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Reveling in the fickle nature of fangirlishness

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Masquerade of Defiance Part 1/1
sophie_deangirl

Disclaimer: I don't own a thing and I ask forgiveness for any Defiance inaccuracies. I wrote this because James Murray was cast as Niles Pottinger so this is purely speculative since his role won't air until June 2014. This is also a birthday gift for faye_dartmouth who is as much of a fan of James Murray as I am. That and h/c.

Summary: Redemption is a hard road to travel alone, but not with someone who believes in you.


Niles was having a nightmare.

He moaned in pain and twisted his body as if trying to escape restraints. He fisted the sheets on his bed, occasionally arching against phantom pain. His breathing became pants and his moans transformed into guttural groans.

"NO!" He yelled as he awoke with a start, struggling to catch his breath, his body sweat drenched. There was also radiating pain as if what had happened in his dream had actually been exacted on his body.

Nightmares had dogged his sleep since the Pale Wars had destroyed everything he had known, every family member he had loved. He had cursed his survival at times, had wished he had died along with them, but survivor’s guilt or not, he had lived and had learned the harsh realities of that survival. It had meant making concessions; to abandon the idealistic beliefs his parents had imbued in him. They were no longer useful in a world terra formed in ways unimaginable to them. He had to bury his morals as well. They had no place in the world he now had to survive in; where charity and mercy were met with fists and boot heels, where such luxuries were viewed as weaknesses not to be tolerated.

He had hardened himself, had tutored under thieves, not unlike the Artful Dodger from what used to be one of his favorite books as a child. Who knew that he would be living a Dickensian life centuries later? It was not the only skill he had picked up. He had also learned that when applied in the right moment and to the right person you could get more from sweet talk than from threats; that style and finesse were even better assets to his arsenal. Charm had begotten him the power and riches he had now enjoyed. It had legitimized him in some arenas. He was moving up in this brave new world, but at what cost, he wondered?

Despite his successes, the nightmares still came to him at his most defenseless, haunting his subconscious, his guilt knawing at what was left of his conscience. He would watch his parents die in the destruction of their homeland then arise as ghostly Marley figures to scold him with their disappointment at how much of his soul he had sacrificed for acceptance amongst corrupt men, criminals as well as jezebels who had used his flesh to gain their own power. He would plead his case to them, but it would be met with deaf ears and the threat that he would pay for his bargains.

Niles sat up from the bed, knowing that sleep would be once again an elusive lover. He walked over to his bar, his legs trembling beneath him, dizziness threatening to bring him to an unwanted unconsciousness as he wavered, bracing against a nearby table to keep steady.

Once at the bar, he poured the last vestige of his past that he just couldn't let go of or more accurately that wouldn't let go of him into a small glass just like he had done other nights when the consciences of his parents haunted him. He swigged the bootlegged scotch whisky and felt the burn trail down his throat. It stung with a kind of punishment, reminding him that money and power without true love, without a true belief in good could sting just as harshly.

He knew that he had sealed his fate, that he would likely die a sullied life and all alone. No one would ever believe that at one moment in time there had once been a good man occupying what was now an empty, soulless shell. And frankly, he couldn't blame them. He didn't believe it himself anymore.

That Niles Pottinger had died with his family.

He poured more scotch into his glass, tossing the liquid again down his throat, barely swallowing. He grimaced. Neither the taste nor the alcohol provided the satisfaction or the numbness he was courting so passionately with every swig. He knew he didn’t deserve that escape, but the desire was no less fierce in its pursuit and if unconsciousness came with it, so much the better. Anger then raged inside of him, a self-loathing for his dubious and sometimes villainous actions flowered within him, the roots enriched by his parents’ displeasure of his fall from their grace. He gripped the glass in frustration then threw it across the room. It shattered against the opposite wall.

Just as he had shattered his future.

-o-o-o-

Niles had watched Amanda’s fervent idealistic views on reformation with respect, her belief that aliens and humans alike could live in harmony was not only compelling, but captivating. In the past, he would have scoffed at the mere idea of anyone promoting unification, would have dismissed and accused that kind of thinking as suicidal and dangerous, so much so, he would have made sure that no mistaken alliances could have been made between him and any revolutionary movement. It would do no good to his self-serving agenda now that he had risen to being appointed provisional Mayor by the Earth Republic.

However, Amanda was not only driven, but not in the least naive. She was well aware of the risks and didn’t fear them. She had possessed a talent for charm herself, but unlike Niles, her charm came from sincerity to her cause. He had never expected to be taken in by her kind of rhetoric, but he found himself enraptured, not only by her words, but also by her beauty. It was natural, unadulterated and unsullied.

She had also suffered losses in the Pale Wars, had lost her parents like he had then had to become a surrogate parent to her sister. She had shouldered the grief with dignity and had risen to her standing in the community of Defiance not by lies, chicanery or coercion as he had, but with strength of character. She had impressed her predecessor with her stellar leadership qualities. She had proven them by rallying the town to fight against the Volge. She was a peacekeeper, a negotiator without a hint of a hidden agenda so her appointment to Mayor had come as no surprise to him, but neither was her loss to Datak later. Idealism would only go so far, he believed, but if anyone could prove him wrong on that, Amanda could. Niles found her refreshing in an uncertain world. Her alliance with Joshua Nolan was the only thing that made Niles wary of her and of how her intentions might affect his plans.

Still, despite those reservations, he found himself warmed by her morality and wisdom. The part of him that was still idealistic and who had perhaps hoped for redemption was drawn to her light. He just hoped it wouldn’t be like a moth to a flame, that his dark villainous past and baser motivations wouldn’t consume her. He may be a lot of things, had done some despicable acts, but he found that when it came to Amanda, he didn’t want to betray her; to betray her principles; to profit from her; to give her doubts about her commitment to her cause, to hurt her in any way.

He wanted to be a better man. For her.

She gave him hope that it might be possible. Something he thought he had long ago accepted he was incapable of feeling. He felt that if her light was ever extinguished by any of his actions, his life would be irreparably engulfed into a darkness where no amount of hope could rescue him. He would also be destroying whatever hope still prevailed in Defiance. She was its embodiment.

Decision made, he had taken his first steps towards the redemption he desired to achieve. For her. To be good enough for her to accept him. Funny how little he wanted of what took him most of his life to achieve.

So it hadn't come as much of a surprise when an explosion and random gunfire had rocked his office.

He had a feeling he would be in for more surprises along his journey towards redemption. That is, if he survived this one first.

His only regret was that she had also been caught in the clearly destructive path of saving his soul along with him.

Like a moth to a flame.

She had arrived to confront him about his latest indiscretion not knowing about his small acts of rebellion. When the explosion hit, he had been pleasantly surprised to find that his first instinct had been to protect her. He wasn't hero material, he knew that, so for him to risk his life for someone he had barely known was completely out of character, as anyone who knew him could attest. Perhaps his soul was not yet forfeit after all.

He had shielded her with his body. The concussion of the blast driving them both to the floor. The gunfire ventilated the room like scattershot. Niles knew the source of the attack immediately. Retribution for his own defiance against an organization he knew you didn't double cross. Unbeknownst to Amanda, he had defied the wrong people; a thread of conscience that had no doubt been implanted by his association with her. More shocking to him, he felt strangely fine with the choice he had made to betray an associate. His "promotion" to Mayor could never have been achieved without making several deals with several devils so to challenge any of those "agreements" was not only political suicide, but a sure route to assassination.

Amanda had come to his office to berate him for actions she had assumed were more to his character and instead had been caught in a crossfire she didn't deserve. It seemed to him that even his attempts at redemption put innocent people in peril.

When the dust had cleared, he quickly lifted himself off of her, ignoring a stitch of pain on his left side, figuring it had made sense that some injury would have been incurred. He was more worried about Amanda, that he might have injured her with his attempts at shielding her.

"Are you all right?" He asked as he cleared the debris around them, the pain in his side worsening with every move he made, but he did his best to ignore it.

Amanda tried to lift herself up to a sitting position, but cried out when she moved her leg. Niles noticed.

"You're injured. Let me take a look," he said, no ill intent in his voice or in his approach towards her, if anything, he had felt a sincere concern. As like with the other emotions towards her, it was an unexpected feeling he hadn't felt for anyone until now.

Amanda flinched away at first, remembering why she had been in his office and her distrust of him confirmed rather than disproved.

Niles understood and he retracted a bit.

"I don't blame you for your distrust, but I assure you that my intentions are purely to determine how seriously you're hurt."

"Stay away," she insisted as she continued to move further away from him, her anger apparent.

"You're bleeding and in pain and I..." Niles stalled as if remembering something painful. "I was once a medic."

The declaration surprised them both. He for admitting it and she for a revelation she hadn’t expected.

"What? You’re lying -" she protested weakly.

"There's a lot you don't know about me, but despite your opinion of me, I assure you, I do have a medical background and until assistance arrives, I can assist. I’d rather not risk any more opportunities for infection to set in while we wait," Niles said, frustrated by her questioning his abilities in his voice even though he knew she had reason to doubt. "I wouldn't have pictured you as being recalcitrant against your own best interests just for the sake of your distaste for me."

Amanda gave him a wary look, but then stopped moving away. Niles was relieved that her logic overrode her loathing.

"Where are you hurt?" He asked.

"My ankle," she stated flatly.

He moved towards her slowly then gently grasped her left ankle. She hissed and retracted from the pain.

"I'm sorry," he said earnestly. "I'm going to have to tear away your pant leg to see the extent of the injury."

He gave her a look that spoke of waiting for her permission to proceed. She then nodded.

He tore the fabric away and it revealed a gash, but it was already starting to clot and the bleeding was slowing. He didn't see any indication that anything had been broken.

He scanned the rubble around them and rose to walk to his desk. He bit back a stab of pain that caused him to curl into himself and lean on his desk for a moment, but he recovered and continued around it. He pulled at a drawer where he lifted out a bottle of scotch. It wasn’t perfect, but it would sufficiently cleanse and disinfect the wound temporarily. He then pulled open another drawer and extracted a gun. He wasn't a fool. He knew they were far from being out of danger. He tucked the gun behind him. There was no reason to alarm Amanda until he needed to use it.

He went back to her, opened the bottle, and kneeled back beside her ankle. He couldn’t hold back the groan that came out as he did. He took a cleansing breath before he spoke.

“I’m sorry that this is all I have. It will sting a bit, but it will clean the wound and help keep infection at bay until we get you to the hospital. I don't believe anything's broken."

He tore another clean piece of cloth from her pants, doused it with the scotch, wiped the wound to clean it then wrapped it with another scrap of torn trousers. She hissed and grimaced with the stinging effects of the scotch, but they quickly dissipated.

Amanda’s expression softened and the tension in her body eased as she watched Niles' concentration and his deft, experienced hands attend to her wound. She saw nothing but caring in his touch.

When he was done, he sat back, tired and in pain himself, but he pushed it back.

"No reason to be concerned, It's a minor injury. The bleeding is already slowing. I wrapped it to keep it clean and tightened it enough to apply the necessary pressure to stop the bleeding entirely."

Niles couldn't hold back stiffening with the worsening pain coming from his side.

"Thank you," she uttered softly.

He shook his head.

"Don't thank me. I haven't earned it," he grunted, clenching his eyes closed as well as shifting his body, trying to find a comfortable position that would ease the intensity of his pain. Nothing seemed to help.

His reaction to her gratitude was unexpected. She had expected arrogance or condescension as he had shown her when they had first met.

"You're injured as well," she pointed out.

"I've been injured much worse than this. It's nothing," he said bitterness in his voice. "I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint you and live to see another day. Clearly news of my assassination have been greatly exaggerated and poorly executed."

“Assassination?”

“Never mind,” he dismissed.

His natural inclination was to boast and expect the due credit in return, but he knew that she didn’t value such self-important proclamations. She valued proof in observing the selfless act herself. He didn't believe he could do enough good to convince her of his true intentions of turning over a new leaf. He had too much tainted history, done too many heinous acts.

"All this? An assassination attempt against you? I know you have enemies because most of them are my allies, but no one would do this. I know -" she scoffed, reacting to his dismissive tone.

"Ah, right, well, therein lies the truth of it then, yes? No one you would know would do this. As you have so often reminded me, we don't travel in the same social circles," Niles said bitterly.

Amanda was still confused.

"Why would anyone you work with try to kill you? From what I’ve heard, you have done their bidding quite effectively and it’s served your purposes and ambitions equally well," she said, her disdain returning.

Niles laughed haughtily at her presumption, but then it faded with a shock of hot pokered pain that rammed into his side. It was unexpected enough for him to groan again.

"You may think you know me, know my life, but you know far less than you realize. You only know what I have allowed you to know," Niles proclaimed peevishly, becoming defensive over her sarcastic remarks.

“Well, then, maybe you should educate-”

Niles then gave her a “shhh” sign with his forefinger. He heard movement. His well-developed sense of suspicion alerted. It had been finely honed over his early years living alone, abandoned and on the run from scavenging thieves.

“Someone’s coming,” he whispered.
“Probably someone to rescue us -” Amanda tried to point out, exasperation in her voice.

“Wait. I hear someone talking,” he said.

Niles strained his concentration to see if he could hear what the voices were saying. Another honed skill.

“I’m telling you, nobody could have survived that blast. He’s dead.”

“I’ve gotta see a body, the boss wants to make sure that his message gets across loud and clear to anyone who’s thinking about double crossing him like Pottinger did.”

Niles took in a stuttered inhale as the stabbing pain in his side became persistent. He had to get Amanda out of there. He was willing to accept that his first attempts of doing good deeds towards reformation could possibly be his last, but he'd rather be damned to hell than bring Amanda down with him.

“These are not rescuers. They’re coming to make sure they’ve done their work well,” Niles whispered as he pulled himself off of the floor. The move almost drew him back down again with crippling pain, but he swallowed back the agony. “Stay here. I’m going to draw them out and away -”

“Wait! I don’t -” Amanda protested with a whisper, suddenly concerned for him.

“Please, Amanda, just this once, trust me," Niles pleaded not with anger, but with gentle insistence. "I promise I will keep you safe.”

Before she could protest anymore, Niles had moved off. She watched him reach back and pull out a gun. She also saw his posture of discomfort as he struggled to hide his presence by dashing in and out of the debris, each movement causing him to pause to take a breath or suppress a groan, the pinched strain etched across his face.

She was surprised at how worried she was for him, but with her ankle injured, she knew enough about battle that she would only put them both in danger if she tried to assist him so she laid back and closed her eyes, trusting him, trusting that he wasn’t just turning her over to enemy combatants, alien or human.

To her amazement, she couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that Niles was risking his life for her. She saw something in his eyes that she hadn't noticed or hadn't bothered to notice because of her prejudiced and preconceived opinion of him. She saw heroism and something else that frightened her, resignation.

-0-0-

Niles darted as stealthily as he could, but the wound on his side was making that and concentration difficult. Unlike Amanda's wound, he knew his was a lot more serious than he had let on to her and it was becoming almost unmanageable no matter how strong his constitution.

Niles had been beaten to a pulp, left to die of starvation, even shot specifically to bleed out slowly, so for every time he had survived each brush with death, it had proven to him that he wasn't a quitter. A single gunshot wound shouldn't have been the problem it was proving to be, but experience as a medic and instinct from past assaults were telling him that there was something seriously wrong with him, that the bullet must have torn through something vital and he knew that his window of strength was shrinking and shrinking quickly. He had to act soon. His last act had to be to save Amanda. He had to get that one thing right.

He was no longer seeking redemption.

It was much too late for that, much too late for him.

All he wanted now was for Amanda to live.

And no one was more surprised at that revelation than he was.

-0-0-

Amanda heard bursts of gunfire as well as the familiar rat-ta-tat-tat of an automatic weapon. Niles had gone off with only a handgun and her concern for him only grew with every shot fired from what she knew was his gun.

She couldn’t stand by and do nothing any longer.

And no one was as surprised at that revelation than she was.

She then heard groans and bodies hitting the floor with distinct thuds. With each thud, the gunfire lessened until there was silence.

She tried to get onto her feet, the pain and ache in her leg from her injury making it difficult, but she pulled herself from the floor with the help of the desk, Nile’s desk, and hobbled out of the office to investigate, leaning on anything that would help her keep weight off of her injured leg, but that would also keep her propelling towards finding out what had happened and to find Niles.

Suddenly it then occurred to her that maybe she was placing herself right into the hands of the enemy who had caused the mayhem around her. She froze for a second, this time listening for movement. She heard a groan to her left and turned towards it. She spotted Niles. He was slowly sinking to the floor, bracing himself against any nearby debris to keep from dropping like dead weight; the weak grip he had on his gun becoming so feeble, it fell out of his hands. He then sank to his knees. Amanda limped over to him just as he crumpled completely, leaning against something she couldn't identify. He had nothing left to hold him up.

As she approached him, she came across two other bodies, unmoving, on the floor. They looked dead, but at that moment, she didn’t want to take the time to check. All she wanted to do was to get to Niles. As she finally reached him, she spied his torso and she gasped. He was covered in blood, more blood than had stained his shirt front earlier.

Niles found her gaze as he tilted his head up. His expression was a mix of concern and strain.

“Take my gun...get to safety,” he rasped.

“Not without you,” she said, her voice soft and yet he detected a certainty in her statement that told him more.

“The building...could be...unstable...the assassins...I can't... be sure they're dead…” Niles said, girding himself against his body shuddering with discomfort. "You have to... get out of here."

"I'm not leaving you and if they aren't dead, I’ll shoot them myself if I have to. As for the building, you forget, I worked here. I know it better than you do.”

Niles smiled. She was a strong-willed woman who also applied that steely will of hers to her beliefs. He well understood how she had gotten so far in her life and in her politics.

“Right, best...stay out of your way then, yeh?” he said groaning, a trembling smile barely holding.

She bent down painfully to her knees then reached out to check his wounds, but Niles
stopped her by grasping her wrist. It wasn’t strong enough to really stop her, but she allowed it to halt her attempts. He shook his head.

“Don’t..." he said, letting go, having nothing more to exert, his breathing laboring... "I’m done for...get out of here.”

“You let me be the judge of that,” she insisted.

"Afraid...you have no say...in the matter..." Niles croaked with another clenched smile.

Amanda couldn't help feeling guilty...no, it was more than just guilt. She felt responsible, responsible for misjudging him.

"Why?" She asked gently. “Why did you risk your life for me?”

Niles smiled again.

"Why not?" He answered, at first as a tease, but then became serious. "Granted it’s not within my nature to be selfless, I’ll give you that…”

His body seized again with a wave of pain that seemed to penetrate every fiber of his being. He grunted, struggling to take in deep breaths. Amanda instinctively placed a comforting hand on his arm and that simple act of kindness gave Niles a little relief, more importantly, her compassion confirmed that he had done the right thing, the only right thing. His life for hers. A cosmic payback that was more than fair, it was just.

“I knew...what I was doing...wouldn't do it any different...This...world…” he choked for breath. “It needs you..."

Amanda looked into his eyes and found no deception there. She not only saw sincerity in them, but also something more than that, something she couldn’t quite define at that moment, his expression shifting with the agonies of his injuries.

"Me? It could do without...would be...better off if...I -"

“AMANDA?” yelled out a familiar voice.

Amanda’s relief was palpable. They had been found and Niles would get help.

“OVER HERE!” She yelled back.

Niles, his strength waning quickly, was actually glad to hear Joshua Nolan’s voice. She would be safe now. He smiled again. He could ease the effort of holding on to protect her. He could let go of the sham that his life had become and settle for the one unselfish act that had been his undoing, that had saved someone worth one thousand of him.

“Ah, the real hero...arriveth…” Niles joked, as his gasps for air became shallower. “You’ll...be...safe now.”

Amanda turned her attention back to Niles and he held on long enough to take one last gaze at the woman he had risked everything for, his future, his life and he was surprised at how at peace he was to die for her.

“I...can...go now…” He said, his eyes slowly closing, a faint smile still remaining on his face.

She understood what was happening and her shock was immediate.

“No, no, you’re not going anywhere!” She declared, her voice a touch shrill with alarm.

Niles could only continue smiling, admiring her determination.

“Even you...can’t stop this…” He said and with his remaining strength he reached for her hand and squeezed it. “But I...appreciate...you trying…”

Niles then felt his body relax its tension which brought both a rush of pain and a much desired slow release of consciousness. He moaned then closed his eyes.

“Niles?” Amanda called out. “Niles!”

Dread seized her. Her normally calm resolve left her and the funny thing was, she didn’t understand why. She had come to see Niles to berate him, to accuse him of heinous crimes, to place culpability at his feet. For all the time she had known him, he had only ever revealed himself to be a selfish opportunist, profiting from political agendas and innocent lives when it had served his purposes.

And yet he had saved her life and suddenly the anger that she had felt earlier was gone. It didn’t absolve him of all he had done, but somehow she had detected true repentance in his countenance, that saving her was a journey towards a salvation of his soul. He was trying to change.

As he fell unconscious, she felt a twist in her chest, a concern that she would lose him just when she was perhaps rediscovering him.

“Josh! Help!”

Joshua Nolan rushed towards her and like she had at first, he barely acknowledged Niles’ presence with restrained disdain. His concern was focused on her, but he noticed that hers was directed at Niles.

“Are you okay?” He asked.

“Yes, I’m fine, but Niles -”

“He got what was long in coming to him,” he said coldly.

“He saved my life,” she retorted back.

“No, he put you in danger. This was all about him.”

“I can’t leave him,” she said with more emotion than she had expected.

Nolan gave her a puzzled look, but his respect for her overrode any doubts he had about Niles Pottinger. It was her compassion towards human and alien alike which he had seen over and over again that didn’t make her concern over a cad like Niles a surprise to him.

He called over the friends he had brought with him to search the wreckage of the building and they hoisted Niles up and carried him out ahead of Nolan and Amanda. He lifted Amanda slowly from the floor and she hissed briefly. He then braced her against him to guide them out of the debris.

As they walked towards the exit, she saw the two seemingly dead assassins and once again, the dichotomy of the Niles she had known before and who she had intended to thrash and the Niles who had shielded her from the chaos of the explosion and the gunfire was still difficult to track for her, but at that moment, all she knew was that the past, his past and their recent past together, didn't matter anymore. All that mattered was that Niles lived.

-0-0-

When she had reached the hospital, Niles had already arrived a few minutes before her and they had been separated based on the severity of his injuries. She watched helplessly as the medics wheeled him further down the hallway as they continued to furiously work on him, spouting out the vital statistics the doctors needed to know. It didn't take being a doctor to see that Niles' heart had stopped during the ride there and her anxiety gave her an ache. She couldn't tear her eyes away from watching Niles' gurney being rolled behind another curtain. She barely acknowledged the pain she felt as her own doctors worked on the gash on her own leg, she was so transfixed with what was happening to Niles.

She then heard the jarring and grating high pitched squeal of the EKG. It was the unmistakable sound of a heart that had stopped beating.

"No, Niles," she uttered quietly to herself "Fight."

"Madam Mayor?" the ER doctor interrupted.

"I'm not the Mayor anymore," she said almost dreamily. "The Mayor of Defiance is there fighting for his life right now."

Josh Nolan parted her curtain to check up on her. She looked up at him, her expression worried and forlorn. She then spotted something on Nolan's face that made her curious as well as concerned.

"What is it?"

"I should know better than to underestimate your instincts," he teased.

She looked back towards the harried activity where Niles was being brought back from death and sighed.

"My instincts were wrong about him," she said with regret.

"No, they weren’t. As far as I'm concerned, the jury’s still out on Pottinger, but then again, I don’t have your ability to see the good in people, least not without a lot proof, but..." Nolan said. "I did some checking and for the past three months he’s been cutting off ties with the very people who got him in as Mayor. He’s reneged on favors he had promised to disreputable people like placing them into governmental positions of power. He refused to help any of them get something they wanted done through him. I was pretty impressed and I don’t impress easy. He’s angered a lot of the wrong people. Something I can get behind, but you don’t cross these people without a cost; you don’t just say, ‘I’m done’ and walk away, not alive anyway. Guess one of them decided to take Pottinger out permanently.”

Amanda listened with regret.

“I doubted him," she said forlornly, her gaze still fixed where Niles was.

“There was cause,” Nolan pointed out. “And though evidence points to a change of character, it doesn’t mean that he still isn’t in it for himself or for getting into your good graces.”

“I think he really wants to change. I saw it in his eyes. I think we’ve judged him unfairly.”

“Well, I think if he wanted to be judged fairly, he didn’t exactly help himself,” Nolan said logically.

“We all have secrets, Josh. We’ve all made choices we wish we could take back. How can we judge him at all; knowing how flawed we both are and without knowing the whole truth?” Amanda campaigned.

“Amanda, I judge by actions and I repeat, he hasn’t exactly done anything to disprove his reputation. He's only validated it.”

“Maybe so, but what he did today -”

“Doesn’t erase what he’s already done, all the people he’s hurt -”

“Of course, it doesn’t. I’m not that naive, Josh, but what I saw today and I’ll admit that maybe it’s because, selfishly, it was my life he saved, I saw something more there; enough to warrant giving him another chance or at the very least, to try to understand why he did those terrible things in the past -”

“That’s if he survives,” Josh said pragmatically as both of them heard the doctors working to save Niles’ life and continuing to hear the screech of the flatline on the heart monitor.

Amanda was surprised to find tears filling her eyes then streak her cheeks.

Then there was a blip then another blip and she heard the doctor say, “Okay, we’ve got sinus rhythm.”

The relief she felt washed over her so fiercely and unexpectedly that she almost fainted.

-0-0-

Amanda had requested a status report on Niles’ condition and the litany of injuries was staggering for her. Unbeknownst to her, he had been shot four times in the upper body while trying to save her from his assassins. It had explained all of the blood she had seen, but even the doctors had said that Niles should have died, that it was remarkable he had hung on as long as he had. The damage to his organs was a laundry list of surgical procedures, each taking hours in order to accomplish the most meager of repairs just to keep him alive. The one that was being performed at that moment was just to stop the extensive internal bleeding and to get him stable.

There was nothing she could do for him except wait so she rested in her room for further word of his condition.

She had decided to request any records that Nolan and others could scrounge up on Niles. She needed to understand his past. She was certain there was more to him than he had shown.

As she perused his history, her sympathies for him only grew. He had lost his entire family in the Pale Wars. She understood that kind of loss. She had been lucky enough to have had her sister, Kenya, to take care of which had also kept her from being seduced into dark practices for survival. Her responsibility to her, to give her a better chance at life, had driven her and had saved her.

Her instincts had never failed her. They had gotten her as far as she had in her own life. She had seen good in Niles, a raw vulnerability in his pained eyes when he had rescued her so she had needed to understand what had driven him to become the scoundrel that she thought had been his true character. After reading about what had happened to him, she believed that he had created this facade to protect himself; to guard himself from the kind of loss he had suffered at so young an age; to betray before he could be betrayed.

She could understood that.

She could even forgive that.

Niles had been left completely alone to fend for himself. It had hardened him to the realities of a changing world that had held no tethers to the happier life he had grown up in. From all that was recorded about him, he went from no criminal record to a long list of offenses. Petty theft at first, pick pocketing, to grand larceny then to fraud. The progression made sense. As he learned to hone his craft so did the criminal activities become more sophisticated. He had been jailed a number of times, but then released because of a lack of hard evidence or because the witnesses would retract their statements and drop their charges against him. A profile began to emerge of the Niles Pottinger that everyone knew and some loathed. He was opportunistic, greedy, selfish, brutal, and at times, merciless.

Still, Amanda found it hard to balance the man she had met when he had arrived to take over as Mayor to the man who had endangered his life to save her. It seemed as if they were two different men.

A knock on her door, brought her out of her revelry and as she looked up, she saw a doctor.

But he wasn't her doctor and the grim expression on his face gave her a chill.

“Madame Mayor -”

“I’m not the Mayor anymore, “ she corrected. “The Mayor of Defiance saved my life and is fighting for his life.”

She had declared the same statement to the ER doctor. She didn't want to misrepresent herself. The facts were simple.

The doctor bowed his head and she straightened, feeling as if a cold rod of steel was slowly being put into her spine.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but the Mayor is in grave condition,” he said.

Grave was a label befitting of the condition of a person just shy of death, that the only step left was to be placed into a grave. It made her heartbeat pound against her chest, making her hold her breath.

“What?” She said, her voice a gasp.

“We’ve done all we can, but the damage was extensive. We almost lost him twice in surgery. His vitals are weak and are dropping. We’re doing all we can, but I’m afraid I’m not hopeful for his recovery.”

Amanda found her reaction surprising.

If she had heard the news yesterday, as recently as eight hours ago, hearing about Niles’ condition would have, at best, elicited indifference. At worst, a condemnation, a reaction much like Nolan’s. Niles had gotten what he had deserved. But, knowing how he had become injured, from saving her life, had changed everything for her.

She was finding it hard to breathe.

Niles was dying and it was all her fault.

“I can’t believe that,” she said, knowing that she didn’t really believe her words, not yet, but she wanted to believe the next ones. “There’s always hope.”

“Of course, we’ll monitor his vitals and do the best we can, but…”

“Thank you for your efforts, doctor. May I see him now?” She said weakly, her request a plea more than a command, but there was also a deep sadness in the tenor of her voice that just as she was starting to comprehend the real Niles, he could die.

“Yes, but only for a few minutes. I'll have a nurse bring a wheelchair for you."

"Thank you."

Amanda felt both helpless and confused. She felt inexorably drawn to be with Niles in what seemed to be his last hours.

He had no family to keep vigil over him; who knew him before he had been corrupted by a life of criminal survival and who would hope for his recovery.

He had nothing but his ambition to come back to and with the way he had risen to power, the only people who would visit him now would be the nefarious opportunists who had helped his ascent in exchange for favors or for positions of influence in his government.

But now, having shown uncharacteristic courage, betraying those very people, her enemies, and risking his life by saving her life, those questionable allies had now become his enemies as well, all waiting in line to finish what someone else had already attempted. Niles had a target on him. For as long as he lived, someone would be seeking to end that life. Perhaps he knew that and the incentive to recover was less than appealing, that death was a way to escape and solve all his problems.

He was now a lesson to anyone daring to do the same as he had; to defy the wrong people. It was a sad irony that he might soon be the late Mayor of a community called Defiance after demonstrating his own defiance.

To Amanda, though, he was the appropriate symbol of what Defiance really represented.

Redemption and a second chance at creating something meaningful.

No matter how much she had wanted to dismiss his act as an anomaly, even as a mistake in judgment, she couldn't do it. She somehow knew that what Niles had done for her was truer to who he really was, to the legacy of how he had been raised which meant to her, that there was good in him. It just needed a second chance to emerge. He needed a second chance.

It gave her pain that his first foray towards redemption could have cost him his life.

-0-0-

The nurse wheeled her into Niles’ room. She placed Amanda close enough to hold his hand.

The disparity of seeing Niles looking seemingly as if he were just sleeping and knowing his grim prognosis was difficult to come to terms with for her. He was still breathing on his own so there was no ventilator to jar her with the reality of his condition. Though there were monitors reporting all of his vitals and an IV going into his vein with life sustaining medications, there was nothing that revealed that he had been injured. His torso, which had taken the brunt of the attack, was hidden beneath his blanket and was likely wrapped in bandages below it. Niles’ face was virtually unmarked save for a scratch on his forehead and cheek from shrapnel in the explosion. They had small bandages on them.

Amanda expected him to stir at any moment, but when she had touched him, he hadn't moved.

She grasped his hand into hers and stroked it with her other hand. Unbidden tears began to fill her eyes.

“I know who you really are now, Niles Pottinger. You can't just leave..." Her voice cracked. "Not after saving my life."

Nothing. It wasn't surprising, just frustrating.

"I know the truth about why someone tried to harm you. It wasn't because of your usual self-serving deal making. You were trying to change the life you had led and I have to know why. Why now? Why risk everything you've built? Why risk your life...for me?"

She wiped her tears away.

"I need to hear the answers from you. You have to live," she said, pausing to let out a breath. "So I can make it up to you. I want to know the true Niles."

He continued to be silent and all she could do was continue to wait and hope.

-0-0-

Amanda had asked Nolan to place a guard at Niles' room, explaining that Niles' life could still be in danger. Josh gave her a skeptical, "why bother?" expression but did what she had asked anyway.

A couple of days had passed and she had visited Niles each day for as long as the doctors would permit her, her hope encouraged by the fact that he was remaining stable if tenuously by the doctor's standards. She kept talking to him and holding his hand, convinced that deep down he was aware she was there, that he heard and felt her presence. The only discouraging aspect was his continued unconsciousness. The doctors didn't outright call it a coma, but Amanda knew that they were just letting her have her delusion, for now. Still, she wasn't stupid, at some point they would force her to face the reality if Niles continued to stay silent.

They had tried to push it once and she had protested the assumption. She was being stubborn and was proud of it. For Niles. She was fighting for him because he couldn't do it for himself and no one else wanted to do it. No one would do it for him.

"You don't need to be afraid. I won't let anything happen to you. I'll protect you like you did for me."

Still, he slept. Sleeping, resting, it was what she told herself. The doctors were probably calling it denial in hushed whispers. She knew Josh was. He had never minced words with her and she had respected that about him. Maybe she was in denial, but until there was nothing to grasp onto, be it truth or lie, until there was no more hope to manufacture, she had to believe that time and healing were on Niles' side. She just had to be patient.

She knew in her heart that Niles just had to know that there was something, someone who would be there for him, someone who cared about him.

"I believe you deserve a second chance. Josh told me about how you had betrayed your so-called benefactors. You're not a stupid man. You couldn't have survived all you have if you were. You knew there would be retribution and yet you did it anyway. That tells me you want to change and I want to help you do that. Take it, Niles. Please."

No response. She felt her thread of hope fraying and it was painful.

She was startled as the room door opened. Stepping in was a nurse and Amanda relaxed.

“I’ll need to check his vitals,” the nurse said with a gentle smile.

“Of course,” Amanda said as she wheeled away dejectedly rom the bed.

She then spotted the nurse slip a hypodermic needle out from her pocket. Amanda stiffened as she realized that the nurse was going to inject Niles with something that wasn’t part of medical protocol. Their gazes met, the nurse's expression went steely, Amanda's was a mix of fear and anger.

The nurse, realizing she had been caught, gripped the hypodermic more firmly and moved it towards Niles, intending to plunge the needle and its contents into his chest. .

“Scream and he’s dead,” the nurse threatened.

Amanda hesitated for a minute then she became stoically determined.

“You’ll inject him anyway,” she stated as she lunged. “And I won’t let you do that.”

Amanda grabbed the nurse’s hand that held the needle and tried to pull back any fingers she could to break the grasp, but her awkward position in the wheelchair and the pain she still felt in her leg kept her off balance. The nurse was a lot stronger and Amanda found herself feeling the defeat hit her. She was going to fail Niles.

Suddenly, the room was filled with doctors and nurses rushing in. The guard also joined the fray. As he did, he spotted the struggle between Amanda and the assassin. He quickly disarmed the nurse of the needle. He then restrained her, pulling both her arms back behind her. The pain dislodged the needle from her grip, falling to the floor, impotent.

Amanda, breathless from the exertion, was relieved that her battle with the assassin was over. She didn’t think she could have held out any longer.

It was only then, as her breathing eased and she allowed herself to relax that Amanda heard the squeal of the monitors. She had tuned it all out, having focused her concentration on preventing the nurse from hurting Niles. Now the commotion that had brought the doctors and nurses was clear.

Niles had flatlined.

She felt her heart break. He had been dying while they were all busy trying to stop yet another attempt on his life. It had all been for nothing. She put her hands to her face and tried to stop the torrent of tears. She didn’t know why she had cared so much. Niles had done nothing to warrant her sorrow, her loss...except to save her life.

And now, he was dying.

Then just as suddenly, she realized that the doctors and nurses were standing idly by, letting the monitors screech, not lifting a finger to even attempt saving Niles. Her mind rebelled with questions.What were they waiting for? Was it too late? But if so, why weren’t they at least trying or calling his time of death?

“Do something!” She found herself yelling, so distraught at the assaulting sound, but when she finally looked over at Niles, she became just as frozen with astonishment as the doctors and nurses.

There was Niles, his left hand fisted around pulled leads, shaking with both effort and pain. He had caused the code call by yanking all of the leads that had been attached to his chest.

He looked over at her, his own breathing struggling, but when he registered that she was safe, that she was no longer in hand-to-hand combat with the assailant who had come to kill him, he relaxed his arm and his grip on the wires. He let them fall to rest on his chest and took in more even, calming breaths.

“You...all right?” He asked, his voice raspy and cracking with pain.

Amanda, her eyes still rimmed with tears, could only nod.

“Good...good,” Niles rasped again as he let go of the wires completely.

He closed his eyes as the doctors surrounded him to assess his vitals and to stabilize him, if needed. The guard escorted the murderous nurse out of the room.

Amanda was agog with the realization of what had just happened.

It was mind boggling to comprehend yet impossible to ignore.

Niles had emerged from unconsciousness and had pulled his leads off to cause the code so that the doctors and nurses would respond immediately. He had done that to save her life...again.


-0-0-

She watched the medical staff examine Niles. She had refused to leave him, just stepped aside to allow them to work. She felt a tremble of fear in her chest and she couldn't control the anxiety that the attack had left within her. When she thought Niles had died, she felt a grief she wasn't expecting. Josh would have scoffed at her. He would have ascribed Niles' actions as self-preservation, not as acts of heroism. He would have assumed that by claiming to know the conniving Niles and so would she have as recently as a day ago, but Amanda had seen something more now, had felt a palpable change in her view of Niles that went beyond just a fleeting bit of hero worship because he had saved her life. Twice now. Her instincts had never failed her even if they had gotten her into trouble at times. She had never doubted that they were leading her to the right path, to the right choices so she knew they were right about Niles as well.

The nurses reattached all the leads and as the data presented on the screens again, the sound of a steady heart beat was reassuring to both Amanda and the doctors. Everything looked normal and his vitals seemed to be stronger despite his Herculean attempts at moving to dislodge his leads. Though there was fresh bleeding, the damage to his wounds seemed to be minimal so the nurses cleaned and re-wrapped them with clean dressings and the doctors had the IV medications adjusted. For the first time, they were willing to be cautiously optimistic about Niles’ recovery. Relief washed over her for the first time.

After everything was completed and they left the room, she wheeled back next to the bed and took Niles’ hand. She felt a squeeze then watched his eyes flutter open. He turned his head, saw her catch his gaze and smiled.

“You...all right?” He asked again.

“I’m fine,” she said, her eyes once again filling with tears. “Thanks to you. Again.”

“Don’t thank me...was my fault...you were danger...in first place...I’m sorry,” he said, exhaustion clearly still with him.

“You don’t have anything to be sorry for...not to me anyway…” She said. “Josh found out everything, about how you turned against everyone who helped you get to your position of power. Why would you put yourself in danger like that?”

Niles closed his eyes, as if too tired to explain.

“It’s all right, Niles. If I’ve overstepped, I’m sorry. You need your rest -”

She realized that she was being selfish and began to wheel away, but Niles feebly grasped her hand tighter to stop her.

“No,” he said, his voice a rasp. “It’s not that…”

Niles took in a deep breath.

“Any explanation I give you...would sound more…nobler than it was…” he said weakly. “But I tell you...it was anything, but that...it was selfish...self-serving...like everything else I’ve done in my life…”

“How can you say that? You got shot saving my life and again just moments ago…”

“I didn’t do it for...altruism or for any greater good, Amanda,” he said, regret written across his pale features. “I did it for you and for you alone.”

Amanda listened and wasn’t surprised by the self-deprecation or the admission. She smiled softly and squeezed his hand.

“But you owe me nothing...you understand? When I am well enough to leave...I will...I will not endanger you further...” Niles said in as demanding a voice as he could muster to drive home his decision.

“I’m no stranger to danger, Niles. I know what it’s like to be a target so you won’t scare me away with that,” she said with a sly smile. “Though I could never claim to know the loss you suffered in the Pale Wars, I can claim my own and from that, we struggle in the same way. We strive for the same things. Survival...perhaps legitimacy as well.”

“Our pasts are not parallel,” he insisted, “You rose above your circumstances with grace, dignity, and principles. I cannot and will not claim the same. I debased myself to escape my lot. We may have survived the Pale Wars, but that’s where the comparison ends.”

“You’re wrong, Niles,” Amanda said.

Niles closed his eyes wearily.

“I hope you’ll forgive my prying into your past, but I needed to understand why you would risk so much for so little gain after being so successful at using chicanery for all these years. I thought that was the real Niles Pottinger. I see now that it was all a facade because you had to become the opportunistic Niles to survive. That’s not the real Niles. I know that now.”

Niles’ breathing quickened, his expression hardening.

“You’re wrong...there is no facade, there is only one Niles,” he insisted again, anger at himself in his voice.

“Pretend and protest all you want, but I believe in what I see with my own eyes. You can’t change what I know to be true. There is good in you.”

Niles looked away.

“Believe what you want. It doesn’t change a thing. Sooner or later my enemies will be successful and I won’t have you in the crosshairs with me.”

“You see, it’s that," she smiled sweetly. "The Niles I thought I knew wouldn’t have given a damn about my safety. I know the real you; the one who lost his entire family, the one who had to learn disreputable skills to stay alive. That other man is not who you are. Not anymore at least.”

“Yes, it is...I’ve learned my lessons well, Amanda. Can’t change now.”

“Oh, but you already have. You said you did all this for me? Why?”

“To gain your respectability, to align myself with you would give me credibility,” Niles argued, but his flagging strength just made the words fall flat without conviction.

“How would saving my life make you look respectable to men who view me as a threat to their existence?” She challenged. “I think it’s more than that, Niles.”

“Please just go,” he pleaded, realizing that his resistance was slipping. “I don’t have to explain my actions to you.”

Amanda took his hand into hers and kissed it.

“You’re right. They speak for you,” she said. “You saved my life -”

Nile clenched his eyes in frustration.

“I wanted you to be indebted to me so that I could use you for my political gains. If you’re so perceptive, you should see that. There was nothing noble about what I did -”

“You saved me not because you wanted to profit from it or gain respectability as you proclaim, but because it was the right thing to do. And that’s all the more proof that you’re a good man, even if you’re unwilling to see it. But I see it and I see you for who you really are. It isn’t pity, it isn’t hero worship. It is gratitude, but not indebtedness.”

Niles turned back to look at her and he saw only sincerity.

“You’re an infuriating woman, you know that?” Niles said with exasperation, but also with affection. “Just leave.”

“You can try to push me away all you like, but I’m not leaving you. We can both start all over again together.”

Niles was speechless. He had been struck silent by the generosity of a woman who had seen beyond the mask that had fooled the most distrustful of his colleagues. She had probed his past and was able to overcome everything she had found just from seeing a couple of acts of contrition. He felt a calm surrender overtake him as he dropped his protests as well as his facade of indifference because he knew that she wouldn’t believe them.

"You will regret your decision to ally with me, I promise you," he said, a twinge of true regret as opposed to a threat in his voice. “My intentions may have been good, but these attempts have shown me that a few acts of repentance does not a redemption make. I have burned way too many bridges with too many ‘influential’ people to expect a happy end.”

His expression softened as he saw the forgiveness in her eyes. He almost felt it revitalize his hopes.

“You said you did all this for me. I bet you’re the one with regrets now,” she teased.

He laughed lightly, but he became serious again.

“Saving your life is the only thing I don’t regret in my sorry life,” he said. “Still, I have no faith that redemption is even possible now.”

Amanda squeezed his hand and smiled.

“Well, I do. Perhaps that will be enough for the both of us?”

“Perhaps,” he said, reinforcing his grasp with a gentle grin. "Perhaps, indeed."


Fin. Hope you enjoyed the read. Thanks for letting me speculate like mad. Hope it wasn't too way out there. Hope it was worthy. Happy Birthday Faye!


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This is amazing!
I so hope his character is like this, damaged and hurt.
I love the idea that he thinks he died with his family and that there is somebody who manages to bring him back to life.

I can't believe I never left an official review on this! I was just rereading it and realized that I must have only emailed my squee :) Which is not okay since this fic is amazingly awesome. I love the premise you took. The only problem is that the show will invariably disappoint me now!

Thank you again!

Thanks so much! Knowing you enjoyed it and re-read it really means a lot to me. I really speculated the heck out of this, but enjoyed doing it. I had to giggle with delight when you said the show will likely disappoint. I'm worried too, but the idea of seeing James in anything will hopefully be enough. All I want is that he's not a villain. THAT might actually push me away. *fingers crossed. I have been playing around with another idea having to do with a reluctant alliance between Josh Nolan and Niles. Once I fully recover from my knee surgery, I'll take a stab at it. All my concentration has been with PT unfortunately. Need more h/c stories to balance my real-life one. Hahaha! Care to help? Hahaha!

Edited at 2014-01-26 04:10 am (UTC)

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