Someone To Watch Over Me
Thanks to nwhepcat, vanillacokehead and automatedalice for the beta. Written for lovesbitca's Faith/Wes Ficathon.
"Nicole, you've seen that video twelve times. Must we watch it again?"
"Yes, dear. As you wish."
Wesley pressed play and put the DVD controller back on the coffee table, next to her stuffed red monster and juice-filled "sippy-cup". His face showed no emotion as Nicole jumped barefoot across his oriental rug, registering neither amusement or annoyance as she attempted to match the choreography of the four men on-screen. The beads in her braids clicked against each other as she jumped around.
Wes held a glass tumbler, holding scotch older than he was, abused by ice and water to fit the requirements for this evening. A rough woven blanket sat on the couch next to him. He kept his hand under the blanket, just in case.
"Thanks for pickin' us up, Wes."
"I must admit, I was a bit surprised. I would've thought you'd have others you could've contacted."
"Shit, Wes, you know how things go with those new guys."
"No, Faith. I've been out of the game for quite some time. I don't know the players on the board anymore."
"A lot can change in a few years. I hear you."
"I must wonder if this is the wisest course of action. Surely there must be some other...."
"No. No other. I know him. I took him down once. Who else you gonna call?"
"I recall being part of things then. I also recall you almost not making it."
"Aren't you a ray of sunshine. C'mon, Wes. Let's get moving before Nicki wakes up."
He woke with a start, checking for motion at the door first. Nothing. The shotgun came out from under the blanket, safety off with a round in the chamber.
He held the shotgun lefthanded as he pulled himself off the couch. He grabbed his cane, giving the staff a half-twist, leaving another half-twist to hold the shaft, which covered twenty inches of razor-sharp steel. He rushed down the hall, quickly checking each door for threats. The wail grew louder as he went. Hall closet. Office. Bathroom. Bedroom.
His bedside lamp was pointed at the wall, intended to present night-light brightness into the room. He leaned against the door frame and brought his right arm up to support his weapon. He checked every corner before focusing on the source of the sound.
Nicole sat up in his queen-size bed, her fuzzy red monster toy on the pillow next to her. Tears ran down her face and dampened her bedshirt, a stained blue shirt with a red and yellow "S" on the front. She looked up at him and redoubled her efforts, affecting a surprising rise in volume.
Wes flipped the safety before placing his shotgun down next to the bed. The screams turned from inarticulate high-pitched wail to a lower-pitched "mum-mum-mum-mum". Her beads clicked together as he pulled her to him. Her tears quickly soaked through his rumpled shirt. He switched the cane to his left hand as he sat down on the bed. He twisted as he sat, taking Nicole onto his lap and patting her back. After a few moments, the crying went to sobs and sobs went to snores.
As Nicole lay on his chest, breath hitching and head turning on occasion, Wes moved the grip of his cane from his right hand to his left. A half-turn left the shaft unconnected. He slid the handle out, revealing an inch of blade, then closed it again.
"Yo. It's me."
"Faith? Have you made progress?"
"He's lying low so far. I'm beating the bushes, but nobody's giving up a trail here."
"Your interrogation skills are not what they once were."
"We arenot going into that question again, Wes. I'm not that person anymore."
"Perhaps you should become so."
"Do you have anything useful to say, Wes? Otherwise, I'm just hanging up."
"What I thought. Wes, I've been thinking about this ever since the call came. If I'm not the one, who is? I've got backup here. One of the girls from the Sunnydale deal. We'll stop him if we can. We'll kill him if we must. I hate it too, Wes, but I'm not seeing other options here."
"I understand. Do be careful."
"You know me. Hey, I gotta go. Give Nicki a hug for me."
"L'oeuure ancienne se paracheuera, Du toict cherra sur le grand mal ruyne...."
The ancient french words came out in whispers over and over again. His silver Mont Blanc scratched notes across the legal pad. Translations came to mind and then to paper, followed by connections and searches in other books. Innocent faict mort on accusera. The dead shall accuse the innocent.
That certainly fit.
His research sat again on the coffee table. The necessity to be near his charge took precedence over his desire to keep the valuable documents far from the reach of her crayons. Diabolical puppets danced across the screen. It is valuable, he supposed, to reclaim scary imagery so a child doesn't live in fear, but he bore the scars that come from becoming too comfortable with scary monsters.
The translation, from the original, not restatements or commentary from unenlightened sources, was beginning to take shape in his mind, assisted by the Glenfiddich, which also served to dull the ache in his knee.
He had no idea how long Nicole stood there, bare feet on his couch, staring at him, the orange crumbs from her cheddar "fishy" crackers showing in stark contrast on her brown cheeks. She held out a handful of her crackers and smiled. "Fishy!"
Nocent cache, taillis à la bruyne.
"Yes," he said, taking one an crunching it between his teeth. "Fishy indeed."
"Wes, it's me. Come up with anything?"
"Innocent faict mort on accusera, Nocent cache, taillis à la bruyne."
"Want to try that again in words everyone can understand?"
"Dead, they will accuse an innocent of the deed. The guilty one hidden in the copse in the drizzle."
"That could be anywhere."
"Sounds like you have another idea."
"The Arboretum. That or the Playboy Mansion, and I'm quite sure that his arrival there would make the news."
"Gotcha. We'll roll. But first, I gotta ask something."
"This is perhaps not the opportune moment, Faith."
"It's what I got. I want you to do something for me. I want you to watch Nicki."
"I believe that's what I'm doing."
"No. I mean -- Look. We both know the stakes here. We know who I'm fighting. We know it's gonna be tough. I gotta know, before I go in, that ... that she's OK. That she's in good hands."
"Faith, I hardly think...."
"Who the hell else am I going to choose? Her grandpa's like 80 now. Like he needs to raise another Slayer's kid. He already raised.... I know this is a big thing. I wouldn't ask it if it wasn't. Now's not the time for small things, Wes. I need you towatch her. Help her grow up right. I need to know. Can you do that?"
"I- Yes. Yes I can."
"Good. We're off. If you're steering us wrong, I'll kick your ass. Bye."
Wes kept the chain on the door, a largely symbolic gesture.
He kept the shotgun behind the door. This was less so.
He didn't recognize the girl who stood before her. Her black denim jacket was torn across the arm and her jeans were stained with grass. A small gold cross hung from her neck. "I expect you're a friend of Faith's."
"Um. Yeah. Rona."
He closed the door, then opened it without the chain. He had moved the shotgun to his left hand, holding it in front of the breech. He took out the keys to his weapons cabinet while she walked in. "The matter is dealt with, I suspect."
"Yes. Yes it is." Rona looked down, her dreadlocks blocking her face from view. "Listen, I don't know how to say this...."
"Was it quick? Painless?"
"Yes." She looked up. Wes knew it had to be true; a slow death would've lead Rona to try and help. She had no blood on her except from a minor abrasion on her hand.
Rona looked over at the couch, where Nicki was asleep, using her red monster as a pillow. Her black braids were splayed out, reminding him initially of Medusa. Rona's dreadlocks were much longer, hanging down to the small of her back. "This is Nicki?"
She knelt down. "She's cute. She he her father's face."
Locking the cabinet afforded him time to consider an appropriate response. "I never met him, so I wouldn't know."
"Listen, I could -- Her braids are loose. I could take her someplace tomorrow. Get them taken care of while you sort things out. Prepare a place for her."
"Yes." He kept standing. He wouldn't let himself fall, even if the hand holding the sword-cane wouldn't stop shaking. He wouldn't let himself fail again. "Yes. I'd like that."