Disclaimers and notes in the first bit. And if I haven't already, (because I left it out of one or two posts) can I thank Carmen Williams profusely for betaing:-)
"Maybe he was secretly working for the rebellion."
"Maybe. Maybe he couldn't kill someone who'd looked him in the eye." G paused, and there was a glint in his eye. "Maybe he was in the closet and he couldn't bear to see our beautiful selves die so tragically."
Fauna blinked at the sudden change in tone, but when he grinned, she found herself grinning back. "Gee, that must have been it."
"Hey, don't underestimate the lure of my rippling pectorals."
She smirked at him. "Okay, if you start talking like Fabio I'm so going to whip your butt."
He smirked back. "I don't know who Fabio is, but this butt whipping sounds tempting."
"Hey, you're not seducing my lover, are you? I went to all this trouble to rescue you too!"
At the sound of the voice, they both turned. Piper stood near the entrance of the room, looking amused.
The Gunsmith grinned at his partner blithely. "I don't know. She's cute, but I don't think she'd have your butt whipping skill."
"That's true. I am pretty superb at butt whipping."
She made a face. "You know, this conversation is getting worse and worse."
Piper flicked back the braids in his hair and hooked a pipe onto a leather pouch at his side. "She has got a point. Maybe you should finish the story."
G gave him a shrewd look. "And just how long have you been listening?"
"I can't imagine what you're talking about," Piper said cheerfully. "Want me to finish?"
"I think I can manage fine, thanks so much." He turned back. "So this guy had just left, and we couldn't believe our luck."
"Okay, you might have been thinking that. My brain was going, 'Me go sleep now tiredzzzz...'."
G rolled his eyes elaborately. "Fine. I was thanking god and my esteemed partner was falling asleep. You can see who's the go-getter in this relationship, can't you? It's the high society background thing. He's never gotten over it."
"Pish. Quiet down, plebeian."
"We stayed the night huddled in the basement, then waited until the house's occupants were out before we raided the place. I never thought there'd be a time when I'd be so damn delighted by a set of warm, dry clothes. I'll say this, the camps may have done me little other good, but they did force me to get my priorities in order.
"We bundled up, took food, and went overland towards Keystone City for no other reason than we suspected it would be easier to survive there with all the people. After all, it looked like stealing to survive was going to become routine from now on. We were marked, and had no papers, and quite frankly we looked like..."
"Like we'd just escaped from a work camp." Piper shrugged. "Funny, that."
"Right. So we headed to the city. Walked at night, slept during the day, mostly in haystacks and the like. We both felt like hell, but our spirits were as high as the sky. Freedom does that to you.
"We arrived in the city a few days later and disappeared underground. Literally; the sewers are nasty, but they're damn good hiding places. A few weeks and we'd established some kind of routine and managed to steal enough to get by on, so we sat down and tried to figure out what we were going to do with our lives."
Piper sighed. "There was no going back to what we had before. To be honest, I wasn't exactly regretting that, but G had actually enjoyed his life. And it was a little scary, realising that you were always going to be stuck on the fringes."
G took over again. "I've always found that the best way to get over your fears is to embrace them, and that's what we did. The government is evil and society is going to hell. We could see that clear as glass, and we could see that there were a lot of other people out there hurting, and they didn't deserve their lot anymore than we'd deserved ours. Maybe our lives would have been easier if we'd gone into hiding, but we were damned if we were going to hide. We were rebels? Fine. We'd be the rebels from their nightmares.
"We started stealing parts and supplies and went into tinkering overdrive. Piper worked on his pipes and started figuring out how to adjust things to screw with people's minds properly. Me, I gave up on the useless gadgets and got into full-blown weaponry."
"Hey, you still dive into the 'useless gadgets' every once in a while. Sometimes they don't even turn out to be that useless. You're wearing the anti-gravity shoes, for heaven's sake."
G agreed readily. "Well okay, mostly I got into full blown weaponry. I have to admit, the shoes are cool. I'm so glad I finally got around to making them."
"So anyway. We prepared stuff, we trained. We made sure we were damn good, and then we took the town by storm. We may not be able to get people out of the camps, but you better believe that we do everything possible to free them before they get that far."
"We also get rid of police patrols that are harassing citizens, blow up the occasional government building, mess with the propaganda that gets pumped out of the radio and television stations..."
"Basically? We kick butt very well." G gave his partner a fond look. "We've been kicking it for almost fifteen years now."
Piper shrugged. "Hey, it's a living."
"Well, it's a pretty cool one. And god knows I'm lucky you're doing it, because otherwise I would have been screwed." She looked slightly awkward. "Umm, could I ask one last thing?"
"When did you... well, y'know, decide to hook up? I mean properly... Uh. You don't have to answer that if..."
G smiled. "You're right. I don't have to answer that."
"Right. Okay. Shutting up now."
Piper shook his head and gave his partner an amused look. "Anyway, if we've got that out of the way, I managed to rustle up some new clothes for our guest. Detention wear tends to be oddly conspicuous on the town."
The woman looked grateful. "Thank you! These things are itchy. I don't think they even washed them after the last person wore them."
G shrugged. "Probably took them off their corpse."
She froze. "Okay... I think I wanna change right now thanks."
Piper nodded to the corner. "You can go around behind those pipes. Don't worry, I won't look."
"I scoff at his lack of appreciation for the female form, but alas he has me on a short leash."
"Damn right. Now roll over."
"Will you pet me if I do?"
"Not in front of the female form, I'm afraid..."
Smiling to herself, she left them to banter and went to change.
It wasn't that she was deliberately eavesdropping. It was just that they were only around the corner, and they weren't talking that softly. It was just... an accident that she heard them...
"So what was that about?" Piper sounded seriously curious.
"What was what all about?"
"You know what I'm talking about. Why tell her all of that? The whole story? I mean, geez, I didn't even realise you remembered it all. Not in that much detail, anyway..."
"But you weren't listening at all."
"I came in on the escape proper, okay? Happy now?"
"Are you avoiding my question deliberately, or just out of habit?"
G sighed. "I'm not exactly sure why I told her, alright? And to be honest, it probably doesn't matter. I think she's kind of insane anyway."
"She still thinks she's from another world? Crap."
"Hey, she could be telling the truth. Stranger things have happened."
"Well, we're together, aren't we?"
There was silence. Then...
"You've been thinking deeply lately, haven't you?"
"More than I usually do. Hart, did you know that tomorrow it'll be fifteen years to the day since we got out of there?"
"...I didn't. I hadn't really thought about it."
"We never do, do we? We live each day as it comes. We have to, otherwise we'd go mad. This life... this isn't exactly a gold mine of a life, looking at it from the outside in. It must be hard for most people to imagine why we'd be happy. Sometimes I wonder to myself why it is I'm content. And in the end, it all comes down to you."
She bit her lip, blinked her eyes furiously and sniffed. And leaned closer to catch the whispered phrases...
"...know I love you."
"I can't not. You know, when were in the farmhouse, way back then? I lay there listening to your heartbeat. My head on your chest, and every time I heard another beat, my own heart jumped, because it meant you were still alive." His voice was soft, almost too soft to hear. "I realised that I loved you then. It was kind of weird, and god knows it was a revelation to me, but I was glad that it was there to cling to. I don't know what I'd be like if it hadn't been. I'm sorry if it bothered you, that I told her. But it's been fifteen years, and I needed to talk about it. It needed to be told. "
"Yes. Because it's a good story, a wonderful story. It's our story. It's painful as hell in some parts, but I want it out there when we die, and god knows, we're really stretching our lucky run here. It deserves to be out there. I hope she passes it on."
"I hope she does too." A pause. "If you die, I'll die too. Does that make me a romantic kiddie?"
"Fifteen years, Hart. If you are, I am too."
Fauna Faust sat at a nice table, in a nice house, a thousand worlds away from that night. Her eyes though, they looked back. "'If you are, I am too.' The way they said it was just... Dude, I want to have a relationship like that. Hell, I want to have a relationship that's half as intense as that. That was love. That was devotion. That was... emotions that I didn't even realise were actually real things. They lived for each other, and they were happy, even after everything that had happened."
Her sole audience member looked like he didn't quite know what to say. "Well... That was certainly... unexpected."
She sniffed and rubbed a hand over her eyes over her eyes. "Hey, you were the one who wanted to know why I called you G when I first met you. Don't blame me for being weirded out. And also? James Jesse? Why didn't you just stick with Giovanni like he did? I quite liked that name."
"Hey, it was my stage name. Plus, I had a thing for outlaws when I was a kid."
"I'd say you were a weird kid if I had any idea of what a normal kid actually did. Anyway, I am glad I told you, because I really have been meaning to tell someone. They were right, it deserves to be told."
James Jesse raised an eyebrow. "Just not to anyone on your spiffy new team?"
"Dude, Piper's on my new team. What the hell am I supposed to tell him?"
"Well, you could tell him to stop acting so mopey."
"I've already been telling him that. I don't think knowing about an alternate version of himself is going to help, especially when..."
James smirked. "When what? He lived happily ever after while joyfully boinking me? You're saying someone could be unhappy about that?"
But Fauna was staring at him, her eyes glassy with tears, and he winced as he realised why.
"...Except that that's not what happened, is it?"
She closed her eyes against the tears and shook her head. "It was later, a little before we got back. I'd found the others, and they'd found out that the guy who could get us to our own world was being held in a detention building in Central City. G and Piper volunteered to help us get him out; I didn't even need to ask. But then it all went to hell when we found the guy, and there was a sniper..."
"Piper got hit in the head. He was dead before he hit the ground. The blood was just... I turned to G, and his face was like ice. Just totally... cold and dead. And he told us to go, that he'd cover us, and I didn't argue with him because I knew, I just knew, that there was no way I could possibly stop him. It was what he wanted. It was..." She stifled a sob.
He frowned and tactfully went to find a tissue box.
When he came back she'd composed herself. "I'm sorry. I don't cry a lot. Or at all, really. It's just that they were so..."
He smiled comfortingly. "Completely the opposite to this universe's version of me and him?"
She managed a watery smile in return. "I don't think he was that different from you."
James Jesse raised an eyebrow.
"I mean, he was quite nice, and you seem quite nice."
Both eyebrows were raised at that. "Obviously I haven't been trying hard enough lately."
Fauna gave him a challenging look. "Hey, come on. I've seen nasty. I was raised by an evil supervillain and I belong to a team that's led by a guy with a homicidal multiple personality. You're annoying, sure, but you're not horribly disagreeable."
"Okay, obviously the sleeping with guys thing might be a bit strange for you personally..."
"You'd think so, wouldn't you?"
She gave him a look. "I am trying to be polite, you know. With the whole 'you're quite nice, actually'?"
He smirked at her. "You know, the 'raised by an evil supervillain' thing? I really can't tell."
"Ah shut up. Look, I'm just saying, okay. Being near those two for just a few days was totally... "
He looked at her incredulously. "Okay, I give up. Why are you telling me this again? Because it can't possibly be for the reason I suspect it is."
Fauna managed an innocent smile. "Just because it's a good story, that's all. Why else?"
"Are you still here?" Piper was frowning as he walked into the room. "I thought you left ages ago."
James Jesse turned in the chair and his expression dropped into a practiced grin. "I've actually spent the whole time trying to find the door. Who built this place, Escher?"
Fauna hastily rubbed the last of the tears from her eyes and glared at him. "We were talking," she told Piper. "He's going in a sec."
"Apparently, however, I'm going in a sec."
Piper sighed. "Right. Whatever. I'm just getting some hot cocoa, don't mind me."
Fauna yawned widely. "I'm actually going to go get some sleep. You wanna let him out?"
Piper rolled his eyes. "I'm sure he can manage."
"Oh well, night!" She flashed a smile to James's raised eyebrow and wandered out of the room.
Piper frowned at his semi-welcome guest. "What exactly was that about?"
James looked at him a little strangely. "I don't think you want to know."
Piper was confused and slightly annoyed. "Jesse, I'm tired and I'm just not in the mood for your games, okay? I've got enough of a headache as it is."
"Oh? You okay?"
He blinked. "You care?"
There was a vaguely uneasy silence as they stared at each other, and then James got up. "I've got to go now, anyway."
Piper shrugged, still baffled. "Fine. Let yourself out."
"Right." He hesitated for a second, and frowned. "Right."
He walked away.
And that's all she said. Comments?