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.
"Not even …"
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.
* * *