Hey all,

It's been a while. but. I just read the entire previous chapter last night, and realized I'm very pleased with the way this fic in particular has been progressing. It's written far better than most of my other stories, with the possible exception of maybe one or two, and the plot has a bright future. I would know.

I'm sorry I had to drop that whole 'hiatus' thing on you all, but I'm glad no one was too pissed, and it was nice for about, oh, maybe a month to feel no commitment towards this one story. Of course, now that the month is up, I'm having separation anxiety, and can't bear to leave Troubles With God alone any longer.

However, this chapter will be fairly shorter than others, I hope you all understand. Never fear, it's still going to be crammed with lots of important stuff - in fact, this is possibly one of the most important chapters you should read, in order to understand the plot.

A hint for readers: Remember some of the old characters from the very first chapters. They're coming baaackk.

I don't own Cowboy Bebop, and please everyone - Review! You know the drill. (Yay! Ed's in the story!)

*

O, My Troubles With God.

By Rio Grande

Chapter Six: The Fish. (Finally! We find out just what's up with the FISH!)

*

Across the bright computer screen, in an e-mail addressed to HotPkerAlice4, in a dark font, from an anonymous person with no identity accessible to people of Faye's laughable computer expertise - were four words:

NO. WATCH THE 'FISH'!

Faye stared at the electronic message for some time, her face framed by her hands, her eyes wide and unseeing, and her lips slightly parted. She looked exhausted and lost, and it was almost fifteen minutes after opening the message did the bounty hunter finally realize she had yet to read the actual contents of the e-mail. She shook her head and quickly read; cursing herself for being so damned weak and plagued with silly emotions like guilt, compassion and love.

Why was that excuse for a man making her feel so stupid? Ever since their fight last night, Faye had been able to focus on nothing but Spike, and it was beginning to get her down. Why was this stupid argument (That was COMPLETELY not her fault in any way shape or form!) annoying her so?

'Because you know you owe it to him to try to explain everything again.' An incessant voice in the back of Faye's head pointed out helpfully.

Scowling, Faye lay back in the white leather couch, folding her arms and deciding it was high time she got her mind off her undead 'friend', and back onto more pressing matters. Like the mysterious email. It was the second one now, and apparently whoever had sent it was keeping close enough tabs on her to realize that she was following their clues wrong: They knew she had gone to some more seafood restaurants in response to their last e- mail, 'Watch the fish', and were trying to lead her in the right direction as discreetly as they could.

"It would sure help a lot if they'd just come out and tell me what the Hell they're trying to say!" Faye growled, gnashing her teeth in frustration. She sat silently for a few more minutes, quietly mulling over the message, and coming up with only the most obvious answers for the confusing email. Watch the fish sounded pretty direct, but their must be some sort of hidden message! They couldn't just mean she had to.

"Faye Faye!" a positively feverishly happy voice cried, leaping into the room and throwing themselves over the older woman's shoulder, coming up from behind her while Faye was still seated on the sofa. Faye cried out with fear, before remembering that it was only Ed, the girl genius who was currently living with her now, and had been very noticeably asserting herself into she and Spike's life during the past, oh twelve hours she had been with them. "Good mooorrrnnniinnng!"

"Morning Ed," Faye sighed wearily, as she watched the fifteen-year- old slide down the couch and drop into a human puddle around Faye's feet, all the while keeping that silly grin plastered to her face. So three years had passed - Ed was still Ed, and Faye took a very strange comfort in that knowledge.

Time had taken some sort of toll on Edward though. For starters - she was older, and that meant inevitable alterations were bound to take place. She had grown much taller, while still remaining a total beanpole - all flesh and bones - and there were some noticeable changes to her style. Because of a healthy amount of growth in certain areas, Ed now wore a more concealing white t-shirt, topped with a black, button down jacket to go with. Of course. she was still wearing spandex shorts. Purple ones now, though. In addition, the tan girl's flame red hair had grown longer, and had thus been placed into a high, messy ponytail. On her head she still wore her usual goggles, and she now adorned shoes when traveling, acquiring a pair of strawberry red flip-flops.

Bangles that made very Ed-like jingling sounds when she moved coated her wrists - but through it all, she had most definitely not lost her peculiar sense of humor.

"Faye Faye is going out?" Ed asked, staring up at Faye, upside down and sprawled on the rug. Faye glanced down at the teen with a small degree of adoration hidden in her vibrant turquoise eyes - after all, at one point, Faye had been closer to Ed than any other crew member of the Bebop, and it was things like these that Faye was slow to forget.

Ed had never REALLY let her down in life, emotionally or otherwise, when you got right down to it, and was probably one of the only people in Faye's life who hadn't - including herself. She would always respect Ed for that.

The girl was staying in one of the two remaining guest rooms, and had already fully settled down, having taken out her sparse amount of personal items and giving the room a distinctly messy, Radical Edward twist.

"Yeah - work to do. What are you doing?" Faye asked, resting her chin on her hand, and regarding Ed as she rolled around on the ground with a lazy gaze.

"Staying with Spikey-head. I promised I would talk to him!" Ed explained, giggling immaturely. Even under all that growth, she still had the face of a child, and probably the soul of one too. Faye rather liked that, and sometimes wished she could be as blithe as Ed.

"I see," Faye said, feinting impartialness.

Ed had been particularly enthralled with Spike after arriving at the house, and while Faye did feel a little left out of the entire exiting reunion- ness, she couldn't really hold it against Ed. She had been the same way a bit after finding Spike's ghost. After all, who WOULDN'T be amazed?

What confused Faye was why Ed hadn't been able to see Spike before coming to the house. How come Faye was the only one able to see Spike right off the bat, and how come suddenly Ed miraculously could see the dead man too? These questions, as well as many others, were plaguing Faye currently, but she knew all these problems and more could be addressed after she captured Yoloko. If she ever did, that is.

"I just have to figure out this little riddle." Faye murmured, glancing at her laptop once more, brow creasing as she pondered the message again.

"Hmmm. Spikey head and me are going to scan the nety-net for Yoloko hints," Ed said, lifting her legs over head and bracing her hands on the ground. Spike had apparently filled Ed in on all of the intimate details of the hunt, while Faye had been in another room with her head between her legs, trying to calm down. Even though she wouldn't admit it, that outburst with Spike, and all of the confused emotions, was getting to her more than they really should.

"Mornin'," Spike said, strolling into the room, and heading straight over to the refrigerator.

"Hellohellohello," Ed rambled joyously, watching as Ein trotted out of Spike's room as well, and followed the man like a second shadow. It seemed as though the data dog was having a hard time believing Spike was truly back, and refused to let him leave his line of vision - like a parole officer warily watching an ex-murderer after being miraculously released from a life sentence.

"What's the plan for today?" Spike asked shortly, pouring himself a cup of orange juice, and never looking up to actually address Faye properly.

"Um. well I got another hint, so I thought I'd take a stroll around town." the bounty hunter said, as nonchalantly as she could, pretending to be inspecting her nails carefully. However, after an elongated silence, she couldn't resist the urge to take a peak and see what Spike was doing. To her horror, he was staring right at her.

With the coldest glare she had ever seen him direct at her.

Usually his scowls positioned towards her were a bit playful, or at least condescending. Which frustrated her enough, but. but this one was just. actively angry. The man was pissed. Pissed at her. And all because.

'All because he misinterpreted a really awkward situation!' Faye fumed, averting her gaze from Spike's, a distinctly annoyed look flashing across her pretty features as she recalled she and Shinji's brief, terrible make out session.

There was a period of time in which only the distant gibbering of Ed occupied the large, empty space between Faye and Spike. before the woman let out a very large sigh and jumped to her feet. She couldn't take this anymore. She was too frustrated, and couldn't bring herself to talk to Spike when he had been such an ass and assumed she was trying to jump some stranger's bones just the night before. Did he hold such a low opinion of her? - the thought urged Faye to grab her coat from the rack and storm towards the door with a purpose in her step.

Damn man. it was almost impossible to stand being within a ten mile radius of him anymore, and even if she had no idea where she was going, Faye was prepared to leave the house to take to the streets. Hopefully this action would get her mind off the dead man and occupy her with thoughts of her bounty.

"Faye Faye! Where are you going?" Ed called to the woman's rapidly retreating back. Spike glowered darkly from the kitchen, gripping his cup of juice with a shaking hand. Fine - she could leave, who the fuck cared?

"Out," Faye said sharply. "I'll be back later." And then, with a final, dramatic, slamming of the door, she was gone. Ed sat silently for a moment, her eyebrows lowered as she pondered what she had just witnessed. An obviously tense moment between Faye and Spike - not so unlike the ones that had been going on since she step foot in the house - and a huffy exit by the peeved lady, while Spike sat, simmering darkly in the background. Hmmm.

This looked like a job for Radical Edward.

"You ready to talk, Spikey- head?"

*

Row and rows of towering crates, reaching high to the sky, immense and looking as though they might fall onto her at any given minute, accompanied by the sound of cawing gulls. the tide encroaching upon the shore with the gentle swish of the waves. distant voices talking amongst each other as machinery milled its way around the merchandise. the wooden sound of her feet padding along the dock.

Faye hugged her light sweater closer to her as she stood at the edge of the old dock, gazing out into the harbor with hooded eyes. So far she had seen nothing suspicious, but that didn't necessarily mean nothing suspicious was taking place.

Although she knew it was a silly lead to follow, and one that would inevitably wind up leaving her with a wasted afternoon - Faye had headed down to the docks that morning. Here, crates of fish had been dropped of earlier that morning by space ships from other colonies with better produce, soon to be picked up by local traders and taken to the fish market for the restaurants and street venders to sell.

It was so simple. 'Watch the Fish'.and because Faye couldn't think of any better options, she had resorted to most literally, 'watching the fish', since she doubted even if Spike had had any good ideas about the confusing message he wouldn't have shared them with her. She was one her own for today, and possibly would be staying alone until things cooled down back at the house, and damned if she wasn't going to try her best until then.

Taking out a cigarette, Faye narrowed her eyes and stared silently off into the distance as she spotted some figures conversing and traveling around the maze of sickly smelling crates, and dripping nets filled with still flopping fish. She didn't know herself what she was hoping to find in this place, but she figured there was no harm in following a few traders around, and maybe making a few inquiries.

The crates were positioned so that there were rows and rows of them with narrow enough spaces for people and small automobiles to travel between, dark markings on different crates indicating where the merchandise had come from, and what contents lay inside them. For instance, 'Earth - Trout.' Faye gave the trout crate a pining look, trout being the only fish she could really enjoy, and there being such a shortage of it these days.

Faye cautiously peered in between the rows of boxes, keeping both eyes peeled for anyone who looked particularly evil. In one row she spotted two burly, grubby fisherman heatedly discussing a shipment, but it sounded essentially harmless, so Faye quickly continued on.

Hiding in another row, she caught sight of a young woman, wearing a large jacket, and hesitantly gazing up at the crates, while walking anxiously down the isles. Faye narrowed her eyes, finding this woman to be oddly out of place, and even more disturbing - a bit familiar. However, by the time Faye had wrapped her brain around this concept, the woman had zipped around a corner and was gone. Faye stared at the empty space she had inhabited just a moment ago, before sighing and continuing on her way.

After many more rows of empty space and the continual, unrelenting stench of seafood, Faye was considering turning around and chasing after that mysterious woman. when she heard hushed voices. Suspiciously recognizable hushed voices, that made something in the pit of her stomach churn uncomfortably as the other woman's presence had not.

Pressing her back up to a tower of crates, Faye held her breath and listened to the conversation going on in just the other row, straining to make out words when the people were so obviously trying to conceal their voices.

*

"Keep loading those crates man, we have a deadline to make." Billy said in a low rasp, folding his arms anxiously in an effort to cool his nerves, and watching the other men shuffle about as quickly and quietly as they could, efficiently loading the heavy boxes onto a clean, white truck, rumbling expectantly near the back. This operation was going to be neat and flawless - or else it was his head.

Billy and one other personal guard had been assigned to supervise the actions of the men at the dock, all who had been hired specially by Yoloko to transport her goods over to the special warehouse she had gained control over. Amazing what one could do when they were rich - the things they could get away with.

Frowning deeply, the guard distantly wished that this whole part of the plan could be over and done with already, because even though it was early in the morning, he still felt awkward about transporting the products around in broad daylight. Still, it was the only time they could do this and not look too conspicuous. just another bunch of fish traders, getting a good start on the day. If they did this at night, eyebrows by local fishermen might be raised. The shipments were all delivered in the morning.

Billy had just been about to turn to his partner and comment on how smoothly things were going, and how pleased Yoloko was sure to be. when a deafening crash caught his attention.

"Dammit, you fool!" Billy hissed, marching forward irately, staring accusingly at the well paid man who had thoughtlessly dropped on of the many precious crates so that it crashed noisily to the ground, and the top was wrenched open, fish and protective packaging spilling everywhere. Billy felt sweat forming on his brow as he quickly pushed the box upright, and hurriedly began stuffing everything back in the concealing crate. But a flash of red caught his eye.

'Shit,' Billy shot another blood curdling glare at the clumsy worker, so fixated on being angry with the careless idiot, he hardly noticed a woman curiously poking her head around the corner, and staring, transfixed, at the revealed contents of the crate.

*

Ed peaked at Spike from the corner of her light brown eye. He appeared to be transfixed with the computer screen, typing furiously and devotedly - but really he was creating an invisible, emotionally protective shell, it seemed, over his slightly transparent form. The girl mentally sighed and tucked a lock of wild red hair behind her ear. This could take a while.

"Spike Spike find anything yet?" Ed asked casually, hacking the web on her own, notably more advanced laptop and looking up information on Yoloko. The woman's case WAS highly protected and concealed from prying eyes. but Ed would find what she wanted soon enough.

"Nope," Spike replied dully. Ed sighed, staring at the ceiling for a minute.

"So you and Faye got into a fight?" Spike did a double take, and Ed smiled big. Okay. So maybe patience and tact weren't her strong points - didn't mean she still couldn't help fix the problem!

"No." Spike said firmly after a heavy pause, evidently having to think about that question for a second before coming up with an acceptable answer he felt comfortable revealing to Ed. "No we didn't."

"Reaallly?" Ed asked skeptically in her singsong voice, turning her attention away from her computer so she could focus fully on the man sitting next to her on the tacky leather couch. "You don't say?"

"Faye was just being Faye. I have no reason to be mad at her, so we aren't fighting." Spike reasoned, almost more to himself then to the girl staring at him, as though he were trying to convince himself that this lame explanation could hold water.

"How so?" Ed pressed, her curiosity piqued. "Did Faye Faye do something bad?" Spike let out a dark chuckle, shaking his head wearily. Apparently, yesterday's events had taken their toll on him as well, for Ed could tell he looked just as emotionally exhausted as Faye was physically.

"You could say that," Spike said, sticking to his elusive answers and obviously trying to evade telling Ed anything outright - although at least he hadn't tried to change the subject yet. "So, where are you searching for information on Yoloko? The FBI investigation section's information is too tightly guarded for me to get into." Okay. Scratch that last bit.

Sighing resignedly, Ed turned her focus back to the computer - for the time being.

"I'm searching in her husband's files, since he was a big important business man-guy and had lots of attention placed on him after his killing," she explained.

"Good thinking,"

"Yessm. And lookie! If you click through here, through this article's link about his crazy wife, and then to the website it leads to that specializes on Yoloko, and then through its connections that lead to criminal investigation units, and then hack through this little link right here." Spike's eyes widened as little Ed-heads popped up and scrambled the password system to admit the fourteen year old onto the protected website that held many of Yoloko's personal stats. Ed's advanced understanding of technology, and then her casual desecrating of it, never ceased to do less than amaze him. "- You get led right to Yoloko's information! And case descriptions, too!"

"Jeez Ed."

"No need to thank me!"

"Hmm. let's see now," Spike murmured, tipping the laptop so that it faced him more, his eyes quickly scanning all of the information revealed to him. "Faye said that Yoloko's husband's family kept most of the important bits about the case closed off to the public because it was bad press for his family business, and that not even all of the information about the case had been revealed to Shinji. Lots of it was sketchy, confusing shit no one could figure out. Half of the case is purely guesswork, really. Especially since no one has got their hands on Yoloko yet."

"Oh. SCARRRYY." Ed whispered in a low voice as she read over the case description carefully. "Yoloko's crazy!"

"I know," Spike admitted with a small quirking of his lips.

"And Faye is out there trying to find her all alone right now?" Ed pressed, evilly. A brief, pained expression washed over Spike's features, before the man frowned deeply and shrugged.

"She can take care of herself. Now let's take a closer look at Yoloko's personal stats." Ed stared at Spike for a minute, her expression despondent over the fact that the man was obviously trying to hold back any and all emotions he might have for the female bounty hunter, before strengthening her resolve, and looking back at the computer screen, mentally already setting up another plan of attack.

Spike WOULD crack!

*

Amidst the chaos that had swiftly descended upon the workers after having one of their precious cargo smash to the ground and spill every which way - Faye got down on her hands and knees and began to crawl towards one of the many flashes of red that had spilled out from under the fish. She bit her lip as she tried to blend in with the scenery as efficiently as she could while wearing bright red cut off shorts and a light purple jacket, practically flying towards the first red spot she could locate.

Picking up the tiny vile of red liquid, one of many that was now circulating the vicinity, quickly being collected by many worried workers and two particularly frantic body guards, Faye quickly uncapped the vile, eyes widening as she delicately sniffed the contents. No. way.

"Holy shit!" Faye whispered, sitting back on her heels and trying to find a route of escape as quickly as she could, right after she pocketed the Red Eye capsule. Spotting a relatively vacant way out, she sprung to her feet and made a speedy, quiet escape past a row of crates, heart pounding apprehensively in her chest. No way! She had found it! It was becoming so much clearer! Her biggest clue yet! It was -!

"Hold it right there!" a booming voice ordered, Faye squeaking in terror as she felt a large, strong hand clamp down around her elbow and pull her away from her escape. Fearfully, she looked up at the menacing, peeved man wearing a finely pressed, black suit who was staring down at her accusingly. Faye got this sinking feeling he worked for Yoloko. "Where do you think you're going?"

"Home," Faye said shortly, trying to wrench her arm away and look properly affronted at being stopped in such a way. "I'm late already, and I don't know what you think you're doing, handling me this way, but I appreciate if you'd let go right now! I have to get back to my house!" she continued, playing the part of the innocent pedestrian to a T.

The guard was not fooled.

"I know you!" he ground out, eyebrows lowering in such a way that Faye resisted the urge to cringe with trepidation. "You're that bounty hunter bitch who keeps messing up the bosses' plans! You're the one she wants dead!" he concluded triumphantly, suddenly looking a whole lot happier that he had found this woman snooping around. He flashed a smile that showed teeth as he quickly shook Faye about for a second, before roughly shoving her into the dock so that her head snapped back on the wood, and her arm that had suffered the bullet wound was used to soften her fall.

"Ah!" she gasped in pain, eyes wide as she carefully lifted her arm off the ground with a pained expression. She was in for it now.

"And what's this?" the guard asked, a collection of other workers hovering menacingly behind him now as he held in his hand the Red Eye capsule Faye had taken in-between two fingers. "Trying to get away with some incriminating evidence, were you? I think it's high time someone finally shut you up, bitch,"

Faye, who was still partially recovering from shock over the fact that the guard knew what 'incriminating' meant, barely saw the finely made shoe coming at her until she had been kicked roughly in the ribs, twice.

Wheezing, Faye tried to scramble backwards, trying to get to her feet, where she might have a better chance of fighting back at the guard, only to be actually lifted roughly to her feet by two workers, who held her by the arms in painfully tight grips.

"Ms. Yoloko will pay me handsomely for your death, Faye Valentine. So I am afraid this is going to be the end of the line for you," the guard explained, as everyone around Faye got particularly grim expressions on their faces. "Goodbye,"

Faye's eyes widened in horror, and she struggled vainly against the two buff workers that held her at the guard's mercy, a small scream escaping from her mouth as the guard threw a bone breaking punch at her face.

*

"I don't believe it," Spike said five minutes after reading, and then rereading Yoloko's profile, Ed right by his side, her expression uncharacteristically serious. "I mean, I knew that Shinji had told Faye it was possible that Yoloko was under the effects of heavy medication, or an illegal drug when she killed her family. but this. this is serious," he sighed, rubbing his head tiredly. "She had been on Red Eye for practically eight months!"

"She must have been out of her mind when she killed her children," Ed pointed out, itching her nose with one hand and petting Ein slowly with the other. This whole case weirded her out a bit, and she wondered why Spike and Faye had stuck to it for so long. A week or so now, apparently.

"Yeah, I know," Spike agreed, staring into the distance thoughtfully. "I think maybe we better find out who her dealer in the area was - that person may give us clues to her mental state in those last days, and possibly know what she planned to do after she murdered the people who mattered most to her.

"Riiight!" Ed sang happily, snapping out of her quiet funk and rapidly typing some things into the computer. "She lived on the Earth in old Japan - in the city of Shairo - 34th street," she relayed to Spike, who quickly jotted all of the information down.

"We'll have to do some research about that area's drug dealers, then,"

"I want to see something about her husband," Ed mentioned, clicking a link that led her over to Mr. Ryo Tsow, husband to Yoloko Tsow, and beginning to read his information. "Maybe he was on drugs too? It could explain why a fight broke out between Yoloko and Ryo, when there was no further evidence that they were in an unhappy marriage,"

"Except for what Shinji told Faye - you know, the part I mentioned where she kept coming to Shinji in tears, worried about her husband," Spike pointed out sarcastically.

"Well - yes. there's that. Maybe the drugs had something to do with that too, though," Ed said, undaunted.

"Yeah, that last bit still confuses me anyway. Why would SHE be worried about HIM when she was the one who ended up going crazy?"

"Well, let's see." Ed said, her finger following the report of Ryo's health before the attack. "6'1, brown hair, green eyes, 150 pounds."

". Possible Cancer." Spike added, his eyes immediately slipping to a section titled 'diseases and previous physical injuries.'

"Hu?" Ed squeaked, looking at that section now as well, and reading the description out loud. "Victim was diagnosed after death with a possible form of leukemia cancer, most likely. Untreated, fatal and possibly rare form of. research on the subject was sparse. blood samples were as shown below." Barely pausing, Ed clicked on the link that led to the samples of Mr. Tsow's blood from the attack, letting Spike get a better look at it as his eyes narrowed carefully.

"Does that. look like a cancerous disease to you?" he asked after a moment, frowning for a second before swiftly typing some things onto Faye's laptop, and entering a complicated looking program.

Ed carefully cocked her head at the sample, brain working overtime.

"No," she finally said. "But why would the police make a mistake? Why would they say he has a cancerous illness when he doesn't?"

"Maybe he didn't have leukemia - but it looks as though he definitely had some sort of terminal disease. if I can just match up his blood samples with another disease on the computer, then maybe we'll get some solid answers to our questions,"

"You think we should call Faye Faye, and let her know about all this?" Ed inquired.

"I don't care," Spike replied quickly.

"You don't..?" Ed asked carefully, spotting an opening to reaffirm the previous discussion they had been having about Faye before Spike had cleverly changed the subject. "Why are you being so cold to her? You've been really indifferent for a while now. Shouldn't you be happy to see your old friend after all this time of ."

"It's not that," he said shortly, comparing Ryo's blood samples with other, newly created diseases that had been instated after people had taken to space. Ever since the human race had spread out all over the universe, the new amount of diseases that popped up was mind-boggling. This could take a while.

"Then what is it?" Ed asked, getting to her feet and frowning at Spike, getting steadily frustrated with Spike's attempts to elude the problem at hand. "You've been really cold to her ever since I got here - and Faye looks so upset! What happened that would make things so tense, and do you honestly believe you can both continue and finish this case successfully if you don't work together?"

"Stay out of this!" Spike snapped suddenly, turning to glare at the young girl who was lecturing him on things he already knew, and driving him to the brink of confession.

But Ed's eyes flashed with pain, and Ein whimpered emotively by her feet, placing his head on the ground and looking up at Spike accusingly with hurt puppy-dog eyes. Spike saw all this and winced, turning away and mumbling a small apology for his outburst.

"It's. it's not that I'm mad at her. I'm just. disappointed," he conceded.

"Why? Because she's still the same Faye? The same clumsy, careless, crazy Faye - and not Julia?" Ed asked sharply. When Spike stared at her, speechless, at that last comment, she folded her arms and looked down at him condescendingly. "Don't think we didn't see what you saw in Faye on the Bebop, as well. There was always this . connection between you and Faye that was severely addled by the presence of Julia. You and she were good friends, and probably would have been more if you hadn't placed Julia on a pedestal in your mind, making her out to be some sort of angel no one could compare to." Ed said, so much of her actual age showing up in her voice, and making Spike wince with pain. These things she said.

"It wasn't just that. I could never betray Julia," he said softly, suddenly realizing that these words admitted that he really had maybe WANTED to betray Julia with Faye, and gave away what he was really feeling inside. He sighed and shook his head hard, unable to believe how much had changed since he met up with Faye once more in this crazy city on Mars. He was going insane, and confessing things he never even dared to dream he felt inside - to Ed, of all people. "She was being hunted and chased around the galaxy because I messed up her life, and I couldn't just leave her alone, much less go screw some hot chick while she was away. Faye may have been close to me, but I could never leave Julia alone."

"And now you've died for Julia - and that's STILL not enough compensation on your part? You STILL don't deserve to be with Faye?" Ed asked critically, folding her arms. "Don't deny it, you ended up looking at Faye as much more than 'some hot chick', yet you're doing nothing but push her away, as far as I can see!"

"I haven't been pushing her away!" Spike replied harshly, his voice raw. "SHE'S been pushing me away! I - I had even considered. I was. but she's just the same as she always was! Slutty and cruel. I could never be with someone like her, and what I felt for her on the Bebop was most likely camaraderie and sisterly affection, nothing more."

"I think if you'd just stop being so worried about getting having Faye laugh in your face about all this, you'd see that was a big fat lie," Ed decided, as Ein sat in the space between the girl genius and the undead man, who were both sitting cross legged now, almost painfully serious expressions pasted onto their faces. Spike had never seen this side of Ed, and suddenly he doubted if that was a bad thing. "Not to mention if you'd just let go of Julia."

"It's NOT Julia! It's FAYE! I'm not trying to make her out to be Julia 2 here! They're different women who I felt bonded to for very different reasons - but Faye is just not the type of person I can be with! I see that now! And I'd rather die and go back to Julia finally, then stay here with an unfaithful whore like Faye!"

The heaviness, and uncensored words hung heavy in the air, Spike looking slightly short of breath and more than a little angry, and Ed looking a bit shocked.

"'Unfaithful?'" she repeated. "Doesn't unfaithful imply that she had to be WITH you first?" Spike looked slightly taken a back by that statement, still unable to wrap his mind around the idea that this girl, almost a woman, who had been so bouncy and carefree earlier, was not this serious, sensible person before him, who was making him delve into all of the nasty emotions he had simply wanted to filter into anger and use against Faye.

"Well. I ."

"You obviously never told Faye how you felt, so how could she betray you?"

"It's not the betraying. it's the fact that she has loose morals. She made- I know she doesn't exactly care for being the dedicated, caring girlfriend, and I don't know if I can be with a woman who isn't devoted to me."

"But. Faye is devoted! You've seen time and time again she'd risk a lot for her friends, and stick with them, and while she may not be as open with her emotions as others. it's only because of the experiences she's had over the years! We both know she can be compassionate. and you two always got along so well, even when you didn't always say what was bothering you. Don't pretend you didn't feel very strongly for her, and that suddenly it has dawned on you that she is a flirtatious ho - thus ending any hopes for a relationship. She's a gambler too, and she's messy, but isn't that what makes Faye so lovable to you? The bond?

"Julia had a nasty past as well, and you'd be lying if you said that wasn't part of the appeal. You need someone who can understand you - and while I do feel for your position, I'm talking to you about this for Faye's sake as well. She needs someone to help her, and I'm just a sister to her. It's time you realized Julia wasn't the only one who can make you feel whole, and YOU'RE not the only one who feels lost sometimes. It's okay to like Faye because you can joke with her about things, and she makes you happy, even if she's not the angel Julia was. I saw enough on the Bebop to know that you always had the most fun when she was around."

Spike's eyes were wide as he listened carefully to Ed's rant, and when it was all over, he lowered his head, staring at his hands carefully.

"I- I don't know anymore. it's. I feel differently all the time around her now. I get. jealous, and petty. It makes me angry," Ed's eyes softened at Spike's comment, and she inched closer to him, her childlike, silly grin back on her face.

"I know something happened recently to make you so angry at Faye. but maybe you should talk to her about it. I know Faye Faye, and I don't think that, at this point, she would intentionally do something to make you mad at her. in this way, at least."

*

She had expected to feel the fist slam into her nose, was waiting for the salty smell to assault her senses, accompanied by that wet crack. and was already dreading how ugly she'd look with her perfect nose all screwed up. but what really happened was quite different than that.

Before the guard's fist, that was about as large as her face in the first place, had time to connect with her, there was the ear piercing sound of a gun going off, and for a terrifying second Faye assumed someone had decided to shoot her instead, and make her death quick. But, as she hesitantly cracked her eyes open, it occurred to Faye that maybe the bullet hadn't been meant for her.

"GOD!" the guard screamed, looking down at the arm he had been using to punch Faye, now gushing blood and hanging uselessly at his side. He held it with a pained expression on his scrunched up face, eyes darting around madly as he searched for his attacker, Faye shrinking back from him as blood spurted everywhere. Eww. "Who WAS that!?"

Workers everywhere searched for the gunman, however before anyone could do a thorough check, more rounds were let off, and soon the crates of fish, used as packaging for the Red Eye, were being made into Swiss cheese. Immediately people started panicking, dropping to the ground to avoid being shot, and trying to move the merchandise to a safer place.

Startled, the workers holding Faye loosened their grip on her now bruised arms, and that was all the encouraging Faye needed. Ripping herself away from them, she quickly punched one man across the face so he went skidding down the dock - shocked. His friend let out a shout of anger, and even as the chaos continued in the background, launched himself at Faye. Faye simply ducked under his flailing arms, a determined expression on her features, and kneed him in the groin with a powerful thrust of her leg, helping him to the ground with an elbow in his gut.

As soon as both attackers were down, Faye turned on her heal and sped away from the nightmarish scene as fast as she could, turning down a row of crates and racing down the dock. Eventually she came to a paved road that led back to the streets of Neptune City, a light sheen of sweat covering her as she traveled. That had been really close. and she had no idea what all the shooting was about, but boy was she glad someone had chosen that moment to try and sabotage Yoloko's plans.

Yoloko's plans. she knew what Yoloko's plans were now! It all made so much sense! Well, sort of. Kind of. She had a vague idea, anyway.

Holding her stomach and walking at a slower pace, as the pain in her ribs and arm hit her in full now that she wasn't running for her life, Faye acknowledged that the shooting had stopped in the background. What had happened back there? Had they caught the sniper? She hoped not.

The sudden sound of a car madly making a sharp turn, and coming towards her, made Faye freeze for a second - especially when the car stopped right next to her, hitting the brakes so hard there was a deafening screeching sound.

"Get in!" a feminine voice ordered, shouting at Faye from inside a blue jeep. "Hurry!"

Looking at the blonde behind the wheel, Faye was suddenly reminded of a similar scene taking place but a few years ago. but the car had been a convertible, and she had been at the airport, and the blond driving the car had been Spike's ex-girlfriend.

Shaking her head, Faye launched herself into the car without a second thought, barely having time to slam the door before the woman floored the jeep and raced down the street.

"Whoa." Faye mumbled, gripping her seat with one hand as the car did 70 mph on the main street of Neptune City.

"Sorry, but I have a feeling those blokes back there might be on my tail." The pretty, voluptuous blond admitted, the hands that gripped the wheel shaking, and her knuckles a pearly white.

"You mean to tell me that YOU were the sniper back there?" Faye gasped, now gawking at the woman, who had to be about the same age as Faye, tearing down the streets with wide, blue eyes. And as she looked over the woman, something in the back of Faye's brain clicked, and a few more pieces of the rapidly forming puzzle slipped into place. this woman. she had seen her earlier at the docks. and even then she had been familiar. This woman was.

"Sherry!?" Faye screamed, placing one hand on her forehead, as though checking for a fever, and making sure she wasn't hallucinating.

"Um - that's Shelly. But yeah, it's me! Surprise surprise!" Shelly, the blond bombshell from the bar incident that had taken place, oh so long ago now in Faye's mind, agreed. Faye shook her head in disbelief, briefly wondering why her life was so fucking weird.

"What are you..?"

"Well, I figured I should stop by the docks today. You know, like just in case you picked up on my clue this time, and needed some backup." Shelly, the drunken ditz Faye had ended up having a rather enlightening conversation with at her hotel bar, continued in her accented, chirpy voice, turning and winking cutely at the purple haired bounty huntress who was now staring at her, dumbfounded.

Oh, wow.
*

"I don't know if I can confront Faye about what happened again, Ed. In all honesty, it still makes me too mad to even think about the incident, and I don't know if I can find it in my heart to forgive her," Spike said, leaning against the couch's base from his place on the floor, and staring at the ceiling. Ed let out a small, warm smile at Spike's comment. She had already guessed that Faye had done something stupid to make Spike so angry, as she usually did, and she figured she probably owed it to the woman to help her out of this mess. After all, Ed had let her leave the Bebop in such a state.

"Like you said Spikey Head - Faye Faye, is Faye Faye. She's always messing up - but she really loves you! Me. All of us! She just has a funny way of showing it," Ed explained. Spike mentally smiled at that comment, realizing how very true it was. Funny Valentine.

"But SHOULD I really give her a second chance? Does she deserve it? Even if it is in her nature to always mess up, should I really let her get away with this one?" he asked, sounding honestly lost.

"I think that's up for you to decide. Who knows, maybe this is all one humongo misunderstanding, and you'd be making a mistake not to at least talk to her about it!" Ed pointed out.

"Well, I was pretty hard on her when I confronted her the first time." Spike admitted, scratching his head almost guiltily as he remembered how he had treated Faye after first seeing her directly after her little lip-lock session with Shinji.

"And do you want to risk giving her a second chance, if it means being with her? Or at least admitting your true feelings, finally?" Ed pressed, the hands that were holding Ein digging almost painfully into the poor animal as she began to get exited over the prospect of executing yet another successful mission.

Spike looked up and stared straight ahead, his mismatched eyes glinting, and his mouth a thin, tight line. There was a moment of silence. And then.

"Yes. Yes I do."

Radical Edward - Mission accomplished.

*

Author's Notes:

Once again, sorry this took SO long to get out - but even after I started writing this chapter, I took yet another break in the middle of it that lasted about three weeks. Heh. Anywho, I hope you all enjoyed this chapter, and what did I tell you about old characters? Shelly is OLD - and now she's back! You'll find out just what her game is in the next chapter, plus maybe a romantic confrontation between Faye and Spike? Maybe? Expect the next chapter. not overly soon. But if you review, who knows, I might have a change of heart!

Rio Grande ~

P.S - one thing I WILL be doing is going through the old chapters, revising them, and reposting them. The spelling errors and grammatical mistakes in those early chapters makes me cringe, and wonder how any of you got this far. Not that much has improved, but, surprisingly, it's easier to correct your work AFTER you've posted it. Life is cruel that way. Have a nice day, and until next time - Peace!