vettac: (Default)

Another Time, Another Place

Show me what it's like
To be the last one standing
And teach me wrong from right
And I'll show you what I can be
Say it for me
Say it to me
And I'll leave this life behind me
Say it if it's worth saving me

 

The drone of the vidscreen alerted him to the fact that he had fallen asleep in front of it. It had been a few days since his last job, and he was tired of waiting. Normally, the jobs came in fast and furious, leaving him little time to dwell on anything except for the basics of living: eat, shower, sleep, play pool, sleep. Having too much idle time was driving him a little insane, and for a fleeting moment, he regretted that the Swordfish was housed on Earth instead of with him here on Mars. Even his familiar prostrate position on the couch was beginning to annoy him.

 

From the window came the sound of rain pelting heavily against the glass. He hated rain. He could hear the murmur of voices, the squeak of mattress springs from the apartment next to his through the paper-thin walls. He knew what was coming next; he turned up the volume on the vidscreen to muffle the sound, and reached down beside the couch to pick up the paperback book that lay on the floor.

 

Spike opened his book and looked at the yellowed cover wearily. On the cover was a picture of a tall, long-legged kid with a lopsided grin and the clear eyes of a dreamer. The picture reminded him of a younger version of himself, long ago. He closed the book and picked up the pack of cigarettes lying on the coffee table.

 

He picked up the cigarette pack lying on the coffee table, groaning when he opened the box to find it empty. He stood up slowly, stretching his long limbs into action and walked into the kitchen. He picked up his shirt from the chair and shrugged into it, leaving the buttons undone. His eyes scanned the room, lighting on the faded Bruce Lee poster taped on the wall.

 

He trudged down the hallway to the bathroom. He clicked on the light, relieved himself, aiming a line across the rim of the bowl in a moment of childish play. He walked slowly back into the living room to finish getting dressed, lost in thought.

 

There is one thing I will never understand … ...and that one thing....is women. I love them like I love meat in my bell peppers. They smell good. They look nice, they sound nice. They feel nice … but I don't understand them.

 

His thoughts were interrupted by the ring of the communicator. He picked it up from the coffee table and looked at the screen as Ronald's face came into view.

 

“Yo.”

 

“Got something for you.”

 

Spike listened impassively as Ronald gave him the rundown.

 

“How much?”

 

“Two hundred million.”

 

Spike pondered for a moment the high figure. The job would be more difficult than the usual ones. Not that he really cared, it wasn't as if he really needed the money, he had more than enough money already that he didn't use. And he was starting to believe that nothing could kill him.

 

“So, you in?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

He disconnected the call. He trudged into the kitchen to grab his jacket hanging over the kitchen chair. He donned the jacket, checking his pockets for his keys before letting himself out of the apartment. He needed to replenish his nicotine.

 

As he headed down the darkened hallway towards the stairwell, Wanda, the young girl who lived in the apartment a couple of doors down from his, was coming in the opposite direction. She almost bumped into him, but she stopped short.

 

“Hey, Spike.” She leaned up against the wall, eyeing him. Her dark brown hair was freshly spiked and adorned with purple streaks.

 

“Yo.” Spike glanced down at her. She was wearing a tank top and short leather skirt that were so tight he couldn't figure out how she could even breathe. Kind of reminded him of someone else.

 

You're prowlin' around kinda late, aren't you?” She gave him a sultry smile.

 

“Guess so,” he mumbled. “Needed smokes.”

 

Wanda extended her arm, offering him her pack.

 

“Thanks.” He took one from her pack and handed them back to her.

 

He reached into his pocket for a light. He had long since misplaced his lighter, and he suspected that it was now in the possession of one Faye Valentine. A match flared along the side of a red matchbook as he lit the cigarette, the yellow light flashing metallic silver through his cybernetic eye, making him look dark and menacing.

 

“Want some company?” she asked seductively, ignoring the look. She had been trying in a variety of ways, to get into his pants. A few times he had been tempted to take her up on her offer, to erase the memory of the last time he'd been with a woman.

 

He realized that he had been staring. He shook his head and pulled his eyes away, looking down at the cigarette in his hand.

 

“Nah,” he said. “Got things to do.”

 

“Too bad.” Wanda smiled. “I could show you a real good time.”

 

“Some other time maybe,” he said as he dropped the spent cigarette to the ground, crushing it beneath his boot. As he turned to walk away, he felt her hand on his arm. He whirled around and snatched her wrist roughly as he slammed her against the wall.

 

“Don't ever touch me,” he said furiously, his eyes blazing.

 

Wanda's eyes widened in fear at his sudden violence. He let go of her abruptly and turned around, heading back towards the entrance to the stairwell. He pulled open the door and started quickly down the stairs and outside into the rain, another cigarette clenched between his teeth and the smell of Wanda's fear up his nostrils.

 

* * *

By the time Spike reached the Glowing Sun, his jacket was soaked, and his fresh pack of cigarettes were sodden, putting him in a foul mood. He headed to the bar and sat down, waiting for the bartender, who was down at the other end of the bar chatting with a couple of regulars. Finally Ronald came down to him.

 

“The usual?”

 

“Yeah. Any messages?”

 

Ronald shook his head and went to shake up the martini.

 

Spike swallowed his disappointment and glanced around the room. In addition to the regulars, there were a number of unfamiliar faces, which usually indicated that some syndicate activity was in progress. Now he knew that the reason behind the quiet of the past few days – the calm before a brewing storm.

 

Ronald returned and set down his drink on the bar. Spike furtively slid the white sheet of paper from under the glass, palming it in his first. He took a long sip from the glass while reading the contents of the note, then looked at Ronald and nodded. Ronald acknowledged his assent and disappeared momentarily to the storeroom. When he returned he looked at Spike, who drained his glass and asked for a refill.

 

* * *


After his third drink, Spike stood up.

 

“You heading out?” Ronald called.

 

“Yeah,” Spike responded, sliding his arms into his jacket. “Later.” He waved a greeting as he headed out the door.

 

He stopped under the archway to light his cigarette. The rain fell in pelting sheets, casting a dreary gloom over the city. He leaned against the overhang as he watched the people rushing past, protected by umbrellas threatening to spear whoever got too close, others with their jackets over the heads as an ineffective shield against the soaking rain.

 

He took a deep drag and exhaled, trying to shake off his melancholy. In the back of his mind he had hoped that maybe, just maybe, she would be sitting at the bar with her legs crossed, sipping her drink and pretending not to know that every set of eyes was on her.

 

He was angry with himself for believing that this time there would be a message from her. But it had already been six months, and it was becoming pretty obvious that she had meant every word she'd said to him. He stuffed his hands in the pockets of his jacket and headed towards home.

 

The past is the past, and nothing that has already happened can be changed.

 

The only thing left for him to do was to forget the past and move on. But he could not imagine what the rest of his life would be without the things with which he was familiar

 

A world without the Red Dragons family.

 

A world without the woman of his dreams, before the dream turned to ashes.

 

A world without the second chance at life that he had thrown away in a moment of weakness.

 

In the distance the roar of a heavy engine broke through his thoughts. He looked up to see a heavy armored ship pierce through the clouds of the heavy atmosphere. He squinted, trying to make out the lettering on the hull.

 

He didn't want to remember what had happened between them.

 

He wondered if she would have come looking for him if she had known the type of person that he turned into. That he had always been.

 

He had seen it in her eyes. She saw him for what he was, a cold and unfeeling, cruel monster, and with every accusation he found himself shutting down by degrees; it had taken every ounce of concentration to keep his uncaring mask in place.

 

And then out of frustration, probably from his seeming lack of caring, she had cried, silent tears that never fell. For the second time since he'd known her, he'd driven her to tears. The first time was when he'd walked away from the Bebop, sure never to see the ship or his comrades ever again in this life. This time, though … Spike shifted his position against the doorway as a familiar feeling welled up inside of him, a vague itch just out of reach, and he struggled to keep it buried.

 

Goddamn that woman, he thought, brutally crushing out his cigarette with the tip of his boot.

 

He immediately pulled out another and with shaking fingers lit up and smoked furiously, using the smoke to keep his throat from closing up. From deep within, the familiar feeling reached the surface, and he was assaulted with the feeling of being alone in the world, when he was too young to even reach the top of the counter at Annie's shop. It was Annie who had rescued him then when he had no one else in the universe to turn to.

 

He wondered who could save him now.

 

another gun for hire and just another day
when you are done, you just abuse it, whatever you say
if you were offered some, would you wanna bite the hand?
would you betray a friend to prove you're cold then walk away?

 

* * *


A few days later, preparations complete, he was back on the streets of Tharsis, following up on a tip that would lead him to his target.

 

Dr. Nathan Swami, head surgeon of one the largest biotech firms on Mars, headquartered in Tharsis City. Dr. Swami was a purveyor of human organs, sold to the highest bidder, and his price included acquisition and installation of the organs to the winner of the bid war. Unfortunately for him, his last surgery, replacement of kidneys in the body of the twelve year old daughter of a well known socialite, were taken from the son of one of the Yellow Tail syndicate's highest ranking officers. And the word on the street was that the boy had been killed expressly for his kidneys, which were a perfect match for little Christina.

 

He reached the Destitute Fish Tavern, jammed between a porno theater and an electronics shop. There was a meanness about the place, even in the buzz of the blinking neon sign, bright red in the shape of a carnivorous fish. Spike paused for a moment, his eyes scanning over the motorcycles parked in front of the place. No one in Tharsis could afford bikes, especially ones as big as these were, unless they were independently rich or employed by the syndicates. He grinned to himself. He was in the right place.

 

The bike owners were big, husky men, and they were wearing black jackets that identified them as members of the White Triad gang. They looked up from their beers as he walked inside.

 

The music was blaringly loud, pounding heavily from the ceiling mounted speakers, and on a small stage a thin blonde girl in a G-string gyrated mechanically to the beat. A few other patrons watched the girl as the topless waitresses wandered around with trays of beers. Spike went to the bar, where the bartender, an emaciated man with scarred skin was pouring a new pitcher of brews. He stared at him warily as Spike slid onto a stool.

 

“Give me a draft beer.”

 

The bartender silently lifted a mug from the shelf and set it under the tap, waiting as it filled to the top.

 

“I'm looking for someone,” Spike said.

 

“You're in the wrong joint,” the bartender answered. “Nobody knows nothing here. Try the Rusty Nail, over on Selma.”

 

Spike scowled impatiently. “I'm looking for a man who might have come in here earlier.”

 

“I serve beer and liquor, not lonely-hearts-club news. Take a hike, buddy.”

 

Spike looked down at the bar counter where a bowl full of Destitute Fish matchbooks sat, and he reached in to pocket a few. He reached into his pocket to pull out a digitized picture of a pale skinned, dark haired man who looked to be in his late forties. “Have you seen anybody who---”

 

A hand grasped his shoulder and swung him around. Two of the bikers had crowded in behind him as the others watched from their table. The dancer on the stage had paused in her dancing to watch. A brown-bearded face with cruel blue eyes and wearing a necklace of rusty razor blades, peered into Spike's face. Spike eyed him impassively.

 

Great, another wiseass, he thought to himself. This was supposed to be a quick trip out, to get a cold beer and a little info so that he could get back to his pointless life. He had no patience for idiots who tried to push their weight around ... it was time to let him know who was in control here.

 

“Go play in someone else's sandbox,” he said in a bored tone, but he kept his eyes on the biker's friends.

 

The biker took a menacing step towards him. “And if I don't?”

 

Spike looked around, his eyes stopping at a table where a drunk was sitting surrounded by empty beer mugs. “Excuse me,” he said and lifted an empty mug off the table. Then he cocked his arm back, took aim, and called out, “Hey, Bikerman!”

 

The biker's head swiveled toward him, eyes flashing with anger.

 

Spike threw the beer mug, and it sailed through the air. The biker lifted his hand to ward it off, but he was too late. The mug hit him between the eyes, didn't shatter but made a satisfying clunking sound against his skull. He took two steps forward and one step back, his eyes rolled to show the bloodshot whites, and he fell like a tree trunk.

 

“Sonofabitch!” one of the bikers friends said as he watched his friend fall. Then his face darkened like a storm cloud and he started toward Spike with two other bikers right behind him.

Spike stood firm and relaxed, his hands at his sides. He was itching to kick some ass and flow like water through the goons in front of him. He let them get within ten feet, and then he said in a calm voice, “Are you ready to join your friend?”

 

The one with the brown beard stopped as if he'd run into an invisible wall. One of the others ran into him and bounced off. “Huh?

 

The other man stared at it and blinked uncertainly. “Who...who the hell are you?”

 

“Spike Spiegel.”

 

“I've heard of you before, haven't I?”

 

“Yes,” Spike answered, a look of quiet menace on his face. “You probably have.”

 

One of the bikers whispered something in his ear, and the man frowned slightly before stepping back and following his friends out the front door.

 

As the sounds of their roaring motorcycles faded away, Spike glanced at the bartender who was wiping down the counter, his face blank. Spike smirked and walked over to the bar and picked up his mug of beer. He took a long sip, wiping the froth from his lip with his tongue before setting the mug back down.

 

“I've seen him. The guy you're after.”

 

Spike abruptly stopped and turned to face the bartender.

 

“He was in here maybe two, three hours ago.”

 

“Do you know where he works?”

 

“Gabba Rocks Corporation, over on the other side of the freeway. He comes in here a couple of times a week.” He stopped wiping and lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “What do you want with him?”

 

Spike picked up the mug of beer and finished it up. He knew about men like Swami,

 

“Thanks for the scoop.” He started toward the door with a wave of his hand.

 

Spike left the tavern and started walking east along the boulevard. The cabstand was just ahead, and a cab was there, engine running. A kid in jeans and a black leather jacket leaned against the hood; he was rail-thin, his head shaved bald displaying a tattoo in the shape of an ankh on his scalp.

 

“You've got a fare, kid,” he said, sliding his long legs in. “Move it!”

 

The kid said, “I'm waiting for---”

 

“Your wait's over,” Spike interrupted. “Come on, I don't have all night.”

 

The kid shrugged, his eyes vacant and disinterested, and got behind the wheel. As soon as Spike was in, the kid shot away from the curb with a shriek of burning rubber and entered the flow of the westbound traffic.

 

“I want to go to the Gabba Rocks Corporation,” Spike told him. “You know where that is?”

 

“Sure.”

 

“Well, you're going the wrong way. And start your meter, unless I'm going to ride for free.”

 

“Oh, yeah.” He pressed the start button and the mechanism started ticking. “You want to go east, huh?” he asked. And without warning he spun the wheel violently, throwing Spike up against the cab's side, and the vehicle careened in a tight U-turn that narrowly missed a collision with another taxi. Horns blared and tires screeched, but the kid swerved into the eastbound lane without a care. Spike heard the whine of a siren and glanced back.

 

“Real smart move kid,” he sighed. “You just got an escort.”

 

The kid looked in the rearview mirror and shrugged.

 

“Lose him,” Spike told him impatiently.

 

The kid laughed. “You got it.” The cab surged ahead as the cabbie floored the gas, and Spike was pressed to the seat from the velocity, holding onto the door handle for leverage.

 

“Excellent.” He grinned to himself.

 

* * *

 

Spike could see the sign for the Gabba Rocks Corporation up ahead.

 

“Stop here,” he commanded.

 

The car skidded to a halt a block away from the building. Spike handed his money card over, and the cabbie's eyes widened when he saw the amount that he was being paid.

“Hey man, thanks,” he said, handing Spike the card.

 

Spike got out, slamming the door shut. The cab sped off, burning rubber.

 

He headed towards the building, every fiber in his body on alert as he surveyed the area. He estimated that he would make it to the building in about four minutes. He glanced over at the other side of the street, looking for tell tale signs of the bodyguards that would be fanned out across the area, a wide scan of protection for his target. He laughed to himself, knowing that all the body guards in the world would not be able to protect the target from him.

 

Spike's ears perked up as he surveyed the odd number of black-suited men in dark glasses. His face expressionless, he slowed his pace and casually pulled out his pack of cigarettes, lighting the end as his cybernetic eye recorded the positions of each one of them. He played out the moves in his mind as he smoked. The suit covering flank was a huge brute, but, judging by the way he stood, seemed to be slightly favoring his left side, which Spike surmised from a previous injury.

 

As he got closer, the first of the bodyguards walked towards him, something shining silver in his hand. Spike braced himself as the knife flashed up in his face, and he blocked, stumbling slightly as a fist swung into his face, landing hard on his jaw. His head snapped back and he saw stars, tasting blood in his mouth. His fury aroused, he lunged for the man's throat, his knee snapping up into his groin.

 

Fifteen minutes later, he had taken down all five of them, and as he stepped over their bodies, he couldn't help but feel contempt for these goons and those like them who blindly followed the orders of their organization without question.

 

He walked through the lobby of the building towards the receptionist, rubbing his sore jaw ruefully.

 

“How may I assist you?” the girl asked, a crimson blush on her cheeks as Spike smiled at her.

 

“I have an appointment at two with Dr Swami,” he told her, leaning against the desk as he waited for her to respond.

“Your name?”

 

“Joseph Spiegel.”

 

She frowned as she looked down at her appointment book entries.

 

“I'm sorry, Mr. Spiegel, but I don't see your name in the book.

 

Spike cocked his head to the side and leaned forward to rest his arms on the desk. “That's odd, Nathan said that he would fit me in at two. I'm sure he's expecting me.” He gave the girl a puzzled smile.

 

The receptionist looked up at him doubtfully. “Well, if you're sure … “ She reached below the desk to buzz him in.

 

Spike smiled at her. “Thanks, love.” He strode purposefully to the double doors that led to Dr. Swami's office.

 

A few short minutes, he was leaving the office. He calmly removed the silencer from the gun and replaced them both in his jacket. He walked out to the receptionist, waving a goodbye as he left the building.

 

* * *

 

Spike pulled his jacket closer as he walked down the crowded street through the throngs of people revving up for an evening of partying. Spike recalled once being part of such a crowd, when he and other young and fearless associates would spend the night drinking and partying after a troublesome or bloody mission. It was during that time that he'd discovered the magic curing properties of the Prairie Oyster.

 

The noise and lights of Alba Boulevard burned in his ears, reminding him of walking these same streets as a kid. He was well acquainted with the shadows that lay at the fringes of these streets, and of the danger lurking in the shadows. His senses were on full alert as he continued his journey, cars and taxis zipping past honking obscenely at the brave souls who dared to cross the street in front of them. As he reached the street corner, a prostitute jiggled her wares as she beckoned to him. He kept his eyes straight ahead.

 

Out of the corner of his eye a flash of yellow and he turned quickly to look. A woman dressed in a yellow sundress and holding the hand of a little girl passed him. For a split second he had expected someone else, a woman in a tiny yellow outfit with a brazen attitude. It surprised him to realize that he was disappointed that it wasn't her.

 

I need you to forgive me.

 

He swallowed the sudden lump in his throat and fumbled in his jacket for his pack, his hands shaking slightly as he lifted one out with his lips. He gripped the Zippo tightly as he held the flame to the cigarette. He inhaled fiercely and held his breath for a few seconds longer than necessary before letting out the smoke. He refused to believe that the burning in his eyes had to do with anything other than the smoke from his cigarette.

 

I miss you.

 

Journey's end.

 

Well, almost.

 

vettac: (Default)

Another Time, Another Place

Show me what it's like
To be the last one standing
And teach me wrong from right
And I'll show you what I can be
Say it for me
Say it to me
And I'll leave this life behind me
Say it if it's worth saving me

 

The drone of the vidscreen alerted him to the fact that he had fallen asleep in front of it. It had been a few days since his last job, and he was tired of waiting. Normally, the jobs came in fast and furious, leaving him little time to dwell on anything except for the basics of living: eat, shower, sleep, play pool, sleep. Having too much idle time was driving him a little insane, and for a fleeting moment, he regretted that the Swordfish was housed on Earth instead of with him here on Mars. Even his familiar prostrate position on the couch was beginning to annoy him.

 

From the window came the sound of rain pelting heavily against the glass. He hated rain. He could hear the murmur of voices, the squeak of mattress springs from the apartment next to his through the paper-thin walls. He knew what was coming next; he turned up the volume on the vidscreen to muffle the sound, and reached down beside the couch to pick up the paperback book that lay on the floor.

 

Spike opened his book and looked at the yellowed cover wearily. On the cover was a picture of a tall, long-legged kid with a lopsided grin and the clear eyes of a dreamer. The picture reminded him of a younger version of himself, long ago. He closed the book and picked up the pack of cigarettes lying on the coffee table.

 

He picked up the cigarette pack lying on the coffee table, groaning when he opened the box to find it empty. He stood up slowly, stretching his long limbs into action and walked into the kitchen. He picked up his shirt from the chair and shrugged into it, leaving the buttons undone. His eyes scanned the room, lighting on the faded Bruce Lee poster taped on the wall.

 

He trudged down the hallway to the bathroom. He clicked on the light, relieved himself, aiming a line across the rim of the bowl in a moment of childish play. He walked slowly back into the living room to finish getting dressed, lost in thought.

 

There is one thing I will never understand … ...and that one thing....is women. I love them like I love meat in my bell peppers. They smell good. They look nice, they sound nice. They feel nice … but I don't understand them.

 

His thoughts were interrupted by the ring of the communicator. He picked it up from the coffee table and looked at the screen as Ronald's face came into view.

 

“Yo.”

 

“Got something for you.”

 

Spike listened impassively as Ronald gave him the rundown.

 

“How much?”

 

“Two hundred million.”

 

Spike pondered for a moment the high figure. The job would be more difficult than the usual ones. Not that he really cared, it wasn't as if he really needed the money, he had more than enough money already that he didn't use. And he was starting to believe that nothing could kill him.

 

“So, you in?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

He disconnected the call. He trudged into the kitchen to grab his jacket hanging over the kitchen chair. He donned the jacket, checking his pockets for his keys before letting himself out of the apartment. He needed to replenish his nicotine.

 

As he headed down the darkened hallway towards the stairwell, Wanda, the young girl who lived in the apartment a couple of doors down from his, was coming in the opposite direction. She almost bumped into him, but she stopped short.

 

“Hey, Spike.” She leaned up against the wall, eyeing him. Her dark brown hair was freshly spiked and adorned with purple streaks.

 

“Yo.” Spike glanced down at her. She was wearing a tank top and short leather skirt that were so tight he couldn't figure out how she could even breathe. Kind of reminded him of someone else.

 

You're prowlin' around kinda late, aren't you?” She gave him a sultry smile.

 

“Guess so,” he mumbled. “Needed smokes.”

 

Wanda extended her arm, offering him her pack.

 

“Thanks.” He took one from her pack and handed them back to her.

 

He reached into his pocket for a light. He had long since misplaced his lighter, and he suspected that it was now in the possession of one Faye Valentine. A match flared along the side of a red matchbook as he lit the cigarette, the yellow light flashing metallic silver through his cybernetic eye, making him look dark and menacing.

 

“Want some company?” she asked seductively, ignoring the look. She had been trying in a variety of ways, to get into his pants. A few times he had been tempted to take her up on her offer, to erase the memory of the last time he'd been with a woman.

 

He realized that he had been staring. He shook his head and pulled his eyes away, looking down at the cigarette in his hand.

 

“Nah,” he said. “Got things to do.”

 

“Too bad.” Wanda smiled. “I could show you a real good time.”

 

“Some other time maybe,” he said as he dropped the spent cigarette to the ground, crushing it beneath his boot. As he turned to walk away, he felt her hand on his arm. He whirled around and snatched her wrist roughly as he slammed her against the wall.

 

“Don't ever touch me,” he said furiously, his eyes blazing.

 

Wanda's eyes widened in fear at his sudden violence. He let go of her abruptly and turned around, heading back towards the entrance to the stairwell. He pulled open the door and started quickly down the stairs and outside into the rain, another cigarette clenched between his teeth and the smell of Wanda's fear up his nostrils.

 

* * *

By the time Spike reached the Glowing Sun, his jacket was soaked, and his fresh pack of cigarettes were sodden, putting him in a foul mood. He headed to the bar and sat down, waiting for the bartender, who was down at the other end of the bar chatting with a couple of regulars. Finally Ronald came down to him.

 

“The usual?”

 

“Yeah. Any messages?”

 

Ronald shook his head and went to shake up the martini.

 

Spike swallowed his disappointment and glanced around the room. In addition to the regulars, there were a number of unfamiliar faces, which usually indicated that some syndicate activity was in progress. Now he knew that the reason behind the quiet of the past few days – the calm before a brewing storm.

 

Ronald returned and set down his drink on the bar. Spike furtively slid the white sheet of paper from under the glass, palming it in his first. He took a long sip from the glass while reading the contents of the note, then looked at Ronald and nodded. Ronald acknowledged his assent and disappeared momentarily to the storeroom. When he returned he looked at Spike, who drained his glass and asked for a refill.

 

* * *


After his third drink, Spike stood up.

 

“You heading out?” Ronald called.

 

“Yeah,” Spike responded, sliding his arms into his jacket. “Later.” He waved a greeting as he headed out the door.

 

He stopped under the archway to light his cigarette. The rain fell in pelting sheets, casting a dreary gloom over the city. He leaned against the overhang as he watched the people rushing past, protected by umbrellas threatening to spear whoever got too close, others with their jackets over the heads as an ineffective shield against the soaking rain.

 

He took a deep drag and exhaled, trying to shake off his melancholy. In the back of his mind he had hoped that maybe, just maybe, she would be sitting at the bar with her legs crossed, sipping her drink and pretending not to know that every set of eyes was on her.

 

He was angry with himself for believing that this time there would be a message from her. But it had already been six months, and it was becoming pretty obvious that she had meant every word she'd said to him. He stuffed his hands in the pockets of his jacket and headed towards home.

 

The past is the past, and nothing that has already happened can be changed.

 

The only thing left for him to do was to forget the past and move on. But he could not imagine what the rest of his life would be without the things with which he was familiar

 

A world without the Red Dragons family.

 

A world without the woman of his dreams, before the dream turned to ashes.

 

A world without the second chance at life that he had thrown away in a moment of weakness.

 

In the distance the roar of a heavy engine broke through his thoughts. He looked up to see a heavy armored ship pierce through the clouds of the heavy atmosphere. He squinted, trying to make out the lettering on the hull.

 

He didn't want to remember what had happened between them.

 

He wondered if she would have come looking for him if she had known the type of person that he turned into. That he had always been.

 

He had seen it in her eyes. She saw him for what he was, a cold and unfeeling, cruel monster, and with every accusation he found himself shutting down by degrees; it had taken every ounce of concentration to keep his uncaring mask in place.

 

And then out of frustration, probably from his seeming lack of caring, she had cried, silent tears that never fell. For the second time since he'd known her, he'd driven her to tears. The first time was when he'd walked away from the Bebop, sure never to see the ship or his comrades ever again in this life. This time, though … Spike shifted his position against the doorway as a familiar feeling welled up inside of him, a vague itch just out of reach, and he struggled to keep it buried.

 

Goddamn that woman, he thought, brutally crushing out his cigarette with the tip of his boot.

 

He immediately pulled out another and with shaking fingers lit up and smoked furiously, using the smoke to keep his throat from closing up. From deep within, the familiar feeling reached the surface, and he was assaulted with the feeling of being alone in the world, when he was too young to even reach the top of the counter at Annie's shop. It was Annie who had rescued him then when he had no one else in the universe to turn to.

 

He wondered who could save him now.

 

another gun for hire and just another day
when you are done, you just abuse it, whatever you say
if you were offered some, would you wanna bite the hand?
would you betray a friend to prove you're cold then walk away?

 

* * *


A few days later, preparations complete, he was back on the streets of Tharsis, following up on a tip that would lead him to his target.

 

Dr. Nathan Swami, head surgeon of one the largest biotech firms on Mars, headquartered in Tharsis City. Dr. Swami was a purveyor of human organs, sold to the highest bidder, and his price included acquisition and installation of the organs to the winner of the bid war. Unfortunately for him, his last surgery, replacement of kidneys in the body of the twelve year old daughter of a well known socialite, were taken from the son of one of the Yellow Tail syndicate's highest ranking officers. And the word on the street was that the boy had been killed expressly for his kidneys, which were a perfect match for little Christina.

 

He reached the Destitute Fish Tavern, jammed between a porno theater and an electronics shop. There was a meanness about the place, even in the buzz of the blinking neon sign, bright red in the shape of a carnivorous fish. Spike paused for a moment, his eyes scanning over the motorcycles parked in front of the place. No one in Tharsis could afford bikes, especially ones as big as these were, unless they were independently rich or employed by the syndicates. He grinned to himself. He was in the right place.

 

The bike owners were big, husky men, and they were wearing black jackets that identified them as members of the White Triad gang. They looked up from their beers as he walked inside.

 

The music was blaringly loud, pounding heavily from the ceiling mounted speakers, and on a small stage a thin blonde girl in a G-string gyrated mechanically to the beat. A few other patrons watched the girl as the topless waitresses wandered around with trays of beers. Spike went to the bar, where the bartender, an emaciated man with scarred skin was pouring a new pitcher of brews. He stared at him warily as Spike slid onto a stool.

 

“Give me a draft beer.”

 

The bartender silently lifted a mug from the shelf and set it under the tap, waiting as it filled to the top.

 

“I'm looking for someone,” Spike said.

 

“You're in the wrong joint,” the bartender answered. “Nobody knows nothing here. Try the Rusty Nail, over on Selma.”

 

Spike scowled impatiently. “I'm looking for a man who might have come in here earlier.”

 

“I serve beer and liquor, not lonely-hearts-club news. Take a hike, buddy.”

 

Spike looked down at the bar counter where a bowl full of Destitute Fish matchbooks sat, and he reached in to pocket a few. He reached into his pocket to pull out a digitized picture of a pale skinned, dark haired man who looked to be in his late forties. “Have you seen anybody who---”

 

A hand grasped his shoulder and swung him around. Two of the bikers had crowded in behind him as the others watched from their table. The dancer on the stage had paused in her dancing to watch. A brown-bearded face with cruel blue eyes and wearing a necklace of rusty razor blades, peered into Spike's face. Spike eyed him impassively.

 

Great, another wiseass, he thought to himself. This was supposed to be a quick trip out, to get a cold beer and a little info so that he could get back to his pointless life. He had no patience for idiots who tried to push their weight around ... it was time to let him know who was in control here.

 

“Go play in someone else's sandbox,” he said in a bored tone, but he kept his eyes on the biker's friends.

 

The biker took a menacing step towards him. “And if I don't?”

 

Spike looked around, his eyes stopping at a table where a drunk was sitting surrounded by empty beer mugs. “Excuse me,” he said and lifted an empty mug off the table. Then he cocked his arm back, took aim, and called out, “Hey, Bikerman!”

 

The biker's head swiveled toward him, eyes flashing with anger.

 

Spike threw the beer mug, and it sailed through the air. The biker lifted his hand to ward it off, but he was too late. The mug hit him between the eyes, didn't shatter but made a satisfying clunking sound against his skull. He took two steps forward and one step back, his eyes rolled to show the bloodshot whites, and he fell like a tree trunk.

 

“Sonofabitch!” one of the bikers friends said as he watched his friend fall. Then his face darkened like a storm cloud and he started toward Spike with two other bikers right behind him.

Spike stood firm and relaxed, his hands at his sides. He was itching to kick some ass and flow like water through the goons in front of him. He let them get within ten feet, and then he said in a calm voice, “Are you ready to join your friend?”

 

The one with the brown beard stopped as if he'd run into an invisible wall. One of the others ran into him and bounced off. “Huh?

 

The other man stared at it and blinked uncertainly. “Who...who the hell are you?”

 

“Spike Spiegel.”

 

“I've heard of you before, haven't I?”

 

“Yes,” Spike answered, a look of quiet menace on his face. “You probably have.”

 

One of the bikers whispered something in his ear, and the man frowned slightly before stepping back and following his friends out the front door.

 

As the sounds of their roaring motorcycles faded away, Spike glanced at the bartender who was wiping down the counter, his face blank. Spike smirked and walked over to the bar and picked up his mug of beer. He took a long sip, wiping the froth from his lip with his tongue before setting the mug back down.

 

“I've seen him. The guy you're after.”

 

Spike abruptly stopped and turned to face the bartender.

 

“He was in here maybe two, three hours ago.”

 

“Do you know where he works?”

 

“Gabba Rocks Corporation, over on the other side of the freeway. He comes in here a couple of times a week.” He stopped wiping and lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “What do you want with him?”

 

Spike picked up the mug of beer and finished it up. He knew about men like Swami,

 

“Thanks for the scoop.” He started toward the door with a wave of his hand.

 

Spike left the tavern and started walking east along the boulevard. The cabstand was just ahead, and a cab was there, engine running. A kid in jeans and a black leather jacket leaned against the hood; he was rail-thin, his head shaved bald displaying a tattoo in the shape of an ankh on his scalp.

 

“You've got a fare, kid,” he said, sliding his long legs in. “Move it!”

 

The kid said, “I'm waiting for---”

 

“Your wait's over,” Spike interrupted. “Come on, I don't have all night.”

 

The kid shrugged, his eyes vacant and disinterested, and got behind the wheel. As soon as Spike was in, the kid shot away from the curb with a shriek of burning rubber and entered the flow of the westbound traffic.

 

“I want to go to the Gabba Rocks Corporation,” Spike told him. “You know where that is?”

 

“Sure.”

 

“Well, you're going the wrong way. And start your meter, unless I'm going to ride for free.”

 

“Oh, yeah.” He pressed the start button and the mechanism started ticking. “You want to go east, huh?” he asked. And without warning he spun the wheel violently, throwing Spike up against the cab's side, and the vehicle careened in a tight U-turn that narrowly missed a collision with another taxi. Horns blared and tires screeched, but the kid swerved into the eastbound lane without a care. Spike heard the whine of a siren and glanced back.

 

“Real smart move kid,” he sighed. “You just got an escort.”

 

The kid looked in the rearview mirror and shrugged.

 

“Lose him,” Spike told him impatiently.

 

The kid laughed. “You got it.” The cab surged ahead as the cabbie floored the gas, and Spike was pressed to the seat from the velocity, holding onto the door handle for leverage.

 

“Excellent.” He grinned to himself.

 

* * *

 

Spike could see the sign for the Gabba Rocks Corporation up ahead.

 

“Stop here,” he commanded.

 

The car skidded to a halt a block away from the building. Spike handed his money card over, and the cabbie's eyes widened when he saw the amount that he was being paid.

“Hey man, thanks,” he said, handing Spike the card.

 

Spike got out, slamming the door shut. The cab sped off, burning rubber.

 

He headed towards the building, every fiber in his body on alert as he surveyed the area. He estimated that he would make it to the building in about four minutes. He glanced over at the other side of the street, looking for tell tale signs of the bodyguards that would be fanned out across the area, a wide scan of protection for his target. He laughed to himself, knowing that all the body guards in the world would not be able to protect the target from him.

 

Spike's ears perked up as he surveyed the odd number of black-suited men in dark glasses. His face expressionless, he slowed his pace and casually pulled out his pack of cigarettes, lighting the end as his cybernetic eye recorded the positions of each one of them. He played out the moves in his mind as he smoked. The suit covering flank was a huge brute, but, judging by the way he stood, seemed to be slightly favoring his left side, which Spike surmised from a previous injury.

 

As he got closer, the first of the bodyguards walked towards him, something shining silver in his hand. Spike braced himself as the knife flashed up in his face, and he blocked, stumbling slightly as a fist swung into his face, landing hard on his jaw. His head snapped back and he saw stars, tasting blood in his mouth. His fury aroused, he lunged for the man's throat, his knee snapping up into his groin.

 

Fifteen minutes later, he had taken down all five of them, and as he stepped over their bodies, he couldn't help but feel contempt for these goons and those like them who blindly followed the orders of their organization without question.

 

He walked through the lobby of the building towards the receptionist, rubbing his sore jaw ruefully.

 

“How may I assist you?” the girl asked, a crimson blush on her cheeks as Spike smiled at her.

 

“I have an appointment at two with Dr Swami,” he told her, leaning against the desk as he waited for her to respond.

“Your name?”

 

“Joseph Spiegel.”

 

She frowned as she looked down at her appointment book entries.

 

“I'm sorry, Mr. Spiegel, but I don't see your name in the book.

 

Spike cocked his head to the side and leaned forward to rest his arms on the desk. “That's odd, Nathan said that he would fit me in at two. I'm sure he's expecting me.” He gave the girl a puzzled smile.

 

The receptionist looked up at him doubtfully. “Well, if you're sure … “ She reached below the desk to buzz him in.

 

Spike smiled at her. “Thanks, love.” He strode purposefully to the double doors that led to Dr. Swami's office.

 

A few short minutes, he was leaving the office. He calmly removed the silencer from the gun and replaced them both in his jacket. He walked out to the receptionist, waving a goodbye as he left the building.

 

* * *

 

Spike pulled his jacket closer as he walked down the crowded street through the throngs of people revving up for an evening of partying. Spike recalled once being part of such a crowd, when he and other young and fearless associates would spend the night drinking and partying after a troublesome or bloody mission. It was during that time that he'd discovered the magic curing properties of the Prairie Oyster.

 

The noise and lights of Alba Boulevard burned in his ears, reminding him of walking these same streets as a kid. He was well acquainted with the shadows that lay at the fringes of these streets, and of the danger lurking in the shadows. His senses were on full alert as he continued his journey, cars and taxis zipping past honking obscenely at the brave souls who dared to cross the street in front of them. As he reached the street corner, a prostitute jiggled her wares as she beckoned to him. He kept his eyes straight ahead.

 

Out of the corner of his eye a flash of yellow and he turned quickly to look. A woman dressed in a yellow sundress and holding the hand of a little girl passed him. For a split second he had expected someone else, a woman in a tiny yellow outfit with a brazen attitude. It surprised him to realize that he was disappointed that it wasn't her.

 

I need you to forgive me.

 

He swallowed the sudden lump in his throat and fumbled in his jacket for his pack, his hands shaking slightly as he lifted one out with his lips. He gripped the Zippo tightly as he held the flame to the cigarette. He inhaled fiercely and held his breath for a few seconds longer than necessary before letting out the smoke. He refused to believe that the burning in his eyes had to do with anything other than the smoke from his cigarette.

 

I miss you.

 

Journey's end.

 

Well, almost.

 

vettac: (Default)
Disclaimer: I own neither Cowboy Bebop or any of the lyrics quoted herein.

Why I Have My Grandma's Sad Eyes by Kill Hannah

It started like this,
I was here right, standing leaning back,
My deer in the headlights look never fails
but hearing all the things that you said,
Cut me to the core, blew me away,
Like I got hit with a gunshot, like a bomb dropped,
Stabbed with a white hot knife in the heart,
While all these people still ask me
why I have my grandma's sad eyes.


Spike leaned against the side of the Swordfish, under the wing, hands in his pockets and a cigarette hanging from his mouth. He had needed some air, and even though there was a slight breeze, the oppressive heat of the Martian sun was impossible to escape. A strong gust swirled up, blowing smoke into his face. He welcomed the burning in his eyes as the image of Faye washed away along with the tear that rolled down his cheek. He took a hand from his pocket to discard the butt and swiped his face on his jacket sleeve as he pushed himself off from the ship.

After dinner earlier that evening, he had been simply minding his own damned business, watching Big Shots and debating whether a two hundred thousand woolong bounty was going to be worth his time and energy.

For some reason still unknown to him, he had looked up to find Faye's eyes upon him, and for a few minutes neither of them had said a word, simply staring each other down.

Then she had turned and walked away, leaving him to watch her small figure disappear down the hallway to her room.

The crushing pain that hit him was unlike anything he had felt in a long time; it started from deep down in his gut and traveled all the way up his torso, sitting like a ball of lead in his chest. He found it hard to swallow that thick knot in his throat, and for a moment he wondered if Jet had put something in tonight's dinner that had not sat well in his stomach.

He reached in his pocket and pulled out another cigarette to light.

Who was he kidding?

He knew exactly what the problem was, had known for some time now.

It was that woman with the green eyes.


Mind Over Money by Turin Breaks

Mind over money, bent over backwards
Light up my life like a very last cigarette
Time after time dear we will just lie here
Staring at ceilings it doesn't really matter where we are

Wearing a smile like it's going out of style
Look at your self, there's nothing in there
Just put points on a grave stone, can you see yourself sinking
Staring at ceilings it doesn't really matter where you are

That's alright I warned myself
Keep blood on the inside and nowhere else
Up on a shelf that's where I need to be


His eyes were closed as Faye watched him, his hands clasped across his stomach, a self-absorbed smirk across his face. He looked the picture of peace and contentment. She could have no idea of what was going on inside his head.

In his mind he was recounting all of the near-misses in his life, trying to figure out how many lives he had used up or given away, and how many he had left.

The first one, he figured, was the day he walked into the Red Dragons headquarters, signing away his autonomy and independence.

The second was when he had had allowed himself to be talked into swapping out the eye he was born with for one owned by Mao and the Dragons, pulling him deeper into the dungeon and away from himself.

The third life was wrested away from him during crossfire between the Dragons and a rival syndicate, and that was the first one from which he almost did not make it back. He and Vicious became fast friends from that point on, and enjoyed a long run of camaraderie while moving up the ranks together.

Then a stone dropped like lead to the bottom of a cesspool, when Julia entered the scene. Despite warnings from Vicious and Mao, he gave away another life by falling in love with her.

When finally he had to rid himself from the oppressive life that the Dragons had become, he faked his death to escape, nearly losing his life in the process. The rest were easy to figure out: mad Pierrot, Vincent, the destruction of Vicious and the Red Dragons.

Now another woman, whose existence in his time and space threatened to sluice out another life.

He cracked open an eye and made himself look at Faye’s still figure, fast asleep, mouth ajar as soft snores emanated from her pretty little mouth.

He closed his eyes. Yeah, he guessed he could hold on to this last life for awhile.


Seeds of Night by The Cave Singers

Oh my love
This is our town
Where gray cloud wander
Over heaven and ground

Oh, thinking of heaven
Oh, thinking it's night
Oh, thinking of heaven
Oh, maybe next time
Next life down the road



Faye had grown tired of waiting for Spike and decided to venture off on her own. She wandered along the avenue, stopping to glance up at a high-rise building displaying the weather report. She wondered briefly whether an umbrella could offer protection against meteor showers the way that her pink umbrella with the Dalmatians used to when she was a child …

“Today’s forecast: 80% chance of clouds today.”

Faye skipped merrily along the sidewalk, her pink umbrella over her head as she jumped into every puddle that she came upon. Daddy had bought it for her as a present when he returned from his last business trip. When she opened the big box, she had pulled out the pink umbrella that had oodles of her favorite kind of dog, along with her favorite movie, 101 Dalmatians. She had begged Daddy to buy her a Dalmatian of her own, but he had told her no, because when she had grown tired of the dog and the responsibility that came with caring for it, the task would fall to the servants. Faye had sulked for weeks until a new obsession had taken her interest away from a Dalmatian.

“Today’s forecast: 80% chance of meteor showers today.”

Faye heard the patter of small stones hitting the ground behind her, and she ducked under the awning of a building, waiting until the wave had passed. Once the showers had passed, she ventured out to continue her walk.

She saw Spike heading towards her from the opposite direction. Judging by the sour look on his face, she must have been gone longer than she thought. She put her hand up to her ear and realized that she had also forgotten to turn on her earpiece.

She stopped and waited for him to reach her.

“Where were you?” He towered over her imposingly.

Faye gave him an arrogant look of her own.

“You took too long.”
vettac: (Default)
Vetta's third and final entry into the Cowboy Bebop triangle series:

Seeds of Night by The Cave Singers

Oh my love
This is our town
Where gray cloud wander
Over heaven and ground

Oh, thinking of heaven
Oh, thinking it's night
Oh, thinking of heaven
Oh, maybe next time
Next life down the road



Faye had grown tired of waiting for Spike and decided to venture off on her own. She wandered along the avenue, stopping to glance up at a high-rise building displaying the weather report. She wondered briefly whether an umbrella could offer protection against meteor showers the way that her pink umbrella with the Dalmatians used to when she was a child …

“Today’s forecast: 80% chance of clouds today.”

Faye skipped merrily along the sidewalk, her pink umbrella over her head as she jumped into every puddle that she came upon. Daddy had bought it for her as a present when he returned from his last business trip. When she opened the big box, she had pulled out the pink umbrella that had oodles of her favorite kind of dog, along with her favorite movie, 101 Dalmatians. She had begged Daddy to buy her a Dalmatian of her own, but he had told her no, because when she had grown tired of the dog and the responsibility that came with caring for it, the task would fall to the servants. Faye had sulked for weeks until a new obsession had taken her interest away from a Dalmatian.

“Today’s forecast: 80% chance of meteor showers today.”

Faye heard the patter of small stones hitting the ground behind her, and she ducked under the awning of a building, waiting until the wave had passed. Once the showers had passed, she ventured out to continue her walk.

She saw Spike heading towards her from the opposite direction. Judging by the sour look on his face, she must have been gone longer than she thought. She put her hand up to her ear and realized that she had also forgotten to turn on her earpiece.

She stopped and waited for him to reach her.

“Where were you?” He towered over her imposingly.

Faye gave him an arrogant look of her own.

“You took too long.”
vettac: (Default)
Vetta's third and final entry into the Cowboy Bebop triangle series:

Seeds of Night by The Cave Singers

Oh my love
This is our town
Where gray cloud wander
Over heaven and ground

Oh, thinking of heaven
Oh, thinking it's night
Oh, thinking of heaven
Oh, maybe next time
Next life down the road



Faye had grown tired of waiting for Spike and decided to venture off on her own. She wandered along the avenue, stopping to glance up at a high-rise building displaying the weather report. She wondered briefly whether an umbrella could offer protection against meteor showers the way that her pink umbrella with the Dalmatians used to when she was a child …

“Today’s forecast: 80% chance of clouds today.”

Faye skipped merrily along the sidewalk, her pink umbrella over her head as she jumped into every puddle that she came upon. Daddy had bought it for her as a present when he returned from his last business trip. When she opened the big box, she had pulled out the pink umbrella that had oodles of her favorite kind of dog, along with her favorite movie, 101 Dalmatians. She had begged Daddy to buy her a Dalmatian of her own, but he had told her no, because when she had grown tired of the dog and the responsibility that came with caring for it, the task would fall to the servants. Faye had sulked for weeks until a new obsession had taken her interest away from a Dalmatian.

“Today’s forecast: 80% chance of meteor showers today.”

Faye heard the patter of small stones hitting the ground behind her, and she ducked under the awning of a building, waiting until the wave had passed. Once the showers had passed, she ventured out to continue her walk.

She saw Spike heading towards her from the opposite direction. Judging by the sour look on his face, she must have been gone longer than she thought. She put her hand up to her ear and realized that she had also forgotten to turn on her earpiece.

She stopped and waited for him to reach her.

“Where were you?” He towered over her imposingly.

Faye gave him an arrogant look of her own.

“You took too long.”
vettac: (Default)
Vetta's second entry into the Cowboy Bebop triangle series:

Mind Over Money by Turin Breaks  (bob5fic's song entry)

Mind over money, bent over backwards
Light up my life like a very last cigarette
Time after time dear we will just lie here
Staring at ceilings it doesn't really matter where we are

Wearing a smile like it's going out of style
Look at your self, there's nothing in there
Just put points on a grave stone, can you see yourself sinking
Staring at ceilings it doesn't really matter where you are

That's alright I warned myself
Keep blood on the inside and nowhere else
Up on a shelf that's where I need to be


His eyes were closed as Faye watched him, his hands clasped across his stomach, a self-absorbed smirk across his face. He looked the picture of peace and contentment. She could have no idea of what was going on inside his head.

In his mind he was recounting all of the near-misses in his life, trying to figure out how many lives he had used up or given away, and how many he had left.

The first one, he figured, was the day he walked into the Red Dragons headquarters, signing away his autonomy and independence.

The second was when he had had allowed himself to be talked into swapping out the eye he was born with for one owned by Mao and the Dragons, pulling him deeper into the dungeon and away from himself.

The third life was wrested away from him during crossfire between the Dragons and a rival syndicate, and that was the first one from which he almost did not make it back. He and Vicious became fast friends from that point on, and enjoyed a long run of camaraderie while moving up the ranks together.

Then a stone dropped like lead to the bottom of a cesspool, when Julia entered the scene. Despite warnings from Vicious and Mao, he gave away another life by falling in love with her.

When finally he had to rid himself from the oppressive life that the Dragons had become, he faked his death to escape, nearly losing his life in the process. The rest were easy to figure out: mad Pierrot, Vincent, the destruction of Vicious and the Red Dragons.

Now another woman, whose existence in his time and space threatened to sluice out another life.

He cracked open an eye and made himself look at Faye’s still figure, fast asleep, mouth ajar as soft snores emanated from her pretty little mouth.

He closed his eyes. Yeah, he guessed he could hold on to this last life for awhile.
vettac: (Default)
Vetta's second entry into the Cowboy Bebop triangle series:

Mind Over Money by Turin Breaks  (bob5fic's song entry)

Mind over money, bent over backwards
Light up my life like a very last cigarette
Time after time dear we will just lie here
Staring at ceilings it doesn't really matter where we are

Wearing a smile like it's going out of style
Look at your self, there's nothing in there
Just put points on a grave stone, can you see yourself sinking
Staring at ceilings it doesn't really matter where you are

That's alright I warned myself
Keep blood on the inside and nowhere else
Up on a shelf that's where I need to be


His eyes were closed as Faye watched him, his hands clasped across his stomach, a self-absorbed smirk across his face. He looked the picture of peace and contentment. She could have no idea of what was going on inside his head.

In his mind he was recounting all of the near-misses in his life, trying to figure out how many lives he had used up or given away, and how many he had left.

The first one, he figured, was the day he walked into the Red Dragons headquarters, signing away his autonomy and independence.

The second was when he had had allowed himself to be talked into swapping out the eye he was born with for one owned by Mao and the Dragons, pulling him deeper into the dungeon and away from himself.

The third life was wrested away from him during crossfire between the Dragons and a rival syndicate, and that was the first one from which he almost did not make it back. He and Vicious became fast friends from that point on, and enjoyed a long run of camaraderie while moving up the ranks together.

Then a stone dropped like lead to the bottom of a cesspool, when Julia entered the scene. Despite warnings from Vicious and Mao, he gave away another life by falling in love with her.

When finally he had to rid himself from the oppressive life that the Dragons had become, he faked his death to escape, nearly losing his life in the process. The rest were easy to figure out: mad Pierrot, Vincent, the destruction of Vicious and the Red Dragons.

Now another woman, whose existence in his time and space threatened to sluice out another life.

He cracked open an eye and made himself look at Faye’s still figure, fast asleep, mouth ajar as soft snores emanated from her pretty little mouth.

He closed his eyes. Yeah, he guessed he could hold on to this last life for awhile.
vettac: (contrite)

Chapter 8. Intermezzo

He sits absolutely still, looking across the Tharsis, squinting as he tries to make out the vehicles speeding around the circles of the freeway. He wonders where they could be going in such a hurry. But that was the atmosphere of Tharsis, rushing, bustling, making deals, rushing headlong to nowhere. Just like him.


I hate you.


All the things she said keep running through his head. He closes his eyes but he cannot block out her image, her face, the hurt in her eyes.


I hate you.


He raises a cigarette to his mouth and lights it, inhaling the acidic smoke deep into his lungs. He welcomes the burning pain. He smiles as he blows the smoke out letting the wind carry it away, just like he wishes it would carry away the image of those green eyes that haunt him…


I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.

vettac: (contrite)

Chapter 8. Intermezzo

He sits absolutely still, looking across the Tharsis, squinting as he tries to make out the vehicles speeding around the circles of the freeway. He wonders where they could be going in such a hurry. But that was the atmosphere of Tharsis, rushing, bustling, making deals, rushing headlong to nowhere. Just like him.


I hate you.


All the things she said keep running through his head. He closes his eyes but he cannot block out her image, her face, the hurt in her eyes.


I hate you.


He raises a cigarette to his mouth and lights it, inhaling the acidic smoke deep into his lungs. He welcomes the burning pain. He smiles as he blows the smoke out letting the wind carry it away, just like he wishes it would carry away the image of those green eyes that haunt him…


I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.

vettac: (chillin')

Chapter 6. Onward

Two entrees and one empty whiskey bottle later, they both ended up crashing on the sofa, Faye on one end, her hands across her eyes to block out the light, and Spike at the other with his arm hanging off the sofa onto the floor.

The space was pretty tight for two, and Faye tried shifting into a more comfortable position, shoving her legs into Spike's torso. He grunted in pain and grabbed hold of her foot, pushing it back towards her.

"Stop, Spike, my legs are cramped," she grumbled, trying unsuccessfully to wriggle out of his grasp. He refused to let go, smirking as he wagged his index finger dramatically towards her foot.

"Don't you dare," she warned.

He laughed at her before letting go.

This camaraderie, without disagreement or arguments between them was rare, but Faye had not spent all of those months searching for him, just to cuddle on the sofa. After all, her visit did have a purpose; she wanted an explanation for why he had been incognito for so long.

Jet had told her once that both she and Spike were the types who used sheer force or violence to try to get what they wanted, when sometimes a gentler approach garnered better results. Jet must have been right about her, because this cautious approach was not working with the lunkhead, who was either too dense or too drunk to grasp what she wanted. But more than likely, he knew only too well, and was trying to steer her away deliberately.

She shifted again.

"Spike, when you left …"

He cringed when he saw that she was preparing to grill him.

"I really don't want to talk about this, Faye."

"You never want to talk about anything serious," she snapped. "Well, guess what? You owe us some answers. Why the hell couldn't you let us know you were alive?"

"First off, "he said icily, "I don't owe you or Jet a damned thing."

Faye felt her temperature rise and she unsuccessfully attempted to control herself before she lost it and slammed her foot into his chest. Spike's body stiffened and his jaw tightened. He sat up abruptly, bringing his feet to the floor, eyeing her with barely controlled rage. Faye eyed him warily, aware that he could kill her where she sat. She sat up and scooted further away.

"Second," he continued, "It was better if I didn't come back."

"Better for whom? You, so that you wouldn't have to fill us in on your 'secret' life?"

Spike's eyebrow twitched. "No." he answered in the same tone. "Better, to keep you and Jet from being gunned down because of me."

As she searched his face, she knew that he was being truthful.

"I guess it doesn't really matter," she said wearily. She leaned back against the sofa, and from the corner of her eye she caught him staring. She pressed her fingers against her eyelids to quiet an impending headache. The alcohol was starting to wear off, affecting her patience, and for once she thought it best not to say anything else that would ignite his anger.

Faye turned her attention to the sounds of street traffic filtering in through the open window, and she wondered how anyone could live in such a noisy place. She figured that it didn't matter much to Spike; he could fall sleep anywhere and anytime regardless of what was going on.

"When I woke up, I was in a hospital."

Faye opened her eyes and turned to look at him. He was staring straight ahead, his hands clenched into fists on his lap. She remained silent, waiting for him to continue.

"They told me that I had been unconscious for almost three months. My … injuries were so severe that they didn't know if I was going to make it."

He finally looked over to meet her eyes. "After I was released, I wandered back to my old haunting grounds, trying to find out what had happened with the Dragons."

He leaned forward and picked up the cigarettes from the coffee table. He lit one up and blew the smoke in Faye's direction. When the aroma reached her, she breathed in deeply, too proud to snatch up the pack as she would have done in the past. He was in a mood to talk, and she didn't want to be the one to spoil the mood. She was surprised when Spike held out the pack to her, but she nodded her thanks and took one. He flicked the lighter and lit her cigarette, then sat back and clasped his hands behind his head, stretching his long legs across the coffee table.

They smoked in silence for a while. Faye watched him surreptitiously; his eyes were half-closed and he looked completely relaxed, as if he was about to nod off. She breathed in sharply, and then exhaled in a silent huff as she struggled to tone down her impatience. Instead, she watched the cigarette he held between his slender fingers as it burned, the ember moving closer to his fingers. If he really was asleep, he'd wake up as soon as he felt the burn of the ash.

Without cracking an eyelid, Spike leaned a long arm towards the coffee table to flick the ash. Faye narrowed her eyes. He was trying to get out of telling the story, but she was determined to make him continue.

"So, what happened?" she asked, her patience dwindling.

He cracked open one eye to look at her. "Just hold on, Faye. Whose story is this, anyway?"

She bit back a response until she noticed the quirk at the corner of his mouth.

"Don't make fun of me," she growled. "I really do want to know."

He raised an eyebrow as he regarded her, the smirk morphing into a full blown smile.

She glared at him. "Come on, spit it out."

His smile faltered and he looked away from her to stare up at the ceiling.

"I found out that I had succeeded in wiping out the Dragons," he said as he stared up at the ceiling. "So there I was, finally free after all those years, and what do I do? Find another syndicate to work for. But this time, it was on my terms."

"If you were free, why did you go back?" Faye asked curiously. "You had the chance to do anything, go anywhere you wanted, and you went back? Why?"

"It's the only thing I know," he said simply.

"You could have come back, picked up where you left off with me … and Jet."

"Yeah, I could have. But I didn't want to go back to that life."

He leaned forward to crush the cigarette in the ashtray, then picked up the pack and lit another, looking at her intently. With a mouth full of smoke, he continued, "Besides, I got tired of not having meat in my diet. Or cigarettes in my pocket." He exhaled and leaned back against the sofa.

Faye scowled at him and looked away. She wanted to ask him if he missed the companionship that they'd had as shipmates and bounty hunters. And he still hadn't told her what it was that he did for a living. But she was starting to get a pretty good idea.

"So, I guess your new occupation is quite lucrative," she mumbled.

"Yeah, you could say that."

Her green eyes glittered in annoyance as she poked him. "Spike, just tell me what it is you do."

Spike cocked his head to the side as he shot her a wide-eyed, innocent look. "Let's just say that the world is a little safer with my help."

It occurred to her that he had told her more than he'd ever willingly shared in the past. She knew that she wouldn't get any more out of him.

"Will you ever come back?"

Spike was silent.

"Spike?"

"No."

"Not even …"

"What?"

She turned to stare out of the window.

He sighed and watched her. "Faye."

She didn't answer. He reached over and grasped her chin, turning her face towards him. Her stomach fluttered at the touch of his fingers. She couldn't remember him ever touching her before, at least not this gentle, like he cared. She forced herself to breathe calmly as she reluctantly looked up at him.

"Would you -" he began, then seemed to think better of it and released her.

She gazed at him questioningly, her hand absently tracing the spot where his fingers had been.

He shook his head. "Nothing."

She hated when he did that – clamming up again, his eyes hooded with hidden secrets, like shutters closing on a window. It was like watching a walking dead man, turning to ghost ashes before her eyes.

"Don't do that," she said, jabbing her finger into his chest so hard that he cringed. "You always used to do that on the ship, Spike," she pointed upwards towards space, "and every time I let you get away with it, but not this time. So, tell me what it is that you want to know?"

He studied her for a moment. "I don't know," he said finally.

She stared at him, her small mouth turned down in disapproval. She got up and paced around the room, then stopped at the coffee table and grabbed his pack of cigarettes, jamming one in her mouth. "You're just nothing but trouble," she mumbled and the cigarette moved up and down with her words.

"Those are mine," he said calmly, watching her.

Faye huffed in frustration. She took a long drag before turning back to him.

"I guess you're waiting for me to speak first, huh? What, do you want to know why I spent so much time looking for you when it was obvious that you were either six feet under or avoiding us?"

She started pacing the room again, smoking furiously.

"I didn't say-"

"We were comrades, you know," she interrupted him. "Even if you didn't feel it, I did. I finally found a place where I belonged, with you and Jet and Edward. Even the damned dog." She stopped pacing and looked back at him. "Don't tell me you never felt it."

Spike sighed. "Okay, so I did, you satisfied?"

Faye threw her hands in the air. "There! Was that so fucking hard to say?" She returned to the sofa and flopped down next to him. "Spike, you're a real piece of work."

"So I've been told."

She turned towards him, ready to give him another lecture about friends, but stopped when she looked at him. Who cares what an idiot he still is, she thought. At least he's alive.

"I'm tired of arguing," she told him. "Let's just watch a movie or something."

She leaned across the table to flick on the vidscreen, switching the channels until she found an old crime movie that she remembered watching with Jet. "Hey, this one's pretty good." She settled back against the couch, curling her legs under her and not caring whether or not Spike was comfortable. She was done with him for now.

* * *

Spike was amazed at how easily Faye could switch from slightly pissed to raving mad to nonchalance in the blink of an eye. He thought he was the only one that could pull that off. But then she started going on about how comrades were supposed to work together and check in with each other, watch each other's back, yadda yadda. She talks too damned much. He started tuning her out although his eyes followed her around the room as she ranted. He didn't know what had come over him when he had held her face in his hands. He had never been that close long enough to notice the porcelain smoothness of her skin, or to notice that there were flecks of hazel in her green eyes.

He turned his attention back to the present and the movie playing on the screen. He remembered seeing this back on the Bebop. Faye and Jet loved this movie, but he didn't understand what was so fascinating. The life depicted was a picnic compared to the reality of life with the Dragons. He sat back, trying to maintain interest, but after a while his eyes glazed over, and not too long afterwards, he was dead to the world.

* * *

Faye watched Spike's eyes close as he nodded off, just as she had predicted he would. He'd never been able to stay awake on a full stomach, especially when combined with liquor.

She turned back to the fight scene playing over the vid screen. This used to be one of her favorite films, but ever since he had encountered the real deal at the opera house with Vicious, scenes like the one on the screen looked stage and stale. She switched off the power and looked over at Spike, whose legs were now splayed across the coffee table, his head flung back against the back of the sofa and his mouth slightly ajar. At any moment now the snoring would begin; she grinned when sure enough, the first gurgle emitted from his throat. She studied his face, noticing things that hadn't been there a year ago -- the lines around his mouth, a small scar that cut across his right brow. She tapped her foot impatiently; she would not allow herself to get sucked into feeling for him again.

Enough of this, Faye, she admonished herself. She was restless; maybe she could find a card game to push her way into. She had spied a numbers joint on the walk over the apartment earlier. She looked around for her red sweater, spotting it crushed between Spike and the sofa cushion. Holding her breath, she gently pulled it free, being careful not to wake the baby. As she draped it over her shoulders, she contemplated borrowing Spike's keys. Nah, He'll just have to let me back in, she thought. She spied Spike's money card next to his keys. Grinning, she picked it up and slipped it into her pocket as she tiptoed to the door. She let herself out, quietly closing the door behind her.

* * *

vettac: (chillin')

Chapter 6. Onward

Two entrees and one empty whiskey bottle later, they both ended up crashing on the sofa, Faye on one end, her hands across her eyes to block out the light, and Spike at the other with his arm hanging off the sofa onto the floor.

The space was pretty tight for two, and Faye tried shifting into a more comfortable position, shoving her legs into Spike's torso. He grunted in pain and grabbed hold of her foot, pushing it back towards her.

"Stop, Spike, my legs are cramped," she grumbled, trying unsuccessfully to wriggle out of his grasp. He refused to let go, smirking as he wagged his index finger dramatically towards her foot.

"Don't you dare," she warned.

He laughed at her before letting go.

This camaraderie, without disagreement or arguments between them was rare, but Faye had not spent all of those months searching for him, just to cuddle on the sofa. After all, her visit did have a purpose; she wanted an explanation for why he had been incognito for so long.

Jet had told her once that both she and Spike were the types who used sheer force or violence to try to get what they wanted, when sometimes a gentler approach garnered better results. Jet must have been right about her, because this cautious approach was not working with the lunkhead, who was either too dense or too drunk to grasp what she wanted. But more than likely, he knew only too well, and was trying to steer her away deliberately.

She shifted again.

"Spike, when you left …"

He cringed when he saw that she was preparing to grill him.

"I really don't want to talk about this, Faye."

"You never want to talk about anything serious," she snapped. "Well, guess what? You owe us some answers. Why the hell couldn't you let us know you were alive?"

"First off, "he said icily, "I don't owe you or Jet a damned thing."

Faye felt her temperature rise and she unsuccessfully attempted to control herself before she lost it and slammed her foot into his chest. Spike's body stiffened and his jaw tightened. He sat up abruptly, bringing his feet to the floor, eyeing her with barely controlled rage. Faye eyed him warily, aware that he could kill her where she sat. She sat up and scooted further away.

"Second," he continued, "It was better if I didn't come back."

"Better for whom? You, so that you wouldn't have to fill us in on your 'secret' life?"

Spike's eyebrow twitched. "No." he answered in the same tone. "Better, to keep you and Jet from being gunned down because of me."

As she searched his face, she knew that he was being truthful.

"I guess it doesn't really matter," she said wearily. She leaned back against the sofa, and from the corner of her eye she caught him staring. She pressed her fingers against her eyelids to quiet an impending headache. The alcohol was starting to wear off, affecting her patience, and for once she thought it best not to say anything else that would ignite his anger.

Faye turned her attention to the sounds of street traffic filtering in through the open window, and she wondered how anyone could live in such a noisy place. She figured that it didn't matter much to Spike; he could fall sleep anywhere and anytime regardless of what was going on.

"When I woke up, I was in a hospital."

Faye opened her eyes and turned to look at him. He was staring straight ahead, his hands clenched into fists on his lap. She remained silent, waiting for him to continue.

"They told me that I had been unconscious for almost three months. My … injuries were so severe that they didn't know if I was going to make it."

He finally looked over to meet her eyes. "After I was released, I wandered back to my old haunting grounds, trying to find out what had happened with the Dragons."

He leaned forward and picked up the cigarettes from the coffee table. He lit one up and blew the smoke in Faye's direction. When the aroma reached her, she breathed in deeply, too proud to snatch up the pack as she would have done in the past. He was in a mood to talk, and she didn't want to be the one to spoil the mood. She was surprised when Spike held out the pack to her, but she nodded her thanks and took one. He flicked the lighter and lit her cigarette, then sat back and clasped his hands behind his head, stretching his long legs across the coffee table.

They smoked in silence for a while. Faye watched him surreptitiously; his eyes were half-closed and he looked completely relaxed, as if he was about to nod off. She breathed in sharply, and then exhaled in a silent huff as she struggled to tone down her impatience. Instead, she watched the cigarette he held between his slender fingers as it burned, the ember moving closer to his fingers. If he really was asleep, he'd wake up as soon as he felt the burn of the ash.

Without cracking an eyelid, Spike leaned a long arm towards the coffee table to flick the ash. Faye narrowed her eyes. He was trying to get out of telling the story, but she was determined to make him continue.

"So, what happened?" she asked, her patience dwindling.

He cracked open one eye to look at her. "Just hold on, Faye. Whose story is this, anyway?"

She bit back a response until she noticed the quirk at the corner of his mouth.

"Don't make fun of me," she growled. "I really do want to know."

He raised an eyebrow as he regarded her, the smirk morphing into a full blown smile.

She glared at him. "Come on, spit it out."

His smile faltered and he looked away from her to stare up at the ceiling.

"I found out that I had succeeded in wiping out the Dragons," he said as he stared up at the ceiling. "So there I was, finally free after all those years, and what do I do? Find another syndicate to work for. But this time, it was on my terms."

"If you were free, why did you go back?" Faye asked curiously. "You had the chance to do anything, go anywhere you wanted, and you went back? Why?"

"It's the only thing I know," he said simply.

"You could have come back, picked up where you left off with me … and Jet."

"Yeah, I could have. But I didn't want to go back to that life."

He leaned forward to crush the cigarette in the ashtray, then picked up the pack and lit another, looking at her intently. With a mouth full of smoke, he continued, "Besides, I got tired of not having meat in my diet. Or cigarettes in my pocket." He exhaled and leaned back against the sofa.

Faye scowled at him and looked away. She wanted to ask him if he missed the companionship that they'd had as shipmates and bounty hunters. And he still hadn't told her what it was that he did for a living. But she was starting to get a pretty good idea.

"So, I guess your new occupation is quite lucrative," she mumbled.

"Yeah, you could say that."

Her green eyes glittered in annoyance as she poked him. "Spike, just tell me what it is you do."

Spike cocked his head to the side as he shot her a wide-eyed, innocent look. "Let's just say that the world is a little safer with my help."

It occurred to her that he had told her more than he'd ever willingly shared in the past. She knew that she wouldn't get any more out of him.

"Will you ever come back?"

Spike was silent.

"Spike?"

"No."

"Not even …"

"What?"

She turned to stare out of the window.

He sighed and watched her. "Faye."

She didn't answer. He reached over and grasped her chin, turning her face towards him. Her stomach fluttered at the touch of his fingers. She couldn't remember him ever touching her before, at least not this gentle, like he cared. She forced herself to breathe calmly as she reluctantly looked up at him.

"Would you -" he began, then seemed to think better of it and released her.

She gazed at him questioningly, her hand absently tracing the spot where his fingers had been.

He shook his head. "Nothing."

She hated when he did that – clamming up again, his eyes hooded with hidden secrets, like shutters closing on a window. It was like watching a walking dead man, turning to ghost ashes before her eyes.

"Don't do that," she said, jabbing her finger into his chest so hard that he cringed. "You always used to do that on the ship, Spike," she pointed upwards towards space, "and every time I let you get away with it, but not this time. So, tell me what it is that you want to know?"

He studied her for a moment. "I don't know," he said finally.

She stared at him, her small mouth turned down in disapproval. She got up and paced around the room, then stopped at the coffee table and grabbed his pack of cigarettes, jamming one in her mouth. "You're just nothing but trouble," she mumbled and the cigarette moved up and down with her words.

"Those are mine," he said calmly, watching her.

Faye huffed in frustration. She took a long drag before turning back to him.

"I guess you're waiting for me to speak first, huh? What, do you want to know why I spent so much time looking for you when it was obvious that you were either six feet under or avoiding us?"

She started pacing the room again, smoking furiously.

"I didn't say-"

"We were comrades, you know," she interrupted him. "Even if you didn't feel it, I did. I finally found a place where I belonged, with you and Jet and Edward. Even the damned dog." She stopped pacing and looked back at him. "Don't tell me you never felt it."

Spike sighed. "Okay, so I did, you satisfied?"

Faye threw her hands in the air. "There! Was that so fucking hard to say?" She returned to the sofa and flopped down next to him. "Spike, you're a real piece of work."

"So I've been told."

She turned towards him, ready to give him another lecture about friends, but stopped when she looked at him. Who cares what an idiot he still is, she thought. At least he's alive.

"I'm tired of arguing," she told him. "Let's just watch a movie or something."

She leaned across the table to flick on the vidscreen, switching the channels until she found an old crime movie that she remembered watching with Jet. "Hey, this one's pretty good." She settled back against the couch, curling her legs under her and not caring whether or not Spike was comfortable. She was done with him for now.

* * *

Spike was amazed at how easily Faye could switch from slightly pissed to raving mad to nonchalance in the blink of an eye. He thought he was the only one that could pull that off. But then she started going on about how comrades were supposed to work together and check in with each other, watch each other's back, yadda yadda. She talks too damned much. He started tuning her out although his eyes followed her around the room as she ranted. He didn't know what had come over him when he had held her face in his hands. He had never been that close long enough to notice the porcelain smoothness of her skin, or to notice that there were flecks of hazel in her green eyes.

He turned his attention back to the present and the movie playing on the screen. He remembered seeing this back on the Bebop. Faye and Jet loved this movie, but he didn't understand what was so fascinating. The life depicted was a picnic compared to the reality of life with the Dragons. He sat back, trying to maintain interest, but after a while his eyes glazed over, and not too long afterwards, he was dead to the world.

* * *

Faye watched Spike's eyes close as he nodded off, just as she had predicted he would. He'd never been able to stay awake on a full stomach, especially when combined with liquor.

She turned back to the fight scene playing over the vid screen. This used to be one of her favorite films, but ever since he had encountered the real deal at the opera house with Vicious, scenes like the one on the screen looked stage and stale. She switched off the power and looked over at Spike, whose legs were now splayed across the coffee table, his head flung back against the back of the sofa and his mouth slightly ajar. At any moment now the snoring would begin; she grinned when sure enough, the first gurgle emitted from his throat. She studied his face, noticing things that hadn't been there a year ago -- the lines around his mouth, a small scar that cut across his right brow. She tapped her foot impatiently; she would not allow herself to get sucked into feeling for him again.

Enough of this, Faye, she admonished herself. She was restless; maybe she could find a card game to push her way into. She had spied a numbers joint on the walk over the apartment earlier. She looked around for her red sweater, spotting it crushed between Spike and the sofa cushion. Holding her breath, she gently pulled it free, being careful not to wake the baby. As she draped it over her shoulders, she contemplated borrowing Spike's keys. Nah, He'll just have to let me back in, she thought. She spied Spike's money card next to his keys. Grinning, she picked it up and slipped it into her pocket as she tiptoed to the door. She let herself out, quietly closing the door behind her.

* * *

vettac: (Default)

Chapter 5. Stubborn

The band was finishing up the last set, and Grace had just delivered the last round of drinks to their table. Faye was quite adept at observing and imitating people, and Spike was smashed enough to enjoy her antics. The Glowing Sun attracted a rough crowd, and had Faye been there alone or with anyone else other than Spike, her behavior would not have been tolerated. But everyone in this neighborhood knew who Spike was and what he did. Luckily for Faye, no one who valued life wanted to be caught on his bad side.

After the two of them had finished the sixth round of drinks, it was like old times, where both tried to be more sarcastically witty than the other. It was a drinking game that they had often played on the ship, after Jet had retired to his room and Ed was crashed out somewhere within the ship, using Ein as her pillow. Faye's words had started to slur two or three drinks ago, even though she had insisted that he was more smashed than her. Finally, Spike finished off his last glass and stood up, holding on to the edge of the table.

"Come on," he said, pulling on her arm. "Time to go."

"Hold your horses," she snapped. "I'm not finished yet."

"I think you are," he said teasingly. "Drink up and let's go."

Faye polished off her glass then she tried to stand, holding on to both the table and Spike.

"You alright? You look a little pale."

"No, as a matter of fact, I'm not alright. I am plastered," she said, eyeing the empty glass with sudden loathing, "and if I don't get some fresh air in about ten seconds, I'm going to throw up in your lap."

Spike grinned. Faye thought he looked a little amused or worried, or maybe a little of both. "I wouldn't really throw up on you, you know," she protested as he put his hand under her arm to help her stand. She rose to her feet.

"Where're we going?"

"Home."

* * *

Spike pulled out a ring of keys from his jacket and unlocked the door to the apartment. He stood aside and wordlessly beckoned for Faye to step inside. He locked the door behind them and led Faye into the kitchen, just to the right of the apartment entrance. He set the keys down on the kitchen table and draped his jacket over one of the chairs.

"I'm going to go take a shower," he told her as he headed down the hallway to the bathroom. Midway to his destination, he stopped and looked over his shoulder at her.

"Don't go nosing around, Faye. I'll be right back." He disappeared down the hall.

Faye stuck out her tongue at him, and then giggled to herself at her own childishness.

Hmmph, still thinks he's mister high and mighty. But … when someone tells you not to do something…

She walked into the living room and wrinkled her nose in distaste as she looked around. The walls were the washed-out hue of a sky just before the rain and were completely bare except for a light switch that controlled the overhead light. A worn brown sofa sat in the middle of the room with an armchair beside it and a coffee table in front, containing a disgustingly full ashtray and a dog-eared paperback lying open and face down.

Definitely a guy's place, she thought.

She wondered if she were the first female to set foot inside of Spike's apartment. The possibility that Spike would allow any other woman access to his private domain bothered her more than she wanted to admit.

Faye thought she knew him better than any other woman, except maybe for Julia who was no longer around, so she didn't really count. When they had been shipmates, he'd been comfortable enough around her to lounge about wearing those tacky orange boxers, and she had discovered a few other disgusting habits of his when she'd lived with him.

She picked up the book to see the title: Walking on the Moon. She recalled seeing him reading that book once on the Bebop. As she thought about it, she had never actually seen him read the book; he would use it to cover his face and spy on her while pretending to be asleep. So maybe he does know how to read, she thought maliciously. She switched the pages around and placed the book back on the coffee table, smiling to herself.

She wandered restlessly into the kitchen. She could see evidence of takeout on the countertop, where several plastic forks and chopsticks were lined up neatly. The chopsticks reminded her that she hadn't eaten since leaving the ship that morning, and she debated on whether to take a peek inside the refrigerator. Spike liked long showers almost as much as she did, so she figured that she'd have plenty of time to check out the goods without getting caught.

As she moved to open the refrigerator door, she felt a warm breath caressing her neck and she squeaked in surprise. She whirled around to find Spike standing behind her with his hands in his pockets and a stupid grin on his face.

"Why you--" she savagely poked his chest with her finger. "What the hell was that, Spike?"

"Just wanted to see if you still had it."

"Had what?" She clamped her hands on her hips and stomped her feet in exasperation, glaring up at him.

He watched her, his eyes crinkling with amusement. "That," he said. "The fire in those green eyes." He pulled a hand out of his pocket to touch her cheek.

She stared up at him, wondering if this was the same Spike who had once inhabited the Bebop. Back then, he would never been so direct, especially with her. This Spike was a handsome stranger who was flirting with her and she felt awkward around him. The Spike she knew was a masochistic bastard who liked playing head games with her to see her squirm. She was tempted to punch him, but she controlled the urge; she wasn't ready to unleash her anger on him yet; she was still too relieved to find him alive.

And if she didn't know better, she'd say that he was glad to see her too.

"God, what a dump, Spike," she said, looking for a way to mask her discomfort. "Couldn't you afford anything better than this?"

He shrugged. "Why? I only sleep here."

Faye snorted. "Well, it's the one thing you're good at."

"Don't you want to find out what else I'm good at?" he asked seductively, leaning into her.

She took a couple of steps away from him.

"Don't flatter yourself," she scoffed as she strolled back into the living room. She kicked off her shoes and flopped onto the sofa, stretching her legs out.

Spike followed her, looking slightly perturbed as he watched her get comfortable. "That's my seat," he grumbled, slumping down in the armchair.

"Deal with it," she told him. "You know, I did a lot of walking around looking for you." She wriggled her bare toes in relief. "The streets of Tharsis are murder on a woman's feet."

Her stomach grumbled and she sat up, twisting towards him. "Spiiike … "

Spike made an exaggerated show of trying to get comfortable, stretching his long legs across the coffee table and crossing his arms across his chest before slowing shifting his gaze up to her face.

"What kind of host are you?" Faye asked coyly. "I'm a guest and I'm hungry."

"You're always hungry."

Faye batted her eyes at him. He grinned in spite of himself.

"Tell you what, because you're so hungry and I'm such a considerate host and all, and since you came all the way down to Mars just to find me --"

Faye interrupted him. "Are you going to feed me or what?"

"Hmmm …" Spike tapped a finger against his chin as he pretended to think about it.

She growled at him.

He finally answered her. "I know a Thai place that delivers." He took out his communicator and punched in a code for the restaurant.

Faye snickered. "Either your memory got sharper since your return from death or you don't cook much."

He scowled at her and turned back to the comm. "Yo, Soo-Ling. Yeah, the usual, but make it for two. How long? Right." A few brief words later, he ended the call, then stood up slowly and turned to Faye.

"Want a drink?"

She lit up. "Do you even have to ask?"

"Guess not." Spike walked into the kitchen and took a couple of glasses from the overhead cabinet, then pulled out a bottle of lao chu from the fridge.

"I'm not going to serve you," he called to her.

"That would be too much to ask," Faye muttered. She got up from the sofa and padded barefoot into the kitchen, reaching for the empty glass.

"Yeah, it would."

She clenched her fists and narrowed her eyes at him.

He threw up his hands in mock defeat. "Hey, I'm just saying."

"Don't you have anything stronger than this?"

Spike reached into the cupboard under the cabinet and pulled out an unopened bottle of whiskey. "Almost forgot about this," he said as he twisted off the cap. "One of the perks of the job."

He handed her the bottle and she poured herself a generous amount, then grabbed both her glass and the bottle to the table, Spike following behind her.

"You never did say what your job was, Spike."

He looked at her. "You're right, I didn't." He downed the contents of his glass and slid it towards her. "Fill it up?"

She reached to steady the glass, suppressing a shiver as their fingers touched. She filled the glass to the brim and slid it back to him, looking at him as she did so.

"Is that a challenge?" he asked with a smirk.

Faye finished off her own glass, closing her eyes momentarily as the liquid hit her stomach. She set the glass back down and gazed at him mischievously.

"Do you want it to be?" she shot back.

Spike picked up the glass and drained it in one gulp without a grimace. He pushed the glass back to her for another refill, flashing his seductive smile. Faye sniffed haughtily as she poured more alcohol into his glass. A beep from Spike's communicator sounded and he picked up to listen, then disconnected.

"Food's here." He finished off his drink in one gulp. "Spike 3, Faye 2," he said with a smile. "Be right back." He grabbed his keys from the table and left to meet the delivery kid.

Faye scowled. She could cheat and tell him that they were now even, but somehow that lunkhead would know. She refilled her glass. It wouldn't matter; she was much better at holding her liquor than him, anyway.

vettac: (Default)

Chapter 5. Stubborn

The band was finishing up the last set, and Grace had just delivered the last round of drinks to their table. Faye was quite adept at observing and imitating people, and Spike was smashed enough to enjoy her antics. The Glowing Sun attracted a rough crowd, and had Faye been there alone or with anyone else other than Spike, her behavior would not have been tolerated. But everyone in this neighborhood knew who Spike was and what he did. Luckily for Faye, no one who valued life wanted to be caught on his bad side.

After the two of them had finished the sixth round of drinks, it was like old times, where both tried to be more sarcastically witty than the other. It was a drinking game that they had often played on the ship, after Jet had retired to his room and Ed was crashed out somewhere within the ship, using Ein as her pillow. Faye's words had started to slur two or three drinks ago, even though she had insisted that he was more smashed than her. Finally, Spike finished off his last glass and stood up, holding on to the edge of the table.

"Come on," he said, pulling on her arm. "Time to go."

"Hold your horses," she snapped. "I'm not finished yet."

"I think you are," he said teasingly. "Drink up and let's go."

Faye polished off her glass then she tried to stand, holding on to both the table and Spike.

"You alright? You look a little pale."

"No, as a matter of fact, I'm not alright. I am plastered," she said, eyeing the empty glass with sudden loathing, "and if I don't get some fresh air in about ten seconds, I'm going to throw up in your lap."

Spike grinned. Faye thought he looked a little amused or worried, or maybe a little of both. "I wouldn't really throw up on you, you know," she protested as he put his hand under her arm to help her stand. She rose to her feet.

"Where're we going?"

"Home."

* * *

Spike pulled out a ring of keys from his jacket and unlocked the door to the apartment. He stood aside and wordlessly beckoned for Faye to step inside. He locked the door behind them and led Faye into the kitchen, just to the right of the apartment entrance. He set the keys down on the kitchen table and draped his jacket over one of the chairs.

"I'm going to go take a shower," he told her as he headed down the hallway to the bathroom. Midway to his destination, he stopped and looked over his shoulder at her.

"Don't go nosing around, Faye. I'll be right back." He disappeared down the hall.

Faye stuck out her tongue at him, and then giggled to herself at her own childishness.

Hmmph, still thinks he's mister high and mighty. But … when someone tells you not to do something…

She walked into the living room and wrinkled her nose in distaste as she looked around. The walls were the washed-out hue of a sky just before the rain and were completely bare except for a light switch that controlled the overhead light. A worn brown sofa sat in the middle of the room with an armchair beside it and a coffee table in front, containing a disgustingly full ashtray and a dog-eared paperback lying open and face down.

Definitely a guy's place, she thought.

She wondered if she were the first female to set foot inside of Spike's apartment. The possibility that Spike would allow any other woman access to his private domain bothered her more than she wanted to admit.

Faye thought she knew him better than any other woman, except maybe for Julia who was no longer around, so she didn't really count. When they had been shipmates, he'd been comfortable enough around her to lounge about wearing those tacky orange boxers, and she had discovered a few other disgusting habits of his when she'd lived with him.

She picked up the book to see the title: Walking on the Moon. She recalled seeing him reading that book once on the Bebop. As she thought about it, she had never actually seen him read the book; he would use it to cover his face and spy on her while pretending to be asleep. So maybe he does know how to read, she thought maliciously. She switched the pages around and placed the book back on the coffee table, smiling to herself.

She wandered restlessly into the kitchen. She could see evidence of takeout on the countertop, where several plastic forks and chopsticks were lined up neatly. The chopsticks reminded her that she hadn't eaten since leaving the ship that morning, and she debated on whether to take a peek inside the refrigerator. Spike liked long showers almost as much as she did, so she figured that she'd have plenty of time to check out the goods without getting caught.

As she moved to open the refrigerator door, she felt a warm breath caressing her neck and she squeaked in surprise. She whirled around to find Spike standing behind her with his hands in his pockets and a stupid grin on his face.

"Why you--" she savagely poked his chest with her finger. "What the hell was that, Spike?"

"Just wanted to see if you still had it."

"Had what?" She clamped her hands on her hips and stomped her feet in exasperation, glaring up at him.

He watched her, his eyes crinkling with amusement. "That," he said. "The fire in those green eyes." He pulled a hand out of his pocket to touch her cheek.

She stared up at him, wondering if this was the same Spike who had once inhabited the Bebop. Back then, he would never been so direct, especially with her. This Spike was a handsome stranger who was flirting with her and she felt awkward around him. The Spike she knew was a masochistic bastard who liked playing head games with her to see her squirm. She was tempted to punch him, but she controlled the urge; she wasn't ready to unleash her anger on him yet; she was still too relieved to find him alive.

And if she didn't know better, she'd say that he was glad to see her too.

"God, what a dump, Spike," she said, looking for a way to mask her discomfort. "Couldn't you afford anything better than this?"

He shrugged. "Why? I only sleep here."

Faye snorted. "Well, it's the one thing you're good at."

"Don't you want to find out what else I'm good at?" he asked seductively, leaning into her.

She took a couple of steps away from him.

"Don't flatter yourself," she scoffed as she strolled back into the living room. She kicked off her shoes and flopped onto the sofa, stretching her legs out.

Spike followed her, looking slightly perturbed as he watched her get comfortable. "That's my seat," he grumbled, slumping down in the armchair.

"Deal with it," she told him. "You know, I did a lot of walking around looking for you." She wriggled her bare toes in relief. "The streets of Tharsis are murder on a woman's feet."

Her stomach grumbled and she sat up, twisting towards him. "Spiiike … "

Spike made an exaggerated show of trying to get comfortable, stretching his long legs across the coffee table and crossing his arms across his chest before slowing shifting his gaze up to her face.

"What kind of host are you?" Faye asked coyly. "I'm a guest and I'm hungry."

"You're always hungry."

Faye batted her eyes at him. He grinned in spite of himself.

"Tell you what, because you're so hungry and I'm such a considerate host and all, and since you came all the way down to Mars just to find me --"

Faye interrupted him. "Are you going to feed me or what?"

"Hmmm …" Spike tapped a finger against his chin as he pretended to think about it.

She growled at him.

He finally answered her. "I know a Thai place that delivers." He took out his communicator and punched in a code for the restaurant.

Faye snickered. "Either your memory got sharper since your return from death or you don't cook much."

He scowled at her and turned back to the comm. "Yo, Soo-Ling. Yeah, the usual, but make it for two. How long? Right." A few brief words later, he ended the call, then stood up slowly and turned to Faye.

"Want a drink?"

She lit up. "Do you even have to ask?"

"Guess not." Spike walked into the kitchen and took a couple of glasses from the overhead cabinet, then pulled out a bottle of lao chu from the fridge.

"I'm not going to serve you," he called to her.

"That would be too much to ask," Faye muttered. She got up from the sofa and padded barefoot into the kitchen, reaching for the empty glass.

"Yeah, it would."

She clenched her fists and narrowed her eyes at him.

He threw up his hands in mock defeat. "Hey, I'm just saying."

"Don't you have anything stronger than this?"

Spike reached into the cupboard under the cabinet and pulled out an unopened bottle of whiskey. "Almost forgot about this," he said as he twisted off the cap. "One of the perks of the job."

He handed her the bottle and she poured herself a generous amount, then grabbed both her glass and the bottle to the table, Spike following behind her.

"You never did say what your job was, Spike."

He looked at her. "You're right, I didn't." He downed the contents of his glass and slid it towards her. "Fill it up?"

She reached to steady the glass, suppressing a shiver as their fingers touched. She filled the glass to the brim and slid it back to him, looking at him as she did so.

"Is that a challenge?" he asked with a smirk.

Faye finished off her own glass, closing her eyes momentarily as the liquid hit her stomach. She set the glass back down and gazed at him mischievously.

"Do you want it to be?" she shot back.

Spike picked up the glass and drained it in one gulp without a grimace. He pushed the glass back to her for another refill, flashing his seductive smile. Faye sniffed haughtily as she poured more alcohol into his glass. A beep from Spike's communicator sounded and he picked up to listen, then disconnected.

"Food's here." He finished off his drink in one gulp. "Spike 3, Faye 2," he said with a smile. "Be right back." He grabbed his keys from the table and left to meet the delivery kid.

Faye scowled. She could cheat and tell him that they were now even, but somehow that lunkhead would know. She refilled her glass. It wouldn't matter; she was much better at holding her liquor than him, anyway.

vettac: (Default)

Chapter 4. Reunion

Spike stepped inside the Glowing Sun and surveyed his surroundings. He picked up an occasional word amidst the buzz of conversation, the click of a cue ball hitting the pocket on the pool table. As he ambled further in, his cybernetic eye easily detected the regulars scattered around the smoke-filled, dimly lit lounge. He caught sight of the waitress Grace moving efficiently and effortlessly through the room taking bar orders. The band, apparently between sets, was seated at one of the round tables in front of the stage, with a pitcher of beer and several overflowing ashtrays.

He looked over at the bar and hesitated when he spotted Faye chatting up the bartender. He couldn't say that he was surprised to see her; the word on the street was that someone had been inquiring into his whereabouts, and he had figured that it was either Faye or Jet, since everyone else he knew was dead. Well, except for Doohan, who only found out that he was alive when Spike had contacted him to look after the Swordfish for awhile. His current line of work required stealth and his ship would be too conspicuous in the places he needed to go. And besides, he didn't have any desire to go planet-hopping these days.

Still, Faye's presence in his territory was a little unnerving, like an expunged memory that had leaked, unbidden, to the forefront of his mind. Later he would have to hit up Ronald to find out what he and Faye had talked about. But for now he had to deal with her, and he was not looking forward to the meeting. She would probably deck him first, and then ream him out for not contacting her and Jet. He took a deep breath and slid his hands in his pockets before walking over to where she sat.

"Is this seat taken?"

As he waited for Faye to acknowledge him, he quickly took in her appearance. Her hair, which had grown considerably since that last day on the Bebop, was tied back into a long, thick ponytail. The black dress she was wearing was more conservative than her usual attire; it fit her snugly, showing off her tiny waist, the swell of her hips, and more than a little cleavage. Faye was a beautiful woman with a stunning figure, and he'd be lying if he said that he had never noticed. On quite a few occasions he had found himself sneaking a peek as she walked by; if she had ever caught him, he would be dead now for sure.

Faye swiveled in her seat at the sound of his voice, tossing her ponytail over her shoulder. If she was shocked to see him, she was doing a damned good job of hiding it.

"So," she said, narrowing her eyes at him. "You are alive."

"And kicking." He sat down on the stool next to her.

Faye looked around for Ronald and beckoned to him.

"I found him," she gushed when he came over. "He and I have so much to catch up on – do you think you could find us a table where we can talk privately?" she batted her eyes innocently.

Ronald beamed. "Sure thing, miss - Faye. Right this way."

Spike stifled his own grin as he witnessed Faye in action. She always did have a way of getting what she wanted.

Faye picked up her drink and followed the bartender, Spike trailing behind as they were guided to a table tucked away in a corner of the bar. Spike decided to be a gentleman and hold the chair for Faye. She glanced up at him and murmured something before sitting down. A look passed between the two men before Spike sat down opposite Faye, waiting for her to make a move.

"Thank you, Ronald." Faye flashed a brilliant smile at the young man, who blushed before returning to his station.

"Could you be a little more obvious …" Spike mumbled in disgust as he watched her performance.

As soon as the bartender was out of sight, Faye turned to him. "What's the matter, jealous?" she asked sweetly, turning her smile up a notch for his benefit.

He snorted. "Yeah, in your dreams …" He picked up her glass and took a sniff. "What are you drinking?"

"Hey!" Faye protested. "That's mine." She moved to snatch her drink from his hand, but Spike stopped her, clamping his free hand over hers.

"Aren't we supposed to be … close?" Spike drawled, looking down teasingly as she glared up at him. He lifted the glass to his lips, taking her hand with it, and took a swallow before setting it back down, still holding on to her hand. The warmth from her hand seeped into his skin and he marveled momentarily at how small and fragile her hand seemed compared to his. She slid her hand out from under his and leaned back, watching him with an inscrutable expression in her green eyes.

Spike resisted the urge to fidget under her gaze; instead he picked up her glass again and drained the contents, then reached in his pocket for his cigarettes and Zippo. He shook one out then wordlessly offered her one, but she shook her head. He lit up and inhaled once before finally returning her gaze.

"So, how have you been, Faye?" he asked absently. Her calmness was disconcerting and he wondered just how long it would take to spur her to anger.

She ignored his question and gestured to the waitress, who came over immediately.

"Two whiskeys on the rocks. Put them on his tab," she said tersely, inclining her head toward Spike. Her eyes never left his face.

Grace looked at Spike, who nodded his assent, then she disappeared to fill the order.

"We've been fine," she said, her gaze on his face steady and unwavering. "Jet and I work as a team now, and we've been doing quite well, in case you were wondering." She brushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear and turned away to watch the band, who had returned to the stage to start a new set.

They waited in silence for Grace to return with their drinks. As the slow, smoky jazz filled the room, Faye seemed to lose herself in the music, a wistful expression washing over her face. Spike took the opportunity to study her profile. Except for the longer hair, she looked the same. He wondered what she was thinking about that would make her look so sad. Had it really been that long since he'd left them?

For him, the days and hours flowed endlessly from one job to the next. Mars was the place to be for syndicate activity, and when one syndicate disappeared, others moved in; meaning less competition for those that remained. Spike was good at what he did, the best, he told himself, and being the best meant there was no shortage of jobs waiting for him. He was an independent, and he made it abundantly clear to any prospective client that he wanted to keep it that way – no ties to any person or organization. He had had his fill of that.

But, sitting here, watching Faye as she moved her head to the music, catching a trace of the scent from her hair as it swayed, evoked in him a sense of something that he could not identify. He looked down at the hand that had held hers, and impulsively he lifted it to his nose to sniff. His hand smelled like her. He shook his head to clear away the fog that he was being drawn into. These were dangerous thoughts and he needed to get a grip. He pulled on his cigarette so deeply that it burned his throat, and exhaled a series of smoke rings into the air above their table. When he looked back at Faye, her eyes were already on his face, watching him.

"So-" he smirked, intending to ease his discomfort by teasing her.

"When are you coming back to the ship, Spike?" she interrupted, swirling the contents of her drink.

Spike's grin faded and he looked away. "I'm not."

Her eyes narrowed slightly. "Why not?"

He took a swig from his glass and glanced at her before answering. "I've closed the book on that part of my life, Faye, and that includes my time on the ship."

He didn't tell her that it had taken him eight months of vacillation and doubt before finally deciding not to go back; that decision had been his alone to make. After all, he was an all-or-nothing kind of guy.

Faye was silent, but kept a steady gaze on his face.

"Look, Faye," he said, his return glaze unflinching, "No offense, but I didn't exactly need approval from you or Jet."

Faye's gaze had not wavered. "So, just like that, you're giving us up?"

Spike leaned into her face, a mocking smile on his lips. "Last time I saw you, your hearing was pretty sharp." He leaned closer, a long thin finger reaching for her ear. "Has something happened that I should know about?"

She scowled and swatted his hand away. He leaned back in the chair, satisfied that finally he had gotten under her skin.

"How have you been supporting yourself?"

"I make do."

"Doing what." She demanded.

"I had a life before bounty hunting, you know."

"Doing what?" she repeated, glaring at him.

He turned an impassive gaze on her as his eyes slowly scanned her face. "The Red Dragons may be gone, but others are still around." He leaned down until his eyes were level with hers. "I heard that you were asking around about me."

Faye inched away but said nothing as she searched his face.

"When I walked in here earlier," he said coolly, "I could have killed you where you sat, and no one would have said a word." Her face faltered. "So, why don't you just run along back to the ship before you get into any trouble?"

"You're - just like – you really have turned into Vicious, haven't you?" she whispered.

He ignored the barb and smiled cruelly. "You think so?"

She was quiet, concentrating on her drink. Spike could tell that she was trying to think her way out of the situation. He had worked with her long enough to know how she operated. In fact, watching her, he could almost guess what her next move would be.

Sure enough, Faye's demeanor changed subtly. She crossed her legs and leaned forward, her green eyes glittering as she looked into his face. Even knowing what she was up to, his heart skipped a beat at the look she gave him.

"So, aren't you going to show me where you live?"

He rolled his eyes at her, and turned back to his drink.

vettac: (Default)

Chapter 4. Reunion

Spike stepped inside the Glowing Sun and surveyed his surroundings. He picked up an occasional word amidst the buzz of conversation, the click of a cue ball hitting the pocket on the pool table. As he ambled further in, his cybernetic eye easily detected the regulars scattered around the smoke-filled, dimly lit lounge. He caught sight of the waitress Grace moving efficiently and effortlessly through the room taking bar orders. The band, apparently between sets, was seated at one of the round tables in front of the stage, with a pitcher of beer and several overflowing ashtrays.

He looked over at the bar and hesitated when he spotted Faye chatting up the bartender. He couldn't say that he was surprised to see her; the word on the street was that someone had been inquiring into his whereabouts, and he had figured that it was either Faye or Jet, since everyone else he knew was dead. Well, except for Doohan, who only found out that he was alive when Spike had contacted him to look after the Swordfish for awhile. His current line of work required stealth and his ship would be too conspicuous in the places he needed to go. And besides, he didn't have any desire to go planet-hopping these days.

Still, Faye's presence in his territory was a little unnerving, like an expunged memory that had leaked, unbidden, to the forefront of his mind. Later he would have to hit up Ronald to find out what he and Faye had talked about. But for now he had to deal with her, and he was not looking forward to the meeting. She would probably deck him first, and then ream him out for not contacting her and Jet. He took a deep breath and slid his hands in his pockets before walking over to where she sat.

"Is this seat taken?"

As he waited for Faye to acknowledge him, he quickly took in her appearance. Her hair, which had grown considerably since that last day on the Bebop, was tied back into a long, thick ponytail. The black dress she was wearing was more conservative than her usual attire; it fit her snugly, showing off her tiny waist, the swell of her hips, and more than a little cleavage. Faye was a beautiful woman with a stunning figure, and he'd be lying if he said that he had never noticed. On quite a few occasions he had found himself sneaking a peek as she walked by; if she had ever caught him, he would be dead now for sure.

Faye swiveled in her seat at the sound of his voice, tossing her ponytail over her shoulder. If she was shocked to see him, she was doing a damned good job of hiding it.

"So," she said, narrowing her eyes at him. "You are alive."

"And kicking." He sat down on the stool next to her.

Faye looked around for Ronald and beckoned to him.

"I found him," she gushed when he came over. "He and I have so much to catch up on – do you think you could find us a table where we can talk privately?" she batted her eyes innocently.

Ronald beamed. "Sure thing, miss - Faye. Right this way."

Spike stifled his own grin as he witnessed Faye in action. She always did have a way of getting what she wanted.

Faye picked up her drink and followed the bartender, Spike trailing behind as they were guided to a table tucked away in a corner of the bar. Spike decided to be a gentleman and hold the chair for Faye. She glanced up at him and murmured something before sitting down. A look passed between the two men before Spike sat down opposite Faye, waiting for her to make a move.

"Thank you, Ronald." Faye flashed a brilliant smile at the young man, who blushed before returning to his station.

"Could you be a little more obvious …" Spike mumbled in disgust as he watched her performance.

As soon as the bartender was out of sight, Faye turned to him. "What's the matter, jealous?" she asked sweetly, turning her smile up a notch for his benefit.

He snorted. "Yeah, in your dreams …" He picked up her glass and took a sniff. "What are you drinking?"

"Hey!" Faye protested. "That's mine." She moved to snatch her drink from his hand, but Spike stopped her, clamping his free hand over hers.

"Aren't we supposed to be … close?" Spike drawled, looking down teasingly as she glared up at him. He lifted the glass to his lips, taking her hand with it, and took a swallow before setting it back down, still holding on to her hand. The warmth from her hand seeped into his skin and he marveled momentarily at how small and fragile her hand seemed compared to his. She slid her hand out from under his and leaned back, watching him with an inscrutable expression in her green eyes.

Spike resisted the urge to fidget under her gaze; instead he picked up her glass again and drained the contents, then reached in his pocket for his cigarettes and Zippo. He shook one out then wordlessly offered her one, but she shook her head. He lit up and inhaled once before finally returning her gaze.

"So, how have you been, Faye?" he asked absently. Her calmness was disconcerting and he wondered just how long it would take to spur her to anger.

She ignored his question and gestured to the waitress, who came over immediately.

"Two whiskeys on the rocks. Put them on his tab," she said tersely, inclining her head toward Spike. Her eyes never left his face.

Grace looked at Spike, who nodded his assent, then she disappeared to fill the order.

"We've been fine," she said, her gaze on his face steady and unwavering. "Jet and I work as a team now, and we've been doing quite well, in case you were wondering." She brushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear and turned away to watch the band, who had returned to the stage to start a new set.

They waited in silence for Grace to return with their drinks. As the slow, smoky jazz filled the room, Faye seemed to lose herself in the music, a wistful expression washing over her face. Spike took the opportunity to study her profile. Except for the longer hair, she looked the same. He wondered what she was thinking about that would make her look so sad. Had it really been that long since he'd left them?

For him, the days and hours flowed endlessly from one job to the next. Mars was the place to be for syndicate activity, and when one syndicate disappeared, others moved in; meaning less competition for those that remained. Spike was good at what he did, the best, he told himself, and being the best meant there was no shortage of jobs waiting for him. He was an independent, and he made it abundantly clear to any prospective client that he wanted to keep it that way – no ties to any person or organization. He had had his fill of that.

But, sitting here, watching Faye as she moved her head to the music, catching a trace of the scent from her hair as it swayed, evoked in him a sense of something that he could not identify. He looked down at the hand that had held hers, and impulsively he lifted it to his nose to sniff. His hand smelled like her. He shook his head to clear away the fog that he was being drawn into. These were dangerous thoughts and he needed to get a grip. He pulled on his cigarette so deeply that it burned his throat, and exhaled a series of smoke rings into the air above their table. When he looked back at Faye, her eyes were already on his face, watching him.

"So-" he smirked, intending to ease his discomfort by teasing her.

"When are you coming back to the ship, Spike?" she interrupted, swirling the contents of her drink.

Spike's grin faded and he looked away. "I'm not."

Her eyes narrowed slightly. "Why not?"

He took a swig from his glass and glanced at her before answering. "I've closed the book on that part of my life, Faye, and that includes my time on the ship."

He didn't tell her that it had taken him eight months of vacillation and doubt before finally deciding not to go back; that decision had been his alone to make. After all, he was an all-or-nothing kind of guy.

Faye was silent, but kept a steady gaze on his face.

"Look, Faye," he said, his return glaze unflinching, "No offense, but I didn't exactly need approval from you or Jet."

Faye's gaze had not wavered. "So, just like that, you're giving us up?"

Spike leaned into her face, a mocking smile on his lips. "Last time I saw you, your hearing was pretty sharp." He leaned closer, a long thin finger reaching for her ear. "Has something happened that I should know about?"

She scowled and swatted his hand away. He leaned back in the chair, satisfied that finally he had gotten under her skin.

"How have you been supporting yourself?"

"I make do."

"Doing what." She demanded.

"I had a life before bounty hunting, you know."

"Doing what?" she repeated, glaring at him.

He turned an impassive gaze on her as his eyes slowly scanned her face. "The Red Dragons may be gone, but others are still around." He leaned down until his eyes were level with hers. "I heard that you were asking around about me."

Faye inched away but said nothing as she searched his face.

"When I walked in here earlier," he said coolly, "I could have killed you where you sat, and no one would have said a word." Her face faltered. "So, why don't you just run along back to the ship before you get into any trouble?"

"You're - just like – you really have turned into Vicious, haven't you?" she whispered.

He ignored the barb and smiled cruelly. "You think so?"

She was quiet, concentrating on her drink. Spike could tell that she was trying to think her way out of the situation. He had worked with her long enough to know how she operated. In fact, watching her, he could almost guess what her next move would be.

Sure enough, Faye's demeanor changed subtly. She crossed her legs and leaned forward, her green eyes glittering as she looked into his face. Even knowing what she was up to, his heart skipped a beat at the look she gave him.

"So, aren't you going to show me where you live?"

He rolled his eyes at her, and turned back to his drink.

vettac: (Default)

Chapter 3. LOST AND FOUND

The persistent beep from the vidscreen alerted her that a message was waiting. Faye roused herself from her nap, stretching her legs and yawning loudly.

"Jet!" she yelled, hoping he'd hear her calling so that she would not have to get up to answer it. When he didn't respond, she huffed and pushed herself up from the couch. She reached over to the vidscreen and pressed the key to display the message.

29-Jul-72 15:00:4:51 incoming message

Response re inquiry 5584993.33:00
Indicator sole survivor of Dragon coup
Name: Spiegel S
Sex: M
Height: 6'1
D.O.B.: 44-Jun-26
OFFICIAL STATUS: K.I.A. December 8, 2071
UNOFFICIAL STATUS:
Possible sighting Mars Tharsis sector 48 Glowing Sun Lounge
Criminal activity reported in sector 48
Extreme caution advised


"What the- " Faye scrolled back up to the beginning of the message. Then it dawned on her. This was a response to an inquiry that she had made a few months back, after the destruction of the Red Dragon's headquarters. She jumped up from the couch and rushed to the bonsai room to tell Jet.

"Jet!" Faye opened the door to the room but Jet wasn't there. She returned to the common room, and it was then that she noticed the slip of paper on top of her cigarette pack. She picked it up:

Gone out. Back later. Don't wait up.

She fished out a cigarette from the pack and lit it, exhaling in frustration and impatience. There was no telling how long it would be before Jet got back, and she really wanted to check out this place, since this type of intel usually had a small window of opportunity. She considered trying to reach him on his communicator but changed her mind. Grumbling, she snatched up her cigarettes and headed to her room to change.

Faye swung open the door to her closet and pulled out several outfits. She put the red one back, too slutty. She didn't want to cause suspicion and she had learned a hard lesson once upon a time at the opera. She decided that the not-so-innocent look would work best. Hmmm, this one should do, she thought and pulled out the dress she had in mind. She slipped into a low-cut black dress, form-fitting to accentuate her figure, and chose a pair of black stilettos to complete her ensemble. Her hair, which had grown out since Spike left, she now tied back with a black ribbon, then draped her red sweater across her shoulders. The red sweater was indispensable to the ensemble; she needed somewhere to put her Glock and the dress was just too short to hide a gun.

Looking at herself in the mirror, she adjusted herself until she was satisfied with the results. Then, just a touch of makeup, not too much lipstick, and she was ready. With a flick of her ponytail, she turned and left the room. On her way to the hangar, she paused, went back to the common to scribble a note beneath Jet's, then headed out to fire up the Red Tail.

* * *

Faye squinted to read the faded name on the building: Glowing Sun Lounge. This was the place. She adjusted the front of her dress to display a little more skin. She pulled open the door, surreptitiously eyeing the clientele as she walked in, feeling eyes following her every step. She smiled and made sure to put a little extra sway to her hips as she walked over to the bar and sat down at one of the empty stools.

At the front of the lounge was a small stage area where a quartet played jazz. The bartender was delivering drinks to a customer at the other end of the bar. Faye crossed her legs and waited for him to notice her. When he did, he headed down to her.

"What'll it be, miss?" he asked politely, his eyes meeting hers.

Faye gave him her order along with a sad smile. "The name's Faye," she said. "Whiskey, two cubes."

"Okay … Faye, whiskey on the rocks coming up." He served her quickly, and left to tend to his other customers.

Faye sipped on her drink as she listened to the music. The saxophone reminded her of another time and place that seemed like so long ago, sitting in place much like this one, listening to sad tunes and feeling sorry for herself. . But it was too sad to remember and she did not have time to dwell on that right now. She downed her drink and motioned to the bartender. He acknowledged her and finished with his customer before heading over to her.

"Excuse me … Ronald," she said sweetly, leaning forward, accentuating her ample cleavage as she read the bartender's nametag. She suppressed a smirk as she watched his eyes sweep down then swiftly back up to her face. She pulled out a picture from her red sweater.

"Do you know him?" she asked. "I've been looking everywhere for him."

Ronald's eyes widened as he examined the picture. "Uh … "

"It's alright," Faye told him as she took the picture out of his hand. "I can see that you do." She sat back and took a dainty sip from her glass. "Everybody thinks that he is such an animal, but …" her eyes swept up to his face and she whispered, "I like him just the way he is, if you know what I mean."

Ronald blushed. Faye smiled and ordered another drink.

* * *

Out of the blue, the door to the lounge swung open and in walked Spike himself.

vettac: (Default)

Chapter 3. LOST AND FOUND

The persistent beep from the vidscreen alerted her that a message was waiting. Faye roused herself from her nap, stretching her legs and yawning loudly.

"Jet!" she yelled, hoping he'd hear her calling so that she would not have to get up to answer it. When he didn't respond, she huffed and pushed herself up from the couch. She reached over to the vidscreen and pressed the key to display the message.

29-Jul-72 15:00:4:51 incoming message

Response re inquiry 5584993.33:00
Indicator sole survivor of Dragon coup
Name: Spiegel S
Sex: M
Height: 6'1
D.O.B.: 44-Jun-26
OFFICIAL STATUS: K.I.A. December 8, 2071
UNOFFICIAL STATUS:
Possible sighting Mars Tharsis sector 48 Glowing Sun Lounge
Criminal activity reported in sector 48
Extreme caution advised


"What the- " Faye scrolled back up to the beginning of the message. Then it dawned on her. This was a response to an inquiry that she had made a few months back, after the destruction of the Red Dragon's headquarters. She jumped up from the couch and rushed to the bonsai room to tell Jet.

"Jet!" Faye opened the door to the room but Jet wasn't there. She returned to the common room, and it was then that she noticed the slip of paper on top of her cigarette pack. She picked it up:

Gone out. Back later. Don't wait up.

She fished out a cigarette from the pack and lit it, exhaling in frustration and impatience. There was no telling how long it would be before Jet got back, and she really wanted to check out this place, since this type of intel usually had a small window of opportunity. She considered trying to reach him on his communicator but changed her mind. Grumbling, she snatched up her cigarettes and headed to her room to change.

Faye swung open the door to her closet and pulled out several outfits. She put the red one back, too slutty. She didn't want to cause suspicion and she had learned a hard lesson once upon a time at the opera. She decided that the not-so-innocent look would work best. Hmmm, this one should do, she thought and pulled out the dress she had in mind. She slipped into a low-cut black dress, form-fitting to accentuate her figure, and chose a pair of black stilettos to complete her ensemble. Her hair, which had grown out since Spike left, she now tied back with a black ribbon, then draped her red sweater across her shoulders. The red sweater was indispensable to the ensemble; she needed somewhere to put her Glock and the dress was just too short to hide a gun.

Looking at herself in the mirror, she adjusted herself until she was satisfied with the results. Then, just a touch of makeup, not too much lipstick, and she was ready. With a flick of her ponytail, she turned and left the room. On her way to the hangar, she paused, went back to the common to scribble a note beneath Jet's, then headed out to fire up the Red Tail.

* * *

Faye squinted to read the faded name on the building: Glowing Sun Lounge. This was the place. She adjusted the front of her dress to display a little more skin. She pulled open the door, surreptitiously eyeing the clientele as she walked in, feeling eyes following her every step. She smiled and made sure to put a little extra sway to her hips as she walked over to the bar and sat down at one of the empty stools.

At the front of the lounge was a small stage area where a quartet played jazz. The bartender was delivering drinks to a customer at the other end of the bar. Faye crossed her legs and waited for him to notice her. When he did, he headed down to her.

"What'll it be, miss?" he asked politely, his eyes meeting hers.

Faye gave him her order along with a sad smile. "The name's Faye," she said. "Whiskey, two cubes."

"Okay … Faye, whiskey on the rocks coming up." He served her quickly, and left to tend to his other customers.

Faye sipped on her drink as she listened to the music. The saxophone reminded her of another time and place that seemed like so long ago, sitting in place much like this one, listening to sad tunes and feeling sorry for herself. . But it was too sad to remember and she did not have time to dwell on that right now. She downed her drink and motioned to the bartender. He acknowledged her and finished with his customer before heading over to her.

"Excuse me … Ronald," she said sweetly, leaning forward, accentuating her ample cleavage as she read the bartender's nametag. She suppressed a smirk as she watched his eyes sweep down then swiftly back up to her face. She pulled out a picture from her red sweater.

"Do you know him?" she asked. "I've been looking everywhere for him."

Ronald's eyes widened as he examined the picture. "Uh … "

"It's alright," Faye told him as she took the picture out of his hand. "I can see that you do." She sat back and took a dainty sip from her glass. "Everybody thinks that he is such an animal, but …" her eyes swept up to his face and she whispered, "I like him just the way he is, if you know what I mean."

Ronald blushed. Faye smiled and ordered another drink.

* * *

Out of the blue, the door to the lounge swung open and in walked Spike himself.

vettac: (Default)
Title: In This Place
Fandom: Cowboy Bebop
Character: Spike Spiegel/Faye Valentine
Rating: PG

Faye scanned the room searching for signs of movement. Jet was nowhere in sight, so she figured he was in the bonsai room, his sanctuary for when the stress of boredom became intolerable, or when he was trying to avoid her. The Swordfish was in the hangar, which meant that Spike was somewhere around, and since all he ever liked to do was to sleep, she knew that she could find him in his usual spot.

Faye could see the large feet hanging over the edge of the couch, and she moved forward stealthily. The ship’s engines shifted in response to a pre-programmed command to adjust course, and she froze when the unexpected groan of gears reached her ears. Praying that Spike would not wake up, she stole a glance at his face, watching his eyes for signs of movement. Sure enough, the tell-tale signs of dreaming were evident as she watched the way his eyelids fluttered. She sighed in relief and crept closer, crouching down to look into his face.

More times than she cared to admit, she watched him while he slept. Sometimes she did it to reassure herself that he was still breathing when he was recovering from serious injuries. Other times, it was simply because she liked looking at him, fascinated by the range of emotions that would surface. She knew every phase that played out upon his face.

There was his semi-conscious phase, one ear hearing every word spoken around him, while the other listened to whatever was going on in his own warped brain. Those were the times when his eyes would be appear closed, save for a thin sliver of an opening beneath the lids, and he’d mumble incoherently to her or Jet, a half-truthful, somewhat wistful and completely inaccurate version of what he thought he heard. Those were the times when Faye wanted to pull him into her arms to stroke the sadness away.

During his sneaky-fake-sleep phase, Spike listened to everything going on in the room, storing up tidbits of information to be later used as bribery for a few woolongs or to annoy the hell out of her. He thought he was quite masterful at feigning sleep, and anyone watching him would never even be able to tell. Except for her, that is. Because only she knew that during his fake-sleep phase, his eyelids would flutter just like he was in REM sleep mode. But she had figured out that Spike’s cybernetic eye would flutter out of sync with his natural eye, something that happened only when he was conscious.

Then there was his ignore-Faye-fake-sleep phase, when he would lie on the couch with his eyes closed and his arm draped across his eyes, and pretend to be asleep, knowing that she knew he faking, just to annoy her. If she wanted something from him, whether an answer to a question or a cigarette from his pack, he would launch into the phase, complete with snoring sound effects. During those times, she tried her damndest not to let him provoke her into blowing up and throwing a shoe or an ashtray at him.

Sometimes it worked.

Faye inched closer to his sleeping form, watching for signs of activity. Her hand hovered near his face, then reached over to trace a finger over his cheek, marveling at the feel of the silky stubble against her fingertip. “You would kill me for doing this if you were awake, wouldn’t you?” she whispered, so sure of her knowledge of his sleep phases that she knew he wouldn’t answer him. She talked to him about some of her recently returned memories, and of one in particular, a memory of a rainy Saturday morning, lying on the floor of her bedroom listening to the radio. She told him about how much she had loved to dance, and when one of her favorite songs had queued on the radio, how she had spontaneously grabbed one of her teddy bears to be her dancing partner, the two of them whirling around the room, until the song ended, and they had collapsed to the floor in giddy exhaustion.

***

His eyelids fluttered as Faye’s voice wafted through to his unconsciousness. He focused on her voice, trying to make sense of the words, sliding his eyes open to watch her. He was sure she didn’t know that he was awake, completely lost as she was in her story. The last time, she had told her story to the dog, so apparently she liked relating memories to inanimate objects. He guessed he could count himself in that category.

“… and that was the last time I was ever in my room,” she whispered as she watched the fan above her. “The last time I ever hugged my Velvet bunny, the last time I ever saw my home. ‘Cause the next day was my long awaited trip into space.”

Faye sighed and looked down at Spike, gasping when she realized that his eyes were open.

Their gazes locked.

He watched her with an inscrutable expression, but he remained silent.

“You’re awake,” she muttered, looking away. She wasn’t embarrassed really, she told herself; just annoyed that now he had more ammunition to torture her with. “Did you hear the whole thing?”

She swallowed a lump in her throat. It was completely irrational for her to think that he could ever understand anything about her. He had never asked her anything about her life, and he had never volunteered anything about his.

She leaned against the couch to rise from the floor, but he caught her chin in his fingers and tilted her face toward his.

She gasped as he forced her to look at him. She found herself mesmerized by his eyes as the cybernetic eye fluctuated in varying shades of burnished umber and rust, and she exhaled when a sense of calm overcame her.

Spike leaned in to brush his lips over hers, a whisper of a touch. Her heart pounded in her ears as the unfamiliar pleasure of his caress flooded her mind. He leaned back and looked at her.

“Feeling better now?” he asked, his trademark smirk gracing his lips.
Page generated Sep. 19th, 2017 10:35 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios