The Subtle Moments
Chapter 1: Dawn to a New Age

"You gonna come inside any time soon, Faye?" Jet asked while he was walking back the hangar, lightly tossing his used up butt on the sandy ground. Faye stood there for a moment without talking or even looking at him. Her eyes were as blank as they always have been, just staring out into the distance. He almost doubted that she heard him, but for some reason he knew. She could always see without actually seeing, but she also heard what was going on around her. It was often strange for him to watch her in this type of trance, but after watching her be like this for three years, it was anything but surprising.

She stood with her left arm tightly wrapped around her body while her right elbow was propped on top of it holding a half burnt cigarette to her lips. Taking a drag, she let out a gentle sigh before slightly turning her head in Jet's direction. Her eyes were glazed over for a moment as if she didn't recognize him, but then they almost got their normal glow back again. Bowing her head a little, she pulled the cigarette away from her mouth and stared him through half lidded eyes.

She said, "Yea, I think I will." Tossing the cigarette away, she crushed it beneath her black boot before crossing her arms over her chest and following behind Jet into the ship. "You know I need to check up on him anyway."

He accepted her response as he opened the hatch door into the ship. She silently followed with a distant look in her eyes, not really seeing where she was going, but more like knowing when to turn and where the walls were going to be.

In the distance, she could hear the idle clicking of Edward typing on her computer. She assumed that Ein was asleep near her when there were no barking sounds to be heard. They had returned shortly after Spike's dramatic exit, which was a surprise to both Jet and herself. At first, it wasn't clear why they had come back, but as soon as Ed told her where Spike was, she was sure that it was to help them get him back. She was grateful for that, and it shocked her how Ed had grown up so much and so fast in the three years to come after that day.

Jet had disappeared into his bonsai room as Faye still mutely roamed the halls. Like always, small snippets of memories about the past years aboard the BeBop entered her mind. So much had changed since she originally boarded this ship. For one thing, the ship was now constantly quiet, and she could tell that it was starting to get under everyone else's skin, including her own. Jet seemed more withdrawn yet fatherly toward Ed and herself, but it was hard for Jet to act like Faye's father at first when the several large bottles of liquor had become her best friends. Those first months were the hardest of the troubling times. After they had finally stabilized Spike's condition, even though he was still deep in a coma and showed no signs of waking any time in the near future, she soon stopped drinking. Heavily, anyway.

Ed had changed the most out of all of them in the past few years, but her reasons were slightly different from herself and Jet. Ed now stuck to wearing loosely fitting jeans and a white tank-top. She cut her fiery hair shorter, making it more manageable, if anything. It wasn't just her appearances that changed though, because in that respect, they all had changed physically. Ed just became older and more mature faster than Jet and Faye would have given her credit for. She still talked in the third person every now and then, but that was just out of habit. She had a more serious tone to her, yet the childish sparkle was still in her eyes.

Faye was almost damn sure that Ed was the reason that they were all still as close as they were. She was the one that still looked up the bounties and kept them in good humor from time to time, but even she could tell that the shadows in Faye and Jet's eyes would only disappear when and if that "Lunkhead" would ever wake up. Nevertheless, she hoped he would. They all did.

Faye looked up to see where she was walking and noticed that she was standing in front of Spike's bedroom door. How she got here in the ship, she never really knew, but she could tell that getting to his room was a matter of instinct, not memory. She had been too boozed up and nonchalant to care much about remembering anything recently. If she knew it, it was important, and that was the end of the discussion.

Quietly opening the door, she looked into the room to see her fallen comrade. A soft sigh passed her lips as she looked at his condition. It was the same, really. Day in, day out, for the past three years it was always the same. He was hooked up to a respirator that they had to slightly "borrow" from a hospital, but they had plenty, so they wouldn't miss it. And along with the stole respirator, there were the IV tubes, the feeding tubes, and anything that looked relatively important and necessary in the hospitals. Stealing from a hospital was hard, but figuring out how to work all the equipment, well at first, it was safe to say that it was almost damned near impossible. Once again, it was going to be something that she would have to thank Ed for later. That girl could find out almost anything she wanted on that computer, and she only got better over time.

She walked into the room, listening to the sound of her now black boots echoing throughout the room. The silence made the noise seem almost deafening to her ears, but as soon as her eyes locked onto Spike's figure, all else was forgotten.

At first, it had been Jet's job to take care of their idiot, suicidal friend. Ed was too young to know fully how to take care of him, and, in the beginning, Faye wasn't going to give Jet a chance in Hell to separate her from Mr. Bacardi Silver. So, he was left with all the hard tasks of figuring out how to hook Spike up to that confusing shit before he starved to death in his sleep. Needless to say, it took some serious work. When his condition was stabilized, everything seemed to fall back into place in its own time. Ed became calmer and knew that they all needed their silence, as eerie as it might have been. Ein was only frisky around Ed, since he could basically sense that Faye and Jet were not in the mood for anything most of the time. Faye had disappeared for a few weeks, and Jet took care of Spike treating him better than his many bonsais.

Where Faye had gone, no one knew, and no one asked. All Ed and Jet knew was that one day she was gone, and then three weeks later she came back. New look, new attire, and without as much Mr. Bacardi Silver. That was the most important part. Her outfit did surprise him though, and he though that it was better since she wore a little less revealing clothes. It was a small step forward, he had thought, but it was still a step.

A small smile slid across Faye's face. As she took her seat next to Spike, she remembered that little moment when she had first come back. To say the look on Jet's face was priceless was an understatement. She lost her white boots to replace them with black ones, and the mid-thigh stockings were gone as well. She wore a short, wine colored leather skirt that clung tightly to her hips, and she wore a black halter top that was made of the same material as her last shirt. The red jacket was gone, replaced by another one that was made out of the same material as her skirt. Finally, her headband had disappeared totally.

Jet's face had almost dropped, but no comment was made. There was no need for one. Her whole attitude almost screamed out, "Shut the Hell up; I'll do what I want," and Jet took its advice. If she wanted to change her look and do what she pleased to do, that was her business, but he was sure as Hell not going to be the only one taking care of Spike. That was how the whole job of watching over him and taking care of him became her full time assignment. After that, everyone seemed to have their respective jobs. Ed was the one the found the bounties and knew where they were going, Jet got the bounties, retrieved the money, cooked, and repaired the ships, and Faye ran the smaller errands, and took care of Spike. Every now and then she would go out and get a bounty herself, but she seemed more dedicated to Spike than the other two had originally thought.

And that was how they had spent their last three years together. It was harmony, as messed up as it might have seemed. Now, here she was, almost a completely different person with a past and all, but the only thing that was out of order was her attachment to this green-haired bad boy that she watched over. Sometimes she would talk to him and hold his hand, other times she wouldn't do much of anything. Now was one of those latter times. It had come to the point where there was nothing left to be said except the mundane everyday stuff, but nothing had happened that day, so there was nothing to say.

Her eyes took their time dragging over his form like they always did, taking in every detail that she could. His face looked the same, and his cuts and bruises had all healed. The only thing that was left was for him to actually wake up, but no one knew when that was going to happen. Unlike before, he seemed more responsive to the outside would. Small things started happening such as him reacting to sunlight and making faces when certain things were mentioned. It was almost as if he had just been sleeping, and nothing more. But maybe that's what it always had been. One really long nap. Well, if that was the case, if he didn't get his ass up soon, someone, like Faye for instance, would have to kick it for him.

She now went in everyday hoping that he would be sitting up in his bed, staring at all the medical equipment before lashing out at her with a sharp, "What the Hell?" It was either that, or him waking up while she was in there. That would have been the better choice. A part of her wanted herself to be the first thing that he saw when he woke up, but today wasn't going to be that day.

And it wasn't that day. That day didn't arrive until a week later.

* * *

"Goddamn it, Faye!" Jet snapped from the bathroom. She turned around from where she was in the hall, about a few doors down from where he was. Two now damp towels were wrapped around her hair and upper body as she glanced at the bathroom door. She softly counted down to herself knowing what would happen. As expected, Jet stuck his head out the door when she hit zero, and started scolding her.

If there was one thing guaranteed about everyday, this had to be it. Every morning, this would be the one scene that never changed. It was the one argument that still occurred on a regular basis like it was a television program. Coming up next at eight am, Bathroom Brawls with Faye Valentine and Jet Black. She smirked to herself, knowing what was going to come up next. It was like persistent Déja Vu.

He growled at her, "Get that damn smirk off your face. We go through this shit everyday, and it never changes! I've told you time and time again, don't-"

"Use up all the hot water. Yes Daddy, I know. Too bad that I don't care," she commented curtly. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go get dressed. It's kinda drafty in here," Faye stated before turning around and heading toward her room down the hall. She could faintly hear Jet cursing after her, but she didn't really need to listen to know what was being said.

"Fine, be a bitch, Faye! But if you use up all the damn water again, I'm kicking your ass off this ship!" Every time he had said the same thing. Every time they both knew that it wasn't true.

Faye walked into her room and felt like having a lazy day. She quickly towel dried her hair before slipping into her wine and black outfit. Pulling her hair back into a high bun, she slipped a hair tie around the purple mass, completely disregarding the extra strands that fell out of place. When simple stuff like that always happened, what was the point of fussing about it? Faye scanned the room with her eyes, before seeing what she was looking for. She slipped the jacket onto her shoulders after pulling out her pack of cigarettes from the left pocket. Finally, she grabbed the lighter that she had stolen from Spike's room and strolled out of the room.

Sighing to herself, she saw Ed walking in the hallway with her flip flops on, humming a small tune that she had become accustomed to hearing. Ed looked up at Faye when the song was finished and gave her a casual grin. "How's it goin', Faye-Faye?" she asked while slipping her hands behind her head and sticking her hip out to the side a little bit more than necessary. Faye couldn't help but smile back at the teen.

"You know how it is, Ed," she replied with a slightly bored tone in her voice. Before she started to walk away, she gave a clearer meaning. "Same shit, different day, Ed. Same shit, different day."

Ed stood on her hands and walked over to Faye in an unusually fast pace. "Ed knows. By the way, Jet said that as soon as you're finished eating out the whole kitchen, he wants you to go check up on Spike. He said something about Spike-person being more restless than usual." Faye nodded once before heading toward the kitchen for her breakfast. "Don't forget to bring food for Edward and Ein, Faye-Faye!" Ed called after her before flipping back onto her feet and running out of the hall.

Entering the kitchen, Faye pulled the unlit cigarette out of her mouth, and placed it back into her pocket with the lighter. She then pulled out a beer and a pre-made bowl of cereal from the fridge. It wasn't long until Jet walked into the room with his arms hanging loosely at his side and a bored expression on his face.

"I am assuming that you got my message from Ed?" He asked; it was more of a statement than a question. He also pulled a beer from the fridge, and took a quick swig from the bottle without looking at her. After a moment of silence, he glanced her way to see if she had indeed heard his question. Faye nodded, "Yes, I received it from your messenger, although why you couldn't come and say it yourself is beyond me." He took another swig and nodded. Glancing around the room, he felt a sudden moment of peace, yet he didn't know why it had existed. They were rare moments, but they seemed to have been appearing more often for some reason. Tossing the feeling aside, he felt that there was nothing more to say, so then turned around to leave the room.

Raising her eyebrow slightly, she stared at his back and asked in a sickeningly sweet voice, "I don't even get a, 'Good morning, Dearest,' from you, my Love?" Jet paused at the door and threw her a glare over his shoulder, before it softened into a smile.

"Only when there's a cold day in Hell, Dearest. Only when there's a cold day in Hell." With that, he stepped out of the room leaving her to smirk to herself. It was the small moments like that were when they just understood one another. It was just a way of keeping the peace. It was the beginning of the day, and they all knew that everyone's mood would basically start go down hill from that point forward. Why not cease the day?

After only taking a few sips from her beer and barely eating her food, Faye finally realized that she wasn't that hungry or thirsty at all. With a long sigh, because she knew that Jet hated it when she wasted food, she hesitantly threw out her remains before walking out of the kitchen. As she walked toward Spike's room, thoughts and memories flew through her mind. None of them were very specific, and very few were vague. Almost all of them dealt with Spike and what had been happening within the past three years. So many things were cleared up, but there was still so far to go, and she had a feeling that she and the rest of the crew couldn't really move forward until their fourth man woke up.

But that was always the case, wasn't it? They weren't able to move on with their lives because they had that festering reminder of their past just lying in his room with his nightmares that could now be heard, and his night sweats that had to be taken care of. How long had she not been able to progress with her life because of that Lunkhead? Faye wanted to hate him. Every part of her mind, body, and soul wanted to hate him with a deep, fiery passion, but there was also the part of her that was drawn to him like a moth to a flame. It was why she was so willing to take care of him. She just wanted to be around him. No one knew how many nights she had spent in his room just because she felt like she couldn't sleep without him near her.

There was a reason for that, but only two people knew. One was herself, and the other was the man that she spent half of the day staring at. No one had really known what had happened between them a few months before he decided to go off on his little suicide mission. It had all started a little while after Ed had left. Faye hated and loved him for that time, but that was a thought she wanted out of her head.

Stopping in front of Spike's door, she pulled the cigarette that she had gotten from her room earlier out of her pocket, and placed it between her two full lips. Reaching into her other pocket, she pulled out his lighter. She eventually took this from him because she needed something of his to call her own after he had returned in his comatose state. The only thing that she could think of taking without anyone noticing was his lighter, so that's what she had taken.

Flipping the lid of the lighter open, she ran it quickly down her leg, causing the small, red flame to burst into life. She stared at it for a long moment before opening the door. Silently, she walked in and closed the door behind her without lifting her head. Leaning on it, she cupped her hand around the flame and lit her cigarette, starting the small moment of bliss that she managed to obtain about five or six times a day. She closed her eyes and took a deep drag on the cigarette before closing the lid of the lighter, and therefore extinguishing the small patch of fire. She exhaled with a soft sigh of rapture as the wisps of smoke clouded around her head.

"…Since you seem to be enjoying that so much, how about you give a man what he's craving for." Her whole body seemed to have frozen over when she heard that implied request. Those words, that voice. It had been too long since she had heard that voice. She was almost afraid to open her eyes, but she failed to notice that her eyes had already snapped open when the first word was spoken. Her jade orbs were already fixated on the speaker.

And there he was in all his glory with the sheets pooled around his ankles as one of his arms loosely hung over his propped up knees. His chin was resting in the crook of his elbow, and he was staring straight at her. She was in such a state of shock, that she almost missed the feeling of how his mismatched eyes slowly dragged up and down her body, taking in every detail of her new look. His hair slightly hung in his eyes almost pointing to the small grin that appeared on his face.

"I… Spike… Uh… I-" Faye stammered as she was trying to find what to say. She had dreamed of this happening so many times, so why was she not able to think or anything to say when the moment had finally arrived? Shock was still thriving in her system, and she was just fortunate that she didn't pass out as soon as her mind fully accepted that he was awake.

Suddenly, the room began to feel too small. It was too small and too hot for her to handle. She felt like a trapped animal pinned in a corner with no where to go. In a moment, she was going to start panting as her chest painfully contracted with every breath. She wasn't ready. She wasn't prepared to handle any of this, so she did the only thing that she could do.

"I'm going to go get Jet," she softly whispered before turning around to run out of the room. The door slammed behind her with a loud bang, and then the only thing that was heard was the sound of the taps that pounded against the floor when she ran from his room. Spike had a puzzled expression on his face as he continued to stare at the spot where she had only moments ago been standing. He slowly stood up and stiffly walked over to the door. Every step was protested against with achy muscles that hadn't been used in years, but he ignored the pain as he bent down.

Ever so lightly, he picked up the small silvery object that was lying on the ground where Faye had previously been. 'The metal is still warm from her touch' he thought to himself as he flipped the object through his fingers. He raised his head slightly as he heard heavy footsteps approaching. Standing up as fast as his body would allow, he walked back over to his bed and sat down with a subtle hiss passing through his lips.

As he heard the door open again, he took one last look at the lighter before placing it in his pocket.

* * *

"It's about damn time that your lazy ass got out of bed," Jet grumbled as he walked into the room. Spike was running his hand through his hair, and Jet watched in slight amusement as Spike's face changed every second longer that his hand stayed in his hair. Five seconds longer than it should have in total. Spike quickly pulled a long lock of green hair to get a better look at it, to make sure that it was real. He was both confused and amazed, but it wasn't surprising to Jet at all. They hadn't bothered to cut his hair since they didn't want to disturb his neck, or at least that was the general reason at first. After a while, they had to admit that they all just got damn lazy.

He knew what Spike was going to ask next; he was just trying to see how long it was going to take. Apparently much longer than he had originally thought.

With almost frightened eyes like that of a child, Spike popped the question that he was expecting. "Jet," he barely whispered in a disturbingly shaky voice, "how long has it been?"

With a deep sigh, Jet closed his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest before leaning his large body against the door frame. He had thought about his answer to this several times before now, but he learned as quickly as Faye did, dream and think up as many things as you want, but when the moment comes, it won't mean jack shit. So how was he going to handle this? There were so many possibilities and choices that he had. Well, there was the obvious question that he had to ask himself: Should he tell him the blunt truth?

'Good morning, Spike. It's been about three years since you've deserted us, and oh boy! you've missed a lot! First, Ed had rediscovered Faye and me, exclaiming that she had found you. Then we had to drag your mostly dead ass back to our ship, and to make things even better, we had to rob four different hospitals just to get the equipment that we needed to keep you alive. While this was all going on, I had to act like a father to a growing teen since her real father basically abandoned her again, and at the same time, I had to help a suicidal woman stop her horrible new-found love for constantly inhaling large amounts of hard liquor because she was too depressed seeing you in the condition that you were in. The next couple years got better, but it wasn't a damn walk in the park. Other than blowing most of our cash on trying to keep you alive, everything has just been real fucking peachy! Glad to have you back among the living.' Oh yes. He could see that one going over really well with him, only if by really well, one meant very badly.

But what other options did he really have? One way or another, he was going to find out the truth about what's been going on since he was taken back on the ship. Still, it wasn't good to tell him nothing at all. That option just wouldn't do. Spike deserved some answers after being asleep for so long. Then the question became should he get all the answers from him? That was a much easier question.

After a short period of thinking, he came up with a very simple and suitable solution. What was the best way? The terse and vague way.

Finally opening his eyes, Jet stared directly at Spike and then casually shrugged his shoulders. "Eh, three years," he said nonchalantly as if he were discussing the weather or something equally ordinary. Spike's eyes widened drastically, yet he was busy trying to conceal his emotions from appearing on his face.

The answer had seemed almost surreal to him. Jet couldn't have been right. It didn't feel as though it had been that long anyway, but he did notice the few subtle changes that were presented to him. The distant attitudes, Faye's sudden escape, Jet's more than obvious personal conflict that was going though his head, and above all, the hair on his own head was a dead give away. It had been a long time, but to just think that it had been three years long time was something that was harder to grasp. At least it wasn't ten years. Ten years he knew that he couldn't handle.

He tossed that answer in his mind for a longer time than Jet had anticipated. In a way, Jet feared what Spike's reaction was going to be; after all, reading him wasn't one of the easiest tasks that he had ever come across. Finally, Spike repeated it back as if he hadn't heard correctly. "Three years?" Jet only nodded.

Spike's reaction was one that gave Jet a small bit of relief. It hadn't been nearly as bad as it could have been, but there was obviously still a lot going through the younger man's mind. A large spectrum of emotions quickly flashed through his eyes before they went back to their normal dull shade of chestnut. He assumed that Spike had a lot of questions that he wanted to ask, most of them probably dealing with how he was alive and what had happened while he was sleeping. Jet would tell him a little bit of what he wanted to know, not at the current moment anyway, but everything else that was personal to someone other than him, well, Spike just better hope that Lady Luck was on his side.

Spike's large hands limply hung between his spread legs as he stared harshly as the tile floor. So many thoughts were going through his mind, but all of them were jumbled and made little to no sense to him. Glancing up at Jet, he saw that his partner was turning to walk out of the room. He obviously wasn't in the mood to be questioned, but there was only one question that he wanted to ask.

"Jet," he called, watching with distant eyes as his shipmate turned halfway around to look at him, "are Vicious and Julia really dead?" For a moment, Spike could have sworn that a look of anger crossed over Jet's features, but it seemed to have disappeared as quickly as it had come.

Jet turned away from Spike and said, "Yea, they're both dead. Now rest up some." Jet walked out of the room and demanded one last thing before his voice faded as it moved down the hallway. "I don't want your ass doing anything stupid, got it?"

"Yea, got it." Spike's reply had been so low that only he heard it. Three years had gone by since his dramatic battle with Vicious, and wasn't he supposed to go there to die? That's what he had planned at first, but now he wasn't so sure. Nothing seemed to be assured at the moment. It all still felt like a dream. It was all just one big nightmare.

"Julia…" The name slipped off his lips before he even realized it. She was really dead and would never be coming back, but it had been like that before, right? He hadn't heard from her three years previous to his last contact with her, so why did it feel different? He figured that it was because it was an actual fact and not just a feeling anymore. She was dead, and unlike him, she wasn't going to be able to bounce back.

All in all, what did he have left? He killed the bad guy, got the girl, lost the girl, and then was robbed of his heroic death. Apparently, things hadn't gone the way he planned, but did he really want them to? Was death what he had truly wanted on his wish list? His head started to hurt with a dull ache as he thought harder about the subject. As much as he was thinking about it, he was getting no where. What he needed at the moment was some time to himself and a shit load of cigarettes to keep himself calm. Yea, that was defiantly what he needed at the moment. More cancer sticks, less non-cancer sticks.

Walking over to his dresser in the corner of the room with the tiniest bit of ease, he pulled his secret stash of cigarettes out of the top drawer. Popping one into his mouth, he pulled the lighter out of his pocket and quickly created a flame with a flick of the wrist. After lighting the cigarette yet before closing the lighter, he took one long look at it, and then a name rang through his head with the intensity of a set of church bells signaling the beginning of a Sunday Mass. Faye. How had he completely forgotten about Faye? More importantly, why had she run out on him like she had?

'Because that's what you did to her, asshole,' his mind supplied cruelly as he closed his lighter. His head was consumed in pain now as he silently reflected over what had happened between the two of them over their time together. Not all of it was pretty, but it had its ups and downs, especially a few months before he decided to go on his suicide mission, but how quickly he had forgotten about all that when Julia had come back into the picture.

The look in her eyes and the sound of Faye's gun as it went off started ringing in his ears, just like it had the whole time that he was fighting Vicious. Julia might have been the last thought that he had before he blacked out, but it was Faye on his mind while he was in battle. It was something he didn't question at the time, but now it just seemed that much more important. His disappearance had hurt her, and even he wasn't stupid enough to not notice that, but it was its magnitude that he originally underestimated. But there was still time, wasn't there?

He took a deep drag before resting his body on the dresser. He needed to have a long talk with Faye, that was certain, but he was more worried about what was going to happen when they did talk. So much had happened in the few months before his coma and there was still so much more that hadn't been discussed or addressed. He wasn't even sure if she wanted to talk about it, much less resume their relationship as it was before.

He could still easily recall the feel of her soft skin under his callous fingers as he ran them down her body, managing to take in every detail of her being with his eyes. He could still hear the soft sounds she made in the heat of the moment. Those were just a couple memories that were hard to forget.

Closing his eyes, he took another drag on his cigarette as more memories of that time bombarded his newly active mind. He really needed to talk to Faye and find out what had happened to her. The sooner, the better.