Rhapsody in Blue

Written by Zelda

(Author's note: Not titled after the jazz classic by George Gershwin; 'Blue' is the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack title that plays as the credits roll for the show's final episode. A good thing to listen to, if you have it. This fic hints at things included in the movie, but regardless of the story go see it, it's a fine piece of cinema. Oh yeah, Bebop's not mine, no money being made, yadda yadda. Enjoy!)

                Bang. It had all ended with a bang, hadn't it? Seemed appropriate enough. Even as he let gravity take his aching body, he lifted a smirk to his face. Bang, bang, bang. All this time he'd been banging on the door to escape this world. Finally he'd gotten one through…

                His senses swam as if he was underwater, as if his whole body was water. Drained, weak, incredibly tired. His mind felt fuzzed, as if he were smothered in cotton. Little, so very little was getting though. Somewhere in the back of his addled mind, he registered that he felt his chest move, moving against something that scratched his skin lightly. Something fed into his nostrils… a smell… It was very familiar, it made the air heavy and still. Cigarette smoke. There wasn't a scent in existence that he could recognize more easily. There were sounds too, somewhere, but he couldn't make them out. His head felt empty, sounds rustling around with everything from low humming, to the dry tinniness of a light bulb filament. But all if it was very far away. His body felt so very heavy. The process of thinking about where he was never came to him. Spike couldn't conjure the strength or care to be so curious.

                Time passed in a span where seconds seemed like hours. Everything was stretching into a long eternity. The numbness, the heaviness, didn't cease for a moment. And it took a long time, a very long time, for other thoughts to enter his head. Spike felt the pull of gravity on him, and the responding gentle pressure of something soft beneath him. He was lying on his left side, he felt something lightly against his back. He faintly realized that he felt very itchy, but he didn't have the presence of mind to care. He didn't have much presence at all. His sense of the world around him quietly faded black, and Spike didn't protest in the least.

                Consciousness came back slowly, softly, pulsing to him with the faint thudding of his heartbeat. This time, that beat didn't seem so sluggish. Everything was still muted, fuzzy, but not as badly as he remembered. Maybe it was just taking him a while to wake up. Musing dully, Spike decided to flex his fingers. His body shifted so slowly in response, it surprised him. He was used to  moving so easily, so lightly. Now, he felt as if each nerve was sagging with lead. There was a sudden noise from somewhere, swimming about in his head. It was light, altering, waving up and down like a running saxophone solo in some dark and smoky bar. And in response, Spike opened his eyes.

                Vision was an entirely different sense altogether. It hovered and swam and wavered, tiny specks of white confetti light dancing around the corners of his eyes. Spike realized something anew then, something which he had been mostly used to in life. His left eye… wasn't his eye. Keenly now, he could feel the implant shifting inside of his head as he forced himself to look around. His chest hitched as a long sigh left his body. More noises, more of that distant and fuzzy wavering saxophone. Spike tried to focus, tried to make himself see and hear clearly for once. He couldn't understand why he was having so much trouble. And finally his vision became a little sharper, and his ears a little less cotton-clogged. What he saw was a face, framed by darkness and gray, hanging over him. It might have been an angel, but it was too familiar. And the noise was from this face, speaking to him in a quiet tone.

                "Are you finally up?" it asked. "You've been out, for almost a week now. The hospital kicked you out…" There was a pause. "You're an idiot, you know that?"

                The gears in his head were too busy turning to respond, searching the confines of his clouded mind, to put an a name to that voice. And suddenly, it occurred to him.

                It was Faye, Faye's voice. In an instant of recognition, sound snapped back into place as the drumming whirr of the Bebop's massive engines, the squeaking of the circling overhead ceiling fan. The old yellow couch was beneath him and at his back. Cigarette smoke wafted lazily through the air. Everything was so clear now, and yet Spike was horribly confused. Where was he? Was this death? Faye wasn't dead, at least he didn't think so…

                "Can you answer me, at least?" the voice continued, the face turning annoyed.

                Spike swallowed, his throat cracked and dry. He attempted to speak, the air forcing its way out in a weakened grunt. Trying had suddenly reformed his throat, his head, his chest, in dizzying weakness and a good amount of pain. Finally, he managed something barely above a dry whisper. "…What…?"

                Faye blinked above him, backing away, settling on a chair across from the couch. "You don't remember? Well, I guess you wouldn't. You really are a mess, Spike. The hospital called us, took those morons a while to find out who you were and who we were, and all that. I can't even remember how many surgeries they said that they put you through, they had you in intensive care for days. Then our funds kinda ran dry…" her voice turned up with a lilting kind of embarrassment. "You know how it is. So they just booted you out, you've been here for three days. It's about time you woke up."

                Spike's brows furrowed slowly. He wasn't awake… he didn't feel awake at all. He didn't feel anything, beyond the fact that he wasn't numb enough to block out all of the heaviness and pain in his body. Another sentence found its way from his uncooperative throat, this time in a question. "I'm… not dead…?"

                "Dead?" Faye answered with a squinted eye. "Not yet anyway. You really were a wreck though Spike. Who did that to you, that Vicious guy? I guess it doesn't matter now anyway."

                It didn't matter, it didn't matter. Of course it mattered. How could he have survived? And Vicious was dead… Vicious---

                "Come on." Faye snapped her fingers, leaning closer to him. "Don't zone out on me before I get Jet in here to look at you. What's with you anyway? This is nothing, especially compared to how much Vincent ripped you up a while back. You stay awake, you hear me? I'll be right back…"

                Spike barely registered her leaving his field of vision. He made no attempt to follow her. He wasn't dead. He wasn't dead. Sometime later, maybe seconds or maybe half an hour, two figures appeared before his eyes.

                "Spike, buddy, good to see you finally up." Jet took Faye's former perch on the chair.

                Jet. Jet was here with him. He couldn't be dead, Jet wasn't dead. Why were they here? He wasn't dead. Somewhere along the line, his ears caught Jet asking how he felt. "I…I—don't know…" The phrase broke halfway through his throat, the crack raw and painful in his chest.

                "Take it easy there." Jet nodded solemnly. "You'll be fine. Faye's right, you've been through a hell of a lot worse."

                Had he? Spike's mind wandered back to Vincent. Vincent, who'd also been searching for a door, who'd found his door. Spike hadn't… he was still here, still asleep and unable to wake up, still unable to let go. He still felt the old wounds, memory reforming them across his body, the aching returning to his still-fusing bones. His old wounds, his new wounds, layered upon countless previous scars. How much blood had been shed from this body in his lifetime? How much had he given, had he strained and suffered? Jet was speaking to him again, bringing him half back to attention. Spike's eyes wandered over the dull vision of Jet's frame, and he could see more old scars, the missing arm and the bolted-over eye. A life just as deeply carved with layer upon layer of pain as his own. Spike couldn't stand it. He closed his eyes, focusing his energy on staying his broke voice. "Faye… you came back." he started. He heard Faye start a little in surprise.

                "Yeah, I did. I guess I'm not going anywhere."

                "Y—you shouldn't.. have…" he grunted. "Should have left…"

                "What's that supposed to mean?" Faye's tone instantly turned indignant. "You didn't want me back? Who do you think played your stinking nursemaid all this time, hm? Some nice guy you are."

                The sense of amusement arose from somewhere in his soul. The same painfully ironic amusement that found a way to his face before he had collapsed on the stairs. Faye never understood any of them. "Not that---" he managed to voice. "Just… you could get out… It's—this, it's not a good life… Jet and I… it's too late."

                "Huh?" Faye was obviously confused, and there were a few silent moments as she thought.

                "What are you going on about, Spike?" Jet started. "Neither of us did this from the beginning, we could leave whenever we like."

                The amusement surged again, and a chuckle forced its way from Spike's chest. "I know you better, Jet…" His voice gained some strength with his conviction, and he reopened his eyes. "Mister 'Black Dog', you—can't let it go--- Just like me…"

                Jet leaned back in the chair, a look of contemplative concern across his face.

                Spike took his time out as well, musing somewhere in the back of his head. Musing about why he was noticing the twitch in Faye's brow, the sadness in Jet's eyes. Why he knew what they meant. Why he cared. Where did that capacity rise from in his scarred heart? Why was he still alive? Why why why why why? "—dunno…" he whispered.

                "Hm?" Apparently Jet had heard him.

                The smile was long gone from Spike's face. His eyes were closed again. "Why---I'm still here—" Frustration was bubbling up from the depths of his spirit. He hadn't found the door at all, it was another dead end. Here he was at square one, with a body full of holes and a soul that ached for an end to all of it. "She's gone—" his voice cracked again, fading to barely above nothingness. "—There's… I have—nothing left." Squinting shut, curling tight. The muscles in his stomach wound around themselves, his eyes winching closed.

                "Oh—" Faye's voice snapped to as she realized what he meant. "Julia is—God Spike, I'm sorry."

                Jet let out a heavy sigh, resting a hand on the back of his neck.

                Spike could feel his throat tightening, frustration burning in his face. Why why why? Why did it have to be this way? Before, she was merely beyond his reach. And now, she was gone… forever. "Nothing—" he whispered brokenly.

                "Hey now, don't say that." Faye started. "That's not like you at all. I mean… Jeez Spike, that can't really be all for you, can it? You couldn't escape your past, now Vicious and Julia are gone. It's been laid to rest, hasn't it? Isn't that what you wanted, in a way--?"

                "Shut up Faye." he growled. Her voice had stopped short, and Spike realized why a few moments later. His eyes burned, and despite the fact that he'd wrenched them shut, tears leaked from behind the lids. He was crying, soundlessly, wishing that the couch would just swallow him up. "Shut up Faye" he hissed again, his tone faltering. "Shut up, shut up, shut up---" He had reduced himself to nothing, a wasted soul to match his tattered body and ruined voice. "—please…" Begging. He was begging for this to end. He'd forced himself to curl slightly on the couch, his feet now dangling over the side. Mummified in scratchy gauze, stained with his own blood, he turned his face into the couch cushion and felt it soggy beneath his cheek. Why, why, why? More moments, more endless seconds dragging on into a foggy and distant eternity, he spent with his eyes locked shut, nearly face-down in the couch, waiting and waiting for the aching to fade as warm saline drops rolled slowly and silently off of his nose. There was silence in the room, save for the tinny squeaking of the fan overhead and the soft rumble of the Bebop's engines beneath. After a long time, the tears didn't matter, and Spike opened his right eye. Faye was glancing around the room, trying to catch Jet's gaze and looking very confused and uncomfortable. Jet wasn't looking back, he had turned the chair around sometime during their conversation, and now had his chin resting on the arms crossed over the top of the back. He looked like he was thinking, but his dark blue eyes held sadness, not his usual pensive state. Spike sighed and closed his eye again, wishing he could bring his bandaged arms up to wipe his face dry.

                "I'm sorry Spike." Faye spoke quietly. "About Julia, I… actually ran into her, shortly before… Well…"

                Spike nodded just barely, registering what she'd said. Faye was going to ask what Julia meant to him, the nosy bitch. A growl rose in Spike's throat, and just as it did, fatigue got the best of him. He realized that he just didn't care anymore. Julia was gone. Why had he kept it all such a secret anyway? Why did he have to protect her, protect himself? Jet never knew, he'd never asked. But he never needed to ask, Spike had spilled his guts Electra with little provocation. It was just… well, he supposed the date was going bad enough already.

                Electra… Spike drifted off into thought about her and forgot Jet and Faye. There was something in her story, something about her and Vincent, that had struck a chord in Spike. It reminded him of himself and Julia… only not quite. Spike was Vincent, living in the midst of a dream, unable to feel awake or alive. Vincent had been absolutely right when he pegged Spike for that on the monorail, only Spike hadn't realized it at first. But Vincent didn't remember why he felt so dead inside, it was because he needed Electra, she was his only connection to anything in reality… Spike didn't have the luxury of Vincent's amnesia-driven insanity. He knew. He knew completely, just like Electra knew. He searched, he strived, he hunted and yearned and pined to get his reality back, to get her back. Tears started to drip from his nose again, dribbling over the bridge and down to the cushion. Now he was trapped in this dream, this nightmare, this purgatory somewhere between living and death. He'd never gotten to ask Julia if she felt the same way without him in her life. All of those years, all of that time for the betrayal and exile to seep in. Did she seek him out like he had sought her? Tracing his name across the solar system, spine going taught every time she heard it? Did she freeze inside when she heard a voice like his, saw a face like his? Was she trapped in the fog of her own dream? Had her life been frozen from that day on, so long ago?

                With another hitch of his chest, Spike betrayed his own thoughts enough to realize that he didn't think so. She had gone on living much as he had, running from the bloodthirsty reach of the broken Syndicate. But had she thought of him as she ran? Or did she just run? Spike knew that she had run blindly. Only when they were both together again, in the bloody and gunpowder-flash moment when they were both present in the same reality, had she realized just what she'd been running from. Spike knew that she had also been running from him. Her nightmare hadn't started on that day so long ago, she had never been trapped in the past like he had. Only as she lay dying in his arms had she tried to resist the world around her, tried to struggle back into the reality of a past she could no longer return to. His purgatory was life, hers was death. Now they were both trapped.

                Spike opened his eyes again, shaking his addled mind awake. Jet was staring back at him now, semi-curious eyes matching Faye's.

                "You alright now, Spike?" he asked.

                Spike gave him a half-assed frown. "Sure thing, thanks Jet." he muttered.

                The older man let out a low snort, lips turning up with an amused quirk. "At least you've got your attitude back. There's life in you yet." His blue eyes blinked carefully, analyzing, watching Spike.

                The younger man saw it, and he closed his eyes in return. He didn't want this. He didn't want any of it. He didn't care if they cared. It didn't make things easier for him, if anything it made things harder and more complicated. The emotions were too much to deal with now. Spike felt his body slowing down, recoiling from his outburst with Faye. He could feel his vision clouding behind his eyes, sizzling out into a field of speckling stars, fogging over. He saw blue behind those eyes, like the blue of the water he'd nearly drowned in, the blue of the sky he died under. Or should have died under. Or maybe did die under. The blue of his lurking dream surged upward to take him back into gentle, effortless, uncaring slumber. And as he was every time before, Spike was aware. But this time, he did not resist. He no longer had a reason to resist. He slipped gently back, his breathing growing steady and quiet, as he relented to the weakness of his body and mind, and slept.

ARE YOU AWAKE?

The End