Okay, it's back to the old drawing…um…writing board?  Is that wrong?  Um…okay, never mind.  But it's me!  I'm back, and I'm writing a story, as I said I would.  And maybe I won't kill Faye this time.  Maybe I'll kill everyone else!  No…I wouldn't do that.  In fact, you're guaranteed no main character death in this story because it is being written in honor of poor Agent Kishuku, who hates me because of my other Cowboy Bebop fic.  She finds it to be the ultimate injustice that there's such a good story with such a sad ending.  Oh…well, that's life.  But for you, Kishuku, we'll create something less…painful.  Standard disclaimers apply here.  If I owned Cowboy Bebop, I'd be ultra rich.  I don't, so I'm not, so don't sue.  This takes place…um…about right after the last episode, so there are spoilers if you haven't seen it all.


One More Try

Part 1


I closed my eyes and took a deep drag of smoke into my lungs, letting the noxious fumes soak in for a moment before escaping through my barely parted lips.  I let my hand drop away from my mouth and rolled my head back, trying to think of anything but the man who'd left the Bebop no less than two days ago.  I had slept sparingly since his departure, but until I knew for sure whether Spike would be returning or not, I was starting to think that I would be capable of no more than a light doze.

"So then." Jet stepped into the room, looking at the couch where I was seated as though he was considering the furniture and not even addressing my presence.  "When we started, it was just Spike and I."

"And we're back to two." I told him, affecting nonchalance.  "Although, I'm no Spike.  He's more of a bitch than I've ever been."

"Pain in the ass." Jet agreed, putting his hands on his hips.  "It wouldn't be the same without him, though."

"I guess not." I rolled my eyes slightly and put out my cigarette in the ashtray before standing.  "Should I go, then?"

"I had to save his ass last time." Jet reminded me.  "It's your turn."

"This is going to be such a hassle without Ed." I complained halfheartedly as I walked past Jet, moving toward the hangar and putting my full effort into maintaining a calm, unconcerned pace.  You see, every time that Spike ran off and got himself beat halfway to hell, Jet and I always went through this exact same ritual, the only differences being that sometimes he left to search for our wayward companion and we never really believed he'd be in any danger before.  Spike had a way of bouncing back that was totally annoying while being somewhat reassuring.  "Later."

"Faye," Jet's voice was solemn enough that I turned to face him, wondering if he was going to break tradition and say that Spike was probably dead or something else I didn't want to hear right then.  I prayed silently that he wouldn't, because even though it sounds stupid, I had this fear that if someone spoke of the possibility seriously, that would be the end.  "If he fucked up the Swordfish, smack him once for me, okay?  I just fixed that thing."

"Got it." I spared Jet a slight grin of relief before turning and continuing on my way to the Redtail.  As I climbed into the ship and began the startup procedures, I noticed with some shock that my hands were shaking, and I was pretty sure I knew why I'd be so nervous going after him this time. He's not dead.  He can't die, or I'll kill him.

Trying to concentrate on that and hoping that just thinking he might be dead wouldn't be enough to kill him, I took off.  This was when I started to really wish that genius brat hadn't wandered off, leaving Jet and myself to try and find the world's most irritating man on our own.  It wasn't like I didn't have my own resources, and I'm not saying I need Ed or anything, but she made things a lot easier when she could tell us exactly what to do and where to go, or at least give us a hint.  I knew that Spike would have gone straight for Vicious, heading for the headquarters of the Red Dragon syndicate.

Now if I only knew where exactly that was, I'd be in great shape.  I knew that it wouldn't really change anything if I had some clue of where Spike was.  If he was dead, there was nothing I could do, and if he was alive, he'd come back in due time.  So why didn't I just wait for him?  I don't know, maybe I was still feeling some of the desperation I was filled with when he left the Bebop, flying off into the sunset like something from one of those hokey old westerns.  God, I had felt so stupid when he left.  I'd panicked and practically told the man I was in love with him and went on about how the crew was all I had, and he just turned and left like it didn't mean shit to him.  Figures, I get so used to every guy jumping at the chance to get a piece of my ass, and the one time I pour my heart out, the guy I want isn't even listening to me.  He could have cared less.  I think that the only person who could have stopped Spike from going out and getting all shot up was the infamous Julia.  Sadly, Julia couldn't be there.  She was a little bit dead.

Honestly, I'd been a little jealous of Julia, and I suppose I still was.  I was the woman that every man wanted to fuck, but she was a lot more than that.  Guys would die for her.  Cold guys, hard guys that seemed not to care about anything would go out and sacrifice themselves all for her.  Guys like Spike.  Sure, they wanted to fuck her too, but with her there was something that kept them coming back, that held onto them, kind of drew them to her and tied them there.  God, if she wasn't so damn cool, I could have hated that bitch.  I met her once, even offered to team up with her, but no, she knew that I was nothing and she didn't want to waste her time with me.  Of course, she was a lot nicer about it than all that, but I know that next to her, I really am nothing.  Ignorable, forgettable, expendable, easily replaced, not worth dying for, not worth listening to, not worth anything.  That was me.  The emotionless sexpot.


It took me nearly a week to find that damn man.  First I had to learn where the Red Dragon headquarters was, and of course, Spike wasn't at the scene of the crime.  I had expected that much, but I did get to see the utter devastation he'd chosen to leave in his wake.  Yes, Spike had definitely been there.  He'd always been one to overdo things.  After that, I had to figure out where Spike had gone, which took a lot of detective work on my part.  Finally, I was standing outside a shitty looking apartment complex, waiting for someone to leave so I could walk in without having to bust the lock.  I mean, I could have busted in easily enough, but that's something Spike would do.  Like I said, he's always overdoing things.

Anyway, after a good five minutes of pretending to care about my cigarette more than anything else in the world, someone finally left, and it was a damn good thing because I was starting to get really cold out there.  I guess even though my little outfit's convenient when I'm questioning a guy, it's not the best winter wear.  So I slipped in the building looking very natural, not that there was anyone in the dim hallway who could see me, but that's beside the point.  Now, you may be wondering if I was going in there unarmed, and that's just a silly question.  Of course not, but as to where I was keeping a gun with that little outfit on…well, use your imagination.

Now, there was still one slight problem with Spike's location.  I knew that he was being kept on the top floor, but I wasn't really sure which room he was in, so I figured I'd just knock on all the doors until I found the guy who had supposedly taken him in.  Word was that he was an Asian kid, so I figured, how many Asians could there be in one building?  The fact that the old lady who'd inadvertently let me in was Asian had kind of caused my confidence in this plan to slip.  However, I was pretty confident that I'd be able to tell a syndicate member from some regular teenager, so I knocked on the first door, getting a story about how I was looking for my sister's apartment ready as I heard the door unlock, but I knew as soon as the guy opened the door that I'd found the place I was looking for.  First of all, he only had two locks on his door, enough for common criminals, but fewer than necessary in this part of town.  It showed that he wasn't really afraid.  Secondly, he didn't stare at my breasts as soon as he saw me, and to me that means he's someone to be reckoned with.  That might not make any sense, but if you have guys staring at your chest all the time, you get worried when they don't.

"I'm here for Spike."  I let my hand drift toward where my gun was hidden behind me, letting the movement look casual enough that it shouldn't arouse suspicions from even a seasoned member of the infamous Red Dragon syndicate.  Not that this kid looked seasoned to me.  I'd say that he was probably eighteen, twenty years old at the most, which added to my worry over the fact that he wasn't staring at my chest.  Although, he did give it a good long glance as soon as I spoke.  That made me feel a little safer.  "I'm from the Bebop."  If he was friendly with Spike at all, I assumed that he'd recognize that name and let me in.  If not, I might have to persuade him to let me see my crewmember.

"Faye Valentine?  Yeah, I know who you are." His glance again returned to my chest and then down to my legs.  At the same time, the violent tension that had been building up in the air around us dissolved.  It was still a little tense, but only a bit.  I let my hand drop to my side and offered him a slow smile.  Guys love it when I smile like that.  Apparently, they think it means that I like them staring at me like I was made expressly for the pleasure of men.  It irritates me a bit, but I've gotten over it.  After all, my looks have saved my ass on more than one occasion, so I'd gotten pretty used to using them like they were some sort of weapon.  Spike practiced martial arts, I practiced looking trashy.  Not that I couldn't kick a few asses on my own, but generally, I left the dirty work to Spike.  We made a good team that way.

"Can I come in?"  I didn't even think about the way my voice sounded a bit husky, how I lowered my face to look up at the boy through my lashes.  It was so engrained in me to present myself as an easy lay to get exactly what I wanted in a timely manner that I didn't even get embarrassed about it anymore.

"Sure, he's not doing great, but I've been watching out for him.  Feeding him and all that." The kid told me as he let me in, closing the door behind us as we walked into the disorganized living space.  I made sure to let him walk ahead of me, just in case he wasn't as friendly as he was acting at the moment.  I didn't really think that this kid was going to be much trouble if he started to be disagreeable, but I didn't want to have to get in a fight.  I really didn't like getting violent when I wasn't angry at all, since it was just risking an injury that might impair my face, my meal ticket for so long now that I valued it above all my other possessions.  Not that I had a lot of things to value, but there it was.  "He woke up yesterday, but I'm not sure if he's really doing that great yet."

"Oh jesus." The words were drawn from my lips as I entered the room that the kid had led me to, forgetting all about not turning my back on him as I rushed to the poor attempt at a neat palette on the floor where Spike was sleeping, tangled in blankets and looking extremely restless and perhaps a bit feverish.  His wounds were extensive, I could tell that much right away, and I pursed my lips at the amateur skill with which they'd been bound.  Obviously, this kid did not have any medical training.  The gauze was a bit dirty looking, as though it hadn't been changed once, and the amount of blood that had soaked through and caked the gauze as well as his flesh in great black patches made it hard to tell if he was still bleeding or not.  "Are you the only one that's been taking care of him?"

"Uh…yeah, I'm not really that great with fixing people up.  They don't really teach you that sort of thing when they're trying to make you go out and kill people.  You kind of have to learn for yourself." The kid was silent for a moment as my hands ghosted over the sickly looking flesh caked in dried blood, afraid to touch him without knowing exactly where he was hurt and how badly.  "I bound the bigger wounds…but I ran out of gauze.  So it's not a really great job."  He actually sounded apologetic, and a bit ashamed.  Damn straight.  It was a good thing I'd come looking, or Spike would've probably died in this dumb kid's crappy apartment.

"Did you stitch him up at all?" I asked.  I didn't know how deep the wounds were, but I could tell pretty easily that at least a few of them had to be deep.  Especially that huge one on his side.  It was so bad I could smell the blood, and I was pretty sure that at least one of these wounds must be infected.  That would explain why he looked like he had a fever despite the blood loss the kid's mediocre attempts at care had allowed.

"I don't know how, so I thought it'd be better if I didn't." the kid sounded younger and younger with every passing moment, and I was starting to wonder if he was maybe sixteen or even younger.

"How old are you?" I asked, wanting to know exactly what I was dealing with.

"Eighteen." He told me.  So, he was an adult.  Barely.  I suddenly wished I'd had the foresight to bring some medical supplies.  Of course, how was I to know that the one guy who decided not to let Spike bleed to death outside a destroyed building was going to be the world's most inexperienced doctor?

"What's your name again?" I asked him.  It wouldn't do for me to just address him as "kid," after all.  I didn't think he'd like that very much, and he'd probably become difficult.

"Lee." He told me, and even that sounded a bit contrite.  In the time since he'd first seen me, I'd apparently gone from hot chick to disapproving auntie.  Not that I really minded, so long as he did what I said.

"Okay, Lee.  I need you to go get me a few things.  You should be able to find them at any good corner store.  Nowhere dirty though, got it?"  I asked, glancing at him as he nodded.  I stood and looked Spike over as I dictated my list for him.  "Get me a roll of fishing wire.  Plastic, thin stuff.  Don't get anything with metal in it, okay?  I carry a little with me…but I think we're going to need a lot."  I gave him a short glance to make sure he was still with me.  "Get me a lot of medical gauze.  A lot.  You know the rolls?" I made a circle with one hand to indicate the size of the common rolls that were sold in most stores.  "Get me about…twenty of those."

"Twenty?" he hadn't questioned me before, but obviously he saw this as excessive.

"You have to change the dressings regularly, Lee.  We're going to need a lot, or he's going to be worse off than he is now."  As though he could be much worse off, but I wanted to make the kid listen to me.  "I'm also going to need medical pads.  You know those squares?  Get me ten of the big ones and about twice as many of the medium sized ones."  I was aware that I was speaking to Lee as though he was a five year old, but I didn't want to take any chances and have him not understand me.  At this point, I had precious little faith in his knowledge of medical supplies and procedures.  "Get me some antiseptic fluid.  It'll look like water in a big plastic bottle, but it should be right near any bandages and other medical supplies a store carries.  Ask if you aren't sure.  And get me some liquor.  Something really strong, okay?"

"What for?" Lee asked.

"I need a drink right now." I joked.  Of course, he stared at me blankly, and I rolled my eyes before explaining.  "I can use it to sterilize his wounds and to knock him out if things get too painful."

"Okay." He agreed, still looking a little unsure about the last request.

"Now…I have a good needle with me.  Do you have clean towels and rags?  Lots of them?"  I asked.

"I just did the laundry yesterday." He answered.  "There should be enough."

"I hope you're not worried about getting blood on them, because I need them to clean his wounds out before they fester." I told Lee.  He didn't seem concerned, so I continued.  "Where are they?"

"In the bathroom.  That door we passed on the way back here." He pointed down the hallway he'd led me down and I nodded, moving forward and basically shoving him out of the room.

"Okay, you better get going.  I don't want to waste any time." I shooed him ahead of me, and he glanced back once before leaving, comfortable with the role of errand boy, which he had much more experience with than that of nursemaid.  I raided his bathroom, taking every last scrap of clean linen he owned, feeling a sadistic smile creep on my lips at the thought that I might ruin all of them.  That'd show this stupid kid to practically kill Spike with his incompetence.  I mean, I was glad that someone had taken the time to pick my crewmember out of the wreckage and try and keep him alive, but seriously, this kid was a joke.  It seemed as though, even though he'd never admit it, Spike needed to be part of the crew as much as I did.  He probably didn't crave the acceptance or anything, but he obviously needed us to take care of him.

Now, Jet was a proficient enough makeshift doctor, but I personally had taken on the role of medical practitioner on the ship after the first couple of times Spike had been brought back to the Bebop bleeding through more holes than Jet knew how to handle.  I didn't claim to be any sort of qualified nurse or anything, but I had spent the better portion of a year living with a doctor after I'd been frozen, so I had picked up a few things, and I could definitely handle the basic kind of injuries that Spike seemed to love coming back to the ship with.  You know, sprains, bruised ribs, gunshot wounds, stabbing wounds, and the occasional broken bone.  All of that was pretty routine for him.  Of course, the only problem with this setup was that Spike was much like a five year old child when I tried to help him, and he refused to just let me do what needed to be done since he always claimed that he was fine and didn't need any help from anyone.  That was the real reason I was sending Lee out for liquor.  If you got Spike drunk enough, he didn't really care that he wasn't appearing to be the epitome of macho resilience at the moment.

Of course, when I sat next to a large bowl I'd found and filled with hot water, setting down the last of the towels and turning my attentions to Spike, I didn't have anything to guarantee me that he'd stay asleep for very long once I started touching him where it hurt.  And from the looks of him, it probably hurt everywhere.  I decided to start off by getting that stupid ratty blanket out of my way, untangling it from Spike's long limbs and tossing it to one side.  Underneath that, Lee had allowed Spike the dignity of his boxers, but all his other clothing had been removed for the kid's attempts at medical treatment.  At least that was one less thing I had to worry about.  It was nice to see that Spike had relatively few stray wounds of any concern littering his arms and legs, which meant that I would have less to worry about when I decided to take him back to the Bebop.  It was a lot harder to move a half-conscious man who couldn't walk at all than one that was relatively able.

As I considered the happy possibility of an early adieu to Lee, I began to unwrap the poorly made binding on Spike's upper left thigh.  "Just hold still now, this might hurt."  I talked to him whenever I treated him, even if he was still unconscious.  I figured that since he was all too capable of playing dead, I might as well assume he could hear me at any time.  That, and I kind of pathetically get a kick out of the idea that he'll listen without making some smart ass comment.  I know, it's a sad story, but that's my life.

After I threw out the old, blood-caked dressings, I sacrificed the first of Lee's rags, wetting it through and then wringing it out before attending to Spike's thigh with meticulous concern, cleaning away every last bit of blood that had dried on and caked itself into the hair that grew there.  Spike was still a bit restless, but he didn't seem to mind the attention so much that he would stop me, so I continued my work, cleaning the wounds on his other leg as well before turning my attention to his arms.  They seemed to be doing pretty well other than a few deep slices in one and a bullet wound on the other that looked to have gone through his entire arm cleanly.  At least I didn't have to take a bullet out.  I hated that.  It always woke Spike up in no time flat.

So I was working on his arms when Lee returned, looking a bit upset about the state of his linens, but holding his tongue as he handed the supplies over and asked if I'd care for some lunch.  I politely declined, not really wanting to learn about this boy's other domestic abilities first-hand.  Ignoring my slight distraction, I continued my work as Lee left me to it.  Using the gauze and pads, I rebound the shallower wounds and then stitched up the gash on his thigh as well as another nasty wound he'd garnered just below his right knee and another on the inside of his right forearm.  After that, I decided it was time to do something about that terrible mess of bandages that made up Spike's chest for the moment.  I got about two feet of the gauze pulled off before I ripped a large bit of dried blood from the main wound, causing a yelp and a jerk to come from my patient.  I paused, but he didn't seem to really be awake, so I continued.

"Hold still, Spike, okay?"  I did offer that before I moved once more, as though it would have helped whether he'd heard it or not.  Spike never listens to me.  Actually, I take that back.  I think that he listened to me on occasion, but that it was for the sole purpose of doing exactly the opposite of whatever I'd suggested.  At this point, I would like to say that even if you're working with someone who is completely still and unresisting, it is very difficult to remove blackened, dried on, blood-soaked bandages gently.  Basically, if you aren't lucky enough to have some really good sedatives on hand, your patient is going to wake up pretty quickly once you start tugging the dressings off, opening the wounds whether that's your goal or not.

The fact that Spike was already tossing and turning and twitching made the entire production that much more difficult.  In fact, I have to admit that I'd expected the restless man to wake up even before I sewed up the deeper gashes in his arms and legs, so once I got that far, I took a lot of care, practically sitting on him as I worked quickly, hoping to keep him still enough that I didn't cause more damage than necessary as I sped through the most delicate part of the work.  This can be dangerous if you're inexperienced with stitches, but I think I'd sewed that man up so much, I could have made a quilt of him by that time.

However, Spike stayed in a state of unconscious resistance during the entire procedure, so when he did stir and start to wake up as I unbound the myriad of gashes that marred his stomach and chest, I was actually a little bit relieved.  I had started to think that he was much more ill than I'd originally judged him to be, as he wasn't waking up and he was still thrashing weakly in his sleep.  Plus, I could tell from the contact that had occurred while I worked on him that his entire body was a lot hotter than it should be considering his normal temperature and not even thinking about all the blood he'd apparently lost.  I was afraid to even test the temperature of his forehead where a large bruised split showed me exactly where Spike had fallen after he'd been unable to support himself any longer.  Whatever it was, I knew that he must have at least one infected wound or a bullet that hadn't been pulled out.  I was really starting to hate that Lee kid.

Carefully, I climbed on top of Spike's hips, straddling him so that when he did wake up in mere moments, as the pain on his face was hinting would be the case, he'd be less apt to jump up and ruin all the lovely work I'd just done.  That taken care of, I let my weight settle after making sure I wasn't on any of his larger wounds, as that would likely increase my difficulties and his.  Going back to the haphazard mess Lee had made of Spike's upper body, I followed the gauze, pulling it off a particularly nasty looking patch on Spike's left shoulder.  I tried to pull gently enough to not reopen the wound while still allowing me to clean the blood that covered him and redress his wounds properly, but apparently, I was not gentle enough.

"Holy shit Lee!  What the fuck!" Spike's body bucked wildly for a moment after I'd pulled the last layer of gauze away, and a slow flow of thick blood began to surface from the broken scabs.

"You better not think I'm as shitty at this as that dumb kid." I gritted angrily before discarding the shoulder dressings and reaching for a new cloth to wash away the disgusting amount of blood and scabs on his shoulder.

"Huh…what the…" Spike's eyes opened then, and for some reason that is beyond me, I felt a smile creep over my lips at the sight of the atypical colored gaze resting on me.  He was definitely still alive.  That's when the relief of it all hit me.  I mean, I'd known for some time that in theory Spike was alive.  Hell, I'd been working on his restless body for about an hour and a half already, and yet somehow, the sight of his eyes, coherent and still shining with life, were the true verification for me.  He was alive.

"You scared the shit out of us, you know that?" I laughed, turning my face down so he wouldn't see the tears that had chosen that inopportune moment to well up in my eyes.  Seriously, if I really had to cry, couldn't I have done it at a time when Spike couldn't see me?  Nothing made me feel like more of an ass than letting Spike see me crying and looking like the stupid, emotional woman that he expected me to be.

"Faye…why are you sitting on me?" Spike asked me then, and of all the responses I could have come up with, all the witty retorts or authoritative snaps, I couldn't find a single word to say.  Worse than that, I could feel my cheeks becoming warm.  I was not blushing.  I didn't blush.  Ever.  To punish Spike for having the audacity to embarrass me, I pressed down a little firmer than was strictly necessary with my washcloth on his shoulder wound, getting a wince and a sharp string of curses for my efforts.

"Don't be a baby."  I told him, continuing to clean the wound with less force, rinsing the rag out several times as he lay silently below me, watching my movements in a way that made me a bit nervous.  "What is it?"  I asked him finally, wiping carefully at the last of the blood that had oozed out of the wound since I began.  Looking at the round pucker of the wound, I bit my lip slightly, trying to decide whether it was a bullet hole or not.

"I'm not usually awake for this." Spike told me, making me immediately reach for the nearby bottle of liquor.  "No, it doesn't hurt as much as when Lee was doing his shit, so I think I'll be fine.  I just…it's funny.  You look so different when you're concentrating on something."

"Did you get shot here?" I asked him, momentarily ignoring his commentary.  I wasn't sure what he was saying, but I knew that whatever it was, it had to be some sort of an insult.  That was basically the only type of comments I got from Spike.

"Uh…yeah, I guess." He answered, lifting his head slightly to try and get a look at the hole, but obviously he couldn't get much of a view.

"You guess?"  I rolled my eyes.  This shouldn't have been an issue.  Most people know when they get shot.  "Well, do you guess Lee got the bullet out?"

"Um…I don't think so.  That would've hurt a lot, and I don't remember it." Spike made a slight face.  I don't think he liked me pulling bullets out any more than I did.

"Well, that would explain why you look like you've got the plague." I sighed in defeat, looking around for something I could use to pull out the bullet.  "Where the hell did you find this kid, anyway?"

"Hey, it wasn't my choice." Spike gave me a defensive look as I stood, still looking for something I could use.  Going over to the dresser, I rifled through the top drawer until I found something suitable to my needs.  "You're not really going to use those, are you?" Spike sounded slightly worried as I stood opening and closing the needle-nose pliers with satisfaction.

"The bullet has to come out." I hesitated before sitting back on his hips.  He might have claimed he'd stay still, but I knew that Spike usually couldn't handle it when I pulled bullets out.  Not that I was bad at it, or that he was weak or anything.  Have you ever been shot?  It almost always hurts a lot worse coming out than going in, trust me.  Especially if it's been left in for nearly a week.

"Where are my pants?" Spike asked, noting that my calves were touching the skin of his thighs.  I gave him an admonitory glance while I opened the liquor bottle.  It was cheap vodka, strong enough to suit my purposes.

"Don't distract me." I warned him, dousing a clean rag in vodka and cleaning the pliers thoroughly.  "You want some?"

"I don't need that shit." Spike told me.  He always did this when he was coherent.  It was why I liked to get everything done before he woke up again.  Sadly, he was in sorrier shape than usual, so that hadn't been possible.

"Your choice.  Better stay still." I warned him once more before I leaned forward, trying to get a good view of what I was doing as I carefully doused the wound before carefully inserting the pliers in the bloody hole.  To Spike's credit, he didn't scream out, but his entire body went tense after I got the head about an inch in, and I could see him sweating slightly.  "Sure you're fine?" I asked, not looking up as I probed deeper, searching for a telltale metallic resistance that I had to find before this unpleasantness could come to an end.

"Just…wondering."  Spike gritted the words out as I rested my free hand on his chest so I could support myself better over him.  I glanced at him, and was curious to see that instead of looking at me, his eyes were downcast, as though he was trying to see the damage covering the rest of him without getting up.

"What?" I decided to talk with him if he thought it would distract him from the pain.  God knows I wouldn't have said no to the liquor.  Spike's strange like that.  Suddenly, I felt a little tap, and I gave him a small smile, "I got it.  Just a second."

"Bout…time." He grumbled slightly.  I had to feel a little bad for him right then.  It was really painful getting a bullet out, and that was when you had good equipment, not stupid Lee's bedroom of death and the dirty needle-nose pliers.  And even though the ends of the pliers are nice and skinny, they get pretty thick further up, and I personally would not have want them crammed into my shoulder.  Add to that the fact that the hole was swollen and irritated because the bullet had been left inside, and you can see exactly how much I was starting to respect Spike's pain threshold at the moment.

"Hold on…just a little more." I was staring intently at the hole, concentrating on extracting the bullet smoothly so that I wouldn't cause Spike any more pain than I already had.  I didn't realize that I had stuck my tongue out of the corner of my mouth until I had the bullet out and Spike began laughing a weak, half conscious sort of laugh.  Suddenly, I was blushing.  Again.  I really hated that man sometimes.  To cover my embarrassment, I concentrated on cleaning the wound a bit more before fastening a few quick stitches and binding it properly.

"Jesus…if I didn't know better, I'd think you were mad at me." Spike chuckled slightly after I'd finished with his shoulder and began unwrapping the deep gash in his side.

"I know it hurts, but I'm not the dumbass who was going to let you die with a bullet in your shoulder."  I pointed out as I reached the last layer of gauze, pulling it up as gently as possible.  Despite my caution, Spike was cursing under his breath so fluently that I was actually impressed.  "Want a drink?"

"Nah, this is just a stab wound." Spike told me.  "Stitches aren't too bad.  Not after that bullet crap."

"Hey, would you rather I left it in?" I asked him, raising my eyebrows at him in challenge.  I wasn't really in the mood for his attitude, but considering that he was in a lot of pain and was also teetering on the edge of consciousness, I figured that I could allow him a few rude comments for the time being.  "I could just put it back, you know."  I made as if to reach for the pliers, even though I was really just reaching for a clean washcloth.

"No, that's okay." Spike immediately countered.  I laughed slightly; he hadn't sounded afraid, but the way he'd answered so quickly had insinuated that he believed I'd do it.  Somehow, that put me in a better mood, knowing that he took me seriously, whether I'd been joking or not.

"This is from Vicious, isn't it?" I indicated the deep gash that I was working on.  It looked like something that wicked sword of his might have caused, and besides that, I had been hoping to find a way to bring up the topic of the man that Spike had left the Bebop with intentions of killing.

"Yeah." Spike's eyes suddenly dimmed a bit, and I felt bad for bringing it up.  I couldn't help that I was curious, but apparently it wasn't on Spike's current list of favorite conversation topics.  "I killed him."

"I thought so."  I didn't offer an opinion further than that.  I don't think he wanted one.

"Do you still have that vodka?" Spike asked.  I smiled, nodding and helping him prop up his head before handing him the bottle.  Most people wouldn't encourage their friends to drink their troubles away, but most people don't know Spike.  For people like us, it was the only way sometimes.  And it's not as though I let him drink himself into oblivion, after all.  As soon as I finished with his chest, I took the vodka away from the gently dozing man who was currently fading between sleep and wakefulness.  Taking a look at the small split on his forehead, I decided that I would simply wash his face and then call it good.  After he woke up more fully, the two of us would head back to the Redtail, but in the mean time I was content to watch him doze.

After it had grown dark, we got up to leave, and I managed to say goodbye to Lee without one snide comment about his medical skills.  As we walked, I considered his profile, and I felt happier than I had in a long time.  I wasn't someone who had the best of luck, and it had been a long time since I'd come out ahead, or even broken even.  With Spike alive, safe, and returning to the Bebop, it felt like maybe I hadn't lost everything after all.  Maybe I was getting one more try.

I'd do my best.


The End (Of Part 1, That Is)