Title: Linger
Author: A.j.
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: Takes place during Real Folk Blues #26. So. Whole series?
Notes: This is actually something I started last year and abandoned for... well. A whole year. Been more in a Cowboy Bebop mood recently, so I figured I'd dust this off and give finishing it a shot. All mistakes are mine.

Summary: Like it or not, she's always left behind.

A prick of red, so very far away. It's there. Faye knows what it is. Just like she knows that Jet is above her by the nav computer. Watching. Looking. Being not here.

She's stopped crying now. Her face hurts from it. Skin tight over bone, dry like paper. There's a lotion in her room - or there had been two weeks ago - that would make it soft and clear. What was the advertisement? Something every woman will envy and no man will be able to resist.

Currently, she feels very resisted.

The glass is cool under her fingertips. Slick and solidly real. She hasn't had much of that. Not for a very long time. Reality, that is.

She'd lied earlier. Just a little thing. Told him... said that she'd remembered it. Her life. She didn't. Not really. Just bits and pieces scattered across a landscape.

A cheerleading lesson. The weight of her father's arms in a hug. The smell of orange blossoms and something that feels of the word mother. It was coming back, but it wasn't here yet. Not yet.

She wasn't empty anymore. Not like before. But she wasn't whole either. The broken places were still there, she only felt them in a different way. They were rearranging themselves inside her. A little tiny mental refurbishing crew. Pointing things out, laughing sometimes.

She wasn't whole yet. Not even close. Even when everything fell into place, she wouldn't be. There was too much gone. Missing. Lost. But then again, she had a strange feeling that no one ever really was whole. They just lied to themselves and faked it.

She ignored the sudden taste of salt on her lips. This again, then. Seems like once it started it wouldn't go away. She guessed a lot of things were like that.

He'd said goodbye. In his own way. At least she had that. She had something.

It was dimmer now, the red glowing dome. A distant spot on the edge of her horizon. Mars's daylight edging over it, chasing it away. Away from the Bebop and away from her.

The sob was unexpected, although not a complete surprise. Someone she knew and had - maybe kind of - started to care about was dead. Probably. He had to be because if he wasn't then everything before and everything now would be for nothing, and that just wasn't having. He was dead, so she was crying. Simple.

Because he was him and she was her.

They didn't do this. Not about each other. She didn't do this for anyone. Not ever. She was Faye Valentine, had to be Faye Valentine, or she wouldn't be anyone at all. And as much as the healing, emerging part of Faye hated the other, Valentine was necessary. She was survival.

Valentine won, even when she lost. The quiet other did not.

Beside her on the floor lay her weapon. She'd dropped it there when she'd finally made it to the observation lounge, legs stiff and back hurting from the metal grating in the hallway. Not the smartest of moves since the safety was off. But she'd never been safe like that.

Even before.

She was really starting to hate that bastard. Seriously.

Kind of funny if you thought about it. She smiled at her barely-there reflection in the curved glass and wiped at the skin on her cheeks.

He'd only ever given her two things of himself; his gun in a fight, and that goodbye. Both were overly dramatic, and she'd wanted neither.

What had she wanted from him? Really?

Was it friendship? Because they'd both failed rather miserably in that respect. Trust? Belonging? Family.

They'd shared none of that. Not in any sane way.

He'd given her two things, and she'd given him... nothing. Just fragments of a past she hadn't meant to give in the first place. Maybe a cigarette and a headache.

And he'd just been... there.

"God gives us what we need."

The memory was so swift and overwhelming, she could do nothing but gasp. Sharp and hot, the image of a soft woman with kind eyes and gentle hands blew through her mind, rubbing the broken pieces across each other. Grinding. Making her chest and eyes hurt, and edging more tears down her streaked face.

Her mother. Her mother had said that. To her.

"God gives us what we need."

The words sounded strange coming from her mouth. Discordant and wrong. Unbelieved.

How did she need to lose herself for firty years? How did she need Spike and Jet and Ein and Ed?

"Not everything is always about you, dear heart."

Her father. Voice soft and warm from behind a slammed door. His eyes amused at her temper over housework. A little piece of the puzzle.

It's funny because even her head is lecturing her now. Spike would die...

And that really isn't funny at all.

In the nebulous cloud that is her head, she hopes that he managed to do what he needed to do before everything went to hell. Hopes that his last thoughts were happy. Or, if nothing else, at peace. Knows that if anyone could manage it, just out of sheer stubborness, it'll be Spike.

It's lighter outside. She or Jet will have to raise the UV shields soon.

Suddenly, irrationally, she misses space. Wishes that they were looking down on this godforsaken planet. Wishes they could have done something, even if there was nothing to be done.

She didn't know how to do nothing.

She could do something for him. Something he'd never have suspected, had he been walking and living and breathing and mocking the shit out of her. Something he'd never know she had to give.

Maybe this was what she needed. She just didn't know it yet.

She smiled a bit and waved at the dissapearing dot of red fading in the distant sun.

"Bye, Spike." The words bounced back from the glass at her. Quiet. Perfect. A goodbye.

And now he had that.