Title: Watching Him
Summary: She sees everything, she's watching him fall.
Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit made and no harm intended.
AU, follows storyline of movie somewhat.
It was her ability to go under the radar that had kept her working for the Darley's for so many years. The ability to blend into the background, to be visible only when they needed her, her most valued skill. Beth was silent and loyal, that was all that mattered. On some levels, she was afraid of them, but for the most part, she knew them, all of them so well that fear was nothing but a reflex. Fear for a moment until her rational side kicked in.
In her time with them, she had seen so much. Things she wished she'd never seen or heard, the terrible stories they told. Each day was the same until one evening, when everything changed.
Beth lifted the wicker basket up, her back protesting vainly as she carried it down the dark hallway. She placed it by her feet and knocked quietly on the door. A mumbled grunt was her greeting. She turned the brass doorknob, pushing it open an inch at a time.
The room was dark, redolent with sweat and smoke, the lingering musk of sex in the air. Beth wrinkled her nose and stepped inside, breathing only in shallow gasps. She brought the wicker basket in with her and began feeling her way around the floor.
She slowly gathered the clothes that had been tossed haphazardly to the floor. As she neared the bed, she stilled, watching the eyes that were following her movements. "Sorry," she whispered to him. She dropped her gaze respectfully and reached for the clothes that hung from the bedpost.
A hand slipped out and grasped her forearm, strong fingers holding her in place. Beth froze, a startled breath leaving her. The fingers traced down her skin, callused and roughened. She bit her lip, a shiver running down her spine.
"Sorry," she whispered again, "Just gatherin' the laundry."
Cold blue eyes flicked down to her arm where his fingers held her. He let go a moment later and shifted onto his side, the thin sheet slipping down to his waist. Beth looked away. She'd seen him naked more than a few times over the years, but the sight of his scarred and tattooed chest never failed to catch her off guard.
She took the shirt from the bedpost and added it to the pile in the basket. "Clean ones are in the drawer," she nodded to the old dresser across the room.
He nodded and closed his eyes, his breathing evening out. Beth hesitated by the window, her palms moving along the wooden frame. She lifted it up a little, a cool breeze of morning air slipping into the room. She rubbed her elbows, watching the sunshine creep across the faded carpet for several minutes.
Beth looked back at the bed, watching him. He looked calm, relaxed even, in his sleep. He lay sprawled over the bed, the sheets twisted along his body. He looked up at her, a small frown creasing his forehead.
"Out," he rasped finally.
She lifted up the basket, balancing it on her hip. "Yes sir," she nodded, leaving the room. She closed the door behind her and touched one hand to her chest, unable to fathom why her heart was pounding so hard. She exhaled shakily and walked down the hallway, away from Billy Darley's room.
Beth gathered the clothes from the other rooms and started the first load into the washer in the basement. She stretched, cracking her back as she did so. She leaned back against the folding table, listening to the machine chug in the first cycle.
Each room was the same in the Four Roses bar, small, grimy and without much cheer. The building stood two stories high, four rooms upstairs, and a tiny office behind the bar that also doubled as a bedroom. Beth smoothed a hand over her head, adjusting the fabric band holding her plain brown hair back from her face. She sighed and closed her eyes, enjoying the relative silence of the building.
"Morning to you, Eddie," Beth cracked one eye open. "What's got you up this early, hm?"
Eddie leaned in the doorway, his large frame dwarfing the machines next to him. "Chasin' the girlie from my bed," he flashed a crooked grin at her and shook his head. "She overstayed her welcome."
"Charming," Beth snorted. "You're a pig, Eddie; I hope you can live with that."
"Aww, Bethie, that ain't nice," he wiggled a bag in one big hand. "I brought ya sweets an' you go insultin' me."
She opened both eyes then. "If you think you can win me over with pastries, you're wrong," she reached up and tugged the bag loose from his fingers. "And the answer's still no; I won't be warmin' your bed any time soon."
"Dang," he snapped his fingers. "I was so hopin'."
Beth laughed a little and bit into the flaky pastry. "What's the record now? Eight years an' counting of you asking and me saying no?"
Eddie leaned against the folding table with her. He dug into his jeans pocket, pulling out a lighter and a silver case. He took the cigarette out and tapped it on the case, lighting it. "Yeah, s' about right, I think. Never say never, Bethie."
She leaned against him, chewing slowly. "I don't sleep with father figures, Eds."
"Yeah, yeah I know," he slipped one long arm around her, hugging her.
Beth finished the rest of her pastry and wiped her hands clean on the napkin from the bag. "You better get goin', I got rooms to clean."
He inhaled deeply on the cigarette. "Take it easy, kiddo," he gestured to the small window that was placed high up along the wall. "Get outside if ya can. It's s'posed to be real warm today."
"Yeah, think I might," she murmured.
Eddie ruffled a hand over her hair, his own gray hair catching the dim light for a second. "You're a good kid, you know that? No one's ever lasted as long as you have."
She shrugged. "I know when to stay under the radar. Now get goin'. You don't need the boss seeing you talkin' me up."
He whistled as he left the room, his long gray ponytail swishing while he walked. Beth closed her eyes again, the suds churning away.
In truth, she was quite good at blending in. She cleaned the rooms, did the laundry, mended clothes and helped Sammy run the bar. Beth had never been asked to be a waitress and she felt no pressing desire to be one. The girls that worked the bar dressed provocatively and were just as hard and fast as the men. They were tough women who seemed aged before their times and also seemed to understand their lot in life.
Beth carried the freshly dried towels upstairs, weak sunlight beginning to illuminate the halls. She placed some in the hall closet and continued on to the main bathroom. The door stood slightly ajar, water trickling from the old pipes.
She knocked on the door, shifting the towels from one hand to the other.
"What?" a voice snapped.
She pushed the door open with her elbow. "Towels," she placed two on the rack along one wall.
Billy glanced at her and waved his hand dismissively. "Yeah." He leaned back in the bath tub, the water echoing off the faded porcelain. He rubbed a hand over his face, sighing.
Beth moved to the cabinet above the sink and opened it, selecting a few items. She set them out on the sink ledge, lining each item up neatly, a straight edge razor, the brush and shaving cream, all in a row on the ledge. She closed the cabinet again and looked down at the linoleum. "You want Suzy up here for the shave?"
Several minutes of silence filled the air. Beth waited, accustomed to the long silences from him. "No," he turned his head, studying her.
"I..." she nodded, "Alright." She turned to leave.
"You do it."
Beth paused at the door, her hand on the wood trim. "What?"
Billy leveled a look at her, daring her to refuse. "Ya heard me. You do it."
"If you want," she demurred, walking back over to the tub. Beth brought the items over and sat down on the stool beside the bath tub. She looked down and away rapidly, heat creeping up her neck. He smirked and rested back.
"No need t' play shy, girlie," he said.
She rolled her eyes. "It's nothing I haven't seen before." She picked up the lathering brush and mixed the cream.
She moved slowly, taking the time to shave him properly. Her mother had taught her how to use straight razors years ago, and Billy preferred them to disposables. He held still, the room silent but for the scraping sounds and the water droplets falling from the tap now and then.
Beth wiped his head clean when she finished, her fingers shaking once the task was done. Being so close to him, holding a sharp straight edge razor to his neck and head...it made her so nervous...She wiped the razor clean and put the cream and brush away. "You're done," she murmured.
He ran a hand over his smooth scalp, nodding approvingly. "Tell Suzy I don't want her doin' it any more. Her hands shake too fuckin' much."
"Yes sir," Beth set the towel closer to him. She left the room, unnerved by the look in his eyes.
Beth spent the better part of the day cleaning. She avoided the men, preferring to stay far away from them. She tidied the rooms before heading down to the bar area. The men sat around one long table, bottles and overflowing ashtrays lining the stained wood. Billy sat at the end of the table, a cigarette perched in his fingers. He lifted his shot glass and swirled it a little before downing it.
"Where the fuck is Joe?" he demanded, glaring at the men around him.
"He comin', he called in...Bones kept 'im," Bodie drummed his fingers on the table top. He shrugged and nodded to the cracked clock on the wall.
Billy's jaw clenched at the mere mention of Bones. "Figures," he muttered.
Beth stepped behind the bar, nodding to Sammy. She held the clipboard to her chest and sat on the milk crate in one corner of the small space behind the counter. She slipped the pencil out from her pocket and began the inventory for the week.
Bones...She grimaced and counted the bottles lining one wall. She disliked the man, even if he had hired her years before. He was a large, sweaty man, fat with beady eyes and a perpetual sneer on his face. There was no lost love between Bones and Billy or Joe, Billy's younger brother.
She pushed a strand of hair back behind her ear and moved on to the tequila bottles, listening with half an ear to the voices that floated on the smoky air. They often discussed plans, things they had done, places robbed, sexual conquests, money made...she rolled her eyes unseen and continued the inventory.
A slam above her head made her jump up, badly startled. She stared up at Billy, forcing a look of calm to her face. "Yes sir?" she whispered.
He leaned in, cold eyes raking over her. "Bring a round."
"I'll get Tammy to bring them," she set the clipboard down and moved away from him.
Billy's fingers shot out and snagged her wrist, holding her back. "I asked you," he tugged her closer, his breath ghosting over her.
Beth fought the urge to yank her wrist free from his grip. "Sorry...I, I'll get them."
He grunted and let go of her wrist. "Jack Daniels, an' make it quick."
"Yes sir," she looked away from him. As she filled the shot glasses, her stomach turned.
Sammy passed her the tray for the glasses. "Somethin' be botherin' him," he mumbled, "Ain't seen him all twitchy like this in too long."
Beth nodded silently. She filled the tray and lifted it up, her back paining her again. She rubbed at the small of her back with one hand wearily and carried the tray over to the table, unnoticed by most of the men there. She set each glass in front of them and slipped away from the table, overwhelmingly aware of Billy's eyes on her.
Beth took a load of the glasses to the tiny kitchen area and began rinsing them, her shoulders hunched. "I don't get it," she whispered to Sammy. "He's bein' so damn weird."
Sammy nodded. "I don't know, Bethie. You keep ya head down, I will too. Been through worse, so dummy up, right?"
She smiled faintly. "Yeah, dummy up all right," she loaded the old dishwasher and started the cycle.
The hours passed slowly and Joe joined the men eventually. He was sullen, a quiet boy who never said too much unless the other men were around. Then he'd do his best to imitate them, copying their speech, mimicking the habits of his older brother, their leader.
Billy yanked Joe up from his seat, his hand fisted in the red leather of Joe's coat. "A' right, we're gonna make ya a man t' night!" he said, the guys shouting their approval.
Joe grinned and nodded, bumping shoulders with Billy. "'Bout fuckin' time," he said, his response met with raucous laughter.
"You gonna do me proud, Joey boy, yeah?" Billy pulled him close.
"Yeah..." Joe flashed a smile that seemed fake from where Beth stood. He leaned into the rough hug from his brother, his smile drooping when Billy wasn't looking.
Beth bit down on her bottom lip, her stomach knotting restlessly. Billy let go of Joe and pushed him forward. Bodie held a machete in one hand, the gloves on his hand creaking with each movement.
She looked to Sammy, her brown eyes wide. He held her stare for a moment and then turned away. She sighed and wiped the table, mopping up the spilt liquor. As she watched them file out of the bar, her hand grasping one discarded bottle, she felt a horrible wave of fear build up, a fear that made her blood run cold.
Something was wrong, something...was about to happen.