Café Julia

by Panny

A trench-coated man walked slowly along a nearly deserted street. Whistling a small tune he came upon what seemed to be a fairly popular place. He looked up at the name and smiled, then stepped inside.

Glancing around he saw only one person working, a woman at the bar. Running his fingers through his hair quickly he sauntered up to the woman, throwing her a casual smile.

You the owner of this place? He asked, eyes flashing. She turned and smiled at him. That I am.

Ah, so you must be Julia.

Her lips jutted out momentarily. I'm afraid not.

Leaning towards her to catch a glimpse of her figure he continued the conversation. Oh, so what's with the name; Café Julia?

She began, catching his stares and watching him straighten back up. If you must know, an old friend of mine used to go running every time he heard the name Julia. Guess I'm hoping one day he'll run right in here.

The man was about to reply when he was cut off by a younger woman who came up behind him. Miss Faye, I'm here. Sorry I'm so late. My boyfriend was supposed to give me a ride but he never showed up.

The owner nodded. That's alright Flor, can you take over the counter for me, I need to get some work done in back.

Sure thing ma'am.

Ignoring the customer she'd been talking to, Faye Valentine stepped around the counter and headed towards the back. She was imediately greeted by a small girl holding a cup.

Can I have some juice?

The violet haired woman smiled. Sure thing. C'mon, let's get some. As she turned she caught a glimpse of someone; tall and lanky, unruly hair blocking his eyes. Faye squeezed her eyes shut to block out the image. Why am I thinking about you now?'

Taking the girl by the hand she walked to a nearby fridge and grabbed a carton of fruit punch. Filling the small glass, she put the carton down and bent down to give the drink to the girl who quickly scampered off. With a sigh she stood, then out of curiosity she turned around to find no one there. She quickly shook her head, chastising herself for doing something as foolish as looking for a dead man.

With a slow sigh she pulled out a cigarette and leaned against the counter, lighting it. Pulling it from her lips she looked around the small but well equiped kitchen through a haze of smoke.

I thought it was illegal to smoke in restaurants.

She shut her eyes, taking another long drag in an attempt to ignore the voice that taunted her memories.

Oh well, guess I'll join you.

Her eyes shot wide as the cigarette was pulled from her. She stared blankly as if not seeing him, but rather looking at what was behind him. He smiled in a way that told her he was waiting for a response but she couldn't give one. Closing her mouth she swallowed hard then blinked at him, muttering his name in a hoarse whisper.

He took a drag from her cigarette and looked her over. She no longer wore her skimpy hot-pants and top. In their place were a tan skirt that stopped a little more than halfway down her thighs, and red knit top that managed to show off her figure conservatively. She'd let her hair grow a little, not much, it just barely reached her shoulders where it fanned out a little. It reminded him of the video he'd seen so many years ago. The one he heard at night when she thought no one else was awake. Her face was pretty much the same but the shocked expression she wore wasn't something he was used to seeing.

Then again, he couldn't say he was used to seeing her at all. He'd left over five years ago

His thoughts were interupted when a little girl ran into the room. Short dark hair and a bright smile, she pulled on Faye's skirt. The older woman struggled visibly to regain her composure as she looked down. What is it Su-chan? Do you want more juice? The girl shook her head no' and handed the empty cup back.

I'm all done. She said, looking at Spike for a second, then leaving. Faye put the cup down on the counter, and turned back. Spike was just standing there, so calmly, as if there was no reason for the tension she felt in the air. She narrowed her eyes at him scrutinizingly. Before she could say anything, he spoke.

A daughter?

She glanced at the cup and nodded. He shifted slightly, then smiled and laughed a little.

Don't tell me Jet's the father.

She raised her eye brows and nodded again. Watching the playfulness of his face disappear, she couldn't help laughing silently.

Jet's her father but I'm not her mother.

He gave her a look of understanding and waited, expecting her to explain.

Why don't you sit down? She pointed to the small table in the center of the room; three chairs were placed around it. He sat while she filled a kettle with water and put it on a small burner. I'll give you some real coffee. She told him. Not any of that instant stuff they put out all over. Fresh beans and everything, like they used to make it.

He nodded and waited in silence until she put two steaming cups down, sliding one towards him. The smell came at him quickly, stronger than what he was used to drinking. After a few minutes she started talking.

When you When we thought After you were gone. We stayed on Mars for a while. After four months or so I guess, Jet met this woman, Mara. Things got serious for them pretty quickly and all of a sudden he tells me we're going to Venus and that she's going with us. I wasn't about to be a third wheel on their little trip so I left. I didn't have any reason to stay on Mars and since I pretty much had the choice of going as far as Earth or Jupiter, I went to Callisto. Figured I'd be appreciated there. She smiled a bit at the inherent foolishnesss of her comment, then continued.

While I was there I met up with the owner of a casino I used to go to. Apparently he was the one who told Gordon about my debt, and he gave me the same offer to pay it off. I figured I didn't have much choice so I worked the casino for about a year. I probably made him more than I owed with my superior gambling skills, but that was the deal. Work exactly one year and my debt would go away.

Once that was over I had a pretty good reputation going. Got a nice plush job dealing blackjack and earned some money. First time I could remember ever having money that wasn't going towards some bill or another.

She paused for a minute, shuffling her memories into order while Spike watched her in a silence that was unusual to him.

I had been there a few months when all of a sudden Jet walks in. Said he'd been looking for me. I didn't think anything of it till I went outside with him and see a baby sitting in his flyer. It isn't even the hammerhead either, just some cheapo rental.

Turned out that a little after they left, Mara got pregnant. They married and were settling down in Venus, but when Mara went into labor there were dificulties. It took a really long time, and she didn't survive, leaving Jet there with a daughter and no wife. So he named her Sutemi.

At the risk of one's life Spike added, speaking flatly as if reading from a book.

Yeah, that's right. So, since he needed help and I wasn't doing much of anything we decided to hook up again. This place is actually Mara's well sort of at least. It was her dream to open up a restaurant, so Jet sold the Hammerhead and bought the building. After she died, he didn't have the heart to sell it. I thought he was crazy, but I went along with him and we opened this place up. It isn't exactly what his wife wanted. Somehow I think she wanted more of a family diner type thing, but I couldn't run a place like that and Jet was too busy and depressed to handle the responsibility. He basically let me do whatever I wanted here.

Taking a small breath she stood to clear the table. So that's it. We opened up about 2 years ago and to be honest, I haven't left the planet since What about you?

Spike paused momentarily in a short but awkward silence. He seemed ready to answer but was interupted.

Hey Faye, I'm back.

Jet came though from the back of the kitchen. It took a while for him to realize why she wasn't answering. Peering around the bag he was holding, he looked over towards the table and his body froze, mouth open in attempted speech. Spike raised his eyebrows and smiled, his expression somewhat amused, and at the same time embarassed. Jet set down the bag and sat at the the table wordlessly.

"Uh, Spike just got here." Faye told him. "I was just telling him about Su and, uh, everything." Jet nodded.

"Where I was doesn't really matter." Spike said suddenly. Jet raised a brow while Faye looked at him scrutinizingly. "I just needed to disappear for awhile and forget everything, and now I'm back. That's all."

"Well, I'm glad to see you're alright. You can stay here for awhile if you'd like." Faye said rising. "We don't have a guest room but there's a cot in back. You and Jet can figure out the details. I have to get back to work."

Without a response Faye went out into the front of the restaurant to take over the bar. "Matt," she greeted the man working there. "I'll take over for now. I have something important going on right now so I don't want anyone going into the back, can you let everyone know?"

"Yeah sure. But what about the orders?"

"Jet's back so just pass the slips and he'll take care of it. We don't serve much food at this time of day anyway."

The younger man nodded and headed to give the few employees her message. Faye reached under the bar to pour herself a glass. Leaning against the wall behind her she sipped it slowly and closed her eyes. She wasn't ready for all of this. Before Spike left, Faye was ready to change her life for him. When he didn't come back she changed her life for herself, but now that he was back she questioned the decisions she had made. She had a true life here now that she couldn't give up, unlike before. Then again there didn't seem to be any reason that things would have to change. It wasn't like he had swept in and asked her to go away with him. She laughed at the though. 'I sound like some little girl with a crush' she laughed. But those feelings that came to her near the end before he left; she still had those. She still felt that longing on cold nights when she found herself unable to sleep.

She absentmindedly poured a customer a drink and cast a glance towards the kitchen. There was no sense in worrying over what-ifs she told herself. She'd take things as they came and figure it out then.