Author's Note: I own nothing. Lackadaisy belongs to Tracy J. Butler.
Ivy Pepper has always been someone's ray of sunshine.
From the time she was born, there had been something intrinsically inside of her that allowed her to brighten the lives of others effortlessly. It is just as much a part of her as her straight hair, her huge yellow eyes, her brown fur. She had brightened her parents' lives (when they were around), illuminated Atlas's, sparkled in Mitzi's, and positively beamed in Viktor's. She was, in many ways, Lackadaisy's personal sun. She was irreplaceable, simply by being a never-ending source of energy and (occasionally annoying) chatter.
It's something everyone she's ever known knows (and for the most part, loves) about her.
And up until today, she had always managed to be cheerful during even the darkest of times. Even at Atlas' funeral, when she was crying to herself, heartbrokenly and shakingly, her arm had been through the crook of Mitzi's, steadfastly offering her support. When Mordecai had turned traitor and shot Viktor through his knees, it had been a barely-turned seventeen year old Ivy who had held Viktor's hand, talked him out of murdering poor Doctor Quakenbush, murmured nonsensical ramblings into the Slovak's ear until he had fallen asleep. When Rocky had been kicked out of his aunt's house, Ivy had made him pancakes and regaled him with stories of Atlas from her childhood. There was not a single person in the Lackadaisy crew who had not had a smile brought to their face by Ivy, and earned one of her blinding smiles in return.
But now, not a ghost of a smile was on Ivy's face. Her face resembled the carved marble statues looking down on her, white and empty. Freckle was on one side of her, Rocky on the other. Though she did not see it, they exchanged anxious glances over her head, uncomfortable with the veil of grief over the Lackadaisy's sun. Truth be told, Ivy Pepper was unaware of anything but the marble slab in front of her. She had never hated anything so much in her life as she hated that one piece of rock at her feet. She wanted to smash it, break it, crumble it into a thousand pieces, make it disappear, as if image isn't already seared into her memory forever.
"Don't know why they bother having a tombstone." Zib's violinist muttered from somewhere behind the trio. "It's not like there's even a body to put under it."
Ivy turned and gave him a look so full of anger, agony, and loathing that he visibly recoiled even before Zib's sharp jab to the ribs could make him cringe.
"Ignore him, sweetheart." Mitzi said, taking Freckle's place at Ivy's left. She gave the younger woman a tight hug, tenderly smoothing her hair. Ivy remained silent, returning her gaze to the grave they've all gathered around.
The ceremony itself was brutally short and to the point, with only a smattering of people in attendance. Halfway through, it started to rain. Ever prepared, Wick appeared and gallantly offered Ivy and Mitzi shelter under his umbrella. Mitzi smiles and slips her arm into his, but Ivy moves away into the freezing rain. Wick opened his mouth to speak, but a sharp look from Mitzi convinced him otherwise. Rocky and Freckle's shared looks grew even more nervous. Ivy noticed them that time, but could not bring herself to care. She knew it was illogical, irrational, and even dangerous, but a part of her wants to be as cold as he is, wherever he is, so that she can still be connected to him, in some small way. Much to her surprise, a thin figure joins her outside the safety of the umbrellas. Mordecai's glasses quickly became misted with rain, but he showed no sign clearing them. Something about this man that she knows to be a ruthless killer sharing her loss was oddly comforting to Ivy. They did not speak, or touch, or give any sign of acknowledgement, save for one look shared between them.
It was that one look that told her she was not the only one truly mourning the name on the tombstone.
Eventually, the crowd dissipated. Rocky and Freckle were ushered away by Mitzi, who told them quietly to give Ivy "just a bit of time". Rocky stubbornly waited outside the car, while Freckle and Mitzi sit inside. All three watched the willowy figure, now alone in the cemetery.
Ivy knelt in the grass and laid the biggest, brightest sunflower she could find on the stone. He would've hated it, told her to keep it, called her aosina v prdeli, and to do anything but force it on him. And she would have just smiled, continued speaking as if he had never said anything, and left the flower where she had put it. (And when she came back the next day, it would be in the same spot, not in a vase, but not thrown away either). She laid one tiny paw on the stone, tracing the characters of his name.
I miss you I miss you I miss you I miss you; the words bubbled up in her throat and burned like whiskey. Finally, finally, tears welled in her eyes and poured down her face, thinly hidden by the rain. She gave up trying to remain up right and curled herself on the ground by the tombstone.
Where are you why did you go come back come back come back I need you.
Rocky had rushed over. He wrapped his coat around her and shushed her, as serious as he had ever been in his entire life. Ivy tried to find comfort in her friend when he scooped her up, hollering for Freckle to "start the damn car already, Miss Pepper's gonna freeze to death!", but it was all wrong.
His arms, though strong, weren't wide enough. He didn't smell the same, his shoulders weren't as broad, his voice nowhere near as deep, his walk smoother.
Wrong, her mind chanted at her, wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.
She cast the now abandoned tombstone one last look over Rocky's shoulder.
I love you.
And with that final thought, she closed her eyes, and tried her best to forget.
It had been a week, and she still had not forgotten.
She cannot forget the last things she said to him ("I am a grown woman, Viktor! I do not need you to protect me! I can manage perfectly fine, all on my own! And I can date whomever the hell I please, and damn you and your opinions of them!"), or that last look he gave her when she stormed out of his apartment, with that green, green eye of his that she swore could see straight through her, or the nagging feeling that he had been right about Calvin, Cecil, Clyde, and all the others.
And every time she started to smile, or laugh, or even attempted to be a quarter of her usual, sunny self, all she had to do is look at the empty bar, with no glaring Viktor behind it, and the spark of sunshine vanishes.
She had never realized how much of her life revolved around him until he was gone.
She shook off Rocky, who was determined to at least make her crack a grin with his ridiculous antics, appeased Mitzi by eating and drinking a smidge of coffee, and otherwise forced herself to appear attentive in her classes. At night, she tossed and turned, dreaming of eye patches, orange fur, and oh God so much blood. Finally, after one particularly horrendous dream, she wrenched herself out of bed and sat in her room, staring at the wall. Who could she go to for something like this?
Not her parents, who had never understood her love of St. Louis, the Lackadaisy, and certainly would not understand her melancholia over a one-eyed curmudgeon that rarely spoke in more than one word sentences (except to her) and scared the living daylights out of most people.
Not to Miss M, who certainly had enough problems to worry about, with the Marigold gang still on the rise and the crackdown on Prohibition becoming stronger every day.
Rocky? She knew he had depth underneath the whimsical and barmy façade he often displayed, but she still doubted he had the emotional strength to deal with a crying woman (even Viktor had been visibly uncomfortable when she cried in front of him, oh damn, she was thinking of him again).
Freckle? His mother would likely kill them both if a strange 'harlot' showed up in the middle of the night at their house.
Zib? Not a chance.
The one person she would have gone to for protection, for comfort, was the same lug that had been haunting her every-waking moment for a week now.
So she decided to go for the next best thing; Viktor's apartment.
It was 11 at night by the time she got there, but Mrs. Bapka let her in.
"Je mi ľúto, dievka. Miloval moc, aj keď to na sebe poznať Môže jeho duša nájde pokoj." Mrs. Bapka said, and suddenly wrapped Ivy in a tight hug. Ivy stiffened; but the older woman was unfazed and continued holding on to her. Finally, Ivy was released and given a gentle pat on the cheek. "Dobrú noc, dievka."
And with that, Ivy found herself at his door, like she had done countless times over the course of her life. The door creaked open, the same as always, and she walked inside.
It was so completely and utterly Viktor that a wave a pure, unadulterated longing hit her like a punch to the chest, and she sank to her knees just barely in the doorway.
She wasn't sure what she had been expecting (it to be suddenly spotless, picked clean of all things that could possibly remind her of him? Or the opposite, to be in complete and utter disarray, as if someone had gone through it?), but it was neither. It was the same as it always had been, from her childhood up until a week ago. Comfortable, homey, but spare. She made her way through the apartment, touching a few things here and there. The chair he'd sat in after being shot protecting her, the picture take in 1926 where she'd thrown a feather boa around his neck, one of the many scarves she had given him over the years for Christmas. Just being here sucked all of the fiery, desperate energy out of her, and her eyelids began to droop. She wondered over to the chair and plopped down in it, pulling the worn checkered blanket around her.
Fishsticks, I should have probably told someone I was coming here…she thought, before hazily eyeing the clock. It read 1 AM, and her eyes fluttered shut.
There was a sudden noise from the door that jerked Ivy from the only dreamless sleep she'd had all week.
She quickly evaluated the room for something, anything to fight off an intruder with (if it was, in fact, an intruder, and not Mrs. Bapka kicking her out), and found only one of her obnoxiously heavy textbooks that she had left there at some point. She sprung from the seat, book in tow, and hid behind the bathroom door. She tried to calm her breathing and hefted the book over her head as the door swung slowly open. The figure limped slowly into the room, and Ivy steeled herself to hit the man on the head as soon as he came remotely close to the bathroom door. The man reached for the lights and with a pop, they came on.
Ivy's book crashed to the floor.
Viktor had hardly gotten two words out before Ivy had crossed the room and flung her arms around him as tight as they would go. Viktor stifled a groan; her hug was aggravating the wound on his side. Ivy looked up at him.
Something was burning in her golden eyes, something besides relief and affection and desperation, and that something made Viktor gulp, suddenly aware of how close they were. She was no longer a child, though he had known that for quite some time, the realization dawned on him as new and fresh as it had when she had returned from Kansas City after a year away, no longer a girl, but a woman. Something about the way she was looking at him, the way she was wrapped around him as if he might disappear at any, was new and terrifying and so unlike any look she has ever given him before. The shock of the appearance of the something in her eyes dulled his usually alert senses; as such, the sharp smack she gave him on the side of his head stunned him immensely.
"Psie krvou! Vhat vas that for?"
"Where have you been?" Ivy's voice was a shriek. He began to speak but Ivy cut across him; "I thought you were dead! Dead, Viktor! Rocky saw you get shot and saw you fall and you never came back! We had a funeral for you, with a horrible gravestone that I hated, the violinist said why bother and I hated that too, Rocky was serious, which was even worse, Mordecai was there, even the Savoys were there, and I cried and cried and cried, I've been crying for a week, the bar was so empty, and you were gone! And I thought," she began to cry now, releasing Viktor and tucking her arms around herself instead, "I thought…I thought you thought I h-hated you and I don't and I'm so sorry—"
Viktor Vasko may have been the personification of a storm cloud, had a heart of stone, and rarely showed any emotions besides irritation and rage (his other emotions occurred at a much deeper, well hidden part of himself). He could scare the bejesus out of even the toughest gunmen with one one-eyed look. He didn't like to talk, didn't tend to express himself (unless someone needed to be punched or worse, with that he was an expert), didn't have many friends.
But he had learned long ago, when a tiny slip of a girl had been placed in front of him by Atlas May and he had been told to protect her, none of that mattered when it came to Ivy Pepper.
She was absolutely incorrigible and determined to win him over, and had succeeded in that goal by age eleven. His glares made her giggle, his threats only served to have her roll her eyes at him and continue whatever scheme she had cooked up. She was allowed to hug him, harangue him with questions and mindless chatter, hell, if he was honest with himself, she could have dragged him over hot coals and he would've gone willingly, if only to see her smile.
So now, the only logical thing for him to do to get her to stop crying, Ježiši, he hated when she cried, was to pull her back towards him, and hold her. He couldn't remember the last time he had done so of his own volition, but that did not lessen the undeniable feeling of completeness he felt when her head nestled against his chest. She was so thin, so tiny, but she possessed strength even he was not aware of, and clung to him like a barnacle on a ship. I love her, he realized in that moment, and had loved her for quite some time, though he'd be damned if he ever admitted it, even to her, especially to her. She was pure and kind and full of life, and he was old and bitter and worn, and completely undeserving of her. His heart thumped out an uneven rhythm and he realized that she was pressing her head more firmly against his chest, listening.
"Hear, malenkaya?" He murmured gently, in the softest voice she had ever heard him use. "No dead."
She gave a tiny sniffle and stretched up on her toes to put her arms around his neck. Mumbling, she said, "Don't you ever do anything like this again, you big lug."
Viktor's lips twitched up into a smirk. Ivy leaned back to look at him and gave him a watery smile. Golden eyes met a solitary green one, and Ivy realized that there was no glare. No animosity (teasing or otherwise), no affectionate irritation, no grudging acceptance. There was, however, something that she had never seen before, at least in that particular green eye.
She knew (or at least suspected) what it was, because she had seen it glowing in her own eyes for the past week every time she had glanced in a mirror.
It was this knowledge (or suspicion) that gave her the courage to do what she did next; she gave a tiny bounce on the balls of her feet and pressed her lips to Viktor's. She could feel his arms, where they had been loosely hanging around her, tighten, but he made no motion to stop her. Unlike so many of the other boys she's kissed, he did not instantly respond, negatively or positively. In fact, she was about to pull away and begin apologizing profusely (Sugar beets, Ivy, you've gone and screwed up your friendship with one of the people you care about the most!) when one of his hands was suddenly tangled in her hair, holding her in place. She gave a tiny sigh, and his other arm encircled her entire waist. Her hands drifted down to his chest, where she could feel his heart racing underneath her paws.
It seemed fitting that it would take nearly losing him to realize he wasn't just a father figure or a protector. Ivy couldn't begin to fathom how she could have possibly been so blind; she, who was always telling him to try and open up and that there was always more than meets the eye.
They finally pulled away from one another, and Ivy watched as an assortment of emotions flickered over Viktor's face; affection, apprehension, regret, horror, and desire, in a tumultuous mix. He tried to speak but was silenced by her paw.
"Don't." She said. "I'm not a little girl Viktor! I am a grown up woman and I can do as I please and I know what I'm doing, you have no idea what it was like, to think you were gone for good and I'd never get to tell you anything, and I feel like I haven't smiled in months and Rocky says my muscles are going to atrophy and Miss M keeps giving me concerned looks and I can handle that from everyone but—"
Viktor silenced her the only way he could at that point, by kissing her again.
Ivy was effectively shushed.
Viktor pulled away and rested his forehead against hers, the smirk still on his face. "Malenkaya, always with you, talk, talk, talk and no listen."
When Ivy found her voice, it was very soft. "I do listen. Sometimes. When it's important."
"Then listen naow, ya?"
Ivy gave a tiny nod. Viktor opened his mouth with the intent to tell her that this could never work, she was too good and sweet, he too old and broken, no one, not even the Lackadaisy crew, would understand, he was old enough to be her father for Christ's sake, and Atlas might very well come back from the grave just to murder him, but Ivy turned her golden eyes on him and every thought and valid reason he had flew out of his head.
Her eyes were brimming with that something again. No, not just something. Love was the something, and he knew it, and she knew it, and very likely everyone knew it (if the snide remarks Mordecai had snapped at him just two weeks ago were a show of everyone).
He had never been able to say no to her in the first place, so why start now?
Viktor had never really liked rules anyway.
So instead, he kissed her forehead, calls her malenkaya, and let her curl up with him on his most comfortable chair.
In the morning, they will deal with telling everyone that he was indeed not dead (Viktor suspected he would receive a thorough berating from Mitzi), what tonight meant, and whether or not he had finally lost his mind for not sending her away the instant her lips had brushed his.
He wondered vaguely if this makes him a dirty old man, for being in love with someone half his age, who he watched grow from child to woman, but the look Ivy shoots him when he voices a variation of this concern (minus the part about being in love with her, which she knows, and he still cannot bring himself to say) convinces him not to mention it again.
But for now, she was tucked comfortably into his side, with the old blanket wrapped around her. She nuzzled her face into the crook of his neck, giggling slightly when Viktor muttered something in Slovak ("Drahý Bože!") that she knows to mean 'dear God,' and pressed a kiss to his cheek.
"Goodnight Viktor." She whispered, voice soft and sweet and full of sleep. He gave a gentle grunt, which Ivy knows to mean "goodnight" as well, and she drifted off to sleep. Viktor gave her one last kiss on the forehead (with a thousand unsaid I love you's behind it) before closing his own eye.
Both dream of sunshine.
Author's Note: So I've officially been bitten by the Lackadaisy bug. I love the storyline, the characters, the setting; everything about this comic is pure genius.
Viktor and Ivy are my most recent OTP and I think they would be absolutely PRECIOUS together (young and old, sweet and sour, and a whole bunch of other clichés, but I don't care!).
I realize that Ms. Butler has implied that Ivy and Viktor do not have romantic feelings towards each other, but that's what shipping is for, right?
Also, Ella Fitzgerald's Someone to Watch Over Me is just too perfect for Viktor/Ivy. I listened to it on repeat while writing this.
Translations Slovak to English:
Je mi ľúto, dievka: I am sorry, girl
Miloval moc, aj keď to na sebe poznať: He loved you very much, even if he did not show it.
Môže jeho duša nájde pokoj: May his soul find peace.
Dievka: girl, dame
Psie krvou!: Dog's blood!
Ježiši: Sweet Jesus, Jesus
Malenkaya: precious one, little one
Drahý Bože!: Dear God!
If you're in need of more good Viktor/Ivy stories, I suggest MouseThatRoared's Love Is A Parallax (which some ideas for this story came from, so I give her credit where credit is due, and it is QUITE amazing) .com/art/Lackadaisy-Love-Is-A-Parallax-98229865
Or Inuyasha0102's Love Is Unselfish (also based slightly off of Love Is A Parallax)
Reviews, comments, suggestions, and requests are always welcomed. Flames will be used to cook Rocky pancakes. Enjoy!