stbethadettes: (long-necked)
[personal profile] stbethadettes
It's a quick trip through the portrait, and once in the House of Arch's main gallery, she points a finger to the smaller portrait that leads to the rooms she and Spike live in, barely stifling a laugh at Hero's mutter of surprise over the whole sucked-through-portrait manner of travel.

"Another church. How do you like that? I keep falling away from them, and they keep taking me back."

She gives Hero's hand a light squeeze. As far as she knows, they've got to be connected for her to escort her through.

"This one'll take us to our rooms. Ready?"

At Hero's nod, she touches the portrait and leads her through again. And again, there's that second-long sensation of having your body turned inside out before they find themselves in the family room, insides exactly where they should be and outsides barely ruffled.

"You mind staying in here just a minute, Hero? They're probably in the nursery, and I'll bring them to see you."

Actually, Junior's probably still sleeping in her crib while Spike's stretched out on their bed and reading, but she'll find out. Somehow she suspects Spike will probably appreciate it more this once if she tells him Hero's here rather than abruptly shows him.

Date: 2007-01-23 07:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Holy fuck, mamacita, I think I'm gonna barf." She doesn't mind staying right here at all for a minute; it'll help her get her sea legs. Setting down her backpack, she sits a little abruptly on the couch -- there's a goddamn couch, this looks like a real fucking house -- and waits, head in hands for just a minute.

But only a minute, because Beth just... disappears when she touches her hand to this painting of a bedroom hanging on the wall and it's the weirdest fucking thing to just see her gone. Hero nearly jumps out of her skin at that, but she's pretty good at assessing situations, so she takes the few moments she's got here alone to look around, scope the room.

It's nice. It's got goddamn windows with curtains and when she gets a moment she'll see what sort of scene they look out on, but for now she concentrates on the inside: it's a living room, all right, and there's an archway that leads to a kitchen, she discovers after she gets off her ass and walks over to that opening. It's old-fashioned, but it's nice and for a moment she's almost jealous, but she can't bring herself to feel that. It's perfect, and her niece deserves it.

She especially deserves that high chair in the corner. At four months she'll be too little to use it yet, but goddamn, will that come in handy later.

It's perfect.

Back in the living room again -- nice bookshelves, loaded with books and now she's jealous -- she pulls back the sheer curtains and looks out on a drizzly street scene. It's a basic residential city block, but it's nice: well kept, with street lamps on the corners and green spaces in the fronts of some of the buildings. Nothing's real clear and she's not sure if it's the glass in the windows or if it's that maybe nothing's clearly real out there: she has no idea where this is.

It's really nice, though. It's easy. It's simple. It's domestic. She gets so lost in the view that she almost forgets where she is.

Date: 2007-01-23 08:28 am (UTC)
not_that_spike: (t-shirt)
From: [personal profile] not_that_spike

It's an acknowledgment, it's a the baby's asleep as if she can't tell, it's a greeting. It also means yeah? is that good or bad? but hell, there's just one way to find out. "Can you grab the princess?"

She's out, sound asleep, and she just got that way about ten minutes ago. Probably nothing short of a herd of elephants will wake her up now: she sleeps that hard. Once Beth maneuvers Beth Junior off his chest, he sets down the book and sits up quickly: Hero's back.

Isn't that a mixed bag of news. Hero's great. It's just that she stirs shit up in Beth that he'd really rather not see stirred up, but that's old jealous and self-centered business so he keeps it to himself. "Where is she?" Obviously not here. "We should bring Junior over. I bet she wants to see her niece."

Yeah, it almost pains him to call her that, but it's true: Hero's her aunt and if it wasn't for Hero, little Beth's birth might not have gone so well. If it wasn't for Hero, they might have never gotten back to this place, so he owes her. And he takes his debts seriously.

"Let me just throw on a clean shirt, Slim. One that isn't covered with baby slime. She's getting real good at doing that in her sleep." Grinning, he runs a hand through his hair: the last thing he was expecting was a visitor. He kisses Beth's cheek, then opens the bureau and pulls out a fresh t-shirt. The old one goes into the hamper, a regulation basketball shot putting it there, and he pulls on the new one.

"How's Hero doing?" He smooths away a wrinkle from the front of the new t-shirt, then leans forward and kisses her forehead and then her nose and then her lips. He'll never let her see that her two little words Hero's here spawn three very powerful and reactive words of his own.

Don't leave me.

Date: 2007-01-23 08:58 am (UTC)
not_that_spike: (looking backward)
From: [personal profile] not_that_spike
A long time ago he promised himself that he'd never stand in the way of what makes Beth happy, and it's a promise he means to keep... no matter what the cost might be. Hero's her friend, and like him, Beth doesn't have a lot of friends. Maybe one or two real ones and that's it.

Besides, there's no need for panic. He can't cast the future in stone so it goes the way he wants: if he could, they'd be living on Venus right now in that house Beth's always claimed to want. But they're not, and he knows well enough he has to make the absolute best of what they have now. Right now, right this minute: life never comes with any guarantees.

"Well, shit, ma'am. No point in keeping a lady waiting. Come on." Grabbing Junior's blanket and the pack of emergency supplies, he lets his fingers tangle in her hair for just a moment. Then he reaches over to smooth out Beth Junior's little fluff of light hair.

Damn: he meant to give Hero that knife of Vicious's and now, since the move, he has no fucking idea where it is.

Oh well.

Date: 2007-01-23 08:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Even the least maternal woman in the world has a maternal instinct: it goes with the whole reproductive system territory and the fucking minute she hears Beth's voice -- the travel-by-portrait thing is goddamn silent and scary and she hopes like hell no one in her world ever figures out to do it unless they're one of the good guys -- she turns around and feels her throat tighten.

"Jesus. Look at her: she's so fucking big." She almost can't take her eyes off the baby, but she does. She takes it all in: Beth cradling her baby so carefully, Spike eyeing her warily... not that she can blame the guy. She's an upset to their life and she knows it. But it'll only be a couple days and she'll be gone again, out of their hair, back to the cornfields.

There's nothing she wants more than to hold that little baby, so when Beth offers in an offhand sort of way, she takes the baby and settles her against her left shoulder thinking she should've amputated the other breast: it would make holding her easier.

Only not really.

"Look how gorgeous you are." Even asleep, she can see her brother all over the baby's face and she's not so sure how that makes her feel. It doesn't matter, though: it's an opinion she'll keep to herself. It may be true that in the past years she hasn't needed to treat much of anyone with kindness, but she still knows how to be decent. She won't talk about Yorick when Spike's in the room. Speaking of him, she catches his eye.

"Hi, spaceman. Good to see you again." It is. Even if she's really fucking jealous of what they've got going, she's still happy for them.

Date: 2007-01-23 09:10 pm (UTC)
not_that_spike: (no jacket)
From: [personal profile] not_that_spike
"Hey." He has this fatherly surge of pride watching his daughter -- Beth's daughter -- no, their daughter -- with her aunt. It's not like Junior's actually doing anything but sleep, but damn, does he love that little girl

(don't take her away from me)

with all his heart. Eyes soft, he gives Hero a friendly little smile then rests his arm around Beth's waist. Whether out of habit or security, he wants her close. He knows exactly how torn this makes her and he understands it on one level. But on another, he's a guy and damn if he doesn't want to be the center of her universe, along with Junior.

He wants the rest of the world to just go away, but it never, ever does. The words how's it been going die on his lips: right now he's not so sure he can talk calmly and convincingly so instead, he presses a kiss to the side of Beth's face. Yeah, it all looks like possessiveness but as long as Beth understands it's just vulnerability, he doesn't think he needs to explain himself.

Date: 2007-01-23 10:14 pm (UTC)
not_that_spike: (adorable)
From: [personal profile] not_that_spike
Like he can't feel that: well, shit. And he has to ask himself whatever happened to living for right here and right now? The thing he's always worried about most has been Beth leaving to go back, feeling like she owes it to Yorick or to Hero or to herself or to her world or to Junior, and whatever sense it does or doesn't make, it's hers to figure out. Nothing's preordained, but he wants what they have and he wants it to last.

Just a little bit longer. It's only been two years and a bit: that's not nearly enough, and for one self-indulgent moment he suspects he comes with an expiration date built in. But it's just supposition and fears running away with him, deserved or not, so he blinks back his ego and clears his throat.

"Yeah, she takes after her mom." Moving from Beth's side, he walks over and rests a hand on Hero's shoulder. "Welcome back. Have a seat, take a load off. Let me get something for everyone to eat and drink."

I have a kitchen and I'm not afraid to use it.

Besides, it'll give Beth and Hero a moment to catch up with Junior, without him hovering over them like some annoying third wheel. "Because contrary to popular belief, Beth here knows I can actually put a plate of food together." He sets the pack full of Junior's stuff down on the coffee table and hands Hero the baby blanket, the one with the stars and planets on it. They got it on Europa and damn, does that feel like a fuck of a long time ago.

Beth, I should've said fuck it to the door and taken you and Junior to Venus.

"I'll be right back."

Date: 2007-01-24 12:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Thanks." Readjusting Beth Junior in her arms to accommodate the blanket, she sits on the couch. "Look, you little looker. Don't worry. Your dad will be right back."

The baby doesn't even budge, but she didn't say that for Beth Junior's benefit anyway: she knows exactly what she represents. Different things to both of them, but she's only here for a visit and then she's going back to playing 21st-century delivery amazon. Nothing more, nothing less.

She pats the couch next to her for Beth. "Come on, mamacita. Join me. Tell me all about things. Because I bet once this little angel wakes up, she won't want to be in Auntie Hero's arms. She's gonna want you or her dad, so let's get the talking in while we can." Kids are demanding. They're a strain and a preoccupation, but they're also a gift.

Still, Hero can sense a little bit of tension: it's there in the reluctant spread of Beth's smile and the hesitation on Spike's part. She wants to tell them both that she's not here to do anything other than mooch some food, find a little comfort, say hello before she's off again. Then again, what she thinks she sees here might not have anything to do with her at all. Time will tell, whether or not she's here for it. She's so close to Oldenbrook that she just can't quit the chore now, no matter how tempting this place is.

In her arms, the baby's all dead weight. She smells like powder and clean clothes and sleep, the way all babies do. "You know how long it's been since I held a baby like this? And when she was born doesn't count, so no being a smartass."

Date: 2007-01-24 03:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Shrugging, she moves the baby so she's cradled in her arms. This way she can lean against the back of the couch, rest her weary bones. From the kitchen she can hear the sounds of whistling and things being prepared, although she doesn't smell any food cooking or anything. "Sure. I walked because I couldn't risk having the pack stolen. It's been pretty goddamn boring, actually. I'd like to be able to tell you about the glory of the Rocky Mountains or the majestic expanses of the plains, but I can't. I got over that my first trip across them, but I'm nothing if not persistent. Lots and lots of corn lately, though."

It has been kind of dull in an achingly lonely but safe way. "Not a whole lot of amazons or crazies in the nation's midsection these days. Just... one foot after the other."

If she could have stayed and watched her niece grow up, she sure would've done just that. "I didn't believe my eyes when I got back here. I bet you know that feeling."

In her sleep, Beth Junior lets out a little sigh; Hero's face lights up. "Aww, shit. Look at her." She strokes the baby's cheek with a fingertip. "I'm so goddamn glad she has you and Spike and this place. It's good. You guys are all lucky."

Date: 2007-01-24 04:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Beth's right: the baby looks just like her brother, only prettier. "Never had a doubt, Santa Madre." That might not exactly be true, but if she did doubt the story it was only for a moment or two. Her brother's the last goddamn man on the planet and there's no such thing as an immaculate conception. Besides, Beth knew Yorick's name and he knew hers. It'd have to be a really complicated ruse and her brother's not that smart.

Her gaze goes right back to the baby and she wants to say wake her up so I can play with her but she doesn't. She'll see the smile eventually, if they let her stick around long enough.

"I never wanted a baby myself, but I'm sure glad to be her goddamn aunt." Again, she strokes Beth Junior's cheek; a little bubble escapes followed by drool.

"Oops." She wipes the drool away with her fingertip, then rubs it off on her jeans. They need a wash in the worst fucking way.

Date: 2007-01-24 04:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"He's kinda hot." Blushing a little, she ducks her head down. "Like I oughtta trust my judgment on that. But..." A quick shadow passes over her face. "The only thing I asked him was not to leave last night, and he said he could put it off a day or two but that's it."

She considers Beth's offer: she wouldn't stay here even if they offered it: that would be too much of a goddamn imposition. And selfish though it is, she wants to stay with Quinn. If she takes the key...

"Yeah. Thanks. I appreciate that, mamacita. It'll be nice to have a familiar place to hang my hat and take a bath. And I bet Quinn won't mind. He has a roommate when they're here, some other guy from his world." The concept's so fucking bizarre; it reminds her of life in a dorm, trying to sneak around for sex. Forgetting all about the napping baby she laughs out loud.

Beth Junior opens her eyes and blinks.

"Oh, shit! I'm sorry." Her fingers go to her mouth. "Fuck. I swore in front of your baby." She blushes. "Goddammit, I did it again..."

In the kitchen, the noises stop abruptly: Hero covers her face with her hand.

Date: 2007-01-24 05:14 am (UTC)
not_that_spike: (stubborn show-off)
From: [personal profile] not_that_spike
Standing in the doorway, casual as hell, he's almost got a look of real amusement on his face. When he speaks his voice is low but it's his eyes that give him away: they're twinkling with something like mirth.

"Shit, ma'am, did you just swear up a hell of a storm in front of the damn baby?" He thinks if she'd done that earlier, there wouldn't have been any ice to break: all those stupid fears? His own stupid fears, not anyone else's. Hero doesn't deserve to be on the receiving end of it, not for any damn reason in the universe. In one hand he's got a bottle of red wine and in the other three stemmed glasses; smiling now, he sets it all down on the table well out of Junior's way.

"Hero: none of this for the baby." He winks conspiratorially at Beth, smiles at Hero in a you-know-I'm-only-joking kind of way, and squeezes Beth Junior's foot on the way by. The baby blinks twice, then lets out a huge peal of laughter, yawns, and starts babbling. "Hey, aijou. You tell it all to your Aunt Hero, stay away from the wine, and I'll be right back with some food."

And then, just because he can and because she's here, he kisses the top of Beth's head but it's a different type of kiss this time. For one thing, there's no desperation it.

Beth Junior's still babbling like a waterfall that just won't quit as he hurries back into the kitchen, and now the odor of something cooking wafts in. It doesn't even smell too bad.

Date: 2007-01-24 06:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
All the words going on just fucking wash right over her, and it's all because her niece is talking. She's goddamn talking to her and it's amazing. She holds Beth Junior up carefully, grinning at her. "Listen to you, little miss. What are you talking about?" Hugging the baby, she beams at Beth.

"Oh, mamacita, she's so beautiful. She's..." It's an emotional moment for her: leaving here in September was one of the hardest goddamn things she's ever had to do, aside from killing that chick back east. But she wasn't herself then. This was all pain from the heart, not from the conscience. She had to leave her niece and her friend and her guy, put aside everything she would've fought like hell to hold onto. It's tough to be selfish when you hold the key to the fate of the world in your hand.

"You better pour me a glass of that wine before I get all maudlin. Yeah, Beth Junior. No one loves a crying Hero."

The baby hiccups.

Date: 2007-01-24 06:03 pm (UTC)
not_that_spike: (t-shirt)
From: [personal profile] not_that_spike
"Yo, Junior. Get in here and help serve lunch." For a moment he has this flash of the baby waltzing over, tray in hand, and it makes him laugh. "I can take her too." For all he knows, Beth and Hero want to eat and catch up with each other. He sets out a stack of napkins, three plates and silverware -- he's not going to make anyone else eat with chopsticks -- and a plate of fried... things with sauce.

"Uh... shrimp korokke." It's about the most complex thing he knows how to make and it's a good thing he had them started the other day and ran out of time then; all he had to do today was fry them in the wok. "And tonkatsu sauce. Can't promise how good it will be." It could be that neither of them know what the hell korokke is, but they'll find out and with any luck it'll taste halfway decent; he hasn't made anything like this in probably ten years. But it's one of those things that once a guy knows, he doesn't forget too easily.

"And... one more thing." When he returns from the kitchen this time, it's with a big bowl of noodle soup, three bowls, three spoons. Various vegetables and more shrimp, bits of chicken, beef, and tofu float around in there too: cooking's definitely not his strength, but he knows how to survive off what he can prepare. The coffee table's a little crowded with food, but it's kind of nice to just sit around lazily and relax with it too; he takes a seat on the floor opposite Beth and Hero and Junior.

"Another chapter in the exciting domestic life of bounty hunters. How about if the little princess comes over here on the floor with me so everyone can eat. Think you'd like that, Junior? Get in some of that try-to-crawl time in between drooling and talking?" He's really not trying to take the baby away from anybody and he's hungry too. It just seems about as practical as them all eating in shifts which... is what usually happens. He looks from Beth to Hero to the baby, who seems perfectly content right where she is.

Date: 2007-01-24 06:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Let me hang onto her for just a little bit longer." Beth Junior's so goddamn sweet, cooing and hiccuping and babbling and smiling and laughing. It won't last long; she sees the way the baby moves to follow the sounds of Beth's voice and Spike's voice, but she'll hold her as long as she can get away with. Until there's tears or crying... or diaper changing.

She's beautiful, and it pains her that her brother doesn't even know. No one does except her -- no one out there, that is -- and when she gets some alone time with Beth again, she's gonna have to ask her if she wants Yorick to know. It's not a decision she's comfortable making for anybody.

After a sip of wine, though, she maneuvers whatever the breaded shrimp korokko thing is onto a plate and adds a dollop of sauce on the side; she can eat it with one hand and still hold the baby. Whatever the food is, it smells really goddamn good.

Tastes good too. Then again, anything's gonna taste good after canned beans and corn, and as she takes a second bite she gets a loud string of what could be admonishment, could be some inside joke, or could be appreciation from her niece. "Yeah!" Looking down at her, she swallows back a mouthful and smiles. "No one told me your dad can cook, too! Lucky baby. And lucky mama!"

It's just chatter, just instinct to talk normally to Beth Junior. She's never been one to believe in the whole baby talk thing, not that she's had much cause to think about it before this place showed up in her life. Junior sure does look like Yorick, and she wonders if Spike knows that.

Date: 2007-01-24 10:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Swallowing a mouthful of food, she shrugs before reaching for a napkin and wiping the edges of her lips. "I hope so. Last time I was there we couldn't get through to anywhere in DC, but maybe it'll be better this time. It's not exactly like there's great phone service anywhere any more and probably, all the numbers have changed and everything for security reasons. I think she used to know where I was because of the transmitter, but... I'm gonna try again."

It's a tough question. "And Yorick... I hope so. I have no goddamn idea where he is any more, but Mommy might." It's been such a long time since she's talked to either of them, but much longer since she last saw her mother. "Maybe after I deliver Amp's shit, I'll go to DC myself. I got into her office once. I can do it again." She smiles a no-goddamn-chick-can-keep-me-out smile to Beth and Beth Junior, then glances over at Spike. He's not looking too concerned by the mention of her brother, so that's good. She has no idea what he thinks about the whole thing, and she's not gonna ask him, either. It's not her business.

"I don't know, though. Wouldn't it just be a bitch and a half if suddenly they reinstated the need for security clearance to get through to the government officials? It'd be just my luck." She laughs, though, and takes a sip of wine. In her arms, the baby starts to fuss and fidget and she pouts and her face turns a little bit red. "Whoa. I think she's had enough of the strange chick with brown hair. Don't cry, Beth Junior. Your mommy and daddy are right here."

Date: 2007-01-25 01:59 am (UTC)
not_that_spike: (smiling)
From: [personal profile] not_that_spike
That's his cue: it's his afternoon for diaper changes. Setting down his bowl of soup, he springs to his feet. "Come on, little princess. Let's get you in something clean." She goes through diapers like... well, like a baby; after he gathers her up in his arms, he glances at the emergency pack but decides not to just change her here; she's pretty damp and it can't feel that good. "Yeah, little aijou, I know. Let's get you into dry clothes." When she sleeps she sleeps hard and he's not surprised she woke up, not with a diaper this soggy.

"Be right back. Junior says only say good things about us while we're gone." Cradling her carefully in her blanket, he reaches for that portrait and disappears through it with the baby.

At least she's not crying.

Date: 2007-01-25 02:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Shit, mamacita. She's adorable, and you've got yourself a good guy there. Most men I've met don't exactly volunteer to cook and do diapers." It's her way of giving tacit approval, not that Beth needs it or anything. But it's a complex situation -- even if Yorick wasn't her brother, it'd be complex -- and Beth's her friend. They didn't have a lot of time to discuss the finer details of much of anything last time they were both here, and she's so goddamn glad to have the opportunity to do it now.

"This is a great place for you guys. Did you say bebecita's got her own nursery?" She knows she remembers that word floating by somewhere; now that her hands are free, she ladles herself a bowl of soup.

More than that, though, she wants to know if things are good, if they're working out, and if Beth's happy. She's pretty goddamn sure the answer to all of those questions is a big fat yes and she won't ask yet.

"Shit. You and I know a lot of chicks who'd kill for a place like this."

When she goes back -- if she does find Yorick -- she'll be able to give him a good report on the daughter he doesn't know he has... if Beth says it's okay.

Date: 2007-01-25 03:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Maybe." Her grin's a little crooked, but she's nothing but satisfied. "If your guy there doesn't mind some stranger trooping around his digs, sure." She doesn't think the baby will mind at all, but she's a little sensitive to peoples' personal spaces for as long as she has that luxury.

"Speaking of which, don't take me back to the bar without that key to your room. I'm sure Quinn won't mind at all if we don't have to dance around his roommate." Quinn or anyone else she might decide to entertain: they never said anything at all about exclusiveness and she wouldn't even if he brought it up. It's too crazy.

It makes her want to ask Beth things like when you and Spike fell in love, did you think it was futile? She won't, though, because she doesn't need to know the answer. It would only serve to make herself feel less confused about the whole goddamn situation. Instead, she asks her something completely different.

"You guys ever get a night alone? Leave Beth Junior with a babysitter or something?" She doesn't go so far as to offer that service herself; her time here's limited and they all know it. Still, she's all in favor of someone offering.

Date: 2007-01-25 04:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Ya think? Jesus Christ, Beth. Independent and goddamn stubborn." Laughing, she shakes her head and reaches for the wine glass... or maybe the shrimp shit first... yeah. That. "You were shooting at me with a motherfucking crossbow."

Stubbornly independent: Yorick's Beth -- his other Beth -- is like that too. She's the one who went off to Australia to study whatever the fuck it was she went to study. She liked her just fine, but she likes this Beth even better. Good thing it's not a contest and no one's gonna make anyone choose.

She still thinks her brother's a fucking dog.

"I'm not sure you're worse than Spike, though. I gotta tell you, I like him. I know it doesn't matter a good goddamn one way or the other if I do, but he's... pretty cool. I think you're one lucky chick, and I think my niece is the most goddamn gorgeous baby I've ever seen." Even if she does look like the guy who ought to be hanging out in the basement writing really bad Knight Rider fanfiction.

She laughs, though: it's nice to have a light moment. There haven't been a lot since the plague. "Now who the fuck taught that guy to cook? This food's good."

Date: 2007-01-25 06:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
With one eyebrow arched, Hero nods in this uh-huh, tell me something I don't already know kind of way. "Hope my niece grows up to be as smart as her mom." She has a million questions, like where do they get groceries here and where's that outside the window and can they go there and who does the laundry and will there be baby food when Beth Junior's old enough for it, and all those practical everyday things that don't apply to her any more out in her world.

If they need corn, she knows where to get it.

She doesn't know how this place works and she doesn't trust it, but she revels in it, soaks it up, takes advantage of it. She's like a starving kid: she wants it all... at least for a few days.

"You want to meet Quinn, let me know." Sipping the wine, eating the hot fried breaded stuff, eating the soup... it's a nice content moment for her. She wishes she could just fucking stay, but deep inside she knows she can't.

Not this time, anyhow.

Date: 2007-01-25 06:22 am (UTC)
not_that_spike: (a little public smile)
From: [personal profile] not_that_spike
It's actually kind of nice to get back to Junior's nursery and change her in peace and quiet. He likes Hero. He likes her a lot, despite the fact she makes Beth kind of melancholy, stirs up a lot of shit he'd rather not see stirred up. But there's nothing he can do about that: all he can do is control his own emotions and take care of Beth and Beth Junior. Hero too, as much as she'll let him which he guesses isn't going to be a hell of a lot. Doesn't mean he can't try, though.

"Yo, Junior. You look like a hot little ticket in that outfit. What bounty hunter picked that for you, ma'am?" He smooths out her Don't Fuck With Me t-shirt and little infant sweatpants with the snaps at the crotch, makes sure her socks are covering her feet, then wraps her up in the blanket, the plush spaceship right there where she can see it. "I have to tell you, aijou, after your mom stole my heart I didn't think I had room in there for anyone else. Then you come along and damn if my heart doesn't just move right on over and make room for you." He talks to her all the time when it's just the two of them: he talks, he reads, he plays with her, tells her stories, jokes, laughs, goes on and on. But he only does it when he's alone with her. Not when anyone else is watching.

Except Beth maybe once in a while.

So as he gets pulled back through that painting into their living room, he tones down the chatter: it's the way he is with Junior, just something for the two of them and he's really not ready to share it with Hero. The alternative is to pop back into the room -- literally -- with a smile and a happy baby.

"See, Junior? All dry." He does a quick assessment: looks like Hero and Beth are pretty much done eating, so he hands Junior to Beth and takes his seat on the floor again: it's his turn to eat now.

"She told me she likes her aunt." The smile on his face is small but genuine. "She wants your hat."

Date: 2007-01-25 07:28 am (UTC)
not_that_spike: (relaxing)
From: [personal profile] not_that_spike
"She's not the only one."

He lets that statement stand: it's the truth. Finally, he gets around to his udon soup and it's still even kind of warm. It's a sacrifice he'll make any damn time for his little princess and her needs and sure, sometimes he gets cranky about it. But most of the time it's no question at all. Not even a thing to think about: she needs something, she gets it. If that makes her spoiled, he's glad to spoil the hell out of her.

If he was going for the complete Perfect Guy thing he'd get up again right now and clean away the dishes and make coffee or tea or something, but being a perfect guy's never been one of his aspirations. No, he's just going to hang out for a while with his woman and their daughter and her daughter's aunt, and he figures he ought to come up with some sort of term or other for Hero. My sister-in-law or my cousin or something like that, but at the moment thinking up some sort of relationship signifier that makes any sense at all seems like an exercise in too damn much trouble.

Why bother. Leaning back on his elbows, the floor seems like a pretty comfortable place. The only time he spends time on the floor anywhere is if they have Junior down on her blanket: he offered to play with her down here before and the offer still stands. Yeah, he loves his Beths.

Date: 2007-01-25 07:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Sure." It sounds like a great idea, actually, and she's getting a little bit eager to get back to the bar so she can find Quinn. All time's precious, but some's a little more precious than others.

It's been a long fucking time since she was a guest at anybody's house; she figures she can still be decent company. Picking up the dishes, she waves off any protest from the peanut gallery. She's not gonna wash them, but she can at least take them into the kitchen and stack them by the sink.

And then after the tour she'll head back, give this family some privacy. Maybe it's her niece's naptime again. Hard to tell with a 4-month-old, but she has settled down a lot since Spike changed her. She just looks right in Beth's arms. No less right in his, actually.

Dishes in the kitchen except for the stuff Spike's working on, she nods to Beth. "I'm all yours, mamacita. Lead the way."

Date: 2007-01-25 06:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

When Hero was a very little girl, she remembers -- just barely -- watching her infant brother in his crib. He was all squirmy and smelly and crying and fussing, and she brought her step-stool she used to reach the sink out of the bathroom and put it by his crib and stepped up on it and climbed in there with him and played. She didn't do anything evil or stupid and she didn't steal his toys or try to quiet his crying or any of that shit: she just wanted to play with her brother. The last thing she expected when her mommy came in was to get yelled at, but that's just what happened.

She doesn't think she ever really wanted to play with the baby so much after that. Her niece's crib reminds her of the story with such painful suddenness that she has to blink hard to bring herself back to the present: she can't believe the baby in her memories is Beth Junior's goddamn father now.

What a fucking thing. Literally.

"Shit on a goddamn stick, mamacita, it's gorgeous. Look at this. It's a little better than anything I could've imagined. A rocking chair and a crib and a changing table and a little mobile and... windows. It's so nice."

She can't see her dog of a brother in this kind of situation at all, and she wants to know what Beth wants her to tell Yorick and Mom if she gets to talk to them when she goes back... but she won't ask that now. She doesn't want to bring out there in here, even though she knows she has just by virtue of walking through the door or portrait or whatever. She's not leaving just yet to go back to Kansas, and they'll have that and hopefully plenty more conversations before that time comes.

"You guys seem like you're doing pretty good with it all. It's good. I'm glad my niece gets to have this place and both of you."

She just can't see her brother springing up to change diapers or whatever. Then again, she hasn't seen him much the past however many years, even before the plague. She doesn't really know him at all any more, if she ever did.

But enough of that kind of thinking. Reaching over, she rests her hand on her niece's head, stroking the little fluff of hair. Every goddamn baby deserves something like this.

Date: 2007-01-25 08:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"She could take a goddamn swim in it now." She's little and precious and happy and beautiful and all those good terms adults love to apply to babies. Smiling back at her niece, she starts a little game of peek-a-boo. "Who adores her niece? Auntie Hero, that's who."

Laughing, she covers her eyes, uncovers them again. Cover. Uncover. The baby's goddamn adorable, especially when she laughs.

"Thanks for the tour, Beth Junior. We should get back to your dad so he doesn't end up cleaning everything up without help." Even good guys have their limits; she knows it intimately and allows herself a moment to just plain miss Joe. Some days she still can't wrap her mind around the idea that he's dead and never, ever coming back.

Maybe after she delivers Amp's shit to the twins, she'll come back here and not worry about leaving.

Yeah, and maybe pigs will fly.

"Santa Madre, you wanna walk us back through the picture?" She pokes it, but nothing happens. For the life of her, she can't figure out how these things work.

Date: 2007-01-25 09:52 pm (UTC)
not_that_spike: (smiling)
From: [personal profile] not_that_spike
"Hey." He's only been doing a little Perfect Guy practice: the dishes are all out of the living room and the smell of fresh coffee wafts in. In fact, he's got a cup himself, balanced on his stomach while he lies there on the floor with one of the couch pillows under his head. But he moves it and sits up, flashing a big smile at Junior and a little more private one at Beth. He could tell Hero it's not much but we call it home, except it's much more than he's ever had, or at least much more than he's had for a really long time.

"Princess, come on over here, give your mom's back a rest." Setting down the coffee cup, he scoops up his littlest sweetheart, swings her up and into his arms. "Hey. Hey, bishoujo, did you keep Beth and Aunt Hero in line over there? You did? Good." From her vantage point up over him, the baby squeals in delight; he zooms her around like a little spaceship for just a minute before settling her against his chest, facing out so she can see everyone else. "There's coffee if anyone wants some."

He might finally be getting the hang of this entertaining thing after all these years. And right now, for this moment, he understands on a gut level that this is possibly the closest he's ever going to get to normal, despite the trappings of the situation.

Why not enjoy the hell out of it while he can? More than some people, he knows how damn temporary most things are, how they can be gone in a heartbeat. Live for today seems like a pretty good mantra to go by right now. He kisses the top of baby Beth's head, swinging her so very gently back and forth in his arms like he's a swing.

The string of babblespeak coming out of her mouth tells him she's pretty much enjoying the hell out of it.

Date: 2007-01-25 10:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Shit. She wonders if Spike gets it that seeing a guy with a baby is such a goddamn treat for her. He's been to Cooksfield with Beth, she knows that, but just a little. The reality of it, day after day, is so different. So while she can she just soaks it in like a pale white girl exposed to the sun for the first time ever: tan me with this good, good feeling. It's beautiful and it's hard, and when she turns to Beth her eyes are a little misty.

She bets Beth gets it. She bets she gets it right away. "I should probably get back." The room key glistens as she throws it up into the air and catches it again effortlessly, expertly. If she needed to she could swallow it for safekeeping and regurgitate it later; it's one trick she learned from Yorick that's stood her in good stead before. But she doesn't need to do that now. "If one of you would get me through the picture and back to the bar."

Tucking the key away, she picks up the heavy backpack and wriggles it onto her shoulders before leaning forward to tickle the baby's stomach. "I'll see you around, Beth Junior. See you real soon." Then it's her turn to rest her hand on Spike's shoulder. She doesn't say anything to him, but she nods then turns to Beth. "I'm all set here. I travel light."

It's a joke: her goddamn backpack has to weigh almost thirty pounds. Her whole life's in it.

Date: 2007-01-25 10:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"I will, Santa Madre. Just a couple days."

Unless she needs more. Sometimes, the best intentions make for the worst plans. It doesn't hinge on how long Quinn's around or anything like that: it hinges on her own level of urgency about getting there. Knowing herself like she does, it'll probably hit in the form of a middle-of-the-night panic attack. "And I won't go anywhere without letting you know."

Well, shit: she gives Beth a hug. "Hey, hugging you's a lot easier now that Beth Junior's on the outside instead of in there. Thanks for the key. And tell Spike thanks for the food. He can cook for me any time."

Years ago, that would've been said differently. It would have been all flirtation, all suggestion, even with her best friend's guy. But not any more: these days, she's grateful for the good food, and she's not so lonely when she's here. It's nice to have a couple days off from the relentless walking and struggling to survive and just like every baby deserves a setup like her niece has got, she thinks every woman deserves a setup like this bar provides.

Even the amazons.

With a little wave, she turns and makes her way to the stairs. A long hot bubble bath's got her name on it, and it's getting impatient.


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