My dear readers,
Thank you for sticking with me these past two years. It's been a delightful experience getting to know some of you, and you have helped me grow as a writer. The last part of any story is always so hard to write because you need to say everything that needs to be said and somehow, it never turns out to be the case. The only difference is that I built the story around this ending, and I really hope I don't disappoint any of you with it. It's been a pleasure.
Thank you to all my reviewers and if you've never reviewed or you haven't in a while drop me a line this time, it'll make my day. :D
This chapter is dedicated to red tenko, ssg, john and all the other people that have helped shaped this story. Thanks.
When Spike thinks back to what happened in those last few hours, he scolds himself for not realizing anything before it got that far. By anything, he means the reality of his emotions towards Faye. He had ignored them or pushed them off like they were a dream, or that he was trapped in some kind of deluded state. He reasoned that he fell in love with Faye because she was the only other woman in his life that had ever had the guts to love him. It took a lot to love him, so then his love for her stemmed from that psychological need for companionship after such a severe trauma—it came from the need to be loved after feeling so damned. It was a brilliant rationalization after all.
When he fell in love with Julia, there was a similar thought-process. Being in love with your best friend's girlfriend was anything but logical, but Spike had his justification. Vicious and him had always competed for everything and at the time, he felt that Vicious had one-upped him. He had a real relationship, when Spike did not. Spike had his flings and one-night stands, and the women that stuck their tongues into his ear to please him, to gain for that moment some sense of danger and daring. To them, Spike was like sky diving without really knowing where you would land and if the parachute would actually work. He was exciting. In turn, Spike sought Julia because she was prohibited, because she gave him that sky-diving feeling he gave to other women. And then, love came furiously at him. It overrode any ecstasy of excitement and replaced it with longing. Horrible, god-fucking-tearing, kind of longing. He thought he would die.
When he fell in love with Faye, in the very back of his mind a voice said, "If she loves me, I can live. I can live. I can live..." He wanted to live, and he hated himself for it.
Nathan was a little like him. The first time Spike visited him (Nathan now waited for his trial in a max security prison in Tharsis), he didn't know where the urge had come from. Perhaps, Spike felt some sense of unfinished business, an unfinished thought that needed to be released. Perhaps, he wanted to apologize to this man, to this boy. Nathan looked like a boy with his light green eyes and his disheveled hair and a sad broken frown on his pale face. Spike had only visited twice, and that would probably do for a long time, but somehow the first visit left Spike with even more emotions risen from their depths and tugging at him until he got them out.
"So that's what she wanted," Nathan had said to him holding the crucifix in his hand.
"That's what we all wanted, in a way," Spike added.
"Yeah," Nathan whispered, tightening his fist around it.
"Are you angry?" Spike cleared his throat, suddenly regretting his visit.
"With Alyssa? Yeah. Am I angry I'm here? No." Nathan took a deep breath. "I'm the guiltiest one. I could have stopped her. I should have stopped her. I belong here. There's no one in here that belongs more than me. Genocide. Imagine. Not since the Nazis." Then looking down, as if to shield shame or oncoming tears, he said, "Why are you here? You don't need to clear your conscience. Not with me. I don't have what you're looking for."
That had been the end of his first visit, and his second one was brief. It was only to say:
"You're wrong. Without knowing it, you're redeeming what I've done." Then Spike left and never saw him again. He turned away from the newspaper photos of Nathan, from the reports, and later on, the history books and biographies. The story was over. It was over before it started.
Spike was on the ground and something lay beneath his arm. His right hand stung and his wrist had twisted when he used it to break his fall. With the worst sense of dread he had ever felt, he turned his head to the side and saw Faye lay there with her eyes shut and hair all over her face—his arm on top of hers. His body froze for a few seconds just staring at her intently, burning her image in his mind, and waiting to see if she would move—begging for her to move. Then, her eyes opened, but they were blank, soulless, but aware. Rivulets of tears began flowing toward the ground.
"Faye!" Jet screamed and rushed next to her. Spike sprang up instantaneously and scanned her body. There was blood, but from her old wound. He found no second wound. No gunshot. The gun simply rested loosely in her hand.
"I suck at martyrdom," she whispered. Spike didn't stop to ask where the bullet had gone, but grabbed the Glock from her hand and threw it away from them. He ignored Jet and lifted Faye up by the shoulders and held her. She was calm and pliable, and he was shaking. Shaking and holding her as if she were fighting him, or slipping away to fall of a precipice.
"I'm sorry," he said, meaning it for the first time, honestly and deeply. "I'm so sorry." He thought he would cry. He thought his whole insides, his maddened heart, were about to explode from within. Her hand pressed against his chest and her arm wrapped around him.
"I know. I know," she whispered.
The fear ebbed back into his mind, forced down by his anger. It returned vengefully and he turned to Alyssa, his wrath crushing his chest from within, wishing to annihilate, wishing to undo the very hand covering Alyssa's mouth in petrified awe, wanting to undo her gaping eyes with tears at their corners. He couldn't read the reasons behind her shock, couldn't decipher whether it stemmed from fear of death itself, or fear of her plan crumbling at Faye's own hands.
It hadn't crumbled and Faye still lived, and yet Alyssa stood there, trembling and unmoving, with her strength about to spill from her quivering mouth. In his wild anger, he couldn't understand it, and though the anger was not completely directed at Alyssa, but at himself and his cowardice and at Faye and her stubborn foolhardy bravery, he would still unleash it all on the woman that had brought them to this point. He wished nothing more but destroy her, to go back into the past not only to murder her father, but her mother, to undo her blood.
Spike released Faye, addressing Jet before he fixed his whole attention on Alyssa.
"Take her," Spike said, "she's bleeding," he turned away from Faye, and Faye, as if not to be ignored, placed one firm hand on his shoulder. He instantly turned back to her and held her face, an action which caused her reddened eyes to widen and Jet, to shift his form uncomfortably.
"I've had enough," he said to her in an apologetic tone and wondered if by her eyes softening and her lower lip trembling if she understood that he meant to say he was a coward. He meant to tell her in those few seconds to forgive him, because he was about to reject his fate and make his decision then. His mind could no longer sustain the siege that had pounded in him for the last sixty hours. Spike Spiegel was selfish, self-indulgent, self-complacent and self-deprecating. He just wanted it to stop and run away, and that is what he would do.
He shifted back to Alyssa, the murder in his rage dissipated and mostly resigned to the fact that both Alyssa and he were condemned now, but he would pass the brunt of the blame back where it belonged—on the shoulders of a twenty-one year old girl.
"I could take you by force," Spike said to Alyssa, "right now, and torture you, force you into telling me where the fuck the transmitter is. I could do to you things I never thought I could do to a woman before. All that just to save myself. Not the city, not the people, but me. That's all I care about. Faye's right about that." He stopped as the rage grew fiercer at the mention of Faye's name. Spike swallowed and then continued. "But you know what? Fuck you. They are your bombs." The muscles on his brow tensed. "They are your victims, your goddamn crimes. Take it and leave me out of it. I've hated this city and I don't give a shit anymore." It was partly the truth and partly a lie. The lie stemmed from his human condition which told him that he couldn't let over nine million people die. The truth, however, was that he had grown tired, helpless and defenseless. He wanted nothing to do with it anymore.
Alyssa made no response. She remained inert in the same position as before, her eyes stilled and her body overwrought with tremors. With a sudden and uncontrollable thunder of rage, he sprang toward her and held her by the throat. Her hand fell away from her mouth, which let out a gasp, and tears pushed out of her in waves from her dark turbid eyes.
"Are you listening!" He shook her. "Listen!" She whimpered and her black eyes fixed on him without any terror in them, but a resigned sadness. He released her; her body swung forward, collapsing on her knees. Spike walked back to Faye and wrapped his bloodied bandaged hand around the silver cross. He saw a tired fear in her green eyes, but she didn't object to his action. She wrapped her own hand around his and released her hold only after he had broken the chain from neck. Jet stuttered to say something, but in the end, kept it to himself. Spike turned around and pelted the necklace at Alyssa's face. It struck her cheek and part of her nose and fell away, cross apart from its chain.
"You bear your own blame," Spike said, his shoulders sagging, "You're killing nine million people. Do you understand?" Alyssa faced the ground and had stopped crying. She sat there, still and silenced. Spike tightened the hand that had held the cross into a fist and turned to walk away with Faye following somberly behind him. Jet, stunned to silence himself, denoted some signs of protest at first, but after a few seconds he sighed and followed his crew.
"No," a whisper came from behind them. "You're the one that doesn't understand," Alyssa muttered, but none of them stopped to listen.
Jet stood slumped over the navigator's controls. The screen in front of him had shut off a few minutes after reaching the orbit of Mars. Faye sat on the edge of the pilot's box near the window slowly smoking a cigarette, and Spike rested his frame against a metal beam dividing the ship's windows. The red glow of the planet below them set passively on their faces and the darkness of space was unaffected by the light of the moons, which hung lifeless like abandoned clay lumps.
None of them had spoken in the last hour. They had simply entered the hangar and headed straight for the bridge, where Jet immediately powered the ship and led it away from city and into space. Spike hadn't dared to look at either of them, not out of fear, but rather, he wished to spare himself their judgment if only for this small period of time. At some point, Spike had closed his eyes and imagined the city exploding—the red landscape below illuminating in short sporadic twinkle that would eventually fade away. A little later, he pondered whether to speak and say some kind of apology, but he saw no point in it. An apology could not begin to explain the sentiment inside him—this thing that ate away at him and slowed his heart.
"Yesterday, I called ISSP." Jet was the first one to speak. "And confirmed that they had gotten an anonymous tip that there was going to be all-out terrorist attack on the city." Jet looked past the windows. "The mayor wouldn't go through with the evacuation order, something about pandemonium, procedures and politics." Jet had, for the first time, the most deadened gleam in his eyes that Spike had ever seen.
"Where's Ed?" Faye said after a few minutes of silence. She stood up and handed her half-smoked cigarette to Spike.
"In the gravity wheel somewhere, why?" And just like that, concern returned to Jet's face as if Faye had that kind of power, as if she could awaken Lazarus with the sound of her voice.
"I just want to talk to her," she said with a shrug and walked away. Spike took a long drag from her cigarette.
"What happens after this?" Jet's repressed anger began to surface. Spike didn't move or acknowledge the question. Jet walked toward Spike and glared at him for a while, his dark eyes narrowed and his brow muscles tensed and crumpled. Spike took one last drag and simply glared back. Jet grabbed him by his shirt collar and pressed the force of his arm against Spike's body.
"Answer me. What happens? She's not going to stop it. You know it. We all know it. She wants to die and take the whole damn place with her!" The cigarette had fallen on the ground, the red flame consuming it slowly to ashes.
"Jet," Spike said, "Just because I've wanted to die doesn't mean I know what she's thinking. It doesn't mean I know how to stop her." After that comment, Jet punched him, not with all his strength, but enough to make Spike's cheek instantly begin to swell. Jet would have hit him again if Spike hadn't dodged causing Jet's fist to embed itself in the metal beam. Jet didn't move his hand, but left it indented there, as if his anger were electric and the metal were consuming it.
"I'm sorry, Jet," Spike said followed by heavy sigh. Jet's head slumped about to sob, but instead he pulled away from the beam.
Without looking at Spike, he said, "I know," and left the room.
Spike reached towards his cheek which finally throbbed from the force of the punch. He winced at the pain, but found it a relief. It was a relief to feel something physical, something real, something that anchored him back to life without sinking in that familiar state of numbness. He hated being numb. Numbness to him equated with death creeping from behind, holding him, controlling him and pushing out everything else.
He glanced to the window to take a closer look at his cheek. In the red reflection of the planet below him, he saw his own face warping out of shape. He closed his eyes while the throbbing moved onto the lower part of his jaw as well. He turned away from his reflection and headed toward the galley where Jet kept the first aid kit. As he passed one of the halls near the common room, he heard both female voices talking softly to each other.
"What does this mean, Faye-faye," Ed asked in the tone of a disappointed and defeated child.
"Nothing, Ed. Just that you should go to earth to find your dad again. That's important, you know." Faye sounded exasperated, but too tired or too sorry to get angry in her usual way with Ed.
"But Ed doesn't want to leave." Ed was about to cry, and Ein whimpered.
"You won't have to, right away, but in the end, you really should." Faye's tone had changed. It was adult and demanding. She was no longer addressing Ed, but herself.
Spike forced himself to keep walking and continue on his quest for aspirin. He knew this whole thing with Faye would turn out like this anyway. No human being can take what they all had endured in the last sixty hours, hell, the last few years, and on top of that bear the burden of genocide, and still want to stick around. Spike chose to take his aspirin, sit in the common room with his eyes closed, and wait for an entire city to explode and for their lives to blast to hell with it.
"You should put something on that." He heard Faye say and he groggily opened his eyes to look at her. He realized he had drifted in some kind of half-sleep state. "Go to my room," she said, "I'll bring some stuff to fix it up." Spike wanted to stare at her for a while longer and try to decipher what that meant. He would go to her room and then what? Then—she would get closure.
After a few minutes of waiting in her room, she came in with a pan of water in one hand, the small first aid duffel bag hanging from the crook of her arm and also an ice pack for his face. He had been waiting for her by the door, but when she set everything down, she instructed him to sit on her bed.
"It was Jet," she said as she gently placed the ice pack on his cheek. He flinched and she responded with a slight frown. "We've sure been a hell of a lot of trouble for him. God, I never thought it'd be worse than when he lost all of his clothes to me and was left with nothing but his boxers for a week." She chuckled and let Spike hold the ice pack instead. He watched her while she pulled out some bandages and other supplies from the first aid kit. He had never seen her laugh so sadly—cynically, yes, hypocritically, of course, but not remorsefully.
She set the water on the table next to her bed. With a towel, she began to clean the rest of his face and his neck, first with disinfectant and then with the lukewarm water. She then undid the bandages of his free hand and cleaned it as well as his arm, and then wrapped it in new cloth. Spike switched hands and she repeated the same procedure with his other one. Faye did everything calmly, as if she had done it many times before and as if there was nothing else she'd rather be doing. Spike remembered that as far as he'd known Faye had bandaged and tended for him twice before. He had been unconscious while she had done it and there was something pleasant about watching her care for him finally.
She didn't seem to mind his staring. Her pale green yes focused only on his wounds, but he could still see her face in its entirety and feel the closeness of her warm body. He saw that like his own face, hers was a bit dirty from the fall, but smoother and still gleaming. She had dark and slightly puffed bags under her eyes and not a trace of make-up. It was the first time he had ever seen just her—just her, up close and somehow so feminine—like she had nothing else to hide and he could finally see her. Some of her lashes were still slightly clumped together from the tears and he spotted the hint of dimples when she chuckled earlier. Her lips, though, seemed to tell what she had been through in the last two days. They were pale, dry and a bit cracked. She noted his glare on her lips and moistened them, and they glistened with a hint of pink.
After Faye was done dressing his wounds, she moved on to do the same for herself, starting with her hands and then moving on to her face. She tried to pull up her soiled shirt to get at the wound on her back, but she winced and gave a low hiss.
"Here, let me help." Spike put down the ice pack and grabbed the bandages and disinfectant. At first, she let go of her shirt and for a few seconds neither of them moved. Finally, she pulled it off completely—gasping at the pain—revealing a simple white cotton sports bra and a lower back caked with blood.
"Maybe you should take a pain killer first." She shook her head.
"Already took some. There's no point," she said. The wound was a mess and had opened up in two small places, which required him to spend sometime trying to glue it together which hurt even more. She stayed completely silent through the whole process, though the contours of her back shifted slightly whenever it was too painful or whenever the cold disinfectant caused a shiver. He wiped the rest of her back, tracing the long groove of her spine, under the shoulder blades and down around her curved sides.
After he was done, she pointed to her black duffel bag sitting on the ground opposite of the bed and he reached and retrieved another loose shirt. It was a button down blouse, a little fancy around the florid v-neck, but comfortable enough for her to put on. As she buttoned her shirt, he grabbed his ice pack and turned to leave, but she took hold of his hand.
"Stay," she said, but didn't look at him. "Lay down with me."
Spike breathed in deep, not exactly knowing how to approach her offer, but as usual, something superseded his decision.
"Oh god," she whispered and pressed the palm of her hand against her chest. She sat there, frozen, eyes full of panic.
"Faye?" he uttered in fear, like a little child unaware of everything around him. He knelt down in front of her and grasped her shoulders, searching her facial features for some kind of clue.
"Listen," she told him and her hand reached for him and pulled him to her. With one ear pressed against her chest, he could hear what she must have been feeling. The beat was sporadic, the heart knocking heatedly and then dying down.
"You better lay down," he said meeting her weary eyes with his own worried glance.
"Yeah, I feel kind dizzy." She lay down on her good side, which forced her to face the wall. "What if she lied? What if it kills me anyway?" Faye whispered. He didn't know how to respond, but simply lay on the bed next to her. He wrapped his arms around her—one beneath the weight of her body and the other curved around her waist, not too close to her wound. He felt so warm and so tired as he held her.
"What's your real name?" she asked him as she placed her arm around his.
"What do you mean?" He pressed his face against her hair and breathed in a mixture of sweat and floral kind of scent.
"Well, no mother would name their kid Spike." She had meant to sound cynical, but it came out in a low rueful tone.
"No, they wouldn't." He searched his memory for that name. It was odd that he could forget it so easily, but it had been years since he had thought about it. Spike always thought he had an excellent memory, but lately, he had begun think he had gotten shot one too many times. "I don't think I remember."
"That's sad," she said, "To not remember. It's such an important part to forget." He wanted to ask her what her real last name was, but he hesitated too long and she spoke again. "Do you remember your mother?"
"That's good," a long pause and then, "Spike?"
"Hmm?" He felt himself drifting off in the comfort of her warmth.
"A while ago, you told me you saw Julia. Did you really?" She sounded afraid.
"Yeah." He should have lied, but lying took too much energy.
"What did she look like?" It was an innocent tone of voice, not really knowing what she was asking.
"She looked like the day she died. Tired, sad and numb." He held Faye tighter and she flinched. He quickly increased the space between them to avoid her wound.
"Do you see her still?" Faye asked.
"Sometimes." He thought it would be more uncomfortable talking about Julia with Faye, but at the moment, it was like he could just say it without any problem. "I don't want to anymore. I feel like I'm going crazy."
"She'll leave one day," she said and he nodded. "Spike? Stay with me until I fall asleep. I want to stay like this a little longer, because," a deep sigh, "When this is over I won't be able to be near you, to look at you. I couldn't. Not after it happens." He knew it had been coming and though it still hurt him, he was numb enough that all he could do was agree with her and listen as her breathing became rhythmic and slow.
He stayed with her for two hours while she slept and every so often, tears would emerge from her closed eyelids. He'd felt them when he placed his hand on her cheek and felt her eyelashes move against the tips of his fingers and then a moist sensation. Spike pried himself away from her, gently pulling his arm from under her, kissing her cheek, her forehead and finally her lips. He had brushed her soft hair with his fingers and caressed her arm, and then stood up. Faye didn't make a sound, but remained in that rhythmical heavy breathing. It was a drugged sleep. She had taken a sedative.
For some reason, the moment his mind acknowledged that, he slumped against her bed and his eyes began to water. Spike Spiegel felt the sting of silent tears that sprung from his eyes without hesitance, or fear, or anything. He had never felt so much in his life, so much of everything. He never thought he could lose more in his life. So Spike sat by her bedside and wept for his parents, for Julia, for Faye, for the damn city and for his life. He rubbed his eyes, angry at his own pitiable demeanor, and quickly recalled the throbbing cheek again. He welcomed the pain. It was a distraction from whatever emotions were choking him at the throat. Composing himself, he dried his eyes completely and stepped out from the darkness of the room and into the hallway.
"Spike-person," Ed hissed the minute he passed through the door. "Come! Jet won't listen to Ed, but Ed found something."
"Ed, it's fine. You don't have to worry about it anymore," Spike began to say, but Ed interjected.
"No, come!" Ed's eyes rounded with frustration as though she might cry, so with a sigh, Spike complied with her wishes. Ed immediately brightened and grasped his hand. She led him to the empty bridge where she had moved all her computer contraptions. She then sat down and pointed at the screen.
"The weird signal from earlier, it's back, and this time Ed found it." Ein barked at him and Ed grinned.
"What are you talking about?" He knew this had been a bad idea. He didn't speak Ed or dog.
"Don't you see, silly-bean? Ed found the transmitter!" She pointed at a red pulsing wave on the screen as Spike felt his heart jump from his chest and the pain from his cheek drain to nothing. He glanced at his watch; he had less than four hours left.
"Ed, are you sure?" Spike glanced at the screen again.
"Yes, as sure as a poodle!" Ed giggled, and Ein whimpered. "It grew stronger," Ed added, "Just like Faye's."
"Can you find it?" He now grabbed the girl by the shoulders, and she just grinned. He released her, and she made a high-pitched noise and typed away at her keyboard.
"Corner of 15th and," she paused dragging the 'and' through it, "Lucas avenue!"
"That's the middle of the city." Spike ran out of the room, but before he left, he turned to her and said, "Kid, you really are genius."
A girl and her dog save the world, he thought amusedly. Hadn't he said something about that sometime before? It was because Ed was a genius. Ed was the miracle he had been waiting for. With a renewed sense of determination, Spike went into the weapons' room, grabbed two extra guns and holstered them on belt he placed around his shoulders. He also grabbed a few grenades and put them in his jacket pocket. He would blow the transmitter to hell if that's what it took. He could stop this. He actually had the chance to stop this. He would save them. As soon as he finished loading up, he left and walked fast-paced through the hallway leading to the hangar.
"Where are you going?" He stopped. He turned around to face Julia leaning against the metal wall. Her red lips glistened under the dim lights of the Bebop.
"I don't have time for you," he said and resumed walking, but she rushed in front of him.
"Why are you going? What about her?" He could see his own reflection in her light blue eyes.
"This will save her, don't you see?" She frowned and her lips parted, but before she could say anything Spike continued. "I couldn't save you, Julia. Neither of us wanted to be saved. If Vicious lived, we knew we'd always hide in fear. If he died, we knew the guilt and hate would consume us. We couldn't help that." Julia nodded, pressed her lips to a smile, and then leaned in and kissed him on his unharmed cheek.
"I hope she saves you. That's all I've ever hoped for." The kiss had felt warm, almost real, but just almost.
"Bye Julia," he said to her.
"What are you doing?" Spike heard Jet's voice from behind him and slowly turned to face his old partner. Another interruption was making his time costlier.
"Jet," Spike began.
"You're leaving." Jet's muscles tensed with anger.
"Ed found it. The transmitter—we know where it is." Jet's eyes widened and he patted his vest for his gun.
"How much time?" He rushed toward Spike. "I'm going with you. Where is it?"
"Jet." The old cop stopped suddenly. "I don't know how to stop it, but I," Spike said searching in his mind for the right words. How many times had he done the same thing to this man?
"You're going to blow it up," he said.
"And if it doesn't work, I won't have time to," Just say it for Christ's sake, Spike scolded himself.
"You're going there to die." Jet looked away from him, his jaw clenched. Spike smirked.
"Jet, this is nothing like last time." Jet cleared his throat and shrugged.
"Is it?" Jet asked with a sad boyish smile on his face. Then the seriousness returned. "Go," he said rubbing his bald head. "You better hurry." His hand fell and he glanced at Spike. Just as he reached the hangar, he heard the old cop mutter, "I'll save you some food." Spike sighed and boarded his monoracer.
As the Swordfish II glided down into the atmosphere of the Mars, there were a billion regrets running through his mind. It was the first time in his life there was any emotional thought-process before he pulled one of his stunts. In a way, part of him knew he would survive. He had this invincibility complex for a while, but then again, maybe he just didn't give a shit then whether he lived or die.
His heart seemed to pound heatedly, reminding him he was alive, reminding him that he wanted to stay that way. It pounded with desperation, because his skin, his veins, his whole body knew that this would really be the end of him if he didn't succeed. Even if he escaped, it would be the end of him.
He descended into Alba's skies. The city, quiet and still in the darkness, glowed white from the street lights and the buildings. There were few cars traversing through the highways, a bit more on the main roads, but it hummed with kind of passive doom.
He hovered above downtown and searched for the intersection. On the corner of Lucas and 15th, he spotted six major buildings visible. Four of them were fairly small, small firms and businesses with offices on the floor above. On one of the tallest skyscrapers in the distance, he could see a scrolling sign that set curfew at eight at night. He only had a few more minutes before that time.
Spike decided to park on the roof of the one currently undergoing renovations. He made his bet on that ten-story fenced-in building, surrounded by cement, wood and bricks—the walls peeling with paint, the plastic covering openings flapping with the wind and the ends of the red 'danger' ribbons hissing like snakes from several corners.
Most of the stairs were still intact, so he jumped from floor to floor with a flashlight scanning for anything that might be a bomb, but decided to skip right to the bottom floor, where she most likely installed before they started the renovations. He searched through rubble, rummaged through boxes and underneath plastic coverings. Then he began knocking on the half-done walls.
"Stop," a voice said. A chill rippled throughout his body. "It's in there. If you knock it too hard you might hit it," Alyssa said nearing him. He hadn't heard her steps. He hadn't even known where she had come from.
"What are you doing here?" Was she here to stop it, he asked himself. He focused the flash light on him, but she didn't flinch. His eyes had already grown accustomed to the dim lighting of the street lights, but he wanted to see her face. He wanted to see what she was thinking, and maybe the extra light might reveal that.
"Look," she moved toward him, grabbing a brick from the floor. He moved away, grabbing his gun and pointing it at her. She hit the wall lightly with the brick, then pulled at the broken wood and cardboard and revealed a black plastic box the size of cereal box. On the top of it, it had a strange metal mechanism and a blinking red light. "I didn't lie. They're actually armed." She dropped the brick on the floor and looked around. "This building has been sitting here like this for a while. They kind of just abandoned it in the last six months, because the company went public and their stocks didn't do so well. They nearly went into bankruptcy."
"So you just found random abandoned buildings and put bombs on them?" Spike said cynically, still aiming his gun at her.
"No, it was harder than you think, but I had help. That doesn't matter though," she said looking out to the front, which still had tall glass walls that faced the fence in the front.
"Why are you here?" Spike said, examining her. She was wearing a loose black dress that reached above her knees. From her neck dangled the small silver cross tied with a thin black ribbon to her neck.
"Waiting for you. I was going to call you in one more hour, but you got ahead of me." Her shoulders sagged.
"The transmitter is in that one, isn't it? If I just shoot it," he said pointing the gun toward it.
"Don't be stupid." She stood between the gun and the bomb, holding the tip of the barrel with her hand. Her sudden action scared him. He was afraid of this girl standing there, holding his gun, completely unafraid of everything. That look in her eyes reminded him of something. That soft sad look—it was as if he was looking at Julia. His heart beat at his throat, the fear growing like a cancerous lump there. "I want to talk to you, just a little bit," she said.
"We don't have time! How do I stop it?" He shook the gun away from her hand, and stepped back, aiming it at her.
"Like that," she said in a low tone.
"Spike!" He stopped the minute he heard a third voice from behind him. "What the fuck are you doing?" Faye said, bewilderment in her green eyes, her gun trembling in her hand. She spotted Alyssa, eyes widening, and stopped. "What is this?" She stood next to him.
"I need to ask you something," Alyssa said. "What did my father do? I mean, to get an assassination order on him?"
Faye glanced at Spike. Her eyes search for another kind of answer that he didn't have, so he focused on just responding to Alyssa.
"No, is that what you think? He didn't do anything. He died protecting you." Spike shook his head. He didn't know what the hell was going on. He glanced at the blinking red light and then at his watch. He couldn't make out the time.
Alyssa gave a slight chuckle at his response. "Protecting me, huh?" She shook her head. The rage that had ebbed back into her from when he first met her re-emerged. "My father? He never protected me. He saw me for what I was. A genius of memory. I could memorize his plans and draw them out like stick figures at the age of five. Other kids were making their stupid family portraits, and I was drawing out schematics of bombs."
"What?" Spike said and then tried to shake the confusion away. "How do we shut it off, Alyssa?" He pointed over her shoulder with the flashlight.
"The transmitter is not in there. I changed those schematics." Alyssa smiled somberly.
"Where is it?" Hope sank the bottom of his stomach. Alyssa glanced at Faye, which only made Faye point her gun at her. Faye's pink lips quivered and her eyes stared back at Alyssa with dread.
"It's in me," Alyssa answered placing her hand on her chest. Faye gasped and Spike dropped his flashlight and nearly his gun.
"What did you say?" He asked not knowing whether to fear this answer or to feel relieved by it.
"I designed in a similar way to the ticker in Faye. It's a foolproof method. It's what Sirius wanted me to adjust. Nathan perfected the design for the bomb and I switched it to model the Mtrace in Faye." She clasped her hands in front of her and stared at the ground for a while. Neither Spike nor Faye said anything. He didn't know what to say. He didn't know what to do. Shoot her, a voice in him told him, but he was shaking and didn't know what to do.
"Why?" Faye finally asked.
"Because there was no other way to do this, unless he believed me." Alyssa glanced at Spike and with her eyes she told him what he needed to do.
"You did this to commit suicide? You did all this to kill yourself? What kind of fucking," Spike yelled, but Faye placed her hand on his shoulder bringing him to quiet down.
"I've given you no other choice. I saved your life, Spike, so please do this for me," she whispered.
"Notre pere qui est aux cieux..." She kneeled on the ground still staring at him. Spike could feel Faye's hand trembling on top of his shoulder. All this, so Alyssa could die just like her father. All this to play pretend. All this so he would shoot her. He should have done it from the beginning. He could have stopped her from the beginning, but as she prayed his own hand holding the gun ached. It ached and stung and felt like it was being stretched away from his body.
"Amen," she said glaring at him and closing his eyes. Then he thought, and if she's lying? If she was lying, then it didn't matter anymore. He moved toward her, Faye's hand falling from his body, taking a deep breath and forcing his aim steady. Alyssa looked at him with her deep dark eyes, regarded him sadly but scornfully. She'd begun crying. The rivulets fell to the corners of her mouth and some past her chin. She closed her eyes, and he glanced back at the blinking red light. His breathing became heavy and fast and he aimed at her chest. He studied her frame, her hair falling at her shoulders, her small body kneeled, and chin held up. He burned her image in his mind and pulled the trigger.
The bullet pierced right through her and for a second she became inert and then flimsy as she hit the ashen ground. Her curls had spread underneath her, and her shirt quickly flooded with blood. Faye let out a gasp and then a groan. Spike whipped around to find her with hands and knees on the ground.
"Something's happening," she said hoarsely, struggling to breathe. She gripped a fistful of her shirt at her chest. He fell to his knees beside her as the pressure of dread built up inside him.
"What is it?" He tried to help her to a sitting position, but she wouldn't budge.
"Shit," she whispered and collapsed in his arms. He flipped her body over and checked her pulse. It was a little fast, but it was there. With a sudden jolt of awareness, his eyes darted in the direction of the bomb. All he saw was the box, sitting in the darkness, the red light no longer blinking. With Faye still his lap, he scrambled to reach for the flashlight. He pointed it at the bomb, the white light glistening against the black glossy surface of the plastic. He moved the light to his watch still counting down. They had barely an hour left. Spike dropped the flashlight and held onto Faye tightly, his face against her warm face, his chest against hers. He couldn't move. He couldn't let her go. Not until those last minutes past. He sat there like that for the remainder of the time, sometimes sobbing, sometimes just breathing her in. When he felt the time draw near, he shut eyes and gripped her body even tighter. There was a low mechanical hum from his watch and he opened his eyes again, grabbing the flashlight and pointing it at the bomb and then at the time. Zeros flashed on the small digital screen.
They were safe; she hadn't lied. She had planned it this way. All this time, this was what she had wanted. Anger couldn't enter him at the moment, he was too relieved, too achy and too worried about Faye to let the guilt and rage seep through. He lifted Faye in his arms and climbed the steps to his monoracer. Once he reached it, he called Jet, watched his facial expression in frenzy of confusion, sadness and relief. He asked him to come help pick Faye up. But before Jet could get there, a patrol of the ISSP arrived muttering something about curfew. He asked if Faye was all right, but Spike just shook his head. A set of six air patrols arrive, one of them an anti-terrorist SWAT unit and they all landed on the building. An ambulance followed quickly after that and they took her from him. They asked him some questions, and he couldn't answer. He couldn't think.
"Where are you taking her?" Spike asked.
"He's in shock," someone next to Faye's stretcher said. "We should take him with us."
They started examining him and asking more questions, but he was able to be near Faye. They tended to his face and the rest of his wounds, and they told him to get inside the ambulance.
"Wait," Spike said pointing to one of the officers. The cop walked over to him. "There's a girl down there. She was shot, dead. She was your terrorist." The guy glared at him for a minute, the red lights pulsing on his face, and then he turned back to one of the SWAT members, who picked up the phone. Then both came over back to him.
"The girl's name, what is it?" The other black-vested anti-terrorist cop asked.
"Alyssa Reve," Spike said dejectedly. The man's eyes widened as if the name meant something to him.
"Who are you?" he asked Spike.
"Just a bounty hunter after the bounty, but it didn't work out," Spike answered with smirk and a shrug. The black-vested officer made some kind of head motion and Spike was ushered into the ambulance.
"What happened?" Jet asked, sitting next to Spike in a small section of the ER. Spike had been tended to there, but Faye had gotten her own room after being taken to several different floors for one exam or another. Spike wasn't sure what Jet wanted to know, after all it had been him that had taken care of the rest of the cops, so they must have told him something. Jet hadn't referred to Faye either, because they had just been informed by the triage nurse about Faye's condition. The doctors said her heart had an odd reaction to a sedative in her system, but that she should wake up soon. They could go see her when they wanted to. The doctor had tried to convince Spike to take some pain killers that would allow him to rest, but he had shaken his head. He didn't trust any doctors he didn't know.
"Spike, what happened?" Jet repeated his question. Spike glanced all around him and remembered that Faye probably hated the white of these hospitals.
"I killed her," Spike answered suddenly. "All that time it was the only choice I really had."
In part, Spike understood her, but he still hated her—hated her for using him, for making him do this, but he could imagine her thoughts. It was those same thoughts he'd had all his life every time someone pointed a gun at him. He would throw himself through the shots, partly because he felt invulnerable or invisible and the other part because he didn't care, and he'd always survive. He had been angry, if only for a moment, after he realized the look on Alyssa's face that he had burned into his mind. He'd seen it in Vicious, in Julia and in the mirror, and he finally recognized what it was. His life had been filled with people who wanted to die, except for Faye, the magical sleeping fairy tale with the need and infatuation to live. Spike wanted to be consumed in that.
"It's sad," Jet said and when Spike turned to him, he shook his head apologetically as if the old cop had made a mistake by unknowingly speaking aloud.
"What's sad?" Spike asked, though he could guess the answer.
"I can't help but feel sorry for someone that had to go through all that just to die. I thought it would make me much angrier than this." Jet turned to him, his gaze a heavy weight on Spike.
"I think I've changed," responded Spike.
"You'd think," Jet shook his head. "You'd hope," he whispered. They stood in silence for a few minutes and Jet finally asked if he was going to see Faye.
"In a bit," Spike said. Jet narrowed his eyes at him, but shrugged and headed to her room. Spike grabbed his jacket which they had put under the gurney and headed toward the staircase. The emergency room was located at the top of the hospital, because most ambulances were aerial. He climbed one set of stairs to the roof and watched as the creases of dark red in the clouds began to signal dawn. Spike rubbed his eyes and focused them again on a figure he had spotted near at one end of the roof. He was certain. It was Faye.
"Shouldn't you be in bed?" Spike said, standing next to her. She turned to him with an unreadable expression.
"You're here," she said and looked toward the horizon again. "The city, it's still here too." Then with a shrug, she added, "I hate stupid hospitals. You shouldn't have brought me here."
"I know, but they didn't give me a choice." He looked at her the strands of hair flying with the wind. She would pull a lock of her behind her ear, but it always proved fruitless. "I remember my name now," he said. "I remembered in the hospital bed." She glanced at him, her green eyes full and bright.
"Don't tell me yet. Tell me later, when it gets a little better." She smirked. "Just write it down somewhere, before you forget it again. God knows you've been hit on the head too many times." She laughed and he shook his head. Her laughter was followed by a long pause. They heard the sounds of traffic and distant noises of construction. The city was beginning to awaken.
"You know, it's funny," she said, stepping closer to him and staring at the horizon. "On earth the sun sets on the West, and here it rises there."
They both glanced at the sky and stood there as the colors rose and metamorphosed from red to orange and then pink and purple and finally, the clouds whitened and the sun hung like an incandescent lamp against the calm blue.