War Stories

By Poison Ivy

I don't own Cowboy Bebop

Come on in

I've got to tell you

What a state I'm in.

I've got to tell you in my loudest tones

That I started looking for a warning sign

She sat in the coffeehouse, watching life pass her by. It was not a luxury that she was used to, but they had had a run of good luck (for a change) lately, even with Jet's determined hobbling slowing them down. She thought this only out of habit, with no real malice behind it. After all, it was not really a hobble, but a limp, and even that was fading. But bounty hunters with limps are usually the ones holding down three other jobs as well, and she (silently) grateful that Lady Luck had humored them.

This morning, she had looked in her wallet, and decided (for once) that she didn't want to go shopping. And there was enough for her to do whatever she did want (at least for one day) as long as it was within reason.

In an unusual decision, she decided that she didn't want to gamble. She hadn't, for quite some while.

She had, however, felt like putting on clothes that were presentable, and finding a cute, cozy, coffeehouse, and to be alone. Without sleazy guys hitting on her, and beer fights.

Some of her wishes, she knew, would be more tactfully difficult to achieve. (Not the least of which would be finding the clothes)

But she had been in a whimsical mood, feeling the closest she had been to smiling in two months. (Two months and three days, affirmed her mind).

So she had checked in with Jet, (she was getting more and more used to checking in with Jet, now that it was just the two of them) and he had said, "Fine, go."

He had not said, "I'll be going too, then." But she had understood that. The ship was now too empty and echo-y when it was just one person, and they were used to doing errands at the same time now, after they had found out that they could not stand the shadows.

Especially since the shadows mostly sprawled on the couch, smoking a shadow of a cigarette.

That was another reason why they checked in with each other.

He had also not specifically said "Come back" but she had understood that too.

In the first few days, she had disappeared often, not knowing why she had stayed at all. But she had always returned, finding herself at the door, first when she ran out of money, then, just before, and later, not having spent any at all.

She had never asked Jet where he had gone during those days, and he had never told her.

It had been her form of coping, and she suspected that he had his. It might even have been easier, since they had parted on better terms. But then again, it might have been harder.

Speaking of things she didn't ask about.

It was a bit harder to coordinate their returns, since Jet had the habit of taking less time, but that was overcome by the simple "I'll see you at lunch"

What Jet did to fill the hours to lunch, she had her suspicions. After all, there were many bars around.

This time, she had not said, "I'll see you…" and this time, the unspoken "Come back" had been louder. And even more unspoken.

She sighed at her hands, cupping the mug, pleasantly warm.

In some ways, they were closer now. She felt like saying, "In some ways, they were friends now," but that sounded wrong, and ungrateful, and stupid. And she was so sick of being all those things. They…well, they didn't talk more (the opposite, actually) but the lack of talking did not bother her, and the silences were often comfortable ones.

She had not been rude, or sarcastic on the Bebop for some time now. (Two months and three days a small part of her mind pointed out)

And yet, in some ways, they had drifted apart. Often, though the silences were comfortable, she had wished they were not. Silent, that is. They lay heavy with the things they didn't talk about. Couldn't talk about. Where they had gone and where they were going was just the tip of the iceberg. Spike was the rest of it.

Though, if they could (talk) she had the feeling that she no longer would know how to. There was an inkling suspicion that she had kept it bottled up for too long, that it was no longer possible to put it into words.

Though, if they could she might have just said, "So, you miss him too, huh?"

She took a mechanical sip.

She had taken off today, with her eyes open, and had even contemplated humming, and finally settled on this as the most likely of places.

And had been here ever since.

It was strange, the way that death changed things. You could have been strong. You could have been independent. Sure, you would have your flaws, not the least of which would have been a fogged over past and a lack of people she knew but those were things not thought about in everyday life.

And then someone dies, and it no longer matters that your past is no longer fogged over, and you do have people you know, because someone died.

Someone you may have hated. Someone you may have liked more than you hated.

And nothing mattered anymore, because he was dead, and everyone you know is feeling the same way you are. Indescribable.

Though jet wouldn't have done this.

As far as rebellions against the inevitable went, taking off and drinking coffee alone did not score high, but—

But she could have ranted and raved and cried and wasted away.

But she did not.

Instead, she chose to survive.

And that made more sense than the ranting, and wasting away.

Of course, she had not decided she had wanted to live without help from her friends rant, rave, cry, and waste away.

Though that had been private.

Now she was in the state of getting over it, she knew, but it was still hard. In some ways, harder.

Even sitting in a cozy coffeehouse. Especially sitting in a cozy coffeehouse.

The door opened, and she glanced at it, then away. Then looked again and stared. Her body going rigid.

Fluffy hair. Tall. Wearing—

She relaxed. Forced herself to relax. Was very aware of every muscle losing its tenseness. Was very aware of the breath that escaped her, rattling up her throat and through her mouth, a long breath, so close to a sob.

It was not Spike. Could not be Spike.

Hair not fluffy enough.

Not tall enough.

Dressed in jeans and a T-shirt.

And yet…

She watched him idly as he made his way to the counter and ordered.

The way he walked, sat, talked, screamed bounty hunter.

Strange, the way she could recognize one now.

She wondered how the bounty heads couldn't tell one coming, and run away. She would have thought that living on the lam would make them more likely to be aware of their surroundings.

But she supposed she should be grateful for their ignorance.

Younger than Spike too. A newbie.

He was watching her now, too, probably feeling her eyes on his back. Watching her as if maybe he was interested, if she was feeling the same.

Probably ran into his first bounty head at the supermarket, and thought he could single-handedly save the world.

She was aware of the way that she sounded now, with the cynical, pessimistic view of the seasoned veteran, knowing that the whole fucking universe is shot to hell, but hey, lets make a few woolongs off of it while we still can, okay?

She reflected that it was not only experience that made her sound this way, but also losing—

"Did you want me to come back that badly?" she had said.

"You sure got a big mouth."

"You were jealous."

"Yeah, right."

And she wrenched her eyes away from him and deliberately took another sip.

It was cooling slightly.

It was hard to find a coffeehouse that still sold old-fashioned coffee, mug and all. Cooling and all. Even harder to find on that used real coffee beans, especially after the "it stunts your growth" craze swept the universe. So, she had to settle for the synthetic crap.

Fuck, she hated it.

She remembered the way he had gazed at her when they had first met. Like it was her. Only her.

Her hands trembled slightly when she next raised the mug.

"Excuse me." A quiet, polite voice spoke at her elbow, and she turned to look up at the bounty hunter.

She raised a disinterested eyebrow. She was not up to this, not up to chasing away a kid, who had probably practiced his pick-up line since he had noticed her. There were plenty of empty tables around, after all.

"Are you Faye Valentine?"

She considered this. He was definitely new, the vibes rolled off of him like skunk fumes, and that was too hard to fake. And her bounty was rather obscure, both to pursue on purpose, and to memorize, just in case.

"Why do you want to know?" she settled on in the end.

His eyes widened and a smile hovered over his lips. He looked almost happy. Not an expression she saw often now.

He had nice blue eyes, she noticed dispassionately. But a bit young for her tastes.

"Look at these eyes."

She turned slightly away, to tell him that she wasn't interested in young-ish men who took the trouble to memorize her name and photo.

No matter how much they resembled late…people.

But his next words stopped her, mid-turn.

"The same Faye Valentine who worked with Spike Spiegel?"

She looked discreetly around. There was no one here that screamed "cohort!" at her, and she had a feeling that Jet had enough for bail.

"Perhaps," she said neutrally.

She did not think about the second part of his statement. Would not. Could not.

He broke into a God-honest smile then, and she reflected that he did not really know what her answers meant. 'Perhaps' meant of course, perhaps yes, but also, perhaps no.

"This is great! Did you know that the reason I'm a bounty hunter now is because of him?"


He chuckled a little, in a slightly self-conscious way, as if to say that yes, he knew he was sounding a little stupid, but he was still going to tell her regardless.

"I saw him in action, last year! On Mars! He was fighting this guy on the street, and then this ship—"

The strangest part of the beyond-strange conversation, she reflected, was that she had remembered it. The cost of repairs to half the street had outweighed the bounty.

"What do you want?" she snapped, crankily. She had wanted to be alone. Granted, she had no sign declaring so, but sitting at the smallest table in the most obscure corner was meant to be sign enough.

He seemed to catch some of that, and sobered immediately, though his eyes still danced, and she was inwardly disappointed that he was not put out more.

"…Man! It musta been great! Traveling the stars on the Bebop! You must have so many stories!"

He looked down at her sideways, probably hoping that she would spontaneously burst into one of them. She narrowed her eyes slightly at him, contemplating whether he had crossed the fine line between 'fan', and 'stalker'.

He faltered then, as if he was sure that his almost-praise would be enough to get her going, and now that she was apparently not, he didn't know what to do next.

"There are rumors…" he started. "About…"

As if it wasn't bad enough to have wannabe Spikes running around, (especially if they aren't him) but to have a shy wannabe Spike was beyond intolerable.

"About what?" she snapped. "I'm busy."

And took another lazy sip of coffee.

"Do you know…" he stammered, his eyes saying that he didn't really believe what he was saying, "if he's really dead?"

She snapped around and stared at him.

"There were rumors…he's famous…you're all famous…"

She looked right through him. The suspicion came back. The suspicion that she wouldn't know what to say.

"This could be it. The one I might not come back from."

She had froze then, too.

"Just messing with your head."

Then, sly, sideways,

"If that were true, would you rescue me?"

She had gone that time. Even though using the word 'rescue' was overstating it a bit in the end.

She had not gone the last time.

She had not gone because it was not her he was walking toward.

Even if her ship wasn't shot to itty-bitty pieces, she would still not have gone.

"Yes," she croaked now, "He's dead"

"I'm not going there to die."

The boy seemed to deflate. "Are you…sure?" he asked, the glint gone.

It was a stupid question. Are you sure. No you little brat, she thought angrily, no I'm not fucking sure, because every time the door opens, I look, even if I'm so far away that it's a haze, because it might be him. It might be him, coming back. Back to me.

"One of them is a fake, because I lost it in an accident. Since then, I have been seeing the past in one eye, and the present in the other."

Yeah. Yeah, that sounds about right.

Hey Jet. Even though mostly we don't talk, do you wanna anyway?

It doesn't matter if you want to or not. Just listen.

The boy went on, and he sounded far away, as if down a long tunnel, with reality on his end, and—

"I thought I was watching a dream."

A stupid fucking dream on the other.

"Look, I'm sorry…but…he was my hero, you know?"

Like saying it would make it all better. Like saying it would make him materialize behind the boy, smirking his "why are you talking to this loser" smirk.

"And…" he trailed off slightly, not sure how to continue. "It was really great…to see you…I mean…you knew him…"

Yeah. I fucking did.

Are you sure?

Once I didn't care. Once I didn't care about not caring.

But then…that was no longer an option.

I went after him once. Went after him to rescue him.

But only once.

I thought once was enough. I thought I had filled my quota.

…when did things change? When did its stop being me against the world, and him against the world, and turn into the both of us against the world?

"Don't worry. I'm not going there to save you."

But still. He was there.

And now, he's gone.

And I think I might have died with him.

But I'm ok now. I'm over it now. I can bounty hunt again. Eat again. Maybe someday, I'll smile again. Maybe we'll both smile again.

But…the part of me that died…it's still dead. And it's not coming back.

After he's gone, I realized that I cared. Cared too much. Does that make sense?

Yeah. She thought, if we could talk, I would say it just like that.

"Of course I'm sure" she started to croak, (even though the moment was over, the question still hung in the air, unanswered but waiting to be) wanting to laugh and cry and die at the same time. God, it hurt.

Hey jet, does it hurt? She was going to say that. When she went back, she was going to say that. Hey Jet, does it still hurt for you? Because it hurts like hell to me.

But she only managed half of that before her comm. interrupted her.

She reached for it lazily with one hand, grabbing it instinctively in her coat.

Hey Jet, does it still hurt? Rested on the tip of her tongue. Because I think I'll hurt forever.

She stared at the screen, her mouth dry and half-open.

"Hey," he said tiredly, and her heart gave a huge wrench, "Can you pick me up?"

It wrenched again, and began to beat. For the first time since he left.

He looked…tired. Dirty…like he hadn't showered in weeks. (two months and three days, said the small part of her mind, now not so small, two months and three days!)

His clothes were crumpled, and a hasty bandaging job showed on one arm.

He looked almost…sheepish.

"I seem to have misplaced my ship."

Her mouth worked, opening and closing.

Jet always did say he was invincible.

"Why don't you call Jet?" she snapped instinctively, not thinking it through. Because this wasn't real. It couldn't be real. But even though it was a dream, she was glad to find that her voice sounded halfway normal.

He no longer looked sheepish. "Because I thought of you first."

"If that were true…would you rescue me?"

The answer had been no. Last time.

She felt like crying. "What if I said I was busy?"

"Come on Faye. I know you're not."

The part of her that died, came back. Alive.

"Where are you?"

"The Doc's office. Tharsis."

"Yeah." She gulped. Gulped down the accusations threatening to spill out. Gulped down asking him what he meant, what he had always meant, and why he was alive. Gulped them down because right now they were playing a game. A game where they pretended that everything was normal. Just a normal day on the Bebop. God, they could make it into a show.

The kid peered over her shoulder, curious. She had almost forgotten about him. "What if I don't want to go?" but she was already reaching for her wallet, paying for her coffee, now cold. Because games and dreams only went so far. "Fuel doesn't come cheap, you know."

He looked at her, seriously, and her heart stopped, mid-beat. Why? "Well, I don't have any money."

"Spike." She whispered, the first time she had said his name. As if saying it will make him disappear.

The kid, hearing the name, and finally getting a look at the screen, said, "I thought you said he was dead." The glint was back.

Spike, catching a glimpse of him, said with a smirk, "New boyfriend?"

She was already halfway up, grabbing her jacket. "You jealous?" she retorted, heart in throat.

He looked thoughtful. "Only if I can take him."

"In your condition, you couldn't take the mutant rat creature."

He laughed, and she smiled. Smiled.

"I didn't say I was sure" she said to the kid as an afterthought, halfway out the door.

Already thinking about the talk she would have to have with Jet, away from Spike, now that she knew she could say it.

Already thinking about the future. "I'll be there in an hour." She told him, turning on her ship.

He was silent for a moment. "Thanks, Faye."

She contemplated humming again.

When the truth is

I miss you

Yeah the truth is

I miss you so.


Lyrics taken from "Warning Sign" by Coldplay. Quotes taken from the English dub of "Cowboy Bebop." Be gentle, since they were mostly taken from memory, and mine is not perfect. If you did not like it, then pretend the ending was different. If you really did not like it, pretend it was written entirely different. This was written as a one-shot, and I mean for it to stay that way.