Of a Life of Dreams
"I don't believe it!" Shin shouted in a mix of anger and sadness, his fists clenched at his side. "Spike can't be dead!"
It was the next morning, and the air all throughout the Red Dragons' Headquarters was heavy with loss. Shin was standing up, the rest of the briefing audience that had gathered in the meeting room staring at him as he glared at Mao Yenrai, who was speaking from the front of the room.
Mao sighed uneasily, tapping his fingers anxiously on the table in front of him. The oriental man didn't want to believe it either, however the report given to him earlier that morning seemed to suggest nothing else.
"I…I don't want believe it," Mao admitted, the rest of the gathered members looking skeptically around, murmuring amongst themselves. "This morning section 32 announced that they'd received evidence that Spike Speigal was attempting to leave the syndicate."
And…I wouldn't put it past him, Mao reminded himself, remembering the last conversation he'd had with Spike. He seemed…changed. I don't know what came over him.
"Apparently the section went after him," The man continued, glancing down at the report on the polished table in front of him. "There was an explosion during the battle, and his body was not recovered."
Shin gritted his teeth, clenching a fist at his side as he sank back down into his seat.
If his body wasn't recovered, then he's not dead, the boy thought to himself fiercely, his eyes narrowed. I know it. Spike wouldn't die like that. He couldn't die like that.
But as much as Shin wanted to believe that, some part of him doubted. The brown-haired boy eyed Vicious, who was leaning against the crimson wall on the other side of the room, his eyes narrowed coldly and unfeelingly.
And to Shin's surprise, he noted that his brother was standing nearby, looking just as cold as Vicious.
The night air was cool and misty, a faint fog lying low over the whole of the city. The sun was setting behind the tall skyscrapers that obscured the distant sky from view. The people of the city wandered the streets toward their various destinations as the evening settled.
A middle-aged man sighed, resting his elbow on the counter of the small bar that he'd stopped by. It was fairly empty, save for a couple talking in the back booth by the window, and a few old men playing cards at a small round table.
"Hey, you're cheating, damn it!" One of the old men shouted at his two playing mates, the man raising an eyebrow and glancing over at the trio.
"How come you're the one with seven cards in your hand, then?" The tallest of the three replied with a sigh.
The man sitting by the counter heaved a sigh and swirled his drink around in his glass, watching the melting ice clink against the sides. The television set that was placed on one of the shelves in front of him was set to a news station, two reporters telling the story of a fire downtown earlier that day.
"Same," he muttered to himself, taking a sip as the door to the bar opened with a jingle behind him.
Jet Black didn't bother looking up to see who had wandered into the bar that evening. After all, anyone who was bothering to stop by a place like this must be out of a job and just looking for some place to waste time, he thought to himself.
There was a squeak as a figure in a dark coat slumped down on the circular chair beside him. Jet glanced over his glass, seeing that the person that had sat down beside him looked like a young man in his mid-twenties. He was wearing a dark brown coat, dark red stains spotting it in several places, and the young man himself looking weary.
"What'll it be?" The bartender asked, rubbing a small glass dry with a dishrag as he leaned against the counter.
The young man shrugged with a sigh.
"It doesn't matter; anything," he replied in a tired-sounding voice, Jet watching him out of the corner of his eye, his curiosity getting the better of him.
The bartender gave the young man a strange look, but then turned and pulled a bottle of orange-colored liquid off the counter and poured some in a glass. The young man sighed, leaning forward and resting his head on the counter as the bartender set the glass down in front of him.
Jet raised an eyebrow, noticing that the strange younger man seemed to have fallen asleep. Narrowing his eyes, he reached out and tapped the young man on the shoulder.
"Hey!" he muttered gruffly, the younger man opening one eye. "Didn't you want your drink?"
Spike sighed, lifting himself back up and rubbing his eyes.
"Yeah, yeah," he muttered tiredly, taking the glass the bartender had given him and taking a sip.
Jet tilted his head to the side, raising an eyebrow.
"If you wanted to sleep, why didn't you just go home?" he asked, continuing the conversation out of mild curiosity.
Spike sighed, setting his glass down on the table with a clink and putting a hand to his head.
"Well, you kind of need a home to do that," he replied, feeling his eyelids droop again.
The middle-aged man nodded, running his hand over his black hair.
"Oh," Jet replied, wondering why he was surprised. Everyone here is just a loner out of a job, he reminded himself. Myself included.
"Did your woman throw you out?" The man inquired, Spike letting out a hollow laugh.
"No," he replied calmly, resting his chin in the palm of his hand, staring down into his drink. "Nothing like that."
Jet took another sip of his drink.
"Oh, I see," he muttered in reply, trying to figure out this strange character. "You lose your job?"
Spike gave a half-shrug.
"Sort of," he replied, draining the small glass of the remainder of the orange drink. "You could say I quit."
The middle-aged man swirled the ice cubes around in his glass again.
"Oh? I guess you could say I retired," he replied, the greenish-haired man looking rather bored as he stared over at the small television set.
The news program had ended and now a man and a woman dressed as cowboys had come onscreen, announcing a 3,000-woolong bounty on a renegade criminal on Mars. The black-haired man smiled sadly, chuckling.
"A three-thousand paycheck would be pretty nice, wouldn't it?" he sighed, finishing up his drink, Spike cracking a tired smirk and nodding.
"Yeah…sure would," he replied, resting his chin in the palm of his hand.
Jet glanced over at the television screen again, eyeing the picture that had been posted of the criminal, displaying his stats and last seen location. A few moments passed, and then the man eyed Spike again, thoughtfully.
"You know, it wouldn't be all that hard," he continued, Spike glancing back at him. "Tracking a person down and turning them in? And then you'd be paid for it."
Spike chuckled, raising an eyebrow.
"What, like a bounty hunter?" he asked, Jet nodding enthusiastically.
"Yeah, why not?" he replied, wondering vaguely in the back of his mind why he was to eager to team up with this man. "You've got nowhere to go, and I don't have a job either. I've got a pretty decent ship and who knows? We may get lucky."
Spike eyed the man curiously. It had only been a few weeks since the incident back at the syndicate. It had only a few weeks since he'd severed ties with everyone he had formerly known; severed ties with his previous life. He was a new man, ready to start fresh somewhere.
Maybe this is that somewhere? Ah, who knows? It's worth a shot.
"Sure, why not?" Spike replied with a shrug, grinning slightly, not feeling nervous at all for having just agreed to partner up with a total stranger.
What's to be afraid of now?
It was late that evening when Jet led Spike back to a large ship that was docked in the harbor. Spike scratched his head, gazing up at the brownish ship with the words "Bebop" written in red across the side. The ship looked more like a fishing boat than a spacecraft to him.
"So…this is it?" he asked, Jet nodding and patting the side of the ship fondly as he opened the hatch.
"Yep," Jet replied, smiling. "I got it on a good deal a while back, and it's been pretty reliable. It's got a hanger in back so you can lug your ship around too," he added, eyeing Spike's faded red ship that he had parked on the dock.
"Great," he replied, following Jet into the ship, ducking his head to avoid colliding with the frame.
Jet eyed Spike as he led him through the hallway and into the main room of the ship.
"Mind if I ask a name?" he asked casually, Spike looking around the room.
"Sure," Spike replied calmly, looking up at the squeaky ceiling-fan. "Spike. Spike Speigal. And you are?"
Jet nodded, turning on some lights.
"Jet Black," he replied, turning around to see Spike's reaction to the ship's interior. "So…what do you think?"
Spike smirked, shrugging as he stretched, wincing slightly and recoiling a moment later.
"It's better than nothing," he replied optimistically, Jet eyeing the crimson stains on Spike's jacket again.
"Were you hunted down by loan sharks or something?" he asked again, Spike laughing.
"Why are you so interested?" he replied, leaning back on the couch behind him, his eyes darkening. "You could say…I died, and came back to life as a new person."
Jet raised an eyebrow, tilting his head to the side as Spike closed his eyes calmly.
"Interesting way to put it, I suppose," he murmured in reply, narrowing his eyes. "Well, get some sleep, Spike. We can start the search for the bounty head in the morning."
Jet eyed the strange young man once more before turning off the main lights and walking into the darkened hallway. He had a feeling being a bounty hunter was going to be a lot tougher, and a lot crazier, than he had originally thought.
Especially with a guy like that around, Jet thought to himself.
And Jet had been right.
Memories flooded through Spike's mind, some faded and old and some as vivid and clear as if he were living them all over again. Memories of his meeting with Ein, and Faye, and then the Radical Edward on Earth. Memories of the time spent on the Bebop as a bounty hunter.
Was that just a calm before the storm? Or just a desperate attempt to escape my fate?
As memories of his meeting with Vicious after three long years resurfaced in his mind, vague questions arose once more. Questions that would never be answered now, he was sure. The questions that had stayed with him for years and years were nagging in the back of his mind once more.
Vicious and he had fought in the cathedral that day, and it had seemed as though the past had been buried once more.
But…burying something doesn't mean it can't come back again.
Merely a few months later, Spike recalled, did he and Vicious cross paths once again, this time on the icy planet Callisto while Spike had been trailing a false lead to Julia. No sooner had Spike found a clue in a peculiar man named Gren, was his one lead killed.
And then not long after, Spike had finally had found the one person he had been searching for all those years, plagued by that one, nagging question that had never ceased in his mind:
Why had she left him standing in the rain that night, the rain of despair pouring down over him? His love for her had never died after all these years, and he knew that he would never be free of his fixation on her; not until Spike had found the answer.
But the answer…
"It was raining that day too."
"And so you didn't come because of the rain?" he replied, smiling grimly as he looked through the rain and over at her.
Julia narrowed her eyes, lowering her gun, the rain pouring down over her golden blonde hair.
"I was supposed to kill you," she replied coldly. "At least…that was the plan."
"But you didn't," Spike finished, his eyes narrowed in a realization at long last. "You chose to be hunted instead."
But the answer was too simple. It wasn't satisfying, even if he had the truth. Julia had simply walked out of his life as easily as she had walked in, leaving Spike with a broken heart.
Some wounds…cannot be healed by words.
And as she'd wrapped her arms around him in a familiar hug, Spike's eyes were still dark and cold. The pain that he'd felt for three years couldn't just be put aside like that. Running away from the past now wouldn't kill it. Vicious would find them again, just as he had all the other times.
On that rainy night, three years ago, I had felt as though I'd been betrayed by two people I'd trusted. Tonight…I felt like I'd confirmed that.
The attack…the escape…it had all happened so fast. Weapons, blood, and death became what the world seemed to be made of. And then all at once, it was as if time stood still.
That one person…whom I had sought after for so long…
Spike had hurried to her side, his eyes wide with shock. Julia opened her eyes once more and glanced up at him, murmuring her final words before her life slipped away. Spike's heart was torn; part of him was crying out in sorrow, and the other part, the part that had grown numb years before, still felt betrayed.
The last few images of his life were now flashing before him as he had paid a final visit to Jet and Faye before infiltrating the Red Dragon's compound. Shin was shot down while aiding him in an assault, and then he and Vicious confronted each other one last time.
…I suppose it's true.
Spike had smiled as he staggered, injured, down the crimson stairs of the Red Dragons' Headquarters, the place where he had spent so many years of his life. Why he had been happy, it was hard to say. It was a feeling of relief, in a way. Vicious had been put down for good, and Julia's final words echoed through his mind:
"It's all just a…dream."
With that, Spike had collapsed. Unconsciously, Spike smiled as he lay on the stairs of the syndicate lobby, his life draining away.
What's there to fear in death…anymore?
Death…is okay by me.
Colors whirled around in his mind, grays and blues, and vivid read, swirling in a never-ending motion. Was this heaven or hell? Or simply just…and illusion? There was a soft noise, vaguely piercing the silence of the whirling colors.
Wincing, Spike slowly opened his eyes, his vision clouded and blurry. He blinked a few times, the image of his surroundings becoming clear. It was a blue sky…or was it…a blue ceiling? A squeaky fan spun slowly around above him.
Spike noted that the wounds on his chest and arms had been bandaged up, and the nicks on his face had been patched up as well. At first, it didn't make any sense to his weary mind, and then it finally registered.
"Just how many times do you plan on getting into these messes and having me rescue you?"
Spike blinked, looking to his side as a familiar, violet-haired woman leaned against the door frame, eyeing him with her emerald eyes.
"Honestly, you're lucky to be alive at all," Faye scolded, shaking her head in a "shame-on-you" way. "The Red Dragons' Headquarters was destroyed by the time I got there," she added, walking toward him. "Guess the ISSP's found them out now, after you practically blew the place up. They've been shut down."
Spike blinked again, Faye's words slowly penetrating.
"And…Vicious?" he asked slowly, eyeing her.
Faye brushed her bangs back, looking away. She hated when Spike acted serious like this. She preferred it when he was getting on her nerves, or just acting like his stupid self. Secretly in her heart, she felt relieved. It wasn't as if she loved Spike, not in the way that love was usually thought of, at least. But even still, Faye didn't want him to leave.
If this is my…home, then he's part of it. It's not the same without him, much as I hate to admit it.
"It's not like I keep tabs on the whole syndicate or anything," she retorted rather snappishly. "Even if he did survive, he's probably been bagged by the cops."
Upon receiving silence as a reply, Faye glanced back over at the greenish-haired man, who was staring up at the ceiling in a melancholy way.
"I guess…the dream's not over yet," he sighed after a minute, smiling a half-smile.
Faye pursed her lips, walking over to the injured man and slapping him across the cheek. Spike winced, yelping.
"What the hell was that for?!" he shouted, reaching up and tenderly rubbing his cheek as Faye casually walked toward the door once again.
Faye smirked, turning around and looking back at him.
"Funny," she said in an airy voice, Spike blinking as he looked over at her. "I thought you weren't supposed to feel pain in dreams. Guess you're not asleep, after all."
With that, Faye turned on her heel and walked into the next room, leaving Spike staring after her, rubbing his cheek. After a moment, Spike smiled, closing his eyes once more.
Please review, and let me know what you thought! Sorry for the delay between the last chapter and the previous one. Between Christmas holidays and traveling I hadn't had much of a chance to write. I hope to continue writing more Cowboy Bebop fics in the near future. Thank you for reading!