Two Months Later
"He's getting away!" Faye skidded to a halt at the end of entrance to the alley, her gun gripped tightly in both hands. She looked to Spike, who peered around the corner on the opposite side of the alley entrance. "This is your fault! If you hadn't insisted on chatting with him instead of, oh, catching him? What the hell were you two talking about, anyway?"
Spike ignored her. He wanted to find Paul Saverem as much as she did, but not for the same reasons. He knew this man. He was from the old Red Dragon regime, a one time ally and associate of his own, and one of the few who'd survived Vicious' takeover. Saverem had been with them, the ones who'd murdered Julia. Time to pay him the same kindness.
"Are you sure he went this way?" Faye leaned forward to take a look around her own corner. A bullet ricocheted off of the wall, sending a chip of brick into her face. Scowling, she dabbed her fingers at the blood now running down her left cheek.
"That would be 'yes'." He moved to her side of the alley. Another bullet pinged against the wall but missed him completely. Carefully, he looked around the corner, making himself a less obvious target than Faye had. He saw Saverem, gun drawn, throwing worried glances to the other end of the alley, away from where Spike and Faye were located. What was down there? What was so important that he felt the need to stop and shoot at them?
Minor wound forgotten, Faye pressed her back against the wall as Spike kept an eye on their bounty head. He practically leaned on her. Her thoughts drifted away from the 10 million woolong bounty the ISSP had issued for Paul Saverem and to other things ...
Remember, you're here for money. Money only. You need the money!
Her head turned until she didn't look directly at him. She wished he'd do whatever he planned to so she wouldn't have to feel the warmth of his body and breathe in the smell of cigarettes mixed with that godawful cologne he'd taken to wearing lately.
Spike pulled back the hammer on his gun as he watched Saverem step out from behind the Dumpster he used for cover.
Faye looked down when she heard the click and watched Spike raise his gun. "What are you doing?" she whispered. "He's worthless if you kill him!"
He aimed at the man's head. "He's already worthless," he murmured. Good- bye, Paul, he thought as the image of Julia entered his mind again.
"No!" Faye shoved Spike back. "Don't!"
Aim thrown off when he'd fired, Spike's bullet missed Saverem's head and struck the man in the calf of his left leg. Saverem cried out, dropping his weapon as he fell to the ground, grasping his leg. "Goddamnit! You son of a bitch!"
Spike pushed Faye aside and ran down the alley, loading another round into the chamber so he could finish Saverem off before the man reached his own gun.
"Spike!" She bolted after him. What the hell's gotten into him? He's crazy!
Saverem lifted his head when he saw Spike's shoes appear before him. His left hand clutched the nasty, but not potentially mortal, gunshot wound in his leg. His lunge for his gun was a waste of time. After Spike kicked it across the alley, Saverem was helpless.
Spike slowly brought up his gun, pointing the barrel about an inch away from Saverem's forehead. He wouldn't miss, not this time.
"No! Spike!" Faye sprang forward and her body slammed his against the trash Dumpster with a loud clang before he could fire his gun. Her victory was short-lived, however.
"Get off!" He seized her by her hair and used it to force the woman to her knees. Once she was down, he let go and focused his attention on Saverem. He saw that fear in the bastard's eyes. The terror. Was this how she looked ... before you pulled the trigger? he wondered.
"We thought you were dead," Saverem said, shaking his head. When he'd encountered Spike nearly ten minutes ago, he couldn't believe his eyes. Ten years, no one had heard a thing about him. Here he stood now, though, alive and not a bit older than when Saverem had last seen him.
"I am dead," Spike coldly responded. He raised his gun once more but didn't pull the trigger. The click of Faye's gun stopped him.
She glared at Spike down the barrel of her own gun, pointed at the side of his head. "I don't know what your problem with this guy is, Spike, but I'm not letting you lose us a 10 million bounty."
He looked at her without turning his head. Her eyes narrowed at him as she more than likely tried to decide if she could actually shoot him. "This isn't about a bounty, Faye. It never was," he murmured. He saw the surprise on her face, accompanied with confusion. "This is about revenge."
"Revenge?" Faye glanced at Saverem. His fear was gone. He seemed to accept the fact that Spike meant to kill him. "What are you talking about?"
"He knows. That's all that matters."
She placed herself between Spike and Saverem, her gun lowering to her side. "I want more of an explanation than that if I'm gonna lose 5 million woolongs, goddamnit. What revenge?"
"We followed our orders, it wasn't personal," Saverem said, speaking to Spike. "We found her on Earth. She was looking for you."
Faye raised an eyebrow as she glanced from Saverem to Spike. She? With Spike, there's only one 'she'. That must mean ... Suddenly, everything made sense. Spike's broodier than usual behavior, his weird question several weeks before about how she dealt with losing things she cared about. The mysterious Julia was ... dead. Apparently, the man behind her was one of those Spike held responsible for it.
"You only did as you were told. I remember using the same excuse, Saverem." His finger curled around the trigger. "You can't hide behind that anymore."
"I'm not the same person I was back then," Saverem replied, a hint of desperation in his tone. He saw no change in Spike's expression. "You really think you were the first, or the last, to leave?" He laughed. "You were just more clever about it than the rest."
"What, are you trying to tell me you've left the Syndicate?"
Faye side-stepped as Spike moved closer to the other man. She knew about his sordid past but seeing him confront it in this manner was always surreal. Like that day in the church with Vicious ...
"Why do you think there's a bounty on my head? Saves Vicious the trouble of using his own people to hunt me down. You cowboys do it. After I'm in the custody of the authorities ... "Saverem trailed off. "Stop me if any of this begins to sound familiar to you, Spike."
He stared at Saverem. It was a tactic the Syndicates sometimes employed. The reasons behind it, using bounty hunters as their search teams, they varied. Paul Saverem was a man who knew too much. A definite liability to Vicious's empire if he actually did leave the Syndicate. Whatever those reasons of Saverem's were, Spike didn't give a damn. The bastard was still responsible in part for what had happened to her. He deserved to die.
"Well .." Spike said after a full minute of silent contemplation. "Lucky that I found you instead of someone else." He cocked his gun once more. "Unlike Vicious, I have no interest in torture. I only plan to kill you."
"Spike, you can't do this," Faye started but she was shoved back by him. "You're going to shoot someone in cold blood?"
"It won't be my first time." He brought up the gun and prepared to finish off Julia's murderer.
Spike's finger backed off of the trigger when he heard a little girl's voice. The three of them turned towards the direction in which her voice had originated. Not far away, the girl, about 8 or 9, with bright blue eyes and long, jet black hair, stood with a boy, maybe two or three years her junior. Her hands clutched tightly to the boy's shoulders as her eyes flicked between Spike's gun to Spike himself.
"Ramona, take your brother and leave! Go back to your mother!" Saverem ordered. He lifted a hand but it was covered in his own blood. That didn't do anything to alleviate the girl's anxiety.
Her lower lip trembled as she looked from her father on the ground back to the man with the gun. "Daddy, aren't you coming with us?" she asked, her voice catching in her throat.
"Take Kevin and go. Do what I tell you!" He didn't like yelling at her but he would rather her not bear witness to this.
"Who are they?" Spike asked, still staring at the two children.
"My daughter ... and my son." He looked to Spike, noting the surprise on his face. "Yes. A lot's changed in ten years. For the better, in my case."
"They're ... yours?" His gun dropped completely to his side. This was something he never could've prepared himself for. Paul Saverem, one of the deadliest killers for the Red Dragons, one of its most loyal associates gave up full allegiance to them for ... two kids?
"I couldn't keep them a secret forever. They're why I left. Surely you can understand that?"
Spike looked down on him. The fear he'd seen in the man's eyes earlier, it wasn't for himself, it was for them. They were why he chose to stop in this alley. The mother, whoever she was, must've been nearby as well. He glanced up at the rooftops of both buildings then back to Saverem.
"You don't need to worry. I'm not going to kill you in front of your kids." He side-glanced at Faye. "Take them back to their mother."
Wide-eyed, she looked at him. "You think I'm involving myself in this? Hell no, Spike. You want to blow this guy's head off, that's your business. You get rid of the kids if you don't want'em to see you do it."
"No!" Ramona darted forward. She slung her arms around her father's neck as she fell to her knees beside him. "He's not bad anymore, mister! He doesn't hurt people now! He's good!" Tears streamed down her cheeks. "Don't kill him! Please, don't!"
"Ramona," Saverem began.
Spike gazed upon Saverem's daughter, a conflict of emotions growing inside of him. One portion demanded retribution for Julia. Another part was swayed by the girl. She'd done nothing wrong, yet she had no idea of what wrongs her father had perpetrated on others. His finger hovered over the trigger as he tried to decide what to do.
"He won't hurt anyone again, mister," Ramona whispered after the lengthy silence from Spike. "I promise. Please ... I promise you, he won't."
His eyes closed. Julia's image began to fade from his mind. Then, for some reason, he recalled Vash. The peace-loving fool from the yet-to-be- discovered planet of Gunsmoke. He would let Saverem go. But would he, even if he were in Spike's position? What man could turn his back on avenging the death of someone he loved more than life itself? What man could give up the chance to even the score and still be able to sleep at night? Who could do that?
Faye's eyebrows shot up when Spike finally spoke. Had he just said ... ? After nearly putting a bullet in this man's head, Spike was going to let him leave? She hadn't expected the girl's pleading to have any effect on him.
"Wh-what?" Saverem couldn't believe it either. "Did you ... "
Spike's eyes opened as he pointed his gun at the baffled Saverem. "I said 'go'. Take your kids and get the hell out of here. Hope that you never see me again, Paul. Should that day come, I will kill you."
"Come on, Daddy. I've got you." Ramona used all of her strength to help her father to his feet. Once he was up, she looked back to Spike. "Thank you, mister." She offered a grateful smile through happy tears. "Thank you!"
"Don't thank me. Thank a man named 'Vash'." He gestured towards the boy. "Go. Now."
As they hobbled away, Ramona took one last look over her shoulder at the man who'd almost killed her father. She felt so very sorry for him. He had a terrible sadness in his eyes, a sadness she'd seen in her own father's eyes at times over the years. What awful things violence did to people, what pain and sorrow it caused. It almost took one of the people she loved the most away from her. Then and there, Ramona vowed to instill a strong sense of peace into her children and those of her brother. They would have a very different kind of life - not like the ones her father and this other man had led.
A man named ... Vash, she thought as her brother stepped in to help her with their father. Vash ... sort of a nice name.
Faye watched Saverem and his children disappear around the corner. She sighed, relieved but disappointed that she was out 5 million woolongs. At the very least, Spike hadn't killed the man. That was worth something, wasn't it?
Spike stared at ground. Part of him found it amusing. So amusing, in fact, that he laughed aloud.
Faye turned to him. "What's so funny?" she demanded. "I don't find what just happened here funny, Spike." When he kept laughing, she narrowed her eyes. "Stop it."
He turned, surprising her when he grabbed her by the upper arms. "What else can I do!" he asked. "That peace-loving idiot finally got to me, Faye!" He shook his head when she only stared at him as though he'd lost his mind.
"What's wrong with you?"
His hands slipped down her arms, the laughter subsiding. "Everything ... nothing ... "He tucked the gun back into its holster underneath his jacket. "Let's go back to the ship."
Faye eyed Spike as he shoved his hands into his pockets, bowed his head and walked by her. A moment later, she heard him whistling a rather melancholy tune. Sighing, she tucked her own gun away and hurried to join him. Just as she'd suspected, things were back to the way they used to be. The same old, same old.
Some things, no matter what, never changed.
And, sometimes, they did.
The End ... or is it?
Song Title Used: "Full Circle" by Loreena McKennitt
Author's Note: Thanks to everyone who read and commented on this story. I was terribly antsy about posting it, and I almost didn't but my beta reader talked me into it. Hope you had as much fun reading it as I did writing it!
I have a sketchy outline for a sequel fic, too. If enough people are interested in seeing the adventure continue, I'll definitely break out the pen and paper and do the story. Some folks were probably disappointed that none of the Trigun villains made it into "The Real Gunsmoke Blues", but one will make an appearance in the sequel, as well as Cowboy Bebop's chief villain, Vicious. So, if you're up for more, drop me an email or say something in a review. I can't give you an estimate on delivery, unfortunately.