Sputtering and coughing, Spike dragged himself up the side of the wharf. It had been a long cold swim mostly underwater to be sure he left no wake. Catching his breath, he gazed at the distant flames eating away at the warehouse. Two shadows cut dark silhouettes against the blaze.

"I'm sorry I couldn't say farewell." He sighed. Climbing to his feet he looked up into the pouring rain. "So much for drying off. Just hope corpses don't catch cold."

Sodden, Spike put his hands in his pockets and walked through the back streets making his way to the graveyard. Approaching the rise of the hill he quickened his steps. It had worked. Lin and Shin had witnessed his 'death'. For the first time in his life Spike realized he answered to no one! His life was entirely his own … to share. In less than an hour he would take Julia up in the Swordfish out of this place. The cockpit would be tight, but they would be together with no ties binding them to anyone. No calls. No more fear … just a normal life!

He passed through the rows of gravestones. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Ducking into his coat he waited up on the hill where he could see when she came. The wrought iron gate squealed on the hinges as the wind played with it.

Like a statue he remained for a quarter of an hour. A half hour turned to forty-five minutes, he leaned against one of the stones. Spike's eyes searched the rain-shot darkness. Slowly, as the full hour passed, he sank down to the ground, a cigarette too soaked to light hanging from his mouth. His hands cradled her Ruger, staring with haunted eyes.

Where is she? She said she would come, didn't she?

Another fifteen minutes dragged by, with Spike remaining motionless. Lightning tore the sky, chased by thunder. His half-lidded eyes gazed at the gun in his hands.

She's … not … coming.

They closed. Rain cascaded off his bowed head. Alone. Without her … the dream faded into a dreary haze. For a moment, he picked up the gun and stared down the barrel. But his shivering finger refused to pull the trigger. Dragging himself to his feet, he glanced one more time down the hill before trudging off through the graves. His shoulders sagged as far they could go.

High on the hill a man wove through the gravestones unseen. He slipped behind a mausoleum, coming up beside Vicious.

"Sir." Wolffe kept his voice down. "I followed her, as you asked. She came this direction an hour and a half ago, but turned off from here after standing at the gate. I tailed her thinking she would go back to her apartment. No. She ran northwest, winding through alleys. I lost her near a bridge. Not sure what you want me to do."

Vicious's eyes followed Spike's figure staggering along the path.

Wolffe pulled out his gun. But Vicious held up a hand. His subordinate protested, "Sir. No one can leave the syndicate alive."

"He's not." Vicious smiled.

Confused, Wolffe shrugged knowing better than to question. "Well, if he is gone then that leaves the Van little choice in promoting you."

"Indeed," replied Vicious. "Now, thank you for your excellent service."

Wolffe holstered his gun. "You welACCCK!"

Vicious's blade cut through his throat. The subordinate slumped down against the wall leaving a blood streak. "A dead tongue cannot be made to whisper things it should not have known."

Numb. Like ice penetrated my every cell and stilled my pulse to within one beat from the ultimate end. How long has it been since the graveyard, alone, in the rain? Why? When she had looked at me, there, in her eyes blazed the commitment. I know that's what I saw … wasn't it? She'd pleaded with me, like every other time. The same words … Baby, come home. … A commitment so deep only one thing would have prevented her from waiting for me … a lie …

Spike's chin rested on his bare forearm, his wrinkled leisure suit's sleeves rolled back haphazardly. Through half-closed eyes he stared idly at his glass on the bar, containing a splash of whiskey, neat. One finger flicked the side of the glass. Ripples shattered the light to dance across the amber fluid. He closed his left eye and watched the strange refraction recorded by his right. Nothing ever lined up. Always a strange variance in color, clarity, light. Trust one or the other … but did either ever tell him the truth? He'd never be certain.

He sighed as the ripples rebounded off the sides of the glass. The turbulent waves canceled one another into calmness. Yup. So little effort to set it back into motion. He flicked the glass again and watched the center rise up in a pillar and slam down, like a bullet fired into a target. The report of a gun filled his memory. Spike's body tensed against the ghost of the pain.

When he opened his eyes the alcohol continued its dance to heavy footsteps. The stool beside him slid back and a burly man flopped down and tapped the bar with his artificial left fingers. A cybernetic arm, from the shoulder down.

"Yo." The man called out to the barkeep. "Give me your strongest. Been a long flight from Ganymede."

Ganymede to Mars? Even by the gates that's quite a trip.

The barkeep and the stranger conversed without Spike paying any attention until the keep threw him a hard glare. "That way when your account is dry I won't be serving a drink you can't pay for."

What? I didn't ask you to drain my account of every last woolong. I only neglected to keep track of how much I had left when I sat down. Sheesh. Spike shifted his gaze from the glass before him. The man beside him barely spared a glance his way. What the heck did this guy think he was wearing? He looked like some oddball, accident-prone mechanic. What was with the scar over his eye and that metal plate? More than anything, Spike noted the authority behind his motions. A controlled drive pummeled into a man through years of service of some kind. Spike's instincts buzzed hot, even as he maintained his lazy veneer. I.S.S.P. There was little doubt. He didn't need to see a man in uniform to recognize the threat.

Threat? What threat? This guy looks like a steady jog would end his ticker. I got more important shit to think about. Like what the hell city did I land in? Why was I stupid enough to blow all I had in dive bars these last … what … two weeks? Where the heck am I going to stay tonight without any woolongs left? He closed his eyes and tried to quiet his thoughts to no avail. This whole plan had gone completely ass backwards on him in a single flash of lightning.

The slap of Jet's hand on the counter snapped open Spike's eyes. "Hey, you from around here?"

Spike rolled his head, no.

You're gonna carry that weight …


Author's Note: Well, it's been fun filling in the backstory and connecting the dots, writing a vibrant Spike before he was shattered. This story actually comes to the beginning of the first Cowboy Bebop fanfiction I wrote, "Tharsis Threnody", which is on here as well. I hope this was entertaining. Written in October 2016, edited/reposted March 2017