Epilogue - Several Months Later
Author's notes: And, here we are at the end of the story! Many thanks to those of you that gave this story a try, even though you're not familiar with Rescue Me
. I wrote this because I'd kind of wanted to see a story like this for a while. Since it hadn't happened yet and the August fic-a-thon gave me an excuse, I took up the mantle my own self. I hope you folks had as much fun with this as I did writing it. And if you get the chance, find out your city's rules for taking tours of your local fire station and pay those folks a visit. Maybe spring for pizza or have a couple of party subs sent to 'em if it's permitted and your budget allows for it. We've got a firefighter or two here on TTH, and I'm sure they'd like to know that their brethren and sisteren are getting the love they deserve wherever they may be.
On with the story! And don't forget to give the review and recommendation love to the other folks that have been faithfully posting for the Fic-A-Day challenge!-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-
It wasn't a change that happened overnight, or even in a few weeks. In fact, it took quite some time, and a lot of stumbling blocks along the way, but eventually it happened. Something that Xander and Faith were discussing as they made their way through traffic to get to their destination.
"I think my personal favorite moment was the day that Sheila came to the firehouse and pitched a fit." Faith shook her head reminiscently. "Like anyone's going to notice someone screaming their head off in the middle of that neighborhood."
"I still have to go with the time that Colleen had her teen angst fit and ran away," Xander disagreed. "I figured a vein was going to pop out of Tommy's forehead and try to strangle us all when he found out that his oldest daughter had somehow ended up crashing on our couch."
"Well, he'd spent all that time searching, him and his brother. But we got her talked down. Guess all that time dealing with baby Slayers had a-" Faith snapped her fingers, trying to jog the words loose. "Whaddyacallit?"
"Unexpected side benefit?"
"Yeah, and nobody saw it comin' either."
They bantered back and forth about recent events until they pulled up in front of a large (for New York) house, the sign with the realtor's company still out with the 'sold' message nestled on top.
"This is weird," Faith commented.
"The part where we're doing something so normal. I almost expect-"
Xander gave her a mock stern look. "I know you're not trying to put the jinx on the evening."
Faith shrugged. "I gotta make my own fun somehow."
"There's nothing wrong with normal. Except for the part that we can't really talk about our alternative hobbies."
"Yeah, 'cause that'd go over great with the rest of the crew. Franco talks about his flavor of the week, the probie and Garrity say something dumb, Jerry loses on yet another football game and by the way, I killed four vampires and three demons over the weekend." Faith snorted.
"Kind of a shame, really. You could out-macho the whole crew at once, if we could talk about that stuff." Xander chuckled. "Alright. No more stalling. Let's go be normal-ish."
They got out of the car and made their way to the front door, Xander ringing the doorbell. After a few moments, the door opened and Tommy poked his head out. He gave the two of them a glare. "What, did you get lost and try to drive halfway to Jersey?"
"Y'know, for someone that's having a housewarming party, you're not very warming," Xander accused.
"Besides, we brought presents," Faith added, holding up a wrapped box.
Tommy did an instant one eighty. "Oh. Well, then by all means, co-"
"Hey now!" Xander interrupted sternly. "What'd we tell you about that?"
"Oh, right." Tommy made a 'my fault' gesture and simply held the door open invitingly without actually saying anything."
"You'll get it." Faith patted Tommy kindly on the arm as they entered the house.
They hadn't even been in the house for more than a minute before Xander was targeted by a small, redheaded missile. "Xander!"
Xander reached down and scooped Tommy's son up off the floor, throwing the child over his shoulder. "Hey hey, the Wrath of Connor!" He amused himself by swinging Connor around in a slow circle while the boy giggled and protested.
Connor was followed shortly by his mother. "Xander, does that boy have you LoJacked? I swear I didn't even hear you come in," she said, exasperated at having to chase after Connor.
"No harm, no foul. Nice to see you, Janet." Xander beamed and gave Janet a peck on the cheek, still holding her child on his shoulders.
Faith, meanwhile, had gotten snared by another of the Gavin clan. Colleen had come thundering down the stairs to claim Faith's attention for a few minutes. Primarily, to show off her new leather jacket.
"Isn't it awesome?" Colleen was saying. "I had to fight with Dad for days before he'd let me get it, and I have to do some stuff around the house to pay him back, but I got it!"
"Lookin' good, brat." Faith tousled Colleen's hair. "But I still ain't teachin' you to ride a motorcycle 'til Tommy gives me the green light."
"Damn." Colleen shook her fist half-playfully at her father.
The occasion was a housewarming party, commemorating the fact that Tommy and Janet could actually stand to live in the same house again, sleep in the same bed, and otherwise be together. After Tommy had literally exorcised his ghosts, he'd been able to take several long steps back and really think about what he was doing to himself, Janet and the kids. It was by no means a complete work, and Tommy wasn't ever going to be in danger of being nominated for Father of the Year, but he did slowly begin to once more resemble the man that Janet had married so very many years ago.
Once Xander and Faith were able to extract themselves from the clutches of Tommy's kids, they made the rounds of the party. Some of Tommy's friends from other firehouses, his father and his uncle, some of Janet's friends from the kids' schools. And, of course, the crew.
Garrity was holding forth on one of his less informed opinions. "...so then I decided that if Tommy can go back into A.A, the least I could do is help with the whole 'making amends' thingie. Y'know, be supportive of my crew and all."
"You do realize that the making amends is supposed to be for making up for your own screwups, not someone else's, right Sean?" Fraco asked skeptically.
"If he did that, he wouldn't have any time to fight fires," Faith chimed in from behind him.
"Yeah, Sean's a part of his very own support group. Retards Anonymous. Very small meetings, not much conversation." Lou nodded wisely, tapping ash from his cigar into a nearby ashtray.
Tommy naturally gravitated to the group, sensing ball-busting was afoot. "Probie about ready for his thirty day chip yet?"
Silletti frowned thunderously, then brightened. "You offering to be my sponsor, Tommy?"
Amid the general hilarity, Tommy gave an approving nod. "See, you're gettin' it, Probie."
Silletti, encouraged by his zinger, turned to target Faith.
Faith wasn't having any of that. "You make one crack about me, probie, and I'll pull your scrotum up over your head just so I can punch you in your nutface."
Silletti's mouth shut with an audible click. Garrity scowled. "See, now why don't comebacks like that work for me?"
"She's scarier than you are," Silletti mumbled.
As the rest of the crew chortled, Tommy interrupted with what he was going to say originally, "Sorry guys, I gotta kidnap Faith and Xander for a few minutes."
"Will I be returned in my current, pristine condition?" Xander asked haughtily.
"Nah, you'll just look like you always do."
"Oh, thank god." Xander brushed his hand across his brow in exaggerated relief.
Tommy led them both off to the back porch, joining Chief Riley who was having a bit of quiet and a cigar, and instead of talking to Xander about whatever was on his mind, Tommy simply stood and waited for something while watching Xander.
"I have something on my face?"
"My hair's on fire?"
"Clearly, the Gavin is a wily creature and wishes to keep his secrets. Alright, I'm game." Xander began to glance around for a few moments, uncertain as to what he was supposed to be looking at. Faith began to grow bored and shifted her feet a little. The clumping of her boot-clad feet caused Xander to look down.
"Holy hell!" Xander pointed in delight. "You guys are using the deck plans I taught you!"
"Mm-hm," Tommy nodded in satisfaction as Xander was clearly approving of the wooden back deck that Tommy had painstakingly built with the help of Lou, Franco and Garrity. In secret - they'd wanted to see if they could do the job without Xander hovering over them.
"Nice job, Tom. Looks even, looks sturdy. Just make sure you water-seal it before anyone gets a chance to dump liquid on it." Xander nodded in approval.
"Hah! Pay up, Tommy!" Jerry suddenly chimed in.
"Shit." He'd had a bet with Jerry that Xander wouldn't notice that the wood wasn't yet water-sealed. He slapped a ten dollar bill into Jerry's hand with more than a little disgust. "I hope you buy a twelve pack of beer that gives you the runs."
"Your pain only makes me stronger, Tom." Jerry gave a pleased smile. "Did you tell 'em about the thing?"
Tommy snapped his fingers. "Oh, right." He directed his attention at both Faith and Xander. "So, you remember when we said that we'd talk about helpin' you out, after my life was as straightened up as it could be and we got the kids all settled?" Tommy waited for their nods before he crossed his arms. "Well, now that I'm settled, I'll help when I can. Between the stories you've told me and the ones that Jerry had from back in the day with the other-" He gestured at Faith inarticulately for a few moments.
"Slayer," she supplied.
"That." He pointed at Faith in confirmation. "And I can't believe some of the shit that's been going on under the world's nose. I gotta do a little somethin'."
Xander and Faith exchanged a look and Faith nodded discreetly. "Fair enough. We'll try to keep it down to emergency situations only, 'cause you don't need to be giving your family any more reasons to worry that you won't come home again," Xander explained.
Faith tilted her head. "You don't have to prove anything, y'know. Why do you want to do this."
"Why? 'Cause, well, I've been full of shit for a while now, and now that I'm getting it out of my system, I think I need to do a little something that's outside of my comfort zone." Tommy shrugged. "Now that I know, I can't just not know. Y'know?"
"I wish I didn't, but I do. Welcome aboard, Tommy." Xander shook his hand.
"And you can still call on me for help, kid. Not so much for the fighting, but any coverups you need, I'm there," Jerry added.
Tommy shot a glance at Jerry. "You sure, Jer? What about Jeannie?" Jerry's wife had contracted Alzheimer's and Jerry was still making adjustments.
"I need somethin' that's doesn't center around my girl forgettin' me," Jerry rasped and looked away, unwilling to let his crew see him growing emotional. "I was planning to hire a nurse anyway."
"Well, that's something we can
offer you. The days of this gig being a volunteer only riff are over. You guys will be paid for helping," Xander stated.
Tommy and Jerry raised their eyebrows at the unexpected bonus. "What do we gotta do in return?" Tommy asked.
"Do lots of boring waiting, punctuated by a few minutes of terror. Avert the occasional apocalypse. You know, the usual."
"Work, work, work," Tommy complained.
"Any other questions?" Xander waited expectantly, and was rewarded with silence. "Fair enough. The New York branch of the Scoobies is open for business."
"Scoobies? That's what we're going to be called? You've gotta be friggin' kidding me." Tommy snorted in disgust.
Xander blinked and turned to Faith. "Do me a favor?"
"Here? Now? The thing with the bugle?" Faith waggled her eyebrows.
"No, not that. Just make me a promise. If I ever start to develop a fuhgeddabowdit accent, do that thing with the scrotum and the nutface to me until I get better?" Xander clasped his hands pleadingly.
"Consider it done."