Cowboy Bebop and all characters are property of Watanabe Shinichirou and Sunrise.
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Shooting Star Shower

The sound of the ship driving through space was like the whoosh of a shooting star, even though he'd never really heard the sound of a star before, but he had imagined what they would sound like out there – a silent swish of displaced not-air, a burst of light, like fireworks.

He had seen her sneak down the hallway, had heard her first, because he had thought he had closed his door but it had somehow either swung open, or the latch hadn't caught all the way, or something of the sort. Which was rather ridiculous, because he could never go to sleep with the door closed, not since he had been a child, and then especially not since…them. Not since her.

It wasn't that he dreamed, exactly. He read books – or at least, had read books, because he didn't have much time to read anymore, and the list of authors he respected was growing short – about characters suffering some horrible trauma, having flashback dreams, nightmares. Then he would put down the book, shut it with a resounding snap, and blink, trying to think back at the images he saw when he slept. Sometimes there were colors, sometimes people, but rarely were they anything he knew or had known in waking life, and he could not remember any nightmares.

He remembered the last dream he had had, three months ago. Jet had been in it, and Ein. And Faye. The rest of it was hazy, and the only reason he remembered it was because he had dreamed of his friends.

The patter of her bare feet (didn't she know better than to trot barefoot around the Bebop?) was almost too soft for human ears, but he'd had long practice at this. Soundlessly, he slipped from the bed, socked feet hitting the cold floor with a thud, and then he had eased the already open door back a slight crack more. He caught the whiff of perfume, or maybe just scented shampoo, her white nightdress disappearing around a corner.

He narrowed his eyes. If she was going to steal something from the pantry again, she'd have to go through him first.

She went around another corner, definitely headed toward the kitchen, and he grumbled under his breath. He hadn't bothered to look at the clock before he'd jumped out of bed, but he was willing to bet anything that it was past one in the morning, and with all the hullabaloo last night, when Jet had come back with a pouch full of money and a commendation from the ISSP and steaks and beer and cake to celebrate, none of them had gone to bed early.

Come to think of it, with all the food she'd eaten, what was she doing in the kitchen anyway?

A muffled curse from her, and he grinned fiendishly. She'd probably stepped on a nail or loose screw or sharp stone. Getting her dues, Jet would have put it, and he imagined the other man in his mind for a moment, scared face twisted into a frown, big hands on his hips scowling down at something.

But Jet was too soft for his own good. He could try to hide it, but Jet and he were different, in the end. Jet had a past and a present and a future, and Jet said he accepted him the way that he was, but deep in the most secret places of his partner's heart, there would always be that doubt, that worry, that wariness.

He didn't mind. It was part of who Jet was, and it was enough. Vicious had been like that once, a man and not a demon, or at least not a demon like he had become. They were all demons, really. Even him. Even her.

A brief pause at the corner, and he eased himself around, craning his neck just enough to see into the kitchen, but at first he thought he must have been mistaken after all, because there was no one there. Then a slight rustling, metal against metal, alerting him to her presence at the far window. There was a loaf of bread in her hands, a knife on the metal counter, and he prepared to jump out, corner her, as she picked up the knife.

"Hm," she said, and he paused in mid-motion, and then blinked as she put the knife back down.

"I'd rather have cake," she muttered at the loaf, then pushed it back into the plastic with an annoyed grunt, spinning the bag and tucking the open end under, shoving it back into the refrigerator.

Before he could process this strange turn of events, he heard her footsteps coming back toward him, and he had a brief moment of panic before then wondering exactly why he was panicking, because he hadn't actually been spying, had just been trying to keep her out of the pantry and Jet's wrath. Besides, it was her fault that he'd been prodded out of bed at this hour.

But she never made it around the corner, and he wondered, when the footsteps stopped, if she'd found something else to eat after all.

He waited. She didn't appear. He finally got sick of waiting, eased himself around the corner just slightly again.

She'd stopped at the big window right next to the sink, one hand placed lightly on the glass, smiling slightly. Curious, he arched his neck a little more to get a better vantage point, but she simply stood there, her head bowed, fingers tracing little patterns.

"Faye?" he mouthed silently, then considered calling her name out loud, but what good would that serve? He really was spying on her, after all. For a moment, he felt bad about it. But then, what was there to feel bad about, anyway? He was a bounty hunter. It was his job. He was good at it.

He'd been too good at it, and that was why he had had to die.

He wasn't sure who the memories were linked to in his mind anymore – Vicious, Julia, himself. It was only the three of them, had always been the three of them.

She laughed, a low, husky laugh, and he turned his head slightly, watching asher shoulders shook and then subsided, air exhaling, a slight sheen of moisture on the glass. Funny how in the drawings and the cartoons and things, deep space was full of stars, myriad and blazing, but the real thing was dark as a void, dark and empty and full of nothing.

"What am I doing here?" she said to the glass.

A good question, his brain said to him, matter-of-factly, and he rolled his eyes at it, squashed the thought till it decided that the fight wasn't worth it and shambled back to the deep recesses of wherever it had come.

She laughed again, and he wondered at the grace of her. Even in a simple nightgown, her hair tousled, her face hidden, her stance had something of a young girl's poise in it.

"Can't help it, I guess," she continued ruefully. "No good, huh. Nowhere else I could really go…"

He whispered soundlessly, in response, "Do you always talk to yourself?"

"I guess it is kind of stupid, talking to myself…"

Shaping the words, as if by simply thinking them, he could give them life, sound, shape. Light. "That's all right. We're all stupid."

"They say you can't go back to the past, but sometimes, I wonder."

He could see her bite her lip, and then she leaned her head against the glass, the purple-black hair falling around her face and her shoulders, and he reached out a hand to her, just a little bit, careful not to reach too far in front of the wall lest she see. Was that cheating, if she could not see it? Were intentions enough for a moment like this?

And then her hand dropped to her side, and she drew a deep, shuddering breath, and then, "It's always better to lie, isn't it? So we don't have to face the truth."

"Truthfully-" he began, not-words spilling out into the empty air, and she raised her head, glanced in his direction, and he stopped, pulled back though there was no way she could see him still, not wanting to look into those green-black eyes and see it written there.

"Truthfully…" she whispered, "I…"

There's still cake, he wanted to say. Jet ate half of it, but he hid the other half at the back of the fridge behind Ein's dog food and Ed's salmon, and you can have it if you want. As much as you want. I don't mind.

A brief flash outside the window and she inhaled softly, quickly. He caught the tail end of it, the whoosh and the trail of stardust as it passed, only a flicker. So many things in books about shooting stars too, he had realized, books and poems and little anecdotes about how life was so brief and how living it to the fullest was the greatest thing one could ever do.

There was no anecdote he could really give to this, except that it was dark and he was cold and it was past one in the morning and he was tired and needed to go back to bed, and then there was another one, the light and the almost-sound, a blazing star-trail, except this time he was waiting for it. She pressed both hands to the window, her nose to the glass like a wondering child, and perhaps she had been waiting too. It was shimmering, all in rainbow colors as it passed, and he knew that if he simply would open his mind, open his heart, he could hear the sound of it as it beat past the ship on light-feathered wings.

But somehow, he could not, could only watch as it spun by silently, pulsing like blood, white blood gushing out of some open wound, a tear through pitch-black-deep-space-skin.

"It's just a big piece of rock, anyway," he heard her say, and the comet was already gone as he realized he'd been crouched next to the wall, one hand on the floor. The floor was quite cold to his feet too, even through his socks. "Damn shooting stars..."

"Maybe someday we'll hear it," he answered her silently, a smile creeping to his face even as he pushed himself to his feet and had wedged himself neatly between a storage closet and a pile of boxes in two steps, and she passed him by without notice, humming to herself, and waited till she'd gone, till he could no longer hear the slap of feet against metal, and extracted himself, leaning against the boxes.

"Maybe someday we'll hear it," he said again, and this time his voice echoed just a little bit down the hall, bouncing from ceiling to floor and back again, and he wondered if he was just talking to himself, which would be all right, too.

"Maybe someday…the shooting star…"

19 February 2004