My first Cowboy Bebop fic. And happily, it's on time for Smarty Cat's birthday! I drove myself nuts with this, worrying the part wouldn't be done, or it wouldn't be long enough, but I'm pleased with how it turned out. Let me know how you liked it, Smarty! Happy birthday, hon! Although, I feel a little bad for giving you angst. . . And although this isn't a Birthday Fic, it does have a lot to do with a birthday.

For those of you who enjoy these types of fics, please leave a review for me. I'd love some feedback.

Warnings: Language, adult situations, a bit of violence, aaaaangst. This fic will be a two-shot.

Notes: The title is taken from Annie's comment in Session 26: The Real Folk Blues part two. Chapter name is taken from the lyrics of Yoko Kanno's (the queen of jazz) "Blue." Story takes place before Bebop. I've given Julia a last name. My shot on Spike's, Julia's, and Vicious's relationship.

-- Kites Without Strings -- Part One: Never Seen A Blue Sky

By Gundam Girl

The wine was bitter. Elegant, lovely glowing in the dim light of the low- hanging lamps, but bitter. And it certainly wasn't a beverage appropriate for the occasion.

Of course, Spike thought wryly, propriety was not always something Vicious deemed necessary. It was just that the birthday parties he'd been given as a kid (courtesy of Mao and Annie) had never included alcohol, with the exception of his twenty-first. Annie hadn't known that he'd been drinking since he'd been sixteen, and Mao had taken it in stride. However, he and Vicious had gotten so slobbering drunk that night that, although Annie and Mao didn't throw the parties anymore, they certainly didn't bring him any booze.

He'd met Vicious that year, he recalled. He'd been twenty? Damn, he was certain he'd been eighteen at the latest. He felt as though he'd known Vicious his whole life rather than only four years.

While he thought about Vicious, he took another gulp of the scarlet liquid from his glass and looked about room at the said man's own party-throwing attempt. It wasn't the most cheerful event; there were no balloons, or sentiment-bearing banners, and there was no stack of wrapped presents in sight. It was much more subtle than that, more elegant. Vicious always did have class. But the pristine clothes that covered the tables and the china and the expensive, catered food made the party seem more like a Red Dragon business meeting rather than Vicious's girlfriend's birthday celebration.

With a sigh, he tossed back the rest of the wine and raised a hand to brush unruly green hair away from his eyes. And just where the hell was the woman - and, admittedly, the man of the hour anyway?

He hadn't met this "Julia," but the way Vicious spoke of her, he could believe that she was a babe. Vicious would never settle for less. And anyone less wouldn't dare try to get Vicious.

"Spike." At the voice, Spike Spiegel turned and grinned at the shorter man, who was, like him, clad in the black uniform of the Red Dragon syndicate.

"Lin," he said to his fellow gangster. "Wasn't sure if you'd be here tonight. What's the deal with guest of honor not getting honored right about now?"

"She got hung up," he said with a shrug. "I think Shin is still going through her back round check. She just joined us today."

"Really? So, enlightened on her birthday, eh?" Spike laughed. "Where'd Vicious meet her?"

"No idea," Lin told him with a smile. "Never seen her."

"Hm. Well. . ."

"But she won't be here for another hour at least. It's off-schedule, but Vicious isn't upset for once. He wants you to join him for pool in the next room."

Spike grinned. "Sounds fun. Shall we?"

"We shall," answered Lin and the two friends stepped out of the massive banquet room into the expansive restaurant's bar; four billiard tables, a long bar, tall stools, and small four-person tables covered the cigarette- smoky room. At the billiard square closest, a light-haired man with tall stature and a tight face set the billiards into a perfect triangle. He lifted his eyes.

"Spike," he said, his voice soft. "I'm glad you could make it."

"Glad I could come," Spike replied with a lopsided grin. "You'd do the same for me."

Vicious smiled fully now; Spike Spiegel was one of the two people he would do so for. "Indeed I would," he nodded. "Take a cue."

Because Vicious had, Spike shrugged out of his black trench coat and wore khakis and a sweater. "Are you ready to get the hell beat out of you, Vicious?"

"I return that statement to you, my friend."

The two men held a mutual, unspoken enjoyment for billiards. It helped the time pass, and it let the two be competitive where the syndicate did not. Spike's striped balls were making it into the pockets faster than Vicious's solid ones were, and the green-haired man cherished every moment of his victory over the Red Dragon's snake.

After winning for the fourth time (and earning a deep scowl), Spike cricked his neck. The time was going by fast. It was already thirty minutes past an hour since they'd started playing.

"Julia! Happy birthday. I'm Rose Mayes, from the ammunition department, remember?"

Spike glanced up. Vicious scowl had faded, and a soft smile held its place. The other person he smiled for had entered. Changing directions, his brown eyes landed on a tall, sculpted, female body covered from neck to toe in clinging, black leather. A river of wavy gold flowed down her back, which faced him.

"I remember." Her voice.it was like scarlet rose petals drifting to cold cement. "Thank you, Rose." The woman turned and Spike caught the face. Lips shimmered like rubies in the dim light of the bar. Through the smoke, he saw the sunglasses perched on her head. And below the sunglasses was a pair of the bluest eyes Spike had ever seen. They made him think of the water the gold of her hair must have replaced, sparkling and tantalizing; or of the skies the Earth used to have so many years ago. He'd only seen pictures, never the real thing.

"That is Julia," Vicious told him softly at his side. "Remember, Spike. Don't trust that woman."

Spike looked at him from the corners of his eyes and wanted to ask what the hell that meant, but Vicious had set down his pool cue and began to walk forward.

"Julia. Happy birthday."

Julia turned at the voice that scratched like ice on glass. "Vicious. It means a lot that you'd have this party for me."

"It means as much that you decided to join us today." He took her hand and kissed the row of knuckles. Watching him, Spike decided her skin must be soft, maybe softer than her hair looked.

Spike finished tying his trench coat back on with the customary gold braid of the Red Dragon uniform. "Well, Vicious, don't you think it's time to get in there?"

"He's right." The other man led Julia into the dining room by the waist, and they both donned their own coats. "Come in and I'll introduce you."

Julia had a certain eagerness about her as she watched the syndicate members talk quietly and sip wine. Her eyes glowed with the newly realized sense of responsibility that came with being in the Red Dragon tong.

"Julia." Upon the speaking of her name, she turned to Vicious with a smile. "As I said, I'd like you to meet Spike Spiegel, the best pilot ever since he was sixteen."

Julia's smile turned on him and had him craving, warmed all over, and all he could do was shake her hand. Was he the only one that felt the electric jolt from her marble-cool touch? Forcing back the ache in his stomach, Spike grinned.

"Well, I don't know about that," he said in reply to Vicious's comment. "Seventeen maybe.surely not sixteen."

Any woman would laugh. All of them had before at any show of Spike's comical charm. Julia didn't laugh. Her smile grew, yes, but it wasn't enough. Not for him. She gave every impression of being a longtime Red Dragon agent, but the agents laughed, and she had only joined today.

Julia was more. He was sure of it. And painfully, he felt that he wanted to know kind of more she had. More than this life? His life?

But she was Vicious's, he suddenly remember. And never before had he wanted to take something Vicious had. But now. . .

"It's good to meet you, Spike."

Why did his name have to sound so good on her tongue?

This was Julia's question as much as Spike's. The fluffy green mass that was supposedly his natural hair didn't take away from the lanky-figured man's attractiveness. Although she was sure that anyone else would look utterly ridiculous, this Spike Spiegel - was that his real name? - was one of the more handsome men on Mars.

Of course, where Spike burned, Vicious contrasted in a frigidity cold enough to sear, and those frosted eyes singed her now. Julia quickly looked away from the warmer man.

There was no reason to compare the two.

"Are you hungry?" Vicious's voice startled her, but there was, thankfully, no visible reaction.

"I'm starving," she told him with a more forced smile. "I've been with that Shin all day."

"Let's get you fed, then. Spike," Vicious asked, "will you join us?"

"With pleasure," he said, voice full of his trademark cockiness and followed them to the buffet.

Dinner commenced with little concern for himself. Spike realized that there was no sense falling for a girl already taken. He morals had always been better than that.

After he had eaten and had drank enough to put himself in a comfortable haze, he stood and announced his decision to head in for the night.

"So early?" asked Vicious. "We haven't cut the cake yet. It's chocolate," he added with a smirk.

Spike patted his flat stomach. "Had enough, thanks," he assured him. "Gotta keep my manly figure. Oh, but before I go. . . Almost forgot, I'm such an ass. . ." He reached into one of the many hidden pockets inside his coat and pulled out a long-stemmed, thorn-less rose. With a wink and much ceremony, he handed the pretty red flower to Julia, thinking it was the same color of her mouth.

Had he not been so tipsy, he may have noticed the extra glow to her eyes.

"Sorry it's not anything more extrovagey. . .extrevena. . .special," he told her, having given up on any four-syllable words. "If I'd've met you earlier, it'd be better."

Julia shook her head and offered him the same tight-lipped smile. Spike felt a little disappointed. He'd been hoping to see teeth, in the very least. "It's perfect, Mr. Spiegel."

"Spike," he blurted. The formality ruffled more feathers than he cared to admit. "Just Spike, thanks."

She nodded once and looked down at the rose. "Then Spike. . ." Again, the name tingled inside her mouth. Julia buried the feeling deep in her chest. "Thank you." She frowned. This wasn't right. She couldn't think beyond Vicious.

"You're welcome." Spike shoved his hands into his pockets. Judging by her sudden facial change, he had done something to displease her. Damn it. The guilty emotion running through his heart was sobering him too quickly for his liking.

"Good night, Spike," Vicious nodded.

He nodded back. "'Night. Happy birthday, Julia."

"Good night, Spike," she echoed her boyfriend.

Spike turned on his heel and made a beeline for the door.

Julia watched him go. Once the door had closed behind the last glimpse of his black trench coat, she reverted her gaze to the flower. For all she knew, it could not be naturally red at all. It was possible that the rose was white, covered in blood, and therefore appearing scarlet. Nothing about her or anyone around her was true anymore. She herself could not be truthful, and her whole being might as well have been one big lie.

"Let's get out of here," Vicious voice suggested softly. She shuddered, not because his tone was seductive, but because of the chill that met her ear. Suddenly tired, she could only nod, and she let him take her hand and lead her out of the restaurant, leaving a brief order with Lin to box the remaining cake and send it to her apartment.

Apparently, Vicious's appetite sought something more than dessert tonight. She had a feeling that his birthday gift would not be as enjoyable as she had forced herself to believe it would.

***

Spike *was* an ass. In the course of four hours, he had probably thought every sinful thought and imagined every sinful image known to man. And for his best friend's woman, he noted with disgust.

He sat up in bed, clothed in nothing but a pair of dark blue silk boxers - he was no stranger to extravagance, having been raised by Mao Yenrai, and bed clothes hardly mattered - and turned on his bedside lamp. He plowed his hands through his own thick hair, and groaned, falling back against the pillows again.

He couldn't sleep. Simply could not. Period. Tossing back the blanket, he fished around in the drawer of his nightstand until he found a half- empty pack of cigarettes and a small lighter. Flicking the wheel twice, he lit the roll and eagerly took a drag. It only succeeded in slightly calming his racing heart.

Standing, Spike tugged on the pair of khakis he'd left to wrinkle in the middle of the floor not even two hours earlier and stepped out onto the balcony of his elaborate apartment.

Red. The color represented so much. Mars, the gritty planet on which he'd been born and raised, the syndicate, blood he'd spilled himself with Vicious at his side. . . Right now, the only thing red meant to him was the unsatisfactory birthday gift he'd given Julia Mandir. Roses. Did any guy really do that anymore? It had been a while since he'd actually worried about it. He'd been with women, and until now, he'd thought himself easily capable of impressing one. But currently, he was tortured over not impressing one he had to right to try and impress.

"Shit," he muttered. This was ridiculous. Revolting, even. His mind was full of thought about an unavailable woman. Any man would have surrendered already; pride would have assured that. But Annie had called him the most stubborn hooligan on Mars for a reason, and he was living up to that title.

Julia. . . Her name itself was like a drug, addictive and expensive. There would be a large price to pay if he got tangled into too tight of a knot. If Vicious felt betrayed, best friend or not, he could lunge from the shadows at any given moment, and he would throttle until dead.

Spike dropped the cigarette off the balcony, caring little where it landed. Best take a pill or something and drug himself to sleep. Anything was better than letting himself be shot over and over with thoughts of that angelic demon that wore leather.

But, Spike admitted after choking down a few tablets with some water, he would have dreams that demon. . .and probably the other that she was with.

***

Julia stared at the ceiling, which was a light yellow color. Then she decided she couldn't look at that, because if she threw up now, she guessed light yellow was the color that would come from her stomach.

Sex with Vicious had never been tender. Passionate, yes. Fulfilling? For the moment. After only two weeks, however, she had drifted away from liking his soft silvery hair between her fingers, from liking his straight white teeth raking across her skin. She'd drifted away from liking. . .anything. Anything at all about it.

Why?

The question hadn't occurred before. She'd been dating Vicious for almost a month and a half now, had been sleeping week him for over a week. And compared to all the other men, Vicious was the best bedmate she'd had. Why had she lost interest in only fifteen days.

Maybe because it was her birthday. She's just turned twenty-four after all, and she hadn't done too much celebrating. True, she'd never done much celebrating, but in the least, she'd gone to some bar for amiable birthday chat with the other women who liked to drink brandy on weeknights.

Julia pulled the covers up to her neck and turned on her side so that her back faced Vicious. A long, pale arm came about her waist, but fortunately, it only held her to him, and didn't not suggest anything else. For now.

Julia's eyes drooped until only a glimmer of Callisto-sky-colored eyes could be seen. The room was blurring with the sleep in her head. As she drifted off, she wondered if Spike Spiegel's hair was softer than Vicious's, and could only imagine that it was.

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Gundam Girl: Yay! Part one's done! This was for Smarty Cat's birthday, and I hope you liked it, hon. I admit, I fretted about this all week and could only wish it to be enough. So, a birthday-related fic for the birthday girl. Happy birthday, Smarty Cat!

Note: I was listening to Rick Springfield's "Jesse's Girl" as I wrote this. It really fits. . . weird.

For anyone else who reads this, please leave a review. This *is* my first Cowboy Bebop fic, and I'd like to know how I'm doing. This won't be incredibly long, but I've always liked to think about Spike's past, so it screamed to be written. Review please, and thanks!

-GG