Feb. 13th, 2011

vettac: (chillin')
Chapter 11: So Far Away

“Bye-bye Faye-Faye!” Ed's chipper voice screamed from the screen.
“Goodbye, Edward.”
Why can't she just say it once, Faye mumbled as she ended the connection. I swear, she does it just to annoy me. She switched over to TV mode, surfing through the channels to find something to watch. She paused at a station showing an old martial arts film and immediately thought of Spike and his obsession with training and katas. She stared down at the screen as she thought back to three months before, when she'd last seen him.
“Faye!”
Startled, Faye looked up into Jet's frowning face.
“What?”
“I asked if you were done with that.”
Confused, Faye looked down at the table at her uneaten bowl of noodles. “Oh. Yeah.”
“You'll remember the food you wasted when we're starving again,” he told her.
Faye rolled her eyes. “I know, Jet.”
Jet sighed. He came around the couch and sat down beside her. “When you first came home after meeting with Spike, I didn't say anything.” He looked at her. “I figured it was just the shock of seeing him alive after so many months. But now…”
He stopped abruptly and looked into her face. “…Now I think there's something else. You've been so quiet. That's not like you, Faye. What aren't you telling me?”
“I-I don't know what you're talking about, Jet.”
She looked up, startled when Jet slammed his fist down on the table.
“See? You never used to be jumpy like that, Faye. Something happened when you were in Tharsis that you aren't telling me. What the hell happened between you and Spike?”
Faye stuck her hands inside her sweater, clenching them as chewed on her lower lip. Jet was bearing down on her like a big, protective mother, and in another minute, she was going to break down and tell him everything.
She inhaled a shaky breath. “Jet, don't-”
Jet sighed. “Alright. If you don't want to tell me, it's alright.” He patted her shoulder like she was a little girl. “But if I find out he did something to you, Faye ...” He stood up and stretched, her eyes following his every move.
She didn't know how to begin, but she knew that she couldn't go on much longer like this. It had been months since she had been able to sleep through the night without waking up shaking, as the memory of that night six months ago came crashing through her brain in muddled images. Sometimes, instead of Rives in that alleyway, it would be Spike's face, grinning at her maniacally and maliciously and she would be no good for days. It was affecting her ability to follow through on bounties, and Jet definitely noticed.
“Jet,” she began.
He slowly turned around to face her. “I knew something happened. Ed noticed too.”
She looked up into his face hesitantly. “Do you remember a bounty named Rives?”
Jet raised an eyebrow. “Dirtbag with a twenty million woolong bounty wanted for assault and rape on five women?”
She nodded.
Jet furrowed his eyebrows. “Yeah, he turned up dead in an alley a couple of months back. What about him?”
Faye looked away before she answered. “He was murdered the night I was in Tharsis. Spike killed him.”
Jet studied her face for a long moment, searching her pleading green eyes. “You were there?”
She nodded again. Jet sighed and rubbed his head, then came to sit next to her. “Tell me what happened.”
She curled up and wrapped her arms around her knees, closing her eyes as she told Jet about that night. His expression was stony as she related the story, but he remained quiet as she talked. She didn't tell him about what had happened after she returned to Spike's place. His sense of justice and duty would have compelled him to confront Spike, and she was sure they'd both end up dead. She couldn't bear to have their deaths on her conscience. When she finished, Jet was silent. She watched the fan rotating overhead and the calming hum of the ship's engines. She stole a glance at Jet's stony-faced expression as he absorbed it all. Her eyebrows momentarily stitched, then smoothed as she let out a puff of air and laid her head on her knees, eyes focused on the whirring fan.
* * *
Misty Shores was only three heads behind, having come from nearly last place. If he won, she'd be cashing in a big win. Faye watched in anticipation as her horse drew closer to the front of the pack. Faye's eyebrows momentarily furrowed, and she let out a puff of air, her eyes focused on the track. She furrowed her brows as the number two lead jumped into first place, squashing her winning hopes. She bunched the wad of tickets and threw them in the air, watching them scatter to the ground like fallen flower petals. Well, her luck at the horses wasn't holding up today. She sighed and pushed her way through the crowd towards the exit. As much as she wanted to try her hand at another race, losing that last race had depleted most of her woolongs.
Outside the racetrack building, she wrapped her old red sweater closer and debated whether to try wheedling her way into a card game to recoup some cash. The soft ringing of the communicator drew her attention. She adjusted her shirt and shrugged further into her sweater before she picked it up to look at the display.
It was Jet. She opened communication.
Faye quirked an eyebrow. “What?” She said flatly.
“Where are you?” he asked, his voice calm and smooth.
She frowned. She hadn't even been gone for two hours, and he was already checking up on her. “What the hell are you talking about?” she demanded. “I told you I was going to do a little shopping.”
“By way of the horse races?”
She rolled her eyes and looked down at her bags. Shopping was her second favorite way of relieving tension, now that Spike wasn't around to annoy. “Get off my back, Jet. I'm a big girl and I can take care of myself.”
“Why didn't you take Ed with you?” he demanded, an indecipherable expression on his face.
“What do you mean?”
“Ed misses him too, you know. I just thought that it might be good to spend some time with her.”
Faye sighed. “Okay, Jet, what's going on?”
“What?”
“You've never pushed Ed on me before.”
It was Jet's turned to sigh. “She thinks you're sad,” he said quietly.
Faye deflated, a little stunned by his words. Ed was usually flighty, she sometimes forgot how perceptive she could be. She considered going back to the Bebop. “Look, I'm just going to go to one more place. But if you really want me to, I'll head home now,” she said, only a little sarcastic.
“Whatever, Faye,” he said, moving his hand to his head to rub the bald spot. “Do what you want.”
Faye furrowed her brow as she considered, then nodded. “Alright, I'm heading back.”
Jet mumbled something unintelligible and cut the connection. Shaking her head, Faye tucked the communicator back in her pocket. She didn't believe that it was Ed who was worried, and Jet meant too much to her to make him worry. She sighed and headed back to the Redtail.
* * *
He opened his eyes and under the bright lights of the room, the blurry image finally came into focus. He found himself looking up into the face of a woman with hair the color of deep, dark violet.
It wasn't Faye.
“Faye,” he whispered, closing his eyes again.
“Oh, you're awake. Did you say something?” The voice, gentle and soft, was nothing like Faye's.
“Where am I?” he asked hoarsely.
“You're in Syrtis Hospital. You've been here for almost a week.” She tucked in the covers at the foot of the bed, where his feet had come loose from under the sheet. “You had some pretty severe damage to your shoulder. Shattered part of the bone and did some damage to the muscles. But the doctor will come in later to explain it all to you. I'm Jenny, your nurse, by the way.” She looked closer at the expression on his face. “Are you in pain?”
He shook his head, his eyes closed tightly as tears prickled at the corners. He couldn't believe that actually missed the shrew's grating voice. The nurse leaned in closer, and his eyebrow twitched. He sucked in a breath before shaking his head vigorously this time.
“Mr. Spiegel?”
“Yes,” he answered through clenched teeth. He just wanted her to go away and leave him alone. As he clenched his hands into fists under the sheet, the pulse monitor began beeping incessantly and the pain in his head increased to unbearable proportions. Dimly he heard the nurse say something to him and after that, blessed silence.
* * *
When he awoke again, the blinding headache was gone. The room was dark except for the soft amber lights on the monitor next to his bed. He lifted his head and looked down at the leather straps at his wrists. He must have gotten violent before blacking out. Where was Nurse Jenny, he wondered. As if on cue, the door opened and the violet-haired nurse entered the room.
“Ah, Mr. Spiegel,” she chirped, “You're awake again.”
“It's Spike,” he said wearily. “How long was I out?”
“Two days,” she said. “We had to sedate you to keep you from hurting yourself.”
“I see.”
She leaned over to unfasten the wrist straps and straighten the bedsheet. “How's the head?”
“Still here.”
She laughed. “Good. Then you are feeling better.”
He didn't know what she found so funny, but he didn't see any point in mentioning it. “What happened?”
“You had an allergic reaction to one of the medications. We had to sedate you to keep you from hurting yourself.”
He nodded. Whatever the reason, he was glad that the pain was gone. Contrary to popular belief, he didn't enjoy pain. With the number of injuries and broken bones that he'd experienced in his life, pain was something that came with the territory, and he'd learned to live with it. “So, when do I get out of here?”
The nurse eyed him closely. “You can't be released until someone signs you out. Is there someone we can call?”
He stifled his first thought to call Faye. No use going there, he'd slammed the door on her months ago. He gave her an irritated look before turning to stare out the window. The sky was bright and clear under the environmental dome that encased the city. He really hated climate control. He wanted the day to be dark and rainy to match his mood.
After a few moments of silence, Jenny started talking again. “By the way, the young lady who came to see you had the same color hair as mine.”
Spike whipped his head around to look at her.
“We both got quite a kick out of it.” She laughed. “It was the only thing we had in common. She was quite pretty. I would kill for a figure like hers.” She looked down at her plump figure. “And her eyes were the most beautiful shade of green, though they seemed a little sad to me.” She peered at Spike. “She said her name was Faye. She called you a funny name, like lunkit or something like that.”
His heart pounded, threatening to break out of his chest. He had thought that it was a dream. “She was here? When?”
Nurse Jenny raised a brow as she surveyed her patient and smiled knowingly. “It was during the week you were unconscious. She said that she had gone to the bar where you work, and they told her where to find you. She was pretty upset when she saw you. She sat with you for a while, then she left. She came back the next day, and we talked about what had happened. She told me some things about you, too. 'Watch out for him,' she said. 'He can be a real asshole when he's mad.' I said that I didn't believe it, you looked so innocent when you're sleeping.”
His cheeks burned and he stared down at his feet sticking up from the bed. “Thanks, I guess,” he mumbled. If he could sink under the bed right about now, it would be a really good thing.
“Anyway,” Jenny said, turning serious, “She said that she didn't want to be called when you were released ... but she left her contact information just in case you – “ She pulled a folded piece of paper from her pocket and held it out to him.
The heaviness in his chest eased. So like Faye to pretend she didn't care. He'd always been able to see through her façade, and he suspected that she could read him just as well, though neither of them ever dared to venture into that forbidden territory of feelings. Bad things happened when you cared, and he had an irrational fear that if he showed how much he did care, something would happen to her. So he'd pushed her away in the worst way imaginable. He never would have guessed that she would come to see him.
“I already know how to reach her,” he said irritably.
Nurse Jenny's eyebrows raised just a little. “Would you like me to call her?”
He shook his head. “Call … Soo Ling Yumako at the Glowing Sun Lounge in Tharsis.”
* * *
Dr. Mordecai Barnes closed the holographic chart and looked thoughtfully at his patient.
“You're healing quite nicely, Mr. Spiegel. It's quite rare that we have a patient who heals as quickly as you have.” He looked down at Spike, examining the arm. “And how is the pain?”
“Better than a week ago,” he mumbled.
Dr. Barnes agreed. “Yes, it should be. The muscles in the forearm tend to compensate for the weakness in your shoulder, resulting in more strain. Probably at night is worse?”
Was this guy a doctor or just stupid? Even Ein would know that pain got worse at night, just when you wanted to sleep. He grunted in response.
Dr. Barnes pulled out the medical transmitter from his lab coat and spoke in a short, clipped tone. “Evening dose administer 4mg fentanyl for Room 304-A.” He replaced the chart at the foot of the bed. “Get some rest, Mr. Spiegel.” He turned on his heels abruptly and marched out of the room.
Spike scowled at the doctor's back. Well, that was a waste of a visit, and he still didn't know when he was getting out.
The door opened and Jenny came in. She picked up his medical chart and peered down at the doctor's notes. “Hmmm, everything seems to be good.” She looked up at Spike. “Did Dr. Barnes say when you could go home?”
“He didn't say anything. All he did was order more drugs.” He gave her a dark look. “I don't need more drugs. I just need to get out of here.”
“Your shoulder isn't completely healed, Spike. Maybe in a few more days…” Her voice faded when he growled. “But I'll see what I can do.”
“Yeah,” he grumbled. “You do that.” He sat up with a grimace as pain flowed through his joints. Jenny dashed forward to assist him but he shot her a warning look, and she backed away, hovering from a safe distance. He swung his legs to the floor, leaning too heavily on his injured side when he tried to stand, and grunted from the pain.
“Careful, Spike.” Jenny moved closer.
He waved her away. “I'm fine,” he said irritably. He took a deep breath and tried again. His legs threatened to give way, and Jenny moved in. He leaned against her, hating feeling helpless. “Who would have thought,” he mumbled, “the infamous Spike Spiegel, former bounty hunter and … reduced to leaning on the arms of a nurse. Just shoot me now.”
Jenny laughed. “So your girlfriend is a bounty hunter?”
He scowled. “She's not my girlfriend.”
Jenny raised her brow. “Oh, I thought …”
“Well, you thought wrong,” he said brusquely.
“Okay.” She put her hands up in surrender.
He walked forward gingerly, wincing at the pain as he shuffled into the small bathroom.
“I'll be right outside the door,” Jenny said. “Just yell if you need me.”
“Right,” he scoffed. He managed to pull his boxers down with one hand, not wanting to chance pulling the stitches in his shoulder. He finished up and put down the toilet seat, then leaned into the mirror to examine his face. The hair on his chin was too thick to be called stubble. He scratched at the overgrowth and looked around the tiny space for a razor.
“Jenny?” he called out. The door handled turned and he pressed his palm against the door to keep her from coming in. Just because he was in a hospital didn't mean that he wasn't entitled to a little privacy.
“Everything okay in there?”
“Yeah, I need a razor.”
“Come back to bed and I'll take care of that for you,” Jenny said from the other side of the door.
He leaned his head against his hand. “You're kidding, right?”
She didn't answer.
He let out a long, dramatic sigh and opened the door to let her in. Jenny stood in the doorway chuckling.
“You're not used to this, are you?”
He scowled at her and pushed himself past her to the bed. He refused to grace her with an answer.
* * *
Spike waited for Ronald to bring the car around to the hospital entrance, drumming his fingers against the circular reception desk in the hospital lobby. He hated waiting. He looked behind him, expecting to see Nurse Jenny chasing after him. She had called Soo Ling, who convinced Dr. Barnes to release him a few days early, with the understanding that he return to the hospital in a week's time for an evaluation. For some strange reason, she had assigned herself his 'savior' whose first mission was to “get Spike and Faye back together,” even though he'd told her that she was not his girlfriend. Not even close. He sighed. He really needed a cigarette. He hadn't even been able to sneak a puff – Nurse Jenny had made sure that the pack he kept in his jacket were 'put safely away.' He was already out of breath from being laid up for two weeks and probably couldn't even finish half. But he was perfectly willing to try. He adjusted the sling and clenched his fingers. His left shoulder ached like hell and his fingers were numb. It was going to be a while before he would be able to use the arm. Good thing he was ambidextrous.
 From the corner of his eye he spotted a figure coming from the elevator. He didn't have to look to know who it was. Damn, she sure didn't give up easily.
 “Spike!” Jenny greeted as she walked over to the desk. “I was on the floor making my rounds, and when I got to your room, you were already gone! You weren't planning on skipping out without saying goodbye to me, were you?”
 He suppressed a smile. “Of course not. How could I leave without saying goodbye to my favorite nurse?” He batted his eyelashes at her.
 Jenny laughed. “I'm sure you wouldn't.” She reached out to clasp his hand. “Take it easy, Spike. We'll see you back here in a few weeks.”
 He shook her hand. “Thanks for everything, Nurse Jenny.”
 Ronald came through the revolving doors pushing a wheelchair towards them. Spike gave him a sour look. “I'm not an invalid, you know.”
 “Yeah, I know.” Ronald looked at Jenny, who nodded in agreement.
“Hospital rules.”
He scowled but dropped into the seat, relief flooding into his unused joints.
 “Please give my regards to your lady friend, okay?” Jenny called out as Ronald wheeled the chair around and out the hospital doors.
 
* * *
Spike watched the scenery as they drove down the Tharsis freeway, Ronald darting in and out of traffic with the ease of a racecar driver. “Kid, you're in the wrong profession,” he said as the car careened through a sharp curve.
“So, I'm told,” Ronald said lightly. “But I like a little more stability in my life. Tending bar suits me just fine.”
Spike tried to imagine being forever banned from flying; not the self-imposed grounding that he had placed upon himself. When he decided to pilot the Swordfish again, which he knew would happen sooner or later, all he to do was go to Doohan to reclaim his baby. Even though it had been over a year, he would not give in to the urge; the temptation to rendezvous with the Bebop was too strong.
The car sped along towards the high-rise buildings in the center of the city, passing high-end shops and hotels. His eyebrow twitched in annoyance. “You're going the wrong way,” he said to Ronald. “I don't live on this side of town.”
Ronald chuckled and continued driving. “You do now.”
“What are you talking about?” Spike growled as he gripped the back of the front seat. “Whose bright idea was this?”
“Soo Ling's.”
He took a deep breath. When he was a young upstart with the Dragons, Mao had warned him to tone down his defiant streak around Soo Ling, to do what she asked and he had begrudgingly complied. Mao trusted her, and that had been enough for him. Now, years later, she was still trying to meddle into his affairs, and here he was, still allowing it, as if Mao was still alive. He sighed and looked out the window as the car sped past the patch of high rise buildings. As they neared a tall building of smoked glass windows lined in gilded gold, Ronald slowed the car and pulled in front of the guarded building. The Samora Crown Hotel was surrounded by boutique shops and over-priced cafes frequented by executives and capos alike conducting their wheeling and dealing in the corporate boardrooms of Tharsis while the ISSP turned an organizational blind eye.
Spike looked up at the size of the building and heaved a big sigh.
“Shit, this is where she picked?” He slumped back against the seat. “Let me guess, penthouse, right?”
“Yep.”
Spike closed his eyes. The Samora Crown Hotel was simply not his style. But he bet Faye would like it.
vettac: (chillin')
Chapter 11: So Far Away

“Bye-bye Faye-Faye!” Ed's chipper voice screamed from the screen.
“Goodbye, Edward.”
Why can't she just say it once, Faye mumbled as she ended the connection. I swear, she does it just to annoy me. She switched over to TV mode, surfing through the channels to find something to watch. She paused at a station showing an old martial arts film and immediately thought of Spike and his obsession with training and katas. She stared down at the screen as she thought back to three months before, when she'd last seen him.
“Faye!”
Startled, Faye looked up into Jet's frowning face.
“What?”
“I asked if you were done with that.”
Confused, Faye looked down at the table at her uneaten bowl of noodles. “Oh. Yeah.”
“You'll remember the food you wasted when we're starving again,” he told her.
Faye rolled her eyes. “I know, Jet.”
Jet sighed. He came around the couch and sat down beside her. “When you first came home after meeting with Spike, I didn't say anything.” He looked at her. “I figured it was just the shock of seeing him alive after so many months. But now…”
He stopped abruptly and looked into her face. “…Now I think there's something else. You've been so quiet. That's not like you, Faye. What aren't you telling me?”
“I-I don't know what you're talking about, Jet.”
She looked up, startled when Jet slammed his fist down on the table.
“See? You never used to be jumpy like that, Faye. Something happened when you were in Tharsis that you aren't telling me. What the hell happened between you and Spike?”
Faye stuck her hands inside her sweater, clenching them as chewed on her lower lip. Jet was bearing down on her like a big, protective mother, and in another minute, she was going to break down and tell him everything.
She inhaled a shaky breath. “Jet, don't-”
Jet sighed. “Alright. If you don't want to tell me, it's alright.” He patted her shoulder like she was a little girl. “But if I find out he did something to you, Faye ...” He stood up and stretched, her eyes following his every move.
She didn't know how to begin, but she knew that she couldn't go on much longer like this. It had been months since she had been able to sleep through the night without waking up shaking, as the memory of that night six months ago came crashing through her brain in muddled images. Sometimes, instead of Rives in that alleyway, it would be Spike's face, grinning at her maniacally and maliciously and she would be no good for days. It was affecting her ability to follow through on bounties, and Jet definitely noticed.
“Jet,” she began.
He slowly turned around to face her. “I knew something happened. Ed noticed too.”
She looked up into his face hesitantly. “Do you remember a bounty named Rives?”
Jet raised an eyebrow. “Dirtbag with a twenty million woolong bounty wanted for assault and rape on five women?”
She nodded.
Jet furrowed his eyebrows. “Yeah, he turned up dead in an alley a couple of months back. What about him?”
Faye looked away before she answered. “He was murdered the night I was in Tharsis. Spike killed him.”
Jet studied her face for a long moment, searching her pleading green eyes. “You were there?”
She nodded again. Jet sighed and rubbed his head, then came to sit next to her. “Tell me what happened.”
She curled up and wrapped her arms around her knees, closing her eyes as she told Jet about that night. His expression was stony as she related the story, but he remained quiet as she talked. She didn't tell him about what had happened after she returned to Spike's place. His sense of justice and duty would have compelled him to confront Spike, and she was sure they'd both end up dead. She couldn't bear to have their deaths on her conscience. When she finished, Jet was silent. She watched the fan rotating overhead and the calming hum of the ship's engines. She stole a glance at Jet's stony-faced expression as he absorbed it all. Her eyebrows momentarily stitched, then smoothed as she let out a puff of air and laid her head on her knees, eyes focused on the whirring fan.
* * *
Misty Shores was only three heads behind, having come from nearly last place. If he won, she'd be cashing in a big win. Faye watched in anticipation as her horse drew closer to the front of the pack. Faye's eyebrows momentarily furrowed, and she let out a puff of air, her eyes focused on the track. She furrowed her brows as the number two lead jumped into first place, squashing her winning hopes. She bunched the wad of tickets and threw them in the air, watching them scatter to the ground like fallen flower petals. Well, her luck at the horses wasn't holding up today. She sighed and pushed her way through the crowd towards the exit. As much as she wanted to try her hand at another race, losing that last race had depleted most of her woolongs.
Outside the racetrack building, she wrapped her old red sweater closer and debated whether to try wheedling her way into a card game to recoup some cash. The soft ringing of the communicator drew her attention. She adjusted her shirt and shrugged further into her sweater before she picked it up to look at the display.
It was Jet. She opened communication.
Faye quirked an eyebrow. “What?” She said flatly.
“Where are you?” he asked, his voice calm and smooth.
She frowned. She hadn't even been gone for two hours, and he was already checking up on her. “What the hell are you talking about?” she demanded. “I told you I was going to do a little shopping.”
“By way of the horse races?”
She rolled her eyes and looked down at her bags. Shopping was her second favorite way of relieving tension, now that Spike wasn't around to annoy. “Get off my back, Jet. I'm a big girl and I can take care of myself.”
“Why didn't you take Ed with you?” he demanded, an indecipherable expression on his face.
“What do you mean?”
“Ed misses him too, you know. I just thought that it might be good to spend some time with her.”
Faye sighed. “Okay, Jet, what's going on?”
“What?”
“You've never pushed Ed on me before.”
It was Jet's turned to sigh. “She thinks you're sad,” he said quietly.
Faye deflated, a little stunned by his words. Ed was usually flighty, she sometimes forgot how perceptive she could be. She considered going back to the Bebop. “Look, I'm just going to go to one more place. But if you really want me to, I'll head home now,” she said, only a little sarcastic.
“Whatever, Faye,” he said, moving his hand to his head to rub the bald spot. “Do what you want.”
Faye furrowed her brow as she considered, then nodded. “Alright, I'm heading back.”
Jet mumbled something unintelligible and cut the connection. Shaking her head, Faye tucked the communicator back in her pocket. She didn't believe that it was Ed who was worried, and Jet meant too much to her to make him worry. She sighed and headed back to the Redtail.
* * *
He opened his eyes and under the bright lights of the room, the blurry image finally came into focus. He found himself looking up into the face of a woman with hair the color of deep, dark violet.
It wasn't Faye.
“Faye,” he whispered, closing his eyes again.
“Oh, you're awake. Did you say something?” The voice, gentle and soft, was nothing like Faye's.
“Where am I?” he asked hoarsely.
“You're in Syrtis Hospital. You've been here for almost a week.” She tucked in the covers at the foot of the bed, where his feet had come loose from under the sheet. “You had some pretty severe damage to your shoulder. Shattered part of the bone and did some damage to the muscles. But the doctor will come in later to explain it all to you. I'm Jenny, your nurse, by the way.” She looked closer at the expression on his face. “Are you in pain?”
He shook his head, his eyes closed tightly as tears prickled at the corners. He couldn't believe that actually missed the shrew's grating voice. The nurse leaned in closer, and his eyebrow twitched. He sucked in a breath before shaking his head vigorously this time.
“Mr. Spiegel?”
“Yes,” he answered through clenched teeth. He just wanted her to go away and leave him alone. As he clenched his hands into fists under the sheet, the pulse monitor began beeping incessantly and the pain in his head increased to unbearable proportions. Dimly he heard the nurse say something to him and after that, blessed silence.
* * *
When he awoke again, the blinding headache was gone. The room was dark except for the soft amber lights on the monitor next to his bed. He lifted his head and looked down at the leather straps at his wrists. He must have gotten violent before blacking out. Where was Nurse Jenny, he wondered. As if on cue, the door opened and the violet-haired nurse entered the room.
“Ah, Mr. Spiegel,” she chirped, “You're awake again.”
“It's Spike,” he said wearily. “How long was I out?”
“Two days,” she said. “We had to sedate you to keep you from hurting yourself.”
“I see.”
She leaned over to unfasten the wrist straps and straighten the bedsheet. “How's the head?”
“Still here.”
She laughed. “Good. Then you are feeling better.”
He didn't know what she found so funny, but he didn't see any point in mentioning it. “What happened?”
“You had an allergic reaction to one of the medications. We had to sedate you to keep you from hurting yourself.”
He nodded. Whatever the reason, he was glad that the pain was gone. Contrary to popular belief, he didn't enjoy pain. With the number of injuries and broken bones that he'd experienced in his life, pain was something that came with the territory, and he'd learned to live with it. “So, when do I get out of here?”
The nurse eyed him closely. “You can't be released until someone signs you out. Is there someone we can call?”
He stifled his first thought to call Faye. No use going there, he'd slammed the door on her months ago. He gave her an irritated look before turning to stare out the window. The sky was bright and clear under the environmental dome that encased the city. He really hated climate control. He wanted the day to be dark and rainy to match his mood.
After a few moments of silence, Jenny started talking again. “By the way, the young lady who came to see you had the same color hair as mine.”
Spike whipped his head around to look at her.
“We both got quite a kick out of it.” She laughed. “It was the only thing we had in common. She was quite pretty. I would kill for a figure like hers.” She looked down at her plump figure. “And her eyes were the most beautiful shade of green, though they seemed a little sad to me.” She peered at Spike. “She said her name was Faye. She called you a funny name, like lunkit or something like that.”
His heart pounded, threatening to break out of his chest. He had thought that it was a dream. “She was here? When?”
Nurse Jenny raised a brow as she surveyed her patient and smiled knowingly. “It was during the week you were unconscious. She said that she had gone to the bar where you work, and they told her where to find you. She was pretty upset when she saw you. She sat with you for a while, then she left. She came back the next day, and we talked about what had happened. She told me some things about you, too. 'Watch out for him,' she said. 'He can be a real asshole when he's mad.' I said that I didn't believe it, you looked so innocent when you're sleeping.”
His cheeks burned and he stared down at his feet sticking up from the bed. “Thanks, I guess,” he mumbled. If he could sink under the bed right about now, it would be a really good thing.
“Anyway,” Jenny said, turning serious, “She said that she didn't want to be called when you were released ... but she left her contact information just in case you – “ She pulled a folded piece of paper from her pocket and held it out to him.
The heaviness in his chest eased. So like Faye to pretend she didn't care. He'd always been able to see through her façade, and he suspected that she could read him just as well, though neither of them ever dared to venture into that forbidden territory of feelings. Bad things happened when you cared, and he had an irrational fear that if he showed how much he did care, something would happen to her. So he'd pushed her away in the worst way imaginable. He never would have guessed that she would come to see him.
“I already know how to reach her,” he said irritably.
Nurse Jenny's eyebrows raised just a little. “Would you like me to call her?”
He shook his head. “Call … Soo Ling Yumako at the Glowing Sun Lounge in Tharsis.”
* * *
Dr. Mordecai Barnes closed the holographic chart and looked thoughtfully at his patient.
“You're healing quite nicely, Mr. Spiegel. It's quite rare that we have a patient who heals as quickly as you have.” He looked down at Spike, examining the arm. “And how is the pain?”
“Better than a week ago,” he mumbled.
Dr. Barnes agreed. “Yes, it should be. The muscles in the forearm tend to compensate for the weakness in your shoulder, resulting in more strain. Probably at night is worse?”
Was this guy a doctor or just stupid? Even Ein would know that pain got worse at night, just when you wanted to sleep. He grunted in response.
Dr. Barnes pulled out the medical transmitter from his lab coat and spoke in a short, clipped tone. “Evening dose administer 4mg fentanyl for Room 304-A.” He replaced the chart at the foot of the bed. “Get some rest, Mr. Spiegel.” He turned on his heels abruptly and marched out of the room.
Spike scowled at the doctor's back. Well, that was a waste of a visit, and he still didn't know when he was getting out.
The door opened and Jenny came in. She picked up his medical chart and peered down at the doctor's notes. “Hmmm, everything seems to be good.” She looked up at Spike. “Did Dr. Barnes say when you could go home?”
“He didn't say anything. All he did was order more drugs.” He gave her a dark look. “I don't need more drugs. I just need to get out of here.”
“Your shoulder isn't completely healed, Spike. Maybe in a few more days…” Her voice faded when he growled. “But I'll see what I can do.”
“Yeah,” he grumbled. “You do that.” He sat up with a grimace as pain flowed through his joints. Jenny dashed forward to assist him but he shot her a warning look, and she backed away, hovering from a safe distance. He swung his legs to the floor, leaning too heavily on his injured side when he tried to stand, and grunted from the pain.
“Careful, Spike.” Jenny moved closer.
He waved her away. “I'm fine,” he said irritably. He took a deep breath and tried again. His legs threatened to give way, and Jenny moved in. He leaned against her, hating feeling helpless. “Who would have thought,” he mumbled, “the infamous Spike Spiegel, former bounty hunter and … reduced to leaning on the arms of a nurse. Just shoot me now.”
Jenny laughed. “So your girlfriend is a bounty hunter?”
He scowled. “She's not my girlfriend.”
Jenny raised her brow. “Oh, I thought …”
“Well, you thought wrong,” he said brusquely.
“Okay.” She put her hands up in surrender.
He walked forward gingerly, wincing at the pain as he shuffled into the small bathroom.
“I'll be right outside the door,” Jenny said. “Just yell if you need me.”
“Right,” he scoffed. He managed to pull his boxers down with one hand, not wanting to chance pulling the stitches in his shoulder. He finished up and put down the toilet seat, then leaned into the mirror to examine his face. The hair on his chin was too thick to be called stubble. He scratched at the overgrowth and looked around the tiny space for a razor.
“Jenny?” he called out. The door handled turned and he pressed his palm against the door to keep her from coming in. Just because he was in a hospital didn't mean that he wasn't entitled to a little privacy.
“Everything okay in there?”
“Yeah, I need a razor.”
“Come back to bed and I'll take care of that for you,” Jenny said from the other side of the door.
He leaned his head against his hand. “You're kidding, right?”
She didn't answer.
He let out a long, dramatic sigh and opened the door to let her in. Jenny stood in the doorway chuckling.
“You're not used to this, are you?”
He scowled at her and pushed himself past her to the bed. He refused to grace her with an answer.
* * *
Spike waited for Ronald to bring the car around to the hospital entrance, drumming his fingers against the circular reception desk in the hospital lobby. He hated waiting. He looked behind him, expecting to see Nurse Jenny chasing after him. She had called Soo Ling, who convinced Dr. Barnes to release him a few days early, with the understanding that he return to the hospital in a week's time for an evaluation. For some strange reason, she had assigned herself his 'savior' whose first mission was to “get Spike and Faye back together,” even though he'd told her that she was not his girlfriend. Not even close. He sighed. He really needed a cigarette. He hadn't even been able to sneak a puff – Nurse Jenny had made sure that the pack he kept in his jacket were 'put safely away.' He was already out of breath from being laid up for two weeks and probably couldn't even finish half. But he was perfectly willing to try. He adjusted the sling and clenched his fingers. His left shoulder ached like hell and his fingers were numb. It was going to be a while before he would be able to use the arm. Good thing he was ambidextrous.
 From the corner of his eye he spotted a figure coming from the elevator. He didn't have to look to know who it was. Damn, she sure didn't give up easily.
 “Spike!” Jenny greeted as she walked over to the desk. “I was on the floor making my rounds, and when I got to your room, you were already gone! You weren't planning on skipping out without saying goodbye to me, were you?”
 He suppressed a smile. “Of course not. How could I leave without saying goodbye to my favorite nurse?” He batted his eyelashes at her.
 Jenny laughed. “I'm sure you wouldn't.” She reached out to clasp his hand. “Take it easy, Spike. We'll see you back here in a few weeks.”
 He shook her hand. “Thanks for everything, Nurse Jenny.”
 Ronald came through the revolving doors pushing a wheelchair towards them. Spike gave him a sour look. “I'm not an invalid, you know.”
 “Yeah, I know.” Ronald looked at Jenny, who nodded in agreement.
“Hospital rules.”
He scowled but dropped into the seat, relief flooding into his unused joints.
 “Please give my regards to your lady friend, okay?” Jenny called out as Ronald wheeled the chair around and out the hospital doors.
 
* * *
Spike watched the scenery as they drove down the Tharsis freeway, Ronald darting in and out of traffic with the ease of a racecar driver. “Kid, you're in the wrong profession,” he said as the car careened through a sharp curve.
“So, I'm told,” Ronald said lightly. “But I like a little more stability in my life. Tending bar suits me just fine.”
Spike tried to imagine being forever banned from flying; not the self-imposed grounding that he had placed upon himself. When he decided to pilot the Swordfish again, which he knew would happen sooner or later, all he to do was go to Doohan to reclaim his baby. Even though it had been over a year, he would not give in to the urge; the temptation to rendezvous with the Bebop was too strong.
The car sped along towards the high-rise buildings in the center of the city, passing high-end shops and hotels. His eyebrow twitched in annoyance. “You're going the wrong way,” he said to Ronald. “I don't live on this side of town.”
Ronald chuckled and continued driving. “You do now.”
“What are you talking about?” Spike growled as he gripped the back of the front seat. “Whose bright idea was this?”
“Soo Ling's.”
He took a deep breath. When he was a young upstart with the Dragons, Mao had warned him to tone down his defiant streak around Soo Ling, to do what she asked and he had begrudgingly complied. Mao trusted her, and that had been enough for him. Now, years later, she was still trying to meddle into his affairs, and here he was, still allowing it, as if Mao was still alive. He sighed and looked out the window as the car sped past the patch of high rise buildings. As they neared a tall building of smoked glass windows lined in gilded gold, Ronald slowed the car and pulled in front of the guarded building. The Samora Crown Hotel was surrounded by boutique shops and over-priced cafes frequented by executives and capos alike conducting their wheeling and dealing in the corporate boardrooms of Tharsis while the ISSP turned an organizational blind eye.
Spike looked up at the size of the building and heaved a big sigh.
“Shit, this is where she picked?” He slumped back against the seat. “Let me guess, penthouse, right?”
“Yep.”
Spike closed his eyes. The Samora Crown Hotel was simply not his style. But he bet Faye would like it.

July 2012

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