He felt as though he were dreaming. 

            It was understandable; he had lived through so much that he felt as though he weren't living his life so much as watching it. 

            "It's all just a- dream."

            If this was a dream, though, that voice meant it was a nightmare… but upon listening more closely, there was something in the tone that he'd never heard there before.  Her voice was low and warm, as opposed to its usual indignant screech when addressing him, and had an almost conspiratorial quality. 

            "- so I came back."  Her voice was suddenly vehement.  "I came back, because I couldn't stay away, though God knows I wish I could… and I found Edward gone and you going."  She was quiet for a moment.  "Going to your death.

            "I cried, you know.  I begged you not to go; I shot at you.  But you went anyway.  Was it for her?  Yourself?  Vicious? 

            "What was so important to you about a dead past that you would abandon your future, your home, your friends- family, really, if I'm going to be honest (she snorted a bit at this)- and your life?" 

            He could feel her eyes on him, but didn't move or give any indication that he was awake; he couldn't have if he'd wanted to. 

            "And now- now I don't know what to think, or feel, or do.  I don't know if I want you to wake up; I don't know if I want to look into your eyes again; I don't know what I would want to see there."  Her voice was a low growl.  "Damn you, Spike.  Why did you have to do this to all of us?  You left, and that was bad enough- but now you're back.  It would have been easier if you'd died."

            He could hear her getting to her feet, feel her eyes boring down at him again.  "I'm going to go smoke.  You want one?" she asked cattily, but he knew she was crying as she walked away. 


            "I never thought you'd come back."  His voice was low and quiet, as hers had been- however long ago it was.  He couldn't really tell time- "I never thought I'd see you again.  Laughing Bull said you were going to die, and not to fear death- I've never known him to be wrong."  He could feel the other man's piercing gaze.  "You could still die." he admitted candidly, "but somehow I don't think you will." 

            "Perhaps the old man's words could have another meaning.  You lost part of yourself once; who's to say that you haven't again?"

            There was a pause, and he could hear the sound of a lighter, smell tobacco.  He itched for a cigarette. 

            Oblivious to his audience, the low voice started again.  "I should understand you.  I've been where you are."  He exhaled; the injured man saw, in his mind's eye, a small plume of smoke rising toward the ceiling. 

            "You asked me before how I lost my arm.

            "I was young; to put it simply, my partner betrayed me.  He was on the Syndicate's payroll, and he figured losing my arm was better than losing my life. 

            "I didn't find this out until fairly recently; you might remember it.  I told Ed to water my bonsais before I left.  Udai, the Syndicate assassin that Fad- my partner- and I had been chasing when Fad shot my arm off, was one of several convicts who seized control of the ship transporting them to another prison."  He took another drag before going on calmly and quietly.  "Fad shot Udai when he didn't need to, but Udai had already told me the truth; Fad came after me, and I wound up killing him and staging the crime scene so it was as though I'd never been there at all.

            "I was young, like you; rash, like you; and did as I did because I could do nothing else.  You would think that I would be able to understand you, at least in part; but I don't understand you at all.  Sometimes I don't think you understand yourself, Spike. 

            "Maybe Julia did.  Maybe that's why you loved her.

            "I asked Faye about her, about Julia.  She said she was like an angel from the underworld, or a devil from paradise; the kind of beautiful, dangerous ordinary that you just can't leave alone.  She seemed to appear just before something happened, a mysterious portent of some calamitous event… and Vicious always seemed to be involved in the calamitous event itself. 

            "I never saw Julia or Vicious, but Faye met them both.  It's funny how your life and hers got so intertwined.  I was your partner for more than three years and I found out more about your past since Faye came than I did in all the time before."  He ground out the cigarette, much to his partner's disappointment.  "I suppose it's just something about a woman."  He got to his feet, and as she had before him, stood looking down at the bandaged man. 

            "Can you even hear me, Spike?  If you could come back, if you could choose between life and death right now, what would you do?  Dying is easy, but living is hard."

            His voice sounded oddly forlorn.  "What will you do?"

            The injured man stared blindly into the backs of his eyelids and couldn't think of an answer as the other walked away. 

A/N:  Okay, here it is.  The companion piece to Ride On, Cowboy.  I know Jet's out of character but this was the best I could come up with.  I like how Faye turned out, though.  Is this better, Rashaka?  No author's notes in the middle of this one.