Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: California Dreams
Character/Pairing: Sly/Tiffani, Ensemble
Word Count: 2,524
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission.
"Sly?" Tiffany calls, edging out the door into the back alley of the club the Dreams are playing at tonight. She can still hardly believe they're beginning to become so popular that they're playing at real venues and not just Sharky's, dances, and the occasional hotel. She also can scarcely believe that Alison didn't come tonight. Sly may normally be a pretty shallow fellow, but he's proven time and again that there's more to him, especially when it comes to her. She may be technically blind, but she's got to really be blind to not see how much he's come to care for her.
"She texted," he speaks softly, hands in his pockets, and looks away from her before she can meet his eyes. She gets enough of a glimpse to see they're red and puffy, and her heart immediately aches more for him.
"And?" she prompts, sliding beside him. He's got one foot pressed against the club's back wall, but she doesn't dare touch it. Their costumes are rentals, after all. She could have worn her old candy striper outfit, but Sly wanted them all to look dazzling tonight. There are strips of silver sequins running down her nurse's uniform. She nervously smoothes out the white skirt now, glancing back up at him as she waits patiently for him to answer.
Then it dawns on her what he said. "Wait a minute. She texted?"
He shrugs, suddenly wishing he was a smoker. Maybe a cigarette would help to calm his frayed nerves. "She's got a program she can talk into that translates her words onto her phone's screen, kind of like the program she used when we first met online."
"Oh." Tiffany falls silent, but when Sly still doesn't elaborate, she prompts gently again, "Why couldn't she make it?"
"Because she chose not to." He blows out a breath and runs a slightly shaking hand through his thick, dark hair.
Tiffany moves closer and gently touches his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Sly."
"I'm sorry, too. I really am. I'd began to think maybe . . . maybe she was the one, you know?" He finally meets her gaze.
Seeing the tears in his eyes, Tiffany can stand still no longer. She closes the distance between them and wraps him in a comforting hug. "I know," she murmurs. She'd thought Jake was the one, but every time they'd gotten together, they'd ended up breaking apart again. He's back with Lorena now and has been making eyes at the Spanish Princess all night long. Tiffany's considered hitting him with his own guitar, but they need their lead singer. Jake wasn't the only one who had broken her heart, but he was the hardest one to get over.
Sly hugs her back, and as they pull away, their eyes meet again. This time, she lingers in his embrace, and he doesn't move his eyes from hers as he remembers what it was like to hold her in his arms before. She was the first one he'd thought was his one, but she'd left him. They all leave him eventually, no matter how much of his heart he lets show. There's a very good reason why he always pretends that money is the only thing that's important to him. He does love it, and it is very important (nobody can do anything in this world any more without the right dough), but he feels much more than he ever lets show around the others.
A strand of her long, blonde hair slips free from her barrette. "Here," he says, catching the lock. "Let me fix that." She smiles and drops her eyes from his. If he didn't know better, he might even think she's blushing as he fixes her hair. "It wouldn't do," he adds softly, "for the prettiest guitar player to miss a strand because her hair's in her eyes."
"You really think that?" she asks quietly. This time, he knows she's blushing.
"What part?" he asks, teasing.
"The prettiest guitar player," she murmurs.
Her words are so soft he barely catches them, but he does. "Of course," he answers with a smile, his hand still lingering on her hair.
Sly breaks from Tiffany and whirls around at the unexpected voice. Three older and bigger men dressed in black leather are coming down the alley. "Get back inside," he tells Tiffany without hesitation.
"Not without you!" She grasps his hand and starts to pull him back toward the door, but one of the men draws his gun and waves it at her in warning.
"Wouldn't do that if I were you, missy."
"What . . . What do you want?" Tiffany gasps.
Sly circles as the men draw closer, determined to stand between her and them.
"Your goods, of course," the one in the middle says, bringing out his gun. "Your money, your jewelry, watches . . . " His hungry eyes rake Tiffany's slender form. "Maybe a smooch?" he adds and makes kissing sounds at her.
"Back inside, Tiffany," Sly instructs, starting to back up as he undoes the watch from around his wrist. If they can reach inside, security, if not Jake, will take care of these buffoons.
"Don't move, Tiffany," the first robber demands the moment she starts to slide for the door again. "It'd be a shame to waste that pretty face of yours."
"Here!" Sly says and throws his gold Rolex at them. As the flash of gold spirals through the alley, Tiffany recognizes his watch and remembers how proud he was when his parents gave it to him as a Christmas present.
He brings out his wallet next. There are crisp, green bills hanging out of it, but he doesn't hesitate in tossing it, too, to the robbers. "I'll give you anything," he tells them. "Just leave her alone."
"Fair enough," the one who hasn't spoken until now decides for the three of them. "What else you got, punk?"
Sly stoops to the wet pavement. "I'll leave it all in a pile right here, okay?" One by one, he takes his valuables out of their hiding spots in his clothes and lays them on the ground. "My phone . . . my keys . . . change . . . " He turns his pockets inside out, proofing to them that what he's offering them is all he has. He unhooks the single, gold earring he's wearing and adds it to the pile. "That's 24 karat gold," he says and then mumbles to himself, "and I was an idiot to buy it." But he'd wanted to look good for Alison tonight, even though she couldn't really see him, and had brought out all the stops.
"What about your girl?"
"I'm not -- "
"Tiffany," Sly reaches behind him without taking his eyes off or turning his back to the robbers, "give me your necklace and earrings. Where's your wallet?"
"She doesn't have her wallet. It's still inside the club."
"Lucky breaks," snarls the third robber.
"Come on with the jewels, girlie."
"Hey, I wanted that!"
"Too bad. I got it first!"
"Give me that earring!"
As the other two robbers start to argue, their leader carefully watches Tiffany take off her necklace and earrings and place them in Sly's hands. He shoos her back into the club with one hand while laying her jewelry before the thugs with his other hand. She flees, and the leader waves his gun at Sly. "Go on. Get out of here. Some boyfriend you are," he adds in a snarl as he stoops to collect Tiffany's jewelry. "You didn't even try to fight."
Sly doesn't argue. He just beats a hasty retreat back into the club. He bolts the door and almost collides with Tiffany. She's standing still and shaking. This time, it's his turn to wrap his arms around her in a comforting embrace. "You're cold," he realizes and immediately strips out of his white lapel jacket. He wraps it around her trembling arms and hugs her again through it. He's just squeezing her in soft reassurance when Jake strolls around the corner.
The biker stops with one look at his two slightly shivering friends. "What happened?" he demands, seeing Tiffany's jewelry and Sly's watch and earring are gone.
"Robbers." Sly barely gets the word out before Jake shouts for security and plunges through the back door.
But the alley way is already empty. A cold wind blows through the empty space where the robbers had collected their goods. "DAMN IT!" Jake roars, pummeling the door. "THEY'RE GONE!" Security fans out in hopes of finding them while Jake steps back into the club and looks at Sly. "Did you get a good look at them?"
"Oh, yeah, but they're gone. There's nothing we can do."
"We can file a report."
"After the show."
"But -- "
"After the show. This is the biggest break you guys have had since -- "
"Sly!" Mark runs to his cousin's side as Sly reluctantly drops his arms from around Tiffany. "Are you okay, cuz?"
"I'm okay," he says with a quick nod, "but you guys have a show to perform." He looks at Tiffany, his eyes full of concern. He starts to speak again but is interrupted by Mark.
"The show can wait!"
Sam, Tony, and Lorena rush up to them. Lorena's arms go immediately around Jake's neck as she spews Spanish. Tiffany looks away as Jake kisses her, but soon her gaze is drawn back not to Jake but to Sly. She watches him silently as he assures Tony and Sam that they're okay.
But then he turns to her, and she's swayed by the depth of concern she sees in his dark eyes. How had she forgotten how rich they were? She wrote a haiku about his gaze once when they were together, but she's long since forgotten the words. His hands are gentle as they close around her wrists. "Are you okay?" he asks softly. "Are you going to be able to perform?"
Even as Tiffany's nodding, Sam starts fussing at Sly in Chinese.
"Man," Tony agrees, "this is no time to think about money!"
"I'm not thinking about money!" Sly tells them hotly as he turns back to face them again. "I'm thinking about the band! If we let this out, if we fail to continue the show, the word's going to get out! When do you think the Dreams are going to be asked to play a club again if that happens? It's for the band! Now get back out there and get ready to rock this Halloween party!"
"He's got a point," Sam reluctantly agrees.
"That's my cousin," Mark adds teasingly. "Always thinking about the money."
"He's not always thinking about the money!"
The other band members all throw curious looks at Tiffany, but one by one, they file back out onto stage. Tony begins a slow beat on the drums while Jake readies his guitar. Mark cracks his knuckles above the keyboard and starts to play. Tiffany stands, still wrapped in Sly's jacket and not yet returning to her band. Lorena slips away to go back to her place in the front row, crooning over Jake.
Still, Tiffany looks at Sly, not yet ready to leave. "You don't always think about the money," she whispers.
He smiles. "I'm glad somebody realizes that." But then he thinks of Alison, and his voice drops to a whisper. "It might be better if I did, though."
Tiffany shakes her head, and Sly looks back up, appreciative of the way her long, blonde hair shines against his white jacket and her white nurse's uniform. "No, it wouldn't. Sly, you're the best manager we could ask for. We wouldn't have gotten this gig if it wasn't for you. It's good you think about money so often or you wouldn't be able to manage us so well. But you were not thinking about money just now."
"No," he admits softly, gazing into her eyes, "I was thinking about you."
"I know. And you didn't try to fight them -- "
He winces. "Not that I could have," he admits, "but if I had, it could have been worse."
"I know." Tiffany again closes the distance between them, but this time, her eyes do not move from his. "You did what was best to protect me."
He nods, and suddenly, he finds her lips pressed to his. Everything inside of him stills except for his blood and heart which now go wild. It's a gentle kiss, a soft kiss, but it still leaves him tingling from head to foot as Tiffany gently lifts her mouth from his. Her eyes search his. He's not certain for what, but he hopes she finds whatever she's looking for in his gaze. "Thank you," she whispers against his upturned mouth and slides away.
The Dreams are well into their next song before Sly's muscles remember how to move. He glides to the curtain, peeks out, and watches her. He beams as she plays. She really is the prettiest guitar player he's ever seen. He sways to the music, and her eyes find his. She gazes at him for the rest of the night, smiling and shining. She's always shone, though. She's always been one of the most beautiful girls she's ever known, and her light isn't just physical. Her mere smile can light up a whole room all by itself.
Towards the end of the set, Tiffany surprises him again by grabbing the microphone and speaking into it, "I'd like to dedicate this next song to a very special friend. We got into a little trouble at break, and I might not have been able to come back to you guys if it wasn't for him."
Jake nods to Tiffany and steps up to his microphone. "He's not just a friend," he adds. "He's also our manager. We tease him about being a ferret sometimes," he admits, glancing down at Lorena and winking at her, "and he can ferret out the best deals for us! That's how we got to come play here!"
"And he's my cousin," Mark concludes, grinning proudly. "Tiffany's right. We couldn't ask for a better friend! Sly Winkle, come on out here and take a bow!"
Sly can't believe the credit he's getting. They all know it's going to go straight to his head, but he does forward and bow. The crowd applauds wildly. Even Lorena claps as she mouths at him, nose crinkling in a way he'd once thought cute, "Ferret."
As he spins around to walk back off stage, however, his eyes again catches Tiffany's. He slides closer, and as the Dreams perform their final song for the night, he dances before and slightly to the side of her. He doesn't block the audience's view or her view of them, but he notices that her light hips seem to sway in rhythm to his own moves. And when the curtain draws closed on their first night at a club, she's still looking at him, still smiling at him, and for the first time all night, Sly thinks that maybe, just maybe, Halloween can be a magical night after all.