minutes, she glanced over at the other two. "Ok, this is gonna sound dumb, but... " Faith took a deep breath, "It's like this: ever since I got here, you guys have been dragging me in deeper and deeper, especially you two idiots, and now... I don't think I could get out if I wanted to, and I don't know how to go forward." She paused, "Make sense?"
"Ah," Xander nodded. "I have no idea what to say to that. I just want that on record."
"Doofus," Cordelia nudged him with her elbow, and grinned when he grunted painfully. She sighed. "I know exactly what you mean."
"So." Faith nodded.
"Yeah," Cordelia nodded. "But... I'm scared to death all the time, I don't fit in my own skin any more - and I've had more damn' fun the past few months than I've ever had before."
"And that's a bad thing?" Xander asked, curiously.
"Yes, it is." Cordelia sighed again, "I think if I'd gone to Las Palmas for the summer with my parents, maybe I wouldn't know." She paused a moment, then continued, "But now? This summer changed me inside. I can't see any way I can go back to tolerating Harmony and the rest of the Cordettes and pretend to be Queen C still. Pretending to hate Xander and act, like, I really care what anyone thinks about us being together. I can't even bring myself to care about any of that unimportant crap any more."
"What? No fashion obsession?" Xander smirked. "Sure, you say that now -"
"Oh, please," Cordelia said, nudging him again. "I said 'unimportant crap'. Fashion is always important."
"If you're going to keep trying to break my other ribs, I'm... well, I'll do something." Xander grumbled. "Revenge will be mine, oh yes. It will."
Faith grinned, first real one she'd felt like since the beating. "What, and risk driving off all this hotness?"
"On the other hand, I could just lay here and whine and soak up the hotness, yeah," Xander nodded. "At least until I can move without excruciating pain."
"Sad thing is," Cordelia said. "I don't know how to be anything else, not really."
"Same way you do everything?" Xander asked. Cordelia raised her eyebrows. "With extreme style and hotness?" He grinned, answering the eyebrow lift.
"Damn straight," Faith agreed, echoing Cordelia's catchphrase. Cordelia grinned. "Thing is," Faith looked away from them both, not meeting their eyes, "Don't wanna go back to before. I'd be dead without you two." The last part came out very quietly, almost a whisper.
"I'd have been dead without you," Xander shrugged. "You saved my life. And Cordy."
"Even if I almost got you killed." Faith nodded, "Makes for kind of a bond, huh?" She said, putting it in terms she could deal with.
"Yep." Cordelia nodded. "Thing is, no, it really doesn't change much. We were friends before this. Now, we just all know we are, and everyone else does too. And how far we'll go for that."
Faith nodded again. "Which changes everything, like I said," she repeated, agreeing. "So, what now?"
Xander shrugged, uncomfortably.
"We go on, I guess," Cordelia said. "With no maps and no idea what the hell we're doing. I feel like we may be becoming something we can't even see yet. And it's scary."
"I never know what the hell I'm doing," Xander stated, emphatically. "Look where it got me."
"Wrapped in bandages and in horrible pain?" Faith suggested, a small grin tugging at her lips.
"And stuck between two hotties," Xander's lopsided grin came out. "Not really seeing a downside."
"Horndog," Cordelia smirked. She sighed again, "I wish this part of it could last forever."
"I am secure in my horndoggedness," Xander exclaimed. "And... me too."
"Three votes here." Faith added, "And I'm really counting on you guys to keep my hard case reputation intact, inspite o' all this mushy shit."
"No worries. You'll be back to your tough guy self in a few days, once the shock wears off." Cordelia said, then added, "But - it can't: this, I mean. Parents will be back at the end of August, and they'd have, like, major cow if they found Xander living here."
Xander shrugged, "I'll go back home when I'm healed up." He added, "Or whenever you kick me out."
"No hurry right now," Cordelia said.
"You need to be out of that place, Xan," Faith said. Xander shrugged uncomfortably again.
"She's right," Cordelia stated. "And you need to be out of that motel, Faith."
Faith looked away. "I don't mind it that much."
"I do," Cordelia said, simply. "But we can work on that," she grinned.
"We'll work it out." Faith shook her head, grinning back, "Meantime, lets finish the damn' movie, huh?"
To be Continued in "Night Watchmen" Episode 1c: "Bones of Contention"